MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – ENGLAND PART FIVE

Somehow the stars aligned and we managed to meetup two weeks after we ran part four, something of a rare event for us. The previous entries for the campaign are on the blog as well.

We rejoin our group as they’re sat in the pub in Lesser Edale having a pint. Nice work if you can get it.

The lesser of two Edales

Friday, February 5th

As they continued to chat to Tumwell about the murders, a voice piped up from over by the fire.

“John Parkins doesn’t think it was that dog. He saw young Lawrence Vane wandering around the night his girl got murdered. I seen him running away from Parkins’ house that night as well. Right worried ‘e looked un all.”

Jeers came from other parts of the pub. “Don’t listen to old Tom. He’d ‘ad a few himself that night.” 

Old Tom, a weathered old man in a chair near the fire looked indigent at this comment. “I knows what I saw! You lot can bugger off. That Lawrence lad was up to something, I’d stake my life on it.”

MacTavish offered to buy Tom a drink and spoke further to the man. Tom said he’d seen the young Vane man running away in a hurry back up towards the castle. 

Realising there was a possible lead there and they they should go up to the castle to speak to the Vanes, they asked Tumwell for directions. Tumwell looked a little shocked at their lack of etiquette. “You can’t just walk up to the front door and expect Lord Vane to see you. You need to get an appointment and be invited up there.”

Tumwell suggested getting one of the village children to run up there with a calling card and ask for a meeting. MacTavish gave Tumwell one of his cards and Tumwell left on his rounds telling them he was find one of the children to take it up.

While they waited for a reply, Bolan and Constanza went back to the rectory to speak to the vicar or try and get a look at his papers which mentioned the Vane family name, while MacTavish and Singh walked around the village and part of the way up to the castle to see where it was.

Knocking on the door of the rectory, Bolan was greeted by the old lady who Singh had seen earlier. She peered out of the doorway and up at Bolan. “Yes deary?” she cooed.

Bolan explained he thought he may have left his wallet in the vicars study. The lady explained she was cleaning and hadn’t seen anything but would look out for it while she was working. Bolan asked if he could come in and look for it but she wouldn’t let him as the vicar was out doing some visits around the village.

“Come back later when he’s in. He’s gone to see poor old Mrs Tweedale with that dodgy hip of hers. Oooo she’s a martyr to that hip. It’s been giving her problems for years.”

While Bolan was distracting the cleaner, Constanza crept round the back of the rectory and tried the door there. It was locked but he saw the window to the study. Climbing over the flower bed he heaved on the window only to find it wasn’t locked and it flew up faster than expected. A loud crack noise, like a rifle shot, came from the glass as it cracked from the impact. Constanza, slightly shocked at this, reached in the window and grabbed a handful of papers from the desk before running off quickly.

At the front of the house the cleaner had heard the noise. “Oh! What was that? It sounded like something fell over” she cried. Bolan said it sounded like it came from inside and followed her inside. She opened the door to the study and a gust of air from the open window blew papers around the room.

“Now how did that happen?” She said as she shuffled over towards the window carefully and pulled it down. 

“It looks like someone tried to break in.” Bolan muttered and quickly left after making sure there was no sign of the burglar.

Out in the village Singh and MacTavish had walked part of the way around and now headed up towards the castle. Once they cleared a small rise above the village, they got a clearer view of Plum Castle. It was a ruined wall surrounding a large keep. The keep itself looked well maintained, if a little weathered. 

MacTavish was admiring the gorse bushes and some heather that was covering the hillside surrounding the castle, Singh on the other hand, was ever alert. He spotted off in the distance a young man, dressed in fine tweed clothing, cycling up a road and towards the castle.

As he was about to point out the figure in the distance to MacTavish, they both heard sounds of running behind him. Turning at the noise, they could see an out of breath Peruvian dashing up the road towards them clutching a handful of paper. 

As he caught his breath and scanned over what he had grabbed, Constanza was able to make out some jumbled notes about the Vane family history. Some of the notes indicate the vicar had traced the family back nearly 700 years and some information about when they had been made lords by Charles II.

One of the papers was also a hand written note describing something the vicar had seen one night.

