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21 November 2016 @ 11:20 am
[CoC: HotOE] The Haunting and the Caves  
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
After the altercation with the Turk the previous night, Demir was still convalescing and unable to travel far (and his player was absent), so he remained in the hotel while the investigators went to another museum elsewhere in Trieste, since they were just waiting for the translator to finish his work with Herr Winckelmann's diary. On the way to lunch, though, they noticed a man was following them through the streets, who looked very like the man that Demir had described in the library, having the pages of his book turned.

The investigators turned down a small alleyway and waited, and the man walked right into the alleyway and up to the investigators, making signs that they should follow him. After some hesitation, they did so, and he led them through the streets to a house in a run-down area of town. Entering, they found a single-room hovel with papers everywhere. The man rummaged through the papers, finally finding a sheaf of them and thrusting them at the professor, while Rosaline and the countess noticed a photo of the man, smiling, with two intact hands resting on a woman and a young boy. As they left, the man gestured frantically toward the northeast, and when the investigators began moving in that direction, he seemed satisfied and went back into his house.

At lunch, the professor read the papers. They were the diary of one Helmut Grossinger, and while fragmentary, they described a series of fantastical events. Cults living in caves beneath the earth, "human fish," limbs grafted onto other bodies and moving on their own, and names he had never heard of like "Ghatanotha" or De Vermis Mysteriis. As they talked and ate, they noticed the man with the red hair and black streak was standing across the street, watching their cafe--until a van pulled up just past him and two Turkish men jumped out, bundled him into the car, and then sped away.

After lunch they went to the library for research. They found the Postumia Caves were northeast of Trieste, and while there was a cave that was closer that was fully explored, another cave closer to Postumia had much that was still mysterious about it. The professor researched the unfamiliar terms in the diary and found nothing, but Gianni was more successful and learned that the library in Trieste had a reference copy of Nameless Cults, the Bridewall translation into English. The professor could tell that the translator had either been incompetent or taken extreme liberties with his work, but he still found himself disturbed when he opened to a random page and found an account of trees moving on their own or when commanded by the will of another.

At the hotel, the front desk told the professor that he had a message from the translator, so the investigators left again to get the translation. The professor paid the man, with a bonus for his quick work, and left. The translation spoke of Winckelmann's mission in Trieste of the "Beasts" and "Them" who were hunting him, of the need to hide the medallion before Archangeli got his hands on it, and of the need to have the amulet to enter the caves safely.

On the way back to the hotel, the professor noticed a pale-faced man dressed in antique clothing, far behind them on the street. He turned to tell the others about it, but when he turned back, it was gone. It was merely a foreshadowing of the events that would occur at dinner, however. The table rose, seemingly by itself, before falling back to the floor. Gianni cut into his chicken to find it full of writhing maggots, but when he spit out the moving piece in his mouth, it was merely normal chicken. The wine glass rose into the air, filling with blood, which poured out and made an image of Bacchus. The professor's knife moved his hand seemingly of its own accord, brandishing itself in the air. None of the other hotel guests noticed anything, and eventually the investigators left dinner before coffee and retired to their rooms.

At the professor's suggestion, they conducted a séance. Gianni had a Ouija board on his person, and the group pulled it out began chanting Johann Winckelmann's name after the professor improvised some Latin invocation. The planchette moved slowly, spelling out the letters M·A·R·C·O·P·O·L·O before the planchette shattered!

That night, they didn't get much sleep either. In the two other rooms, the candles refused to light, escalating into chairs moving, pillows exploding, the doors opening and shutting, and light bulbs shattering. Eventually, they were all ejected from their room and the doors would not open. The professor slept soundly until he woke in the middle of the night to find the fire had changed to a strange blue color and the room was freezing cold. Frost formed on the window, creating an image of Bacchus and his maenads in some pastoral scene--and when the professor took out a sheet of blank paper and pen, a similar image was created after the presence tried to write and found only scribbles coming out. When the professor got out of bed and touched Winckelmann's diary, radiating bone-chilling cold on the desk, the fire roared up, the frost melted, and the room returned to normal as a knock came on the door.

The others found the professor nearly hypothermic and bundled him into a blanket and sat him near the fire as the investigators relayed their experiences. The hotel staff thought that the rooms were ruined as a joke, or at least so they said, but they fixed the room and the investigators went back to bed. In the morning, they went immediately to the library to research Bacchus's involvement with Trieste. After some time, they found an artist named Nicholas Burnette who had been on a tour of the continent and had sketched a frieze in Trieste of Bacchus, reproduced in the account they found. It was on the "Via Marco Polo," only a few streets away.

The investigators made their way to the house and found the frieze, above a gate that was heavily padlocked. Asking a neighbor, they found that the building was abandoned, but the key was held by a widow, and the professor posed as an interested buyer. The widow was surly and suspicious, but she handed over the key and asked that they bring it back when they were done, so the party went back to the building, opened the door, and entered the dilapidated building. It was in extremely poor condition, with multiple holes in the floor and ceiling, but after the professor leaves to buy a lantern and comes back, they are able to make their way down the basement. Then, as they are examining the room, a pale-faced man in antique clothing, slightly translucent, comes down the stairs! He makes his way into the room, to a flagstone, pries it up with a pry bar, and places an oilskin bag into the hole. He moves the flagstone back into place, walks away, and vanishes before he reaches the stairs.

