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Roleplaying Games

Ike’s On The Job

SESSION 3, part 1

(I thought another GM was taking over with his game this week but plans changed at the last minute and I ran RoC.  I hadn’t prepped for the session and two unexpected new players showed up.  It got a bit chaotic at times and I had to take a Mulligan on one bit of evidence I relayed to the group but everyone had a great time nonetheless)

New Characters:

Detective Ike McManor.  A veteran of the Arkham P.D., Ike has encountered bizarre occurrences while investigating a group believed to be responsible for pet mutilations around the town.

Peter Malone.  A wounded veteran of the Great War, the last thing he remembers was fighting in the Argonne Forest before suddenly losing consciousness and waking up–minus one eye but with a pocket full of cash–in his hometown, Arkham.  Peter believes that the US Army is after him and will try him for desertion.

The Story Continues

(commence very bad Mickey Spillane impersonation)

Detective Ike McManor chomped the soggy end of an old stogie as he pulled up in the squad car.  McManor was a good cop, an honest cop, and he had been with the Arkham P.D. a long time.  He had sure seen some weird stuff in his day, stuff that would make your gut churn and your head spin, and had been investigating the members of some group calling themselves the Cult of Mu.  Pets had been showing up dead all over Arkham with the Greek letter μ (mu) carved into them and he needed a lead.  Freaks, creeps, bohemians, Europeans–why don’t they stay in Boston where they belong?  Ike was in a bad mood and somebody was gonna pay.  Besides, the Bosox were so far out of first place they might have to start playing local little league teams to get a win.  He wanted to blast a monster, alright–a big, green one.

Riding shotgun was a strange, troubled man named Peter Malone, if that was really his name.  He showed up one day out of nowhere when McManor was trying to collar a local hood.  The hood got the drop on McManor and was going to blast him with his heater–at least, that’s what the hood thought.  Malone was walking along minding his own business but he had an uncanny knack for sensing when something heavy was going down.  Maybe that’s what saved him in the Argonne, why he was still walking the earth and not pushing up the daisies on the end of some Hun bayonet.  He called out to McManor just in the nick of time and Ike drew his service .38 first and filled the hood full of lead.  One more stiff for the meat wagon, one less threat to honest, God-fearing folk.  McManor took a liking to the one-eyed war vet, who also believed that there was something more out there that humans couldn’t explain.  Such as why he had been in a trench moment and wandering the streets of the old USofA the next, short an eye but carrying a wad of green in his pocket.  What the hell had happened to him?   Malone was put to work digging for dirt on the Cult of Mu and McManor fronted him a few bucks and put him up at a boarding house in Arkham.  It wasn’t the Ritz, but maybe that was for the best, because the Ritz sounded way too German for Malone.

McManor heard that Strawbridge had put some P.I.s on the case and that he had been in old man Drake’s pocket for years.  “Straw” wasn’t going about it the right way, by the book, so Ike decided to check things out for himself.  He called on his new friend, one-eyed Pete Malone, and they headed for the outskirts of Arkham.  The two people sitting in the coupe at the turnoff fit the description of a couple of the P.I.s–an old codger in a tweed suit and a young, stylish dame.  Ike pulled up next to the other vehicle and got the low-down from Dr. Kenneth Lokar, some bigshot visiting professor from Hahvahd.  Lokar talked in big words and liked to show off his fancy book-learning.  Ike couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  He knew there had to be a collar in it for him, so he got the other coupe turned around and they headed back toward the manor for some real questioning.   The detective would teach these rookies how it’s done.

Next:  The Situation Escalates

(I’m stopping here because it gets very hairy and confusing.  The remainder of the session deserves its own post.)

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The Old Man & The Trunk

SESSION 2, part 3

Dr. Kenneth Lokar and Jenny Barnes were made of stern stuff, having confronted a slavering horror and lived to tell the tale.  Claudette, the maid, brought them linens and hot water and helped them dress their wounds, which were painful but brought no other ill effects that they could see.  Draining a tumbler of illicit brandy he found behind the bar in the foyer, Dr. Lokar bade Jenny to continue their investigation of Drake Manor.

The remainder of the ground floor of the spacious manner was unremarkable, at least in any context that concerned Lokar and Barnes.  Old money was evidenced in the rich European furnishing, the aged portraits of distant Drake ancestors, and the many and varied statuary, pottery and other adornments.  Thieves would become wealthy almost overnight and it was a miracle that the place hadn’t been ransacked, considering the meager staff.  Obviously, Samuel and his pit bull were vigilant and effective guardians.  Or perhaps it was something else entirely that kept people away.

