In 2015, I ran a magnificent series of games using the tremulus system, a Lovecraftian Powered by the Apocalypse game that focuses on investigation and creeping horror. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to run it again with the same set up: just me and two players. The intimacy of that setting created a great atmosphere and it has gone down as one of the best things I’ve run/participated in. Here is the actual play I wrote up and originally posted on the tremulus G+ community.
Malachi Arkton, the Sorcerer, played by Dan Luxenberg –Malachi is a traveling mage who was brought to Ebon Eaves through his own sense of the mystic and the town’s troubled Mayor who seems to be cursed.
Annabelle Leighton, the Philanthropist, played by Ariana Ramos – Annabelle was brought to Ebon Eaves due to her family’s connection to the town. Her great-grandfather was a free man, escaped from the South. Her family later established themselves in Philadelphia and have amassed a fortune which she has brought to Ebon Eaves to build a school for the poor, rural farm population there. She brings Byron, a streetwise ex-con bodyguard and Pennyworth, an erudite driver
We spent most of this session setting up NPCs and the mystery. First, David Dobbins came with hat in hand to ask Ms. Leighton for a loan to go towards his burgeoning ministry. Leighton didn’t see it as a worthwhile investment and rejected the proposal. Mr. Arkton ran across Dobbins while he was investigating the ruined cabin of the local town legend Old Man Hammer. Hammer was hung by a mob forty years prior after claims he was seen consorting with devils on a nearby hilltop. Arkton discovered rotting pages from an unknown text under a stone in the fireplace before being interrupted by Dobbins. Dobbins claimed to be the nephew of Old Man Hammer, which stood in interesting contrast when he claimed to Ms. Leighton he was the grandson of the late local minister, Rev. Bartholomew Green. Our two protagonists finally met each other when they both decided to investigate the old time tent revival Dobbins was heading up. The evening came to an abrupt end when Dobbins performed a legitimate miracle by healing the face of a World War I vet.
There was also Mayor O’Connell, a troubled man who continued to win re-election as mayor but was unable to gain even a fair number of votes in elections outside of the city. O’Connell confessed to Mr. Arkton that was he as a young boy who came across Old Man Hammer dancing on the hilltop with devils and ran back to town to tell his parents. This was the catalyst to setting off the mob and eventually, Old Man Hammer being hung and cursing the town.
Sheriff Sykes, the local law, pays Ms. Leighton a visit to ask her about an attendant of the revival who was found hanging on Hammer Hilltop this morning. Ms. Leighton has no information but can quickly tell this is more about Sykes’ suspicion of Mr. Arkton who he sees as an outsider and a threat. Ms. Leighton also counsels a student at her school, Abigail Simpkins, who relates a tale of an aberration being born from a cow in her family’s barn and her fear of returning home after school. Ms. Leighton tells Abigail she’ll stay in her home for the evening with plans to investigate the Simpkins farm later. Curious about the role Reverend Green had in the town before his death, Mr. Arkton journeys out to Green’s church which he finds was apparently burnt down by a lightning strike. After poking around a tunnel beneath the altar is discovered which leads to a chamber that has nutrient rich soil, a striking contrast to the agriculture around the rest of Ebon Eaves. The room also contains blood red candles that look undisturbed for many years.
Ms. Leighton and Mr. Arkton meet again, this time in the boarding house of local Mrs. Anderson where Arkton is residing. They compare notes about what they have found and Ms. Leighton makes a call to check on some things with the school’s day to day director Tipton. Her conversation with Tipton leaves her suspicious of him and she demands he come visit her and Mr. Arkton after work. Tipton, after some pressure, reveals he was meeting in secret with Dobbins about investing some of his own money in the ministry. Ms. Leighton lets Tipton leave but with a promise to continue this later. As the snow begins to fall on Ebon Eaves, Tipton is approached by a shadowy figure who appears to drain the life from him with a simple touch and leaves him to be buried beneath the oncoming blizzard.
The snow has overtaken Ebon Eaves and Ms. Leighton and Mr. Arkton have set off for Simpkins Farm to investigate young Abigail’s claims about the birth of a monstrosity. They find the farm eerily still and Byron, the bodyguard, expresses volumes of apprehension. Ms. Leighton takes to the farmhouse to speak with Mr. Simpkins while Mr. Arkton heads to the barn to gaze upon the alleged beast. Ms. Leighton encounters Mr. Simpkins who is now headless and spurting out a viscous black ooze from his head stump while stumbling towards her. Mr. Arkton sees the monster which is a two headed calf leaking the same black fluid from it various orifices. It then goes a full step further and mutters a phrase in Latin before standing upright. Mr. Arkton later translates the phrase as “The more common an evil is, the worse it is” but at the time was more interested in barricading the creature in. Alas, they do not leave without tragedy. Byron is frozen in his tracks when he spies the headless Simpkins plodding out and is torn apart by the abomination.
