Interlude III: Each Day I Grow Some More
How long had it been since one of its own had been home? Truly it didn't matter, but there was a feeling of comfort that came with one of its own walking through its halls for the first time in a long time.
A feeling of comfort that allowed it to grow in a way that feeding off of the denizens of Arkham did not.
There was a feeling of sadness that came from watching helplessly as one of its own made his way down the road towards the isolated town of Dunwich, but deep down it knew he would return and just like the last couple of days, it would grow and continue to do so and the sadness melted away like the minds of those who used to be held within it.
Chapter XXXI: Revenant
Kid left the inn behind him as he took to the streets of Dunwich where he could fully take in the town and its strange floral decor ranging from things he had seen in Falconreach and its surrounding area while he had lived with his mother to things he had never seen before either in person or in one of the many books of the library of what was once Arkham Manor then asylum.
Even if he had forgone his uniform, Kid made it obvious he was not from the town with his gawking and wide-eyed expression as he looked around every which way, weaving his way around the townspeople who either paid him little mind or avoided him out of either distrust or unease.
He stopped outside a shop that he would guess is the source of the flora as it was the most decorated to the point, he was unsure if there was even a building underneath most of the plant life where a dark haired woman who may have been about the age of his own mother tended to some flowers.
"Excuse me, ma'am, may I ask you a question?"
The woman looked away from a flower box she was tending to, her eyes briefly showing a look of despair and guilt which she hastily pushed away.
"Yes, young man, what would it be?" she asked.
"I assume you're the florist of this town and I have recently just arrived and I must say, you produce absolutely stunning flowers. How are you able to do so so far into Doomwood? Most of these look like they came from other regions."
"Why thank you, young man," the woman began. "But I'm afraid I can't reveal my secrets," she said coyly.
Nor can I live with them forever.
"I understand. Thank you, ma'am. Good day."
The four gathered in the room of Hands and Cry where Hands retrieved a satchel from her bag and opened it up on the table, showing various reagents and tools one would find at an apothecary shop rather than in possession of a Rose ManaHuntress.
"What's all this?" Cry asked.
"Some...tools from my past life," Hands said with a hint of regret.
"Were you a poison maker?" Simon asked.
"An assassin," Sight said.
Hands looked at Sight in surprise. Was it just a guess or did she overhear her conversation with Cry? She had no reason to believe Cry had told anyone, he didn't come off as the type to not keep a secret.
"How did you reach that conclusion?" Hands asked, bewildered.
"An apothecary would've been able to pursue their personal dreams in their own time without having to have joined the Rose as there are always people in need of medicine. And your attire suggests a desire for mobility as well as provides a...distraction."
Sight's looked away, her face turning red while Simon looked back and forth at the two then to herself. Was she jealous of Hands in some way?
"You don't plan on killing the doctor, do you?" Cry said appalled at the idea.
"Of course not. That...that part of me is gone. Some things still remain, haunting me like the revenants and spectres of these woods, but I'm not a killer. Not anymore."
Or so I tell myself.
"Then what's the plan?" Cry asked, his tone suggesting a lack of belief given the exchange before their first excursion into the asylum.
Hands began to open some vials and smaller satchels, adding the reagents to a bowl.
"Azure Leaf, Diamond Dust, some-" Hands buried her face into her shoulder to cough. "A little bit of this, and some Death Powder," she said mixing the combination of red, predominantly black, and silver reagents up with a mortar.
"Death Powder?" Cry exclaimed.
"It's just a name," Hands began. "It's often used for making dyes, typically dark colours. Normally this concoction would be slipped into a person's drink or they may even drink it willingly as a tea for sleeping troubles either to alleviate or instill them as it can cause nightmares, so I have doubt it actually helps with the former. In high doses like most things, it can be lethal, but this is a small dose."
"How do you intend on getting him to drink it?" Simon asked.
"I don't," Hands said as she began to utilize more of her kit. "With a little tweaking, it can also be burned like incense and have the same effect. It takes longer than ingesting it, but it's an easier alternative."
"Do you believe all of this will be worth the effort?" Sight asked.
"I don't know, honestly and I don't think any of us do for that matter. At worst, you're all complicit in poisoning an old man whose house I ransacked for nothing."
"No one has to admit to it though," Sight said.
Roland felt the cold winds of the far north lash at his face and yank his hood back. He was careless and left his helmet behind, but was in too deep to turn around now especially after everything he had already seen.
Things so shocking and alien to not only him, but those few who remained that they would be haunted by them for the rest of their remaining days which seemed so few at this point and continued to dwindle.
Niflheim, the Scourge of the Ice Plains as it had been called was near and even if this was to be his final day, Roland knew he could die in peace if the dragon died on this day as well.
At the mouth of the monster's lair beyond the mountains of madness and the horrors contained within them, he swore, he could hear its growling, taunting him to enter.
The wind ceased to lash at him upon entering the darkness, forcing him to hastily get his torch lit, the flames light illuminating the entirety of the cave as the interior was revealed to be made up of strange white crystals that reflected the light in all directions.
It was a truly beautiful sight if not for the monster that lurked deeper within, its growls continuing to echo throughout.
Roland knew how this would go, he relived the moment countless times, but each time he pressed on further towards the waiting jaws of the monster that would scar him forever.
And each time he'd wake up, his body soaked with a cold sweat, heart beating in his chest, and breathing heavy.
Kid continued his wandering through the streets of Dunwich, he caught a glimpse of a sign shaped like a raven with the words Rothbard Courier's painted on it, fulfilling their reason for coming to the strange town of Dunwich.
This town holds secrets of its own that they so brazenly flaunt the results of, but my home needs me. He needs me.
Hands and Cry stood outside the home of Doctor Samsara, Hands fastening a mask to her face before peeking through a crack in the curtains of a front window.
"What happens once I open this door is on me. You only need to get involved if you hear me scream, understood?"
Cry nodded, unsure if what they were doing was right for not only himself or anyone else for that matter.
"You're a good person, Cry. Don't ever forget that."
Trying the door, she found it locked and remedied the situation with a concealed dagger further reminding her that no matter how much she tells herself she left her past life behind, it still clung to her.
Chapter XXXII: Wraith
Roland sat on his bed, unsure of how much time had passed since he first fell asleep. The nightmare was a recurring one and he always awoke the same way. Breathing heavily, heart pounding, and covered in sweat.
Despite sleeping, he not only still felt tired, he felt exhausted. It was not a recurring symptom of the nightmare, but a new one possibly as a result of the night before.
Removing his mask, Roland wiped a hand down his face, feeling the scarred flesh through his gloves, a permanent reminder of the folly in his youth.
Roland placed his half-mask back on when a knock came on his door. Despite the door being locked, he did not wish to even entertain the idea of being seen without it for it not only hid his shame, but also his weakness.
"Yes?" Roland called out.
"Excuse me, sir. I took it upon myself to perform some reconnaissance and found a courier in town. Just down the street, not far from here called Rothbard Courier's. I did not investigate further," Kid explained from beyond the door.
The thought of Kid wandering the streets of this strange town made Roland's blood run cold, but from his window, he could not see anything out of the ordinary beyond what he had already witnessed.
Admittedly, he was grateful Kid did all the legwork himself allowing him to focus on writing out a formal request to receive support from Swordhaven or at the very least Amityvale to further the ongoing mission in Arkham.
"Thank you, Kid."
Sight and Simon returned to their room having watched Cry and Hands embark on the mission they would all take with them to their graves which in hindsight was probably no worse for them than what horrors they could only imagine still being in the asylum.
"What do you think of Hands?" Simon asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Like how do you feel about her?"
"I think she's like the rest of us," Sight began. "And not just us as in those of us in this squad, but the people of Arkham and beyond. In her own way, she's broken. We're all a little bit broken in some way and it's part of what makes us who we are."
"What makes you 'broken?'" Simon asked, her curiosity peaked.
"I'm..." Sight trailed off. "It's actually quite minor in comparison, but-"
"You don't have to compare yourself to anyone," Simon interrupted. "You are you and whatever it is you believe makes you broken is part of who you are. It's one thing that makes you unique."
