Session 20 | Egypt | Death on the Nile

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Visions of Egypt

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Absent this session

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

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

Link to background stories and portraits


Cairo, Friday, February 27th, 1925 | shortly before noon

A visit to the Egyptian Museum

When Muhammed and H.P are away doing their tasks, the rest of the party decide to follow up the Cairo lead that they found in the Miskatonic University Library. Apparently, Dr. Ali Kafour, an expert on the time of the Black Pharao, works in the Egyptian Museum. Maybe he can shed some more light on the case at hand?

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The Egyptian Museum in Cairo

The museum is situated just north of the Kasr el-Nil bridge (Great Nile Bridge) on the east side of the Nile and is only a short cab ride away from the hotel. The building is truly massive and beyond doubt houses the most comprehensive collection of Egyptian antiques in the world. After paying the entrance fee of 10 Egyptian Piastres, our heroes enter the huge halls of the museum.

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Dignitaries visit the museum

Cairo and district, Egypt. The Egyptian Museum. Interior show...

The main hall

After some asking around at various desks, the investigators are shown to the 2nd floor, where they are asked to wait in a small reception room. After some 30 minutes, they are shown into an office where a small bespectacled man sits behind a huge desk laden with books and documents.

“-Welcome gentlemen. I am Dr. Ali Kafour. How can I be of assistance?”

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Dr. Ali Kafour

The investigators extend their thanks for agreeing to see them and says that they are sent to investigate what happened to the Carlyle Expedition. Dr. Kafour seems intrigued by this and over the next hour or so our heroes learn the following:

On the Carlyle Expedition

  • Dr. Kafour believes that the Carlyle Expedition discovered a secret about the Black Pharao and that this led to their demise in Kenya.
  • Sir Aubrey Penhew had long studied the Black Pharaoh and Kafour and Penhew had discussed the topic many times and traded research information.
  • However, last time Sir Aubrey was in Egypt, he did not seek out his old friend and colleague Dr. Kafour. When Kafour heard that Sir Aubrey was in the country, he traveled to the dig site near Dhashur but was rudely rebuffed by Sir Ayúbrey. Kafour recalls changes in the man – he seemed physically younger and his emotional disposition had changed to withdrawn, aloof and strangely malicious.

On the Black Pharaoh in history 

  • In the late 3rd Dynasty, when Pharaoh Zoser ruled a there came a mighty sorcerer known as Nephren-Ka to Egypt, bringing madness and death to those he willed at a flick of his finger. The story says that he came from dreaded Irem, ancient City of Pillars, deep in the desert sands of Arabia.
  • Nephren-Ka worshiped an old foul god – the Black Pharao, and soon they became as one, and now no one can distinguish their deeds and legends.
  • Nephren-Ka and Zoser fought long over control of the realm. However, no records from this time remain today.
  • For a time, the Black Pharaoh ruled over the peoples of the Nile, but at last Sneferu arose, founding the 4th Dynasty and with the aid of the goddess Isis he fought and brought down the Black Pharao, restoring the land from evil.
  • Legend says that Sneferu built a mighty pyramid to contain the still magical body of the Black Emperor, but the structure collapsed even as Sneferu was building a second pyramid. The Collapsed Pyramid is situated at what now is Meidum. The second pyramid is the Bent Pyramid at Dhashur. Records indicate that Nephren-Ka’s remains were moved from the Collapsed Pyramid to the Bent Pyramid. However, explorations at both pyramids have failed to substantiate this. No trace of the Black Pharao has been discovered at either site.
  • Legend also says that Sneferu built yet another pyramid at Dhashur, the Red Pyramid, to guard Dhashur, lest Nephren-Ka should rise from the dead.
  • Pharao Sneferu also ordered all traces of the Black Pharao stricken from the land, killing worshippers of the Black Pharao in the process. Legends say that remaining worshippers fled south, into the hideous swamps beyond the Sudan river.
  • The book also mentions that in the 6th Dynasty, Queen Nitocris was suspected of being in league with a new cult of the Black Pharao, but evidence of this is at best sporadic and much debated among scholars of Egyptology.
  • Finally, the book mentions that Nephren-Ka (or the Black Pharao) sometimes was known under the name of Neyar-Hotep.

