Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed
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
Written under the influence of Echo and the Bunnymen
Lesser-Edale, UK, Sunday, February 8th, 1925 | evening, about 7 pm
Don’t Fear the Reaper
The last session, we left the investigators in media res, deep in the bowels under Castle Plum, where they had just realized that young Eloise Vane had fled her containment cell and made her escape into the old lead mines that honeycomb the cliff that the castle sits upon. They also quickly realized that it would be too hazardous to pursue the she-wolf into the unknown tunnel system, leading to a heated debate on what to do next.
After some discussion, they decide to borrow the castle phone and call constable Tumwell and warn him of the monster on the loose and tell him to gather the villagers in the village church. They also ask him to round up a posse of experienced hunters to defend the church.
Next, the investigators ask if there are any old records stating the history of the castle and maybe old maps of the castle and the area around it. Lawrence Vane turns out to be quite helpful in showing and searching the castle archives. Sir Arthur, on the other hand, seems mostly interested in refilling his tumbler of fine brandy, sulking over his problematic life… Together, Lawrence, reverend Stratton, and the investigators manage to find some very old maps showing the tunnel systems and where the entrances are. They also find a hard to read document describing the story of how Lady Evangeline Vane had a young woman – Anne Stuart – burnt at the stake for witchery and how the woman’s mother had cursed the Vanes with the Mark of the Beast. The mother’s name and what becomes of her, or where the Stuarts lived cannot be found in the document.
Armed with this new knowledge, it is decided that the good Reverend and Lawrence should continue searching the archives while the investigators go down to the village to meet up with the lawman at the church.
The Killing Moon
Arriving at the church with the old Adler, the investigators see a bustle of activity: villagers are ushered into the protection of the church, while others are working on placing a ring of lanterns around the building to create an illuminated circle, where any assailants will be more easily spotted. The PCs ask Tumwell to pick out the two best marksmen and place them in the church steeple. Thus, they will be able to get a good “killing ground” if the beast should target the church.
The investigators also ask three brave men to step forward and accompany them in an attempt to track down the beast. Shortly after, the Adler (carrying the investigators) and an old pick-up truck (carrying constable Tumwell and two villagers with extensive hunting experience – Pete Sanders and James Brown) leave the church with screeching wheels (well, more sloshing actually). They drive up the castle hill and to the left at the T-section, driving as far as they can go by car before continuing their trek towards The Peak on foot (about 1 km). The darkness is total and an ice cold rain falls upon the hunters. The only way to keep together is by keeping track of the other person’s flashlight, as the full moonlight is frequently blocked by dark grey storm clouds.
As they arrive at The Peak, they notice that the tent is now in shreds, fabric flapping in the wind and camp gear spread out on the muddy ground. Upon closer inspection, they can easily determine that some large beast has indeed ripped open the tent with powerful claws… However, Pete says that there are no existing wild predators around here that could have made those rips…
Kneeling down with his gun resting on the ground, Foxworthy studies the muddy soil using his flashlight. Indeed, he manages to find large wolf-like tracks, leading away from the camp and towards a heavily wooded area, some 500 meters to the north-west. The old castle maps indicated a mine entrance somewhere in this area, so it makes sense.
The hunting party decides to follow the tracks into the forest. Walking is a line through the dense foliage, Pete says that there’s an old cave in there, where a young boy disappeared some 25 years ago. Apparently, the boy was never found but since then people stay away from that area of the woods as it is considered haunted by the ghost of the child.
Pathways into darkness
Some 7-800 meters into the woods, a depressed clearing opens up. It looks like a huge (approximately 75-meter diameter) circular hole in the ground. The bottom cannot be seen in the dark, but the hunters trudge on and make a sliding and dirty descent into the hole, which turns out to be some 3-5 meters deep. Despite the dense vegetation on the bottom, it is evident that this was someone’s workplace at one point. Under moss and ferns, the shapes of very old rusty mining equipment can be discerned.
