Innsmouth Horror, 1

ursula-downs-arkham-horror

Ursula sat on a pew, her brow furrowed, thinking furiously. She had entered with schoolgirl reverence, traced holy water in a cross upon her forehead, and now she appeared to be deep in prayer. But her eyes flitted around the church. Silver candlesticks—they probably were old as the church itself, rows upon rows of candles and snuffer… where would they hide it if it was still here? She lowered her eyes when an overweight priest shuffled down the aisle between the pews, and flipped open a bible from the pew’s pocket in front of her to appear engrossed in reading. He sniffed as he passed by, his robe flicking over the corner of the pew; she smelled a faint odour of sweat as the air surrounding him moved past her; she wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Where have those damn heathens hidden it?” if only she knew. She softly closed the bible and gathered up her purse. It had been a long day of sleuthing but an even longer night was ahead, she could sense it. “Cultists don’t sleep at night like most people, they come alive.”

She checked the confessional for the priest’s feet before stepping inside, running her hands deftly over the lattice and attempting to lift up the wooden seat, but it wouldn’t budge. She carefully moved the drape to one side and peeked out, all clear, so she stepped out of the confessional, running a hand nervously over the back of her hair, and then walked quickly towards the exit. “Those creeps don’t know what they are in for, this time I’ll find blood for sure.”

˜

Ursula entered the hallway of the Witch House; it was a long, dark corridor. She fingered the jars of eyes which lined the display cabinets. “Yes, this is the sort of place they would hide it, somewhere in here, but not in the open.”

She tiptoed down the corridor, being careful not to let her heels click on the floorboards; whoever may be here it would be best not to alert them to her presence, especially if they were to discover the real nature of her visit. She paused by a stuffed owl, peered at its glassy eyes and tapped one with her fingernail. She shuddered, half expecting the dead bird to twirl its neck and squawk at her. She blinked back her anxious nerves and moved along, cringing more at the next sight: fingers, pickled in some foul smelling green liquid. “Shit! I must be getting close.”

A cackle sounded behind a door far down the hallway, she jumped, knocking into a bookshelf, a black book fell with fluttering pages and hit the floor with a deafening thud. She snatched it up and shot a fleeting glance up and down the hallway, and then she nipped inside a large wardrobe and hid among the cloaks. Turning on her penlight she examined the book’s brittle, worn pages, its tatty spine was labelled: Enchanted Summoning.

“Thrice call on Exodus Euphimist in the chant given below,” she read, “Burn three hairs from a scorned woman’s head . . .”

˜

Ursula put the book into her satchel and peeked out of the wardrobe, no one had been alerted so she crept out and continued along the hallway. She could hear murmuring from a low lit room further on down, and then a bang and clatter from what she guessed might be the kitchen, also creeks, as of bed springs, came from the floor above. A cat, its yellow eyes flashing in the dim light, watched her stealthy movements, she paused and evenly regarded it back. The cat hissed three times. “Odd,” thought Ursula, “is it some kind of familiar? It knows that I’m intruding.” She tiptoed up to the kitchen door, and then got down on all fours. Looking ever so carefully round the bevelled door frame she saw who was inside.

The sweaty priest, clutching his fists under his chin, perspiration glistening all over his face, and a large man, red-faced with anger, who bore down over him.

“It must be tonight!” he said. “The full moon, Mandrid. Gather the others and we’ll meet up in the woods. Bring the chosen one, blindfolded. And if you don’t, it’ll be your neck!”

“But—she—it—” he stuttered in terror. “They know that we’re taking her. I’ll—I’ll be caught!”

“Enough of your incessant blathering! I’ve a mind to hex you on the spot.”

“No, no! I’ll do it.”

The large man turned away. A trio of women, each more hideous than the next, appeared out of the gloom from the back of the kitchen. They clucked their tongues at Mandrid.

“The eye,” one hissed. “You took it!”

“No! I—It’s lost. I don’t know who took it, but it wasn’t me.”

“It was you,” another woman drawled in a raspy tone, pointing a knobbly finger in his face.

“Liar!” said the third.

“No!” protested Mandrid, his head in his hands.

Ursula had seen enough. She rose up from where she crouched on the floor and tiptoed back down the hallway. It was clear the priest was up to no good, and she certainly did not want to be discovered by those three witches. It was time to leave.

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