Masks of Nyarlathotep is a campaign for Call of Cthulhu. We’re playing the new edition for CoC 7e. These are the tales of our investigations.
Clarissa Ashdown (23), an antiquarian from England. Calls herself “Lady Ashdown”, but is actually heiress to that title.
Wilhelmina Braun (26), a drifter from Austria. Lived on the streets of Lima, then moved to New York to work for Prospero House following the events in Peru.
Dr. Carson Crane (34), a doctor of medicine from Louisiana. Indefinitely insane: prone to sensory delusions and bouts of madness. Suffering from myxophobia, the fear of slime.
Professor Arthur Musgrave (62), an archaeologist from London. Suffering from ballistophobia, the fear of guns and bullets.
Jason Steele (32), a private eye from Salem. Not insane, but seems to be a bit paranoid nonetheless.
Janneke van Heuvelen
These ages and descriptions reflect the characters as they currently are, not as they were at the beginning of the campaign.
Found in Peru
Wilhelmina’s rusty bike, which she found on the streets of Lima one day.
A golden mirror, found in Peru, similar in design to artefacts found in Tiwanaku. Gave Prof. Musgrave a vision when he looked into it.
Found in America
A cloth headdress with a severed human tongue attached to the front.
[Stolen] A robe made of feathers.
The book Africa’s Dark Sects, which Jackson Elias was looking for at Harvard University Library. The book details Nigel Blackwell’s travels across Africa and the cults he encountered on the way, including a description in great detail of a cult summoning the monster they worship. It contains one spell, and will take several weeks to study fully.
[Stolen] A woven wooden mask, like a woven basket, but with no eyeholes. On the top of the mask are four monstrous faces, at right angles to each other. Prof. Musgrave identified the mask being possibly from the Congo.
[Stolen] A wooden sceptre carved with hieroglyphics saying “Nyambe, Thy Power Mine”. From the context, Nyambe is a given name, but not one any of you are familiar with.
A marine chronometer, a very accurate clock used by sailors to calculate their position. It was set to GMT, rather than local time.
Found in England
Paintings by Miles Shipley:
The Dark Pharaoh - a processional scene in which a mass of people prostrate themselves before a golden chariot. Standing atop the chariot is a pharaoh in black and gold robes, his face turned away from the canvas. Behind the pharaoh, two men have been impaled on stakes, and are being eaten by a pack of jackals.
Drawn in Blood - a man being cut open by a silver dagger, with an occult symbol carved into his chest which you can’t quite seem to focus on.
Black Mountain - a towering mountain over which rises a monstrous demonic creature, its head a great tentacle covered in blood. In a nearby temple-like building, small human figures wearing a headdress with a red tentacle lift their arms towards it in supplication.
A hyper-realistic, unfinished, painting of a swampy landscape in the Permian era, featuring humanoid lizards. The figures in the painting seem to move purposefully when you look at it.
A greenish hallucinogenic drug which provokes mythos visions.
Found in China
A gross statuette of a bloated, tentacled, woman.
A strange and intricate mechanism.
A bunch of voluminous black and yellow robes.
The book True Magick (1700s, English). Details the nature and habits of “demonic creatures”, including the means to summon them. Also discusses the author’s interpretation of the different schools of magic.
Some ancient scrolls written in Chinese. Currently with Mr. Lung.
Aubrey Penhew’s diaries.
Peru session 1, 2018-09-29
18th of March, 1921
You all responded to a newspaper advert looking for participants in an expedition to find an unknown pyramid in Peru, organised by one Augustus Larkin.
In Lima, Peru, you met Augustus Larkin, a sickly looking white man with a British accent, who you noticed is possibly suffering opioid withdrawal symptoms; Luis de Mendoza, a Hispanic-looking man, who is Larkin’s silent and imposing assistant; and Jesse Hughes, an African-American folklorist. “Jesse Hughes” is actually an alias he has given Larkin, his real identity is Jackson Elias, a not-unknown author who investigates and writes about real-world cults.
Over dinner, Larkin gave you an overview of the expedition and what he hopes to find. Afterwards, Jackson Elias revealed that he has doubts: he’s in Peru to investigate an ancient death cult behind the legend of the “kharisiri”, fat-sucking vampires. Mendoza has a fearsome reputation, and Larkin is acting strangely; Jackson Elias thinks that they, the pyramid, and this expedition are all connected to the cult somehow.
You, and Jackson Elias, are staying in the Hotel Maury; Larkin and Mendoza are staying in the Hotel Espana. The expedition leaves the morning of the day after tomorrow to Puno, and from there into the mountains: so you have one evening and one full day in Lima.
19th of March, 1921
You went with Jackson Elias to meet with Professor Memesio Sanchez, a respected archaeologist and historian at the local university. Professor Sanchez has offered numerous times to help Larkin’s expedition, but been rebuffed or ignored every time. He thinks that Larkin plans to steal the pyramid’s historical treasures and take them abroad, which the law currently does not prevent. He and his assistant, the undergraduate Trinidad Rizo, have been conducting research into the possible location of the pyramid, based on documents in the university archives.
Rizo was taking an unusually long time to arrive at the meeting, so you—not including Jackson Elias and Professor Sanchez—went to the store room to investigate. There you found signs of a struggle, and Rizo’s dead body. Boxes had been knocked off shelves, and she was partly buried. You found the skin stretched tightly over her bones, as if the fat had been removed from her body, and a large circular wound in her chest.
Peru session 2, 2018-10-27
19th of March, 1921 (early afternoon)
Still reeling from the shock of finding Rizo’s damaged body, Prof. Musgrave ran back to the office to fetch Prof. Sanchez and Jackson Elias.
Dr. Crane, as he finished his examination of the body and climbed to his feet noticed two things previously missed: a sheet of handwritten paper sticking out of Rizo’s jacket pocket, and the glint of gold from a crate next to her body. You all read the paper while you waited for Prof. Musgrave and the rest to return: it was Rizo’s notes on “The Final Confessions of Gaspar Figueroa”, a conquistador who came to Peru in 1541. The notes describe how he and his companions—Hernando Ruiz, Diego Garrido, Luis de Mendoza, and Pedro de Velasco—found an ancient temple near Lake Titicaca full of gold, how they removed some of the gold and, that night, all turned into ravenous monsters who pursued Figueroa. Figueroa eventually arrived in Lima, wasted and weakened by his ordeal, still carrying the gold they removed. For the rest of his days, Figueroa was plagued by hearing the voices of his friends, crying out in inhuman hunger; and another voice, ancient and seductive, promising him eternal life if he returned to the temple.
Musgrave, Sanchez, and Elias all arrived back. Prof. Sanchez, shocked and grieving, collapsed to the floor next to Rizo’s corpse; Lady Ashdown examined the gold in the crate, and found it to be a solid gold band covered in geometric shapes, with ragged edges as if it had been torn from a larger design, and managed to get enough sense out of Prof. Sanchez to learn that this gold was found with the Gaspar Figueroa documents. The crate itself looked like it had been torn apart, rather than being damaged by simply falling to the floor as a shelf was knocked. Furthermore, she noticed that the gold, while cold to the touch, had burned scraps of skin stuck to it, as if someone had tried to pick it up while red hot.
You all argued about how best to distribute weapons amongst the party as you pursued the presumed attacker by following the bloody footprints, until Sanchez cried out “we have to call the police!” You decided to split up: Jackson Elias and Prof. Sanchez would go back to his office to call the police, Wilhelmina would stay here to watch the body, and the rest of you would follow the footprints.
The footprints became harder and harder to track, and you lost them back in the corridor leading to Prof. Sanchez’s office. In front of you was the door outside, to your left were the offices. Lady Ashdown and Jason Steele went outside, Dr. Crane and Prof. Musgrave decided to go check out the offices. As they arrived at Prof. Sanchez’s office, Prof. Musgrave glimpsed a face peering in through the window, which quickly disappeared. The window looked out onto an area behind the university building full of trees and shrubbery, with no paths and few visitors. You both, and Jackson Elias, climbed out of the window, but couldn’t see anyone. Prof. Musgrave heard quiet footsteps not very far away, as of someone trying to sneak away, and ran towards the source.
Prof. Musgrave emerged into a clearing, to find Luis de Mendoza, who turned slowly and fixed the professor with a silent gaze. Dr. Crane and Jackson Elias caught up as you stared each other down. Prof. Musgrave drew a gun, and tried to question Mendoza: silence. Jackson Elias tried in Spanish: silence. Dr. Crane went to fetch the others; after he left, Mendoza charged Prof. Musgrave, who shot him twice without slowing him down. Mendoza barreled into the professor, tackling him to the ground, but got shot at point-blank range by Jackson Elias, flinging him off, and he lay still. Everyone but Wilhelmina, who was still watching the body, showed up a few minutes later. Dr. Crane examined the body and said that no man could survive that. About half an hour later, the police showed up and took over.
You decided to go confront Larkin, to see what he knew about Mendoza and, if nothing else, to tell him he needed a new bodyguard as you’d killed his current one. You arrived at the Hotel Espana and met the aged proprietor, Petronila Cupitina, who directed you to Larkin and Mendoza’s rooms. Both were silent. After fiddling around with lockpicks and considering scaling the exterior of the building, you discovered Larkin’s room was actually unlocked all along, and cautiously entered. The room was a tip, with things scattered everywhere. There you found Larkin, out of his mind on a large dose of heroin, which Dr. Crane estimated would not be fatal, but which would last several more hours. Larkin vaguely recognised you, but was unable to do anything more than suggest that you meet some other time.
You decided to snoop around and look for clues. Wilhelmina unsuccessfully tried to find a map to the pyramid. Jackson Elias noticed that Larkin had a large tattoo on his check: of a person, but in the place of his head was a large spiral. He recognised this as the symbol of the Cult of the Bloody Tongue, a particularly violent Kenyan cult, and had no idea what would bring them to Peru. Under the stench of Larkin’s strong cologne, Lady Ashdown noticed the faint smell of rotting meat.
You then broke into Mendoza’s room. In contrast to Larkin’s, it was spotlessly clean, as if it had never been used. Again, Wilhelmina unsuccessfully looked for a map. Jason Steele found a small mirror of polished gold beneath the mattress, the only personal item in the room. Prof. Musgrave examined it… and had a brief vision of white tentacles bursting through a pyramid.
You decided to come back after a few hours to talk to Larkin when he was sober again. Prof. Musgrave went back to his hotel room to rest. The rest of you confronted Larkin, telling him that Mendoza had killed a girl at the university, and asking how long Mendoza had been in his employ. Larkin expressed shock and disbelief that Mendoza would do such a thing, and said that he had only known Mendoza for a few months. Lady Ashdown realised that Larkin was lying. Larkin seemed to have no recollection of your visit that afternoon.
20th of March, 1921
You set off to Puno in the Andean foothills. Larkin was determined that the loss of Mendoza not slow down the expedition. This was an uneventful three-day journey by truck, during which you fought off altitude sickness.
You had one night to rest in Puno before heading out the next morning to the pyramid on foot. Most of you chose to stay in the hotel, but Wilhelmina decided to roam the streets. She realised an old woman was following her, and confronted this person. The old woman asked if Wilhelmina was with Larkin and, upon hearing that she was but that she didn’t trust Larkin, the woman said to follow her. She said her name was Nayra, and that she didn’t think it was a good idea to go with Larkin to the pyramid. She told a local legend, of an unknown dark god that fell from the sky into Lake Titicaca, and brought hunger and famine with it. One day a hero lured the god into a cave, which was full of the most delicious tubers and grubs; and sealed the cave with huge rocks. A pyramid was then built over the cave, with spells worked in gold to keep the god imprisoned forever. Wilhelmina wondered aloud if the god had escapedOut-of-character at this point you were discussing a few theories: such as if the golden band at at the university which Gaspar Figueroa brought from a pyramid was part of the golden seal used to keep the god imprisoned, and if Mendoza was some aspect or manifestation of this god who had escaped when the seal was broken.
, at which Nayra crossed herselfNayra seems to follow a mixture of Catholicism and local beliefs.
21st of March, 1921
You discussed what you knew, and sent a telegram off to Prof. Sanchez detailing your findings. You thought that you might need to bring the gold band to the pyramid, so it’s best for him to be prepared.
You then set out into the jungle with Larkin, using pack animals to carry your supplies. No locals would accompany you now. After a few hours you stopped for lunch, and Lady Ashdown spied a majestic jaguar in the distance.
That night around 3am, the noise of one of the pack animals in distress alerted Dr. Crane, who was on watch, and awakened Lady Ashdown, a light sleeper. You found a filthy man, stinking and dressed in rags, pinning one of the animals to the ground with his face pressed into it. Lady Ashdown hit the man in the head with a crowbar, knocking him off the animal, and revealing that his mouth was no human mouth: it was circular and full of sharp teeth, much like a lamprey. The rest of you had awoken at this point, and easily dealt with the man.
Peru session 3, 2018-11-11
22nd of March, 1921 (early morning)
Dr. Crane examined the body of the man who attacked your pack animals, and the wound on the animal, and determined that it matched the wound on Rizo’s body back in Lima. He judged that it was probably a similar creature which had attacked her. Larkin appeared shocked, asking “what was that man?”, but you realised he was lying: he seemed surprised that the attack had occurred, but not by the man’s existence. You buried the man and the animal to avoid attracting scavenging animals, and returned to bed.
22nd of March, 1921
The second day and night of your journey passed uneventfully.
23rd of March, 1921
In the third afternoon, you saw two people heading in the same direction as you, half a mile ahead. Larkin suggested they may be local farmers. You failed to catch up with them.
You arrived at the pyramid, looking down upon it from half-way up a mountain. The plateau which held it had no vegetation, just dirt, rock, a pit next to the south wall, and the part-buried pyramid with a crack running along the top. Two figures were below: you could see one standing next to the pyramid, and one climbing the side. The one climbing the side crouched over the crack for a few minutes, then both went to the pit next to the south wall and climbed down.
The air swarmed with flies, which Prof. Musgrave identified as bloatflies, which feed on carrion.
You descended to the pyramid and had a look around. You found:
- The pit the people had climbed down into, which was full of emaciated and shrunken bodies in various states of decay; the air full of flies and the stench of death.
- The crack atop the pyramid, about 5cm wide, which did not offer a clear view. It also stank of corruption and swarmed with flies.
- A couple of shafts covered with stone slabs, which appeared to descend to some underground tunnels.
You decided to wade through the bodies, following the two people, to reduce the risk of being caught unawares if you used a different entrance. Larkin feigned his illness acting up to avoid going in, but when confronted confessed that he suffered claustrophobia, and didn’t realise just what it would be like at the pyramid. Jason Steele stayed with Larkin while the rest of you descended.
Wandering the narrow tunnels, you found a room full of shiny trinkets from all ages: coins, jewellery, watches, cutlery, and so on; gathered and piled up with no apparent organisation. You also saw the two people from earlier, fast asleep on filthy mats on the floor. They were thin, unnaturally so, but didn’t appear to be suffering for it.
You tried to bind the two people, a man and a woman, without waking them up. You succeeded with the man, but the woman woke up, but you managed to subdue her. You tried questioning her, but got no answer. You tried giving her food, which she ate, but not with the reckless abandon you would expect from a victim of starvation. Leaving them behind, you continued to explore the tunnels.
You arrived at the buried walls of the pyramid, which had a familiar-looking golden band embedded into them. You followed the band, and reached a point where it had been torn away. There was a crack along the wall from the floor to the ceiling, and a hole in the floor which had filled with a rank-smelling white liquid. Lady Ashdown saw rippling in the pool, as if something were moving beneath the surface.
Dr. Crane lowered a sample container into the pool, and the ripples surged towards it. He withdrew the container and examined the contents, but without much insight. He tried setting it alight, and it burst into flames with such a violence he started and dropped the flaming container into the pool, setting the whole thing alight. Black smoke billowed into the tunnel. Jackson Elias dropped to the ground, and to fresh air, dragging Wilhelmina with him; but the rest of you inhaled the smoke and collapsed unconscious.
On the surface, Jason Steele saw the smoke emerging, and tried to move one of the stone slabs covering the shafts, to let the smoke escape more rapidly. As he was struggling with that, he heard footsteps from behind. He turned, and it was Larkin, but not Larkin as you knew him. This Larkin stood straight and tall, with no sign of his usual illness, and his eyes were totally black. Jason Steele felt his mind go blank as Larkin said “you will go into the pyramid and destroy the golden seal.”
Jason climbed down into the tunnels, touching the golden band. He briefly fought to overcome this compulsion upon him, but could not. He struck the band with a crowbar, creating a new crack. A brief earthquake shook the ground.
