The Artifact By Brian Smith

Instruments: 2d6, Deck of Cards, Tumbling Block Tower, 10 Tokens

Game Description 

The Artifact is a Wretched and Alone horror game about playing as an assistant museum curator who receives a terrible item. Over the course of the game you describe what eldritch horrors the item has wrought on your character and the nature of the item. The item will slowly invade your dreams, your relationships and slowly consume your life.

Game Content Warnings 

These are content warnings that are from the game prompts and are present in all playthroughs.

Playthrough Content Warnings 

These are content warnings specific to this playthrough only.

Game Playthrough

Word Count: 3,764     Played: Dec 27-29, 2020

Log notes of Assistant Curator Jin Ar Student of the Valley City Municipal Archive

Artifact #390423: A rusted Thurible

Artifact Description:

A thurible used by one of the priests of The Order of Divine Light. 10cm in diameter and made of an iron alloy. It is rusted around the base and the sides. The chain is still intact but is also rusted. There is Divine Script along the sides of the censer but it is too rusted to understand it at this time. It came with a small lacquered wooden box, lined with velvet. The box contains no markings, scratches or indents and is solid black in color.

Day 1

Initial Tower Roll: 4

Copied mostly verbatim from the game but with some changes

This is Assistant Curator Jin Ar Student. Yesterday, I received a donation of a new artifact, which was assigned the reference number 390423  in our collection. There was no return address on the package, and no information in the crate - just the artifact.

It is a thurible used by one of the priests of The Order of Divine Light. 10cm in diameter and made of an iron alloy. It is rusted around the base and the sides. The chain is still intact but is also rusted. There is Divine Script along the sides of the censer but it is too rusted to understand it at this time. It came with a small lacquered wooden box, lined with velvet. The box contains no markings, scratches or indents and is solid black in color. 

I’m starting this record because this whole situation is making me a little uneasy. Last night I had vivid, unsettling dreams, and the artifact was in them. I’m not particularly a religious person, but I can’t help but think there is something… off about this object. The others in my office don’t agree that there is anything strange about it, and I’ve had no luck convincing them so far. At the end of Day 1 with this object, I couldn’t find out anything online about its history or provenance, and it doesn’t look quite like anything I’ve ever seen before. I’m reminded of that one time we were sent a historical weapon that had recently been used in a murder, and the murderer was

hoping that it would get buried in our archives.

Whatever it is, the artifact doesn’t really fit into our collection at all. I’m going to try and learn a little more about it and then dispose of it, either to the authorities or to a museum where it will be a better fit. It’s closing time, and I’m going home.  

Tokens: 10/10

Kings: 0/4

Day 2

Roll: 6

Ace of Clubs       You have convinced someone to help you investigate the object. (When you have the Ace of Hearts you can roll a 5 or 6 to remove tokens)
Ace of Spades       You fall asleep and have a peaceful dream
8 of Diamonds       What choices brought you to your job?
Queen of Hearts       you try to throw it away but it is back on your desk Pull from the tower.
Jack of Clubs       You lost a close friend while trying to convince them about the artifact Pull from the tower.
10 of Spades       You a trapped somewhere alone in a dream with the artifact Pull from the tower.

This is Assistant Curator Jin Ar Student. Day two working with the artifact number 390423. I had a horrific dream last night… I was standing in a dark and barren desert at night. The air was thin and I had a hard time hearing anything around me. It was as if I was underwater but I could move fine. I was holding the artifact in my hand and it was swinging back and forth like it was trying to guide me towards something. When I looked up I was standing before an enormous black castle with an obelisk in the center. It seemed to pulse and radiate with this violent energy. 

The artifact swung violently towards it like it was pulling me. I tried to resist but every time I pulled away it brought me one step closer to that thing. I started to panic and try to release the artifact but I couldn’t, my grip was firmly on the handle and it was pulling me closer and closer. When I was before the door I finally woke up in my room covered in sweat. I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. 

When I got into work today I noticed that I hadn’t finished properly cataloging the damned thing. Being around it makes me uneasy and I found myself thinking back to my days in the university and cursing that I had listened to the career advisor about taking this position. I was so tired that I didn’t even notice that I had been staring at it for such a long time. I know this thing is evil. I… I can’t explain it but I need to get rid of it. I’m ashamed of what I did next but I placed it back into the box and put it outside in the large trash bin. 

