My journey started in the ancient port-city of Dublin. I had been visiting relatives there, and drinking in the sights and sounds of this Celtic land. My stay in Dubh-linn, or The Black Pool, as it is called by the descendants of the older tribes who still inhabit its shore, was short, but it was pleasant to stroll through the valleys and dark forests that in elder times saw gods and heroes walk the loamy soil. It was with visions of Lugh of the Long Hand and Cu-chulainn that I departed the land of Eire and travelled to Berlin.
It was on that journey that the first seeds of worry were sown in my mind. The minions of the company with which I had contracted to travel stared at my travel case, and then, after furtive murmurings, declared that I must be parted from it while en route, and indeed, took many long minutes to return it once I had arrived at my destination.
The sun and warmth of Berlin eased my concerns, and the company of friends cheered my heart, and soon my partner Suzanne and I were reunited with Michael and Bernhard and sharing tales of the past year as we walked through a museum of Assyrian and other pre-Christian antiquities. How my heart jumped within me at the sight of a cyclopean panorama, depicting a now-destroyed Greek town of the ancient world in such detail as made it seem that the faces in the crowd would, at any moment, turn and speak to me! As I stood on the central platform, gazing outward at the giant sacrificial fires burning who knows what offerings to the Old Gods, I felt again a slight unease in the pit of my stomach. But the company of friends and a descent to terra firma soon drove such wild thoughts from my mind and after a light repast of local Berlin fare (a delicacy called by the locals currywurst) our carriage was soon hurtling through the deepening dusk towards The Kraken.
We arrived well after the sun had set, and as we drew near to the Schloss our front lights made patterns of shadow dance on the trees at the sides of the road. Combined with the susurration of the wind whipping dead leaves across our path, the effect was mildly disconcerting, but this was not my first visit, and even when we were forced to drive into a suddenly appearing dark bank of cloud, with turbulent winds and a dismal downpour of rain, I felt a rush of joy as I realized I was shortly to rejoin my fellow Krakeneers.
Ensconced in our room, we laid out the tools of our trade on the table; the ritual maps and descriptions of fantastic people and creatures, the numbered ivory polyhedra we use to divine fate, implements of graphite and ink, and other objects whose purpose was less clear. Thus prepared, we went to meet our fellow revelers and the Grand High Master of ceremonies, Fabian.
There was a slight change to our years-old tradition that evening. As always, the leaders of each ceremonial act would place a small written card on the table of events, defining the peculiar details of their ceremony so that others may choose what in what form madness might overtake them, but this year, instead of a simple melee in which the strongest and most able chose first, and weaker or more polite folk must take what was left, this year ceremony leaders and those new to the experience of The Kraken were allowed a single choice before the hordes descended. This ritual performed, our guest of honor, Robin Laws, led us down to the cellar (a dimly-lit room of rough-hewn stone and gothic arches) where we imbibed numerous concoctions of an alcoholic nature, heady dark and light brews created by the Germanic tribes that dwell in this region of Europa. The tastes were many and varied, and soon a delicious sense of lethargy and light-headedness entered my brain, stealing sense and rationality from my mind which was freed to indulge in flights of conversation and foolery. Fearing to be overcome by this sensation, and remembering that I was to lead a ritual in the following morning, I fled that subterranean room of debauchery by odd ways, and found myself under the command of the Great Old One, Sandy Petersen, who was projecting visions onto a screen with the aid of the Kraken factotum, Risto. These visions portrayed creatures of a dank, formless nature that served the old god Caltiki and how they were brought across oceans to threaten the families of civilized peoples. As I settled down to a deep and dreamless sleep these were the fantasies that filled my last waking thoughts.
Dragged from my sepulchral slumber by the harsh ringing of the alarm, I performed my morning ablutions and joined the communal meal in the Guesthouse. There, yet more members of our far-flung clan assembled and we passed the hour in pleasant conversation, using the mind-sharpening chemical compounds of the bean of the coffee plant to prepare us for the day’s events.
I had decided to forgo the opportunity to listen to the wise ones of our clan as they taught on the right and proper ways to derive maximum extraction of pleasure from performing our rituals. Instead I led a ritual myself, casting my fellow celebrants backwards in time to 1971, into the bodies of members of Edom, an offshoot of a British espionage agency charged with the destruction of vampires as well as promoting British interests in the Cold War. My fellows enhanced the ritual which flowed smoothly and enjoyably, and when we broke to consume a meal of rice and vegetables mixed with the flesh of pigs (most tasty!) they used their new-found energy to track the Daughter of the Dragon to her sanctuary and destroy her, despite having their automobile flipped over and hordes of rats attacking out of the darkness. A combination of phosphorous powder, well-aimed stakes, crossbow bolts and sheer physical force won through and conclude the ritual successfully! This was the second time I had led this ritual, which was written by dark authors of Pelgrane Press, and each time the results have been delectable.