Proceeding upstairs to the second floor, the investigators discovered what had to be the bedroom of Jonny Drake.  Claudette did a remarkable job keeping the interior of Drake Manor clean, swept and freshly appointed.  Not this room, however.  The stale odor of tobacco and neglect filled the air as it became apparent that the room hadn’t been cleaned in ages.  Clothing, along with needles, opium pipes and all manner of illicit paraphernalia, littered the nightstand and the surrounding floor.  Jonny’s writing desk stood against the wall near the foot of the bed, piled with an unruly collection of stationary, pens, inkwells, and bound stacks of letters.  One page stood half-finished in the center of the desk bearing the salutation “Dearest Diamante” followed by pleas of undying love and unfulfilled promises of undying bliss.  Jonny wrote that he would meet this Diamante “at the usual place and time” but the letter was never, and would never be, finished.  A desk calendar stood nearby with the date August 26, 1927 circled in red ink–the date of Jonathan Drake’s murder.  Dr. Barnes took the stack of letters and shoved it into a coat pocket.

The master bedroom, obvious from the double doors bearing the Drake seal, was locked and the investigators chose to leave it undisturbed.

The Old Man

Descending once more to the ground floor, they decided to climb up into the observatory tower and confront the master of the house himself concerning the strange and fatal goings-on.  The door to the tower was unlocked and the well of the spiral stair unlit.  As they ascended, they detected a vague buzzing noise whose intensity and frequency varied chaotically.  Reaching the door at the top of the stair, Dr. Lokar rapped for admittance.  A moment later he noticed that the buzzing had ceased.  The door opened and a frail, elderly man with wispy white hair stood silhouetted in the light of an incandescent bulb–Dr. Emery Wallace Drake, the once-renowned astronomer, awarded a peerage by Queen Victoria herself for his contributions to science.

The story of his rise and subsequent ignominious fall was well-known in academic circles.  Some years earlier he began offering for publication a series of treatises dealing with the existence of life on Mars, which he claimed to have discovered.  His assertions were as extraordinary as his supporting evidence was thin.  At first his reputation suffered no significant harm but his obsession with the topic and the single-minded zeal with which he increasingly bombarded his colleagues with his views led him into severe disrepute.  Frustrated at every turn and unable to find a credible ear for the fruits of his research, he sunk into a severe depression.  He had the presence of mind to seek professional help and check himself into Arkham Sanitarium for a year, an act which stabilized his psyche and simultaneously drove the final nail into his professional reputation.  The sanitarium’s psychiatrists declared him well enough to be released and resume his life but he was never quite the same again.  He became a recluse and was never seen outside manor, rarely even pausing from his studies in the observatory to take his meals or sleep in his own bed.  A new research target was in his sights–the possibility of a hitherto unknown planet at the edge of the known solar system which perturbed the orbits of Neptune and Uranus and whose alignment with Mars was impending–and he pursued it with the old obsession.  But with the passage of years and the frailty of age came a descent into senile dementia, and there was no one left in the whole wide world who took him seriously.

Dr. Drake invited Dr. Lokar and Miss Barnes into his observatory as old friends.  It quickly became apparent how out of touch with reality he had become.  Questions were met with blank stares or jolly nonsequitors.  He was in deep denial over his son’s death, which Claudette attempted to communicate to him after Det. Strawbridge had called the manor late the previous Friday night.  Dr. Lokar even confronted the old man directly about the tragic situation deep in the cellars.  Disturbingly, Dr. Drake went so far as to insist that the two individuals must have been guests, and that the cell was the guest house.  He said he hated for his guests to be lonely, so he had them room together.  Lokar’s and Barnes’ jaws hung open incredulously by the end of the interview and they decided the old man could be of no use to themselves or anyone else in his current state.

The Trunk

Only one area of the manor was left to search, the attic.  The investigators discovered the closet containing the pull-down stairs in the ceiling and cautiously climbed up.  Only a pale, meager light illuminated the vast space despite the many windows, the grime of age having coated them almost completely.  Sheet-covered furnishings and castoff nicknacks from generations of Drakes were pushed against walls and piled on each other.   One ray of bright light, however, shone through a broken pane in the southeast corner of the attic.  Dr. Lokar and Jenny approached and saw a shattered window–shattered from the outside, such that glass shards burst into the attic.  Dr. Lokar peered through the jagged opening at the ground three stories below them.  No ladder or rope was visible, no fire escape, and no ledge upon which a burglar could perch.  Then they saw that other nearby windows, although unbroken, bore scratch marks in their think layers of filth.