On the legends of the Black Pharaoh

  • Some say that he was but one god out of a whole pantheon of abominable deities dedicated to chaos and madness, more ancient than the gods of Egypt.
  • Nephren-Ka was said to possess a huge beast, of which the Sphinx at Giza is only a small, inaccurate representation.
  • The voice of Nephren-Ka is said to have been carried throughout the land within a black wind, which could destroy at his whim.
  • There is a prophecy that implies that the Black Pharaoh will arise anew “fingers and toes after the Great Good One”. This has been interpreted as meaning 20 centuries after Jesus. It is also said that this will mark the beginning of a new age, destined to bring the end of mankind’s dominance on Earth and to bring freedom and truth to the followers of the Black Pharaoh.
  • Man-like but inhuman followers of the Black Pharaoh were said to lurk underground in the deserts, occasionally waylaying passers-by.
  • The Great Sphinx at Giza is said to have an important function in the hideous rituals once held by the evil Queen Nitocris.

On what Dr. Kafour believes

  • The Black Pharaoh and Nephren-Ka once existed, as did the pantheon of malicious pre-Egyptian gods. He calls them the Elder Gods and says that they are led by the Demon Sultan Azathoth.
  • Dr. Kafour has seen servitors of these gods in the desert and knows for a fact that the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh does exist in present-day Egypt, though he knows nothing of its organization, leaders or activities.
  • He also suspects that the worship of the Black Pharaoh is growing in other parts of Africa. For example, he has heard of a cult called the Bloody Tongue in British Kenya. Apparently, this cult worships a monstrous deity which is another aspect of the Black Pharaoh.

On Queen Nitocris

  • The unidentified mummy that was stolen from the Clive Expedition at Giza was undoubtedly the remains of that beautiful and deadly ruler.
  • She was rumored to have been buried alive, but no trace was found until the Clive Expedition uncovered the secret room in the smallest of the Great pyramids.
  • How or why she was stolen he does not know, but he thinks that the theft relates to the prophesized return of the Black Pharaoh.

On the Penhew Foundation

  • Dr. Kafour has always respected Sir Aubrey, director Edward Gavigan and the efforts of the Penhew Foundation. However, since Sir Aubrey died there has been 10 Foundation expeditions to Egypt, and among them, there has been at least 20 deaths, numerous disappearances, several suicides, and one certified case of madness. Most have followed the same pattern of paranoid secrecy, erratic excavation and bizarre incidents that was set by the Carlyle Expedition.

 

When the investigators ask about Ashmunayn and the Dagger of Thoth, Dr. Kafour refers them to guest researcher colleague of his, Dr. Alfredo Monteverdi, who is most proficient in those areas. Originally from Italy, Dr. Monteverdi is a world-renowned Egyptologist and a friend of the late Dr. von Petersdorf, and even contributed to the latter’s book, The Antiquity of the Egyptian Religion before von Petersdorf’s tragic demise.

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Dr. Monteverdi

Below is a summary of the main points of that discussion.

On Ashmunayn

The current city of Ashmunauyn is located right next to the ruins of the ancient Egyptian city and cult center of Hermopolis (as the Greeks called it) or Khemennu (as the Egyptians called it).  In ancient times this was a great center of learning and both Plato and Pythagoras studied there. Khemennu was sacred to the god Thoth.

On Thoth

Thoth was known as the “counter of the stars” and “the self-created one to whom none hath given birth”. Thoth is also associated with the Greek god Hermes and is known in Egyptian mythology as the messenger of the gods as well as a god of knowledge and writing. In the middle age and renaissance, magicians and wizards attributed Hermes (i.e. Thoth) as the father of all magical knowledge as well. The secret book Corpus Hermeticorm (The Works of Hermes) from the 2nd century was a book of magical formulae supposedly written by Hermes/Thoth himself and came to form the basis of many magical grimoires for centuries to come.