Lady Ashdown, Dr. Crane, and Prof. Musgrave regained consciousness just in time to see Jason Steele strike the band and feel the ground shake. “What have you done,” Prof. Musgrave cried, and Jason Steele babbled for a few moments about Larkin.
You decided to try repairing the golden band with the gold in the other room, as the band was set into the wall of the pyramid, so it was clear where gold needed to be. Prof. Musgrave hammered the golden mirror he found in Luis de Mendoza’s room into the cavity in the wall. You all then turned to go fetch more gold to finish the repair, and were confronted by Luis de Mendoza, seemingly back from the dead.
“Destroy the seal,” he said, the first words you had heard him speak. He had a gun aimed at you. When you didn’t cooperate, he shot Prof. Musgrave, who failed to dodge, and lay on the ground bleeding heavily. Jason Steele shot Mendoza twice with his shotgun, inflicting a terrible wound, and knocking him back onto the ground, apparently dead once more. The horror of what you all just witnessed began to sink in: a dead man came back to kill you. Dr. Crane picked the bullet out of Prof. Musgrave and bandaged him up. Prof. Musgrave gained a nascent phobia of bullets.
You quickly fetched more gold and continued the repair, but nothing seemed to happen. Jason Steele decided to pick up Mendoza’s body and see if the seal burned it, like the fragment of seal in the university storage room did. But as he picked up Mendoza, the body crumbled away into dust. You dashed back to the room with the two people in, and saw that the man had also turned to dust. The woman was still alive, but looked incredibly feeble, and seemed to worsen before your very eyes. She seemed confused and afraid, asking what was happening. Prof. Musgrave offered her some food, but as she reached out her arm to take it, she fell back dead.
Jason Steele and Prof. Musgrave came out onto the surface to find Larkin sitting down, looking very feeble, with no sign of the power which had filled him before. He told you that he had come to this pyramid once before, with some locals, and that he didn’t really remember what happened. He found himself back in Lima, with a compulsion to find some people to take to the pyramid and destroy the golden seal. He couldn’t do it himself, it repelled the power within him. This is where you, and his expedition, came in.
You then lowered a rope down one of the shafts for the rest of you to climb out. Jackson Elias carried a bag full of golden coins, and said sheepishly “well, this is why we came, right?”
Then we had a time skip to everyone parting ways at the port in Lima.
None of you seemed particularly sad to be leaving Peru, and a few of you said you’d hope to never cross paths with Larkin again. Larkin said that he was just glad everyone survived this expedition, and that he hoped nothing like this would ever happen again. Jason Steele and Dr. Crane realised Larkin was lying; but the point of no return had been passed, and they couldn’t turn back to confront him.
This is the end of this chapter. Bonus sanity points are:
+1d6for killing Luis de Mendoza.
+1d8for restoring the ward on the pyramid.
The next chapter is after a four-year time skip. We’ll start with a brief character-tweaking phase where I’ll award some bonus skill points.
America session 1, 2018-11-24
It’s 1925, four years after the events of Peru, and you have all received a message from Jackson Elias saying that he’s uncovered new information about the Carlyle Expedition, and needed a reliable team of investigators to help him.
The Carlyle Expedition of 1919 was an archaeological expedition to Egypt funded by wealthy playboy Roger Carlyle. The expedition primaries were:
Roger Carlyle - wealthy playboy.
Sir Aubrey Penhew - renowned Egyptologist and founder of the Penhew Foundation in London.
Dr. Robert Huston - a fashionable Freudian psychologist, on the expedition to conduct research into ancient pictographs.
Hypatia Masters - a socialite acting as photographer and archivist.
Jack Brady - Rodger Carlyle’s loyal bodyguard and manservant.
After Egypt, the expedition went to Nairobi, to unwind on a safari. That was the last time the expedition members were seen alive. Two months after their disappearance, Erica Carlyle, the sister of Roger Carlyle, arrived in Nairobi with an expedition of her own: to find her brother. The remains of the Carlyle Expedition were found, massacred by tribesmen, who were executed for their crimes.
This was all over the newspapers of the time, and it was thought to be a settled issue. Jackson Elias finding new information is quite a surprise.
15th of January, 1925
On the morning of the 15th of January, the day Jackson Elias asked to see you all, you all made your way to Prospero House, Jackson’s publisher, to ask about his whereabouts, as his message was nonspecific. There you were reunited with Wilhelmina, who has moved to New York and is working there as a secretary.
You met Jonah Kensington, the owner of Prospero House and Jackson’s friend, who told you that Jackson is staying in room 410 of the Hotel Chelsea. You made your way to the Hotel Chelsea and were directed to room 410 by a man at the reception desk.
Upon arriving at room 410, you found the door locked, and no answer to your knocking. You noticed some workmen on the fire escape outside, and asked if they’d seen a man matching Jackson’s description leave, but they irritably brushed you off and returned to work. Wilhelmina investigated the possibility of climbing down to the fire escape outside Jackoson’s room from the floor above. Jason Steele picked the lock.
Inside room 410 you found your good friend Jackson Elias, sprawled over a large chair, eviscerated and with a symbol carved into his forehead. Prof. Musgrave screamed, and ran back down to the reception. The window was open, and the fire escape visible beyond. Items were scattered around the room. Dr. Crane determined that the murder had been done recently, in the last few hours.
The room contained a telephone, and you called the police. The receptionist downstairs also called the police. While waiting for the police to arrive, you looked around, and found a few items:
A business card for Edward Gavigan, director of the London-based Penhew Foundation.
A business card for Emerson Imports, with the name “Silas N’Kwane” written on the back in Jackson’s hand.
A handbill for a public lecture at New York University entitled “The Cult of Darkness in Polynesia & The Southwest Pacific”, by Prof. Anthony Cowley of the University of Sydney, currently a visiting professor at Miskatonic University.
Jason Steele got in touch with his friend Chester Sullivan, an agency detective. He arrived at around the same time as two police officers, who treated him with a professional respect and let him perform his investigation in tandem with their own.
One of the officers made a phone call to Lt. Poole, saying that the murder was the same as the ones in the Hilton Adams case of last year. About 45 minutes later, Lt. Poole arrived, and sent Chester Sullivan away. Lt. Poole asked you about your connection to Jackson Elias. He was satisfied by your answers, and when you asked about the Hilton Adams case held nothing back.
A string of similar murders, where the victims all had the same symbol carved into their forehead, had occurred last year. Lt. Poole was looking into the case, but had no leads. There was no connection between the victims: rich and poor, black and white. Captain Robson insisted that the case be transferred to him, which it was, and he quickly closed the case when he found Hilton Adams at the scene of one such murder. Hilton Adams was convicted with only circumstantial evidence, and Lt. Poole suspects that Captain Robson had been bribed to shut down the case. Given the diversity of victims, Lt. Poole suspects that they are all people who learned too much about some secret.
Lt. Poole gave you his contact details, and said he would be in touch if necessary. You then left the scene. Wilhelmina decided to go back to Prospero House to inform Jonah Kensington of the death; the rest of you decided to go to Emerson Imports to ask about Silas N’Kwane.
Jonah was shocked by the revelation, and immediately contacted Carlton Ramsey, Jackson’s lawyer, to arrange an urgent meeting. Wilhelmina tagged along.
By the time Jonah and Wilhelmina arrived at Carlton Ramsey’s office, he had been informed by the police of Jackson’s death. After discussing the arrangements for the funeral the next day, Carlton turned to Wilhelmina and asked if she and Jackson’s other friends could see him after the funeral for the reading of the will. Wilhelmina agreed, and asked if they knew anything about Jackson’s recent work; they did, but thought it best to wait until tomorrow. Wilhelmina also asked about Prof. Anthony Cowles, but they didn’t know the man.
Wilhelmina then headed to New York University to enquire about the lecture.
At Emerson Imports you met Arthur Emerson, who made a sour expression when you brought up Silas N’Kwane. He said that Silas didn’t work for him, that he was a customer who used Emerson Imports to import African trinkets for his shop. Something about N’Kwane made Emerson’s skin crawl; he doesn’t like the man. He gave you the address of Ju-Ju House, N’Kwane’s shop.
Ju-Ju House is a very small shop, full of African trinkets, souvenirs, display weapons, and so on. The aged proprietor, Silas N’Kwane, said he didn’t know a Jackson Elias. You determined that he wasn’t being entirely truthful, but he persisted in his claim. He suggested that maybe Jackson Elias had got his name from Mr. Emerson, but had never come to the shop. To get on his good side, Prof. Musgrave bought a wooden animal, which seemed to improve Silas’ opinion of you.
You then all headed to New York University as well.
At the university, you all reunited at the reception. The lecture was last week, and Prof. Cowles had since returned to Arkham. You then went to the anthropology department, on the hunch that if anyone attended a talk about cults it was probably them, and Jason Steele stopped people until he found a timid graduate student willing to summarise the lecture.
The lecture was about the Cult of the Sand Bat, once widespread amongst Australian Aborigines. This cult worshipped a being known as the Sand Bat, or the Father of All Bats, and partook in human sacrifice. They believed that by sacrificing, they would become worthy for their god, who would appear to the world and conquer it, turning it into a paradise for the cult. There was also a legend that the Sand Bat had a battle with the Rainbow Snake, another aboriginal god—the deification of water and life—who tricked the Sand Bat, and sealed it and all his clan in a watery place from which the Sand Bat cannot escape.
16th of January, 1925
You saw an article in the New York Times about the similarity of Jackson Elias’ murder and the crimes for which Hilton Adams had been arrested, who was at this time on death row. The author was Rebecca Shosenburg.
In the afternoon you went to the funeral. It was a brief, non-denominational, and poorly attended ceremony. Only you, the priest, Carlton Ramsey, his niece, and Jonah Kensington were there. Outside the cemetery, some reporters watched. After the ceremony concluded, you left with Carlton to go to his office. As you walked by the reporters, one pushed to the front and introduced herself as Rebecca Shosenburg, asking if you had any opinions on the similarity of this murder to the Hilton Adams case. You brushed her off and continued to the office.
At the office, Carlton offered you some bootleg bourbon before the reading of the will. He said that Jackson had been by the day before his death to update his will. Jackson hadn’t said anything, but Carlton believed that Jackson was afraid, and wanted to prepare for the worst.
The key points of the will are: that Elias has given full power of attorney to Carlton, with complete authority to liquidate his assets; that Carlton is to use these assets to create and manage a fund to continue Jackson’s investigation; and that you, named in the will, are the preferred people to carry on this investigation. Carlton is also to act as a central point of contact, and a recruiter if people with specialised skills, or new investigators, are required.
Jackson left a note, to be read in the event of his death, which encouraged you to continue his investigation and find his killers. Jackson had also left some of his papers:
A letter, dated 1919 and sent from Cairo, from a M. Warren Besart to Roger Carlyle.
A blurry photograph showing some boats in the foreground and buildings in the background.
A letter to Jackson Elias from Miriam Atwright at the Harvard University Library.
You all agreed to join the quest and continue in Jackson’s footsteps.
America session 2, 2018-12-08
17th of January, 1925
You visited Prospero House to ask Jonah Kensington for Jackson Elias’ book notes. There was a letter, sent from Nairobi, saying that while the authorities denied the cult aspect of the Carlyle massacre, the locals thought differently. With the letter was a bundle of notes. The notes revealed that the bodies had been found in an area shunned by the local tribes, who said it was cursed by the God of the Black Wind, revered by the Cult of the Bloody Tongue. The bodies had been torn apart and, contrary to the official report, only included the Kenyan bearers from the Carlyle party.
Jason Steele noticed that Jonah held back some papers, and persuaded him to share them. More notes by Jackson, but in messy handwriting and very rambling. These notes talked about dreams—“dreams like Carlyle’s?”—and say that “many names, many forms” are all working towards one end, to “open the gate”. The notes also say “the books are in Carlyle’s safe…”
You then used Jonah’s office phone to make some calls. Firstly you rang Miskatonic University, hoping to talk to Prof. Cowles about his recent lecture. He was unavailable, but you arranged for the receptionist to contact Carlton Ramsey when she knew when Prof. Cowles would be available to talk. You also rang Harvard University Library to talk with Miriam Atwright, about the book Jackson was looking for. The book disappeared from the library, leaving behind only a terrible smell of decay, and the police haven’t found any leads yet.
You then decided to investigate the principals of the Carlyle Expedition.
Dr. Crane went to the archives of the New York City Medical Affairs Board, and managed to talk his way by the security guard. He found Dr. Robert Huston’s notes about Roger Carlyle. The notes say that Roger was referred by his sister, Erica, to discuss his dreams.
Roger dreams of being called by a voice through the mist. He follows the voice, and finds a tall dark man with an inverted ankh blazing upon his forehead. The man reveals his palms, Roger’s face is in one, a misshapen pyramid is in the other. The hands are brought together, and Roger finds himself propelled into space. He sees an array of monstrous creatures, all circling a ball of energy which Roger recognises as another aspect of the calling man. Roger is drawn into the ball, and a misshapen triangle appears in the void. The creatures rush into the triangle as the voice says “and become with me a god” and Roger awakes. Roger has no waking interest in anything Egyptian. He also does not consider this a nightmare, and that he feels it is a genuine calling.
Notes about later sessions are briefer. Roger talks about someone called M’Weru, who he calls “my priestess” and devotes himself to. In the final session, Huston says “if I do not go, C. threatens exposure.”
You decided to pay a visit to the Carlyle mansion, which lies to the north of New York City. You parked the car out of sight and peeked in: a tall three-storey building with acres of surrounding grounds, and a tall fence with a single guarded entrance. You decided not to try to sneak in and rob the safe.
18th of January, 1925
You visited Hilton Adams, arrested for the previous murders, in Sing Sing Prison. You got half an hour to speak with him.
Hilton Adams was a community leader of sorts, who grew concerned with the murders and decided to take matters into his own hands. He found that the murders fanned out in a rough circle for about a mile west of the Harlem River; but none within a two block radius of West 137th Street, between Lenox Avenue and the Harlem RiverThis is roughly the same location as the Ju-Ju House, which you previously visited. Ju-Ju House is at 1 Ransom Court, down an alley off West 137th Street, east of Lenox Avenue.
—except the one which had him arrested. A Dr. Mordecai Lemming had been quoted in the papers saying the murders seemed similar to those conducted by the Cult of the Bloody Tongue, an African death cult. As Ju-Ju House is the only thing African in the vicinity, Hilton staked it out. One day he managed to follow a muscular, shaven, African man in his late 30s from Ju-Ju House to a coffee shop on 139th Street and Sixth Avenue. Nobody seemed keen to talk about this man, just saying that he was Mukunga M’Dari, and he was bad news. Shortly after that, Hilton’s knife was found at the scene of a murder, on a night Hilton had gone out patrolling. This caused his arrest. But that night Hilton says he went out with his gun.
When you returned from Sing Sing, you managed to get a phone call with Prof. Cowles, who gave you a full summary of his lecture. The graduate student you talked to previously covered most of it, Prof. Cowles additionally described some photos from his slides: each of sweating men standing beside enormous blocks of stone, pitted and eroded, but clearly formed for architectural purposes. Cowles says that the discovered, a Arthur MacWhirr of Port Hedland, Australia, kept a diary in which he recorded several attacks on the party by Aboriginals, and records deaths to victims from hundreds of small punctures, reminiscent of the bat cult.
You then wanted to learn some more about Erica Carlyle, so you went to the New York Public Library to look through its newspaper archives. Outside, you bought today’s newspaper, and found mention that the Carlyle munitions business had become the biggest in the state, due to the careful management of Erica Carlyle and her lawyer, Bradley Grey. Grey is a partner in one of the top law firms in New York, but was described as almost a personal assistant to Erica.
After debating a few ways of getting in touch with Erica Carlyle and being invited into the mansion, you decided to send her a letter saying that you were reopening the investigation into her brother Roger and his ill-fated expedition.
You then went into the newspaper archives to try to find out some information about Hypatia Masters, as there seemed no obvious reason why a socialite would go on the expedition. You found a mention, some months before the expedition, that she and Roger had begun dating.
America session 3, 2019-01-19
22nd of January, 1925
You received a rather cold reply from Bradley Grey to your letter to Erica Carlyle about re-opening the investigation into the Carlyle Expedition. He made it clear that you would have to convince him there was some merit to your investigation before he would arrange a meeting with Erica. You got in touch with Bradley Grey’s assistant to arrange a meeting. He had thought you might, and left a spot free in his calendar the next day.
