Our group are surviving Cairo and all of the sights it can give but this session was dialogue-heavy so the group spent a lot of time being told information. Normally I don’t like talking AT groups, but there was a lot in this for them to take on. Thankfully it paid off with a few ‘ooooh right’ moments as all the threads started to come together.
They’ve spent a long time on this but now it’s making sense, rather than a lot of random things happen to them.
Be warned, this is a very spoiler heavy write-up.
Tales of the Black Pharaoh
Tuesday 24th Feb
Standing looking at the burned-out rubble of what was once a shop, Singh, McTavish and Constanza tried to figure out what had happened here. McTavish wandered around in the rubble and examined the brickwork. Some of the stone blocks had a glassy finish to them and with a start, he realised the temperature it would need to reach to melt stone was a lot higher than just a simple fire. Singh looked at the scorch marks and noticed a regular pattern in them, something that shouldn’t be natural. He suddenly remembered the description of burn marks in the copy of “Song of the Djinn” he had read while on the voyage to Egypt, some of them seemed to match the patterns here. Hurriedly pulling the book from his bag and flicking through the pages, he was frustrated to not be able to find the passage which described the marks.
Mahmoud was trying to speak to any of the passersby in the street. A few shouted curses at him for even approaching them but he managed to speak to a few. Coming back to the ruin, he told them the shop had burnt down a few years ago and the locals had blamed it on demons. The site was cursed and the owner, who somehow survived, left to set up a new shop in a different part of the city but nobody knew where. He had been shunned for bringing such disaster to the street and none of the other shop keepers wanted to know anything about him in case the curse followed him.
Offering a handful of coins, McTavish told the boy to find the new shop, to which Mahmoud grinned from ear to ear and promised he would find it. He scampered off down an alleyway without giving a second look back.
Turning to leave, the three suddenly realised they had lost their guide and now stood in the middle of a warren of streets, alleys and back passages. Picking a direction, they set off to try and find their hotel.
Three hours later they stumbled into the foyer of the Hotel du Sud exhausted. Mme. Patenaude greeted them with a polite nod and a ‘Bonjour’ as they walked past the reception desk. They stumbled up to their respective rooms and Singh knocked on Bolan’s door to check on him. Showing Singh how his wardrobe had been hiding the partition door, Bolan explained about the intruder in his room. Singh checked his room and found the same thing, a secret door in the back of his wardrobe. Telling McTavish and Constanza, they all blocked the doors to their wardrobes and checked to see if anything had been taken. It looked like nothing had gone but they settled down in their own rooms cautiously and planned to leave the next day.
Wednesday 25th Feb
Rising the next day, they all took breakfast then checked out, much to Mme. Patenaude’s consternation. She tried to find out why they had only stayed one day but they fobbed her off with the story that they had only been passing through.
Fortunately, in their lost wanderings around Cairo the day before, they’d seen a nicer hotel called Shepheard’s hotel, so booked into there. Due to the fund from Elias’ estate, there wasn’t too much of an issue over money, so they booked a suite and settled in and unpacked.
After some lunch, they split up. Bolan and Singh wanted to go to the police station to find out about Faraz Najjar’s shop under the pretext of informing them about the scam at the Hotel du Sud, while Constanza and McTavish wanted to go to the museum to have a look round for anything which may be useful.
Arriving at the museum, Constanza and McTavish wandered around at random, just gazing at all of the artefacts from different dynasties. They spent about half an hour going from exhibit to exhibit and meandering through the halls before coming across a section that was being installed. Two workmen moved cabinets and some statues around while a short, thin older man in a smart suit directed them in sharp tones. Carefully avoiding bumping into the workmen, both McTavish and Constanza walked around the three men but noticed the sign on the installation said “Items donated by the Penhew Foundation.”
Introducing themselves as members of the Penhew Foundation, both men struck up a conversation with the man directing the workers. After some pleasantries, they asked if he had any information about the Carlyle expedition which drew a brief look of surprise. Explaining that someone else had been asking about the Carlyle a few months before, he mentioned it was an American gentleman who seemed a bit edgy at the time. Exchanging glances, both McTavish and Constanza had an idea who that may be. Asking if he was called Jackson Elias, got a nod.
“Yes, that was his name. He seemed like he was constantly looking over his shoulder as if he was being followed. He asked a lot of questions about the Carlyle group but I had a meeting I was supposed to be going to. He arranged to come back the next day but never made the meeting. I haven’t seen him since and I got some of the information he was after.”
Asking if they could see it, the man agreed and offered them his card. It had the name Dr. Ali Kafour and listed him as a director at the museum. Thanking Dr Kafour for his time, and agreeing to come back later that afternoon, the pair left to head back to the hotel to inform the others.
Bolan was laying on the charm with the police officer he was dealing with. Playing the innocent tourist, he had struck up a chatty dialogue with the officer who was currently taking details about the Hotel du Sud. In the middle of it all, he casually mentioned he was here looking for a man who owned a shop in the Street of Jackals, which had burnt down. He was now unable to find any information about the fire or where the shopkeeper had gone. The constable offered to go and have a look through the records to help Bolan out. He came back 15 minutes later with a slim folder with some details about the fire. It had happened in 1919, 6 years ago, but fortunately listed the address of the shopkeeper’s new premises as on the Street of Potters.
Thanking the constable for his help, Bolan and Singh left, not believing their luck at tracking down Faraz Najjar so easily.
