masks of Nyarlathotep – Part two

The following is a writeup of the second part of the infamous “Masks of Nyarlathotep” campaign which I am running with a group of friends. If you haven’t read part one, you may want to catch up first. Any typos or mistake, please excuse as I’m not a writer but feel free to point them out if you see them.

I also 3d printed a prop to use as part of this. If you want the file or just want to know about how I made it, theres a post about that as well.

The golden ward painted - Masks of Nyarlathotep
The golden ward painted

Spoilers ahead

You have been warned.

Part 2 – Pass me that paperweight

Saturday 19th March

The Museo de Arqueología y Antropología of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos

… Mendoza’s wrist flicked at lightning speed and a large knife flew from his hand towards Singh but the target was faster. Singh dodged gracefully to one side and, with ease, plucked the knife from the doorframe where his head had been moments before. He advanced towards Mendoza with anger in his eyes. Constanza and Elias pulled guns from their coats. While Elias moved into the room for a clearer shot, Constanza fired his gun at Mendoza. The shot went wide, the bullet burying itself into the solid wood desk at the end of the room. Bolan, waking up to find smashed plaster bust pieces around him, pulled himself to his feet and tried to focus on the chaotic action filling the room.

Elias managed to clip Mendoza across the arm with a shot from his .45. Constanza continued to fire wildly, doing more damage to the paintwork than to his target, bullets sinking into the wall as he missed each shot.

Mendoza and Singh began to grapple in the middle of the room, with Mendoza managing get the upper hand and landing a hit on Singh. Mendoza swung again, determined to take out Singh, but Elias intervened. Pushed to one side, the blow went over both Singh’s and Elias’ head.

Snarling in fury, Mendoza turned on Elias and they began to trade blows. Mendoza’s strength was much greater and his wide flaring mouth was inches from Elias’ face. Suddenly he stopped and looked down, his own knife had erupted out of the middle of his chest. Elias looked down as well to see the tip of the knife blade only a few short millimetres from his own chest. Singh had come up behind Mendoza and driven the knife with every ounce of his strength into his back only for the blade to go straight through. Taking advantage of his opponents sudden shock, Elias savagely clubbed the side of Mendoza’s head with his pistol. Mendoza hit the floor, a pool of his own blood spreading across the carpet.

In the cellar, Gerbil and McTavish finished checking the room for any signs of the intruder that had attacked and killed Rizo. Finding nothing, they headed upstairs to Sánchez’ office after gathering up the golden artefact and Rizo’s notebook. They arrived at the office to find the aftermath of the battle. Mendoza was facedown on the floor with a knife sticking out of his back, blood oozing across the floor. Bolan was propping himself up against the desk with a nasty looking head wound. The rest of the group was huddled around Sánchez, who was coughing and choking on the floor.

Sánchez, gasping for air was repeating the words “él me besó… él me besó… he kissed me…” between strangled gulps of air. Singh knelt beside Sánchez and noticed a large bulge moving down from his throat into his abdomen and a waxy residue in his mouth. Placing his hand where the lump was moving, Singh recoiled in horror and turned away as the mass squirmed under his fingers.

Gerbil moved over to examine Sánchez after hearing Singh cry out and was intrigued by the movement under the flesh. Coming to the conclusion they had to get whatever it was out of Sánchez, Gerbil found a large paperweight and brought it down hard on Sánchez. A loud squealing noise erupted from inside Sánchez and Gerbil raised the paperweight to bring it down again. A hand around his wrist stopped Gerbil from finishing the blow and Elias stood over Gerbil.

“Good God man, what are you trying to do? Kill him? This is my friend.”

He pulled the paperweight out of Gerbils hand and tossed it away.

“We need another option.”

McTavish came up with a solution that he’d employed many a time back home in Scotland. Searching the professor’s desk, he found an almost full bottle of whiskey. After taking a healthy dose for himself, he managed to get most of the bottles contents into Sánchez. Within minutes the desired result happened. Sánchez began to cough and convulse before his mouth stretched and a huge bloated lump of fat oozed out. He retched and vomited it up along with the contents of his stomach. The flabby fat larvae flopped onto the floor and wriggled before being smashed with a large paperweight, wielded by Gerbil.

After a few minutes of stunned silence and gathering themselves back together mentally, the group started to try and decide what to do next. Elias, wanted to call for an ambulance, while Constanza wanted to contact the spirit of Rizo to try and find out what had happened to her.