23rd of Janaury, 1925
At the meeting, Jason Steele (everyone but Wilhelmina attended), tried to convince Bradley Grey by explaining how Jackson Elias had been looking into the Carlyle Expedition when he was murdered. Bradley Grey was initially unconvinced, but was impressed enough by Prof. Musgrave’s credentials to accept that you probably weren’t just trying to make some money off of the Carlyle family. He arranged a meeting with Erica and also told you a little about the Carlyle Expedition principles:
Roger Carlyle had a poor reputation amongst the investors, and the company’s fortunes have picked up since Erica took over.
Hypatia Masters was a socialite from a wealthy family who dated Roger, she was known amongst amateur circles as a skilled photographer.
Jack “Brass” Brady, Roger’s bodyguard and manservant, was a condemned man saved by Roger’s lawyers, who became incredibly devoted and loyal to his saviour.
He only knew Sir Aubrey Penhew by reputation, and that Dr. Robert Huston was a psychoanalysist favoured by Erica Carlyle.
25th of January, 1925
You returned to the Carlyle estate, this time not hiding your car behind a hill, and were ushered into a reception hall to meet Erica Carlyle. After introductions, she led you to a sitting room and you talked about Roger.
She told you that Roger had been having bad dreams for several months before the expedition, waking screaming. He refused to discuss these dreams, and eventually Erica referred him to Dr. Huston. A month or so after the dreams began, Roger became involved with “that Negro woman, Bunay”. Erica doesn’t know who this Bunay is, but Roger became increasingly obsessed with her, describing her as “queenly”, and “a priestess”. Roger began to disappear for days at a time, saying only that he had been to Harlem on his return. Bunay had accompanied the expedition.
You then asked about the books in the safe. Erica was unable to hide her surprise, saying that Roger had spent a lot of time pouring over old books in the months leading up to the expedition. Roger had hid the books in a safe, and not even told Erica about them, so she was surprised that you knew. You convinced her to show you the books, and she summoned a guard and took you to the library.
You waited outside while she fetched the books. When you went in, there were four books arranged on a table, and no sign of a safe. The books were:
The Pnakotic Manuscripts - centuries old and written in English.
Selections de Livre D’Ivon - centuries old and written in a language none of you recognised (French).
Amongst the Stones - fairly recent, English, handwritten, and bound in some sort of skin.
Life As A God - fairly recent, English, and bound in human skin.
Over the next few hours Prof. Musgrave read Amongst the Stones and Lady Ashdown read Life As A God (after Wilhelmina tried and failed). Amongst the Stones is a collection of poetry, and one stood out. It was about the regal garments of Queen Nitocris of Egypt, in great detail. Life As A God is the diary of English artist Montgomery Crompton, who went to Egypt in 1805 and became a priest of the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh. Crompton was insane when he wrote the diary. It describes unspeakable acts committed in the name of the Black Pharaoh, and the hidden throne room of Bent Pyramid.
By the time you finished reading, Erica Carlyle had left, and the guard politely suggested that you would be overstaying your welcome if you remained any longer. You took the hint and left.
26th of January, 1925
Jason Steele decided to stake out Ju-Ju House, and Wilhelmina the cafe mentioned by Hilton Adams. In the mid-morning, Jason saw a white man poorly concealing a gun beneath his jacket enter the Ju-Ju House. The man left a few minutes later stuffing an envelope into his inside pocket. Jason followed the man to a nearby police station, and watched for a while, but the man did not come out. Jason peered through the windows, and was seen; but managed to outrun the police. The only thing of note to happen at the cafe is that Silas N’Kwane, owner of Ju-Ju House, went for lunch.
27th of January, 1925
You continued your stake-outs. In mid-afternoon, a man matching Mukunga M’Dari’s description paid a short visit to the Ju-Ju House, and then headed in the direction of the cafe. Jason followed. The man arrived at the cafe, and a few minutes later Jason also entered. Jason got the attention of Wilhelmina and indicated to Mukunga M’Dari. Mukunga spoke quietly to a waiter, and was led through a door.
Wilhelmina got the attention of a waiter and asked what was through the door. The waiter judged that she was not with the police, and seemed a trustworthy sort, so he told her that it is the door to a speakeasy. Wilhelmina went through the door, which took her to a staircase leading down to the basement.
At this time of day the speakeasy was not particularly busy, but it had a fair few customers. Mukunga M’Dari was sitting by himself with his drink. Wilhelmina asked the bartender who he (Mukunga) was, and learned that he has a bad reputation. He has no apparent employment, but always has money; he seems to be friendly with the police; and people don’t like to mess with him. Wilhelmina finished her drink and left, collecting Jason from the cafe.
America session 4, 2019-02-10
27th of January, 1925
You decided to break in to the Ju-Ju HouseBecause I mentioned that I assumed were going to do that, and you all thought it was a reasonable enough idea.
, so Jason and Wilhelmina arrived around closing time and watched the shop for a few hours.
28th of January, 1925 (midnight)
A little after midnight, a light was still on inside, though the curtains were drawn across the shop window so you couldn’t see in. Jason peered through the keyhole, and saw Silas N’Kwane bent over something behind the counter.
Wilhelmina found a back door down an alley, and Jason picked the lock. You cautiously entered a small dark room, separated from the shopfront by a thick curtain, and which looked like Silas N’Kwane’s living quarters. Wilhelmina looked through the curtain and saw Silas opening a trap door behind the counter. He heard the curtain move and looked up, but did not see Wilhelmina. He entered the back room, but Jason managed to hide in a closet in time. Wilhelmina lead Silas out of the back door, giving Jason enough time to enter the shopfront, and descend the stairs beneath the open trap door.
Jason entered a large basement, running under the entire building. At one end was a large well with a stone cover, about 2 metres in diameter. Half way along the wall opposite the entrance was a curtain covering an alcove. It was completely silent.
Jason approached the curtain, and peered beneath it. Inside the alcove were four pairs of standing bare feet, two along the wall to the left and two along the wall to the right. These looked like the feet of living people, rather than a statue or something like that, but still there was no noise.
Jason slowly and quietly got to his feet, grasped the curtain in one hand and a camera in the other. He dramatically whisked the curtain aside, to reveal four people, their foreheads branded with the same symbol as Jackson Elias, their intestines spilling out of open wounds, their skin decaying, and their eyes completely black. Their heads snapped to the side to look at Jason, who took a photo and ran. They leaped after him, but he got to the stairs, and they would not follow out of the basement.
Jason climbed the stairs, to be faced with Silas N’Kwane. Jason managed to shove him out of the way, climbed over the counter, and jumped through the front window, being wounded a little by broken glass in the process. Wilhelmina had brought the car around, and they escaped to Jason’s office. Jason developed the photo in his darkroom, pacing impatiently while waiting for it to process. In the early morning, the photo was ready. Jason called everyone around, along with Lt. Poole, who came to investigate Jackson Elias’ murder, and shared the photo.
Lt. Poole shakily asked where the photo was taken, and commented that that was Captain Robson’s territory. Captain Robson is the one who arrested Hilton Adams for the previous murders. Lt. Poole called a squad of officers to go visit the Ju-Ju House.
You all, except Wilhelmina who was still sleeping, arrived at the Ju-Ju House with police backup. Lt. Poole took command of the situation, taking Silas N’Kwane into custody and demanding access to the basement. Silas looked surprised and briefly annoyed—as if he didn’t expect the police, of all people, to do this—before changing his demeanour to meek submission. The trap door was revealed beneath a rug, and you all descended. Prof. Musgrave stayed outside, due to his ballistophobia.
In the basement was Mukunga M’Dari, surrounded by the four people. Several of you gasped at the sight. Dr. Crane attempted to rationalise the situation by saying that they must be victims of torture, probably drugged which is why they can stand and move around at all with those wounds, but others were less convinced. Lt. Poole shouted for everyone to put their hands where he could see them and not to make any sudden moves. Mukunga complied, the four didn’t move.
One of the officers approached the four, and put his hand on their shoulder to guide them down to the floor. As soon as he made physical contact, the person spun around and snapped the officer’s arm in two with incredible speed. The other three adopted fighting postures, and all moved between Mukunga and the police. The wounded man passed out due to the pain and was carried to the back of the room, where Dr. Crane treated him. Dr. Crane and Clarissa carried him out while the police opened fire. The four people seemed unaffected by the bullets, being knocked back but otherwise not appearing to suffer from the onslaught. They shielded Mukunga, who was hiding behind them still.
Jason realised he still had some dynamiteFrom Peru.
, and decided to use it. He threw it, but fumbled his grip a little, and hit one of the officers. The dynamite fell in the middle of the room. You and all but one of the police managed to escape from the basement before it exploded.
As the explosion ripped through the basement, there was suddenly a sound of dozens of voices—far more than there had been in the basement—wailing in agony. Jason and Dr. Crane returned to the basement and cautiously entered. Mukunga and the four people had been torn apart by the dynamite. The stone seal over the well had been cracked open, and the noise was coming from there. Thinking it might be more torture victims, Dr. Crane approached.
In the well Dr. Crane saw a great writhing mass of tentacles, or perhaps worms, covered in screaming human faces. In a bout of madness, he threw up and ran, screaming, from the basement. He made it past the surprised officers in the shopfront, and was only caught outside. Seeing what had happened, Jason decided not to approach the well.
Jason investigated the alcove, as the photo he took showed a bulky-looking bag, and found:
A cloth headdress with a severed human tongue attached to the front.
A robe made of feathers.
The book Africa’s Dark Sects, which Jackson Elias was looking for at Harvard University Library. The book details Nigel Blackwell’s travels across Africa and the cults he encountered on the way, including a description in great detail of a cult summoning the monster they worship. It contains one spell, and will take several weeks to study fully.
A woven wooden mask, like a woven basket, but with no eyeholes. On the top of the mask are four monstrous faces, at right angles to each other. Prof. Musgrave identified the mask being possibly from the Congo.
A wooden sceptre carved with hieroglyphics saying “Nyambe, Thy Power Mine”. From the context, Nyambe is a given name, but not one any of you are familiar with.
A marine chronometer, a very accurate clock used by sailors to calculate their position. It was set to GMT, rather than local time.
Jason managed to persuade Lt. Poole that there was enough evidence left at the Ju-Ju House for him to conduct an investigation, and to overturn the conviction of Hilton Adams, and he allowed you to take the items from the alcove.
Having exhausted the trail in New York, you decided to follow an earlier lead to the Penhew Foundation, and set sail for London. The crossing took 9 days, during which you attempted to rest and to recover some of your sanity.
This is the end of this chapter. Bonus sanity points are:
+1d6for effectively solving Jackson Elias’ murder.
+1d4for finding enough evidence to get Hilton Adams off death row.
+1d6for neutralising Mukunga M’Dari.
+1d4for breaking up the cult.
The next chapter will begin with you arriving in England.
England session 1, 2019-03-16
It’s been nine uneventful days at sea since you departed New York, and now Southampton is in sight. From there you can catch a train to London, at the time the heart of the British Empire, the greatest city in the world, and famous for its incredibly thick fogs.
You came to London following two leads:
The Carlyle Expedition, which briefly stopped over in London and picked up the Egyptologist Sir Aubrey Penhew, founder of the Penhew Foundation.
And Jackson Elias, who had a business card for Edward Gavigan, the current director of the Penhew Foundation, in his hotel room.
Before we get into the game, I’d like to bring up some mechanics, and also talk about some backstories.
Firstly, Dr. Carson Crane is indefinitely insane. This means that losing even one point of sanity will cause him to suffer a bout of madness, and also he can have sensory hallucinations at any time. You can take sanity damage from hallucinating a mythos creature. Luke, if you think Dr. Crane is hallucinating, there are two things you can do:
You can make a Reality Check roll, which is a Sanity roll. If you succeed you see through the delusion, and can’t have any more until you take some sanity damage. If you fail, you take one point of sanity damage and suffer a bout of madness.
Or you can make a Psychoanalysis roll. If you succeed, you see through the delusion.
The only way to recover from indefinite insanity is to spend months in an asylum recuperating.
Secondly, there’s a mechanic I forgot about. If an investigator suffers insanity from a mythos source, they gain one point of Cthulhu Mythos, or five points the first time. I’ve given you all an extra eight points of Cthulhu Mythos, which probably covers it.
Lady Clarissa Ashdown, it’s a bit unusual to be a Lady in your own right at such a young age. Normally your mother would be “Lady Ashdown” by virtue of being married to Lord Ashdown. Are you actually a lady, or do you just call yourself that because you have noble parents? What’s your family situation like?Possible follow ups depending on the answer: Is Lord Ashdown a member of the House of Lords? Where are the Ashdowns based?
Professor Musgrave, you must know of the Penhew Foundation, unless you’ve spent your entire academic career under a rock. You certainly know that it was established in 1890 by Sir Aubrey Penhew who, as director of the Foundation, funded and oversaw several expeditions to Egypt. When Sir Aubrey was presumed dead after the massacre of the Carlyle Expedition, Edward Gavigan became director. The Foundation issues grants to scholars undertaking the study of Egyptian history and antiquities. It also helps out with planning and funding expeditions, negotiating permits with Egyptian authorities, hiring local labour, et cetera. The Foundation building itself is partly offices, partly museum. Have you been on an expedition supported by the Penhew Foundation?Possible follow up depending on the answer: Do you have a research membership to the Penhew Foundation?
Now, before you all disembark, there’s one more thing. Firearms are illegal in England at this time unless you have a permit, except shotguns which are considered weapons for hunting game. Everyone who is bringing a gun into the country make a Luck roll now.
10th of February, 1925
You arrived in Southampton, ready to begin the next leg of your adventure.
Prof. Musgrave, who has had dealings with the Penhew Foundation and Edward Gavigan before, rang the Foundation to arrange an interview. Thomas Kinnery, Edward Gavigan’s personal secretary, arranged a meeting for the following day, in the late morning.
You then hopped aboard a train, which took you to London in about six hours. You spent the rest of the day sorting out your accommodation, finding a regular meeting place to discuss the events of each day, and planning the next day.
11th of February, 1925
Wilhelmina decided not to accompany you to the interview with Edward Gavigan, and went to look through newspaper archives for any new information relating to the Carlyle Expedition.
The rest of you went to the Penhew Foundation and were greeted by Thomas Kinnery. He took you to an anteroom outside Edward Gavigan’s office, where you took seats, and he returned to work. Jason Steele got up to examine the room, which was decorated with Egyptian scrolls, and some information about the Foundation’s previous expeditions.
After a few minutes, Edward Gavigan emerged from his office, and greeted Prof. Musgrave like an old friend before ushering you all in. The office itself was quite bare, there were chairs, a desk with a photo facing away from you, a cupboard against one wall, and a floor safe in one corner of the room, its door ajar.
Prof. Musgrave trusts Edward Gavigan, and so told him the story so far (if a little abridged when it came to the more unbelievable components). Gavigan confirmed that Jackson Elias, “that journalist working for The Scoop”You have never heard of The Scoop before, and Jackson Elias was not a journalist. You guessed that this is probably a cover story Jackson gave.
, had come to visit him and ask some questions about the work of the Foundation. Gavigan had been pleased to talk about the Foundation’s role in grant funding and assistance with travel permits and the like. It had been a short meeting, and he had never heard from Jackson Elias again.
You then asked about the Carlyle Expedition. Gavigan said that Roger Carlyle had obtained information from “an African woman” about a shadowy time in Egyptian history where the Nile had been ruled by a sorcerer. Sir Aubrey had been interested in this period as well. Unfortunately, the information turned out to be a hoax, and after conducting some digs in Egypt, the African woman took off with the money (some £3500). The loss of the money bothered Carlyle less than the defection of his lover, and the party went to Kenya to distract themselves with hunting and wildlife photography. There they strayed into unfortunate territory, and paid for it with their lives. Sir Aubrey had kept in touch with the Foundation during the expedition, even sending some artefacts back before they left for Kenya, but Gavigan would not show you these telegraphs, saying that they concerned much of young Carlyle and were of a personal nature, not the sort of thing which the Foundation could afford “getting into the gutter press.”
Gavigan then showed you some of the artefacts in the exhibition hall, which Prof. Musgrave greatly enjoyed, but the rest of you less so. While showing the artefacts, Jason Steele returned to Gavigan’s office, with the excuse that he left his hat behind. Without much time to spare, to avoid rousing the suspicions of Kinnery, Jason quickly looked at the photograph on the desk and in the floor safe.
The photograph was of a three storey country house called “Misr House”. Upon being told this later, Prof. Musgrave recognised “Misr” as being Arabic for “Egypt”. The safe contained roughly a hundred £1 notes.
Musgrave spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the Penhew Foundation’s library, where he found a book mentioning the “Black Pharaoh”, a figure of myth who is said to have ruled during the Third Dynasty.
