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She Waits Upon The Coastal Road

October 6th, 1853

When I set out for Port Humber, I had not imagined that this would be where I met my death. Indeed, I must confess that I had always imagined myself beyond death in a sense. Not above it, no. One of the few certainties in life is its ending. That final slumber comes for all, be they peasant or king. Yet all the same I thought myself fated to die an old man and not at the age of twenty nine in a bed far from home.

It is with the last of my strength that I write this and when I expire, I’ll ask that Olivia place my final letter at the altar of the Church. It will be the one building in this town she shall not burn to ashes. God willing, Holy Ground should be safe from the things that lurk in the dark and if it is not, then it hardly matters as there is nothing neither man nor God can do to stop what comes for mankind.

I am not a resident of Port Humber, nor had I ever any interest in remaining in this dreadful little town for longer than I needed to. No, my brother William had sought his fortune in Port Humber. When last I saw him, he swore up and down that the fishing in this dreary place was wonderful. In his own words: “A man could catch thrice his weight in fish in a single day!”. It’s a shame I never had the opportunity to experience that firsthand.

I made my living as a lawyer in Boston. Unlike my brother, I did not leave home for a girl and some fish. I much preferred the quaint comforts of the city although when I received the news of Williams disappearance, I could not stand by negligent. When the letter from his wife, Olivia came to me I wasted no time in leaving Boston for Port Humber. According to her, William had gone north, to a larger town where he could purchase some supplies and he’d never come home. Hope for his recovery was low. I went not to find nor bury my brother but to console Olivia. I was not so heartless as to leave my brother's widow alone in her time of grieving.

The train ride was not particularly long. Port Humber was only across the bay from Salem. Leaving the morning after I received the letter, I arrived by mid-afternoon. Had the weather been nicer, I may have even enjoyed my journey.

The town itself was fairly dour. In the unpleasant weather, there was a miserable, spectral fog that came in off the crashing waves. As I stepped out of the small station in Port Humber I found myself a little surprised to see a fairly small number of folk out and about. Even the harbor looked surprisingly dead for a fishing town.

The place had an empty feel to it, not unlike a ghost town and I must admit that left me with quite a feeling of unease as I looked around. I walked through the rain to find the small cottage my brother had shared with his wife. It was comfortably on the edge of town, away from the harbor but not the shore.

In our past interactions William had always come to me in the city. This was the first time I had ever been to his home but I must admit it had its charms. Through the windows I could see the flicker of a lamp and knew Olivia was waiting on me. When I knocked on her door, it was nice to see a familiar face waiting on me and I suspect she was quite happy to see me too given the way her eyes lit up.
“Howard! I’m so glad you made it. Please, do come in! I’m so sorry about the rain!”

While I may not have left Boston just for a woman, it was hard to fault William for his decision. Olivia was beautiful with a shock of dark hair and kind blue eyes. She was a small and at times sickly thing, yet lovely all the same. Perhaps had I met her before he did, I too would have fallen in love with her.Yet despite her kind smile and pleasantries I could hear the unease in her voice. The woman was quite clearly on edge and given the contents of her letter, I was too.

“I didn’t expect you so soon.” She said as she hurried into her modest kitchen, “I hope I didn’t pull you away from anything but I would not have sent for you if the situation was not so dire.”
“Nonsense. You needn’t worry.” I assured her, “I apologize for arriving so soon. I thought it better to come immediately rather than wait. Whisky would be nice if you’ve got it. I recall that William had a taste for it.”

She was quick to pour a glass for us both and brought it to her kitchen table where I had made myself at home. She’d never struck me as a drinking woman although she knocked back the drink with ease.
“I truly can’t imagine just how happy I am to hear that, Howard.” She replied, “There’s been no update. The police have searched the woods. There’s been no trace of him or his carriage… Not that they expected to find any, I suppose…”

“How long has it been since he disappeared?” I asked as I emptied my glass.
“Six days.” There was a heaviness with which she said those words. An unspoken knowing to them that sent a stab of grief through my heart. “I had hoped we might find signs of struggle… A wandering horse, his ruined carriage. Anything so at the very least I might know he was just dead…”

“Just dead?” I asked, “Highwaymen might well have taken his horse and carriage… I apologize for being morbid, but given the circumstances I’d say it’s the most likel-”
“William took the road up the coast.” She interjected. “There’s no highwaymen up that way. Of that much I’m sure.”
I remember my brow furrowing. I watched as Olivia poured herself some more of the whisky.

“What do you mean?” I asked, “You think he’s alive?”
“Not in any way that matters.” She replied matter of factly. Her eyes locked on to mine, a deep sincerity in them.
“I don’t suppose you know much about Port Humber, do you Howard?”
“No, I don’t suppose I do.” I replied.

“William always talked about the fishing here… I must admit. Those who still take boats out do quite well. I always imagined it was on account of the fact that only a few still bother to sail these waters. I can’t tell you just how many homes in this town lie empty. Every week in Church, I see another empty pew… I really don’t believe this town will live one more generation. New faces don’t often stay long and for every new face we see, two more leave… Or disappear on the coastal road.”
“There were other disappearances?” I asked. She nodded solemnly.
“Every now and then you’ll hear of one… Folks tend to avoid the coastal road north. Often they’ll head inland and then north, avoiding the forest. It’s almost a days ride by carriage but it’s the safer route. Still, you see the brave, foolish or desperate who try and take the coastal road. Oftentimes they come back just fine but far too often they don’t…”

“And why pray tell is that?”
“Because She waits on the coastal road. You may avoid her in daylight or by chance but should you meet her at nightfall, you’ll not live through the week… assuming you even make it out of the woods at all.”
The grave severity in her tone suggested a frightened reverence that sent a chill through my very bones. From the way Olivia spoke, I had no doubts that she was very much terrified of whomever she spoke of.
“And who is She?” I asked, needing to know more.

