Session 23 | Egypt | Tremors

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Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

New player characters

Walter Wannabi | Explorer| 44 yrs | Flan

Preben van Task | Treasure hunter| 40 yrs | Djuro

Herrman Germain | Spy| 42 yrs | Martin

 

 

Absent this session

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt (in New York)

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics Specialist | 27 yrs | Mats (in Egypt)

Link to background stories and portraits

Written under the influence of The Prodigy


Cairo, Monday, March 2nd, 1925 | mid-day

Secrets

The investigators are in the office of Achmed Zehavi, the nazir of Ibn Tulun. The worldly offices are situated in a building adjacent to the mosque but situated outside the walls of the mosque compound.

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Achmed Zehavi

At first, the nazir is more than a bit skeptic to meeting with these foreigners (Christian foreigners at that) but after having explained their genuine archaeological interest and intent in making a sizeable donation to the restoration fund of Ibn Tulun, Zehavi gets friendlier and even sends an initiate to fetch some sweet tea for the esteemed guests.

Edward and Slim mention that they have heard about a great treasure being kept hidden in the mosque and the attempt of its theft a while back. At first, Zehavi denies all knowledge of such a thing but Slim manages to persuade the old man to admit that they are indeed safekeeping an item of great importance (Slim is an attorney, after all…). However, Zehavi assures them with a wave of the hand, said item is well guarded:

-The Evil ones shall not have it. Inshallah.

The investigators do not settle with that and after some serious logorrhea, specifically mentioning the Black Pharao and the Black Brotherhood, the nazir is talked into showing them exactly how well guarded it is. Behind a colorful drape in the back of the office is a locked steel door with a stairway leading down into the darkness…

The Girdle of Nitocris

The stairs lead down some 25 feet, to another equally stout steel door. Behind the door is a chamber cut from the sandstone cliff. Inside, six old men are posted. The Guardians of the Girdle, Zehavi explains. The men are led by a seemingly ancient man, Nessim Efti, and are all brandishing sharp scimitars in their sashes.

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Nessim Efti

The Girdle is kept in a simple little chest placed in the center of the otherwise empty room. Zehavi opens the chest to reveal the artifact, a narrow band of intricately linked gold chain, with what appears to be a large uncut ruby marking the clasp. After the security demonstration, Efti accompanies Zehavi and the PC:s back to the office. Apparently, the only one holding keys to the steel doors is Zehavi himself.

The investigators ask about the significance of the girdle. Zehavi and Efti say that they know of the Black Pharao and that he was destroyed by the power of Allah. Prophecies agree that Nitocris, another being of legendary evil, rises again by the power of the Girdle and they guard the item to prevent her resurrection. They also say that their forebears have tried to destroy the girdle, but to no avail. Zehavi freely admits that the Black Brotherhood recently tried to steal the girdle, a clumsy attempt that was easily foiled by the guardians. Moreover, the nazir talks of the Carlyle Expedition, saying that they believe that the archaeologists have stirred an ancient evil which now threatens the spirits of many men.

All talk of moving the girdle to a safer place is met with resistance, as the Guardians are convinced that only they can keep the girdle safe. After all, they have been doing just that for centuries.

Suddenly, draws his pistol and gets behind the nazir, pointing the gun to the old man’s head. Efti, fast as any young man, draws his magnificent scimitar, pointing at Edward. Edward explains that he did what he did to show them that maybe the girdle isn’t that safe after all. What if evil men came here and stole the keys from Zehavi?

Somewhat shaken, the nazir thanks Edward for the illuminating demonstration, but insists that the girdle stays where it is. And with this, the PCs are cordially but resolutely escorted off the premises…

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The PCs think that the girdle isn’t safe in the mosque and decided to rent a house overlooking the mosque and more specifically the office building. Finally, they manage to rent a hovel from an old lady across the street, at the exorbitant price of 20 British Pounds sterling. All PCs except Rennfarth (who stays at the hotel) move into the meager lodgings, setting up a watch post and taking turns of keeping watch. They even chop a hole in the mud wall, to be able to cover the street with the Maxim (of course covered by some old laundry not to attract undue attention).

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The view from the Maxim’s sights…

The PCs take turns in watching the street. Their dragoman Mohammed is sent to try to unearth the Dutchman from the Clive Expedition (Janwillem Vanheuvelen) and also procure a Mauser C96 “Broomhandle” pistol for Edward, who has realized that he needs a gun with greater magazine capacity.

Tremors

Nothing happens for many hours and the stakeout holds promise to become a most tedious affair when the ground suddenly starts trembling. At first, just a barely discernable vibration sending ripples across their tea, but quickly rising to a full-blown earthquake. People are running in all directions, crying warnings in Arabic and the PCs witness how the mosque annex building along with Zehavi’s offices that they recently visited implode as a result of the trembling ground.