While this was going on, Wilhelmina spent the entire day in the newspaper archives, finding nothing new about the Carlyle Expedition, but finding an article by The Scoop on the “Egyptian Murders” from right before Jackson Elias was in London. The article describes a series of murders with the victims all severely beaten and stabbed through the heart.
You then reconvened, and decided the next day to check out The Scoop and Misr House.
12th of February, 1925
Prof. Musgrave decided to go with Jason Steele to investigate Misr House, mostly to keep an eye on Jason, because he didn’t want the man he introduced to Edward Gavigan as a friend, to be found the next day breaking into Gavigan’s country estate. You both went to the General Records Office and found that Misr House was located on a 1000 acre estate on an island in the Naze, in Essex. You got on a train to Colchester, intending to change to a local train to Walton-on-the-Naze, and hire a car from there.
The rest of you went to the offices of The Scoop, located on the third floor of a grubby building on Fleet Street. Mention of Jackson Elias got you to Mickey Mahoney, owner and editor of The Scoop. He said he was a friend of Jackson’s, and that any friend of Jackson is a friend of his. He said that Jackson had been investigating a cult in the heart of London, but Jackson hadn’t told him the details; he would pay £15 for the story if you bring it to him. He also said that Jackson had been interested in three stories The Scoop had printed (the Egyptian Murders was one), but he couldn’t remember the titles of the other two off the top of his head, and that you were welcome to look through the back issues to try to find them. He didn’t know of anything suspicious about the Carlyle Expedition.
After a couple of hours of finding likely looking articles and asking “is this one?” you finally found the two others that Jackson Elias had been interested in:
Slaughter Continues! Reward Offered! - the Egyptian Murders, a series of murders in which all the victims had been killed by severe beating, and then stabbed through the heart. Inspector Barrington at New Scotland Yard has been investigating, and Mahoney said that Jackson Elias had gone to visit him.
Shocking Canvases Craze: Local Artist’s Monstrous Scenes Mock ‘Surrealists’ - Miles Shipley, a local artist, has been painting very realistic scenes of horror, which are said to be visions of another place the artist merely makes visible.
Police Baffled By Monstrous Murders! Killer Beast Shot But Still Alive? - two murders and one wounding in Lesser Edale, Derbyshire, which have been attributed to a rabid dog. Despite the dog being shot dead, local residents report a strange beast lurking in the area which wails on nights of the full moon.
In the afternoon, Prof. Musgrave and Jason arrive at the island of Misr House, but are turned away by a guard at the one bridge onto the island. He says that this is private property owned by Edward Gavigan, and you cannot come in. From the bridge you could see Misr House, but not much else on the island due to the heavy forestation. Prof. Musgrave seemed a little smug, asking Jason if he was satisfied now. You returned to the village to try to gather some information about the estate.
In the village pub the landlord, after being encouraged to pour a third drink “for yourself”, told you some of the history of the area. The land and house had previously been owned by an Egyptologist and occultist Neville Lloyd-Price. Rumour has it that he went bankrupt and had to sell the land to pay his debts, Edward Gavigan was the buyer. Neville Lloyd-Price has not been seen since the sale, effectively disappearing from London society. The house dates from the time of Queen Elizabeth, and is rumoured to have a priest hole, used to hide Catholic priests during the religious purges. The estate itself is 6000 acres, with the island being 1000. The surrounding land is rented out to farmers. Edward Gavigan doesn’t show himself much, he visits the house occasionally but it doesn’t seem to be his primary residence. Everyone knows of him as the land owner, but he is a fairly distant figure. You then decided to return to London and meet up with the others in the evening.
The rest of you decided to visit Miles Shipley, the artist, at his home in Holbein Mews. You were greeted at the door by an old woman who introduced herself as Bertha Shipley, Miles’ mother. Upon saying you were interested in buying some paintings, she took you in to a sitting room, and called for Miles while she made some tea. As soon as you stepped into the house you were struck with a strong biological smell, which Wilhelmina recognised as the smell of a reptile house. Upon asking Bertha about it, she seemed embarrassed that you had noticed, as if she had not realised how strong it was, and said that she was looking after a friend’s reptiles while they were away.
After a few minutes, you heard Miles clattering down the stairs, and he entered the room. A quiet and nervous looking young man, you spotted that his hands were shaking. He invited you up to the garret to see the finished paintings. He took the lead, Dr. Crane, Clarissa, and Wilhelmina following, and Bertha Shipley bringing up the rear carrying teacups. In the garret room you noticed that Miles glanced over at Bertha, who seemed completely calm, and in charge of the situation. She said that the paintings were £75 to £300 each. The paintings were:
Ancient Science - an alchemical lab with a reptilian humanoid working at a table surrounded by glass jars emitting colourful vapours.
Goat Wood - a nighttime woodland scene illuminated by a yellow moon, naked men and women dancing around a bonfire. Rising from the flames is a goat-headed man with outstretched arms.
Drawn in Blood - a man being cut open by a silver dagger, with an occult symbol carved into his chest which you can’t quite seem to focus on.
Black Mountain - a towering mountain over which rises a monstrous demonic creature, its head a great tentacle covered in bloodThis reminds you of the tattoo on Larkin’s chest of the man with a spiral emerging from his neck in place of a head.
. In a nearby temple-like building, small human figures wearing a headdress with a red tentacleThese look like Mukunga M’Dari’s headdress you found at the Ju-Ju House.
lift their arms towards it in supplication.
Miles also showed you a painting he is working on entitled City of the Great Race, which depicted tiny human figures next to a colossal building, but it was still in early stages. You examined the paintings themselves, and the art supplies in the room; everything looked ordinary, other than the subject matter of the paintings. When asked about the newspaper article saying that Miles was painting visions, Bertha said that the newspapers exaggerate everything, which Miles agreed with.
You pick out The Dark Pharaoh, Drawn in Blood, and Black Mountain as paintings you would like to buy, and leave to go to the bank.
While out of the house, you formulated a plan: Clarissa and Dr. Crane would distract the Shipleys by haggling, while Wilhelmina would sneak out of the garret and examine the rest of the house. When you returned, you put the plan into action, and Wilhelmina slipped out of the room.
On the first floor, there are four bedrooms. Three were open and very dusty, as if they hadn’t been used in a long time. One was locked, but through the keyhole Wilhelmina could see it looked messy and in active use.
On the ground floor, in addition to the corridor, stairs, and sitting room you had seen, there is also a kitchen (which looked normal), and a dining room and lounge, both of which looked dusty and unused. There was no sign of reptiles, beyond the pervasive smell. In the garden was a locked cellar door which Wilhelmina could not pick. Wilhelmina quietly returned to the garret, where the Shipleys were still distracted. You then exchanged the money, and left with your paintings.
As you left the house, Wilhelmina asked what reptiles Bertha was caring for. Bertha looked momentarily confused, as if she had forgotten about the reptiles, and then said snakes.
England session 2, 2019-03-30
12th of February, 1925 (evening)
You discussed the events of the day. Photos were taken of the symbol in the Drawn in Blood painting, in the hope that a photo might be easier to focus on. You then parted ways. Wilhelmina, suspicious of Edward Gavigan’s refusal to show you the telegraphs from Sir Aubrey Penhew, decided to go stake out the Foundation, and asked Jason to join her. The rest of you went home.
On her way home, Clarissa realised she was being followed, and chased a man down an alley. However, he gave her the slip in the thick fog, and she lost sight of where he went.
Wilhelmina and Jason watched the Penhew Foundation for a few hours, learning that there is a single night watchman (who patrols infrequently) and, around the back, a yard large enough for delivery vehicles, with a visible store room and a coal chute. You decided to return the following night and gain entry to the basement through the chute.
13th of February, 1925
You went to see Inspector Barrington at New Scotland Yard about the Egyptian Murders. He was able to spare you a little time. Throughout the interview he was quite cautious, not giving much away about the case, and asking about you and your interest. He said that the press is calling the murders the “Egyptian Murders” because most of the victims were Egyptian nationals. All of the victims are killed by being beaten and then stabbed through the heart.
Barrington confirmed that he had met Jackson Elias. Jackson Elias said he thought the murders were conducted by an Egyptian death cult known as the Cult of the Black Pharaoh, but due to the lack of evidence Barrington is not pursuing that particular avenue. Barrington spoke to the Penhew Foundation, who said that such an organisation did exist once, but died out centuries ago with no modern equivalent.
You mentioned that you had dealt with a death cult in New York, and that such things are not unreasonable. Barrington seemed unimpressed by this and quickly drew the interview to a close as you had no leads for him.
After the interview Wilhelmina and Jason went to buy supplies to break into the Penhew Foundation that evening (they had still not shared their plans with Prof. Musgrave at this point). The rest of you decided to have the photos of the painting developed and to arrange transport to Lesser Edale, to investigate the third newspaper article.
The developed photos proved just as hard to focus on as the original painting, but Prof. Musgrave really concentrated, and realised that it was actually two overlapping symbols, which tricked the eye. The symbols were:
An inverted ankh:
| | --+-- / \ \_/ |
A circle with two lines coming off it, like wings:
__ __ _\ /_ \_/ / \ \_/
After sunset Wilhelmina and Jason returned to the rear of the Penhew Foundation. Jason managed to force the padlock on the back gate, without breaking it, and you entered the yard. In the yard Jason noticed an air intake vent, going underground, at the opposite side of the building to the coal chute.
You descended the coal chute using a rope tied to a grappling hook, and found yourselves in a pile of coal. Using flashlights you could see that you are in a large basement, approximately half as wide as the building (though not wide enough to include the air intake vent) with a low wall separating the coal heap from the main basement, which contained the boiler. After stepping over the low wall you could see an elevator and a staircase up into the main building, and a door.
You listened at the door, and couldn’t hear anything. You opened it cautiously, and found a storage room full of crates. The discovered basement now consisted of an L shape:
________ | . | | . | | ...| | | | |_______ | | | | | |________|_______|
The air vent suggested an underground room in the missing area, but there were no more doors. You tried to look behind crates against the back wall of the storage room, but they were flush against the wall. Quietly, to not alert the night watchman in the rooms above, you moved some crates. This revealed a door.
You listened at the door and, again, couldn’t hear anything. However, this time you were certain that the room was empty. You opened the door.
Inside the room your flashlights played over a collection of unexpected items: high quality furniture, evidently well cared for and used; strange paintings; books, crates, and an ornate chest. The air vent was visible at the far end of the room, as was a ladder into the main building.
Examining everything in the room, you found:
- A .32 revolver and a box of bullets.
- Several passports, for various genders and nationalities. None of the faces or names were familiar.
- Bundles of five- and ten-pound notes, totalling thousands of pounds.
- A receipt for the rental of a cast iron safe from Ernest Whitfield & Co, Birmingham to Henson Manufacturing, Derby. Strangely, it appears to have no connection to the Penhew Foundation.
- A letter from Puneet Chaudhary of Limehouse relating to the warehousing and shipping of “sundry antiquities” to Shanghai.
- A business card for Empire Spices in Soho.
- Egyptian-style artwork of strange creatures:
- A dark winged thing, somehow both leprous and scaly.
- A winged hulking beast, with a dragon-like tail and a fang-rimmed jaw.
- A group of people with deformed faces and too-large eyes.
- A man on fire and surrounded by colourful lights, but his features shrouded in darkness.
- A large sealed crate addressed to “Ho Fang Import/Export, 15 Kaoyang Street, Shanghai, China”.
- A smaller sealed crate addressed to “Randolph Shipping Company, Port Darwin, Northern Territory, Dominion of Australia”. This crate had the winged-circle symbol on it.
- An ornate wooden chest decorated with silver depictions of strange creatures that look like a cross between a lizard and an ape with too-long arms, which contained two ornate silver daggers.
- Books in many languages.
Not wanting to leave any evidence of your presence, you took photographs but didn’t disturb or take anything.
You then snuck back out of the building and left, locking the gate behind you.
14th of February, 1925
Jason and Wilhelmina finally told Prof. Musgrave that they still suspected the Penhew Foundation, and asked his opinion on the paintings, handing him the photos they took. After spending some hours in his study, Prof. Musgrave found features in the artwork which clearly dated it to the Third Dynasty, which is when the Black Pharaoh is said to have ruled. Caught up in his research, he almost missed the train to Derby.
You then all set off for Lesser Edale.
England session 3, 2019-04-13
14th of February, 1925 (mid afternoon)
You arrived in Edale, which is far as the train can take you. You walked the five miles to Lesser Edale in a little under two hours, with rain starting just before you arrived at the village pub, the Laughing Horse Inn.
Lesser Edale is home to the Vane family, currently presided over by Lord Arthur Vane. The Vanes live in Plumb Castle to the north of the village. Clarissa knows of them, but has not met them in years.
You quietly asked Bill Tatlock, the landlord, about the recent murders. He said that “folk around here don’t like to talk about it” but, with a little encouragement, told you that the murders happened three months ago during the nights of the full moon. George Osgood and Lydia Perkins were killed, Harold Short was attacked but survived, and has gone to his brother in Skegness. Constable Tumwell shot a wild dog, and he thinks the matter is settled, but there have been strange howls on the nights of the full moon—which starts tomorrow.
You decided to split up and go talk to the families of the victims. Dr. Crane and Lady Ashdown went to see John Perkins, father of Lydia Perkins; the rest of you went to see where Harold Short was attacked and then go on to the Osgood farm.
Dr. Crane knocked on the door, and was answered by John Perkins. Dr. Crane introduced himself and Clarissa, and upon hearing the title Lady Ashdown, John took a step back in shock and said “Another one! Come back for more, have you?” He started ranting about the unjustness of the British class system and how the Labour party would put a stop to thisThe Labour party had experienced a rapid increase in vote share since about 1910, which probably contributes to John’s high hopes.
After several minutes of this, Dr. Crane asked if this was something to do with Lord Vane (Clarissa was keeping quiet). You learned that John thinks that Lawrence Vane, son of Lord Arthur Vane, had something to do with the death of Lydia, who was found mauled. Lawrence was seen nearby on the night of Lydia’s death, though “he had no reason to be here”. The police talked to Lawrence Vane but declared him innocent, but “the police won’t charge these aristocrats”. You also learned that both Lord Arthur and Lawrence had been away recently, Lawrence returned six months ago and Lord Arthur three or four. Although seeming somewhat unhinged, John seemed to believe everything he said about Lawrence being the culprit (or at least very close to the culprit). After managing to extract yourselves from the conversation, you examined his field where the body had been found, but found no clues.
Wilhelmina, Prof. Musgrave, and Jason went to Harold Short’s house, but nobody was at home. You continued on to the Osgood farm, and there met Edith Osgood, wife of George Osgood. She said that George heard a noise in the barn and went to investigate, taking his shotgun with him. She heard a shot, and a scream. She looked out of the window and saw a hairy form, the height of a man, running away on all fours into the woods to the north. “It was a demon”, she said. Upon mustering her courage, she went to the barn and found the mauled form of George Osgood. The sheep in the barn had not been attacked.
You all returned to the pub, where you stayed the night.
15th of February, 1925
You decided to pay Lord Vane a visit, and went to Plum Castle first thing in the morning, leaving your calling cards to request a social visit.
You visited the police station, which is clearly just a house, but didn’t find anybody in. You then returned to the pub, and there met Constable Tumwell, the police force for Lesser Edale. You asked him about the murders, and he said that there had been no trouble since he shot the wild dog, the case is closed in his opinion. When asked about the howling he said that there are always wild animals in the countryside, but these don’t seem to be causing any trouble.
You went back to his house to use his phone to ring Harold Short. You got in touch with his brother, Thomas Short, who said that Harold couldn’t possibly talk about the events of that night, as he was still recovering. You failed to persuade Thomas to tell you any more details than you already knew.
You then visited the village church. The church building is quite new, but the foundations of the old can be seen in the grounds, which are partly cemetery. Next to the church is a vicarage. Inside the church you found Reverend Jeremy Stratton.
You asked Rev. Stratton about the murders, and he said that he understood Constable Tumwell had shot a wild dog, and that that seemed to be the end of it. Jason could tell he wasn’t being entirely truthful, and that he really didn’t think the shooting of the dog had achieved anything. Jason hinted at this quite strongly, but Rev. Stratton simply said that he hopes life in the village can return to normal.
You then turned to the topic of the Vanes. Rev. Stratton said that Lord Arthur spent most of his time in London, taking his role in the House of Lords very seriously. In addition to a son, Lawrence, there is a daughter, Eloise. Lord Arthur returned about four months ago and has remained in Lesser Edale to care for Eloise, who has taken ill. You asked how long ago Eloise fell ill, but the Reverend thought that you were beginning to pry upon personal matters, and ended the conversation.
