This is the fourth session of the first chapter from Masks of Nyarlathotep. The the other posts are available if you want to catch up.
The structure of this session may seem a bit odd but there’s a good reason. One of the players (Gerbil) was late to the session, we actually thought he wasn’t coming at one point and my plan was his character would be off on his own to Arkham to speak to Professor Cowles, an NPC mentioned in one of the handouts found in JE’s apartment.
We sat down, I opened my mouth to start… and a phone rang. He was running late but would join us. Another player (McTavish) offered to go and pick him up. By the time they both arrived back with the rest of us, the others had pushed on to the Ju-Ju house planning on scoping it out. This didn’t go as planned.
To find out what happened, please read on.
Part 4 – tongue tied
Tuesday Jan 20th
Gerbil and McTavish headed to the train station to catch a train to Arkham to try and find Professor Cowles to find out why Jackson had a flyer for his talk.
Meanwhile Bolan, Constanza and Singh decided they would investigate the Ju-Ju house. They agreed to first get some weapons hidden back in their hotel rooms.
Arriving back at the hotel they found three large, well dressed men lounging around in the reception area. The three men rose from their chairs and walked towards them with an air of menace. The lead man was well dressed in an expensive looking suit. However his face looked as if it had been on the wrong end of a fist a few times. He sauntered up to the group and eyed them up and down.
Introducing himself as Captain Robson of the 14th precinct, he warned them off sticking their noses in business that they had no interest in. “The Adams case is closed. You’d do well to stay away from it. That guy will fry for his crimes.” Robson smirked. “Get yourselves out of this town or you may find yourselves in the next cell over from him. Got it?”
Despite receiving nods of agreement and general wording of agreement, Robson didn’t look convinced. “I’ll be watching you guys.” he said over his shoulder as he left with his two cohorts, leaving Bolan, Constanza and Singh to prepare for visiting the Ju-Ju house. Singh retrieved his rifle, Constanza his club and lent a gun to the unarmed Bolan.
A short time later as heavy snow and gusting wind blew like ice around them as they arrived in Harlem. Aproaching the Ju-Ju house, the figure of Silas was seen making his way out of the alleyway and heading away from the shop. Pulling their coats tight against the cold, they took the opportunity to sneak down the alleyway and investigate the darkened premises.
The Boston Express
Despite the weather, Gerbil and McTavish easily found a train running to Boston. It would get them there in the early evening where they would be able to get a transfer to Arkham. They settled into a couple of seats in the dining car, ordered and watched the landscape pass by out of the window while discussing their recent exploits.
The shop was dark and the door locked. Peering in, Bolan had to keep wiping the window to clear the mist forming from his breath but couldn’t see any signs of life inside. Singh and Constanza examined the door next to the Ju-Ju house and realised it was an empty shop. Carefully forcing the door, so not to damage it too much, they managed to get inside the building which was full of old rubbish, empty shelves and boxes full of newspaper. A rotten smell seeped through the floorboards from next door but no obvious way through was visible. They checked the walls for weak spots and any way they could break into the shop but there was nothing.
Bolan, keeping watch from the mouth of the alleyway outside in the cold, realised that Silas was carefully making his way back through the howling wind blowing down the street. Rushing back to the others, he warned them but they knew it was too late to escape without being seen so propped the door back in its frame and hid in the darkness of the empty shop.
They saw him walk down the alleyway alone and disappear out of sight towards the Ju-Ju house door. Singh, knife at the ready, carefully crept up behind the hunched figure and, as Silas opened the door, slipped the knife carefully against the old mans throat. Pushing him into the shop Singh signalled to the others to follow him and they entered the gloom together.
The inside of the shop was cold and oppressive. It was only a small room, lined with shelves covered in drums, carved animals, masks and other bric-a-brac. In the middle of the far wall was a heavy curtain separating the shop from another room but that looked dark from where they stood. Silas was making small whimpering noises and told them he wasn’t rich but could give them money. Singh, glancing around the room, spotted some decorative ropes and securely tied the Silas up, stuffed a rag in his mouth and pushed him towards a glass topped counter near the doorway.
