|Tales of Leng
Author: Gandalf the Beige PM
A collection of short stories based in the "Memories of Leng" Canon of my own design. They will hopefully move, unnerve, terrify, inspire and perhaps amuse.Rated: Fiction T - English - Horror/Spiritual - Words: 2,535 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 06-17-12 - id: 8227183
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Tales of Leng
The Plagues-Part 1Disclaimer: I own very little, with the possible exceptions of professors Willows and Fife. All belongs to the estate of Howard Phillips Lovecraft or the common scripture of three of the world's large, monotheistic faiths.I'm an Azathoth/Yog-Sothoth/Shub-Niggurath sort of guy myself, but...
Authors Note: I realize that many fans of the classic Lovecraft story and particularly Shadows over Innsmouth would like nothing better than to flame me into oblivion over this. I accept this, as I have a professed preference for the so-called "Lovecraft Lite" genre over straight cosmic horror.Summary: After two years, Robert Olmstead returns to the world of Men, going to Arkham's Miskatonic University with a single demand. When his first audience ends without tangible results, Robert decides that, despite the worries of Professors Willows and Fife, more drastic measures are necessary to complete his quest...May 19th, 1929,
Miskatonic University, Arkham, Mass.In all honesty, the manner which Robert Olmstead exited the Chancellor's office was not the most graceful to be seen in the history of Miskatonic University. However, perhaps "exited" is too neutral a term for a man being forcibly escorted out the double doors by two University proctors with a firm grasp on his forearms. "Ejected" is probably a good description though "assaulted" would have a good chance of being upheld by a court. As Mr. Olmstead was finally shoved out into the hall, he finally lost his balance and fell to his knees, the voluminous robes which he had worn since his arrival seeming to weigh him down.As Hiriam Willows and Brian Fife rushed out of the office and hastened to Robert's side, the man himself seemed... tired, drained of energy and showing signs of a fatigue that had been present since the meeting had began. Still, Mr. Olmstead managed to raise his head to address Chancellor Douglas Gooding, who was still in his office. "I take it... negotiations have ended." Robert said this in as controlled a way as possible, trying to ignore the irritation at the back of his throat and the sides of his neck."Negotiations, as you call them, never began." Chancellor Gooding, a patrician of a man at the age of 57, had risen from behind his desk and was now walking toward the spot where Mr. Olmstead has stood and presented his case. "This College has been handed a chance to claim credit for discovering the root devices behind most, if not all, of vertebrate biology and promises to make careers for many of our staff and students. Unless the Navy, who has graciously allowed access to its prisoners for this purpose, decides to either withdraw that access or, as you suggest, release them back into the general population, I see no reason why they should not remain under our supervision in their current quarters." Gooding eyes fell upon the floor where Robert had stood... and the staff that now lay on the floor. It was a strange thing: the matter itself almost resembled gray, petrified wood but in places it's form showed characteristics of crustacean carapace or of the strange shapes present in fishbone or shark-jaw and, when the light hit it just so, the surface displayed a luster more akin to Nautilus shell or Mother of Pearl than any of those things.Gooding, in a sudden fit of antiquarian fascination, began kneeling down to take the strange rod. "However, if you could tell us about this staff..." Just as his the tips of his fingers brushed against the smooth surface the staff, seemingly under its own power, jerked butt-first towards the door, skidding over the floors polished hardwood planks. When it reached Robert. who was now being helped to his feet by Professor Fife, the staff actually began tipping up on its butt, the shaft guiding itself into Robert's limp, open hand.Grasping the staff to regain his posture, Robert glanced once more at Gooding. "The staff is a secret that keeps itself. As to my plea... if that is your decision, I pray that you do not live to reap the whirlwind.""Is that a threat?" Chancellor Gooding was losing patience rapidly after this manifestation of the strange had made an intrusion into his office and annoyance was threatening to turn to anger."Merely a warning, good Chancellor." These were the last words that Robert Olmstead spoke to Gooding as Fife, carrying the papers that Olmstead had presented, helped him as he unsteadily walked down the hallway, supported by his implement.Just as Hiriam Willows was about to follow the pair, Gooding called