Session 22 | Egypt | The Black Pharao cometh

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The Black Pharao

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

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 Huntress


Dahshur, Sunday, March 1st, 1925 | mid-day

The Black Pharao

Having had their arses handed to them by the pyramid dwellers, the investigators find themselves in a tight spot. Edward has managed to staunch the bleeding on both Slim and Carl. Carl is rather ok and can move by himself, but Slim is in bad shape and barely manages to drag himself along with the support of his friends. Mohammed has heard the kerfuffle and comes rushing up from the grave chamber where they found the secret door, panting from exertion, and the group immediately starts down the ramps to get out of the pyramid.

However, on the second ramp, there’s a portcullis blocking the way. Mohammed looks confused, stating that it wasn’t there a few minutes ago… With their combined efforts, using Edward’s rifle as a temporary scaffold, they manage to get past the portcullis, which slams back down with a loud metallic clang as Edward removes the gun.

As they make it down the circular stairway inside the pillar in the grave chamber the PCs since their salvation, but upon exiting the secret door they somehow find themselves back in front of the throne room of the Black Pharao!

An offer you can’t refuse…

The formerly stony wall that blocked the asymmetrical doorway is absent and the six strange blue flames are lit, bathing the chamber in a cold fluctuating light. It is also very obvious that someone, or rather something is sitting on the obsidian throne…

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The Black Pharao

The air beside the imposing figure seems somehow distorted, almost as air above tarmac on a hot day. Atonal flute music can be heard from afar – or is it just in the investigator’s heads? But the worst is the stench of death and decay that surrounds the throne.

The Pharao then speaks. His lips cannot be seen to move, but he greets all the investigators by name, asking what their hearts desire most in the world, his voice seductive and dripping with honey and promise. All he asks in return is an insignificant token of respect from them – that they cease with this foolish quest of theirs and instead join him in servitude. If they do this little itsy-bitsy thing to prove their loyalty, they will be rewarded with anything that their hearts may desire – be it wealth, power, love or anything else…

I am sure that some of the PCs are severely tempted by the deity’s offer, but they all decide to courteously decline the offer.

No deal.

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Le Pharaon Noir

The Black Pharao’s expression palpably changes to immense irritation and his tone grows cruel and mocking:

“-You are fools if you continue with these feeble efforts of yours. The gods that you defy are too powerful to be disturbed by the efforts of mere mortals such as yourselves. Unless you can be in three places at once, you have no hope of stopping the glory that is to come. We are legion. Like the hydra of legend, unless all of its heads are removed at once, the beast still lives.

Go you back to your puny lives and enjoy the short time that is left before the inevitable fate that is coming instead of continuing this doomed and pathetic struggle of yours.”

The Black Pharao waves his hand and images of the Carlyle Expedition in Africa appear as a hologram in the air. Kenyan bearers and expedition members can be seen going about their business in an African camp.

“-Look you, at the fate of those that came before you, and see how they prospered.”

Suddenly, winged creatures appear out of the sky, almost blotting out the sun. Screams of panic can be heard as the creatures attack. As people try to run, the earth opens up and wiry fanged creatures crawl up and attack! Even the trees seem to draw up their roots and join the carnage. All the expedition members along with their Kenyan staff are ripped to shreds in the most inimaginable ways.

The god laughs, a pitiless sound echoing through the confines of the store chamber.

“-Even the brave know their lot. All doors are closed to you; all your dreams are doomed; all your struggles are futile. You should have accepted my most generous offer.”

Even as he finishes the sentence, the god slowly fades away, leaving the investigators in the dark chamber.

“-Balls!” Carl curses as he realizes that the stone wall is back across the exit from the room.

Luckily, the PCs have their digging equipment with them. The bad thing is, that it will take days of uninterrupted work to work through that stone…

Sighing, Slim sits down on the obsidian throne, his face in his hands, while the others start hacking away at the stone in the light of electric torches and lanterns. Carl decides to take a few more photographs of the bas-reliefs, map and astronomy walls.

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The hemispheric map

“-Might as well do something useful.” He mutters.

