Session 12 | London/Essex | To kill a king

 

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The Essex mansion

 

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Absent this session

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

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

Link to background stories and portraits


Secrets of 6 Holbein Mews

London, UK, Sunday, February 2nd, 1925 | early evening

Still shocked after the horrific events in Shipley’s garret, Carl and Edward decide to investigate the rest of the dingy building.

Upstairs

The upper floor has four rooms: a bathroom with dripping faucets, a small living room where Carl sat out his temporary insanity among little pillows in once garish colors and crocheted cloths. There are also two bedrooms – one dirty and messy, reminiscent of a teenager’s room, only filled with used ashtrays, empty liquor, and pill bottles, remains of food and dirty clothes. The other bedroom is neat and orderly and looks as it would belong to Mrs. Shipley. Behind a large oaken wardrobe, they also discover a lacquered wooden box with strange inlaid symbols on the lid, containing two old glass syringes complete with injection needles and a small glass vial with a lime green liquid. Didn’t Shipley have needle marks and the look of a drug fiend?

Downstairs & garden

Downstairs is a murky parlor, complete with knit-works and garish cushions that were fashionable three decades ago. A short hallway connects the entrance to the kitchen in the rear of the house, where a back door leads to a walled-in garden. There’s a small bathroom next to the kitchen and a locked door in the hall. Nothing is found in these rooms, except another locked door in the kitchen. The garden is small and completely walled in by a 9-foot tall brick wall of recent construction, and in the far end of the garden, there’s a tool shed almost falling apart from neglect and old age.

Next, the investigators try the door in the hallway. Carl remembers that Shipley had a key on a thong around his neck, but they shoved his body into the creepy painting, so the key is beyond their reach now. The door is negotiated with a crowbar instead. Inside, is a dark and dirty bedroom with an old bed and a potty. The investigators notice that all the wooden bed posts are worn in a peculiar way, with circular wear marks. It is also evident that someone has been lying on the bed quite recently, and upon closer inspection, they find some red-brown stains that might be blood… Maybe the Shipleys kept a prisoner here…?

Basement

Behind the locked door in the kitchen is a wooden staircase leading to the basement. A nude electrical bulb lights up the stair and there’s another one in the basement. Weapons drawn, Carl and Edward descend into the basement, which is cluttered with ordinary household junk, of the kind you collect over 40 years of life. However, the boxes and broken furniture are stacked so that a clear path leads to the south wall. Closer inspection of the floor reveals markings on the concrete floor, maybe from a hidden door. Edward checks the wall and finds a crack that might outline a hidden door and after some manipulation of the wall in the area, a click is heard and door swings open, revealing a secret room, all surfaces lined in shiny riveted steel.

The room is dominated by two shiny metal tables, laden with alien-looking instruments mostly resembling some sort of laboratory setup. Against the back wall, metal stock shelves hold glass and metal jars as well as many books, most of them looking old. Against another wall sits a great stone tub with a metal lid, mostly resembling some sort of sarcophagus and next to it there’s a 1- by 1-meter metal door set into the wall. The room smells like disinfectant mixed with ozone, making the investigators hesitant to enter as they suspect they will be electrocuted. Scanning the room from the door, Edward spots some large glyphs on the walls. The glyphs are unknown but resemble the ones on the lacquered syringe box they just found, and they seem to have been etched into the metal. Finally, Edward takes the plunge and walks into the room. Nothing happens. However, he can hear faint moaning and banging sounds. Carl says that Edward’s just imagining things. Upon closer inspection of the laboratory tables, the investigators find a steel tray with two more identical syringes and yet another vial of lime green liquid. They also identify some strange contraptions resembling some sort of machine, with dials and switches, but looking much smoother, with rounded shapes and made of strange materials. The jars on the shelves look like chemical reagents, but the labels are in glyphs, similar to the ones on the walls, as are the text of the books. Now Carl also hears the banging sounds, which seem to emanate from the small metal door. Carl opens the door, while Edward points his gun, ready to shoot. Inside, in pitch darkness, they find a young woman, bound and gagged, her clothing torn and dirty. After helping her out, the woman presents herself as Alberta Boggs. It turns out that she’s a “lady of the night”, who followed this Shipley bloke home after having been promised money and drugs. However, he drugged her and she woke up bound and gagged in the darkness… Well, some pervs obviously get off by doing such things, she says. Miss Alberta wants to know if the PCs have a cigarette because she’s dying for a smoke, or even better if they have the drugs that Shipley promised her. And where is that bastard anyway? She hasn’t even been paid yet!

 

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Miss Alberta Boggs

 

 

While Alberta has a smoke, sitting on a chair, the investigators decide to check the sarcophagus. When they lift the lid, the stench is unbearable. Inside, they find body parts in various stages of decomposition, mostly from what seems to be women, but also from at least one man. Disgusted, they close the lid before Alberta sees anything. She, on the other hand, has gotten her eyes on the syringes and demands that the investigators “share” the dope with her. After some discussion, where Alberta shows her superior persuasion skills, they go upstairs where Alberta lies down on the bed and injects a dose of the green stuff. Her eyes immediately roll up and she sinks down on the bed, unmoving…

Carl and Edward, unnerved, decides to go before someone finds them. They locate an old phone in the parlor and calls the Metropolitan Police about a suspected burglary and specifically asks for Inspector Barrington. After that, they take all the paintings, the syringes and drugs and the strange books and calls for a large cab. As they carry out the loot to the car, an old man, presenting himself as “the Major” walking a basset dog walks up to them and asks if they are moving, eh? Giving a half-assed reply, Carl loads up the last of the stuff and the London cab rolls away, just as two police patrol cars turn into the street in the opposite direction.

