Session 21 | Egypt | In dust we trust

 

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The Carlyle Expedition

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Absent this session

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics Specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Link to background stories and portraits

Written under the influence of Ghost


Ashmunayn (Hermopolis), Friday, February 27th, 1925 | middle of the night

Part One: Sanctum of the Watcher

Desert night

After having delivered a proper beating, trying to coerce the truth from the two men both claiming to be the real colleague and friend of the murdered Coptic priest Butrus Al-Qusi, the PCs decide to distrust both of them.

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Night in the desert

After some argumentation about their next move, they decide to bring both men, bound and gagged, to the ruins in the desert just north of the town. There, they hope that the truth will be revealed…

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Temple ruins

The streets of the small town are eerily quiet at in contrast to the constant daytime bustle and the party manages to sneak out of town undetected (or so they think at least).

The field of ruins are located some 3-400 meters just north of town and are completely dark, most of the low structures still standing covered in sand. The prisoners are pushed before the investigators, who have told Father Shanuda to show the way. Mikhay’el hobbles along, seemingly subdued. The man keeps trying to talk, looking into the darkness on either side of the path, but only muffled sounds emerge from his gagged mouth. After a while, Edward silences him with a backhand slap.

After a while, Shanuda nods to the right (east), towards a shallow depression where the sand has blown away, revealing the remains of what looks to have been a temple of sorts. Only the flagstones and a few low walls and pillars remain.  Two baboon-like statues stand guard at the far end of the area.

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Baboon statue at Hermopolis

The prisoners are struck to the floor, kneeling in the sand, as the investigators discuss their next move. It is decided that they will trust Father Shanuda as his story feels more accurate. Shanuda is liberated from his bonds and asked for forgiveness.

The Ritual

The old priest tells the PCs to drag a feebly protesting Mikhay’el to the center of the flagstone floor and requests the dagger. He then proceeds with asking the PCs to move back ten paces and tells them to look away, no matter what they hear.

To the light of a single kerosene lantern, Shanuda uses the dagger to draw a large circle in the sand around Mikhay’el and starts scribbling strange glyphs inside and outside the circle, while chanting a strange tune in some kind of old-fashioned Arabic.

The air seems to fill with a peculiar humming sound as a vortex of starts swirling inside the circle, dragging up sand particles, forming a small sand tornado around Mikhay’el, drowning out his terrified screams (yes, of course, some of the PCs looked… luckily their SAN checks were successful…).

After a while, the temperature seems to increase markedly and something materializes in the vortex. Shanuda holds up the dagger with two hands, seemingly communicating with the creature. The creature then grabs the sandblasted and screaming Mikhay’el and they both disappear in a puff of sand as everything returns to normal as the sand settles on the ground.

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The Vortex creature

 

 Into the catacombs

Shanuda then cuts his hand, dripping blood in the sand, calling out loud:

“-Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl ghuul’fhtagn!”

Shadows start moving in the darkness around the explorers, moving closer in silence. Four bizarre creatures enter the flagstone floor, communicating with Shanuda in guttural archaic Arabic. The old man holds out the dagger as a holy symbol of power and the creatures bow to him.

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The desert creatures

“-Quick! Follow them. They will show the way to the Temple of Thoth!”

The creatures move silently over the sand, deeper into the ruins, before stopping in front of a pile of tumbled-down stones. There, behind the pile, a small dark opening can be seen…

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The cave opening

One of the creatures quickly climbs in (Keeper note: They move Gollum-style) while the remaining three stay outside.

After a 15-meter down-sloping and narrow passage through rock, the passage gets taller so that the PCs can almost stand upright, and stairway cut in the rock leads down into the dark. The PCs have electrical torches and a kerosene lantern for light.

The humanoid creature scuttles through endless passages with great haste and the PCs have a hard time to keep up. Carl has the mental presence to mark their way by drawing with a chalk-like stone as they move further into the structure. It is evident that no one has been here for a very long time. No one human at least…

At one point they hear what sound like running water and the walls of the passage has watermarks on them. Other places they feel like someone is watching them.

The Obsidian Man

After what seems to be an eternity in darkness and after having descended two more stairways, the creature reaches a more elaborate entrance and stops, pointing to the entrance. It’s a triangular entrance to what appears to be a man-made structure. A straight stairway leads further down into what appears to be some sort of temple. First, they enter two pillared ante-rooms, complete with Egyptian style wall murals. Then, after a long and plain corridor, they enter the main sanctum – a large pillared room, all in smooth black stone. The far end of the room is dominated by a large statue of a faceless black sphinx.

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The Black Sphinx

The investigators study the room in awe, as Father Shanuda beckons them to start the ceremony to lift the curse of the dagger. He asks Edward to kneel in front of the Sphinx and starts chanting, waving the dagger in a repeating pattern.

Suddenly, a presence is felt in the room. An obsidian man, all dressed in black has entered.

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The Obsidian Man

“-I see that you have returned my dagger. How considerate of you. Now, leave me the dagger and I assure you free passage out of my domain.”

They all hear the words, uttered in perfect Oxford English. However, no one can recall seeing the man’s lips move. Father Shanuda looks terrified but is only momentarily disturbed as he continues the ritual.

After a moment’s hesitation, all the other investigators pull out their firearms and starts shooting at the Obsidian Man, but the bullets just stop and hover a few meters from the man as he steps closer…

Father Shanuda finishes the ritual by calling the name of El Shaddai and stabs the dagger into the stone of the sphinx, shattering the blade in a flash of green light.

Suddenly, the Obsidian Man is gone. The only sound in the room emanating from the red-hot bullets as they drop to the stone floor with a clatter…

It all feels like waking from a dream, but the investigators all remember the same things and one by one they also realize that they have a new tattoo on the back of their left hands…

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The hand tattoo

Then the PCs head north-west into the complex, where they find a long corridor sloping upwards. Sensing the possibility of finding an alternative exit, the PCs decide to follow the corridor, which leads steadily up for about 500 meters, before exiting in a small, cool cave.

Nope. Not in Kansas anymore…

Outside, it’s daylight. The cave is situated on a stone knoll in the middle of a vast sea of red sand. There is no Ashmunayn or River Nile anywhere to be seen, nor any other familiar landmarks.

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Looking out of the cave

“-Balls!” Carl curses, as he realizes that he has no idea of where they are.

At a distance, a camel caravan can be seen, moving slowly between the dunes.

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The caravan moving past

The investigators decide to talk to the caravan people and start trekking across the sand hot sand dunes, waving at the caravan. When they see the PCs approach, the caravan stops and waits for them.

As they walk across the red sea of sand, the PCs realize that their clothes and gear has somehow transformed to more antique versions of what they used to have. Rifles have become crossbows, pistols have tuned into intricately curved daggers. And their clothes resemble what they see on the caravan members.

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Carl in his new outfit

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Some of the caravan folks

Coming closer, the PCs notice that the caravan consists of both women, men and children, all dressed in peculiar outfits. The leader, an old man with sun-bitten skin hails them and offers some sweet tea of unknown origin.

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The caravanserai leader, Elharai

He’s speaking a strange language but curiously enough, the investigator’s seem to understand what he says and likewise, they seem proficient in this mysterious language.

They soon learn that they are in the Desert of Cuppar-Nombo and that the caravan is en route to the great City of Cuppar-Nombo to trade, and offers them to travel with the caravan.

After the initial silence, followed by dropped chins and open mouths, the investigators decide to try to back-track their steps and find their way back to the Temple of the Watcher. After thanking Mr. Elharai, they begin their journey back towards the stony hill that they emerged from. Despite some disagreement on exactly which hill they came from, they eventually find their way back to the cave.

The entrance into the underground is still there and after some 500 meters going down the stone ramp, they enter the underground sanctum once again. Curiously, their gear has also changed back to what it used to be…

Pathways into darkness

After these mystifying events, the PCs decide to investigate the temple further before returning to the world above. Beyond the main temple room, they find a series of old cells, three of them inhabited by totally insane wreckages of persons. Probably poor victims that have been kidnapped for some obscure cult use. The PCs decide to leave them where they are and return to save them at some point later, as they can’t lug around these people under their current predicament. (GM note: Yeah right, that’s some serious rationalization right there)

They also find what appears to be a room for cult priests, complete with black robes and occult tomes. After a quick scan, the PCs take three dusty and evil-looking books:

  • Cultes des Goules (French)
  • Al Azif (Archaic Arabic)
  • Kitab al-Stiwah (handwritten in Archaic Arabic / Hebrew)

There is also a small shrine-like room, with a 1.2 m statue of the Black Pharaoh.

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The statue in the shrine

As they search the temple, the PCs realize that the structure is quite large and decide to return to the surface, lest they run off their light sources or worse. They can always come back at another time to investigate the rest of the complex and save the prisoners…

They follow the markings that Carl so foreseeably made on the way down. Upon exiting from the temple, the creature that showed them the way down is nowhere to be found and the passages are quiet like a tomb…

 

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Tunnels…

As they slowly navigate back the way they came, the investigators realize that someone or something is following them. Always out of sight, just a hint of something moving in the dark, disappearing into a side passage…

Trudging on steadily, it seems like this something is joined by others and by the time the PCs reach the exit, they are watched by a large number of creatures, just like the one that showed them the way, to begin with. The creatures keep their distance, though.

They gather outside the exit, on the flagstones where Mikhay’el (or maybe rather Khalid) was carried away by the thing that Father Shanuda conjured forth.

Father Shanuda takes farewell of the group, saying that his work now is done, as the Dagger of Thoth is destroyed and Edward is free from the curse. The old priest tells them to seek him out in the Monastery of St. Pakomios if they ever should need help or if they need healing or just sanctuary from the forces of evil.

The first rays of the sun appear on the horizon as our dead tired heroes walk back to civilization. After a stiff drink in Slim’s room (even Muhammed has one to calm his nerves), they all pass out in their beds and are carried off to the Land of Sleep…

 

Ashmunayn (Hermopolis), Saturday, February 28th, 1925 | morning

Part Two: The Black Pharaoh

To Dahshur

Tired and worn after the night’s events, the investigators have an early breakfast at the hotel, pack their gear and head down to the Nile, their intent to sail downriver to Dahshur, where the Carlyle Expedition was said to have performed excavations. Before they board the felouk, the PCs visit the market to buy thin goat leather gloves to hide their strange hand tattoos. The gloves smell of goat cheese but do their intended job well.

Since the old felouk is gone, Muhammed arranges for passage with another, equally jovial river captain. Sadly, there’s no tulumbe served on this leg of the journey. The boat trip downriver is uneventful and takes about the whole day, so the PCs get ample opportunity to rest more.

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Dahshur during the flood in 1924

In the late afternoon, they reach Dahshur, where they first locate a reasonable hotel (The Sakkara) where they can stay. As it turns out, Dahshur is more tourist-oriented than Ashmunayn, so finding accommodation isn’t hard. After a meal, lots of water and a quick late siesta, the PCs go to the local market to acquire some digging gear to function as props, as they are going to act like they are on an archaeologic expedition in order to blend in.

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Archaeologist disguise…

When they arrive at the local market, most stalls are closed or are closing up. Nightfall is early this time of year (sunset is approximately 6 p.m). Despite trying their best in the baksheesh scene and even employing kind manners, the investigators fail to find an open shop. From a lingering shop proprietor, they learn that the pyramids are now closed for the night and that they open again tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock.

The rest of the evening is spent recuperating at the hotel or reading up on the pyramids in the area. There are two pyramids near Dahshur – the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid. However, it’s not really clear where the Penhew Expedition had their dig site.

Dahshur, Sunday, March 1st, 1925 | morning

At the pyramids

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Breakfast in style…

After a luxurious breakfast in the shadow of the pyramids, the investigators return to the souk to shop digging gear and other equipment “to blend in”.

There are tourist camel riding tours to the Dahshur Necropolis, but the PCs decide to go by car, which leaves them among the rest of the tourists at the base of the Red Pyramid.

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Camel pyramid tours

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Tourists…

They are immediately accosted by men, all claiming to be the best guide around. Among the djellaba-clad guides, one man stands out in his black suit. Abdul the guide turns out to be quite knowledgeable in English and better yet – his brother-in-law works as a pyramid guard, and Abdul promises them access to areas “not usually open to the public”.

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Abdul the Necropolis guide

The Red Pyramid

The investigators decide to begin with the Red Pyramid. The imposing structure was built by Sneferu, probably after he built the Bent Pyramid, which was, well, a little bent…

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The Red Pyramid

Armed policemen monitor the number of people going in and out of the pyramid to ensure that not too many enter at once. The entrance to the pyramid is reached by a rickety wooden stairway consisting of 125 steps, as it is situated at above ground level.

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The layout of the Red Pyramid

Inside, a 63 m downward-sloping corridor leads to three interior chambers: two antechambers with 12 m high corbelled vaults and a 15 m high burial chamber with a corbelled ceiling. Human remains, perhaps those of Sneferu himself, were found here, but are long gone and the chambers are empty.

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The downward sloping corridor

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The inner chamber with the corbelled ceiling

The silent stone chambers are imposing, but nothing out of the ordinary is found in the Red Pyramid.

The Bent Pyramid

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The Bent Pyramid

A bit disappointed, the PCs decide to walk the 1 km path to the Bent Pyramid instead. Abdul takes them safely to the North entrance, where guards are posted.

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Egyptian policemen

The northern entrance is also situated a bit above ground level, and an old wooden stairway has been built for the tourists. Like the Red Pyramid, there’s a down-sloping corridor that leads below ground level. The corridor ends in a 12.5 m high chamber with a corbelled ceiling. There is also a side tunnel leading to yet another chamber actually situated even lower.

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The Bent Pyramid interior plan

Interesting as it is, the PCs find nothing out of the ordinary in the northern chamber system. As they exit the darkness, Abdul mentions that there’s a western entrance as well, leading to a separate set of chambers, but that it’s closed to the public due to the many accidents that have taken place there. Obviously, the investigators want to see this as well and Abdul helps with bribing the single guard there with 10 USD to “go have a pause with his colleagues on the north side”.

The West entrance

The west entrance is also located up the face of the pyramid. No stairs are built here so the PCs have to climb up.

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The western entrance

Entry is blocked off by a pair of metal doors held in place by wooden planks. A wooden hand-painted sign says “Entrance forbidden” in several languages. Like that is going to deter any investigators. It’s an easy task to break loose the boards and open the door.

Inside, it’s dark and musky. Armed with flashlights and a kerosene lamp, the PCs enter while Abdul stays behind to guard the door.

