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

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Session 14 | Essex/London | Appetite for destruction

 

Header-Raid-01

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Absent this session

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

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

Link to background stories and portraits


Sneaky basterds

Essex, UK, Thursday, February 5th, 1925 | early evening (about 5 pm)

After having taken out the guard at the mansion gates and disabled the phone, the investigators move stealthily along the road that runs raised over the marshlands and over the swivel bridge. No one is to be seen anywhere and the operator’s booth for the bridge is still in splinters after last time the PCs were here.

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Well, maybe not this abandoned, but still an evocative picture…

As they approach the mansion they stop to recon the house but no one can be seen, although many windows are lit. Two black cars are parked in front of the entrance. It’s cold and foggy outside, so no one probably wants to go outside on such an evening. The main entrance is in front of them, facing the access road and the bridge, but the sneaky investigators decide to scout around the house for other possible points of entry. Sadly for them, there are none. Near the northwestern corner of the house, a window stands ajar, and loud voices can be heard. It turns out that they are speaking Chinese and by the smell of it, they are probably cooking food in there. To be sure, Foxworthy demands to climb on Shady’s shoulder to have a peek inside. After some initial slapstick style mishaps, the large hunter finally manages to get up on the much smaller attorney’s shoulders and can confirm that two Chinese looking chaps are indeed preparing a big meal in a rustic country kitchen.

They sneak all the way around the house and peek into another lit window on the ground floor (which is still a half story up), into a once magnificent but now rather decrepit dining hall, with a long table set for some 10-15 people. The chefs are moving between this room and the kitchen.

Having an idea of the size of the opposition, the PCs move to the front entrance and manage to pick the lock and enter the premises. The entrance hall is huge and just as decrepit as the rest of the house this far. On the east wall, the room is dominated by a huge fireplace. There’s also an ornate staircase leading up and some doors leading to the west (probably towards the dining/kitchen area).

The grand fireplace in the hallway hasn’t been used in a long time, which strikes Foxworthy as odd in a damp and cold place like this. The big game hunter starts poking and prodding the stones and details on the fireplace and finds a loose brick on the left side. When pulled forward, a portion of the fireplace swings aside, revealing a stairway down into nothingness.

 

Basement

Flashlights sweeping the stale and dusty air, the investigators descend the damp stone stairs, which end up at a rusty steel door , which is locked. Nothing can be heard from behind the metal. The PCs decide to sneak upstairs to see if they can procure a key. As they sneak up the basement stairs, suddenly, voices can be heard from the hallway, speaking loudly in Arabic. A door slams shut and the PCs sneak out from the fireplace secret door. Peeking out the window they see two armed men walking in the direction of the entrance to the compound. Maybe it’s time for change of guards…?

 

Upstairs

The PCs sneak up the creaky stairs. The upstairs area is dimly lit by naked light bulbs fitted into wall lampettes. There’s a small open area where the stairway comes up and a hallway running the length of the house, with lots and lots of closed doors – almost like a hotel or dormitory. All of a sudden, a door in the right corridor opens, and an attractive middle-aged Chinese looking woman comes out of a room, wearing a lab coat over a traditional Chinese silk outfit and a low-caliber pistol in a hip holster.

The woman grabs for her pistol, and shouts in Chinese, but her cries are cut off by the butt of Foxworthy’s elephant gun, right in the face. Bones crunching and blood spurting, she collapses on the dingy hallway carpet. Slim Shady steps in and slits her throat with a strange expression on his face:

“-No witnesses…” he says with a feral grin, sending a chill down Foxworthy’s battle-hardened spine…

After the slaying of the unfortunate woman, the PCs continue by checking doors. Most are unlocked, leading into bedrooms, some that seem to be in use, or in some cases old bathrooms.