 

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The Major

 

The cab driver, Pete the Cabbie, is extremely chatty and knowledgeable about the streets of London, and as they arrive at the hotel, he tells the PCs to call him if they need a ride again. As they enter the hotel, the clock is about 7 pm. It feels strange to walk into the hotel, their home away from home, missing a member of the team…

 

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Pete the Cabbie

 

Waiting…

London, UK, Sunday, February 2nd, 1925 | evening

 

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Aerial view of Tower Bridge

 

Upon returning to the hotel, the investigators stash the art and the other stolen goods in Slim Shady’s room (they have two double rooms and one single room where Slim stayed). After updating the other PCs, H.P leaves to stake out the Blue Pyramid Club – they wouldn’t want to miss if the strange truck arrives to pick up club patrons again. The rest of the evening is spent having dinner in the hotel restaurant and after that a few drinks in the hotel bar. A calm evening of R&R before retiring to get some sleep…

 

I fought the law…

London, UK, Monday, February 3rd, 1925 | early morning

 

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The policeman cometh…

 

Around 9 o’clock the investigators are awakened by harsh pounding on the hotel room doors. Outside, grim bobbies demand their presence in the hotel lobby in ten minutes. Sleepy and unkempt, the investigators put on some clothes and leave their rooms. In the lobby, a much annoyed Inspector Barrington is waiting, demanding to know what they have to do with an anonymous tip about a burglary in a certain Chelsea artist’s domicile. Apparently, the semi-famous artist Miles Shipley and his elderly mother, Bertha Shipley were nowhere to be found and all his art was gone. The alleged kidnapped woman was also nowhere to be found. All that was found was a bed with traces of blood and what looked like electrical burn marks in the cracked corners of the room. And in the attic, there were traces of a fight. Also, there were witnesses who saw two men resembling the PCs move things from the house. The PCs manage to keep up their innocent appearance, spilling nothing. After a thorough interrogation, a clearly annoyed Barrington tells them in sharp formulations that he warned them about taking illegal action and tells them to stay in town and leaves with the bobbies.

 

Mr. Shady, I presume…

Flabbergasted, the investigators sit in the lounge, hair on end and an air of dog-breath around them. Seems they have managed to antagonize the law again…

As they discuss the next line of action, Carl looks over to the stairs up and sees Slim Shady coming walking down, a puzzled look on his face, but otherwise in perfect shape, even if his clothing isn’t as immaculately pressed as usual…

 

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Slim Shady comes down the stairs…

 

After initial happy greetings, Shady tells his story. Basically, he cannot remember anything beyond looking at the weird painting in Shipley’s attic. He does have some vague recollection of a primordial swamp or jungle. Other than a soreness in his throat and, well, rear body parts, he feels great. Even better than in a long time. The first thing he remembers is waking up on the floor in his hotel room, next to the weird painting. After a quick refresher in the bathroom, he then came down to look for his colleagues, and here they are!

After returning to their quarters to dress and get presentable, the investigators return to the hotel restaurant to have breakfast and discuss the next line of action. However, during the meal, the others can’t avoid noticing that Shady’s dietary preferences seem to have, well, changed. He ingests large amounts of water and seems to prefer meat and protein over other foodstuffs – ham, sausage, eggs, and bacon disappear at an alarming rate, which is quite uncharacteristic of the otherwise very polished demeanor of the attorney. Maybe he’s just starved and malnourished after his disappearance…

The next days are spent at the hotel or in the near vicinity, waiting for a signal from H.P or Kent who takes turns to stake out the Blue Pyramid Club. This also gives the investigators a chance to rest and recuperate as well as study their occult tomes.

 

Follow that truck!

London, UK, Wednesday, February 5th, 1925 | late evening, about 11.30 pm

 

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London cab

 

Finally, there’s a call from H.P Rennfarth late on Wednesday evening. Calling from a payphone near the Blue Pyramid Club, Rennfarth reports that a truck has parked near the club and that they are loading in club patrons as they speak! And it seems that the polite spice merchant Mr. Tewfik is leading the whole thing! The investigators, bored and restless from the wait eagerly jump from the Chesterfield sofas and call Pete the Cabbie to come and get them now! By lucky chance, Pete was on his way home, near the hotel and he arrives within 10 minutes and they proceed to drive over to the nightclub as the last club patrons climb onto the canvas-topped back of a beat-up old truck.

 

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The truck (but with a canvas top instead)

H.P reports that about 30 or so club patrons, mostly male, have gone into the truck, led by Mr. Tewfik, who’s now in the driver’s cabin with an unknown man. As the truck revs up the engine and takes off, the PCs tells Pete to “follow that truck”!

The truck rolls east through the night streets and after some time they leave the city and the lights behind and roll into the countryside. The truck moves steadily east, on smaller and smaller country roads. After some 1 1/2 hours Pete says that they are in Essex, near the sea. It is hard to perceive the landscape around them but a certain somewhat salty smell of moist earth tells them that the land in the area is water-sick, as is also corroborated by frequent glimpses of watery surfaces around the road as well as the passing of numerous little creaky bridges.

 

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Essex saltmarshes from the air

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Essex saltmashes

 

Rolling down a road really nothing more than a dirt track really, the truck arrives at a guarded gate in a long 2-meter high old brick wall. Four armed men are seen guarding the gate, but they just hail the truck and let them through.

The cab has stopped around a bend a bit further up the road and the investigators make the last stretch on foot, ordering Pete to stay put and alert if they should be forced to leave in a hurry.

