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08 August 2016 @ 11:32 am
[CoC: HotOE] The Dollmaker  
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
Over breakfast the next morning, the investigators checked the paper for news of the previous night's murder. There was a small item without much information--a woman's fiance had been found impaled on an iron spike in a certain district, and the police had detained the woman for questioning. The group decided that it might be a good idea to check it out...later.

A messenger delivered an invitation at breakfast to the funeral of Maria Stagliani's father, as well as offering her thanks for the group's companionship so far and inviting them to visit her at her home. The professor took out some stationary and wrote a quick note accepting her invitation and had to sent immediately. The messenger also noticed the seal on the letter they had found San Marco Basilica and asked what business they had with the Gremanci family, noted dollmakers and creators of wondrous automata. The group asked the front desk where the Gremanci's shop was, and, finding that they no longer had one, where the workshop was as well as the best place to buy a doll. The clerk said he would find out the information after the professor slipped him a large tip, and then the investigators began their day.

First, they went to the naval engineering school that now occupied the convent attached to the former Church of San Marie Celeste seeking the Devil's Simulare. The secretary at the front disinterestedly waved them toward the library, and when the professor asked the library what had happened to the manuscripts kept at the church, the librarian told a tale of a line of nuns saving as much as they could from the fire and that he was sure that the results of their courage were all now at the Biblioteca Marciana. The professor asked leave to look around the library, which the librarian happily granted. There were no ancient manuscripts there, secret and abhorred or otherwise, but there was a book on carpentry that Demir borrowed in the hope of determining how to build secret compartments in luggage, a task at which he had previously been unsuccessful.

While Demir studied, the others went to the doll shop. The professor commissioned a doll for his daughter and the countess and Rosaline both bought dolls as well, and the group asked the location of the Gremanci's workshop but the shop clerk did not know. Then it was off to lunch, where they met up with Demir again and resolved to go to the police station near where the murder had occurred.

Gianni took the lead when they arrived, saying he had heard that there were some strange circumstances around the killing and the church was investigating. The police were very brusque, but the investigators were eventually able to speak with a detective who told them that there were no buildings around so the unfortunate man couldn't have fallen. He was thrown high enough to be impaled on impact, and furthermore, the body was drained of blood and there was no blood at the scene. Gianni managed to get them five minutes with the woman, but she was unresponsive and a quick interview determined that it would take hours by a trained alienist to learn anything from her. With nothing further to be learned, the group left for the Biblioteca Marciana.
Gianni's player: "Maybe it's an automaton? The corpse?"
mutantur: "I'm sure the police would have noticed."
Gianni's player: "A meat automaton."
Me: "Or the killer was an automaton!"
Gianni's player: "A vampire meat automaton."
Me: "I think I listened to that band in high school."
On the way, they noticed that the canals had risen strangely and the water was foul and sludge-like.

Asking directly for the Church of San Marie Celeste had better results than their previous unaided browsing, and the librarian brought them a sheaf of unsorted papers that Gianni looked through. He quickly found the Devil's Simulare as an unbound manuscript, and Rosaline worked her magic to get it out of the library. She borrowed the professor's briefcase and sat down, and then shuffled papers around until all of the Devil's Simulare just happened to end up in the briefcase, snapped it shut, and handed it back. The manuscript was in Latin, and while the professor spoke fluent Latin (seriously, he has Latin 75%), it would still take some hours to look through and he determined to save it for a later time.

After they left, the investigators decided that there wasn't enough time to visit the Gremanci workshop and still eat dinner and make their invitation to the Stagliani household, so they went back to the hotel and variously read or napped until dinner, and after dinner went on to Maria's father's estate. Maria was somber and distracted for obvious reasons, and after the short visit the investigators left and went back to their hotel, where everyone was abuzz with news that the statues at the San Marco Basilica had wept blood during evening mass. Gianni was very interested in this news, but a quick look around couldn't find anyone who had actually seen it, just people who had heard it from someone who was there, but never a real name. With nothing else to show for it, the group went back to the hotel and went to sleep.

The next morning at breakfast they saw in the paper that there had been another murder, this time of a gondolier who was torn to bits. The paper even referred to his lack of blood, and when the waiter noticed them reading the article he told them that his brother-in-law had seen Death himself poling a gondola in the canals. So the first thing the group did was go talk to the brother-in-law, but neither Gianni or Demir could get much out of him other than that it totally happened and also they were very drunk at the time.