to him. "Hiriam! Get back in this office!" Willows, his eyes continuing to follow his two companions down the hall for a moment, turned and walked back into the Chancellor's office with a tightening of the lips and the speed of a slow stroll, more amenable to his aging legs than the fast walk he had so recently exerted himself with. "I'm surprised, Douglas.""Surprised that I called you back in here?" Asked Gooding as he sat back down behind his desk."That we are apparently operating on a first name basis now. As I recall, that has not been our habit since nineteen hundred and... seven, was it?" It may have been facetious (to say the least) in bringing this up but after today, last winter and, to be honest, most days since Gooding had restricted Willows to a single morning class per week, he and the Chancellor has not quite been on the best of terms."Ah yes, the Cuba business. However... actually, that ispart of why I called you in here." Gooding pointed an almost accusatory finger at the older man. "As I recall, youwere the one to countermand my decision to use force against those two Voodoo cults in Las Tunas.""First of all, they were Santeria practitioners. Second, I was able to forge an armistice between the two warring factions and convince them to give up their murderous ways...""In favor of continued use of animal sacrifice, I remember, I remember." Gooding put that accusatory finger to his temple as if to calm a throbbing. Then that finger returned to the standing faculty member. "But whether you're French or Spanish does not mean much of anything when you're trying to rip open a portal to the tenth dimension, summoning dangerous ichors and vapors from beyond and, may I remind you, trying to violently murderas many people as needed for their insane goals. Hiriam... I know that you're a Quaker, I knowthat negotiating between groups of violent, degenerate heathens has always been your strong point, but this is something radicallydifferent."The Chancellor noticed Willow's disbelieving roll of the eyes but continued. "These... things have been present in and off the coast of Essex Country for the better part of a century. They've killed people, they subverted local government, through their negligence the port of Innsmouth nearly crumbled due to neglect... not to mention that they've potentially forced themselves on local residents due to the existence of apparently hybrid individuals!" He motioned out the door and pointed in the direction that Olmstead and Fife had exited. "Did you happen to take a good look at the person who was just ejected from this office? My God Hiriam, the man was practically turning into a herring before our very eyes!" Gooding seemed to calm down a bit. "I know you were always one to try to see both sides of the argument, to resolve conflicts through calm deliberation... but this wasn'tnegotiation. This was a demand backed by veiled threats. I remember you being much sterner in the face of demands than this." There was a thoughtful pause. "What happened in Virginia, Hiriam? Ever since you got back, you've been at your usual quest for cooperation between man and eldritch forces except... moreso."A hundred images flashed in Willows mind of that December in the Luray Valley. The little clusters of field-stone houses and barns around the southern tip of Mt. Ida; the lean-faced Quaker farm-folk; the walk through the community cemetery and the graves of his mothers family, the Caulfields. The children, so desperate to experience a properly Victorian Christmas in pageantry unknown by the community, inviting him to a snowball fight and following his lead in decorating and games (which he had found invigorating at the time). The experience of being around others of his faith for the first time in decades.But there was also the first time he had ever been forced to kill, as a .45 caliber ACP round hit dead center on his war-painted assailant in the mountain forests. The moment when he had discovered the small shrine beneath the Longhouse Meeting Hall with it's black deer hides, Eastern Elk antlers and strange mix of artifacts. The sight of his hosts sacrificing pigs, wailing and dancing in the manner of the Seneca Iroquois at an isolated stone circle south along the mountains from the Army's battle with their foes, mourning for all the dead who would be brought out. And two of the bodies brought back, an apparent pair of adult twin sisters in matching warpaint who had charged the federal troops with knives before being mowed down: their hands had been intertwined even as fire from Thompson submachineguns had demolished their ribcages, the agony of their situation apparent from their found journals... the swelling around their eyes under the paint indicative of weeping.Hiriam shrugged as if he experienced nothing. "Just a bit of reconnection with my mothers side of the family. Now, if you will excuse me?" Before Gooding