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06 June 2016 @ 12:00 pm
[CoC: HotOE] Last stop, the Gulf of Nodens  
Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
Having successfully escaped Milan, the investigators continued on the train toward Venice, their next stop on their way to Constantinople. While most of the group rested, Countess Durnovo and Demir found a woman in mourning clothes in the salon car and went to speak with her. She said her name was Maria Stagliani and that she was returning to Venice after the sudden death of her father, who had slipped while walking along the canals and died of pneumonia he couldn't shake. The countess did her best to be comforting, and around dinner time, the train arrived in Venice and the investigators alighted.

Venice in winter is, well...here's what mutantur read to us:
"Venice in winter is cold, still, and vaporous. Days of rain, rain, rain, and fog alternate with spells of sunny brilliance, when ice crackles on the fringes of the canals. Nights are tomb-like, the houses wrapped in shrouds of mist, lit only by occasional somber pools of lamplight. You can walk for miles at night and hear nothing but the echo of your own footsteps, the sad slapping of water on a tethered boat, the distant clang of a fog-bell, or the deep boom of a steamer at sea. In Venice, on a foggy winter’s night, it feels like day will never come."
-E.V. Lucas, A Wanderer in Venice, Methuen and Co. April 1914
Awaiting Maria were a group of Blackshirts led by a older man wearing a military uniform, who immediately approached her and began speaking to her, growing increasingly insistent, as Rosaline and Gianni noticed a younger man lurking on the corner of the square and staring intently at Maria. As he started forward toward the Blackshirts, the countess sprang into action, approaching Maria and "reminding" her of the dinner invitation, which Maria gratefully accepted and excused herself from the military man. The younger man broke off and fled into the crowd, and the group began walking Maria home.

On the way home, Maria told them about the older man, Alberto Rossini, who wanted to marry her but who she was disgusted by, and the younger man, Giorgio, who she loves but had neither wealth nor power. A tale as old as time. When she reached her house, a chance remark by one of the group reminded her of her father's death again and sent her into tears and she hurried inside, her maid following her. With nothing else to do, the investigators went back to the train station, picked up their luggage and checked into the Hotel Danieli near the Piazza San Marco, performed a few minor tasks before bed, and went to sleep.

They hadn't slept long before they woke up in the Dreamlands.  photo emot-catdrugs.gif

While it had been a couple days in the waking world, almost no time seemed to have passed in the Dreamlands since the investigators' last visit. Aphorat was the next stop, and it wasn't too long until the train stopped there and the group departed to look around the pleasant port town. There wasn't much there of interest to non-sailors, though the professor did look for a cafe serving sandwiches (prompting Rosaline's player to comment, "You're so French!") and found a cafe serving...something almost but not quite entirely unlike sandwiches. Rosaline looked into the bazaar and bought a souvenir--a strange brazier that when hung did not swing in entirely the way a brazier should swing. When she tried to pull some francs from her purse to pay, she found strange coins with unknown faces on them, which seemed to change appearance slightly each time she looked at them, and was happy to hand them over to the merchants.
"What is the childhood memory-to-francs exchange rate?"
-Me on the Dreamlands economy
After the short stop, the group got back on the train and continued on their way toward Thalarion, home of the eidolon Lathi.

(There's a Dreamlands map here which doesn't look exactly the same as the one in the Horror on the Orient Express, but is pretty close. We started in Ulthar and then traveled south along the coast and then west)

On the way, they were drawn again into the dispute between the Sarnathi and the beings of Ib. The two sides were planning to present their case to King Kuranes, but wanted to come to some sort of agreement beforehand. The beings of Ib had three demands:
  • The payment of 10,000 rubies and sapphires so they can rebuild Ib.

  • An apology for the original atrocity perpetrated on them by the Sarnathi.

  • The return of the statue of Bokrug the Great Water Lizard, which was used in the ancient and secret rite in detestation of Bokrug by the Sarnathi, and upon the altar which contained it, the high priest Taran-ish had scrawled the mark of DOOM.
The Doom That Came to Sarnath actually mentioned that the statue had vanished and I wondered if that was going to come up, but it never did. The countess handled the negotiations with the Sarnathi and managed to convince them to make the payment of gems by appealing to their reputation for generosity and the apology by pointing out that it would be a excellent opportunity for them to demonstrate their erudition and skill at sarcasm and dissembling. The professor spoke to them after talking to the beings of Ib, who said that the most important point was the return of the statue, but that they weren't that concerned because if the Sarnathi did not agree to their demands, DOOM would befall them. The Sarnathi were not particularly interested in talking to the professor, but by making his argument in Latin he at least got them to listen. They agreed to consider the return of the statue at some point in the future to be negotiated later, which seemed to satisfy both parties. Then the train arrived in Thalarion.

Henri warned the group that he was only stopping here to pick up lost dreamers and that they should under no circumstances leave the train. The station was in a vast, shadowed chamber, and as the gangplanks extended, movement could be seen on the far end. A terrible corpse-apparition, with burning red eyes and twisted limbs, floated up to the train and demanded entry. Henri rebuffed it, saying that it had already ridden and could not board again, but the sorcerer stared into Henri's eyes, ensorcelling him, and floated past him until encounting Demir, who did not look into its eyes but did clothesline it. That seemed sufficient to deter it, and it floated away.

