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MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – ENGLAND PART THREE

This was our first session of 2020 and this time the player that is Bolan couldn’t make it. I tried keep story moving but not have too much of it given aways as I wanted the whole group to be there for some of the meatier parts.

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

Things are getting Spicey

Tuesday February 3rd

The next morning, gathered at Bolan’s flat, Singh reported he had dealt with the bodies and painting from the flat. The others told Singh about their break-in and what they had found.

Feeling shaken after the recent traumatic events, Bolan wanted to have some time to try and recover himself a little. He opted to spend the day trying to try and calm down. Singh, Constanza and MacTavish conferred together to figure out what their next steps would be.

They had found a couple of possible leads in the cellar of the Penhew foundation, a warehouse in Limehouse and A shop in Soho. The first to visit the Chaudhary warehouse in Limehouse first, followed by Empire Spices in Soho.  

Limehouse

Situated close to some docks on the Thames, the warehouse was easy to find on Ropemakers fields. Passing by the dock area, there was only one ship nearby, the ‘Ivory Wind’, which was moored up within close range of the warehouse.

Watching the building for a few minutes, they spotted several workers moving around but nothing unusual. Deciding to take a risk, they strode into the front of the warehouse and wandered around as if they should have been there. Workers inside seemed to be too busy to care about a trio of strangers, so ignored them.

After a few minutes searching, they came across a stack of crates, all marked with the Penhew foundation as the point of origin. It was hard to tell exactly how many crates had been arranged here as they had been stacked several deep, but they estimated about 14 or 15.

At that point a shout went up behind them. A burley worker was walking towards with an angry scowl. Trying to stay cool, MacTavish explained they wanted to speak to Chaudhary about a possible shipping contract. The man, not entirely convinced, pointed towards an office on one side of the warehouse and told them to go in there.

The office was cramped, a large desk filling most of the room. Inside was a man in his mid-40s, wearing a suit and pouring over some papers on the desk. He had a bushy moustache and a kind face which broke into a smile as he they walked in. Greeting them warmly, he introduced himself as Puneet Chaudhary and asked what they wanted. MacTavish broke into a bluster, tried to convince Chaudhary that they had a worthwhile business deal that they’d like to discuss with him. He had whiskey he wanted to ship to China but wanted to keep it away from the export office.

For all his attempted charm, MacTavish was unable to convince Chaudhary. The warehouse owners face fell quickly into a deep scowl. He started shouting angrily at them, telling them that he didn’t want to sully his reputable business with such dealings. He turfed them out of the office and watched them closely as they left the warehouse.

Heading away and back into the heart of London, a hiss from a side alleyway drew their attention. A figure lurked at the edge of the alley, beckoning them towards the darkness. Cautiously moving towards the shape, they could see that there was only a single figure. As they approached, it revealed itself to be a man in his 70s cautiously watching the street around the Chaudhary warehouse.

“I know you. You’re that lot that went to see Barrington, he told me to keep a watch out in case you turned up. I’m John Craig, I’ve been keeping an eye on this place.”

He revealed he was an ex-police detective who had overseen the Egyptian murders. He’d been removed from the case and forced to retire early. Barrington was one of his former subordinates and Craig was helping to try and crack the case. Craig explained he suspected there was something going on between the foundation, this warehouse, a spice shop in Soho and the Blue Pyramid club.

After being told they hadn’t found anything useful in the warehouse, Craig told them he would be keeping an eye on the place a bit longer. He also said he would try and let them know if he finds something else out.

They left, heading to Soho, to find the Empire Spices shop.

Empire Spices

The spice shop was on a busy street, but few customers seemed to be going in and out. Waiting until there was a lull, the trio entered to find a myriad of pleasant smells filling the air. Herbs and Spices filled jars and bottles, which lined the walls. Tables around the shop floor had jars neatly arranged on them. From the back of the shop, a slender, incredibly beautiful woman, glided towards them. Greeting them with a delicate smile, she asked how she may assist them.

Singh asked about spices and made small talk with her for a while, trying to tease any information out of her that may be relevant. After a little discussion around popular Egyptian spices, the shopkeeper mentioned she had many contacts around the Mediterranean and the Middle East. She explained she used these contacts to help with gathering produce as well as provide information to expeditions bound for Egypt.

When asked if she remembered the Carlyle Expedition, she frowned for a second in concentration, as if thinking back and then said she did remember. She explained she had assisted the Penhew Foundation with information, guides and contacts to speak to when they got to Egypt. As well, she gave some background information about the region the expedition had been travelling to.

Singh, sensing there was something that she wasn’t telling them, drew himself up and stepped towards her. He growled that he knew she was hiding something, she should tell them quickly before things turned nasty.

Withdrawing from his menacing presence, the woman called out loudly.

“Edjo. EDJO! Come here now!”

