Masks of Nyarlathotep

Thursday, May 21st, continued
Now the sun has come to earth

Thursday, May 21st 1925, continued:

Time unknown:

Spalding asks Kakakatak if he knows about Nyarlathotep, but his knowledge is limited; He takes many forms, and has great power. Asked if they are underground, he responds in the affirmative, but that he doesn’t know exactly how far. The conversation then turns to the machine he is building. He describes a powerful payload, powered by Radium, that will be detonated in the atmosphere at an appointed time. He has built these, and is now in the process of constructing the delivery vehicles; a rocket for Penhew, and a trans-phase gate for Huston. Neither of the delivery methods are operational, nor are they likely to become so without his help. Spalding asks him if he can destroy the payload here, and he says that he certainly can.

While this conversation is going on, Nickels talks with the Aboriginal Kakakatak about the optical device he found and used. Kakakatak listens with interest.

This knowledge in hand and the wind still howling, they settle on a plan to get Hustons notes, set the bomb to explode, and escape. They briefly wonder where the quasi material wind beasts and the Mimis live, and if they will be affected. They also voice concerns about the geography of the area. These concerns are set aside as acceptable risks.

They have Kakakatak draw a map of Hustons headquarters, a newer wood frame construction built abuting an existing collaposed ancient structure. He labels the second floor ‘Prisoners’, and explains that some are for labor, and some are for breeding.

Nickels, meanwhile, has continued talking to Aborigine Kakakatak, asking about matters from ‘home’, and if he knows who he is. Ernst and Eastwick overhear him introduce himself in his real name, and are concerned over the alien pronunciation. They keep quite for the time being.

Spalding tries to make ‘academic inquiry’ on where he is from and his travels, but Kakakatak says it’s not relevant. His focus is solely on Huston’s notes and gaining his freedom.

Eventually, after an hour and some, the wind dies down. Kakakatak scouts around the structure and determines that it’s safe to move. Viljoen-Ballard expresses a desire to return to the titanic ring holding the throbbing mass and destroy it with one of Kakakataks devices, thus returning the beast to Hell. Ernst stresses that they must remain focused on the matter at hand, and that they should stealthily approach Huston’s headquarters along dark streets.

Kakakatak leads them along back ways, passing along thoroughfares, alleys, through buildings and plazas, bringing them eventually to the wood structure he had previously described. It is three stories tall, with lights lit on all three levels. The windows are simply square holes in the wall, and the doors just rectangular breaches. What it lacks in style, however, it makes up for in utility: the bottom floor is stuffed with mining equipment… arc lights, machine parts, gas cans, block and tackle, just about anything a miner could want. Sleeping on the floor are a dozen men in miner’s garb. A large generator thrums outside, electrical conduit snaking in.

Nickels makes a break for the generator to overload it and burn the building down, but Ernst grabs him. Extolling the benefits of stealth, and a desire not to warn the sorcerer of their approach, Ernst asks Viljoen-Ballard to keep Nickels here. Viljoen-Ballard pulls a gun, but Kakakatak says not to kill each other, and especially not to make loud noises, like with the gun. The wind beasts would return, and they may very well all die. Viljoen-Ballard puts it away.

Viljoen-Ballard, Nickels, and Eastwick, as well as Kakakatak stay hidden in place, the former saying that they will come as backup if needed. Nickels says he can disable the generator if things go south. Ernst and Spalding sneak across to the building, and climb the ramp. At the second floor, Ernst observes iron cages firmly welded together of bars and repurposed rail ties. Inside are dozens of people, mostly Koori, despondent and slumped. Seeing the electrical conduit running to the cages, he suspects they are electrified. Ernst signals Nickels to join them, and when he arrives asks him to free the prisoners.

Nickels, entering, discovers a junction box, and traces the lines to the cages. They power strong electromagnets that hold the doors closed. Carefully peeling back the sheathing he determines that the cages are likely not alarmed. The wiring is not professional, and he can’t trust the color coding on the wires, so he takes a guess and cuts the white wire in one of the lines. One of the men inside the cage had been leaning on the door, and it now comes open. A call goes up in the cage, but Nickels cannot understand their language. He tries to keep them quiet. He opens up another cable, cutting the white wire again, but this one is live and the shock sends him reeling. In great pain, and smoking slightly, he decides to return below to the generator and try to overload it. The Kooris in the two open cages emerge and attempt to free their comrades.

Meanwhile, Ernst and Spalding continue up the ramp, finding the door at the top blocked by a heavy curtain. Across the way, over the wall of another collapsed structure, they can see the beginnings of the trans-phase gate and the Radium Bomb Kakakatak told them about. The bomb is set onto a heavy cart at the top of a ramp, with rail lines leading down into the gate mechanism, which looks much like a large gyroscope set into a 20 by 20 platform. Sneaking a peek inside, Ernst observes that the large room has been functionally split into a living area with a bed and kitchen range, a workshop with shelves, cabinets, and machine bits, and a study area with a desk and shelves of books and papers. There is also a large pile of metal cases containing further documents. At the desk in a creaky wooden wheeled chair sits Robert Huston. He is moderately sized and greying, but his appearance is much more youthful and vigorous than his newspaper photos would suggest. Ernst resolves to sneak in and slit his throat before he can bring any spells to bear against them, but he is sighted.

Huston turns to greet him, starting to say that it has been such a long time since he had visitors, but Ernst is steadfast in his goal, and springs upon him, slicing his throat. Huston burbles and tries to grab his throat, but Ernst holds his hands down on the arms of the chair and rolls him to the wall, pinning him there. Spalding runs to the desk and starts going through the many, many notes there-on, as well as digging through the drawers. On the desk is a 45 revolver, but this is not of interest to Spalding. She stuffs her bag with notes, as well as a box containing hundreds of neatly typed pages.

Though he is bleeding profusely, Huston retains his strength, and breaks free of Ernst… the wound at his neck seeming to close on its own. Regaining the use of his speech, he commands Ernst to stop, dominating his mind. He asks Spalding to kindly stop what she’s doing and invites the two of them to join him in a cup of tea. He walks over to the kitchen range where a kettle is boiling and reaches for it, but Ernst breaks free of the spell, shoves him aside, and dumps the boiling water on his face. Huston screams, and holds his blistered head.

Once again Huston commands Ernst, who is again under his thrall, and Huston orders him to stop Spalding, who has filled her satchel and is proceeding to throw notes and metal cases out the window for later retrieval. Ernst grabs Spalding, and they grapple. The blisters and redness are rapidly leaving Huston, and his neck is mostly healed. He expresses displeasure at having to boil more water, and fills the kettle back up from a tank under a counter. He says that he knows who they are, and that they’ve really done nothing to hinder his plans. It is inevitable, they are nothing more than flies, and that they needn’t be enemies. Spalding, struggling to get free and pleading with Ernst to remember that he’s Henry God-Damned Ernst, manages to break Ernsts grasp and goes for her gun, but at this same time Ernst breaks the spell again and yells to run. They flee through the curtain and down the ramp, Huston in pursuit.

The ramp is clogged with Kooris fleeing the cages, while others inside still attempt to free those in the other cages. As Huston rounds the first bend in the ramp, Viljoen-Ballard spies him, turns up the power on his device and fires a bolt of lighting. Huston is directly hit, and falls, charred and broken, the two remaining stories to the ground.

Ernst and Spalding return to the ground, and see Hustons body, his chest cavity exposed, his bones charred and brittle, a clear electric path scorched through his body, now fused to the slag that used to be his buttons and belt buckle. His shoes and socks are gone. Ernst runs into the storage area, curb stomping Huston as he passes, and jumping over the bodies of the sleeping miners. He cracks open a gasoline barrel, filling a nearby bucket. The miners awake, and watch him pass as the slowly get to their feet, then stand, staring. Having his bucket of gas, he says ‘Excuse me’ as he pushes his way through, and finds that the miners respond by stepping out of his way. He dumps the gasoline into Hustons chest and all over him, noticing as he does that the bones seem to be reforming, then sets him on fire. That should hold him for a while.

Ernst, discerning that the miners will follow commands, tells them to go out the entrance, marking the way as they go, and to take cover. They proceed in an orderly line down one of many lighted paths that lead from this place, adjusting fallen stones along the way to mark their path. Ernst tries to convey to the Kooris present that they should follow, and many do.

Nickels has succeeded in sabotaging the generator to overload it, and the mechanism kicks into high gear. The lights explode and spark, setting the structure on fire and lighting the fuel reserves in the lowest level. Kakakatak identifies the boxed document as the notes he needs, and Spalding and Eastwick collect as much of the defenestrated knowledge as they can before the party relocates to the bomb and gate.

The gate is partially completed, as Kakakatak said. A metal base covered with slats allows access to the center where a large gyroscope of iridescent metal is taking shape. They ask if it can be used to escape, but Kakakatak assures them that it can not be made ready without a significant amount of work. Instead, they ask him to set the Radium Bomb to explode, and they will follow the miners out. Kakakatak climbs the ramp to the bom, pries off a panel, and tinkers with the inner workings. After a time he says that he has given them an appropriate amount of time.

The wind is picking up now, and the party flees along the lit path the miners took. Coming into a great dome 2000 feet across, a 500 foot hemisphere in the center glows purple. Near the hemisphere is a block of stone obviously dragged in from elsewhere that is covered with dried and fresh blood, which also spills around the floor. Nearby is an ash heap where a great fire recently burned. Silhouetted in the purple light are monstrous statues, the greatest of which shows a black bat-like thing with great wings spread. Lesser beings are represented around it, including a form like a giant baobab with razored tentacles, a mass of orbs with thin tendrils pushing from between, and a vaguely humanoid being with a long oval head with a wide mouth filled with thin serrated teeth. This horrific congregation dredges up deep panic in Spalding, who becomes convinced that Ernst is the only one who can save her, and clings to him. She is convinced to act otherwise only with great difficulty. Questions are raised as to the rooms purposes, but Kakakatak urges them on lest they die. They run on.

Over the miles they have fled, those encumbered with Kakakataks lightning guns and the copious notes are severely fatigued. Spalding is forced to ditch many documents, frantically scanning them before she drops them trying to determine if another would be a less significant loss. Viljoen-Ballard drops his gun, but the others are passed among the group and retained. The path hits a T, then branches, but each time the path is clearly marked by placed stones. Eventually they come to a terminus with a stack of wooden crates, some gas cans, and a spiral wooden stair leading up into darkness. Taking a deep breath, they rustle up, lungs and legs burning, and forcing their arms to propel themselves onwards on the rails.

