Horror On The Orient Express

Venice 1923, Part Three

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Previously on Horror on the Orient Express

After a night of searching, the other Investigators located Dr. Wilke’s hiding place and convinced him to return to the hotel. The doctor recounted a visit he’d had during the night: something that claimed to be Lilly had located him and requested to enter and speak with him. She said she was concerned about his distress and offered to do what she could to help, but Wilke refused her and ordered her away.

In the morning, conditions in Venice continued to deteriorate, with panic growing and spontaneous witch hunts breaking out. Miss Crispin visited the library again and found more scattered references to activities of the Order of Red Maidens, from medieval times to the Great War, though there was nothing after the bombing of the Convent of St. Agatha.
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Marino Innocenti arrived, dragging his diving equipment along with him. Dr. Wilke examined him, finding unexplainable atrophy in his limbs. Many in Marino’s shanty town had been similarly afflicted. Concerned, the Investigators decided to supply them with clean food and water so they could avoid further contamination. Marino was willing to provide instruction in his diving equipment, and there was much discussion on who should go into the water in search of the Simulacrum fragment. Dr. Wilke volunteered, though his elderly health vetoed this. Miss Johnson was the most fit, though the claustrophobia she had developed from her encounter with the Head of the simulacrum was a concern. Finally Umar was selected.

With a cold driving rain pounding them, the Investigators took Marino’s boat to the canal beneath the ruins of St. Agatha. After diving in, and an exhausting search through the murk and mud, Umar spotted a oddly clean piece of stone under barnacle covered rubble. The water grew much fouler and fish-like creatures began to swarm Umar and attack the boat. Miss Johnson helped Umar clamber aboard, along with the Torso of the Simulacrum — which was spewing a foul liquid from it stumps. Dr. Wilke skewered one of the fish creatures with his sword cane, but when it was dragged aboard he could see it was more a headless torso with a snapping mouth than any normal sea life.

The Investigators scrambled ashore, only to be attack by a massive hulk of flesh that charged out of the water towards them. With Wilke about to be crushed, and Umar unable run in the diving gear, Miss Crispin grasped the Simulacrum piece, to bond with it and calm the artifact, as described in the Sedefkar Scrolls. The crushing weight of infinite, empty void fell on her mind, but the taint of the Simulacrum faded, and the attacking creature dissolved into slime and a scattered of human rib cages and hips.

After regrouping at their hotel, the Investigators encountered Maria, who appeared possessed by the ghost of Melisende, a warrior of the Red Maidens, who claimed to have wandered the Earth for seven centuries, after a failure to destroy the Simulacrum at Sedefkar’s death. She insisted that the only hope to delay the doom it brought was to scattered and hide the pieces. The danger of gathering them was too dangerous, and outweighed any hope that the assembled artifact could be destroyed. The Investigators said they would take that risk, and the spirit insisted they would only be given one chance to achieve this.

A second visitor was Arturo Faccia, who treated them to dinner in thanks for saving Venice. He offered to provide a place to store and protect the Simulacrum, while the other fragments were recovered. Dr. Wilke objected strongly, saying they had no reason to trust a gangster who threatened their lives. Umar was inclined to take up the offer — on condition that Faccia be magically bound to the agreement, which he agreed to. Wilke was still not convinced. Finally the idea was raised that a multi-party agreement be made. Faccia would be assisted by agents of the British Government (whom Miss Johnson seemed to have strong connections with…) as well as the otherworldly supervision of Melisende. Each factions would keep an eye on the others, bound by the mutual desire to keep the Simulacrum away from Makyrat and other malevolent parties.

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Venice 1923, Part Two

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Conditions in Venice were slowly getting worse, with the polluted canals and growing fear about the recent killings.The gloomy Winter weather felt oppressive and the smell of decay and smouldering fires drifted through the city.

The Investigators had a morning visit from Carabinieri Captain Raimondi who was investigating the murder of Paolo Rischonti back in Milan. Rischonti was being painted as a communist terrorist and the police made it clear they wished to settle the case by having the Investigators sign statements that Rischonti had attempted to recruit them. It was for fear of their own safety that they happened to flee Milan in the middle of the night around the same time as his death…
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The senior Gondolier Alfio was hired to row the Investigators to the crumbling island house of Teodore Idoni, the book collector who has acquired the Devil’s Simulare. He explained that he had been looking for the book for some while. He had been surprised to find it being sold by the library, since he had assumed the book destroyed along with other treasures at the Convent of St. Agatha, which was bombed in the Great War. Idoni was willing to sell the book at a high price, but an arrangement was made for the Investigators to borrow it for 6 months for a deposit and lesser fee.

On the way back their boat was nearly upset by strange water creatures, but they kept themselves upright until they could frantically row back to the city.
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That afternoon they met up again with Alfio who had promised to show they a sight few tourists ever visited: an underground burial catacomb beneath the city. The bodies there were scheduled to be saved from the rising waters and reinterred, but Alfio knew the way through the flooded passageways to where they rested today. As the Investigators wondered at the walls of skulls and stacked bones, Alfio suddenly pitched over, bleeding from a concealed bite wound on his neck. Surrounded by darkness and scampering rats, the Investigators were address by Lilly the self-described daughter of Comte Fenalik. She inquired after their wellbeing and explained that as they were beginning to suffer the effects of the Baleful Influence, their best option was to hand over the Simulacrum fragments to Fenalik and walk away from the whole matter. She acknowledged their declining of this offer, and said she would be nearby, to watch over them and offer what assistance she could in their quest.

