Episode Nineteen- NECESSARY
Hello and welcome to the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity and Mortality. This audio tour guide will be your constant companion in your journey through the unknown and surreal.
As you approach our exhibits, the audio tour guide will provide you with information and insights into their nature and history.
Do not attempt to interact or communicate with the exhibits.
Do not attempt to interact or communicate with the audio tour guide. If you believe that the audio tour guide may be deviating from the intended tour program, please deposit your audio device in the nearest incinerator.
While the staff here at Mistholme Museum of Mystery Morbidity and Mortality do their absolute best to ensure the safety of all visitors, accidents can happen. The museum is not liable for any injury, death, or wild variations in tone that may occur during your visit.
Enjoy your tour.
And good luck.
A Monument To The Brave Fallen of the Retrieval Department
CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, (Supernatural, Monster Attack) Blood and Gore
This is not so much an exhibit as it is… a monument. The staff here at the Museum tend to be very humble about their work. The overall outlook is that working here is something that should be done. That the people here are serving.. Well, a sort of higher calling, really. It’s rather like people who enter into roles within religious organisations- specifically those who do so for good reasons, as opposed to bad ones, actually let’s not get into that can of worms. The Museum is bigger than the people who work here: it simply… should exist. It’s right that these exhibits are collected here for people to see, to experience. Without the Museum, people’s understanding of the world would be tragically limited, and so the staff of the Museum work to open the eyes and minds of the people of this world, without any expectation of recognition. And the department that is perhaps the most overlooked when it comes to recognition, at least within the museum, is the Retrieval Department.
The Retrieval Department is responsible for- as you may have guessed- the retrieval of items that have been deemed of interest to the Museum and its visitors. That’s the entrance just over there. The Retrieval Department works in tandem with the Research Department in the discovery of new items, upon which field agents retrieve said items and return them to the Museum. As such, they are the only department that primarily operates outside of the Museum’s halls, and as a result there is a sort of… disparity in how much their work is valued internally at the Museum. The Museum itself is paramount in the minds of its staff, so the fact that Retrieval Agents do most of their work in the field has led to some… cultural issues among the ranks of the Museum staff. This is, obviously, ridiculous, as every department at the Museum is essential to its operation- and especially when you consider that Retrieval is by far the most high-risk department. Its members are usually the first to encounter new and mysterious items, without a complete understanding of their nature, not to mention the dangers they often face just getting to the items in the first place. To honour the risks taken by the brave people of Retrieval, and in an attempt to rectify this cultural issue within the Museum’s ranks, this monument was created some years ago.
As you can see, it is a bronze statue of 5 people, reaching out toward a metal disk, suspended in midair in front of them (don’t ask how it’s suspended there, I don’t know). The faces of the individuals depicted are blank and featureless, as they are intended to stand in for each and every member of the Retrieval Department who has given their life in the name of the Museum. However, they are based on a specific group of Retrieval Agents, and their final mission for the Museum. This is their story.
These five people were members of an expedition, designated R109. The team was made up of agents Harris, Chen, Torres, Reilly, and Dunham.
R109 were tasked with retrieving the item after cross-analysis of a number of legends and rumours finally led to its location. The exact nature of the item was still unclear: it was reliably described as disklike in shape and made of metal, but its size and attributes changed depending on the source. The consistent element among all variations was that it was a source of great power, potentially Alternatural in nature. While this power was at first believed to be metaphorical in nature, the accounts increasingly led the Researchers to believe that it was in fact some sort of power source that ran a huge, now lost, city many centuries ago. This revelation was a convergence of multiple investigations: there had long been stories from the same region that such a city existed, but the Research Department was confounded by a lack of evidence. When the connection between the tales of the city and the tales of the disk was finally discovered, the synthesis of data collected on both subjects led, at long last, to the location of the City.
The first thing R109 discovered upon their arrival in the mountainous region where the City was believed to be located, was that their electronic equipment did not function. Their torches flickered at an unusably low brightness, and the radio picked up only static. The helicopter they had arrived in didn’t even dare get too close, and so the team had to make their way on foot, bearing supplies for a few days, some specialised equipment- and military grade automatic weaponry. Retrieval teams do their best to avoid conflict in all their missions, but self-defence is sometimes called for. Torres, the team radio operator, along with Dunham, trekked to a nearby ridge to try to escape the static, while the rest of the team traveled to a village at the foot of the mountain. Chen, the team’s translator, located a local who agreed to lead them to the lost city, and Harris, as team leader, declared that they would begin the journey to the city at first light. As the light faded, they set up camp on the outskirts of the village; not long after, Torres returned with Dunham, and a look of frustration on her face. They had just barely been able to send a message through, and she expected it would be their last until they were clear of the mountains. Dunham gleefully commented that Torres had been made redundant by a hunk of rock; judging by the look on Torres’ face, this wasn’t the first time Dunham had made this particular joke, and so the rest of the team hid their smiles. As they ate the meagre rations they had brought with them, a figure approached the camp. Reilly’s rifle was pointed at him before anyone else even had time to react, but Harris ordered him to stand down.
