Session 9 | Arkham | Librorum malum

 

 

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Arkham postcard circa 1923. Private collection.

 

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Absent this session

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

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


New Character

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt


 

Bengtsson

 

Kent Bengtsson is the kid brother of recently deceased investigator Ulla Bengtsson. And just like her, he has got a troubled relation with their father, the industrial magnate in chemicals. Contrary to her, he stayed away from working in the family business and enlisted as a pilot during the war. His experiences in war-torn France left him a scarred man, both physically and emotionally. He was shot down burning and spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp.

He returned home after the war as a physically scarred, disillusioned and broken man, making a day-to-day meager living by taking odd jobs as a show pilot at M.P’s Flying Circus and the occasional air pest control run. However, jobs have been scarcer lately due to his excessive drinking and drug habits.

Currently, he has been living with his sister in New York (with her providing food and rent) subsisting on a moderate monthly allowance from their absent father (who they meet only on a few yearly family functions).

Ulla meant all to him – she was his only solid anchor in the sane world and news of her violent death grieves him greatly but has also lit a flame of vengeance in his mind. He has now hooked up with the investigators to avenge his beloved sister and put an end to the evil that these deranged people and their minions…

Link to background stories and portraits


Chattanooga Choo Choo

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Slow train to dawn

 

On a train in rural Massachusetts, Wednesday, January 21st, 1925 | about noon

Arkham

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Picturesque Arkham

 

The train ride from New York to Arkham had taken some 5 hours including the change in Boston. Exiting the train onto the small snowy platform, sore from the hard train benches, Carl, Slim and Kent decide to take the omnibus from the train station, taking them across the Miskatonic River to the Miskatonic University campus area. Professor Cowles ought to be in his office at the Department of Liberal arts.

Miskatonic University

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Miskatonic University. Ish.

 

Asking their way across the campus, everyone seems to know the professor and the male students looks especially happy when the Cowles name pops up.

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Professor Anthony Cowles

 

They find the professor in his office, buried amidst stacks of paper, thick books, and other academic paraphernalia, grading a paper while puffing on a pipe. The jovial scholar invites them to sit down, offering not-so-fresh coffee and cordially asks them how he can be of assistance.

Carl and Ulla interviewed him briefly after his lecture on the night of Elias’ death and he remembers Carl. After some discussion, it becomes clear that Cowles does not know more than what is summarized in handout #23. Basically, it comes down to:

  • A bat cult once existed among the Aboriginals in Australia, worshipping an entity known as The Father of Bats.
  • Somewhere in west Australia, there’s a place where once enormous beings gathered.
  • An Australian researcher, Arthur MacWhirr was attacked by Aboriginals while investigating some old stone monuments. Apparently, the attackers used the traditional weapons of the Bat Cult from long ago.

The PCs also disclose some of the mysterious events and observations they have done since Elias met his fate and it becomes clear that the professor acknowledges the possibility of magic and that science has not yet accounted for all things. He also says that he has read a dreadful book of sorcery, named “Ponape Scriptures” that was at the University of Sidney collections, but that it was lent to a man named John Scott of Boston, Massachusetts, and that it was never returned. Cowles is an expert on things Polynesian, Australian, and New Zealandic, but knows very little of the African leads that the investigators are now pursuing.

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Miss Ewa Seward Cowles

 

The meeting is ended rather abruptly when the professor’s daughter, Miss Ewa burst into the office, asking about that lunch they had planned.

Miskatonic Library

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One of the study halls of Miskatonic Library

 

The university library is situated just on the other the block from the Dept. of Liberal Arts, so the investigators decide to go there to see if they find something of value.

Carl asks the librarian at the front desk about the occult and Egyptian books and is directed to the east wing of the 3rd floor.

Meanwhile, Slim rummages through the inventory cards like a madman, discovering that the library indeed holds some very rare occult books. However, the librarian informs him that the books are part of the restricted collection and that they must talk to the head of the library, Dr. Armitage if they’re going to get access. The professor’s office is situated on the 3rd floor, but apparently, he’s not at his office today. Instead, Slim is directed to assistant director Llanfer, who is second in command.

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Assistant director Wilfred Llanfer.

Restless as always, Kent decides to check out the basement where old books, bound periodicals, and newspapers are located. There’s also a study area near the newspapers.  He also finds a locked door with a brass sign saying “Archive”. Being a man of action, Kent devises a fiendish plan to get access to the archive without being spotted.