As they check out a smelly bathroom at the end of the right hallway, there’s a sound behind the door and two pistol-armed men dressed in what appears to be hospital coats peek out. Spotting the intruders, they move to shoot at the investigators, but Foxworthy is faster and swings up his trusty hunting Mauser, putting a bullet in the right guy, sending him flying into the wall. The left guy backs into the room again, shutting the wooden door, trying to lock it from inside. Shady and Foxworthy send a hail of rounds through the door. A thump is heard and a pool of blood can be seen emerging from beneath the door…

Armed with his “Broomhandle” Mauser, Slim picks up the .38 that the dead cultist dropped, moving towards the door, with Foxworthy close behind.

 

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Friday night, firefight!

 

The sorcerer

Slim Shady pushes open the door at the end of the hallway, shuffling the fallen cultist aside. In stark contrast to the rest of the house, this room has been renovated and both looks and smells like a hospital room. The PCs are shocked by what they find in the single hospital grade bed that dominates the room: Edward bloody Gavigan! Alive!

Gavigan lies perfectly still on the bed, seemingly asleep or unconscious, and his wounds seem much milder than you would have expected from two clean rifle shots to the chest… As they observe the cultist leader, they notice that Gavigan’s eyes seem to move rapidly under the eyelids…

Suddenly, there’s frantic activity in the house. Down below, loud agitated voices and running can be heard. The cultists must have found the dead guard and realized that there’s intruders on the grounds…

Blackwater and Foxworthy takes post at the intersection where the stairway enters the hallway. When the two Egyptian cultists come up the stairs, rifles in hand, they are met with a barrage of bullets, sending them sprawling on the floor. Next, the two Chinese chefs attack, armed with kitchen utensils, like a huge meat cleaver and a massive rolling pin, but they’re also mowed down by the investigators. The cordite smoke lies thick in the air as Foxworthy and Blackwater looks at each other, listening for signs of more approaching enemies.

When no one else comes up the stairs, Foxworthy returns to Gavigan’s room while Blackwater stands guard in the smoke-filled corridor.

As Shady and Foxworthy search Gavigan’s room, they hear something from the hallway. Looking into the corridor, Foxworthy sees Carl Blackwater waving his arms about him, as if fighting an invisible foe. Blackwater’s breathing is forced and looking closer, Foxworthy sees that the journalist is engulfed in something not quite tangible, something fog-like that have entered the man’s nostrils and mouth, slowly suffocating him. Foxworthy rushes forward to help but ends up with something cold and incorporeal up his nose and throat as well!

In the hospital room, Slim can hear his friends struggle and squeal for help with muffled voices and moves into the hallway just to see the mist engulf them both. His conclusion: this must wicked sorcery, and with a wicked sorcerer just ten feet away, there can be no doubt as to the source of the foulness.

The attorney rushes back into the hospital room and empties both of his guns in Gavigan’s immobile form. The sorcerer’s body twitches with each added bullet, red tinted duck feathers filling the room, and the mist dissipates into nothingness, releasing Blackwater and Foxworthy from its suffocating grip. The men collapse on the floor gasping for air.

Seeing that he was right about the sorcery, the investigators take precautions to prevent Gavigan the sorcerer from coming back from the dead by severing the sorcerer’s head from the body, and burning it in the fireplace.

After the deed is done, Slim looks at himself in a mirror. His hands, face and his fancy suit are all covered in blood. There’s a strange glint in his eyes. He knows that he should feel revulsion and disgust, but he doesn’t. In fact, killing comes naturally to him now… Slim smiles…

Realizing that he can’t walk around in his murderous state, Slim Shady “borrows” a fine tailored pin-striped suit belonging to the now late Gavigan from the cupboard. In the suit they also find an old key that looks as if it could fit in the basement door.

After a quick sweep of the upper floor, the investigators check the ground floor more thoroughly. Except for the grand entrance hall, there’s a dining hall, kitchen and a library containing many old books, but none with occult or Mythos content.

