Tuesday 23 April 2024

Missed Classic: The Hound of Shadow - By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Written by Vetinari

Next morning, I wake up to a surprise. The landlady, Mrs Bastable, announces that a visitor, a young lady, is waiting for me in the lounge.

Now, I haven't mentioned anything about a landlady up to now, and I can hear what you're saying: of course there's a landlady, all sleuths (especially ones who live in London, and in Marylebone, no less) have a landlady. No! You are thinking of Victorian sleuths! Golden Age sleuths have no landladies, only secretaries!

She's no Miss Lemon, but Nikki Porter comes a close second.

Anyway, going to the lounge I find that this mysterious visitor is none other than Yasmin the maid/assistant from the séance. She says that her real name is Vivienne Powers and that Harry Pelham, a.k.a. the Adept Karmi, has not been right since the other night. Nightmares, headaches, depression, the whole package that you can expect after having had a close encounter with occult and malevolent forces.

She then asks me to accompany her to check on her employer/partner, and since this is probably the first thing to resemble actual plot development in this game, I agree. Apparently their house is in Bloomsbury Street, which is another area that I explored during my stroll in the previous days, but the game wasn't forthcoming enough to tell me that I recognized it.

I am at a loss on how to comment on this screenshot.
Karmi/Pelham is really unwell, and says that he has been having dreams of a non better specified “her” and that he sees the shadows all around him “again”. I am beginning to suspect that Harry may have been involved in the San Francisco events, and that he may have known the supposedly dead woman of which John was talking about.

In any case, Pelham collapses on the table sobbing, and Vivienne ushers me out of the door before I can interrogate him further. Thinking about the matter (with the ever useful “what do I know” command), the game suggests that another visit to the fraudster couple tomorrow may be in order.

In the meantime, I have promised John that I would follow up the lead on Mr Talbot, so I go back to the antique shop. When I try to “persuade” Rowland Marcus again, the game gives me the same reply as before, but then I just “ask about talbot” and Marcus folds by saying that he is very worried about him and that maybe I can go check him at his apartment to see that all is well.

Talbot's address is 34b Dean Street, another area which I explored but that was not marked as relevant before I knew this information. The door seems locked and shuttered, so having put points in Lockpicking just for occasions like these, I try to pick the lock.
You must be ****ing kidding me.
Okay, so the use of character skills in this game seems a bit... lacking? I now have many doubts that choosing a different character will lead to something more than a bit of cosmetic differences in the descriptions, if anything at all.

In any case, I enter Talbot's apartment. There is not very much to explore, just a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, but when I open the door to the apartment lounge, something happens...
So, after passing out, I find myself back in my flat. Apparently John found me outside of Talbot's apartment in a shock, and managed to get me visited by a doctor and taken home. The sight of what was inside that lounge was apparently so bad to make me lose my mind, albeit only temporarily.
What "The Times" has to say about the incident.
The most interesting thing is how John managed to get so quickly to Talbot's flat. Apparently, a young lady (who was not Vivienne Powers, going by her description) left him a note saying to go to 34b Dean Street for ”a matter of life or death”. John cryptically says that he thinks he knows who sent that note, and that if he is right then he probably is in deadly danger. Then he leaves and says that he will come back this evening after I have rested.

True to his word, John picks me up to go to dinner. After eating, he gives me the envelope that he received and asks me to examine it.
Gee, okay man, don't be so pushy!
Apparently the seal on the letter is that of a certain Magda Bathory, whose surname I recognize as that of the infamous “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory. John proceeds to explain that during the events in San Francisco, the leader of the occult society was an Undying (you can just say “vampire”, John), named Klaus Worlsman. He was destroyed, but word on the street was that he obtained his powers by a descendant of Elizabeth Bathory and Vlad Tepes. Sure, why not. If you are talking about vampires, you might as well go all in.

The woman whose voice he recognized was named Lilith Hopkirk, and seemed to be just another member of the society, but now someone matching her description has resurfaced in London and left him this note. John thinks that this Lilith Hopkirk was in reality Magda Bathory, and was the true leader of the cult in San Francisco. She lured John to Talbot's apartment in order to make him see the young man's remains, because she wanted him to be aware of what would happen after the Hound had been unleashed upon him. John is now convinced that he is going to be the next victim of the Hound of Shadow itself.
I don't know, I think he may just be overreacting.
Because of this, John argues that we need to go find a real mystic (not that fraud Karmi) to check if his aura bears the mark of the Hound of Shadow. He also suggests that maybe Rowland Marcus knows more than he lets on.

So, the next morning we pay a visit to Marcus' shop, and let's just say that he is not very happy to see us.
Well, he's not wrong.
Luckily, I have spent a lot of my skill points on Persuasion, so I manage to convince him to...

Hahahahahah! Just kidding. I cannot talk to him unless I show him the seal on the letter, after which he comes around to help us without any need of further talking.

Dammit, game. You made me spend one hour picking skill points and then I find that I could have just dumped them all into Astrology.
It's a real skill in the game, you know.
In any case, Marcus suggests a mystic that he knows and arranges a meeting with them at my apartment this evening at 6 pm. In the meantime, I had noted that it was a good idea to visit Vivienne and Pelham again today, so I do just that.

As soon as John and I arrive there, the sound of a chair knocked over from upstairs welcomes us. Rushing to the upper floor, we find that Pelham has tried to commit suicide by hanging with a cord from a light fitting.

I help the poor guy by cutting the cord and then I... perform an emergency tracheotomy on him?
I'm not even kidding.
I just have to quit the game on the spot so I can go to the main menu and check again the character file to see if I have put some points in Medicine and First Aid. Apparently I have, because they are under the Logical category. I will have to take a note of this scene and see how another character with a different skill set would behave in this occasion.