A large trunk was the only item near the broken window, and it, too, had been scratched and marred by–something.  The wooden box was reinforced with metal strips onto which had been imprinted a recurring pattern or design of a sort of stylized leaf.  A metal lock secured the latch, and onto this, as well, was a singular leaf of this pattern.  Dr. Lokar searched his memory and suddenly realized that he had seen this symbol before.  In the very last document he had been able to peruse in the University’s Orne Library was superstitious talk of a warding glyph that was proof against various forces of evil.  It was an Elder Sign.  But was something being kept in the trunk, or kept out?  The broken window, the scratching, the obvious attempts to gain access to whatever the trunk contained, all played their part in answering the question.

Lokar and Barnes were able to manhandle the trunk to the first floor and out the front doors.  The contents made a dull, muffled thumping noise as the trunk was turned this way and that.  Neither investigator could articulate why but they felt they simply must spirit the trunk and its cargo far away from Drake Manor.  Lokar put the trunk into the boot of his automobile and slammed the lid.

Sam Again

Jenny swore she could hear multiple voices coming from the groundskeeper’s cottage.  She rapped on the door and called for Sam to come out and answer questions regarding the horrifying discovery in the cellar.  In the long pause before he answered, she heard what sounded like a door closing and considered the situation suspicious.

Sam emerged, shotgun in hand, and closed and locked his door behind him.  He strode to the car to speak with Dr. Lokar.  Jenny, meanwhile, loitered near the cottage attempting to discern the source of the strange voices and noises.  At one point she even grabbed a large screwdriver that was lying on the ground and tried to pry a window open.  Her clumsy, blatant attempt at breaking-and-entering was spotted by Sam, who, angered by the sheer nerve of the two, gruffly ordered them off the property at gunpoint.

Lokar and Jenny got in the car and drove back toward the main road to plan their next moves.

Next:  Ike’s On The Job

 

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The Guests of Drake Manor

SESSION 2, part 2

The maidservant, Claudette, pushed open one of the two large entrance doors of Drake Manor and accompanied Dr. Kenneth Lokar and Jenny Barnes into the broad foyer.  Their footsteps echoed on the rich red-brown tiles as they passed mosaics on either side depicting the hillside vineyards of Tuscany.  Claudette, the sole remaining maid of the manor since the disappearance of Marianne Silvers, worked herself to exhaustion keeping the interior clean and liveable.  Age and neglect were evidenced high up the walls beyond her reach and ground too deeply into the recesses of the complex ornamentation to completely render them to their original conditions.  But fresh linens and flower were always available in the many bedrooms, except for Jonathan’s, which remained as he left it on the infrequent occasions he appeared at home to sleep off a night of heavy drinking and smoking.

(no more freshman creative writing, I can’t keep up.  The situation in the second half of session 2, continuing into session 3, becomes very complicated and confusing)

The Study

Dr. Kenneth Lokar and Jenny Barnes began their search of the manor in Dr. Drake’s study.  The heavy ebony desk was covered in a clutter of astronomical manuscripts–including Astronomia nova aitiologetos : sev physica coelestis, tradita commentariis de otibvs stellae Martis (On the Motion of the Star, Mars) by Johann Kepler and Tycho Brahe, written in Latin and published in 1609 and Percival Lowell’s 1895 English language release simply entitled Mars–and calculations of the orbits of the known planets.  A stack of texts concerned studies on Mars and speculation on the existence of Martian life.  Bookshelves lined the walls containing copies of most extant books on astronomy and astrology.  Curiously missing from an otherwise complete series were volumes addressing astronomical observations from Italy and the Americas.  Across the study from the desk, a mantle above the fireplace held diplomas, certificates, awards, and framed photographs of notable events in the lives of Dr. Drake, his late son, Jonathan, and previous generations of Drakes.

In the midst of the collected memorabilia stood a small statue composed of an unknown, semi-translucent material.  Jenny reached out a hand to pick up the item and felt intense cold which emanated from it.  Eschewing caution, she grasped the statue and was immediately overcome by an intense and varied buzzing which seemed to come from all around her, and her hand was stung by the coldness of the thing.  She came to her senses quickly and the strange phenomenon passed, but both investigators noticed a low scraping sound from the corner of the study where a length of bookcase appeared to have pivoted out of the wall.  The statue was apparently connected to a mechanism of some sort.  They tugged on the protruding end of the bookcase and pulled it far enough out of the wall to expose a passageway with steps leading down into the darkness.  Dr. Lokar and Jenny grabbed candles from the mantle, lit them and haltingly descended the stairs.