Working together, the investigators manage to raise the flagstone and, among the fragments of rotted leather, find a gleaming amulet, the last of Winckelmann's medallions:

Gianni picked it up and as he touched it, he heard a howling, as of a great wind roaring down from the north, and in an instant the cold of Trieste's winter seemed much more bearable. He slipped the medallion around his neck and the investigators replaced the flagstone, returned the key to the old widow, and went back to their hotel to sleep. This time, their sleep was undisturbed, though Gianni dreamed of a strange hunting call.

In the morning, they took a train to the Grotta Gigante, the closer caves, and took the tour, but found that there was nothing to learn there, so after the tour they went on to Postumia, arriving just in time to take the tour there. A man named Carlo was their tour guide, and he took the opportunity to play up the mysterious caves, pointing out formations that looked like body parts and menacing Rosaline with an olm pulled from a cave lake. All of this becomes much more siinster when Carlo turns off the cave lights, lights a flashlight, and more lights appear in the darkness. A group of men, led by Antonio Tremona, surrounds the group and demands the medallion as a tentacle falls from Tremona's "empty" sleeve. Gianni says "What medallion?" and Tremona snaps at him to hand it over...and then other figures move in the darkness. The Brotherhood of the Skin had come!  photo emot-black101.gif

As the two cults engage in pitched battle, the investigators flee through the caves past scenes of chaos. Cultists being eaten by giant olms. A Brother of the Skin flaying a fallen tentacle cultist and placing the skin on his own wounds while chanting. Brothers of the Skin impaled by tentacles, fighting on. Eventually, they pass through a formation that seems like a series of sharp teeth and arrive at a subterranean lake, surrounded by treasures encrusted with a thin layer of limestone...including the right leg of the Sedefkar Simulacrum, iron oxide around its end, making it seem as though it were covered in dried blood. As they entered the cavern, a voice boomed in the investigator's minds: AT LAST YOU HAVE BROUGHT THE MEDALLION!

Rosaline kicked the leg free and took the Simulacrum piece, and the group turned to go. As they did, a giant water shape formed, like a gigantic serpent, and roared GIVE US THE MEDALLION! After a moment of hesitation, Gianni complied, flinging it into the water. The shape collapsed, the cavern went silent, and the investigators ran for their lives. They stole a car when they exited the cave and found the outside was also a battleground between cults, went back to Postumia, and stayed in another hotel that night. When they went for their baggage in the morning, they found it in place, but with two mangled corpses there, mutilated beyond recognition, and the pieces of the Simulacrum had been assembled into the shape of a human body...

The next morning, they made their way back to Trieste, retrieved their luggage, and boarded the Orient Express. As the train pulled away, they saw the shape of Johann Winckelmann on the platform, who lifted a hand and smiled, and then faded away with a beatific smile on his face.

Next up, Belgrade...maybe! mutantur implied that something mysterious and unexpected might happen, so we'll see!

This section was a bit of a Mythos Hoedown. An amulet with an image of Ithaqua on it, the Brotherhood of the Skin, cultists of the Lloigor, a legitimate ghost...it was a bit much. But we made our way through it, even if we did give the medallion up to the Lloigor and furthered whatever their presumably nefarious plans are. To return, I'm guessing.

I'm not sure how I feel about legitimate ghosts in Call of Cthulhu. There's a danger in mixing horror sources, I think. When human horror, with ghosts and the afterlife, is mixed with cosmic horror, with monsters from beyond the stars, it can dilute either. If there's an afterlife and an immortal soul, does that mean that people who die are beyond the reach of the mythos? Does it dilute the impact of tentacle arms when glasses are filling with blood and light bulbs are shattering?  photo emot-iiam.gif I think it does, a bit. It's like having good human magic and bad mythos magic, in that providing a human source of power dilutes the "true nature of the universe" aspect of the mythos.

I mean, not as much as [REDACTED] does later, assuming that's still part of the campaign.

Also, a brief amusing aside--the professor is learning Arabic faster than Turkish, even though he's learning Arabic from a dictionary and scrolls written by a madman and he literally has a native Turkish speaker he can talk to at any time he wants. That says something about our man Professor Durand, I think.
Current Mood: shockedshocked
Current Music: Deus Ex - Neonature (nervous_testpilot OC ReMix)
Ian, Viscount of the Osirian Wastes: enigmamutantur on November 21st, 2016 05:24 pm (UTC)
Actually, I haven't looked into how they contextualized [READACTED] in the original version, but I think it makes a lot of sense in this version. I'll gladly pull back the curtain for you once we get past that and we can see if you agree.
dorchadasdorchadas on November 21st, 2016 06:00 pm (UTC)
I think that's the part I'm most looking forward to in this campaign, even more than the Cthulhu Invictus part, just because I found [REDACTED] in the original so egregious and stupid that it was by far the most memorable part for me.