They don’t know how long they climb, their minds have long since lost the ability to carefully calculate. But they eventually reach the top and fing open a wooden hatch, finding themselves inside a small shack, daylight seeping in through the cracks in the slats. Ernst peeks outside, and sees a low sandbag wall surrounding the shake, and an aboriginal guard leaning against a truck. At least 2 others are also present, being heard walking about elsewhere.

Ernst stealthily slips to the edge of the sandbags, then follows along the line of another truck before coming up behind the guard and slitting his throat. Waving to his party, they all pile into one of the trucks, and Ernst guns it, grinding the clutch at first. As they finally gain speed, two bolts of lightning shoot from the bed, Kakakatak having reduced the other guards to twitching corpses. Taking a circuitous route lest they be followed to easily, the truck careens over sand hidden blocks and smashes against columns. Through a series of ‘adjustments’, sideswiping columns, Ernst manages to realign an axel sufficiently to keep going. Eventually they find their way back to Buckley and the camp.

Buckley informs them that they have been gone the better part of the day, and that everything here is good to go. They quickly ditch the junked truck and pile into the Daimlers, and make for the cliffside camp they encountered the day before. Kakakatak urges them to greater speed, and reprimands them when they slow down. Passing through the ravine without incident, and coming up to the camp after some hours of driving, Kakakatak urges them not to stop. The party takes heed, and continues on, not seeing anyone present there anyway.

After another short stint of driving, Kakakatak counts 2, 1, 0… and the ground shakes. They look back, but no flash or cloud is seen rising. Kakakatak says this is good, that the blast did not breach the surface. Otherwise the whole area could have become very dangerous for centuries to come. The party soon finds a sheltered rocky outcrop among the karst, and they camp down, exhausted.

Nickels shows Kakakatak the optical device, and Kakakatak recommends that he use it. Nickels protests, but Kakakatak insists… “it’s too dangerous, this will die” he says, indicating Nickels himself. Nickels engages the device and looks through. Looking back up from the device, he asks where and who he is. He remembers nothing. Kakakatak partially disassembles the device, and snaps a number of thin disks he removes from a sealed cylinder.

Kakakatak is also given the box of notes from Hustons desk, which he divides in half to each of his selves. Flipping rapidly through the pages, he finds what he is after, and returns the pages to Spalding, thanking her. He says that he will accompany the party back to civilization, and then their paths will part ways.

Eastwick, referencing their notes, excitedly relates that Huston’s lair was likely one of the points on the map discovered in Cairo. With it destroyed, or at least buried with no hope of excavation by January, and further with Kakakatak removed from his servitude, that there is no hope of Penhew’s ritual succeeding. They have prevented the gate from opening. This is a great relief to the party but many things remain left unresolved.

Amongst a host of difficulties are the legal troubles from London, as well as the rise of this mystery woman from Egypt, and of course Penhew himself on Gray Dragon Island. Jackson Elias is dead, and Ernst expresses his continued mission to kill every last damn bastard that was behind it.

View
Sunday, May 17th through Thursday, May 21st, 1925
Into the desert... into god knows where

See Rumor Mongers, Wycroft? Becausecroft!, and Provisions and Natives

Sunday, May 17th 1925:

Morning:

Ernst’s stake out continues, and Viljoen-Ballard ventures to other outfitters to acquire doses of anti-venom for local fauna. He makes sure to have enough doses to go around, at least 6 of each. Meanwhile, Spalding asks around about Mackenzie. She learns that he is a mining engineer and well regarded in his field.

Nickels busies himself with checking over the Daimlers and determines that they are good to go.

Eastwick has determined to find out what’s going on with Ernst and Nickels, and so continues to research their conditions.

Midday:

Viljoen-Ballard brings water to Ernst. Ernst has watched Wycroft’s man bring around another truck and load it.

Spalding and Eastwick observe Nickels popping the luggage and going through it. Nickels gives an excuse that he is trying to make sure that everything is packed well, and that he doesn’t remember what is his. Eastwick and Spalding are suspicious.

Ernst sees Wycroft finish the packing and disappear inside. All is quiet.

Evening:

All save Ernst are back in camp discussing plans. Spalding wants to visit Mackenzie, but taking the train back to Port Hedland might miss the window to follow Wycroft. A decision is made not to trust Nickels and do no planning around him.

Viljoen-Ballard goes to check on Ernst, and fills him in on their plans, then relieves his watch. They debate sending Nickels away, but agree to keep him along under a watchful eye. Ernst goes to sleep.

Late Evening:

Viljoen-Ballard observes Wycroft and his men load up a few last things in the trucks and drive away. He and Ernst get back to camp quick, stow their tents and gear, and pursue. Ernst and Buckley drive. Ernst, Spalding, and Nickels leads in the first truck while Viljoen-Ballard, Eastwick, and Buckley follow. It is dark, but the tracks are easy to follow in the desert.

En route, Ernst quizzes Nickels again, asking about everything he remembers. Nickels is circumspect.

Monday May 18th 1925:

Small hours:
Ernst tenses up, and gives the lead to Buckley. Ernst is nervous about the dark sky above, and what may descend from it.

Buckley stops the convoy, having spied that Wycroft has stopped due to a blown tire. Viljoen-Ballard runs to inform others. Ernst and Buckley sneak ahead to scout, and the others gas up. Ernst and Buckley climb a rise and spy them finishing tire repair.

Returning, the pursuit continues. Eastwick knows nothing about his gun, so Viljoen Ballard cleans it for him.

Just before dawn, Viljoen-Ballard signals that they should pull off. They debate whether to continue the pursuit in daylight. It is decided that they will give Wycroft more space, and continue.

Midmorning:

Wycroft breaks down again, and camps down. The party regularly sends up a spy to watch, but otherwise they camp down too. They observe that some of Wycroft’s men will range out a bit, but that Wycroft himself, in long khakis, a long white shirt, and a wide brimmed hat, never ventures from the trucks.

Evening:

Wycroft makes to travel again, and the pursuit continues. Over the next few days this process repeats. Making sure to ration out the water from the tanks on the truck, the party plans to refill when they intersect the Canning Stock Route. It is a long, hot journey. At times the scenery goes from sand, to karst, to rocks, to sand. At one point, the party observes a red glow far to the south, as if a great fire burned. Nonetheless, the keep on Wycroft’s trail.

Wednesday the 20th 1925:

Evening:

The party finally intersects the Canning Stock Route. Wycroft;s trail heads north, but the party continues to Mallowa Well to the NE since they need water. Arriving at the well, they use the truck wince to draw enough water to fill their tank. Ernst stands guard. Doubling back, they pick up Wycroft’s northerly line.

Night:

Wycroft’s trail passes by an old camp set in the shade of a steep cliff face of red stone. Ripped and scattered tents dot the area, along with a shack with some machinery on top of it. Nickels determines it to be the lift mechanism of a mine shaft. Nearby is an explosives shack, but the crates inside are empty, save for sand. Ernst steps on something in the sand, and discovers a human skeleton, sandblasted. Searching the area, many other bones are found, many pocked and broken. A ford truck is also here, but it looks like it has been crushed… like a giant foot stomped on it.

One area of the camp has a tent that has been mended and looks recently lived in. TIns of food and supplies are present, as well as empty containers of the same. Nearby is a basin set near the cliff, where it catches a small jet of cool, sweet water.

Viljoen-Ballard leaves a note in the tent. It reads “May 20th expeditions, will return. DAVB”. The party loads up and continues on with Wycroft’s trail.

An hour or so later, the trail leads into a ravine. Driving in, silhouettes are spotted against the sky at the top. The party brings out a light and shines it up, seeing 2 kooris looking down at them. Buckley calls out to them, and brings Spalding out from the truck. He says that having a female shows they are not a war party. Buckley’s shouts to them are not returned, but they converse amongst themselves briefly and then leave. The party continues on.

Thursday, May 21st 1925:

Small Hours:

The trail leads into an area rife with ancient standing stones. Convex tops fit neatly into concave bottoms. This is certainly not aboriginal. Winding their way through to the edge of the covering stones, all agree to stop. Eastwick hears a generator nearby. They drive the cars back a bit to obscure them and pitch camp.

2am:

Ernst, Viljoen-Ballard and Spalding sneak to get a better look towards the sounds. Viljoen-Ballard trips over a stone, and suddenly they hear voices in the distance. They are silent and still… soon a truck makes a round, but continues on. They continue to the edge of the stones and observe a small outpost in the middle of an open area. There is a small shed reinforced with sandbags, a tarpaulin covering a pile of something beside it, and a number of trucks parked around, including Wycroft’s. The search truck that had been making a round pulls in. There are no tents. Walking in the area are 3 aborigines with rifles.

The scouting party falls back to their camp. Conferring over what they’ve seen, they briefly entertain the idea of going back to investigate the fire they saw a number of days ago. Ernst warns that this could be Misr house all over again. Resolving to investigate this outpost, Buckley expresses his intent not to get involved. Ernst asks Buckley to wait 3 days for them, guarding the trucks. Buckley agrees.

Ernst asks Nickels to walk out with him a bit into the stones to converse. Once away from the party, Ernst asks who he is, and is very insistent. The conversation quickly heats up, and Nickels breaks down, drawing a knife across his own arms and demanding if this is what Ernst wants, and that he simply doesn’t remember. Nickels says that Ernst is supposed to be his friend.

They are interrupted when Ernst catches movement out of the corner of his eye. Ernst pulls a knife. Then there is a clicking, and Ernst charges towards it. Nickels heads back to camp, meets Spalding en route who had heard the conversation and was coming to investigate. Nickels tells her that Ernst needs help.

Meanwhile, Ernst aggressively approaches the clicking noise, keeping his back to the stones when possible. Rounding a crumbled wall, he finds himself face to face with an unnatural tall human-like creature. It is thin, and has long, long hands and fingers. He wraps his knife on the nearby stone to call the party. The tall thing retreats a bit at the noise. Ernst asks if it speaks English. In response, it crouches and draws a picture in the sand with its long fingers and beckons to Ernst, waving in the air in a rolling motion.

Ernst beckons the approaching party, who are brought into the creature’s presence. All but Buckley comes. The creature, through drawing esoteric, but meaningful pictures in the sand, conveys a sense of danger, and a way into the place where it lives. It thinks that the party can do away with it, and will help them to that end. Spalding and Eastwick discern familiar elements within its pictures… as if it were drawing in some kind of proto-occultic iconography. This is the only way they can think that everyone would understand the pictures the same way. Viljoen-Ballard runs back to the trucks to get the dynamite and tommy gun, and returns.

Agreeing to the creatures request, the thing stands, and slides a finger down the lin of a nearby boulder. It is like he is parting a curtain overlapping another, that had until now looked solid. Hesitating a moment, the party then steps through.

