Horror On The Orient Express

Campaign Update 1/28/2018

We are slowly starting up from another, holiday related hiatus, but the campaign is getting back into business.

As part of moving to the story’s conclusion, here is a general summary of the main plot points of the campaign so far. A lot has gone on over the years, but these are the main things to keep in mind to follow what’s unfolding:

The Simulacrum
One fragment of the Sedefkar Simulacrum remains to be found. There are hints suggesting a link between the fragment and pioneering archaeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who is buried in Trieste.

The Simulacrum can neither be fully activated or destroyed until all the fragments are gathered together.

As there is a ritual to awaken the full power of the Simulacrum, a Ritual of Ending to destroy it should be possible. Umar can put together a rough outline of such a ritual, but it would be very uncertain and risky to perform it without more study and knowledge. Some important sources of this dangerous knowledge include:

  • Albert Alexis, dilettante mathematical sorcerer, currently staying at Arturo Faccia’s villa, recovering from a sojourn in the Dreamlands.
  • The Sedefkar Scrolls, particularly the Scroll of the Right Hand, which describes the Ritual of Enactment for the fully awakening the power of the Simulacrum.
  • General dark occult lore, i.e., Mythos Points.

The Investigators are increasingly suffering the effects of the Baleful Influence that results from being linked to the Simulacrum. The Scroll of the Left Han, contains the Ritual of Cleansing which balances the Baleful Influence.

The Investigators possess The Scroll of the Head. The other four Scrolls, according to official records, are in the Topkapi Museum in Constantinople, sent there from the British Museum after the War. It is quite likely though that they have ended up in the hands of Selim Makryat.

The Makryats
The family is run by Selim Makryat, who has controlled a vast network of both legitimate businesses and criminal operations for many decades. He is also a dark sorcerer who discovered some of the secrets of the Simulacrum and has been attempting to gather more of its power by any means.

Selim has reformed an ancient cult called the Brothers of the Skin. To many this cult is just an intimidating mask for a criminal gang, but behind that facade is Selim’s true quest for power and world dominion.

Some of the Brothers are becoming discontented with how Selim’s occult obsessions are getting in the way of profitable crime.

Umar’s Uncle Sayad has communicated with this faction and knows a way to contact their leader.

Since the Simulacrum began to awaken, Selim has become more determined and active in his goals, and has become a public figure protesting British interference in Turkey, as well as quietly gathering followers as a messianic figure.

The elder Makryat does not leave Constantinople, but works through his son, Mehmet Makryat, who is well known as an international businessman.

Mehmet uses spells from The Scroll of the Legs to produce flesh masks that allow his minions to take on his appearance and act for him. He also appears to have a limited ability to take on other faces, and to steal the flesh from others to wear as disguises.

Division of Research Operations
This branch of the British Secret Intelligence Service, under the authority of MI6, was formed in the 18th Century to deal with the newly discovered truth of vampires. After the War it expanded to protect the Empire from supernatural dangers in general.

Investigator Emily Johnson is an agent of the Division, assigned to a Field Handler known only as Miss Avon.

Miss Avon is working with Italian industrialist Arturo Faccia to safely contain the Simulacrum in a magically warded vault until means of destroying it can be arranged.

Faccia was a former ally of the Makryat’s, but is now working with the Division and the Investigators, believing he can learn how to harness the mysterious energy known as “vril” by studying the Simulacrum.

It has revealed that the Division has a secret program called “Project Edom” that seeks to not only protect the Empire, but develop new technology and weapons from occult sources.

Fenalik
The French Compte Fenalik is the most recent guise of an ancient vampiric creature. He awoke this year, along with the Simulacrum, after a century of imprisoned dormancy.

He claims the Simulacrum is his personal possession and seeks its return.

The Investigators magically bound the vampire in a cave outside of Paris.

Unable to act directly, Fenalik sent his vampire spawn Lily to follow and occasionally aid the Investigators. She also continually reminded them they how better off they would be by freeing her “father” and returning the Simulacrum to him, thus escaping its dangers.

Lily recently abruptly collapsed into a rotten corpse while screaming that someone was taking away her father.