After making Sánchez comfortable, Elias slumped into a chair. His hands shaking while trying to light his pipe, he sat up, looked round the room and said, “Where’s Mendoza?”

The bloody spot where Mendoza had fallen was empty, the knife that had been in his chest was also missing. Nobody had seen what had happened to him as they had all been too fixated on Sánchez.

Heading downstairs, Constanza settled next to Rizo’s corpse. Pulling the shriveled head of his grandfather from his bag, he began to focus. The head spoke to him when he needed to talk to the spirit world and he used it as his totem. Attempting to get some sense of how she had died, he was able to get a series of feelings from the departed spirit. First a feeling of boredom as tedious jobs around the museum had to be carried out, then a feeling of terror as a man suddenly appears in the basement room and attacked her. The final feeling was of pain and horror as he sucked the fat swiftly out of her body and she died in agony.

Shaking off the feeling of death, Constanza pushed on and was able to draw out more details about her work. More specifically, the notebook she had was filled with information about how she was able to connect the conquistadors to the golden artefact and that they had taken it from somewhere sacred.

Constanza snapped out of his trance, only seconds had passed but it had felt like hours when he was in communication with the spirit plane. He tucked away his grandfather’s head and rejoined the group. Elias, having called the local hospital, suggested that they all leave before the authorities turned up.

The hotel Maury

The group headed back to the hotel when Constanza translated the notes McTavish had found.

Rizo had translated the confession of a man called Gaspar Figueroa who had been in Peru in 1543 and Constanza read the notes to the group. It explaining how a group of conquistadors, that Figueroa was part of, had found and opened a pyramid they stumbled upon. There was treasure and walls lined with gold and the men had looted the site before leaving. Overnight they had become sick and one of them, called Luis de Mendoza, had attacked him and tried to devour him. Shooting Mendoza in self defence, Figueroa had managed to travel back Lima with as much of the gold as he could carry and finally dying.

Elias, troubled by all this, felt uncomfortable. He was normally able to debunk the supernatural but this was all something beyond what he had seen before. He explained that he had been warned about Mendoza by Nayra, a traditional healer of the Aymara people he had met in Puno. He hadn’t believed her story about Mendoza being a kharisi, putting it down to a fear of a stranger in the area.

With this new information, the group thought it would be idea to confront Larkin about Mendoza, so headed to the hotel España to find him.

The hotel España

Arriving at the hotel, they found Cupitina, the same old woman in the entrance way who had given Bolan so much trouble the day before, in the lobby. Gerbil approached her and asked about the location of Larkin. She wasn’t very happy about her guests being disturbed but, after being told he was possibly in danger, said he was upstairs in his room.

They headed upstairs. Gerbil knocked hard on the door and called out for Larkin, but there was no answer. He tried the handle and found it unlocked. They entered the room to find Larkin, bare chested, sat up in bed but asleep. Next to him on the bedside table was his needle and heroin and he was deep in what looked like a drug fuelled sleep.

Across Larkins chest was a large tattoo of a large, ragged spiral that covers Larkin’s chest. The spiral ended above his diaphragm, where it connects to a stylised, misshapen humanoid figure with large, outstretched hands that appear to end in claws.

Gerbil tried to speak to Larkin but only got a mumbled response, so found a glass of water and threw it over Larkins face. Spluttering awake, Larkin tried to focus on the faces infront of him but was still feeling the effects of the heroin. Gerbil kept trying and finally managed to get a straight reply after explaining what had happened to Mendoza in the university. Larkin, pulling himself together, explained that Mendoza had been blackmailing him to organise the trip to the pyramid and steal the contents. He sobbed with relief that he was gone but didn’t quite believe that Mendoza was some kind of monster. Larkin said that he had a contact in the police who he had been dealing with and that he would be able to get Mendoza’s description to him and the police would deal with him if he reappeared.

Singh noticed that Larkin wasn’t being fully truthful but it was difficult to get anything from Larkin while he was still in his drug fugue state.

The investigators managed to get Larkin to agree to leave the hotel and stay with them for safety. Hurriedly packing Larkins room while he tried to get dressed, Gerbil asked Larkin about the unusual tattoo across his chest. Larkin was unable to answer any questions about it and it almost seemed like he couldn’t or wasn’t able to answer anything about it or where it had come from.