First, he defecates on the floor in front of the door, hoping that this disgusting deed will keep nosy library attendees away. He then uses his small crowbar to break open the old lock on the door and enters the room. In the room, there are two plain desks with reading lamps and along the west wall, brown cardboard boxes are stacked to the roof on old shelves. Kent searches the room for hidden door and compartments but does not find anything out of the ordinary. He then scans the boxes and spots a box labeled “Restricted Access Collection”, which he searches through, finding lists of people who has been asking for or being permitted to study the restricted books. Kent folds the documents and puts them inside his aviator leather jacket and leaves the room, just missing the turd left outside the door. As he vanishes up the east stairway he hears someone shout in disgust over finding the excrements:

“Bloody hell that’s gross! Not again! Damned vagrants!

While Kent has been skulking around the basement, Carl has been studying the occult section as well as the sections on archaeology, anthropology, religion, and mythology, all situated on the 3rd floor. His cursory search spots many potential works of interest but nothing out of the ordinary.

However, in the Egyptology section, he finds an academic work by a Dr. Ali Kafour of the University of Cairo, describing some disturbing legends from the 3rd and 4th Dynasties in Egypt:

  • 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 Pharao 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.

At the same time, Slim gets to meet assistant director Llanfer who calmly informs him that the only person with access to the restricted collection is Dr. Armitage and that he will be back tomorrow morning.

In the light of this, the investigators decide to stay the night in Arkham and go back tomorrow. On the way to the campus, they saw a nearby hotel and head there through the increasing snowfall.

Hotel Miskatonic

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Hotel Miskatonic, Arkham

 

The five-story hotel on West College Street turns out to be very luxurious and expensive, but the investigators think that they are worth it and checks in nevertheless. After a nice meal and a Miska-Tonic in the bar, Carl and Slim withdraw to their rooms to study their new books while Kent stays in the bar having a few more drinks while studying and copying the documents he stole.

 

Arkham, Thursday, January 22nd, 1925 | hazy morning

The Restricted Collection

Next morning, which is sunny but cold they head back to the library and get an appointment with Dr. Armitage, who turns out to be a friendly man, albeit with a slightly troubled look in his eyes. They notice that the old scholars’ left arm seems to be trembling all the time as if having been through a scarring ordeal. Or it is just tics…

While Carl and Slim introduce themselves to Dr. Armitage, Kent returns to the scene of the crime and sneaks into the archive, returning the stolen (and now copied) documents. The door has not been mended so it’s an easy task. Sneaking back up, he’s pretty sure that no one has seen him come or go…

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Dr. Henry Armitage. Head of Miskatonic Library.

 

Dr. Armitage turns out to be a friendly fellow if a bit inquisitive about the reasons for their interest in the tomes of the restricted collection. It soon becomes evident that the good doctor has some hands-on experience with the unknown and things not of this earth. The investigators also share some of their experiences with Armitage, among them the reasons for their interest in these old books, which seems to put him more at ease. He confides that after his terrible experiences with a degenerate sorcerer, he decided that such books are to be kept away from mankind in order to prevent other evil men from meddling with the occult.

Finally, he leads them to a locked vault where the restricted books are kept. The room is windowless and surrounded by thick new-build concrete walls and the thick steel door is protected by several sturdy locks and a state of the art electronic burglar alarm.

Inside the room, the following books are spotted on the shelves:

  • Necronomicon, John Dee English translation
  • Necronomicon, Latin translation
  • Unausprechligen Kulten, German
  • Book of Eibon, English translation
  • Pnakotic Manuscripts, English translation
  • Liber Ivonis, Latin translation
  • Cultes des Goules, French translation
  • Cthulhu in the Necronomicon, English
  • An Investigation into the Myth-Patterns of Latter-Day Primitives with Especial Reference to the R’lyeh Text, English
  • Eltdown Shards, English

Also in the room are two fine oak desks with good reading lamps and a box with white cotton gloves to be worn when handling the books.

The investigators decide that Dr. Armitage is one of the good guys and confides further in him, even showing him photographs of the purportedly magic items that they found in the cult basement under Ju-Ju House (mask, headband, metal bowl, scepter). Using the Mythos books as reference works, they spend many hours in the vault, trying to shed light on the artifacts, but sadly very little information is found.