Though the Investigators had their hands on the Devil’s Simulare, they were still uncertain about where the fragment of the Simulacrum might be. Prof. Smith’s notes said that it had been brought by Napoleon’s soldiers during his occupation, so Miss Crispin returned to library research, eventually finding in, the Diary of Capitaine Dubois, an account of the torso of a statute that was being used for satanic worship. Unable to break or damage it, the officer gave the idol to the care of the Order of the Red Maidens, who promised to seal it away, if it could not be destroyed.

The Red Maidens were said to have worked under the cover of the Nuns of St. Agatha, so maybe the torso had been taken their convent — and perhaps fallen into the canal when it was bombed and collapsed in the War? A would-be treasure hunter who lived in one of the shanty towns outside the city was said to have diving equipment, so Umar went to locate and arrange something with him.


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Meanwhile, Miss Crispin and Miss Johnson attended the funeral of the father of their new acquaintance Maria. Also present at this dismal ceremony was Benito Andriani, whom they had met back in Milan. The surprised Benito said that his employer, industrialist Arturo Faccia wanted to speak with them. Also lurking around was Georgio Gasparetti, who was Maria’s secret fiance. The group was then joined by Blackshirt Alberto Rossini, who attempted to force Maria to leave with him. Benito insisted that it was none of their business, but the women insisted on interfering. Maria herself though proved capable of slashing one man’s face and snapping another’s arm. Rossini retreated, swearing he had Mr. Faccia’s support and they would regret the incident.

Umar had located the treasure hunter, though he found him, like others in his camp, in poor healthy and suffering from weakness and spasms in his limbs. An arrangement was made that the young man would visit them and Dr. Wilke would treat his illness in return for help searching the canal.

Back their hotel, the Investigators were visited by Benito, who was to bring them to Mr. Faccia’s villa for a little chat. They balked at the idea of putting themselves at Faccia’s mercy, Dr. Wilke in particular insisted that if Faccia wanted to talk to them, he should come to them, Benito was enraged to the point of violence and insisted that Faccia would be furious at this disrespect. When Umar arrived, he smoothed things over a little, by saying that if Benito would put his own life up as guarantee, they would go. Except for Dr. Wilke, who still refused to budge.
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At his seaside villa, Faccia proved to be more amused than angry at the escapades. He wished to discuss why his sometimes business associate Selim Makryat was interested in the Investigators and what they knew about the fragments of statuary Makryat was looking for. Faccia was not pleased by being ordered about by Makryat, when he got little in return. He believed Makryat know secrets about controlling the energy source known as “vril” and that the Simulacrum was a generator of this force. He and the Investigators agreed that would prefer Makryat not be the one with such knowledge and power. They make a tentative pact to cooperate towards this goal. He also agreed to intervene in Rossini’s interest in Maria.Faccia ended the meeting by apologizing for what might be in store for Dr. Wilke; it was unavoidable that certain lessons be taught

Back in Venice, Dr. Wilke realizing himself that he might be in danger, gathered up the team’s luggage — and the Simulacrum pieces — and with Alfio’s help, went into hiding at an empty apartment. There he waited, shotgun ready, for what might happen next.

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Venice 1923, Part One

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The Investigators fled Milan into the Italian countryside, the Head of the Simulacrum restless in Miss Crispin’s carpetbag. They hoped to find a place of refuge, but the long shadow of the King in Yellow stretched out after them. A red morning with two suns rose and the worm-men literally crept out of the woodwork, demanding someone take up the Pallid Mask. Miss Crispin’s will to resist was weakening when Miss Johnson snatched the Head away from her — and unfortunately falling under its spell herself. Wearing the Head she saw a distant vision of a strange city and a dry voice asked if she would be the new Herald. The vision became a nightmare of London transformed into Carcosa, and she declined the offer


"Then put down the Pallid Mask
"I leave it to the Skinless One to reclaim his own
“He will come for it, anon”

Miss Johnson could not resist the impulse to look upon the King in Yellow, and collapsed screaming.

A few days of peace followed before the Investigators headed to Venice with of two goals: a pieces of the Simulacrum supposedly brought into the city during Napoleon’s occupation, and the “Devil’s Simulare.” They found the historic city gloomy in winter, and suffering from an oily slime polluting its famous canals.

Scholarly tradition placed the original copy of the Devil’s Simulacrum at the Church of San Marie Celeste, but as an grey bearded gondolier, Alfio, informed the Investigators, that Church had burned down in a 16th Century conflagration. A Navy Academy stood on the bones of the old building. Umar found his way to its basement where, amidst standing water fouled by the canal, were signs of a forgotten order of female warriors. Also numerous graffiti of cats.

Miss Crispin identified them as The Order of The Red Maidens, and further research turned up folklore about the order defending peasants from supernatural menaces while their men were off on the Crusades. Less reputable scholarship also connected them with a secret cult of the Goddess Bast than survived into the middle ages under the guise of nuns of St. Agatha — a saint who, among other characteristics, was said to appear in as a cat to those who called on her aid.

Umar took to the library trying to find something of the fate of the book. He found hints that volumes from the burned library had ended up in the library’s archives, but had been sold to a collector for funds and needed shelf space. The way had been made easier, since earlier in the year a Prof. Stragliani had also been following the exact same trail.