 

The Horror in the basement

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Nothing good has ever been found in the basement in a Call of Cthulhu game…

The key found in Gavigan’s room actually fits the basement door. It opens with a creaking sound, revealing a small room and what appears to be many small cells behind steel doors equipped with slits.

Somewhere someone is singing a nursery rhyme…

It turns out that the basement holds twelve prisoner cells. Most of them are empty. Three of them are not. Inside are prisoners of the cult, now stark raving mad after abuse by cultists and creatures not of this world alike.

One of the prisoners turns out to be Yalesha, the charming belly dancer, who is the one singing. By the looks of her, she is pregnant and happy to be in so a blessed state. She does not recognize the PCs and raves about how her beloved has come back and given her a child and how they now will become a happy family. It is obvious that she doesn’t remember what happened during the cult ritual a few days ago or that the pregnancy is highly unnatural since she looks to be in the end of the second trimester after just a few days…

Aside from the cells, there’s also a locked door to what once must have been a torture chamber but now has been converted to a sorcerer’s country workshop. This is one of the best-kept rooms in all the mansion and filled with magic paraphernalia and trinkets: a statuette resembling a black pharao, paintings, and various pieces of jewelry and the odd watch (mostly modern, surely stolen from cult sacrifices). There is also a fat ledger with details about shipping – what was shipped, when, from where to where. The ledger details many occult items and who they were shipped to, with addresses in London, New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Australia, Odessa, Calcutta and many more.

On a neat and cozy desk, a half-finished letter from Gavigan to Aubrey (Sir Aubrey Penhew?), connecting Gavigan with Elias’s death and also implicating that Sir Aubrey is still alive along with Jack Brady (Clue #29). So, maybe Carlyle might be alive as well?

There are also well over one hundred books on the occult in German, Frisian, Hebrew, Arabic, French, and Spanish.

The esoteric collection is rounded off with an extensive supply of strange compounds and reagents in pouches, vials and clay and metal containers, along with two one-inch long sealed metal tubes adorned with a star-shaped eldritch sign. The containers turn out to hold sands, powders, liquids and dried parts of animals and plants.

The investigators gather in the strange study and discuss how to proceed. It is decided that the poor victims are beyond saving and that the abomination that Yalesha is carrying cannot be allowed to be born into this world. However, no one wants to be the one doing this foul deed… After a sweaty-faced long silence, Foxworthy resolutely picks up his elephant gun.

“-I’ll do it. These people will be better off if freed from their pain.”

Three deafening shots echo in the confined space and Foxworthy comes back with a grim appearance.

“-It’s done.”

The PCs decide to take as much as they can from the basement workshop and then let the evil mansion burn in a cleansing fire…

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Ze old Adler (my grandfather actually had one of these – his first car)

They load up one of the cars, an old Adler, with the items they deem most important. The car keys are found on one of the coat-clad men from Gavigan’s upstairs room. They then douse the house in gasoline siphoned from the other car.

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Fa-fa-fire…!

As they leave, they see the evil house burning in the rear mirror, casting beautiful reflexes on the surrounding watery surfaces…

 

Breaking & entering

London, UK, Thursday, February 5th, 1925 | evening (about 9.30 pm)

The ride back to London in the stolen Adler is dominated by silence. Everyone is absorbed in his own thoughts and doubts. How did it come to this? From righteous investigators to murderers and arsonists…?

After loading the stuff into Shady’s room along with the rest of their accumulated “antiques”, the PCs have a well-deserved shower and a stiff drink.

There’s a note from Emerson in the reception. Apparently, he called during the day, saying that a UK associate of him, a Mr. Chabout, will come tomorrow morning and collect the packed crates for subsequent shipping to New York.

Then they drive over to Gavigan’s place for a visit in the protection of darkness. They park a bit away from the flat and proceed on foot and gain entrance to the premises by picking the lock on the rear door. Inside, it’s all dark and silent. Inside the front door, a mountain of unread mail sits on the doormat. Apparently, Gavigan hasn’t been back for many days.

