Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Masks of Nyarlathotep - Episode 5

Episode 5

30th Jan 1925



(A brief bit of ret-conning was needed to get Andy’s new character into the party) The previous night as Dick merrily drank the night away, he got into a bit of a scuffle with one of the locals over the quality of the ale served. Punches were thrown, glasses broken but it was over before it began and they got separated to opposite ends of the bar. A man asks the landlord for his kit, and the landlord hands over a military style medical bag. He patches up the drunken patron, and then does the same for the drunken P.I, introducing himself as Thomas Clinton, ex-Army doctor. He takes Dick back to Bennetts house and stays the night to ensure that his patient is well.

Over breakfast the party get to know Thomas and explain that their previous medical ‘expert’ stayed in Arkham when they came to London, and they could really do with a doctor in their midst. Thomas agrees, although he is very sceptical about the talk of monsters and magic, his stiff upper lip not allowing much room for imagination.

Once breakfast is finished, Bennett and Jim head to the library to research the Carlyle expedition and see if they can find any reference to The Crawling Chaos; Thomas and Dick go to the office of The Scoop to talk to the Editor, Micky Mahoney.

Mickey was expecting them, but was surprised that Waldo wasn’t with them. Dick’s blasé comment of “A lot of people die around us” worries both Micky and Thomas, but the conversation quickly turns back to Jackson Elias. Micky confirms that Jackson visited a few weeks back, he’d known him for several years and was surprised to see him so flustered, but was happy to let him search through the archives. After a couple of hours, Micky tells them, Jackson left in a hurry, leaving only three articles on the table:

An artist in Soho, painting horrid and unusual scenes

A beast of some sort seen in a village near Derby

Egyptians living in London turning up dead, a couple every month for many months

Excited to have some leads, they head to the café to meet up with the other two. It transpires that their time at the library wasn’t as successful; finding no new information on the Expedition, and the Crawling Chaos could be one of several names for the same entity. This barely disheartened them, as having something that was directly linked to Jackson spurred them on. Thomas and Dick went to Scotland Yard to speak with Inspector Barrington with regards to the Egyptian murders, while Jim and Bennett head to Holbein Mews to speak to the surprising new artist, Miles Shipley.

At The Yard, Inspector Barrington agrees to see the pair and listen to what they’ve got to say. They tell him about the ritual murder of their friend and the Cultists on the Mauritania, and how they could be linked to the murders going on here.

“You’re not the first person to suggest a Cult connection, a man called Elias mentioned something called The Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh but we couldn’t find any evidence”

The pair tell the Inspector that the man he met was the very man who was murdered, this piqued his interest and he happily divulged what he knew:

Jackson mentioned The Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh

One of the victims muttered ‘Hotep’ before he died, which means ‘Peace’ or ‘Rest’ according to Edward Gavigan of the Penhew Foundation

Many of the victims frequented the Blue Pyramid club but investigations didn’t turn up anything

Tewfic al-Sayed did work for the Penhew Foundation and also goes to the club, but again investigations found nothing conclusive

Barrington impresses upon them that they are civilians now and although he appreciates their help, they aren’t to overstep their bounds (let’s see how long that lasts!)


Meanwhile, Jim and Bennett are enjoying a cup of tea made by Miles’ mother as she tells them about her son’s amazing change into the rising star of the art world. Miles on the other hand barely communicates with them, staring unblinkingly at his sketchbook as he furiously draws out another disturbing image. Bertha takes the two ‘art collectors’ upstairs to the gallery, where they are confronted by over a dozen horrific and twisted paintings, all expertly created with meticulous detail, but all the gore, bugs and just plain messed up things going on starts to take its toll and they need a breather. Bennett helps Bertha in the kitchen while Jim feigns illness to use the bathroom, using the precious few minutes alone to have a search around upstairs, but to no avail.

Bennett notices a strange smell in the kitchen, but he can’t quite place it, although it is stronger towards the basement door. Running out of excuses to stay, they agree to buy one of the paintings and arrange to come back the next day to see if Miles in in a more talkative mood.

The party meet up at the pub to exchange information and agree that there is something screwy going on in that house, but it can wait till the next day; the Blue Pyramid however is definitely an evening job, so after dropping off the painting, picking up a few bits from Thomas' house and placing an order for a pistol through a gentleman that Dick found at a dive bar, they back into Soho to check out the club. They arrive at around 9pm and are led into the main area of the club, a large open room with silks hanging from the ceiling across to the walls and down, giving a very touristy impression of an Arabian tent. The music isn’t to any of their tastes, but the ladies wearing not a lot whilst belly dancing one stage soon put that out of their mind. Thomas asks who the owner of this fine establishment is, and eventually manages a quick chat with him. Beyond general niceties, no real information was gained; he’s far too busy running the club to pay attention to the occasional random person.