A tall figure peeled itself out of the shadows, stepped quickly towards the woman. Placing himself between her and Singh he drew himself to his full height. Although not quite as big as Singh, he was able to still block the investigator from getting too close to the shopkeeper.

As the tension levels reached an almost electric level, the small bell above the door jangled noisily as a man in crisp white chefs clothing came scurrying in. He began to select spices, scooping up jars in his arms with loud clattering noises, hardly glancing at the others in the room but chattering away to himself as he gathered the jars.

Realising now wouldn’t be a good time to cause a scene, Singh stepped back, watching the man carefully. They left the shop with the woman watching them as they left.

The day wore on and by this time it was mid-afternoon. The Blue Pyramid club was a few streets away, so they made that their next stop.

The Blue Pyramid

The club itself was located over a row of shops with the small club doorway next to a greengrocer. After knocking, a smartly dressed doorman opened the door and greeted them politely, asking for their membership cards. Explaining they’re not members but would like to join, the doorman bowed and admitted them. Not being members wasn’t a problem as the club was happy to have new people join, he told them.

After a brief overview of the house rules, they filed up the narrow stairs to the club area. A small corridor with a pair of doors along its length, led to a ballroom. The doors opened to a small coffee room and a drawing room with few members sitting chatting and drinking. The ballroom was much busier. A stage at one end was the main focus of this room. A belly dancer was performing to a small crowd gathered in the room. Wall hangings depicting Egyptian scenes covered most of the walls, while a bar was near the door serving drinks to patrons. 

A heavy-set Egyptian man was wandering the floor and chatting to club members. Glancing over at the investigators, he plodded over and greeted them warmly.

“Hello. You are new here. I am Abdul Nawisha, owner of the Blue Pyramid and I welcome you to my humble club. I am very honoured to have you join us here.”

He chatted amiably with them for a while, discussing the club and how it got its name. When asked about any information about the string of Egyptian murders he politely explained that he knew of them but didn’t have any information about them. Only what he had read in the papers.

“I look forward to seeing you again here but please enjoy your time today.” He said before leaving to chat to others in the room.

Settling down in some chairs to watch the show, the group was surprised to have a round of drinks brought to them. They hadn’t ordered any, but MacTavish found a note saying “Meet me at midnight under the arches outside” written on his napkin.

There was no indication of who sent the note but, glancing round, MacTavish thought he may have caught one of the dancers looking their way.

Waiting in the club until nearly midnight, they left quietly and found a series of stone arches close by, a figure could be seen standing under one of them. When it spotted them, it came forward into the light, they could see it was one of the girls they had seen dancing earlier.

She came towards them with a hurried step and introduced herself as Yalesha. She warned them that they could be attracting attention in the club by asking the wrong questions, especially about the Egyptian murders. A cult used the club as a meeting point and she suspected they had a connection to the murders. Explaining she wanted revenge on the cult because they had murdered her boyfriend, Badru. She asked them if they could help her. He had been killed in retaliation when a member of the cult had made a pass at her. Badru had got involved and then been killed for threatening the man.

When they agreed to assist, she told them more about the cult’s activities at the club. Every month, a truck would arrive and take a large group of Blue Pyramid members to a secret location outside of London. The next meeting was to be soon.

As they talked, Constanza and MacTavish realised that there were a couple of men approaching from the direction of the club. At that point a large black car roared out of a side street and pulled up next to the group. Four men jumped out and the two others ran to join them.

Growling a challenge, five of the men rushed forward while one tried to grab Yalesha and pull her into the car.

Two of them rushed towards Constanza, one missing but the other hitting the Peruvian with a knife, drawing some blood. Constanza retaliated by smashing his club into the man and sending him flying with a sickening crunch.

Singh grappled with one, each man drawing blood from the other, while MacTavish tried to help Yalesha and get her attacker away from her.

Constanza’s blood was on fire now. His club made short work of the next two in his path while MacTavish and Singh finished the rest.

The last of the cultists slipped to the floor with a muffled thud. Despite taking a few wounds, it had been a short fight. Yalesha cautiously looked around for signs of any more attackers. Saying she wouldn’t be going back to the club because they must be onto her, she headed off into the night after leaving them with her contact details.

Gathering up the bodies and putting them into the car, they drove to more secluded area and dumped it along with the corpses.

Limehouse


As they had been curious about the contents of the crates in Chaudhary’s warehouse, they had planned to go back and break in. Arriving back at the address during the night when it was quiet, they carefully approached the front of the building. MacTavish was able to open the lock with only a minor effort and they slipped inside.

Finding the crates in the warehouse was easy as they hadn’t been moved yet. Prying open a couple of the crates was quick work. Inside there was a strange collection of valves, struts, machine parts and radio tubes. MacTavish pocketed one of the more unusual items to try and study it later.

Constanza meanwhile, had found a crate packed with strange statues, knives and what looked like the skin from a pair of feet. This monstrous find was cured and looked as if they could be worn like shoes. Shivering with disgust and carefully putting them back, Constanza closed the lid and they left the warehouse.

