Horror On The Orient Express

Constantinople 1204, Part One

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While resting in Venice, the Investigators are studying the medieval tome “The Devil’s Simulare” and its account of the sack of Constantinople in 1204 AD:

Financial debts and political machinations have led the warriors of the Fourth Crusade to capture and pillage Constantinople, capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire. Despite attempts at restraint, the city burns and suffers as so many fallen cities have before. Dark rumors of devils and Satan worship are also rampant.

After fighting off an ambush by mercenaries and an unholy creature lurking in the dark tunnels beneath the city, a group of seasoned Crusaders — Renaud of Flanders, Melisende of the Red Maidens, Martinus De L’Isles, and Gilles de la Grave — arrived before their commander, Count Baldwin of Flanders. The Count has been disturbed by both the lawless soldiers and the supernatural rumors. To deal with the later, he has been secretly consulting with a learned monk, Brother Merovac. On Merovac’s advice, Baldwin’s men had rescued a Venetian priest who had been tortured to raving madness.

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The priest ranted about a secret cult scouring the city for occult relics. He had stolen and hidden a clay tablet that, according to the cult leader, a Father Ramaldi, was a clue to the location of a statue that was the source of great evil power. The cult was torturing the priest, including cutting out his eye, to force him to reveal the hiding place, when he was rescued by Baldwin’s men. The Count then asked the team to recover this tablet from a niche beneath an image of the Virgin in one of the many looted churches in the city.

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After crossing the rioting city, they found the church already held by Ramaldi’s troops. Melisende snuck away to find a way in, while the others confronted the guards, arguing their way in with claims that they had been ordered there themselves. A scuffle broke out with Gilles brawling with the guards while Renaud and Martinus forced their way towards the other end of the ruins where Ramaldi and another robed cleric seemed up to something. A cloaked bodyguard revealed himself as a four-armed berserker and attacked.

From a hiding place in the ruined walls, Melisende observed Ramaldi completing some sort of sorcerous ritual. She interrupt with an arrow, but not before Ramaldi slashed the robed cleric’s hand with a strange knife. The cleric, cackling madly, placed something into the bleeding wound and scampered off towards the back of the church. Ramaldi cut through the air with the knife — and sliced through the stone walls where Melisende was hiding. She barely avoided the stroke and hurried through the church walls towards where the tablet was hidden. She located the image of the Virgin and a secret compartment holding a rectangle of clay covered with triangular markings. The cleric confronted her, seeing through a rolling eye in the bleeding wound in his palm.

After defeating the monster, Renaud grabbed Ramaldi’s arm and Martinus knocked away the knife. Ramaldi hissed that he’d could pay the plunder of the city to get the knife back, which tickled Renaud’s greed. He agreed to meet again the next day to work out a deal, if Ramaldi and his forces retreated. Ramaldi accepted, though he threatened consequences if Renaud went back on the deal. Left alone now, the other Crusaders noticed that Melisende had vanished, along with the tablet. Hopefully, she has just gone ahead to deliver it to Count Baldwin…

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Samwise

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