"I never chose the name Sight, it has just followed me throughout my life, haunting me like a ghost. Even into adulthood, it still persists to the point I still go by it even now and worst of all, I even answer to it and treated it as an actual name. All because I ruined my own vision because I wanted to perform magic when I was younger and instead without these glasses, I won't even be able to see what's directly in front of me."
"What is your true name, if you don't mind me asking?"
"That's a beautiful name, Elisa," Simon said, taking one of Elisa's hands into her own. "I'm happy you opened your heart to me."
Elisa gave Simon's hand a squeeze. "Thank you, Simon."
Hands slowly closed the door behind her, straining her ears for any sudden sounds indicating Samsara was near or at least awake, but outside of the soft clicking of the latch, there was nothing.
She hoped that Samsara was already asleep and thus would have no need for the incense and its horrid effects as she made her way up the stairs, each creaking of the steps threatening to expose her.
At the top of the stairs was a hallway with a window at the end and three rooms, one with an open door, the other two closed. The open room looked like a spare bedroom furnished like the rooms at the inns they have stayed at except for the two beds being divided by a curtain.
She slowly let out a relieved sigh that there was no one in the room and that Samsara wasn't present either.
Slowly she crept up to the first of the closed doors and pressed an ear to it, feeling the chilled wood against her skin as she listened for anything that sounded like movement or a sign of life in general to no avail.
Hands slowly tried the handle, finding the door locked she moved on to the next door. Her first objective was to make contact with Samsara before a more thorough search could begin and forcing locks would be detrimental at the moment.
Pressing her ear against the last door, she could hear some movement and a low snoring that ended in a whistle. Whoever, presumably Samsara was sound asleep and if they weren't a heavy sleeper, they would be soon.
Slowly trying the door, she found it unlocked and inside was a simple bedroom modestly furnished with a bed flanked by a pair of tables where a pair of glasses like the ones Samsara wore rested on one and a book on the other, and a closet.
Hands held her breath and she pushed the door open, the hinges creaking slightly, the one who slept grunting, but otherwise not waking up.
Creeping into the room, she moved towards the bed and sure enough, it was Doctor Samsara. The time had come to begin the next step.
Producing a parchment package, she unraveled it and took an incense rod in one hand and placed it on the table Samsara faced. The next part would be the hardest as it meant making noise, but it was unavoidable.
Slowly, she tore the parchment in two and shaped one half into a makeshift holder for the incense while the other she set alight with flint and her dagger, Samsara grunting once more.
In retrospect, she thought about how she could've done this in the hallway, but without confirmation that it was Samsara and not an unknown individual in the room, it was too much of a risk.
With the incense lit, she watched Samsara waiting for some sort of sign that it was taking effect until the snoring stopped.
Checking to ensure he was breathing and hadn't died, she began her search starting with the book on the other table using the moon's light pouring in through the window.
It was merely a journal detailing patients and people who had come to the clinic with the most recent entry being their attempting at questioning him on the asylum.
Flipping through the pages, there was nothing that stood out and it almost made her wish Kid was around to put the fear of the Avatars into the old doctor.
Returning the book to its place, she went back into the hallway to investigate the other room and the potential mysteries behind its door.
Forcing the lock, she pushed open the door revealing pitch black.
Roland looked out the window of his room, watching the streets empty as the people concluded their day.
He wondered what the rest of his squad were doing back in Arkham. He believed they would be continuing the investigation, but what further leads could there be without venturing into the asylum again?
He thought about the asylum and how easy it would be to just abandon the mission and pretend the whole ordeal never happened, but he knew it would never be that easy. He had the nightmares, scarring, and disfigurement to prove it.
He sat at the rooms lone table, lit the lamp, and began to write. In the morning, he'd have the letter sent to Amityvale and then begin his return to the cursed town of Arkham.
You're a good person, Cry. Don't ever forget that, Hands worked resonated with him.
What did she mean by that and why did it sound like something one would say as their final words? What did she plan on doing in Samsara's house?
Cry thought about entering the house and putting a stop to whatever was going on in the house of Doctor Samsara if there even was something going on. Maybe he was just overthinking Hands words and she'll walk out the door no different than how she went in.
Maybe she was just trying to reassure him due to obviously feeling conflicted about what they were doing even though she was clearly more torn up about it as though she felt the part of her life she left behind was trying to force its way to the surface.
Cry puts his hands to his head and squeezed, frustrated by his ineptitude which soon turned to fear when he heard the sound of a wolf howling beyond the town wall.
Hurry up, Hands, he thought, feeling his heart begin to race.
Hands crept into the darkness, an eerie feeling like she was being watched came over her similar to being in full view of the asylum and its ominous tower.
Feeling along a wall hoping to find a lamp or even curtains on a window, she could feel the rough wood of shelving units that seemed to go around the entirety of the room until finally feeling heavy drapery.
It took a surprising amount of effort to pull the curtains back and let the moon's light in and upon doing so she wished she hadn't.
Gasping in horror she could see all the shelves and the jars they held containing various body parts in varying states of decay as whatever fluid they were stored in began to break down. Most prominent among the gruesome collection was a large collection of eyes spanning multiple shelves.
In the center of the room was a table with various books and notes scattered around.
The notes were the ramblings of a madman raving about how his life's work was ruined by Special Order 386, Jonathon Arkham, how he was so close to making a breakthrough and how he'd be able to create new life from old in a way unlike the chimeric monstrosities of the necromancers.
She hastily left the room and closed the door having no desire to stay there any longer the investigation and covering her tracks be damned.
Catching her breath, she made her way back to Samsara's room to retrieve the incense to at least make an effort at covering her tracks.
Creeping back into Samsara's room, the old man didn't seem any different than before. If he was dreaming, he didn't show it, but as long as he was still alive, that was all that mattered to the investigation and their ability to deny any accusations of wrongdoing.
With the incense snuffed out and crumpled into its paper holder, Hands snuck out of the room, gently closing the door behind and averting her eyes from the closed door and the gallery of horrors behind it as she stole down the hallway and stairs to the streets of Arkham where Cry and relief waited.
Chapter XXXIII: What Comes After Fear
Cry reached for the door as Hands swung it open nearly colliding with him as she hastily shut the door behind her.
"We have to go," both of them said in unison.
"Agreed," Hands said, making her way down the street without hesitation, Cry following on her heels, looking over his shoulder as the howl of the wolf grew closer.
"There's something out there," Cry pleaded. "Can you hear it?"
"I don't hear anything except my heart racing."
Cry stopped moving, a shocked expression on his face.
"You don't hear the howling?" He asked.
"No. Remember the last time you heard a wolf? There's more to this town than just the asylum and it doesn't involve any wolves."
Out of breath, the two regrouped at Callahan's with Elisa and Simon, both visibly shaken and Cry still frantically looking around, hearing the howling of the wolf.
"What did you find out?" Elisa asked.
"That...that man is a monster. There's a room in his house containing..." Hands shuddered as she recalled the horrors of the room. "Walls upon walls of body parts preserved in jars and...so many eyes."
Elisa shuddered at the thought of a room full of eyes.
"What else did you find?" Simon asked.
"There were notes in the room," Hands began. "Mostly ramblings about creating new life from old unlike necromancy, how Jonathon Arkham ruined his life's work with something called Special Order 386. I wasn't staying in that room to investigate further, but whatever was going on in that asylum, it wasn't helping people."
"What should we tell the Captain when he returns?" Cry asked, the wolf sounding closer.
"We tell him we found a lead about a Doctor Samsara and that we tried talking to him without any success. We say nothing about the breaking into his house or what we talked about it now," Elisa began. "We will also compile a report saying those exact words and nothing more."
"That's about all we can do," Hands said. "And Cry?"
"Remember, there is no wolf. That howling you're hearing is something in the asylum or even the asylum itself," she assured him.
"Right," he said, his voice still sounding uncertain.
In the morning, Roland walked out of his room at the Dunwich inn, the a multi-page report in his coat.
In the hallway, he found Kid waiting patiently, a most unnerving sight.
"Good morning, sir," Kid said.