Mr. Arkton insists that they pay Dobbins a visit to question his role in all of this but find the town up in arms with the disappearance of Mayor O’Connell’s three children in the night. The duo suspect Dobbins and his arcane agenda might be behind it and find their way back to the tent in the frigid winter cold. They discover Dobbins and his muscle Biff moving some crates into the tent and Dobbins continues his charade of the caring, empathic minister. Ms. Leighton must hurry back to her estate to host a fundraiser for the school and ends up leaving Mr. Arkton in the wilds. He gets lost and comes across a hooded figure whose face is constituted by black oil tendrils and sets him running. Arkton collides with Biff and stumbles into the tent where Dobbins is shirtless and deeply entranced in a ritual. Arkton interrupts the ceremony and Dobbins shouts at him that the sorcerer’s intrusion has damned the town. Arkton steps out of the tent to find he has passed into a realm of darkness and charges forward, steeling his mind and miraculously returns to the world of the living, taking refuge on Old Man Hammer’s ruined cabin.
At the fundraiser, Ms. Leighton is paid a visit by Sheriff Sykes who is acting erratically and threatens the woman. However, when he spies her family crest on the wall he is driven back and runs from the house. The party is coming to a close due to the weather and Ms. Leighton grabs a tapestry with the family crest and heads out in her car to find Mr. Arkton. She ends up stuck in a snowbank and ascends Hammer Hilltop finding Mayor O’Connell’s three children brutalized and sacrificed. Dobbins arrives at the hill and seems forlorn over the children’s deaths and Ms. Leighton flees as the hanging tree moves and spears Dobbins on the end of a branch. The woman suffers Night Terrors as she drifts off to sleep in her car and sees a vision of the truth:
Mayor O’Connell killed Tipton and went on to kidnap and sacrifice his own children to some unseen dark god in order to release his bonds from Ebon Eaves.
Mr. Arkton and Ms. Leighton reunite in the morning and share information, Mr. Arkton now sadly convinced Dobbins was attempting to aid Ebon Eaves. They head to Dobbins’ tent, unaware that he is now dead, and find Sheriff Sykes and his men arriving to tear and burn down the operation, as well as executing Biff. Our duo heads back to Ms. Leighton’s home to gather weapons from Byron’s arsenal but are attacked by a possessed Pennyworth accompanied by Mayor O’Connell. Leighton fires off a shot but kills Pennyworth and O’Connell flees. Mr. Arkton is hit in the chaos and they find medical attention with a nearby paranoid physician.
They infiltrate the mayor’s office and locate the city leader in conversation with Sheriff Sykes. A deputy gets the jump on them but acting with bravado, Ms. Leighton pulls her shotgun (found in Byron’s room) and fires off a shot that takes O’Connell’s left arm clean off. This is enough to convince the lawmen in the chamber to leave the mayor to the protagonists. Mr. Arkton searches the mayor’s desk and finds a weather worn journal that reveals the true nature of this tale:
It was O’Connell as a boy who was spied consorting with devils by Old Man Hammer. The twisted young boy hurriedly told his parents an alternate story and Old Man Hammer was killed. Reverend Green was a guardian against the dark gods while O’Connell sought to gain their favor to help him escape the confines of Ebon Eaves. Within the journal a ritual is discovered that will temporarily cast back the shadowy creatures but it requires pages from a book of the cult, blood wax candles, and the fresh blood of “one of the heirs.” Piecing things together, Arkton realizes that the sigils in Ms. Leighton’s coat of arms reveal her as an heir to the protectors of Ebon Eaves. She hesitantly agrees to take part in the ritual which they rush to Rev. Green’s old church to perform. They are successful, and the darkness is cast back albeit only for 30 years. With Dobbins dead, Arkton realizes that Ms. Leighton is apparently the only living heir and that it is her duty to stay in Ebon Eaves, wed, and bear a child to carry on the protection which will be needed in 1963. Her mind cracking further, Ms. Leighton agrees but sinks into a broken depression, resigned to her reluctant duty…