“Just what her name is, I do not know. My mother was only a girl when she arrived in town and set up shop. She claimed she was a doctor, selling balms and medicine to those in need and it seemed her arrival was quite timely. A sickness came upon the town not long after her arrival and many were quick to turn to her services to heal them which she seemingly did quite well. Well enough that no one thought much on those she couldn’t save at least… My mother told me that one of the townsfolk had seen her down at the cemetery after the funeral of a man who had died on account of the sickness. She told me that someone had seen that ‘doctor’ digging through the grave to take pieces of the corpse. Well, the people in the town needed to have answers and so they visited her home to look around and what they found was…” She paused at that point, closing her eyes and shuddering.

“That ‘Doctor’ who’d done them so much good apparently had quite a ghoulish lair in her attic. They found the pieces of their recently deceased but far more damning were the books and symbols she had in her possession. Icons of Satan, books on the arcane that told of demonic pacts and rituals. Witchcraft…”
“Witchcraft?” I repeated, clearly in disbelief.
“Ask anyone who remains in this town and they’ll tell you the same.” Olivia said, “Some of the elders might even remember her still… You can imagine the folk here weren’t too warm to the concept of a witch in their midst and even without that, the gristly crimes she’d committed were unforgivable. They tried her and sentenced her to hang.”
“And so she hung?”

“No. As they led her to the noose that night, they say a great red light shone on the horizon. My Mother said she heard a sound like Gabriel's horn ring through the sky, deep and droning… So loud it shook the earth itself and with it came a carriage from the forest. It rode from the trees, driven by a skeletal driver who burned with a green flame and charged into the center of town. The people fled but the Witch… She remained and as the door to the carriage pened for her, she stepped inside. The spectral rider took her away, up the coastal road and into the woods. To my knowledge, no one has seen her since. It wasn’t long afterwards that the sickness vanished from town as if it had never happened. Folks reckoned the Witch was the one causing it and I suppose they thought themselves rid of her until the disappearances began.”

“And so they think the Witch took them?” I asked, skeptical of her story.
“Think?” Olivia asked, “No. Most folk in town have seen the glow of the rider in the woods. I’ve seen it too, moving fast amongst the trees. You can hear the galloping hooves as it skirts the edge of town. Watching us no doubt… There have been others who have gotten a closer look on the coastal road. Some even managed to outrun it and others still have seen… Other things…”
“Other things?”

“Dark, skittering things moving out onto the road. Not animals. Chester Wilde claimed he saw one a few years back. Said it was dark and spider like… Too many limbs bent at odd angles. Some folk say it’s what she does with the bodies of those she takes. I can’t say for sure… I myself would not go out there and I told William he’d be wise to do the same but he never believed in it. He never saw the light in the woods like I have… Now I suspect it may well have been the last thing he ever saw… I don’t believe my husband to be dead, Howard. No. I believe that something far worse has befallen him.”

I was silent for a moment, taking in her dire words. I helped myself to more of the whisky. At the time I needed it to digest the things she’d just told me.
“I mean no disrespect Olivia. That’s quite a chilling tale but I struggle to believe my brother was taken by some witch.”
“When faced with the impossible, a sane man might seek to dismiss it.” She replied, “You’ll find sanity has long since left Port Humber behind though… Of that much I’m sure.”
“The local Police, do they believe in the Witch too?” I asked.
“Of course. No doubt most of them have seen the carriage.”

I scoffed at that. A bunch of terrified men hardly could have conducted that through of an investigation but I kept that thought to myself.
“Perhaps I might visit this road tomorrow.” I said, “I’d like to ride along the same route William rode. A fresh pair of eyes might see something they missed. You said it’s safe in the daylight, correct?”
I could tell from her expression that she did not like what I was suggesting.

“Safe enough.” She replied, “I know you don’t believe me… But I must insist you reconsider. Night can fall fast and the coastal road is long.”
“I promise I won’t stay out for long. Just long enough to sate my own curiosity and satisfy myself that William really is gone without a trace.”
“If you must…” She sighed, “But I still insist you return before dusk. I’ll not lose both brothers so quickly.”
I offered her a smile that she did not return.
“I promise you, you won’t.” I said.

Olivia had not lied about the town folks unwavering belief in the Witch. After she and I had shared supper, I’d retired for the evening and come the next morning, I took the opportunity to explore Port Humber.

Without the rain, the little town was still quite a dreary place. So many former homes lay abandoned and had begun to fall into disrepair. I counted no more than seven small boats in the harbor at dawn before they set out for the day. I’d stopped at the inn for a drink and found it near empty. I asked the man there who served me a drink about the tale of the Witch and his expression darkened into one of unease.
“Best not to talk about Her.” He said, “Invoke her and you might not live to regret it.”
“So you do believe in her?” I asked.
“I’ll presume that you don’t, stranger. I could understand your ignorance on the matter. Mayhap if I weren’t born and raised here I might not buy into it either but I’ve seen the light in the woods and far too often I’ve heard good, honest men talk about skittering shapes in the darkness at the edge of town.”
“Tall tales.” I scoffed. The barman only glared at me.

“Not from these men, sir. I’ve seen them shapes in the dark myself. Not often that they’ll wander into town but from time to time, one might see one. Twisted, ugly things. Skittering limbs like insects and lightning quick they are. You’d best hope you yourself not see them.”
“And were I so inclined, I might find them on the coastal road north, right?”
Now the barman scoffed.