I only glimpsed it momentarily, when I was walking home after visiting one of my parishioners. It was around 9 o’clock and the moon was full, although a heavy mist had risen. As I was opening the front gate, I heard a heavy breathing a few feet away. Looking up, I saw a huge dark shape, shrouded in mist. While the form was obscured, its burning red eyes filled me with terror. It let out a bloodcurdling cry and I knew it had seen me. Without thought, I bolted into the house and locked the door, thanking God for my safety. 

As Constanza shuffled through the notes, Bolan came walking up the road behind him to meet them. At that time a young boy came trotting down the road from the direction of the castle and met them.

“Are you the gents wot the constable asked me to go up to the castle for?” he asked, carefully eyeing up the strangers while brandishing an envelope in one hand and digging in his nose with the other. MacTavish confirmed it and tossed the boy a couple of coins in exchange for the now crumpled envelope he was grasping.

As the boy scurried off towards the shop to spend his loot, MacTavish opened the envelope and read the letter inside. It was an invitation to dinner that evening at 7:30, formal dress by request.

Realising they had little time, they hiked the 5 miles back to their lodgings in Edale so they could wash and dress in smarter clothing. They also managed to arrange a car to take them back to the castle in the evening.

Arriving back in Lesser Edale just before 6:30 they walked the short distance from where the car dropped them to the church. Constanza wanted to try and commune with the spirits of those buried in the graveyard using his Peruvian mystical knowledge but, as he entered the graveyard, a shout went up telling him to get out. The graveyard keeper was locking his tools up in his shed in the dark and had seen Constanza enter the churchyard. Warning him to keep away, the graveyard keeper yelled that he was keeping an eye on them, someone had been snooping around the rectory earlier and had tried to break in.

He hurriedly left and they walked up the road to the castle. As they approached the keep, they could see it was lit up and it was a cheery sight in the gloom of the cold winter evening.

Bolan strode up to the door and knocked firmly. A butler opened the door and greeted them. He asked them to enter and, after leading them into the entrance, took their coats. He guided them through a side door and into a hall lined with tapestries, paintings of harsh looking moors, stern faced family members and rows of hunting trophies.

Opening a door at one end of the hall, they stepped into a huge library. Asking them to wait here, the butler left the room while Bolan began to twitch at the sight of so many books. A fire was lit in a huge fireplace and a number of high backed leather chairs circled around the fireplace. The walls were lined with floor to ceiling bookcases and the floor was a maze of tables and potted plants. The whole room felt warm and snug after being in the cold night.

While the others wandered around looking at the furniture and contents of the room, Bolan began to pull books off the shelves, flick through them and stuff them back in excitement. Most of the books seemed to be history, classics and world maps but many of them were first editions and quite rare. As he pulled one book out, a small hand written journal fell out from where it had been pushed behind the other books. Bolan flicked through the book which seemed to be dated back to the 16th century which charted the history of the Vane family.

Hearing footsteps from the hall outside, Bolan stuffed it in his jacket pocket and stepped away just as the door opened and the butler announced the arrival of Lord Vane. 

Lord Arthur Vane was a balding, heavy set man with a huge bushy moustache and wearing a very expensive looking tweed suit strode into the room. He was followed closely by the young man that Singh had spotted earlier and a young woman in her late teens or early twenties. She was very pretty with long blond hair and quite tall.

Lord Vane introduced himself and his two children and MacTavish introduced himself and his companions. Vane explained that he wanted to have some work done to the keep and it said that MacTavish was an engineer on his calling card. MacTavish said he would be more than happy to have a look at the keep in the day and help to give some assessments about the work that needed to be done.

Drinks were provided to everyone and they all made polite conversation for a short while before the butler reappeared and announced that dinner was ready to be served. Lord Vane led them through the hall and into a large dining room where places had been set for everyone. After being seated, the butler took orders for the preparations of steaks for the main course. Each of the Vanes ordered their steaks quite rare and Singh asked if he could have fish instead.

After wine had been poured, they had the first course, a fine paté with fresh bread. Much small talk took place with Eloise taking great interest in everything that Singh and Constanza had to say. She said she hadn’t been out of Lesser Edale much and was very interested in hearing all about the exotic locations they had been to.

Lord Vane continued to ask MacTavish about repair work and the recent bad weather which had given the castle a bit of a shake.

After the first course was finished, the staff cleared away the plates and the steak course arrived. They continued to chat through the courses and, after a dessert of plum pudding and then cheeses, Lord Vane invited them to retire with him into the library for cigars and brandy. Eloise said she would leave them to their discussion and retired for the night.