  • The only real lead is a text passage in the Necronomicon that discusses an entity called “Nodens”, usually taking the form of a bearded human male, often riding a chariot in the shape of a huge seashell, drawn by beasts from legend and served by winged creatures. The reference mentions a headband that can be used to protect the wearer from the entity’s entourage of creatures.
  • Another lead is a reference to a highly magic item called “Ye Maske of Ha-Jama” that allows the wearer to “communicate with the gods”. However, it is very unclear if the mask in their possession is the same as the one mentioned in the book.

Upon leaving, the investigators even discuss leaving their own Mythos books in the vault as they deem it the safest place, but then decides to take them with them to study them further. After all, knowledge might be the key to success now. Or survival.

Should we stay or should we go?

We leave our intrepid book-wormish investigators trekking back through the snowy streets of Arkham, towards the train station, discussing what to do next – go to merry old England or go to Boston to pay a certain Mr. John Scott a visit…

Decisions, decisions, decisions…


Stay tuned for our next session – it will be, err… interesting, no doubt…

 

 

Session 8 | New York | Funeral

8457

Party like it’s 1925!

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

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

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Link to background stories and portraits


Par-tay!

New York, Monday January 19th, 1925 | about 6.30 p.m

A ride, good idea!

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Fancy car for fancy people

At 6.30 pm, the fancy car from Carlyle’s arrives to pick up the PCs. Carl, Edward and Slim steps into the jet black speed-monster as the uniformed driver holds the door for them, barely containing a sneer looking at their in his view not-up-to-par tuxedos.

The ride goes up north along the Hudson river, passing such sites as the Sing-Sing prison and the infamous little community of Sleepy Hollow. (No headless riders are to be spotted though… This time at least…). After some 30 minutes, the car arrives at the gates of the estate, the magnificent and brightly lit mansion visible in the midst of a park-like garden. Many expensive cars are parked in front of the entrance, drivers standing talking and smoking in their fancy uniforms.

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The Carlyle mansion

At the large entrance doors, two big men take their names and check against a list, then the PCs are let into a great hall and is immediately offered a glass of excellent champagne by one of the many servitors. After some socializing, a man comes up to Shady, introducing himself as Mr. Grey.

-“Business first”, he says and leads the PCs into to a quieter part of the house. He opens a set of double doors leading into a magnificent library, where Ms. Carlyle is waiting, accompanied by a huge man in a too-tight suit, introducing himself as Mr. Corey. The man has the predatory stance of a professional soldier.

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The library

Erica Carlyle

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Ms. Erica Carlyle

After some pleasantries, the PCs are invited to sit down and offered an expensive drink. Ms. Carlyle then goes straight to the point, asking what they want from her.

Edward takes the lead, stating that he and his associates has been contracted by some wealthy investors (that wishes to be incognito) in Kenya to look into the recent rumours about Roger Carlyle being alive, as they are concerned of the consequences regarding their business deals with the Carlyle business empire if this should be true. If Roger should be alive, that would mean that he could come back as leader of the Carlyle business empire, which would be a bad scenario for them. The reason for them coming here is to ask if Erica can shed some more light on this rumor and if she would know anything that could help with the ongoing investigation.

If the news startles the young heiress, she hides it well, but she explains that she would be very interested in knowing more about theses rumors. Edward also insinuates that if they should find Roger alive, there is a possibility that he could “disappear” again, should she wish so. Erica looks appalled and says that she naturally wants her brother back, but that she doubts that the rumors are correct. Anyway, she says that she would be happy to be of assistance.

In the continued interview with Erica they learn:

  • Erica thinks that Roger had some secret that worried him
  • Roger had a depraved sexual relation with an African woman (which Erica refers to as “that N-o woman”).
  • However, she has never met her and doesn’t know her name.
  • She also thinks that his relation with the African woman was what triggered Roger’s obsession with Africa and also his nightmares and ultimately pushing him to lose his grasp on reality.
  • It was Erica who coerced Roger to go see the jet-set psychiatrist, Dr. Huston.

Keeper note: This was an excellent lie by Edward, where we role-played the conversation with just a few Fast Talk, Persuade and Psychology rolls.

Edward also asks about her brother’s diary, that he has heard of. Erica answers that there is no diary, but some rubbish old occult books that her brother had bought for a lesser fortune and used to obsess over. She even glanced through one of them, “Pankotic Manuscripts” or some such nonsense and became even more worried as the content of that book seemed to substantiate Roger’s developing insanity. However, she says, those books are soon gone as she is in the process of selling them.

