Horror On The Orient Express

Belgrade 1923, Part Two

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In the Serbia village of Orasac, Umar and Dr. Wilke finished observing the ritual parade of the cigani. The locals believed this to be a quaint folk custom, but the Investigators recognized it as a magical ward protecting the locals from a powerful, devouring nature deity. Miss Crispin and Miss Johnson accompanied Ana Filopovic to a old, half-ruined church to pray against the “devil-worshipping pagans.” Miss Crispin grew suspicious about the inauthentic looking church, and Miss Johnson spotted horned, goat hoofed creatures about to attack. They broken into the Church, dragging off Miss Johnson while Miss Crispin held another one off with her crucifix and prayers. Ana screamed, but did not seemed quite as upset as one might expect.

Drawn by the commotion, Umar and Dr. Wikle arrived and the Investigators fought off the creatures with spells and firebombs, ultimately confronting a horror of twisted tree trunks and oozing tentacles. While the creature was destroyed, all the magic-using Investigators experienced strange surges of power that, to differing degrees, marked the parts of their bodies that were bound to the Simulacrum.

Back in the village, Dr. Wilke angrily confronted Ana, IMG_0047.JPG accusing her of calling up the monsters — something she blamed on the cigani. Father Filipovic coldly suggested the Investigators finish their business and leave town as soon as possible. While the others rested, Wilke visited the local cigani camp. The travelling folk had realized that their help protecting the town is not wanted, and that they should move on before being blamed for whatever happened next.

The next day, no longer welcomed in the village, they set off to visit the mysterious “Grandmother.” After a hike through fields and forest usually verdant for this time of year, they found an idyllic looking cottage tucked away in a mountain valley.
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Inside was a shy young maiden, Kcerca, 9c8a808b707c26ebe212fa918a2d6662.jpgwho appeared to be the wild girl they had encountered before. She was weaving a tapestry with an extraordinary detailed depiction of the village. The walls of the cottage were lined with shelves holding many fragments of statuary — with what seemed the Leg of the tucked among them.

Grandmother herself was flattered that travellers had come so far to see her and asked Kcerca to serve tea while she went to get some fresh baked bread.Phaedra.jpeg The young girl gestured for Miss Johnson to help, only to ensnare her in the suddenly animated statuary. The entire cottage began to shift and come alive around the Investigators. Dr. Wilke used his magic to pull the Leg off its shelf and Miss Crispin gathered it up in a table cloth. The Investigators quickly fled to the cottage door, only to find it was rising off the ground. They lept out, and saw the entire structure lift up on a pair of scaly bird legs. Grandmother began to chant prayers to Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat, but was felled by by more firebombs from WIlke and Miss Johnson. She collapsed into screaming flames and the towering, walking horror began to go beserk. The Investigators fled as quickly as they good.

They reached the safety of the pastures beyond the forested hills, only to see the Walker come charging out the trees, Kcera riding it, headed towards the Orasac. With some reluctance, they decided they had to do what they could to save the village. The creature’s huge strides would get it there well before they could arrive, but Dr. Wilke recalled the bone flute and suggested Umar try it. The unearthly tones of the instrument caused the monster to stumble and fall, monetary stopping its advance.

When they reached it, the Investigators found a strangely older and more vocal Kcerca. She had no desire to unleash the Walker on the countryside, for while it needed to be fed, such devastation would draw unwanted attention. Grandmother had found the Leg and used her magic to feed its power into the Walker, as an alternative to is usual meals of human sacrifice. She and the Investigators combined their occult lore to break the spell. The Leg itself still need to be calmed, and Miss Crispin took on the burden, enduring a vision similar to Dr. Wilke’s earlier nightmare of a robed figured being carried by a dark procession. The figured stood, on two strong legs, and reached towards Miss Crispin with a skinless hand.

Their partnership completed, Kcerca insisted the Investigators leave her domain, which they were eager to do. Her wishes were seemingly reinforced by a sudden plague of black chickens that met them at the train station and herded them aboard.

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Belgrade 1923, Part One

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Some time has passed since their last mission, and the Investigators are attempting to move past recent traumas and focus on their core mission: recover the next piece of the Simulacrum. Aboard the Orient Express heading to Belgrade, they consider their next actions, particularly how much they should trust Prof. Smith — who is suspected of being an imposter. They agree to go along with things for the time being, and to contact the guide Smith has recommended in Belgrade, Petar Riticht.

The enthusiastic young man took care of all the arrangements for their stay in the city, and the Investigators were left to follow up the lead they have from Smith’s notes: Dr. Milovan Todorovic at the National Museum of Serbian.Toroorovic.jpg Dr. Todorovic had not heard of anything resembling the Simulacrum, but does have an old school friend who occasionally deals in unusual artifacts and relics found in the countryside. One of his sources has actually been producing skilled, if disturbing, surreal figures, many of which have unusually large right legs. Dr. Todorovic will provide a letter of introduction to Father Filopovic, who can likely tell them if any strange statuary has been found recently. He warns though that the country has strict laws about removing antiquities from the country, so if they find anything, it is important to follow procedures and take care of any paperwork.