Larkin began to dawdle around his bed and asked them to leave and wait downstairs while he finished getting ready but Gerbil wasn’t taking no for an answer. Breaking out his best charm, Gerbil persuaded Larkin it was in his best interest to stay together. Grudgingly agreeing, Larkin dragged one of his bags to the edge of his bed, knelt down and lifted the edge of the mattress. He scooped three items from under the bed into the bag, the pendant and cup from the meeting but also a third golden item but nobody was able to get a good look at what it was before it was hidden away.

Heading downstairs to the foyer, Larkin explained to a shocked Cupitina that he was leaving for the night but would be back to pay before they left on Monday.

The hotel Maury

Back in the hotel Maury, they settled into the bar area to try and get more information out of Larkin but it was tough going as Larkin was still addled and confused by the events they had told him about. Gerbil finally brought out the large golden artefact they had found in the basement of the museum. Larkin reached towards it then withdrew his hand with a shocked look on his face. He was somewhat upset at the sight of it and unable to glance at it for long. He told them to cover it up quickly before anyone else saw it and tried to take it but it wasn’t convincing. He was hiding something but was covering it up well.

Bolan began to worry that he didn’t have a weapon to protect himself in case there was trouble but nobody was willing to spare him one. Singh tried to reassure Bolan that in the case of trouble he would protect the group and that there would be equipment and weapons with the trucks, but Bolan still felt he needed a weapon.

After some more discussion, they all headed up to two adjoining hotel rooms with connecting doors for the night and slept. Staying together for protection over the night time.

Sunday 20th March

The hotel Maury

The next morning everyone except Bolan and McTavish went downstairs to breakfast. They had continued to use Elias’ alias of Jessie Hughes around Larkin incase something slipped and Larkin found out who he really was.

As soon as they’d left, Bolan unpacked the museum artefact while McTavish set to work rummaging through Larkins bags, looking for the third golden item he had put in his bag. It was a stylised face mask, made of blocky geometric shapes and solid gold but with no eye holes.

While Bolan was busy meditating over the museum artefact, McTavish was preparing to take photos of the mask he flipped it over to find the other side was perfectly flat and polished to a mirror finish. As he examined it his head was suddenly filled with visions, flicking too quickly to catch much in the way of details. He saw a pyramid on a plateau with a giant crack in the middle with tendrils reaching up to a nightmarish sky. Another view. This time from a train while the plains of Africa burned. Another. A man, painting. He was crouched in a corner but turned and look directly at McTavish. McTavish snapped out of the trance to find Bolan looking at him in a confused way. McTavish stepped away from the golden mask and couldn’t bring himself to finish taking the photos of it.

Bolan went back to meditating over the museum artefact, after a few minutes he began to feel a warm sense of safety and protection coming from it. There was also a sense that for thousands of years it had been both deep underground but also up high. A more recent sense of violation and anger as it was torn away and carried to another place but still with the sense of protection around it.

After McTavish explained what he had seen, Bolan briefly considered trying to look at the back of the mirror while holding the museum artefact but thought better of it. The first psychic probe had been enough for him for now and he wasn’t sure if he could handle it.

After carefully returning the mask and hiding the artefact away, they went downstairs to rejoin the group and spend the day preparing for the long journey ahead.

Monday 21st March

Rising early they headed to meet the trucks outside the the hotel España. Wary for signs of trouble they loaded their kit onto the trucks, checked the equipment and set off. The journey took several days travel, slowly winding through the lowlands and heading upwards towards Puno.

Gerbil took great delight in sampling the food at the small villages they stopped at each night for rest. Singh however, was starting to show signs of altitude sickness. His normally even temper was becoming more and more prickly. Even to the point of snapping at Elias when the writer tried to offer some words of comfort.

Larkin spent most of the journey in the cab of one of the trucks, often a drug induced sleep. Leaving the others to discuss quietly among themselves what to do next when they arrived at Puno.

Wednesday 23rd March

Finally, on a cloudy afternoon, Lake Titicaca appeared in the distance ahead, Puno visible at the edge. A short time later the trucks rattled and bounced along the streets to stop at the hotel that Larkin had arranged for them to stay at. After unloading, the trucks departed and the group took to their rooms.

Thursday 24th March

Elias wanted to slip away from Larkin to speak to Nayra, so the next morning he left with Bolan, McTavish and Constanza before Larkin woke up. It took about half an hour to get to a small cluster of fishing huts on the edge of the lake. As they left the hotel a small mob of children clustered around them and laughed and pointed at them. Elias spoke to a couple as they walked to the lake but they thinned out and finally disappeared as they reached the huts.

