Session 15 | Derwent Valley | Canis Lupus Malum

 

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The usual suspect…

 

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Absent this session

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

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

Link to background stories and portraits

Written under the influence of Brant Bjork and the Bros


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

Armis argentum

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

Right?

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

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

Derwent Valley Blues

 

Lush rolling green English countryside

A green and pleasant land…

 

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

 

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Derwent Valley and the Derwent River

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Our intrepid investigators caught on a photograph!

 

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

 

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Lesser-Edale scenery

 

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

 

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The Laughing Horse Pub

 

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

 

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Constable Tumwell, posing for the newspapers

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

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

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

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

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

In summary, the PCs can piece together the following:

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

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

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

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

 

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Room at the inn

 

Day One – T minus 1 day to full moon

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

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

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

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

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Outdoor gear for the modern gentleman

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

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Castle Plum in all its glory

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

Nothing happens.

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

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Smithers

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

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Charles I hung 1649

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

 

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Sir Arthur Vane

 

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

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

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

The Peak (the ruins are much lower though)

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

“-Bloody hell, what’s this shite?!”

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

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

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

 

Day Two – T-hour – full moon fever

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

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

The farmer’s widow

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

The angry horse-dealer

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

Vicar in a tutu

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

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Mrs. Sarah Bright, the housekeeper

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

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

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

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

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

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Right Reverend Jeremy Stratton

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

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

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

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Miss Eloise Vane

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

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

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

 

The Killing Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The dungeon cell

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

“-Bollocks!”

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

Lawrence has also entered the cell, looking terrified.

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

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

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


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. A really cool write up of one of my favourite red herrings and the added art really does add a zing. Its also nice to see that the classic ploy of silver shillings in a shotgun shell is still going strong. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. Thanks, man! Session 16 is going down tomorrow, so we’ll see what my investigators will do… I really enjoyed the change of pace from the London chapters. I suspect that the players strongly suspect that it is a red herring, but they don’t let that take anything away from enjoying the adventure fully anyway. After all, it’s all about the adventure, not about “winning”.

      Like

      Reply

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