The investigators choose to approach the wall to the west of the gate instead of challenging the guards. The wall seems old and neglected and is easy to climb. However, jumping down on the other side, Shady manages to twist his ankle and is now hobbling along with clenched teeth. Beyond the wall, some 800 meters away, a once magnificent but now rather derelict mansion can be seen, surrounded by marshes or water on all sides, effectively standing on a small island. Beyond the gate, there’s a narrow road running along a raised levee connecting to the mainland and in the center of the levee is a small wood and steel bridge of more recent construction. Using stealth, the investigators manage to skulk over the levee unseen. They approach the house but stay hidden in the terrain, watching in their scopes and binoculars. The people from the truck seem to be in the house, which is brightly lit. Outside, two guards armed with submachineguns guard the truck. From their vantage point, the PCs also spot light some 4-500 meters to the west of the mansion. After some 15–20 minutes, figures dressed in hooded black robes, some wearing strange masks exit the house and forms a procession moving towards the lighted area west of the mansion. To their horror, the procession is led by Mr. Tewfik and Mr. Gavigan, who both are carrying strange scepters and big old tomes of forbidden knowledge. The cultists also drag some seemingly sedated and half-naked prisoners with them. Through his scope, Edward thinks that he recognizes Miss Yalesha, but he can’t be sure in the darkness…

 

Cultist

Cultist

 

 

The PCs follow the procession from a distance, hiding in the terrain. The lighted area turns out to be a cleared area, centered by a pointed stone monolith reminiscent of Egypt on a small hill. Lit torches have been placed in a ring around the area. Several hooded cultists are already at the site, along with several more semi-naked people that seem drugged. As the procession approaches, some of the prisoners are chained to great iron rings on the monolith. Others are chained to steel spikes that are driven into the ground along with the ones from the procession.

 

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The Monolith

Cultists start do dance frantically around the victims as the high priests start to chant blasphemous words from the books. The air around the monolith seems to grow thicker and blue electrical discharges emanate from the monolith. Some of the cultists throw off their robes, revealing their naked flesh and touching themselves in the most shocking way. Suddenly a form emerges from the dim area around the monolith, soon followed by two more!

 

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Monolith entity #1

 

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Monolith entity #2

 

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Monolith entity #3

The entities immediately crawl down the monolith and begin to carnally ravage the shackled victims, surrounded by the ecstatically moving cultists, some also starting mate with each other, all accompanied by the rhythmic drone of Tewfik and Gavigan’s chant. The sight of the alien monsters ravaging the human victims is horrifying, but Carl and Edward manage to stay cool and focused. Slim, however, loses it and starts babbling incoherently, trying to control his feelings of utter insignificance at bay with words.

Keeper’s note: Slim missed his SAN roll and ended up with a short temporary bout of logorrhea…

Edward decides that he has had enough and aims at Gavigan though his rifle scope, firing two quick rounds into the cultist’s chest, sending him sprawling on the ground. Tewfik looks around in horror and produces two short scepters which he keeps crossed in front of him while continuing the chant. The entities do not stop their horrendous activities though… The shots also alert the cultists who stop their carnal acts, looking around desperately to locate the shooter! Meanwhile, Edward calmly takes aim at Tewfik and fires two shots at the high priest. One hits in the chest and the other is a clean head hit, dropping him to the ground instantly in a bloody mess.

Keeper’s note: Edward managed two hits, of which one was a crit, dealing Tewfik a whooping 30 points of damage!

This time around, the cultists spot the muzzle flash and starts running towards the PCs, weapons drawn, intent on killing the blasphemers, or worse. The chant broke, the entities stop what they’re doing and move drift back to the monolith, where they slowly fade out along with the blue electrical discharge The investigators realize that they must move and start running towards the truck at the mansion in the dark, Slim hobbling along with his sprained ankle, babbling as a maniac, making an excellent sound trace for the cultists to follow…

Approaching the truck, Edward stops and shoots the guard to the left, sending the other one running for cover. After a final sprint, the PCs finally reaches the truck. Carl picks up the Thompson that the shot guard was carrying and jumps into the passenger seat. Slim takes the driver’s seat, while Edwards posts himself on the truck bed in the back, ready to shoot at any approaching enemies. Luckily, the keys are in the ignition. Problem is, the truck won’t start… As Slim swears, turning the key, again and again, the second guard appears from near the mansion and starts spraying the truck with his Thompson. He’s a lousy shot though and manages to miss the PCs despite lots of bullets in the air. There is a short firefight, ending when the guard takes a bullet. Meanwhile, the truck still won’t start and now the pursuing cultists are almost upon them. Edward tries to keep the crazed cultist at bay from the rear of the truck but they keep coming and four cultists manage to come real close to the truck. Carl hangs out the passenger window and fires a salvo at them, missing badly, while Edward manages to get one of them in the leg, stopping her advance.

Things look bleak when Slim finally manages to get the engine running and they accelerate away towards the gate leading off the creepy island!

Keeper’s note: I had Slim roll Luck checks to determine if and when the engine would start and he rolled badly…

As they approach the levee, Carl spots that the bridge in the middle has started to move! It turns out that it is a swivel bridge. On the far end of the bridge, there’s a small wooden cabin with a single window directed at the bridge, where Carl suspects that the bridge operating controls are situated. Leaning out of the window of the speeding truck, he fires a ten-round burst of .45 caliber bullets into the cabin, turning it into splinters.

The bridge stops moving and despite the slightly odd angle of the bridge, Slim just barely manages to maneuver the truck onto it and on towards the gate, where three guards stand on the road, firing upon the truck. Despite the hail of bullets, the truck crashes through the gate and beyond into the Essex night, sending the guards diving for cover…

They don’t slow down until they reach Pete and the parked cab, where they disable the truck and quickly change vehicle to drive on towards London and safety.