Feeling down heartened at this sudden dead end, the investigators have a few drinks and discuss their possible options and how the different cults may be linked. The time rolls on to gone 11pm when one of the waitresses brings them another round, but written on Thomas’s napkin is “Meet me round back at Midnight”. Debating whether this is a clue or if Thomas has pulled, for safety’s sake the rest of the party spread out, on staying at the club, one across the road and another stands guard at the mouth of the alleyway while Thomas meets the mysterious lady. Only a few minutes after midnight, the fire door at the side of the club opens, and the waitress comes out. She introduces herself as Yasmine and tells him that her boyfriend was taken by the Brotherhood several weeks ago and is most likely dead. She goes on to say that each month a truck arrives at closing time, driven by Tewfic al-Sayed, and around 20 people get in. They are gone all night and arrive back early the next morning, well most of them come back….

Thomas asks when was the last time the van came by, nearly a month ago it transpires (convenient huh?), but it’s getting late so they swing by Tewfic’s spice shop to have a quick look before heading home. After having to spell out to Dick that breaking into someone’s premises while it’s obvious that they’re in would be a fairly sodding dumb move, the party head home. More nightmares harass Jim’s sleep, how much longer can he cope with them?

The next day, Jim heads back to the British Museum to see Professor Willis and find out if he had managed to translate the tablet he found. The professor explains that cuneiform is very difficult to translate, but there does seem to be references to communicating with ‘Deep Ones’. While he is at the museum, the rest of the investigators go to the Spice Shop to talk to Tewfic. The conversation begins nicely enough, they ask about why he lives here, how nice the Blue Pyramid club is, general chit chat to get a feel for this man. They manage to get some more information about the Brotherhood (it was an ancient cult that was outlawed hundreds of years ago). That is until Dick straight out accuses him of being a mass murderer because he’s foreign! Oddly enough Tewfic doesn’t take to that well and angrily kicks them out of his shop.

Thomas volunteers to keep an eye on the shop while the others go back to see Miles Shipley. Miles is technically more lucid this time, but he is clearly a disturbed individual, unable to explain how his talent suddenly appeared or where he gets his inspiration from. Bennett manages to get him talking about the techniques he used while Dick pretends to have been a plumber in the past and offers his services to check the sink, to see if he can find the source of the smell in the kitchen. Unfortunately for Dick, his knowledge of indoor plumbing is somewhat lacking and despite some fantastic quick thinking bullshit from his player (well done Kiwi), Bertha is suspicious of his motives. The smell however does remind him and Jim of being at the zoo, most importantly, the reptile house.

Hoping to appeal to their bank accounts, Jim tells them that he’d like to be Miles’ patron and would be willing to put on a show in a local gallery. The Shipley’s are excited by the prospect and agree to go for a meal with Jim and Bennett to discuss is more.

Heading home to get changed, they pick up Thomas on the way past who tells them that Tewfic hasn’t left the shop all day. A plan is concocted, Jim and Bennett get the Shipley’s out of the house, and Thomas and Dick break in and get to the bottom of the weirdness in that place. Everyone knows their roles, and the plan is deployed; The ‘Art Critics’ go for a lovely meal at The Ritz, and the other pair sneak round to the back of the house. Dick manages to climb over the high wall surrounding the small garden, Thomas instead opens the gate and walks though, smug as all hell as he strides past the dangling P.I. They spot a deckchair in the garden that seems to have scales of some sort on them, but unsure of their significance they turn their attention to breaking and entering. Dick is unable to pick the lock, but thanks to a steady hand and a small scalpel from the doctor, he manages to pop the latch to the kitchen.

They head straight into the basement which has an odd path leading to the back wall, either side of this path is made up of general Brik-a-brak and household items. The smell gets worse the further they head in, not just the smell of the zoo, but something altogether, deader. A few minutes searching provides them with a secret entrance to a small cave like room, bizarre glyphs and symbols are carved in the walls, a couple of crude shelves hold some books, scrolls and a syringe of green fluid. At the end of the room is a stone tub, no more than 2ft square, and despite Dicks request to not look in the strange stone tub (flashbacks to the creature in the well in the Ju-Ju House!), Thomas checks out the contents. What he sees turns his stomach. Even the trenches of the Somme didn’t produce this…mess. Human bones, partly digested flesh, blood and organs, topped off with a woman’s head in the corner. They quickly gather up everything they can, take a few pictures and leave the way they came.

