MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – EGYPT PART FIVE

This session is a bit of a time travel episode. One of the players (Singh) couldn’t make the session. Fortunatly I was given a way of playing this as Singh had gone off on his own near the end of the previous session to buy some equipment. I railroaded the other three into going to the Mosque at Ibn Tulun during this time so we didn’t end up with an episode with one character sitting in the background doing nothing.

It all worked out well in the end and we ended up with one of the bloodiest fights since the last one.

Catch up with previous antics elsewhere on the site.

You’ll never wash those blood stains out of those clothes.

Friday 27th

After leaving Van Heuvelens room the group split up. Singh went to look for desert gear in the markets while Bolan, Constanza and MacTavish followed up on a comment made by Najjar before he was killed. He had mentioned the Brotherhood of the black Pharoah wanted to steal something from the Mosque at Ibn Tulun. Mahmoud eagerly led them to the mosque which was nearly an hours walk away from the street of the scorpion.

The area around the mosque was noisy with people bustling around the busy streets. Over the din of the noise, Constanza could hear wailing and crying noises which he made the other two aware of. It sounded like a mix of voices but none of it seemed to be in anger or from fighting. 

Bolan spoke to someone on the street, asking politely what the noise was and what was going on in the mosque. The man he stopped said something in Arabic before stopping and thinking. In broken English he managed to say “Hos-pee-tal.” and pointed at the building. “Hos-pee-tal. Sickness.” Realising the man was trying to explain the building was being used as a hospital, Bolan thanked him and returned to the others.

Walking around the building they found the way in. The front entrance was being watched by two Egyptians in plain robes but they didn’t seem to be armed, rather they stood and chatted calmly and greeted people walking by. Approaching them Bolan struck up a conversation, asking about the mosque and if they would be able to visit.

Without Singh to translate what was being said meant it took a little more time but between Mahmoud and the two guards, a dialogue was managed. The guards said they would allow them in to just wander around and MacTavish opened up his wallet again. The guards looked at each other before politely refusing the money, explaining they worked for the good of the people in Cairo.

After a little badgering, the guards finally relented to allow the three in to speak to one of the nazirs in charge. Leaving Mahmoud at the entrance, he led the others inside to a large open courtyard and towards a group of men talking in the shade of the walls. Bowing slightly to one of the men he spoke to him in Arabic and there was some back and forth between them. The older man turned to them and nodded in greeting.

“Youssef tells me you’re asking about the mosque. I’m afraid we no longer use it as a place of worship, rather it is now used as a hospital for those who cannot be helped. I am Ahmed al-Dhahab, i have a little time to speak to you but please, it must be brief. I have many duties to attend to.”

Bolan began explaining that they were tourists and wanted to have a look around the mosque as it was such a famous building just brought a scowl from Ahmed’s face.

“Please, this is a hospital, not a tourist attraction. You must understand we care for many people here and we cannot have anyone who feels like it, wandering around the grounds and disturbing our patients.”

Apologising they tried a different approach and asked about any artefacts or religious items that may be housed at the mosque. Again, this brought a dark look from Ahmed.

“What is your interest here? You don’t seem like tourists to me.”

Finally realising the only option left was to try the honest approach, they mentioned that there was a rumour the Brotherhood was trying to steal something from the grounds. 

Ahmed stiffened. “What brotherhood?” he asked through clenched teeth. Although he was an old man, an air of tension had built up around him and a couple of the others nearby had started to take notice.

Exchanging glances with the others, Bolan said “The Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh.” 

This brought the most noticeable reaction from Ahmed so far. His eyes popped wide and he turned and quietly whispered something to the two men nearby. Turning back to Bolan he told them to follow him to his office. “There are things which we should not speak of out here. Follow me please.”

He led them inside and to his office, which was bare save for a desk, a couple of chairs and some wall tapestries. Shutting the door behind them he stepped to his desk and turned. 

“Tell me what you know of the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh.”

Bolan pulled the small bust from his back to show Ahmed who spat and asked where they got such a cursed artefact. The next hour was spent explaining their story so far and how they had run into the Brotherhood in England and in Egypt the day before when Najjar had been murdered in the Al Hussein mosque.