“If you were so inclined… You wouldn’t be the first to die trying. You look a fair bit like William Blake, don’t you boy? I ain’t no fool. I know kin when I see them. If you’re fixing to head up the coastal road, well you do as you need to. But I doubt I’m the first who’s warned you and I’ll not be the last either.”
“Yes, Williams' widow said the same.” I said, “Pray tell, when did you last see my brother?”
“Weeks. A few days before he rode up the coast, methinks. Came in for a drink with some others. Local men. I could point you to them, but they’ll not tell you anything I’ve not said.”
“About the Witch?”

The barman nodded. I took a sip of my drink.
“No women?” I asked after a few moments.
“You think your brother an adulterer?”
“I never would have thought him one… Forgive me. You must understand that I find it hard to believe he was simply spirited away by some Witch. I mean no offense. Truly I don’t. But beyond a glow, has anyone truly seen this creature?”

“Folks have seen enough. They’ve seen the carriage and its infernal driver. Not just the light. They’ve laid eyes upon the thing itself… Ask around. No doubt you’ll find someone who has. To answer your question, there was no other woman for William Blake than his wife. I never once saw him act untrue and that’s more than I could say for some in this town.” The bartender watched as I emptied my drink. He did not move to refill it.

“William never believed in what was out there either.” He said. “I reckon that’s why he took the coastal road into the next town over. We sent one of our boys over a few days later to ask if he ever made it there. They said he did, and once he’d concluded his business he turned tail and went straight back home into the night despite the setting sun. I have no doubts as to what became of him… and believe me when I say that I wish he were dead, it’s a far kinder fate than what She would do to him.”

The severity in his voice matched Olivias and I must confess, it set me on edge. Much like her, he truly believed that my brother had fallen victim to this Witch and his unwavering faith in such a horrid thing was enough to even make me question the truth of it.

I had asked others throughout the morning but those conversations went similarly. That whole town was firm in their belief of the Witch and I must admit, that did vex me. Surely someone would see through what had to be little more than some clever lie or trick, right? My instinct told me it was naught but a folktale that some marauder had twisted to serve their own ends.

Yet when so many seemingly reasonable people claim to have seen the same unnatural things, one must ultimately consider that there may be some truth in their statements. There was only one place that could give me the true answers I sought and that was the coastal road north.

The sun was high in the sky when I saddled a horse to take with me. I told Olivia I would heed her requests to not stay out past dusk. The look in her eyes was nonetheless one of uneasy dread. She still viewed my actions as foolish, but I suppose she couldn’t hope to understand just why I did them. I’d always considered myself a logical and reasonable man and stubborn though it was, I needed an answer to Williams disappearance that suited me.

“Don’t linger long.” Olivia warned me before I set out, “I’d not see you missing too. Please. Be back before dusk.”
“I promise I will.” I said and with that, I led my horse north. I had packed food for a day along with a pistol that had once belonged to William and I trusted that those would be enough to assure my safe journey. In any other conditions, they almost certainly would have.

The coastal road was a rather narrow and winding path. It was clear it had been neglected as vegetation overgrew the once well trodden trail. To my left were crashing waves that waxed and waned on. To my right was thick green forest that seemed to stretch on forever.

The road wound upwards, moving to the summit of a cliffside that granted a truly spectacular view of the Atlantic. Vast ocean stretched on as far as the eye could see and as I rode, I caught myself admiring it for some time before forcing my eyes down to the stone beach at the bottom of the cliff.

It would not be hard for a reckless carriage to go over the edge and plummet to certain death. Surely it would be a gristly fate for my brother, but a far more likely one than what the people of Port Humber believed he’d endured.

Such a fall would have shattered his carriage and hopefully slain both him and his horses immediately. Perhaps the tide might have then carried away his body and much of the wreckage. That might explain the disappearances the people of Port Humber attributed to the Witch. I wondered if I were to take the time to comb through the rocks, I might discover numerous bits of broken wood amongst the stone. Remnants from other poor souls who’d fallen to their deaths. If I had the time, I may have just done that.

I looked into the forest next. The ground was fairly level but it was possible that in the low light of twilight, one might possibly wind up lost amongst the trees. It seemed a far less likely fate than going over the cliff, yet not impossible. Somehow I doubted William to be the sort of bumbling fool who might make that kind of mistake though.

I followed that road north for a little over an hour, keeping a slow and steady pace and watching for any signs of a damaged carriage or tracks that veered off the road. I saw no such thing but I was not deterred. I told myself that in time, I would find something so long as I remained patient. I suppose in a sense, I did.

A good few hours into my journey, I spotted a clearing in the forest ahead of me. Someone had clearly made their home out that way. A small cabin sat in that clearing, simple and crude yet clearly occupied judging by the smoke rising from its chimney. I did not see the old man on its porch at first, not until he raised a hand to wave at me. I returned the gesture before stopping to tarry.

“Strange place for a cabin.” I noted.
“Perhaps.” He replied, “But I’m a man who likes his privacy.”
He rose from his seat and approached me, I could see a clear limp in his step.
“Folks don’t often travel down this road.” He said. I caught his eyes settling on the pistol in my belt but he did not comment.

“So I’m told. I’ve heard talk of witches and monsters.” I replied, “Nothing you’re familiar with I’m sure?”
The old man just chuckled humorlessly and began to roll himself a cigarette.
“Oh I’m quite familiar, boy… What did the folks in Port Humber tell you? Tales of a Witch cavorting with the Devil himself, no?”
“They did.”
He lit his cigarette and took a drag.

