Horror On The Orient Express

Venice 1923, Interlude

interlude.jpgAn uneasy alliance has been arranged between the Investigators, ambitious industrialist Arturo Faccia, the supernatural response division of British MI6, and ghostly spirit of Melisende, the medieval warrior-nun. Two pieces of the Simulacrum are being stored and protected by an underground vault, security guards, magic wards, and a spell that binds Faccia’s life to their security.

The Investigators meet with Miss Avon, the representative MI6’s Section for Research Operations and she explained the history of her organization, which had been secretly observing their activities so far. Her superiors, all the way up to King George V, believe this alliance with Faccia is extremely valuable in the struggles against Selim Makryat’s own criminal organization and his plans to gain the power of the Simulacrum. She offered assistance by providing false identifies for Investigators, and decoy agents to confuse and misdirect Makryat. The effectiveness of this tactic would be enhanced if the Investigators would donate a square inch of skin, to be used with sorcery Faccia had picked up from Makryat. The Investigators were shocked and offended at this, and Miss Avon respectfully withdrew the offer. Miss Crispin also raised the idea that an organization of English women, inspired by the Order of the Red Maidens might be a useful thing to attempt once more, to help protect the homefront from supernatural menaces.

It was also agreed that Prof. Smith would be kept in the dark about these developments in the mission. Dr. Wilke did send a confidential message to Smith’s butler Beddows and assistant Violet to warn them of his suspicions that Smith might not truly be whom he appeared to be. Umar received a telegram from his Uncle Sayed, saying that he made important discoveries recently and hoped they could soon meet to discuss them.
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Faccia gave the Investigators a tour of his underground vault. Built to withstand bombing during the Great War, the vault has been made spherical, reinforced with iron, and warded with stones carved with “Aklo,” the ancient sigils some believe are the primal Atlantean system of magic — though Faccia views them simply as circuitry to channel vril energies. Two armed guards, one of Faccia’s men and one supplied by Miss Avon, will be on duty at all times.

To further insure the security of the Simulacrum, Faccia willingly, even enthusiastically, offered to have his life and soul bound to magical compact created by Umar. Faccia was sworn to protect the Simulacrum, and prevent anyone, including himself, from using its power, unless two of the Investigators mutually agreed to any actions. The casting of the ritual was physically taxing to Faccia. Dr. Wikle provided some medical assistance, though he took the opportunity to communicate his dislike and distrust of the industrialist.

Much remained mysterious about what really occurred back in 13th Century Constantinople. With the hesitant assistance of Maria as medium, Miss Crispin conducted a seance to
speak with spirit of Melisende. The ghostly warrior-nun related how she had, long ago, tried to find the secret of the strange amulet that had been used against Sedefkar. The symbols engraved on it were also found on standing stones erected on remote mountain tops in eastern Europe, where local pagans were said to dance and call down devils from the skies. She’d managed to trace the oldest of these to a circle of stones near a village built next to chasm in the March of Nordgau. The sinister monk Merovac had been there before her, posing as a witchhunter. After the villagers had dragged a local woman before him, claiming she was the leader of a witch coven, Merovac had vanished, leaving the people frightened and distrustful of each other.

Melisande’s recollections became vague at that point. She apparently found the same destination that Merovac had sought, the ancient carved standing stones. Then there was a cave and disturbing buzzing presences full of terror and promises. Something pulled and fought against the spiritual contact with Melisende. Dr. Wilke reached out to maintain the link, but his own spirit was pulled away to somewhere cold and dark, where curious inhuman intellects touched his mind and pondered over what events were in motion.

With Umar and Dr. Wilke believing the amulet important to the greater mission, the Investigators deduced the location of the village Melisende described — now known as Fassendorf in contemporary Austria, and packed up for the journey

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