The Cellar

The air became progressively colder as they climbed down into what appeared to be a wine cellar.  Candlelight illuminated a rack covering the wall on their left, every nook filled with wax-sealed bottles of the red wine that Il Dragone–the Drake family winery in Tuscany, whose crest was the dragon clutching the world they had seen before–was known for.  Directly opposite the wine stood a rusted iron door, padlocked, with a small sheet metal box mounted on the wall near the door handle, the lid secured with a simple combination lock.  The stench of mould, decay and filth permeated the cellar.  Jenny drew her small Derringer pistol from her handbag and proceeded to strike the combination look that secured the metal box.  Several blows succeeded in breaking the mechanism and Jenny opened the lid to find a solitary key, the key for the padlock on the iron door.  Lokar and Barnes rapped on the door and were answered by several harsh, muffled gasps that sounded human but were not recognizable speech.  Inserting the key in the hole and turning with a loud click, Jenny removed the padlock and Lokar slowly pulled the heavy door open.

The Guests

Peering inside by the dim candlelight, the scene that met their gazes was at once pitiable and horrifying.  A lone figure lie face-up on the floor, emaciated, caked with layers of dirt, blood and filth and hung with scraps of tattered and rent cloth.  Roaches crawled over the body and spiders nested on walls and ceiling.  But the figure was alive, and it was a human woman.   Two white eyes, unblinking and wide with terror and madness, glared up at them as cracked lips attempted to form words–an effort they knew was futile when they glimpsed the ragged stump of the tongue that had been torn from the mouth, allowing only hoarse mumbles and grunts.

And then it came.

Lokar was standing in the doorway when it lunged at him from a corner of the cell where it had somehow remained cloaked by darkness.  The creature, and only the gods know what it was, snapped at Lokar with canine fangs dripping with saliva, breathing a hot stench into his face, biting through jacket and shirt and into the flesh of the chest.  Lokar staggered backward across the cellar and against the wine rack, crying in pain and terror.  Grabbing a wine bottle, he hurled it at the thing and missed, a shower of wine and glass exploding against the far wall.  Feral, yellow eyes, saucer-like with fear, bulged out of its elongated and misshapen skull as the thing crouched then sprang forward on inhuman hind legs coated with stiff, black fur.  The smell coming from it was nigh unbearable.  Fingers, longer than any human’s, tapered to dagger-sharp claws with which the creature grasped for the edge of the open doorway, pulling itself through.  It emitted an unnatural, growling lisp that Lokar would have sworn said, “No more!  No more!”

Darting past Lokar, it came next upon Jenny Barnes barring its path.  Dagger fingers slashed out across her arm and only a supreme effort of will kept her from the brink of madness.  She fumbled in her bag for the Derringer as the thing shoved her aside and loped toward and then up the stone steps leading out of the cellar–indeed, as they feared, out of the manor, and beyond.  Jenny darted to the bottom of the stairs and leveled the pistol.  A single shot rang out and echoed loudly in the chamber.  Already nearing the top of the steps and freedom, the creature jolted to a halt as flesh and black ichor explode out of the back of its skull.  Emitting a horrible gurgling cry, it slumped in a heap and slid down several stairs as the life–if that is what it possessed–left it.  A pool of black, viscous fluid coated the staircase.

Dr. Kenneth Lokar and Jenny Barnes carried a frail and broken woman up into the study of Drake Manor.  Claudette was summoned to care for the woman, who was indeed the maid, Marianne, who had disappeared.   Startled and deeply disturbed by this turn of events, Claudette mustered her wits and carried Marianne back to her old quarters, and then rang up a local doctor.  It was a Sunday and therefore procuring a doctor on such short notice would be problematical.   The two investigators broke open many bottles of the fine wine and used it to clean the filth from the cellar, and especially the stairs.  The cellar was now stained with Il Dragone, but what of it?  A body–no one knows of what–was dragged inside the cell from whence it came.  An iron door slammed shut, its padlock was put back in place to secure it, and its key was slipped into an inside pocket of Dr. Lokar’s bloody tweed jacket.   Kenneth and Jenny vowed never to speak of the thing again.

