Horror On The Orient Express

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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Paris 1923, Part Three

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The Investigators fled from the cave where they’d bound the dark figure. Miss Johnson was in need of medical attention, so they drove to Dr. Lorien’s house. Christian was not home, as he’d been working late, but Vernique welcomed them in. Dr. Wilke was called from Paris to join with the rest of the team.

When Dr. Lorien arrived he was shocked to see that Miss Johnson’s wounds matched those of both of the hotel doorman he’s been treating, as well as the shepherdess slain by the “killer wolf”. Fabien, the doorman, was not doing well for reasons the doctor could not diagnose so he was planning to take him to a Paris Hospital.

Umar checked in with Constable LaBree who was now convinced that the town was being plagued, not by a killer wolf, but a murderous madman. He warned the Investigators not to make any more reckless expeditions. He would send men to recover woodman’s Gervae’s body

The next morning Miss Johnson was doing better — surprisingly better, given how badly injured she was. The suspicious Dr. Wilke asked Miss Crispin to test Miss Johnson with silver — concerned that she had become a werewolf from her encounter. She showed no reaction to the test. Wilke and Umar meanwhile accompanied Dr. Lorien to Paris with the fading Fabien.

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The ladies, staying behind, were introduced by young Quitterie to “la belle mademoiselle,” a strange woman she’d met in the forest whom her mother considered only an imaginary friend. The hooded figure introduced herself as Lilly and claimed to be Count Fenalik’s “daughter.” The Count wished to apologize for his “rudeness” and, recognizing the Investigator’s capabilities, now wanted to help them in their mission to assemble the Simulacrum, which Fenalik refers to as “his armor.”

The men returned with the unfortunate news that Fabien had died on the trip, despite all efforts to preserve his life. Constable LaBree had the disturbing news that Gervae’s body could not be found, and the madman had desecrated the grave of his first victim, the shepherdess, and carried off her body.

Curious about what knowledge she might have, the entire team met again with Lilly. Dr. Wilke, exerting all the self-control he could manage, quizzed her about what sort of being she was. She evaded many questions, claimed that she herself did not understand everything about her new state of existence, but largely conceded she and Fenalik were what could be called “vampires”

Her main intent was mentioning that others would be seeking the Simulacrum, as they have many times before when it had been broken and scattered. Fenalik claimed to be its true owner, by right of understanding it far more than anyone else. It was once owned by a sorcerer named Sedefkar, who gave it his name and wrote down his knowledge is a set of six scrolls. Her father does not know what happened to these scrolls — but previous clues point to at least some of them being a museum in Constantinople. Fenalik would prefer not to wait until “the current generation of men passed into dust,” before he reclaimed the Simulacrum, but was willing to if necessary. Until then his “children” such as her wished to accompany the Investigators and assist them. She promised that neither the Loriens or any of the Investigators would ever be their prey. She further warned that the fragments of the Simulacrum would have a “Baneful Influence” on those who possessed them. The only protection from this was contained in the Scroll of the Left Hand.

With this uneasy agreement, the Investigators dug out the entrance to the secret chambers of Fenalik’s mansion, which still existed beneath the Lorien’s house. There they found the remains of a hideous torture chamber, still littered with the bones of the many who had suffered there.

The end the catacombs was overgrown with the wildly blood roses. At the heart of the vines was the left arm of a statue, gleaming eerily. When Miss Crispin attempted to extract the arm, the vines came to life and tore at the Investigators. Umar was badly slashed, but, bandaged by Dr. Wilke, he dived in and grabbed the arm. He was flooded with alien perspectives and awarenesses, but managed to keep his wits. The vines collapsed and the Investigators hurried out.

Leaving a note for Lilly, and making their farewells to the Loriens — who seemed relieved of their arm ailments — the Investigators returned to Paris. They decided to at last board the Orient Express, recover by enjoying its luxuries, and stop at Lausanne, Switzerland to seek out Edgar Wellington and see what knowledge he might possess.

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Paris 1923, Part Two

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Deciding to follow up on the situation in Paris before heading on, the Investigators rented a car and drove through the wintery countryside to the town of Poissy. They found the small but bustling city somewhat unwelcoming to foreigners, but Umar managed to overcome bureaucracy and xenophobia with a wine-fortified lunch, and city officials uncover old building plans for Fenalik’s bizarre villa. The construction was not only architecturally odd, but its proportions and patterns suggest lost cities and the channeling of occult powers. There are also indications of lower levels beneath the villa not included in the plans. The estate itself was razed 8 years ago, and the land partitioned and sold to private citizens. The site is now home to the town’s doctor, Christian Lorien, and his family.

