Edinburgh [Contagion Chronicle]

Chronicles of Darkness

A preview of the Edinburgh section of the Contagion Chronicle for the Chronicles of Darkness, currently on Kickstarter.

Edinburgh: Contagion of Blood

Edinburgh sits on the south end of the Firth of Forth, a hub port to the world and capital city to the rather odd nation of Scotland. A clash between the medieval, renaissance and modern, it is an international city of many cultures and languages set against a history that is quintessentially Scottish and British in turn.

Edinburgh has long been a center of art and heritage, boasting museums both historical and aesthetic. It is a city with its own sense of mysticism and not a little darkness. Represented in stark images of shadows spreading out under the steep and arched alleyways off the Royal Mile, a brightly lit, tourist littered cobblestone street with the iconic Edinburgh Castle atop its craggy perch at its height on the aptly named Castle Hill. Down to Holyrood, where lies the modern built Scottish Parliament building, with the natural swell of Arthur’s Seat looming in the near distance.

The streets are full of charming cafes and designer chains, one-off bistros and novelty Scottish tat peddlers. Tourists come by the busload from across the world looking to indulge their sense of wonderment and mystery amid a setting steeped in history from pages of famous books and the silver screen alike.

However, that is only one take on the city. Delve beneath the tourist traps, the quaint civility of life in upmarket Coates and Morningside, the drug fueled haze of Trainspotting’s Leith and the consumerist bustle of Princes Street and George Street and look deeper. Look beyond.

The hallowed halls of the National Museum of Scotland have been showcasing a number of new exhibits in recent days, and now, its vaulted chambers ring with the footsteps of a new exhibit, one which has never been seen before in this world. As it walks, it takes with it the memory meant for others of its kind, taking it for its own and fulfilling the purpose it swore to fulfil the dreams of a Mad God.

Two forms of Contagion exist in Edinburgh, one carried on the fangs of vampires and other beings who might sap the life from mortals. This blight wears a hole into the fabric of Edinburgh, allowing another Contagion to enter in the wake of the mummy Iufenamun’s arrival. The God-Machine’s response is a widespread antivirus, though it may do more harm than good.

Theme and Mood

While the Contagion can express itself in obvious ways, it always leads some to question whether it is an illness or an evolution of reality. Many mummies have sought for the return of the Nameless Empire. Have those Deathless finally found redemption, stepping across the veil of life and death? Or is this the dawn of a new and darker empire? One which, if unchecked, could reign over the world, ushering in a new epoch in the cycle of life and death.

The National Museum of Scotland: A proud old building, standing proudly between Greyfriar’s Kirk and the Edinburgh Law School. The National Museum is one of the most popular and well visited buildings in the city. Its vast interiors are home to thousands of artifacts and hundreds of academics working to explain just what is so interesting about each of them. It is here, where the hum and buzz of life can be felt so keenly alongside the musty air of history by those beyond the Twilight, that the first tentacles of the Contagion penetrate. Articles appear in the pages of the Edinburgh Evening News and the Scotsman, telling of rare discoveries brought for study. Those artifacts are believed to have emerged from an unknown dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs or cult of priests. Their unusual relics show a reliance on biological matter, perfectly preserved through time. A scepter, intricately carved in weird hieroglyphs from some sort of melding of bone is first; an ankh of pure gold captures the attention of the world with its luster and value, with a gold-plated skull sitting atop its crest; and a crown of blackened flesh, encased in an obsidian-like resin, appears in the vaults. At first, they seem to be little more than curious of the sort donated by those over-rich loonies from the Amen-Ra Temple. Rumors of Illuminati and the Speculative Society fly, and as they do, a mummy joins the list of new exhibits in town.

Iufenamun’s arrival in the museum changes it quickly. Within days of his rising, almost all of the staff have been subdued in a feast of mortal memory. Many of those security guards and academics unfortunate enough to have been around when he first strode through from his Ashen Kingdom beyond the Twilight are reduced to little more than gibbering children, stripped of all but the most basic memories. The museum’s exhibits close and then the museum itself closes for “renovations” as it is converted into a bizarre palace / temple to the new Necrarch. Monsters who previously called the museum home warn their compatriots and rouse the attention of the Sworn.

The façade of the museum remains untouched, but within there is a den of vice and spiritual corruption. The Emperor of the Ashen Lands caters to all desires and his gleaming eyes penetrate the very soul of those who petition for his favor. A writhing sea of bodies flanks the pathway to his throne in an ever growing, ever cavorting party. Exotic foods and wines are consumed with vigor, song and music fills the halls. The beautiful lie with the vulgar in an endless, blind bacchanal. Every thirst is quenched, every hunger satisfied. But as he provides, Iufenamun extracts. Guards wearing dark robes and black, veiled helms lead the revelers off to the vaults sporadically to join the ranks of their mindless brethren, the first stage of their conversion to the Dead-Swarms, shades bound to Iufenamun’s will