Outside the church, you found a groundskeeper. Jason approached him and tried to make conversation, but mostly got grumblings and laughter. Nearby you spotted the new graves of George Osgood and Lydia Perkins, and noticed they had a small silver crucifix over their headstones. You asked the groundskeeper about these, and his good natutre fell away immediately, as he said “these are local matters, they don’t concern outsiders”, and turned away. You pressed him to continue, and he said “they were murdered by the beast, them crucifixes will keep ’em down where they belong; don’t want ’em turning”, and he stalked off. Jason tried to get him to say more, but he wouldn’t.
As tonight is the first night of the full moon, you decided to arm yourselves and go to a high location to try to identify the source of the howling. Dr. Crane visited John Perkins and rented three shotguns.
England session 4, 2019-04-27
15th of February, 1925 (late afternoon)
With not much to do until sunset, you returned to the church to ask if you could buy any silver crucifixes, like those on the graves. You were told no, the silver belongs to the Church and is not for sale.
At sunset you went up a hill, and a little after the moon rose the howling started. The sound seemed to be coming from every direction, echoing so much you couldn’t tell if it was one voice or many. Clarissa recognised the sound from a story she had once heard, about ghouls: man-sized creatures which eat human flesh.
You decided to walk towards Plum Castle to see if the sound was coming from there. The howling steadily got louder as you did. About half way between the castle and the village, you found a torn scrap of frilly cloth, perhaps from a dress. It had clearly been out in the elements for a while.
When you arrived at the crumbling outer wall of the castle, you could tell that the howling was coming from somewhere inside the castle grounds, on the opposite side of the keep to where you were. You snuck around the building, paying close attention to the windows, and stopped facing the mausoleum. You could see light reflected on the ground, a room in the keep had a lighted window.
x <- you are here _____ | ___________ | | | keep | | mausoleum | | <- lighted window | | <- door | | |
Wilhelmina crept to the window and listened. She heard two male voices, one older and one younger, having some sort of argument. The younger said “we can’t keep this hidden… this nightly ordeal… we need help!” the older said “no, we can’t involve outsiders.”
You snuck across to the mausoleum and around to the big double doors, which face away from the keep. You listened, but couldn’t hear anything other than the howling. You carefully pushed the door open, and saw just a mausoleum, no movement, no creatures. The howling seemed to be coming from a staircase to a lower level. You descended it, and saw nothing again—the howling filled the room.
Jason found a loose floor slab, which revealed a narrow man-made shaft with a rusty ladder, descending into what looked like a natural cave. You descended, and saw a tunnel. Clarissa realised the tunnel headed towards the keep. You followed it.
You arrived at a brick wall, and the howling was now very loud.
Wilhelmina found a hidden mechanism to open a door in the wall. Everyone readied their guns. Wilhelmina flung the door open, but even as she was opening it the creature burst through: man-tall, with a dog-like face, grey skin, shaggy hair, and yellow talons. Dr. Crane panicked, losing the ability to focus. Jason fired two shots, flinging the creature back into the room whence it came. It didn’t get up.
You saw that the room was a dungeon cell. When you looked at the creature again, it had transformed into a young girl, you guessed to be Eloise Vane, with a gaping wound in her chest from the shotgun blast. Dr. Crane rushed into the cell, trying to help the girl, who was obviously dead. He began grinding his teeth from stress.
You heard a door opening inside the keep, and rapid footsteps. Dr. Crane wouldn’t leave the girl, and Jason stayed behind with him. The rest of you fled back through the tunnel.
Two men with shotguns entered, who you guessed to be Arthur and Lawrence Vane. When Lawrence saw Eloise, he collapsed to his knees. Arthur alternately demanded “what have you done?” and “where did you come from?”, gesturing towards the hidden door. Dr. Crane looked up sadly and said “the mausoleum”, and Arthur sent Lawrence to it after dragging him to his feet. Jason tried to reason with Arthur, saying that it had to be done, that there had been enough death in the village already, but didn’t get through. Arthur said that you would be staying there, and left.
Those of you who fled escaped back to your rooms at the pub.
16th of February, 1925
Prof. Musgrave, Wilhelmina, and Clarissa planned a rescue operation for that evening.
In the morning, Dr. Crane and Jason were left alone, though they heard hammering from the secret passage. In the afternoon, Arthur and Lawrence returned. Jason again tried to persuade Arthur, but is just told to get back, as Lawrence pointed the gun at you. Arthur took Eloise’s body, and they left you alone and locked in again.
In the evening, Prof. Musgrave, Wilhelmina, and Clarissa returned to the mausoleum the way they came. The door had been boarded shut. They tried to pull the boards out by hand, but lost their grip and loudly fell back into a puddle. A door in the keep opened, and you managed to hide before Lawrence arrived. He looked around, but didn’t see anything, and returned to the keep.
You then broke into a garden shed, and found a claw hammer and a shovel. You returned to the mausoleum, and removed the wood. You reunited with Dr. Crane and Jason, and all travelled cross-country through the night to Edale, to get the first train back to London.
England session 5, 2019-05-11
17th of February, 1925
You all returned to your homes after travelling through the night, and made some discoveries: Jason found footprints in the dust, leading to a window; Arthur found the police at his house, and some of the New York artefacts stolen. The feather robe, the wooden mask, and the wooden sceptre were all taken; other more mundane artefacts in the same room had not, despite it having been ransacked. The police thought that the house had probably been visited multiple times, as there were multiple signs of entry at different points. Arthur’s wife had been home during all this, but not discovered anything until the robbery itself. You spoke to the neighbours, but they had nothing new to share.
Carson suffered a hallucination where he thought there was someone else in his hotel room with him, and turned to see the ghoul form of Eloise Vane fatally wounded but alive and watching him. He came to his senses on a train bound for Southampton, and got off at the next stop. He then spent the rest of the day in the local pub recuperating.
The rest of you systematically examined everyone’s homes for signs of trespass. At Prof. Musgrave’s house you found footprints of multiple people in the garden, and the same in the gardens of Clarissa’s house, where Jason was staying. When questioned, Clarissa’s butler mentioned that some “ruffians” had been loitering near the house, and he had chased them off. You managed to talk your way into Carson’s hotel room, despite his absence, and found that the tongue-mask hadn’t been taken. You advised the hotel staff that you had reason to believe Carson’s room could be targeted for a robbery, and that they should increase security if possible.
Jason spent the rest of the day going through Clarissa’s garden trying to track the footprints, but with no luck. That evening Jason and a band of brutish thugs (or possibly thuggish brutes) he managed to round up from a pub kept an eye on Carson’s hotel, but saw nothing.
18th of February, 1925
You decided to follow up on the Empire Spices business card you found in the hidden room of the Penhew Foundation’s basement, and went to visit. You asked around as you approached, and found that it’s a generally well-regarded shop that gets a lot of custom. You arrived at 76 Wardour Street to find a two-storey building full of spices from all around the globe. While browsing you talked to Zahra Shafik, the owner, mentioning you had heard about Empire Spices while at the Penhew Foundation. Shafik said that she sometimes helped the Foundation with expedition preparations, giving advice on local customs, fashioning introductions to the local authorities, that sort of thing. You bought some spices and left.
That evening you decided to go investigate the Shipley house, and find out what was going on there once and for all. You arrived to find the house dark. As you watched it, you saw Miles leave; Arthur and Carson followed him into the fog. The rest of you snuck around the back of the house to the garden, and picked the lock on the gate.
Miles spotted Arthur and Carson, and then headed into a nearby pub. They followed him in, and accosted him at the bar, sitting down with him and drawing him into conversation about his recent work. He seemed uncomfortable, but unable to extract himself from the conversation.
Jason picked the padlock on the trapdoor into the basement, and you all entered cautiously. It was messy, with boxes, crates, and old furniture strewn around. There was a path through the junk to the south wall. Jason spotted the outline of a partially hidden door in the wall, and opened it by pushing a brick. The door swung open, with a cloud of snake-smell pouring out into the basement. The hidden room was unoccupied.
The room contained shelves covered with jars, some filled with liquid, some filled with ground-up solids. One wall was covered in mystic symbols. At the base of another wall was a large stone tub covered with a metal lid. Clarissa took some of the jars. Jason cautiously removed the lid of the tub and revealed the severed head and butchered body of a naked woman, covered in large claw marks.
England session 6, 2019-05-25
18th of February, 1925
Clarissa, Jason, and Wilhelmina left the basement and moved onto the Shipley house. Jason picked the lock of the back door, and you snuck into the kitchen. Wilhelmina crept up the stairs, quickly looking at the three open bedrooms, still dusty and showing no signs of recent use, and peered through the lock of the shut one. She couldn’t see or hear anything. As Wilhelmina focused on the door, there was a noise from the attic roomWhere you previously saw Miles’ paintings.
. Wilhelmina crept back downstairs to relay her findings.
You decided to pick the lock on the bedroom door and see what was inside. You snuck to the door, and Jason picked the lock. He succeeded, but had to force the door as it was stuck on something in the room. As soon as he put some strength into it, the door knocked the obstacle free, and swung open noiselessly. There were no sounds from the attic to indicate awareness of you.
You went into the bedroom, shut the door behind you, and took out torches. You saw Miles’ clothes, scattered around. Inside the closet you found a fancy wooden box containing a syringe and a vial of greenish liquid. The syringe had been used so much that it was stained where it had been repeatedly filled up to. You took the box, and decided to lure Bertha out of the attic so you could see what she was doing in there.
Wilhelmina went back downstairs and made a loud noise by banging some pans together, before running out through the back door. Bertha shouted “Miles, is that you?” and left the attic. Jason and Clarissa quickly went up the stairs. They found a padlocked cabinet, its door open, in the middle of the room. Inside the cabinet was an incredibly realistic painting, clearly Miles’ masterpiece. You grabbed the painting and headed back down to the first floor, and escaped through a bedroom window onto the street. Rather than wait around for Bertha to realise that she had been robbed, you fled back to Clarissa’s home.
Some time later Arthur and Carson returned, Miles having extracted himself from the conversation at last.
19th of February, 1925
Around noon you all met up at Clarissa’s home, Carson nursing a bad hangover. You decided to send the police an anonymous tip about the body you found in the basement of the Shipley house, and then set to examining your findings. Carson looked at the greenish liquid, but hadn’t seen or heard of anything like it before. Clarissa sent a servant to catch a rat, and Carson measured out a small dosage.
When the servant returned with the rat, Carson took out a notebook, and injected the rat with the liquid. The rat stood still, eyes bulging, looking around. It remained that way for about half an hour, before returning to normal with no apparent side-effects from its temporary paralysis.
While Carson was observing the rat, Arthur and Clarissa examined the painting. Jason averted his gaze. Despite being clearly incomplete, it was incredibly realistic, even by Miles’ usual standard. The painting depicted a swampy area filled with serpents and humanoid lizards. In the middle of the swamp was an island with an altar on it. The swamp was surrounded by ancient plants which Arthur identified as being the extinct flora of the Permian era300 to 250 million years ago.
. As you looked at the painting, the figures on it seemed to move purposefully, though you couldn’t tell what they were doing.
After the rat recovered, Carson judged that the drug must be some sort of hallucinogenic. Clarissa volunteered to try the drug. After laying her down on a sofa, Carson measured out a half dose and injected her.
Clarissa felt her viewpoint rapidly pulled backwards out of her body, which she could no longer feel. She found herself in Egypt in front of a pyramid, and felt as if she had travelled in time. She saw five Europeans entering the pyramid, and she followed them. She recognised them as the members of the Carlyle expedition. Her vision blurred, and the people were gone. She felt as if she had travelled in time again. She felt like she wasn’t alone, as if some presence were aware of her and watching her, and this presence felt amusement at this. She was pulled upwards, through the rock of the pyramid, into the sky. She saw a great shadow covering the land, and turned to see the sun being eclipsed. She was pulled up into space. She saw a burst of light from the ground, and a rocket climbing towards her. The rocket passed her and, as the eclipse became total, exploded. Despite now being in space she felt a shockwave pass through her. A great triangular rent appeared in space, somehow blacker than the surrounding space. Inside the rent was a sole red star, which felt malevolent. Clarissa was drawn towards the red star and as she was about to pass through the triangular rent, awoke in hysterics. An hour and a half had passed.
Unable to calm her down, Carson gave her a sedative, and she slept for a few more hours. After waking up she shared the vision, and you realised it had similarities with Roger Carlyle’s vision which he described to Robert Huston.
20th of February to 3rd of March, 1925
I suggested you make an Idea Roll to pick up on a missed opportunity for investigation.
Retracing your steps, going over your clues again, and trying to work out where you should go next, you realised that, despite the suspicious nature of Edward Gavigan and the Penhew Foundation, you hadn’t done anything more than break in and explore. So you decided to take turns watching Gavigan and the Foundation.
After several days you knew that Gavigan was a man of habit. He arrived at the Foundation at the same time every morning. He went out for lunch to the same place every day at the same time. He left the Foundation and went to one of a handful of restaurants at the same time every evening, before then going home.
One day he did something different. At lunch time he headed not towards his usual restaurant, but towards Wembley. Clarissa was watching at the time, and followed him to the British Empire Exhibition.
Gavigan met a woman wearing a headscarf who Clarissa realised was Zahra Shafik, owner of Empire Spices. Unable to get close enough to hear the full conversation, Clarissa only received these snippets:
- “friends of that irritating journalist”
- “they came to the shop”
- “shame, I have the greatest respect for him professionally, but”
- “my sources say they were in New York”
- “break in at the Foundation”
- “they can’t be allowed to interfere with the shipments”
They then parted ways. Clarissa informed the rest of you, and you promptly decided to interfere with the shipments, assuming this related to the crates addressed to Australia and Shanghai you found in the secret room in the Penhew Foundation basement.
3rd of March to 9th of March, 1925
Figuring that a truck would arrive at the Foundation at some point to collect the crates, you kept up your watch. One night when Arthur was watching, this happened. He followed the truck to a warehouse in Limehouse, and paid a street urchin to go and tell the rest of you where he had gone. Arthur entered the warehouse and asked the owner, Puneet Chaudhary, about shipments from the Penhew Foundation. Chaudhary said that he had been warehousing things for the Foundation for a while, and that the shipping was done by a vessel called the Ivory Wind, currently docked in the Regent’s Canal Dock and due to set sail in a few days.
Arthur left the warehouse, by which time the rest of you had arrived. You went to the dock and found the ship, where a crew member said that the captain was at the pub. You went to the local pub and found him, Lars Torvak, a heavily drinking Norwegian man.
You asked about booking travel to Shanghai. Lars was surprised by this, saying that his ship doesn’t normally carry passengers, but you said that there were people you wanted to keep out of the sight of. He agreed to take you. You then asked about his shipments, and if you could inspect them. You failed to persuade him, and he said “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.”
11th of March, 1925
A few days later the Ivory Wind set sail, with you aboard.
This is the end of this chapter. Bonus sanity points are:
+1d6for putting an end to the happenings in the Shipley house.
-1d3for killing Eloise Vane and making an enemy of Lord Arthur.
The next chapter will begin with you arriving in Shanghai.
China session 1, 2019-06-08
It was a bright and sunny morning on the day the Ivory Wind set sail. The ship, fully loaded with cargo; your belongings, stored in the passenger rooms which the crew had, grumbling at the orders of the captain, vacated; and you, standing on the deck watching the crew and the dock workers make their final preparations.
As you watched, a dense fog started to pour out from the city, creeping across the ground. The fog hadn’t quite reached the ship when Captain Torvak gave the order to set sail. As the ship pulled off into the Thames, the fog rushed towards it, as if driven by a gale, but there was only a light wind. The fog piled up obscuring the city from view, towering over the ship, but stopped when it reached the water. The breeze brought you the faint smell of burning hair.
You sailed down the Thames with a wall of fog on each bank. Captain Torvak said he’d never seen weather like it. Carson swore he saw the fog moving purposefully, following you. The Ivory Wind made it out into the sea, leaving London and its fogs and cults behind.
The crossing took the best part of two months, with the ship stopping to exchange cargo in Marseilles, Malta, Port Said, Aden, Bombay, Singapore, and finally Shanghai.
It wasn’t exactly a luxury crossing, but you all relaxed and recuperated as best you could during the long voyage.
Clarissa spent most of her time studying the book Africa’s Dark Sects, which you found at the Ju-Ju House in New York. Sometimes several days went by with her staying locked up in her room. Some mornings she would come for breakfast tired and bleary eyed, then return to her room to spend the day sleeping. The book goes into great and gory detail about the ritual practices of various cults, including human sacrifice, and Clarissa finished her study certain that there was still more to learn from the tome.
This ritual was used by a particularly bloodthirsty tribe, the Kikuyu. The same tribe which is blamed for killing the members of the Carlyle Expedition. As she read the description of the undead servants, Clarissa couldn’t help but be reminded of the four mutilated people in the basement of the Ju-Ju House.