Dr. Wilke had spend his time looking into some strange deaths than had been plaguing the troubled island city. Two people had been found dead, drained of blood. Talking his way into the morgue he discovered that the victim’s wounds were similar to those on the bodies of those attacked by Count Fenalik and his spawn back in France.

Miss Crispin noticed that the day, February 5th was the holy day of St Agatha. The city had a convent dedicated to her, but it had been bombed during the war. The nuns had all been killed and half the building collapsed into the canal. Miss Crispin felt moved to take a candle to light at the ruins — as well as some sardines for any cats who might show up.

Accompanied by Miss Johnson, she went to the remains of the church and found there was another visitor, a young girl named Maria Stragliani. She had recently lost her father and felt an impulse to deal with her sorrow by a pilgrimage to the Church. With a little hypnotic prompting Maria revealed further that a stray cat — who also made an appearance — was the one who had suggested that she come. She said that her father had been obsessed with finding a “devlish” book but had fallen sudden ill and died before finding it. The funeral was in two days and the two women would be welcome to attend. A large red-eyed crow was spotted spying on the group, though the cat chased it away.

Umar and Miss Johnson planned to visit the collector who had bought the book, while Dr. Wilke continued to pursue any clues or connections between the murders.

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Milan 1923, Part Three

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The Investigators decided their most important tasks was looking into what is going on at La Scala and the trouble production of Aida. Preparations started out with the disturbing discovery that Dr. Wilke’s playing cards, used for divination previously, had all turned yellow.

Police were stationed at the theatre, and were not enthusiastic about letting strangers wander around. Caterina appeared and explained that these were the people who has saved her, and insisted they be allowed to tour the backstage. Chaos and confusion were the order of the day as cast and crew struggled to get the show ready. The surreal world of artifice and (to Miss Crispin’s point-of-view, morale degeneracy) left the Investigators a little unsettled.

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They did reach the workshop of Paolo Rischonti, prop manager of La Scala, currently missing and under suspicion for the kidnapping attempt on Caterina. They found scraps Rischonti’s mad plans for staging The King in Yellow and evidence that he frequently bought many eccentric items and curios from Milan junk shops. Dr. Wilke located a secret passage in the undercity of MIlan, as well an empty, abandoned chest. A search of the discovered a concealed stone tile with a golden occult symbol: The Yellow Sign. Umar had encountered this cult of art and madness in the past and knew how dangerous they were. The Yellow Sign could not be unseen. Even more disturbing to Umar was the growing suspicion that the magic his uncle had taught him involved calling on forces beyond this realm, and beyond the teachings of his faith.

The investigators descended the stairs into a section of the city sewers. Dr. Wilke attempted to divine the route that they might follow, but his magic only brought down a swarm of the worm-men down on them, from which they barely escaped. Back up in the theatre the La Scala manager had become enraged about strangers wandering around causing problems. Aida must go on, and the police promised security would be increased. As crowds gathered, Umar noticed a couple crewmembers making hand signals of the Yellow Sign. He confronted them, posing as a cultist himself, insisting that they were the ones not informed about current plans. He was told there would be a meeting that night, when Umar could explain what he was talking about to Paride Pavoleri, a star of the opera and chief of the cast and crew who had seen the Yellow Sign, though not the ultimate leader of the cult.

Later that night found everyone at a subterranean lair where Cultists were preparing a ramshackle rehearsal of the King in Yellow. Some of the cast and crew of La Scala thought they were on the threshold of a art revolution that would change the world, others that this was just avant garde performance art. Paolo Rischonti, master of the Cult finally appeared, dressed as the Stranger and wearing as the Pallid Mask, the face of the Sedefkar Simulacrum.

Rischonti demanded the Investigators explain why, if they were a branch of the Yellow Sign themselves, they interfered with the abduction of Caterina, who was to have been brought here to rehearse the role of Cassilda of Carcosa. While Dr. Wilke played fawning cultist, Umar acted outraged that Rischonti was rehearsing the play under these shabby conditions. You do not rehearse the King in Yellow, you just do it. Rischonti agreed that if his Cassilda was delivered to him, ready to perform, on the night of Aida’s premiere, he would wait and present a complete performance of the great play for all Milan to see.

Back at the hotel, the Investigators struggled to build a plan around this thread of possibility. They had a day to rest and recover, but attempts to calm each others nerves and steel themselves for the coming struggle met with little success, perhaps due to simmering hostilities and resentments in the team. A desperate plan was eventually put together.

Miss Crispin convinced Pavoleri (with some hypnotically persuasive) to deliver a message to RIsconti: Caterina would be ready to perform, but had to meet with him at an isolation location to discuss important matters. The Investigators waited, ready for violence, at a desert warehouse, Miss Crispin dressed as Cassilda as bait. The Stranger did appear and, as he detected the deception, met with a hail of gunfire. He collapsed as waves of worm-men appeared. While Umar attempted to hold them off with holy light from the Koran, Miss Crispin snatched the Pallid Mask off Rischonti — just barely managing to resist the lure of putting in on herself.

Dr. Wilke finished off the badly wounded Rischonti and Umar used the last of his will power to keep his left arm from grabbing the mask by itself. Nerves at the breaking point, the Investigators decided to get out of Milan as quickly as possible.