The man approached their fire, and Chen identified him as one of the village elders. Saying nothing, with eyes only for the campfire, the elder walked into the centre of the camp and sat, staring into the flames. Then he spoke, through Chen’s translation. A warning. That the group should return to wherever it was they had come from. The mountain was cursed, and what lay below and within it even moreso. Men had come in the past, to plunder the treasure they believed to be within; they had not returned. That was the fate which awaited the Retrieval Team if they continued. Harris thanked the elder for his counsel, and bid him goodnight. As the elder departed, the team exchanged uneasy glances with one another. It was not uncommon for members of Retrieval to face danger; it was part of their job, and each and every one of them knew the risks. After a moment’s contemplation, Harris told the team they would continue to the mountain at first light- but they would be vigilant and ready to retreat should danger present itself. Few exhibits were worth dying for.
As the sun rose, their guide led them up a secluded path, which wound up and down and through the mountain’s narrow passes and precarious ridges. Snow began to fall around midday, getting heavier as the team traveled further up the mountain’s slopes. Eventually, their guide stopped, at the edge of a ravine. He jerked his head down into the shadows, and said nothing. Dunham and Reilly cracked some glow sticks and tossed them over the edge; they fell a disconcertingly long way before they hit the ground, where their sickly green light illuminated what could only be described as a door, cut into the side of the mountain. Harris turned to thank the guide for his help, but the man was already making his way back the way they had come, muttering under his breath. Harris looked to Chen. They cleared their throat, and said he was asking his god for forgiveness. With the heavy snow, and increasing wind, Harris made the difficult decision that the team would attempt to breach the door now, rather than make camp outside in these conditions. They would be able to take shelter once they were inside. They affixed ropes to the crevasse wall, and rappelled down. The door looked almost more like an ornamental carving than an entrance: elaborate markings and writing in a script unfamiliar even to Chen spiraled across the archway, with no clear indication that there was a seam between the wall and the door. If they hadn’t known it was a door, they might have thought it was some kind of elaborate mural. Dunham was readying a breaching charge to blast their way in when Torres pushed on it and it simply swung open. Torres smirked as Dunham put his explosives away, disappointed. The team cracked some more glow sticks and- led by Reilly’s rifle- they entered the mountain.
There was something… off about the hallways they found themselves in. Every surface was stone, seemingly carved out of the mountain in one piece. The floor sloped upward slightly away from the centre, while the roof was flat, and every now and again they had to clamber over tiny walls inexplicably placed in their path. It didn’t take long for the team to figure out why: the halls were upside down. They were, in effect, walking on the ceiling. When they reached a doorway, Harris gave Reilly a boost so he could reach the handle; on the other side, they found themselves in a large room filled with debris. Some was metal, and some of it appeared to have once been wood; however, it was all so ancient that rust and rot had removed any hint of what it had once been. They couldn’t even tell if it had originally been set on the floor or ceiling. The group cleared a space free of rubble, and set up their camp. They could continue after some rest. While on watch, Torres thought she heard something scratching at the stone further down the hall. She alerted the rest of the team, and there was a tense moment as the group strained their eyes looking for the source of the noise, but it never revealed itself. Nevertheless, Torres swore she had heard something, and Harris stayed up for the rest of the watch.
When they were ready to continue, Reilly and Torres remained behind to keep the exit secure while Harris, Chen, and Dunham explored further in. As they walked, Chen ran their hand across runes and symbols on the walls, commenting that they were completely unlike any others they had seen- notably, including those native to this region. As they traveled deeper down- or was it up?- there were occasionally signs of activity. Disturbed dust on the ground. Something like animal waste in a side room. Then the trio rounded a corner and found the remains of a battlefield. A large, open chamber, with an exit on each of its four walls. Bullet holes riddled the walls, along with dried blood. The remains of some tents and a firepit in the centre of the room. And, along the far wall, the bodies. They had been lined up neatly- respectfully, almost. Several had their hands folded across guns that laid across their chests. Dunham swore and retreated to the room’s entrance. Chen searched through the remains of the camp, looking for any evidence of who the bodies were. Harris knelt down to examine one of the corpses, and identified the weapon it held as a Lewis Gun. Perhaps they were soldiers who had been shot down, or otherwise gotten lost in the mountains and found their way inside. Regardless, the bodies were easily 50 years old. Who had they been fighting? Did someone still live here? Somebody must have lined up the soldiers bodies, and perhaps removed the bodies of those they had fought. From the doorway, Dunham called out- failing to conceal the fear in his voice- that they should fall back to the entrance and reassess the situation. Harris turned to him and was about to respond when he saw a massive clawed hand lunge through the doorway and crush Dunham’s head to pulp.