Elias spoke to a woman fixing a fishing net and was able to rent a reed boat for them to paddle out into the lake. Just as they left, McTavish noticed that a boy and a woman who had been following them from Puno, still stood near the shore and looked busy trying not to be seen watching them paddle out. It was too late to talk to the pair, but they would keep watch for them later.

Poking out through the mist rising up from the lake, was a small collection of floating islands, each with a small cluster of huts on them. Elias explained that he had been told Nayra had moved to one of these floating huts as she was worried that Mendoza or one of the other Kharisiri, may come for her.

Docking with one of the islands, Elias hopped off and approached a hut, calling out to Nayra as he went. A small wrinkled face poked out through the doorway and smiled broadly as she saw who it was. The next second, an old woman was wrapping herself around Elias in a hug and pulling him into the hut. As he was dragged in Elias beckoned the others to join them.

The hut was warm and dark but Narya was having no problems bustling around making a strong tea drink. She chatted with Elias and chided him for not listening to her warning when he explained about Mendoza. Tutting and fussing over the story, she gave more details about the Kharisi. They’re normally depicted as white men with big brimmed hats and knives for cutting the fat out of their victims. Hover recently there have been more disturbing tales of local people behaving like the Kharisiri. She had noticed some people watching her so she gone to the people of the floating island to try and hide.

When the golden artefact from the museum was described to her, she grew quiet for a minute then she told them the legend of a dark and evil god that fell from the sky into the lake and began to devour everything in its path. A trickster named Ekeko told the god that the best food was underground and showed the god how to find tubers and roots, he led the god to an old armadillo burrow which the god crawled into. Piling rocks over the mouth of the burrow, Ekeko told the people to build a temple over the site and bind the god with spells made of gold.

Nayra warns Elias, that to go near the site of the pyramid would be foolish, and that it will be guarded by other Kharisi but she gives them a more accurate location when pressed for information.

A few hours later Elias and the other three headed back to the shore. As he paid the fisherwoman for the use of the boat, McTavish noticed the two figures, the teenage boy and the woman, walking towards them. Studying them as they approached, McTavish saw with horror that they had long knives poking out from their clothes. He was hardly able to shout a warning before they drew them and advanced menacingly.

To be continued…

Masks of Nyarlathotep – The Golden Ward prop

The following post is about making a small prop of the Golden Ward for the the Masks of Nyarlathotep Peru chapter so contains minor spoilers.

Spoilers ahead

As part of the first session, the investigators stumbled onto a mysterious golden item in the basement storage area of a university they visited. I wanted to make a prop for them of this to have as props are a great part of any game and it adds to the flavour of the evening. I have bought the excellent HPLHS prop set for the Masks campaign but there isn’t a prop for the Ward, most likely because its supposed to be 2 feet long. A bit too big to ship cheaply.

The Golden Ward is a basic shape so thought I could create a model myself. I sat down a few weeks ago to try and sculpt it but didn’t get far and so it ended up on the back burner. With only a few days to go until the next session, I suddenly remembered it wasn’t done. So I fired up Cinema 4D and made the basic shape by chopping and shifting some points around until I had the form right.

Cinema 4d wireframe
Cinema 4d wireframe

It looked right and with a little bit of roughing up, I had enough to export from C4D into Zbrush.

test render
test render

In zbrush I divided it a few times and then roughly carved symbols into the mesh. I don’t have any in progress shots but I did most of the work with the clay tubes brush and hpolish. I did dip into a few other brushes but I was flying so fast I didn’t keep track of what I was using. What I was aiming for was a roughly carved and damaged look, the Ward has been well traveled and isn’t in the greatest of shapes, so needed to look damaged.

I kept shifting between the red wax texture and the gold texture to see how it was looking in zbrush. Once I was happy with it, I hit it with decimation master, going from 11 million polys, down to 478,085, a pretty big drop. I could try to get it down further but didn’t want to ruin the mesh.

The golden ward, in gold.
The golden ward, in gold.

I then exported the obj file to print on my iiip 3d printer. My first thought was to print it at 45 degrees across the bed to print it as big as possible. I ended up with a print time of about 6 hours this way plus I wasn’t sure if I had enough filament, so settled for a smaller size.

golden ward in cura
golden ward in cura

My printer doesn’t have the greatest of resolutions but it came out ok in a couple of hours. I sanded it to remove the print lines and gave it a coat of thinned out Liquid Green stuff to help with any parts I’d missed. I then painted it with some Games workshop paints and its done, ready for the game.