On sacred animals

There were two animals sacred to Thoth – the Ibis and the Baboon (or as it was called the “dog-headed ape”) and it was believed that Thoth would assume the form of a baboon when he incarnated on Earth. The baboons braying or reacting to the moon was taken as the baboons were talking to Thoth.

On the Dagger of Thoth

Contrary to Dr. Kafour, Dr. Monteverdi does not believe in the current worship of ancient evil gods. He does believe that such worship has existed, but not anymore. He does, however, know about the legends about the Dagger of Thoth:

  • The dagger is rumored to have magic powers
  • It was used as a ritual dagger to sacrifice unbelievers by slitting the throat and stomach before being used to remove the heart
  • The Dagger can be used to open a gate to summon Thoth (together with the correct ritual of course)
  • The Dagger can also be used to banish Thoth (again, together with the correct ritual)
  • The Dagger is also said to be the only weapon that could harm Thoth physically

River Cruise

When everyone has returned from their respective tasks, the investigators meet up with Mr. Mikhay’el Sufuyani, pack a few duffle bags with gear and go to the riverside pier, and the small felouk that Muhammed has arranged for them.

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The felouk

To decrease the risk of detection, Muhammed has chartered the boat privately. The boat turns out to be very plain, a fact that makes the snob in Slim Shady cringe with ill-concealed disgust.

“-I will surely get fleas or whatever on this river canoe…”

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Hakim, felouk skipper

The skipper, Hakim, is a jovial and friendly man and he has even arranged for a textile sunscreen in the aft of the boat.

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On the way towards Ashmunayn

The small boat makes good speed due to favorable wind conditions, but the trip takes the whole day in demand and the investigators arrive in Ashmunayn late in the evening. All that they have had to eat was tulumbe (i.e. fat and sugar) that Hakim’s wife had made, together with sweet mint tea.

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Tulumbe

Map Cairo - Ashmunayn_LI

The trip to Ashmunayn

Ashmunayn

The docks of the small town of Ashmunayn is rather busy despite the late hour. Muhammed inquires about lodgings and learns that there is only one hotel in town – Le Grand Hotel. It is only a short walk and soon the PCs are greeted welcome by the owner, Mr. Yusuf.

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Mr. Yusuf, proprietor of Le Grand Hotel

Despite its fancy name, it is evident that the hotel has put its glory days in the past. Mr. Yusuf however, welcomes the effendis as royalty, and one can suspect that he expects to be paid the same way.

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Ashmunayn, the main street

After washing up and settling in their rooms, the PCs gather at a small restaurant for food. It’s simple grilled lamb and vegetables, but anything feels luxurious after their previous tulumbe diet…

After dinner, the investigators plan to withdraw to the hotel for some well-deserved rest, but as we shall see there is no rest for the wicked…

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Dining in style!

 

The Lemonade Man

After dinner, the PCs order strong coffee, which really gets the bowels working. When Carl gets up to get to the men’s room (it’s not really a room, more a shed in the back, with a hole in the ground and a bucket for washing afterward) he is approached by a man carrying a large waterskin.

“-Lemonade, effendi?”

Carl says no, but the man still follows him all the way to the toilet. When no one else can observe, the man grabs Carl’s arm and says in perfect Oxford English:

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The Lemonade Man

“-I am no lemonade salesman or beggar and I don’t want your money. I am Father Abba Shanuda and I am a friend and colleague of Butrus. The man you are with, no matter what name he goes by, is not of our Order, but is, on the contrary, high in the counsels of the Evil Ones, Khalid Abd Al-Azi. He has lured you here for the sole purpose of trapping you and your friends, killing, torturing or worse, sacrificing you to his blasphemous gods and then stealing the dagger. I have followed you and your friends since you arrived in Egypt, but I haven’t contacted you to lull Khalid into a sense of security. I cannot emphasize enough that you and your friends are in the greatest danger. Khalid would kill you all without hesitation if he felt it would serve his criminal purposes. If you ever wish to leave Ashmunayn alive, you will need my help.”

Carl decides to get his friends and after paying for their meal they meet up with the strange lemonade man behind the restaurant.