The town is also suffering from wolf attacks. Sheep have been taken and one shepherdess killed. The “killer wolf” is said to have been shot by woodsman Pascal Gervae, but after a pause, attacks have been increasing again, and some have claimed to have spotted the killer wolf again.

A foul smelling stranger invaded the ladies’ hotel room and rifled through Miss Crispin’s personal things. The hotel put the blame on her habit of leaving the window open. The window showed signs of claw marks, and Miss Crispin agreed to lock it — as well as guard it with a saint’s medallion.
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The Investigators drove to the older part of town and survey the Loriens’ property. With the information from the building plans, they located the probable entrance to the forgotten sub-levels. They met Dr. Lorien and his family, saying they are investigating the archaeology of the area. The Loriens are pleasant people, with Miss Crispin and Vernique getting along particularly well. They made plans to meet again for dinner and further discuss matters. Strangely, all the Loriens seem to be suffering from various injuries to their left arms.

Their second night is disrupted by a creature leaping on Miss Johnson in the middle of th night. She pushed it off and stabbed it with a silver knife, while Miss Crispin threw a bedspread over it. When the spread was pulled back, a swarm of black mice scurried everywhere. Umar speared one mouse to the floor and then hurried off to investigate a scream from downstairs.

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The hotel doorman is badly injured, saying he’d been clawed at by an old man who knocked on the door, showing off a gold ring as proof he was no beggar. Back in their room, the ladies kept watch on the mouse, only to face the return of the rest of the swarm. Unnatural darkness gathered, as the mice formed into a human shape. “What… year..?” it demanded in French. Umar dispelled the darkness with light and holy words from the Koran, staggering the sinister form, which escaped by blasting open the sealed window.

The next day the Investigators located Pascal Gerave at his cabin. When confronted on the topic, Gervae stated that if what he shot was a wolf, it would be dead — but he can’t swear to what exactly it was, and feared that it might be something supernatural. When they convinced him that the Investigators can deal with the matter, he agreed to help them track down the beast.

They found an old cave amidst strange 4th Century Roman ruins. Umar examined the weather construction, finding them carved with figures worshiping some insect-like deities or demons.

Gervae stayed behind to guard the cave’s entrance, while the Investigator went inside. They first found an aged, rusted cabinet of weird wires and machinery — which had recently been broken into and torn apart. Further in was an eerie glowing lantern, and a magic binding circle painted in the wall, made from both arcane symbols and circuitry. The beam of light from the lantern revealed that the circle bound the ecoplasmic form of Brice Clavet, the murdered scholar whose spirit Miss Crispin had contacted earlier. Wanting to make up for her earlier failure, Miss Crispin began to undo the spirit’s bindings. Shots rang out from the cave entrance and Umar and Miss Johnson went to investigate. The dark figure had returned, having torn out Gervae’s throat. It advanced, inquiring after why the Investigators had come, uninvited, to this place. As Miss Crispin began to free the spirit, the dark thing rushed forward to stop her.

Umar began to entone a spell from a book on controlling Djinn, attempting to bind the dark thing to the lantern. It spun to attack him, but Miss Johnson shot it. Enraged, it rushed at her, grievously injuring her, but giving Umar the chance to finish his spell. This seemed only a temporary solution and so once Clavet’s spirit was freed, Umar and Miss Crispin joined forces to bind the dark thing more permanently to the magic circle.

As the creature howled in rage, the Investigators, helping the unconscious Miss Johnson, fled the cave and into the night.

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Paris 1923, Part One

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After an exhausting trip across the English Channel and a late evening ride on the Calais Coach across the French countryside, the Investigators arrived in Paris and could relax at the luxurious Hotel Bristol.
Le-Bristol-Paris-1.jpgThey slept well, except for Miss Crispin having a dream of a medieval prince hunting a man across an abstracted countryside — the man appearing to be the long lost Albert Alexis.
Over breakfast next actions are discussed. A telegram from Violet arrived saying that Prof. Smith was doing well, and that any messages should be relayed through her. Dr. Wilke grumbled some suspicions about where they should really be trusting Smith.
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Dr. Wilke’s contact at the Bibliothèque Nationale, clerk and student Remi Vangeim, was dismayed that they had come in search of the the Devil’s Simulare. It seems that the valuable book had just been stolen by one of the library’s directors, Prof.Brice Clavet. The police believed he took it to pay from drug debts to criminals from the East — but they must not have been pleased by the deal, since Clavet’s body was found, skinned, at his apartment.

While Umar stayed behind to see what information he can find about the missing book, the others checked out Prof. Clavet’s former apartment. It has been cleaned and repainted since the crime, but Miss Crispin arranged to rent it for a month, so that a seance can be performed. She and Dr. Wilke summoned up what claims to be the dead man’s spirit. It wailed for help, saying that is trapped between this world and the next. It explained that it witnessed its own ritual murder and flaying, confirming that the Devil’s Simulare was in fact taken by an agent of Makryat wearing Clavet’s flesh. Miss Crispin failed in an attempt to spend the spirit into the Light, leaving in lost and at the mercy of a hungry force that was stalking it.