As they headed away from the warehouse, they heard a commotion coming from the docks area where a figure could be seen staggering drunkenly towards the ship they had seen earlier. Jeers rang out from the deck of the ship as the man stumbled his way up the gangplank. Everyone was so focused on watching to see if he would fall in or not that they didn’t notice the three of them, slipping away into the night.

MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – ENGLAND PART ONE

This is the first part of the England chapter from the Masks of Nyarlathotep that I’m running. The the other posts are available if you want to catch up.

This session was a little late running. We had planned to run it a few weeks ago but due to unforseen circumstances, we couldn’t. As a result we missed running it during the WeAreAllUs event being run by Chaosium in memory of the late great Greg Stafford.

I still ran this game with the Sartar Rune on the table in Greg’s memory. I hope he enjoyed the game because we did.

Grabber Granny

Prelude

On the Atlantic Ocean, a cruise liner ploughed through the angry sea on its journey from New York to Liverpool. A storm raged overhead, making the floors sway like the room of a drunk after a six-hour binge.

In four cabins below decks, Bolan, Constanza, MacTavish and Singh had each taken one of the books they’ve bought from Erica Carlyle. The books had been delivered to Kensington’s office and collected in a dash before boarding the first available ship heading for England.

Hearing they planned to head for England, Kensington provided them with the contact details for Mickey Mahoney. The editor of ‘The Scoop’, Mahoney was the last person that Kensington knew Elias had spoken to in London, so seemed like a good place to start in their task to retrace his steps.

The books seemed important somehow. The investigators wanted to understand what use they had been to Robert Carlyle. Four of the five books were in English, with the fifth in French. As none of the group could read French, that was put to one side. Bolan took the copy of ‘the Pnakotic manuscripts’, Constanza took ‘Among the stones’, and MacTavish had ‘Life as a god’. Singh had the copy of ‘Africa’s dark sects’ they had collected from the Ju-Ju house.

Bolan struggled with the archaic translated text. He managed to piece together some fragments that suggested there was another meaning hidden within the words. He could see that there was a deeper power hinted at if he could study it further. He also realised that books contained more information than people knew, he should study every book he could get. He would now take the opportunity to gather as many books as possible in case they had secrets within them, no matter the cost.

As Singh read through his, he was disgusted by what was within the pages. The book was about the writers travel within Africa, but had graphic details of the bloody and obscene practices some tribes carried out. There was also an almost step by step explanation of the creation of the soulless monstrosities they had fought in the basement of the Ju-Ju house. This horrified him further. Singh, a deeply religious man, refused to read this practice and after finishing the book, put it to one side, swearing he would never touch it again.

MacTavish had a similar reaction to his book. The exploits detailed within also many blasphemous and unspeakable acts committed in Egypt. These had performed in the name of something called ‘the Pharaoh of Darkness’. Finding the content nauseating, he carried on and found information about something called ‘the bent pyramid’. The unsettling text made the dour Scotsman even more moody and he began to withdraw further from interacting with the others. He preferred to find solace with his own dark moods.

Constanza struggled with his book. Not being a native English speaker he couldn’t follow the strange poems he was reading. There was a couple about faraway lands he had never heard of, including some country called Egypt. The book confused him and he ended the journey with a terrible headache and feeling deeply troubled, but couldn’t place why.

England

Friday Jan 30th

Arriving in Liverpool, the group quickly slipped through customs with no problems. Finding their way to the train station, they headed to London by the fastest train they could get.

Bolan, owned a flat in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden so offered to house the others for their time in England. They agreed and settled into Bolan’s apartment then made plans for the next day to visit the Penhew Foundation and offices of the Scoop the next day.

Saturday Jan 31st

Their first stop was the Penhew foundation, located on Devonshire Street in Central London. The building was hidden away down a couple of winding narrow streets. It was surrounded by a high iron fence and the gate to get in was locked firmly. A plaque to one side indicated the building was open to the public from Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Looking over the building, Constanza noticed a single figure walk by a couple of windows inside. It was a smartly dressed man in a crisp formal uniform of almost military style. The guard glanced out at them as they stood there but gave them little notice.

Realising that they may be drawing attention to themselves standing there, they headed for Fleet Street to find the offices of The Scoop. All the time as they travelled through the bustling streets, Constanza felt a sense of awe at this city. It was nothing like anything he had seen before and it was all captivating to him.

The Scoop

The office of the scoop was located on the third floor of a shabby building in the middle of Fleet Street. Climbing the stairs, they saw a bustling office with staff trying to all talk over each other as they tried to assemble the next issue of the paper. They were greeted by a flustered receptionist at the desk who was trying to juggle a stack of papers, a telephone and being talked at by two other people. When they mentioned they’re trying to speak to Mickey Mahoney, she turned and bellowed into the office with a voice that cut through the noise.