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3D-sketch of the two western chambers

There’s a down-sloping corridor that leads below ground level. In two places raised portcullises are placed and the corridor ends in a 12.5 m high chamber with a corbelled ceiling. There is also a side tunnel leading to yet another chamber actually situated even lower below ground. Scholars believe that this second burial chamber was maybe intended for the Sneferu’s queen Heterpheres. The main burial chamber is unremarkable except for two unusually thick alabaster columns in the back of the room. After some closer study, the PCs find what appears to be a secret door in the right column. It’s almost too easy to open… As a precaution, Mohammed stays in the burial chamber.

Inside the column, a 20-step spiral stone staircase leads up to a chamber, from which a series of ramps ascends almost to the capstone of the structure.

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Inside the Bent Pyramid

The ramps end in a chamber with triangular asymmetrical archway leading to a large elaborately decorated throne room.

The Throne Room

The large chamber is dominated by a black obsidian throne on a raised dais. The throne is encrusted in myriad unknown gems that sparkle in the torchlight. Six 1.5 m high pillars line the walls, each with a large blue gem on the top.

On the wall behind the throne, a there’s a bas-relief with common Egyptian and other unknown glyphs. To the left, two large bas-reliefs depict what seems to be a star chart and a smaller chart of the Solar system with the planets in specific positions. In the star chart, the PCs can identify Aldebaran and Fomalhaut but not the other stars. To the right, the bas-relief shows a distorted hemispheric map of Earth, with Eurasia, Africa, Australia and the Western Pacific. Geographical features like mountains and rivers are easily recognizable, but no nations or cities are shown. Three uncut rubies form an elongated triangle, marking points in central Kenya, Western Australia, and in the East China Sea. An inlaid ebony band marks an arc crossing the Indian Ocean.

Carl produces his trusty camera and starts taking photographs of the walls and the room’s features. As the other investigators are trying to take all in, Edward decides to try to pry loose one of those huge gems atop the pillars. The second he puts his knife between the pillar and gem, it lights up, burning with a strange blue flame. As the big game hunter backs away, another gem also lights up. And another. And another…

The PCs realize that something is happening and starts bolting for the exit almost as a single-cell organism. As they near the archway, a rumble is heard and a massive stone wall starts forming, blocking the exit!

Before it’s fully formed, our heroes manage to exit the throne room, standing scared shitless and panting outside the now massive stone wall blocking off the throne room.

It is then that the monsters attack!

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Pyramid creatures

Seemingly out of the stone, four creatures manifest in the chamber and they immediately assault the PCs with razor-sharp claws and fanged maws. The battle is short but very brutal. At first, the PCs manage to damage two of the creatures. Their luck runs out, however. Slim is bitten over the neck and shoulder, and raked across the face and throat, sending him to the brink of death. Carl takes a vicious claw wound to the chest and side, sending him unconscious. Luckily, Edward manages to kill the remaining creatures before they hurt him badly as well.

While Edward is giving his friends first aid, he shouts for help from Mohammed…

GM note: Slim was wounded below 0 hp and started bleeding out while Carl was wounded to 0 hp. Luckily, Edward managed two successful First Aid rolls in a row and saved Slim’s life while getting Carl back to an agonizing consciousness… 

And this is where we leave the investigators. In the darkness inside the Bent Pyramid, badly wounded and half mad from terror…


Action! Suspense! Humor! Mystery!

Be sure to follow A Fistful of d20’s continued struggle against the God of a Thousand Faces! 

 

 

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Session 20 | Egypt | Death on the Nile

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Visions of Egypt

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Absent this session

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics Specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Link to background stories and portraits


Cairo, Friday, February 27th, 1925 | shortly before noon

A visit to the Egyptian Museum

When Muhammed and H.P are away doing their tasks, the rest of the party decide to follow up the Cairo lead that they found in the Miskatonic University Library. Apparently, Dr. Ali Kafour, an expert on the time of the Black Pharao, works in the Egyptian Museum. Maybe he can shed some more light on the case at hand?

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The Egyptian Museum in Cairo

The museum is situated just north of the Kasr el-Nil bridge (Great Nile Bridge) on the east side of the Nile and is only a short cab ride away from the hotel. The building is truly massive and beyond doubt houses the most comprehensive collection of Egyptian antiques in the world. After paying the entrance fee of 10 Egyptian Piastres, our heroes enter the huge halls of the museum.

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Dignitaries visit the museum

Cairo and district, Egypt. The Egyptian Museum. Interior show...

The main hall

After some asking around at various desks, the investigators are shown to the 2nd floor, where they are asked to wait in a small reception room. After some 30 minutes, they are shown into an office where a small bespectacled man sits behind a huge desk laden with books and documents.

“-Welcome gentlemen. I am Dr. Ali Kafour. How can I be of assistance?”

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Dr. Ali Kafour

The investigators extend their thanks for agreeing to see them and says that they are sent to investigate what happened to the Carlyle Expedition. Dr. Kafour seems intrigued by this and over the next hour or so our heroes learn the following:

On the Carlyle Expedition

  • Dr. Kafour believes that the Carlyle Expedition discovered a secret about the Black Pharao and that this led to their demise in Kenya.
  • Sir Aubrey Penhew had long studied the Black Pharaoh and Kafour and Penhew had discussed the topic many times and traded research information.
  • However, last time Sir Aubrey was in Egypt, he did not seek out his old friend and colleague Dr. Kafour. When Kafour heard that Sir Aubrey was in the country, he traveled to the dig site near Dhashur but was rudely rebuffed by Sir Ayúbrey. Kafour recalls changes in the man – he seemed physically younger and his emotional disposition had changed to withdrawn, aloof and strangely malicious.

On the Black Pharaoh in history 

  • In the late 3rd Dynasty, when Pharaoh Zoser ruled a there came a mighty sorcerer known as Nephren-Ka to Egypt, bringing madness and death to those he willed at a flick of his finger. The story says that he came from dreaded Irem, ancient City of Pillars, deep in the desert sands of Arabia.
  • Nephren-Ka worshiped an old foul god – the Black Pharao, and soon they became as one, and now no one can distinguish their deeds and legends.
  • Nephren-Ka and Zoser fought long over control of the realm. However, no records from this time remain today.
  • For a time, the Black Pharaoh ruled over the peoples of the Nile, but at last Sneferu arose, founding the 4th Dynasty and with the aid of the goddess Isis he fought and brought down the Black Pharao, restoring the land from evil.
  • Legend says that Sneferu built a mighty pyramid to contain the still magical body of the Black Emperor, but the structure collapsed even as Sneferu was building a second pyramid. The Collapsed Pyramid is situated at what now is Meidum. The second pyramid is the Bent Pyramid at Dhashur. Records indicate that Nephren-Ka’s remains were moved from the Collapsed Pyramid to the Bent Pyramid. However, explorations at both pyramids have failed to substantiate this. No trace of the Black Pharao has been discovered at either site.
  • Legend also says that Sneferu built yet another pyramid at Dhashur, the Red Pyramid, to guard Dhashur, lest Nephren-Ka should rise from the dead.
  • Pharao Sneferu also ordered all traces of the Black Pharao stricken from the land, killing worshippers of the Black Pharao in the process. Legends say that remaining worshippers fled south, into the hideous swamps beyond the Sudan river.
  • The book also mentions that in the 6th Dynasty, Queen Nitocris was suspected of being in league with a new cult of the Black Pharao, but evidence of this is at best sporadic and much debated among scholars of Egyptology.
  • Finally, the book mentions that Nephren-Ka (or the Black Pharao) sometimes was known under the name of Neyar-Hotep.

On the legends of the Black Pharaoh

  • Some say that he was but one god out of a whole pantheon of abominable deities dedicated to chaos and madness, more ancient than the gods of Egypt.
  • Nephren-Ka was said to possess a huge beast, of which the Sphinx at Giza is only a small, inaccurate representation.
  • The voice of Nephren-Ka is said to have been carried throughout the land within a black wind, which could destroy at his whim.
  • There is a prophecy that implies that the Black Pharaoh will arise anew “fingers and toes after the Great Good One”. This has been interpreted as meaning 20 centuries after Jesus. It is also said that this will mark the beginning of a new age, destined to bring the end of mankind’s dominance on Earth and to bring freedom and truth to the followers of the Black Pharaoh.
  • Man-like but inhuman followers of the Black Pharaoh were said to lurk underground in the deserts, occasionally waylaying passers-by.
  • The Great Sphinx at Giza is said to have an important function in the hideous rituals once held by the evil Queen Nitocris.

On what Dr. Kafour believes

  • The Black Pharaoh and Nephren-Ka once existed, as did the pantheon of malicious pre-Egyptian gods. He calls them the Elder Gods and says that they are led by the Demon Sultan Azathoth.
  • Dr. Kafour has seen servitors of these gods in the desert and knows for a fact that the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh does exist in present-day Egypt, though he knows nothing of its organization, leaders or activities.
  • He also suspects that the worship of the Black Pharaoh is growing in other parts of Africa. For example, he has heard of a cult called the Bloody Tongue in British Kenya. Apparently, this cult worships a monstrous deity which is another aspect of the Black Pharaoh.

On Queen Nitocris

  • The unidentified mummy that was stolen from the Clive Expedition at Giza was undoubtedly the remains of that beautiful and deadly ruler.
  • She was rumored to have been buried alive, but no trace was found until the Clive Expedition uncovered the secret room in the smallest of the Great pyramids.
  • How or why she was stolen he does not know, but he thinks that the theft relates to the prophesized return of the Black Pharaoh.

On the Penhew Foundation

  • Dr. Kafour has always respected Sir Aubrey, director Edward Gavigan and the efforts of the Penhew Foundation. However, since Sir Aubrey died there has been 10 Foundation expeditions to Egypt, and among them, there has been at least 20 deaths, numerous disappearances, several suicides, and one certified case of madness. Most have followed the same pattern of paranoid secrecy, erratic excavation and bizarre incidents that was set by the Carlyle Expedition.

 

When the investigators ask about Ashmunayn and the Dagger of Thoth, Dr. Kafour refers them to guest researcher colleague of his, Dr. Alfredo Monteverdi, who is most proficient in those areas. Originally from Italy, Dr. Monteverdi is a world-renowned Egyptologist and a friend of the late Dr. von Petersdorf, and even contributed to the latter’s book, The Antiquity of the Egyptian Religion before von Petersdorf’s tragic demise.

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Dr. Monteverdi

Below is a summary of the main points of that discussion.

On Ashmunayn

The current city of Ashmunauyn is located right next to the ruins of the ancient Egyptian city and cult center of Hermopolis (as the Greeks called it) or Khemennu (as the Egyptians called it).  In ancient times this was a great center of learning and both Plato and Pythagoras studied there. Khemennu was sacred to the god Thoth.

On Thoth

Thoth was known as the “counter of the stars” and “the self-created one to whom none hath given birth”. Thoth is also associated with the Greek god Hermes and is known in Egyptian mythology as the messenger of the gods as well as a god of knowledge and writing. In the middle age and renaissance, magicians and wizards attributed Hermes (i.e. Thoth) as the father of all magical knowledge as well. The secret book Corpus Hermeticorm (The Works of Hermes) from the 2nd century was a book of magical formulae supposedly written by Hermes/Thoth himself and came to form the basis of many magical grimoires for centuries to come.

On sacred animals

There were two animals sacred to Thoth – the Ibis and the Baboon (or as it was called the “dog-headed ape”) and it was believed that Thoth would assume the form of a baboon when he incarnated on Earth. The baboons braying or reacting to the moon was taken as the baboons were talking to Thoth.

On the Dagger of Thoth

Contrary to Dr. Kafour, Dr. Monteverdi does not believe in the current worship of ancient evil gods. He does believe that such worship has existed, but not anymore. He does, however, know about the legends about the Dagger of Thoth:

  • The dagger is rumored to have magic powers
  • It was used as a ritual dagger to sacrifice unbelievers by slitting the throat and stomach before being used to remove the heart
  • The Dagger can be used to open a gate to summon Thoth (together with the correct ritual of course)
  • The Dagger can also be used to banish Thoth (again, together with the correct ritual)
  • The Dagger is also said to be the only weapon that could harm Thoth physically

River Cruise

When everyone has returned from their respective tasks, the investigators meet up with Mr. Mikhay’el Sufuyani, pack a few duffle bags with gear and go to the riverside pier, and the small felouk that Muhammed has arranged for them.

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The felouk

To decrease the risk of detection, Muhammed has chartered the boat privately. The boat turns out to be very plain, a fact that makes the snob in Slim Shady cringe with ill-concealed disgust.

“-I will surely get fleas or whatever on this river canoe…”

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Hakim, felouk skipper

The skipper, Hakim, is a jovial and friendly man and he has even arranged for a textile sunscreen in the aft of the boat.

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On the way towards Ashmunayn

The small boat makes good speed due to favorable wind conditions, but the trip takes the whole day in demand and the investigators arrive in Ashmunayn late in the evening. All that they have had to eat was tulumbe (i.e. fat and sugar) that Hakim’s wife had made, together with sweet mint tea.

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Tulumbe

Map Cairo - Ashmunayn_LI

The trip to Ashmunayn

Ashmunayn

The docks of the small town of Ashmunayn is rather busy despite the late hour. Muhammed inquires about lodgings and learns that there is only one hotel in town – Le Grand Hotel. It is only a short walk and soon the PCs are greeted welcome by the owner, Mr. Yusuf.

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Mr. Yusuf, proprietor of Le Grand Hotel

Despite its fancy name, it is evident that the hotel has put its glory days in the past. Mr. Yusuf however, welcomes the effendis as royalty, and one can suspect that he expects to be paid the same way.

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Ashmunayn, the main street

After washing up and settling in their rooms, the PCs gather at a small restaurant for food. It’s simple grilled lamb and vegetables, but anything feels luxurious after their previous tulumbe diet…

After dinner, the investigators plan to withdraw to the hotel for some well-deserved rest, but as we shall see there is no rest for the wicked…

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Dining in style!

 

The Lemonade Man

After dinner, the PCs order strong coffee, which really gets the bowels working. When Carl gets up to get to the men’s room (it’s not really a room, more a shed in the back, with a hole in the ground and a bucket for washing afterward) he is approached by a man carrying a large waterskin.

“-Lemonade, effendi?”