The flat is really a three-story townhouse, equipped with the latest technology (private phone line) and fancy furniture. The search does not reveal anything more than that Gavigan has an exquisite taste in whiskey and cognac as well as an impeccable gentleman’s wardrobe and an impressive collection of these new trendy wrist watches made popular by the Great War. There is also an impressive collection of tastefully arranged Egyptian bric-a-brac, really just fancy versions of stuff you would find in tourist shops.

Our heroes return to the hotel to help Bengtsson and Rennfarth finish up packing the two big wooden shipping crates with the majority of their “antiques”, before crashing into bed, exhausted by the day’s events…

 

Shady shippers?

London, UK, Friday, February 6th, 1925 | morning (about 8.00 am)

The next morning, a team of men arrives at the hotel to collect the loaded shipping crates. They’re led by a haggard-looking man who grudgingly introduces himself as Mr. Punji Chabout, proprietor of Chabout Shipping Ltd. He’s also brought four hard-working Lascars to do the heavy lifting.

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Mr. Punji Chabout, owner of Chabout Shipping Ltd.

Slim thinks he recognizes the truck from somewhere but cannot place it until he suddenly realizes that these might be the same men he saw at the loading dock on the side of the Penhew Foundation on their first visit!

Asian Seamen in the port of London, c.1908

Indian sailors (Lascars)

The two crates (one mega-big and one smaller) are carried down to reception, contents checked and sealed and paperwork is signed. The men then load the crates on a beat-up truck and drive off in a cloud of oil-mixed exhaust.

Slim shares his observation with his friends and they scramble to the Adler to shadow the truck. The trip goes down to the Limehouse docks and a run-down warehouse with a sign saying: Chabout Shipping Ltd. The warehouse sits right on the dock and is surrounded by a high fence crowned by barbed wire and fitted with many floodlights. Pretty tight security for a crappy old warehouse it seems…

On the quay next to the warehouse a rusty old freighter, “The Ivory Wind” is moored.

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The Ivory Wind

The investigators decide to check out Mr. Chabout and his operation and drives down to the Harbour Office and the Ship Registry, where a bored official can corroborate that Mr. Chabout and his shipping company is registered and legit. What is more interesting though, is that The Ivory Wind is scheduled for Shanghai and not New York!

 

British Museum again

London, UK, Friday, February 6th, 1925 | late morning (about 10.30 am)

After the trip to Limehouse, the PCs picks up some items at the hotel and drives over to British Museum to see what the scholars have found out.

The curator, Dr. Hattersleigh is delighted to see them and is amazed by the new items they bring for identification:

  • The mirror and scroll from Tewfik’s apartment, plus the two sandstone vials with the powders
  • The metal vials from the Essex mansion
  • The glass vials of green liquid from Shipley’s full-metal futuristic lab

Hattersleigh immediately calls his colleagues – Reginald C Thorpe and Walter Frunck. In short, this is what they learn:

The Black Sphinx – This is probably an artifact from the 3rd Egyptian dynasty, a troubled time when Egypt was rumored to be ruled by a god-emperor by the name of Nephren-Ka or The Black Pharaoh. The meaning of the strange hieroglyphs still eludes the scholars, however.

 The Mirror – Frunck says that the metal almost surely is speculum metal – an alloy of 2/3 copper and 1/3 tin, with added arsenic. These mirrors were common in old times but Frunck has never heard of one this large. The frame, on the other hand, is much newer, made in Rococo style and made of red-hued massive 18-carat gold, suggesting admixture of copper in the alloy. The style suggests French or possibly Russian origins. The cuneiform symbols on the frame are in Babylon-era Sumerian and quite easy for the scholar to translate:

