MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – ENGLAND PART SIX

This post is a combination of two sessions. We had our sessions lined up then we have the COVID-19 outbreak and the country went into lockdown so we put the sessions on hold until this recovered.

After a few weeks of realising that this wasn’t going to happen and that it was probably all down to Nyarlathotep and his sneaky tricks, we thought we would try the session remotely. So, we virtually met one evening and then spent an hour or so trying to get things working meaning we didn’t manage to finish off the last part of Derby. We managed to get back together a week later to finish the session off. This means this is technically part 6a and 6b.

As ever, the previous entries for the campaign are on the blog over on the Nyarlathotep contents page.

Hey, howl you doin’

Friday, February 6th

Constanza and MacTavish left Lawrence and headed back to meet with the others. Bolan had already left the library and rejoined Singh in the dining room. 

Both men had been talking to Lord Vale who had started to perk up a bit with some food inside him and his hangover clearing. He was enthusiastic about having work done to the building to repair the crumbling stonework and spoke at length to MacTavish about the task. 

Taking an address for MacTavish so he could write to him,  he began to suggest they may want to leave and go back to their lodgings to clean up. Taking the hint, they collected their things and headed back towards Lesser Edale.

The walk to the village was chilly with a cold wind whipping around them. Heavy clouds could be seen closing in, making the day seem dark and oppressive. As they approached the edge of the village, two figures could be seen in the graveyard as they passed by. It was the vicar and the graveyard keeper, Wainwright who seemed to be quite agitated about something.  

Wainwright spotted them as they marched along the road and turned to point at them.

“I bet it was them vicar. They wus poking around here last night when I wus locking up.”

The vicar tried to calm him and walked over towards the road, calling out as they passed. Greeting him casually, Bolan asked what the matter was. 

“Good morning gentlemen. There was a disturbance in the grounds last night, it looks like we had some vandals who smashed up part of the graveyard and started to dig up some of the graves.”

“It wus them vicar, I’m sure of it.” Wainwright stomped over angrily and waved his finger at them. “They came round here last night as I wus locking up. They’re up to something.”

The vicar laid a hand on Wainwright’s shoulder to calm him. “Now, now. I’m sure these fine men didn’t do such a horrible thing.” 

Turning back to the group the vicar smiled “I’m sure you can put Jed’s mind at rest and tell him where you were last night.”

After explaining they had been invited to dinner at the castle with the Vanes and had then stayed over, the vicar visibly relaxed. “There you go Jed. They have an excellent alibi and I’m sure Lord Vane was most hospitable to his guests.”

Wainwright stomped off grumbling under his breath. Giving one last backwards glance before grabbing his tools he started the job of tidying up the graveyard.

Taking a few minutes to look around at the damage, they could see that some of the newer graves had been disturbed with the soil dug down to about three or four feet in some places. Several of the markers had been scratched, long sharp gouges had been carved into them, while others had been knocked over.

The vicar was hovering behind them, tutting over the damage and muttering about who would perform such a sacrilegious thing. He also mentioned that someone had broken one of his windows yesterday during the day causing Bolan and Constanza to exchange glances guiltily.

Trying to change the subject Bolan mentioned that Lawrence had told them about the curse, at which the vicar went white. He glanced over towards where Wainwright was working to check he was out of earshot.

“I think you’d better come inside to discuss this further. I don’t want to upset Jed even further.”

Over the next hour, they discussed the curse with the vicar who admitted he was looking into the background of the Vane family at Lawrences request. He had discovered mentions of a witch trial in 1608 where Lady Evangeline Vane was a key witness in the trial of two local women. Annie Stafford and Jenny Greene had been found guilty and then hung shortly afterwards. As she was hanging from the noose, it was said that Annie Stafford had looked directly at Lady Vane and pointed at her. She cursed Lady Vane with the “mark of the beast” before her head dropped back down. When asked about the two women, the vicar said he had no idea where they had been buried as it wouldn’t have been on consecrated ground. There was a reference to them being hung from a tree overlooking the village but that was the only information he had.

They didn’t manage to get anything further of interest from the vicar so, knowing it was the full moon that night, they planned to stake out the castle and keep watch for anything that happened. 

Going back to the pub in Edale, collecting weapons and then coming back to Lesser Edale, took most of the afternoon. Bolan wanted to try and find where the two witches had been buried and suggested heading up the hill behind Castle Plum to Brown Knoll which was the only hill that was close to the village. 