Carl says no, but the man still follows him all the way to the toilet. When no one else can observe, the man grabs Carl’s arm and says in perfect Oxford English:

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The Lemonade Man

“-I am no lemonade salesman or beggar and I don’t want your money. I am Father Abba Shanuda and I am a friend and colleague of Butrus. The man you are with, no matter what name he goes by, is not of our Order, but is, on the contrary, high in the counsels of the Evil Ones, Khalid Abd Al-Azi. He has lured you here for the sole purpose of trapping you and your friends, killing, torturing or worse, sacrificing you to his blasphemous gods and then stealing the dagger. I have followed you and your friends since you arrived in Egypt, but I haven’t contacted you to lull Khalid into a sense of security. I cannot emphasize enough that you and your friends are in the greatest danger. Khalid would kill you all without hesitation if he felt it would serve his criminal purposes. If you ever wish to leave Ashmunayn alive, you will need my help.”

Carl decides to get his friends and after paying for their meal they meet up with the strange lemonade man behind the restaurant.

Father Shanuda’s plan is simple:

The PCs are to summon Mikhay’el/Khalid to one of their rooms, with all present. Father Shanuda will hide in a closet or side room. When Mikhay’el arrives, they will bind and gag him immediately. Once the villain is subdued, Father Shanuda will enter the room and proceed with his plan.

The investigators decide to trust the old man and agrees to the plan. Shanuda is told to wait outside the hotel until they have prepared everything.

As they walk back to the hotel (without Father Shanuda), the PCs decide that they can’t trust either of the men. They will play along with Shanuda up to a point but will then proceed with their own plan…

Finding the imposter

After returning to the hotel, Slim seeks out Mikhay’el to scout the (false) priest’s room for signs that the man isn’t the man he says he is. He also wants to determine if Mikhay’el wears a tattoo on his underarm. The room checks out ok and looks every way like a priest’s room, complete with a small portable shrine and a Coptic bible on the bedstand. To see if the man has a tattoo, Slim picks a fight, acting a bit drunk, saying that he wants to arm-wrestle. Mikhay’el gets seriously annoyed, as it’s very late After a while, Mikhay’el agrees to do it as he wants to get rid of the annoying attorney. A few rounds later Slim gives up and leaves, satisfied that Mikhay’el has no tattoo on his arms.

He returns to Edward’s room and informs the others. Then they summon Father Shanuda. As they have no other room, the old priest will have to keep hidden in a cupboard.

Muhammed is then sent to bring Mikhay’el to Edward’s room as well, under the pretense that “there has been a development”. When the man enters he is immediately grabbed, bound to a chair, and interrogated. Despite the harsh words and slaps, the man sticks to his story.

A triumphant Father Shanuda is then let onto the scene. But his smirk is soon erased as he is also tied to a chair and interrogated the same way! As none of the men breaks down, Slim decides to increase the pressure and produces a switchblade which he uses with great skill. The two men scream out their innocence, accusing the other of being in league with evil.

The PCs try another tactic. First, they cover Father Shanuda’s eyes and ears so that he can’t overhear what Mikhay’el says. Then they ask him exactly what they are going to do in the ruins.

Mikhay’el’s story

In short, Mikhay’el says that they have to go to the ruins of Khemennu and find the secret underground temple. There, he will use the Dagger to perform a ritual of exorcism. Edward will be free of the curse and they will then be free to use the powers of the dagger to do good.

The process is then reversed.

Abba Shanuda’s story

Shanuda says that they have to go to the ruins of Khemennu and find the entrance to the underground evil temple. There, they must first use the Dagger to get rid of Khalid/Mikhay’el. Then he must perform yet another ritual to destroy the dagger so that the evil people cannot use it ever again.

In the middle of all this mayhem there’s a bang at the door:

“Mister Foxworthy! Are you all right? I have called the Police! Hello?”

Their landlord has heard the commotion and wants to come in. Suddenly, they hear him rush down the stairs. Slim quickly takes off his shoes and props his sweaty socks into the mouths of the men to silence them. Then he rushes across the hall to his own room, leaving the door ajar. The steps of several men are heard in the stairs. In the bathroom, he uses a razor to cut his own cheek, swearing loudly.

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Egyptian rural policemen

When Mr. Yusuf returns with 3 policemen, they find a bleeding Slim in his room, swearing loudly. Slim says that he had a “nasty shaving accident” and that it was he who made all the noise and that it was all a false alarm. And no, the sounds came from his room and not from Edward’s. The two policemen led by an officer proceed with a most cursory check of Slim’s room and person, but find nothing out of the ordinary and leaves with a caution to “shave more quietly”, shaking their heads at the clumsy foreigner.

(Keeper note: Slim’s player rolled some seriously good Fast Talk here and kept blabbering very convincingly attorney style.)

 When the situation is over, Slim returns to the others. As they can’t determine who’s for real and who’s not, they agree to take both men, bound and gagged to the Khemennu ruins to peform the ritual. To avoid rousing suspicion in the streets, they also desice to do it right away, in the middle of the night… A very solid idea indeed…


Cliffhanger! We had to stop for the day, but be sure to follow next session to see what happened in the sands of Khemennu…

Session 19 | The Atlantic / Egypt | Dinner for Schmucks

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Visions of Egypt

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Absent this session

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics Specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Link to background stories and portraits

Written under the influence of Lenzman


The Atlantic, Wednesday, February 18th, 1925 |evening, day 4 at sea

A fond farewell

After witnessing the ghastly (and messy) demise of the Coptic priest Butrus al-Qusi, the investigators have gathered in their favorite salon, sipping their drinks in silence, staring blankly, trying to comprehend what just happened. Each member of the shrinking band of investigators is acutely aware of the mortal danger that they seem to conjure with their every step. They are also gravely aware of the dire straits that the disappearance of al-Qusi has put Edward in, as the man was key to dispelling the dagger’s curse on Edward.

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Pardy hardy

The only one seemingly not worried at all is Edward himself, who is gladly having a gin and tonic, flirting with a pretty lady over at the bar, at the dismay of her male companion, maybe her husband…

The Atlantic, Thursday, February 19th, 1925 |morning, day 5 at sea

Thieves try to steal the dagger

Having a late breakfast the next morning, Edward feels the force of nature make itself known and decides to head back to his cabin on A-deck to take care of business. As he comes nearer, he notices that the door to his cabin stands ajar.

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Edward’s cabin

Drawing his gun, Edward carefully pushes open the door with the barrel. Inside, a middle-eastern-looking man dressed in black is rummaging through his drawers. The luggage has been opened as well and the contents tossed all over the floor.

When the stranger notices Edward, he produces a mean-looking curved blade and approaches to attack. However, bringing a blade to a gunfight has never been a good idea, and the man never gets the chance to strike as Edward shoots him clean in the leg, shattering the femur, sending the man to the floor half unconscious and in great agony.

Ship’s pursers come running at the sound of gunfire, and soon they have called for Mr. John F. Wayne, head of security on board. The wounded thief is rushed off to the ship’s infirmary while Mr. Wayne interviews Edward about the incident. Edward (and Slim who has joined up) plays up the part of the offended guests and soon Mr. Wayne is in full apology mode, stating that theft in the A-section of the ship is virtually unheard of.

The investigators demand the opportunity to interview the thief and are given permission for this by a clearly apologetic head of security.

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The ship’s infirmary

However, when the PCs arrive in the infirmary, the place is in full turmoil. It seems that the thief suddenly had a seizure and died within a minute. Edward and Slim make a quick examination of the corpse, noticing a faint smell of bitter almond. Cyanide poisoning maybe? The man has a middle eastern look, is about 30-35 years old and is all dressed in loose-fitting black cotton clothes. He also has a strange tattoo on his left underarm.

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The tattoo

He has no papers, but after some more investigation, the man is identified as Mahmud bin Mahmud (or at least that’s the name in the passenger manifest). More interesting, the man apparently shared quarters with a certain Rashid Azoulay. Both men have Egyptian passports and share a cabin in 3rd class. The cabin turns out to be very plain and totally devout of further clues. And Mr. Azoulay is nowhere to be found.

The Atlantic, Friday, February 20th, 1925 |morning, day 6 at sea

Plan to root out the thieves

The investigator’s suspect that the reason for the burglary was to steal the Dagger of Thoth and devise a most fiendish plan to root out the rest of the bad guys. The idea is to arrange an opportunity for the thieves to steal the dagger, only this time with their own people ready to step in and apprehend the thieves in the act. It is decided that Edward should keep the dagger on his person, possibly showing it to someone so that it is obvious where it is kept. Edward is also supposed to play drunk in order to give the illusion of a weak target.

The plan is executed by Slim and Edward having an elaborate lunch in the ship’s restaurant, complete with champagne and other spirits (which they only pretend to drink). When being adequately plastered, the plan is for Edward to excuse himself and go out on a specific area of the deck for some fresh air. The rest of the PCs are to be hidden at that location, ready to strike when the thieves make their move.

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Lunchtime!

In the middle of the luncheon, one of the waiters manage to trip and spills a plate of food in Edwards lap. The man apologizes and starts cleaning up the mess with a towel, assuring that the company will, of course, reimburse them and pay for the cleaning of the suit. Edward, who thinks that the waiter is wiping him off a bit too near his private parts angrily waves the man away and the man disappears into the kitchen area, still apologizing.

Cursing and wiping himself off, the big game hunter suddenly comes to realize that the dagger is gone! The bloody waiter must have stolen it!

In a second the two men are running towards the swinging doors leading to the kitchen. Running through the bustling kitchen the PCs manage to push several staff members, sending food and kitchenware into the air. A young scared (as teaspoon-of-thin) sous-chef points them to the back of the kitchen:

“-H- he ran that way!”

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Hard work in the ship’s kitchen

Exiting the kitchen, the men enter a staff only area, with a long corridor ending in a T-intersection. Looking to the right, they see the man in front of a door leading to the outside deck. The door is just closing, suggesting that the false waiter had just met with someone else. The waiter swings around towards the PCs, drawing a mean looking dagger. A short fight ensues, ending with the waiter dead on the bulkhead. Edward stops to check the body while Slim runs out on the deck, in pursuit of the third bad guy. He enters the deck just in time to see someone disappear around a corner. Slim takes up the chase. After the bend there’s a stairway up to the aft deck, where a lot of passengers enjoy the sun and beauty of the scenery. There’s no trace of the runner. Turning around to go down the stairs again, Slim freezes. For a moment he’s sure that he saw Edward Gavigan’s face in a crowd. Looking again, there’s no trace of Gavigan.

-“Must have been the nerves!” Slim thinks as he returns down the stairs…

Meanwhile, Edwards searches the false waiter. The man is of middle eastern descent, with a tattoo on the left underarm, but no papers. Strangely enough, the man is still in possession of the cursed blade, which Edward quickly puts inside his suit jacket, a bittersweet feeling of having gotten back something precious…

When Slim returns, the PCs carry the man outside and dumps the body in the sea after having confirmed that no one else can see. However, they can’t shake the feeling that the big fish got away…

Alexandria / Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, February 26th, 1925 |morning, day 12 at sea

Arrival in Egypt

The rest of the sea voyage is relatively uneventful. Despite the investigator’s vigilance, there are no more sinister incidents and our heroes actually get some much deserved R&R. The 12th day after leaving England, the ship finally reaches their destination – Alexandria. As they glide into the harbor the first thing indicating that they are in Africa is the mighty Ras el-Tin Palace, overlooking the harbor.

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Ras el-Tin Palace from the sea

The Immigration Office is just a short walk from the quay, in a building that doubles as a terminal as well. The chief of the customs staff is a sweating Englishman who demands to see their papers with the demeanor of someone used to being in charge. Thanks to Edward’s previous experience with import and export of hunting weapons and the paperwork that they arranged within England, the procedure is easy and the investigators can soon take their first steps on the streets of Alexandria. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds before they are assaulted from all directions by people of all sorts – beggars, taxi drivers, hotel owners, porters all want to earn a few dollars by performing some service. If said service is wanted or not is completely beside the point.

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Alexandria street life in the 1920s

As the PCs are straining to take back luggage that some random person just picked up and started to carry away, an Egyptian man in a white linen suit comes up and introduces himself in perfect English. The man introduces himself as Mikhay’el Sufiyani and says that he’s a colleague of Butrus. He also wonders where Butrus might be.

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Mikhay’el Sufiyani

To get away from the bustle, the PCs follow Mikhay’el to a nearby café at Place Muhammed Ali, to discuss further in the shade. After ordering some strong mint tea, the man explains that Butrus telegraphed him from the sea, asking him to come and meet up and also that he described the names and looks of his American friends.

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Place Muhammed Ali

When informed of Butrus’ death, Mikhay’el looks shocked and disturbed and says that they now must make great haste as the Cult of the Watchers is on the move. Mikhay’el says that they must immediately travel to a place called Ashmunayn, where the exorcism of the curse can take place.

As they sit in the café, a man with a funny mustache approaches them, offering his services as a dragoman (guide) in broken but completely intelligible English.

-“My friends! I’m Muhammed the Dragoman. I can help you with everything! Very cheap. Special price, just for you!”

Mikhay’el waves away the man, stating that they don’t need a dragoman since they have him.

To the disapproval of Mikhay’el, the investigator’s want to go to Cairo first, to check up on some clues before going to Ashmunayn. As they wait for the train to depart, the PCs arrange for lodgings in the famous Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. The train station is nearby and soon the group is on their way to Cairo, which takes some 4 hours.

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Alexandria Railway station

Cairo

 

After arriving in Cairo Central Railway Station, the investigator’s take a horse-drawn cab (kalesh in Egyptian) to Shepheard’s Hotel (situated about 5 minutes from the train station at 8 Sharia Kamil, just beside the Ezbekia Gardens park) where they are welcomed almost as royalty. Mikhay’el doesn’t ride with them as he has his lodgings in Hotel Mujaffah in another part of the city.

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Cairo Central Railway Station

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Entrance to Shepheard’s Hotel

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Ezbekia Gardens

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Shepheard’s Hotel

Following the clues

The main lead in Cairo is the letter from a certain Faraz Najir that the PCs found at Jackson Elias’ murder scene (Clue #11). It’s a letter from Faraz Najir to Mr. Carlyle, where Najir states that he’s in possession of certain antiques that Carlyle might be interested in. The letter further states that Mr. Carlyle’s agent should come to Najir’s shop at the Street of Jackals in the Old Quarter of Cairo to arrange matters further.

Zoomable Old Cairo map

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The investigators realize that they need a guide and since they don’t trust Mr. Mikhay’el fully, they decide to get a dragoman of their own. The hotel reception is happy to provide for this and after some 45 minutes the concièrge have rounded up a selection of dragomen:

  • Ma’muhd – a young poor barefoot boy of about 11 or 12 years of age
  • Hakim – a young man of about 20 years of age

As the PC discuss with the boys they hear a familiar voice:

-“My friends!”