This worked for a while and I went back to my desk to work on the forms and papers. I guess I was more tired than I thought because I fell asleep on my desk. I had a nice little dream about being on a rowboat in the ocean and looking up at a lighthouse. I could hear all the gulls around and taste the salt in the air. 

When I awoke I saw the box on the floor of my office. The thurible was inside and it looked as fine as the day we got it. I don’t know how it got back in here… the door was locked from the inside. 

I managed to convince Assistant Curator Fit Ar Archivist to help me with the artifact. I told them about my nightmares and they laughed and said it was just nerves about the new position. They told me they used to have dreams where they would break the items too and that it will pass as I become more confident in my job. I don’t think they are right…. But they agreed to help me. I thought about telling them about throwing it away and it reappearing but I decided that would probably cost me my job… 

I was in my office again when I got the news about Editor Kir Ar Writer, my closest friend. I had told them about the artifact when we were at lunch yesterday. They seemed interested in it, and asked lots of questions about it. I kept trying to tell them how it made me feel but they just wanted to know more about the thurible. ...They suddenly dropped down dead. RIght now the doctors are looking into it, so I have no idea what actually happened. 

That thing is still on my desk. I feel like it’s mocking me.

Tokens: 10/10

Kings: 0/4

Day 3

Roll: 3

2 of Hearts       The artifact had deteriorated
10 of Clubs       You convince your romantic partner of the artifact--you believe they are humoring you
4 of Clubs       You notice a postmark on the label, does this help you?

This is Assistant Curator Jin Ar Student. Day three working with the artifact number 390423 I’ve been having more of the same nightmares. I stayed the night over at Tun’s house hoping that I could get some sleep. She was kind enough to let me stay when I explained everything to her. I could tell that she doesn’t believe me but she hasn’t tried to out-right correct me or make me feel like I’m lying, so that’s something?

I decided to examine the crate it came in today when I got to work. It doesn’t have a name attached or even a real address but there was a postmark on it. It wasn’t there before, I checked. I made a sketch of it, since it was one that I had never seen before but as soon as I took my eyes off it it vanished, as did my sketch. I don’t know what’s happening. 

I also took a look at the thurible again today. There’s more rust on it. It looks as though it’s eating away at the Divine Script. I don’t know if I want to try to copy it down before it’s gone or if I shouldn’t stare at it any longer.

Tokens: 10/10

Kings: 0/4

Day 4

Roll: 1

2 of Diamonds       The artifact is directly in your line of vision. Pull from the tower.

This is Assistant Curator Jin Ar Student. Day four working with the artifact number 390423.

I had placed it in one of the drawers under my desk in my office. I don’t think that I can get rid of it that easily so I placed it somewhere close, but where I couldn't see it. I was going over the notes I had taken previously, looking for some sort of connection or clue. The post mark appeared in my notes again and the crate. I’ve removed it from the crate, carefully and have it sitting on my desk. 

When I was going over it again I looked up and saw the box with the thurible on the floor where it appeared the other day. I checked in the drawer where I had placed it, and it was empty. The damn thing is moving. It wants to be in my presence.

Tokens: 10/10

Kings: 0/4

Day 5

Roll: 2

King of Diamonds       You notice a new scar or discoloration and someone insists you’ve always had it
7 of Hearts       You touch the artifact and it is too cold Pull from the tower.

This is Assistant Curator Jin Ar Student. Day five working with the artifact number 390423. 

I made the mistake of taking it out of the box today. It was sitting right on my desk when I went into work. The lid was open and the chain was draped across the desk like it was inviting me to pick it up. 

I was stupid and reached towards the chain. It was ice cold and I could feel it start to drain all the warmth from my body. My hand began to shake but I couldn’t open it, it was stuck like something wet on frozen metal. I pulled away from the desk and the censer began to swing back and forth, back and forth like a witch’s pendulum, guiding me towards something horrific. 

My hand wouldn’t open and I could feel my veins turning into ice and the crawling sensation that something was snaking its way through my body. I cried out and tried to pry my fingers open but they were fused to the chain.