Father Shanuda’s plan is simple:

The PCs are to summon Mikhay’el/Khalid to one of their rooms, with all present. Father Shanuda will hide in a closet or side room. When Mikhay’el arrives, they will bind and gag him immediately. Once the villain is subdued, Father Shanuda will enter the room and proceed with his plan.

The investigators decide to trust the old man and agrees to the plan. Shanuda is told to wait outside the hotel until they have prepared everything.

As they walk back to the hotel (without Father Shanuda), the PCs decide that they can’t trust either of the men. They will play along with Shanuda up to a point but will then proceed with their own plan…

Finding the imposter

After returning to the hotel, Slim seeks out Mikhay’el to scout the (false) priest’s room for signs that the man isn’t the man he says he is. He also wants to determine if Mikhay’el wears a tattoo on his underarm. The room checks out ok and looks every way like a priest’s room, complete with a small portable shrine and a Coptic bible on the bedstand. To see if the man has a tattoo, Slim picks a fight, acting a bit drunk, saying that he wants to arm-wrestle. Mikhay’el gets seriously annoyed, as it’s very late After a while, Mikhay’el agrees to do it as he wants to get rid of the annoying attorney. A few rounds later Slim gives up and leaves, satisfied that Mikhay’el has no tattoo on his arms.

He returns to Edward’s room and informs the others. Then they summon Father Shanuda. As they have no other room, the old priest will have to keep hidden in a cupboard.

Muhammed is then sent to bring Mikhay’el to Edward’s room as well, under the pretense that “there has been a development”. When the man enters he is immediately grabbed, bound to a chair, and interrogated. Despite the harsh words and slaps, the man sticks to his story.

A triumphant Father Shanuda is then let onto the scene. But his smirk is soon erased as he is also tied to a chair and interrogated the same way! As none of the men breaks down, Slim decides to increase the pressure and produces a switchblade which he uses with great skill. The two men scream out their innocence, accusing the other of being in league with evil.

The PCs try another tactic. First, they cover Father Shanuda’s eyes and ears so that he can’t overhear what Mikhay’el says. Then they ask him exactly what they are going to do in the ruins.

Mikhay’el’s story

In short, Mikhay’el says that they have to go to the ruins of Khemennu and find the secret underground temple. There, he will use the Dagger to perform a ritual of exorcism. Edward will be free of the curse and they will then be free to use the powers of the dagger to do good.

The process is then reversed.

Abba Shanuda’s story

Shanuda says that they have to go to the ruins of Khemennu and find the entrance to the underground evil temple. There, they must first use the Dagger to get rid of Khalid/Mikhay’el. Then he must perform yet another ritual to destroy the dagger so that the evil people cannot use it ever again.

In the middle of all this mayhem there’s a bang at the door:

“Mister Foxworthy! Are you all right? I have called the Police! Hello?”

Their landlord has heard the commotion and wants to come in. Suddenly, they hear him rush down the stairs. Slim quickly takes off his shoes and props his sweaty socks into the mouths of the men to silence them. Then he rushes across the hall to his own room, leaving the door ajar. The steps of several men are heard in the stairs. In the bathroom, he uses a razor to cut his own cheek, swearing loudly.

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Egyptian rural policemen

When Mr. Yusuf returns with 3 policemen, they find a bleeding Slim in his room, swearing loudly. Slim says that he had a “nasty shaving accident” and that it was he who made all the noise and that it was all a false alarm. And no, the sounds came from his room and not from Edward’s. The two policemen led by an officer proceed with a most cursory check of Slim’s room and person, but find nothing out of the ordinary and leaves with a caution to “shave more quietly”, shaking their heads at the clumsy foreigner.

(Keeper note: Slim’s player rolled some seriously good Fast Talk here and kept blabbering very convincingly attorney style.)