Not knowing when their friends would return with the murderers, they call the police and glossing over how they found the body, report the crime and head immediately to the pub to again attempt to expunge the images they’ve seen.

Meanwhile at The Ritz, Jim and Bennett treat Miles and his mother to the finest meal they’ve had in many a year, all the while trying to get more information out of the pair. Jim wants to make sure that Miles “Doesn’t have any skeletons in the closet”, to which he says “The only thing in my closet is my masterpiece”, a masterpiece you say? Well that got the investigators intrigued, so they finish up and head back to see this painting that is so special the artist keeps it hidden.

Back at the house the two of them are ushered up to the studio where Miles opens the cupboard and shows them a painting on an easel, covered with a white sheet. He pulls off the sheet to reveal…. A fairly mundane scene compared to the rest of his paintings… The picture shows a swamp, in the middle is a small island no more than 20 feet across with a stone slab in its centre. It is however spectacularly well done, the detail is amazing, even photographs aren’t this clear, the leaves seem to move, hang on, did they actually move? No, they can’t have, but the water is so well depicted it appears to ripple naturally…it is rippling….oh dear…

Bennett manages to pull his eyes away from the picture just in time to see his friend disappear in front of him and reappear in the now static painting. Understandably Bennett freaks out and runs straight for the stairs, the only person in his way is the elderly Mama Shipley who he shoves out of the way. At least that was his plan, but that old lady is tougher than she looks and she shoulders him against the wall. “Did you like the painting? It’s good isn’t it?” she said as she closes in on Bennett. Her smile is off putting, but the fact that her shadow is distinctly bigger than it should be really puts the icing on the crazy cake. Bennett is frantic, he looks around for a weapon of some sort and spots a palette knife by his foot. He scoops up the knife and slashes at the creepy grandma, cutting her floral blouse and staining the front with a thin line of blood.

“That was rather rude wasn’t it?” she said, and appeared to grow before his eyes. Her skin pulled taught and tore as the body inside grew, green scales showing through the rips. Her fingers elongate and rupture through the skin, revealing long black claws. Bennett looks at the seven foot tall Serpentman and it’s all he can do to not collapse on the spot, this hesitation gives the creature time to draw upon it’s eldritch powers and Mesmerises Bennett, “You really should look at the picture yessss….” Unable to stop himself, Bennett walks back over to the painting and looks; there’s Jim, frozen in paint right in front of him, panic beating through Bennetts skull is practically audible. With all the strength his mind can summon he forces himself to turn and run like a man possessed, the sudden turn of speed catching the now exposed Ssassatha completely unawares. Vaulting over the stair rails, Bennett races for the front door and out into the street, adrenaline coursing through his veins as he continues to pound down the street, barely even aware of the police cars heading past him in the direction that he had just come from. Fear driving him forward, he makes it back to his house safely and proceeds to immediately burn the painting that Jim bought.

Feeling suitably refreshed after a couple of hours in the pub, Thomas and Dick return to Bennetts house and find him panting and sweating in front of the now roaring fire. They exchange the information that they have gathered and breathe a sigh of relief that the police are clearly heading to the Shipley house, although they worry as to who or what they will meet when they arrive.

Curiosity getting the better of them, they head back to Holbein Mews and see the police cars outside the house, the front door is open and guarded by a policeman. A brief chat from Thomas to the copper confirms that they found the horror show in the basement, but nearly landed himself in hot water when he admitted that he was the one who made the call but didn’t have a good reason for breaking into a pensioners house in the middle of the night. Luckily the policeman agreed that the ends justified the means and allowed him to leave.

The three of them slowly walked back to Bennetts house, happy that an inhuman killer had been caught; but the shocking disappearance of Jim weighs heavily on the party. In the end they decide that it’s just too dangerous to try and retrieve the painting and bid farewell to their friend Jim Moriarty.


Meanwhile, 200,000,000 years in the past, the professor stands on a small island in the middle of a swamp. The stone slab is covered in dried blood, and the slices missing from it look far too much like an executioners block. Animals stir in the jungle, small water snakes meander through the murky depths, and then….silence….

All movement seemingly stopped, pistol drawn Jim looks around in panic, and there in the water he sees ripples, three sets moving straight towards the island. Steadying his shaking hand he takes aim at the water and prepares to fire at whatever may come out. What emerged was beyond his imagination, three humanoid lizards each carrying cruel looking spears and knives. Without a moment’s hesitation Jim opens fire, shot after shot until five rounds later one of the creatures lays in the mud, stone dead. The other two look at their fallen kin and quicken their approach.

Jim looks at them, and looks at the pistol, “One round left eh? Here goes…”

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