 

Breaking and entering

London, UK, Thursday, February 6th, 1925 | very early morning, about 4.00 am

Back in London, the investigators decide to pop by Tewfik’s spice shop. Pete parks a distance away and the last bit is covered on foot. After some reconnaissance, they find a back door which is forced open. They first search the shop but nothing suspicious is found. Then they ascend the stairs to Tewfik’s private quarters on the second floor of the building. The flat is furnished in Egyptian style, complete with elaborate carpets, pillows, and low tables. Hanging lamps, incense burners and a fancy hookah pipe complete the mid-east style. A sizeable oil heater keeps the temperature at Egyptian level, making the PCs perspirate in their winter clothing. The investigators split up and search the rooms, finding a glass case with souvenir style statuettes of various Egyptian gods as well as a prominently displayed but dusty Koran.

In a roll-top desk in the living room, they find a hidden compartment with two sandstone vials, a folded black robe, a black inverted ankh on a metal chain, a black skullcap embroidered with inverted ankhs and twin scepters made out of black metal, and a crumbling papyrus scroll covered in ancient hieroglyphs. On the wall, they also find an asymmetrical ornate mirror with strange figures and glyphs carved into the frame.

Carrying all their newly acquired loot, the PCs leave the same way as they came and haste back to the cab, which carries them back to their hotel. Pete says that this has been his best taxi job for a long time – exciting and great pay and he leaves his private number, should the gentlemen need his services again.

The clock hands show 5.30 am when our intrepid investigators finally crash into bed, falling into the deep dreamless sleep of oblivion…


And there we had to quit for the night after an awesome session of Call of Cthulhu! Stay tuned for more recaps from our Masks of Nyarlahotep campaign!

 

 

 

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Session 11 | London | The Talented Mr. Shipley

 

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Papillons du mal. Miles Shipley 1923. Oil on canvas.

 

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Absent this session

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

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

Link to background stories and portraits


Meeting Yalesha

London, UK, Sunday, February 2nd, 1925 | slightly past noon

Late from the drawn out meeting with the head of the Penhew Foundation, Mr. Gavigan, the investigators catch a cab to go to the meeting with Yalesha the belly-dancer. On the way to Limehouse, Carl and Edward pick up Slim Shady and proceed to the pub where they’re supposed to meet Yalesha. Even though the cab driver is most knowledgeable of the London streets, frequent traffic jams make them arrive about 20 minutes late. The pub looks like it has been in the same location for several hundred years, a battered wooden sign reading “The Bouncing Duck” swinging over the entrance in the drizzle. Inside, it’s murky, the colored small pane windows letting almost no light in. There’s no sign of the young woman, only some working class males can be seen sipping lager at the tables. Only after asking, the bartender points out a slim figure in a hat too large, sitting at a corner table in the back of the room. Yalesha, now more properly dressed in a woman’s trench coat, is hard to recognize in the dim light but she waves them over, looking around nervously. She’s a bit suspicious about Carl and Slim, but soon calms down and tells her story.

 

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Off-work Yalesha

 

Her Egyptian boyfriend and husband-to-be, Fahed Al-Harbi has disappeared and she suspects that he has been murdered by evil men. He worked at the club as a bartender and got involved in something and now he has been gone for 6 weeks. The young woman says that maybe once or twice a month, a shabby canvas-topped truck comes to the club somewhere around midnight. Some two dozen of the club patrons then go out and get in the truck and it drives away. Whereto she doesn’t know, but she suspects somewhere out of town. The patrons don’t come back to the club later, what she knows of, but then they close at 1.00 am. Yalesha thinks that this operation is run by a dangerous man called Tewfik Al-Sayed and she has heard the name The Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh mentioned in connection to this. She doesn’t think that the owner of the club, Mr. Nawisha, is involved but she is sure that he knows some of what is going on. Yalesha also says that these people have eyes and ears everywhere and that it’s not safe to discuss such matters in the open. The PCs volunteer to get Yalesha somewhere else to live, but she says that she has no one else in this country and that the alternative to dancing for money at the club is doing immoral things instead. Also, her beloved Fahed might return and she must be there to meet him. She asks the PCs to find out what happened to her boyfriend. She also wants revenge on these evil men!

Edward borrows the establishment’s phone and calls Mahoney to see if he has some notes on the young man. Mahoney doesn’t know the name from memory but promises to check his files. Edward then phones Inspector Barrington to ask the same thing. Checking the files of victims, Barrington says that Fahed’s name is not among them, but then again, some victims haven’t been identified yet due to the state of decomposition of the bodies when discovered. He also informs Edward that a man called Tewfik Al-Sayed was implicated in the investigation in relation to the Egyptian killings. Apparently, he’s a spice merchant operating out of the rather poor and immigrant-rich neighborhood of Bethnal Green. Al-Sayed had also been hired as a guide in a Penhew Foundation-funded expedition to Egypt a few years back. The man was investigated and even tailed for a week but nothing incriminating could be found. Al-Sayed also denied that there was a thing such as The Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh.

Yalesha looks a bit relieved when she learns this and the PCs promise to look into the thing. Edward hands Yalesha his business card, writing down the name and number of their hotel and asks her to contact them if something new should happen or if she needs assistance. And with that, the young woman walks out into the rain without looking back.