“Mickey! You got another bunch here!”

A mop of red hair popped up from the middle of a scrum of bodies clustered around a drafting table. A plump, stubble covered face looked out from below the hair, a large cigar gripped firmly between the grinning teeth. Smoke wafted around the face as the eyes studied them. Pushing through the crowd, the man moved quickly towards them despite his overweight frame. Reporters and staff scattered to get out of his way as he bore down on them.

“Got a story for me? Follow me boys.” he said as he approached the group and guided them towards an office in one corner of the room. Flopping into his chair behind a desk, Mahoney beckoned them in and waved at some seats.

“So, what can I be doing for you? Something juicy I hope.”

Between them they explained about Jackson Elias and how they had come to see him about his last movements in London.

“A real shame about that guy. Nice fella. I heard about his death just afterwards as it was all over the news wires.”

Mahoney told them about a couple of stories that Elias had been interested in and that he had been asking about The Penhew foundation. Sadly there wasn’t any juicy gossip about the bunch of dry and dusty Egyptologists. He gave them the headlines of the stories that Elias had pulled from the papers archives.

In exchange, Mahoney asked them to bring any interesting stories to him. He explained that Elias had offered to bring him some before he disappeared back to New York and he felt he was still owed something. Mahoney also hinted at buying any kind of sensational story he could put in the paper. Glancing around the office, candid photos along with news articles could be seen pinned to the walls. It was obvious that sex and violence were the two main selling points for The Scoop.

Spending a couple of hours in the archives searching the papers clippings, turned up the three articles that Elias had been interested in.

The first was about Miles Shipley, an artist who had been painting savagely monstrous scenes. These had captured the imagination of all who saw them and caused great interest in the art world. His art had become something of a sensation in London where it was hailed as a new form of art movement to rival anything being created on the Continent.

The second was about a series of murders and attacks that had taken place in Derbyshire. The article was short on details, more aiming at the shock sensationalism that The Scoop was known for. There was a brief note about the attacker by the sole survivor of the last attack. It was described as a grisly creature that had been driven off by the victim through luck more than anything.

The last article was about a body found in the Thames and was linked to a series of so-called ‘Egyptian murders’. These had plagued London for the last three years and this article offered a reward for anything which helped bring in the killer.

Mahoney confirmed that Jackson had gone to speak to the inspector in charge of the Egyptian murders, Inspector Barrington.

With these articles and some hints about what Jackson had been up to in London, they headed back to Bolan’s apartment for the day.

Sunday Feb 1st

New Scotland Yard

Arriving at New Scotland Yard they were ushered in to see Inspector Barrington. Barrington was a tired looking man in a worn suit who greeted them politely but with an air of tiredness. Explaining they had come to see him in connection to the death of Jackson Elias, Barrington expressed regret at hearing of Jackson’s death. He revealed that Jackson had come to see him with some story about a cult operating in London which he scoffed at. London was a modern, civilised city and Barrington hadn’t believe this crazy American when he was rambling in his office. Now, after the details of Jackson’s death, he wasn’t so sure.

Barrington made them a promise, bring him something he could use and he would help them. At the moment his hands were tied as he didn’t have anything solid to work on but he had a few leads he was following. He could provide officers if needed for a raid but only if there was proper evidence.

The plan now was to look into this mysterious painter. Bolan was determined to find out more about him so set off with MacTavish to visit some art galleries to try and track him down. Constanza and Singh wanted to search for any useful information about the Egyptian murders, so went to see what they could find in a nearby library.

Finding a large gallery that was open was easy enough but, walking into the gallery, Bolan was distracted by a collection of rare books on display. Succumbing to his new compulsion, Bolan wandered over to the books and tried to stuff a number into his pockets. An angry member of staff stormed over and confronted him when he was spotted. Trying to talk his way out of having the police called didn’t work. They left quickly with a confused MacTavish dragging Bolan away from the books and out of the gallery.

Nearby Singh and Constanza searched for anything that may be connected to the Egyptian murders before they stopped for a break. Constanza started idly flicking through a magazine, trying to understand more about the culture of this country he was in. One of the articles was about Miles Shipley, the very artist they wanted to find.

The article was thin on details about the artist himself was overflowing with praise from others who had bought his work or had seen it. Finally, at the end of the article, it listed his address.

Taking this information, Constanza and Singh found Bolan and MacTavish and they headed for Holbein Mews.

Chelsea

The area of Chelsea they found themselves in was run down but clean and quiet. The occasional passer-by on the street was dressed in Sunday best after church or visiting the pub. It was a far cry from the bustle of the inner city areas they had been in already.

The address was on a terrace row, the house stood out due to the barred windows and skylight in the roof which appeared out of place. The street was quiet and there was no sign of life as Bolan walked up to the door and rapped smartly on it.