The Mi-go
These “Outer Ones” are an extraterrestrial race that has operated on Earth for ages, occasionally meddling with human affairs, perhaps becoming the truth behind legends of bargain-making demons, faerie, and djinn.

A Mi-go base was found by the Metzger family in central Austria, and Gregor Metzger mastered enough its secrets to gain a certain immortality.

These beings know of the Simulacrum and the cataclysmic cosmic “Procession” that it summons.

They are also aware of the Investigators and given them a cryptic message to tell the “Tabernacle” that the time of his purpose will soon be here.

The Investigators recovered a medallion from the Austria base that seems to a summoning device/spell of some sort.

Shortly after the Investigators left the base it was destroyed in a gigantic Tunguska-like explosion that killed thousands and was publicly blamed on a meteorite impact.

Prof Julius Smith
After an earlier encounter with Selim Makryat, Prof. Smith discovered the existence of the Simulacrum and planned an expedition to uncover the fragments and find a way to destroy them.

After the fragments unexpectedly began awakening, Makryat attacked Smith’s home to kill him and steal his research.

Smith managed to escape, but an imposter took his place to trick the Investigators into taking on the mission, facing the dangers of the Simulacrum and baring the curse of the Baleful Influence.

The real Smith sought help from his network of contacts to stay undercover, eventually reuniting with his old acquaintance, Umar’s Uncle Sayed.

Together they have been working to research the Simulacrum and the plans of the Makryat family.

Smith has been leading an archaeological investigation of Roman ruins that he believes hold secrets of the Simulacrum.

Sayed has studying the history of the Brothers of the Skin, and the ancient cults that preceded it. The intensity of his work and the secrets he’s uncovered has led to a state of nervous exhaustion and paranoia.

Order of The Red Maidens
During the Middle Ages an order of warrior nuns began defending Italian settlements from supernatural dangers while official military powers were off on the Crusades.

They were organized as part the Order of the Saint Agatha, but there are suggestions and rumors that their origins lead back to an Egyptian cult centered around the cat-goddess Bast.

A nun named Melisende was involved in the breaking of Sedefkar’s power in 13th Century Constantinople. After the Simulacrum was stolen by Fenalik, then using the name Brother Merovac, Melisende attempted to track him down, a mission that led her to the Mi-go base in Austria where she met a fate difficult to put into words.

By the 18th Century the Red Maidens were based in Venice and were guarding the Torso of the Simulacrum. They were also seeking other fragments in order to seal their evil away as well.

The Order appears to have persisted until 1915 when their last convent was bombed during the War.

When the Investigators arrived in Venice in 1923 something that claimed to be the ghostly spirit of Melisende began possessing the body of young Maria Stagliani. The spirit believed that attempting to destroy the Simulacrum was futile and the best plan was to hide the fragments in such remote places that they could never be gathered together.

The possessing spirit on occasion has appeared to be the manifestation of some far greater than a mere ghost, and has warned of a coming apocalypse, and not to trust the various factions who have become involved with seeking the Simulacrum.

Inspired by the story of the Red Maidens, Miss Crispin has suggested the formation of a new organization that would use the skills and resources of British weapon to help the Homefront. Miss Avon agreed that this was a good idea and has lobbied the British Government to start such a program.

The orphaned Maria, lacking any family or prospects in Italy, has, on Miss Crispin’s advice, greed to emigrate to England and join this program.

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Vinkovci 1923, Part Two & Constantinople 330 AD, Part One

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In the Yugoslavian railway town of Vinkovci, the Investigators have seen to the care of Sayed, exhausted and at the edge of mental collapse from his research. Sayed apologies to his nephew Umar for dragging him into this affair, but has faith Umar will live up to the responsibility.

Sayed had collected a considerable library of occult books, including the shunned “Unaussprechlichen Kulten”, in which Sayed uncovered clues about the primal cult that has formed again and again around the Simulacrum. The scholar also acquired a strange artifact that he claims can detect the activity of the extraterrestrial Mi-go.