Bolan spent a moment to examine some of the items in the shop but wasn’t able to see much of interest. He realised that some items seemed to be elements of African ritual magic but a lot was just decorative with no significance.
They began to search the shop in the dark but it was hard to see what was there and the fear of turning a light on and being spotted, was too much. Bolan did find a ledger with some obvious weekly payments to W.R.14 which Singh realised could mean Robson, the police captain they had met earlier that day, the 14 meaning his precinct.
Trying to interrogate Silas wasn’t working out for Singh. The wiry old man was mainly cursing them in some African dialect they didn’t understand or spitting at them, telling them they would be cursed if they didn’t let him go. Singh stuffed the rag back in Silas mouth to shut him up but there was still muffled curses coming from him now and then.
A search in the back room uncovered a panga wrapped in a leopard skin and a more gruesome discovery. Bolan picked up what he thought was an ornate version of the headdress worn by the three cultists that had murdered Jackson, only to realise with horror, the red cloth hanging from the head piece wasn’t cloth at all, but a mummified human tongue!
The Boston Express
Gerbil and McTavish reclined comfortably in their seats with blue grey smoke wafting around their heads in the dining car. The food had been excellent and the cigars to follow proved to be just as good. They would be in Boston within the hour and had been told by the guard that they only had a short wait before the connecting train would leave for Arkham. Everything was running perfectly.
The Ju-Ju house
Bolan let out a groan as he realised what he was holding and walked back into the shop to show the others, nearly tripping over the loose rug by the doorway. A clang noise echoed up as his foot caught something under the rug. Flicking it up they found a trapdoor hidden underneath and Silas suddenly grew much quieter, his eyes narrowing as they peered into the gloom.
Locking the shop front door and bolting it before examining the steps down, they could see strange signs carved into the steps but couldn’t recognise them. A door could be seen in the wall at the far end but it was hard to see properly as there was only a small amount of light coming from above. Realising they hadn’t brought any torches or matches with them, Singh found a kerosene lantern hanging unlit at the bottom of the steps and a quick search in Silas’ room turned up a battered box of matches.
Lighting the lantern, Singh descended back down into the cellar, roughly pushing Silas infront of him. They crowded together in the narrow corridor around the solid wood and metal banded door to examined the lock. Realising that Silas had keys around his neck, Singh grabbed the thong tied to them and pulled the keys from Silas who growled and mumbled at him with the gag still in his mouth.
Unlocking the door and readying weapons, they pushed into the dark space beyond. As the light from the lamp flickered around the room, they could see it was a room about the same size as the two above with another curtain covering a doorway opposite to where they stood. The floor was made up of rough stone flags except for one part which was a large circular slab. In the middle of it was a ring and a pulley next to it looked as if it could be used to lift it.
Singh cautioned Silas before pulling the gag out of his mouth and asked the old man what this place was. Silas laughed at him and cursed him again. With his head spinning from another clip by Singh, Silas had the gag stuffed back in his mouth and pushed further into the room.
Bolan, curious what was behind the curtain, walked over and lifted one corner carefully but what he saw behind made his blood run cold. The small space was about 8 foot square and the walls lined with shelves full of items but it was the four figures standing in the room which made Bolan start with fright. Two men and two women stood almost motionless, backs to the wall, with their intestines dangling and their foreheads with the cult rune carved into them. They should have been dead with their insides hanging out but they showed signs of life with slight twitching and occasional spasm. Their dead eyes stared into space, not looking at anything.
Bolan backed off quickly but they didn’t respond to his movements. He turned to the others who had been looking at the stone slab in the middle of the room. Constanza had hooked up the pulley to the ring in the middle of the slab and was testing it.
