I approached the door with some trepidation, my earlier discourse with M. H-- on the subject of curses weighing heavily on my fevered mind. As a man of science, I held myself above such superstitions, but in that dark sandstone tunnel, choked with the dust of ages, such things seemed terrifyingly possible. Cuvier beckoned me examine the inscription on the door. Those inscrutable hieroglyphs remain a mystery to me, and I truly have no idea how my companion, learned though he was in such things, and quite more well-endowed with critical faculties than I, was able to derive meaning from them. Nevertheless, he did his best to explain. 'The room beyond must be the embalming chamber. Therein, the cadaver was prepared for the afterlife by the removal of the organs and the preservation of the flesh.'Today's Monster Monday is mummy wraps, a dangerous construct that takes the form of spell-inscribed linen bandages with the power to wrap themselves around their victims, embalming them and turning them into mummies. While the victim's companions are presumably trying to figure out how to hit the bandages without harming their friend, the mummy wraps can control their cohort like a puppet, attacking them with their body as the victim watches helplessly.
This gruesome fact was not new to me. I had, of course, read the MS by the renowned Mr. B-- of the Royal Society on the details of the process, which I have already laid out for you in great detail earlier in my account. But the idea that this place of ritual disemboweling lay just ahead of me through a foot of crumbling stone was, at the time, most disconcerting to my temper. Pallid though I was already, I am certain I grew more so at this news, though good Cuvier either did not notice or was kind enough not to remark upon it.
Cuvier bade the workers make use of the great prybars which they had brought along for that purpose, and within the hour they had shifted the stone aside enough that we could make our ingress. Cuvier insisted on going first, and to my great and ongoing regret I let him do so with no small measure of relief on my part. He cast the light of his hooded lantern around the room, revealing what to the ancients must have been an impressive laboratory. Jars full of chemicals and unguents stood intact in chests of desiccated wood. An array of tools, equally at home in the hands of an anatomist as in those of a torturer, glinted in the light as if they were new, the dry desert air having preserved them for thousands of years without rust or decay. But in the middle of that cursed room - and I say cursed now, with full confidence and the benefit of hindsight - stood a solid stone mortuary slab topped with a tangle of ancient linen bandages. O that we had taken our leave then! But no.
Fancying that I spied a scrap of writing on the bandages and fearing that my hands, moist from the fever and - I must admit - from nerves, might damage any ancient ink, I motioned Cuvier to take a closer look. When he did - O! If only this truly had been a fever dream! - the bandages rose up of their own accord and wrapped themselves around him. Helpless before these twining snakes of fabric, Cuvier at first stared in wonder, then tried to scream. His aborted scream, cut off by the living bandages as they covered his mouth, still chills me to my very core. With his last ounce of will, my dear companion reached out a shaking hand in a silent plea for help, but before I could grasp it, the bandages tightened and forced his arms to his sides. Before my very eyes, his skin grew brittle and taut and deathly dry. I could not help but turn away and, in my cowardice, flee headlong into the night.
I know not how I made it out of that warren of ancient tunnels, the workers long since having fled and my only light source lying abandoned on the ground at the feet of my dead friend. Perhaps the instinct for survival alone carried my tired body back to my apartment on K-- Street. I can tell you that I did not sleep at all that night, as my thoughts were focused entirely on the arrangements I must make to leave this benighted country on the morrow. The full horror and the burden of guilt did not wash over me until that dark hour which lurks in the shadowy spaces between midnight and dawn. Alone with only my thoughts, I fancied that I perceived a dull scratching on my chamber door. I attempted to dispel the notion, but the sound grew only more persistent, its terrifying reality intruding even on my fevered and terror-stricken mind. At last, in a misplaced attempt to assuage my fears, I went to the door and opened it.
There stood Cuvier, wrapped in those ancient linens, his skin browned with naptha and pulled tight across his bones. It is his face that still haunts me - cracked and sunken, with hollow eye sockets that could only be sightless and yet seemed so terribly perceptive. His papery lips pulled back into an accusing sneer, revealing yellowed teeth and a black tongue. I slammed shut the door immediately, and pushed my steamer trunk in front of it as a barricade. The scratching at the door came again in earnest, quickly becoming an insistent rap, and then a pounding that echoed in my ears. Abandoning my earthly possessions, I made my egress through the shuttered window and went by barge that very night to the port, with the intent of catching a ship bound northward at first light.
I write this account from within the walls of St. S-- Asylum for the Criminally Insane, in the hopes that someone might read my words and know that, while I did not kill Dr. August Cuvier, I most certainly do not hold myself blameless in the story of his death. If his mummified body is ever recovered, I pray that whosoever finds it has the sense not to touch the bandages.
The above vignette is written in the style of Edgar Allan Poe, albeit with fewer wordy and tortuous digressions on substitution ciphers, the value of inference, and the details of 19th century Parisian police-work. Don't ask me why, it just seemed fitting. Call it a tribute to my first DM, who kept a volume of the complete works of Poe on his shelf and insisted that it was "good fucking literature for Dungeon Masters."
The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2018 Jonah Bomgaars.