“My brother William traveled this path not more than a week ago. Perhaps you saw him? A man who might’ve looked like me on a carriage…”
“I see everyone who comes down this road.” He said, “I remember him. Headed into town to sell his fish all packed in ice. I heard he came and went but I never saw him pass a second time.”
“Didn’t you?” I asked warily. I looked over at his distant cottage. A fine place for a weary traveler to rest and given just how many had disappeared and a convenient place for them to disappear to.

“I forget, did I ask just what brings a man out you onto such a lonely, desolate road?”
“You’re not the first to ask me if I’d ever killed a man.” The old man said, “I see that tension in your shoulders, boy. Now you’re wondering if I killed your brother… The answer is no. But I saw Her carriage out that night. No doubt that he belongs to Her now…”
“Confound it you believe in that damned Witch too?” I asked, allowing my frustration to slip out. The old man just laughed.
“Believe? Heavens boy, no! I don’t simply believe. I was there when they hanged the vile bitch!”

His eyes burned into mine and I stared back at him in silence.
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me. Doctor Primrose Kennard. Lovely thing she was… Pretty as a picture and yet one might never have imagined just what she was beneath all of that. Port Humber most likely only barely remembers her but I was a young man on that day. I was there when we found her attic filled with arcane symbols and bits of the corpses she’d exhumed, stitched together and marked with runes that were not of this world. I was there in that attic… I saw the unholy things she kept. The books she had strewn about that invoked things God himself might fear…”
“You knew her…?” I asked quietly. The old man nodded solemnly.

“Aye… And before I knew what she was, I confess that I wished I’d known her better. I’ve not seen her since that infernal carriage carried her from the town… I was there when it rode in from the woods leaving flame in its wake and its rider cut her down from the noose. I ran with the others but I know I looked back on her and watched as that door opened and she stepped inside. I saw the look in her eyes as she did… A smug knowing. A mocking stare that I’ll never quite unsee…”He spat into the ground.

“She’s real, boy and she’s not to be trifled with. Best you be back in Port Humber or even back here before dusk falls. She’ll not bother me much so long as I stay indoors. But if you remain on the road, you’ll surely be lost.”
“Even if she’s real, she can’t be more than a gnarled old woman.” I said.
“She’s beyond human now.” The old man said, “Whatever she serves, the Devil in hell and all his demons would shrink back in fear before its might. God almighty would’ve barred it from eden and perhaps even he would have failed to contain it. It is above them both... and it gave part of itself to her long ago. For what purpose, I do not know and I suspect it’s best I never know…”
He snuffed out his cigarette and shook his head.

“Best to turn back now and not linger. Night will fall quick. I’ve a bed if you’d rather press on but I’ll tell you now, you’ll find nothing boy. You’ll find nothing.”
With that, the old man turned away from me and returned to his old cabin. I watched him for a moment, my mind clouded as I tried to comprehend the things he had said.

I had half a mind to dismount my horse and storm his little cabin but to act so forcefully was not in my nature. Perhaps this man was little more than a deranged murderer and yet like the others who’d warned me of the Witch, the conviction in his voice chilled me and his account had disturbed me more than most. What could be greater than God or more wicked than Lucifer? What power could exist that could defy His divine will? What power indeed.

I left the old man despite my suspicions. I reasoned that perhaps later, it might do me good to investigate him more thoroughly but I’d not charge in and assault a man over naught but suspicion. I pressed on down the coastal road, making note of my strange encounter but still dedicated to finding some evidence that William had gone off the road.

In the back of my mind, I suspect I knew that what I was doing was foolish. I was not immune to the cold fear that had crept down my spine and I entertained the thought of turning back more than once. The sun was low on the horizon. I would either need to turn back or keep going to the next town and I found that I liked my chances less and less the more I thought on it. All the same, the rational part of my mind was adamant that if I would only go further, I would find some evidence that William had met a different fate and all my fears would be alleviated. Like a drowning man in a raging sea I clung to that idea and despite my fear I pressed onwards and sealed my own fate.

Dusk came on quickly. When I at last noticed it was twilight, I stopped my horse in its tracks and looked out over that glimmering horizon. I realized that I may not have had time to make it back to Port Humber. The old man's cabin would have to do. He had offered me a bed and it would give me the opportunity to interrogate him further.

I turned my horse around and abandoned my search as I headed in the opposite direction. I picked up my pace. Up until then I had not pushed the animal too hard but having already studied that stretch of road, I was more inclined to coax it into a gallop. The light turned golden along the horizon as the sun began to sink beneath the distant waters. Beneath me, roaring waves crashed to the coast and as the light died, I was so sure I might just make it to safety in time.

Darkness rolled across the sky like a cowl, leaving only a single glimmer of sunlight in the distance that lit my way and yet as I rode, I became aware of the sound of hooves behind me. There was clearly more than a single horse on my tail and as far as I could tell, it was gaining. No doubt they pulled a carriage of some sort and the sound made my heart begin to race.

My logical brain denied that this was anything but a poor coincidence. And yet my heart dreaded the concept of looking back. As the light faded, I could’ve sworn I caught a greenish glow from the corner of my eye and I felt my quiet fear intensify.

I urged my horse to go faster and it sped ahead of whoever was behind me. The approaching hooves grew softer and it was then that I dared look back to see what was behind me. I had been right that it was a carriage and at a glance it looked worn and unremarkable yet it had no greenish glow to it. The rider was dressed all in black and I could see no supernatural glow to him. Though I could not see his shrouded face, he looked to be an ordinary enough man and that comforted me somewhat.