To the northeast, a murky wooden structure covers the wall of the hole. Looking closer, it turns out to be an opening into a cave-like structure. Someone has covered up the opening with much newer planks (which are still rotten to the core) and put up a sign:
“Entry prohibited. Trespassers will be persecuted to the full extent of the law.”
The sign is marked with the symbol of the City Council of Derby and Derwent Valley.
Shining their flashlights into the opening, the PCs notice that a seemly much older tunnel runs further into the ground, at a descending angle. A rusty iron grate lies fallen on the ground. The clues seem to indicate that someone sealed up the tunnel entrance not too long ago, but the structure they built is very rotten and the locked grate has collapsed. No problem to gain entry to the tunnels, it seems. Also, the tracks that they’ve followed go right into the tunnel…
With the help of the village hunters, Foxworthy constructs a trap worthy of John Rambo outside the opening. As it turns out, constable Tumwell has some problems with confined spaces and after some heated discussion, he and hunter Pete Sanders stay outside to secure the entrance, while the PCs and James Brown enter the tunnel with flashlights and weapons ready.
The tunnel slopes down in an almost straight line for some 50 meters where it abruptly stops. However, there’s an opening in the tunnel roof above. Shady climbs up, aided by the others, then he throws down a rope to the others. The upper tunnel has a more circular shape and seems older. It’s also narrower, forcing the men to walk in a hunched position. Foxworthy takes the point, shining his flashlight before him in the stale air. Some 30 meters into the tunnel, he spots something organic on the floor. Approaching cautiously, the investigators come upon a small, decomposed body, probably the child that disappeared all those years ago. As they study the tragic scene, suddenly gunshots and fearful shouts are heard from behind them, sending the men scrambling toward the tunnel entrance.
Outside, they find that the trap has been sprung. Tumwell is hanging upside down from a branch, all bloody, while Pete is on his back in a pool of blood, his face half ripped off and his guts exposed by a large wound in the abdomen. Somewhere in the forest, the howl of wolves can be heard…
Hunter and the hunted
The PCs quickly confirm that Pete is stone dead. Tumwell, however, moves slightly and moans. After lowering him to the ground, they see that he has been shot in the side and arm, by hail by the look of it. Tumwell comes to, whispering:
-“They were so fast, they were so fast…”
Apparently, something had attacked Pete, who then mistakenly shot Tumwell who then staggered into their own trap, ending up in the tree. Tumwell says that there were at least two beasts, maybe three…
After patching up Tumwell with what they have at hand, they stuff what’s left of Pete in a sleeping bag (to keep him, well, intact) and decide to retreat back to the cars.
With the support of Foxworthy, Tumwell can hobble along reasonably good, if slow. James Brown and Shady pick up Pete’s body in the sleeping bag and they start to walk back. The 800-meter trek is a terrifying experience, the investigators jumping at every sound of the forest. As if that’s not enough, a drizzle of rain soon has them soaked to the bone. As they make it back to The Peak and open terrain, they relax some. Beyond The Peak and the cars, there’s a new stretch of woods for about a kilometer, forcing them to re-live the terrifying experience once again. When nothing happens, they start to relax a bit. That’s when a loud roar is heard and a large creature emerges from the woods at incredible speed. The beast attacks Shady (who’s walking last in the line), raking him with razor-sharp claws. The attorney manages to dodge the full attack, and draws his trusty Mauser “Broomhandle” C96, putting two solid hits into the creature’s back as it disappears in the forest on the other side of the path. The attack has taken no more than a few seconds. Shady is now bleeding from the claw wounds at the side of his chest, but the PCs pick up the speed and move as quickly as they can while keeping a vigilant watch at the woods around them.
Finally, they emerge from the woods, the cars some 100 meters ahead of where the dirt track ends.
After placing poor Tumwell on the loading platform of the truck, Foxworthy suggests that they should try to lure out the beast on the open ground, where they might kill it more easily. Poor Pete, still in the sleeping bag, is placed at the edge of the woods, near the path. The PCs hide some 50 meters away, weapons ready, aiming at the area.
They wait. In the cold rain.