A quiet shuffling noise inside followed before the door opened and a kindly old lady smiled at him. Introducing himself to the lady, Bolan politely asked if they could speak to Miles Shipley about buying one of his paintings.

The old lady beckoned them to enter and guided the group into a small parlour just inside the house. She introduced herself as Bertha, Miles mother. She offered them tea and then disappeared upstairs to speak to her son when they had been settled.

Returning after a long pause, she said Miles was quite busy and didn’t want to be disturbed at the moment. MacTavish brought up that they wanted to buy one of his paintings and cracked open his wallet. At the sight of the money, Bertha trotted upstairs at what seemed like a slightly faster pace. Returning quickly, almost pushing Miles in front of her.

Miles was a skinny, almost gaunt figure who glanced around the room with a nervous energy. His eyes kept darting back to his mother as if he was afraid of her in some way. He looked like he had been rolling in paint rather than using it to make art, his clothes and hands seemed to be caked in the thick layers of colour. He wiped at his hands with a rag and stuck it out to shake Bolan’s hand when Bolan asked him about buying one of his paintings. After a pause, Miles realised that Bolan wasn’t going to shake his hand and get it covered in paint. Withdrawing it, he waved vaguely towards the door, indicating they should follow him to his studio.

He led them upstairs to a loft room which had been converted into his art studio. The room was lit from several lamps hanging from the room and the skylight was painted over from the inside to block out light. Even with the lights burning the room felt dark and heavily oppressive, as if shadows formed by themselves.

In the centre of the room stood a large easel with a newly started picture resting on it. Pencil marks and blocks of colour covered the canvas. Next to the easel was a table. Paints, brushes and other paraphernalia covering the wooden top. The only other furniture in the room was a table in the far corner which was covered in more painting materials.

There was one door to a small cupboard opposite this table, a large gleaming padlock held the door closed. Two of the four walls held five finished paintings which Miles swept his hand towards with a wave.

The four investigators studied each of the paintings while Miles and his Mother stood nearby watching them. Miles continued to wipe at his hands with his rag while his mother simply stood watching them with a kindly smile on her face.

Each of the paintings was more graphic and horrific than the last. The first was some kind of alchemist’s lab, smoke spilled from vials while scientific equipment filled the background. In the foreground a reptilian humanoid was posing mid dissection of a cadaver on the table in front of it. The body it was cutting up wasn’t recognisable but the detail in painting of the entrails and blood that flowed seemed horribly realistic.

The second show a scene in ancient Egypt. A golden chariot was passing through a huge mass of people who had fallen to their knees. The pharaoh in the chariot was adorned in black and gold but his face couldn’t be seen as it was turned from the viewer. Behind the pharaoh was a pair of men, impaled on stakes, their internal organs spilled down to the ground and a pack of jackals fed on them.

Third was a night-time woodland scene. A yellow moon cast its light onto a group of naked men and women cavorting around a bonfire. Rising from the flames of the bonfire, a goat headed man seemed to be conducting the frenzied figure below.

The penultimate canvas showed a man being cut open by a silver dagger being held by a black-robed figure. There was an occult looking sigil carved onto his chest which seemed to twist and move while looking at it.

The last painting was a towering mountain, possibly in Africa, over which a monstrous creature was rising up. At the base of the mountain, a temple like building could be seen with figures gathered around it. Each of the figures had their hands raised to the god-like entity in worship. From each head, a red tongue or tentacle seemed to hang down.

Bolan’s mind reeled as he looked at the paintings. He stepped around each one, his vision swimming with each step until, with a shriek, he realised he had gone blind! He stumbled forwards toward the nearest painting, almost crashing into it when a strong, vice like grip grabbed his arm and guided him away.

“Careful now deary, you nearly had an accident there. I know his paintings are quite shocking. They’re not really my thing either. Come downstairs with me and have a nice sit down with a cup of tea.” the old lady cooed as she guided him with a firm hand towards the steps down. Singh, suddenly wary, followed them both downstairs to watch Bolan. MacTavish and Constanza stayed in the studio with Miles as he checked the painting hadn’t been damaged.

When they got downstairs to the parlour, Bertha settled the still blind Bolan on a sofa and pottered over to the teapot.

“Would you both like a nice cup of tea?” She said as she bent over the teapot.

Bertha picked up the teapot and then, with a speed that belied her aged appearance, swung the teapot in a tight arc at Singh’s head. With years of fighting experience, Singh was able to dodge the blow at the last second and the teapot swam through the air where his head had just been. Reaching for the knife at his belt, Singh realised that the old woman had been replaced by a tall lizard like creature. Its head had an almost crocodile like snout appearance and a fat tail swished behind it.

Its mouth hissed wide as it lunged again towards, claws raking the air where Singh had been seconds before. Once again he had dodged aside but now he was ready. Pulling his ceremonial knife from its sheath he cried out an alarm to the others upstairs.

