Hi there and welcome to the first episode of Through the Mists. This a series where I write a short story about an in-game experience I’ve had in Arkham Horror: The Living Card Game.
SPOILER WARNING: This story contains major spoilers for The Forgotten Age, up to scenario VII, The Depths of Yoth.
Leo Anderson methodically fiddled with the bronze coin he’d been in possession of since the start of his adventure. Of course, adventure was a kind word to describe the series of horrors that had befallen him and his team. The expedition leader had been on many harrowing journeys before, but this was making all the previous ones look easy. Leo had been sure they would face insurmountable dangers, but had the others? Even his expedition co-leader, Ursula Downs seemed horrified by what they had seen. He couldn’t blame her, but at the same time she was doing quite well, considering. The pair got along decently enough, besides the occasional side glances whenever he took out the coin. Leo didn’t mind, he had knows since the beginning he would be the one. No one else was dying on his watch.
The grey-haired man stood up from the makeshift rock stool and peered over the precipice where Ichtaca had launched herself off. They didn’t know exactly what she was, but it was clear the Eztli guardian was something… different. She had her own motives for tagging along and it quickly became clear they couldn’t trust her. In fact, their only other ally, Alejandro Vela was also some sort of otherworldly being. An uneasiness washed over Leo as he remembered what it felt like in that other body. It seemed like ages ago, but it had been less than a few hours since they regained their original forms. Almost sensing the shudders emanating from the old man, Finn Edwards walked over and handed him a flask.
“Drink up, we’ve got a long way down old timer.” The bootlegger announced in a low tone, handing Leo a dirty flask. The young, brown-haired man’s gaze was somber, but he quickly recovered. “Bet you’re glad you brought me along at times like these, huh?” He winked at Leo, who was still baffled how this would-be criminal could keep his composure, even down here. Despite Finn’s earnest attempt at cheering him up, Anderson knew they had a job to do. He swiftly recovered and waved away the drink.
“Put that thing away Edwards. I’m not paying you to get me or anyone else drunk on the job.” Leo gruffly commanded. Despite the reprimand, Finn laughed, stashed away the flask and gathered the rest of this belongings. He thought about how this whole ordeal was still mostly a job for the group’s stern leader. Being chased by serpents, shot by arrows, traveling through time and even being transported out of their bodies. All of that seemed closer to a nightmare for the bootlegger, but he wasn’t going to question Leo. It was time to go.
“This is it, another way down!” Leo’s voice thundered in the cavern as he motioned to his group with one hand. The other hand held up the nozzle of his trusted flamethrower, which he quickly unleashed upon the pursuing snakes as his friends staggered into the slender stone doorway carved into the wall. Even with Anderson’s preparations, the fuel in the large tank strapped to his back was running low. The abominations hissed and retreated for a brief moment, giving the expedition just enough time to rush down the stairs. There was no time to rest though and the group had to keep pushing further into the caverns.
The new floor of the depths didn’t hold anything too different from previous iterations. The caverns stretched on, winding and splitting off into dark paths. The party attempted to navigate the mysterious passages, eventually coming out to a large opening. Tall, serpent-like statues littered the ruined remains of an ancient city. Ursula continued surveying the rubble, looking for any hint of a way out. She knew time was running short. Meanwhile, “Ashcan” Pete followed his trusty hound Duke as the canine sniffed around the base of a big pile of rocks for any hint of the next set of stairs.
Leo walked at the back of the group, keeping an eye out for any potential ambushes. His mind drifted back to the journey they had been through. It was quite impossible to fathom really. Searching the jungle for a mysterious artifact, recovering it as well as some new allies. Of course, those allies turned out to have their own agendas, one of which involved transporting their consciousnesses to another dimension. Somehow they prevailed even through that nightmare. All that to find themselves down here, miles underground running for their lives. Just another day in the business, Leo thought to himself.
It had been hours of what seemed like constant running. Every new flight of stairs down revealed only more mazes and caverns that stretched as far as the eye could see. According to Pete’s tally, they had just descended the fourth set of giant stone stairs, each one glowing dark red. Ursula had been busy uncovering relics and reading glyphs to figure out where the next exit lay. Finn had only been counting swigs of whiskey, which had surpassed four a long time ago. Pete joined the bootlegger in that endeavor, occasionally throwing some food to his trusted Duke. Leo wasn’t counting anything. It didn’t matter how many steps they had crossed, the only important thing was the exit.
Despite their swift descent, the expedition couldn’t shake their pursuers. The sound of hissing and chanting coming from the stairs above them was deafening and growing ever louder as more monsters awakened in the depths. The party continued running, their legs giving away to exhaustion. The horde of snake creatures, led by their fearsome god gave them no quarter. Finally, the group arrived at an opening that gave out to a long, narrow stone bridge. With renewed vigor, they mustered their fastest pace to cross it, hoping to find another exit. Happiness quickly turned into despair as the party reached the mid point of the crossing. An entirely new horde of enemies was charging at them from the other side of the bridge.
“We have to jump!” Ursula’s voice seemed even smaller than usual in the huge awning of the stone caverns. She began to round up the rest of the crew to a small opening on the side of the bridge. Finn and Pete looked worriedly at their leader as they neared the edge. The two of them could almost sense the impending doom.
Leo looked at the battalion of spears wielded by scaly hands behind him, then back to his companions. His mind raced back to all his previous expeditions. All the failures and successes he’d experienced hunting down monsters and relics. He hoped Mitch could forgive him for all the mistakes he made and people he’d left behind. With a deep breath, the senior expedition leader was filled with revived determination. He nodded to the remainder of his expedition party. No one else was dying on his watch. Leo jumped.
As he fell, his prized possessions faded away in the darkness of the pit. His weapon, his ammo, his bags . Even his friends faded away into the dark. Ursula’s hand reached out to him and she screamed, her words quickly devoured by the void. With everything faded away, the former captain closed his hand, wrapping his fingers around the bronze coin one last time. It was the only thing that hadn’t vanished. Finally, Leo closed his eyes.
After what seemed like an eternity, Leo opened his eyes. He wasn’t quite sure where he was, but as he looked down, he noticed the wooden planks of an old, rotted dock. Below them, an unfathomably dark river flowed, but the direction in which it did was impossible to discern. Slowly, the old man turned his head up to see dark robed figure standing on a slender boat. The figure held long pole which was firmly planted in the river, presumably keeping the boat steady. Leo almost chuckled to himself at how stereotypically reaper-esque the ferryman was. If he had to guess, he’d say people saw what they expected of him.
Without much more thought, Leo stepped forward and handed Charon his pay, the old bronze coin he had held in his hands so often. A huge load was lifted off him, despite the coin never feeling like it weighed anything at all. Instinctively, he stepped on to the barge. He sat down and it began to move along the water. This was Leo Anderson’s final journey, but he did not fear it because he knew his job was done.