"Good morning, Kid," Roland said, steeling his voice to hide his unease. "You said the place is called Rothbard Courier's, correct?"
"Yes, sir. It has a sign shaped like a raven with those exact words on it."
Leaving the inn, they could see people leaving their homes as they began their respective day, the strange flowers decorating the buildings illuminating them far greater than the light of the moon from behind the eerie dark veil ever could.
"I asked a woman who appeared to work at or operate what seemed to be the florist about the flowers, but she only told me she could not reveal her secrets. Might it be best to make note of this town as part of expanding operations in the region?"
"It's worth noting, but until the asylum project is well underway, anything else will have to wait," Roland said.
Is this part of his act or is there a genuine concern about this town? Roland wondered.
The sign came into view as they walked down the streets of Dunwich and soon enough, they were inside what was a simple storefront, the fluttering of wings and other avian related sounds coming from a back room.
Behind the counter stood a man a few years older than Roland, a younger woman walking behind him to the back room.
"Hello, how can I help you folks?" the man who is older than Roland asked in a jovial tone.
"I need this sent to Swordhaven or Amityvale at the very least," Roland said producing an envelope from inside his coat.
"My flock can't go beyond the borders of Doomwood, but Amityvale is quite possible," the man who is older than Roland said taking the envelope. "Although a parcel this size will raise the cost a bit and I can't guarantee it'll be as quick."
That wasn't the worst thing Roland could have heard, but it could have been a lot worse.
"That's fine," Roland said.
After an exchange of money, Roland and Kid left the courier's and began to make their way out of the strange town of Dunwich, a feeling of dread coming over his Roland at the thought of returning to Arkham.
Cry awoke, his hands bound to the bed where he lay. It was uncomfortable, but he knew it was for the best to keep him from hunting phantasmic wolves in the night and possibly doing something he would add to list of regrets that made up of life ever since that fateful day back home.
"Would it rude to ask if you slept well?" Hands said, untying Cry's hands.
"A bit, yes," Cry said.
"I'm sorry, but you asked me to do this."
"I know," Cry said rubbing his wrists and rotating his shoulders. "It could have been a lot worse since no one else is like you. And even that..."
"Don't think about it, Cry. There are greater things to be concerned with than what if scenarios."
"Yes, you're right. I'm sorry."
"There's no need to apologize. Just remember that whatever you see and hear, it's not real."
"Good morning, Elisa," Simon said, enjoying every opportunity to say the true name of the woman she had met as Sight.
"Good morning, Simon," Elisa said groggily, her sleep disturbed by visions of light and an endless array of eyes.
"You didn't sleep well?" Simon asked, concern audible in her voice.
Simon's own sleep was restless, but it was something she had grown to accept fully aware it was abnormal, the dark circles under her eyes acting as a testimony to that.
"No. I think whatever forces are at work here influence our thoughts and dreams. Maybe even our memories."
"What did you dream about?" Simon asked, sitting on the edge of her bed.
"I dreamt of the day I tried to perform magic and what happened afterwards. And there were eyes. So many eyes looking at me and through me. I've had that dream before, but never was there so many eyes."
"I'm not the best person to say this, but if there's anything I can do, don't hesitate to ask," Simon said, her bleary eyes saying more than any words could about sleep troubles.
"Thank you, Simon."
The road between Dunwich and Arkham was no different in the morning hours as it was the day before.
Traversing it, they passed the remains of the fire Roland made previously and not much further from that spot were the remains of the monsters they had fought off, their remains picked clean by scavengers they could only imagine.
The farthest reaches of Doomwood contained horrors either forgotten or unknown to Amityvale made him recall his homeland and the journey he took in the far northern reaches of this continent where things few had ever made contact with dwell.
Just what else resided on this continent or even on Lore that had been forgotten or unknown to its inhabitants? Things that if he were to speak of aloud, he'd be considered mad at the very least.
Roland shook his head to clear his mind of such thoughts. What mattered now wasn't the past or musings of the world, but returning to Arkham. Although he was unsure of how to progress once he and Kid returned to the accursed town.
Really he had been unsure of how to go about this mission from the very beginning, the initial premise was just following up on rumours and then he had gotten in over his head.
Life was simpler in the snow plains.
The four gathered in the room of Simon and Elisa as seemed to be custom at this point in time, the topic of their next move on the table.
"Do we have anything that could be a potential lead?" Cry began. "I think we've exhausted as much as we can from town hall and Callahan. If only because those are town hall don't trust us."
"We may not have exhausted everything at town hall," Elisa began. "If we go by what Hands said she saw in Samsara's house, we just need to ask about any disappearances in recent years. If anything leads us to him, we could potentially search his house more thoroughly."
"I think that would be stepping beyond what we're supposed to be doing here. We can't exactly act as the law without being entrenched in the town," Cry said.
"That's...true," Elisa said, a touch of relief in her voice from not having the think about bearing witness to what Hands saw the night before.
"We could ask Callahan though," Hands said. "We won't say anything to him about Samsara's house, just ask about disappearances...or anything really. I suppose it would be difficult to say how we came up with this theory without giving too much away."
"What if we just tell the Captain, we found a lead, tried to talk to him and it didn't pan out? If Samsara has connections to the Arkham family, him seeing Kid might elicit a reaction of sorts," Simon began. "It may even prompt Kid to sneak out and pay Samsara a visit himself like with the mayor."
"That sounds really risky, honestly. But it might also be the best way to learn anything new outside of the asylum," Cry said.
"Is it worth the risk?" Elisa asked.
"We won't know until we try," Hands said.
The three left the town of Miskatonic behind them with no knowledge on what the cause or the solution to their spider infestation is.
Their only lead was in the caves, but without the people or resources to mount an expedition into them all they could do was speculate.
Most worrying about their time was the slaying and study of a strange purple spider the size of a Gorillaphant.
Whatever it was that was responsible for the infestation of Miskatonic, it was not of this world and far beyond anything they as individuals or the greater Rose could handle.
Their last orders was to travel to Arkham and assist in the investigation there which had them curious and worried as to what may be waiting for them there if Miskatonic was only a glimpse into the horrors and oddities of Doomwood beyond the walls of Amityvale.
Chapter XXXIV: My Least Favourite Life
The air grew cold for only a moment until an Ice Elemental manifested before the three of them making them wondering if this was part of the oddities of the greater Doomwood or sometime pertaining to events occurring outside of Doomwood?
It was no matter as the foreign elemental was easily dispatched by the three of them.
"Do we continue to Arkham or go back to Amityvale?" One of the two ManaHunter's asked.
"It'll take far too long to return to Amityvale and if it were major, we'd have been ordered back instead," the Magus said.
"I can't help but think we're not doing enough," Cry said.
"Our hands are tied and unfortunately our best bet is to hope Kid acts in the same way he has before," Hands said, stretching out on one the beds. "It's not the best approach, but it's also our only option given our position. We've already gone over the line enough as is."
"Sometimes I think joining the Rose was a bad idea," Cry said sitting down on the bed opposite of Hands. "I could've gotten dislike and distrust from people at home, but at least there I still could have done something to help others instead of being some bottom of the barrel recruit only sent out when there's no other option."
"Why would you recieve dislike and distrust at home?" Elisa asked.
"I'm considered a murderer where I'm from."
The room went deathly silent, Hands bolting right up, a look of shock on her face.
Cry had told her about him having taken the life of someone before and speculated it was part of why he joined the Rose in the first place, but for it to be called murder was a new and frankly shocking development.
"What do you mean?" Hands asked.
Cry took a deep breath and held it for what felt like an eternity before exhaling. Before he even began, he knew he would hate telling this story.
"Where I come from, there's an abundance of wolves which we regularly try to cull. Hunting wolves is as big of a part of the community as farming is, maybe even bigger. I was part of a hunting party one day that sought to cull a particularly large wolf that was slaughtering livestock."
Cry paused to wipe his eyes.
"We tracked the wolf and we did slay it, but it wounded one of our members. No one in the community could perform magic and the wound was...they were going to die before we could even try to take them back to the town, while they wailed and choked on their own blood. It was too much for not only them to bear, but myself as well and so...I put them out of their misery and mine as well."
