Session 20 | Egypt | Death on the Nile

egypt pyramids guide AP-xlarge

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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