It’s Muhammed – the dragoman from Alexandria! Despite him never being silent, the PCs decide to go for him as he’s a bit older and since he speaks a plethora of languages (however, how well, they don’t know). The boys depart, looking sullen and disappointed, Hakim swearing in Arabic.

A typical dragoman ( interpreter ) in Cairo, Egypt. 1920s

Muhammed the Dragoman

The Street of Jackals

In the afternoon, the investigators leave the hotel for a tour of the Old Quarter, that is situated to the east of Ezbekia Gardens. In fact, hotel guests with rooms facing the east have a lovely view of the Old City and the slums.

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Old Quarter

Asking people on the streets, Muhammad navigates to the Street of Jackals in about 30 minutes. The neighborhood is incredibly old and squalid, consisting of very narrow streets and alleys that twist and turn in a totally random pattern, sitting next to the old city wall of Cairo.

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Cairo street life

Sadly, the address provided in the letter leads to a burned-out husk of a building. Asking around with the help of Muhammed, they learn that 5 or 6 years previously, a fire demon descended upon the shop and set it aflame. They also learn that the owner, Mr. Najir was horribly burned, but that he survived and has since opened a new shop in Khan el-Khalili, an ancient marketplace near Sharia Muezzeddin Allah.

Faraz Najir’s Shop

Muhammed knows where the location of the old market is and after some 30 more minutes walking, the PCs finds a shop clearly marked “Faraz Najir” in Arabic, “Curios” in English and “Magasin des Antiquités” in French. The shop is located on a very narrow street of mostly pottery shops and above the shop are several floors of low-grade tenements. Inside, the shop is filled from floor to ceiling with a mish-mash of cheap tourist stuff. A man wearing a djellaba sits on a low stool beside a small round brass table, sipping some tea from a glass. As the PCs enter, he stands up to greet them:

-“Salaam Alaikum dear friends! What can I do for you? Perhaps you want to purchase some real Egyptian antiques today, yes?”

Despite the fact that the man’s face is shadowed by the hood of the djellaba, it is evident that his right side is horribly disfigured by fibrous scarring, consistent with the scarring you would see after serious burns.

When the investigators mention Carlyle, Najir’s eyes bulge and his English rapidly deteriorate as he mumbles something about closing the shop, trying to shoo them out. When they don’t leave at once, he picks up a bejeweled decoration scimitar which he points at the PCs as he starts to yell in Arabic. Muhammed says that he is calling them thieves and that he is calling for aid.

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People gather outside the shop

Outside the shop, people start to gather, talking angrily and spitting at the accursed foreigners that come here to steal. Muhammed manages to negotiate an uneasy truce but says that they must leave immediately as violence is just beneath the surface. All but Slim are eager to get the hell out of the place, but the attorney won’t give up until he has been hit with some thrown rocks.

After this frightening experience, the investigators decide to head back to the hotel for some well-deserved food, drink and rest and return to business the next day.

Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, February 26th, 1925 |morning

A clandestine meeting in the mosque

Early the next morning, the investigators send Muhammed alone to try to talk sense into Mr. Najir, and also offering him a sum of money if he agrees to talk with them. The dragoman returns with the good news that Mr. Najir has agreed to meet them before lunch (1 to 2 p.m.) in the El Hussein Mosque (not far from the Street of Jackals) where he feels safe.

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El Hussein Mosque

Najir meets them at the side of the mosque and proceeds with silently leading them inside to a small secluded room where they sit down on the floor.

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Faraz Najir

Faraz Najir’s tale

According to Najir, Roger Carlyle had sought information on the reign of the Black Pharaoh, a reign supposedly ended by Sneferu, first pharaoh of the 4th Dynasty. Since Najir had come into possession of certain objects of art related to the Black Pharaoh, he reached out to Carlyle to inquire if he was interested in purchasing them. The New York dilettante was interested indeed and arranged for his agent in Cairo, a certain Warren Besart, to settle the deal and collect the items, which were:

  • An ancient scroll detailing the entrance to a hidden room in an unnamed pyramid, wherein the Black Pharaoh was supposedly entombed
  • A bust of the Black Pharaoh
  • A small tambourine drum bearing odd symbols, rumored to be laden with mystical power
  • A strange circlet with a large zircon which was said to be the crown of the Black Pharaoh and to be the key to his triumph over death

More questions (and baksheesh) also reveals:

  • Najir stole the above artifacts from the house of Omar Shakti, a prominent businessman and rumored high priest of the Egyptian Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh
  • It was the Brotherhood that punished his theft by sending a fire djinn to burn him
  • The Brotherhood is rumored to be involved in a recent theft of a mummy from the currently ongoing Clive Expedition
  • Another rumor is that the Brotherhood wants an item located in the Mosque of Ibn-Tulun, but he has no idea of what that object may be

Najir also tells the investigators that he wants no part in any of this anymore and he asks them not to tell anyone of this meeting. It is evident that he fears for his life and that he is very frightened of the Brotherhood. When the horribly disfigured little man leaves, he asks the PCs to wait for 10 minutes before they leave.

Searching for Warren Besart

The investigators return to the hotel and discuss their next move. It is decided that H.P Rennfarth and William Fredricks pay a visit to the main Police Station near Ezbekia Gardens to see if he can find the address of Warren Besart.

Book river cruise

Muhammed the Dragoman is sent down to the river to book passage on a felouk (small river sailing boat). Such meager means of travel will increase the chances of keeping themselves incognito as they suspect that the more luxurious river steamers will be monitored by either the Watchers or the Brotherhood.

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A felouk on the Nile

More plans and Edward’s condition

They also plan to ask around for the Mosque of Ibn-Tulun, but the number one priority now is to help Edward with his “condition”.

His seizures continue to come around noon on a daily basis but over the time described in this post, they increase in duration as well as in severity, abrading away a chunk of Edward’s mind and sanity with each passing day.


And here we had to end the session. To be continued soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Session 18 | London/ The Atlantic | High noon at the UK Corral

 

 

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Ye awfullest Monstre…

 

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Absent this session

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics Specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Link to background stories and portraits

Written under the influence of Backyard Babies/Hellacopters


London, UK, Wednesday, February 11th, 1925 | morning, about 9 am

Courtesy call

At breakfast, Foxworthy suggests that they should pay Mr. Chabout in Limehouse a courtesy visit, in order to find out where the group’s shipped occult items are really going. Slim Shady borrows the lobby telephone and calls Chabout Shipping Co., saying that they are businessmen looking to ship a large quantity of goods and that they have heard good things about Chabout’s company. The lady they talk to agrees to talk to her boss, Mr. Chabout about this and asks for their number so that she can call back when she has spoken to him. Shady leaves her the hotel number and specifically tells the concièrge to just receive the call and to notify them when they call back. They then decide to stay at the hotel, waiting for the call and studying their occult books.

Visions

Around noon, the investigators gather in the restaurant, along with their newfound friends Butrus and Fredricks, to discuss the journey to Egypt over some light lunch and a beer or two. It turns out that Chabout has agreed to a meeting at 2 o’clock. As they sip their beers, Edward Foxworthy suddenly starts to shake, falling to the floor as if having an epileptic seizure of some kind. Carl Blackwater gets on the floor, trying to help the big game hunter. He knows that Foxworthy is carrying the strange dagger wrapped in a cloth inside his jacket, and suspecting some supernatural affliction here, he immediately removes the ancient dagger. However, the dagger looks just like yesterday and the action does not help poor Edward, who keeps cramping on the floor for about one minute before regaining his senses.

Afterward, Edward describes that he experienced being somewhere else, seeing a large body of slow-moving water under a hot sun. Along the edges of the water, there was dense foliage for as long as he could see. The group theorizes that maybe he saw the Nile for some unfathomable reason. Maybe the dagger did it… Edward is left shaken to his core by the experience (Keeper note: Minus 1 to SAN).

Butrus al-Qusi sips his strong tea and asks for their attention, as he has something important to say about the incident:

I must now explain to you what has happened and the significance of the dagger. You may not be willing to believe my words, but I assure you that I am telling the truth. I am actually a Coptic monk and together with a few of my brethren, I am fighting against the spread of an Egyptic satanic cult, called The Watchers, which worships an unspeakably evil demon. The dagger is one of their most important cult objects for their blasphemous rituals and they will do anything to regain possession of it. I was sent here by my Elders to stop them from getting their hands on the dagger. Because of the great potential evil of the dagger, it may be best to destroy it, but now I fear that the dagger’s curse has taken hold of your friend. The evil cult must have initiated the curse, surely in order to compel us to go back to Egypt with the evil blade. I do not know how to remove the curse. My brethren in Egypt do, however, and I propose that we leave for Egypt as soon as possible so that my Brothers can exorcise the malign power which has possessed Mr. Foxworthy. I do not know the full extent of the curse, but this I do know: if the dagger is arbitrarily destroyed, the affected’s soul is eternally lost as it is now connected to the dagger. The only way to save him is to go back to our monastery at St. Pakomios, where my elder Brothers can perform the cleansing ritual. We must also make haste, for the curse will strengthen its grip over your friend with each passing day.”

The gathered friends take in the news with increasing horror, wishing it was Friday today…

Contrary to his consternated friends, the news of the curse only seem to encourage Foxworthy’s rage with the Limehouse shipper:

“-F-ck the curse. I think it’s high time that we pay Mr. Cha-f-cking-bout a visit! If he doesn’t come clean with us, I’ll teach him the meaning of a boot!

Namaste, suckers…

 

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Chabout’s ruffians

 

After parking the old Adler on a run-down harbourside street outside the shipping company’s fenced perimeter, the PCs approach the two guards standing at the gate. After stating their business, the sneering head guard calls a man inside the fence:

Hey, Gupta! These gentlemen have an appointment with the boss“.

Gupta, a tall thin man with a scar on the right cheek opens the gate and beckons the PCs inside. Without a word, he starts walking towards the building, the investigators in tow.

 

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Mr. Gupta

 

Mr. Chabout’s office is situated on the third floor of the rather dingy building. The first floor is occupied by long rows of large shipping crates from all over the world by the looks of the markings on them, while the second floor is also dedicated to wares, but here smaller boxes with more delicate goods are kept. Gupta shows the way up two flights of steel open stairs, then down a long corridor and stops before a riveted steel door painted bright red. Opening the door, he beckons the PCs in and takes a post, arms crossed, at the now closed door.

The room is large, with a magnificent view of the harbor through iron framed industrial style floor-to-ceiling windows facing the port. Riveted steel pillars support the ceiling. In front of the windows, behind a huge jacaranda writing desk, sits a diminutive man wearing an off-white Indian style linen suit.

 

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Mr. Chabout

 

-Ah, my dear friends! You have come to me bringing business, yes? Please sit down! Can I offer you, esteemed gentlemen, something to drink? Tea perhaps? Or some gin?

The words are offered in a fast pace, with a slight accent suggesting Indian heritage. Mr. Chabout’s mouth is smiling wide, showing pearly white teeth but the expression in his eyes is reminiscent of the gaze of a snake…

The investigators decide to drop the façade, and bluntly state their real errand: That they have information that the goods they wanted to ship to New York are en route to Shanghai instead! If Mr. Chabout is taken aback when he hears of this, he doesn’t show. Instead, he ensures that any items sent with Chabout Shipping Ltd. are to be delivered to their proper destination. The shipper inquires of the details pertaining the shipment and asks the man at the door:

“-Mr. Gupta. Will you please get Miss Ginee and tell her to bring the shipping ledgers from last week.”

 

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Miss Ginee

 

In a minute, Gupta returns with a young smartly dressed woman carrying a large black leather ledger, which she hands to Chabout and takes a step back, waiting for new instructions. The shipper starts flipping the ledger and soon finds what he’s looking for.

“-See there gentlemen. Captain Larsen and the Ivory Wind left for New York this last Friday evening. This is an honest company.” 

The paperwork checks out and after some more chit-chat the businessman asks Gupta to escort the investigators out. Maybe the man is telling the truth and someone else is lying? Maybe that Harbour Master? Or is Captain Larsen doing his own crazy stuff on the side?

As they leave the warehouse, the PCs notice that the guard crew at the exit gate have increased to five menacing-looking ruffians. A few steps out, always vigilant Edward spots the glimpse of a rifle barrel behind some crates on the loading dock, just before a shot rings out and the men at the gate start running towards the warehouse!

Ambush

The investigators quickly retreat into the warehouse and try to close the heavy sliding door. A shout is heard from behind them, where Gupta points a shotgun at them. The man fires but all that is heard is a loud click! Gupta throws the shotgun to the floor and draws a nasty looking dagger, charging and screaming like a madman. Shady draws both his guns and blazes away at the charging man, point blank. Guptas head erupts in a spray of blood and gore, and the man slumps to the floor like a sack of grain.

Meanwhile, Blackwater and Foxworthy scramble for the stairs up, realizing that the warehouse is full of entrances and that trying to close one door isn’t going to keep the assailants out. The men reach the second floor and continue up to the top floor where they just spoke to Mr. Chabout. Shady is hot on their heels but is one floor behind.

The top floor is eerily silent. No evident trace of Chabout or Miss Ginee. The men advance slowly, reaching Chabout’s office. The door stands open. A quick glance reveals that the office is empty.

Blackwater enters cautiously, checking the corners but cannot see anyone. Too late he realizes that Chabout was hiding behind the door, when the shipper attacks from behind, trying to slip a piano wire around his neck! Blackwater manages to dodge the piano wire, shooting Chabout in the leg. It seems the bullet just grazed the man because he keeps snarling in Hindi, circling to get an angle of attack. Now Foxworthy enters the fight, shooting Chabout in the leg again, the large caliber bullet tearing out a large chunk of flesh, sending the shipper down on one knee. As the PCs close in, a loud shot is heard. Blackwater topples over, unconscious, his chest turned into a bloody mess by a swarm of hail. Foxworthy swerves towards the door, where Miss Ginee stands with a shotgun aimed directly at him. The secretary smiles as she prepares to fire, but her smile is obliterated with the rest of her head as Slim Shady opens fire with both his pistols from the corridor behind her. The young woman falls to the floor, partly blocking the doorway.

Turning his attention to Chabout, Foxworthy sees the man reach for something in his jacket and fires a bullet into the man’s other leg.

“-No funny games or the next bullet hits your head!”

Chabout calms down, swearing and continuing to drag himself across the floor using his arms.