The golden ward painted
The golden ward painted

You can read all about the jolly hi-jinx of the team in my session write ups and the file for this is available on thingiverse.

Masks of Nyarlathotep – Part one

The following is a writeup of the first part of the infamous “Masks of Nyarlathotep” campaign which I am running with a group of friends and this first post is part of the introduction chapter which was added to the most recent release of the Masks campaign. The post is pretty spoiler heavy so if you’re planning on playing the campaign at any point I’d leave now.

Ok?

Good. If you’re still here it means you’re either a bot or actually want to wade through this epic wall of text. You may have noticed I have a bit of a Cthulhu things going on but for those that don’t know, I also play pen and paper RPGs and one of the them is based on the works of HP Lovecraft, quite often as a keeper which is the games version of a GM or DM. The writeup that follows is for the ‘Masks of Nyarlathotep’ which is a pretty epic campaign for the Call of Cthulhu RPG from Chaosium. I won’t try to explain either Masks or the CoC RPG as theres plenty of other information online.

A couple of notes.
-Firstly I’m hoping we can keep playing and posting on a regular basis but we will see, just don’t expect a new writeup every two weeks.
-Second, we are playing with the pulp rules so as such, you’ll see mentions of psychic powers used by the players and other feats which may not be normal for standard CoC games. I like the pulp rules as it allows for a little more relaxed gameplay while still keeping the core elements of CoC at heart.
Thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Like all good most keepers, I forget stuff, or wing bits, or improvise. Not everything in my games follows the campaign exactly for one reason or another. If you see a part that is a bit different to the campaign, chances are I twisted it for one reason or another.
-Lastly, I’m not a writer so bear with my clunky prose and over use of ‘and’ all the time. I am also be open to feedback about typos, errors or any feedback in general. I may update as I go back round and reread this so please excuse any wonky moments but helpful feedback is appreciated.

So without further ado, we begin.

Masks of Nyarlathotep

Part 1 – It’s the truth

Peru 1921

Arriving from different parts of the globe, five individuals journey to Lima in Peru, South America. They are answering an advert looking for brave souls to join an expedition to find a lost pyramid in the highlands of Peru. Each of them has a different reason to join but none of them have met each other before.

James McTavish from Scotland is seeking historical knowledge about ancient engineering methods. Guido Constanza, a Peruvian tribesman who has a mysterious power but a desire for a more modern life. Robert Bolan, an English publisher who is a member of the Society for Psychical Research and with an interest in the paranormal as he feels he may be ‘gifted’ with some form of power. Pranit Singh Dhillon, a Punjabi ex-soldier struggling to live outside the military and selling his skills as a security expert. Knut Gerbil from Austria and studying mathematics in Princeton.

They arrived early in March and have been booked into the Hotel Maury by the expedition leader, Augustus Larkin, and have received instructions to meet with him at the Bar Cordano at 7pm on the 18th March.

Friday 18th March

Bar Cordano – 7pm

The Bar Cordano is a popular restaurant and bar in Lima District. The restaurant is simply but tastefully furnished, with wood paneling and fixtures and a tiled floor and is quite busy being a Friday night.

The group arrived individually at the requested hour and are shown to a large table where three men are already seated. An African-American man of average height and build, with short hair, a pipe clamped in the middle of a slight grin and wearing a tweed suit and fedora hat. Opposite him is a gaunt man with pronounced cheekbones and deep-set, piercing blue eyes which are currently fixed in an unsettling glare at the man opposite. His medium-length dark brown hair is unkempt and he makes no attempt to style it. His clothing is clean, if old and frayed. At the head of the table is a pale, thin white man with greasy blond hair and pale blue eyes. Despite his relative youth, his skin is saggy and he has noticeable bags under his eyes. He also appears to be sweating despite the mild temperature in the room.

On their approach, the pale man rises to his feet and greets them cordially while introducing himself as August Larkin. He then introduces the other two as Jesse Hughes, an American folklorist who has also just arrived and Luis de Mendoza, his personal aide. Hughes greets the group in a friendly manner while Mendoza nods a curt greeting but continues to watch Hughes with open disdain.

Larkin bids the group to sit and indicates to a passing waiter to bring drinks, they begin introductions to get to know each other and some polite small talk follows as they settle. Over the course of the next hour, Larkin explains more about the journey into the highlands of Peru close to Lake Titicaca where he and Mendoza met an alpaca farmer some months before who told them the tale of a lost pyramid, filled with gold and jewels. The farmer said that his grandfather had found the pyramid but never went back after taking some items from the site.