Suddenly the death stench is back and Slim is talking with a strange voice:

“-Are you still defiling my temple, fools? Since you are bound to my service, even if presently unwilling, I will extend my great benevolence and let you out”.

Slim gestures and the stone wall barring the way out disappears. Then the attorney slumps over and falls to the floor, unconscious. Everyone’s hand tattoo burns and tingles…

The investigators make a hasty retreat and don’t stop until they reach the exit from the pyramid. Outside, Abdul the pyramid guide wait, smoking a strong cigarette and keeping an eye out if the guards should return.

“-Fantastic eh? Abdul told you would get to see things that other tourists can’t see! But don’t you want to stay more? You’ve only been inside for ten minutes… And have you had an accident? Did you slip and fall? Very treacherous, those steps…”

The PCs realize that a very short time has elapsed outside the pyramid, while they have been in there for what seems to be hours.

Shaken to their very cores and wounded, our heroes demand to immediately go back to Dahshur to lick their wounds.

It’s early evening when they arrive at the hotel. After a quick meal and a refreshing shower, the PCs fall into bed, soon snoring away…

While showering, Slim realizes that most of his wounds are already healing well, but not with flesh and skin. Instead, the new tissue is comprised of snake scales, which now covers a fair bit of his body. Slim decides to write a letter to Father Shanuda, asking if the old priest knows anything of his unnatural condition and if there are any known cures.

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Slim’s new style

Dahshur, Monday, March 2nd, 1925 | morning

The Brotherhood strikes back

Early the next morning Edward is awakened by something tapping on his window. In his underwear, he sleepily scoots over to the windows towards the street. It’s a bright sunny morning outside. Peering out, he sees a young boy throwing stones at his window. When the boy sees the big game hunter, he gestures that Edward should open the window. Edward draws the curtain aside and opens the window to lean out when he catches a glimpse of something in the dark window in the building across the street. Edward barely manages to throw himself to the floor as a hailstorm of bullets shatters the windows, shredding the wooden Venetian blinds and curtains, showering him with bits of brick and plaster! The staccato rhythm of machine gun fire keeps hammering his room to shishkebab as Edward tries to melt into the floor.

Suddenly the hail of lead cease but the shooting continues. Edward realizes that the shooters are rifling the next rooms, where Slim and Carl are!

Meanwhile, Slim is brutally awakened by machine gun fire, sitting up in bed in his pajamas and nightcap. As the first bullets smash his window, Slim manages to roll off the bed as the hail of lead demolishes his hotel room, sending feathers from the bedding into the air.

Carl is sitting on the toilet, half sleeping, as he hears bullets tear up his room, punching through the inner walls, showering him in broken tile and plaster. The journalist quickly crawls into the bathtub and assumes a fetal position, memories from the Great War coming back…

As Edward realizes that the attackers are shooting at his friends’ rooms, he crawls over to the wardrobe to retrieve his trusty rifle. Moving over to the window he risks peaking out, spotting the machine gunner behind what seems to be a Maxim gun! When there’s a short break in the firing he takes careful aim and fires two rapid shots. The shooting stops momentarily, only to start again as the second gunner takes place behind the machine gun. Before the gunner has the chance to realign his arc of fire, Edward fires again and hits the second gunner as well. This time the Maxim stays silent.

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The Maxim machine gun

As the Maxim stops firing, the investigators gather in Slim’s room (they have three interconnecting rooms in a row) and quickly decide that they should take the fight to the bad guys and immediately run down the stairs. Early hotel patrons are shocked by the sight of three half-naked, dirty, armed and above all scruffy and unshaved men, dressed in pajamas and bathrobes, one with a towel wrapped around his head, running through the lobby, shouting and toting firearms…

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The three Duderinos…

The building across the street is an old colonial building in a French style, once fancy, but now in a sorry state and under renovation. The PCs encounter no one as they ascend the stairs and enter the 4th floor, which should correspond to their rooms across the street. Advancing with caution, they soon find the shooters’ room. Inside, two black-clad men lie in pools of blood on the floor, hit by Edward’s high caliber rounds. An old English war era Maxim stands on a tripod with an ammo box beside.