 

London, UK, Sunday, February 2nd, 1925 | late afternoon

Bethnal Green, East End

 

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East End street

 

 

 

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Whitechapel locals enjoy jellied eel, East End, the 1920s

 

After meeting Yalesha, the investigators take a cab to Mr. Tewfik’s spice shop in Bethnal Green in East End to follow up on their new lead. As the cab moves north through the busy streets, the poverty and despair get even more evident. The shop fronts and people’s dress switch from mainly English working class to more exotic as the area is populated mainly by immigrants of many different nationalities. On Canrobert Street, a small side street to Bethnal Green Road, they find Tewfik’s Spice Emporium, advertised in both English and Arabic. The PCs stop the cab some 100 yards up the road, then walks back, scanning the busy street for threats. There are lots of shops here at street level, with what seems to be lodgings in the floors above. Carl and Edward stay outside keeping watch on the opposite side of the street, while Slim enters the shop, pretending to be a customer. The shop has racks to the ceiling on all walls and a big counter in the center of the room. Sliding ladders provide access to the higher shelves. Just inside the entrance is a stair up with a “Private” sign and in the back of the shop, there’s a door. Upon entering, Edward is overwhelmed with the scents of spices from all over the world.

 

Tewfik

Mr. Tewfik Al-Sayed

Browsing around, Slim is soon greeted by the shop’s proprietor, Mr. Tewfik as he calls himself, a pleasant and knowledgeable man. Slim acts the customer and manages to find out that Tewfik sells spices, tea, and coffee but not so much more. The man seems beyond reproach. He’s also a good businessman, and after a while, the attorney exits the shop with a big brown paper bag filled with exotic oriental spices. Outside, nothing has happened other than that Carl spotted some middle eastern men looking suspiciously their way and discussing something but then they disappeared in the throng. After a short sidewalk meeting, the PCs decide to follow up on the “mad painter”-lead. They catch a cab and go to their hotel to find out the address of Mr. Shipley.

 

London, UK, Sunday, February 2nd, 1925 | early evening

The talented Mr. Shipley

The artist’s residence is in sophistically sordid Chelsea, just south of Hyde Park, a favorite haunt of London’s artist elite. Exiting the cab on a suburban street with little two-story houses and well-tended gardens, Shipley’s house stands in contrast to them. The garden is a tangled mess and the house in need of repairs, paint chipping, and wood rotting. Upon entering the front garden, the PCs notice that the curtains are drawn on all the windows.

“–Seclusive people, those artists, eh?”

No one answers their knocks with the lion knocker but after a long while, shuffling sounds can be heard from within and the door is opened by an old white haired lady, holding a knitting basket with thread and knitting needles. The air inside smells stale and has that scent of old people and slow decay.

 

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Mrs. Shipley

Upon asking for Mr. Shipley, the old lady says that he is indisposed, but after stating that they are there to buy some art as they are American art collectors, the old lady disappears up the stairs of the narrow house and promptly brings down a protesting wreck of a man:

“–No mama, I don’t want to see any nice gentlemen! I’m tired! And where are my French toffees and hot cocoa?”

 

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Miles Shipley, one of his better days

 

Miles is dressed in color-spattered pajama pants and plaid slippers with holes in them. His chest is bare and he has borrowed mama’s morning gown, which he wears open, arms down. The man hasn’t shaved in days and his pallid face and hole-eyed looks suggest that he does not sleep all that well. Or that he is a drug fiend. Or both. However, he lights up when he hears the word “purchase” and immediately shows the investigators up the stair to the garret, which he unlocks using a key that he keeps on a leather thong around his neck. The old lady, who seems to be the one running things around here, follows last.

The garret has sloping walls and is dimly lit by kerosene lamps. Along the walls are stacks of paintings. There’s a shut skylight, painted black, letting very little daylight in. In the back, an old Victorian closet looms, locked with an oversized padlock.

The manic artist invites the PCs to have a peek at the art, even lighting a naked lightbulb hanging from the rafters for better visibility. Mrs. Shipley sits in an old comfy chair towards the door, picking up her knitting project. As Miles starts pacing, chewing his nails, the PCs set to work with one stack of paintings each. Edward’s and Slim’s stacks contain six paintings each, while Carl checks out two stacks with a total of nine paintings.

The motives are all starkly discomforting and on the verge of mind-bending (see List of artworks, Dropbox) but despite the clearly demented content, Slim and Edward manage to shrug off the discomfort. Carl, on the other hand, snaps from delusion and starts slashing a painting depicting a city of dark tower-like buildings, screaming at the top of his lungs. His compatriots manage to calm him and send him downstairs to sit in the lounge and take a time out.

In the garret, Miles is severely upset at the damage done to his painting and demands satisfaction – in cash that is. There’s also especially one painting that’s drawing the PCs attention – one of the paintings that poor Carl reviewed:

“It is night. A vast black mountain rises from a savannah. A great figure rises over the mountain, blotting out the moon. Its head is a massive red tendril. Near a temple-like building, tiny human figures lift their hands imploringly towards the creature; each wears a head-dress of the Bloody Tongue.”

 

After some haggling about the price, the PCs buy the mountain-painting for 160 Pounds plus the damaged one for 90 Pounds. As the economic transaction is settled by Slim, and they get ready to leave, Edward asks to see what’s in the locked cupboard. Miles looks immediately nervous, stating that it’s just some old rubbish and nothing to be seen.

And this is where Edward decides that enough is enough, drawing his .38 revolver, demanding that the artist opens the cupboard. Miles is wringing his hands, looking at Mrs. Shipley for support, gaining nothing but a hard look from the old lady. Slim menacingly put on his knuckle-dusters and takes away the old lady’s knitting basket. As Slim looks over towards Edward and the artist across the room, Mrs. Shipley lunges out, fast as a cobra, trying to bite Slim in the neck! The attorney manages to dodge, aiming a punch at the old lady who dodges with amazing dexterity. This is the second time that Edward has had enough. He picks up an old pink pillow with a floral pattern and fires at the old lady in a cloud of duck feathers, hitting her in the chest – with no effect! Meanwhile, the deranged artist has produced a rusty meat cleaver from somewhere and attacks Edward who turns and fires two shots point blank into the chest of the man, sending him bleeding to the floor. The old lady bites Slim again but with a heroic effort, he manages to shove her off, punching her in the mouth with the knuckle-dusters, sending her dental prostheses flying across the room, before sinking to the floor in a heap, almost passing out from the intense pain where the old lady bit him.