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Milan 1923, Part Two

Aida.jpgAfter arriving in Milan, the Investigators discovered that the Brothers of the Skin were active in the foreign slums of the city and that the Makryats had connections with the industries that were thriving under the new Fascist government. Few clues had yet been found leading to where a fragment of the Simulacrum might be.

Captain Raimondi of the Carabinieri stopped Umar in lobby, asking about his reasons for wanting a weapon permit. Miss Crispin convinced him that they were relying on Umar for protection, and the officer says the paperwork should be completed shortly. A visit to Milan’s thriving fashion district provided new clothes to wear to the coming party, their budget kept in line by Dr. Wilke’s attitude and stinginess.

They then visited the University library to look into the strange names and places mentioned in the playscript snuck into Caterina’s notes. A long day of research turned up only a French journal account of a performance in a private club that left audience members mentally disturbed and muttering about “Carcosa” and other seeming nonsense.

In hopes of gaining some helpful omens, Dr. Wilke performed some card divination. It took some effort, but the cards did suggest some coming changes and dangerous shifts of power. Also, for some odd reason, one of the Kings in his deck became stained yellow.

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A car hired by Caterina whisked the Investigators to a noisy, champagne and jazz fueled party at the mansion of elderly art patron Flavio Conti. Dr. Wilke and Miss. Johnson kept an eye on opera star Paride Pavoleri (who had been behaving oddly at rehearsals), Miss Crispin mingled, and Umar stood off to the side of the festivities. There he caught the eye of Caterina, who was trying to extricate herself from the La Scala’s prop master Paolo Rischonti. She explained that Rischonti is constantly trying to convince her to support a new, lavish production of a play he is designing. After she excused herself to get ready for a performance for the party goers, Umar chatted with the manic prop master, who was alternatively boastful and protective of his plans to stage an obscure French play that will revolutionize theatre. Glimpses of his sketches showed sets and stagings beyond anything La Scala, or any actual theatre, could produce. After shaking Umar’s hand, he rushed off. Umar left arm was struck by a spasm of pain…

Caterina appeared on a balcony and dazzled all with the aria from Aida. For an encore she began a second, strange, discordant piece, Cassilda’s Song, that upset her as much as it did the crowd. She fled as the jazz band started to get the party going again. Dr. Wilke, hurried after her. The others conferred from a minute before following.

Dr. Wilke tried to locate where Caterina has vanished into the mansion, and encountered an armed gentleman who was also looking for something. Dr. Wilke sent him off in the wrong direction, before hearing a scuffle from a servants’ stairwell. The other investigators also ran into the searching man, who asked about “the little men” he was pursuing.

Dr. Wilke meanwhile made his way to a side door and spotted a group of very short, pale men stuffing Caterina into a large black car. Distracting the little men with magic, he managed to get into the front seat of the car but was unable to get it started before being discovered. When the others arrived, a melee broke out between the Investigators and the little men — who were revealed as fanged inhuman creatures. The Investigators managed to get the upper hand, command the car, and with Miss Johnson at the wheel, escape with the dazed Caterina. In the glovebox Dr. Wilke finds the rental papers show the car had been hired by the Paolo Rischonti.

After a night in a nondescript hotel, they reported the events to the Milan police. Caterina backed up their story, and the police insisted they will handle the investigation now. Umar tried to see if this weapon permit can be expedited, but the bureaucratic process would not be hurried.

Back at the Grand Hotel, they again encountered the gunman from the party, Benito Andriani. He explained that he works for Arturo Faccia, who was concerned about what disrupted the party. He would like to know what information the Investigators have. A little magical influence from Dr. Wilke led him to give more than his share of information and Benito related that the bodies of the little men were clearly not human and were being examined by another of Faccia’s men, one who is knowledgeable about such things. When asked if he could assist with Umar’s permit, he said he couldn’t help there, but handed over a pistol of his own. He departs, saying he would see if Mr. Faccia might provide more about the creatures, if anything is discovered.

The Investigators mulled over their options, and decided it is time to check out La Scala for themselves.

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Milan 1923, Part One

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Aboard the Orient Express, steaming its way across Switzerland, the Investigators finished reading Prof Smith’s Constantinople diary and began considering their next actions. They have only a few clues, and the names of people Prof Smith had been corresponding with, to lead them to where the next fragment of the Simulacrum might be within Milan.

Needing some food and a chance to gather their wits, they retired to the Dining car to enjoy some the luxuries available. The Maitre d’Hotel informed them the train is about to enter the Simplon Tunnel, the 15 mile passage cut through the granite of the Alps. Their meal is interrupted by the sudden appearance of the Duke du Messeraine, accompanied by William Wellington, apparently under the Duke’s control. The Duke demanded the Investigators hand over the Scroll taken from Edgar Wellington. They refused and a violent struggle of sorcery and unnatural strength broke out, though the staff and other passengers remained oblivious. While Miss Johnson and Umar grappled with William, Miss Crispin and Dr. Wilke hurried back to their cabin to recover the Scroll .They were uncertain about whether it would be best to threaten to destroy the Scroll, actually destroy it, or make some use of the fake Scroll that Edgar Wellington had prepared. A battered Umar and Miss Johnson had been taken captive by the Duke, until Umar cast a spell to disrupt the electrical lights of the dining car (on due to the passage through the Tunnel). In the darkness they escaped and met the others bag in their cabin. When William charge in a few minutes later, he was met by a hail of gunfire from the Investigators, thought it took a knife strike by Umar to finally put down the thing that had been William Wellington. The Duke appeared, fist ablaze with green fire, but Dr.Wilke doused the fake Scroll with alcohol and incinerated it. Duke Messeraigne was enraged, but stated that at least Makryat would not gain the Scroll either, before he vanished.