Chen screamed and tripped backwards over the tent; Harris was next to them in an instant, hauling Chen to their feet with one hand and firing his pistol blindly into the empty doorway with the other. Over the deafening sound of gunfire in the confined space, they could still make out an echoing, animalistic grunting and hooting that seemed to come from all around them. Together, Harris and Chen fled down the opposite passage to the one they had come from, deeper into the mountain. The howling died away behind them, and after several seconds of panicked running, they realised they weren’t being followed. They ducked into a side room, where Chen collapsed against a wall, shaking with adrenaline while Harris peeked out into the corridor for any sign of the creatures that had killed Dunham. Their radios suddenly crackled to life, startling them both. It was Torres- apparently their radios worked better inside the mountain than out, just another thing to add to the list of inexplicable things about this place. She was just starting to say that she and Reilly had heard gunfire when Harris ordered the pair of them to make their way back out of the mountain and call for evacuation. He and Chen would try to loop their way back around to the exit. Torres began to protest, but Reilly’s gruff voice cut over the top of hers with a simple “Yes sir”. A snuffling sound, just barely louder than a whisper, pricked up Harris’ ears. He wished his team good luck, requested radio silence, and pulled Chen to their feet again. He flicked on his torch, confirming that it, too, was now working. He flicked on his torch, confirming that it, too, was suddenly working again. They crept away down the corridor, taking care not to make a sound, lest they draw any more attention. Every now and again, their torch beams rested on one of the creatures as they rounded a corner, but in a blur of white the creature would disappear again. They were large- huge, even, easily 8 feet tall- and covering in shaggy white hair. Their teeth protruded from their mouths, and their eyes were blood red. They didn’t attack, and every time Harris and Chen sighted them down a corridor they took a different path, eager to avoid another conflict. But, as they wound deeper and deeper into the mountain, Harris couldn’t shake the feeling that they were being corralled. And, he suspected, it was not toward the exit.
After some time, they saw a light up ahead. They hastened toward it, thinking that perhaps they had found an exit. The path sloped downwards, and Chen brushed a hand against the wall to steady themself. Then, at the base of the slope, they stepped through a doorway and into a massive, open chamber. The walls seemed to glow faintly, shedding just enough light to reveal the scale of the space in which they now found themselves. A skyscraper would comfortably fit inside with plenty of room on either side. It was empty, but for a platform in the centre, with thin walkways extending out from doorways all around the edge, including the one where Harris and Chen now found themselves, over a seemingly bottomless abyss. Another walkway stretched out above the one the pair now stepped onto. Chen gazed around, mouth agape, and commented that the whole mountain must be hollow to accommodate such a space. Harris had eyes only for the platform at the centre. From this distance, he could just make out some kind of plinth there, with something resting upon it. He stepped gingerly onto the walkway, then when it held his weight he strode out to the platform. As he got closer, he realised that the object was not resting on the platform: it was floating above it, between the plinth and a translucent spire that seemed to reach all the way up to the ceiling far above. The object was, as you may have guessed, the disc depicted in the monument. About a foot in diameter, bronze, with faint veins of what looked like mother-of-pearl across its surface. There was something about it that was… off, too. It took Harris a moment to realise that, despite the sheen of its surface, it wasn’t reflecting the light from his torch. He reached out to touch it. And as soon as his fingers brushed against it, it fell from the air. He just barely managed to grab it before it hit the ground, and was almost blinded as the whole room around him suddenly shone with a bright light. What had previously been a subtle glow intensified a hundredfold as every surface lit up.He squinted, and waited for his eyes to adjust, dimly aware of a low rumbling that seemed to be emanating throughout the chamber alongside the light, vibrating in the stone beneath his feet. When he had recovered, he looked over toward Chen, still over by the doorway, rubbing their eyes and grimacing with discomfort.
And, in the new brightness, he saw the creatures standing behind them.