In the corridor, Shady can hear people moving downstairs and on the stairs. In the distance, the sound of police sirens can also be heard. The attorney runs into the office and sees the mayhem, telling Foxworthy what’s going on. While Foxworthy tries to staunch the blood flowing from Blackwater’s chest, Shady decides to neutralize Mr. Chabout once and for all. He drags the protesting shipper into the corridor and over to the stairs, where he tries to press the man’s head in between the metal grates of the stairs in order to keep him in one place. First, he tries to “slam” him through but misses and manages to smash the man’s face against the grates. Next, he carefully places the now unconscious Chabout in place before pushing the man’s head through with his boot, mangling Chabout’s ears in the process. Satisfied that the villain can’t escape, he returns to the office. Blackwater has come to but is badly wounded. The men return to the stairs, shouting down:

“-Don’t come up you bastards, or your boss takes a bullet to the head!”

Keeper’s Note: The metal grates “scene” had us laughing so hard we could hardly concentrate on the game. It was like something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie mixed with a few pinches of Monty Python – so bizarre that it became hilarious in all its horrific-ness.

Seeing Chabout’s lacerated head lodged firmly between the stair grates, even the big-game hunter, used to guns and violence, wonder what has happened with the correct and timid attorney…

Realising that their boss is taken hostage by the investigators, Chabout’s ruffians stay on the floor below. A Mexican standoff it seems… While Shady is guarding the stairs, Foxworthy searches Chabout’s office but doesn’t find anything suspicious. He takes the shipping ledger though.

Within ten minutes, the police arrive and arrest Chabout’s men as well as the investigators.

Jailbirds

Blackwater is taken to hospital due to his dire injuries, while Shady and Foxworthy are taken to a dingy jail cell. From the constables, the PCs soon find out that Chabout is dead, having suffocated by the pressure exerted on his neck by the grates. This news are met with astounding indifference by Shady:

“-I guess we won’t be interrogating him, then.”

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Investigators brought to justice

 

The most pressing issue, however, is that they now face charges of assault and possibly murder and that a legal process will take a very long time to conclude. And they have a ship to catch in Southampton in two days!

Inspector Barrington goes mental

At about 8 in the evening, Inspector Barrington arrives. He is absolutely furious at the investigators, keeping a monologue including topics like “What did I tell you”, “I cannot protect you any longer” and “You will rot in jail for this”.

 

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Inspector Barrington talks with a police colleague

 

The investigators tell him their version of the story – how they were duped by Chabout and how they went there to talk sense into the man, and that they were ambushed on the way out and had to defend themselves. The details of how Chabout ended up lodged to death in a stairwell is kept sketchy, with the PCs suggesting that Mr. Chabout had tried to escape and that he must have slipped and somehow got stuck in the stairway structure. Barrington is still furious but agrees to send a team of men to investigate the warehouse closer.

Calling in services

London, UK, Thursday, February 12th, 1925 | morning, about 6.30 am

After a miserable night in jail, Edward suddenly realizes that they have a favor to call in and asks the constable to borrow the telephone to make his call. Foxworthy then calls Sir Arthur Vane in Lesser-Edale to explain their predicament.

It seems that the old peer of the realm still has some important connections because, in the afternoon, they are brought to the chief of the police station where they are being held and declared free to go, as someone high up in the chain of command has declared them free of suspicion. The police chief also says that they have found lots of contraband goods at Chabout Shipping Ltd. Apparently, the warehouse was found to hold illegal weapons, illegal art, and other restricted goods, so it seems that the PCs story checked out after all. The police chief also advises the PCs to leave the country, as you never know how these things turn out and that a certain Inspector at Scotland Yard isn’t all that convinced of their innocence…

 

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It seems that Carl is well taken care of at the hospital…

 

Leaving jail, the investigators pop by the hospital to check out Blackwater and then go straight to their hotel to pack their gear to get out of London.

By noon, the old Adler is on the way to Southampton, jam-packed with stuff and people. William Fredricks and Butrus al-Qusi are to meet up at a certain hotel in Southhampton before the S.S Ophir leaves on Friday.

Arriving in Southampton, the PCs check into the quite decent Hotel Atlantic near the harbor and decide to sell their trusty car to Honest Harry’s car dealership to secure some funds for their travels. In the evening, their new friends al-Qusi and Fredricks arrive as well.

Leaving England

Southhampton, UK, Friday, February 13th, 1925 | morning, about 8.30 am

 

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Downtown Southampton

 

 

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Hotel Cliff (later renamed Atlantic)

 

 

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The quay in winter

 

 

The next morning, the investigators and their new colleagues embark on the S.S Ophir for the sea voyage to Cairo. Having paid for First Class passage, they enter the ship via their own deluxe gangway, complete with a red carpet, brass knobs and perfectly white new rope, and tended by ship’s staff in stiffly pressed uniforms. The queue here is much shorter than the common gangway for common people. However, it takes some time, where the investigators have nothing better to do than to study their fellow travelers and what is going on around them. The quay is full of people seeing off their loved ones, crewmen taking care of luggage for the ship’s holds, staff checking boarding passes and customs officers checking travel documents.

On the First Class gangway, a smartly dressed smiling young purser walks up and down, offering drinks and tobacco to make the wait a bit more pleasant. A bit ahead of the investigators, they notice a superbly-dressed gentleman, surrounded by a half dozen large brutish fellows, and with a beautiful young lady in equally superb garb on his arm. No one comes within arm’s length of the couple, who seem to radiate wealth, power and that self-assured posture of a life lived in extreme luxury. Behind them, they also notice a shabbily clad young man of the cloth. What religious order let their priests show such a level of shabbiness in public?

In the salon, after entering the ship, they learn that the fancy dilettante man is no other than Count Mikhail Andreevich Kurosov – a blood relative of the Romanov czars, and a man with a substantial claim on the now vacant Russian throne. And the lady on his arm is no other than Signorina Bianca Castafiore, the most shining opera diva in existence, and a woman surrounded with rumors of romances and indiscretions with the high and mighty of the world.

 

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Count Kurosov

 

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Signorina Bianca Castafiore, opera diva galore

 

 

It seems that they will travel not only in style but also together with some of the most famous people in the world!

At sea

The Atlantic, UK, Saturday to Monday, February 14th to 16th, 1925

The cruise in First Class is nothing more than an exercise in luxury. From their superbly fitted and roomy cabins to the scheduled lunches, dinners and drinks. The staff is extremely professional, discrete and attentive and the investigators are pampered beyond what they thought was possible. The first few days are spent studying in their cabins (or in the exquisite salons) over a coffee or a drink, or carousing with the other guests, with the occasional romantic tête-a-tête. A welcome time of R&R after all the horrors in New York and London.

Foxworthy’s strange visions have come every day since they started. Always around noon and always the same. Until today (14th), that is. The latest vision lasted longer (about 2 minutes) and while showing the same watery landscape, it now panned out beyond the water and the foliage, revealing barren desert in all directions. The PCs are now certain that Foxworthy has visions of Egypt…  

 

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Carousing in the salons

 

On the evening suppers, they see Count Kurosov and Signorina Castafiore with their entourage of bodyguards and servants, sitting in a roped-off area, being served by private staff. Someone says that the Count even has his own private chef who prepares the meals for the couple. However, they never mix with the rest of the A-deck passengers.

A history of violence

The Atlantic, UK, Tuesday, February 17th, 1925 | about mid-day

The third day at sea promises to be just the same as the previous ones, but as we shall see, things are about to change. After a late breakfast, the PCs and their friends find themselves in various places on the ship. Slim Shady has decided to polish up his shotgun skills and is attending some clay pigeon shooting up on the aft deck.

 

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Slim wishes he could have one of these…

 

Carl, still reeling from his wounds suffered at the raid on Chabout’s place, is resting and studying over a cuppa coffee in the A-deck salon with Edward. There’s a bit of a commotion going on on A-deck, since the Russian nobleman has decided to use the entire shuffleboard course for his personal use, and no one is allowed into the shuffleboard area, which is situated across the hallway from the A-deck salon.

 

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A shuffleboard game in progress

 

Apparently, this unorthodox decision has been approved by some smirking director at the Orient Steam Navigation Company to the dismay of the Captain. A group of wealthy A-deck spectators is watching the game, sipping on fancy drinks, tended by stewards. Edward spots the shabby looking priest among them.

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The Shabby Priest says hi

On aft deck, Slim observes that many passengers have flocked to the starboard side of the ship since rumor has it that a ship has been following the Ophir’s course since the night. The ship is a fast yacht, keeping a distance of about 2 nautical miles (12 000 feet / 3.6 km) at all times. The alien ship brandishes no flags or other markings.

The game begins at 11 a.m., with the Count’s food taster as the opponent. Miss Castafiore sits on a comfortable chair with a drink. The black-clad bodyguards loom nearby. Suddenly, Edwards spots two men coming out of a personnel door. The priest nods at them, making some discrete hand signals.

 

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The Bolshevik assassins

 

The men, clearly not A-deck passengers or staff by the look of their clothes, along with the priest move towards the entrance to the shuffleboard court, where a chief steward controls the door. The priest approaches the steward, saying something. Then, a shot is heard and the steward slumps to the deck, while the priest and one of the men run into the court, screaming something in Russian:

-“Die, you oppressor pig-dog of the ruling class!

The assailants shoot wildly at the Count while the bodyguards rally around their leader and return fire, hitting one of the attackers in the chest. Meanwhile, Edward is on his feet, gun in hand, running towards the court. The priest has produced an egg hand grenade, preparing to lob it towards the count when Edward comes up from behind and shoots him. As the priest falls, the grenade detonates, reducing the priest to atoms, while showering the shocked onlookers with gore…

Realising that attack has turned sour, the third attacker runs down the gangway, towards the aft deck, shooting blindly behind him to stall followers. However, on the ladder to the aft deck, he runs into Slim Shady who has heard the gunfire below and is coming to investigate. Seeing the fleeing man, gun in hand, Slim fires his shotgun from close range, sending the man to the base of the ladder in a bloody mess.

After searching the bodies and cabins of the attackers, it is evident that they were Bolsheviks on a mission to slay the Count. No proper papers of identification are found, but in the B-deck cabin, boxes of ammunition and 3 well-read copies of Bolshevikskiie Revolutsyonne Kampanie is found.

About at the same time as the assassination attempt, the alien yacht changes its course and leaves the Ophir to the solitude of the Atlantic.

The Count is impressed with the investigators and offers them his everlasting thanks and an invitation to sit at his table at supper this evening. An offer they can’t refuse…

After the fracas, Foxworthy returns to his cabin, awaiting the now increasingly familiar seizures and visions. As anticipated, it strikes just after noon. However, this time it has altered again. Starting with the river, foliage and desert, Edward finds himself travelling along the river bank when a city of mud comes into view. Some buildings are of large well-made bricks and painted white, with paintings of men and animals in rows and columns. Afterward, Edward realizes that the paintings resemble crude hieroglyphs. He also realizes that he has been out for a longer time, now about 4 minutes.

Dinner for schmucks

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Before supper photo

The supper is naturally excellent, cooked by the Count’s personal chef (and checked by the food taster) and accompanied by champagne and vodka. It turns out that the Count is on a sightseeing trip to the Orient with his lady friend. Afterward, the investigators have to use the bulkheads for support as they stumble back to their cabins. These Russians know how to par-tay…

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After the par-tay…

Terror strikes!

The Atlantic, UK, Wednesday, February 18th, 1925 |early evening

The next day is spent in the sign of hangover-ness and the investigators don’t come out of their day-after reeking cabins until afternoon. Maybe this is as good, as the weather has changed, with dark storm clouds covering the sky, rain, and high seas, making the ship roll a great deal.

The afternoon is spent in the aft salon, discussing recent events with al-Qusi and Fredericks. A pale Al-Qusi doesn’t tolerate the ship’s rolling well and after an hour or so, he excuses himself and goes out on deck to get some fresh air.

After a few minutes, a loud roar emerges from outside, followed by a high-pitched scream of terror! The PCs rush outside, where the black-clad priest stands screaming in front a huge winged beast!

 

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The Winged Thing

 

 

Frozen, the investigators can just observe as the thing lashes out, nearly biting the man into pieces. With a high-pitched scream, the obscenity takes off from the ship, with al-Qusi firmly lodged in its huge maw!

The investigators can only impotently observe as the thing climbs higher into the air, seemingly undisturbed by the strong winds, finally vanishing into the clouds…

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And there we had to break for the evening. Be sure to check back for more nail-biting Cthulhu goodness as we continue our Masks of Nyarlahotep game!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Session 17 | London | Legacy of the Egyptologist

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Doctor von Petersdorf at work

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Absent this session

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics Specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Link to background stories and portraits

Written under the influence of Backyard Babies/Hellacopters


London, UK, Tuesday, February 10th, 1925 | morning, about 9 am

Bright Lights, Big City

After the relative peace of Lesser-Edale,  being back in foggy and dirty London feels slightly oppressive, but Shady and Foxworthy both appreciate the companionship with their colleagues in the occult investigation business. Breakfast is spent in the hotel restaurant, updating each other on recent events. After recounting the Lesser-Edale story, Blackwater and Rennfarth tell about what has happened in London. Rennfarth especially mentions an upcoming auction of an exquisite collection of Egyptian antiques. A famous Egyptian scholar, Dr. Karl von Petersdorf, recently passed away, and now his collection of Egyptian artifacts and book are up for purchase by the rich and famous.

 

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Auction poster

As the owner of an antique shop in New York, Rennfarth is well familiar with the late scholar and his exploits. Apparently, the man was a legend among his peers, although his theories weren’t widely accepted by the research community as they were considered way too speculative and unfounded in research. Just before his tragic demise, Dr. von Petersdorf published his life research in a much controversial book, “The Antiquity of the Egyptian Religion”. To add to the tragedy, the publication of the book was also struck by disaster, when the publisher’s warehouse burned down before distribution had begun, destroying all copies of the book, except for a few review copies. (See Clue #DoT 3 in Dropbox).

The investigators decide to attend the auction later in the afternoon, but first, they decide to try to bring some light on the location of their “occult collection” that was meant to be shipped to New York, but which they suspect has been shipped elsewhere.

They also decide to book tickets to Cairo, to continue in the tracks of late Jackson Elias, as they feel that they have investigated all leads they had in London – not to mention all the wrong people they have managed to aggravate in the Jewel of the British Empire…

In short – it’s time to leave London!

High Passage

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P & O SS Ophir

The first stop is Pacific and Orient Line’s offices near the harbor, as they have a liner going to Port Said within the week. Our intrepid heroes purchase 1st Class tickets for S.S Ophir, at the exorbitant price of 38 £ apiece! As the ship departs Friday 13th, they still have some time to kill in London and also an opportunity to tie up a few loose ends.