In the library, Lord Vane settled down in a large armchair by the fire and started to work his way through a number of glasses of brandy. He talked at length about his work in the house of lords and continued to talk about how much he had to do around the keep which was keeping him away from London.

The night wore on and Lawrence suggested they all stay the night as it was too late to go back to Edale now. Accepting his offer seemed the sensible thing to do, especially as MacTavish had agreed to look over the keep the next day to assess some of the work. Servants showed each of them to a room and some night clothes provided.

Bolan, alone in his room, spent several hours studying the book he had found in the library. It was hard to understand at first until he got the grasp of the archaic script it was written in. The journal was written by Edgar Vane and dated back to the 16th Century. It had background information about the Vane family which Edgar had pieced together. He had found information about his forebears had practiced devil worship, dedicated to a blasphemous idol named as “Mordee-ganee.” Bolan tried to remember if he had heard that name before but, either due to tiredness or simply not having heard of it before, he couldn’t recall anything about the name.

Saturday, February 6th

Breakfast the next morning was a very lavish spread. Kedgeree, kippers, bacon, eggs, toast, marmalade and more was arranged around the edge of the room in hot pans keeping them warm. Even those that rose early still found Eloise and Lawrence in the dining room eating their breakfast. There was no sign of Lord Vane but Eloise rolled her eyes at the description Lawrence gave of how many drinks he had last night.

“Father won’t be up for some time then.” She chuckled as she munched on a piece of toast.

After morning pleasantries Lawrence offered to show MacTavish the grounds. Bolan slipped out of the dining room and into the library to return the journal to where he had found it. Singh and Constanza stayed in the dining room chatting with Eloise a little longer.

Out in the cold but bright morning sunshine, Lawrence guided MacTavish around the grounds pointing out areas that the keep had been damaged by storms over the winter. MacTavish asked about the foundations as there had been some mention of a wine cellar and a dungeon during the conversation in the evening. Lawrence was hesitant at first but after a couple of moments pause, he finally told MacTavish about a family secret.

For the last few months Eloise had been changing into some form of creature at night. It started around the time of her 21st birthday and lasted for the three nights of the full moon. At first she wasn’t doing much, just lying in her bed and making howling noises but it steadily got worse and worse. After a couple of months she got out and was roaming the hills at night. A few animals were found slaughtered the next day, partly devoured. Because of the fear that she may injure or kill someone in the village, Lord Vane and Lawrence started to lock her in a cell in the dungeon. The staff knew something was happening as well and a few loyal ones had been brought into the secret to help them. Lawrence said that his father would be furious if he found out that Lawrence was asking for help but it was getting too serious to try and handle it themselves. After the deaths a few months ago, Lawrence had been to the vicar to ask for help but he was an old man who wouldn’t be able to do much beyond research. 

MacTavish said they would help how they could and asked to see the dungeon. Lawrence led him down into the cellar and then down into a dungeon below that. A small amount of light filtered in through some small windows while firm iron bars set into the stonework formed the cells that lined the room. Lawrence led him over to one cell in the far corner that looked like it had recently been occupied. Inside there was straw thrown over the floor to give some padding to the bare stonework. Eloise had been kept in here but somehow she had managed to escape three months ago and killed the two in the village.

MacTavish walked around the dungeon examining the bars before stepping into the one that had been used to keep Eloise in. As he examined the bars he noticed a loose stone in the wall which, as he pushed it, slid in with a soft click. A small door opened in the wall much to Lawrences surprise. They ducked through the doorway and walked along the narrow tunnel in the rock wall behind it.

Up in the dining room Lord Vane had arrived for breakfast looking very hungover. Eloise giggled and kissed him on top of his head as she left the room, gently chiding him for his excessive drinking. He mumbled some greetings to Singh and Constanza while trying to eat some food. Asking where the other two investigators were, he was visibly relieved to hear that Bolan was in the library while Lawrence was taking MacTavish round the grounds. 

“Good. I wanted him to see the building in the daylight. The sooner it gets started the better.”

Deep underground, MacTavish and Lawrence entered into a large cloying and damp stone building lined with tombs.

“My god! This is the mausoleum! This is how she was getting out each time!” Lawrence exclaimed. Turning back to the passage they headed back to rejoin the others.

To be continued…

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