The first part of the inscription identified the entity to whom the Mirror was dedicated—“Šenšen ___ Gal (The Mirror [or Wrath] of the Great ___ )” but the symbol where the God or King’s name should go has been chiseled out. The cuneiform inscription continues that the Mirror was made in Lagash and is a gift from King (LuGal) Bur-ra Bu-ri-ia-aš (“Servant of the Lord of Thunder and the Lands”) to his “brother”, King of Egypt, Ne-ne-fe-ka-____; (this has no meaning in Sumerian and is probably a phonetic transcription of the Egyptian Ne-Nefer-Ka-____; The symbol which should represent the patron god of this pharaoh is likewise destroyed). “When the King my Brother wishes to view his enemy, anoint the mirror with Ub-ra-an. When he wishes to strike his enemy, anoint the mirror with Ga-bé-segal. Let there be no misunderstanding between us.”

In short – the mirror seems to have been a gift from a Babylonian or Sumerian king to his brother the King of Egypt and can be used as a scrying device or to strike his enemies, provided you have the Ub-ra-an and the Ga-bé-segal, which the PCs suspect are the two powders they found with the mirror. Sadly, there’s no manual provided for how it’s supposed to work…

The scroll from Tewfik’s place – The item is written in Egyptian hieroglyphics, easily translated by Dr. Thorpe. It is presumably some kind of bogus magic spell called “Body Warping of Gorgoroth”. Thorpe agrees to write down the translation in plain English for later perusal.

The investigators bring the mirror and sphinx with them when they leave, but leave the vials for chemical analysis by the museum chemical laboratory.

The sun is peaking through the clouds as the PCs exit the museum at about noon – a break, at last! Maybe luck is coming now!

Keeper comment: Yeah right – you wish…


And there we had to take a break from the session! The recap of session 15 is coming up soon – be sure to follow our Masks of Nyarlahotep adventures!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Session 13 | London/Essex | Tea and biscuits

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Marvellous art by Christine Mitzuk

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Absent this session

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

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

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Link to background stories and portraits


Trying to make sense of things

London, UK, Thursday, February 5th, 1925 | morning

The morning after the terrible events at Gavigan’s Essex mansion finds the investigators tired and weary. Over breakfast tea and too-hard scones, they read about a grisly murder in the Daily Chronicle (Clue #27a), a grisly murder that pertains to them, as the victim is none other than Mr. Tewfik! The article states that the man was stabbed as well as shot in his Bethnal Green home – facts that the investigators know for sure have been fabricated. The article also mentions witnesses and three men disappearing in a London cab… Which means that someone is on their trail…

Securing the loot

They also discuss the possibility to arrange for shipping of the hitherto found artifacts to New York for safekeeping in the reinforced basement of Rennfarth’s antique store and end up calling Mr. Emerson of Emerson Import and Export in N.Y. Mr. Emerson promises to make inquiries with his London contacts about this and will call back the next day.

In preparation for the shipping, the PCs decide which items they will keep with them and which ones to ship home. They also cut loose the antediluvian swamp painting (that absorbed Slim Shady) and roll it up, stuffing it into a leather map field tube that Foxworthy bought. That way they can have the painting on hand at all times.

British Museum

British Museum, London, 1929

British Museum

They also decide to pay a visit to the scholars at British Museum to see if someone can help with identifying the black sphinx from the Ju-Ju shop. After some of the usual red tape, coupled with dreadful tea and dry biscuits, they get to see the head of the Egyptology department – museum curator John Hattersleigh. This polite but peculiar man is reserved at first, but when he lays eyes upon the black sphinx he becomes most excited. After a first look he says that he can’t decipher the most unusual hieroglyphs and demands the aid of the foremost expert on all things Egyptian, a Mr. Reginald C. Thorpe, Ph. D. Now, Dr. Thorpe is as confounded as Dr. Hattersleigh, so the consult Mr. Walter Frunck, Ph. D in Sumerology. Together they conclude that:

  • The hieroglyphs are unusual and probably very old
  • They show some similarities with Sumerian
  • More time is needed to study the glyphs properly
  • It is definitely the real deal and no newly made fake

 

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British Museum curator John Hattersleigh

 

It is decided that the academics may borrow the sphinx for about 48 hours after which the investigators will get it back along with any new insights pertaining the strange inscriptions or its origins.

