Session 14 | Essex/London | Appetite for destruction

 

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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.

 

mobsters

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…

1929-adler-standard-ambi10

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!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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