 When the situation is over, Slim returns to the others. As they can’t determine who’s for real and who’s not, they agree to take both men, bound and gagged to the Khemennu ruins to peform the ritual. To avoid rousing suspicion in the streets, they also desice to do it right away, in the middle of the night… A very solid idea indeed…


Cliffhanger! We had to stop for the day, but be sure to follow next session to see what happened in the sands of Khemennu…

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Session 19 | The Atlantic / Egypt | Dinner for Schmucks

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Visions of Egypt

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

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

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

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Link to background stories and portraits

Written under the influence of Lenzman


The Atlantic, Wednesday, February 18th, 1925 |evening, day 4 at sea

A fond farewell

After witnessing the ghastly (and messy) demise of the Coptic priest Butrus al-Qusi, the investigators have gathered in their favorite salon, sipping their drinks in silence, staring blankly, trying to comprehend what just happened. Each member of the shrinking band of investigators is acutely aware of the mortal danger that they seem to conjure with their every step. They are also gravely aware of the dire straits that the disappearance of al-Qusi has put Edward in, as the man was key to dispelling the dagger’s curse on Edward.

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Pardy hardy

The only one seemingly not worried at all is Edward himself, who is gladly having a gin and tonic, flirting with a pretty lady over at the bar, at the dismay of her male companion, maybe her husband…

The Atlantic, Thursday, February 19th, 1925 |morning, day 5 at sea

Thieves try to steal the dagger

Having a late breakfast the next morning, Edward feels the force of nature make itself known and decides to head back to his cabin on A-deck to take care of business. As he comes nearer, he notices that the door to his cabin stands ajar.

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Edward’s cabin

Drawing his gun, Edward carefully pushes open the door with the barrel. Inside, a middle-eastern-looking man dressed in black is rummaging through his drawers. The luggage has been opened as well and the contents tossed all over the floor.

When the stranger notices Edward, he produces a mean-looking curved blade and approaches to attack. However, bringing a blade to a gunfight has never been a good idea, and the man never gets the chance to strike as Edward shoots him clean in the leg, shattering the femur, sending the man to the floor half unconscious and in great agony.

Ship’s pursers come running at the sound of gunfire, and soon they have called for Mr. John F. Wayne, head of security on board. The wounded thief is rushed off to the ship’s infirmary while Mr. Wayne interviews Edward about the incident. Edward (and Slim who has joined up) plays up the part of the offended guests and soon Mr. Wayne is in full apology mode, stating that theft in the A-section of the ship is virtually unheard of.

The investigators demand the opportunity to interview the thief and are given permission for this by a clearly apologetic head of security.

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The ship’s infirmary

However, when the PCs arrive in the infirmary, the place is in full turmoil. It seems that the thief suddenly had a seizure and died within a minute. Edward and Slim make a quick examination of the corpse, noticing a faint smell of bitter almond. Cyanide poisoning maybe? The man has a middle eastern look, is about 30-35 years old and is all dressed in loose-fitting black cotton clothes. He also has a strange tattoo on his left underarm.

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The tattoo

He has no papers, but after some more investigation, the man is identified as Mahmud bin Mahmud (or at least that’s the name in the passenger manifest). More interesting, the man apparently shared quarters with a certain Rashid Azoulay. Both men have Egyptian passports and share a cabin in 3rd class. The cabin turns out to be very plain and totally devout of further clues. And Mr. Azoulay is nowhere to be found.

The Atlantic, Friday, February 20th, 1925 |morning, day 6 at sea

Plan to root out the thieves

The investigator’s suspect that the reason for the burglary was to steal the Dagger of Thoth and devise a most fiendish plan to root out the rest of the bad guys. The idea is to arrange an opportunity for the thieves to steal the dagger, only this time with their own people ready to step in and apprehend the thieves in the act. It is decided that Edward should keep the dagger on his person, possibly showing it to someone so that it is obvious where it is kept. Edward is also supposed to play drunk in order to give the illusion of a weak target.

The plan is executed by Slim and Edward having an elaborate lunch in the ship’s restaurant, complete with champagne and other spirits (which they only pretend to drink). When being adequately plastered, the plan is for Edward to excuse himself and go out on a specific area of the deck for some fresh air. The rest of the PCs are to be hidden at that location, ready to strike when the thieves make their move.