“TO ARMS! TO ARMS!”

He swung his knife and was rewarded with a deep cut across the creature’s body. Hot blood spurted out of the wound and splashed across the floor.

Constanza and MacTavish had been trying to make conversation with Miles but the painter just muttered and didn’t engage with them. The faint cry from Singh came up the stairs and at first nobody seemed to respond. Constanza and MacTavish looked at each other, one hearing the shout, the other not fully understanding what it was. Miles responded faster. He began to try to distract them by suddenly becoming quite animated and to point out details in the paintings. It didn’t work. Both men headed for the stairs to help their friend, only for Miles to try and stop them. He managed to grab Constanza, stopping him but MacTavish was already past him, leaping down the stairs.

In the parlour Singh and the creature circled each other, wary and sizing each other up. The creature had expected to take Singh easily when he was distracted with Bolan but hadn’t realised he was armed. Snarling it swung again and a claw caught Singh drawing some blood but it was a light touch on him. Singh retaliated by driving the knife deep into the monstrosity. He was rewarded with a loud cry and his target slumping forwards, dead before it hit the ground.

Just at that moment Bolan’s eyesight began to return and as he blinked a few times, he began to make out details through the fog of his blindness. He blinked again and saw a hideous scaly face with glassy eyes looking at him. With another scream he jumped and nearly fainted again before realising that Singh was standing over the thing with his knife in his hand.

At that moment MacTavish burst in and saw the corpse on the floor as well. Realising that Constanza may be in trouble, he turned and ran back upstairs to find Constanza still struggling with Miles. Grabbing Miles from behind, he was able to separate the two.

Miles crawled away and sat in the corner of the room muttering and rocking leaving the pair to search the room. A small key lay on the floor where Constanza and Miles had been struggling. Scooping it up, Constanza realised it would fit the padlock on the cupboard door in the studio.

The padlock unlocked with a satisfying click and dropped off the door. Swinging open the door carefully, they could see a large sheet draped over a canvas inside the cupboard.

Constanza reached forward and pulled the sheet away to reveal a nearly finished painting below. The scene in the painting was a swamp with a small island in the middle. A stone altar sat in the middle of the island and all around the swamp, serpents massed on the ground and through the undergrowth.

The painting seemed to move and swim before their eyes. MacTavish felt himself being drawn, not just towards it, but into it. He could hear and smell the swamp around him. Constanza could feel the draw as well. At the last minute he snapped his mind back to the small loft room in London and grabbed MacTavish’s arm, whirling the Scotsman away from the painting.

The cloth was thrown back over the painting and the door shut quickly.

Leaving Bolan to recover, Singh searched round the ground floor of the house but there was little of interest. A search in the cellar revealed a hidden area filled with powder, potions and what looked like the unidentifiable animal parts. One corner of the basement was filled with a large stone tub with a metal sheet over the top. Singh approached cautiously and lifted the corner of the sheet.

In the middle of the tub, the decapitated head of a woman looked up at him. Singh, his mind already hardened to the horrors of war, wasn’t affected. He lowered the lid back onto the tub and carried on searching the basement.

Miles came back to his senses once he knew his ‘mother’ was dead. After Bolan and Singh joined them upstairs, he explained that a few years before he had been approached by a man in the pub one evening. The man offered him the ability to paint more interesting scenes than the ones he already had been creating. This strange man created a powerful drug and used hypnosis to send Miles’ mind exploring in other times and locations. After he had demonstrated this power and had Miles under his influence, the man had revealed his true form to Miles.

Using his influence, this creature had forced Miles to bring him a steady supply of victims who it would then eat. The paintings brought in money and Miles brought meat for it so he could keep getting the drug. Miles told them he had a few doses left which he kept in his room.

They agreed to help Miles dispose of the body downstairs and, after checking around the house further, they stopped to figure out their next steps.

To be continued…

Masks of Nyarlathotep – New York Part one

This is the beginning session of the first chapter from Masks of Nyarlathotep. If you need to catch up, all the other posts are on this site.

In game terms, this follows a number of years after the Peru introduction scenerio so I gave the players a chance to advance their characters based on what they had been doing over the years inbetween.

SPOILERS BELOW

1921 – 1924

After the events in Peru, the new friends of Jackson Elias each headed to their own different parts of the world. They all had their own share of the riches salvaged from the pyramid.

Elias, returning to New York, published the exploits in Peru as “The Hungry Dead” and kept in touch with each of them, sometimes calling on them for assistance in his travels.

James McTavish headed back to Scotland. He spent the next few years studying Archaeology and history in an attempt to understand more about the events in Peru.

Robert Bolan became the chief distributor for Elias books in the UK, even hosting him as part of a tour to promote “The Hungry Dead”. He was also determined to learn how to defend himself incase something similar ever happened again, so took up firearms training.

