I was asked to run a game for Kara and Titus, two new friends whom I met back at LUDO during Gary Gygax day. They were itching for a horror game and I felt it was a good time as any to try and get them interested in what other game systems had to offer. For this session, I opted to use tremulus once again, but borrowed heavily storywise from John Wick's The Curse of the Yellow Sign. The end result was a disturbing one shot tale that they could sink their teeth into.
Kara played Amelia Swan, a best-selling author who had a thoughtful face, faraway eyes and a lithe frame underneath her fine old clothes. She was an Author in Residence and quite the Creative Thinker. Her best friend was Gregory Chadwick, a stage actor, and her pet husky was named Hannah. Her first novel, Paper Hearts, was a fictional piece that explored death, love, memory and happy endings. Her second novel, The Golden Apple, had yet to move forward given she was stuck in some kind of creative rut. Even her editor, Julia Weiss, sensed something wasn't going well.
Titus played Roger Harris, an Antiquarian with a fatherly face, sharp eyes, and a heavy build under his worn suit. He had an Antique Store and was quite the Shrewd Dealer. His wife, Marie Claire Harris was a Librarian, and his favorite student, Gustav Milliae had become a playwright.
The two would find their paths crossing when both happen to be invited to the play of Gustav Milliae.
Amelia Swan is on the balcony seat watching the play and observing her friend Gregory Chadwick as he goes through his lines and speaks romantic lines to her partner. Amelia did not want to attend the play, given most of her time has been devoted to finishing her next book. But attending the play was her best excuse to avoid having her editor visit her home to see what she's written so far. It was only upon arriving did she realize the play was written by her "rival" Gustav Milliae, and worse, her old professor Roger Harris might be present.
Outside, Roger and Marie hurry down the carpeted hallway. They had arrived late. Gustav insisted they must watch, and Marie sadly took a little bit too long to get ready. The play was about some post-apocalyptic romance and Marie felt sad that the initial work was not about something more positive. Roger, however, defends him in that Gustav was writing about something he cared about. The usher tells them they normally do not allow late people inside, but Gustav himself informed them to wait.
The play continues, with the actors now talking about romantic feelings towards celestial bodies. Roger, unable to contain himself, ends up cursing out loud. The play focuses on two remaining survivors of the dying world and while the man desires the woman, the woman has fallen in love with the sun. Literally, with the sun.
After party. As people mingle and talk about the play, both Amelia and Roger find themselves approached by Gustav Milliae who seems to be flustered and deeply bothered by something. He tries to talk to them without catching everyone else's attention and implores that they take part in a small activity which he hopes will help his wife recover from a strange stupor she is in. She seems obsessed over a fictional play called The King In Yellow, and Gustav hopes to fake some event related to it to try and break his wife out of her stupor. Amelia is not too keen in doing so, but Marie Claire pulls her aside to ask her if what is stopping her from helping is her anger towards Roger and Gustav. She suggests that women have yet to truly plant their feet down and make a name for themselves. Amelia, however, still feels uncertain.
Gustav explains that her wife is ill, suffering from a strange obsession and needs them all to be present for a small event. He writes down the address to a page from his notebook and hands them both the sheet. Gustav then hurries off to mingle with the crowd. Roger, however, has noticed that Gustav is panicked and agitated, and more telling is the fact he has not shared the concern with his current theater associates. He is clearly fearful of the scandal it will raise. Before leaving, Roger promises to Gustav that he will be going.
"There is no time but tonight. After tonight, if this does not work, I will have to have her committed."
Roger and Maria even notice a young child in a yellow raincoat walking alone on the street. They make their way to the Glenwood Grand Hotel.
All are suddenly startled when the wife breaks into a scream. She yells at them all to keep reading. They continue, struggling to say the lines without seeming too bothered by her sudden focus. She even demands that the lights are shut during the reading. Roger has his wife Maria walk to the far side of the room and shut the lights. They continue in the darkened room, using weaker lights to read better. They continue reading but clearly more and more all can feel something changing in their vicinity. Roger worries about Maria, standing alone in the darkness. He cannot help but wish she was on a chair nearby.
"Can we get a lamp for my wife?" Roger asks aloud. But the wife yells at them to keep reading. They continue, while the wordlessly communicating for Roger to check on Maria. But as he stands, the chair scrapes against the floor too loudy. The wife stares at him with a venomous gaze.
"Then it is true, the queen is mad..." the lines continue. They close on the first Act and move to the scenes in the throne room. Lights are trained at Calisda, Roger sits back down and chooses not to antagonize the wife. All start to see movement in the darkness surrounding them. Even Hannah, Amelia's dog is agitated. There is laughter every now and then, seemingly from the rooms beyond. Thunder rumbles. The lines continue; speaking of ambition that frightens and of the great place called Carcosa and of the Queen of Alar, of the Herald of the King, of the masks.
Reading ahead, Amelia notices that her next few lines are around six pages down. She also tries to stand up quietly, but instead Hannah gives out a high-pitched yelp as her chair accidentally clips her side. The dog pulls on the leash, hoping to run away. Sylvia, the wife, breaks into a delirious laugh. Amelia tries to rein the dog in but instead hears Hannah growl back in response. Amelia tries to signal the director if she can leave, but the director shakes his head in response. Looking at the pages, Amelia realizes the lines are almost hers. She doesn't recall going through that many pages.
"Die old one.. die and take yesterday with you! Now is the time to get rid of all disguises..."
Amelia and the rest are startled when Sylvia, who has never read the play, nor have a copy of it in her hands, begins speaking the lines in unison with Amelia! "Look upon me, you all. Look upon the corpse that writhes on the floor. Look upon the Queen of Alar. Look upon the past and the future."
Sylvia's dagger-gaze focuses on Amelia. "Who are you." The words are no longer in the script. But all feel they should... keep the play going? Sylvia stares at Amelia and calls her Camilla. She then asks the Elder to explain her presence in the room. Roger, having been reading the lines for the Elder, improvises quickly and explains Amelia/Camilla is the Queen of Alar. Sylvia reminds them Camilla is the past. She is the future. The director motions to the others to keep going. To just play the parts.
"Do you think I would allow all of them to see you on my throne? This place is mine. The King in Yellow smiles upon me. Not you. The King in Yellow sees only me, not you. The King in Yellow stands before me, not you!"
Sylvia's gaze stares out into the darkness. She asks the darkness if she is not the one who has always been faithful to it? If she is not the one who has shown it the most love? There is a moment all stare in the darkness, fearful that something might answer. Fearful that something might actually be there.
But then things go for the worse.
A child with a mask.
A dark queen in the chamber.
A room of shadows.
The terror rises when the child confronts Amelia and draws her back to the room when she tries to leave. And the gun Roger has always kept for protection fails to keep the masked figure at bay.
Panic ensures. The two run for the window. Leap through.
And when the glass shatters, they look back to stare at a solid wall. To look at streets with people giving them odd glances. And to realize that Maria had been left inside!
They face the fear and hurry back into the hotel, but to their surprise, no one in the hotel recalls them having arrived earlier. Much worse, the room where the reading was supposed to be happening is empty, save for strange paintings that at a distance resembled the gathered group doing the reading. But they are all works of pastel and oils, done by a mysterious artist who visits the hotel, makes his work, then leaves. The artist was always wearing a scarf over his face. No one could recall his name.
Amelia and Roger step out of the hotel, disturbed and unsettled, but both know better than to reveal their fears. Both know better than to act insane Both quietly leave, uncertain how tomorrow will continue with the world having shattered today.