"You did what you thought was right," Simon said. "Trying to take them back to the community would have only prolonged their suffering. A quick ending is preferable to a prolonged one when you're dying."
"If only the others seen it that way. Or maybe I was just being selfish because I didn't want to see them suffering."
Cry wiped his eyes once more, but by then tears were streaming down his face.
"I don't know why they do anything afterwards except no longer have me in hunting parties and direct all their hate and frustration towards me. They could have did anything like excommunicate me and leave me for the wolves, ignore me, or even execute me, but they did nothing like that. Their treatment of me was how I got the name Cry and...I just accepted it as my punishment."
"I'm sorry," Hands said. "I know you're not looking for validation, but you didn't do anything wrong. You did what you thought was right."
"What's right for me isn't always what's right for others," Cry said.
Roland and Kid continued their journey through the forest and back to Arkham, the remains of the monsters far behind them like the horrors of the frozen north Roland believed he had left behind with his youth.
Roland recalled the dream he had so many times over the years and how he always woke up from it in the same way with his heart beating, body covered in sweating, and breathing heavy.
It was always the same dream and the same way he awoke, but something about this time was different that he couldn't quite put his finger on.
Whatever it was that was somehow different about this dream was frustrating, but it also served as a distraction from the events that unfolded over the last few days. An unwelcome distraction, but a distraction nonetheless.
Kid remained indifferent to what they left behind on the road, but was still intrigued to a degree by the town of Dunwich and what other mysteries it held.
Perhaps after he fulfilled his blood rite and continued his family's legacy, he would make a trip to Dunwich for a learning experience.
The four sat in silence, stewing in Cry's story and the brief talk afterwards.
"Cry, I was an assassin. I have killed people or assisted in killing people for far less noble reasons. What the people who you viewed as your community did was unacceptable and there's no need to punish yourself for it or seek redemption."
"You know as well as I do if not better that's easier said than done," Cry began. "We all have our pain, Hands. How we cope with it is what sets us apart."
We're all a little bit broken, Simon thought, recalling Elisa's words. But maybe some of us are more broken than others and hate the lives we live while yearning for the one we don't.
Chapter XXXV: How I Could Just Kill A Man
The five converged on the gates of Arkham, the town watch eyeing them with suspicion.
"I can vouch for them," Roland called out, the guards opening the gate to let them in.
"Captain Roland, I presume?" the Magus asked.
"Correct. And you are?"
"Magus Barnes. Apprentice Magus Barnes," the apprentice Magus said, correcting herself. "My colleagues and I met two members of your team in Miskatonic the other day and we've recently been ordered to join you and the investigation you're leading in Arkham. As temporary as that may be."
"What makes you believe, it'll be temporary?" Roland asked, trying to hide his annoyance with the apprentice Magus and her obvious displeasure with being involved in this investigation.
"During our travels from Miskatonic, we encountered an Ice Elemental suggesting something else is afoul in the region."
Roland put a hand to his chin in thought, tapping a finger on his face. If there were other strange events occurring in the region, it may very well jeopardize the mission, an outcome he wouldn't be opposed to.
"We recently ventured to Dunwich and found a courier to establish contact with Amityvale," Roland began. "If there other events occurring in the region, we may be recalled to assist in that."
"It's something we should be prepared for," Magus Barnes said, nearly saying anticipate.
"Right. My squad and I have procured lodgings at a place called Callahan's. I am certain you and yours won't have a problem doing the same. In the morning, we'll tend to introductions and informing you of everything we've uncovered before planning our next move."
Kid sank into the bed at the inn, feeling as though his body was melting into it. While the bed was still unfamiliar to him, he felt at peace in the place that he would always see as his home under the watchful eye of his protector.
For the first time in what seemed like an eternity he dreamed.
"When the time comes, I will return to my blood," the voice of an older man said, the voice and words coming from Kid's mouth. "It will be up to you to ensure that happens and to ensure the continuous flow of our blood. Your blood."
"Hey Kid, stop dawdling!" an authoritative voice called out, snapping him back to reality.
He was on a trail in the forest of Surewould, the location of his first field mission. The mission was simple, locate a clawkin nest and apprehend the creatures.
"I get you're probably nervous, but it won't be a hard mission," a ManaHunter said in a casual tone. "Intel tells us there's four of them and there's seven of us, so even if they do attack, we have the numbers."
"Numbers don't mean much when they know the environment better than we do," a ManaHuntress said in a gruff tone. "They may very well be hiding in the trees as we speak, waiting to strike."
The ManaHunter let out a light chuckle to try and hide his unease.
"We'll be fine."
The woods began to grow thicker and darker, the one leading the operation, a Lieutenant drew his sword, ordering the others to do the same.
"Try not to get lost, Kid," the ManaHuntress said, drawing her daggers.
Steel cut through brush, branches and sticks snapping beneath their feet.
None of you are making it out of these woods alive.
The trees rustled and without a word, a ManaHunter disappeared, pulled into the trees without warning.
The nine gathered on the main floor of Callahan's, Magus Barnes looking as though she were still half-asleep, her medium length dark hair, disheveled and unkempt.
"Magus Barnes, this Cry, Hands, Kid, Sight, and Simon. I believe you are already familiar with Cry and Simon," Roland said.
"A pleasure to meet you all," Magus Barnes said, stifling a yawn. "These two are John and Lydon."
The ManaHunters nodded, the two having no discernible features to make them stand out from regular rank and file ManaHunters.
Roland and his squad inform Magus Barnes and her cohorts of what they know, finishing up with their unsuccessful meeting with Doctor Samsara, Kid feigning disinterest at the mention of the doctor.
"So if I am to understand this," Magus Barnes began. "You've spent more time investigating the mystery of an old family than the asylum that's meant to replace the fallen Espina Rosa?"
"Something is haunting the asylum that is affecting the town and its people. If we are to achieve our goal, we must discover the source of that haunting which the Arkham family is at the heart of," Roland said, trying to hide his frustration with Magus Barnes.
"If I may make a suggestion, might we divide our attention between further investigation of the asylum and the Arkham family perhaps establishing ourselves in the asylum should there be a space that allows it," Magus Barnes said.
Roland put a hand to his chin, tapping a finger on his mask.
"That would be best and the asylum does have living quarters that will likely need to be cleaned up. I will be tasking you and yours to the asylum with Cry, Sight, and Simon. Hands, Kid, and I will regroup with you after we meet with Doctor Samsara in another attempt to interview him."
"I believe that is reasonable," Magus Barnes said.
"Sir, if I may speak to you in private for a moment," Hands said.
Roland nods and the two move to the far end of the main floor, out of earshot of others, or so they hope.
"What is it?"
"I have reason to believe that after what will likely be an unsuccessful meeting with Doctor Samsara, Kid will go to him in the night as he did with the mayor. The aftermath may not be the same though," Hands said.
"And you believe he should be stopped before that can happen?" Roland asked.
"The opposite, sir. There may be some gain in letting Kid...intimidate or whatever he does to those who have a connection to the investigation."
"You know that's quite a risk, correct?" Roland asked.
"I am aware of that, sir. But we are running low on avenues of information in the town and exploiting someone who can...persuade others to speak may be our best option at the present."
Roland put a hand to his chin, tapping a finger on his mask.
"I'll allow it, but I don't like it."
The six entered the asylum grounds and then the main hall with its unnatural lighting.
"Where shall we begin?" Magus Barnes asked.
"If we're going to establish ourselves here, we should make our way to the living quarters," Cry said. "Elisa and Simon can lead the way."
The new additions to the team paid no mind to the use of Elisa's name, either uninterested or just not paying attention as they entered the courtyard and it's peculiar statue.
The mess hall in the western wing of the asylum was as it was before, the lighting remained as dim and dying now as it did then and possibly even before, the putrid stench of decaying food trapped within the confines of a building that remained unopened for a long time also remained.
"Leave the doors open," Magus Barnes said, her voice muffled by her hand covering her mouth and nose.
"Beyond those doors at the back was a garden, right?" Cry asked.