Blurting out what he had seen caused a muted chuckle from Silas. Singh turned on the man with fire in his eyes and demanded an explanation for this desecration, also a warning if he tried anything, Silas would be killed. Silas just told them they would all die in agony unless they released him there and then. Singh stuffed the rag back in Silas’ mouth with a scowl.
Constanza and Bolan began to pull the pulley and lift the slab from the hole it was plugging while Singh stood back and covered Silas with his rifle incase he tried anything. With some grunting the stone slab started to move away from the floor and the sounds of crying and wailing could be heard coming from the now uncovered floor.
McTavish and Gerbil arrived at a neat bungalow on the edge of the campus of the world famous Miskatonic University. They had been given this address by the university and told it was where Professor Cowles was currently residing. It was still early evening and they took the chance he was available as the lights still burned inside.
After a polite knock on the door, a heavy-set, ruddy-faced white man with a bushy red beard, opened the door and greeted them with a quizzical look. Introducing themselves they asked about speaking to Professor Cowles about a recent lecture he had given recently. The man broke into a hearty smile and introduced himself as Cowles before ushering them into the house where he offered them coffee and had them sit by a roaring fire.
When they mentioned Jackson Elias, Cowles said he knew of Jackson’s work and had read a number of his books but hadn’t ever met him.
Over the next hour Cowles regaled them with details of his talk, his research into blood cults in Australia and his interest in an expedition by Arthur MacWhirr. MacWhirr had explored an area in western Australia which was detailed in a song cycle by the Aborigines, enormous beings who lived in ancient times and legends of the Father of All Bats.
He showed them some photos from the MacWhirr expedition and the huge structures he had found in the desert along with mentioning he had read MacWhirrs diary
After talking long into the evening, Cowles daughter interrupted and dropped several, not very subtle, hints that her father had work the next day. Cowles reluctantly agreed and showed them to the door.
The Ju-Ju house
The sound of wailing grew louder as the slab moved further back from the hole it covered. Bolan and Constanza peered in and saw faces looking up at them. Moving the light closer they saw that it was dozens of human faces set into a thickly cylindrical, worm-like mass of sickly, purple veined muscle. The sound of crying and wailing grew louder as they looked in and they recoiled in horror at what they saw.
Describing the horror to Singh, they backed up. Singh, disgusted at what was in there and at the gleeful noises that Silas was making, drew his knife and slit Silas’ throat in one fluid motion, the lifeless body dropped to the floor with a thud. The noise of fabric ripping behind them came over the noise of the crying sounds and turning, they saw the four human figures lurch out of the small storage area.
Singh grabbed for his rifle and snapped off a shot but it went wild in the dark. Constanza jumped forward and swung his club into the nearest figure and brought it down with a sickening thud. Another dug its broken fingernails into Bolan, gouging out chunks of his flesh causing him to let off a shot from the pistol in his hand. The third reached towards Constanza, intending to do the same to him, but only managed to scratch him, leaving it open and another went down to the vicious club.
Singh, swung with the but of his rifle at the only one standing on its own and managed to cave in its chest. Bolan tried to escape from the grip of his attacker but its hand was like a vice. Constanza stepped up smartly behind it and finished it off while it wasn’t looking.
As the fight ended, they realised they should get out quickly. Singh pitched Silas’ corpse into the pit where the sound of wailing was replaced by the sounds of tearing flesh.
Bolan gathered up handfuls of items in the storeroom before heading up the stairs with the others. In the shop they unlocked the door and left as Singh turned and threw the kerosene lamp into the middle of the shop floor, the flames spread quickly in the shop with plenty of wood to burn.
Shouts of alarm rang out around the streets as they hurried away, the building behind them was rapidly being engulfed in flames and the fire was spreading.
McTavish and Gerbil had found a small hotel near the campus and settled into their respective rooms for the night. Blissfully unaware of the chaos currently unfolding in New York…
To be continued.