Glancing around the room, Larkin pulls a pair of golden artefacts out of a bag he had hidden under the table. One is a pendant in the form of a man holding two rods or staves, embellished with rectangular shapes. The other is a golden cup, carved with geometrical patterns and circles and inlaid with turquoise. He explains that the alpaca farmer gave them to him to prove the legends of the pyramid are true and that there are many more to be found there. Almost sensing the eyes of Constanza on him, he hastily adds that they will be carrying out an archeological study and not looting. The site, plus any artefacts found there, will be treated with the utmost of respect.

At the mention of money, Singh asks about how much they will be paid, which slightly shocks Larkin who tries to explain that the group will be paid upon completion but it will be based around the level of success at the site.

Bolan picked up the golden cup to examine it and his psychometry flashed briefly. A wave hit him with feelings of rituals and ancient rites but the vision was too weak to draw any real information. He knew he would have to focus longer on the item to divine any deeper meaning from the artefact. Not wishing to tip his hand as to his power, Bolan quickly returned the cup to the table just as the waiter started to head over to the table with drinks, quickly hiding the items away to ensure that they didn’t get seen, Larkin then explains the plan ahead.

Firstly they would travel in trucks via road to Puno, which will take three or four days. Once there, they will hire some pack animals and hike up into the hills to the region where the pyramid is rumoured to be. The area is shunned by the locals so it’s not very well explored but Larkin explained he has an idea of the rough location of the pyramid based on the description from the alpaca farmer.

Throughout the evening discussions Larkin kept mopping the sweat from his face and Mendoza growls out short answers to any question put to him. He also seems to take a special dislike any questions put to him or Larkin by Hughes and there was an obviously antagonistic mood growing between the two. When challenged about his complexion, Larkin explains he had a bout of malaria but is recovering. He explains he has medicine to deal with it at the moment and will be fine to travel. When Guido asked Mendoza in Spanish if Larkin is ok, Mendoza growls out an answer in English so everyone can hear, that Larkin is fine and will be ok to travel, earning a curious glance from Larkin.

Hughes asks about seeing the research that Larkin has on the area and the pyramid. Tapping the side of his head with a chuckle, Larkin replies that he destroyed all of the research to stop it being stolen but that all of the information is safe.

Making an excuse to go to the bathroom, McTavish located the waiter and asks about the three men at the table before they arrived and why there was a feeling of tension between two of them. The waiter, with his palm suitably greased, says that the Englishman and the Spaniard had been there for most of the afternoon and the American joined them about an hour before the rest of the group arrived. He seemed to be early and shortly after arrive there was some shouting between him and the Spaniard, mainly from the Spaniard. Unfortunately it was too noisy to make out what was said but it was calmed down by the Englishman intervening.

The rest of the evening passes with some small talk and discussion about the journey ahead. After a while, Larkin stands and says he is leaving as the day has been tiring for him and he is still not fully recovered. He reminds the group that he will be expecting them on Monday at 8am at the hotel España, tell them to have another drink and that Mendoza will pay the bill.

As Mendoza goes to pay, Gerbil escorted Larkin to the door and spoke quietly asking if everything was ok with his health. Larkin again reassured Gerbil everything was fine but that he appreciated the thought. Mendoza appears next to them and escorts Larkin away.

Returning to the table, Gerbil sat down with the rest of the group as Hughes puffed on his pipe, leaned back and asked what the group thought of Larkin and Mendoza. Sensing a degree of suspicion among the group he reveals that he didn’t entirely trust them as well. Pondering the end of his pipe, Hughes revealed that his real name is actually Jackson Elias, a writer who came to South America to investigate the stories of a possible death cult. He explained that while he had been spending time in the highlands, he had come across stories of Larkin and Mendoza who had been there shortly before him and how they may be asking about a pyramid in the mountains. There was even a rumour among a few of the locals that Mendoza was a creature called a kharisiri and at the mention of this word, Constanza grew pale and said that he knew of the legends of the kharisiri from his tribe. He warned the group about them and explained they are creatures that look like white men and stalk the land killing to drain their victims of their fat.

“It’s the truth.” he cried.

Elias dismissed such stories as being nothing more than legends that are based in some form of facts but nothing supernatural. The legends started with the arrival of the conquistadors and that Larkin and Mendoza are mixed up in some form of death cult, or trying to reform a cult, which is somehow connected to the pyramid had to be at the bottom of it. He points out that Larkin seems to hint that he knows exactly where the pyramid is so must have been there before.

