Horror On The Orient Express

Sofia 1923, Part Two

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The investigators were ambushed and surrounded by armed cultists lead by Mehmet Makryat. They desperately tried to concoct escape plans, but shaken and exhausted by their previous struggle, they were bound and forced into waiting automobiles. Dr. Jordanov tried to justify his betrayal by saying that if Umar had told the truth about the what he knew of the statue fragments there would be fame and renown enough for all, once they published the discovery. Umar replied that no one would every believe such a paper.

cave.jpgMakryat drove them to a cave complex outside of town where a base for their crimes and slavery had been established. He demand the Investigators tell him where the other fragments of the Simulacrum were. He sadistically cut off Dr. Wilke’s hand with a strange obsidian knife. It was not, he said, a question of whether they would cooperate, but how much of them would be left when they did. Jordanov objected to this torture, and Makryat stabbed him as well. The Investigators were then chained up in a stone cell to contemplate their fate.

Meanwhile, back in Sofia, American reporter Kip was having a drink with a mysterious dark lady who promised him information about about an item he was seeking, an artifact stolen from an archaeological dig. The woman identified herself as Lily, and explained the item was a ceremonial knife and was in the possession of a criminal gang. This gang was also holding friends of her prisoners. Working together they could both recover what they wanted.

Within the the cell, Miss Johnson managed to free herself from the chains, and, with the help of Miss Crispin’s smuggled hatpin, pick the lock of the cell. She strangled a guard with a length of chain, disguised herself in his uniform, and cautiously began exploring the base.

Back on the surface, with Lily’s direction, Kip found the cave hideout, killed the guard, and unlocked the entrance. Lily asked if she might enter and continue their mission. With his invitation, she stepped over the threshold — and then bounded away with animalistic fury into the thieves’ den, gunshots and screams in her wake.

Miss Johnson and Kip both witnessed Lily slaughtering and feasting on everyone she could grab, thieves, cultists, and slave girls alike. She recognized the disguised Miss Johnson before killing her, and was led to where the other investigators were being held. Kip found and followed Makryat as he retrieved the strange knife. Makryat confronted Lily, but Kip clocked him from behind, and Lily snapped his neck. Unfortunately this turned out be another of Mahmet Makryat’s flesh-disguised doubles.

Amidst the carnage of the cavern complex, the freed Investigators found a medieval tapestry of the Simulacrum, with Selim Makryat’s face sewn into it, a book of Fleshwarping sorceries, and the Head and Left Leg of the Simulacrum. The strange blade was named by Lily as the Mim Sahis and, according to the spellbook, could be used to assist in the casting of its bloody rituals.

The archeological expedition that had found the Mims Sahis had been organized by German occultist Heinrich Glessler, whom Kip believed was a member of the Vril Society. Dr. Wilke had encountered Glessler himself years ago, while he was researching native American folklore — and performing dangerous experiments with memory retrieval. More recently, when checking on the Simulacrum in Venice, Dr. Wilke saw Arturo Faccia showing off the vault to Glessler.

Umar set explosives from the cult’s own armory to destroy the cavern. On their way out, Lily suddenly staggered and shouted about her father being taken somewhere. She then collapsed into a pile of rotting bones.

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Sofia 1923, Part One

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The Investigators had a chance to once again enjoy the luxury of the Orient Express as they took the train to Sofia, Bulgaria. There were only scant clues to look into, and they were wary of following the leads given them by Prof Smith, since they now knew he had be replaced by an imposter. Fortunately they met another passenger, a young professor from Geneva Dr. Jordanov, who was on his own related mission.
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Jordanov’s mentor, a Dr. Ivo Penev, had some years ago uncovered the Left Leg of the Simulacrum, believing it to be an artifact of an unknown civilization. He had then gone on to write a deranged monograph about the fragment and died insane. Jordanov believed there must be some value in this admittedly disturbed work. He had an appointment to examine the Leg, which now resides at the University of Sofia.