A telegram from Prof.Smith pointed the Investigators to look into the history of the Comte Fenalik, a pre-Revolutionary noble whom Smith believes was the last owner of the intact Simulacrum. While he was erased from official records, a few period diaries recounted the mansion of debauchery he had founded before being arrested and thrown into the Charenton Asylum to be forgotten.
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Umar went to check out the Asylum — which had recently appointed a new director after the previous one died in an accident. He found that while there was an account of Fenalik being admitted, there was no further mention of him in their records. Looking into the fate of the director, Umar discovered he had died while performing experimental electrical therapy on an unknown patient. According to the testimony of a madman, this patient had been found as a desiccated corpse in the Asylum basement. Umar’s concluded that Fenalik still lived — and was on the loose.

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London 1923, Part Two

LondonPC.gifAfter discovering that Prof Smith’s house had burned to the ground with Smith and his butler Beddows missing, the Investigators retired to recover from recent events through rest and prayer. After breakfast at Violet’s they split up to pursue several leads.

Umar showed the ritual knife, mask, and decoding keys to an academic at Oxford. Dr. Baris Gizem was amazed at the idea of secret messages in cuneiform, but explained that the knife was a part of a hoax cult, used by a criminal gang called the Brothers of the Skin to scare and intimidate their victims. Dr. Gizem had also been in contact with the mysterious Edgar Wellington. Wellington had asked him to authenticate some cuneiform engravings – which Dr. Gizem stated were not part of any known style or tradition.

Dr. Wilke went to speak with a young priest of his acquaintance who shared his interest in occult writings, to ask him what he knew of the “ Devil’s Simulare.” The priest knew of the text by reputation, describing it as a collection of satanic rituals to summon the Anti-Christ into a blasphemous icon. A copy of this valuable book may be in Paris, and the priest promised to write a letter to a friend at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris asking him to help Dr. Wilke

The ladies went to look for the missing Smith, with Miss Crispin being a little taken aback by the vagrants, thieves, and working girls that Miss Johnson had some acquaintance with. A second-story man recounted that he’s seen Beddows buying medical supplies from a fence, and after some pressure, gave over the address of a rundown tenement. There they found Smith, badly burned after escaping from the attack on his home. Smith explained that he had been preparing for a mission to recover the fragments of a powerful, but dangerously evil statue known as the Sedefkar Simulacrum. The statue had been broken into fragments before the French Revolution and Smith believes it can only be completely destroyed by assembling all the parts and conducting an as yet undiscovered ritual. Makryat’s men and creatures had tried to steal Smith’s notes, but he had destroyed most of them, since Makryat also seeks the Simulacrum – as does, Smith believes, a third individual known as “The Prince.” With events in motion, Smith asked if the investigators would take up the task of locating the fragments until he can recover from his injuries. He hands over the clues he recalls about possible locations and says he will send what other information he can uncover as he recovers his strength

Back at Violet’s apartment, she explains that she had been making arrangements for Smith and Beddows to travel on the Orient Express. She knew he was planning an important expeditions, but hadn’t known the details. She will now adapt the plans so that the Investigators can use the train to pursue the mission in Smith’s place. The train leaves Sunday, so there are a few days to get ready and make other investigations.
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Umar delves into the Reading Room at the British Museum, finding out that 17th Century astronomer and alchemist Robert Fludd wrote a treatise on the Simulacrum]], but then ordered all copies destroyed, stated they were only nonsense written during a fever. There was also a mention of the Sedefkar Scolls which were sent to a museum in Constantinople after the Great War.

Emily Johnson checked in with her controlling officer in the SIS, a Mr. Thames, who sanctioned her taking up the mission since if this artifact exists in could be a threat to the Empire’s security. He mentioned other reports of unusual phenomena from the locations Smith mentioned in his notes.

Miss Johnson, Miss Crispin, and Dr. Wilke went to Islington to check out Makryat’s shop. Finding it closed, with a lookout posted, Emily snuck in the back and found Makryat’s lying dead, apparently after slitting his own throat and scrawling a cuneiform message with his own blood. Examining the body a patch of oddly different skin was found on the body’s leg. When probed, the “Makryat” skin peeled away revealed another man underneath. The blood message appeared to confirm that the Sedefkar Scrolls might be at the Topkapi Museum in Constantinople and that a location called The Shunned Mosque is important to destroying the Simulacrum. Umar went to the Turkish Embassy to inquire into what they knew of Makryat’s status and found they were in an uproar about three more identical “Makryats” had been found dead that night.

