Horror On The Orient Express

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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Terror On The Thames
Horror On The Orient Express: Prologue.01

10835444_10206648043829045_2942846132338377039_o.jpgOne of the most talked about London social events of the Spring of 1920 is an exclusive party organized by self-described “Southern Gentleman” Thaddeus Grant. He has paid for an entire Mississippi riverboat, The Louisiana Lady, to be brought to London and he will host a lavish party aboard her as she steams up and down the Thames river.

While many of the London elite wouldn’t be caught dead at such a gauge affair, many others are clamouring for the limited invitations. A highlight would be the debut of a young lady of uncertain origins, variously described as Grant’s ward, goddaughter, or simply his “companion.” Further rumors say Grant’s rise in society is being assisted by William Cunliffe, who, while the youngest son of Lord Cunliffe, is not exactly the most respectable guide he could have chosen.

As the ship set forth down the Thames, towards a late-night firework show, guests mingled on the dance floor, Dixieland Jazz in the background. There were many whispers about who exactly Felicia was, and her lascivious dancing and the way she slipped off with the first young man she met supported those who claimed her origins were on the London Streets, not the royal mansions of Europe.

The crew of the Louisiana Lady also seemed a bit more unsavory that would be expected. Evidence was found that the guests had been gathered as victims of an evil ritual and Felicia showed a hunger for more that just amorous attention. The Investigators set fire to the boat as a distraction and sabotaged the steering to send it to the nearest shore. Felicia began to transform into a horrific creature, killing who were she encountered, including Cunliffe, who failed to persuade her to wait until the “bridegroom” was ready and their ascent to power could begin.

The creature was shot down and set aflame, hopefully to perish with the sinking ship. The guests were safely carried, or swam and waded to shore.

One of the guests, Prof. Julius Smith, asked if he could remain in touch with the Investigators, as he liked to have the acquaintance of individuals who could handle themselves in such circumstances.

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