As the PCs enter the room, they hear the commotion on the street outside and police sirens in the distance. A quick search of the men reveals nothing more than that they have inverted ankh tattoos on their left forearms and that they are of Egyptian or Middle Eastern origin. Probably members of the Black Brotherhood.

The PCs decide that they could use a Maxim gun and grab the gun, tripod and ammo box before leaving the place. Down on the street level, it is chaos, and they try to look inconspicuous while hiding the hardware under their bathrobes (as much as possible at least), while skulking into a side street where they hide the Maxim and the ammo box in a smelly dumpster close to the back door of hotel restaurant “Kazaz”.

The police arrive just as the three dudes step back into the hotel, putting on their most innocent “victim-of-a-crime” looks.

While the police officers are investigating the crime scene in the PC:s rooms, they are interviewed by Sergeant George Thorgood of the Dahshur Police. The interview is very cursory and it’s evident that Thorgood has no suspicions about the investigators. He rather suspects that one of the many anti-British insurgent groups that have formed after Egypt was returned to Egyptian rule in 1922 is behind the terror attack. Illegal organizations like “The Egyptian Peoples Front (EPF)” or “The Front of the Egyptian People (FEP)” has been known to attack English subjects or foreigners before, but maybe not on this scale.

The hotel manager is most apologetic and arranges for new, suite-like lodgings for the poor tourists so that they can rest and freshen up.

Realizing that his skin condition now has become very hard to conceal, Slim calls for Mohammed and asks the guide if he can get him a Bedouin desert outfit so that he can hide his face.

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Slim’s new outfit

 

Back to Cairo

Not wishing to remain in Dahshur after the vicious attacks, the investigators immediately pack their things, including retrieving the hastily hidden Maxim machine gun, and return to Cairo by felouk, arriving in the early evening.

Back in Shepherd’s in Cairo, they meet up with H.P Rennfarth, who has researched the last known address of Warren Besart, reputed to be Roger Carlyle’s man in Cairo. The PC:s decide to pay the man a visit the same evening.

The French Connection

Mohammed informs them that Monseigneur Besart’s address is located in Darb el-Ahmar (The Red Alley) area in the Old City, near a bazaar along the Sharia Muezzeddin Allah. The address that Rennfarth got from the police is The Red Door, Street of Scorpions.

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In the Bazaar…

With the aid of Mohammed, the PC:s quickly manages to locate the Street of Scorpions, a dingy side street near the Bazaar. There is only one red door on the street, which opens up to a second-rate clothing store, run by a Mr. Abou Udhreh, who swears on his life that only he lives at this address and that he has never heard of Mr. Besart.

Slim notices that the man seems nervous, and that he constantly glances at a bead curtain at the back of the shop. When pressed, the man gives up the charade, showing the way to Besart’s lodgings. Behind the curtain, there’s a short corridor, ending in a green door.

Inside, a man is snoring loudly on a dirty mattress on the floor. The room reeks of neglect, alcohol and hashish smoke. As the investigators enter, the man wakes up, asking if they have some hashish or opium for him.

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Warren Besart

It is clear that the man is European. He is tall with blonde hair and beard, but his hard life has taken a serious toll on him and he looks much older than he actually is.

After promising the man some money, Besart tells them his story in a French accent, sometimes reverting to French or gutter Arabic (see Handout #31).

In short:

  • He was hired by Roger Carlyle to purchase some illegal antiques from a local dealer, Faraz Najir and then ship the items to Sir Aubrey Penhew in London.
  • When the Carlyle Expedition arrived in Egypt, it was Besart that arranged with digging permits and equipment.
  • The Expedition’s main dig site was Dahshur, in the area of the Bent Pyramid.
  • After a while at Dahshur, Carlyle, Masters, Sir Aubrey, and Dr. Huston disappeared while exploring the Bent Pyramid. The diggers left as they said that a curse was upon them. When the expedition members returned, they had changed, and not to the better.
  • The same evening an old Egyptian woman, mother of one of the diggers, came to Besart and said that Carlyle and the others had consorted with a great evil known as the Messenger of the Black Wind and that all were doomed except myself and Jack Brady. If he wanted proof, she said, he should go to the Collapsed Pyramid at Meidum at the time when the moon is slimmest, the night before the dark of the moon.
  • Besart took one of the trucks and went to Meidum, hiding in the sand dunes, where he witnessed a mass ritual led by Carlyle and the others. The desert itself came alive and strange creatures emerged from the sands, devouring all but the Europeans and one more robed cultist. Then arrived yet another five-headed creature and devoured all the hundred dead, leaving only the cultist leaders in the blood-soaked sands.
  • After this, Besart fainted. When he woke up he was alone and started walking in the desert, only to stumble upon a field of sphinxes, ready to devour the world. At the sight, Besart fainted again.
  •   A man and his mother then had found the mindless Besart in the desert. They took him home and nursed him back to some semblance of health over the next two years. However, every night he has nightmares and now the only thing that keeps him sane is the drugs.
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Warren Besart tries to get away from the images in his head

The PC:s realize that the man has utterly lost his mind and that he now only lives for his next fix. Unable to do much more for the poor man, they give him a wad of Egyptian Piastres and leave him to his fate.

Back at the hotel, the PCs read up on the local news and find that The Cairo Bulletin might be a good place to look for further clues regarding the Carlyle Expedition’s whereabouts during their stay in Egypt.

Cairo, Monday, March 2nd, 1925 | morning

Cairo Bulletin

After breakfast, the investigators visit the most serious English language newspaper – The Cairo Bulletin, where they are received by a Mr. Nigel Wassif, head journalist and chief editor.

 

 

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Mr. Nigel Wassif

Over a small cup of sweet and strong coffee, the PC:s explain what information they are searching for. The journalist turns out to be quite helpful, the main points being (full info see Clue #31c):

  • The Expedition arrives in Cairo in May 1919.
  • Digging is begun in Giza, they moved to Saqqara and finally Dahshur, looking for sites from the 3rd dynasty.
  • In July 1919 the expedition suddenly embarked for Mombasa, Kenya.
  • The expedition leaders met with Omar Shakti, a powerful Cairene businessman on several occasions. Wassif can’t hide how much he dislikes Shakti.
  • Another Penhew funded expedition, the Clyde Expedition, is in Egypt right now and are excavating in Giza, where they recently discovered a new mummy, thought to be Queen Nitocris, a mysterious figure from the 6th dynasty. However, both the sarcophagus and mummy was stolen from a very well guarded site and police investigations have come up with no leads.
  • Regarding info on the Clive Expedition, a Dutchman named Janwillem Vanheuvelen might know more. He was fired by Dr. Clive in relation to the theft of the mummy, allegedly based on accusations of alcoholism and incompetence. The man is still rumored to be in Cairo since he did not have the funds to go back to Europe.

The Mosque of Ibn-Tulun

After visiting the newspaper, the PC:s go to the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, to find out what secret they are hiding that the Black Brotherhood wants to steal, according to Faraz Najir. The mosque is located a half mile west of the Citadel of Saladin, and almost next to the City of the Dead, and is the oldest complete mosque in Cairo.

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Aerial view of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun

Knocking on the main entrance door, it is answered by a young mosque attendant, who informs the visitors that none of the ulama (learned scholars of Islam) is available for a meeting, and then shuts the door without further ado.

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Mosque of Ibn Tulun

Knocking again, Edward has come up with a plan to get access. Starting anew, he quickly informs the attendant that they are here to make a monetary contribution in the form of a donation to help with repair of the old mosque. This gets the attention of the attendant, and they are invited to meet with the nazir (the person who manages civil matters as well as religious duties) of the mosque – a certain Achmed Zehavi. The PC:s are led inside the mosque proper, and into a house that is actually situated outside the mosque, but must be entered from the inside of the mosque, where the civil offices are situated.

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Achmed Zehavi – Nazir of Ibn Tulun

And this is where we leave the investigators when they have just entered the office of the nazir of Ibn Tulun.


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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