It took about half an hour in the closing darkness to reach the top of the hill. The path was winding and rain was starting to come down quite heavily at this point. At the top of Brown Knoll was a huge gnarled tree that looked as if it had been there for centuries. Bolan hugged the tree and tried to read something from the ancient wood. He got flashes of images with time flowing around the tree, there was a sense of death and life fading but it was hard to read due to the utterly alien nature of the tree.

MacTavish, Singh and Constanza prowled around watching the surrounding area when Constanza heard a noise off in the distance which made his blood freeze. A long drawn out howling was coming from down in the valley in the direction of the village. The howl was quickly followed by another… and then another… and several more…

… then another howl, closer than the others replied.

After Bolan had recovered from his psychometry, they quickly headed down the hill towards the castle. Approaching from above, figures could be seen carrying lights and moving around outside the grounds. They seemed to be searching for something on the hillside.

As they drew closer it became obvious that the figures moving around were the staff from the castle. One of them saw the group coming down from the hillside and ran off towards the castle calling for Lawrence. Just as they reached the castle entrance Lawrence appeared to greet them, slightly out of breath as he trotted over hurriedly.

“Eloise has gone!” He blurted. “When we left her she was asleep, but then the howling started and we heard a terrible sound from the dungeon. There was an almighty crash and when father and I went to look, she had ripped the bars out of one wall then escaped up a ventilation shaft. We need to find her quickly!”

Reasoning she may be heading towards the village, they set off with Lawrence joining them.

As they reached the graveyard they stopped, dark figures could be seen moving around among the stones, several even perched atop one or two. Lawrence shone his flashlight towards the nearest and let out a gasp. The figure was crouched over with its fingers nearly touching the ground but it was still easily four feet tall bent over. Its iron grey skin was bare except for a few rags and tufts of matted fur here and there over its body. The face was a horrible cross between bat and wolf with a snout that snuffled and twitched as it turned to face them, its eye gleamed red in the torch light. 

Lawrence was frozen to the spot while Bolan and Constanza also seemed rattled. Singh raised his rifle and carefully took aim at the beast while watching the other shapes in the background.

Rallying his senses, Bolan stepped forward and greeted the creature with a cautious hail, his hands raised and palms open. The figure watched him step forward with a mix of curiosity and wariness but there wasn’t any feeling of hostility that Bolan could see.

Bolan, closing the distance slowly asked who they were but there was no reply, “Why are you here?”

“We came to find the lonely one.” The reply was a deep growl mixed with words uttered through sharp teeth.

Bolan was surprised at the answer and the fact it had spoken “Which lonely one?” he asked.

“The one that called us here.”

“Do you mean Eloise? Did she call you? Where is she? Did you change her?” Bolan began to ask more questions, trying to understand what was happening.

“We do not know Eloise, we came to find the one who is alone here.”

“How did you get here then?” Bolan was desperate for information, he had never heard of anything like these creatures before and he was fascinated.

“We came through the caves. Sometimes we live in the caves, sometimes we live under the ground, Sometimes we live in the old buildings. We travel in the dark.”

Bolan struggled to get much sense from the figure that slouched in front of him, sniffing the air and eyeing him as a bird might watch a worm. 

Lawrence was slowly starting to fall apart mentally. Turning to Singh, who still had his rifle raised, Lawrence cried “SHOOT IT! Kill it before it kills us!”

Singh, finger on the trigger didn’t fire but kept watching the figures in the darkness behind the lead one. He guessed there were seven or eight of them back there and he didn’t like the odds if it turned into a fight.

“Is this what Eloise looked like when she changed?” 

“No, she doesn’t look like these. She… she still… she looks more human than these.” He sobbed and he spun between the group, trying to get them to fight.

“But why did you come here?” Bolan was imploring, still trying to get something out of the beast.

It looked at him sideways, sharp eyes burning into his. “Here? This place? We came for food.” Bolan saw one of the other figures had come closer and seemed to be gnawing on a dried arm. With a shudder he realised it was probably from one of the bodies in the graveyard.

Lawrence was going round each of the group, begging them to kill these abominations. He took Constanza’s gun from him and turned towards the hunched figure.

“LEAVE US ALONE!” he shouted, his mind bending at the horror of what was happening. Singh began to squeeze the trigger on his rifle, his revulsion at these monstrosities was too much.

At that moment a noise behind them distracted Singh and a figure came out of the undergrowth around the roadside. Smaller but obviously similar to these creatures this one had tufts of blonde hair and wore the shredded remains of a woman’s dress. In the dim light it was possible to make out a face that bore a semblance to Eloise, only with a longer snout and a row of razor sharp teeth in her mouth.