Next:  The Old Man & The Trunk

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The Mysteries of Drake Manor

SESSION 2, part 1

(Only Dr. Kenneth Lokar and Jenny Barnes were present for this session.  Jack Storn, cub reporter, remained in Arkham to continue his research in the archives of the Advertiser.  Raymond Learson, globe-trotting archeologist, never answered his doorbell that morning.  His whereabouts are currently unknown.  Liquor and/or harlots are believed to be involved.)

The Road to Drake Manor

The turn-off from the Arkham-Bolton Pike towards Innsmouth was like a gnarled, bony finger stabbing into the dark past.   Less than a mile from the junction the road surface degraded into pock-marked and crumbling ruts of gravel and dirt.  Old, rusted signs warning of road construction were still jabbed into the shoulder at several points but there was scant evidence of recent repairs.

Dr. Kenneth Lokar and his passenger, Jenny Barnes, spent the better part of an hour being tossed about the interior of the doctor’s Buick coupe, which was now covered up the windows with dust and dirt and speckled with bare metallic dings and dents from the rocks tossed up by the tires.  They easily spotted the turnoff to the Drake estate–home of the formerly esteemed astronomer Dr. Emery Wallace Drake–the only track remotely in the location given the directions that Det. Strawbridge provided earlier that Sunday morning.   Along that small driveway–for it was no more than that–the two passed the Drake family burial plot, low headstones of various vintage surrounding a tall and impressive central mausoleum, the whole surrounded by an ancient and rusted iron spike fence.  Lokar slowed down for only a moment before continuing on to the house.

This was an impressively constructed two story villa in a Mediterranean style of architecture.  The saffron paint, which at one time must have appeared bright and welcoming, was now peeling in large strips and much faded.  Grime coated the many broad windows and settled into the crevices of every bit of ornamentation and trim.  If they had not known otherwise, Lokar and Barnes would have sworn the place was deserted.  The surrounding grounds were in a markedly better-kept state, the lawns cut and trimmed to the borders of the breezeway, bright clumps of flowers surrounded the base of the flagpole and the hedges up close under the windows neatly manicured.  As they pulled up and exited the vehicle, however, it was apparent that shrubs closest to the manor were sickly and twisted, as if some pestilence had afflicted these plants but not those mere inches further from the walls.

Samson

A tall man, blonde, sunburnt and broad-shouldered, stood at the topmost of three circular stone steps that led to the massive double doors.  His pose was rigid and unwelcoming, and his face impassive and humorless; he wore the coveralls of a working man, faded to a light blue and discolored by dirt, grime and sweat which would never fully wash out, and carried a double-barreled shotgun which he rested nonchalantly on his right shoulder.

“Are you the ones the police sent?”, he asked in a pronounced Scandinavian accent.  “They can’t be bothered to come themselves.  Why do you need to bother an old man whose only son was just murdered?”  There was more sadness than menace in his voice as he slowly shook his head in disbelief at Lokar and Barnes.  Nearby, they heard the barking of a dog.

“Sam, it’s alright.”  One of the great double doors opened and a woman wearing a plain black dress with a white, lace-edged apron ran up to the large man and the newcomers.  “The police rang up that they were coming, there’s no need to be curt with them.”  Saying nothing more, he turned and slowly shuffled off.

Claudette Jourdain

The woman introduced herself to Dr. Lokar and Jenny as Claudette, Dr. Drake’s maid.  She explained how the estate had once employed many servants but she was the last, along with Samuel Olson, the groundskeeper.  Claudette had worked for Dr. Drake for three years.  Before that, she made her living singing at the Commercial House in Arkham on dance nights.  Dr. Lokar recognized her and asked how she had come to be employed as a maid.  The work was steady, she  said–entertaining was hit or miss and at some point she had simply fallen out of love with it.   It was difficult now to keep up with the needs of the estate but at least there were only two Drakes to take care of, the doctor and his son, Jonathan.  Even so, Jonathan was rarely there and only stayed overnight to sleep off one of his frequent drinking binges.  Claudette’s eyes welled up with tears up at the mention of Jonny.  She had rather liked him for being a kind-hearted sort despite the bad crowd and decadent lifestyle he had fallen into. Because of her fondness for the dead son, she offered her full cooperation in attempts to get to the bottom of the matter.  The manor was at the investigators’ disposal, except for the few rooms that they may find locked, which she wished them to leave undisturbed.

Claudette described Sam–whom everyone called Samson as both a concatenation of his name and due to his great size and strength–as trustworthy.  They met close to twenty years earlier in Sam’s native Norway when Dr. Drake was on an expedition to study the northern lights, and they had been together ever since.  Sam had been an outdoorsman, hunter and tourist guide.

