Trail of Cthulhu - SoFo

Kentucky, Part II

The night passed uneventfully. The next day, Sister Godden and Det. Falwright got word from their contacts in New York: Josef Hofmann, and his ancestors, were indeed known in book collecting circles, and had been since around 1795, when the Hofmann family moved to Kentucky from Europe. No one knew of any of them having bought the specific missing book, which might mean the family brought it over with them.

Viola Pelfrey was found, in the words of the New York detective who followed up with her, “living in sin with that Negro,” Clayton Stone. The musician was known to have had a few run-ins with the law, related to heroin possession, but he had not spent time in prison (he had plead out the small charges in exchange for stays in rehab, instead). Ms. Pelfrey also said she had received some letters from her brother, Rev. Jim Pelfrey, but that the first few were so disturbing, after that, she simply returned them unopened.

With no other leads to follow, the investigators took advantage of Rev. Pelfrey’s Sunday morning church service to break into his home and look around. They found that he had saved the returned letters to his sister in a red, lacquered box under his bed. Mr. Hofmann’s missing book was on the pastor’s desk. This specific copy proved to have hand-written, Mythos-related notes in the margins throughout, probably written centuries ago by some earlier owner. The Reverend’s sermon notes suggested two separate “lines” of services: One set of fairly standard Southern Baptist preaching, and another, parallel set seemingly focused more on missionary work; designed for the conversion of unbelievers. However, as time went on, these began incorporating more and more Mythos-related information, attempting to reconcile a kind of debased Christianity with worship of fertility goddess-thing Shub-Niggurath, and of Abhoth, “Source of Uncleanness,” a kind of pestilence-and-disease deity.

The preacher’s home also contained his spelunking gear, and crude maps showing the way to a cave entrance, and the interior passageways. The investigators decided to brave the depths of the earth. Unfortunately, they also botched their attempt to cover their tracks, accidentally tearing a page out of one of the preacher’s notebooks. Their presence here would end up being easy to detect. Since they now had nothing to lose, they took Hofmann’s stolen copy of Saducismus Triumphatus with them.

Inside the cave, they began seeing typical cave fauna — blind cave crickets, cave spiders, and the like. After a bit, they reached the first of two indicated large caverns on Rev. Pelfrey’s map, this one containing a still pool of greenish water. A few blind cave fish were just visible in the water, and Det. Falwright thought he caught a larger shape moving underwater out of the corner of his eye. They continued along a path past the pool toward a passage on the other side, but were attacked by a pair of bizarre, half-man, half-fish creatures coming out of the water: Pale, with filmed-over dark spots where their eyes would be. The nurse was injured badly in the fight. The detective was hit as well, but managed to kill one of the creatures, and injure the other badly enough to drive it back into the water. Around a bend through the deeper passage, the two bandaged their wounds and continued onward.

As they continued down the passageway, ever more abhorrent things manifested: First, a kind of blind cave toad, then obscene chimeræ of bat and bird, insect and reptile, flopped and slithered along the stone floor. A disembodied arm crawled and bit at a leprous rat with a mouth in the palm of the pale hand.

Finally, they reached the second cavern. Here was a mind-numbing horror from fevered nightmares: A huge, phosphorescent pool of protoplasmic filth, continually extruding pseudopods, eyestalks, gibbering mouths. Bits of it would split themselves off, taking on the misshapen, diseased forms they had seen crawling away. Many of these would be snatched up by tentacles and absorbed back into the whole. They had encountered an intrusion of Abhoth, Lord of Filth, into our world.

Understandably, they fled. Back in town, Detective Falwright at first favored abandoning this benighted place and returning to New York, but a telephone conversation with Dr. Armitage convinced him he had a duty to deal with this threat to humanity itself, to whatever extent was possible. They learned also that after church service, Rev. Pelfrey was seen returning home; not long after, he was seen departing toward the woods in rather a hurry.

The investigators returned to the preacher’s house, finding his spelunking gear gone, and quite a few hastily-scrawled notes strewn about. It seems the preacher was devising a ritual which would merge the occult influences of Shub-Niggurath and Abhoth, into the creation of some kind of horrific plague, which would “drive people away from licentiousness and toward righteousness.” Although he seemed to have convinced himself that this was God’s will, Pelfrey also seemed to fully expect to be personally damned for this demonic work. He was also on an apparent timetable: Astrological notes indicated a spread of 3-4 days, centered on the current date, with the next celestial alignment not occurring until the early 1970s. Apparently, the obvious fact of his having been found out (i.e., the torn note page and missing book) pushed him to finish his work immediately.

Our heroes pursued him back into the cave. They were able to sneak past the pool of water where the blind cave Deep Ones lived, and found the preacher chanting near the pool of Abhoth, along with a kneeling blind Deep One, apparently a volunteer to be the vessel into which the occult power was to be poured. Dripping pseudopods caressed the preacher as he chanted.

With one blow, Det. Falwright slammed into the preacher, interrupting his spell-casting. Whether from that interruption, or simply from the jolt, we may never know, but either way, the Rev. Pelfrey was swallowed up in the pit of Abhoth’s filth, along with his Deep One acolyte. As feelers and tendrils crept toward the investigators, they fled back to town once again, having disrupted this potential ritual, at least until the stars are right again.

Epilogue

They returned Mr. Hofmann’s book to him, and recounted what they had seen. Hofmann volunteered to go into the cave himself with enough dynamite to induce a cave-in, and seal off the cave. Well, unless, of course, the caves here connect to the larger Mammoth Cave system via another path. And hoping that Abhoth’s presence in our world is limited to this one pool.

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