The Investigators next set out on horseback to visit the archaeological excavation being conducted by Prof. Smith. After some trouble with bandits, they arrived and found their long missing patron wearied but pleased to see them. A thorough medical exam convinces the Investigators that this Smith is not a flesh-masked duplicate. Smith is grateful for the Investigators’ continued help, but is concerned about the accumulating costs to body and soul.

Smith has been digging out a Roman construction uncovered by recent erosion. It is quite old, though shows signs of being altered and rebuilt for centuries. Throughout are carvings and images of humans worshipping not the gods, but unsettling crustacean-like creatures. A central panel appears to show these horrors delivering the Simulacrum from the heavens. An inscription reads:

We beseech the holy words
So we might be found worthy
With joy we give our flesh and blood
To build the Tabernacle of the Great Gift

May our prayers and sacrifice be pleasing
So we may be transfigured and purified
To deliver the Great Gift of Skin
Onto the True God of the Black Stars

Beneath the panel Smith has found a pit of human sacrifices, each with its skull neatly cut open, and a pendant show Mi-go symbols around the neck.

Dr. Wilke found more symbols, similar to those on the standing stones in Austria, and Umar managed to activate them, causing the panel to slide open and reveal a hidden chamber. Within is a half-collapsed room similar to what was found in Austria. Most everything is broken and in ruins, but a lead box is found containing a strange manuscript. This book has an 18th Century binding, but its pages have been patched and repaired for many centuries. The hand writing through is eerily the same, related what seems are historical events from over 1500 years ago….

Constantine.jpegIn 330 AD Constantinople, the city is being rebuilt into Nova Roma, the capital of a new united Roman Empire under Constantine the Great. A squad of elite military veterans, the Fortes Falcones, has been invited to a lavish banquet by their commanding officer, Tillius Corvus. To the surprise of none of them, the dinner leads up to new assignment. A Senator recently received a letter complaining of possible new organized crime activity in a certain blighted corner of his district. The politician wants to show that he is a man with connections who can get things done, and Tillius owes him a favor. Tillius in turn orders the squad to investigate, clear things up, or otherwise make the problem go away in a reasonably efficient manner.

The letter of complaint was signed by three citizens of the area, and the Falcones proceeded there to interview the three. On arrival at the riverside neighborhood, they immediately felt a sense of listless depression contrasting with the rest of the bustling metropolis. They quickly find that the first name of their list has recently died. No one is very willing to give details and all residents seemed tense and frightened.

Belasir sought out a local hole-in-the-wall pub and finds out that a Dacian passed through some weeks go and formed a cultish gang that quickly took over the district in a reign of terror. He expressed interest in working for such organization and was pointed towards an ominous figure literally lurking in the shadows. This figure expressed interest and agreed to meet later to discuss a possible employment interview. He must though be discreet and tell no one. Within his mind Belasir feels chains close on his will and he knows he cannot tell anyone.

Galerius moved to the next name on the list, a local stone cutter. The man had been sent home from his work due to lack of business— very strange in a city undergoing vast reconstruction. At the man’s home it is discovered that he too has just died of an unknown illness. Strangely, though the stonecutter’s family subscribed to a community fund to provide cremation and burial service, his family refuses to turn over the body. Galerius barged into the family quarters demanding explanations. The dead man’s mother admitted that they are being forced to give the body to the new criminal cult. Galerius insisted the law can protect them, but the woman revealed her son’s body, withered and showing two ugly bite marks on the neck. Can they protect the family from that?

Galerius ordered Damanais to stake out the apartment, waiting until the gang arrives to collect the body that night. Galerius and Milonius headed to the address of the third man, without much hope for what they will find.

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Vinkovci 1923, Part One

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The Investigators find themselves feeling more of the debilitating effects of the Simulacrum‘s Baleful Influence. A purifying ritual in the Scroll of the Left Hand is the only known relief from this curse, but the rest of the Sedefkar Scrolls are likely in the hands of Selim Makryat in Constantinople.
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The Investigators decided to track down Umar’s Uncle Sayed, who has gone missing in the Yugoslavian city of Vinkovci. Wanting to remain as secretive as they can, they charter a plane flight once again, which took them as far as Belgrade. An aerial encounter with black chickens reminded them that they are not welcome in the part of the world.

