Early January, 1938 . . .
Upon reaching the top of Mt Kailash the investigators took a moment to reflect and rest. The loss of Dr. Nikita Kolokov was devastating, especially to Dr. Yuri Ivanov, but they were able to put it into perspective. Sacrifices that had to be made were understood. However, when they finally reached the top, they looked down upon the whole of the world and were treated to a few moments of respite at he beautiful view that had not been beheld by anyone in, possibly, ever. Once they spent a few moments basking in this delight, they had to move on.
They pulled out their maps and began the task that would take then to the spot where they could open the ravine. However, they soon faced new challenges.
Howard Defoe was the first to notice the tremors. He quickly called out for the others to brace themselves as they prepared for the rocks that would begin sliding as well as the eerie mist that suddenly descended. They were all beset upon by dangers, both physical and psychological as the power of the Liar, Y’Golonac was now trying to come after them. Bethany Tibedeaux thought quickly and helped move several of the others out of the way, but Howard was in his own world, lost in thoughts of the wild and debauched parties that he attended at the home of Colm Soams. Fortunately Bethany was able to get him out of the way before he was killed by his own psyche. Pannu Singh, however, did not handle the situation well, as his psyche was clearly eroding. His alcohol abuse combined with poor life decisions were impacting his ability to handle this crisis.
After this danger had temporarily passed, Bethany decided it would be a good idea to teach everyone a song that might be able to help. She recalled the beautiful song by Elena Alcatruz, the Ghost of the Wolf, that they had learned in Mexico City which they had learned was a way to keep their minds straight in moments of adversity. She was unsure if the song was truly learned by the others but it was certainly a start.
Eventually, they got to the spot that was required to cast the ritual, Open the Sky to darken out the moon. Julian Alexander, Dr. Ivanov, and the Bronze Head all knew the spell but Julian decided he would be the main caster so most of the others would be able to save their strength for what was surely to come. Upon Julian casting the spell, the sky became black as the moon disappeared and the constellation of stars shifted. It was then that they blinked and they were standing before a massive ravine. The opening descended into a murky and filthy mess. A green mist hovered from the crack and they could all hear an infernal hissing that came from the deep hole. They knew the danger before them had to be traversed but they were nervous about descending as only their imagination could tell them what hellish nightmares awaited them below.
Readying themselves to descend into this madness, they decided that once below, they would have Dr. Ivanov cast the ritual to banish Y’Golonac. He Bethany, Howard Julian and Pannu Singh would all lower themselves with their equipment and Dr. Ju-no Sinn, Sir Randolf Michaels, Davis Lockhart and the Bronze Head would remain behind in case something went wrong. They would act as a ‘back up’ team and guard the top.
The group lowered themselves into the pit but were ill prepared for what they were about to encounter. The green mist was a form of Nectar that assaulted their senses and the chasm was deeper and wider than they had suspected, its walls covered in grotesque mouths. Each Minor Mouth they saw screamed and hissed and spat Nectar at them either as a means of defense or some unknowable other reason.
After several near drops and several attacks by the mouths that caused several of them to drop their equipment, they finally lowered themselves to the very bottom of the ravine. They were truly now at the Devouring Mountain, a quest that had taken them months to arrive. All around them they were on the mighty corpus of Y’Golonac, perhaps slumbering, perhaps dreaming, perhaps in some state of being they could not understand. But they were here and it was time for Dr. Ivanov to cast his ritual.
As Dr. Ivanov prepared, the others were ready for an assault or attacks. But none came, either because of the confidence of the god or for some other reason they could not comprehend. Dr. Ivanov gave every ounce of his being to cast the ritual as it began to break apart his body. But he held himself together, physically and psychologically. In the end he was able to cast the ritual to banish or destroy Y’Golonac. When he did, time stopped and everything around them seemed to cease as Dr. Ivanov had a vision of being thrown through space and time. When the darkness came and went, each of them heard a voice in their heads.
“Turn your empty visage upon this rock, then. The human thing’s sacrifice is complete.”
Unsure of what this meant, Dr. Ivanov certainly understood it was the dying words of Y’Golonac suggesting that there was more to happen or that there was some dire clue they had perhaps missed. Regardless, they felt they had little time to think about it as the ravine was closing. They all quickly scrambled up the cliff – which was easier due to the lack of dangers on the walls – but Dr. Ivanov, who was clearly shattered by his experience, needed help in getting up. Howard, unable to climb without falling several times, eventually made it to the top.
Once at the top, reuniting with their friends, they rested, confident that the ordeal with Y’Golonac was finally over. They had defeated the god and basked in their glory for a few moments, their madness fading somewhat. Dr. Ivanov, however, had a nagging feeling something was not right.
Slowly, a snow-like ash began to fall and the sky turned an eerie shade of purple and green with lightning streaking through the clouds in the distance, albeit silently. As the group slowly made the two day trip back down the mountain they were not as concerned with the people of Darchen, determining they would deal with that crisis once they arrived.