Books

As they are now leaving for the unknown Orient, some of the investigators visit the London bookshops to buy English to Arabic language books as well as books on hieroglyphics, in hope to do some studying on the sea voyage, which will take about 12 days.

The Limehouse warehouse

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Chabout Shipping Co. Ltd. in Limehouse

They also want to ascertain where their occult wares are going, as they suspect that Chabout has shipped them to some other destination than New York.

The first stop is the Harbour Office and Harbour Master. After some rummaging through the files, the man can confirm that the “Ivory Wind” under command of a certain Captain Larsen, is indeed bound for Shanghai and that the vessel left on Sunday the 7th of February.

Furious, the investigators decide to pay that bastard, Mr. Chabout, a visit.

The Chabout Shipping Co. is situated along the Limehouse docks and is easy to find as the PCs have been there before. The operation consists of a large three-story warehouse near the quay. The structure is surrounded by a tall fence, topped with barbed wire, and the only entrance to the compound is guarded by two ruffians of probably Indian descent. Upon asking, the PCs are rudely informed that Mr. Chabout isn’t available for a meeting. When questioned about this, the Lascars become even more belligerent, telling the investigators to sod off, or else… One of them even reaches menacingly inside his jacket while spitting on the ground.

Foxworthy, who has some issues with anger management almost draws his gun to force his way in, but as a police patrol car passes the area just then, the PCs decide to swallow their pride and leave.

The Auction

After returning to their hotel to freshen up and dress for the occasion, the investigators go to the Old Auction Room, which turns out to be situated in a rather posh area of town. The gathered crowd is obviously some of the social elite of London, and it’s hard for the investigators not to feel a tad diminished in the company of all these rich people.

The only ones “sticking out” is a scholarly-looking man in his mid-30’s, with rumpled hair and dressed in a corduroy suit and a foreign man, all dressed in black, with a beard and a black tarboosh.

 

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The man in the tarboosh

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The scholar-looking man

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London snobs

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More snobs

Soon, everyone has gotten their registrations and papers in order and taken a seat and the auction begins after a short welcome by the Auction House owner, a Mr. R. Jeremy Esqire.

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Mr. Ronald Jeremy Esquire (left)

First, the object in question is displayed for the crowd, then the bidding is begun. Some of the bidders seem very interested in the Egyptian objects from the late doctor’s collection:

  • The scholarly-looking man – bids a lot on a jeweled scarab
  • The scholarly-looking man – bids a lot on annotated Egyptian Book of the Dead
  • Young pretty woman with a way too old spouse – bids on fine alabaster plate
  • Tarboosh man and pale thin man – Ibis-headed curved silver dagger
  • Pale thin man – Black stone statue of Egyptian Pharaoh

Keeper’s Note: We played out the auction for some desirable items, and the PCs bought some very, very expensive Egyptian antiques…

After the auction, it looked like this:

Item Buyer Price
Jeweled scarab Scholar man 1000 £
Egyptian grammar book Foxworthy 32 £
Alabaster plate Young woman 200 £
Ibis-headed dagger Foxworthy 7500 £
Pharaoh statue Shady 2300 £
Book of the Dead Blackwater 3100 £

Stop the thief!

As papers and payments are cleared in the main auction room, a shot is heard from the back of the building! After the initial chaos, it turns out that someone has shot and wounded two of the auction house personnel in the back room where the bought items were kept, and stolen the Ibis-headed dagger! After the deed, the man fled the premises using the back door of the warehouse area.

Shady and Foxworthy immediately take up the pursuit, tracking the man’s route into a nearby park, where the traces end. Other than a few young couples making out in the park, nothing else can be found. Upon returning to the auction house, the Metropolitan police have arrived, taking up statements and looking for clues.

Carl remembers having seen a slightly out-of-place man enter the auction after it began, but he didn’t think more of it at the time. As he describes the thief, one of the veteran police officers seem to have a suspicion of who it might be.

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The mysterious thief

New acquaintances

To further complicate things, as Foxworthy will not pay for the stolen dagger that he purchased earlier, he is also reported to the police for fraud. As the PCs are getting ready to leave, the scholarly-looking man comes up to Shady and introduces himself as William Fredricks, a scholar of all things antique. Fredricks asks if he can buy the Book of the Dead at a price of 3500 £, or if he might borrow the book to have a peek at the marginal hand-written notes, as he says that they are quite unique for this copy of the book.

At the same time, Foxworthy is approached by the man in the tarboosh, who introduces himself as Butrus al-Qusi, collector and buyer of Egyptian antiquities. Al-Qusi says that he currently works for a government project aimed at buying back antiquities that have been brought out of Egypt over the years, and he offers Foxworthy to buy the dagger at cost plus 20%. However, he must first obtain the bank funds via bank draft from Egypt, as he currently doesn’t have that much money.

The whole discussion ends with that the investigators are invited to have dinner with Fredricks and al-Qusi, to discuss these and other matters. The evening is spent at The Crown and Empire, a fine restaurant, courtesy to Mr. Al-Qusi. After dining and drinks, the PCs find themselves with two new useful allies in all matters Egyptian.

The dagger returned

Returning to their hotel for a final nightcap, the investigators and their newly made friends have hardly taken their first sip of beer, before the police come is, along with Mr. Jeremy (of the auction house), asking for Mr. Foxworthy. It turns out that they have recovered the dagger, and it is returned to Edward after he has cleared the financial side with Mr. Jeremy.

The policeman’s story

Apparently, Carl’s description was accurate enough to direct the police’s interest to a small-time hoodlum working for an Italian criminal gang – a certain George DiVita.

The squad car arriving at DiVita’s apartment immediately noticed a foul rotten-egg odor coming from the tenement, the inhabitants of the house gagging and throwing up on the street outside. Entering the premises with cloths over their faces to protect from the stink, the police officers found DiVita dead on his living room floor, along with a small cloth bag containing approximately 3000 £ in crisp new bank notes. Despite no evident signs of struggle or visible damage to the room, DiVitas front had been burned to a crisp, while his back (against the floor) was entirely intact. Identification was done by documents found on the corpse and the police have no idea what happened. Maybe another mobster decided to settle an old score with some pliers and a blowtorch…

Exiting the building, the officers noticed two foreign-looking chaps run into a car and take off, so the police pursued with blazing sirens. The car chase went down to the docks, where a policeman managed to shoot out a tire, making the fleeing car crash into a wall, with one man fleeing on foot.

In the car, the chap on the passenger seat was found dead, a long splinter of glass from the windshield protruding from his eye. The knife was found in the glove compartment, wrapped in a dirty cloth. Apparently, the dead chap had been jammed against the glove compartment, so that the fleeing chap hadn’t been able to grab the knife before fleeing from the cops.

Later, one of the officers that had pursued the man fleeing on foot was found dead in an alley, apparently from a heart attack or something, as there was no evident trauma to be found on his body. A bit strange though, as the officer was just 40 years old and had a very good physique…

The Dagger

 

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The Ibis-headed dagger

As Foxworthy unwraps the dagger on the bar table, among the glasses of fine English stout, Fredricks asks to see the inscriptions on the blade.

According to him, the inscription says: Ny – Har – Rut (or) Lut – Hotep

The translation of this could be several things, as the hieroglyphs often have several meanings:

Clue #DoT 2 Hieroglyphs on dagger

Fredricks transliteration and translation of the glyphs on the dagger

The plot thickens. It seems that wherever our heroes turn, traces of occult conspiracies seem to hide behind the façade of normality…

Wrapping it up

After their new friends have left and before retiring for the night, the investigators decide to call Mr. Emerson (of Emerson Imports in New York) to ask him to do some research on what has happened to their things in shipping. They also try to call Inspector Barrington on Scotland Yard to inform him of DiVita, but is met by the bored policewoman on night duty, telling them to get a life and call back in normal Christian hours…


And there we had to break for the session! Be sure to check in for more terrible adventures with the Swedish table RPG group With a fistful of d20’s

 

 

Session 16 | Derwent Valley | The Killing Moon

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The Killing Moon

 

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Absent this session

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics Specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Link to background stories and portraits

Written under the influence of Echo and the Bunnymen


Lesser-Edale, UK, Sunday, February 8th, 1925 | evening, about 7 pm

Don’t Fear the Reaper

The last session, we left the investigators in media res, deep in the bowels under Castle Plum, where they had just realized that young Eloise Vane had fled her containment cell and made her escape into the old lead mines that honeycomb the cliff that the castle sits upon. They also quickly realized that it would be too hazardous to pursue the she-wolf into the unknown tunnel system, leading to a heated debate on what to do next.

After some discussion, they decide to borrow the castle phone and call constable Tumwell and warn him of the monster on the loose and tell him to gather the villagers in the village church. They also ask him to round up a posse of experienced hunters to defend the church.

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Searching in the old archives

Next, the investigators ask if there are any old records stating the history of the castle and maybe old maps of the castle and the area around it. Lawrence Vane turns out to be quite helpful in showing and searching the castle archives. Sir Arthur, on the other hand, seems mostly interested in refilling his tumbler of fine brandy, sulking over his problematic life… Together, Lawrence, reverend Stratton, and the investigators manage to find some very old maps showing the tunnel systems and where the entrances are. They also find a hard to read document describing the story of how Lady Evangeline Vane had a young woman – Anne Stuart – burnt at the stake for witchery and how the woman’s mother had cursed the Vanes with the Mark of the Beast. The mother’s name and what becomes of her, or where the Stuarts lived cannot be found in the document.

 

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Old documents illustrating the witch trials of the 17th century

Armed with this new knowledge, it is decided that the good Reverend and Lawrence should continue searching the archives while the investigators go down to the village to meet up with the lawman at the church.

 

The Killing Moon

Arriving at the church with the old Adler, the investigators see a bustle of activity: villagers are ushered into the protection of the church, while others are working on placing a ring of lanterns around the building to create an illuminated circle, where any assailants will be more easily spotted. The PCs ask Tumwell to pick out the two best marksmen and place them in the church steeple. Thus, they will be able to get a good “killing ground” if the beast should target the church.

The investigators also ask three brave men to step forward and accompany them in an attempt to track down the beast. Shortly after, the Adler (carrying the investigators) and an old pick-up truck (carrying constable Tumwell and two villagers with extensive hunting experience – Pete Sanders and James Brown) leave the church with screeching wheels (well, more sloshing actually). They drive up the castle hill and to the left at the T-section, driving as far as they can go by car before continuing their trek towards The Peak on foot (about 1 km). The darkness is total and an ice cold rain falls upon the hunters. The only way to keep together is by keeping track of the other person’s flashlight, as the full moonlight is frequently blocked by dark grey storm clouds.

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1920s style hunters (in the Swedish mountains I believe)

As they arrive at The Peak, they notice that the tent is now in shreds, fabric flapping in the wind and camp gear spread out on the muddy ground. Upon closer inspection, they can easily determine that some large beast has indeed ripped open the tent with powerful claws… However, Pete says that there are no existing wild predators around here that could have made those rips…

Kneeling down with his gun resting on the ground, Foxworthy studies the muddy soil using his flashlight. Indeed, he manages to find large wolf-like tracks, leading away from the camp and towards a heavily wooded area, some 500 meters to the north-west. The old castle maps indicated a mine entrance somewhere in this area, so it makes sense.

The hunting party decides to follow the tracks into the forest. Walking is a line through the dense foliage, Pete says that there’s an old cave in there, where a young boy disappeared some 25 years ago. Apparently, the boy was never found but since then people stay away from that area of the woods as it is considered haunted by the ghost of the child.

 

Pathways into darkness

Some 7-800 meters into the woods, a depressed clearing opens up. It looks like a huge (approximately 75-meter diameter) circular hole in the ground. The bottom cannot be seen in the dark, but the hunters trudge on and make a sliding and dirty descent into the hole, which turns out to be some 3-5 meters deep. Despite the dense vegetation on the bottom, it is evident that this was someone’s workplace at one point. Under moss and ferns, the shapes of very old rusty mining equipment can be discerned.

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Abandoned mine in the forest

To the northeast, a murky wooden structure covers the wall of the hole. Looking closer, it turns out to be an opening into a cave-like structure. Someone has covered up the opening with much newer planks (which are still rotten to the core) and put up a sign:

“Entry prohibited. Trespassers will be persecuted to the full extent of the law.”

The sign is marked with the symbol of the City Council of Derby and Derwent Valley.

Shining their flashlights into the opening, the PCs notice that a seemly much older tunnel runs further into the ground, at a descending angle. A rusty iron grate lies fallen on the ground. The clues seem to indicate that someone sealed up the tunnel entrance not too long ago, but the structure they built is very rotten and the locked grate has collapsed. No problem to gain entry to the tunnels, it seems. Also, the tracks that they’ve followed go right into the tunnel…

With the help of the village hunters, Foxworthy constructs a trap worthy of John Rambo outside the opening. As it turns out, constable Tumwell has some problems with confined spaces and after some heated discussion, he and hunter Pete Sanders stay outside to secure the entrance, while the PCs and James Brown enter the tunnel with flashlights and weapons ready.

The tunnel slopes down in an almost straight line for some 50 meters where it abruptly stops. However, there’s an opening in the tunnel roof above. Shady climbs up, aided by the others, then he throws down a rope to the others. The upper tunnel has a more circular shape and seems older. It’s also narrower, forcing the men to walk in a hunched position. Foxworthy takes the point, shining his flashlight before him in the stale air. Some 30 meters into the tunnel, he spots something organic on the floor. Approaching cautiously, the investigators come upon a small, decomposed body, probably the child that disappeared all those years ago. As they study the tragic scene, suddenly gunshots and fearful shouts are heard from behind them, sending the men scrambling toward the tunnel entrance.

Outside, they find that the trap has been sprung. Tumwell is hanging upside down from a branch, all bloody, while Pete is on his back in a pool of blood, his face half ripped off and his guts exposed by a large wound in the abdomen. Somewhere in the forest, the howl of wolves can be heard…

 

Hunter and the hunted

The PCs quickly confirm that Pete is stone dead. Tumwell, however, moves slightly and moans. After lowering him to the ground, they see that he has been shot in the side and arm, by hail by the look of it. Tumwell comes to, whispering:

-“They were so fast, they were so fast…”

Apparently, something had attacked Pete, who then mistakenly shot Tumwell who then staggered into their own trap, ending up in the tree. Tumwell says that there were at least two beasts, maybe three…

After patching up Tumwell with what they have at hand, they stuff what’s left of Pete in a sleeping bag (to keep him, well, intact) and decide to retreat back to the cars.