Their discussion was interrupted by a waiter who was revealed as a cultist from the Brotherhood of the Skin spying on Jordanov. Miss Johnson chased him through the train and interrupted him from performing a strange self-mutilation. Dr. Wilke tried to chloroform him, but the cultist suffocated himself with a flesh-warping cantrip. The body of the original waiter was found with his face flayed and hands severed at the wrist.

At the Sofia train station, suspicious figures were spotted stalking Jordanov, so the Investigators invited him to join them at the Grand Hotel. In the morning they all accompanied him to his appointment — and noted watchers staking out their rooms.
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The Professor-Academician at the University sympathized with Jordanov’s goal, but explained the leg was clearly a fraud, being made from some modern material. It was still around somewhere in the University’s stores — in fact it had recently been borrowed by the curator of the Museum of Archaeology, Todor Mateev, who was planning a new Egyptian exhibit based around a mummy he was restoring. Unfortunately he had recently fallen and broken his leg and was in hospital suffering from severe complications.

Umar headed to the Museum with Jordanov. Curator Mateev’s workshop was found ransacked, the Egyptian exhibit demolished, the mummy and the Leg missing. When the police arrive, they dismissed it as a burglary by gypsies, of little importance, though it is noticed that a window looked more broken outwards, rather than inward. Dr.Jordanov had grown increasingly nervous and upset by all these strange events, and Umar, with the help of a hypnotic suggestion, suggested he depart back to Geneva and wait for a resolution of the situation.

Dr. Wilke, who had slipped away to pursue entertainment in the town’s red light district, had his relaxing massage interrupted by animate severed hands that swarmed over and attacked him. After blasting them off with sorcery, he fled naked into the wintry streets where he was promptly arrested.

Many bribes later, Wilke was free and the Investigators reconvened at their hotel. The lookouts and watchers noticed early were no longer present… The Investigators had to consider that a reanimated mummy may have been unleashed by the magic of the Simulacrum. The next few days were spent gathering what information they could. A tour guide mentioned that there had been some recent unexplained murders in the poor, Jewish quarter of the city. Dr. Wilke visited the unconscious curator in the hospital and, scanning his feverish dreams, saw his obsession with the Leg and efforts to use it in replacing damaged parts of the mummy. Volunteering at local churches Miss Crispin and Miss Johnson heard stories of a cloaked figuring haunting the alleys at night.

It took several nights of staking out the slums of Sofia at night before Miss Crispin felt a cold stab of spiritual pain. Following it, they spotted a tall, robed man throttling a helpless victim. Miss Crispin sensed the impossible agony of a soul being destroyed and rushed ahead, followed by the others. She confronted the creature, a bandaged withered corpse, patched together from various parts, including the Left Leg of the Simulacrum. It continued to draw the eternal essence from his victim and Miss Crispin reached out with her own spiritual power — and collapsed. The other Investigators fired their guns, but to little effect. Dr. Wilke lit a torch, but had to fight past a unnerving human-head bird that dived at his face.

Miss Crispin awoke in a dark realm, and confronted an elderly robed man standing over the suffering victim. The man insisted that he was searching through deaths to find an escape from this world. The afterlife had fallen and the gods devoured, with only Bast having found an escape. As they clashed on the spiritual plane, the others attacked on the material. As the monster was weakened and distracted, Umar blew the Leg free with a shotgun blast. Dr. Wilke grabbed the fragment — and was struck by the pain and visions of the Baleful Influence.

The victory was short lived, as blinding headlights flooded the alley, and Mehmet Makryat, surrounded by a squad of armed thugs, and accompanied by Dr. Jordanov, stepped forward, demanding the Investigators hand over the Simulacrum piece.

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Austria 1923, Part Three

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The Investigators continued their exploration of the unearthly complex beneath the Alps, searching for the medallion Melisende lost here, centuries ago. Disturbing vibrations and sounds rolled through the passageways. The sample of material Dr. Wilke had taken from the creature they’d encountered earlier broke out of his backpack and leap away into the darkness.