They find themselves in the dark, but their flashlights illuminate a wide boulevard of dressed stones. Ancient buildings of gargantuan size line the thoroughfare, some intact and some crumbled. All show the weight of great age. Nearby there is a large hole in the ground, surrounded by a metal frame. A heavy metal lid hinges on one side. The party tries to lift and close it, but it is too heavy. Looking behind them, they can see no door, hidden curtain, or other means of going back to where they were. The tall creature is gone. Pressing forward along the boulevard, they eventually reach a cross street where a long string of standard light bulbs has been strung, electrical wire bolted into the walls. Obviously, humans have been here. Attempting to discern which way the generator for these lights might be, they follow the line.

Eventually the lights lead into a great plaza. The floor glows with a soft blue light, making the light string or their flashlights unnecessary. There is a thick layer of dust here, leading across the plaza. Nickels makes for an exit, and Ernst grills him about what he knows about this place. Nickels says he knows nothing.

Across the plaza, they find another string of lights proceeding down another thoroughfare. Following it, they at times find it splits or combines with other lines. At times it proceeds through areas where the great stone has collapsed entirely, and the party must climbs through tunnels or over great mounds.

Eventually they come into a circular room, this one has the string of lights skirt around the outside and exiting on the far end. In the middle of the room is a pit from which wafts a horrid stench, that sends the party into wretches. Noises emanate from the pit… growls, snarls, groans, and what Eastwick is sure is a baby crying. The party decides to avoid the pit, and slink around to the exit. Nickels tries to fall back, but Ernst notices, and hits him solidly with the butt of his rifle to knock him out. Viljoen-Ballard carries him thereafter.

Continuing to follow the lights, the party comes to another great plaza, this one being dominated by a fleshy mass pushed up through the floor. A titanic ring of stone bearing strange markings is tight around it, holding the herniation in place. Great veins in the mass pulse with blood. The party continues on.

Over more rubble piles and down another road the party enters a plaza much like the first, though this one glows red. The lights take a short stint to the right, and go down another road. Further on, at a cross street, great conduit has been placed along a side road. The party investigates and finds that a great stone building has been repurposed. Inside the door there are stores of machine parts, including metal parts that iridesce strangely like the sample from Shanghai. A door leads further in. Within the next room is a great machine, it’s console stretching along 3 walls, but much to high for a human to comfortably control. One panel has been removed, exposing a mass of wire and machinery that is incredibly advanced. A modern cable runs from the machine to a conical cap resting on a divan. There is also an arch leading into the next room.

Within, the party sees a collection of machine parts, including the missing panel, immediately to the right. There is also a fusebox in the wall, the terminus of the large conduit. Wire from this box runs to the middle of the circular room, where there is a slightly raised lip. Embedded there-in are a series of translucent orbs, set at regular intervals along the line of the floor and up the walls, dividing the room in two.

On the other side of the divide is a bed, a small table and chair, and dozens upon dozens of designs and sketches hanging on the wall. There are two men, one laying down in bed and another writing at the table. The one lying down appears to be an aborigine, wearing only a ripped pair of pants. The man at the desk is white, and in miners coveralls. Ernst blasts the fusebox with his shotgun and approaches.
The men stand up, and speak in unison. They say that someone will have heard that, and that they should leave. Ernst makes introductions, and asks to know who the men are. They respond that they are Kakakatak, a prisoner here. Ernst and Spalding somehow recognize the name. It has occurred in their studies somewhere. This is a being who is a great explorer, bound by neither time or space.

Nickels rouses, and Ernst, Eastwick, and Spalding suddenly feel their heads spin. It’s as if their minds are a card catalog, and someone just rifled through it. It is clear that they should not tarry here, and leave the structure, following Kakakatak.

Ernst pauses outside to grab some of the dynamite and throw it back in behind them. The explosion is significant, and reverberates along the avenues and off the stone. A wind suddenly picks up, bearing upon it a piping sound. Kakakatak breaks into a run, shouting that they need to flee faster now. The party follows him down side ways, back ways, through structures, and finally across a courtyard and up a ramp into a building. Regular arches and strange sigils dot the walls. He guides the party to the second floor, into a room with walls set with metal doors. Having Ernst and one half of himself brace the other, Kakakatak climbs up to one of the doors mechanisms, fumbles with some dials and a massive lever, and causes it to drop open. Hoisting himself back in, he disappears into the cavity, then pushes out 4 devices. The party gathers them, then retreats into an interior room containing a tall pedestal, deeps grooves in the walls, and, most importantly, only one door and one high arched window. The wind whips outside.

Kakakatak explains the operations of the devices, saying they are weapons that could help them. Kakakatak takes two, and Ernst and Viljoen-Ballard take the others. They watch, vigilant, at the door and window.

See “A coversation with Kakakatak”.

View
Friday, May 8th, continued to Saturday, May 16th 1925
Miners and what they find

Friday, May 8th 1925 continued:

Ernst seconds the plan to check out the Randolph Shipping manifests. Spalding also wants to steal the crates marked for the Penhew Foundation.

VIljoen-Ballard and Spalding leave to arrange for outfitting and a guide for the outback. Viljoen-Ballard doesn’t know much about the desert, but his competant enough in survival skills to find appropriate people who do. They arrange for camels, provisions, water, etc, and hire an Abo guide who goes by Buckley.

Meanwhile, Ernst wanders Darwin looking to stir up rumors. Amongst the travellers, laborers, and locales he hears strange tales of Australia; bunyips,giant bats, a cult that worships them, and the great Buddai, who sleeps with his head on his arm below the Earth and will one day rise to devour it. .

Eastwick researches Ernst’s condition, trying to reference anything in their resources. Nickels shops around for tools, and keeps an eye out for strange metals. None are to be found here.

Night:

Ernst, Spalding, Nickels, and Viljoen Ballard travel the dark streets to Randolph shipping.. Eastwick hangs tight at the Inn. Approaching the warehouse, Ernst spies a watchman on the dock guarding the crates. He does not have a regular patrol, but rather wanders the dock as he will.. Viljoen-Ballard and Nickels keep watch at a machine shop across the street while Ernst and Spalding plan to gain entry via the front door. Ernst tells them that if there’s a commotion to grab the Penhew crate on the dock and run.

The large loading doors have a man sized door set into them. Ernst briefly entertains notions of forcing it, but instead calls over Nickels to try and pick it. Nickels fails. But instead he partially disassembles it, opens the door, then reassembles the lock. For all intentst and purposes it will look just like someone forgot to lock it in the first place. Ernst and Spalding sneak in, and find the interior quiet. Shielding their flashlights, they search for the Penhew crate and find it in the stacks. Then, they pop open the roll-top desk and rifle through the papers. There are a variety of mundane records and correspondence, and they finally find the ledger. They pocket it, along with the petty cash, and spread the other contents around like it was tossed by a common thief.

Meanwhile outside, Viljoen Ballard and Nickels are overtaken by some drunks, but they play it cool. The men harmlessly stumble by. Back in the warehouse, Ernst grabs the Penhew box, and he and Spalding sneak back to the door. Spalding trips, grabbing onto the chain which pulls the loading doors open along the rail they are set in, making a cacohpany of sound as the still secured doors rattle their chains and screech in the rail. The guard has been alerted, and rushes in.

Running outside, Ernst passes off the box to Nickels, then doubles back to the dock and grabs the other crate, proceeding to head up the shoreline and doubling back.

Spalding tries to hide outside the loading door, but is seen immediately when the guard comes through. The man advances on her, she runs, and he gives chase.

As he passes by the machine shop, Viljoen-Ballard steps out and clotheslines him, dropping him to the ground like a sack of mail. The good doctor pulls out his Webley and covers him as he stands back up. Viljoen-Ballard says he’s a doctor and doesn’t want to hurt him but if he needs to, he will. Spalding, meanwhile, having seen the results from across the way, returns to tie him up with his own belt, but cannot manage to get a firm knot. In frustration she tries to pistol whip him, but only succeeds in giving him a fine bruise on his head. Ernst, witnessing the debacle and becoming cognizant of the alarming sounds, charges across the street and knocks the guard out with a mightly blow to the jaw, and pours whisky all around him. Hopefully anyone coming upon him will take him for a drunk and not believe his story.

They scatter, eventually meeting back up at boarding house.

Safely back in their rooms, they go through their findings. Spalding reviews the ledger and determines it contains many regular shipments, but also certain items that have double or triple fees being paid being passed to the Penhew Foundation, as well as Ho Fongs operation in Shanghai. These shipments all originate from a Mortimer Wycroft in a place called Cuncudgerie. The crates are simple wooden boxes with addressing stencilled into the sides, but they also possess a strange bat-like symbol. Opening the large crate, they find it contains a machine of many rods and gears, with control levers along one side and a central rod with an optical fixture much like a telescope. Nickels makes a study of it, and determines the mechanics of its operations. Eastwick has read about such devices before, and determines it’s some kind of scrying device.

Meanwhile, Ernst opens the smaller crate. Inside is a hideous statue of a bulbous human-like creature with protrusions from its face and body. Eastwick identifies the idol as a pacific island legend, a great beast that reaches from the depths. .

Ernst burns the crates and the paper money, but not before Spalding copies the symbols from them.

Nickels stays up late tinkering with the device, but does not turn it on.

Saturday May 9th:

1am: Eastwick, and Viljoen-Ballard have gone to bed. Spalding is reading, and Ernst is typing (his exploits in travelogue form, leaving out the larcenous and otherwise incriminating or supernatural elements, as is his habit). Nickels has grown bored with the device, having figured out the operations, but still not turning it on. Nickels puts up a ‘Do not touch’ sign on the machine, then goes to bed.

Sunrise:

Nickels wakes up before anyone else, and continues his experiments. He turns on the machine, and writes down the operations of the levers. The air around the machine seems to ionize, and a light can be seen inside the central tube. He looks in, and passes out.

Early morning:

Ernst wakes up and finds Nickels slumped on the table with the machine. He tries to wake him up, but cannot do so, even by trying to slap him awake. Ernst quickly wakes Viljoen-Ballard, who checks him for injuries, but finds none. His medicine skills yields no clues. Spalding comes in, and gets an eyeful of Viljoen-Ballard in his underwear. Viljoen-Ballard, focused on the task at hand, injects Nickels with cocaine, and his eyes spastically open and he gurgles, but cannot respond to requests or make himself intelligible. Nickels is put to bed and the machine is moved to Spaldings room.

Everyone is on edge, and agree that they must leave. The path through the desert ehy had considered is not practical to reach Cuncudgerie, and so Viljoen-Ballard goes to make other travel arrangements. Engaging Buckley’s help, he hears about his options: a ship down the coast, or waiting for a plane to fly in and chartering it. It’s definitely not a good idea to walk. Viljoen-Ballard decides on a ship to Port Hedland, then taking the train in-land. The soonest a ship will be available is within a week.