One of the other assistants must have heard my cry because my door opened and I saw Tac silhouetted in the doorway. When I saw them, my hand opened and the artifact clanged to the ground and my body could feel warmth again. 

He asked me if I was alright and I think I managed to lie well enough to convince him that I just pricked myself on a metal burr. He looked skeptical but left me alone. 

I left the artifact on the floor where I dropped it for the rest of the day. I instructed the cleaning staff not to enter the room for the night and I returned home.  I can see on my palm a frozen white mark where I had clutched the chain. It swirls and loops like Divine Script but it makes no words or letters that I know. 

 I showed it to Tun who laughed at me and said that I had always had that scar since she had known me. 

I tried to tell that it was impossible and that I only got it earlier today but she shook her head and said I must have forgotten about it since I see it every day.

Tokens: 10/10

Kings: 1/4

Day 6

Roll: 4

9 of Diamonds       You catch movement out of the corner of your eye. What do you think it is? Pull from the tower.
4 of Spades       You witness something awful happen in a dream, everyone is smiling Pull from the tower.
5 of Spades       You are about to sacrifice an unconscious person. Who is it? Do you do it? Pull from the tower.
Queen of Diamonds       You cannot control your laughter and everyone is afraid of you Pull from the tower.

This is Assistant Curator Jin Ar Student. Day six working with the artifact number 390423. I’m still having nightmares. This time I was in a large theater surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of… I don’t know, I think they are people but some of them aren’t human. Some are large and some are small, some don’t have human bodies and some are concepts and some are animals. 

I was wearing a dark robe and in one hand there was that terrible artifact and in my other hand an equally terrible knife. The thurible swung forward pulling me towards the body of a person who was maybe 12 feet tall. They laid in the middle of the room on raised circular dias made of a mirror with carved concentric rings on the outside. Their eyes were closed and their breathing was slow and steady and I knew they were asleep--dreaming. 

The beings were all around me smiling, waiting for me and the artifact swung closer dragging me along closer and closer. I had no control over my own hands as I plunged the knife into their chest, scooped out the heart, placed it in the censer and set it on fire. 

The beings all smiled and laughed with glee as I awoke in a pool of sweat. I was shaking and couldn’t go back to sleep. 

All through the night I kept seeing things out of the corner of my eyes. I kept telling myself that it was just the shadows but I could see the smiles and grins in every corner of my room. I feel like I am being watched and judged. 

All at work today I was on edge, I kept trying to avoid my co-workers because I keep seeing the smile of those beings on their faces. I couldn’t avoid them at the meeting we had today. It was just a standard talk about the things going on in the museum. 

I’m starting to lose control of myself too. Curator Wun Ar Archivist made the smallest joke trying to lighten the spirits of the room and I heard those beings in their laughter. It went on and on in ceaseless mockery until I realized that it wasn’t coming from them, but me. I was echoing those beings until I was shaking and weeping. Archivist Pev Ar Student was able to take me out of the room and help me calm down. He was kind to me and listened as I explained that I hadn’t been sleeping well and I made some excuses about homelife stress. 

I stayed in the break room for a while before returning to work. I can see the looks of worry and pity in the faces of everyone else. They all avoided me for the rest of the day.

Tokens: 10/10

Kings: 1/4

Day 7

Roll: 6

King of Spades       In a normal dream you sense the power of something ancient and look to the sky what do you see?
Ace of Diamonds       you go for a walk and the weather is nice (Don’t pull from the tower next time)
7 of Diamonds       Something is wrong with your vision, how is it distorted Pull from the tower.
7 of Spades       You are in a crowd of thousands of others praying to something, the artifact is nowhere Pull from the tower.
5 of Spades       You are about to sacrifice an unconscious person. Who is it? Do you do it? Pull from the tower.
King of Hearts       vYou try to burn it and it fails. (A/N The game says to try and burn it but since it’s made of metal I decided to take a hammer to it instead)

This is Assistant Curator Jin Ar Student. Day six working with the artifact number 390423.