Cautiously they headed deeper in, finding a chamber with a pedestal-shaped device. Umar, using the fragments of Outer One lore he’d collected, activated the machine and, against advice from the others, placed his head with the fungal tendrils that reached from it. The chamber filled with buzzing sounds and whirling arcs of light and glowing symbols. Umar’s mind was exposed to a maelstrom of shouted voices and data. Reaching his thoughts into this storm, he plucked out images of the medallion being revered by dark creatures in a nearby black pool. He further attempted to fish out information about how the Simulacrum might be destroyed. Much of what was revealed to him could not fully be comprehended, but did recover glimpses of a way the statue could be rotated out Earth’s space and time, though with incalculable consequences. This procedure or ritual did require all the fragments of the Simulacrum be brought together, but where it was done did not appear relevant. That last fact being in contraction to Prof. Smith’s belief that the statute could only be destroyed at the Shunned Mosque in Constantinople.

All the more desperate now to find the medallion in its black pool, the Investigators hurried past other disturbing sights, coming to a chamber and passageway littered with a miscellania of debris and artifacts from Roman coins, to Moorish jewelry, to a modern military helmet. They are then attacked though by creatures with flesh like seared, half-melted wax that attempt to steal Dr. Wilke’s backpack, which contained, among other things, the Head of the Simulacrum. The attackers, flowing between human and wolfish form, were fast, strong and vicious, but Dr. Wilke, before collapsing from his wounds, cast a holy ward on the bag, strengthened by the faith and magic of Umar and Miss Crispin. The creatures strained and injured themselves to force pass this ward. Miss Johnson and Umar brought one down by severing its head, but another finally struck down Miss Crispin and escaped with the bag, its unnatural flesh searing with the contact.

With both Dr. Wilke and Miss Crispin badly wounded, and the others exhausted, the Investigators struggled to continue their mission. Umar was determined to locate the black pool and so set off accompanied by a limping Dr. Wilke. Along the way they found the scattered contents of Dr. Wilke’s pack — include the Head. What was missing was the lantern in which the remains of Gregor Metzger had been bound. Ahead they finally found the black pool, where numerous pipes and conduits converged, oozing oily black slime. One of the creatures threw the lantern into the slime and a restored Metzger rose from it. Having no desire to exchange quips with the arrogant nobleman, the Investigators demanded he hand over the medallion, which Metzger did, though the creatures seemed to cherish the thing, and had to be tortured to give it up. The Investigators departed, Metzger’s laughter echoing behind them.

On returning to the lifting platform to exit the complex, the buzzing vibration began again. Myriad points of light washed over the Investigators, gathering on the body parts corresponding to the Simulacrum fragments recovered so far. The noise resolved into rumbling words:


You have touched the Skin.
The Tabernacle has awoken.
Deliver a message: tell the Tabernacle than his apprenticeship will soon end.

Battered, but with the medallion in hand, the Investigators decided they needed a vacation, and so journeyed to Vienna to rest, recover, and plan their next actions. A few incidents made their stay someone unsettled: Dr. Wike cast a scrying spell to view the vault in Venice where the other Simulacrum fragments were being kept. All seemed well, save for Arturo Faccia giving a tour of the facility to a Dr. Heinrich Glessler, a German occult expert, whom Dr. Wilke had met once in the United States.

The second event was the receipt of a letter from Prof Smith. He claimed not to have been in contact with the Investigators since his lecture back in January. An imposter has taken his place and was the one who set them off on their quest. The Smith who wrote this letter said he had been in hiding and has been working with Umar’s Uncle Sayed to determine how the Simulacrum could be destroyed. This only confirmed Dr. Wilke’s suspicions, though the others wondered if this letter itself should be believed.

For now though, they decided to continue the necessary task of finding all the fragments, but to skip ahead on the Orient Express route to Sofia, Bulgaria.