On arriving in town they are met by Sayed’s assistant Turgay. He explained that Sayed and Prof. Smith came here researching the mystery of the Simulacrum. Smith moved on to an archaeological excavation, while Umar’s uncle researched the history of Makryat’s cult. But after the disaster in Austria he grew erratic, becoming obsessed with reports of strange phenomena such lights in the sky and unexplained noises. He then disappeared without explanation. Turgay was particularly worried as one of the last things Sayed was trying to do was contact a local branch of the Brothers of the Skin, a gang calling themselves the Wolves of Vinkovci.

The Investigators began looking into what they could find out about the Wolves, discovering they were a recently arrived gang and were trying to establish themselves through protection and selling amulets of Namtar. Umar found that while his uncle had been seen around the city he was not to be found at any of the usual places a scholar might be staying.

Miss Johnson volunteered to take one of the Namtar amulets to a coffee house that was a known hangout of the Wolves. She hung around in disguise until a young man arrived. She asked him about the amulet and he nervously assured her that she need only show the amulet and ask for the Wolves and they’d deal with any trouble. The more she questioned him, the more anxious he became until he fled the coffee house. Miss Johnson followed him to a rundown apartment block, but was attacked by a hambaba. Barely escaping, she met up with the others

Deciding they needed to act fast, the Investigators hurried to apartment. Dr. Wilke magically tracked the man’s trail to his room, but they were met by gunfire and the golem-like hambaba. Umar used a spell to make the man’s gun explode and Dr. Wilke tied him up. A magic stone was found that control the hambaba and it was halted before it could attack a fleeing Miss Crispin.

Kemal, the subdued “Wolf”, explained that he and his friend Badem have been sent to this remote town as punishment for questioned the authority of Makryat. Badem had been in touch with Sayed, but the night after a meeting something attacked him, leaving him in a state of shock and confusion. Dr. Wilke found strange scars on the back of his skull, similar to the marks on the dissected body found in the alien underground lair in Austria. Dr. Wilke revived the man with drugs, and he ranted about being attacked by blinding lights and giant insects that cut into his head with machines.

Kemal and Badem are taken to the hospital, and the Investigators located the warehouse described as the location of Sayed’s secret library. After Umar disarmed a protective spell, the Investigators confronted a disheveled Sayed in his disorderly study. While pleased to see his nephew, Sayed is paranoid and a bit unstable. He believes he is being watched by the alien Mi-go, creatures from beyond earth who have some mysterious interest in the Simulacrum. From the Wolves, Sayed has learned that there is faction within the Brothers of the Skin that is discontented with Makryat’s dream of godhood. A contact within this faction might be willing to provide information helpful in destroying the mad crime lord.

But Sayed also does not trust the involvement of the British Empire in these affairs. He pulled a gun on Miss Johnson and demanded she tell what she knows of “Project Edom.” A tense confrontation ensued with Dr. Wilke insisting he drop the gun, while Umar protected his uncle. Miss Crispin diffused the situation (for now at least) by calming the distraught Sayed. Miss Johnson admitted that she has heard of Project Edom, a top-secret division of the British Secret Service that seeks to weaponize supernatural power for the defense of the Empire.

After taking Sayed back to Turgay, the Investigators began to examine Sayed’s notes, finding more of signs of his instability, as well as an intercepted note from British Intelligence about their interest in vampires, the Mi-go, and other disturbing topics. They decide to take the short journey to Prof. Smith’s excavation to consult with him on the situation.

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London and Venice 1923, Interlude 02

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Suspicious and worried, the Investigators decided to make a detour in their mission and find out what been happening with their patron, Prof Smith, back in London. They arranged airline passage to throw off anybody watching or tracking them. Before setting off they visited the Simulacrum’s vault in Venice and placed the befuddled Albert Alexis into Arturo Faccia’s care.