The Missing Maidservant

Finally, she mentioned another maid, Marianne Silvers, who had abruptly left Dr. Drake’s service three months earlier.  Marianne was young and annoyingly willful, and her sudden departure did not come as a great surprise.  It was very odd, however, that she had not taken any of her belongings with her.  These Claudette left in Marianne’s quarters on the first floor in the event that she sent for them.

Lokar and Barnes thanked Claudette for the information and her offer of assistance, then walked up the three stone steps to the front door.  Looming above them on the outer wall was the Drake family crest–a dragon grasping the circle of the world with its claws.

next:  The Guests of Drake Manor

(to be continued)

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The Murder of Jonathan Drake

SESSION 1, part 2

(Here’s where the game actually begins.)

Jonny Drake had departed mere minutes before the other patrons of the Desolate Highway Cafe heard a piercing wail of terror from the direction of the alley that separated the cafe from the Boston & Maine Railway terminal.  After a tense moment spent exchanging bewildered glances, they poured into the alley and tried to discern the source of the disturbance.  Jack Storn, ever eager for a story, was the first to see the smashed and blood-soaked figure lying motionless in the side alley that led to West Armitage St.

Jack gazed down silently at the body of Jonathan Drake, face-up, contorted, broken limbs splayed in unnatural positions relative to the torso.  Brain matter, guts and unidentifiable bloody bits of flesh splattered outward like a ghastly starburst, giving every appearance of a body that had fallen to earth from a great height.  Had he been accosted, taken to the top of a nearby building and been thrown off to his death?  That would have taken time and there would be evidence of a struggle.  The worst injury of all was the gaping, bloody void that was Drake’s chest.  His heart was missing, as if it was brutally and crudely ripped from him.  Storn recorded the details in his notebook.  No one else dared approach so closely.  Several people screamed or gasped while others ran back into the Desolate Highway to phone the police.

Dr. Kenneth Lokar, upon seeing the grisly scene, darted back inside the cafe and out the front door onto West Armitage, hoping to spot some assailant.  He briefly thought he spotted a dark figure turn a corner onto Gedney and heard a rhythmic loping and what sounded like the flapping of canvas sails.  A trail of blood led Lokar for a block along West Armitage and then seemed to swerve left around the corner where he spotted the dark figure.  There the trail abruptly ended as Dr. Lokar still heard the sails flapping in the dark, moonless night.  He ran further up Armitage in a futile attempt to spot the figure and finally encountered a patrolman near a police call-box.  The officer had not seen anyone fleeing the area and was only now being apprised of the situation by the duty sergeant.  Frustrated, Lokar returned to the cafe.

The police arrived quickly and began pushing back onlookers while taking statements.  Detective Sergeant Dagwood “Dag” Strawbridge lead the investigation.  He questioned Jack Storn away from the crowd and asked him not to file a report of the incident to his newspaper.  Storn protested but Strawbridge insisted and offered to explain in further detail at the police station first thing Sunday morning.  Storn was aware of other investigations that were accompanied by pleas for secrecy from the authorities and the printed stories never matched the accounts confided to Jack by his fellow journalists.  Strawbridge overcame Jack’s objections by promising a scoop on the details of the investigation and that settled matters for now.

Back inside the Desolate Highway, Storn, Lokar, Learson and Barnes shared the sense that tonight’s brutal crime was in some sense unnatural.  All four were prone throughout their lives to flights of fancy, a shared trait that had brought them together in the first place, and their various individual suspicions reinforced and amplified each other.    It was still 24 hours until Jack was to meet again with Det. Strawbridge.

(engage terse writing style; I’m bored)

Research

Jack Storn went over to the Advertiser, where his editor was burning the midnight oil.  The two men conferred on how to handle the story, the editor suggesting Jack play along with the police for now and hoping that the promise of a scoop came through.  Jack went into the archives to research stories of bizarre cases that might fit the description of Drake’s death.

Lokar, being a close friend and colleague of Dr. Galloway, was allowed into Orne Library to perform his own research.  He faintly recalled reading of medieval European cults whose evil rites included mutilation, cannibalism and human sacrifice.  Lokar doggedly spent the entire night and most of Saturday following ambiguous and tenuous leads.  A series of newspaper articles filed in a Vienna newspaper late last century described murder scenes much like Drake’s.  The last article in the series mentioned insights the reporter gleaned from a German-language volume called “Unknown Cults” but wrote that the tome was henceforth unavailable due to a government ban on subversive and heretical texts.  No subsequent articles filed under that reporter’s name could be found.