Carl and Edward pick up their gear and run towards the ruins, while Slim stays in the dingy flat with the Maxim (which he has now secretly named Maxine…) in case bad guys should arrive at the scene.

The mayhem that meets the investigators is total. The building has collapsed totally, only leaving the remains of two of the walls still standing. It is evident that no one should have been able to survive such a quake. The PCs quickly find the entrance to the underground vault. The stout iron door is open and bent out of shape. As they descend the old stone stairs into the darkness, a queer smell of oriental spices mixed with petroleum hits them like a wall. Flashlights barely penetrating the whirling dust, the subterranean vault room where they saw the Girdle of Nitocris is a total mess. In the center of the stone floor, a 5-6 meter almost perfectly circular hole opens up to darkness. The guards are all lying around the hole, torn to shreds by something savage. Among them, a few large chunks of sickly looking flesh covered in slime is spread. Zehavi lies slumped against the wall, not far from the stairway. A quick scan shows that he has no external wounds and that he’s still breathing faintly. The master of the guards, old Nessim Efti and his magnificent sword are missing though, as is the box with the Girdle.

Edward and Carl decide to slide down into the hole to investigate. As they descend, they notice that the surfaces of the circular tunnel are covered by a thin layer of mucous residue…

After some 3-4 meters of about 45 ° downward slope, the tunnel level out, running in fairly straight line, probably in the direction of the desert.

Light sources and guns in front of them, Carl and Edward start walking into the unknown. About 100 meters into the tunnel, they sense a vague draft and a low humming sound, which seems to emanate from somewhere in front of them. After a shortstop, trying to decide what to do next they trudge on, only to realize that the draft has increased.

“-Funny. This feels like being in those subway tunnels in New York when a train comes at you...”

Carl stops in the middle of the sentence, realizing that something is moving toward them. Something huge and fast, judging by the draft it is creating in the tunnel…

Run Eddie-boyo, run!

Carl starts running towards the exit at full speed. The big game hunter stands to look grimly into the darkness for a few seconds more but decides that the journalist is probably right and starts hustling back at full running speed. As they run for safety, it is clear that the thing in the darkness behind them is closing the distance at an alarming speed!

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We’re not alone!

Carl reaches the upward slope and manages to climb the slippery surface, breaking a few nails in the process. Upon reaching the slope, Edward decides to turn around and fires a few shots at whatever comes after them, before starting to climb up. However, he slips in the slime and slides down again. Attempting to climb up again, suddenly a tentacle whips out from the dark, catching Edward by the leg, pulling him down. Edward tries to fight back, but the pain is overwhelming and he suddenly feels very weak as is his life is drained out of him and passes out… Carl shoots at the tentacle, but it’s hard to get a clear shot without risking to hit his friend instead.

Meanwhile, police and ambulances have arrived at the scene.

Slim has tired of sitting idle watching the street and comes rushing down the stairs with the Maxim and a band of ammunition. Together, they manage to wound the tentacle to release Edward, disappearing into the dark again.

Using a length of rope, Carl and Slim manage to pull up their wounded friend, just as the Egyptian rescue team arrives at the scene. An Egyptian physician tends to Edward, stabilizing him and saving the man from an almost certain death.

Keeper’s note: Edward was at 0 hp and the doctor rolled a critical success on the Medicine roll.

It turns out that Zehavi has had a heart attack. He probably unlocked the iron door and rushed down the stairs to help his friends to protect the Girdle, but the horrors in the chamber must have provoked a heart attack. After Zehavi is driven to a hospital, the PCs join Edward in another ambulance, going to the Anglo-American Hospital situated at the small river Nile island of Gezira. The hospital is small and pricey but staffed entirely by Englishmen and Americans.

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The Anglo-American Hospital, Cairo

Back in the relative safety at Shepherds Hotel, Carl and Slim decide that they need to have a closer look at Mr. Omar Shakti and his shady operation as they suspect that the wealthy Egyptian businessman is the brain behind all this turmoil and the theft of the Girdle of Nitocris as well. But to do that they will need more men, now that Edward is incapacitated for a time. Slim says that he has earlier observed some fairly able-looking adventurer types in the hotel and decides to see if he can recruit the men to help them out first thing in the morning.

 

Cairo, Tuesday, March 3rd, 1925 | morning

Who needs another hero?

After a not so peaceful night of rest, Slim looks up the men from the hotel and invites them for a brunch in the lobby bar. It turns out that the before mentioned gentlemen are in between jobs and after some discussion, the three men agree to help out. They are:

  • Walter Wannabi, British (desktop) explorer
  • Preben van Task, Danish treasure hunter
  • Herrmann Germain, German spy (which he, of course, doesn’t reveal)

Mohammed is tasked with procuring a suitable vehicle for the drive to the small village of Gezira Mohammed, where Shakti’s country estate is situated. Mohammed has also found a Mauser C96 for Edward, at the gunsmith bazaar hidden away in the deepest recesses at the Bazaar of Khan-el-Khalili, near the great wall of Saladin. At the mention of a vehicle, Mohammed says that he has a cousin who can surely loan them a car, for a minute fee of course and sets out.