They found the Simulacrum pieces safe, but Faccia had asked German scientist and occultist Heinrich Glessler to study the effect that the mere presence of the statue has on the space and energy around it. Faccia and Glessler booth believe that studying the simulacrum is the key to master the secrets of vril energy, which could lead to a new revolution in industry and technology. Glessler wished to study the statue directly but Dr. Wilke and the others forbade this.

Faccia later asked Miss Crispin if she would speak with the young Maria, whom Faccia had been caring for. Maria had been worried what to do with her life, though Miss Avon had offered to take her to England to be a part of the organization of women she has been forming, at Miss Crispin’s suggestion, to assist the Homefront battle against supernatural troubles. Miss Crispin advised that this is a good idea. Maria thanked her – but Miss Crispin found herself speaking to something… else manifesting through Maria. This entity warned Miss Crispin of a coming war, and hoped that she will be ready to participate when the time comes. She warned her not to trust either Caesar, or those old forces that lurk in the skies. Miss Crispin woke in her bed, her memories of what was real and what was a dream blurred.

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After a cold and bumpy flight, the Investigators arrived in London and paid a surprise visit to Violet, their only contact with Smith. She reported that Smith’s butler Beddows has been relaying messages and is the only person who knows his hiding place. Beddows was reluctant to reveal anything, but Dr. Wilke convinced him of their dedication to help Smith, and the loyal butler broke down in tears, expressing how strangely Smith has been acting, hardly eating or sleeping, pouring all his effort in to mysterious research and study. Dr. Wilke attempted a divination spell on an old pocket watch given by Smith, and got an unsettling impression that Smith may be far away, near old stone and fresh dirt.

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Following Beddows’ direction, Miss Johnson drove the group across the bleak English countryside, to a run down, ill-maintained manor house. Beddows showed them in, and up to the second floor library where Prof. Smith had been spending all his time. An unused bed and untouched meals indicated Smith had neither slept nor ate since Beddows had last been there. Dr. Wilke barged in, ignoring the wheel chair bound Smith’s demands to be left to his important studies. While Dr. Wilke confronted him, Miss Crispin approached and pulled off the blanket and hood that covered Smith, revealing a bone, wax, metal, and magic construct.

Standing at the entrance to the library, Miss Johnson was attacked by a burly man in a clay mask, with a second one close behind. While the Investigators fought off these hambaba, a terrified Violet fled the manor house. The building then shook with a crack of thunder. Out in front of the house, a small truck – apparently the vehicle of the attackers — had been destroyed by a terrific force. Miss Johnson ran out to check on any survivors, only to glimpse what seemed like a large, metallic beetle perched on the roof. It fired its thunderbolt weapon again, but targeted the last remnants of the attackers’ truck, rather than Miss Johnson or the Investigators’ own vehicle. Their car had been knocked on its side by the blasts, but Dr. Wilke used his sorcery to upright it. Umar and Miss Crispin helped Beddows and Violet out to the car, and they drove off, thunderbolts striking in their wake.

Their fears about Prof. Smith confirmed, the Investigators decided to try located the “real” Smith. Their only lead is Umar’s Uncle Sayed, an old acquaintance of Smith. But when Umar attempts to contact him, it seems Sayed himself has disappeared while conducting investigators in the Yugoslavian city of Vinkovici…

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Return to Lausanne

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In addition to finding the scattered pieces of the Sedefkar Simulacrum, the Investigators are gathering lore to devise a “Ritual of Ending” to destroy the cursed artifact. Dilettante Albert Alexis had discovered some of the secret mathematics of the universe, so consulting him would be of great help. He though had been lost in Time and Space aboard the Doom Train. The only clue to his location were glimpses Miss Crispin had of him being hunted through Dream Lausanne by the Duc de Messeraine. Perhaps he could be located there.

With only a small amount of the drug that allows passage into the Dreamlands, the Investigators attempted brewing their own, though what they produced had limited shelf-life and other uncertain properties.

Taking the Orient Express back to the physical Lausanne, they read news reports of a deadly meteorite strike that had devastated the region of Austria they had visited only a few weeks earlier.