Raymond Learson looked into the religious rites of the Mesoamerican empires, known for cutting the hearts from scores of still-living sacrificial victims.  The particulars of the Drake murder did not match the descriptions of the surgical precision of the ancient high priests.  Modern cults known to exist in South America consider it a sign of prestige and standing to be able to cut the heart from a victim while leaving only the smallest hint of an incision.  The killer of Jonathan Drake exercised no such care.

Stewart Portman

The four got back together on Saturday evening and decided to seek information from Stewart Portman, the collector of rare manuscripts.  They met Stewart back at the Desolate Highway and were invited, through the feminine machination of dilettante Jenny Barnes, back to his home to view his collection.  The visit wasn’t immediately fruitful but Dr. Lokar received Portman’s promise to notify him of some promising manuscripts which were on the way from a European contact.  Jenny also received promises from Portman which she could not repeat in polite company.  Somewhat frustrated, and weary from the past day’s events, they each went home to get a good night’s sleep.

The Investigation

Jack Storn arrived at Arkham Police Station at 7am to meet with Det. Strawbridge.  Strawbridge explained that he was indebted to Jonathan Drake’s father, disgraced astronomer Sir Emery Wallace Drake, an old family friend, for putting him through school and setting the youthful but troubled Dag Strawbridge on the right path in life.  The detective had taken on the task of keeping a watchful eye on Jonathan Drake, who looked like he would never achieve much in life aside from degenerate drunkenness.  He hosted Drake on many occasions in the station’s drunk tank and did his best to keep crimes and scandal out of the newspaper.  Drake was involved in illicit behaviors and likely had enemies, and Strawbridge could not honestly claim he was surprised that Drake had met an untimely end.  It was the nature of that end that proved unsettling to the hardened detective.  Further, the murder was both a failure and embarrassment not only to Strawbridge personally but to the Arkham Police Department and unwelcome attention would be focused on both as word of the crime spread.  Arkham was no stranger to grim crime scenes – a fact not widely known – but justice was expected to be swifter and more sure when the victim was a citizen of means.

On Monday morning, in twenty-four hours, Strawbridge would have to give a report to the chief of police.  Strawbridge asked Jack Storn for his help in investigating the crime and gave him the same twenty-four hour deadline.  They needed answers and they needed them quickly.  Jack was advised to enlist the help of discreet and trusted friends to uncover any evidence of someone with the motive and opportunity to kill Jonathan Drake.  Strawbridge would even call ahead to the Drake Manor, twenty miles outside of Arkham on the road to Innsmouth, and tell Dr. Drake and the staff to cooperate with a group of city-appointed private detectives.

Jack Storn related his dealings with Strawbridge to his three companions and they prepared themselves for their first investigation together.

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The Desolate Highway Cafe

SESSION 1, part 1

Arkham, Massachusetts

Friday, August 26, 1927

The Desolate Highway Cafe, with its low ceilings and dark, sticky walls of heavily varnished wood, was filled with the usual Friday night clientele – immigrants, students, scions of the idle rich, poets and poseurs, seekers of the exotic, foreign or unusual.  Rumors abounded of easy access to illicit narcotics and liquor, sexual depravities and the many benefits of friends in low places.  Some came once to escape the dullness of conservative Arkham and, easily sated, never returned; others took up residence as regulars, clustered in high-backed leather chairs around too-small tables, partially obscured by cigarette smoke in the inadequate lighting.

Among the regulars was Stewart Portman, a wealthy bachelor in his early forties and owner of Arkham’s largest collection of rare manuscripts.  He never experienced much difficulty impressing Miskatonic coeds half his age, girls like Connie DeCaprio, a naive freshman student of history from some tiny, blue-collar town in Connecticut, far from the usual demographic of Misktaonic.  The older man was embellishing a tale of travels in foreign lands, of drinking brandy with the upper crusts  of the European intelligentsia and being privy to forbidden works that spoke of matters too esoteric and incomprehensible for the masses.  Gifts of cheap costume jewelry and kitschy African carvings almost always sealed the deal.

