Posted on October 3, 2008 by jmstar
More monsters everyday in October here at Flames Rising. Today we’ve got a tale from Jason Morningstar, creator of the Grey Ranks RPG and other games.
The name Massapoag comes from the Algonquian for “Bad Place”, which Jason grabbed from R.A. Douglas-Lithgow’s Native American Place Names of Massachusetts.
Created by Jason Morningstar
THE WINTER CAMP OF THE PENACOOK, NORTHWESTERN MASSACHUSSETTS, 1680
The women were exhausted and wet-footed, dressed in ill-fitting cotton dresses and carrying squalling babies in their arms. One had a leather-bound bible, ink running across soaked pages. They were Penacook women and Wonalancet, Sachem of all the Penacook, knew their families.
The Englishman who had led them there started barking contemptuously. Wonalancet’s father Papisseconewa had known the language but he did not. One of the women reluctantly translated.
“Sachem, he says we are yours again,” she said. Wonalancet said nothing.
“We left to become Christians”, she said, as if explanation were needed.
“We come from Chaubunagungamaug” she said quietly, looking back at the Englishman hatefully, “where we weren’t Christian enough.”
Again the Englishman barked.
“His name is Morton. He says you are to pay him for feeding and clothing us. We beg for your mercy, Sachem.”
Wonalancet nodded, and waved to his men. They scattered up the trail to make the village ready to receive visitors. Not two years earlier and the lone Englishman would have died where he stood, and the women with him, Penacook or no. But the war was over and the English had won. Wonalancet had no stomach for punishing these traitors.
“Welcome home, sisters,” he said softly, “those English rags do not suit you.”
The women smiled and it was an awful thing to see, and the Sachem knew in that moment that they had been cruelly used by the English. “No, Sachem,” the translator said, “they do not.”
* * *
Her name was Nippawus, the one who spoke English so ably, and she had still been a child when she’d run away during the war. She’d run with her relatives to a Praying Town, a dismal hell-hole called
Chaubunagungamaug deep in Nipmuc territory, to learn to be English and Christian. On her first night there she’d been raped by the very man who now slept beneath the Sachem’s roof. She’d taken poorly to Christian life, Nippawus had, and they’d finally thrown her out with her more rebellious sisters. Morton had brought her home and expected coin or pelts for his trouble.
None of the Penacook wanted them back but Wonalancet told them to make places and to feed them. Morton hadn’t bothered; they’d been eating bark. The Sachem felt a dangerous rage build as he watched the fat Englishman sleep. His father’s old friend Pekani, now his most trusted advisor, was suddenly at his side, a soothing hand on his shoulder, reading his thoughts.
“No, my son,” he said, “Those days have passed.” Wonalancet’s features hardened. He shook his head.
“Perhaps they have not,” the Sachem said.
“No, boy,” Pekani said. “Your father would never have allowed it. It is wrong.”
Wonalancet’s gaze turned once more to the sleeping Englishman. “It is,” he said simply, and Pekani shuddered.
* * *
He woke late, after dawn. Even by English standards Morton was a disgusting specimen – the Sachem had watched over him all night, wracked with indecision. After a meal the Penacook could scarcely afford Morton returned to business, with Nippawus translating again, her eyes cast down.
“He wants good coin or beaver pelts,” she said. Wonalancet sighed.
“Tell him we’re grateful to him and that we have a bundle of furs for him to take back to the Praying Town. Tell him that you’ll take him down to where we’ve packed them for travel. Down around the base of Massamaett, at Massapoag.”
Nippawus’ eyes shot up to meet his, filled with surprise.
“You know the place?”
She nodded fearfully.
“Then tell him. It is your privilege to take him there.”
Morton made some noises and Nippawus found that words failed her. He raised his hand to strike her but thought better of it.
“Tell him,” Wonalancet said. “Tell him and take him to Massapoag. When the thing is done come back and we’ll talk, sister.”
* * *
They walked the muddy trail with Massamaett’s craggy face looming to their left and the river to their right. Morton was red-faced and panting before they left the village.
“Slow down, you sow,” he hissed, and Nippawus dutifully lessened her pace. For the first time in two years she was shod in honest moosehide rather than the absurd shoes the English had forced upon her. It felt heavenly. Everything felt heavenly. She was home. Morton was about to die.
“I’ll have my furs,” Morton panted, and eyed her appreciatively, revoltingly. “And I believe I’ll say goodbye to you as well, Nancy.”
She returned his leering smile. That you will, she thought. And at that moment she felt it. Her grandmother had told her about Massapoag, how it slept and dreamed and how its dreams were like the shouts of a dying man, the shouts a mother could hear from farther than an ear could catch. She heard these dreams then, the sussuration of something incomparably old, a sound that blended into the cheerful burbling of the river and infilled it with malevolence. She felt Massapoag stir, or part
of it, and the Englishman was still talking.
“Pay attention when I talk to you,” he said, “or I’ll show you more than kindness.”
“I’m sorry,” she said.
And the whispers became shouts and they were at the pond. The Bad Place; Massapoag.
It was remarkable for its stillness – at its edge sound seemed to fade. Of course it was a simple granite hole; no life within or without. No birds, no insects, just a wide round hole filled with clear water. A death hole. Massapoag was awake and eager, moving, throbbing with life, hungry. In the old days they had built towers of filth to worship it, monuments to depravity, and Nippawus felt the ancient stirrings that had caused the Penacook to kill Massapoag’s people and shun this place.
Morton felt it too. His pants were suddenly around his ankles. “Come here,” he said, as he had said many times before, and there was triumph in her voice when Nippawus refused him.
And then came an explosion of icy water and nacreous cilia, rearing up to take its measure of the offering and finding it good. Taking the sacrifice inside itself, Massapoag swayed lazily once, like a man
gut-shot, and in two heartbeats it was gone, back in its hole as the water turned pink.
Morton stood there, his tumescence fading, astonished. And from a deep place something old, now sated, touched his mind and offered him the world.
About Jason Mornigstar
Jason Morningstar is part of Bully Pulpit Games and is the designer of Grey Ranks (Diana Jones Award Winner), The Shab-al-Hiri Roach and more. Visit www.bullypulpitgames.com for more information on these and other projects Jason has in the works.