After some more discussion Elias says he is going to head back to the hotel as Larkin had booked him into the same hotel as the others and that he has a meeting the next day with a professor at the university. The professor has been assisting him with his research into the cults and that there are some documents which they had uncovered that could be useful. He extended an invitation to the group to join him if interested.

Finishing up for the night, they went back to the hotel and each went to their own room to sleep.

Saturday 19th March

Hotel Maury

The next morning Singh rose early and found he had been left the kit list at some point in the night by Mendoza, so settled down at a table in the slightly dilapidated dining room to check through the list. He soon realised that a number of items that should be added and started to note down these extras before being joined by McTavish, Constanza, Bolan and Gerbil. They began to discuss their plans for the day as Elias arrived with coffee in hand and pipe in mouth. He took a seat at the table and joined the conversation.

Bolan announced he wanted to get another look at the cup so he could try to focus more directly on it and try to decipher the strange flash of insight from the previous night. He suggested going to the hotel that Larkin was staying at and trying to persuade him to let him have another examination of it, so Elias suggested he takes the list of new items to him as an excuse to visit. Bolan agreed, so taking the list from Singh, he left to go to the hotel España.

Constanza leaves to go to the markets and try to find some extra supplies and equipment. Shortly after trying to buy a few items he comes to realise he is short of funds, so spends the time roaming the streets mentally listing any extra items which he wants ofr the trip.

Singh spent some time in prayer and checking over his equipment before heading to the museum for the meeting at 2pm.

Gerbil, McTavish and Elias headed to the museum early to have a walk around the displays and to try to learn a little more about the history of the region of the area they would be heading to.

The hotel España

Bolan arrived at the Hotel España and entered the front door, glancing around he saw a small, thin old woman, wrapped in a black shawl and headscarf sitting in a chair in the foyer. She looked up at him and greeted him as he walked in and grinned with a grin that was missing more than a few teeth. Bolan greeted her politely and enquired if Larkin was in.

“No Señor Larkin left early this morning with Señor Mendoza. They come and go at all times of the day.”

Bolan asked if he could go in Larkins room to leave the list in there for him but this seemed to enrage the old woman. She pulled herself up in her chair and waved her stick in his face in a threatening manner.

“What kind of hotel do you think I run, where I allow any gringo to wander in off the street and go into my guests rooms? I should call the policia to come and take you out of here!”

Bolan tried to calm her down and explained carefully, that he was working with Larkin on an expedition and had some important paperwork for him that he needed urgently.
The old woman humphed and wrapped her shawl around herself tightly then settled back in her chair. She eyed him suspiciously but finally relenting she pulled a key from her pocket.

“It is on the second floor, room número 10. Be quick or I will have the policia on you.” she threatened as Bolan headed for the stairs.

Bolan found the room at the top of the stairs and, checking the corridor was clear, opened to door only to be assailed by the foul smell of sweat and sickness. Stepping into the room and shutting the door behind him, Bolan was enveloped in gloom as the curtains had remained closed with only a soft glow coming from where they hadn’t been closed fully. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness Bolan scanned the room but saw only clutter all over the floor and items scattered on every available surface. Suitcases had their contents spilled all over the room and the bed was a crumpled mess of sweat soaked sheets.

Knowing he could only spend a brief amount of time in the room before the old woman became suspicious, Bolan searched for the golden cup but was unable to find it, but as part of his searching he found a bottle labeled heroína along with a syringe on the side table.

Leaving he locked the room up and slid the list under the door to make it appear as if nobody had been in the room and headed downstairs. The old woman eyed him as he came down the stairs, an open hand sliding out of her shawl into which Bolan dropped the key.

“I hope Señor Larkin does not find his personal items have disappeared.” she warned as the key disappeared back into her clothing. Bolan smiled his most charming smile and glanced at his watch. He left the hotel smartly and headed off towards the Museum to meet the rest of the group.

The Museo de Arqueología y Antropología of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos

Gerbil, McTavish and Elias arrived at the museum and walked around the exhibition. Elias spent much of the time taking notes and pointing out a few of the more interesting beliefs mentioned in the displays to the other two while chatting about the book he is currently working on.