While this was occurring, the countess noticed Madame Bruja watching the undead sorcerer with an expression of unholy glee, though she fled as soon as she noticed she was being watched.

Before Henri could snap out of it and board the train, another shape was visible through the shadows. A flash of white limb, of glittering eyes...

The eidolon Lathi had come.

Most of the group were disturbed but able to maintain their composure, but Rosaline was overcome and madly ran toward Lathi. Heedless of Demir and the professor's attempts to stop her, she broke free with demoniac strength, dodged the tentacle the train sent after her, and vanished into Thalarion just as Henri returned to his senses.

The group related what had happened to Henri, and he seemed very flustered, but assured the group that Rosaline would return and asked them to go to their chambers, which they did--except for the countess, who had gone to speak with Madam Bruja and ask her about the sorcerer. She was not very forthcoming, but she reiterated the sorcerer wanted the heart and she was adamant that he was unable to board the train, at least at this time. When the countess returned to the chamber, Henri brought Rosaline along, who remembered nothing of her flight other than a vague impression of eyes in the shadows.

The train went on toward Zura, another stop where Henri warned them not to debark, as it looks paradisaical from a distance but close-up the charnel stench gives away the true horror that lies beneath the pleasant-seeming facade. Along the way, the group dozed, ate, and those who had failed the first time to create a talisman to cast into the Gulf of Nodens tried again. The professor succeeded (with a 01!), creating a beautiful quill pen and iridescent ink, which he used to write out his regrets and asked Henri to place them around the broken crucifix he had previously used as his talisman.

Here Demir noticed Karakov the arms dealer speaking with the beings of Ib and the Sarnathi, and when speaking with Karakov got nowhere, he tried to physically prevent the man from entering the Sarnathi quarters. They were outraged and summoned Henri, who said that he understood Demir's concerns, but the Sarnathi and Karakov were paying passengers as well and had the right to conduct themselves as they saw fit.

The train stopped in Zura and Henri again tried to prevent a traveler from boarding--a ghoul clutching a tattered ticket. As the group approached, they saw it was Guillaume, who they had met in the catacombs below Paris. The professor asked Henri to let him onboard, saying that they had spoken before and come to no harm, and Henri eventually agreed, though he asked that Guillaume be placed away from the other passengers. As they showed him to his quarters, the professor asked Guillaume about himself. He said he had been born in 1692 and when he was an adult, there was a famine. There had been no food, and, well...now he was "Le goule." The professor asked him if he knew of the Comte Fenalik, and Guillaume said that he did. The Comte gave "us" the remnants of his entertainments, and he had a statue carved of white marble that he used to caress like a lover. Guillaume was convinced that if the statue was taken, the Comte would pursue its thieves to the ends of the earth, even from beyond death. A cheery thought.

At this, the professor remembered the voice that Rosaline and Gianni had heard in the Paris art gallery, and the footsteps that had seemed to be following them in the streets...

The next stop was Aira, spoken of by Iranon in his tales, but which had died when his dreams died. The train stopped here to bury the body of little Blackjack, before continuing on to Sona-Nyl, where King Kuranes and his knights boarded the train. After a fantastic banquet, King Kuranes listened to the beings of Ib and the Sarnathi and ratified their agreement, and then after some confusion, the matter of the murder of Blackjack was addressed. One of the cats that the group hadn't seen before spoke on the criminal's behalf, and King Kuranes eventually ruled that he would be returned to Ulthar to be tried, where they have a remarkable law which is told of by traders in Hatheg and discussed by travellers in Nir, that in Ulthar no man may kill a cat, but they also have a law that provides leniency for those who are under the compulsion of sorcery.

The train stopped in the cloud-city of Serannian and King Kuranes debarked, though not before telling the group that he was impressed with their discernment and if they had need of assistance while in the Dreamlands, they had merely to write to him and seek an audience and he would provide his help. Mac, the man traveling with the briefcase handcuffed to him, also made to disembark, but a few words from Demir convinced him to go all the way to the end of the line. Henri spoke to the group as well, telling them that if they continued they would never be able to return to the Dreamlands Express and asking them if they wished to continue. Demir was hesitant, but the rest of the group was resolute, and so the train pulled away from the station and passed on into the clouds...which took the shape of a skeletal face with blazing red eyes as the train passed into its maw.


Well, it's like Ibn Schacabao said:
Happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes.
We talked a bit about keeping the Dreamlands Express as a refuge for us, but mutantur pointed out that if we rode it again from the beginning, the other passengers would be different. With that and that Gianni, Rosaline, and the professor were committed to riding to the end, we decided to stay.

There wasn't much here that was difficult, other than softlykarou's dice failing her when the countess tried to convince the Sarnathi the first time. She's running pretty low on Luck, too (I think she has like 9 points left?). I was worried when Rosaline ran off into Thalarion, but fortunately Henri came through. Though are there any lingering effects? Hmm...

I don't remember anything about Venice at all. We think there's a leg here, because there's always a symbolic effect of the simulacrum and Maria's father slipped into the canal, but we didn't have much time to explore the city. I'm sure we'll learn what's wrong with everything next time, in the daylight.
 
 
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