After recovering my wits, I found myself back in the cellar, now much quieter and more eerie, as I became transmogrified into a knight of King Arthur Pendragon. My Cymric chevalier delighted in pagan rites, and rode into glorious battles with his two fellows, but alas, the evils of the usurper Mordred were too strong, and we perished at the hands of his bodyguard as we enacted the final battle of the Great Pendragon Campaign. After the evening meal, I moved into the Big Room, where my human mind was placed into the brain of a moon-based robot of the future, and we were forced to undergo strange experiences in a doomed fight against angel-like beings as our bodies and processing ability were whittled away by forces beyond our comprehension. The agony was exquisite as my metallic body melted away as result of my own foolish actions, and then was raised to yet higher temperatures as my companions unloaded radioactive destruction that annihilated the area. This rite used a system know as The Cthulhu Hack.
My actions following those events evade my recollections, and my next coherent memories are of the following morning as I led another ritual, this one of my own creation, as five Krakeneers explored London of 1838, avoiding the animosity of a fanatical Michael Faraday and building the world’s first Geiger counter as they tracked down the malevolent entity Spring-Heeled Jack. After Jack narrowly escaped after they tracked him to the space between the interior and exterior domes of St. Paul’s Cathedral, they finally confronted him on a train-top battle (the Greenwich-London train, propelled by a Stephenson 2-2-0 locomotive) and, despite the creation of a small Aztec temple and the train plunging off a viaduct, all went according to plan: He was defeated and the vial of Anubis blood he carried was recovered.
I realize at this point in my narrative, that I have failed to describe the location in which our cult assembles and performs these rites. The Schloss is located in the most desolate and least-populated area of Europa, and is invariably surrounded by a pale, wraithlike fog. It is occasionally sunny, and the brickwork and glass facades of the centuries-old building in gleam in the sun, but it is as likely to be visited by a light rain that falls unwillingly, as if afraid to touch the pebbled walkways that circle the Schloss. The inhabitants and keepers of the structure share in the sunny aspect of its character, and are invariably cheerful and helpful. If a knife is needed, or something needs urgently burning, or if a diner has unusual tastes or restrictions, they are as accommodating as one might hope for! I did not have an opportunity to walk the nearby trails, but other cultists described fields of vast bone-white structures that whir and turn in the wind, sucking power from the very air they stretch up into. They speak also of a place where you might meet elephants or some other such exotic creature, but it may be that too much of the unending supply of ales and wines has affected their minds.
It is in these environs that my afternoon was spent on the Day of the Sun; tending to a museum and competing with fellow curators to assemble a variety of ancient curiosities. My collection of Greek, Roman and Celtic artifacts was judged competent, but my skill at displaying them was not the equal of Michael’s as his collection of Inca items was extensive and much admired. My disappointment was brief however, as cult leader Lynne Hardy had assembled a collection of infusions produced by pouring hot water over mixtures of herbs from exotic eastern locales. We partook of these teas, and their restorative powers were transcendent. In retrospect, it was perhaps an omen that my favorite of them was The Yellow Tea …
That evening I was fortunate in being one a few sent to Belle Époque Paris, where we indulged in A Taste Of Absinthe, hosted by famed fantabulist and author of many celebrated books on how to make fantasy become real, Robin Laws. It was not long before our group of cultists was faced with disposing of a magically-strangled corpse, which disappeared and re-appeared, alive, to entice us into following her through a gate to other worlds; as we threw ourselves joyously into the Seine, we arrived in famed Carcosa, where our boatman revealed himself to be the realm’s returned tyrant, the King in Yellow, to our immediate despair and shortly after, destruction.
From one master to another, I again found myself again sharing in the cinematic visions of Sandy, this time viewing a doomed expedition to The Angry Red Planet, where astronauts were subject to attacks from plants, three-eyed menaces, and an incredible giant spider-bat-crab creature. So extreme was this film that the creators were unable to use regular methods to capture the scenes, but were driven insane and so invented mars-vision to attempt to render the images viewable in our reality.
When the Day of the Sun turns into the Day of the Moon, the Kraken must die, as it does every year, and we sadly performed rites of departure as our fellow celebrants vanished into the morning fog. But as we know that that is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die, so also we know the Kraken will be reborn, and we will feel the call of our fellow cultists to turn away from our workday lives and be drawn to the wilds of Germany, to the Fog and the Schloss, and the circle will repeat itself. As we draw apart we whisper to each other; next year, at the Kraken …
Should you Wish to Delve Deeper:
- Night’s Black Agents (Pelgrane Press): https://site.pelgranepress.com/index.php/nights-black-agents/
- King Arthur Pendragon (Chaosium): https://www.chaosium.com/pendragon/
- The Cthulhu Hack (Valkyrie Nine): https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/267464/The-Cthulhu-Hack-Valkyrie-Nine
- Museum: https://holygrail.games/museum/
- The Yellow King RPG: https://site.pelgranepress.com/index.php/category/products/yellow-king-roleplaying-game/