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Lunchtime!

In the middle of the luncheon, one of the waiters manage to trip and spills a plate of food in Edwards lap. The man apologizes and starts cleaning up the mess with a towel, assuring that the company will, of course, reimburse them and pay for the cleaning of the suit. Edward, who thinks that the waiter is wiping him off a bit too near his private parts angrily waves the man away and the man disappears into the kitchen area, still apologizing.

Cursing and wiping himself off, the big game hunter suddenly comes to realize that the dagger is gone! The bloody waiter must have stolen it!

In a second the two men are running towards the swinging doors leading to the kitchen. Running through the bustling kitchen the PCs manage to push several staff members, sending food and kitchenware into the air. A young scared (as teaspoon-of-thin) sous-chef points them to the back of the kitchen:

“-H- he ran that way!”

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Hard work in the ship’s kitchen

Exiting the kitchen, the men enter a staff only area, with a long corridor ending in a T-intersection. Looking to the right, they see the man in front of a door leading to the outside deck. The door is just closing, suggesting that the false waiter had just met with someone else. The waiter swings around towards the PCs, drawing a mean looking dagger. A short fight ensues, ending with the waiter dead on the bulkhead. Edward stops to check the body while Slim runs out on the deck, in pursuit of the third bad guy. He enters the deck just in time to see someone disappear around a corner. Slim takes up the chase. After the bend there’s a stairway up to the aft deck, where a lot of passengers enjoy the sun and beauty of the scenery. There’s no trace of the runner. Turning around to go down the stairs again, Slim freezes. For a moment he’s sure that he saw Edward Gavigan’s face in a crowd. Looking again, there’s no trace of Gavigan.

-“Must have been the nerves!” Slim thinks as he returns down the stairs…

Meanwhile, Edwards searches the false waiter. The man is of middle eastern descent, with a tattoo on the left underarm, but no papers. Strangely enough, the man is still in possession of the cursed blade, which Edward quickly puts inside his suit jacket, a bittersweet feeling of having gotten back something precious…

When Slim returns, the PCs carry the man outside and dumps the body in the sea after having confirmed that no one else can see. However, they can’t shake the feeling that the big fish got away…

Alexandria / Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, February 26th, 1925 |morning, day 12 at sea

Arrival in Egypt

The rest of the sea voyage is relatively uneventful. Despite the investigator’s vigilance, there are no more sinister incidents and our heroes actually get some much deserved R&R. The 12th day after leaving England, the ship finally reaches their destination – Alexandria. As they glide into the harbor the first thing indicating that they are in Africa is the mighty Ras el-Tin Palace, overlooking the harbor.

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Ras el-Tin Palace from the sea

The Immigration Office is just a short walk from the quay, in a building that doubles as a terminal as well. The chief of the customs staff is a sweating Englishman who demands to see their papers with the demeanor of someone used to being in charge. Thanks to Edward’s previous experience with import and export of hunting weapons and the paperwork that they arranged within England, the procedure is easy and the investigators can soon take their first steps on the streets of Alexandria. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds before they are assaulted from all directions by people of all sorts – beggars, taxi drivers, hotel owners, porters all want to earn a few dollars by performing some service. If said service is wanted or not is completely beside the point.

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Alexandria street life in the 1920s

As the PCs are straining to take back luggage that some random person just picked up and started to carry away, an Egyptian man in a white linen suit comes up and introduces himself in perfect English. The man introduces himself as Mikhay’el Sufiyani and says that he’s a colleague of Butrus. He also wonders where Butrus might be.

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Mikhay’el Sufiyani

To get away from the bustle, the PCs follow Mikhay’el to a nearby café at Place Muhammed Ali, to discuss further in the shade. After ordering some strong mint tea, the man explains that Butrus telegraphed him from the sea, asking him to come and meet up and also that he described the names and looks of his American friends.

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Place Muhammed Ali

When informed of Butrus’ death, Mikhay’el looks shocked and disturbed and says that they now must make great haste as the Cult of the Watchers is on the move. Mikhay’el says that they must immediately travel to a place called Ashmunayn, where the exorcism of the curse can take place.