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Austria 1923, Part Two

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Another morning in the Alpine village of Fassendorf. The district police Captain Druiger arrived to interview the Investigators about the recent murders and check their story about encountering Gregor Metzger in the woods, killing him in self-defense, and losing the body to wolves. After the interrogation, distant gunfire from the Metzger mansion on the hillside above the village.They alerted the Captain who hurried there with two other policeman, Miss Crispin and Miss Johnson following along. Dr. Wilke stayed behind, to check on Umar, who had disappeared into his hotel room and had not been heard from since the previous night.
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Fire burst from the upper story as they arrived at the grand if dilapidated mansion. Captain Druiger ordered the women to stay behind while his men investigated. Miss Crispin went to summon the fire brigade, but Miss Johnson slipped inside and saw the police struggling with a frantic, injured officer. Making her way upstairs towards the source of the fire, she found another officer fighting the ghastly figure of an old woman, her gown in flames, her chest an empty cavity trailing wires. Gunfire had little effect on this creature, but flaming debris came crashing down on her. Miss Johnson, after vainly trying to help the officer, was barely able to escape with her life.

Miss Crispin had no success getting the villagers to help, who were pleased at the idea of the mansion burning to the ground. She met up with others and helped calm down the disturbed officer, who told a shattered tale of finding the gowned woman dead on the floor surrounded by a circle of stones. She revived and attacked, with one officer hurling a lantern in panic, setting off the blaze. Miss Crispin hypnotically veiled over his most disturbing memories and left him to the care of his partners. The mansion collapsed into burning ruins, taking its secrets with it — except for a scientific journal the officer had at some point clutched in his panic. The journal featured articles on receiving radio waves from sources beyond the Earth — and a letter from Metzger on how such transmissions might allow communication with other civilizations.

Back at the Inn, a dishevelled Umar finally stepped out of his room. He had spend the night analyzing the symbols he’d copied from the standing stones and referencing a tome he’d picked up during a past encounter with the Yellow Sign. The book told of the cult’s greatest enemy and fear: beings from beyond the world which they called the Outer Ones. This cosmic race had been on Earth for millions of years, but were usually indifferent to human activities, though they occasionally offered strange pacts and contracts for immortality. Gregor Metzger apparently has learned to utilize some of their power via the secrets of the stone circle.

The Investigators decided to spend a day resting. They also learned of a break-in that occured earlier in the year, when the town workshop was ransacked and several of the perchten mask stolen, assumably by ruffians from another village.

With their gear together, they talked their guide Alvar into leading the way through the rough forest outside of town and soon they reached the hill of the standing stones. They started a careful examination of the symbols carved on the face of the stones, when a figure in a dirty fur robe and wearing one of the stolen masks lept into their midst and attacked. Miss Crispin pulled off the mask, revealing a horrible face blackened and half-melted. Dr. Wilke pinned its leg to the ground with a pick, but the thing ripped free of its own leg and fled. The abandoned limb itself broke into wriggling black globules that slithered away, save for one which Dr. Wilke caught in a specimen jar.

Miss Johnson noticed that the ground was disturbed around the edges of the one fallen stone and, levering it aside, revealed a pit leading into the hill below. They descended and explored, finding an underground passage woven with a network of metal wires, conduits, and strange devices, all of an unidentifiable encrusted metal. It all seemed similar to equipment found in Poissy, in the cave were the Investigators encountered Fenalik.

Deeper in, they found a mechanical platform covered with more symbols and designs, which lowered them down a deep shaft and into a cavernous chamber of build of inhuman design and materials, every inch suggesting construction and purpose of not of this Earth.
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Making their way through disorienting and unnatural passageways they came to a crypt or workroom of some sort, where three mummies were laid out on slabs, various wires and mechanisms running into the open, organ-less chests. Weird equipment was found, including several metal cylinders a foot or so across and high. Umar, following intuition guided by what he had learned of the tools of the Outer Ones, connected a cylinder with some of the equipment, and the Investigators found themselves in communication with a voice that claimed to be Melisende — though she had no recollection of the Investigators. Her tale was of coming to this cave, having the medallion taken by black demons, and then being assaulted by Satan and his dukes. She was bound in chains and offered dominion over worlds if she would give her soul to the Hell. She refused, having faith that someday this purgatory would end and Christ would free her.

