We stepped into the darkness, the sky as clear as it had been that day, but with a bright full moon serving as a poor imitation of the sun. Its fragile light was enough to guide our steps to a place we had been countless times before.
Huntington Library stood like a monolith in the distance, a great cyclopean monstrosity of learning. There had been rumors, of course. Like all of witch-haunted Arkham it seemed, Huntington had a history. It had been the first permanent building in that ancient town. It was constructed in 1640, only four years after the founding of Harvard, and a full decade before Miskatonic University came into being.
Legend had it the people of Arkham had found something on that little mound above the river. Something ancient and arcane, something built of mighty stone blocks, the working of which was far beyond the skills of the native Wampanoag, something that covered a great, but ruined, staircase that ran into the center of the Earth itself. It was a bizarre legend, an impossible tale. But it didn’t end with that great vestibule.
On December 21, 1639, during the darkest and longest night of the winter, three great ships sailed into the mouth of the Miskatonic River. The people of Arkham awoke to the sound of chisels and hammers, of stone cutting and construction. The men who labored on the hill were unknown to them, clad in strange raiment, faces hooded and cloaked. But fear was greater than the people of Arkham’s curiosity. For the four months that followed, the men continued their work, from the rising of the sun until it disappeared behind the western Berkshires.
Each night, the people of Arkham cowered behind their flimsy wooden doors, terrified of what lurked beyond. But it was the Beltane Eve, the night of Walpurgis, that the old men of Arkham still speak of in whispered words and phrases. They say the hills burned with an unnatural glow that night, that satanic psalms floated down to the town below, as creatures of darkness danced and gibbered in the moonlight.
When the sun rose on the first day of May 1640, the men were gone. What they left behind was a great edifice of stone.
Three days passed. When the workers did not reappear, it was determined a contingent of the town’s men should go up and investigate the structure that had been left behind. It was led by Isaac Huntington. It was no great distance from the edge of the town to the hill above, but the men advanced slowly. When they reached the palace of granite, only Huntington was willing to enter.
For half an hour the men waited outside, many of them growing increasingly certain Huntington would never return. But he did. There was nothing inside, he reported. Nothing but several great open spaces, and some steps leading down to a vault below. In the vault were four murals. These four murals represented the four great societies of antiquity – Egypt, Babylon, Greece, and Rome. They were exquisitely constructed, and some say at night, if the air is right, they each glow in the candlelight. But the ancient staircase, the one that the people of Arkham had always feared, was nowhere to be seen.
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