The party agrees to leave town for a few days with Buckley, and return when the ship comes in. They swap their camel arrangements for a truck.

Afternoon:

Packing up everything they tell their hosts that they are going out on expedition and take their leave of Hoyster House for now. They load the truck and depart town.

Sunday, May 10th 1925

Buckley leads them out into the scrub, showing them some of Australias natural wonders as well as the flora and fauna. Spalding and Eastwick collect fossils.

Afternoon:

They set up a hunt, successfully bagging a few wild dogs and a tiger snake. Buckley prepares the tiger snake in a traditional fashion, and all agree it is delicious.
.
Nickels grimaces.

Monday, May 11th 1925:

Sightseeing

Tuesday, May 12th 1925:

Nickels wakes up. He is groggy, and can’t seem to remember anything. He asks after the device, and says that all he remembers is the light. Viljoen-Ballard checks him out, and determines that, physically anyway, he’s fine.

The party relocates to within half a day of Darwin, spending some time on cliffs that overlook the sea.

Wednesday May 13th 1925:

Late Morning:

The party returns to Darwin, taking the truck straight to the docks. As planned, they take room and passage to Port Hedland.

Early afternoon:

The coastal Steamer departs.
Ernst plays word association games with Nickels to test him while Viljoen-Ballard scouts the crew for Randolph associates, and looks out for other ships. Eastwick determines that Nickels is amnesiac.

Ernst and Viljoen-Ballard drink. Ernst attempts to write his travelogue of the trip so far. Not mentioning larcenous activity or the supernatural. It is shaping into quite an alternate story of what he’s been doing.

Thursday May 14th 1925:

Viljoen continues his vigilance. Eastwick continues to work with Nickels. He’s finding his case to be fascinating.

Evening:

Spalding invites Ernst out to walk on the deck with a drink and a smoke. Viljoen-Ballard joins them. They talk of home, and discuss Nickels. Ernst suspects he is not himself. Viljoen-Ballard suggests a test of mechanical skills. They test his knowledge and he seems competent. Eastwick tests his knowledge of French and the war.

Friday May 15th 1925:

Morning:
Nickels and Ernst talk, and Nickels observes that writing tends to help. He asks why they are going to wherever they are going, but Ernst will not tell him. Ernst asks that if he remembers to tell him right away.

Early Afternoon:

The steamer makes landfall at Port Hedland, and Viljoen-Ballard and Buckley head to the train station. Viljoen-Ballard arranges freight and seats for the train that will depart in about 2 hours.

Renting a cart, they take the luggage to the train station. They also resupply their alcohol stock and wait for departure. Once on the train they sit tight. The long wooden benches in the car are not terribly comfortable, but they are better than riding on a flatcar. Ernst talks to Nickels some more trying to determine his capabilities and motivations.

Evening:

The train pulls into Cuncudgerie, a rough mining town at the current railhead. It has simple building catering to the miners, with no shortage of gear, alcohol or women. The party scouts out common rooms for rent, but decide to camp out instead. In the dark they set up tents on the outskirts of town. Setting watches, little is heard but drunks and animals in the dark.

Saturday the 16th:

Morning:

It is decided that someone should seek out Wycroft. Ernst, Viljoen-Ballard, and Buckley inquire in town. It’s not hard to get directions… Wycroft has an outfitter on the edge of town. The building is simple, with a wide wooden front and a gas pump. A few outbuildings stand around it. A few Abo attendants are hanging around outside, but the group pays them no mind as they enter. Inside, there are shelves of miners gear. Clothing, canvas, tools, engine parts, lamps, tins, a great assortment of dusty wares. Wycroft himself is a middle aged pale, wiry man with sunken eyes and a gaunt face. He stands behind a wide counter, and greets the party as they enter. Ernst directly confronts him about the shipments, says that they’ve dealt with his kind, and that they are investigating some troubling matters. They insinuate legal trouble, if not a physical altercation. Wycroft pulls a shotgun, and tells them to get the fuck out. If they ever show their faces in his store again, he’ll have them.

Ernst leaves directly, but Viljoen-Ballard pauses to try and apologize. Wycroft’s raising of his shotgun convinces him that it’s a lost cause. They briefly debate setting the place on fire, but discretion wins the day and they instead head back to town to talk with the locals. With the passing of a little money, they hear of gold bearing reefs occurring eastward for hundreds of miles, but that it can get dangerous. There was a drover that swore that things the size of bears made off with some of his cattle east of Percival Lakes. Others tell of sinister, tall, emaciated koori tribesmen, and standing stones not of Abo make found sometimes in the shifting dunes. A fellow named MacWhirr propagated most of those tales some years ago. Evil things live in a city below the sands, but the entrances are hard to find.

View
Monday, May 4th, Continued, to Friday, May 8th 1925
Aussie welcomes

Monday, May 4th 1925, continued:

Afternoon:
The Karori, under Capt. Oscar Leonard, makes way. Accommodations aboard ship are tight, but serviceable. It seems to be a repurposed crew bunk with some curtains, bunks, and hammocks. The bulk of the luggage is stowed here, too.

Plans are made on how to present themselves, and what aliases to use. After significant debate, they decide on the following:

Viljoen Ballard: Arthur Brown
Spalding: Lucy Fitzgerald
Nickels: Henry Smith
Eastwick: Winston Chapelhill
Henry: Archibald Smith

…and a cover story posing as touring rich folks (Geologists searching for precious metal was briefly entertained). In order to reasonable disembark in Darwin, they plan to say that Ernst is getting seasick, and it would be very bad if he vomited in his condition.

Nickels volunteers to help out the crew, and gets chummy. He busies himself helping to replace some conduit, and uses his position to gets a lay of the crew and Capt, as well as scope out the technical specs of the ship in case sabotage becomes warranted.

Spalding continues her study of True Magick. She also tells Viljoen Ballard the tale of the Headless Horseman, after hearing that he’s Dutch Reform.

Eastwick studies ‘Tales of the Priest Kwan’

Tuesday, May 5th 1925

Late night:
Ernst is digging amongst the scrolls.Nickels wakes up and confronts him. Ernst has removed some scrolls, and seems to be reading, out loud, one of the ones in Arabic. Nickels gets out of his hammock and puts his hand on Ernst shoulder, asking him what’s going on. Ernst stops speaking, but does not otherwise respond. Nickels shakes him, and Ernst topples back to the floor. Viljoen Ballard is woken up, and checks Ernst, who seems to be ok, save that he can’t be roused. Viljoen Ballard takes Spaldings matches and checks his dilation, which is also fine.

Nickels wants to burn the scroll, but Viljoen Ballard challenges him. They argue, and the others wake up. Spalding grabs the scroll back from Nickels, saying that it’s a piece of history. Also, it may be the only clue to find out what’s happening with Ernst. Nickels seems convinced. They lift Ernst into his bunk. They agree to post watches, and Nickels takes the first, breaking out his M10. Spalding keeps the scroll in her trunk.

Nickels does not wake any others, and keeps watch til dawn.

Wednesday, May 6th 1925

Morning:
Viljoen-Ballard sees that Ernst seems to be speaking very, very quietly. Listening closely, he’s pretty sure that Ernst keeps repeating “I’m Henry God-Damned Ernst”. Viljoen Ballard takes that as a good sign… that Ernst is reasserting himself as an individual. Viljoen Ballard goes up to the deck to get some air, and seeks out some breadfruit to eat.

Returning to the bunks, Viljoen Ballard give Ernst a shot of cocaine solution. Ernst blinks, shakes a bit, and sits up. He repeats his phrase. He tries to say something else, but fails, then gets his flask from his trunk, and takes a shot. He repeats his phrase, and brings out his typewriter. Trying carefully and methodically to type, with intense focus, he types out his phrase. Nickels briefly wakes up, surveys the happenings, and decides to go back to sleep. He says to wake him back up if Ernst does something different.

Eastwick tries to use psychoanalysis to focus Ernst, who seems unable to concentrate. Thinking on his occult studies, Eastwick tries to discern if there is some malign force at work.

Afternoon:
Nickels decides he’s not going to get much rest with Eastwicks analysis going on. Nickels thinks someone might be spying on the party through Ernst, and gets up to go walk around.

Meanwhile, Eastwick tries to contact any invading spirits. Ernst becomes violent, and smashes Eastwick in the jaw, dropping him to the ground. Ernst jumps up to continue the beating, but grapples with himself, throwing himself against the bulkhead and toppling to the ground, once again repeating his phrase. Viljoen Ballard is summoned through a crewman to attend to both of them.

Viljoen Ballard checks them out… both will be ok with time… no outstanding injuries.

Night:
A watch is set over Ernst, who goes to sleep. Eastwick keeps an eye on Ernst. The others go to bed.

Thursday, May 7th 1925

Viljoen Ballard negotiates with Capt Leonard to get him to let the party off at Darwin. The Capt is suspicious, but a suitable amount of cash exchanges hands. He agrees to launch the party in one of the longboats.

Ernst is doing a little better, not repeating his phrase so much and being able to respond to simple questions.

Evening: The Karori passes by Darwin, launching the party ashore as promised. The party asks around and finds a boarding house called the Hoyster House, run by Alice and Terrance Hoyster; a late middle aged couple that won’t ask too many questions. They arrange lodging for a week, ostensibly for Ernst’s convalescence. They take two rooms; one room for Spalding, one for the rest. They get a cheap meal from Alice and turn in for the night.

Friday May 8th, 1925

Morning:
After breakfast Spalding, Nickels, and Viljoen Ballard head to Randolph Shipping. They look up the address in the local directory. It’s a small dockside warehouse not far away. Knocking, they are eventually greeted by Toddy Randolph, the fat proprietor with bloodshot eyes and a bulbous, splotched nose. They ply the story that they are fossil hunters shipping trilobytes and shark teeth, with Dr. Spalding as lead, and require suitable shipping arrangements for their finds. Toddy takes them through the process and negotiates rates.

Viljoen Ballard raises questions about security, and slips Toddy some extra cash for a tour of facility. It is, essentially, one large room spanning roughly 1.5 stories with a stack of crates on one half, and a rolltop desk and some cots on the other. There are windows at irregular intervals, the large wooden double front door, and a loading door out the back that opens onto a deck and dock extending into the water. Toddy shows Nickels the building and locks. THey look mundane, and Nickels would likely have little issue compromising them. However, Toddy also stresses that the greatest security is provided by Billy Burraglong, one of his aboriginal laborers, who is currently stacking crates on the dock. Toddy has Nickels stand against a wall and whistles to Billy for a demonstration of his skills. Billy throws a massive knife into the wall within ¼ inch of Nickels ear. Toddy says that Billy will track down anyone who touches the goods, and that the party can be sure that their stuff will be safe with him.

