Horror On The Orient Express

Constantinople 1204, Part Two

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In 1923, the Investigators continue to read of the strange events of 1204 AD in The Devil’s Simulare.

The team of Crusaders presented the recovered tablet to their commander, Count Baldwin. He praised their bravery, and took possession of the strange knife wielded by the scheming Venetian Ramaldi. After resting, the team is to take the tablet to Baldwin’s holy man advisor, Brother Merovac. In the barracks, Renaud is approached by another soldier, Sir Gautmaris, who whispers that agents of Father Ramaldi’s cult are everywhere and are watching to make sure he keeps his bargain of returning the knife for a reward.
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Guards accompany the team to Merovac’s secret location aboard a plague ship anchored off the busy docks of the city. The filthy, poorly maintained ship is said to be part of the effort to conceal Merovac’s presence in Constantinople, since he has earned a death sentence from the Turks for stealing holy secrets. In the dark hold of the ship, Merovac praised God and thanked the team for delivering the tablet to him. He produced five similar artifacts and stated that they can be used to control the power of a evil statue embodying the power of Satan. While some such as Ramaldi seek to use this power for themselves, Merovac says that he only wants to destroy it.

Somewhere in the captured city is an evil sorcerer, Sedefkar, who currently commanded the statue. His lair is hidden, but Merovac’s research and spies tell of someone luring Crusaders into sin and corruption and then taking their fallen souls for some dark purpose. If the team themselves pretend to seek such entertainments, they might gain access to wherever these tempted soldiers disappear to, and thus the location of Sedefkar’s lair.

To aide them, Merovac presented a small chest containing many holy relics. If a special prayer is said, the relics’ power will weaken the Simulacrum and make Sedefkar vulnerable to moral forces. As they are under orders from Baldwin to obey Merovac, the team agrees. Gilles, curious about the relics, peaked inside the reliquary and found instead an amulet of an unidentifiable metal, covered with occult symbols. Melisende thought she might have seen such symbols carved on a standing stone on a mountaintop, where superstitious peasants attempt to call on pagan powers.

That night the team located a dreary tavern full of soldiers drinking away their pain, and made contact with a man named Gaius. He led them to a underground feast and orgy. As the festivities rapidly grew frenzied and violent, the team trailed Gaius up into the upper levels of a circular tower. They found cells holding victims of torturous experiments, as well as Sir Gautmaris, who claimed to have followed and spied on the team to report back to Ramaldi. He’d been captured after discovering an altar to Satan in the rooms above. He suggested they flee from the horrors of the tower, but the team convinced him to show what he had found.

In a chamber above sat a life-sized statue of a perfect human form, sitting on a throne filthy with blood and offal. Sulfurous braziers smoked, and the walls crawled with images of the pits of Hell. Melisende tried to scratch and burn the statue, but nothing marred it porcelain-like surface. Sir Gautmaris chuckled, his flesh bubbling and reforming into that of Gaius. He invited the team to rejoin the pain and pleasure going on below, claiming the orgy would soon engulf the whole world. He then further transformed into a tall cadaverous man in robe and turban, the sorcerer Sedefkar. In the middle of his raving about being the Scion of the Skinless One, Melisende quickly struck with her blade. Sedefkar stumbled back, merging with the statue as it rose to become a rampaging golem. Blood and flames spilled and demons crawled from cracks. It was all the team could do to stay alive and distract the Simulacrum until Gilles could raise the reliquary and speak the strange prayer. The box exploded as beam of light shone out. Sedefkar shouted that he was not the worse thing they could call down into the world and the upper levels of the tower exploded around them.

Some terrible angelic presence, beyond what could easily be put into words, descended on them. When it passed, Sedefkar was left as merely a man wearing an odd suit of armor. He fell to a careful stroke from Martinus, and as his body melted into foulness, he swore than none living would benefit from their deeds this day, and that he would rise to join the One Without Skin.

Back at Count Baldwin’s headquarters, he congratulated the team on their heroism. Baldwin gave the strange knife to his lieutenant Miho, to take back to the city Zara for further examination. The pieces of the Simulacrum were sent on to Brother Merovac’s ship. A terrified messenger arrived saying the soldiers who had transported the artifact had been slaughtered! Everyone hurried to the docks to find it littered with blood-drained corpses. One soldier, revived by Renaud, was able to report that Merovac himself had attacked them in a murderous fury, carrying off the Simulacrum. The furious Baldwin ordered the team to join Miho’s order of Knight and track down the traitor. All agreed save Melisende, whose responsibilities to her own Order of the Red Maiden obligated her to seeks answers to what the strange amulet truly was.

Miho commented that had never trusted Merovac, who had a dark reputation in the East, where they called him “The Evil One” or, in Turkish Fenalik.

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Samwise

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