Slim looks up, but where the old lady just stood, there’s now a large serpent-man-thing instead!

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Mrs. Shipley’s real appearance…

Edward fires at the snake-thing through what is left of the pillow, hitting its arm, seemingly to no avail as it tries to pin down Slim. At this time, Carl bursts into the attic, gun in hand drawn by the noise above, just in time to see the snake-thing rush towards the center of the room, making an impossible leap towards the skylight window…

…only to be hit in the chest in mid-jump by two bullets from Edward and his now almost non-existent pillow. The big snake-thing thuds into the roof, missing the skylight and falls to the ground in a bloody mess. [Keeper comment: Edward’s player managed a clean critical hit here, dealing out severe damage in addition to the ordinary hit he also rolled]. As Carl rushes over to tend to Slim’s wounds, Edward puts one bullet each in the heads of the snake-man and the artist – again through the remains pink pillow.

The cordite smelling air is full of blood-smeared duck feathers as Carl tends to Slim’s wounds. It turns out to be two puncture like bites on the attorney’s neck. Carl tries to squeeze out any venom before binding the wounds. Meanwhile, Edward checks the dead for keys to the closet. When he doesn’t find any, he resorts to his trusty crowbar to get the job done. However, it isn’t until Carl gives it a try that the sturdy hinges give up and the closet opens. Inside is an easel, covered with an old bedsheet.

Despite the warnings of Edward and Carl (who are both deliberately looking away), Slim decides to have a peek at the hidden painting. He rips off the cover, revealing a photorealistic painting of an antediluvian jungle swamp. In the center, there’s an island and on the island, there’s a great stone slab, mystical glyphs along its sides. As Slim studies the painting, the fetid swamp water seems to ripple and move. Slim reaches out a hand to touch the fantastic painting:

“–Hey guys! This is unbelievingly realistic! Look – I can almost……”

Suddenly, all goes silent. Edward and Carl take a quick peak in the direction of the painting. Slim is gone. However, on the very realistic painting, a small figure resembling Slim can be seen, waving for help. No sound can be heard. Looking away, the two remaining PCs quickly scramble to find the cover and as they cover the weird painting, they see some 30 strangely dressed snake-men emerge from the borders of the painting, long crooked blades in their scaly hands…

In silence and shock, Carl and Edward clean the scene – they shove the corpses of the snake-man and Miles into the painting and wrap the other paintings in canvas from the roll that they saw Miles pack the painting they bought before all went south…

Exhausted, they look at each other – what now…? Three men entered. One went mad, one disappeared due to some foul sorcery and one is still standing…

And here we had to take a break for the evening. Stay tuned for more Call of Cthulhu goodness from the Fistful of d20’s crew!


Link to the ever-growing tributary page to the heroes lost in the struggle against the Mythos


Reminder to Players: Next time SAN checks for (i) seeing Slim disappear into the painting and (ii) for seeing the Snake-thing. Also, Carl went temporarily insane for the first time so he receives 5% to his Cthulhu Mythos.

 

 

 

 

 

Session 10 | London | London Calling

 

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London – The greatest city in the world!

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Absent this session

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

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

Link to background stories and portraits


Making up minds

New York, Thursday, January 22nd, 1925 | about 8.00 p.m

Returning from the Arkham to the laundry hide-out, the PCs confer shortly on the next logical step. Shady wants to go to Boston to seek out John Scott. However, Edward and H.P have already purchased tickets for merry old England. And who can resist 1st Class tickets on the world’s greatest passenger ship, the White Star Lines RMS Majestic?

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The ship leaves for Southampton, England the very next morning, so bags and trunks are hastily packed with the bare necessities for investigator life on the road – including guns, Mythos books. They even bring the heavy stone sphinx carefully packed in a separate crate that’s to be kept in the ship’s hold.

New York, Friday, January 23rd, 1925 | about 9.00 a.m

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Red-lining from New York to Southampton!

The voyage across the Atlantic takes 9 days due to bad weather, but our heroes enjoy their time off – resting, studying Mythos tomes, flirting, romancing, and for some – healing their wounds.

 

Southampton, UK, Sunday, February 1st, 1925 | about 8.00 a.m

Landfall

The Majestic glides towards the Southampton quay. It is cold and foggy, but the investigators feel invigorated by the thought of new vistas. Invigorated by a stout maritime breakfast and strong coffee, they traverse the gangway as kings, while the porters haul their luggage in pursuit, trying to keep up the pace. The first stop is the Customs & Immigration Office located adjacent to the quay.

The customs officer, a portly man in his fifties, checks their papers and passports with an indifferent face. Edward, as a citizen of the Commonwealth, is just waved by, but when the officer sees the gun cases, he insists on seeing the paperwork for the rifles. Being a professional hunter, Edward has a reason for transporting the guns and the PCs are let into the country. On the back of the customs building, there’s a train platform where a train is waiting to take the passengers to Waterloo station in London.

London calling

The train ride to London takes about two hours and is uneventful, but the Americans do get the chance to take in the wet and gray winter of England. About 11.30 a.m, the PCs finally arrive at Waterloo station, wondering where to go next. They decide to start with finding a decent place to live. Edward knows some places as he has been to London on numerous occasions before. It is decided that they will stay at The Cavendish – an upper middle-class hotel situated at No. 81 Jermyn Street in the northern part of St. James’s district (in the City of Westminster). The hotel turns out to be a cozy place, promising “Country solitude in town” and is run by a nice old lady, Mrs. Rosa Lewis.

