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A Storytelling Game of Immortal Souls By David Brookshaw, Michael Goodwin, George Holochwost, Khaldoun Khelil, Ari Marmell, Malcolm Sheppard, Greg Stolze, and C.A. Suleiman The Seven-Times-Hallowed Mask Walter could almost forget, machine’s skids, looking for The Dwelling We Do Not sometimes. For days on end, other tracks, footprints… but Speak Of started as a crack when his life was going right. no, they weren’t there, and he’d in the fli
  A Storytelling Game of Immortal Souls By David Brookshaw, Michael Goodwin, George Holochwost, Khaldoun Khelil, Ari Marmell, Malcolm Sheppard, Greg Stolze, and C.A. Suleiman  Walter could almost forget, sometimes. For days on end, when his life was going right. But out on the ice, it was impossible, unthinkable, and especially when he was close to the path. He was taking the long way home, as he was bound, and he told himself he would pass by the path and look, and it would be as white as a blank sheet of paper. He would drive home to supper and…He saw tracks. Walter slammed on the brakes, making his pickup slew to the left, then to a stop as he expertly steered into the skid. (To Walter, driving on snow was simply “driving.”)The way to the Dwelling We Do Not Speak Of was not supposed to be in use tonight. It should have been as unmarked as a blameless conscience, but there were clear and obvious tracks—the lines and tread of a snowmobile, by the look of them. The path was not meant to be driven upon— ever . That was why he’d stomped the brake pedal instead of just pulling over. He parked where they always parked, in a windbreak created by a jagged rise of stones a respectful distance from the Dwelling. He strapped on his snowshoes, and after a momentary hesitation, he pulled down his rifle, as well.Walter wished he could run, but he only trudged into the rough tumble of upthrust stones, a peculiar range of debris in the otherwise unmarred ice sheet. He stared at the marks of the The Seven-Times-Hallowed Mask machine’s skids, looking for other tracks, footprints… but no, they weren’t there, and he’d see it  before he saw any signs of its passage, wouldn’t he?Under the layers of Gore-Tex and down and fleece and wool and cotton and his own skin and fat, his blood ran cold. With no real choice in the matter, he pressed on, and soon, he came to the end of the stones. There was a blank stretch leading to the hill, and he followed the snowmobile path straight to its base. The tracks were dismally clear. Someone had parked at the base of the hill, walked up the stone trail to the Dwelling, walked back down, then remounted and driven off.The second set of tracks had only come down and were not aimed at the road. They went straight toward the stones, and to the snowfield beyond, and Walter was sure they made a spear-straight line toward his home town of Qaarsut.He swore in both his languages. How far could it  have gotten? Did he dare confirm his bleakest fears? Could he face the others if he didn’t?Still cursing, he tore off his snowshoes and ran up the steps, his rifle held before him. It wasn’t that he thought it would do any good, but he didn’t want to leave it behind in the snow.The Dwelling We Do Not Speak Of started as a crack in the flinty hillside. Slipping within, all was dark and frigid. Ancient lamps loomed in a long niche by the entry, made from walrus pelvic-bones. In the ceremonies, they burned whale oil, but it was forbidden to store fuel in the Dwelling, so Walter made do with a tiny LED keychain.Even in the dim, flat light, the walls gleamed. Generations of Walter’s people had left totems of carved bone, images of gods and authorities unnamed to any anthropologist. In normal times, it all centered on a pillar of ice. Atop that column sat the golden Seven-Times-Hallowed Mask and, within it, the shadowy black figure of a dead man.But the mask was missing, the ice was shattered, and the footprints of the dead man went straight from the frozen wreckage toward the entryway. B B B Once he was outside, Walter wished he could talk to Priestess Nujalik, but it was hopeless. The closest cell phone was in town, its service was spotty, and Walter had never bothered to buy a handset. The ground around the Hill We Do Not Name was commercially worthless, so he’d have needed an expensive sat-phone to contact anyone. There was the CB in his truck, but it would only work if anyone was listening.He retrieved his snowshoes, took a deep breath, whimpered  without realizing it, and set off toward the upright rocks. He made it all the way through and to the other side before he saw it.Night had fallen but the moon was high, and the dead thing was a blotch of blackness disturbing the featureless white of the plain. Behind, its trail was a scrawl of lesser darkness, for the snow here had blown deep. At points, the thing was forcing its way through chest-high drifts, and at no point was it less than knee deep.“Neem me niet kwalijk?” Walter said, in a voice no man could have heard over the wind. The creature did not pause, and Walter took a dozen reluctant steps closer.“Utoqqatsissutigaa!” he called, now speaking Kalaallisut, which they called the New Language. The thing continued, and he wondered if it was ignoring him or if it was simply mindless in its pursuit.“Sefet Qam!” Walter charged forward, numb lips stumbling over the alien syllables that aligned roughly to “Strength of the Crocodile’s Skin.”“  I name you and claim your loyalty ,” he said in the Old Language, rote phrases he’d been taught intermittently all his life. “ By the temple and the  Mask we serve, I… ”Walter’s thin voice faltered. It had stopped, and it had turned.Freed of the ice, its eye-sockets were brown pits. Its mouth was a pursed circle, drawn tight by dried flesh. It was naked in the snow, all tissue desiccated into leathery lumps, collarbones and elbows and the pelvic ridge prominent in its silhouette.“What name do you claim,  you who would stay me in my course?” The voice was dry as a tomb, but it spoke perfect English. “If you a temple servant be, our mutual pledge exceeds my loyalty to you or yours to me.”“  I… speak only Dutch and  Kalaallisut. ” Walter clutched his rifle like a child with a stuffed animal.“De Heilige Masker,” Sefet Qam replied, in the same tongue. “  It is taken, and I am arisen. Know you the one who violated the temple?  ”Walter shook his head. “ But I can help you search, ” he said. “  I have… a vehicle. And clothes. ”It was hard to read expression on the rotted face before him, but after a pause, it nodded and began trudging toward him.Walter willed himself to turn his back on the temple defender, but his eyes would not look away. Eventually, they walked side by side—he atop the snow and the dead thing pushing through it. B B B “ Your horseless carriage is loud, ” the temple guardian said as they moved down the road.“  I apologize. ”“  Are you sure we cannot simply go to the Mask and seize it?  ”Walter risked a glance at his passenger and shuddered. “  Please, it would be better if you were… concealed. ”“  Less distress for you, you mean. ” Sefet Qam somehow managed to look shrewd, even with a frozen, leathery grimace for a face. Yet now there was a gleam in the back of his eye-pits, as if something was thawing there.“ We can make pictures very quickly. It would not do for people to come looking if an image of you traveled very far. ”“Po-laroid,” the dead man said. “  I know of these images. ”“ They have improved since your last awakening. ”“  How many years since… the year of the English, 1963?  ”“  It is now the year 2012. ” Walter risked another glimpse. “ But you were last awake in 1983. Do you not recall it?  ”“  I… do not. Not yet. ”An awkward silence descended until they reached Walter’s home on the outskirts of town. “ We’ll bundle you up so you can pass, ” Walter said. “  No one is in my house, so we’ll be safe. ”“  If no one is there, who opened the gateway?  ” Sefet Qam asked, pointing to the garage door.“  It’s an electric device ,” Walter said.
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