During the tour, Nickels spies some crates labelled for shipping to the Penhew Foundation in London.

Satisfied, the party leaves, collects Ernst from the Hoyster House, and gets some lunch. They debate their next steps. They need to find the location marked by the gem on the mural wall, but the map is imprecise. The gem covers a good chunk of the Great Sandy Desert. Viljoen Ballard wants to find a wise woman who knows the Great Sandy Desert, and follow up on any local legends. Spalding wants to break into Randolph shipping and see where Penhew boxes came from. If they decide to do that, Viljoen Ballard wants to makes sure that they have an escape route before they get into trouble. Darwin is a small town, and the surrounding area is inhospitable. They will need horses, provisions, a lay of the land, etc.

View
Saturday, May 2nd through Monday, May 4th
Sayonara Shanghai

Saturday, May 2nd, continued:

Night:

The party returns to their hotel in the Japanese quarter.

Over drinks they debate the merits of various plans of action. “See Allies and inventory”. The next full moons are on May 8th and Jun 7th. The 8th is likely too soon, but they think they might have Brady make ready for the 7th.

They debate travelling to Australia to check out the third point of the map. It’s 3 days from here to Darwin.

Viljoen-Ballard scouts out the roof of the hotel. He finds the stairs up. There is a building across the alley (a 6-7 foot jump) that’s two stories tall. Viljoen-Ballard wedges the roof door shut with a nail, and informs party of how to unblock the door. Now they have one more way to escape if need be.

Sunday, May 3rd 1925:

Morning:

Nickels and Viljoen-Ballard attempt to find suitable materials for test carving an eye in volcanic rock. Viljoen-Ballard also attempts to make contact with a stone carver through the concierge. Nickels hits up the market districts looking for volcanic rock samples.

At the markets, Nickels observes that he is being watched. Making some appraisals, he makes a ruckus about an overpriced item, and calls out his tail. He is a thick set chinese man in a hood. The man says something in chinese, and Nickels gets a good look at his bulbous face. Nickels tosses his trinkets in the man’s face and starts running. The man gives chase. Nickels throws money into the crowd to try and slow him down, but he vaults another man in his way, clearing him like an olympic hurdler.. After a few blocks of chase, the man catches up, and throws Nickels to the ground as Nickels tries to knife him. Nickels comes up with his wrench and throws it at his head, smashing his face and staggering him to the ground. Nickels retrieves his wrench and runs to a Dim Sum shop (The agreed upon rendezvous point with his counterparts) by a circuitous route.

Viljoen-Ballard makes contact with some stone carvers. While walking down a lonely road, the hairs on his neck stand up. He quickly moves to the main road, and shakes it off. He convinces himself it was nothing. After a few interviews, he finds a carver that he hires for instruction for fair wages, then goes to meet with Nickels at the noodle house.

At the noodle house, Viljoen Ballard cleans off Nickels’ wrench and saves a sample. They debate safety procedures, eat, and then head back to hotel. Nickels watches their back.

Meanwhile, Ernst follows up with Chen Lao at the Jing’an Temple. He asks him for the assistance of his brethren in the chanting to seal away the evil. Through his usual signs and writing, Chen questions the purity of the souls, but thinks he can rally some. Ernst gives him the code phrase “It’s time to set sail” that Ernst’s associates will use to signal him at the appropriate time.

Ernst then travels to St. Cecilia’s to try and engage Sister Anna’s help. In a comfortable sitting room they engage in debates on the merits of such action and the powers behind them. Sister Anna is not convinced… this subject matter is firmly academic to her. However, Ernst displays sufficient prowess to open up a dialogue that may may convince her in time.

Meanwhile, Eastwick follows up on his telegram to the University of Hong Kong concerning the Black Fan Goddess.

Eastwick and Spalding head out to try and research how to make an Elder Sign. They start at the Shanghai museum and reconnect with Mr. Mao. They prime him with description of warding, using the wording from the 7 Cryptical Books. Mao finds examples of the sign after a long conversation. He also shows them a small jar with what looks like a maggot sealed inside, marked with the sign. Mao knows how the signs are physically created, but not any magical augmentations. They do get alternate names for the sign, and leads on a few books they might consult.

Afternoon:

Spalding and Eastwick travel to the University Library. Among the stacks they find many references based on Mao’s leads. Eastwick translates and Spalding correlates. They discover descriptions of the Elder signs powers, and references to the 7 Books and the touch points needed to unlock the ritual in that text.

Ernst returns to the hotel. Nickels and Viljoen-Ballard fill him in on their days events.

Viljoen-Ballard calls the hospital to check up on Hansel. He learns that Hansel is healing rapidly, despite the massive damage he sustained, and can be discharged within the week.

Viljoen-Ballard, Ernst, and Nickels go to the hospital in the Japanese quarter. Viljoen-Ballard wants to test the blood taken from Nickel’s wrench. He convinces the administrators to let him use the lab. He discovers human blood, but it is altered by an unknown process. All the regular elements are there, but the quantities are significantly different. Ernst wants to know if it was done by magic, but Viljoen-Ballard doesn’t know. Ernst attributes it to sorcerers. Viljoen-Ballard recommends that Nickels kill them if they cross paths again, because the thing is something besides human.

Evening:

All return to hotel.

Eastwick transcribes his notes on the Elder sign. One copy is intended for Mu Hsien. Spalding keeps reading her tome. Everyone is on edge, and it is decided that there should be watches set this evening. Ernst is on watch from 10-2, Nickels takes watch from 12 -4, and Viljoen Ballard takes over watch from 2 on.

About 11 o’clock there’s a commotion on the street. Ernst wakes up Nickels to take over the watch while he heads to the roof to check it out. He sees the Japanese constabulary arresting some chinese men in the street. They are hooded and thick set, like the one Nickels saw earlier. Ernst wakes up everyone, and they debate getting out of town. Viljoen-Ballard wants to get into the country, wait a few days, and come back for Hansel, alternatively, they could spend the night in Nickels ambulance. Eastwick debates calling in a favor of a local friend to use their house as a safehouse for now.

Viljoen-Ballard and Eastwick keep watch and pack. Spalding packs and catches a nap. Nickels checks out the ambulance to see if he can get it workable while Ernst keeps watch. Nickels thinks he can get it working within 24 hours with some parts they could buy in the morning. It would be noisy and conspicuous. They concur that it’s too much of a luxury, and unpack it.

Monday May 4th 1925:

Morning:

Ernst places Isoge’s signal in the window.

Ernst, Spalding, and Viljoen-Ballard leave to make contact with Brady; leaving a message at the tea house. They tell him to meet at a Japanese restaurant in the area, then they wait for him there. It is 2 ½ hours before Brady shows up in a shoulder length wig and false cheekbones and makeup. They bring him up to speed, and say they want to coordinate for a July strike on Gray Dragon Island. Ernst wants his men to be ready, and Mu to find out how to make an Elder sign. They pass along Eastwicks notes. They’ll be leaving for Australia, but will be back. Viljoen asks after his health and Chin. He’s fine, she’s doing a little better, but it will be a long road.

They then go to meet with Isoge. He was just about to leave by the time they arrive at the meeting place. Ernst asks about the arrests of the previous night, implying that he knows that Isoge is police, but Isoge is circumspect. They ask about maps, and Isoge says that the shipping maps are purposefully obfuscated and that the maps available to him are not commonly available.The party indicates that they will be leaving for a time, but will be back in a couple months. Isoge gives them a note to drop in the post when they return.

Meanwhile, Eastwick and Nickels make travel plans, and set arrangements for 3 destinations; Perth, Australia (passing by Darwin), Hawaii, and India. They use 3 different agencies and false names.

Late morning:

Meeting all up together, they head to the docks and buy last minute passage to Egypt, but really use the arrangements for Australia. They are reasonable accommodations on a cargo steamer, the SS Karori, using cash on hand.

Pic_SSKarori.JPG

View
Wednesday, April 29th, Continued, through Saturday, May 2nd 1925
Into the Sea

Wednesday, April 29th 1925, continued:

Nickels, who has come along with Brady, tries to appraise Spaldings piece of the mysterious metal. He attempts a variety of tests on the metal and finds it has strange properties: It it magnetic, but non conductive, light for its volume, and iridesces in unknown colors.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party goes down to the bar and fills in Brady on their developments. They debate the merits of going to America to lay low for a while.

Nickels begins strength tests on the metal, and finds it completely unbendable cold, but just barely shapeable when as hot as Nickels can get with his welder. Nickels devises a number of improvised devices for his tests, wrecking some of his tools in the process.

Thursday, April 30th 1925:

Viljoen-Ballard goes to the Shanghai University to test the mysterious vials from Fong’s teak cabinet. The resident chemists help him determine that it is a rare botanic extract known as the Essence of Thoughtful Resignation. Introduced into the bloodstream, it can render the afflicted blind. It was often used in ancient times on mystics and soothsayers who disappointed their Emperors. This single one ounce vial holds enough to blind 20 men (and there are 4 more vials stored with the gear). Viljoen-Ballard is informed that it is not technically illegal to possess, but would be to use. He promises to destroy it (though certainly doesn’t intend to follow through).

Meanwhile, Spalding skims the copy of True Magick, and debates reading the whole thing. Returning, Viljoen-Ballard recommends burning it and says that God has brought them together intentionally to be holy warriors. Spalding decides to read it anyway.

Eastwick, likewise, decides to read through ‘Tales of the Priest Kwan’.

Elsewhere, Ernst inquires about hiring a pleasure yacht and crew. He wants to scout out Gray Dragon Island surreptitiously. He finds a suitable renter and crew.

Nickels goes out to replace his tools, and also buys some sea charts. He discovers that the Chinese don’t seem to mark Gray Dragon Island on their maps, though the British and Japanese do. When marked, the island appears little more than a shoal. Hypothesizing on the nature of the metal he’s been analyzing, he scopes out shops for meteorite rock, but finds none.

Friday, May 1st 1925:

The party, in their rented steam yacht, departs for Gray Dragon Island. It is approximately 12 hours travel time to the vicinity. Ernst is excited by fishing, and collects bets to see who will catch biggest fish. They chum the waters and try to catch some. To throw off the crew, Ernst spins a tale that he has heard of good fishing near Gray Dragon island. Viljoen-Ballard catches the largest fish, but only by a little. They have an excellent fish fry.

Evening:

They arrange to fish in the island vicinity. Spalding adds to the deception by making it look like they are bird watching as they observe the island itself. The island is more than a shoal… it’s a major cone of an old volcano miles across. The sides rise sharply from the water, with sparse vegetation present. Up on the rim of the cone, movement of human-like figures can be seen. One section of the cone has collapsed into the water, and the party decides to sail past it tomorrow morning to get a look at the inside of the cone.