I must admit, I felt relief wash over me and I allowed my horse to relax its pace. I would get to my destination in good time and should my new companion give me any trouble, I still had my pistol. The carriage closed the distance between us again as night began to fall and I paid it less mind. I focused only on the road ahead as I listened to the crashing waves and pounding hooves.

From the corner of my eye, I could see the black horses of the carriage passing me. They galloped at top speed, no doubt trying to beat the darkness and I let them pass. Yet as the carriage moved to pass me, I took one final look at its driver and it was then that I truly felt my heart stop.

From a distance, his clothes had hidden the truth of the man, should you dare call what sat atop that carriage a man. His dark cloak hid his bony pale limbs and his top hat hid what wispy hair he might have had. His skin was stretched so tight across his face I could see every detail of his skull. His ‘lips’ were pulled back in an animalistic snarl that I screamed in fright.

Yet the feature of his that chilled me the most was his eyes. They burned and glowed bright green like raging infernos and I could’ve sworn I saw tongues of flame inside of them. Those burning green eyes locked on mine and as they did, I could feel the horrible heat rising off of his body.

I could hear my own horse cry out and wondered for a moment if even that beast shared in my fear as it ran as fast as it could to escape the horrific rider of that infernal carriage! It pulled ahead of it, outpacing its horses in its panic and I could do nothing but hold on tightly as it ran. I looked back only once to see that hellish carriage fall behind us and for just a moment I prayed to God that I might have been saved!

Yet I should have known that what was coming for me did not answer to God. No… No what came for my soul was above God itself.

I looked ahead once more, into the darkness ahead and I prayed I might see the light from the old man's cabin but I saw naught but void as darkness raced past me. I could hear the hooves behind me and I realized something else had joined them. A frantic rustling in the trees, like the wind but stronger. In the darkness ahead of me I was sure I saw something move. Some shape emerging from the forest and skittering onto the road. I could not get a good look at it but its movements were impossible to describe. Every part of it seemed to walk and it moved with an impossible speed onto the road ahead of me, cutting off my escape.

My horse tried to stop but could not do so in time. It reared up, throwing me off of it and shrieked in terror. That shriek was cut off as the dark shape I’d seen quickly lunged for it. I felt hot blood spray across my face as the horses dying scream was cut off with a disturbing gurgle. I could hear the body of the beast hitting the ground and I saw the shape of the terrible thing that had slain it mount its corpse.

I could hear the ripping of flesh and as I stumbled backwards, I drew my pistol. In my unthinking panic, I took aim at the dark shape before me and pulled the trigger, unleashing every shot in my revolver upon that wretched thing. I know the bullets struck it. The scream it emitted sounded almost human… Or humans. Men, women, children and even animals all screaming in unison.

The flashes of the muzzle granted me only a momentary vision of just what had accosted me and that glimpse was more than my mind could handle. I could see grey, rotting skin. Arms and legs jutting out at odd angles but worst of all I could see faces. Human faces, screaming in agony and in that fraction of a second where I could see the unholy thing before me I swear that I saw Williams face amongst them! I swear I heard his voice as that creature screamed!

In my terror, I pulled the trigger one last time only to hear the gun click. The sound of approaching hooves drew nearer and from the corner of my eye I could see a hellish green glow getting closer to me. The gun fell from my hand as I turned to run. I don’t know if that unholy amalgamation of flesh followed me. I didn’t even know what direction I was heading. I could hear the waves and without thinking I ran for them.

At the moment, the snap of my bones as I was dashed against the rocks at the bottom of the cliff would have been preferable to any other fate that awaited me. I felt the ground vanish beneath me as I ran and I fell. It was not a straight drop, no. Instead I rolled clumsily down an incline until I struck the rocks below.

My bones had broken. My body was enveloped with a pain far greater than any I’d known but I did not die and I was cursed to look up at the top of the cliff and see that green light stop just above me.

Primrose Kennard had come for me and all I could do was look helplessly up as she made her advance. I could see the shape coming down the incline although my battered body would not move.

She took her time, descending on me in the darkness and as she did, I could see a great red glow illuminate the night sky above me. In the distance, I could hear a low, unending drone like a fog horn and yet it sounded so much different.

She was there… She had called It to her and I knew that this would be the end of my life.

She stood over me, looking down upon me, beautiful and hideous with a visage that will forever be scarred into my mind. The red horizon pulsated, almost as if with excitement as she reached down towards me. Reached into me and grasped hold of something…

Just what she took, I cannot say but I could feel something in me. Not something in my body but something in me. In my consciousness, in my very soul being torn out and the pain of that dwarfed the agony of my broken bones. I would have given anything in that moment for her to slaughter me. I would’ve begged her were I not screaming in agony

I felt something rip. Something in my mortal soul was pulled free and I watched as she raised her hands up to the red light in the sky. My eyes rolled back in my sockets as I saw a great red cross made of light on the distant horizon, flashing as it droned an unholy sound that drowned out my screams and split my very skull. The earth shook and the last thing I remember was the knowing smile of Primrose Kennard before I knew no more and slipped into nothingness.

Olivia tells me that I was found by an old man who lived on the coastal road. It was him who brought me back to Port Humber, but he did not save my life.

I feel myself dying. I feel myself slipping away again and when I go, I know I will not come back. Primrose Kennard could have killed me outright. She didn’t… No… I can’t begin to imagine her reasons for letting me survive. Punishment for my hubris perhaps? To send a message to others or maybe just plain cruelty. Either way, I know she did not spare me. I’ll die all the same and when that happens, I wonder if she’ll then claim my body. I wonder if she’ll twist me into something else. Something horrible… I wonder if she’ll make me kill people...