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Cavendish Hotel

After checking in, the PCs head out for lunch. In the busy streets, they notice a newsboy shouting:

“-Slaughter continues! New Egyptian killing! Read all about it in The Scoop!”  (Clue #27 – see Dropbox)

Edward buys a newspaper. Over a pint of beer, waiting for the food in a pub, the PCs read about the most recent of a series of similar murders that have happened over a period of three years. Apparently, as many as seventeen of the victims have been Egyptians, all killed in similar ways, often found floating in the Thames. The PCs decide to follow up on this and start with one of the London contacts suggested by Jonah Kensington back in New York – Inspector Barrington at Scotland Yard.

Scotland Yard

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Scotland Yard’s headquarters at Victoria Embankment

As soon as the PCs mention Jackson Elias’ name and the Egyptian murders they are told to sit down in a waiting room and soon enough they are shown into the rather cramped office of the veteran police officer. Barrington gives the impression of being a thoroughly professional copper and starts by asking how he can be of assistance. The PCs learn that Jackson Elias contacted him a while back, stating that the Egyptian murders were ritual killings by some occult association calling themselves Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh or some such bollocks. Elias even told him that the Brotherhood was an Egyptian death cult. Even if he thought that Elias was a sensation-seeking journalist, Barrington followed up on this and he even interviewed London’s foremost expert on Egyptology, Mr. Edward Gavigan of the Penhew Foundation on this. Gavigan however, stated that the ancient death cult had no modern-day equivalent and that the current modus operandi did not match the descriptions of the cult of ancient Egypt. Gavigan had also added that, sadly, Mr. Elias was no more than a profit-seeking journalist, out for making a quick quid on the sensational value of such a story. The police-work did after this had also been unable to verify Elias’ claims. The Metropolitan Police had even run a long operation staking out a nightclub run by and mainly catering to Egyptians – The Blue Pyramid Club, as many of the murder victims had been frequent patrons at that establishment. Despite the efforts, nothing new was learned from the effort.

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Inspector James Barrington at Scotland Yard

Barrington also interviews the PCs, trying to ascertain what they know about this ghastly business, but they give him very little information, save that they are here to investigate the circumstances of Jackson Elias’ unfortunate demise and they knew that he had spoken to Elias.

As they leave, Barrington cautions them against doing anything illegal and that the should keep him informed of any progress or clues relating to the Egyptian murders case. The investigators ensure that they will do just that and leave Scotland Yard.

 

The Scoop

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Mickey Mahoney at the Scoop

The second London contact Kensington gave them before leaving was The Scoop editor Mickey Mahoney, making the sordid weekly tabloid the next logical stop. The Scoop specializes in juicy stories about gory murders, sex scandals, and weird occurrences, often penned by Mr. Mahoney himself. Apparently, Elias had met the man several times, when their mutual interest in the occult and weird intersected.

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Busy Fleet Street

The Scoop offices are situated at Fleet Street, not far from Ludgate Circus. When the investigators arrive, Mr. Mahoney greets them with a stinking cigar in his mouth. Apparently, he works the operation by himself. After finding somewhere to sit in the extremely messy office, Mahoney explains that he is extremely saddened by the news of Elias’ demise (which he knows of from the wires) and says that Elias’ friends are his friends. The PCs explain about their investigation into their mutual friend’s murder. The newsman is eager to help and says that Elias met with him recently, promising a juicy story about an evil cult operating in London. Elias also hinted that the cult might be well connected and that it might be connected to the so-called Egyptian killings. Sadly, Mahoney never got the story, and Elias never mentioned any names. Mahoney is still eager to get the story however and offers the investigators up to 15 pounds for the story. Or if they don’t find anything – photos of cute lasses in their knickers will also do…

Mahone also mentions that Elias browsed through The Scoop’s files and that he seemed particularly interested in three stories. After some digging through unsorted heaps of paper, Mahoney gives the PCs a manila folder containing three news clippings (see Clue #25 & 26 in Dropbox). One clipping is about the Egyptian killings, one about some grisly murders in a place called Lesser-Edale, and the last is a semi-famous London artist who produces the most vicious and evil looking paintings.

Mahoney also offers his assistance if they should need a guide or help with their investigations – he’s their man – for a price of course…

 

The Isle of Dogs

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Isle of Dogs map

In the evening, after meeting the cynical, chain-smoking journalist, the investigators decide to take the stroll down to the Isle of Dogs to grab a bite and a bitter, and maybe even check out the Egyptian Club – The Blue Pyramid.

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The Isle of Dogs, 1925 ca

The Isle of Dogs is almost an island in the city, surrounded by the Thames on three sides. The area is rather run down and encircled by docks and quays. It’s not hard to find a rowdy pub. After a few beers to boost the morale, the investigators decide to check out the club.

 

The Blue Pyramid Club

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Entrance to The Blue Pyramid Club

They find the entrance on a dark side street, a long queue outside. After some waiting, a fez-clad man in a huge mustache admits them into the place. Inside, the club is filled with faux-Egyptian paraphernalia – mini sphinxes, Egyptian statues, posters with pyramids, hieroglyphs and so on. It soon also becomes apparent why the place is so popular when the belly-dancers enter the scene…

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The Blue Pyramid bar

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Belly dancers!

As the crowd parties on, and the belly dancer’s dance get more frantic, the investigators spot a group of men sitting in the back of the room, all dressed in dark costumes and wearing red fez hats. One of them definitely looks like the boss. After some discrete questions, they learn that this is Abdul Nawisha, owner of the place. He looks like he means business.