Night:

Ernst, Spalding, Eastwick, and Nickels drink. Viljoen-Ballard resolves to stay sober and awake all night to keep watch. Ernst, drunk, sees things in the water. He tries to draw attention to it, but Eastwick is the only other one to see it. Whatever it is appears to be humps in the water. A serpent-like thing swimming? A massing of manatees? The sky is overcast, and In the blackness it’s hard to tell. Ernst tells the captain to put on some steam and leave.

Once suitable distance has been put between the yacht and the thing(s) in the sea, Ernst and Spalding wax eloquent on how to kill a sorcerer. The usual methods seem incapable, and nothing solid is agreed upon. Spalding retires to her cabin to read ‘True Magick’. She begins to hear a low tapping on the bottom of boat… like the searching fingertips of a marine demon, reaching up to the hull from unfathomable depths. She returns to the deck to make it known, but the tapping is gone when others investigate. Nickels addresses his questions in an empirical sense, and shrugs it off.

Viljoen-Ballard carefully checks the wake all night. In the still of the small hours he hears a sudden, far off, dry crack that echoes across the waves. No cause is discernable. He quickly goes to the bridge and directs the ship south. Perhaps it is just his imagination, but he hears splinterings falling throughout the night.

Saturday, May 2nd 1925:

Morning:

His watch ended, Viljoen-Ballard goes to bed. Ernst and Spalding make bacon, fish, and eggs. They drink strong black coffee to compliment it.

Keeping up the fishing facade, they direct the crew to sail back along the other side of the island to observe the interior of the eroded major cone. Inside, a lagoon has formed around a smaller cone island. Smoke rolls from thermal vents along its sides, and a hidden lookout post is spotted within a clump of otherwise sparse trees. Movement is still seen along the rim of the major cone.

They press on, setting up another fishing contest, which Nickels wins. Spalding keeps reading her book.

Late Evening:

The yacht returns to Shanghai.

View
Sunday, April 19th, 1925 to Wednesday, April 29th 1925
The best laid plans

Sunday, April 19th, 1925 continued:

Early Morning:

Spalding produces the writings gained from Ho Fong’s cabinet and asks Mu for his comment. The works are violent, disturbing, but for the most part clearly demonstrate that the authors were well educated, and masters of writing. The works include:

“The Goddess of the Black Fan”, a long poem on a concertina style scroll in Chinese, discussing devotion and horrible rights to the goddess.

“Livre d’Ivon”, a red leather bound octavo which is in French… Ernst does his best to translate some of it, but can’t gain much besides it’s about Ivon the sorcerer dealing with a monster called ‘Satheojue’

“La Lai Yeh Chi”, a collection of bamboo strips laid out pamphlet style enclosed in a jade box in Chinese which talks about the proper worship of k’e t’u lu, a titanic dragon in a submarine city in the Pacific, as well as how it came to be here from distant stars.

“Tale of the Priest Kwan”, a collection of heavy linen paper wrapped in green silk in a black lacquered case. It details the actions of a former Buddhist monk who came to worship the Goddess of the Black Fan, his confrontations and victory over opposing nobles, and a collection of homilies on the Goddesses worship.

“True Magic”, a handsomely bound quarto in English attributed to Theophilus Wenn. A meandering work detailing 7 enchantments used in the summoning and control of various supernatural entites. The author takes long divergences into a wide range of topics, including vampirism, lycanthropy, anthropophagy, minor charms, rites, sacrifices, and lists of demonic beings. Between the pages are some notes on rice paper in Chinese which provide clarification on some of the more obtuse passages. Eastwick has heard of this work and author, mostly in the context of this work causing riots and the owners being lynched.

Late Morning:

The party decides they need to find a safe hiding spot to wait out Mu’s work on “The 7 Cryptical Books”. Viljoen-Ballard and Spalding take Eastwick and Henry to the hospital in the Japanese quarter.

Nickels remains remains with Mu and Brady.

Before they go, Brady gives them a contact at a tea house that can get him a message. All they need to do is pass along a code phrase, and the proprietor will pass him a message. He asks them to keep it short.

At the hospital, Ernst, through elocution and the application of money, persuades the Japanese staff to admit the wounded members.

Sunday April 19th through Wednesday the 29th, 1925:

The surgeons operate on Ernst’s face, having difficulty getting everything back just right. It is eventually suitably reconstructed and bandaged. Ernst is discharged, but told to leave the bandages on and let the wounds heal for 3 weeks.

Eastwick’s wounds are treated, and he heals beautifully.

Viljoen-Ballard takes a brief stay to recuperate and ensure there is no lingering damage to himself after being caught in the explosion.

Meanwhile, Spalding quietly gets a room nearby. As the party members are discharged they congragate there. To pass the time, Spalding tries to read “True Magick”, but the language is too obtuse for her.

Wednesday, April 29th 1925:

Noon:

The party investigates hiring a boat to land an assault on Gray Dragon Island. Inquiries are made of locals, and Ernst observes a familiar Japanese man tailing them. He recognizes his face from their first day at the Stumbling Tiger. He was in workmans clothes then, and is now sporting a completely different class of outfit, but it’s definitely the same man.

Eastwick is out making inqueries of his own, but Ernst and Viljoen-Ballard decide to try and trap their tail. Viljoen-Ballard finds a nice alley with dual exits to try and snare him. Confronted, the man introduces himself as Isoge, and says they might be of mutual benefit. They arrange to talk at a restaurant in an hour. Ernst and Viljoen-Ballard go collect Spalding and head to the restaurant.

When they arrive, Isoge has ordered for them. In short order plates of very good food arrive and Isoge exchanges formalities. Getting around to business, Isoge tells them he knows who they are and what they have done… that they seem to show up at places he has been tracking, and then those places seem to burn down or blow up. It could just be coincidence. Ernst indicates that he and the party deal with an assortment of bad people. Isoge shows them a piece of ripped metal that shines with an iridescence of colors the party has never seen before. Isoge wants to know if the party knows what it is, and asks what they know of the warehouses. Isoge says that Fong and his minions are involved in building a machine on Gray Dragon Island, and that he needs information on and/or the machine itself. He thinks the party is a suitable medium to investigate this. If they are willing, Isoge says he can get them a boat, and will get them more if they can get him what he wants. Ernst tries to talk him off it, saying that if he had seen what he saw, he wouldn’t want it… it’s anathema. All those that have died by their hand are horrible people… Ernst describes some of the things they’ve done. Just the same, Isoge is not deterred. A bargain is struck… Isoge will provide transport and weaponry, and the party will investigate the machine on the island.

Hesitating, but finally as an aside, Isoge asks, curiously, about why a white gorilla would be after them. For no reason. Just asking. The party denies any knowledge.

All quickly finish their meal. Ernst asks that if Isoge’s people see the white gorilla that they kill it. Isoge gives them a piece of red cloth to hang in their window when they are ready. When he see’s it displayed, we will supply a boat, and weapons.

The party returns to Spaldings room, then Ernst and Viljoen-Ballard visit Brady’s tea house to contact him. Ordering tea, they pass the code to the proprietor, and the message that they have a boat, guns, are being watched, and residing at Spaldings rental. The man takes the message, slips it into his sleeves and bows.

Leaving, Ernst sees that they are being tracked. He delays at various shops, conspicuously moving things around, as if giving signals. After passing a number of false impressions, they catch a rickshaw back to Spalding.

Early Evening:

A knock at the door. It is Brady, but he is in disguise, wearing a false nose, a wig, and makeup to alter the depth of his face. It’s remarkably well done. Entering, he forcefully blows the nose off, obviously in discomfort.

Brady relates that Mu has finished his preliminary study. The 7 Books are incredibly dense, perhaps infinite, and have not given up all their secrets certainly, but they have enough information to recreate an Eye. It’s possible to fix the Eye fragment they have, but it can only ward an area native to the material. In this case, Egypt. To place one on Gray Dragon island as Brady plans, they’ll need some specific preparations. Amongst them:

The Eye will need to be carved on site in a native, hard, material.

Those chanting will need to be pure souls. It is unlikely any among the party would qualify.

The chanters will be giving up some of their own life which will become the guardian spirit in the Eye.

There will need to be enough chanters… it is possible that they could just drop dead and the chant must go on uninterrupted from moonrise to moonset.

The first chanter needs to be able to create something called ‘The Elder SIgn’

The blood of an innocent will need to fill the pupil at regular intervals throughout the night.
This shouldn’t be enough to cause lasting damage to the individual, but that person will need to have no knowledge of anything that is going on.

The ritual cannot take place if there are enemies nearby. They’ll need to be cleared first, and kept away.

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Saturday, April 18th 1925, continued to Sunday, April 19th, 1925
Brass

Saturday, April 18th 1925, continued:

Ernst makes for the box, but Spalding stops him. She inspects the gold circle, and discovers that it is actually a series of densely packed characters of an unknown language. They look familiar to her somehow, and she goes back in her mind to her Innsmouth investigation. She was plagued with nightmares for months. These characters bring those fears back to the surface, and she is overcome with a sense of gnashing, mauling, rending, and a hunger for flesh. She is certain that the circle ought not be crossed.

Spalding also inspects the statue of the Bloated Woman at a distance. The deep bronze coloration does not scatter the light from her flashlight in the expected way, and she gets the sense that she they are not just being watched, but that the statue has noticed her in particular. Ernst snaps her out of it with an abrupt word.

Ernst, retrieving his crowbar, tries to chisel out part of the symbols in the circle. As his hammer connects to the bar the room itself seems to fold in, tipping towards the circle. An involuntary spasm, like a powerful, elongated sneeze ejects the air from his lungs. His face feels like it’s burning, and he throws himself backwards. The other party members watch in horror as the flesh on his face partially melts, like a candle, distorting his features and sealing his nose and mouth. Momentary panic sets in as he finds himself unable to breath in, but he keeps his calm. Nickels approaches to cut his mouth back open with his trench knife, but Ernst performs the operation himself, slicing neatly through where his upper lip has oozed over his lower one. Blood runs from the improvised maw, making his grotesque face ghastly as well.

Plans are briefly entertained to try and get at the box through the roof, but it is finally decided (After working out the logistics) that they will use the crowbar to thread a rope under the box, and try to drag it out of the circle. Shutting the door as much as possible in its partially disassembled state to mask the noise, Ernst and Nickels try to lift as much as possible to minimize scrapping, but it is too heavy. The box drags along the ground emitting a horrible metallic whine and scratching. As the box crossed the gold circle, Ernst sees a luminescence, like a cold glittering at the bottom of the sea viewed from the surface, play across the glass surface. The woman within is not harmed by the foul magics.