The PCs manage to persuade Erica to name the buyer – a certain book collector named Aloysius Marlower – and the price he has offered. The PCs even manages to outbid the man and the meeting concludes with the PCs buying the books for the neat sum of 2800 dollars! Erica is glad to be rid of them and if they can assist in finding out what happened to him, so much better.

The books they purchase are:

  • The Pnakotic Manuscripts (English)
  • Selections de Livre d’Ivon (French)
  • People of the Monolith (English)
  • Life as a God (English)

After getting the books from a hidden safe, the meeting is concluded and the PCs are invited to party, which they do with a vengeance!

A most deadly funeral

New York, Tuesday January 20th, 1925 | about 11.00 a.m

Edward, Carl, and Slim wake up, the sour aftertaste of too much to drink in their mouths and concrete caps on their heads. After some freshening up and a rudimentary breakfast, they drive through the snow to Brooklyn to attend Jackson Elias’ funeral. Edward insists on bringing his scope equipped M98 Mauser jagdgewehr, “just in case”. Upon arrival at the church, Edward gets out of the car and takes post on a small knoll overlooking the church grounds. In silence, he makes himself comfortable in the snow while Carl joins the congregation in the church.

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The Evergreen Cemetery

The funeral service is kept at the Evergreens Cemetery by Reverend Lawrence T. O’Dell, Jr., who was appointed by Kensington. The service in solemn and sincere and the few people attending seem genuinely interested in being there. Kensington holds a short but affectionate speech, leaving no hearts untouched.

On the snowy knoll, Edwards spots nothing unusual, other than a late attendee to the service. Looking in his scope, he sees that the man is sweating profusely despite the cold. Inside, Carl also notices the late guest who arrives just before the end of the service, taking his seat in the last row of the pews.

When the sermon ends, the man exits the church first of all. The other guests gather in the weapons room greeting and talking about their common friend Elias and about the service.

Outside, Edward has made a circular maneuver, placing him near the entrance. When the sweaty man exit the church, Edward approaches him from the side, gun pointed at his face, demanding that the man tells his name and business here.

Upon closer inspection, the man looks quite underdressed for the occasion. With the gun in his face, he’s frozen still, stuttering some lame story about being early for the next funeral. Suddenly, he turns around and makes a run for it. Edward aims at his lower leg and pulls the trigger, but misjudges the moving man and hits him in the upper thigh, point blank. The man stumbles and falls, coloring the snow red, bleeding profusely from a ruptured femoral artery. Edward runs over, trying to get some info from the man before he passes out. At the same time, he sees a black sedan some 100 yards away revving its engine, driving off at top speed. Before reaching the shot man, the big game hunter takes aim for the driver’s head and squeezes the trigger again…

In the scope, he sees the back window shatter and the driver slumps over the wheel, sending the car skidding into a tree. All is still for a few seconds, then the car explodes in a sea of flames. The back door opens, two human torches straggling out, screaming, but falling to the ground after just a few steps, consumed by the flames.

Turning his attention the leg-shot man, he sees that the man has been trying to crawl away but he’s now collapsed, breathing heavily. Drawing his blade, Edward kneels by the mortally wounded man, demanding to know who sent them here. After some threats and pressing of the wounded leg, the man squeals that they were sent by a man named Jim Flynn with the mission to oversee the funeral, taking note of the attendees. He can be found in the Lower West Side harbor district, Warehouse 17. After this, the man passes out from blood loss.

Simultaneously, the church door opens, spilling out church goers. Edward plants his own pistol on the man and throws the Mauser into a bush, screaming:

-“Help! This man has been shot by some thugs in the car over there! There was a firefight and they managed to hit each other!

People run over to help the man, while others run for the burning car. In the distance, police sirens can be heard… It is soon evident that the shot man is dead and efforts are redirected at the people by the car. Someone remarks that these guys must be remarkable shots, hitting each other with pistols at 100 yards…

The driver of the car is burnt to a crisp as well as one of the people in the back seat, but the last one is still alive. Police and ambulance arrive, taking care of the wounded man and taking up witness statements. After a while, an officer finds the stashed Mauser as well. It is concluded that the man outside the church shot at the car that returned fire, killing him with a lucky pistol shot. Edward and the rest of the church attendees are noted for later questioning if needed, and let go. The police label the whole incident as gang-related violence, probably some kind of turf dispute or act of vengeance…

Gun shopping (again…)

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Edward’s favorite store!