You came to Shanghai following the lead of some crates in a hidden basement in the Penhew Foundation, which were addressed to Ho Fang Import/Export, Shanghai. But that isn’t the only time you’ve seen mention of China in your investigation. Jackson Elias’ Nairobi notes say that he met a man who claimed to have met Jack Brady, Roger Carlyle’s bodyguard, in Hong Kong well after the Kenyan courts had declared the entire expedition dead.
Shanghai in 1925 is a divided city. There’s the old walled Chinese city itself; to the west is the French Concession; and to the north is the Shanghai International Settlement, ruled by the British and the Americans. Chinese law doesn’t apply to the French Concession or the International Settlement. Outside of the International Settlement, most people don’t speak fluent, or any, English. Citizens of the US, Mexico, and most European colonial powers are immune to Chinese law even in the old city and can only be tried under the laws of their respective states, a fact the native Chinese are not fond of. Despite the strong western control over Shanghai, Chinese make up the vast majority of the population. Of the 1.6 million inhabitants, only 20,000 are non-Chinese, and most of those are Japanese. The westerners tend to either be incredibly wealthy businessmen, or undocumented immigrants trying to eke out a living where they can. The national government has little authority, and the city is largely ruled by gangs. Buildings have high walls and barred windows. Everyone who is anyone employs guards. And the wealthy walk the streets in shabby clothes to hide their status. The currency is the yuan, which is used interchangeably with the Mexican silver dollar. One US dollar is worth two yuan.
After spiriting you and his cargo through customs with suspicious ease, Captain Torvak introduced you to Li Wen-Cheng, a young man with a very western outlook. At the captain’s recommendation you employed him as a comprador, a kind of assistant to help you interact with the locals. You have him at your disposal, though he’s not spending every waking moment with you. He can usually be found at the Methodist University if you need him. He can help if you want to interact with anyone who doesn’t know English, which will be most of the Chinese who don’t regularly work with westerners, and with providing general information and gossip about the city.
It’s now the morning of the 4th of May. You’ve been in Shanghai for a few days, enough time to get your bearings, find lodgings in a hotel on the outskirts of the International Settlement, and send an update on your investigation to Carlton Ramsey. What do you do?
4th of May, 1925
You wanted to hire some guards, so Li Wen-Cheng took you all (except Arthur who didn’t want to go) to the Stumbling Tiger Bar, which has a reputation of being a place where you can acquire anything you need: items, people, and information. The Stumbling Tiger Bar is in a district of bars, gambling dens, and flower girl housesA flower girl house is a place where pretty girls entertain men. It’s not necessarily a brothel, but many of the girls do have sex with their customers for money.
. Opening the door to the bar released a wall of cigarette smoke. The inside was busy, filthy, and Carson couldn’t help but think of the risks of tuberculosis as he entered. There you met the bartender Fergus Chum—polishing a glass with a surprisingly clean rag—a mixed race man who greeted you warmly and asked you to call him “McChum”. You asked about hiring thuggish brutes (brutish thugs?) and he said he knew some guys. You negotiated a week-long contract at a day rate of $3, open to renegotiation at the end of the week; they will meet you at your hotel tomorrow morning.
Jason had the idea of asking McChum, an information broker, if he knew anything about Jack Brady. McChum said he didn’t know the name. Carson spotted this was a lie and signalled Jason. Jason discretely passed over some money to help jog McChum’s memory, and he confessed that he did know Jack Brady and told you that Brady had gone to contact Charlie Grey, a “big money man” in Rangoon, to conduct some business involving guns. Jason realised that this story was only a partial truth but didn’t press for more.
While Jason and McChum were engaged in conversation, Carson looked around the bar at the other patrons. Carson’s attention was caught by a very drunk-looking man, but Carson noticed his actions didn’t seem quite right. His motor skills and reactions weren’t uniformly degraded, and he managed to spill much more than he drank. The man was only pretending to be drunk. Carson asked McChum who the man was. McChum said he was a regular customer, some sort of foreman involved in a construction project.
You all wanted some weapons, so Carson asked Li Wen-Cheng if there was a gun shop nearby, and went off to do some shopping. He bought enough for a small army, and eventually headed back to the hotel.
Jason, Wilhelmina, and Clarissa kept an eye on the drunk guy for hours but he didn’t leave. Eventually they went back to the hotel to meet Carson.
While this was going on, Arthur went to visit a buddhist temple. While there he found an advert for Mr Lung’s horoscopes and fortune telling, which he decided to go check out.
Arthur found the small house on Kaoyang Street. Its bright red door smelled of wet paint. On either side of the door were wooden plaques with stylised symbols based on Chinese script. Outside the door sat a Siamese cat meowing loudly. Arthur knocked on the door, but got no response. He peered through the window and saw a man, he caught the man’s attention and knocked again.
The door opened slowly to reveal a man wearing a bright purple hat and robe. Arthur introduced himself, and asked if the man was Mr. Lung. He assented, and opened the door further. The cat dashed in. Arthur stepped through the door, which seemed to astonish Mr. Lung. Immediately inside the door was a screen obscuring the rest of the home, and many hanging amulets. Mr. Lung keenly showed the amulets to Arthur and asked his opinion. Arthur was polite. Beyond the screen, the furniture of the home was scattered across the floor, blocking the path, and had to be climbed over. Arthur could tell that there was some organisation to the furniture, but couldn’t tell what it was. As he clambered over the furniture, Mr. Lung again looked astonished. Mr. Lung then showed Arthur some scrolls decorated with tigers. Arthur was polite again. The cat was still nowhere to be seen.
Mr. Lung then gestured to a room and said that he did his work in his office, and invited Arthur in. As soon as Arthur had stepped through the door, Mr. Lung dashed out and slammed it shut. The door was locked. The room contained a desk, on which was a pile of money and a box of matches. The walls were covered in black drapes embroided with stars and representations of the Chinese zodiac. The drapes were lumpy as if they covered something. Arthur moved one of the drapes, and they all fell to the floor. The walls were covered in dozens of mirrors. Arthur immediately began to feel ill, and he realised what was going on. Everything Mr. Lung had showed him was some protection against demons in Chinese mythology, and mirrors were the most potent of all. Despite not being a demon, Arthur felt very affected by the mirrors.
Arthur tried to force the door. He failed, and smashed some of the mirrors, before deciding to cover himself with the drapes. Once out of sight of the mirrors, Arthur felt better again. He then heard the cat yowling from the other room. Suddenly there was a loud roar, and Mr. Lung screamed. A while later Mr. Lung, covered in scratches and bruises, opened the door and said “so you weren’t the demon after all…” before collapsing onto Arthur. Arthur managed to get him to say where the nearest apothecary was, and half carried Mr. Lung to get medical treatment. Arthur looked for the cat, but it had vanished. As Mr. Lung calmed down, he managed to explain that he had foretold that a demon would come to him today, and that he assumed it was Arthur.
Impressed by seeing Mr. Lung’s genuine power, the power to banish a demon, Arthur was keen to get his horoscope foretold. Mr. Lung was only too happy to oblige, and told Arthur that he was only part way through a long journey with more still to come; that there would be terrible things man was not meant to see; and to beware of seafood.
Arthur then asked Mr. Lung if he knew anything about Ho Fang, whose warehouse is on the same street. Mr. Lung said that Ho Fang is a powerful businessman, and not the sort of person you want to get on the wrong side of. There are rumours he’s involved in smuggling; but in the import/export business who isn’t? Arthur decided to go check out the warehouse.
Ho Fang’s warehouse is a large building by a pier on the banks of the Whangpoo River. At the front looks like offices, and around the back is the warehouse proper. The warehouse itself has six huge doors, open at this hour, with people coming to and fro. All the windows were high off the ground and barred. Arthur then returned to the hotel.
After everyone met back up in the hotel, and Arthur recounted the story of his terrible day, Wilhelmina and Jason decided to head back out to have a look at the warehouse. It was locked up by the time they arrived, with the large doors shut. They noticed that the warehouse was partially built over the pier, and it looked like a small boat could fit beneath it at low tide. They suspected that this was used for transporting items Ho Fang wanted to keep hidden.
On their way back to the hotel they went to the Stumbling Tiger Bar, and saw that the drunk foreman had left.
5th of May, 1925
You decided to look into all of your leads simultaneously: find a way to contact Charlie Grey, get a boat to investigate the bit of Ho Fang’s warehouse which extends over the pier, and follow the pretending-to-be-drunk guy from the Stumbling Tiger Bar.
Arthur went to the British Consulate to follow up on Charlie Grey, as they’re probably a British or American citizen. He found contact details for a Charles Grey Ltd. registered in Rangoon and sent a telegram asking about Jack Brady. Meanwhile, Carson went to rent a small boat.
You then waited until the evening.
Jason and Wilhelmina went to the bar, keeping a low profile while watching the foreman. Eventually he waved goodbye to his companions and stumbled out into the crowd. You followed him. Even thought it was now night, the narrow streets were still packed, and staying out of sight wasn’t difficult. As he got further from the bar, he appeared to sober up—far too quickly for actual drunkeness. When he reached a quieter area, he stopped and looked around before turning down a side street, but you managed to duck out of sight. You caught up and followed him to his hotel.
Wilhelmina distracted the one receptionist up at this hour, while Jason carefully followed the man to his room. Through the closed door, Jason heard conversation in Japanese, and the name “Jack Brady”.
Jason and Wilhelmina then went to meet up with everyone else at the boat, and sailed beneath the pier. Above you, in the floor of the warehouse, was a pair of large metal doors with no obvious lock or mechanism. You all strained with crowbars, but failed to shift them. Jason decided to try breaking in through the front and finding a way to open the doors from the inside.
Jason picked the lock of the front door and entered the office part at the front of the building. Jason found himself in a small entrance hall connected to a corridor, with stairs going up at one end and offices at the other. Through the wall from the direction of the warehouse he could hear voices. Jason had a look at the offices, but found nothing interesting. He started climbing the stairs, and stopped when he noticed a loose stair which would probably make a noise when he stood on it. He pried the board up, and saw that it gave access to the ceiling of a room directly above where the boat was. Jason climbed down into the room, which was separated from the main warehouse by a large sealed door.
The room had two large, padlocked, metal doors in the floor, with a winch mechanism above them. The room also had a lot of strange items and many crates: several statues of different sizes of a large bloated woman with tentacles emerging from her flesh; a bronze vessel used in ancestor rituals (Jason had seen such a thing before in the British Museum while in London), with carvings of strange beasts; and a display case containing several large bones, labelled “dragon bones”.
Jason turned his attention to the doors in the floor, and managed to break the locks, allowing the others into the room. After examining everything, you decided to take one of the bloated woman statues and open some of the crates. There was no obvious sign of the crates sent from the Penhew Foundation, most of the crates were labelled “A.P.”. You remembered that “A.P.” are the initials of Sir Aubrey Penhew. You opened a crate, and found a very strange and intricate looking mechanism. You decided to take that too. You opened an unlabelled crate, and found large, baggy, black and yellow robes. You took some of those too.
You lowered your spoils into the boat. Then Jason and Wilhelmina decided to go explore upstairs while the rest of you waited quietly.
China session 2, 2019-06-23
You’ve come to Shanghai, following the lead of some crates addressed to Ho Fang Import/Export which you found in a hidden cultist basement of the Penhew Foundation in London. You’ve learned that Ho Fang is powerful, involved with smuggling, and definitely not the sort of person you want to get on the wrong side of. You’ve also found signs of Jack Brady, Roger Carlyle’s bodyguard and surviving member of the Carlyle Expedition.
Last session you found a secret smuggler’s entrance to Ho Fang’s warehouse, accessible at low tide, and broke in at night. You found some strange things: statues of bloated, tentacled, women; black and yellow robes; and intricate machine parts. It’s now well after midnight, Jason and Wilhelmina have gone to explore the upstairs of the warehouse offices, while the rest of you wait below in your boat.
5th of May, 1925 (night)
Jason and Wilhelmina crept upstairs and found a large, plainly decorated, office. Jason looked through a ledger on the desk and found some non-Chinese names and destinations: Omar al-Shakti (Cairo), Ahja Singh (Mombasa), Randolph Shipping Company (Port Darwin). The entries mostly mentioned antiques, art, and books, however the Randolph Shipping Company seemed to be handling a lot of mining equipment. Wilhelmina looked through the filing cabinets and found more papers with those names on, though the papers themselves were in Chinese.
The room also contained many large rolled-up navigational charts. Jason realised one was less dusty than the rest and, figuring that it was frequently used, took some photos. The map was for Gray Dragon Island, a volcanic island with some sort of large cave inside the volcano, 300 miles to the south.
You then heard movement downstairs. Wilhelmina peered down the stairs, and saw that the coast was clear. You both crept back down to the room with the hidden door, took the dragon bones, and got back into the boat.
As you sailed away, you saw a face watching you from the shadows on the riverbank.
Hoping to avoid being followed back to your hotel, you got off the boat sooner than you had planned, and took a circuitous route. You didn’t see anyone following you, and returned to the hotel safely.
You decided to wake up Prof. Musgrave and ask if he’d seen anything like these dragon bones before. He said bones were a bit out of his area of expertise, but he would have a look. Musgrave said that the bones were from something larger than a human, though he’s not sure what, and they were an unusual shade of grey.
You also examined more closely the mechanical parts you took, but nobody could even guess what they could be for.
6th of May, 1925
Prof. Musgrave woke up first, and sat in the hotel cafe eating breakfast while reading the Shanghai Courier, a dual-language newspaper. The front-page story was about the Seamen’s Club being attacked and partially destroyed last night by “strange creatures” which came from the river, though officials who had inspected the damage thought it was due to seepage undermining the ground. Another short story talked about “yet another” murder where the victim had had their arms cut off and left to bleed out. There are rumours of a madman, and the police haven’t found the perpetrator yet.
While Musgrave was reading, the thuggish brutes you’d hired from Fergus Chum arrived. With their poor English, and the aid of the hotel receptionist, they conveyed that they had been hired as protection.
Eventually, everyone but Wilhelmina had woken up, come down to breakfast, and found Musgrave sitting in the middle of five mean-looking thugs. You decided to go to the university to do some research and to see if the engineering or physics department could tell you what the machine parts you found were.
Musgrave, Clarissa, and the thuggish brutes went to the library. Musgrave asked the librarian for anything they had about Gray Dragon Island in English, and received some navigational charts with basic factual information: it’s a small volcanic island in such a strategically useless position that no country has claimed ownership of it. He satisfies the staff of his academic credentials and gets a library card. Clarissa found a book on the history of religion in Shanghai, in Chinese. Musgrave found a book about local folklore, also in Chinese.
Jason and Carson met up with Li Wen-Cheng and went to the engineering department. They managed to persuade the receptionist how important it was to speak with the head of the department, and made an appointment for that afternoon. They then went to the library to pass the time.
Li Wen-Cheng translated fragments of the books Musgrave and Clarissa had checked out:
Gray Dragon Island is called that because it was once an active volcano. The last eruption killed all the inhabitants, and the island is still uninhabited. It hasn’t been active for centuries.
A god in the form of a bloated, tentacled, woman was once worshipped by the Cult of the Bloated Woman. The cult had a presence all over China, but was concentrated in Shanghai with a few hundred members. The cult was secretive about its practices and beliefs, but it was known to have connections to the criminal underworld. It gradually died out and isn’t thought to exist in the modern day.
Jason, Carson, and Li Wen-Cheng went to their meeting with the head of the engineering department. He was stumped by the device, and guessed that it could be part of some control system, but he really doesn’t know. He asked where you got it, you blatantly lied, and he didn’t press the matter. He said that the device is very advanced, and suggested that it could possibly be from some sort of military research.
Meanwhile, Wilhelmina woke up and found you gone. She read the Shanghai Courier, and figured you had probably gone to investigate the Seamen’s Club, which is where she went. The entire side of the building facing the river had collapsed, and the area was cordoned off with a few spectators, both Chinese and European.
One of the spectators was a German sailor who had been at the club during the attack. He said he saw the creatures, and described them as “fish men”. He said they seemed to be searching for something, but whatever it was they returned to the river empty-handed.
Wilhelmina asked if anyone unusual had been staying at the club. He said that there had been an American, who gave the name John Smith, who arrived last week and left the day before the attack. The American was tall and muscular, with short hair. Didn’t talk much, and kept to himself. Wilhelmina took the German’s contact details.