Elisa shuddered at the thought of the garden beyond the doors and countless eyes staring at and through them, feeling their gaze through the heavy metal doors.
"Yes," Elisa said, fear creeping into her voice. "Sleeping quarters are on the floor above."
"I'll stay outside, sir, if you don't mind. It might be better if he only sees new faces," Hands said, not wanting to see the man who kept such a horrific room.
"Understood," Roland said, knocking on the door to the sulphur scented house, a hoarse voice calling to enter.
Inside, the old man looked at Roland recognizing the insignia on his attire and mask from those who came prying the day before, a look of almost childlike wonder on his face at the sight of Roland's mask.
"Oh my, what do we have here?" Doctor Samsara asked from behind the table, the wonder on his face contorting into rage at the sight of Kid. "You dare bring a monster into my house? Was it not enough to harrass me the day before that you bring...that abomination here?!"
The old man pointed accusingly at Kid, a strange contraption on his hands partially covered by the sleeves of his shirt, barely visible. At a glance, it almost resembled something akin to what Rose Energizers were equipped with, but without closer inspection, it could not be confirmed.
"Excuse me, Doctor Sa-"
"Absolutely not!" the Doctor shouted, cutting off Roland. "I will not take part in your unearthing of what should remain buried, especially when you bring that unnatural thing along with you."
Roland backed out of the house, Kid following, his green eyes locked on the rambling Doctor as if staring through his heart and into his very soul.
Further confirmation there was more to Kid than what was in Rose records was a welcome piece of information, but not enough.
The Doctor spoke of something being buried, but he was likely not speaking literally. If the alleged last of the Arkham line was burned at the stake, how much could there have been to bury if anything was actually buried?
"Would mind explaining what that was about, Kid?" Roland asked.
"Merely the ramblings of an old man who I must say is likely nearing his wits end," Kid said. "As you know and have record of, I have never been to this town or region until this operation started."
An obvious lie, but the next step of the plan may bare fruit as much as Roland disliked it. They needed to know more even though it would come at a great risk.
Simon felt a strong melancholy come over her as they climbed the stairs to sleeping quarters that once housed the Arkham Asylum staff as she thought of the old pictures of families left behind in the wake of whatever it was that forced them to flee.
"I must say, I'm having difficulty understanding why you remain in the inn when the asylum appears to be far more serviceable once one gets past the smell," Magus Barnes remarked.
"You've only just come to Arkham recently. It will become apparent in time," Cry said.
"If you say so, but as it stands now, I am not impressed."
Cry was thankful for the dim light as it allowed him to hide the expression of dislike on his face as he began to become irritated with the apprentice magi.
Which one of these was Doctor Samsara's? Elisa wondered as she walked between the abandoned beds, some of which looking as though they had never been slept in.
With a loud creak that sounded more like the wailing of someone meeting an unfortunate end, Magus Barnes managed to open a window, the moon's light pouring in as the fresh outside air began to replace the stagnant and dust filled air of the room.
While Magus Barnes and her escorts were indifferent to the asylum, the others were growing more and more nervous about staying in the asylum, the watchful gaze of its tower somehow meeting their own as though its top floor really was a head.
Another one disappeared into the woods and then another, making three.
Kid thought back to that day, something about his return home bringing all sorts of memories back.
"Calm down and form up!" the Lieutenant called out, the remaining members of their squad beginning to form a circle, moving as one unit.
The thought of multiple blades all ready to strike out should anything emerge from the trees brought small comfort to some members of the unit. It almost seemed like something one might expect a battalion of Dragon Lords to do when surrounded and without their dragon for whatever reason.
The foliage hung low and it quickly became apparent there was a flaw in their formation when the lone ManaHuntress was pulled up into the trees.
"This isn't right," a ManaHunter panicked. "Clawkin don't normally do this."
Kid was awash with a sort of euphoric feeling at the sight and sounds of the Rose panic and disappearance. It reminded him of something from home that his father often spoke of.
"Keep your wits about," the Lieutenant hissed.
Another flaw in their formation became apparent as the talkative ManaHunter was pulled into the foliage by their ankles leaving only Kid and the Lieutenant left.
"I believe these formations don't have much merit in the absence of shields, sir," Kid said, his voice like ice.
They reached a clearing, their assailants still moving through the trees, eyes boring into them.
"Someone will answer for this," the Lieutenant growled.
The clawkin slowly began to creep out of the woods, their eyes trained on the Lieutenant. They didn't ignore Kid, but they seemed to avoid his gaze nor did they risk getting close to him, actively keeping their distance as though something about him repelled them.
With a single motion, Kid turned his sword.
The Lieutenant never saw it coming.
Chapter XXXVI: Blood Flows
The room seemed refreshed with the windows opened and the moon's light shining in through open rather than closed and dirty windows, circulating cool and clean air.
"Isn't this an improvement?" Magus Barnes exclaimed, gazing around the room and out the window, her eyes meeting with the seemingly omnipotent gaze of the asylum's dark tower.
She looked deep into the eye-like windows of the tower and it did the same to her as though it had caught her in a spell.
"You've been in that tower, correct?" she asked no one in particular.
"Yes," Cry began. "It appeared to be where the Arkham family had stayed although there are some things to look about still."
"Perhaps we should take that look at it today," she said, her tone sounding almost lethargic from the feigned enjoyment of opening the windows.
"I think it would be more appropriate to take a break. You sound...tired," Cry said, his annoyance with the apprentice magi becoming one of concern.
When he looked at the tower, he felt suspicion and unease, his tone matching his mood when he spoke of it even if the tower were not visible to him, but Magus Barnes sounded as though she were in a trance-like state or hypnotized even.
"We're also here to investigate the asylum, are we not?" Magus Barnes asked, dreamily. "So we should investigate."
Cry thought about the library and what it showed him and the events of that night. What would it show her?
"Let's wait for the Captain to arrive before we make any decisions."
Captain Roland and the two members of his squad entered the asylum's main hall, the doctor's words echoing in the back of his head.
Just what are you, Kid Arkham?
"If they're establishing themselves in the asylum, they are likely in the west wing. Elisa err, Sight and Simon said it appeared to have been where the personnel resided," Hands said.
"Elisa?" Roland asked.
"It'd be more appropriate if you spoke to her about that yourself, sir."
Truth be told, Roland wasn't particularly interested, he already knew it wasn't her given name nor did most of his squad go by their given name for whatever reason, knowing the actual name of someone under his command didn't make a difference.
Except for Kid. All he knew was Kid's family name which is at the heart of this mystery he found himself caught in like a fly in a spider's web.
But would knowing his real name make a difference? Would it open this mystery up or leave them with more questions than answers?
Crossing the courtyard with its peculiar statue, Roland glanced at the broken and decaying apparatuses, wondering just what kind of place this was that there were children present at one time.
Did those things exist before the manor was converted into an asylum or after?
A chill ran up his spine at the thought of children being kept in this place.
Entering the open doors of the of the mess hall, Roland recoiled slightly at the fading yet still present smell of putrefaction.
Once upon a time, this was a grand dining room, Kid thought. And above, what was once a grand ballroom.
On the second floor, the smell of dust and stagnant air replaced by the cool and refreshing air of the world outside.
"Captain Roland, if I may?" Magus Barnes blurted out before Roland could enter the room fully.
"What is it, Magus Barnes?"
"Requesting permission to investigate the tower, sir," she said, her tone going from dreamy and dazed to almost cheerful, giving Roland a feeling of unease that was different than the one he got from Kid.
"I believe our time would be better spent setting up quarters here," Roland began. "Kid and I shall remain at Callahan's for an additional two days to ensure a response from Amityvale arrives. During that time we will convene in the main hall of the asylum in the morning where we plan our course of action and I want reports of any odd occurrences that may happen while residing in the asylum."
"Yes, sir," the eight said in unison, disappointment in the voice of Magus Barnes.
"Cry, Hands, may I speak with you two privately?" Roland said in a commanding tone that made the two nervous.
The three met on the main floor of the western wing of the asylum, neither of them hiding their displeasure with the lingering odours, but it was necessary to ensure privacy.