Dr. Wilke attempted but failed to find any spiritual connection to Melisende, and after finding a preserved brain in another, damaged cylinder, was forced to accept that Melisende’s own brain was before them. Was the ghost they had previously communicated with somehow her disconnected soul? Puzzled but curious, the equipment was connected to another cylinder and this time they were in communication with an inhuman intelligence from a distant realm. It said it was the last survivor of a race that had been destroyed by the Skinless One when generations of ceremonies and worship were found unworthy. It knew of the Simulacrum and stated that it heralded the Procession of the One Without Skin. The Outer Ones had taken the Survivor from the ruins of its world and had interrogated it for all that it knew. The Outer Ones were very interested in the Simulacrum and the Skinless One, but it did know if they were also planning to worship it, to do battle, or had some other incomprehensible goal. What it was certain of was that since the Simulacrum was on Earth, the Skinless One would be coming as well.

The Survivor had no wish to continue its bodiless existence, so the Investigators destroyed its cylinder. A mercy they also provided Melisende, letting her believe that she would proceeding on her way to Heaven.

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Austria 1923, Part One

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Investigators have set off to follow the trail of Melisende took in search of the secrets of the mysterious amulet used against Sedefkar and the Simulacrum back in the 1207 AD.


Alvar.jpgLed by their guide Joseppi Alvar they arrived at the Austrian village of Fassendorf. Somewhere in the wild countryside around the village is a circle of standing stones said to be carved with strange symbols that match those on the amulet.

They arrived in the quiet, alpine village late at night. At their Inn they are met by only a drunken old man, Gustav Stepanek. He explained everyone else was across town at the execution of the man who murdered Stepanek’s son. Umar and Dr. Wilke departed to find out what that is all about, while Miss Crispin and Miss Johnson retired to their rooms.

An angry, if uneasy, crowd filled a church square, where the village magistrate was providing over the hanging of Metzger, the last of a line of former nobles, who after a string of outrages, was caught bloody handed committing murder. The unrepentant Metzger sneered at the villagers, before dropping to his dead. Dr. Wilke examined the body to confirm his death, though taking the opportunity to snip a few hairs.
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The next day was a grand festival day of markets, crafts, and performances, culminating in a parade of youths wearing the masks of “perchten,” folk spirits who scare away demons and bad fortune. The Investigators asked around and collected information about the history of the Metzger family, who once ruled over this land as much disliked nobles. Gregor’s grandmother, considered a scary witch by local children, may still reside in their hillside mansion, but no one has seen her for some while or has been brave enough to look in on her.

The festivities are interrupted when Miss Johnson discovers the body of the magistrate — murdered violently in the same way as Metzger’s victims. Confusion and fear spread through the town. Dr. Wilke and a crowd of drunken older men made their way to the graveyard. Otto the gravekeeper was suspected of concealing that Metzger was somehow still alive. While the protesting Otto was dragged off to be interrogated, Dr. Wilke lingered behind to discover Metzger’s fresh grave dug up from within. Using the clipped hairs, Wilke cast a charm pointing him towards where the seemingly resurrected Metzger had gone.

The other Investigators had decided to take advantage of the confusion to investigate the Metzger mansion, but Dr. Wilke arrived and convinced them to accompany him. After tramping through the frozen forest they stumble on Metzger, assaulting a young woman. Miss Johnson and Umar brought him down with gunfire, but no one is too surprised when a few minutes later he again drew breath.

Speculating that he is some form of vampire, they staked Metzger through the heart and hung a crucifix on him. He is slowed down by the trauma, he showed no sign of undeath. Metzger smirked and said he had mastered powers and secrets beyond their comprehension. The Investigators had little patience for villainous speeches, and demanded he explain himself. Metzger laughed and agreed. He would take them to the standing stones and “open the door” to the lore and power he’s discovered.

Cheerful and mocking, he took them on a hazardous hike through the dark, cold forest but by morning the Investigators were too exhausted to continue. They bind Metzger in a magic circle which seemed to limit his regeneration, and gots some rest — except Dr. Wilke who began making preparations for a fire.