could even respond, Hiriam Willows walked out of the office and closed the doors behind him, exhaling in relief before he continued on to Professor Fife's office.Shortly, Professor Fife's OfficeBrian Fife sighed in frustration and concern as he dabbed the side of Robert Olmsteads neck with a handkerchief soaked in ice water. "When was the last time you bothered to moisten the reservoir layers in this cloak? Any longer without adequate water around the gills and you would have been coughing up blood."Robert, sitting in a chair across from Fife, was now much less weary now that relief was being applied. " There was no time. I had to act quickly to try to get them released and the last two days have been a flurry.""Well, it's just as well that I keep ice and water in my study or you would have..." Fife was interrupted by Hiriam Willow's entry into the office who, upon entering, simply asked himself how a militant like Douglas Gooding had become chancellor. Fife's answer to this question was concise. "Well, Masterson died of Diphtheria while in Shanghai, Harvey has his Cocaine habit, Peaslee isn't totally trusted after that Yith business and yourefused to take any oath of office acceptable to the Congregationalist clergy. Gooding was the only member of the senior faculty with the necessary respectability left." "Thank you very much. Now, what do we do next?" Hiriam sat down in another chair, forming a semicircular huddle as he addressed Olmstead. "Gooding isn't going to budge an inch without a proper prodding, the Arkham Police are beginning to take note of your lodgings at the Miskatonic Hotel and your current appearance which, may I remark, is becoming more piscine by the day, will not inspire confidence in the other involved parties.""Then we have to properly prod. I have to prod. I owe that much at least." Robert, now that his neck and gills were properly wetted (and the kelp layers under his robe properly inundated with cold water), became quiet, both hands still across his lap, grasping the staff he had carried since he had arrived.Fife knew what he was thinking, for it was also close to his heart. "Robert, you don't have to do this. The Priests of Y'ha-Nthlei won't judge you harshly if you don't bring home any more of our people than your cousin; I know it's tragic, but it's happened before that people have been lost to the surface world."Robert suddenly got a hard look in his eyes and stared directly at the other man. "Do you know what it feels like to lose your parents, your child, your neighbors or friends? To not know where they were taken? To fear for their lives while they might be undergoing hideous, nefarious tortures? And then, one day, you are suddenly confronted with the grinning idiot who, in his disgust and primordial fear, ensured your loved one's capture and now, while you are forced to hide like a crab in the sand, are expected to welcome this fool into your ranks?"He groaned at the memory... or even more than the memory. "The punishment for my loutish treachery was harsh, but even a flayed back will not absolve all I have done, all I have seen. My flogging will not return parents to children or husbands to wives. My pain will not sooth the fear of mothers for their sons. And the welts upon my back will not make me forget the accusation, the pain... the sorrowin their eyes. I am doing this as much for myself as for them; doing it so that I won't have to live with my failures for an eternity." Willows and Fife were quiet until Fife quietly asked "So, what now?""If I can't do anything, the warriors will be swimming upstream in less than a week. When they get here... I can't promise that anyone will be safe." Robert looked pensive, a calculating look on his face. "We... Iwill have to make an impression in front of Gooding. Somewhere public, somewhere will it will make an impression that can't be dismissed or ignored. Anything come to mind?"It was then that it struck Hiriam. "Of course, the regatta tomorrow! Gooding will be attendance, he hasto be in attendance according to College statutes. But what are you going to do?"Having been asked, Robert began to think. "I assume it'll be on the Miskatonic?""Where else? Hangman's Brook has never been deep enough for rowing and the University never affluent enough to construct a canal." Fife explained."Will there be many other people there?" Robert asked again, something beginning to form in his already-changed brain."Everyone who can: students, alumni, dock workers, beggars... why do you ask?" Hiriam was now curious as to this whole thing.Robert looked down at the staff in his hands, feeling the smooth surface but also feeling the power coursing through the object. The Staff of Dagon... said to have been wielded by their king and blessed by the mighty Priest to whom Dagon and Hydra had sworn loyalty. Once, it had been said to have performed wonders.Once... and perhaps again.