God…

I have told Olivia everything. I have told her to make the people abandon Port Humber, to burn it to the ground if that’s what it takes. These people will not stop the Witch. They know this already, but I don’t think they quite comprehend the evil she represents. As she ripped part of my soul from me, for only a moment I felt what she had bound herself to. I felt whatever that red light was and I know that the old man could not even begin to describe it.

Not even God could save these people. She will take, and take, and take until whatever she serves is satisfied and when it is, I don’t think anyone alive can imagine the terrors that it will bring. Port Humber must be abandoned. It must be burned and no soul must ever set foot here again. I’ve asked Olivia to leave this letter as one final warning to whoever may come here.

This place belongs to Primrose Kennard. This place belongs to what she serves and should you come here She will have you, just as she has William and just as she has me. God has no power here. Man has no power here.

Tread not upon this ground.
Howard Blake
submitted by HeadOfSpectre to HeadOfSpectre

1.2 - Competition Server changes

1.2 - Competition Server changes

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With the new 1.2 update, the last/highest rating and the underlying Competition (CP) servers move into the form we originally designed. So far they operated as pickup servers, allowing to re-use mechanics - now they will run in their dedicated implementation as booking servers in a regular schedule.
https://preview.redd.it/uv3rckgnl8541.png?width=800&format=png&auto=webp&s=edd131118f06be1e46187f052f05281a95ca1ffe
Quick overview The Competition servers are meant to close the (quite huge) gap between more casual public multiplayer and serious, dedicated racing organised by private leagues. While we can find good racing in public MP without doubt, it's usually a series of 20 minute races for the fun of the moment. Inside league racing we can find highest competition, long term tracking by championship points (or similar) and the full use of immersive features like pitstop rules - by the cost of committing to a schedule and attend on the races every few days/weeks.
In between (and not as a replacement of either side), you will find the Competition servers. Running a low amount of races every day during the region's peak time, they should allow us to have a good race in a league style without ever joining any other league than the ACC community. The Competition Rating will track our progress through every race, and also allow us to be sorted in a competitive grid.
Schedule and variants We will try to offer both an easy-to-memorize schedule, but still apply different variants of the race and settings in order to get an interesting mix, and of course try different aspects to see what we simracers like and how we can evolve the system in the future.
Basic schedule
Every day, we will see 3 races with the corresponding sessions:18:00: Q 10, R 45 minutes20:00: Q 15, R 60 minutes22:00: Q 10, R 45 minutes
https://preview.redd.it/8kxz7bfol8541.png?width=800&format=png&auto=webp&s=e34f45410ba1e10f2bf8384ae67625dc5a2facdf
The registration will start 5 minutes before the event start, and will have a 5 minute "join" phase where the servers run a 5 minute Free Practice. In the example of the 18:00 race, this means:
  1. During the day, you'll see the countdown towards 17:55
  2. 17:55 - 18:00 you can sign up
  3. 18:00 the servers start their 5 minute FP1
  4. 18:00 - 18:05 you can join the server
  5. 18:05 - ~19:05 Q and R session
This will happen every day. The time corresponds to the local region time:EU - CET (UTC+1)US - CST (UTC-6)(yes we are looking into another region between UTC+8 and UTC+11)
Variants
https://preview.redd.it/zf19em8pl8541.png?width=572&format=png&auto=webp&s=2fffb6b49399b8b4a8d974efa9a7868774e04197
1) Weather conditionsAll servers will run dynamic weather with a target rain chance of 10% (rainy weekend) and 20% wet/changing conditions during the race. This is accomplished by specific, static setting in the event configuration - just as you already know it.The Q and R sessions will overlap, so the track state and weather situation for the race start is known.
2) Race weekend configurationThe Q (and therefore the R) session will start at a random time of day on the afternoon, with a roughly 20% chance for a night race. Also the time multiplier will be randomized between 1 and 4. Usually the race will happen on a sunday, which should result in very high grip levels right away - but there is a 30% chance for a race on saturday, resulting in evolving track grip.
3) Pitstop rulesFor races with 60 minutes duration, there is a 50% chance for active pitstop rules following the Blancpain Sprint setting: one mandatory pitstop inside a 10 minute pitstop window. This pitstop is valid if you changed the tyres; refuelling is not allowed during this race.
For races with more than 60 minutes duration, we will limit the driver stint time to at least 65 minutes. This means you do not have to do anything except resetting your stint time by entering the pitlane.
The pitstop rules will be known before the registration.
4) TrackUn-even days of the month (like the 1st, 3rd, 5th, ... 31th) will run the 2019 schedule with Zolder attached to the end. For even days, the track is unknown until the registration phase is over. Additionally, you have to use the car selected when registering to the event.The season will always be 2019, as we see the best BoP here.
5) Special variantsEvery 1st sunday of a month, the three races are replaced by one 2h endurance race at 19:00 local region time.We will collect experiences and look at numbers, possibly changing the formats and/or adding even more spice (looking at you, day of the week) in the same pattern of intersecting different date components.
Schedule examples
https://preview.redd.it/7w7xhatzl8541.png?width=458&format=png&auto=webp&s=9d9eadde3cb307705f34f007b39233f55f10d7b0
In the result, we should see an interesting mix of various features and aspects, which still can be fully described by a handful of rules. Additionally, you will see the configuration of the first race during the whole day, which is exemplary to the rest of the events.
Spoiler: Schedule examples
Rating requirements One big advantage organized league races have is the active race control, and therefore comparably good racing standards. For the open CP servers, we have to rely on our tools to enable as clean races as possible, and therefore use three Track Medals and fairly high Safety Rating as requirements. While this is limiting the already small driver pool, it is necessary to enable clean racing. Of course data shows that both have a quite drastic correlation with driving ability, so we do expect to see clean racing in the high splits (once the CP rating has settled to the corresponding target values).