After treating their wounds, the Investigators debated what to do next. Was the Scroll too dangerous to keep, lest it fall in enemy hands, or were the secrets in might contain be too valuable? They decided to hold on to it for now, as Umar studied it to learn about the terrible lore of Sedefkar and his crazed beliefs about the power of the Simulacrum and the Skinless One.

Entering into Italy, the Investigators dealt with the strict customs of the country and hid their more interesting suplies in Umar’s diplomatic trunk. They were also joined by the opera star Caterina Cavollaro, whom they had met on the train as it left Paris. She explained to Dr. Wilke that she was travelling incognito to relax some before upcoming performance of Aida in Milan. She promised to arrange rooms for them at Milan’s best hotel and hoped they would attend the opening night performance. Bidding Dr.Wilke good afternoon, she was disturbed by a page of a strange script that had become mixed in with her direction and staging notes.

After settling in at Milan, the Investigator decided to first speak with Father Angelico, a priest at The Duomo, the city’s famous cathedral. The Father had been corresponding with Prof Smith about spiritual evil and the possibilities that agents of Satan were active in the city. The Father mentioned that some of his own parishioners were worried about Devil worshippers in their neighborhood. Contrary to Dr. Wilke’s request, Miss Johnson slipped away for a moment to arrange a meeting with a local contact in British Intelligence. She was informed that the Makryats had connections with businessmen through Italy, and was suspected of providing gray market supplies to manufacturers such as Arturo Faccia, owner of a large automotive plant outside of town.

The Investigators caught a trolley to the industrial district of Portello, to look into the rumors that Father Angelico had mentioned. As they rode through blocks of soot stained tenements, Miss. Johnson suggested checking out one of the large factory complexes. Posing as a sports car enthusiast, she toured the plant. The name Ennio Spinola was being mentioned often by the workers, and it was learned that he was, according to a plant manager, a Communist agitator who was recently murdered by the unsavory types he associated with.

Locating the slum where workers from the Middle East lived, Umar spoke with the owner for a coffee shop and was told that some of the residents might indeed be having commerce with dark forces. Their fear and poverty was leading them to look for whatever protection was being offered. It seemed the Brothers of the Skin were at work. The owner also knew of the death of Spinola, though he had heard him described as labor advocate who had come to Portello to organize workers and protest unsafe conditions at the plant.

Back at the hotel, they met again with Caterina, who had been having a hard day herself. Rehearsals had not be going well, with players forgetting their lines, workers quitting and being replaced, and the performer of the King of Egypt showing up drunk in a ridiculous yellow costume. The next evening Caterina was to attend a ball held in her honor by the wealth but ailing patron Flavio Conti. She invited the Investigators to attend as her guests— though that would mean a shopping trip to buy suitable attire.

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Constantinople 1893, Part Three

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At Selim Makryat’s hidden palace, Nisra awakened Georgia, saying that it would be best if she made herself scarce for the morning, though she was anxious to return to their mathematical explorations. On the way out, they again spotted a boy spying on them. Nisra explained that this was Selim’s son Mahmet, whose strict upbringing has limited the number of women he had ever seen.

Back at Sayed’s brother’s, there was a grim exchange where Sayed handed over the pages he had taken from the Apocrypha of the Fez. Now the question was only what can be done to stop Makryat from whatever he wishes to accomplish with them. Georgia arrived, delivering a message from Duke Messeraine that he wishes to meet with the Investigators to discuss such further actions. Sayed, Georgia, and Albert agree — though they first wish to return to the Shunned Mosque to study it some more. Prof. Smith, who has been making a careful record of what has gone on, also decided to come along.

Before arriving at the Mosque, Albert hired a few unemployed street toughs as bodyguards — and ignored their warnings about the dangers of the Brothers of the Skin who lurk there. At the Mosque, more of the hidden mosaic was revealed: a swirling chaos rising from a tower. Before the tower was the image of a conjuring man wearing a red fez, and around it was a melee of combat between soldiers of different countries and eras, while flying machines dropped explosives from the air. They were interrupted by some disturbing vibrations and the scream of one of the hired guards. Hurrying away they encountered a lumbering monster with a fez-like tumor on its forehead. Clarice stumbled and is attacked, but Sayed and Albert ran back to help her. Prof Smith was separated from them during the escape and was also badly wounded in his leg. Everyone managed to get away, as the creature was reluctant to step into the sunlight.

The Investigators regrouped for their appointment with the Duke. An injured, subdued Clarice, declined to join them. A carriage with a silent driver arrived and carried them off into the bustling city. The throngs grew ever thicker around them, until they were in an impossibly vast crowd of refugee families and wounded soldiers. The crowd began to rush the carriage, trying to climb aboard or hand over starving children. The driver whipped them off, which horrified the Investigators — until physical contact with the refugees injured Georgia. At Sayed’s direction the driver spurred the horses on, trampling the crowd, but getting them to safety in an alley — which opened into a beautiful garden courtyard, where the Duke awaited.