However, it was Dr. Ivanov who had some mad insight to what had happened. Mentally piecing together the facts that he had learned from the others, the oral stories that were given as well as the insight of being hurdled through space and time, he realized that they were a part of something even bigger. Dr. Ivanov now understood what Y’Golonac’s final words meant. Azathoth, the blind idiot god, was somehow a part of this. The clues, while hidden, were in plain sight. The text, The Gaze of Azathoth, the painting, The Gazer’s Perspective as well as Ramon Echavarria’s secret agenda were all now coming into focus.
Echaverria’s plan, all along, was to ascend to godhood by summoning Y’Golonac and sacrificing this god to Azathoth.
Their work was not finished as mankind was in even more danger than they realized. For this was the Apocalypse.
The Apocalypse of mankind.
Upon reaching the bottom of the mountain and preparing to explain themselves to the citizens of Darchen, they were shocked to discover the village was empty and devoid of life. No camels. No dogs. No chickens. No people. Not a soul. No sign of having packed up and left. No sign of a struggle. The one truck they had seen in their first pass through the village was still there. But the ash continued to descend from the purple sky.
It was best to not try to think of the origins of the ash.
Upon searching the village for supplies, they eventually came to the one structure that they had heard was being rented out to a foreign stranger. Upon entering they were met with an unsettling sight. Husain Soliman, leader of the Anti-Investigators, was swinging from a noose, apparently a suicide. Whereas the end of Soliman was a welcome sight in and of itself, they were relieved to discover the chest of items that had been stolen from them by Tawny Qualls in Bangkok. There were dozens of reasons why Soliman would have been here but they did not have a great deal of time to consider it. They went through the items, loaded the crate onto the truck and Julian had the good fortune of finding the aforementioned text, The Gaze of Azathoth, which was a way of fortune smiling on them, perhaps.
Using the truck to get to civilization, Julian spent some time researching the Gaze of Azathoth. He uncovered the clues that were hidden in the text, only understood, when placed in the context of what they had experienced. There was apparently a secret series of rituals that involved (1) designating a focus – a human that had insight with mathematics, or physics or some mental comprehension of higher math and (2) summoning a god which would then be sacrificed to Azathoth, bringing Azathoth to earth, following the focus and destroying all of mankind. The focus, suggested Bethany and Howard, was likely the mysterious Edgar Job, last seen at Joy Grove, a mental institution, in Savannah.
As the truck made its way towards Delhi, they stopped in several villages for gas. All were abandoned.
When they finally made it to the urban area, they were shocked to see massive hordes of people, all clamming to get into the town for safety or some way out. It was madness and chaos and stories or looting and rioting abounded. When they managed to get a member of the British army to answer the questions, he was harried and frantic, explaining that in the past week (the time it took for the investigators to descend Mt Kailash and come back to civilization) panic and chaos had broken out with rumors of the end of the world coming. Of course, there were very few who understood the magnitude of the situation as well as the role of an entity named ‘Azathoth’ but it did not matter. The world had gone mad as angels and reality were breaking down in places and mankind was ill prepared for such a calamity. The governments and churches of the world had no answers.
Quickly, they developed a plan. They would need to somehow get to Savannah, and either kill Edgar Job or send him away through a gate to send Azathoth’s attention elsewhere. However, getting from India to America could take six weeks. They panicked, understandably, and bribed a series of boats to take them down the Ganges River to Dhaka where they found a sea worthy ship. Fighting off the mob of people who were too poor to supply their own bribes, they eventually sailed from Dhaka with the city burning behind them as the rioters took over. They were able to flee the city before their ship was taken hostage. Pannu Singh, however, disappeared. They assumed the worst since he had not taken things well. His talk of ending his life likely resulted in just that. They had no time to worry or grieve as the world was plunging into chaos and without acting quickly, the damage was irreversible.
They desperately wanted to get a telegram to Janet Winston-Rogers but they had no opportunity. When they suggested that the captain dock at a port city to send a telegram to her, he said it was possible but they ran the risk of being overrun by mobs and rioters. They decided not to go that course and thought of different options.
It was Bethany who suggested that they had the strength and the power to create a gate, a spell that she, Howard and Julian all knew at this point. They could open a gate on the ship and move through space and time to get to Savannah, a city Bethany was familiar with from her time in the south. From there they could go to Joy Grove and either kill Edgar or send him through a gate to . . . elsewhere. They recalled the painting The Gazer’s Perspective which could be a focus point of where to send Edgar. However, opening a gate for that distance would likely kill the caster and there was no promise that Edgar would go and no promise it would work. But it was the only plan they had and waiting the weeks to get to Savannah could result in running out of time and the situation becoming worse across the globe.
Bethany spent the evening, below deck, creating the gate. When she was finished, they teleported to Savannah at the train station. They were prepared to find rioting and mobs present but they did not. It was worse than they had suspected as Savannah was a wasteland.
Clearly they were at Ground Zero for whatever was happening . . .