"Cry, you will be in command while I am away from the asylum. On top of what I said previously, I want reports about our recent joiners, specifically the apprentice magi. The last thing we want to deal with it is another variable considering what we know or don't know about Kid."
"Yes, sir," Cry said, trying to sound confident, but his voice bore a hint of nervousness.
"Hands, I want you to follow up on the doctor during the night. If Kid does indeed sneak off to his home, I want to know what happens."
"That's an oddly specific request, sir. May I ask why you think I'm capable of the task?"
"Your profile made mention of athletic capabilities. Graceful was a term used. I trust that means you can move without making a lot of noise."
A feeling of nervousness crept into Hand's stomach as Roland seemed to dance around explicitly calling her on having been an assassin.
"Understood, sir," she said.
"If I may, sir. It's about Magus Barnes," Cry said, trying to choke down the feeling of nervousness from being given an authoritative position even if only temporary.
"What is it?"
"I think something about the tower has her mezmorized. Since opening the windows, she began to show a very vested interest in it, sounding almost entranced by it."
"She did sound vastly different just now when asking about the tower," Roland said, reiterating Cry's words. "If she tries to investigate the tower on her own, subdue her."
As expected, Kid crept out of Callahan's in the dead of night, Hands stalking him through the streets from the shadows.
As she followed after Kid, she began to notice that he was going down streets seemingly at random sometimes going near the home of Doctor Samsara and sometimes going away from it.
He knew his way around the town better than anyone. He knew she was following.
Hands froze, her body pressed against the side of a house. How did he know she was following? Is she out of practice or is there more to Kid than meets the eye?
She'd make a suitable host, no incubator. Kid thought. Unless she continues to try and impede me. Impede him.
The door to Doctor Samsara's house was locked as expected, the repugnant stench of sulphur as strong as ever.
The door swings open with a crash, Kid not even bothering with stealth or subtlety.
Kid stepped into the front hall of the house, Doctor Samsara nowhere in sight.
Drawing his sword, Kid began to ascend the stairs, the empty patient's ward to his left, the closed door to the room of horrors.
The door was unlocked and inside the light of the moon flowing in through the uncovered window exposing the Doctor, hunched over the table in the center, scrawling into a ledger.
"What was it he called you again?" Kid began. "Was it Reanimator or Dollmaker? Or maybe it was something else. He always said you could never commit to a single project long enough to see it through."
"You speak of him as if he's gone, monster," Doctor Samsara hissed, standing up from the table. "You and I both know that is not the case."
"You'd call me a monster in this gallery of horror?" Kid said accusingly, walking along the room, running a hand across the various jars, inadvertently wiping dust from them.
In reality he had no moral high ground to hold, but he knew the Doctor wouldn't be able to avoid the trap which would give him the opportunity he needed.
"You would dare to act morally superior to me? What I have done is for the greater good. The power to reverse death without the use of dark magics which you know all about, don't you?"
Hands pressed herself against the wall outside the room the two bickered in, her heart racing with the idea that Kid knew she was present.
"I don't know who or what you think I am, but I assure you I am exactly what you see before you."
"I know all about you-"
Hands heard a shout and the shattering of glass, but she did not dare peek around the corner. Not at the sound of the glass shattering or the shouting nor at the sound of steel rending flesh, the hum of electricity, or the dripping of blood.
"There's no use hiding," Kid said, freezing Hands blood in her veins. "There never was."
Chapter XXXVII: Bully
Cry sat in the former mess hall, the smells of stagnation and putrefaction slowly fading as the night air of the outside drifted in through the open doors as well as the sound of howling that was much too animalistic to be the wind.
It's not real, there is no wolf. It's not real, there is no wolf. Cry thought, repeating it again and again like a mantra.
"What's the matter, are you going to cry?" A familiar male voice said from nowhere. "You going to cry like so many of our friends and family did after you took the life of one of our own?"
"I...I tried to help. They were suffering."
"And now we're suffering because you tried to do things on your own without even considering what the others could do or how they'd feel. You thought only of yourself," the phantom voice continued.
Cry could feel his eyes beginning to well up, the developing tears, burning his eyes.
Don't cry. If you cry, you lose.
"And it always comes back to the crying. It doesn't matter how many tears you shed, no one will feel sorry for you," the phantom voice said scornfully.
"Why didn't you just kill me?" Cry asked. "You want justice, don't you?"
"We shall seek justice in another way," the phantom voice began. "The loss of your identity is a far more suitable punishment, Cry."
The distant howl masked his weeping. He had lost.
It all happened so fast and in a flash, she was unable to see more than her hands on her face as she covered her eyes.
"Somebody...help me. I...I can't see," she pleaded.
It would be a few days before anything could be arranged to try and grant her her sight back. They were dark days both literally and figuratively as she tried to see the world through little more than pinholes and then there was the time it took for her eyes to adjust.
"What's the matter, lost your sight?" A child's voice called out mockingly. "Hey, how many fingers?"
Was there a difference between human and monster? Sometimes she thought there wasn't while other times she was sure there was. As time went on, she believed there was a degree of overlap between humans and monsters.
"You got four eyes, open them!" another voice called out in the same mocking tone.
Elisa sat up in her bed, her heart racing and sweat pouring down her body. She could scarcely make out an outline of Simon in the bed next to her.
"What's wrong, Elisa?" Simon asked, her tone barely a whisper.
"Just...just a nightmare," Elisa said, her voice quivering.
"Reach your hand out towards me," Simon said reaching one of her own hands out to Elisa.
Elisa's hand met with Simon's, her fingers immediately wrapping around the other woman's hand.
"Whenever you're afraid, just hold my hand," Simon said reassuringly.
"How come you're still awake?" Elisa asked, feeling her heartbeat return to normal.
"Can't have nightmares if you don't sleep."
Can't dream either.
"There's no use hiding," Kid repeated. "I knew you were following from the start, but I'm sure you already knew that."
Hands blood ran cold. Who or what is he?
"Have it your way," he said. "I suppose you'll want to tell the Captain about what happened here, the lot of good it will do as he's much too dedicated to upholding proper conduct and practices to really do anything."
Kid was right. Captain Roland won't act without authorization, but she wasn't bound by bureaucratic restrictions, or ethics and conduct, right? She is or was an assassin after all.
Hands reached for her sword. It would be easy and so many of their problems would go away.
But she wasn't an assassin. She wasn't a killer. Not anymore, right?
"You're welcome to tell the Captain, I won't stop you. Tell him I killed the Doctor, you can even come and take his notes to see what he had been up to. The Captain will of course be displeased by this extrajudicial act even if it does shed some light on the mystery."
She could say it was an act of self-defence. Kid attacked her, she had no choice, but to defend herself. She was already caught up in several lies as is, what's one more?
She took her hand from her sword. Everyday she struggles to be the person she wants to be and to bury the person she was.
She made her way down the stairs and out of the house, leaving it behind her. She would go to the asylum, climb into a bed and try to forget everything that happened until reporting to the Captain.
"You knew a lot more than I expected, Doctor," Kid said to the corpse of the old man, the devices on his hands gone silent. "I'm sure he wasn't surprised though."
Kid crouched down to examine the devices the deceased wore. They were quite similar to those of Rose Energizer's although with some obvious differences in terms of materials used and likely function.
He wasn't referred to as Reanimator at one point in time for nothing.
Kid left the room and the house, the obstacle in his path and enemy of his blood removed.
He would return to Callahan's and tomorrow would mark another trip into the home of his family. His birthright. His legacy.
Chapter XXXVIII: Dream Girl
Cry thought back to his home and the time he tried so hard to forget. He thought about how he tried to redeem himself in the eyes of those around him by trying to fix and build things in the hope that he could find acceptance and redemption in serving his community in another way since he failed as a hunter and earned only the scorn of those around him.
Except for one person. He couldn't remember her name which only brought more tears to his eyes, but when Simon asked him what he knew about love, he had thought of the girl from his home.
He thought about how being with her made him feel something greater than happiness and being away from her made him feel something greater than sadness. Something he felt at this moment.
She did not judge or despise him, but she also did not pity him. She seemed to value him for who he is or at least who he had tried to be which was enough for him.