Removing the box completely from the circle, Ernst pulls up the rat’s chains and knifes them. Freeing the woman, Spalding tries to comfort her, but is unable to. The woman is hyperventilating, and is barely maintaining consciousness. It is unclear whether or not she even understands anything that is happening around her. Ernst bandages her feet as best he can

Nickels, meanwhile, is investigating the teak cabinet. Using the crowbar and his knife, he forces open the doors. Inside are a small number of volumes, mostly in chinese, 3 in western style bindings, one stored in a black lacquered case, and one very old concertina-style scroll affixed to two boards. There are also 5 small, unlabelled, sealed vials, and a jar of greenish powder. Spalding hastily stores all of these in her rucksack. Also in the cabinet are a series of needles in ascending gauges, an amulet bearing Chinese characters, a small tattoo kit with yellow and black ink, and some yellow and black silk robes. Spalding uses the robes to try and pad the delicate items in her rucksack.

Deciding they must leave with haste, due to likely alerting someone with that noise, Ernst tips the teak cabinet, and drops an alcohol incendiary on it. The flames begin to creep up the wall. Nickels picks up the woman, and all head back out towards the court. Ernst has his shotgun ready, and Spalding draws her pistol.

At the door of the Buddha shrine, Ernst steps up to the door first and sees a man standing by the court pool. He is of European descent, wears a nice western style suit, spectacles, and a full brimmed hat. He leans on a walking stick as he watches the fish in the pool. Ernst demands to know who he is. The man calmly looks up at Ernst, and says that they’ve made a lot of trouble here. He introduces himself as Mr. Stanford and calmly asks them who they are. Ernst levels his shotgun and delivers buckshot right to the man’s center of mass. Slightly staggering from the blow, the man looks down at his damaged suit. Fine grain sand seeps from the holes. He says that he wishes Ernst has not done that. Stanford catches some of the sand and blows it towards Ernst. A massive concussive force sweeps through the courtyard and smashes into Ernst, sending him flying backwards into his counterparts in the Buddha shrine. Stanford repeats his request for identification as he steps towards the door.

Making a hasty decision, Spalding grabs the dynamite, intending to blow out another exit in the back wall within the Bloated Woman shrine. Spalding preps the explosives, runs back into the secret passage, and places the charge at the back corner.

Meanwhile, Ernst tries his best to delay Stanford. Ernst introduces himself as Jack O’Brian, and that he’s here bent on revenge for the murder of Jackson Elias. ERnst asks if Stanford knows anything about that, to which he responds, “Of course”. Ernst asks if this is Ho Fong’s house. Stanford’s expression tightens, and he says he is very disappointed in Ernst. He raises a hand and begins to trace in the air. Where his finger touches, a rip seems to form, a pulsing red glow seen within. Ernst shuts the door, but the image of the red glow seems to stick in his mind, being ever before him.

Spalding comes running back into the room, and Nickels sets down the woman and tries to partially close the Buddha passageway. There is a great explosion which sends a shockwave and detritus forcefully down the passage, blowing open the secret door which smashes into Nickels arm, breaking it. Ernst and Spalding are blown back and pelted with bits of wood and stone, but are otherwise unharmed. The blast deafens all present. Ears ringing, they run for the new hole, Nickels grabbing the woman as best he can.

Unknowingly, Spalding has blasted the wall near which Eastwick and Viljoen-Ballard are parked. The walls explodes against the ambulance, ripping the side apart, shifting it a few feet, and almost tipping the car over. Eastwick in the driver’s seat is hit with the brunt of the force, and is blown into Viljoen-Ballards lap, though his leg remains partially wrapped around the steering column. Both are pelted with detritus that cuts deep and lodges in their flesh.

Fleeing through the smoke in the Bloated Woman Shrine, Ernst, Spalding, and Nickels find the statue completely unharmed, though seemingly now filled with a radiating malice. All flee through the newly created breach in the wall and pile into the ambulance. Viljoen-Ballard pulls Eastwick aside and starts the car, then yielding the driver’s seat to Ernst who struggles with the controls, but manages to put distance between the party and the mansion with haste. Viljoen-Ballard triages the party. He patches up Eastwick, then injects the woman with morphine to calm her as he treats her wounds. He also splints Nickels’ broken arm. Ernst takes a roundabout path back towards the hotel and finds a street cart storage area where he can obscure the ambulance from prying eyes. Spalding does not notice any tails. Viljoen-Ballard bandages Ernst’s face. They hoof it back to the hotel as quickly as possible.

Dr. Meyers is woken up, and he is distressed at what’s happening. He recommends getting the injured to a hospital immediately, but is put off that idea. Everyone packs up their things quickly in preparations to move again. Keeping watch and attempting to get some rest, they tensely wait til morning. Spalding takes the opportunity to look closer (and subsequently properly pack) the contents of the teak cabinet.

Sunday, April 19th 1925

Dawn:

Clouds blot out the morning light, and it appears that this will be an imposing day. Gusts of wind buffet the windows.

Viljoen-Ballard administers an amphetamine to the woman, who wakes, but quickly progresses towards her panic once again, searching frantically about the strange environ with her eyes. Eastwick, himself bandaged and barely able to move, calms her down, indicating that they are friends, and they are here to help her. In time he manages to talk her down sufficiently to converse, but it’s obvious to him that she is deeply scarred, and will require professional attention for an extended period of time if she is ever going to live anything like a normal life again. They confirm that she is Choi Mei-Ling, that that was indeed Ho Fong’s house, and the man they stabbed and smothered was most likely Ho Fong. Asked about Jack Brady, Mei-Ling gives away nothing. She says that Ho Fong wanted information from her to find someone, but that she did not give it to him. SHe will not give it to the party, either, indicating that it is simply too dangerous. What actions she and the party take are insignificant to what whoever she is protecting are doing, and they need to be given time at all costs. “Only what they are doing is important”, she repeats, and refuses to contact them.

Spalding tells her that the party and her friends are about the same purpose, and that they can help. To prove it, Ernst produces the Eye. Choi is greatly excited, and incredulous that they have it. She says that they must go at once. Ernst arranges to borrow a car from the hotel, and they load all of their belongings up. Meyers is left behind, with $1000 in currency and instructions to head to Hong Kong. The party will contact him later. He is happy to oblige.

Taking a circuitous route, crossing their own trail a number of times and looking out for spies, they finally arrive at a modest house on the outskirts of the city. Knocking at the gate, an old man, obviously just woken, answers the door. Mei-Ling pays respects, and Eastwick catches that this man is Mu Hsien, one of the scholars that the party has been unable to locate. Hsien is wary, but Ernst shows him the Eye and all are quickly ushered in.

The party is told to wait in the courtyard while Mu carries Mei-Ling enter a door. There is a shallow pool in the court, and the wind creates a constant overlapping ripple that the party finds soothing. They wait, and before too long the door opens again. Mu returns, along with a massive man, tall and powerful with a weathered face and greying hair about the temples. His eyes are sharp, but seem to be far away. His squared visage seems to be constantly scrutinizing, or perhaps wincing. He might be mistaken for late middle age, but it seems more like he is on the younger side of that bracket, having had life deliver hard knocks over and over again.

“I’m Jack Brady. I hear you’ve been looking for me.”

See “Jack ‘Brass’ Brady”

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Saturday, April 18th, 1925
A corrupted heart

Saturday, April 18th 1925:

Nickels observes that the ‘Goddess’ is in remarkably good shape; well taken care of for a ship in a busy industrial harbor.

Viljoen-Ballard arrives in harbor. Running in Ernst and Nickels, he is welcomed back to the fold.

Nickels goes about the docks trying to discern the repair history and servicing agencies of the ‘Goddess’, trying to potentially get aboard as a mechanic. Meanwhile, Ernst and Viljoen-Ballard travel to the Stumbling Tiger Bar.

At the bar, the morning light illuminates far more than is comfortable. The bar is shabby in the dark, but it’s foetid in the light. McChum is eating breakfast with another man at a table and looks surprised to see customers this early. Nonetheless, Ernst and Viljoen-Ballard are welcomed. Ernst orders a scotch and water, and sips it while McChum finishes breakfast. Ernst insinuates that he thinks McChum knows more of Brady then he’s letting on, but McChum is resolute. As far as he knows, Brady is out of town. Ernst says that if Brady should stop by, McChum should tell him that a ‘Friend of Elias is going looking for the Flower’. McChum says again that he is still sure that Brandy is not in Shanghai, but that he’ll pass it along if he’s wrong.

Ernst and Viljoen then pay a visit to Sister Anna at St. Cecilia’s. Sleeves rolled, smelling of cleaning agents, she has no new information to pass on. Pleasantries are exchanged, and Ernst and Viljoen-Ballard leave, returning to the hotel.

The investigators take stock and plan next moves. Ho Fong’s house and yacht are prime targets, and Ernst decides they need more explosives. Eastwick makes a purchase of dynamite from an outfitter, also picking up carpets and a ladder.

Early Afternoon:

Nickels returns, and has found that the ‘Goddess’ utilizes local contractors for maintenance, but does not have a regular schedule. It is not looking to hire now. The party decides to make an attempt on Ho Fong’s house that night. All rest up in preparation.

The Dark of Night:

Ernst, Nickels, Spalding, and Eastwick travel surreptitiously to Ho Fong’s mansion. Scouting the perimeter, they observe the wall all around topped with iron spikes, barbed wire, and broken glass. Nickels determines that the top of the wall is not electrified. Due to the positioning of the roofs, the presence of courtyard areas are inferred. It is decided that they will drop into a side courtyard, to better avoid potential passers by and avoid the main gate. Eastwick waits in the car, ready to sound the alarm or assist in a quick getaway.

Using the ladder to ascend and the carpet to cover the top defenses, all vault onto the roof. Nickels catches his side on a point and is painfully bruised. Sneaking across the roof, Nickels catches his foot on one of the clay slate tiles, which clatters back into position as he tries to adjust. Ernst, meanwhile, has crept to the roof edge and looks down into a dirt courtyard surrounded by many doors and containing a storage shed containing groundskeeping implements. A man emerges from a side door, ostensibly to investigate the noise. Ernst jumps down upon him from the roof and fells him with a mighty blow. The rest carefully lower themselves to the ground, and stealthily search the court.

The flanking rooms are shabby and ill furnished. Little more than a cot, some personal effects, and in some instances some Chinese characters written on the walls. There are sleeping inhabitants in two of the rooms. There is one corridor leading out towards the main gate and a larger courtyard. The party creeps down that way.