As they sit in the café, a man with a funny mustache approaches them, offering his services as a dragoman (guide) in broken but completely intelligible English.

-“My friends! I’m Muhammed the Dragoman. I can help you with everything! Very cheap. Special price, just for you!”

Mikhay’el waves away the man, stating that they don’t need a dragoman since they have him.

To the disapproval of Mikhay’el, the investigator’s want to go to Cairo first, to check up on some clues before going to Ashmunayn. As they wait for the train to depart, the PCs arrange for lodgings in the famous Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. The train station is nearby and soon the group is on their way to Cairo, which takes some 4 hours.

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Alexandria Railway station

Cairo

 

After arriving in Cairo Central Railway Station, the investigator’s take a horse-drawn cab (kalesh in Egyptian) to Shepheard’s Hotel (situated about 5 minutes from the train station at 8 Sharia Kamil, just beside the Ezbekia Gardens park) where they are welcomed almost as royalty. Mikhay’el doesn’t ride with them as he has his lodgings in Hotel Mujaffah in another part of the city.

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Cairo Central Railway Station

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Entrance to Shepheard’s Hotel

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Ezbekia Gardens

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Shepheard’s Hotel

Following the clues

The main lead in Cairo is the letter from a certain Faraz Najir that the PCs found at Jackson Elias’ murder scene (Clue #11). It’s a letter from Faraz Najir to Mr. Carlyle, where Najir states that he’s in possession of certain antiques that Carlyle might be interested in. The letter further states that Mr. Carlyle’s agent should come to Najir’s shop at the Street of Jackals in the Old Quarter of Cairo to arrange matters further.

Zoomable Old Cairo map

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The investigators realize that they need a guide and since they don’t trust Mr. Mikhay’el fully, they decide to get a dragoman of their own. The hotel reception is happy to provide for this and after some 45 minutes the concièrge have rounded up a selection of dragomen:

  • Ma’muhd – a young poor barefoot boy of about 11 or 12 years of age
  • Hakim – a young man of about 20 years of age

As the PC discuss with the boys they hear a familiar voice:

-“My friends!”

It’s Muhammed – the dragoman from Alexandria! Despite him never being silent, the PCs decide to go for him as he’s a bit older and since he speaks a plethora of languages (however, how well, they don’t know). The boys depart, looking sullen and disappointed, Hakim swearing in Arabic.

A typical dragoman ( interpreter ) in Cairo, Egypt. 1920s

Muhammed the Dragoman

The Street of Jackals

In the afternoon, the investigators leave the hotel for a tour of the Old Quarter, that is situated to the east of Ezbekia Gardens. In fact, hotel guests with rooms facing the east have a lovely view of the Old City and the slums.

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Old Quarter

Asking people on the streets, Muhammad navigates to the Street of Jackals in about 30 minutes. The neighborhood is incredibly old and squalid, consisting of very narrow streets and alleys that twist and turn in a totally random pattern, sitting next to the old city wall of Cairo.

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Cairo street life

Sadly, the address provided in the letter leads to a burned-out husk of a building. Asking around with the help of Muhammed, they learn that 5 or 6 years previously, a fire demon descended upon the shop and set it aflame. They also learn that the owner, Mr. Najir was horribly burned, but that he survived and has since opened a new shop in Khan el-Khalili, an ancient marketplace near Sharia Muezzeddin Allah.

Faraz Najir’s Shop

Muhammed knows where the location of the old market is and after some 30 more minutes walking, the PCs finds a shop clearly marked “Faraz Najir” in Arabic, “Curios” in English and “Magasin des Antiquités” in French. The shop is located on a very narrow street of mostly pottery shops and above the shop are several floors of low-grade tenements. Inside, the shop is filled from floor to ceiling with a mish-mash of cheap tourist stuff. A man wearing a djellaba sits on a low stool beside a small round brass table, sipping some tea from a glass. As the PCs enter, he stands up to greet them:

-“Salaam Alaikum dear friends! What can I do for you? Perhaps you want to purchase some real Egyptian antiques today, yes?”