He thought about the day he left his home to join The Rose and the pain it caused him to leave her behind, to lose her and the only person who seemed to value or care about him.
"Why are you leaving?" He heard her say.
"I don't belong here anymore," he said. "I can't do anything here to make a difference."
"Do you really think you can make a difference with The Rose? Did you think that maybe you did make a difference here?"
"I don't know, but what I do know is the only difference I made here was to get the ire of everyone around me. Everyone except you," he said.
"Is that not enough of a difference?"
"I don't know."
Cry stared at the floor, staining it with his tears.
"I made a terrible mistake."
Simon looked over to Elisa, her eyes heavy.
Elisa looked as though she were at peace, her hand still entwined with Simon's.
"Thank you, Elisa," Simon whispered as her eyes finally shut and sleep eventually took over for the first time in many days if not longer.
Simon dreamed she was in the Maguswoods looking over a lake with waters as clear as crystal. She had come to this place often when the caravan was in the region to think and find peace.
She came to this place to escape if only for a moment.
This time was different, she did not come to this place to escape, but to share this piece of paradise with Elisa where she was at peace.
"I'm glad to have met you, Elisa."
"I'm glad to have met you too, Simon."
Much like in the waking world, the two took hold of each others hand, Simon resting her head on Elisa's shoulder.
"Why does it have to end?" Elisa asked.
"Why does what have to end?"
"All of this. My hand in your hand, your head on my shoulder, the serenity of it all," Elisa said, her voice growing distant.
"It doesn't have to end. We can stay like this forever," Simon begged, feeling Elisa's hand slip away.
"It doesn't work like that, Simon. You and I both know nothing lasts forever be it good or bad."
Simon's body slumped to the ground as Elisa was pulled away from her by some unseen force.
"Please don't leave," Simon begged.
"You'll never know happiness," another voice said.
It was a familiar voice that filled Simon with dread. It was a voice that whenever it spoke to her meant only pain would follow. Escaping that voice is why she would come to this serene lake and why she would join The Rose.
It was why she could not and would not sleep for long.
Simon awoke in the same state Elisa had awoke earlier, her heart racing and body dripping with sweat. Looking over to Elisa, she felt some feeling of ease to see Elisa still held her hand and still seemed to be in peace.
Simon continued to watch Elisa for she would not sleep anymore this night.
Hands entered the former mess hall where she saw Cry hunched over at a table, his face buried in his hands.
"What kept you here, Cry?" she asked, moving to where he sat.
"I wanted to be alone," Cry began looking up at Hands, his face streaked with tears. "But I made a mistake and...I don't want to be alone anymore."
"I understand and to be honest, I don't want to be alone right now either," Hands said sitting down beside Cry.
The two sat in silence, the presence of the other bringing them comfort no matter how short lived they both knew it would be.
Chapter XXXIX: Path of Blood
Roland stepped out of Callahan's to see a raven perched on the railing, a letter sealed with a rose tied around it.
Retrieving the letter, the raven flew off back to Dunwich while Roland broke the seal to read the letter.
"Due to current events...unable to assist...difficulty contacting Swordhaven...we'll try to maintain contact...sincere apologies...Magus Neron."
They were essentially alone in the middle of uncharted Doomwood with their mission of occupying the town and repurposing the asylum. A mission that was beginning to look more and more hopeless with each passing day.
Kid stepped outside, his helmet at his side and acting as though he hadn't snuck out in the middle of the night for reasons unknown to Roland.
"Good morning, sir," Kid said.
"Good morning, Kid," Roland said trying to avoid sounding suspicious of Kid.
Hands awoke, finding herself still in the former mess hall, leaning against Cry.
She wasn't sure when she fell asleep or even talking about the night before, but she remembered the feeling of comfort from just being with someone in a moment of distress.
Cry stirred and soon enough also awoke, the feelings of loss still lingering in the back of his mind, but at the forefront of his mind was the feeling of comfort he had when Hands came in and sat with him.
"Good morning, Cry," Hands said with a smile, a strange feeling in itself.
"Good morning, Hands," Cry responded, another feeling of comfort coming over him as he saw Hands smile.
It was a warm smile like the one of the woman from his home, but it different from hers in a way that he couldn't find the right words for at the moment which he found embarrassing, but he'd be the first to admit he wasn't the most well read.
Hands smile faded as she recalled the night before and that she'd have to tell the Captain everything.
"Kid went to the Doctor, didn't he?" Cry asked.
"That wasn't all he did."
Magus Barnes stood at the window, gazing into the eyes of the tower an expression of rapture on her face. She did not sleep, only stared at the tower completely oblivious to Elisa and Simon waking up and greeting each other as well as John and Lydon who awoke and suited up.
What is it about you that captivates me so? She wondered, thinking of the tower as one may think of their lover.
Come and seek your answer, someone or something said in the back of her mind in a voice that was her own, but also wasn't.
Roland and Kid entered the asylum grounds, the piercing eyes of the tower gazing upon them like the eyes of the townspeople as they made their way to the asylum.
What did you do, Kid? Roland thought to himself.
The main doors opened with a creak, revealing the main ward that really should be referred to as a cellblock, the supernatural lighting still as dim now as it was when they first entered days ago.
Everything was still in its place, the strange dark suit of armour that nearly blended in with the darkness of the cell it was placed or discarded in remained as did the strange arcane rune that blended in with the darkness of the cell it was etched into.
The courtyard remained the same as well with its strange statue and play equipment that continued to unnerve him.
He wasn't sure why he was taking note of these things as though he were expecting them to change which given what he knew of the asylum, would not be expected.
There was one notable difference on one of the walls. Something was perched on one of the battlements, but even in the moon's light he could not make out exactly what it was.
Cry and Hands stood at attention when Roland and Kid entered the mess hall which beyond the putrid smells having largely faded also remained the same.
"Cry, Kid, join the others upstairs," Roland ordered.
"Yes, sir," the two said in unison before setting off, Kid looking back at Hands with an expression that showed he knew what was to follow, but it was not a smug grin or knowing smile, but something else, something beyond sinister or even evil, something unknown.
"What happened last night?" Captain Roland asked as soon as he was certain Cry and Kid were upstairs.
"They spoke as though they knew each other, the Doctor speaking about Kid as though he was someone else and before he could finish saying what I assume would be Kid's real name, he killed the Doctor, sir."
"The townspeople looked at Kid and I with even greater suspicion as we were on our way here meaning they must have found the scene of the murder. How much did you see?"
"I hid outside the room, the lot of good it did. Kid knew I was following him from the start and tried to lose me. He knows this town as I'm sure you've already suspected. I didn't see inside the room the killing took place in, but Kid referred to it as a gallery of horrors and asked the Doctor if he had been referred to as Reanimator or Dollmaker."
"Did you make direct contact with Kid after the fact?"
"No, but he did speak to me after the incident. He knew we would have this conversation."
Roland put a hand to his chin, tapping a finger on his mask.
They weren't subtle about their suspicions of Kid, so it was no surprise that he knew what they were talking about at this moment, but now the question was how to proceed?
"I want you to investigate the Doctor's house and find anything you can about the asylum and Arkham family. If there is anyone near the house, wait until they're gone. Draw as little attention to yourself as you can."
"Yes, sir," Hands said before leaving the room and eventually the asylum.
In the barracks, Kid watched Magus Barnes intrigued by her being mesmerized by the tower.
What does it tell you? He wondered. What do you see, think, and hear?
"Today you get your wish, Magus Barnes," Roland said abruptly as he climbed the stairs. "We're returning to the tower."
Magus Barnes spun away from the window almost like how a dancer may turn during their routine, a joyful expression on her face, unnerving Roland.
"May I ask where Hands is, sir?" Cry asked.
"Another assignment in the town," Roland responded.
Hands sat at the counter in Callahan's. As expected, there was a crowd outside of the house of Doctor Samsara which would make gathering evidence there difficult.
"Things seem to be heating up around town," Callahan said, polishing a glass.
"Yeah. And we're trying to set ourselves up in the asylum, but we have no support for the foreseeable future. I don't know why we're even here still," Hands said.