The next day is given to sightseeing and shopping and the Investigators visit the city’s thriving bazaar. Dr. Wilke, under the protective gaze of Miss Johnson, delved into the market for occult objects, digging deeper and deeper until he came across an intriguing broken tablet. It is covered with a mixture of cuneiform and the more ancient symbols sometime attributed to Atlantis. This fragment is all that’s left from an attack on a Turkish base during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877.

Miss Crispin and Umar checked for any sign of the Simulacrum amidst the archaeological fragments and statuary for sale by the local antiquity dealers. Miss Crispin noticed a beggar steal a leg the size and appearance of what they are looking for. But by the time she caught up with him, something had struck him down in an alley, destroying his mind. Additionally his own right leg and arm missing. In fact the limbs had been lost long ago, so how had he so quickly grabbed the leg and run off with it? The stolen item, actually only made of plaster, lay shattered nearby, as if it had been thrown against a wall.

Dr. Wilke and Miss Johnson next encountered a fortune teller named Phaedra.FortuneTeller.jpeg Her divinations revealed strange glimpses into the future, that even she did not understand. Her pet chicken exhibited pain in the parts of its body that corresponded to the parts of the Simulacrum each Investigator was bound with. Phaedra, disturbed herself, asked the Investigators to return tomorrow if they wished to consult her further.

At their hotel, Umar was given the tablet to study. The others continued what had become a nightly habit of visiting the nomadic cigani people who lived outside of city proper. They had made friends with these people and learned something of their customs and culture, including an old belief that the forces of nature, particularly in Spring time, could be too powerful, wild, and hungry, posing a risk for frail humans, if precautions were not taken.
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Alone in the hotel room, Umar examined and decoded the tablet. It secrets suggested the terrible knowledge that Sedefkar drew on when he wrote his Scrolls and tried to master the Simulacrum in the 14th Century. Surrounded by the tablet, the Scroll of the Head, The Devil’s Simulare, Prof Smith’s 1893 diary, and other items from their missions, Umar realized that the magic lore in these texts all seem based around a core system of arcane symbols, long speculated about in occult studies: the Aklo. And the symbols that can be glimpsed on the surface of the Simulacrum appear to be the oldest, purest form of Aklo. Could all of what human mages and sorcerers and wise men call “magic” be derived from the Simulacrum, even the powers that Umar himself has wielded in the name of God?

The next day the Investigators departed to visit the village of Orašac, home to Father Filopovic, slipping way without telling their guide Petar of their intentions. On the way they stopped to visit Phaedra once again, but her stall was empty, save for a single egg. Dr. Wilke attempted to recreate her divination spell, but was struck by a vision of a dark procession traveling through dying stars, a cloaked figure on a bier gesturing Wilke to join him.
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They shared a local train with friendly locals and an ill-tempered black rooster. The train dropped them off at the edge an old forest, and they had to make the last leg of the trip on foot. Along the way they briefly encountered a strange naked young woman cavorting through the trees. On arriving in the village they soon met Father Filopovic and his wife Ana. One of his main sources for the relics he sells to Todorovic, and the artist who crafted the figurines is an eccentric old woman nicknamed Grandmother, who lives outside the village. He can point them the way in the morning. The village has no inns, but guests are always welcome to stay with the village mayor, Todor Nedic. On the way to the mayor, they spot some of the local cigani, and Ana express her contempt for them.
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Todor is glad to have visitors to his crowded household, especially tonight, as the cigani will be performing one of their quaint folk ceremonies that welcomes the coming Spring. Ana is scornful of such pagan rituals and argues with her husband about why he permits such blasphemies. The Investigators note that the mayor follows the local fashion of collecting interesting relics that are found around the countryside. Among various pots and figurines is an unusual bone flute of ancient origin. Noticing Umar’s interest in it, Todor’s sister suggest he take it as a gift. Curious about any occult properties it might have, Umar blows the flute and experiences an unusually deep vibration. He experiences a compulsion to keep blowing it harder and harder, but is able to stop himself.

Soon it is time for the ceremony to begin. Ana reappears and begs the Investigators to not participate in such devilry. She suggests they come to Church and pray with her instead. Miss Crispin and Miss Johnson agree.

Umar and Dr. Wilke join the villagers to watch a parade of costumed cigani progress through the down, dancing and splashing water on the thresholds of the houses. Experienced themselves in the ways of magic, they recognize that this ceremony is a ritual of actual power, and the cigani are casting and reinforcing a powerful protective ward on the village. Dr. Wilke recalls what he’d learned of the cigani folk beliefs and his own occult studies and realizes this ward matches those meant to protect against the ravenous desires of an entity known as the Black Goat of the Woods.

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Campaign Update

I just wanted to mention that the campaign has been on hiatus for a while, due to the end of the year holidays and my work schedule. We are though working towards starting things up again soon, at least in June. So stay tuned!

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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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