Miss Crispin had a disturbing bout of sleep walking, where strange voices demand she:


Deliver the Message to the Tabernacle. His apprenticeship ends
The Procession nears. He must be ready
You have touched the Skin, but you are not Worthy
The Tabernacle has been prepared, only He must greet the Procession of the Skinless One
Deliver the message. The Tabernacle must be ready

Settling in at a hotel in Lausanne, the Investigators made their plans for journeying to the Other Side of Sleep. To fortify themselves they sat down to a special dinner (including flamingo tongues and a sugar castle) being served at the hotel dining room, only to slowly realize that they had already taken the drug and were dreaming. The Duc knew of their coming and arrived aboard his own dream version of the Orient Express to grant the Investigators an audience. They are welcomed by their old acquaintance Henri, who spirit was drawn to this train after his death in the Waking World.
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Brought before the throne of the Duc, in his guise as the Patchwork Prince, the Investigators explained that they were looking for the missing Alexis. Messeraine revealed that he had added the unfortunate man to his collection of rare items, since it is unusual these days for someone to come to the Dreamlands in their physical form. He is currently being kept in a cage transformed into a monkey.

The Duc offered a deal. He would hand Alexis over to the Investigators, if they will do a service for him: His dream kingdom is being invaded by an ever growing gray city, that blights the landscape and draws hordes of dreamers into its walls. He plans to attack and drive back the city, but wants the Investigators to be his advance spies and go into the walls and report what they find there. They are well suited for this mission, as they are newcomers still close to the Waking World and will be able to influence the substance of the Dreamlands with their wills. They agree, though demand that in addition to Alexis they receive more dosages of the Dream Drug.
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The Duc’s train dropped them off near the gate of the city, where the Investigators waited with crowds of silent, hunched cloaked figures. Within the tall gates the crowds dispersed, leaving them alone amidst the dim foggy streets and towering, crumbling stone buildings. Miss Johnson and Miss Crispin used their new dreamscaping abilities to blend in, while Umar andDr. Wilke stayed prominent, to attract attention. Which they did, when a cloaked figure appeared and offered to show them the truth of the coming “Great Day, ” if they would follow him. The figure disappeared down an alley, leaving a bone key behind.

The two groups of Investigators then explored the dark city, finding a variety of nightmare tableaus. A preacher warned about the imminent return of Satan to the Earth. Flagellants sought to have their flesh torn apart by a horror in a pit in order to purify their souls. poster_small.jpgSoldiers were recruited to fight a coming invasion from Mars. An astronomer observed a strange approaching celestial phenomena. A swamp cultist celebrated the rise of Cthulhu from his tomb under the sea. Each twisted scene included a key of a different material for the Investigators to recover: wood, leather, steel, crystal, and stone.

Once the six keys had been collected, the Investigators gathered at the tower in the center of the city. Carved bas-relief on the walls depicted a priest copying symbols from a statue onto a knife and apparently triggering the sinking of Atlantis. After noting these they used the keys to open the iron gate. Within they met the cloaked figure who led them through a huge, empty fortress. On its highest tower he began to speak, telling of the long history of earth, lost civilizations, and the non-human creatures that rules before. His tale began to reach beyond Earth to the vast cosmos beyond, and the Investigators fought to protect their minds from such corrosive revelations.

Realizing their sanity was in jeopardy, Dr. Wilke tackled the cloaked figure, while Miss Crispin slapped awake a transfixed Miss Johnson. The figure laughed and pointing at the coming dawn. If the Investigators were not in their beds by sunrise, they would join him in the City forever. From the height of the tower they could see the Duc’s train outside the walls. Dr. Wilke transformed himself into an eagle, and the others dream up a Leonardo flying machine. They flew off to meet the train where Henri hurried them aboard, back to their rooms at the Lausanne hotel – where they found their own sleeping forms in bed.

The next morning they were met at breakfast by the Duc, who gravely listen to their report. His suspicions about the dangers to the world were confirmed and he offered the Investigators sanctuary in Dream Lausanne, for while it was in danger as well, he believed he could defend it and give it a better chance of survival than the Waking World. After presenting them with the Dream Drug and promising that Albert Alexis would be delivered to them, he vanished in a puff a green smoke.

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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 4/19/2017

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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