Despite the fact that the man’s face is shadowed by the hood of the djellaba, it is evident that his right side is horribly disfigured by fibrous scarring, consistent with the scarring you would see after serious burns.

When the investigators mention Carlyle, Najir’s eyes bulge and his English rapidly deteriorate as he mumbles something about closing the shop, trying to shoo them out. When they don’t leave at once, he picks up a bejeweled decoration scimitar which he points at the PCs as he starts to yell in Arabic. Muhammed says that he is calling them thieves and that he is calling for aid.

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People gather outside the shop

Outside the shop, people start to gather, talking angrily and spitting at the accursed foreigners that come here to steal. Muhammed manages to negotiate an uneasy truce but says that they must leave immediately as violence is just beneath the surface. All but Slim are eager to get the hell out of the place, but the attorney won’t give up until he has been hit with some thrown rocks.

After this frightening experience, the investigators decide to head back to the hotel for some well-deserved food, drink and rest and return to business the next day.

Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, February 26th, 1925 |morning

A clandestine meeting in the mosque

Early the next morning, the investigators send Muhammed alone to try to talk sense into Mr. Najir, and also offering him a sum of money if he agrees to talk with them. The dragoman returns with the good news that Mr. Najir has agreed to meet them before lunch (1 to 2 p.m.) in the El Hussein Mosque (not far from the Street of Jackals) where he feels safe.

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El Hussein Mosque

Najir meets them at the side of the mosque and proceeds with silently leading them inside to a small secluded room where they sit down on the floor.

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Faraz Najir

Faraz Najir’s tale

According to Najir, Roger Carlyle had sought information on the reign of the Black Pharaoh, a reign supposedly ended by Sneferu, first pharaoh of the 4th Dynasty. Since Najir had come into possession of certain objects of art related to the Black Pharaoh, he reached out to Carlyle to inquire if he was interested in purchasing them. The New York dilettante was interested indeed and arranged for his agent in Cairo, a certain Warren Besart, to settle the deal and collect the items, which were:

  • An ancient scroll detailing the entrance to a hidden room in an unnamed pyramid, wherein the Black Pharaoh was supposedly entombed
  • A bust of the Black Pharaoh
  • A small tambourine drum bearing odd symbols, rumored to be laden with mystical power
  • A strange circlet with a large zircon which was said to be the crown of the Black Pharaoh and to be the key to his triumph over death

More questions (and baksheesh) also reveals:

  • Najir stole the above artifacts from the house of Omar Shakti, a prominent businessman and rumored high priest of the Egyptian Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh
  • It was the Brotherhood that punished his theft by sending a fire djinn to burn him
  • The Brotherhood is rumored to be involved in a recent theft of a mummy from the currently ongoing Clive Expedition
  • Another rumor is that the Brotherhood wants an item located in the Mosque of Ibn-Tulun, but he has no idea of what that object may be

Najir also tells the investigators that he wants no part in any of this anymore and he asks them not to tell anyone of this meeting. It is evident that he fears for his life and that he is very frightened of the Brotherhood. When the horribly disfigured little man leaves, he asks the PCs to wait for 10 minutes before they leave.

Searching for Warren Besart

The investigators return to the hotel and discuss their next move. It is decided that H.P Rennfarth and William Fredricks pay a visit to the main Police Station near Ezbekia Gardens to see if he can find the address of Warren Besart.

Book river cruise

Muhammed the Dragoman is sent down to the river to book passage on a felouk (small river sailing boat). Such meager means of travel will increase the chances of keeping themselves incognito as they suspect that the more luxurious river steamers will be monitored by either the Watchers or the Brotherhood.

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A felouk on the Nile

More plans and Edward’s condition

They also plan to ask around for the Mosque of Ibn-Tulun, but the number one priority now is to help Edward with his “condition”.

His seizures continue to come around noon on a daily basis but over the time described in this post, they increase in duration as well as in severity, abrading away a chunk of Edward’s mind and sanity with each passing day.


And here we had to end the session. To be continued soon!