“I’m not sure if there’s anything I can tell you. I mean, I’m just grateful that on that day I had a lab session across campus, and missed the recording slot. Recording? Yeah, it wasn’t performing. For full marks on the course, we had to record a recital as well as performing live, OK? And this was the test slot to get all the little settings figured out? So they didn’t need me there all of the time; the security camera knows more than I do. Experimental soundwaves? No, just plain acoustic instruments and trying to get a clean recording. Mozart, to be exact. I guess that your science teams have told you that it takes like over 200 decibels to kill, and nothing in that room had that kinda output. Yeah, I had to look for basic identifying and I’ll tell you this: I saw blood over their ears and heads, but I’ve seen burst eardrums before and they don’t bleed so much, and it’s like a small amount. You don’t notice it on Judith with her nail polish, but the guys’ hands are coated in blood, hair and gunk. I don’t care if you put it down to shock, they must’ve been desperate to keep out or drag something out. Test it. I don’t know why the cameras fuzzed either, hell, this is an elective cheap grade course and I’m an English major, not engineering or physics. [phone rings] Sure, sure I can hold on while you take that. You OK, Officer? Officer? What’s the problem with eardrums? Of course they’d be broken if you think a sonic blast caused it….they’re intact…no, I got nothing…say, officer, can I go? I wanna go past Engineering and grab some noise reduction gear…”
-Recorded statement of Martin Nichols, freshman student at Warwick University [Interviewing Officer’s Note: The body of Martin Nichols was found in the storage room of the Music Centre 3 hours after this interview. As with the original case, this remains open]
“[soft croon with guitar] Mmmm, the sun goin’ down, boy, dark gon’ catch me here Lord I’m standin’ at the crossroad, babe, I believe I’m sinkin’ down. [stills strings]
Why’d I sell my soul to the Devil? I never did. He just promised me that I could be keepin’ it until I passed. The music wouldn’a’ waited an’ it woulda never sat still on the discs.”
– Robert Johnson, Bluesman
The Ululatus Anima is not, in its true manifestation, a physical being. It can have effects on the physical world around it which can be observed (and run away from, if you have any sense), but it is intrinsically a creature of sound. It chooses not to propagate in free air, as most sound waves do, but prefers to ignore the inefficient and messy normal route of mechanosensations with vibrations and eardrums and go straight for the temporal lobe and the primary auditory cortex, feeding impressions in directly. This is a problem for those who feel that profound deafness should have had an advantage for once in giving them immunity. The concept of a killing sound is hardly rare, but most folklore has it sung by a particular creature, such as a siren, a banshee or virtually every female water spirit. The sound is then produced by organic means, so that even if legend fails to provide suitable protection, the creature can be killed to bring silence and end the attack. Unfortunately, the Ululatus is not housed within a physical form, making it difficult to defend against and defeat. Fortunately, it generally does not show up unless summoned.
It is known that the Lord of Chaos, Azathoth, resides outside our universe where he is serenaded continuously by the shrilling of daemonic flutes. This music has a purpose behind it (making it music and not noise), in that Azathoth must be kept lulled until the predestined end of days, but his sleep should be sufficiently deep to minimize the effects of being a force of mindless destructive chaos. The music is highly complex in tone, in fact to call it ‘flutes’ is misleading as they have more in common with our universe’s organ pipes, being columns of vibrating space bundled together to provide an infinitely variable pitch and volume. They don’t require a player; they are in themselves sentient and just by existing are able to provide the music for Azathoth’s court. Being musician as well as sound, they get bored. It seems that professions stamp certain personality traits across species as well as other humans…Essentially, they’ll do session work. For the other Outer Gods and Great Old Ones and they don’t say no to being summoned by mortal races, providing that it isn’t dull and that they get paid. Given that humans don’t as a rule survive contact with them, they are demanding payment in advance i.e. have the offering ready before starting the summoning ritual. Word to the cautious: they like mezzo-sopranos.
Summoning the Ululatus into our universe requires more of an effort of will than ritual objects or chants. It does need a source of sound that gives the purest waveform possible. These days, an e-tuner is cheap and easily obtained. In the past, a tuning fork might have been used. If all else fails, a well-played recorder provides a ‘barely adequate’ tone. The visual aspect of the Ululatus cannot be seen within our sensory limitations – and the limited number of dimensions on the macro level of our universe – so generally success is measured by the sensation of someone trying to flense your soul from your mind with a set of frozen talons. Musicians are especially vulnerable both to the effects of and the chances of accidentally summoning the Ululatus – this is in direct proportion to the pitch sensitivity of the person…you may have noticed how someone with perfect pitch will wince in almost-pain when a wrong or sour note is played. You almost certainly have experienced the ‘fingernails down chalkboard’ effect. Now imagine it continues, reaching higher and higher subjective volume and it won’t stop, even though you’re cramming your fists into your ears and it won’t get any quieter and my God but you’ve torn an earlobe loose and just stop stop stop stop…
Whilst there is nothing technically there to hit, the Ululatus is defeatable and can be protected against. The impact of its presence is reduced by distance and the material it has to propagate through. An anechoic chamber is an obvious location to take refuge. (For the record, summoning the Ululatus in such a chamber will cause them to take it personally and violently. They don’t like smartarses.) Their problem is that by stepping down to a lower number of dimensions to manifest through, they have zero size and very little chance of self-movement across distance. They can run out of energy doing so BUT their sound attacks can affect anyone within earshot, to varying degrees.
An Erich Zann instrument, such as one of the violins held in trust by the Laundry, can generate the harmonics necessary to being the Ululatus into being without using the summoning ritual. As time goes by the player of the instrument will need to apply increasing mental strength to prevent this. There’s a reason that we don’t hear about the flutes made through the same methods (tibia by name, tibia by nature). Their standing waves can only produce the Ululatus, not even a normal note.
(It should be noted that the tones of ancient musical instruments are being modeled by the ASTRA project – see http://www.astraproject.org/. As yet, we are still all alive.)
Ululatus Anima, The Voice Of Infinity
Damage Bonus: +1d4 if listener rolls a success on a Music skill or a critical success on Listen (one or the other – these do not stack. Player chooses which to roll against in advance.)
Weapons: Sound Blast 85%:1d3
Maddening Shrill 90%: Stuns for 1d4 turns
Armour: No physical armour
Spells: Presence of multiple Ululatus allows the casting of Summon Azathoth, even without the book and/or preparations
Sanity Loss: 1/1d3 to see the effects of the Ululatus on a victim.
1/1d4 to hear it in person.