Guido Constanza used his money to learn to fly so he could travel more easily around Peru, helping out the poorer areas. He also studied forms of mesmerism for reasons known only to himself.

Knut Gerbil returned to Princeton to write several well respected papers on Mathematics.

Pranit Singh Dhillon, in keeping with his faith, gave away most of his money. He kept enough to allow him to travel to war zones around the world where he assisted with medical services.

1925 – January 5th

Four years later, early in 1925, McTavish, Bolan, Constanza and Singh each received a telegram from Jackson. He asked them all to meet him in New York on the 15th January as he had important information about an expedition to Egypt that had vanished a few years before. Gerbil, being in the US, received a phone call from Elias. He was told he should gather the others and meet him at the Hotel Chelsea, Room 410, at 8 p.m. Elias sounded worried and even a little frightened, something that was uncharacteristic of him.

Each of them traveled to New York as quickly as they could, with Bolan and McTavish meeting up to travel together.

Part 1 – My knife slipped

New York 1925

Jan 15th

New York has been brought to a standstill with a two-day snowstorm on January 2, followed by a fresh storm ten days later. Most of the city is under a heavy blanket of snow, with the roads blocks, railways covered and the sidewalks covered in snow.

They managed to gather at The New Grand Hotel at Broadway and 31st Street in South Manhattan, only a few blocks from the Chelsea.

On the 15th, they headed to the Chelsea and arrived at 7:30pm ahead of time and making their way up to room 410. Knocking on the door met with no reply. Listening carefully, there was possibly a faint noise within but after a short pause and another firm knock there was still no reply. McTavish decided there was a problem so proceed to give a heavy kick to the door. The lock broke apart with hardly any pressure and he barreled into room which was in darkness. From the dim light coming through the hotel window, he could see two figures turning towards him. One in the centre of the room and one climbing out of the window onto the snow covered fire escape.

As he entered the room he felt, rather than saw, the blow that narrowly missed his head from the 3rd person in the room who had been behind the door.

Gerbil was next through the door and instantly went for the light switch. Flicking it on, the room was bathed in weak light from the single bulb. The two men in the room were black while the one climbing out of the window was whites, each of them were dressed in shabby suits and wore a headpiece with a strip of red flannel protruding from the forehead. Brutal looking knives sat tucked into sashes around their waists and hands moved towards the hilts of each ones.

Wasting no time, Constanza charged forward and swung his club into the chest of the one in the centre of the room and there was sickening sound of breaking ribs along with the heavy expulsion of air from the mans mouth.

Singh lept for the man climbing out of the window and drew a deep slice in the mans back with his knife.

Bolan, hovering near the door, pulled his pistol that he’d been training with and called out to the room for everyone to freeze. However his voice was lost in the noise of fighting and nobody noticed.

Gerbil, following Bolan lead tried the same trick, pulling his imported Luger from his jacket but again, nobody heard him.

McTavish was locked in a viscous hand to hand fight with the man who had tried to attack him. They traded blows with each one managing to land hits on each other. McTavish, schooled in brawling on the streets of his native Scotland, finally managed to get the upper hand and brought his fist down squarely in the middle of the attackers face with a crack. The man slumped to the floor with a grunt, McTavish standing over him and wiping blood from his own wounds.

Constanza’s club connected again and snuffed his targets life out with another hard swing.

Meanwhile, Singh had physically subdued his target, who was cursing and swearing, and dragged him roughly back into the room where they all took the time to survey the scene.

The room was ransacked. Clothes, papers and other items had been tipped up and thrown about the room but that wasn’t the most shocking thing. They gathered around the bed in the room. Lying on his back with his eyes glassy in death and a grotesque symbol carved in his forehead, was their friend Jackson Elias.

Singh put his knife to the throat of the man he held and demanded to know why they had murdered Elias. The man, in a thick New York accent, told Singh exactly what he could do with that question along with a few other colourful suggestions about what they could all go and do with themselves, their mothers and their sisters. His blood boiling at the sight of Elias’ mutilated corpse, Singh pointed out to the man, they had his friend as well and carefully slit his throat before letting his body drop the floor.

Casually reaching down, Singh takes the head dress from the twitching corpse and, after examining it, pocketed the rough fabric headpiece.

Aware of all the noise, Gerbil quickly darted to the door and checked the corridor. A few floors down he could hear shouting while several faces poking out of doors which quickly disappeared when he looked up and down. He pushed the door closed but couldn’t lock it, the smashed lock was now useless but it held shut with the shattered pieces wedging into the frame.

Bolan and McTavish began to search the room and found a number of interesting items that the three attackers seemed to be trying to escape with. A letter addressed to Roger Carlyle, a business card for an Edward Gavigan, a matchbox for the Stumbling Tiger Bar, a photo of a yacht with some chinese junks in the foreground, a business card for Emerson imports with a name scribbled on the back, a letter to Elias from a Miss Atwright from Harvard University and finally, a flyer advertising a lecture by a Professor Anthony Cowles.