“Such evil work these men do. It sounds as if we have a common enemy and it is good to know there are those such as yourselves who work against them. We are lucky to have found each other.” Ahmed mused as he heard the tale.

Even though they had shared their information and shown him the bust, it took some time before Ahmed finally admitted there was something hidden at the mosque which they guarded. He also told them of a raid a few nights before when a few armed thugs had tried to break in. He was convinced they were members of the Brotherhood but they had repelled them with ease. 

“They were weak fools. If that is the best they can do, we have nothing to fear. Your story of their butchery at the Al Hussein mosque troubles me though. It sounds like they are getting braver and more brutal in their work.”

He rose from his chair and walked to the tapestry behind him. “There is someone you should meet.”

He pulled the soft fabric to one side revealing a large metal door hidden behind it. Opening the door he called down and then turned back. A brief while later a small, hunched man with a sharp gleam in his eye came out of the darkness behind the door. He was a much older man than Ahmed but he moved with a grace that belied his age. At his waist was a scimitar with an ornate handle and a blade almost as long as his leg. Ahmed introduced him as Nessim Efti, then explained that Nessim would be better to explain what they guarded. Nessim greeted them and asked them to follow him down to the strong room.

The door behind the tapestry opened to a set of steps which led down for some way. The door at the top swung shut with a loud clang as Ahmed shut it and there was an ominous clunk as the lock slipped into place. After descending the steps for some way Nessim reached another large metal door and knocked on it sharply. The door swung open and Nessim led them into a large open room with five men standing around a plinth. Each of the men looked almost as old as Nassim and carried a wicked looking scimitar. The room was bare of decoration and the walls were solid stone. The only way in, or out, was the door they had come through.

Nessim guided the three men towards the plinth and spoke to one of the men standing watch. As the man reached inside his robes and pulled out a key, Nessim turned to face Bolan, MacTavish and Constanza.

“What I am about to show you, we guard with our lives. It is an ancient artefact that was recovered from a pyramid several centuries ago. We do not know who the tomb belonged to or who stole it from the tomb, only that they were followers of the Black Pharoah. We protect it so that evil men may not use it for their own ends. You may not approach it.”

As he had been speaking, the other guard had used his key to unlock the chest. Nassim turned back and reached inside the chest and pulled out a narrow band of intricately-linked gold chain, with what appears to be a large, cabochon-cut ruby marking the clasp. Trying to look at the ruby was an unsettling experience, the gem appeared to shift its shape and colour but it was impossible to see it actually happen. It was always at the corner of the eye as you looked away.

There were some questions about what it was but Nessim was quite tight-lipped over the details. He began to point out that the room was quite well guarded. It was deep underground with only one entrance, anyone coming into the room was going to have to enter one at a time to face armed men as they stepped through the door.

Bolan began to feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand up as if there was an electrical charge nearby. He thought nothing of it at first but after a couple of minutes, others began to notice. The sensation began to grow stronger and a strange smell began to seep into the room. 

Nessim spoke quickly and the chain was locked back in the box as the guards began to rest their hands on their sword handles.

A sudden rush of wind sucked the air in the room towards the back wall and there was a shockwave as the air seemed to release itself back into the room with a deafening explosion. The blast blew a few of the guards off their feet and a cloud of smoke appeared to form in front of the back wall. A calm settled and the only noises were the groans of several of the guards as they tried to stand. At the end of the room, the smoke roiled and bubbled. Small crackles of electricity flashed over its surface. 

A black snakelike form flew out of the smoke and began to fill the air with its monstrous form. Uncoiling above them it seemed to be a giant snake with two huge wings that blew gusts of the air with every flap it took. 

Staring at the creature that was filling the air above them with shock, Bolan realised it was the same thing from his vision the other day. He began to feel the amulet he had taken from Najjar growing warm, as it vibrated around his neck.

The horror swooped down and grabbed one of the guards with its tail. The helpless man was swung up to the huge mouth of the creature and his head was bitten off in one quick movement. The body was dropped and with a roar, it flapped down towards another target and crushing a guard in its huge mouth. 

Constanza, club in hand, swung wildly as the black form swooped past but missed, Both Bolan and MacTavish pulled their pistols and fired wildly with one of Bolans somehow finding a weak spot in the scales and bringing a howl of pain in reply.