With the support of Foxworthy, Tumwell can hobble along reasonably good, if slow. James Brown and Shady pick up Pete’s body in the sleeping bag and they start to walk back. The 800-meter trek is a terrifying experience, the investigators jumping at every sound of the forest. As if that’s not enough, a drizzle of rain soon has them soaked to the bone. As they make it back to The Peak and open terrain, they relax some. Beyond The Peak and the cars, there’s a new stretch of woods for about a kilometer, forcing them to re-live the terrifying experience once again. When nothing happens, they start to relax a bit. That’s when a loud roar is heard and a large creature emerges from the woods at incredible speed. The beast attacks Shady (who’s walking last in the line), raking him with razor-sharp claws. The attorney manages to dodge the full attack, and draws his trusty Mauser “Broomhandle” C96, putting two solid hits into the creature’s back as it disappears in the forest on the other side of the path. The attack has taken no more than a few seconds. Shady is now bleeding from the claw wounds at the side of his chest, but the PCs pick up the speed and move as quickly as they can while keeping a vigilant watch at the woods around them.

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The Beast attacks!

Finally, they emerge from the woods, the cars some 100 meters ahead of where the dirt track ends.

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Mauser C96 “Broomhandle”

 

Ambush!

After placing poor Tumwell on the loading platform of the truck, Foxworthy suggests that they should try to lure out the beast on the open ground, where they might kill it more easily. Poor Pete, still in the sleeping bag, is placed at the edge of the woods, near the path. The PCs hide some 50 meters away, weapons ready, aiming at the area.

They wait. In the cold rain.

Boring.

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The wait…

After a while, Foxworthy sees something move near the “bait”. In the darkness, he can only see a shadow darker than the surroundings, but it definitely approaches poor Pete and starts digging into the bundle on the ground. Foxworthy gives the signal and the air is filled with silver projectiles, as the men fire away at the creature. A loud shriek is heard, followed by silence.

The cheers and back-slapping end abruptly, however, when it’s discovered that the “beast” is only a wild boar. Pete’s corpse has also taken a solid hit from Shady’s silver coin shots, shredding the sleeping bag and creating a new hole in his side…

 

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What they thought they killed

 

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What they actually killed

 

 

The hunters decided to try again, now using two baits instead, but to no avail. Almost as a mockery, howls can be heard from a distance.

Swearing and cursing, the men collect what’s left of Pete and the boar and load up the cars. As they drive back to Lesser-Edale, first daylight is breaking. Shady’s wound has stopped aching and is now itching violently.

 

Girl in a coma

Lesser-Edale, UK, Monday, February 9th, 1925 | morning, about 6.30 am

While the pick-up truck drives down to the village with the wounded policeman and the dead hunter, the PCs decide to go to Castle Plum.

Upon arrival, they learn that Eloise was found on the castle grounds – nude, dirty and bleeding just after daybreak. She is now sleeping in her chambers and hasn’t regained consciousness since.

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Eloise resting in her chambers

Lawrence takes the PCs to see the poor girl, who has been washed up, dressed and put her bed. On her back, they find what looks like two healed gunshot wounds…

 

A most cunning plan

Together with the vicar and Lawrence, the investigators sit down in the parlor and plan what to do. After some argumentation (especially from Sir Arthur, who pops in from time to time to refill his glass of brandy), in brief, they settle on:

  • Arrange for a good cage for Eloise. Next full moon is in a month so it will be plenty of time to prepare one of the other dungeon rooms. A special cage that can be placed in the center of the room will be commissioned as well.
  • The vicar has found that the executed witch, as well as her mother (who purportedly cursed the Vanes), was incarcerated in the dungeons below for a time. The PCs decide to search the cells thoroughly to see if they might have overlooked something.

While searching the cells, the investigators find an inscription on a loose stone in the wall of a cell:

E Stuart, 1549

Behind the loose stone is a small compartment, containing a bundle of hair and a small carved wooden figurine depicting what appears to be a wolf. Closer examination of the bundle reveals that it is a mix of blond human hair and more coarse grey-white animal fur. Maybe from the witch and a wolf? And maybe there’s another way to stop the curse? Foxworthy recalls that in Africa, he once heard from a village medicine man that a curse can only be dispelled by a blood relative to the individual who made the original curse.

The vicar is quite knowledgeable in the history of the area and mentions that there is still a family by the name of Stuart in the area. Most people see as odd and they generally keep to themselves, living in a remote farm some 4 km away from Lesser-Edale. He has on several occasions tried to convince them to attend church services, but to no avail. The woman, Edith Stuart, also has a reputation for being something of a wise-woman, who can help out in matters of the heart, reading palms, and such. She is also the one young women seek out in cases of unwanted pregnancies.

The PCs decide to go back to their lodgings at the inn to get some hours of well-deserved sleep. Meanwhile, the vicar is tasked with checking the church records to see if the present Stuarts might be related to the witches of old.

 

Not fish. Snake-scales.

After some 4-5 hours of dreamless sleep, the investigators meet up in the pub for a serious breakfast. Foxworthy notices that Shady is unusually pale, quiet and distraught. Upon asking, he gets no answers, so he assumes that the attorney hasn’t slept all that well after the shocking events that took place during the night.

Keeper note: Having his morning wash-off, Shady had found that not only was his claw-wound in the side almost fully healed, but the wound area was also covered in green metallic shining scales, which had a significant impact on his mental status… Yes, you guessed right – SAN check! 

 

The Farm

After the silent breakfast, the PCs pick up the vicar, who knows the way to the Stuart farm, to the northwest of Lesser-Edale. The 4 kilometers on the map turns out to be almost double that due to the increasingly worsening roads, leading further and further away from civilization. During the road trip, vicar Stratton tells the investigators that the present Stuarts (or rather the Stuart woman) indeed seem to be descendants of the Stuarts of old. He has also found an old map, documenting the burial site of those days. The old cemetery hasn’t been in use for hundreds of years and Stratton says that most present people don’t even know its location anymore, not even he.

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The Stuart farm

In the middle of nowhere, they find the farm. Out here, the road is just a dirt track better suited for a tractor or animals.

The place screeches of neglect with boarded-over broken windows, old discarded farm tools scattered over the yard, and strange wind chimes hanging from dry trees and from the house. At first glance, the place looks deserted, but then they see a thin veil of smoke emerging from the chimney.

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Creepy wind chimes

The door is answered by a slob of a man that looks to be in his fifties.

“-Go away. We dunnit wanna buy anytinn!”

The man proceeds by shutting the door, but Foxworthy puts his boot in the door and explains why they’ve come. From inside, a coarse female voice tells the man to let the strangers in.

“-Yu have tu excuse, Osgood, here, he’s a bit sespiscious uf strangers and men uf the cloth.”

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Osgood and Edith Stuart, model citizens

The investigators are invited to sit down on dirty chairs at a dirty table and are served disgusting tea in… yes, dirty tin cups.

Shady looks around the room and notices a large bookcase filled with what appears to be old books on occult subjects.

Edith is clearly the one in command here, and while she and the investigators are talking, her husband Osgood takes care of the dishes, or whatever he’s up to since the heap of unwashed dishes doesn’t seem to diminish in any notable manner.

Edith demands to know their errand and after explaining, she can corroborate that she is indeed a blood relative of the famous Witch of Edale, Edith Stuart. In the same breath, she also dismisses those rumors as nothing more than superstitious talk.

When confronted with the occult books and her work as a wise woman, she admits that she sometimes dabbles in such things but also says that she has no real powers and that she considers such things are pure nonsense. The books are family heirlooms that have been handed down the generations. After being offered a vast sum of money of their own choosing (50 £ sterling), Edith finally agrees to help the poor girl. She says that she has a book where such rituals are described. After some humming, she returns to the table with a quarto tome clad in black leather – The Book of Shadows, where she finds a ritual for breaking curses:

  • First, they must find and open the grave of the one who laid the curse.
  • The remains must then be strewn with salt and burned, along with the focus objects of the curse (which they deduce must be the tuft of mixed hair and the wooden wolf figurine), while a short incantation is made by a blood relative of the curse-layer.

And that’s it. After that, the curse should be lifted. Since vicar Stratton has identified the old burial ground already, the PCs, Stratton and Edith Stuart are soon on their way back to Lesser-Edale.

 

The English Field

After picking up a sack of road salt and some digging implements in the village, they proceed south. The old burial ground is situated on what is now a field next to a densely wooded area some 3 km southeast of the village. After some stumbling around in the fields, they find some simple, overgrown old grave markers. It takes some time to find the correct marker, but they finally manage to find the grave of an “E Stuart a.d 1569”.

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The abandoned burial site

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Digging up graves is hard work

After revealing the bones in the grave, they toss down the fetishes and strew salt over the remains. Shady pours some kerosene into the grave as well. As Edith recites the Latin words from her book, Shady sets the ensemble on fire with a tossed match. There is a short fire, with peculiar green-blue flames, but nothing out of the ordinary occurs. Seems a little anti-climatic after all the fuss, but then, this is England, right?

 

Taking leave

After restoring the grave, the PCs drop off the vicar and then they drive Edith back to the farm and pay her the agreed 50 £, after which they go to Castle Plum to inform Sir Arthur and Lawrence about current events. After realizing that the nightmare is finally over, Sir Arthur loses control of his usually very correct demeanor and solemnly proclaim the PCs to be heroes of the Crown and that they can count on the support of the Vanes in all matters. Coming from an old officer and a peer of the Realm, such assertions might come in very handy in the future indeed.

After taking leave of the Vanes, Foxworthy and Shady go back to the Inn and pack their things, before leaving for London again. They’re fairly sure that they have solved the case with the Beast of Lesser-Edale.

Fairly. Guess no one will know until after four weeks…

In the car, they decide that their work in England is finished and that the next logical step is to go to Egypt to follow up on their leads there.

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Foxworthy and Shady, outside Castle Plum


And there we had to stop for the session. Next up is probably Egypt and Cairo! Be sure to follow our continued adventures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Session 15 | Derwent Valley | Canis Lupus Malum

 

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The usual suspect…

 

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Absent this session

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics Specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Link to background stories and portraits

Written under the influence of Brant Bjork and the Bros


London, UK, Friday, February 6th, 1925 | about 2 pm

Armis argentum

Upon leaving British Museum, the investigators plan to leave the London area (that is getting a bit too hot at present) and leave for the English countryside to follow up on the last of Elias’s leads left at The Scoop – the gruesome murders in Lesser-Edale, which are suspected (by some) to have been committed by some supernatural creature. After reading the article (article keywords according to the PCs: bestial, walking like a man, full moon) the PCs conclude that it must be a werewolf (if it indeed is something supernatural involved in this) and decide to get some silver weapons. After all, it’s common knowledge that werewolves are vulnerable to silver, right?

Right?

Edward Foxworthy pulls all his pro-hunter strings and manages to get a weaponsmith to manufacture silver bullets – 1 magazine (5 shots) for his Mauser and 1 magazine (2 shots) for his elephant gun – at an exorbitant price. Slim Shady goes to a shop specializing in old coins to get old silver pennies, which he then loads up in some shotgun shells (10 shells for his 12-gauge side-by-side).

After picking up their gear at the hotel, the duo leaves for Derby and Lesser-Edale in their adopted Adler.

Derwent Valley Blues

 

Lush rolling green English countryside

A green and pleasant land…

 

As they get further away from London, the rustic scenery helps to bring back that feeling of “normal” and “safe” again, and soon life begins to feel better. There’s a steady drizzle against the windshield, but nothing too serious.

 

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Derwent Valley and the Derwent River

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Our intrepid investigators caught on a photograph!

 

The drive to Derby takes some 4 hours and from there winding country roads lead further into the Derwent Valley and to their destination – the little village of Lesser-Edale, where they arrive at about 10 in the evening after some detours on the muddy roads.

 

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Lesser-Edale scenery

 

The obvious stop is naturally the village pub – The Laughing Horse Pub – where refreshments (and hopefully) lodgings can be procured. The drizzle has increased to a proper downpour as they park the car in front of the pub. Running the few steps to the entrance result in wet clothes and muddy shoes, but the welcoming and warm atmosphere inside is rewarding enough.

 

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The Laughing Horse Pub

 

The pub owner, a Mr. Clarence Campbell tends the bar while Mrs. Campbell is tending the tables. The two wet strangers are immediately ushered in and offered a nice table by the fire by Mrs. Campbell. No more than a moment has passed before two steady pints of stout is in front of them on the table and food is on its way. And yes, rooms are available at reasonable rates.

 

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Constable Tumwell, posing for the newspapers

The locals are friendly and curious and when they hear that the strangers are here to investigate the three “monster-killings”, they are more than happy to share their opinions with the investigators. Soon, their table is full of locals, none of which were really invited to sit down. In summary, most of the villagers are afraid of the return of the monster and some swear that they have heard it howl in the night. One old farmer, Mr. Ames even claims to have caught a glimpse of it in the outskirts of the village:

“-It was walking on tu legs, I tell ya. No dog be a-walking like that!”

And everyone reminds the investigators that the next full moon is in two days…

As the discussion gets more intense, the village constable comes in from the rain. He is immediately called over to share his story with the investigators. It turns out that Constable Tumwell thinks that the murders were done by a wild dog, which he eventually shot with his shotgun, and that that was the end of the problem. However, the dog managed to run off into the woods after the shot and the cadaver haven’t been found yet, but he’s sure that the animal ran off into the woods to die. His friends tease him that he wasn’t nearly as sure or cocky when the big-city detectives were here a while back. When asked where he shot this alleged dog, Tumwell says “up by the old Roman ruins, near the West Woods”. It turns out that there’s a castle overlooking the village from a cliff above the village and that the ruins of an old Roman castellum are situated to the west of the castle grounds and that all the land up there are the property of the castle owner – Sir Arthur Vane. Also, the elevation where the Roman ruin sits is known as “The Peak” among the locals. Sir Vane lives up there along with his 20-something son Lawrence and a handful of loyal servants. The posh people of the castle never visit or interact with the villagers, except for Lawrence, who sometimes comes down to the pub for a pint, which he usually enjoys by himself. And come to talk about Lawrence, the boy has been to Oxford to get some fancy education and as soon as he returned to Lesser-Edale, the murders began. Some say that Lawrence is the one behind the killings, but that he is protected by his family’s good name and obvious wealth. Rich bastards…

There are also rumors that young Vane had a secret love affair with Miss Lydia Perkins, the first victim of the monster killer. The villagers recommend the investigators to go and see Lydia’s father, John Parkins, to hear what he has to say about Lawrence Vane.