Gerbil could hear heavy footsteps coming up the stairs, suddenly there was a heavy banging on the door shouts of ‘POLICE! OPEN UP!’  They all turned to escape out of the window, fearing to be caught in a crime scene. As the door was pounded again, Bolan, the last to leave, tripped and fell over the scattered items on the floor. As he rose the door burst open and two uniformed police officers came into the room, pistols drawn. “FREEZE BUDDY!” one of them yelled and Bolan raised his hands in surrender.

The two officers secured the room, removing the pistol from Bolan and carefully checking the bodies on the floor. The unconscious attacker was handcuffed, along with Bolan. They hadn’t seen anyone leaving and by the time they had carefully checked, the rest of the group had made good their escape and was heading back to the hotel.

After a wait that seemed to Bolan like forever, a a heavy-set man in a neat but poorly fitting suit arrives. The two officers greet him as Lt Poole and give him a run down of the events as they see it. One explains he saw Bolan making a run for the window when the came in and how they found the three corpses lying in the room, along with the one unconscious guy by the door.

“It looks a lot like the other murders from last year, Lieutenant.”  

Poole walked around the room, pausing to examine the mark on Elias’ forehead.

“Did you do all this?” Poole asked grimly.

“We had come to see Jackson Elias and found him dead with these men in the room.” Bolan blurted out.

Pooles head snapped round. “We? Is this guy a friend of yours?” He pointed at the dead white man with his slit throat.

Bolan stammered out that he hadn’t seen the man before. Poole eyed him carefully then told one of the policemen to go get the receptionist. When she came up, she confirmed she had seen Bolan and some other men arrive at the same time.

“OK pal, start talking. You say you came here by yourself but she says otherwise. You break into the room and single handedly kill two guys and knock out a third.” Poole eyed up Bolans size and looked back at the door.

“You got a lot of muscles for such a little guy. Plus you came packing heat but didn’t need to use it. I think you and I had better have a little chat down the station.”

Turning to the police officer left in the room he gave orders for nothing to be touched until the photographer turned up.

“OK limey, let’s go find a nice cosy room down at the station, where we can have a talk.” Poole led Bolan away and took him to the local police precinct.

After over an hour of questioning Poole finally released Bolan after saying he had nothing on Bolan but would be watching him.

“Something’s not right with your story, you’re not telling me everything but I’ve got nothing to hold you on besides being at the crime scene. You had no blood on you and I don’t believe you have it in you to take out three guys single handed. You’re up to something and I’m goin’ find out what. Get outa here ya mug.”

Bolan scurried for the door and as he left the precinct, he saw the 3rd attacker from room 410 being led out of the building by a couple of police officers and a plain clothed man but he wasn’t able to get a good look at them.

Heading into the cold night, Bolan made his way back to the hotel through the snow.

Jan 16th

The next morning, the group gathered for breakfast to plan what to do next. While reading through the morning paper, there was a brief article by Rebecca Shosenburg about the murder of Elias.

McTavish, taking note of one of the items they found in room 410, phoned Harvard University and manages to speak to Miss Atwright who had written to Elias. He pretended to be following up on Elias’ request for a book and Atwright checked the details. Elias had asked for a copy of Africa’s Dark Sects  but their copy mysteriously disappeared from the Widener Library several months before Elias requested it.

By “mysteriously,” she means that one day it simply vanished. “There was an unspeakable odor in the collection the day we noticed the Sects book was missing.”

Thanking Miss Atwright, McTavish asked if she could try and find down another copy, to which she said she would let them know. He then tried to track down information about Professor Anthony Cowles, another lead from a leaflet one of the men in 410 had tried to steal. Phoning the Schuyler Hall at New York University, McTavish was told that the Professor had given a talk recently but had gone back to the Miskatonic University where he was in residence.

Deciding to split up, Bolan, Constanza and Gerbil headed to the police station to try and find out what was being done with Elias’ body. McTavish and Singh went to the New York Library to do something…

Arriving at the Police station, Bolan asks duty officer at the desk about the body recovered last night. Phoning up for the detective in charge the officer asks them to wait and shortly after, Poole arrives and grunts in annoyance at seeing Bolan.

“You again. What do you want now?”

Bolan inquires about the body of Elias and what is happening to it. Poole, annoyed by Bolans questioning, tells them the body is being dealt with by Jacksons publisher, Jonah Kensington.
Over at the Library, McTavish and Singh spent a few hours digging through newspaper articles. They managed to find a few, all written by Shosenburg, relating to a series of murders around New York. In the descriptions, each of the victims had all mutilated with a symbol carved into their foreheads, similar to how they  had found Elias. A more recent article described how the police arrested Hilton Adams who is now on death row awaiting execution.

The two groups meet back at their hotel later in the afternoon to try and figure out their next move.