After each of the other members of the group arrived a little before 2pm, Elias led them through the main university building until he reached an office on the ground floor in a side section of the main building. Knocking on the door, Elias opened it up to an airy, tall-ceilinged room with white walls and shelves full of books and artefacts. A large hardwood desk dominates the room, piled high with papers, books, and journals. Behind the desk a slim and dapper man, with neatly oiled hair and a well-groomed beard was seated. Upon seeing Elias enter, he took off his glasses, put them on the desk and quickly walked round the desk to hug Elias in greeting.

Elias introduces the group to Professor Sánchez and explains how he has been assisting him with trying to find out as much about the pyramid and the death cult as possible. It was mentioned that Sánchez had contacted Larkin a number of times to try and join the expedition but was ignored or rebuffed by Mendoza. Sánchez quickly explains that he wants to ensure that anything that is found belongs in a museum and that he wanted to get there before Larkin but lacks the funds. His current plan is to try to locate the pyramid after Larkin has uncovered it and try to persuade the museum to fund a trip to it as long as Larkin hasn’t taken everything of note.

“I have asked one of my assistants, Trinidad Rizo, to bring up the translation she has been working on. We believe we have found a document from a conquistador who was at the pyramid but it has been a difficult document to translate. She went down to the storeroom in the basement some time ago but she probably was distracted.”

After a few discussions and some time had passed, someone from the group suggested that he goes and looks for her, as it wouldn’t be very good if they went wandering the building unattended. Sánchez says that she will probably return any minute and she would be confused if he left and six men are sat in the office waiting. Three of the group offered to go look for her so Sánchez gave directions to the basement store room.

McTavish, Constanza and Gerbil leave to find her, leaving Elias, Singh and Bolan with Sánchez in the office.

Easily finding the storeroom in the basement, Gerbil called out for Rizo but there was no reply. He pushed the door open gently and they went in. It was a large room but made to feel cramped with high bookcase and shelves lined with artefacts. Exploring further in they found a pile of books and smashed antiques covering what looks like a pile of clothes on the floor…

In the office, Elias and Sánchez are chatting about some notes that Sánchez has pulled together when the sound of a scream echos round the room from outside. Throwing open the window Sánchez looked out and says that he can’t see anything. Elias heads for the door to investigate while Singh heads for the window and climbs out. Elias, seeing this, stops and muttered “Well we could go that way.” follows Singh out through the window…

In the basement, Gerbil reaches down to the clothes on the floor and carefully removes a few of the bits of debris from it, revealing the shrivelled husk of a woman with a large disc shaped wound in the middle of her chest. The edges of the wound weeped blood around the edges, indicating this was a recent attack.

Constanza froze in place, a look of shock and fear frozen onto his face as Gerbil cleared away more around the corpse. McTavish bent down and began to check around the body for signs of what had caused this to the victim where he found a notebook and noticed a box that it looked like it had been dropped by the woman. The sides of the box where smashed and inside there was a glimmer of gold buried in packing straw. Carefully picking up the piece of gold, McTavish found he was holding a 2 foot long piece of solid gold which had a number of shapes carved into the sides. Carefully assessing it with his engineering experience, McTavish noticed the ends of the piece looked rough, as if they had been pulled away from some other section but couldn’t tell what.

Coming back to his senses, Constanza backed up towards the door and said he was going back up to let the others know about their grizzly discovery…

Singh, with Elias close behind, was rushing towards where the scream had come from only to find a young woman crumpled on the flood with blood over the side of her face. He quickly assessed the wound and made sure it wasn’t serious while trying to stop the flow of blood. She began to groan and tried to rise. Stumbling up with Singh’s help, she managed to describe her attacker when questioned.

“He was a thin man with medium-length dark brown hair and a moustache. He attacked me with what looked like a cane, or a sword in a sheath.”

Singh and Elias gently helped her into the main building and then headed towards Sánchez’ office, only to see a shadowy figure disappear through the door. At that moment, Constanza reached the top of the stairs and met them in the corridor…

Bolan was peering through the window to see if he could spot Singh and Elias outside. He heard the door open and Sánchez say something to the person in the doorway. Turning back into the room, something struck the side of Bolan’s head and he crumpled to the floor as unconsciousness washed over him…

Singh, Elias and Constanza reached the office door and found someone hunched over the prone form of Sánchez in the middle of the room, his back to them. Elias called out in shock as there was a sucking gurgling noise. The figure rose, turned and revealed itself to be Mendoza, his mouth stretched into an unnatural round shape. He snarled at them and crouched, ready to attack…

…to be continued.