Now the scantily clad belly-dancing ladies have begun to dance around the tables and expect the patrons to tuck money as tips beneath the straps of their costumes. When everyone is mesmerized by the attractive young ladies, Edward decides to have a word with Mr. Nawisha and walks over to the table where the men in fez sit. He hardly manages to mention the words “Egyptian killings” before Nawisha tells his men to “throw out this annoying gentleman”. Four big men grab Edward and soon enough he finds himself on the sidewalk outside the club.

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Yalesha the belly dancer

Standing outside, waiting for Carl, who’s enjoying himself inside with wasting money, Edward decides to scan the place from the outside. There’s a narrow back street beside the club, leading to what seems to be the personnel entrance to the club. A lone woman stands outside in the dark, having a quick cigarette, wrapped in a too large coat over her, well, scanty dance dress. As Edward approaches her, she seems startled and begins to go inside. However, the big game hunter manages to convince her that he means no harm and continues by asking her about the Egyptian killings and the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh. The woman, who introduces herself as Yalesha, says that those kinds of questions are dangerous and that she really must return to the show inside, but looks at Edward with interest and even passes a quick smile before disappearing behind the door.

After some more waiting outside, Carl joins Edward with a dumb smile and as they prepare to leave, there’s a knock on a window – it is Yalesha who’s knocking and is waving to Edward to come closer. She looks around nervously and says that she has information for him and that they should meet tomorrow at The Bouncing Duck in Limehouse at noon. Looking scared, she then runs back into the establishment without looking back.

Happy, and a bit tipsy, our intrepid investigators zig-zag their way back to more fashionable parts of the city without being robbed or worse.

 

London, UK, Sunday, February 2nd, 1925 | about 9.00 a.m

The Penhew Foundation

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Breakfast at The Cavendish

Slightly hung over, the PCs eat a sturdy breakfast with lots of coffee and then decide to pay a visit to the Penhew Foundation. As it’s situated in Chelsea near the Natural History Museum, they take a cab. The Penhew Foundation is a High Victorian building, surrounded by a high wrought iron fence and with a doorman just inside the entrance.

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High Victorian style house

Inside, a fancy stair leads to the main floor and a front desk where a very correct British female clerk asks their business. After some waiting over a cup of tea, they are shown to the superbly furnished office of the boss – Edward Gavigan. A man in his fifties, Gavigan is the epitaph of the refined English gentleman, dressed in a Saville Row impeccable pin-striped suit and wearing one of those new wristwatches. The office is luxurious, complete with a huge desk made of exotic wood. In the back of the office, there are built-in cabinets. A modern German safe stands with the door slightly ajar.

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Edward Gavigan, head of Penhew Foundation

After some jolly good pleasantries, he asks how he can be of help. Upon stating their intentions and telling about Jackson Elias’ murder Gavigan seems saddened:

“–Bloody awful business, I must say! Damned fine chap, Elias.”

Gavigan mentions having met with Elias once when Elias wanted to speak with him about Sir Aubrey’s participation in the Carlyle Expedition. He volunteers to try to recapitulate what he told Elias:

Gavigan says that Carlyle obtained information from a mysterious African woman concerning a shadowy time in Egyptian history about which Sir Aubrey had long been interested. In this time a sorcerer was reputed to have ruled the Nile Valley. Alas, Gavigan says with a sad smile, all turned out to be a hoax. In Egypt, the woman disappeared with the expedition’s ready funds, some 3500 British pounds. The money loss was insignificant to Carlyle, but the loss of his lover affected him deeply. Fearing that this loss combined with the intense Egyptian heat would negatively affect her as well as the depressed Carlyle, Miss Hypatia Masters, the expedition’s photographer had suggested that they should spend the summer months in the cool Kenyan uplands. That would also enable her to try her wonderful new camera lenses to photograph the African wildlife. Once in Kenya, the party had entered the dubious territory and met their fates at the hands of local bandits. Gavigan finishes by stating that the majority of the expedition’s records disappeared there as well as Sir Aubrey always kept them with him on expeditions.

Gavigan follows up with saying that despite their grisly end, the expedition managed to find some marvelous finds from other time periods from the test trenches dug at Dhashur. They also found some secondary sites to the west of the Giza pyramids. Most of them are loaned to the British Museum from the Egyptian government, but some are here at the Penhew private collection. With that, he invites the investigators to a tour of the collections. Gavigan shows the PCs endless broken pots, inscribed shards, noseless statues, and bas-reliefs of sleek cats and ladies wearing thin linen. The tour goes on for over an hour without a chance to interrupt, when Edward decides that he really should check out that open safe… With a lame excuse about “nature’s call and all that” Edward leaves the group and heads back to Gavigan’s office, stating to the secretary in the outer office that he has forgotten his gloves. The young secretary is uncertain of what to do but when a loud scream is heard outside, she rushes out, giving Edward the chance to rush into the fancy office and check out the safe. Inside, the only item is a packet (maybe 100) of new 5 pound notes. Edwards leaves the notes and just in time because the secretary arrives after the ruckus in the corridor (which of course was Carl that faked falling and hurting himself).

As the clock is fast nearing noon, the PCs take a hasty goodbye and asks the clerk at the front desk to call for a cab. Edward has a date with the cute belly-dancer after all!

 

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Lascars having a break from hard work

 

As they wait for the cab, the investigators note several lascars (East Indian seamen) men working carrying large cases from the Foundation and into a dirty lorry with a canvas top. On the left side of the building, there’s obviously some sort of ware entrance for deliveries.

We leave the investigators in a cab with a very talkative taxi driver, late (it’s about 10 minutes past 12) on their way to Limehouse and the meeting with Yalesha…