Nessim, scimitar drawn, took a swing towards the huge body on the beast and his blade sliced deep into it causing another roar of pain. The other guards didn’t seem to have as much luck, their blades seemed to bounce off the thick scales of the creature and it swatted them back like ants. Constanza hefted his club to try again but got the same result, his club just bounced along the tough scales of the body. 

Its body coiled and ready to strike, the monstrosity lunged. The insignificant creature which had injured it would die. Its tail whipped out and tried to wrap around its target but something held it back. Trying to wrap its tail around the human was like trying to grip onto a slick oily bubble. With a roar of frustration, it squeezed harder and was rewarded with the feeling of the bubble weakening and then the pressure was gone and it had its victim in its clutches.

Bolan let out a cry as the tail coiled around him. For the briefest of moments, it had seemed that it was struggling to get to him as if something was pushing back, but the sensation passed with a burst. The tail lifted him high into the air towards the rows of razor-sharp teeth in the mouth of the horror. He screamed in pain as they sank into his shoulder, biting deep into his flesh. He struggled to break free but the hold was too strong and he couldn’t get loose.

MacTavish fired wildly again, his bullets glancing along the scales, seemingly with no effect. Yet one somehow managed to hit an exposed spot. The beast howled in pain as its entire body spasmed. Its tail flicked open, throwing Bolan across the room and slamming him into a wall where he slid down in a trail of blood. Somehow he had managed to hold onto his pistol. Weakly raising his arm he fired but couldn’t see where the shots went.

Nessim and the other guards, now down to only two, continued to swing at the creature but only Nessim seemed to cause any wounds to it. It writhed as each of his hits cut deep into it and it paused as if to try to regain some of its strength. Constanza, a fire burning in his eyes, raised his club high and swung with all his might. A crack of bone reverberated around the room and silence descended. Finally succumbing to its wounds, the head of the horror gave one last cry before slamming into the ground.

The quiet was only broken by the wheezing of the injured and then the pounding of feet coming down the stairs. The door was flung open and Ahmed rushed into the room followed by several armed men. Looking at the carnage around the room in horror, Ahmed pointed at the investigators.

“What have you done?” He shouted. “You have brought more death to a holy place with your actions. I should not have trusted you.” 

The men with him raised their scimitars but Nessim raised his hands and called out in Arabic. Ahmed turned to him and replied. There was some frantic discussion before Ahmed turned back to them.

“I am sorry. I spoke too quickly. Nessim tells me you fought alongside him with courage and it was your actions which helped to kill this creature. He says that without you all would have been lost. Forgive my words.”

MacTavish holstered his gun and went to check on Bolan who was soaked in his own blood. His shoulder was a mess and the bite marks would be with him for the rest of his life but, on checking, it didn’t seem as bad as it could have been.

After cleaning the wound as best he could, MacTavish helped Bolan to his feet. One of the guards offered Bolan a set of robes so he could wear something less conspicuous walking the streets of Cairo.

Ahmed had been discussing with Nessim in a low voice, there were some heavy words being exchanged judging by the tone of voice. After a few minutes, Ahmed walked over to the small chest and opened it with a key he pulled from his robes. Reaching in he took the chain out and walked over to Bolan, Constanza and MacTavish. 

“Please, you must take this. It appears I have been too confident in our abilities to protect this. Allah has sent you to take it from here. You arrived on this day at this time by his hand and it is his will you take it.”

He held out the chain to a slightly reluctant trio before MacTavish finally took it.

“The Brotherhood will not know you have it. They will think we still guard it here. By the time they discover it has gone, you will be away from here and they will never know. We will take this secret to the grave with us.”

Not exactly reassured by these words, the group turned to leave. As they headed for the door, Nessim approached Constanza and held out his scimitar. Although it had been used with great force, it didn’t appear damaged in any way. The blade still shone as if it was brand new.

“Please take this. You have proved you are worthy of carrying it and you will need its strength in your travels ahead. It is known as the Sword of Akmallah and will serve you well.”

Constanza took the sword and wrapped it in cloth before they left the mosque to head back to the hotel to pack and meet Singh at the docks.