https://preview.redd.it/j5qji8kql8541.png?width=800&format=png&auto=webp&s=9706b3a89853d367b82aa6df644aafecb94398e3
SA will be adjusted based on numbers and experience, the current expectation is 70-90 SA requirement. In case of doubt, we will use a higher number, as it's more important to have clean races over having a race with a full grid which ends in T1. Additionally, the SA Rating was further improved with this update; additionally the CP servers may or may not be spectated by us, which may result in penalties for careless/reckless driving (or a 3 day ban from the CP system for deliberate/revenge actions and language).
https://preview.redd.it/3pd6qx8rl8541.png?width=400&format=png&auto=webp&s=c8986565d620c0c1d1f4afbfc23451e11ff925f7
For predefined tracks, we will set 3 track medals as requirement. For unknown tracks, it will be a Track Competence Rating (TR) of 99 instead.
Competition Rating The highest rating in ACC will play a big role when visiting the Competition Servers. As-is, the moment you enter the Q session you are on the grid and leaving will result in a huge loss of CP Rating (or the other way round, finishing the race will make you "win" against everyone who left the race). It is mercilessly oriented on the race result, so hotlapping pace is not the only component you will need in order to get a low race number on those servers.
Speaking of race numbers: They are assigned by the world rank of your CP rating, if you are in the top 900 (otherwise it'll just use the numbers 900-9xx, where lower is better). This way the strength of any driver should roughly be visible by the race number, and you know what you did today if you raced the car #1.
https://preview.redd.it/v5xfw78sl8541.png?width=749&format=png&auto=webp&s=377b6c93e05825909fc0f73a5ef3ff54b3e424e4
Splits and sorting Servers will run a maximum grid size of 25 cars, and registered users will be distributed across different splits by a function of:- CP rating- SA rating- amount of rejections- other ratings
https://preview.redd.it/ni2jgh1tl8541.png?width=972&format=png&auto=webp&s=e17b5a91ae49c8edfc1442f69c40515618d01b0d
In case we have more registrations than server capacity, we will try to include the best drivers and distrute them according to their strength and safety. Whoever does not get a slot will be rejected, which increases the chance to be accepted the next time. So it'll be highly unlikely that you get rejected multiple times in a row, just keep trying. Of course improving SA, CN and CC (max values of all time) will help you to find a spot.
The amount of servers and the precise configuration (especially race length) of course is going to be constantly reviewed and re-adjusted, with the goal to get the servers we have filled while keeping everything in a reasonable budget.
Reasoning We expect different opinions on most elements and are looking forward to a good discussion. For our thoughts involved, we'll try to cover frequently asked questions and delicate thoughts/restrictions here.
  1. Daily events vs. hourly racesHaving not too many users (that qualify to the high standards), we run daily events to focus the participants into a certain timeframe. Running hourly races wouldn't change too much compared to the old CP server state; users would pick one or two of 5 or 7 hourly slots resulting in a distribution - more races, less participants/race.
  2. Long vs. short racesOne goal we try to achive with the CP servers is to offer an experience that simply is not possible without joining a league right now. If we stripped down CP servers to 20 or 30 minutes, this would for sure increase popularity and participant numbers (which of course is great) - with two disadvantages. One is that we probably lose the competition in a 1h race, in a trade of something that is too close to a public MP experience. The other aspect is that we still do not have unlimited resources to run a big number of servers on top of the current backend infrastructure, and the race length is regarded as the major "population control" option.
So we will start in this configuration and look at the numbers and feedback. If we hit the target to see longer races used by a reasonable amount of users - very fine. If we have to decrease the event length to increase the server population, we'll do it. For sure we will be on our toes and apply adjustments as necessary.
But the last reason is that we do have not-so-few reports that we shouldn't touch the 1h race length even on the current CP servers (that clearly do not have the population we are looking for), just for the reasons we already touched: This is the only way outside a league to actually see a race over a non-casual distance.3) Random tracksWe already know that not everyone will like the unknown tracks. Let's cover a few elements where this can shine:In ACC, we try to put you in the role of a race driver (opposed to regular simracer). A real race driver does not have the chance to select his car based on the track, he just sticks to whatever he has. In a positive side note, this also reduces the effect that you would see a certain set of cars dominating the race - even if the 2019 BoP really is a lot better and car differences do not matter as much. (Still simracers tend to look at tables of hotlap results, and decide based on a few hundreds - especially on CP servers where we really talk about competition and race results that matter).Additionally, real drivers only have a fraction of our practice time. In simracing, we are counting hours or even days; real drivers (extreme case Pro drivers in a Pro/Am team) have surprisingly low track time before the qualyfing sessions start. Even the longer P sessions are divived by the team members, usually preferring the weakest driver over the others. So with an unknown track, you are asked to jump into the car, do your thing and that's it.
This of course requires different skills; being able to get into a competitive state within minutes is a completely different story over being able to get a certain pace after days of practicing a track/car combination - but that's much closer to the real thing, and it is the same for everybody. Of course preparation and dedication still can pay out, but in a different way.
And after all, if you don't like today's unknown track - yesterday and tomorrow the track was set the whole day. We will see how the popularity between the two modes distributes and may change the ratio based on the numbers (but this can go both ways).
4) Short Q sessionsWith only 10-15 minutes, the Q sessions are very short. The reasons are similar to the previous:A real race driver does not try to hotlap for 30 minutes until it's fine. Q sessions / driver are short, additionally they do not teleport to the pits and have instant work done. Real race drivers are asked to deliver within very few laps. Again it's a different set of skills required, but again the same for everyone.