On the way home, Edward insists on stopping by his favorite gun shop, getting himself a new Mauser M98 with a sniper scope… And lots of ammo of course…

West Side Story

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The docks

Back at the Harlem laundry shop, Carl and Edward change back to more inconspicuous attire and load up the car for a mission to the harbor district around West Street. They drive downtown to Lower West Side asking around for warehouse 17. After some wrong turns, they find the place all down by the waterfront. Cautious as they are, they park the car a block away and approaches the warehouse on foot. It’s an old wooden structure, painted in chipped light blue color and surrounded by a 6-foot high wooden plank fence with a padlocked gate. The place seems deserted. Outside, they encounter an unwashed old sailor wino who reeks of booze and urine. Old Jim tells them (for a quarter) that yes, this is the place of Jim Flynn and his crew of Irish dockworker thugs. For another quarter, he also informs them that Flynn usually hangs out at the local sailor bar – the Blue Oyster – the next street away. Walking towards the Blue Oyster, Carl and Edward become aware that five sailor type thugs are following them, throwing insults at them, promising the “snobs” a thorough ass whooping, brandishing blackjacks and short blades. Edward resolutely draws his gun, pointing it at them. The thugs back off, and start running in the other direction…

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After work at the Blue Oyster

The Blue Oyster is a rowdy dock bar, situated a half stair down in a dingy basement. Edward and Carl try to look “sailor-ish” and sit down at a table near the entrance, ordering cheap watered beer. The place is full of seamen, dock workers, and winos. A few working girls are working their trade as well.

In the back of the room, there’s a raised wooden dais, surrounded by a low railing. Despite the crowded place, there are only a few tables there, surrounded by stuffed chairs and a sofa. A red-haired man in a finer suit sits there, surrounded by a few rough looking men. The PCs deduce that this must be Mr. Flynn. They discuss ways to approach Flynn but are interrupted when a fat African lady accompanied by two large brutish men come down the stairs and walk straight up to the dais, where they are welcomed. It’s Fat Maybelle! Carl and Edward try to hide their faces to avoid her from recognizing them, putting their snouts far down their glasses.

Flynn and Fat Maybelle have an animated discussion, then she hastily rises up and leaves the place with her entourage. The PCs think that they avoided being spotted… Flynn looks furious and starts yelling at one of his men, waving fists in the air…

Carl and Edwards deduce that Fat Maybelle has somehow teamed up with what seems to be Irish mobsters after having her illegal booze business crushed by the police (and the PCs). Maybe she’s looking for vengeance against them?

Edward decides to try their luck again, walking up to the ruffian guarding the dais, demanding to see Mr. Flynn. Flynn accepts and lets them through. He doesn’t invite them to sit down. The PCs give up false names and offer their services. Flynn downs a whiskey laughs and tells them to sod off. He’s already got all the losers he needs for his little operation. The PCs sense that they should leave and get out of the Blue Oyster, hustling back to the car which incredibly enough still has all its wheels and hubcaps in place.

Columbia University

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East view of Columbia University

On their way back, they stop by Columbia University to pick up the black sphinx. Dr. Brantenberger thinks it is from the Egyptian 4th dynasty of pharaoh Sneferu. It’s very atypical however and he hasn’t been able to translate the glyphs yet, but he suspects that it’s some kind of sect symbols or a cipher of some kind. He also says that the statuette is either a very well made replica or a genuine artifact, in which case it would be quite unique and valuable. The PCs thank the good scholar and take the sphinx with them when they leave.

Plans, plans, plans

It’s late afternoon when they finally come home. Over a baloney sandwich and luke-warm beer, the group assesses the situation:

  • The police are after them
  • The Cult of the Bloody Tongue are after them
  • The Harlem African gang are after them
  • The Irish gang will soon be after them
  • The Italian mobsters want to use them for their own nefarious needs

It is concluded that it is time to leave the city and even the country. Tentatively, England and London seem like the logical choice now.

But first, they decide to go to Arkham to see Professor Cowles, who they talked briefly with after his lecture at New York University, the day of Elias’ murder, to see what he knows.

Next session will start the day after (Wednesday the 21st), on the train between New York and Arkham.


Here we had to conclude the session for the evening. To be continued…