I had a dream I was on a cold beach surrounded by other people holding small bowls of lit oil. All of them were humming a single low pitch, I was standing with them, a bowl of cold fire in my hand too. We were all pointing towards a large hollow log that blazed from the insides. I saw inside the bones of other people, burning and turning into ash and I could feel myself humming along with the others unable to stop myself. 

I woke up again in a sweat like last night and was unable to sleep again. I decided to go for a walk outside to clear my head. It was early morning and dawn was starting to break. It was cool and misty and I felt refreshed with air on my face. That was until my vision started to blur. It distorted and warped like I was looking at the heat above a flame. Everywhere I looked it was twisted and warping. I had to close my eyes and feel around for a nearby wall so I could rest. I sat there with my eyes screwed shut for a long time until I could see the world returning to normal. I was shaking now, and I could see my breath in front of me despite the warm temperature.  

I managed to stumble my way home and make myself breakfast before heading into work. I managed to get myself through most of the day by hiding away in my office filing papers and signing documents. 

The artifact is still on my desk, watching me and calling to me. I did not let it leave my sight for the rest of the day. That was until I fell asleep again. 

I dreamed that I was on the boat again looking at the lighthouse. The seas were calm and I was gently rocked back and forth by the waves. I was at peace for a moment before the sea began to boil. All around me I could see the bubbles in the water and the steam rising off the surface. All around me there was the sense of something familiar that I had forgotten and I looked up into the sky. It was a void, no stars, no clouds, nothing but inky darkness that swallowed everything and to look into was to see nothing. 

I screamed and closed my eyes and around me I felt a coldness sink into my skin and a hard surface grow below me. 

I looked down and there was the large circular mirror with the carved circles below me. The thurible stood in the center completely rust-free. The censer was open and a wet beating heart in it. My body was violently shaking but not in the way that it does by itself but in a way that something was pulling on me and making me shake. I could feel my limbs being pulled and stretched as they grew longer and longer stretching out before and under me in agony and popping snaps. 

I awoke suddenly, drenched in sweat but my breath visible before me. The thurible was out of the box and in front of me again. My vision went white with rage and my entire body burned at the thought of that thing. I grabbed the tool kit from the cabinet, selected the largest hammer and wailed against the wretched artifact. 

I smashed and pounded and my hammer clanged futility against the surface until I was out of breath and weeping. My arms shook with exhaustion and I collapsed on the floor of my office. Eventually I had to pick myself up and drag myself home, defeated and prepared for more nightmares.

Tokens: 10/10

Kings: 3/4

Day 8

Roll: 4

3 of Clubs       You try to convince a friend about the artifact
3 of Diamonds       You have developed a disturbing new habit. Pull from the tower.
Queen of Spades       You are looking at yourself through the eyes of someone you love, what do they hate about you? Pull from the tower.
King of Clubs       You try to convince a family member about the artifact, they are ignoring all your attempts to contact them.

Kings: 4/4 Gameover

I brought Tun and my brother Kin into my office today. I had to convince them of the artifact. I layed out in its entirety every event that has happened to me, every small connection every little detail and dream. 

I calmly laid all my evidence before them. I showed them my hand and my hammer and the diagrams I have made, outlining my experiences. 

And then I see myself through their eyes, dark bags under my eyes, quivering and shaking slightly, a pen in my hand swinging back and forth as if it was a pendulum or a Thurible. I realized now it is something I have been doing with everything I hold. 

My notes were a mess, not organized how I thought they were. My office was dirty and covered in scraps of paper. I am a madman. 

They were angry at how I have been treating myself and how I have let myself be consumed by the artifact. They hate that I would do this to myself and they are on the verge of giving up on me. 

Kin shook his head and said he is done with everything. He has his own family and can’t indulge my nonsense anymore. I screamed at him that it’s all true and I saw Tun start to cry. 

I asked her if she believed me and she shook her head, took my hand and guided me out of my office. 

End Game: 

I am in the rowboat now. The one from my dreams, and I am drifting towards the shore of the Lighthouse Island, off the coast of Marnmouth. The thurible is fused with ice and metal into my palm. It swings gently and rhythmically. Life is pulling me forwards towards the bones of The Dreaming God, where I will offer unto it myself so that it may dream again.

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