MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – ENGLAND PART FOUR

This was our second session of 2020 and the first with all of the party together.

All the previous entries for the campaign are on the blog as well.

Welcome to the Laughing Horse

Tuesday, February 3rd

While McTavish, Constanza and Singh had explored some of the groups leads, Bolan had spent the day surrounded by his books and trying to come to terms with the events of the last few weeks. His mind reeled at the things he had seen and read in the books they had brought back from America. After a day of trying to mentally piece these events together he felt a little more recovered, but was still unable to find proper peace of mind.

Wednesday, February 4th

Early the next morning the four of them gathered together to plan the groups next move. 

They knew Gavigan had a house called Misr somewhere in Essex, but the van leaving from the club wasn’t due for some time according to the information they had.

The best route seemed to be going to Derby to investigate the factory supplying the strange machine parts to Gavigan. Along the way they would look into the strange murders that had interested Jackson Elias. The newspaper clipping said the attacks had taken place in the village of Lesser Edale, close to the larger village of Edale, which would be their first stop.

After checking that there was an afternoon train stopping at Edale, they spent the rest of the morning hurriedly picking up some extra equipment. This included McTavish getting some extra firepower in the form of a shotgun and a box of cartridges. Packed for a few days away, they boarded the train and enjoyed a quiet few hours racing through the wintery English countryside.

The afternoon air was crisp and clear as they descended the train in Edale. A station guard bustled past them, whistle blowing and waving his flag for the train to depart. After watching it depart in a cloud of steam, the guard turned and headed for his office. 

Catching the guards attention as he walked past, they explained they would be staying in the area for a few days and wanted to know if there was somewhere nearby to stay. 

Pointing out a nearby pub, the guard also mentioned a few of the sights nearby such as the Blue John mine, some of the local walks and a few of the villages nearby, including Lesser Edale. Asking about Lesser Edale, the guard told them it was about 5 miles further up the valley and a nice place to visit if they get a chance.

Giving them a wave goodbye, the guard wandered off towards his office as they clomped out of the station. The local pub was close by so, not wanting to head to Lesser Edale too late in the day, they chose to try and stay in Edale before heading up to Lesser Edale the next day.

The pub was an old, wooden beamed building that looked well maintained. Stepping into the main bar, they found a few locals sitting around tables chatting and a fire crackling away in a large fireplace. Approaching the bar, the landlord greeted them cordially and asked what he could get them. 

MaTavish told him they wanted some rooms if possible as they planned on staying a couple of nights. He told the landlord that they’re a hunting party on their way up to his lands in Scotland but wanted to visit the area first.

As it was the off season, the landlord said they had plenty of rooms free and told them to take a table while he had them made up ready. Ordering food and drink, they sat and looked around the room a bit more. The bar was quiet with only a handful of patrons chatting and McTavish, sensing he could make a good impression, ordered a round of drinks for the whole bar. A cheer went up and there was a flurry of toasts to his good health as well as back patting as he paid for the drinks.

Over the next few hours, they managed to speak to a few of the patrons and got further information about the murders. The attacks had taken place three months prior, over the course of a couple of nights and two people, George Osgood and Lydia Parkins, had been violently killed. A third, Harold Short, had barely escaped with his life. The local police officer, Constable Tumwell, had shot and killed the beast after hunting it down. Cheers rang out at Tumwell’s name along with raised glasses and hearty toasts.

Asking where they may be able to find Tumwell to ask about the beast, they were told that he could be often found in the pub in Lesser Edale, either at lunchtime or in the evening.

They spent some more time chatting with the locals before turning in for the night, ready for the next day.

Thursday, February 5th

Rising early, they set off along the road towards Lesser Edale in the bright, but cold, February morning. Having been told it was a 5 mile walk they expected a quiet hike along the village lane but shortly after leaving the village, the noise of a tractor could be heard coming up the road behind them. Pulling up next to the group, the driver offered them lift up towards Lesser Edale and they climbed onto the trailer it was pulling. Before long they had bounced their way up the road to the village outskirts.

Strolling into the village, the investigators could see about 20 buildings, most of which looked like houses. Nestled among them was a church with a vicarage opposite a duck pond, while a village shop sat next to a pub. The pub sign showed a horse with flames billowing from its mouth, eyes and nose with the name ‘Laughing Horse’ written in a gothic font above it. 

It was too early for lunch so Tumwell wouldn’t be there yet, they headed to the shop first.

A small bell clattered as they filed inside. A man behind the counter looked up while a woman stacking shelves glanced over before carrying on. Inside the shop, shelves lined with canned food, sweets, postcards and other household goods, filled most of the floor space. Weaving around the shelves, McTavish greeted the shopkeeper and asked about a map of the area.

“Ah yes, we have maps. Alice, could you bring me one of those hiking maps please?” 

Unfolding the map she brought over, the shopkeeper showed McTavish a few of the local spots of interest in the area along with some of the walks around the hills. The map clearly showed the village as well as the landscape of cliffs and rolling hills around it.

Idly chatting away, the shopkeeper mentioned a bit about the murders and told them that one had taken place at the Osgood farm, just outside the village, while the Parkins’ house was just nearby, the third attack against Harold Short was also in the village. Harold had been on his way back from the pub when he was attacked. It had raised quite a commotion and the locals thought that was what had driven off the attacker.

Buying the map and thanking the shopkeeper, McTavish was told that the local vicar was a good person to talk to for history in the area and so they headed to the church.