In any case, Pelham is saved, and I go home, where Mrs Bastable says that a letter has arrived. Spooky! What could it be? Some other menacing note from an ungodly abomination which is out for blood and vengeance?

No, apparently these things are only reserved for my dear old friend John, because the letter is from the British Museum, saying that my application has been accepted and I can go to the Admission Office to get a permanent pass to the Reading Room.

Since I have nothing better to do until this evening, I go and retrieve the pass from the museum, and then simply wait at my flat until 6 pm.

On cue, Rowland Marcus and the mystic arrive, and he introduces her as Miranda. She is “an attractive middle aged lady with greying hair tied back in a bun”.

I think it's her.
Miranda then proceeds to grill me on the events that have led to this point in the story. I have to answer her questions on how I have met Talbot, what happened at the séance, who do we think is responsible, and so on.

Then, plot twist: the aura that has been marked for the Hound is not John's, it is mine!

I should have known it.
Whaaaat?!? I wasn't even in San Francisco, I never met this Magda Bathory, I was at the séance for a totally unrelated matter and since the beginning of this game the only thing that I managed to do is reading some books and passing out in the street! How come I am the one hunted by the Hound? This is totally not fair!

Miranda leaves, while John and Marcus decide to stay in my house throughout the night to keep watch and guard me in case something happens. I go to sleep, having nightmares of dogs howling and whatnot, and then in the morning...
This is all your fault, John.
Someone (or something) has managed to enter the house during the night and wound me grieviously on the arms. Since all doors were locked and both John and Marcus were keeping watch, we decide to search every room to see if we can understand how the intruder has managed to infiltrate the premises.

Then, for some reason, walking in compass directions does not work anymore. I have to type “go to bedroom” to rid the game of this bug, then I can resume typing “north”, “east” or whatever as normal.

When I arrive in the attic, something unusual catches my attention.
Not the tea-chest. The tea-chest was there before.
There are some marks on the floor, and by examining them I see that they are a hand-print and some footprints (made by someone wearing high-heeled shoes) leading to and from a strange pattern of symbols drawn in the dust.

The pattern is a square sub-divided internally with four straight lines, so that there is a square about half the size of the original in the centre, four small squares in the corners, and four rectangles along the sides. In the rectangles there are some symbols which could be some form of script or letters.

Since I cannot make head nor tail of this, I go fetch Marcus and John and show them my findings.
Good to know.
Checking this Gascoigne Journal at Marcus' shop, it seems that the pattern is mentioned in one of the entries, together with a reference to a book by a certain Von J and a certain Bridewell. Marcus says that this can only refer to “Nameless Cults” a book by Von Juntz which was published by Bridewell in 1845. Marcus does not have it, but (surprise, surprise) the British Museum Library could be in possession of a copy.

I go to the Reading Room of the Museum and find out that the book needs to be ordered from Book Requests. I do so and, after waiting a couple of hours, it is delivered to my reading desk. Inside this unsettling tome I discover that the pattern in my attic is a Gate that can be used to travel instantaneously between different locations, as well as the incantations that can be used to do so.
Seems like a load of gibberish to me.
Armed with this newfound knowledge, I decide to visit the attic again. In fact, what was previously described as “a strange pattern”, now has taken the form of “a magical gate”.
Still seems like a load of gibberish.
When I try to “use gate” something happens, and I find myself back at Talbot's apartment! This, although very intriguing, doesn't net me any useful new information, so I am a little stumped on what to do.

The most interesting room to check would be the lounge where Talbot's corpse was, but it doesn't have any furnishings or other evident points of interest. After a while, skimming again through the list of recommended verbs in the manual, I notice the very interesting “search”.

I try to “search” in Talbot's apartment, and what do you know, I find another magical gate drawn in pencil in the lounge! I use this second gate too and then...

I find myself in a graveyard, where a priest, startled by my sudden appearance, tries to keep me at bay by holding in front of him the crucifix hanging around his neck. He then proceeds to interrogate me by asking who put this gate there. When I answer “Magda Bathory”, he is taken aback.

After I recount to him the events of the last few days, he says that he will try to help, but first I will need to go back to London and find out “the nature of the beast that killed Matthew Talbot”. Then he says that this is exactly the church that was the scene of the last sighting of the Hound in 1577.
Back to London, find clues, write to Father Paul. Got it.
I take stock of my surroundings, before stepping back into the gate to return to my flat in London, so that I can re-organize my thoughts and ponder about the next move.

I think we are entering the final stretch of this game guys.

Session Time: 3 hours 00 minutes

Total Time: 7 hours 30 minutes

> What Do I Know
Harry Pelham and Vivienne Powers were frauds, Matthew Talbot was told he bore the Hound of Shadow's mark, seemingly as the result of genuine possession, your friend recognised the voice used as that of Magda Bathory, immortal descendant of the infamous Blood Countess, in 1577 a black dog attacked churches at Bungay and Blythburgh in Suffolk, Matthew Talbot was horribly killed simply to show your friend what was in store for them and having unwittingly interfered with Magda's plans you are to provide another demonstration of the Hound's power.


  1. It looks like those of us who thought that the character creation would have very little effect on the game are turning out to be very right. Then again, I'm not sure there IS a game from around this time that actually implemented it right. Even modern games that do so tend to be developed over the course of many years...

    1. Yes, there are painfully very few instances where the skills matter, and mostly just for cosmetic changes, with no impact on the plot.

  2. I do wonder if that emergency tracheotomy would go differently without skills in medicine. This is as far as I got when I tried playing; since I'd omitted to send the letter to the museum when you get the temporary card I never got a permanent one. That locks you out of the reading room, and means I had no way to progress at this point (leading to an ignominious death...).


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