Rounding the corner, they spy the front gate and a cobbled courtyard surrounded by many doors, some of which are quite large. This area is well lit with electric lighting. Ernst hears shuffling from beyond an arch near to where they are sneaking, and jumps around it in a flash. An elderly man in a well kept uniform starts in surprise, but Ernst smashes his powerful fist into his face before he can make any noise. The man’s nose crumples and he goes flying into the back wall of the niche. Ernst follows up with a blow to the stomach, possibly misjudging just how thin this man is. His fist seems to push all the way back to the man’s spine. He crumples in the corner. Ernst does his best to quickly prop him up to look as if he’s sleeping.

There is a corridor leading back deeper into the compound, lined with doors. The party progresses down this carefully, checking each door in turn. The first door is a sitting room, luxuriently furnished with comfortable looking expensive furniture, standing screens, and fine art. The next room is a library, similar in opulence to the sitting room, but containing thousands of scrolls and books, mostly in Chinese. A track along the ceiling line contains recessed lighting, casting a warm glow about the room. ABout to move to the next door, Ernst suddenly hears movement coming from the back court. All swiftly return to the library to hide.

The party hears the door of the next room over open and shut, and someone moving about inside. The party leaves the library, and listens at the door. They hear soft singing in Chinese. Fearing a sorcerer, Ernst barges in and finds a rotund man in a fine suit beginning to disrobe. Ernst stabs him in the chest before he can say a word. Falling to the ground, red froth bubbles out of his chest wound. Ernst smothers him with a silk pillow from his well appointed bed.

Taking a moment to look around, they see that no expense was spared in furnishing this bedroom. All the furnishings are hand carved and inlaid, rare textiles and silks are the rule. Fine art and statuary are abundant. AMongst some white jade pieces on a table. Spalding finds a statuette of the Black fan Goddess. It depicts a scene with the goddess walking on a path, a man on his knees before her with his hand near his head.

The party moves on to the next door. On the other side they hear a low, irregular humming. Nickels does not think it’s a machine… it sounds like some kind of animal. They decide to move along. Across from these doors are another court, this one containing a pool and many exotic plants. Spalding inspects some of them, but cannot identify them without further scrutiny. Time being of the essence, they do not linger.

Behind the next door they find a shrine to the Buddha. A large brass statue sits before a hardwood floor, incense burners set into stands around the front. Searching the place, Ernst thinks he’s found a secret door, but it’s really a flush cabinet serving as a cushion storage area. Nickels inspects the statue, and discovers that there is a fine seam around Buddha’s neck. Spinning the head, it only moves clockwise and ratchets in fine increments. Two full rotations causes a catch to release, and the statue slides away revealing a dark hall. Ernst pulls out his flashlight to light the way.

The hall is short, with openings to either side and a barred heavy door at the end. The ceiling is painted with Chinese characters. In one of the side rooms shelves are filled with powders and goos, along with tools including a mortar and pestle. Spalding identifies these as organic compounds, and all decide they are likely poisons grown from the back court garden. In the other room is a small arsenal with a small stock of rifles, many pistols, a few thompson submachine guns, and ammunition. Ernst inspects them and finds them well maintained. Ernst takes a m1911 and Spalding takes a Thompson.

The heavy, barred door poses a challenge. It is locked, and breaking it down would be noisy. Nickels inspects the lock mechanism, but can’t determine how to open it. Using Nickels tools, Nickels and Ernst take apart the faceplate and hinges, discovering an elaborate needle trap within the lock. Eventually, it is sufficiently disassembled to shift it off its hinges and the party enters a dark room.

Ernst’s flashlight illuminates a small room, perhaps 12 feet square with a ceiling 10 feet high. Standing over this space is a metal statue depicting a bloated woman, tentacled flanges protruding from her corpulent form. Although inanimate, all get the sense that she is aware of their presence. A teak cabinet with hammered gold doors sits to the side, monstrous carvings spiraling up its edges. It is covered with strange inscriptions the language of which the party cannot identify.

All attention is immediately called to the center of the room, however. There, within a gold inlaid circle set in the floor, is a long steel and glass box segmented into 7 compartments. Spread between them, secured in place by the dividers, is a naked woman. Her feet and ankles have been viciously mauled. Along the top of the box, situated above the woman’s head, is a smaller compartment set on rails. Within are two large Shanghai river rats, scrabbling at the glass plate that separates them from the woman’s face.

Alerted to the presence of others by the light, but unable to turn her head, the woman shifts in a panic within the box.

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Thursday, April 16th continued, to Friday, April 17th 1925
Trails in Print

Thursday April 16th 1925, Early Afternoon, continued:

Eastwick decides to contact his friends at the University in Hong Kong asking after (though trying to be nonchalant) the Black Fan Goddess and related aspects. He will check in later to see what they’ve found.

Meanwhile, the party, having decided that this location is too known for their tastes, loads their belongings into Josiah’s car, and drive to the Old City address on the note. Parking a distance away, they scope out the house. It is an old style residence, not falling down, but ill kept for its age. The red slate roof has a number of slates missing, the woodwork is dried and cracked in places. There is a high wall surrounding the place, preventing easy view of the interior. They spend some time observing and see movement from the windows, but nothing suspicious.

They approach the gate and Eastwick knocks. A middle aged doorman with a flattened, crooked face answers and they produce their invite. The man escorts them down a short open corridor into a courtyard, where he passes the party off to a fine featured woman who takes the instruction to bring the party to the master. All are escorted across the uneven and at times broken cobblestones of the court and into into a throne room. A wizened man in expensive but old robes sits on an elaborate chair at the far end. He is flanked by screens, and hidden lights indirectly illumine the walls in a soft glow. He introduces himself as Lin Tang-Yu, a collector of rare and obscure texts. Inquiries made by the party have drawn Lin’s attention, and he is aware of the parties activities in Shanghai.

He is looking for ‘The Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan’ and has reason to believe that it was stolen by Jack Brady. Lin makes several accusations about illicit activity in Shanghai, and Ernst admits to the blowing up of the warehouse, but says he did not see the scroll there. Lin asks after Brady. Ernst says they know much about him, but not where he is. Pressed for more, he gives a general idea of their expedition, and why they are looking for Brady. Ernst, in turn, presses for more information, but Lin refuses to give it; saying he’s been magnanimous enough to keep other parties off them sufficiently for them to meet him. Lin says that they should tell him if they find Brady or the ‘Seven Books’ , and, more matter of fact then malicious, that he’ll know if they don’t. He also gives them the location of Ho Fong’s Mansion and Grey Dragon Island. Ernst says he knows what they are up against, then asks if Ho Fong has things going on outside Shanghai. Lin laughs at this, saying the party really has no idea what they are up against.

Spalding asks if Brady works for Ho Fong. Lin says no, but that his girlfriend has been kidnapped and thus he may be being coerced. He tells them she used to live on lantern street.

Making overtures that the conversation is finished, Lin whistles and the courtyard woman returns. She shows them out the way they came.

Mid afternoon:

New accommodations are arranged and the party relocates to a hotel in the Japanese district, deciding that this area seems the least corrupt. They unload their trucks and get settled.

Evening:

Nickels and Spalding go to the docks to see if they can find Ho’s yacht. Making inquiry of the locals, Nickels discovers that his yacht is called the Luxuriant Goddess, that it has an English registry, and that it’s not present currently. The Dark Mistress is not here either.

Meanwhile, Ernst and Eastwick survey Ho Fong’s house. The walls are high, spiked, and barbed wired. Two thugs stand outside the heavy gate. They scope out the neighborhood looking for a vantage point. They could scale a neighboring building and observe from the roof, but they would be visible from the street and need to be quick. They briefly entertain the notion of a camouflaged hot air balloon. All ideas seem dangerous in one or another way shape or form, so instead they return to the hotel.

Friday, April 17th 1925:

Morning:

The party makes special effort to be polite to Japanese forces in hopes of creating a good reputation. Deciding to follow up on the strange headlines, the party heads to Lantern street. Not far from the Stumbling Tiger Bar, It is home to a number of flower girl houses, of which 88 Lantern is one. Knocking, they are greeted by several working girls, though they were not anticipating customers at this hour. Making known that they are not they for their services but rather for information, the proprietor of the establishment, Madame Gee, is summoned. She is a fierce older woman who is not happy to have been disturbed, but some money exchanging hands brings her around.
The party is brought to the room that was attacked by the creature. Ernst convinces Madame Gee to wake up some of the other girls to interview. Eastwick asks them questions while Ernst and Spalding check the room.
The room is destroyed, and still has a large hole broken through the outer wall. The furniture is smashed, and blood stains and bits of viscera are still present. Agents of some kind have been spread to mask the smell, but they don’t do much good within the room itself. Ernst and Spalding are unable to uncover any leads.
Meanwhile, Eastwick learns from one of the girls, ‘Quivering Jade’, that things happened quickly that night, and there wasn’t much time for anyone to respond. The consensus among the girls is that the girl who was in the room that night was unlucky; She was new to the room, which used to belong to ‘Long Night’. Asking further about ‘Long Night’, Madame Gee says she kept a man who never paid, and so she kicked them out. She was sold to an establishment at 140 Lantern Street. The party relocates there.

The proprietor of this building comes to the door dressed in Taoist robes, but eastwick discerns that the symbology on them is meaningless. He says that ‘Long Night’ has run away, and that he doesn’t know why… he always treated her right. Asked about her last customer, the proprietor says that he had never seen him before, but passes along a description of an asian man. He is paid to let the party investigate ‘Long Night’s room, but no clues are found.

Late Morning:

shanghai-club-2.jpg

Keeping on the headlines, the party heads to the Seaman’s Club. It is a Baroque Revival style building featuring ionic columns and intricately carved cupolas on the Bund. Eastwick is a member, and vouches for the others. There are a sparse number of folks in the common areas, and the party decides to mill about and see if they can get a read from the place. Eventually they find an Aussie sailor, hard and calloused, who was there the night of the collapse. He describes tentacled fishmen emerging from the surf, and then the panic at the collapse. The party also talks to the staff, determining the occupied rooms involved in the collapse, and getting the name and description of an occupant: John Smith. The description matches Jack Brady. They ask that if he stops in, to leave a message for Ernst under the name Jack O’Brian.

Afternoon:

All take a satisfying lunch at the club, then follow up on the last headline, travelling to the Garden of the Purple Clouds of Autumn. It is a small community, shaken by the fire and loss of some of their own. Talking to the Bonze, they get a description of the European at the scene, which also matches Jack Brady.

Mid Afternoon:

The party observes that the ‘Luxuriant Goddess’ has come into port. Ernst and Nickels stake it out and see that it is under guard, including a man meeting the description of ‘Long Nights’ last customer. There are men loading goods onto the ship. An assault is briefly entertained, but it is decided that it is too dangerous. Ernst and Nickels stay on a stakeout overnight.

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