In summary, the PCs can piece together the following:

First victim – Farmer George Osgood. Wife says he heard noises from the barn and went out to check, armed with his old shotgun. A scream and a shot were heard from the barn and then she saw a man-sized, hairy, and hunched-over figure run away into the woods. Osgood was later found mutilated and dead in the barn, with one barrel fired. Witness: Edith Osgood (wife).

The second victim – Miss Lydia Parkins. Found dead in her home. Torn to shreds, as if by a wild animal. Witnesses claim to have seen Lawrence Vane skulking in the area near at the time of the murder. Witness: Neighbor Tom Corty claims to have seen a distraught Lawrence Vane hurry away from the direction of the Parkins residence.

The third victim – Wheelwright Harold Short was attacked as well, but managed to drive off a terrible creature that he claimed was “man-like but not human”. Mr. Short is now recovering in his brother’s home in Norfolk. Witness: None

The investigators are a bit wiser and a whole lot less sober when they finally make it to their creaky beds in the rustic and low-ceilinged lodgings above the pub.

 

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Room at the inn

 

Day One – T minus 1 day to full moon

Lesser-Edale, UK, Saturday, February 7th, 1925 | about 9 am

The next day, breakfast is spent eating ham and eggs, washed down with copious amounts of tea. (Wonder why I’m so thirsty today when I drank so much yesterday…)

Next, the battle plans are drawn up. As The Peak seems to be some kind of epicenter of all this, Slim and Edward decide to spend the night there under the pretense that they are campers. They will also pay Sir Vane a visit to ask permission for this (and also to get an opportunity to interview the man). Hopefully, they will get a glimpse of the creature or even better kill it!

The first stop is The Pitchlock Mercantile Store, to pick up some high technology camping gear. After gearing up with top-notch modernities like sleeping sacks, a portable camping stove, water-proof tent and overcoats, big flashlights, binoculars, and a long spool of tripwire, the stalwart investigators are finally ready to take on the Derwent Valley wilderness!

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Outdoor gear for the modern gentleman

Following the main village road northwest, they soon spot a smaller dirt road running up the cliffs and into the forest. The inclination is quite steep, making the men sweat despite the cold and damp weather. On the summit, a plateau opens up and the road makes a T-fork to the left and right. They take the right road, climbing even higher before seeing a dark stone castle before them – Castle Plum. Home of the Vane family since generations.

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Castle Plum in all its glory

Upon approach, the castle looks well tended, despite its apparent age. Looking closer, it’s evident that the castle has seen better days and that the current lord is struggling to keep it running. The PCs walk straight up to the large double door and announce themselves by using the huge brass lion knocker on the door.

Nothing happens.

After more knocking and waiting, another side door is opened by a stiff-upper-lipped manservant in his sixties. The servant demands to know their names and business. After explaining that they are duck hunters, looking to procure a license to hunt on the castle grounds and that they would like to camp up by The Peak, he lets the investigators into the splendid main hall and into a parlor, where they are offered tea and, yes, biscuits…

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Smithers

While serving the tea, Smithers explains that the main doors haven’t been used since Charles I was hung as they got stuck that very same day, which was held to be a portent from God Almighty.

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Charles I hung 1649

After a reasonably long wait considering their lowly station, Sir Arthur Vane enters the parlor. Being a hunter himself, he’s a bit suspicious about hunting ducks in this particular part of the world, but he soon succumbs to Foxworthy’s hunting technobabble, agreeing to let the city gentleman and that colonial chap hunt on his grounds.

 

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Sir Arthur Vane

 

After concluding their agreement, Shady and Foxworthy proceeds to the T-intersection and takes the left road instead. It leads further into the valley and into a forest. After about two kilometers, they reach The Peak – a rounded hill some 50 meters high. After climbing the hill, they spot the remains of a Roman Castellum (small fort or tower). It’s mostly rubble now, no walls higher than maybe 1-2 feet. A few trees grow on the hill as well.

The investigators set up their camp in the center of the area, very visible, and proceed by placing tripwires all over the place. They then search the ruins for possible entrances to caves or such but find nothing of the kind.

Corfe Castle ruins on top of a hill shrouded in orange light.

The Peak (the ruins are much lower though)

As darkness is approaching, they make a fire and then withdraw to observe the camp from a distance. The first half of the night passes without any more incidents than the fact that they freeze a lot. Shady is about to give up when faint sounds of movement are heard from the direction of the path approaching The Peak. The attorney signals to the hunter to stay alert and frosty. They both fervently scan the camp with their binoculars and telescopic sight respectively but sees nothing in the dark. Suddenly, the silence is broken by a crash and loud swearing.

“-Bloody hell, what’s this shite?!”

It turns out that Constable Tumwell has taken it upon him to ensure that the big city foreign investigators are ok up here on The Peak. Upon questioning, he says that he heard that a thunderstorm might be coming this way and that he wanted to warn the investigators. Brushing off clay and old leaves he then concludes that they seem to be doing fine and that he really should return home to his comfy bed.

Foxworthy and Shady exchange a suspicious look as the somewhat corpulent police officer clumsily navigate the path back towards the village.

Other than the encounter with Tumwell, nothing else worthy of note happens, and when day breaks our heroes break camp and return to the inn to get a few hours of warmth and sleep.

 

Day Two – T-hour – full moon fever

Lesser-Edale, UK, Sunday, February 8th, 1925 | about 10.00 am

Tired and still chilled to their bones (no, English houses aren’t especially warm), the investigators ingest a steady breakfast: ham and eggs, baked beans, toast, and bucketloads of Earl Grey tea. The plan is to have a word with the witnesses, to see if they have missed something of value. When discussing with the landlord, Mr. Campbell, he mentions that the village vicar, Reverend Stratton, might know something as he has contact with most of the villagers and word is that he also caught a glimpse of the wolf-thing.

The farmer’s widow

It’s a grey and overcast day when the investigators leave the inn to first interview Mrs. Osgood, widow of the farmer George Osgood. The farm lies along the main road, a little distance from the main village proper. Upon stating their errand, Mrs. Osgood invites the smart gentlemen for tea and biscuits. Her story checks out. Her husband heard sounds coming from the barn and took his shotgun and went out to investigate, fearing a fox hunting their poultry. After entering the barn she heard him fire and then a scream. Looking out she saw what she describes as a “hairy, hunched-over form” race away into the nearby woods. Her three now fatherless cling to her skirts and teary-eyed repeat the same thing.

The angry horse-dealer

After the widow, the PCs walk to the other side of the village to see the father of Miss Lydia Parkins. Mr. Parkins does not invite them for tea. Instead, the investigators conduct the interview on the porch. The man reeks of old booze and looks as if he hasn’t slept for many days. Parkins did not witness the attack on his daughter but found her broken body upon returning home from the pub. The man is convinced that Lawrence Vane, the son of Sir Vane, has something to do with it since he’s sure that the young man wanted to get into the knickers of his pretty daughter. When she wouldn’t play along, he must have gotten angry and murdered her. And his neighbor, Tom Corty, said that he had seen Vane in the area at about the time of the murder, looking upset. Parking continues that he informed the police of this and that Tumwell and the big city detectives questioned Vane, but declared him innocent. However, Parkins feels that the authorities protect the rich family from scandal, and concludes that the Labour Party must correct such class injustice. He then continues lecturing the investigators about political power and the oppressive ruling class.

Vicar in a tutu

After leaving the bereaved Mr. Parkins to his grief and liquor, the PCs seek out the little village church and the vicar’s home, a small cottage just next door.

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Mrs. Sarah Bright, the housekeeper

Upon knocking, an elderly lady opens the door. It’s Sarah Bright, the vicar’s housekeeper. Mrs. Bright says that the vicar, unfortunately, is out doing the Lord’s good work, but that they might come in and wait if they want. And won’t they sit down and have some lunch?

Mrs. Bright joins them at the table. She thinks that what has transpired is terrible and what is the world coming to? She also says that the good reverend has been quite taken by it all and that he has been spending a lot of time, even in the late night, pouring over those old books and that old diary in his study. And he also prays more frequently than before.

Shady immediately excuses himself and asks for the men’s room. Pointing down a short hallway, Mrs. Bright says it’s the door on the right. Shady leaves the table and goes to the other door in the hallway. It is locked, but after a few tries, he manages to pick the lock, thereby destroying the lock (Keeper note: A clear fail forward move). Sneaking in, closing the door behind him, Shady finds himself in the vicar’s study! The study is very neat and clean. Just an antique desk with an equally antique chair and some shelves with old religious books and other old church documents. A quick scan of the shelves does not reveal anything that would pertain to the case at hand. The desk also has a locked drawer, that Shady negotiates with his trusty switchblade. Inside, he finds an old notebook bound in leather. The notebook is written in Classical Greek. Next, to it, there’s a more modern notebook with what appears to be a half-finished translation into English, which must be the work that Mrs. Bright mentioned. A quick look reveals something about the Vane family women and a several-hundred-year-old curse. That’s when the outer door opens and the good reverend comes home!

Foxworthy almost chokes on his tea and greets the Vicar in an unnecessarily loud voice. Luckily, Shady hears what’s happening and sneaks out of the room and into the toilet, which he flushes and then he washes his hands before walking into the dining room to greet the Vicar:

“-Aah, now I’m flying again. Don’t use the toilet for a while. It’s like the Jerrys dropped mustard gas in there!”

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Right Reverend Jeremy Stratton

After some pleasantries, the PCs start to press the Vicar, who breaks and tell them of his suspicions (Keeper note: Some VERY good Persuade and Psychology rolls there).

In short, the story goes that many years ago, Lady Evangeline Vane had a young witch burnt at the stake. For the death of her daughter, the mother put The Mark of the Beast on all the daughters of the Vanes. After turning 21, the curse takes hold.

After the two first murders, the Vicar remembered the old notebook, written by a previous vicar long ago. Stratton’s not that proficient in Classical Greek but has been putting things together piece by piece, hoping to find a cure for young Eloise. Upon seeing the PCs jaws drop, the vicar confirms that Sir Vane has a daughter as well. A demure young lady named Eloise Vane. More importantly, she recently turned 21 years old!

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Miss Eloise Vane

As an old friend and acquaintance of Lord Vane, Stratton has been to the Castle many times and he has also met Eloise frequently over the years and he has seen her become increasingly reclusive over the last years.

Upon learning this, and taking today’s full moon into consideration, the PCs decide to pay the Vanes a new visit. The vicar will accompany them to try to persuade Sir Vane to talk to them.

Looking out, they realize that sunset is coming very soon…

 

The Killing Moon

After a short stop at the inn, to pick up their arms and silver ammunition, the sun is setting as the investigators approach Castle Plum. This time they use the side entrance directly. Smithers answers the door with his usual stiff upper lip, but after hearing what the good vicar and the PCs have to say, they are let into the parlor, where Sir Arthur and Lawrence are already sitting, sipping on exquisite brandy. No other servants are seen in the house.

Confronted with the newfound knowledge, Lawrence Vane finally decides to drop the facade and they tell their story.

The Vanes haven’t had a daughter for many generations, but have obliquely known of the family curse, dismissing it as an old family legend. However, after Eloise turned 21 strange events started to take place. She was found missing at the first full moon thereafter and then they discovered her back in her room, naked, torn and bloody. At that time she must have killed an animal or something because nothing was heard of any murders. After that event, Lawrence started to look into old family records and found out more about the curse. Apparently, their forebears had simply locked up the women during the full moon or in some cases, they had slain any female babies outright to avoid the curse.

Since that first event, Lawrence and Sir Arthur would sedate Eloise and after she has fallen asleep, they carry her down to the castle dungeons and lock her up during the full moon. The poor young woman has no idea of what she has become. Only Sir Arthur, Lawrence, and Smithers know about this, although they suspected that Reverend Stratton might also have his suspicions. During this whole story, Sir Arthur has sat silent, sipping on his second brandy with a determined look on his visage.

As Lawrence finishes his story, a loud howl is heard somewhere inside the house, followed by wild thrashing and loud thumps.

As the investigators stir and reach for their weapons, the Vanes say that it… she is perfectly safe in the old dungeons. At this point, the loud sounds have abated.

As Lawrence is reaching to offer the PCs some more brandy, a much louder howl is heard from what appears to be outside the castle.

Despite assurances, the investigators demand to see the creature, just to be sure. After some hesitation, they all go down to the dungeons. From the kitchen, they enter the big basement, go through a wine cellar with many excellent and rare vintages and enter a storage where there’s a second stair down behind a stout and locked old oaken door.

At the base of those stairs, there’s a second stout and locked door, leading to what appears to be an old torture room. From there, a third locked door takes them into a corridor with eight cells. The dungeon rooms are lit by oil lamps, spreading a yellowish flickering light on the old stone walls.

Eloise is in the last cell on the left. The PCs are on high alert despite the assurances of the Vanes. Peaking in through the small barred “window” in the door, all seems calm. Lawrence says the girl often falls asleep after a while when the sleeping drug kicks in again.

Shady notices a draught in the stale dungeon air, seemingly emanating from Eloise’s cell. Peeking into the door window, only parts of the cell can be seen as it’s rectangular. In the light from a kerosene lamp in the cell, the foot end of a bed can be discerned as well as straw on the floor, like in an animal pen. A strong scent of wild animal dominates the room. However, Eloise can’t be seen.

The investigators demand that Sir Arthur opens the cell, which he grudgingly agrees to, mostly to get the annoying PCs off his back and let him get back to his brandy. The lord opens the door, gesturing for the PCs to have a look.

“-She’s chained to the wall, so she can’t reach the door,” he says with a semi-drunken sneer.

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The dungeon cell

Entering cautiously, the first thing that they see is the large hole in the back (east) wall of the cell, letting draughts of chilling air into the cell…

“-Bollocks!”

The investigators run over to the hole, Foxworthy sticking out his head and flashlight. The breach in the dungeon wall has revealed a rough circular corridor running perpendicular to the cell.

Lawrence has also entered the cell, looking terrified.

He explains that this must be an old mine shaft and that castle Plum is built on an ancient Roman lead mine that honeycombs the cliffs beneath the castle. That’s what gave the castle its name – plumbum is lead in Roman…

The investigators enter the old mine but after a short foray to the right, they realize that this is a huge mine complex.

Somewhere, a loud howl can be heard echoing through the tunnels…


And here we had to stop for the session – cliffhanger style! Be sure to come back and read our further adventures in Masks of Nyarlahotep for Call of Cthulhu 6th edition!