After a while, Foxworthy sees something move near the “bait”. In the darkness, he can only see a shadow darker than the surroundings, but it definitely approaches poor Pete and starts digging into the bundle on the ground. Foxworthy gives the signal and the air is filled with silver projectiles, as the men fire away at the creature. A loud shriek is heard, followed by silence.
The cheers and back-slapping end abruptly, however, when it’s discovered that the “beast” is only a wild boar. Pete’s corpse has also taken a solid hit from Shady’s silver coin shots, shredding the sleeping bag and creating a new hole in his side…
The hunters decided to try again, now using two baits instead, but to no avail. Almost as a mockery, howls can be heard from a distance.
Swearing and cursing, the men collect what’s left of Pete and the boar and load up the cars. As they drive back to Lesser-Edale, first daylight is breaking. Shady’s wound has stopped aching and is now itching violently.
Girl in a coma
Lesser-Edale, UK, Monday, February 9th, 1925 | morning, about 6.30 am
While the pick-up truck drives down to the village with the wounded policeman and the dead hunter, the PCs decide to go to Castle Plum.
Upon arrival, they learn that Eloise was found on the castle grounds – nude, dirty and bleeding just after daybreak. She is now sleeping in her chambers and hasn’t regained consciousness since.
Lawrence takes the PCs to see the poor girl, who has been washed up, dressed and put her bed. On her back, they find what looks like two healed gunshot wounds…
A most cunning plan
Together with the vicar and Lawrence, the investigators sit down in the parlor and plan what to do. After some argumentation (especially from Sir Arthur, who pops in from time to time to refill his glass of brandy), in brief, they settle on:
- Arrange for a good cage for Eloise. Next full moon is in a month so it will be plenty of time to prepare one of the other dungeon rooms. A special cage that can be placed in the center of the room will be commissioned as well.
- The vicar has found that the executed witch, as well as her mother (who purportedly cursed the Vanes), was incarcerated in the dungeons below for a time. The PCs decide to search the cells thoroughly to see if they might have overlooked something.
While searching the cells, the investigators find an inscription on a loose stone in the wall of a cell:
“E Stuart, 1549”
Behind the loose stone is a small compartment, containing a bundle of hair and a small carved wooden figurine depicting what appears to be a wolf. Closer examination of the bundle reveals that it is a mix of blond human hair and more coarse grey-white animal fur. Maybe from the witch and a wolf? And maybe there’s another way to stop the curse? Foxworthy recalls that in Africa, he once heard from a village medicine man that a curse can only be dispelled by a blood relative to the individual who made the original curse.
The vicar is quite knowledgeable in the history of the area and mentions that there is still a family by the name of Stuart in the area. Most people see as odd and they generally keep to themselves, living in a remote farm some 4 km away from Lesser-Edale. He has on several occasions tried to convince them to attend church services, but to no avail. The woman, Edith Stuart, also has a reputation for being something of a wise-woman, who can help out in matters of the heart, reading palms, and such. She is also the one young women seek out in cases of unwanted pregnancies.
The PCs decide to go back to their lodgings at the inn to get some hours of well-deserved sleep. Meanwhile, the vicar is tasked with checking the church records to see if the present Stuarts might be related to the witches of old.
Not fish. Snake-scales.
After some 4-5 hours of dreamless sleep, the investigators meet up in the pub for a serious breakfast. Foxworthy notices that Shady is unusually pale, quiet and distraught. Upon asking, he gets no answers, so he assumes that the attorney hasn’t slept all that well after the shocking events that took place during the night.
Keeper note: Having his morning wash-off, Shady had found that not only was his claw-wound in the side almost fully healed, but the wound area was also covered in green metallic shining scales, which had a significant impact on his mental status… Yes, you guessed right – SAN check!
After the silent breakfast, the PCs pick up the vicar, who knows the way to the Stuart farm, to the northwest of Lesser-Edale. The 4 kilometers on the map turns out to be almost double that due to the increasingly worsening roads, leading further and further away from civilization. During the road trip, vicar Stratton tells the investigators that the present Stuarts (or rather the Stuart woman) indeed seem to be descendants of the Stuarts of old. He has also found an old map, documenting the burial site of those days. The old cemetery hasn’t been in use for hundreds of years and Stratton says that most present people don’t even know its location anymore, not even he.