Wilhelmina then visited the port authority to check if any ships matched with the dates John Smith stayed at the club. She found that the only non-Chinese and non-Japanese ship to arrive on the right day was a British yacht called The Dark MistressYou all thought that name was really suspicious, but it’s not necessarily so. Shakespeare wrote some sonnets about his “Dark Mistress”, and using the name for a ship is not unheard of.
registered to an Alfred Penhurst, with contact c/o Ho Fang Import/ExportThe crates with the machine parts in Ho Fang’s warehouse were labelled “A.P.”
You realised that this was probably the ship in the photo you found in Jackson Elias’ room back in New York.
While travelling back from the university, you realised you were being followed. To try to catch your tail off guard, you headed to a quieter area, and everyone but Musgrave hid after turning a corner into an alley. Three people arrived at the head of the alley, and stopped when they saw Musgrave alone. You managed to surround the three, and asked who had sent them. One said they served a powerful mistress. As you were trying to interrogate them, Musgrave noticed that five more people, with guns, were approaching from the other end of the alley, and you all ran off.
You met back up with Wilhelmina at the hotel, and decided to move to another hotel. You went to one deeper in the International Settlement.
You decided to visit Gray Dragon Island, and figured it would take a day or two to get there, depending on weather. You went to the docks to hire a ship and crew, but didn’t have much luck. All the captains refused you. They said that the last few ships which tried to go to Gray Dragon Island have all disappeared. A man from one of the ships got rescued at sea, he said that as they approached the island the weather suddenly turned violent and sunk the ship.
Your queries were overheard by a man who introduced himself as Chu Min, and said he would take you. You asked if he was worried like the other captains, but he said that that was just superstitious nonsense, and that with charts and a good crew you can sail any waters.
Jason and Wilhelmina were suspicious of Chu Min. They decided to take him to the pub to “celebrate” their meeting, to get him drunk, and to then follow him and try to learn what his deal is. Jason asked about Chu Min’s background, Chu Min said that he had been a policeman, and turned to the sea when he couldn’t take it anymore; Jason could tell he was lying about something. They drank for a few hours in the pub, and eventually Chu Min got up to leave. Jason and Clarissa followed a few minutes later, but Chu Min had disappeared.
China session 3, 2019-07-06
I didn’t get around to writing up proper notes, so here are bullet points.
You’re setting out to Gray Dragon Island, following a map you found in Ho Fang’s office. By a stroke of luck, after all the other captains refused to take you, you encountered the willing Chu Min. So far during your short stay in Shanghai you’ve been watched, followed, and threatened. You’ve hired thugs, followed signs of the cult to Ho Fang, and found signs of Aubrey Penhew and Jack Brady. Now you’re leaving it all behind, at least for a few days. It’s now the morning of the 7th of May, and you and your brutish thugs have just arrived at the docks.
7th of May, 1925
- Met Chu Min at the docks and sailed off
- After three hours the ship turned east, which is not the direction of Gray Dragon Island
- Investigators went, with thugs, to ask Chu Min what was going on
- Chu Min tells the investigators they’re taking a diversion, not going to Gray Dragon Island today, and suggests that they have a talk. He suggests the brutish thugs leave them because “you don’t know who else’s pocket they’re in”
- Investigators refuse to send away the brutish thugs. Chu Min shrugs.
- Chu Min asks about their business in Shanghai and why they want to go to Gray Dragon Island. Not a popular destination with tourists. He also asked if they knew why they were being followed by Ho Fang, Lin Yenyu, and Isoge Taro.
- Investigators open up, seeing that Chu Min knows too much to deceive.
- Investigators question Chu Min, who tells them about Firm Action.
- Chu Min signals one of his staff, who operates a radio. Chu Min says that there is someone they should meet, his boat will be here soon. To go to the deck, and this time he really insists that they leave the brutish thugs behind.
- After 15 minutes of waiting, an old fishing boat approaches. On the deck is a white man.
- The white man crosses over and has a brief conversation with Chu Min out of hearing.
- He turns to the investigators and introduces himself as Jack Brady. Jack suggests they get on his boat and accompany him to his base, to talk about Gray Dragon Island and his plans.
- During the journey Jack Brady tells his story.
- At the warehouse Jack Brady tells his plans and about the Eye of Light and Darkness and invites the investigators along. He doesn’t reveal who is doing the translation. He tells the investigators to lay low and not attract further attention. The investigators ask why they are being followed by Lin Yenyu and Isoge Taro.
- When the investigators leave they see some people watching the warehouse. They return to tell Jack Brady, who reveals they are Firm Action members.
8th of May, 1925
- Investigators go to Shanghai Courier offices and find other articles.
- Lantern Street: track down the girl to the hospital but do not go to where Chong Mei-Ling has been sold. Learn about the European.
- Chin-Ling Road: ask the bonze about the monks and the European, if he knew why they were meeting. He did not. Tracked down Liu Chen-dai, he lied out of embarrassment about what he saw. Checked the weather forecast and saw it was poor conditions for a moving fire that day (damp and no wind).
- Staked out the docks for the Dark Mistress, which arrived after a few days.
China session 4, 2019-08-03
Last session you met Jack Brady, who told you what he knows, and his plans to render Gray Dragon Island unusable to the cult by means of a ritual he is having translated. He offered to bring you along as part of his strike force when he makes his move.
While you wait for him to contact you again, you’ve been keeping a watch on the docks for Sir Aubrey Penhew’s yacht, the Dark Mistress. Tonight, it has arrived.
It is now the night of the 17th of May 1925, 10 days after you met Jack Brady, and you’re all concealed in the shadows watching The Dark Mistress dock.
What do you do?
17th of May, 1925
You watched the crew disembark, you couldn’t make out their features in the darkness, but you saw six tall well-built men, and one shorter and thinner man. Judging by the size of the yacht, this would quite possibly be the total number of crew. The six well-built men set off in the direction of Ho Fang’s warehouse. The thin man lit a match for his pipe, and you saw his face.
The man’s skin was sagging, like a sack draped over a frame, his nose was partially eaten away, his eyes yellow, and he had bald patches. Carson recognised these as the symptoms of long-term exposure to a low-intensity source of radiation.
The man didn’t seem to be moving from near the ship, so Wilhelmina decided to try to swim across to it and climb aboard without being seen. However the man heard her get into the water, and she decided to change tack to acting as a diversion, and started shouting “help, I’ve fallen in the water!” When the man went to investigate, Jason dashed across the dock and into the yacht.
Jason explored the interior of the ship, finding the luxurious guest rooms, and the less luxurious crew rooms. The ship’s hold was empty, other than a few expected items like spare ropes and tools. There were no other crew. In a lounge, Jason found a bloated woman statue in a display cabinet, along with books on astronomy, astrology, science, and engineering. In an locked, opulent, bedroom (the only locked room on the ship), Jason found a booby-trapped wooden cabinet containing five cylindrical ivory cases, a book True Magick, some particularly ornate cult robes, and a medallion bearing Chinese characters.
Jason then left the ship. Wilhelmina had persuaded the thin man to take her to a nearby bar to dry off near the fireplace. Everyone returned to the hotel.
Musgrave examined the ivory cases, and found they contained scrolls written in Chinese, and worked out they must be over 2,000 years old. Musgrave also examined the True Magick book, which had been rebound in red silks bearing Chinese-style mythological creatures, and worked out that it would be from about the 17th century.
You decided to go see Mr. Lung the following day, to see if he could translate the scrolls or tell you anything about the medallion.
18th of May, 1925
You went to see Mr. Lung. You showed him one of the scrolls, and after examining it for a while he said that this was only part of a collection. You gave him the rest of the scrolls, and with some difficulty he figured out their order as well as their general topic: lost ancient continents. He said that a translation would be difficult, because the language had changed a lot since the scrolls were written, he estimated three or four weeks. Musgrave paid him a generous retainer, and asked him to work on the translation. You then took out the medallion, at which Mr. Lung drew back and became clearly uncomfortable. When pressed, he explained that those were the characters of the Cult of the Bloated Woman, of which he knew a little. He then told you more or less what you already knew from the library. He said the medallion was a bad omen.
You then went to a cafe to get some lunch. While you were there, Jack Brady arrived, to tell you that everything was ready and to come to the warehouse. He disappeared as suddenly as he had arrived.
You went to the Firm Action warehouse, and were shown to Jack Brady’s office. Inside the office were Jack Brady, Chu Min, the “drunken” Japanese man from the Stumbling Tiger Bar, and an old man wearing traditional clothing you didn’t know. Jack Brady introduced the old man as Mu Hsien, the translator. He introduced the Japanese man as Captain Isoge Taro of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who had agreed to help out.
Jack outlined the situation. The good news is that the ritual has been translatedYou got a copy as a handout.
, the bad news is that Firm Action spies had reported significantly increased cult activity on the island. It seems they were planning to do something big in the next few days, involving a device Aubrey Penhew has been constructing in the volcano, and so Jack didn’t want to wait. He said that this could be a blessing in disguise though, as with so many people—some white—many of whom have never met before it should be fairly easy to slip in with disguises.
He outlined his plan. Jack would lead a team of Firm Action members to the opposite side of the volcano to the village, where they would perform the ritual. This would last all night. You would infiltrate the volcano base and disable the device and, if possible, kill Aubrey Penhew. Isoge Taro would call down a naval bombardment on the island after you had had time to reach the volcano, to cause panic.
At this point Isoge Taro interrupted, and clarified that he didn’t believe in any of this magic business, but that he had seen plans stolen by the Firm Action spies, and agreed that some sort of weapon was being constructed. He said that the Imperial Japanese Navy could not allow a weapon installation in the South China Sea, and that is the only reason he is involved.
In the early evening you embarked on the day-long journey to Gray Dragon Island.
19th of May, 1925
As you approach the island, Jack’s ship changed course to approach the far side of the volcano, leaving you by yourselves. During the journey Clarissa read True Magick.
Your ship pulled up to a rickety wooden pier, where a few other boats were tied up. The island was not a welcoming sight: mostly cinders, sand, and stunted palm trees. Steam vents dotted the ground. You looked up and could see the volcano cone, towering above the rest of the island.
You went towards the village, and saw a dismal collection of thatched huts huddling together beneath the trees. A few villagers milled around. You saw a group of a dozen or so cultists heading up the path to the volcano, and followed them.
You followed the twisting trail about 50m up to an entrance in the side of the volcano. The entrance was decorated with the Order’s characters. The entrance lead to a long stone staircase, descending another 70m. The staircase lead to a large open chamber, full of activity.
The chamber was packed with dozens of people. It was a rough cylinder 50m high, tapering to a hole through which you could see the sky. The walls were coated in slimy fungi. In the centre of the chamber was a large device, like a large bullet, with tasteful Art Deco designs worked into the exterior, held by metal girders over a pit of lava glowing orange, yellow, purple, green, and blue. The device was tended to by some cultists wearing more work-practical robes, who were using cigar-shaped devices which emitted blinding light.
A dozen thin-looking people wearing black head dresses carried buckets of bubbling black liquid from a pool to the lava pit. There were three creatures, with greyish-green skin, white bellies, scaly backs; humanoid but with the heads of fish with great bulging eyes, and palpitating gills in the necks. Two of these creatures held tridents and were shepherding the thin peopleWho you guessed to be human slaves.
. The third creature, significantly larger, held globs of grey slime in its hands and was waving them around as if directing traffic. Across from the pool of bubbling black liquid was a pool of clean-looking water.
Also in the room was a large statue of the bloated woman, much taller than a person, facing the wall. Hundreds of severed human arms hung from its tentacles. Its base was stained with blood. Near the entrance was a pile of boxes. There were a few doorways, only one with actual doors.
Wilhelmina and Jason saw that Carson was about to lose it at the sight of all this, and Jason managed to clamp a hand over Carson’s mouth before he could draw attention.
Able to move fairly freely, due to the amount of people in the room looking at the statue or the device, Jason and Arthur made their way to the pile of crates and examined one of the devices used by the worker-cultists.
Then the naval bombardment began, and the room erupted into panic and chaos. Many cultists started making their way to the exit.
Taking advantage of the chaos, you started planting sticks of dynamite at the bases of the metal girders supporting the device above the lava pit. Clarissa was noticed by the large fish-person, but before it could do anything Carson smacked it over the head with a crowbar. The pool of bubbling black slime exploded into the room.
A large glob of black slime, holding itself together in a rough sphere, constantly undulating and forming appendages which last for a second before being reabsorbed and reformed into something else, emerged from the pool. Everyone but you and the fish people had now fled the room. The fish people leapt into the pool of water and disappeared.
Horrified by what had been unleashed, Carson let out a scream.
The doors slammed open, and a man strode out. Arthur recognised Roger Penhew. Penhew took stock of the situation, raised his arm, and shouted a command. The liquid creature was hurled against the wall. Penhew looked totally absorbed in the strain of keeping the creature under control.
Arthur tried to tear his gaze away from the creature, to continue the mission. But he panicked, dropped the dynamite without lighting it, and ran through the doors Penhew came from, slamming them behind him. Arthur found himself in a workroom with books, intricate mechanisms, and papers written in an unknown alphabet scattered everywhere. On the wall as a chronometer of the same make as the one in the Ju-Ju House, set to GMT. When he calmed down enough to have a proper look around, Arthur found Penhew’s diaries, which he grabbed.
The dropped stick of dynamite had rolled next to the girder it was supposed to destroy, so Jason shot at it, blowing it up. The other sticks of dynamite also started to explode. The device started to list over into the lava.
The explosions broke Penhew’s concentration. The creature surged forward and engulfed him.
Arthur managed to muster the courage to leave the room, and ran around the creature to join up with the others near the exit. You all started to run up the stairs, and heard the creature behind you start to move. Turning around you saw it had dropped Penhew’s dead and partially digested body, as it moved towards you. You ran, as the remaining dynamite exploded, and the device fell into the lava.
At the surface you dropped all your remaining dynamite, lit, and clambered down the side of the volcano to the beach as it exploded behind you. Nothing pursued.
After a little while, the ship came to pick you back up. You then sailed around to the far side of the island to collect the other team.
While waiting for them, you looked through Penhew’s diaries, which talked about constructing the device, and made frequent mention to Robert Huston in Australia.
This is the end of this chapter. Bonus sanity points are:
+1d4for breaking up the Order of the Bloated Woman.
+1d8for destroying Sir Aubrey’s rocket.
The next chapter will begin with you arriving in Alexandria.
Egypt session 1, 2019-08-17
As the moon began to set, a little before dawn, you felt a shockwave pass through the air, and heard a terrible inhuman screech from the direction of the volcano. The boat captain said “it’s time”, and set sail for the far side of the island, to collect Jack Brady. You heard a loud splash from the island, as if something large fell into the sea.
About half an hour later the ship had pulled in to the island again and you saw Jack Brady, Chu Min, and their Firm Action companions, clambering across the rocky beach. Jack was covered in blood, but rebuffed Carson’s offer to examine him, saying “it’s not needed, the job is done.” That much blood must have come from a significant wound, but neither Jack nor any of the others showed any obvious signs of injury, though they all looked incredibly tired. There was just the blood.
On the journey back to Shanghai, Jack opened up a little, saying that the ritual had been a success, “the Order won’t be using that island for a while”, he said, and “did you hear that cry around dawn? We must have cast something out.”
A few days after the events on Gray Dragon Island, you met up with Jack again, to tell him you were going to Egypt, to continue following Jackson Elias’ footsteps. “Elias was a good man”, he said, “I hope you don’t end up like he did. As for me, my work here in Shanghai is done. The Order is broken up, which is good, but there are now a lot of people out for my blood. I’m going to go to Roger, lay low in Hong Kong. If you’re going to Egypt, you should take this,” he hands Musgrave the fragment of the Eye of Light and Darkness from the Red Pyramid, “I don’t think you can fix this, but maybe you can make a new one.”
You booked passage on the Voiture du Mer, a French steamer heading to Alexandria, a journey of 20 days. Once in Alexandria you can get a train to Cairo.
You had some opportunity to relax on the crossing.
As with the London to Shanghai voyage, Clarissa spent most of her time reading: this time True Magick, and Aubrey Penhew’s diaries.
Egypt was the first stop of the Carlyle Expedition. They went to Cairo, and then conducted digs in nearby Giza, Saqqara, and Dashur. Dashur is where Roger Carlyle destroyed the Eye of Light and Darkness atop the Red Pyramid, and where all the expedition members but Jack Brady disappeared inside the Bent Pyramid, to emerge… changed. Jackson Elias also went to Cairo, after having spoken to Jack Brady, though it seems he didn’t stay for long. Leads you have in Cairo are:
- Warren Besart, who acted as Roger Carlyle’s purchasing agent for “singular curios”, in 1919.
- Faraz Najjar, who sold the curios to Warren Besart.