The professor did not mention to the others his suspicions about the grisly murders which were seemingly following them across the continent.

Then it was time for Signore Stagliani's funeral, which took place on a small island in one of the canals, and featured many strange knocking sounds from the coffin. This was followed by a reception at the Stagliani's house with Giorgio and Rossini glaring at each other the whole time. The investigators and Giorgio left early to avoid any further trouble, but on the way back, Gianni noticed that the gondolier was very nervous and the countess realized that he was poling them directly away from their hotel. The group demanded to know where they were headed, and the gondolier eventually stopped answering, so Demir grabbed the pole. Further questioning revealed that the fascists were looking for them, so Demir pushed the gondolier into the canal and the investigators made their escape. As they moved away, they could see blackshirts lurking in the canal entranceway they had been heading toward.

After lunch at the hotel, the investigators went to the Gremanci workshop. Feeling that they had been too discrete thus far, they showed the elder Gremanci the letter they had found in the San Marco Basilica:
God forgive me, God help me, I had great need of it, so I took it with much trembling and sense of sacrilege. That I, a true Venetian, should violate our most sacred place! Yet surely some needs stand above all others. He was weeping, and begging for help. His statue was broken, and I had no material to repair it, for this cursed war makes everything scarce. I remembered the old story at last. What else could I do? His grandson died on Monte Grappa, alongside my dear Marco, and his figures are the only things that comfort him. God forgive me, God trust that I only seek to do my best.
and the professor explained they were looking for a statue and that a piece had been removed by a Gremanci previously, though he did not reveal why they were looking or that they had already found two pieces previously.

The elder Gremanci seemed very surprised by this and revealed that his father had died five years previously, but that they were welcome to check the heavy leather-bound record books that filled shelf after shelf. With the younger Sebastiano Gremanci's help, they quickly found the information they were looking for, which was maddeningly incomplete. The late Gremanci seemed to have been an indifferent bookkeeper, referring obliquely to a Mr. Rezzoniani and
During the storm, friends tell me, an odd freak of lightning struck the campanile of the Palazzo Rezzoniani. I must go and see my old friends in the clock tower to see if they are all still hale and well.
A clocktower with friends? Statues? Perhaps one that had been missing a leg?

The investigators decided that climbing around a clocktower in the dark would be unwise, and so they accepted a tour of the Gremanci workshop, was was exactly as charming and cute as a tour of any building filled with half-completed dolls would be. Then Demir and Sebastiano, both veterans of the First World War, went out drinking as the others went back to their hotel and settled in for the evening. The professor attempted to translate more of the Sedefkar Scrolls, and heard shouting later in the evening. He looked out the window toward the canal and saw a large fish with human-like hands, splashing about in the befouled waters, but not being a naturalist he turned his attention back to the book and eventually went to sleep.

There's only a bit left of Venice according to mutantur, but it was just long enough that staying overtime would have been too long. So next up is going to the clocktower (which I had forgotten about until I saw it mentioned in the Gremanci records), then on to the train and reading the Devil's Simulare, which mutantur has confirmed leads to a Cthulhu Dark Ages side-story.

I'm really excited for that! The 1920s setting is fun, but my favorite Cthulhu games are put into other contexts. One of my favorite Lovecraft stories is The Very Old Folk, about a disaster that befalls a Roman legion, and I've always wanted to run a game of Call of Cthulhu set in the far past (though probably with a different system). Horror on the Silk Road? Horror on the Appian Way? Horror on the Nile?

I was a bit surprised there were no doll-related monsters. Maybe we'll have to fight crazed automata in the clocktower, the assumption of which is exactly why we didn't go there at night. Fighting crazed automata isn't really in anyone's skillset except Demir, though Rosaline is a quick study. We're still in the "old academic" phase of characters, before we have too many deaths and start bringing in the ex-military special forces, criminals, and arms dealers.
Current Mood: determined
Current Music: The Good Friends of Jackson Elias podcast
Ian, Viscount of the Osirian Wastes: impendingmutantur on August 8th, 2016 05:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, worry not dear investigator, a Cthulhu Invictus scenario is coming sooner than you may think. If you're ever interested in checking out the setting, I'm glad to send you the PDFs. It's really quite robust.
dorchadas: Great Old Onesdorchadas on August 8th, 2016 09:01 pm (UTC)
That'd be great! I can throw it in the queue and put up a review of it at some point.