"Can't say I can empathize with that, having never been in your situation, but from talking to your commanding officer, I trust he'll have a solution."
"If you say so," Hands said sounding a touch on the defeated sided.
Those remaining in the asylum went to the tower until the path split marked with the strange aquarium.
"The right path leads up into the tower," Roland began. "The left path leads to another cellblock and to a staircase far too dark to navigate."
"John and Lydon have come prepared for such occasions," Magus Barnes began. "If you wish to investigate the darkest depths of the asylum, one or both of them would be best."
"Cry, lead Magus Barnes, Sight, and Simon up the tower to the library," Roland began. "Find anything you can there while the rest of us search deeper into the asylum."
"Yes, sir," the four said in unison before departing down the right path.
Cry was nervous of what else the asylum would should him in that library and what it would taunt and harass him with. More howling or another voice of the hateful townspeople?
Roland led the three down the left hall and through the doors into the cell block, the smell of rot from those left behind still lingering in the air until reaching the end of the hall and the top of the staircase and the darkness it lead into.
"John, Lydon, which one will do the honours?" Roland asked.
"Allow me, sir," Lydon said procuring an orb-like object from his pack.
"Mind explaining what that is?" Roland asked.
"It's some sort of alchemic creation, sir. A section of Firebeetle carapace molded around a Light Elemental's core or something to that effect, I'm not the best person to ask what it is, but it works like this," Lydon said throwing the orb-like object down the stairs.
With a crack as the shell broke, a bright light forced them to shield their eyes as it illuminated the path forward.
Alchemy? Roland thought. Can the greater mission of The Rose truly succeed if magic can seemingly be replaced by science?
The stairs went deep beneath the surface, John throwing out a similar object once the light of the first could no longer reach, the air beginning to grow stale and almost humid.
The stairs eventually ended in a room or perhaps a hallway with a strange glowing moss growing from the walls, floor, and ceiling that was too dim to act as a real lightsource and the sound of distant running water prompting Lydon to throw out another of the orbs-like objects.
Light erupted from the point of impact revealing a patchwork floor made of stones haphazardly hammered into the dirt as though there was a material shortage when it came to constructing whatever this path was meant to be for.
If one were to have looked closely at the rocks, they may have been able to spot the dark, rust-coloured stains among them reminiscent of dried blood.
Chapter XL: Red
John threw out another of the orb-like objects illuminating a large room which at the center was a chair sitting on top of a grate, water running beneath it.
The chair was an otherwise normal wooden chair if not for the shackles attached to it and the wood stained red with blood.
Additional cells were dug into the walls of the room creating endless possibilities of what could have happened in this room in the minds of those investigating it.
"I don't think we should be here, sir," John said. "This room feels like it's...to put it mildly, cursed."
"I don't like it either," Roland began. "But we have a mission to carry out regardless of how we feel on the matter."
"Understood, sir," John said dejectedly.
"Fan out and search the cells," Roland ordered.
"Yes, sir," the three said in unison.
They're so close to the source, Kid thought to himself.
Believing enough time had passed, Hands went back to the home of the deceased Doctor Samsara, the crowd gone and no one put into position to watch over the house, but given the nature of the town, she could feel the eyes of people watching over her through their windows.
Slipping into the house, she steeled her nerves to head up the stairs and into the horror room.
The room was exactly as she expected it to be, the floor stained with blood and a slowly decaying appendage, a hand in this case lying on the floor, soaking in the light of the moon that shone in through the open window.
If it were up to her, she'd burn the house to the ground to cleanse this town and her memories of its presence.
Collecting the notes and scribblings off the table, she caught a glimpse of what she could only guess was the most recent ramblings of the deceased.
"Jonathon Arkham lives," she read aloud. "He never died."
Cry stood at the door of the library while Magus Barnes, Elisa, and Simon began to search through the shelves upon shelves of texts, his nervousness about what he may experience if he went through the stacks again.
Simon made her way through the stacks, a red glow illuminating tomes about the Sandsea, family, and memories standing out to her as if put under a spotlight.
Why did you have to turn out the way you are? A familiar male voice said.
It was the same one from the dream she had the night before. The voice of someone who did not care about her or even wanted her in the first place.
It was the voice of her father.
While Elisa made her way through the stacks, she experienced a similar phenomena of books standing out to her just as Cry and Hands had said happened to them.
Books on magic of all skill levels shone as a reminder of her failure and how she all but blinded herself.
She caught sight of Simon, a look of distress on her face and looking back towards the door, she could see Cry who appeared to be afraid to venture in further.
"How does this place know who we are?" Simon asked.
"I wish I knew," Elisa said saddened.
Magus Barnes wandered through the aisles in awe at the enormous selection of tomes that such a small library managed to contain. Among the texts were ones that she felt that not even the library of Swordhaven's castle contained.
Strange and eldritch tomes not meant to be gazed upon by the eyes of mortals, but also ones that seemed to stand out only to her which left her feeling frustrated as texts on the topic of failure shone brightly as though a piercing light had been cast upon them.
The strange and eldritch tomes seemed to call out to her specifically as if by name, compelling her to read from their pages.
One in particular stood out to her perhaps by the strange material it appeared to be made of or the text along the spine that while in a language she had never seen before could read as though it was the only language she had ever known.
"Arkham Family History," Magus Barnes said curiously.
Hands made her way down the stairs, away from the murder scene and the horrors of that room in general.
She had collected the notes from the room and considered leaving the house, she wondered if she should search the rest of the house.
Doctor Samsara knew something about the patriarch of the Arkham family as odd and cryptic as it was, it was a lead and potential solution to the mystery, but what else might this house hold?
The cells were empty as expected, but certainly showed signs that those who were kept in them were not held for their own sake with shackles sporting faint rust-looking stains, likely blood.
Kid entered a cell that was different from the others. It showed no signs of having been used for imprisonment, but it did show if one focused their eyes enoughs, a strange symbol that almost looked like an equation of sorts.
Of everything he knew about what was his home, one thing he was always curious about was what was it that lent its presence to the asylum?
It wasn't sealed in the asylum and as far as he knew, it wasn't in the asylum, but some part of it was present.
What he did know was it came from the Sandsea like the symbols that decorated the asylum doors, but what purpose did it serve? All he knew was that it was the source of what sustained the asylum. Or perhaps sustained itself in the asylum.
"Regroup and move out," Roland called from the center of the room near the bloody chair.
It wasn't that they were taking too long, but there was something unnerving about this room that dwarfed the same feeling the rest of the asylum gave him that compelled him to want to get out as soon as possible, but it would never be soon enough.
Hands steeled her nerves and went beyond the makeshift lobby that the front hall had been converted into.
At a glance, it was a fairly typical house with a room for entertaining guests, a kitchen, and even a dining room like what would be found in much larger homes, but what was really strange was the presence of a door that did not lead out back from the house, but below.
It wasn't unheard of for some abodes to have basements, but those were typically places of commerce, royalty, or governance while residential buildings typically had a cellar accessible from outside the house, this was not a typical residence or town for that matter.
Hands opened the door with a creak, a flight of stairs leading down into the darkness below.
Creeping into the darkness, Hands could smell the combination of sulphur, copper, and decay, her imagination running wild to fill in the blanks of what she could not see even as her eyes adjusted to the dark.
Whatever was in this basement, it made her glad that Kid had put an end to Doctor Samsara the Reanimator, Dollmaker, or whatever he had been called over the years.
Magus Barnes flipped through the tome on the history of the Arkham family, the text written in a strange alien language she found herself able to read fluently much to her confusion.
It began with settlers entering uncharted lands that would go on to become Darkovia and its Doomwood, the fire and blood in the taming the savage lands from the monsters that called it home, the founding of Amityvale, Miskatonic, and then Arkham and its asylum.
Feverently flipping through the pages, Magus Barnes became immersed in the often eldritch knowledge that came with learning of the family with whom the town and asylum got their name from until she came upon a small brass key.
You wanted me to find this, she thought.
Don't let me down, a voice said in the back of her mind that she wasn't sure if it was her own voice or the voice of another.
< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 4/17/2020 5:32:40 >