Harris shouted Chen’s name, and they spun around just as one of the creatures leapt for their throat. Chen ducked out of the way and fled toward Harris across the walkway, a dozen of the monsters hot on their heels. Harris fired at the one closest to Chen, putting 3 shots right in its chest, a blossom of deep red against its white fur. It stumbled, clutched at its chest. And kept running. The rest had already overtaken it in their frenzy to catch Chen, their bellowing cries echoing and multiplying around the massive chamber as though there was no end to their number. Harris kept firing his pistol as he backed away from the oncoming mob, screaming at Chen to keep going. Chen had almost reached the central platform when one of the monsters lunged forward and grabbed their ankle. It leaned in close, its stinking breath hot on Chen’s face as it seemed to grin at them with excitement for what would come next. Chen screamed and drew their pistol, emptying the entire magazine into the thing’s head until the chamber clicked empty and the head was mostly blown apart. Slowly, the creature fell away.
Its grip on Chen’s leg still strong, even in death. Chen’s screams echoed louder than the monster’s cries as the dead body slipped off the edge of the walkway, taking Chen with it in its grasp. Harris cried out in horror as Chen fell away towards a floor that- even with the bright light that now illuminated the area- was too far away to be seen. Harris didn’t hear the impact though. As he was firing round after round at the creatures that remained, screaming at them to hurry up and end things. It was only after he ran out of ammunition that he registered that they were no longer attacking. The whole horde of them stood on the walkway and platform, staring at him. No- at what he held. Harris looked down at the disc, almost forgotten, in his off hand. He regarded the monsters warily, and waved it back and forth slowly. They followed it, transfixed. Harris took a deep breath, and took a step toward the creatures. They took a step back. He took another. They matched. Slowly, he made his way back along the walkway he and Chen had come down just minutes ago, the shaggy beasts matching him step for step, eyes on the disc. The rumbling seemed to be growing more intense as he walked back up the hallways they had traversed, a growing number of the creatures now following him as he retraced his steps. It felt like an earthquake, but more consistent and prolonged. Dust and debris trembled noticeably on the ground, and as he passed what remained of Dunham the pool of blood rippled with the vibrations. The same went for Reilly’s blood. As Harris returned to the spot where they had madee camp he found over a dozen of the creatures lying dead in the hallway outside, along with hundreds of spent shell casings and Reilly’s body, barely visible under the fur of the creature that had fallen on him in its death throes.. They must have been attacked right after their last contact, with Reilly making a last stand so Torres could get away. As Harris emerged from the door out into the ravine and into the cold mountain air, he discovered that it hadn’t been enough. Torres’ body was still clipped into her rappelling harness, where a creature was now feasting on her remains- though it stopped as Harris arrived, transfixed as the rest of the hundred or so monsters now following him. Snow fell heavily as Harris looked down at the disc, and up into the night air. It wasn’t just snowfall. It was the beginnings of an avalanche, as the mountain vibrated itself apart. The ground beneath him felt as though it would crumble at any minute. This was no mere earthquake: the mountain itself was collapsing.
Harris looked at Torres’ body, and made his decision. He hurried over to it- the creature that had been eating her scurried away, eyes on the disc- and grabbed the transmitter from the radio on her back. He tuned in to the frequency their support crew were operating on, and while there was some interference it was clear enough to be understood. Speaking quickly, as rocks and snow fell around him, he filled the Retrieval agents on the other end of the line on what they had discovered, what had happened to his team, and what he had to do now. He was as detailed as he could be, but he knew time was short. As the mountain began to crumble, he said goodbye to his comrades, ending the call with “Here there be Dragons”. And then, presumably, he went back inside the mountain and replaced the disc, as that is what he said he intended to do. The quaking stopped. The village in the mountain’s shadow was saved. The vibrations had been felt hundreds of kilometres away. We will never know the extent of what was saved by Harris’s sacrifice. We can only be thankful.
“Here there be Dragons” is a phrase common throughout history, typically written on maps to indicate that an area is unknown and therefore dangerous. It is generally held that it has never implied the genuine presence of dragons or other mythological creatures in a region, just that one should be careful in exploring there. At the museum, it is used to indicate an area, or a phenomenon, or an object, that should be left undisturbed. We are a curious people at the Museum. We love a mystery almost as much as we love finding its solution. But we also know that some mysteries are best left well enough alone.
Thank you for visiting the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity, and Mortality. We hope that you have enjoyed your visit, and that you will return one day, in this life or the next. Please, tell your friends about what a great time you had here- but don’t tell them too much! If they’re worthy, we’ll find them. Stay safe out there.