The other reason of course is to put emphasis on the race, and achieve the best race/time ratio for the efforts invested. In theory this could be extended to run a FP1 / R weekend only, with a grid based on the CP Rating (straight or even reversed), possibly this will become an option later on. Still, we will need some track time to prepare and adjust to the track conditions.5) Only 50% chance for mandatory pitstopsWhile the Blancpain races only run 60 minute races with a mandatory pitstop (and we cover this for 50% of the CP races), the main reason may be the team aspect and driver swap - especially spicing up the midfield by reverting PRO/AM qualification results. Adding a pitstop is like a dice roll, it can make a race more interesting, but it also can tear apart groups - so it's not necessarily benificial.Instead, a 60min CP race is a unique oppertunity to experience the full lifecycle of a tyre, and use a car's fuel tank. ACC has so much depth when it comes to the tyre wear and the corresponding dynamics, it would be a shame to always skip that.Here again - going for a complete stint will reward different skills, but also bring some interesting effects on the table and even balance out different car aspects like fuel efficiency or being nice to the tyres.
7) Why is the server capacity limited?Simply because ACC is a (quite fair) one-time investment, in no way can we extend the running cost of the backend infrastructure for years based on the revenues. Yes, there are other simracing titles doing so, but they have different numbers both in price, users and subscription fees.
8) Is this now matchmaking?What we do with the server list and quickjoin is a quite advanced matchmaking algorithm, while this CP Server change adds a schedule and the corresponding registration infrastructure. It uses a comparably simple but effective sorting algorithm to assign drivers to the splits, based on how we rate their competitiveness.
To quote myself from the initial matchmaking discussion opening post: "I do not say we are not looking into our own interpretation of a non-pickup, and more competitive Multiplayer addition. Still, this would have the character of distinct events and being an addition, not a complete move from the Multiplayer system we chose to go for."The first step was the CP server concept ran in pickup mode like a public server, now we finally could close the preparations necessary to run it as daily events and hopefully increase popularity and gravity.
However this is what many users understand as matchmaking, so the answer can be "technically no" or "yes".
9) Will we see other regions?No promises, but we do see that at least one more region in East Asia, not too far from Australia may have a chance to get populated. Other spots may depend on the feedback, if we see a criticial mass of regular users not being able to race on the region assigned it could be considered - although adding regions immediately comes with the disadvantage of a) finding and managing servers there and b) splitting the population that can run on this server. If we for example get US running halfway decently, we could break this by adding a region for South America.10) Will this solve "no CP servers in region"?While the new system uses different methods for the region assignment, we will have to see how this practically works for the users who have this particular connection issue.
11) What race number will drivers outside the Top 1000 have?The rank assignment only works for the Top 900 drivers. If your world rank is 413, you'll have the #413 car.If your world rank is 913 or 4235, you will be simply sorted into the numbers of 901 - 9XX. So the best driver outside the Top 900 will get the #901, the second best on this server will have the #902 and so on.
12) Will different race lengths have different CP rating changes?Yes, for the sake of clarity a 1h race will have twice the effect compared to a 30min race, and half of the effect of the 2h event.
13) How much CP rating do we lose when quitting during the Q session?Most likely a lot, but there is no special penalty/calculation. Technically, quitting during Q or R just means "retired", you will be sorted at the bottom of the leaderboard and not taken out until the CP rating evaluation at the end of the race.
14) What if ?The usual answer in competitive simracing - having software errors, bluescreens, screaming husband/wife, power outages or hardware fails are "our" technical/mechanical issues. Deal with it.
15) How do we cancel a pending registration?The sign-up phase is only 5 minutes, there is no cancelation. If you discover you can't join within the next 0-5 minutes after the registration, just don't click "Join".
16) There are 25 slots per server, if there is 55 drivers registered, will the splits be evenly spread on 3 servers or is one left with 5 drivers?
No, drivers are will be evenly distributed, so 55 would leave us with 2x 18 and 1x 19 drivers on three servers.
17) How about ICTG dlc tracks?They will appear in the schedule, non-DLC owners won't be able to register for those days. The random track days are yet to be decided; both ways are possible and largly depend on the numbers we receive. Considering the tracks we are talking about it's not improbable that basically everyone who qualifies for CP servers also will have the DLC.
18) Will one or more events be livestreamed somewhere?We do not plan to do so officially/automatically, but it's quite likely that there will be occasional streams if developers or trusted streamers are up to it. If you are interested and have a broadcasting track record, let me know. Maybe after a few days of having a break
19) Can I join the CP server as a spectator?Sadly server resources (next to administration and attention) keep being the ultimate limit for this effort. So we cannot possibly hand out the spectator passwords (exception see #18).
1x) Can we have ...?While I can see a whole array of cool ideas, the answer is most likely "sorry no". After years of good and not so good experiences within this project, we are happy and proud to arrive here. Especially the rewrite of the gameplay and multiplayer core one year ago forced us to reconsider many aspects and find a good compromise between what we can do and what we would love to do - otherwise we would have risked to never see the final state at all.So yes, seasons, locked setups every tuesday, team registrations and endurance races with driver swaps, leaderboards - there are many obvious improvements from here, but for now we are happy to see the huge investment and effort paying out by actually going live.
So if you have suggestions, please leave them here; it is close to impossible to tell what is maybe an easy thing and what is surprisingly hard (from the outside). But please be aware that there's a good chance that we had the idea before, and were forced to decide against it.
submitted by DJankovic92 to ACCompetizione