Approaching the grounds, a groundskeeper could be seen tidying up the bushes around the edge of the graveyard. A couple of the graves looked new, with temporary wooden markers standing out from the rest of the worn stones. On closer examination the markers had the names of the two killed a few months ago, George Osgood and Lydia Parkins carved on the front. A glint of something shiny caught the eye of a couple of the investigators. Both markers had a small silver crucifix hanging over them on a chain. Bolan walked over towards the groundskeeper and gave a friendly greeting. The man tapped the side of his cap and muttered a reply. Bolan asked about the new graves to which the man replied “Local matters don’t concern outsiders.” He threw his tools into his nearby wheelbarrow and stalked off further into the graveyard.

Realising they would get nothing from him Bolan knocked on the door of the vicarage. After a pause, a shuffling sound and a shout of “Just a minute.” came faintly through the door before it opened. A man in his 60s and dressed in vicars garments peered out at Bolan. Giving a brief introduction, Bolan explained they had come to visit the area and wanted to know a little bit more about the history of the village. The vicar frowned for a moment before Bolan carried on his charm offensive. Explaining they thought he would be one of the best sources of information, Bolan managed to win the vicar round. Opening the door to them and inviting them in, he introduced himself as Reverend Jeremy Stratton. He said he was going to be popping over to the church to work on his sermons but could give them a little time before. Ushering them into a small parlour with a fire burning in a fireplace and a desk covered in books and papers he waved at some chairs and settled himself down in a large leather armchair by the fire.

The Reverend told them a few bits about the village before the conversation turned to the recent murders. Pausing and taking a moment to think, a brief frown crossed his face again before continuing. While the Reverend was talking, Constanza glanced around and spotted a number of letters on the desk with the letterhead of the Derwent Valley Order of the Golden Druid. A large primer for Greek to English translations filled a big part of the desk along with an old leather-bound journal with notes scattered around it. The name ‘Vane’ could be seen several times on the loose papers.

McTavish attempted to distract the vicar by asking if the church steeple was wonky, so someone could have a closer look at the papers, but Stratton wasn’t taking much notice. Either the Scottish accent was too thick or the vicar wasn’t that interested.

After some polite chatting the vicar offered to show them around the church. He led them outside after throwing a cloak over his shoulders and picking up a bunch of keys. Singh excused himself and went to walk around the graveyard to see if he could find anything of interest while the other three were led into the church.

The church itself was quite small inside, with a few pews squashed together in the congregation area facing a lectern. Wandering around there was nothing obviously out of place while Stratton talked at length about how the church was built on a much older foundation. The former church had burned down in 1906 and this newer building had been built in its place. 

Outside Singh was wandering the grounds and looking at the gravestones. Most of them seemed to be quite old and heavily weathered, only the two newer ones stood out. He noticed an old lady walking along the vicarage path carrying a large basket of cleaning goods. She tried to door but, finding it locked, tried to fish a key out of her pocket while holding the heavy basket. Singh walked over and offered to help her get the door open which she gratefully accepted. Taking the basket back from him she thanked him and entered the rectory before closing the door behind her.

After a look around, Stratton said he had work to do, so excused himself and entered a small side room, leaving the three to rejoin Singh outside.

Bolan, thinking he could learn something from one of the silver cross hanging from the grave markers, walked over to one and held it carefully. After a minute he got a brief flash but nothing of interest. The cross was real silver but a new item, nothing that had been owned by the occupier of the grave below.

Walking past the Parkins’ house and seeing smoke rise from the chimney, they paused for a moment before choosing to go to the Osgood farm instead.

The track to the farm led upwards and wound around a small wood, before reaching the main farmyard. In the yard two children were following a woman as she carried a couple of buckets across towards some sheds.

Calling out a greeting, McTavish introduced himself and the others when she walked over to them. Explaining they’re looking into the recent events, he enquired if they could ask some questions.

She cautiously invited them inside and led them into a kitchen where she stood at one end with her two children, both girls, hiding behind her skirt.

Giving them details through mounting tears, she explained how George, her husband, had heard a noise in the barn one evening so had gone out with his shotgun to investigate. After a pause there was a shout, a scream and then the gun went off. Rushing out to investigate she saw a hairy, hunched over form running off into the woods. 

“As tall as a man and howling, I swear it was a demon.”

Breaking down into sobs, she asked them to leave as she can’t speak of it anymore.

They left, and headed back into the village where they found the pub was now open and serving lunch. Taking a table, they settled down and, after the success of the last time, McTavish ordered a round of drinks for the bar. After some thanks and cheers they managed to get some more details from the bar patrons, mainly older men who looked as if they whiled away their time drinking.

They managed to chat to a few of the locals and after some idle chatter, turned the conversation to the murders. They managed to get a little more information out of them, mainly around the dog that Tumwell shot. A couple of the men said that it didn’t look that fierce and was more mangy than dangerous. A couple muttered that they’d heard noises out on the moors at night and that they shouldn’t go out when there’s a full moon. When checking on the next full moon they realised it was in a night’s time.

At that moment the door opened and a gust of cold air blew in along with a figure dressed in a police uniform. Making his way to the bar, the officer sat down and dropped his helmet onto the wooden top.

“That’s Tumwell, he’s the man you should ask about that thing.” one of the locals whispered.

Tumwell was a portly man in his 40s with a slightly sheepish look on his face. As if he was embarrassed by all of the attention. Despite some hesitation on his part, once he got chatting, he was open enough about the events around the murders. 

He explained that he had been lucky enough to find the dog when he did before it did any more harm. Singh could tell that he wasn’t convinced by his own story though. 

They settled down to have some lunch while chatting with Tumwell further before they planned their next step.

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