Meanwhile, Clarice had returned to the Grand Bazaar and contacted new friend, Bulent. She explained that she was desperate to have her scarred face and back healed, by supernatural means if necessary. Bulent solemnly explained that such a thing was possible, if one was willing to deal with the Brothers of the Skin, and pay the price they would name. Clarice was quite willing.

Reclining on silken pillows and amidst trays of delicacies, Duke Messeraine explained how Makryat’s lust for power made him a danger to the entire world. Makryat wished to use the power of the Fez to summon the Father of Sorcerers and demand information about the location of an ancient statue of great occult power. Further, even if Makryat did not obtain such power, the world was on the precipice of a century of war and genocide. The Duke said that by disrupting Makryat’s plans at such a crucial juncture, a third future was possible, a new Enlightenment, led by his protege Nisra. Their plan was to attack Makryat when he was distracted and drained by the ritual to summon the Father. Any help the Investigators could provide would increase their slim chance of success.

That night Clarice met with a Brother, and agreed to take a debt of obligation to the cult as the price for the restoration of her beauty. The Brother tore the living flesh from the face of a young woman and molded it like to Clarice’s skin. When she returned to the others and revealed how she had been healed, a furious Sayed threw her out for having made a deal with evil forces.

Working with the Duke the Investigators concocted a plan. Messeraine, still pretending to help Makryat, would help sneak the Investigators into the Shunned Mosque and infiltrate the ritual. Albert would, after preparing some flashbangs, disguise himself as the minor Prince who was to be sacrificed. Sayed would take the duplicated Fez that had been grown and attempt the spell that would seize control and make himself the Master of the Fez. Georgia would be on hand as an assistant to Nisra.

When the night of the ritual came, the Duke and Albert made the exchange with the drugged prince. The Duke said he was worried that Makryat would sense something going wrong with the ceremony and pinned a badge to his costume. This, he said, granted him the powers and sovereignty of “The Domain of the High River and the Ten Thousand Green Waterfalls.” Albert was himself now a Prince.

On the roof of the Shunned Mosque, Makray began the summoning of the Father of Sorcerers — a manifestation of Yog-Sothoth. At the moment when Nisra was to turn on Makryat, she struck at Albert, proclaiming she need his blood for her destiny as the Daughter of Fate. Chaos broke out as the stars swirled around them. Sayed put on the Fez and engaged Makrat in a mental duel. Albert slashed at Makryat with a ceremonial knife him, but was grabbed by Georgia, who was mentally under the control of the Duke.

Clarice revealed herself as one of the cultists and grappled with Sayed, but calling on his will and faith, he managed to overcome the distracted Makryat and gain control of the Blood-Red Fez. Nisra meanwhile slashed at Albert, anointed herself with his blood, and called out to the bubbling sky to grant her the power she deserved. She danced wildly as the Duke laughed at the melee. A rent torn in the sky and a strange flying machine appeared, approaching the scene. A wounded Albert attacked Nisra but she lifted him like a child and hurled him bodily at Georgia — though Nisra’s supernaturally strong arms tore and distorted. Her whole body began to unravel in sheets of flesh.

Sayed, still avoiding Clarice’s attacks, was reaching the limits of his strength as he tried to close the opening rift. The weakened Makryat reached out with his own occult power to share it with Sayed, as he had no desire for what was happening to transpire. Only the Duke seemed pleased at it all. Georgia struck at Nisra, whose entire body now dissembled into a flapping mess.

Suffering huge mental strain, Sayed pulled the rift together just as a object dropped by the flying machine explored in a titanic blast — fortunately on the other side. With a last effort Sayed used his remaining power to break the magics of the Fez, causing them all to melt into a staining goo. Clarice, having fulfilled her debt to the Brothers insisted that everything was now back to normal…

Makryat, weakened, with his cultust scattered, allowed the Investigators to leave, giving Sayed a smirking warning about the consequences of taste of true tower. The pile of flesh that was Nisra appeared to still be living and had slid away into the ruins of the mosque.

The shaken and wounded Investigators reported what had transpired and were left with returning to their lives.

Aboard the Orient Express in 1923, the readers of Prof. Smith’s diary closed its cover and sat in a silence broken only by the muffled rhythm of the train.

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Constantinople 1893, Part Two

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After convening at Sayed’s brother’s, the Investigators separated to pursue different leads and questions

Georgia had an invitation to meet with the mysterious Nisra. A carriage took her to a grim, rundown neighborhood, but a nondescript door opened to palace hidden in the squalor. Nisra was anxious for her help with some complex theoretical math, equations that suggest new, startling relationships between space, time, matter, and energy. Nisra is thrilled with what they might accomplish, and spoke of a new era of learning and enlightenment springing forth from Turkey and transforming the world. Georgia was introduced to Selim Makryat, who appeared to accept her as a companion to keep Nisra amused. The Duke Messeraine had more to say though: he revealed that he and Nisra are plotting against Makryat and his plans to summon the Father of Sorcerers and learn from this entity the location of a lost statue possessing vast occult power.

Alfred consulted with his contacts in the city’s newspapers to learn more about the missing Menkaph the Elephant, Constantinople’s former crime lord, and how his absence has left the city’s underworld in chaos. On his way back though, he experienced a vision of a huge rally of German soldiers, listening to an impassioned speech by some charismatic leader.

