Adventure One: Essex County, How It All Began
“The true epicure of the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteem most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods Essex County; for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness, and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous.”
—The Bard Lovecraft
You grew up in or traveled to Preacher’s Rest, a small village east of the town of Arkham. You might have been a woodcutter, a constable, a preacher’s assistant, or a smuggler. You live in the haunted shadow of Chapelwaite Manor and avoid the haunted ruins of Jerusalem’s Lot.
But now a Boone has returned to the ancestral home. Loud gibbering comes from Chapelwaite again, the moon is veiled, a two-headed calf was born, and a trail of flattened burned vegetation ten-feet wide was found in the woods.
Someone must convince Charles Boone to leave Chapelwaite. Someone must stop that which gibbers behind the walls of his home. And someone must travel to the accursed ruins of Jerusalem’s Lot and stop that which comes from behind the stars from devouring the village and all that are in it.
You may be a drunk or inbred. You might be a cousin of Boone, come to save your family. You might pursue blasphemous knowledge and covet with the unnatural. Maybe you serve the White, that ancient religion of wisdom and goodness. But tonight, a day before All Hallow’s Eve, you are all that stands between Preacher’s Rest and the doom of that which comes from behind the stars.
The Stories That Came Before
Arkan is the youngest son of the Stoneweather family, a respected and influential family that had lived for years in Preacher’s Rest. When it became obvious that he was unlikely to inherit much in the way of family money or power (his parents were already nudging him toward the clergy), he knew that he had to strike out on his own or be swallowed into a pleasantly dull existence in Preacher’s Rest, always in the shadow of his older siblings. So as soon as he was old enough to enlist, he went off to seek his fortune as a soldier.
Years went by in which Arkan learned much about the realities of the world and about the passions-
noble and vile-that motivate men and women to do great and terrible things. He took up arms as everything from a tavern bouncer in the vilest slum to a squad leader in the ranks of a revered (and now deceased) duke. But after this last campaign, he’s come to understand something important: he’s seen enough. Enough blood, enough cowardice and greed, enough of the concrete realities of the world.
Maybe that pleasantly dull life back in Preacher’s Rest wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
So he’s come back home. He’s not sure what he’s going to do there—he had a few friends (a ranger-in-training and the local troublemaker among them) that he hopes to look up; maybe they’re still in town, and maybe that means he can pick up the life of untroubled ease he left behind. Maybe his family will even take him back as something other than the unwanted third son.
The years have erased any darker… memories of Preacher’s Rest. Sure, there were stories. Stories about what shambled through the woods at night and what gibbered on the riverfront beneath the waxing moon. But those were stories, right? Arkan’s seen the worst that humanity has to offer. What darkness could be worse than that?
Not so long ago, Thorvic left his family across the Atlantis Sea to seek out a new life for them in the wilds of Americus.
His clan, Earthmane, had been ravaged by marauding orcs and ogres led by a sinister man that none recognized. Fortunately Thorvic’s father had placed wards around their underground dwelling that evening and as the rest of the clan met their end, the earth itself swallowed Thorvic’s family and brought them to safety. When later they returned to their home, they found that it had been utterly destroyed. The only hope of a new beginning for the Earthmane clan seemed to be in the primal land across the Atlantis, where the foul ogres and orcs held no sway.
The plan was for Thorvic to sail six months before his father, mother and brothers. As the eldest son it was his responsibility to secure a hill for them to live, as well as find work and food. Thorvic didn’t want to go. Not without his family that had taught him to speak to the earth.
Soon after Thorvic arrived in the strange new land, he was jolted awake late one night by an agonizing headache, and chaotic visions of something… unnatural. Flashes of his family’s destroyed bodies and something that looked like giant tentacles played in his mind. He knew even before the notice reached him that he was the only survivor of the ancient Earthmane clan. All he had to remember his family by was his father’s craghammer and his own great brown, shaggy beard.
He spent the next few weeks mourning, miserable in his room at the inn in Preacher’s Corner. He had heard the town crier instructing all able-bodied youth to meet in the inn, but whatever the reason Thorvic didn’t care. He had his own problems… he needed to be surrounded by earth again.
Feeling the heartache and crushing loneliness of a dwarf permanently cut off from his clan, Thorvic took to the nearby mountains, the mountains that reminded him so much of his ancestral home. There he intended to live out the rest of his days in solitude, with the peace and strength of the earth spirits to accompany him.
But the earth spirits weren’t so peaceful these days – not in the hills that surrounded Preacher’s Corner. In the core of his being, he knew that the earth was telling him his family’s fate was somehow connected with this sleepy town at the foot of the mountain. Perhaps it was time for him to investigate just what was happening in this place. Whatever the outcome, Thorvic would never be able to rest until he saw the end of whatever agent had been foolish enough to provoke the anger of the last Earthmane.