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Mr. Omar Shakti

The plan is to muster the troops and pay Mr. Shakti a visit the very same evening…

 

Full metal jacket

After tightening straps, checking magazines, syncing wrist watches, adjusting scrotums and other necessary preparations for a commando raid, the PCs exit the hotel along with their newfound comrades, to find Mohammed proudly waiting beside the crappiest truck they have ever seen!

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Mohammed cousin’s truck when it was new

It is evident that the truck has seen extensive use as an animal transport. It is equally evident that no service has ever been done on the truck and judging by the smell, no one has ever washed the car either…

After some problems getting the motor running, the PCs soon find themselves traveling south along the Nile, the moonlight glittering on its tranquil surface. The ride to Gezira Mohammed is about 35-40 minutes of rattling, as the shock absorbers have absolutely seen better days. Reaching the village, the road splits in two, with one going straight ahead and a side road leading away from the river. Asking an old man with a goat for directions, they turn onto the side road, where a large compound surrounded by huge cotton fields can be seen on the left side of the road after about 10 minutes. Two large barn-like buildings have their short sides towards the dirt road while a large, French architecture style mansion stands further back with its long side towards the road.

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Omar Shakti’s mansion

As the PCs pass, many fellahin (workers) can be seen going about their business. The PCs drive by and decide to park the truck about a km up the road, where it cannot be seen from the mansion. Trekking back towards the mansion, the investigators meet an old man with some goats. The man looks funny at them but Slim manages to communicate (in bad Arabic) that they are tourists on their way back to Cairo. He also manages to ascertain that the estate they saw indeed belongs to Mr. Shakti’s. Assaulting the wrong place would be very uncool. Very.

As the PCs approach the place, they see many fellahin leaving the fields and walking towards the small village nearby. However many remain at the estate. After some reconnaissance, the PCs think that the left barn-like building is some kind of warehouse or barn while the right one seems to function as quarters for the workers, at least some of it.

The plan is to approach the house from the desert side and sneak into the compound undetected. As the adventurers come nearer, they realize that a guard is placed to the right of the house, next to an enclosure with what seems to be many goats. This probably means that there are other sentries spread over the estate. The new plan is to have Walter sneak over to the left barn and set the place ablaze to create a diversion.

Walter manages to reach the barn undetected and slips in. Inside, he realizes that this is the cotton warehouse and also where the cotton is washed and processed further. He manages to find some kerosene (by the smell of it) and after several attempts where he almost sets fire to himself (he’s more of an office explorer really), the dry cotton starts burning, producing thick black smoke. Walter sneaks out again.

Meanwhile, the others have snuck up to the mansion without getting noticed. When the fire in the cotton warehouse is noticed by a fellahin, the alarm is sounded and suddenly the entire workforce is out trying to assess the situation.

The PCs are skulking around the mansion, trying to find a way in when the front door open and an imposing man carrying a white cat emerges to assess the commotion. Slim, Hermann and Preben are posted at the right corner of the house (Slim has set up the Maxim and is ready to roll) while Carl and Walter are to the left of the entrance, on their way to the kitchen back door.

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Mr. Shakti and Hetep the cat

Shakti has only come down the stairs when the PCs open up fire on him, shooting the man to shreds, as the cat jumps to the ground, transforming to some strange cat-demon creature, mostly resembling a fur-less, wrinkled lion walking on its hind legs! As it lunges for Slim & Co, it lashes out with a six-foot tongue in defense of it’s fallen master! The PCs manages to slay the creature with another volley of hot lead before it kills anyone. As it falls to the ground, it shrinks back to cat size and desiccates, leaving something resembling a cat mummy…

The shooting has alerted the fellahin and while some continue with trying to put out the fire, some produce firearms and starts shooting at the PCs! This includes the goat guard who attacks Slim from behind, but Preben takes him out with some well-placed shots.

As the shoot-out continues outside, Walter and Carl sneak into the house via the kitchen door, instantly killing a knife-wielding cook and then another guard as they advance through the mansion. However, they don’t find anything out of the ordinary.

Outside, more workers join the gunfight. The PCs outside are basically pinned down. Germain risks sneaking over to Shakti’s body, only to realize that the only thing left is Shakti’s bloodstained white linen suit and his fez. And next to him, the creepy cat mummy. The German sees something glinting in the suit and finds an old key on a silver chain which he greedily grabs…

And this is where we have to break for the evening. Don’t miss the next session of our Masks of Nyarlahotep game!


Action! Suspense! Bizarre humor! Mystery!

Be sure to follow A Fistful of d20’s continued struggle against the God of a Thousand Faces! 

 

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