As they left the museum and headed for their hotel, both McTavish and Constanza spotted Mahmoud as they walked past the cafe they had first met him. The boy was sitting on the wall outside and idly playing with a small stone. His head shot up as the pair called out to him and he ran over quickly.
“Ah, I couldn’t find you. I went to your hotel but they said you had left and didn’t know where you went. I found the shopkeeper you wanted me to. It was hard work but he is in the Street of Potters in the old city. I have been to see it and can take you there easily.”
This was great news! They told the boy to meet them outside the museum later that day and then went back to the hotel, not believing their luck at tracking down Faraz Najjar so easily.
After comparing notes about the location of Najjar, the four set off to go back to the Museum to speak to Dr. Kafour.
Back at the museum, the four men were lead through the corridors of the admin area after speaking to a receptionist. Arriving at Dr. Kafour’s office they were greeted warmly as Kafour shook their hands as he entered, he then showed them to some chairs as refreshments were brought. Kafour’s office was richly decorated with paintings, books lining the walls and fine examples of Egyptian artefacts.
As they began to chat Kafour revealed more details about the Carlyle expedition and his connection to the Penhew foundation. Explaining that he had maintained a close working relationship with the foundation and how he had been on friendly terms with Sir Aubrey Penhew. Jackson Elias had come to him asking about the people who took part in the expedition and what they had been looking for on the dig. Sir Aubrey had been studying an ancient pharaoh known as the Black Pharaoh and that they had discussed the topic many times. The dig was looking for something to do with this pharaoh but Kafour had no idea if they had found anything or not. Sir Aubrey had ignored the museum when they passed through. When he had gone out to the dig to see Sir Aubrey, the man had been positively rude to Kafour.
Kafour then explained who the Black Pharaoh was. At the end of the Third Dynasty, a man known as Nephren- Ka arrived in Egypt. Nephren-Ka was a powerful sorcerer and there were a number of legends saying that he brought madness and death to his enemies at the simplest of gestures. The legends say that he came from an ancient city in the deserts of Arabia, whose name was Irem, the City of Pillars. Kafour said this place is mentioned in a number of texts but the most detailed one is in Al Azif. At this name Singh stiffened, he had read that name in the ‘Song of the Djinn’ and it seemed too much of a coincidence that it should come up.
Kafour continued, Nephren-Ka revived the worship of an ancient god known as the Black Pharaoh. At some point, Nephren-Ka and the god became almost intertwined in legend with both of them being known as the Black Pharaoh.
There were stories of a great, giant beast that Nephren-Ka controlled, which the Sphinx at Giza is but a child’s toy next to. Also that his voice could be carried about the land upon a black wind and destroy those who opposed him.
For many years, the Black Pharaoh fought with the successors of the Third Dynasty until Sneferu rose and founded the Fourth Dynasty. With the aid of the goddess Isis, Sneferu thwarted the evil magic and slew Nephren-Ka.
A pyramid was built at Meidum, by Sneferu’s command, to contain the sorcerer’s body, however, the Meidum pyramid collapsed and a second, which was already under construction, was hurriedly repurposed. This second pyramid is now known as the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur. Nephren-Ka’s corpse was removed from Meidum and placed within the Bent Pyramid, but an exploration of the site has discovered no trace, despite rumours of a hidden chamber within. Another pyramid at Dahshur, the Red Pyramid, is also attributed to Sneferu; this pyramid is said to guard Dahshur, lest Nephren-Ka rise from the dead.
Upon his triumph, Sneferu ordered all traces of the Black Pharaoh stricken from the land. Nevertheless, worshippers of the Black Pharaoh remained and schemed for the evil one’s return. In time, the worshippers were driven south, out of Egypt and into the hideous swamps beyond the Sudan.
In the Sixth Dynasty, the cruel Queen Nitocris was thought to be in league with a new cult of the Black Pharaoh; though the proof of this is subjective, In an aside, Dr. Kafour casually mentions that the Black Pharaoh is sometimes called by the name Nyarlathotep. According to Dr. Kafour, the unidentified mummy recently stolen from another expedition currently under the supervision of Sir Henry Clive at Giza, was undoubtedly the remains of that beautiful and evil ruler. Dr. Kafour also mentioned one member of the expedition; a Dutch archaeologist called Janwillem Van Heuvelen was let go by Dr. Clive.
Bolan mentioned the busts they had taken from Misr house and Kafour became quite interested in seeing them. There was a lot for them to risk confiding in Dr Kafour but Bolan reached into his bag and pulled out the two busts. He carried them around as he wanted to make sure they wouldn’t be stolen. Kafour carefully examined them and grew quite animated as he did so.
After verifying them as likenesses of the Black Pharaoh, Kafour returned them with a warning.
“There are those who would take these from you with violence. I should warn you that the cult of the Black Pharaoh is quite active these days but I don’t know much about them. I only know that they are spread throughout the city and I believe they have been active across Africa for many centuries. There are stories, for example, of a group known as the Cult of the Bloody Tongue, which is in Kenya and I have heard they worship a monstrous god which is an aspect of the Black Pharaoh. Take care or you may run into them.”
His warning ringing in their ears, the four left shortly afterwards and met Mahmoud outside the main doors to the museum. He quickly led them to the Street of the Potters which clearly got its name from the many pottery shops which filled it. In the midst of these pottery shops was a door and window clearly marked “Faraz Najjar” in Arabic, “Curios” in English, and “Magasin des Antiquités” in French.
Looking in through the window, they could see inside was filled with curios, statues and merchandise. Pushing the door open they filed inside…