Horror On The Orient Express

Constantinople 1923, Part 2

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The Investigators considered their next actions after hearing Mehmet Makryat’s offer to ally with them to assassinate his father Selim. Mehmet seemed sincere in what he told them, but what wasn’t he telling?

Their night’s rest was disturbed by a series of late night explosions that wracked the old districts of Stamboul. While the hotel manager advised everyone that they were safe in the British controlled sections of the city, the Investigators sneaked out to see what was going on for themselves. After crossing the Golden Horn they discovered a disaster scene where emergency crews were struggling to put out fires from damaged buildings and medical tents filled the streets to deal with injured. Unlike other recent bombings this one had resulted in numerous civilian casualties.

While the others slipped into the scene, volunteering gratefully accepted help, Umar observed the destruction and saw that, besides bomb damage, much of the destruction was caused by something that had cut through buildings, melting the very stone. Inside the medical tents Dr. Wilke found victims suffering from burns like those caused by lightning. Miss Crispin was able to recognize and interview a Brother of the Skin who babbled about djinn and confirmed her suspicions about large metallic “bugs” being seen. Official newspaper reports later described the events only as a successful raid by British soldiers on an anarchist cell.

The next day Umar and Dr. Wilke met again with Mehmet at the bathhouse. He was more agitated than usual, saying his father was using recent events to rally more followers to his side. He was preparing some sorcerous response to the British making pacts with djinn from the beyond the stars, so time was running short. They confirmed an upcoming night when Selim might be surprised in his workshop. This could be reached through the ruins beneath the Shunned Mosque, but he warned about unnatural things that Selim’s spells had awakened there, particularly an unseen horror called “The Flapping Thing.”

Miss Crispin and Miss Johnson researched records of the sewers beneath the ancient city, and Dr. Wilke used them to magically scry a route through the ruins beneath the The Shunned Mosque. Mehmet had mentioned an air vent that opened into Selim’s workshop. They’d know the right one by the amount of blood running from it.

The Investigators descended and made their way through the treacherous and unsettling subterranean passages, facing crumbling walls, swarms of insects, and a close encounter with a massive creature that might have been the Flapping Thing, shuddering through this underworld, leaving a gory trail and the faint sound of a woman singing. Tired and unnerved by the journey, the Investigators found themselves in a bloody human abattoir that was part of Selim’s workshop of evil magic. After examining the rooms they waited for Selim to arrive.

Exactly on time, the crimelord appeared, removed the Sedefkar Scrolls from their sarcophagus, and began to study them. Umar took the moment to strike with the Mims Sahis dagger, while Miss Crispin prepared to grab the scrolls. As the knife move towards its target, Umar experience a slowing of time. Selim hissed that he’d prepared for such a confrontation by hiding the Scroll of the Left Hand. If Umar were to stop his attack and hand over the knife, he would tell them its location. Without it, the debilitating Baleful Influence would increase without end.

Umar refused to bargain and time returned to normal. The obsidian blade sunk into Selim’s neck, splattering Umar with acidic blood. The sorcerer stumbled back and then cackled, claiming “The Skinless One will not be denied! Not even the Serpent’s Fang can harm me now!” He raised his hand to strike Umar down with a spell, but found himself powerless.

The confrontation was interrupted by the vibrations caused by the approaching Flapping Thing. Selim seemed to forget everything else, and was overcome with terror. Screaming “No! It was you who betrayed me!” he ran from the room, only for his cries to be abruptly cut off by a heavy, wet impact, followed by the sound of a woman tunelessly singing. The Investigators took the opportunity to flee, grabbing the scrolls and several books from Selim’s library.

While resting back at their hotel, a flood of telegrams began to be delivered, all stating: “Deliver the Skin to the Tabernacle.” After hundreds of these arrived, one last message came: “Or we will take action ourselves.”

Umar began to study the scrolls, though what he read there appeared to affect him deeply. Dr. Wilke checked in with this contacts in the Romani community. They warned that strange men had been asking about the Investigators. They were willing to help smuggle Dr. Wilke and the others out of the city if they wished to leave secretly. On returning to the hotel he encountered a prim Englishman who claimed to be Mr. Fleet of the Division of Research Operations, come to collect the Investigators and take them back to Venice.

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Samwise

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