In the middle of nowhere, they find the farm. Out here, the road is just a dirt track better suited for a tractor or animals.
The place screeches of neglect with boarded-over broken windows, old discarded farm tools scattered over the yard, and strange wind chimes hanging from dry trees and from the house. At first glance, the place looks deserted, but then they see a thin veil of smoke emerging from the chimney.
The door is answered by a slob of a man that looks to be in his fifties.
“-Go away. We dunnit wanna buy anytinn!”
The man proceeds by shutting the door, but Foxworthy puts his boot in the door and explains why they’ve come. From inside, a coarse female voice tells the man to let the strangers in.
“-Yu have tu excuse, Osgood, here, he’s a bit sespiscious uf strangers and men uf the cloth.”
The investigators are invited to sit down on dirty chairs at a dirty table and are served disgusting tea in… yes, dirty tin cups.
Shady looks around the room and notices a large bookcase filled with what appears to be old books on occult subjects.
Edith is clearly the one in command here, and while she and the investigators are talking, her husband Osgood takes care of the dishes, or whatever he’s up to since the heap of unwashed dishes doesn’t seem to diminish in any notable manner.
Edith demands to know their errand and after explaining, she can corroborate that she is indeed a blood relative of the famous Witch of Edale, Edith Stuart. In the same breath, she also dismisses those rumors as nothing more than superstitious talk.
When confronted with the occult books and her work as a wise woman, she admits that she sometimes dabbles in such things but also says that she has no real powers and that she considers such things are pure nonsense. The books are family heirlooms that have been handed down the generations. After being offered a vast sum of money of their own choosing (50 £ sterling), Edith finally agrees to help the poor girl. She says that she has a book where such rituals are described. After some humming, she returns to the table with a quarto tome clad in black leather – The Book of Shadows, where she finds a ritual for breaking curses:
- First, they must find and open the grave of the one who laid the curse.
- The remains must then be strewn with salt and burned, along with the focus objects of the curse (which they deduce must be the tuft of mixed hair and the wooden wolf figurine), while a short incantation is made by a blood relative of the curse-layer.
And that’s it. After that, the curse should be lifted. Since vicar Stratton has identified the old burial ground already, the PCs, Stratton and Edith Stuart are soon on their way back to Lesser-Edale.
The English Field
After picking up a sack of road salt and some digging implements in the village, they proceed south. The old burial ground is situated on what is now a field next to a densely wooded area some 3 km southeast of the village. After some stumbling around in the fields, they find some simple, overgrown old grave markers. It takes some time to find the correct marker, but they finally manage to find the grave of an “E Stuart a.d 1569”.
After revealing the bones in the grave, they toss down the fetishes and strew salt over the remains. Shady pours some kerosene into the grave as well. As Edith recites the Latin words from her book, Shady sets the ensemble on fire with a tossed match. There is a short fire, with peculiar green-blue flames, but nothing out of the ordinary occurs. Seems a little anti-climatic after all the fuss, but then, this is England, right?
After restoring the grave, the PCs drop off the vicar and then they drive Edith back to the farm and pay her the agreed 50 £, after which they go to Castle Plum to inform Sir Arthur and Lawrence about current events. After realizing that the nightmare is finally over, Sir Arthur loses control of his usually very correct demeanor and solemnly proclaim the PCs to be heroes of the Crown and that they can count on the support of the Vanes in all matters. Coming from an old officer and a peer of the Realm, such assertions might come in very handy in the future indeed.
After taking leave of the Vanes, Foxworthy and Shady go back to the Inn and pack their things, before leaving for London again. They’re fairly sure that they have solved the case with the Beast of Lesser-Edale.
Fairly. Guess no one will know until after four weeks…
In the car, they decide that their work in England is finished and that the next logical step is to go to Egypt to follow up on their leads there.
And there we had to stop for the session. Next up is probably Egypt and Cairo! Be sure to follow our continued adventures!