Having had enough of Metzger, the Investigators killed him again and Dr. Wilke set to work burning the body. Umar and Miss Crispin decided to find the rest of the route to the standing stones on their own. After spotting them on the summit of an overgrown hill, Umar climbed up to examine them. The 12 slabs, 11 standing and one fallen, are covered with unintelligible symbols resembling those described on the amulet. Umar took careful notes, while Miss Crispin waited. She spotted an odd figure, apparently wearing one of the village’s perchten costumes, but it ran off when she spoke to it.

Back at the camp, Metzger’s body had been reduced to charred bones, which the the Investigators further crunched and ground to fragments. Umar placed the remains in a lamp and bound them within for transport while the Investigators made the trek back to Fassendorf.

At the village, Otto was still being held under suspicion and a higher ranking official had been summoned to take charge of the situation. He will wish to interview the Investigators, who state that they found and finished off Metzger. Dr. Wilke rallied his drinking friends in support of Otto.

Umar took his notes and books and locked himself in his room at the Inn in hopes of uncovering the meaning of the stones’ carvings.

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Venice 1923, Interlude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Constantinople 1204, Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Constantinople 1204, Part One

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While resting in Venice, the Investigators are studying the medieval tome “The Devil’s Simulare” and its account of the sack of Constantinople in 1204 AD:

Financial debts and political machinations have led the warriors of the Fourth Crusade to capture and pillage Constantinople, capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire. Despite attempts at restraint, the city burns and suffers as so many fallen cities have before. Dark rumors of devils and Satan worship are also rampant.

After fighting off an ambush by mercenaries and an unholy creature lurking in the dark tunnels beneath the city, a group of seasoned Crusaders — Renaud of Flanders, Melisende of the Red Maidens, Martinus De L’Isles, and Gilles de la Grave — arrived before their commander, Count Baldwin of Flanders. The Count has been disturbed by both the lawless soldiers and the supernatural rumors. To deal with the later, he has been secretly consulting with a learned monk, Brother Merovac. On Merovac’s advice, Baldwin’s men had rescued a Venetian priest who had been tortured to raving madness.

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The priest ranted about a secret cult scouring the city for occult relics. He had stolen and hidden a clay tablet that, according to the cult leader, a Father Ramaldi, was a clue to the location of a statue that was the source of great evil power. The cult was torturing the priest, including cutting out his eye, to force him to reveal the hiding place, when he was rescued by Baldwin’s men. The Count then asked the team to recover this tablet from a niche beneath an image of the Virgin in one of the many looted churches in the city.

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After crossing the rioting city, they found the church already held by Ramaldi’s troops. Melisende snuck away to find a way in, while the others confronted the guards, arguing their way in with claims that they had been ordered there themselves. A scuffle broke out with Gilles brawling with the guards while Renaud and Martinus forced their way towards the other end of the ruins where Ramaldi and another robed cleric seemed up to something. A cloaked bodyguard revealed himself as a four-armed berserker and attacked.

From a hiding place in the ruined walls, Melisende observed Ramaldi completing some sort of sorcerous ritual. She interrupt with an arrow, but not before Ramaldi slashed the robed cleric’s hand with a strange knife. The cleric, cackling madly, placed something into the bleeding wound and scampered off towards the back of the church. Ramaldi cut through the air with the knife — and sliced through the stone walls where Melisende was hiding. She barely avoided the stroke and hurried through the church walls towards where the tablet was hidden. She located the image of the Virgin and a secret compartment holding a rectangle of clay covered with triangular markings. The cleric confronted her, seeing through a rolling eye in the bleeding wound in his palm.

After defeating the monster, Renaud grabbed Ramaldi’s arm and Martinus knocked away the knife. Ramaldi hissed that he’d could pay the plunder of the city to get the knife back, which tickled Renaud’s greed. He agreed to meet again the next day to work out a deal, if Ramaldi and his forces retreated. Ramaldi accepted, though he threatened consequences if Renaud went back on the deal. Left alone now, the other Crusaders noticed that Melisende had vanished, along with the tablet. Hopefully, she has just gone ahead to deliver it to Count Baldwin…

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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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