The next morning, Sunday January 7th, the Investigators set off, first taking a train to Dover, and then getting on a ferry to cross the English Channel to Calais, where they would board the train to Paris.
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London 1923, Part One

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Shortly after the events of the last session, this story appears in the London Evening News:

Startling Twist in Smuggling Case

Prof. Julius Smith’s reaction to this story is more of concern that relief:

“I hardly know what to make of all this. I am sure it is some mixture of truth and lies; that is always Selim Makryat’s way. Little stands in the way of his hunger for power, be in economic, political, or… for forces beyond mundane concerns. We must all be wary for signs of activity from the Makryats or their agents. I will be sure that others I am in contact with are also on alert.”

The rest of 1922 flowed past with all the involved characters going about their lives. They did not meet up again until a wintery day after Christmas, the funeral of the elderly train conductor, Henri.

Matthew Hemingsworth had an appointment with Duc Jean de Messeraine, a Swedish nobleman and collector who is interested in locating an ancient statue that was broken into fragments before the French Revolution. He wishes to commission Matthew to find these fragments, but is hesitant to say more about them until an agreement has been made.
einstein_lecture_photo.jpgJanuary 3rd, 1923 was the date of Prof. Smith’s lecture at the famous Challenger Institute. The speech went well, with talk of Einstein, Bohr, and higher dimensions. Mehmet Makryat himself was in attendance, and made a few ominous comments remarks about the dangers of powerful relics (such as the Doom Train set) falling into the wrong hands — and implied that his father, Selim, would be the right person to control such things. “My father believes in the Old Ways,” he tells Umar ibn Abu. Makryat also mentioned a “Prince” and warned Smith from having anything to do with him. Smith explained that this Prince was a former associate of Selim, but they are now enemies.

On their way to dinner with Violet Gibbs-Wolf, the Investigators were confronted by Wallis Hilton as he was being chased by a Hambaba. Wallis did not know why he was being targeted, other than it might be related to some research and translation work he was doing for Edgar Wellington. He stated he could explain more if they would meet him at his office in a couple days. Emily Johnson found this suspicious, and through a combination of violence, reassurance, and alcohol it was revealed that he was not truly Wallis, but was hired by Makryat to lead the Investigators into a trap.

The Investigators then split up. Umar slipped away to check out Wallis’s office, where he found Wallis’s notes, the Cuneiform Decoding Keys, and an unposted letter to Edgar Wellington.

Matthew took the fake Wallis back to his townhouse, where the now intoxicated imposter was tied up, after making strange references to his skin as looking “just like the real thing.” Matthew got his shotgun ready.

The others continued to Violet’s where they found a distraught Prof. Smith. He had received word that the real Wallis had been founded, his body flayed, in a storage closet at the British Library. The Investigators hurried drove off to rendezvous with Matthew.

Dr. Wilke performs a little scrying magic and sees that Matthew’s home appears under surveillance from the air. They break in through the servant’s entrance and explain what they have learned.

Umar himself arrives, unaware of any danger and is attacked by a Flesh Kite.

A full scale attack by Makryat’s forces ensues, with the sorceror demanding return of the Decoding Keys, but the Investigators fight them off. The flesh of the false Wallis pulls itself free and issues an ominous: “The Skinless One will not be Denied! Ask Prof. Smith what happens to those that denies Him!”

The Investigators rush off into the night only to find Smith’s home burned to the ground with Smith and his butler missing.

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The Doom Train
Horror On The Orient Express: Prologue.02

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In the Spring of 1897 a passenger train set on the Liverpool-London line derailed in a terrible accident, the front four cars falling into the Thames to be washed away without a trace…

In the Winter of 1921 Prof. Julius Smith gatherers some acquaintances to assist him with an odd problem. Smith had been corresponding with an Albert Alexis on the subject of mysterious disappearances. Albert believes his own father, Randolph had vanished, years ago, rather than being killed in the 1897 train wreck. Now Albert himself has gone missing.

Investigators go on the trail of an elaborate train set assembled by Albert, which has ended up in the hands of a Turkish merchant, Mahmet Makryat. This train set is somehow linked to the 1897 disaster which did not destroy the train, but sent it adrift in time and space as the result of a botched ritual performed by Randolph Alexis, a murderous sorcerer. Albert had used the train set as part of his own ritual to reach his father, but succeeded only long enough to be taken aboard himself.

The train set is recovered from Makryat, and Albert’s notes are used to summon the lost train back into normal reality, at the risk of the wrath of the The Hounds of Tindalos which haunt the strange angles outside our dimensions. The surviving passengers are rescued, Randolph is killed, all before the train vanishes again.

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