Clarice returned to the bazaar, and heard some of the rumors about dangers and cyclopean monsters lurking about the neighborhood of the Shunned Mosque. She stumbled into a street battle and met Bulent Sadik, a lieutenant of The Elephant. Charming him, she heard the tale of how the Elephant had become acquainted with “the Frenchman” (apparently Duke Messeraine) and began enjoying the city’s entertainments together. He even sold the Frenchman his favorite slave — Nisra. It was shortly after this that Menkaph abruptly retired and retreated into seclusion.

Sayed talked his way into access to the police records of the city, looking into the history of the Shunned Mosque, and the heathen cult that operated there in the previous century. In more recent times, despite various reports of criminal activity and rumors about the so-called Brothers of the Skin, the police seem to be avoiding investigating the area too closely. Sayed’s own investigations were interrupted by a visit from an officer of the Sultan’s secret police, who advised Sayed to avoid looking too much into things best left alone.

Alfred, Sayed, and Clarice decide to investigate the Shunned Mosque in person. They quickly divide up. Alfred, following the route from his previous visit soon found a hidden entrance and a passageway beneath the ruins. Sayed noted that the Minaret is not quite as ruined as it seemed and climbed its stairs. Clarice was fascinated by the strange architecture and wandered inside on her own.

Alfred donned a disguise, avoiding Brothers in the dark passages. He did though encounter the missing Hamlin Polk. Polk seemed quite cheerful and said his now recovered son wants to thank Alfred and the others for their help. Alfred decided to declined this meeting.

At the top of the minaret, Sayed found Selim Makryat waiting for him. Makryat demanded the return of the missing pages from the Apocrypha of the Fez. Sayed denied having them and Makryat threatened to send a cursed Fez to Sayed’s family if he does not comply. Sayed responded by defiantly sings a call to prayer from the tower. He struggled with two of the Brothers, but Makyrat ordered them to let him go, saying Sayed has until sunrise the next day to produce the missing pages.

Clarice found a old mosaic beneath the plaster walls of the crumbling mosque. It appeared to depict a tower with a weird, abstract swirl design rising above it. A Brother discovered her and the two scuffled. She managed to get him a choke hold, but was badly slashed on the face. The outcome seemed ominous when Sadik, whom Clarice had asked to watch out for her, appearsed, shot the Brother, and heroically rescued the damsel in distress.

Eventually they reconvene bask at Sayed’s brother’s — though Georgia is still staying with Nisra. Thugs are prominently lurking on the street keeping an eye on the place. Sayed consulted with Smith, who says a gentleman would give the pages and deal with consequences later. Reluctantly they all agree…

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Constantinople 1893, Part One

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Aboard the Orient Express, the Investigators receive a curious package: Prof. Smith’s student and patronViolet had come across a diary of Smith’s that described his unsettling 1893 trip to Constantinople. Smith and Violet believe The information from that terrible time, which Smith has been reluctant to talk about, should be useful to the 1923 Investigators, so they sent the diary to them on the train.

In 1893 Smith was studying the languages and archaeology of the Middle-East. But while traveling to Constantinople about the Orient Express (which had been making the Paris to Turkey run for two years) he and several other passengers encountered Englishman Hampton Polk, and his unfortunate son. Matthew Polk was suffering from a degenerating condition brought about by, his father believed, a cursed fez. A mysterious man named Selim Makryat had told Polk that if he stole a collection of rare writings and scrolls from the British Museum and brought them to Constantinople a spell in them could be used to cure Matthew.

With a day left of their journey, Smith and cleric Sayed al-Masri studied the collection of papers, known as the Apocrypha of the Fez. These described the power of the Blood-Red Fez and its associated magic rituals. Nothing they could find hinted at the supposed cure, adding to the suspicions that this was some sort of ruse. Sayad took notes for further research and carefully removed a few key pages, to interfere with anyone who might attempt the spells and rituals.

On arrival, Polk and son were whisked off by agents of Selim Makryat, a man many had heard of but few knew much about, other that he was involved in international crime and had connections and spies across both Asia and Europe.

One topic described in the Apocrypha was that a sample cut from a Fez would grow into an entirely new item. Reporter Albert Botham and Dr. Georgia Macksy tested this and found, disturbingly, it appeared to be true.

Albert, who had come to the city to investigate rumors about a change in its criminal organization, talked with reporters from a local newspaper and learned the former kingpin of the city, Menkaph the Elephant, appeared to have abruptly retired, leaving rival gangs to fight for control of the streets. There was some thought that a shadowy gang or cult, The Brothers of the Skin, was waiting for this struggle to resolve, before taking control themselves.

Georgia, attended dinner with an associate, and was introduced to both the Duke Messeraine, and his companion, a former slave woman Nisra. She dominated the evening with talk and ideas for a reborn Turkey that would arise in this new century. As she was leaving, Georgia encountered a street urchin to calling to this woman as “The Daughter of Fate.”

Sayad visited the so-called “Street of Mages” in search of greater understanding of the things described in the Apocrypha. Among the fake mystics and fortune tellers, he sought out Umut Yagmar, a fakir of some true knowledge. Together they examined the cryptic Blood Runes of Atlantis found in the Apocrypha and discovered horrible suggestions about a ritual to call on an entity called The Father of Sorcerers to unleash the full sorcerous power of the Blood-Red Fez, though at terrible risk.
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All the while that these investigations were going on, each of the group had been experiencing visions of soldiers and war, including unknown flying machines and armored vehicles. Some seemed mere mirages, but others left real traces in their wake.