Lawrence hadn’t seen her approach, he waved the pistol towards the crouched figure in front of him. Tears, or rain, streamed down his face as his trembling hand tried to aim the weapon. Unafraid it just looked back at him with mocking eyes.

“Is that Eloise?” Someone called out and Lawrence span to see her beastial form shuffle towards the graveyard.

“Oh my god!” he cried, stepping towards her. “Eloise, you have to come back to the castle.” He tried to pull her away but she pushed him back.

“NO! What have you done to her?” he cried, grabbing her and trying to stop her getting closer to the graveyard.

Without looking at him, she swiped a huge hand at him. His face exploded in jagged scratches of red as blood exploded from his face.

With a snarl several of the creatures leapt forward to take protective positions around Eloise who seemed almost hypnotised by the sight of the graveyard.

This was too much for Singh who finally squeezed the trigger further and let off a shot.

In the next few moments there was a frenzy of violence that seemed to shake the whole village. Furious snarls and howls ripped through the stormy night as the dark figures launched towards their attackers.

Singh fired several more times but his bullets just seemed to hit hard muscle and didn’t seem to cause any damage. He dropped the rifle and pulled his sword, slicing meat and bone before felling one. He found himself outnumbered but stood his ground. Despite taking some nasty wounds, he managed to almost gut one with a savage backhand swing of his sabre. The creature, realising it was heavily wounded attempted to flee. Turning to running it got only a few dozen yards before a chakram, expertly thrown by Singh, sliced its way into the back of its skull and it skidded to the floor without realising it was dead.

Constanza swung his club as hard as he could, the first few blows only seemed to enrage his opponents more but he finally managed to bring one down. He spotted two of them leading Eloise away and he set off in pursuit.

MacTavish meanwhile was fighting for his life. He had unloaded his new shotgun at point blank range into an onrushing figure but it seemed to just shrug off the blast. The next thing he knew he had the beast’s jaws locked around his arm and he dropped the shotgun on surprise. Somehow he managed to find the strength to pull it away and, realising his wound was serious, he made for the lights of the nearby pub for help.

Bolan, closest to the creatures, seemed frozen to the spot, moving at a snail’s pace as huge muscular bodies burst out of the graveyard and spilled over the road. He fired the pistol he had but each shot went wide. One shot finally hit something but the creature seemed to not notice. Rather it saw that several of its pack had been killed and it turned and set off after Eloise and her two guardians. 

Bolan headed for the rectory to try and find the vicar and get help there.

Constanza managed to keep them in sight for a while but there was too much of a gap to try and keep up. Their long legs seemed to move over the rough ground easily with a casual lolloping. He saw them heading toward the area of the Blue John caves and turned back to the others. Singh caught up to him as he was returning and the both went to find MacTavish and Bolan.

Bolan banged on the door of the rectory and was finally greeted by a quiet voice from the other side.

“Who’s there?”

Bolan explained what had happened and that there was a few injured people out here. The door opened and the vicar appeared, dressed in a long flannel nightshirt with a nightcap on his head.

“Bring them in then. Quickly, we must help them.”

Bolan turned and realised that there was nobody there behind him. Muttering an apology he walked back towards the road where he found Lawrence coming around from where he had fallen. The scratches across his face looked terrible but not fatal. Helping Lawrence up, Bolan spotted Singh and Constanza approaching and then headed to the pub after MacTavish.

They found MacTavish, drinking and pouring scotch over his wound in an attempt to clean it. He had burst in to find the landlord cowering behind the bar.

“What in God’s name is going on out there?” The barman asked, peering over the top of his bar when MacTavish had burst in.

“Just a wee spot of trouble. Mind if I have a drink?” MacTavish replied pointing at one of the bottles behind the bar with his uninjured arm. The barman pushed the bottle over toward him before slinking back down behind the bar.

There he had sat, drinking and trying to forget the last few minutes before the others rejoined him and they took Lawrence up to Castle Plum to break the news to Lord Vane that his daughter had gone.

Saturday, February 7th

After he had raged and screamed at anyone near him, Lord Vane had organised a search party led by the group and made up of staff and villagers. They combed the hills and the caves but there was no sign of Eloise or the grey skinned creatures.

As the evening drew in, realisation began to dawn on Lord Vane that he may never see Eloise again. He thanked the group for their efforts to try and save her and if there was anything he could do to help them, they had but to ask.

The rain had settled to a light mist by the time they headed back to the pub in Edale and to try and get some sleep before heading to Derby to investigate the factory that they knew had some connection to Gavigan.

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