 

The Penhew Foundation

The next stop is a second visit to the Penhew Foundation. Apparently, the staff on duty has no clue as to the whereabouts of Mr. Gavigan. It is claimed that he is ill at home and not available. Slim sees a chance and starts arguing about a fictive “most valuable statuette” that was left in Mr. Gavigan’s tender care at the time of their last visit and wouldn’t the staff now let them into Gavigan’s office to retrieve said statuette because they must return to the US this very day! Needless to say, the Foundation staff does not fall for Slim’s bluff and the whole thing ends up with the shady attorney literally being thrown out of the premises by security staff.

 

Gavigan’s residence

Not deterred by the debacle at the Penhew Foundation, our intrepid investigators locate a pub, where they consult the Metropolitan telephone registry over a pint, searching for Mr. Gavigan’s private address. It turns out that the man lives in a flat in the posh Mayfair area. Armed with this new knowledge, the PCs hail a cab and travel there. Gavigan lives in a three-story townhouse which is all deserted when they bang the door with a large brass lion knocker. To avoid unwanted attention, the investigators abstain from breaking and entering. Instead, they knock on the left neighbor’s door instead. A surly manservant opens the door, asking their business and is talked into getting the master of the house, a retired army colonel by the name of James St. John (pronounced sinjin).

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Gavigan’s residence in Mayfair

Despite his age, St. John is a most energic man, tall and imposing, with that obvious presence produced by a life of command. The old man orders tea and biscuits and invites the PCs to his library, complete with dusty hunting trophies and age-old unread tomes with leather covers.

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James St. John, complete with swagger stick

 

Other than the odd war story and assertions about what a “jolly good chap” Gavigan is, nothing new is learned from the colonel. The PCs leave the townhouse with nothing more than stomachs rumbling from extensive consumption of tea and biscuits…

Before leaving, the sneak into the back garden of Gavigan’s house, where they find a patio and a locked rear entrance. Keeping a low profile, they do not risk breaking into the house. This time.

After having spent most of the day visiting various places in London, learning next to nothing, the PCs decide that they need to go to the Essex Mansion again, to investigate the main building., as they had to flee a throng of crazed cultists last time.

 

Scotland Yard

Before going back to the hotel to equip themselves for their nightly mission to Essex, the PCs go to see Inspector Barrington about leaving for Derby later. The Inspector is suspicious at first, but having heard about the strange killings in Derby and Elias’s interest in the case, he agrees to the idea. Barrington also cautions them about using force or intimidation up there, stating that “the Yard has eyes and ears everywhere”.

 

Back to Essex

London, UK, Thursday, February 5th, 1925 | about 5 pm

After calling for Pete the cab driver and gearing up, the investigators leave for Essex as the sun sets. It is dark, cold and foggy as they leave the big city…

Pete parks the cab at a distance from the gates and the PCs sneak the last bit. From a small knoll, they reconnoiter the place. The gate has been temporarily mended and from what they can see, there’s only one guard at the gate. In the distance, lights can be seen in the mansion.

Climbing over the wall some 100 meters from the gate, the PCs sneak along the wall until they come to the gate. They manage to knock out the Egyptian guard without a sound and proceed by giving him a coup de grace. In the small guard shed next to the gate, they discover a phone. The guards probably use it to communicate with the main building, so the investigators disable it by cutting the cable. The dead guard is hidden by rolling his body into the muddy water nearby before moving towards the mansion through the mists…


And that’s where we had to stop for the day. Stay tuned for next session of Masks of Nyarlahotep, Fist of d20’s style!