After a day shopping in the markets. Composer Clarice Warren also met the Duke. He commented that the visions were omens of things to come, and of futures that it might be possible to avoid — if she told him about the missing pages from the Apocrypha and those who had taken them. The influence of his entrancing words and promises that he could make her dreams come true, led her to reveal the locations where the Investigators were staying.

Albert was almost ambushed by a stranger in his hotel room, but escaped and tracked the attacker to a ruin known as the Shunned Mosque. It stood in an area of town with a long, dark reputation stretching back to the 13th Century when a sorcerer named Sedefkar made his home there.

After gathering at the home of Sayad’s uncle, the Investigators contemplated their next moves.

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Lausanne, 1923

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The investigators boarded the famed Orient Express as it prepared for a late night departure from Paris. The perfectly adequate dress and manners of our heroes earned them snobbish glares from fellow passengers, but the highly trained and courteous staff of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits welcomed them aboard and showed them to their cabins.

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Also on the train was the famed opera singer, Caterina Cavollaro on her way home to Milan after a world tour. Many of the passengers spent the night at a party in her honor, but Umar was absorbed in studying the letters they’d collected regarding Edgar Wellington, while Miss Crispin was absorbed in something else: a dream of a lupine shape pacing alongside the train, which was driven off by a hunting party lead by the medieval Prince who has haunted her dreams before.

Morning found them across the Swiss border, in the town of Lausanne. Miss Johnson, who had previously been recovering from her wounds with remarkable swiftness, took a turn for the worse and was confined to her bed. After a hotel was arranged for the night, they located the taxidermy shop of the Wellington brothers. They first encountered not Edgar, but his brother William, who was mute and disabled by war injuries. When Edgar himself arrived, Dr. Wilke launched into a pretense they were associates of Wallis Hilton the London student Edgar had been working with to translate and decode a strange scroll holding knowledge of the Simulacrum. Edgar was nervous and flustered, but became exciting by the notion of selling the scroll to them, claiming, with limited sincerity, to have grown bored with it. There was though another potential buyer, and Edgar suggested they all meet this evening to discuss offers and arrange a final deal.

The Investigators spent some time then seeing a few sites and encountered a local nobleman, Duke Messeraine — who strangely resembled the Prince Miss Crispin had seen in her dreams. They correctly surmised that the Duke was the other party interested in buying the scroll.

The time of the evening meeting came and went. A messenger from the Duke reported that he was delayed and sent a bottle of wine as an apology. A boy sent by the Investigators themselves returned to describe the Wellingtons’ shop as sitting dark, but with the door ajar.

They hurried over as quickly as possible — Dr. Wilke having over-indulged in beverages during the wait. In the rooms above the shop, Edgar was found dead on his bed, apparently from an overdose of a mysterious narcotic. Another bedroom, seemingly William’s, looked unused for some time. A hidden stairway was found and it led to a basement workshop.

Within, William lay comatose, hooked to a rack of strange machines — confirming suspicions that he was some sort of revenant brought back to life after fatal war wounds. Numerous books and letters showed that William had been attempted to translate The Scroll of the Head but had been frustrated by the cuneiform codes. What at first appeared to be the scroll itself turned out to be a fake, with no sign of the original. Edgar had been introduced to the drug that killed him by the Duke. Fantastic as it seemed, it appeared to transport one into a dreamworld version of Lausanne.

While clues were gathered and a sample of the drug located, William began to stir. Miss Crispin calmed him by reading from his favorite storybook. As the Investigators were leaving, William requested a pen and paper. Scrawling as best he could, William wrote that when he first awoke he had moments of relative coherence. Trapped in his current state, he was dependent on constant treatment from Edgar. William wrote that they should leave, soon, before his intelligence and control faded away. The Investigators decided it best not to tell William that Edgar was dead, and while worried about William’s eventual fate, hurried away.

The Investigators did some cautious experiments with the dream drug, finding that one could pass into and out of Dream Lausanne and that it was even possible to bring physical objects across the membrane between worlds. Umar and Dr. Wilke took full doses, and went to the dream-analog of the Wellington’s shop. They looked for the underground workshop, but in frustration found it does not exist in this world.

Meanwhile, the streets of Dream Lausanne had become filled with people… and other things.

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All were rushing to the town square for the “Trial.” Swept along with the crowd, Umar and Dr. Wilke found a multi-level scaffold hung with plants, lights, and dangling bodies. Duke Messarine, now in full regalia as the Prince, was accusing Edgar Wellington of numerous crimes. Umar agreed to speak in Wellington’s defense, while a wheezing statue stood as Judge.

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The Prince presented a series of outlandish crimes which Umar successfully deflected, with Dr. Wilke trying to win the crowd over to their side as well. The Prince grew increasingly angry, it becoming clear that he was primarily after the location of the Scroll. The Judge decided in Edgar’s favor and he was released. The Prince rallied the crowd to apprehend the intruders ,and the rampaging mob chased them through the city.

Distracting the crowd with illusions and gunfire, they managed to reach the Wellingtons’ shop. Edgar revealed the hidden Scroll and gratefully handed it over. He explained it takes only concentration to wake from this dream. He was though unaware of his dead in the waking world and only faded away into nothingness.

The Investigators then hurried to catch the morning arrival of the Orient Express in order to leave Lausanne far behind them.

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