Cairo in 1925 is an old city trying to modernise. Horse-drawn carriages are common, but so are taxis, and there’s an extensive tram network. Trains run from Cairo to all the major nearby historical sites, including Giza, Saqqara, and Dashur. Hiring cars, and drivers if you need them, is possible if you want to go further afield. The tomb of Tutankhamun was opened a few years ago, in November of 1922, and has sparked a wave of Egyptomania across the entire world. As far away as America, many people wear Egyptian-style jewellery and tarbouches; and Egypt itself is experiencing a tourism boom. Cairo, originally called El Kahira and built in 968AD after the Islamic conquest, now has a population of 850,000, of which one in ten is foreign. Palaces and mosques litter the city, and it’s said that you can study all there is to study about Arabic art without ever leaving Cairo. The Old City is a maze of narrow winding streets, with the upper floors of the buildings on either side leaning overhead, casting the streets into shadows; and bustling open market squares. Many Cairenes are very poor, with beggars on every street corner. The currency is the Egyptian pound, which is equivalent to the British pound, or five US dollars. The primary language is Arabic, with French being used in learned societies, and English being very uncommon. The dominant religion is Islam, with a small minority of Coptic Christians. The weather is hottest from June to August, with daily highs of 40C not uncommon. Strenuous outdoor physical activity is a bad idea for your health.
Professor Musgrave knows a bit more about Egypt and Cairo than the rest of you. Musgrave, you know that the Egyptian authorities have been cracking down on the exporting of archaeological finds, unless you have a proper licence; so bringing anything you find out of Egypt will be tricky. The body which issues these licences is the Egyptian Museum, and of course there’s a thriving black market trade—or so you hear. You’ve previously had dealings with Dr. Ali Kafour, custodian of the occult and religious library of the Egyptian Museum, who you consulted about some research you were doing. You’ve never met, but you have a friendly correspondence. You know that communicating with the locals, or even just getting around in Cairo, is almost impossible without either speaking Arabic, or employing a dragoman, which is a local guide. The more reputable hotels can generally find someone reliable, who won’t take you down a back alley and rob you. You’ve previously stayed in the Hotel du Nord and the Semiramis. You also know that the dust storm season lasts from March to June, so you’ve arrived just at the tail end of that, which should make any desert excursions easier.
It’s now the 12th of June. You’ve just disembarked in the port of Alexandria, and are standing in the queue for customs, where they’re checking random bags for weapons. What do you do?
12th of June, 1925
The Alexandrian customs officers randomly inspected Jason’s bag, finding and confiscating his guns. The rest of you escaped notice. After passing through customs you boarded the train to Cairo.
Your first impression upon leaving Cairo station was how busy it was: the wide open streets, bordered by palm trees, were packed with people as far as the eye could see. You could hear the shouts of street vendors in a variety of languages, and just outside the station a group of beggars sat in a row shaking bowls of coins at passers-by.
As you stepped out into the street, a group of men waving flyers for hotels, all trying to shout over each other, accosted you. One well-dressed young man, taller than the rest, shouldered his way through the throng and bowed deeply to you. “Good day to you and welcome to Cairo. My name is Ibi Moussa. If you have yet to arrange your accommodation, may I suggest the Hotel du Sud?” he said in accented and near-flawless English. Without waiting for your reply he said “Please, permit me to take care of your luggage for you”, he gestured at some street urchins, and they grabbed your bags and began to stride through the crowd, Ibi included.
You followed after through the crowd as best you could, and soon found yourselves at the Hotel du Sud: tired looking, with out-of-fashion decor and peeling paint. The manageress introduced herself as Madame Patenaude, as the urchins stood expectantly waiting for tips. Arthur, Wilhelmina, and Carson decided to take rooms here. Clarissa and Jason went off to the Semiramis hotel instead. The rooms at the Hotel du Sud are as plain and unimpressive as the rest of the hotel. None of your three rooms were adjacent, though you didn’t see any other guests. In contrast, the Semiramis is opulent, lavishly decorated, and expensive.
Each group decided to do some independent investigation.
Clarissa and Jason first went clothes shopping, and then to find Faraz Najjar on the Street of Jackals. The Semiramis supplied them with Saleem Naziz, a dragoman, to help navigate the city.
In the Street of Jackals you saw a burned down building, clearly quite old ruins, odd given how dense the surrounding city is. You noticed people didn’t linger in front of it, and made a sign of warding when they passed it. You went into a linen shop to ask the shopkeeper, through Saleem, if he knew anything about Faraz Najjar. You learned that the burned out building had been the shop of Faraz Najjar, and that it was destroyed by a hideous demon five or six years ago. The shopkeeper said people believed Faraz Najjar to be cursed, and don’t like to deal with him. But despite that, Faraz Najjar has set up a new shop near the Khan el-Khalili bazaar.
Next Jason and Clarissa went there and, down the nearby Street of Potters, found Faraz Najjar’s new shop. You all went into the shop, and were greeted warmly by Faraz Najjar, who encouraged you to look around. You noticed that he kept one side of his face turned away from you as he spoke, and conspired to move around the shop so that at least one of you would see. You saw that he had terrible burns. You began to ask him about Warren Besart, and his demeanour changed immediately, he began to splutter, and asked you to leave his shop. Undeterred, Jason pressed forward, and Faraz Najjar drew a jewelled scimitar from behind the counter as he began to curse at you in Arabic. You decided to leave quickly, as a small crowd was starting to form outside the shop.
You then asked Saleem to take you to a newspaper archive. He took you to the Cairo Bulletin, back near the Semiramis. Nigel Wassif, the editor, let you look through the archives. You found:
Articles about the Carlyle Expedition during their stay in Cairo. It said that they conducted digs in Giza, Saqqara, and Dashur to investigate the Third Dynasty. Speculation and rumours arose about the expedition’s “true purpose”, as those locations are not associated with the Third Dynasty. Then, in July 1919, the expedition departs for Kenya on holiday. There were rumours that Roger Carlyle fell ill. Aubrey Penhew said that the Egyptian summer was too hot for Roger, and also that the seasonal flood of the Nile would obscure an important dig site for several months, so there was no point in staying. You noticed that a photo of Hypatia Masters, printed in June 1919, was actually taken in May 1919. There were no photos of Hypatia Masters which had definitely been taken after May.
You asked Nigel Wassif about the expedition, he said that they had been “simply horrid” in how they kept the press away from their digs, being unusually hostile and secretive.
There is currently a Penhew Foundation-funded dig going on in Giza, led by a Dr. Henry Clive. The Clive Expedition unearthed a mummy from the smaller of the three Great Pyramids, which disappeared under mysterious circumstances while under guard. The police have failed to find the mummy. Wassif has heard rumours that one of the expedition members, a Dutch archaeologist called Janwillem van Heuvelen, was fired for incompetence. Janwillem can’t afford travel back to Europe, and is said to be living in some poor part of Cairo currently.
An article about the burning of Faraz Najjar’s shop, at roughly the right date, which the police blamed on carelessness and an oil lamp.
While Jason and Clarissa were investigating Faraz Najjar, Arthur, Carson, and Wilhelmina visited the Egyptian Museum to pay a visit to the occult library managed by Arthur’s contact, Dr. Ali Kafour.
After exchanging pleasantries with Dr. Kafour, Musgrave took out the fragment of the Eye of Light and Darkness. Dr. Kafour recognised the Egyptian design, and sketched a possible completion of the symbol on a piece of paper, saying it would have been a powerful warding symbol. He said that it must have come from the Red Pyramid, based on the colour of the stone. He asked where you got it, and Musgrave told the story.
Dr. Kafour revealed that he was something of an occultist himself, and was familiar with some of what Musgrave had told him. In particular:
He had met Jackson Elias, who came to ask about the Carlyle Expedition. They had a short meeting, and arranged another, but Jackson never showed up to the second meeting.
Dr. Kafour believed that the Carlyle Expedition had uncovered a secret relating to the Black Pharaoh, which had led to their slaughter in Egypt, though their being alive suggests they are in league with the Black Pharaoh, which is corroborated by what the investigators discovered about the Penhew Foundation. When Sir Aubrey came to Egypt, he did not seek out Dr. Kafour despite the two having corresponded before, and in fact rudely rebuffed Dr. Kafour when he visited the dig site. Sir Aubrey also looked younger than he had previously.
Since the Carlyle Expedition, there have been 10 Foundation expeditions to Egypt, the latest of which is the Clive Expedition, and amongst them there have been 20 deaths, disappearances, suicides, and a case of madness. Most have been as secretive as the Carlyle Expedition.
Dr. Kafour also told you the legend of the Black Pharaoh, which goes as follows. At the end of the Third Dynasty a powerful sorcerer called Nephren-Ka came to Egypt from the city of Irem, the City of Pillars, which is described in the Al Azif (also known as the Necronomicon). Nephren-Ka revived the worship of an old god called the Black Pharaoh and, in the minds of the people, Nephren-Ka and the Black Pharaoh were mixed together, making it difficult to distinguish what each one did exactly. For many years Nephren-Ka / the Black Pharaoh fought with the successors of the Third Dynasty for control of Egypt, but no records remain from that period. For a time, Nephren-Ka ruled. Then Sneferu overthrew him to found the Fourth Dynasty with the aid of the goddess Isis. Sneferu ordered all trace of the Black Pharaoh stricken from the land, and his worshippers were driven from Egypt into Sudan. A pyramid was built at Meidum to contain Nephren-Ka’s body, and to ensure he could never rise again. This first pyramid collapsed, and a second pyramid under construction was repurposed to hold the body. This is the Bent Pyramid at Dashur, though no trace of a body has been found inside; a second pyramid at Dashur, the Red Pyramid, as said to ward the area so that Nephren-Ka could never rise. Later, in the Sixth Dynasty, it’s rumoured that Queen Nitocris was in league with the worshippers of the Black Pharaoh, though there is no concrete evidence of this, but Dr. Kafour believes it to be true.
Dr. Kafour said that “Black Pharaoh” is a title, and that he was sometimes known by the name Nyarlathotep. He believes that Nyarlathotep was merely a part of a pantheon of ancient gods he calls the Outer Gods, which are described in the Necronomicon. He offered to show you a version of the Arabic original, the Al Azif, in the museum archives, which you took him up on.
Dr. Kafour took you to the archives, a huge room with thick steel walls, a combination lock, and a magical ward. Dr. Kafour confessed as he undid the ward that his interest in the occult was more than just a passing curiosity, though he felt he hardly needed to justify that to people who had been through what you had. Musgrave and Kafour spent the rest of the afternoon slowly working through the Arabic text.
That evening, after you were all asleep in your rooms, you were all awoken by flames, about the size of a human head, levitating above your chests. The flames descended onto you to burn you but, in the burning, you also felt a weakness as if you were being drainedMagic point loss.
. The creatures were very hot, though only Musgrave took significant burns before escaping. As you escaped from your rooms, the creatures began to set them alight. A conveniently placed fire extinguisher in the Semiramis allowed Jason and Clarissa to destroy their fires, but the Hotel du Sud was burned to the ground, leaving Jason, Musgrave, and Wilhelmina with nowhere to stay.
Egypt session 2, 2019-08-31
Last session you arrived in Cairo, the first destination of the Carlyle Expedition. As you often do, you split the party and did some independent investigation: Jason and Clarissa went to track down Faraz Najjar, who you knew sold some artefacts to Roger Carlyle via his agent Warren Besart. You found Faraz Najjar’s shop destroyed, locals said by a fire demon, and you were chased from his new shop when you started to ask about the past. Musgrave, Carson, and Wilhelmina visited Dr. Ali Kafour, Musgrave’s academic contact, at the Egyptian Museum and heard the legend of the Nyarlathotep the Black Pharaoh, and got to see the museum’s copy of the Al Azif, the Arabic original of the famed Necronomicon.
You also learned that the Clive Expedition, another Penhew Foundation-funded expedition, has been conducting digs in Giza, and had a mummy disappear several weeks ago under mysterious circumstances. Janneke was part of that expedition, but was fired for being drunk on site one too many times and, lacking the funds to return to Europe, remained in Cairo.
That night you were attacked in your hotel rooms by levitating balls of fire. Jason and Clarissa managed to extinguish their fires, but the rest of you weren’t so lucky. The Hotel du Sud, where Musgrave, Carson, and Wilhelmina were staying, burned to the ground.
And now for the time skip.
The next day, after meeting up and discussing the events of the night, you realised that you must have been followed to your hotels. You decided to regroup at the Semiramis and keep an eye out, see if anyone was watching you. It was hard to tell with the large crowds, but you didn’t notice anyone suspicious. That night you were attacked again. Clarissa awoke to the sound of her window being broken, and saw a figure, like an ape with spindly arms and a too-long face with too-large eyes clambering in to the room, with another peering in from behind it. A phenomenal amount of sand cascaded from its hairless body, heaping up on the carpeted floor. Fortunately, Clarissa had anticipated that she might need to escape in the night, and had gone to bed wearing her day clothes. She jumped out of her bed, but felt oddly calm, with no desire to run. She looked at the creature, now fully inside the room and rising to its full height, and felt a wave of power well up inside her body. The creature leapt towards her, and exploded into a mountain of sand with a clap of thunder. A moment later, the creature still outside the window exploded as well. Clarissa sank to the floor, suddenly exhausted, and she sank into unconsciousness…
Jason and Carson were the first to arrive, drawn by the noise, but couldn’t gain entry to the locked room. A few minutes later the hotel’s night watchman arrived. After getting no response from shouting and banging on the door, he unlocked the room. Inside the room, the floor and all the flat surfaces were coated with a thick layer of sand. Clarissa lay unconscious on the floor, her arms and legs covered in small cuts. As Carson tended to her injuries, Jason and the night watchman looked around the room. Peering down from the open window of the third storey room, Jason saw that the street beneath also had a dusting of sand.
The next day, the hotel manager regretfully informed you that, while a mysterious fire could potentially be overlooked, two mysterious happenings in two nights could not. You would have to leave. Determined to lose whoever had followed you, you went into the Old City. You found lodgings in a small guesthouse, the owner spoke no English but you were able to get across that you had money and needed rooms, and that seemed enough for him. The next night came and went without incident.
The following morning Musgrave was looking out of his window and saw, amongst the crowd of dark-skinned Egyptians, a white woman. She saw Musgrave too. After staring at each other for a few moments, each equally out-of-place in this poor district, Musgrave ventured to shout “hello!”. And that is how you met Janneke van Heuvelen.
It is late morning on the 15th of June. You’ve all exchanged names, and gone to a nearby cafe for some coffee, Janneke ordering for you in Arabic. What do you do?
15th of June, 1925
You spent a few hours in the cafe talking, mostly about the discoveries and members of the Clive Expedition. Janneke told you about the mysterious disappearance of the mummy, and how there were no tracks or marks showing how a large sarcophagus was removed from the pyramid.
During your conversation, you became aware of a group of cats watching you. When Janneke noticed, she chased them away and said that Cairo was full of them; cats everywhere, as far as the eye can see. This struck you as odd, as you hadn’t noticed a large amount of cats. Even after the cats had been chased off, Janneke was able to easily spot some more hiding nearby, watching you.
Eventually you decided to split up and continue your previous investigations. Janneke decided to tag along with you.
Carson, Musgrave, and Clarissa returned to the Egyptian Museum and met up with Dr. Kafour, who had been worried at their absence the past couple of days. You described your experience with the floating fires, and he recognised the creatures. He taught you all a hand gesture called the Voorish Sign, said to improve magical spells and to ward off evil creatures. He also taught Clarissa a spell to bind a fire vampire—the floating fires which visited you in the night—to her will. You asked him if there was any way to figure out who had sent them, but he said that fire vampires can travel quite large distances away from their controller. By the time you left, it was the evening.
Jason, Janneke, and Wilhelmina went to Faraz Najjar’s shop. Before he could chase you out, you managed to persuade him that you had also been attacked by the fire demon, and that you should talk. He arranged to meet you at the al-Hussein Mosque down the street in a few hours time, as he only felt safe talking about such things on holy ground.
The chosen hour came around, and you met Faraz Najjar outside the mosque. He took you in to a small meeting room and, through a combination of his basic English and Janneke’s basic Arabic, told his story. He said that Warren Besart had approached him about some artefacts in his possession. The artefacts were an ancient scroll detailing the entrance to a hidden room in an unnamed pyramid, a bust of the Black Pharaoh, and a circlet set with a large zircon, said to be the crown of the Black Pharaoh and the key to his triumph over death. You pressed him, and he admitted that he had stolen the artefacts, and believed that the cult had sent the fire demon as revenge. He doesn’t know where Warren Besart is now, and hasn’t been in contact with him since then.
Jason, Janneke, and Wilhelmina noticed they were being followed by cats.