Jonathan Drake, a rich lay-about and degenerate, son of a disgraced but once prominent astronomer, sat at his appointed table.  “Jonny” was in the circle of Asenath Waite Derby – small and dark but with the protruding eyes so characteristic of her home town of Innsmouth – a troupe of bohemians apparently attempting to effect the final victory of style over substance.  Dropouts, drug addicts, erstwhile artists and trust fund babies spoke in a pretentious concocted language designed at once to conceal their vapidity and impress those same young coeds whose sole intent was to follow someone or something in their quest for intellectual credibility and worldliness.

The immigrants, primarily European, kept to themselves, monopolizing the cafe’s only chess set and associating only with others from their particular region or city, and the transients appeared for a night or two intent on making a score; of what, nobody asked.

Tonight, however, four of the customers who spoke in low whispers did not fall into any of these categories.

(character names are linked to their .pdf character sheets)

Dr. Kenneth Lokar, Professor of History at Harvard, was in town to attend a presentation chaired by Miskatonic University Egyptologist Dr. Ronald Galloway.  The topic was an expedition planned for 1928 to the deserts west of Cairo in search of the fabled Valley of the Winds, long believed to be the resting place of heretical high priest Nophru-Ka.  The trip would be a welcome respite from the stuffiness of staid Cambridge.

Raymond Learson, archeologist and hunter of antiquities, also attended the presentation.  Noted for his unorthodox methods and lax adherence to academic, scientific and (in more cases than he would readily admit) social norms, Learson heard of the presentation through the archeological fraternity and invited himself to attend.  The infamous German archeologist, Dr. Wilhelm Fuchs, was rumored to be trying to raise funds for a competing expedition to Egypt, and Raymond wanted, in his words, to “hop on the first train out of the station.”

Jack Storn was a reporter on the city beat for the Arkham Advertiser.  The cafe was right next door and Jack was always on the lookout for unusual leads.  Jack had a keen eye for stories where the evidence just didn’t add up and it was all his editor could do to redact the unsourced accusations and bizarre connections with which Jack was inclined to spice up his reports.

Jenny Barnes was a wealthy heiress and unrepentant flapper in a part of the world where the excesses of the Roaring Twenties had never taken firm root.  She frequented the Desolate Highway to sate her appetite for the unusual and dangerous, at least until 9:30 when the cafe closed and she danced away the hours until midnight at the adjacent Commercial House.

The four fellow-travelers shared dubious stories of preternatural, occult or simply bizarre incidents and phenomena until closing time approached.  Individuals and small groups filtered out into the night, including Jonny Drake, who, much to the confusion and chagrin of his fawning companion, loudly boasted of being late for a tryst with his lady love before stumbling out the back door.

It was the last anyone would ever see of Jonathan Drake alive.

 

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Realms of Cthulhu player characters

Here are pre-gen characters stolen from MightyCthulhu at http://home.fuse.net/MightyCthulhu/RocCharacters/ (thanks!)  These pdf sheets were generated by MetaCreator by Alter Ego Software.  Character portraits courtesty of google image search.

Peter Malone

Raymond Learson

Penelope Murphy

Launa Storm

Kenneth Lokar

Jenny Barnes

Jack Storn

Ike McManor

Ian Carter

Danielle Sapsford

The characters chosen for the first session were:  Dr. Kenneth Lokar, PhD (visiting Professor of History at Miskatonic U.), Jack Storn (reporter, Arkham Advertiser), Jenny Barnes (dilettante) and Raymond Learson (globe-trotting archeologist).

Session report to follow…

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Silver Marches, April session

Before leaving Dead Snows, Cetan inquired on the sheep snatching in the upper pastures to see about claiming a reward from the green dragon that he, Nongo, and Brother Logan slew a week or so earlier before meeting the rest of the group and the merchant’s mission. Apparently sheep are still disappearing, so some other evil force is at work.

The group joined the caravan heading to Sundabar in the morning. It was around the 22nd day of Eleint, with an 8 day journey planned with arrival just prior to the Harvestide holiday.  Cetan ran into an old drinking pal, the fighter Vidar (Mark Z.). Vidar said he would join the group for the time being. Morgyn met with the Argent Legion who would escort the caravan, but a messenger appeared with official documents say that the Silver marches were at war with the orc tribes, and the Argent Legion rode off to Adbar. The caravan leader, Fuad, accepted the group into the 13 wagon caravan (with several prospectors on foot and some sheep herders) and Morgyn volunteered to scout up ahead.

On the first day of travel, the caravan crossed the Icespear river bridge, and Morgyn averted a pit trap off the trail leading to the Forked Road. Later upon investigating a foul upwind odor, he stumbled across a lair entrance in the form of a smelly ground hole. The caravan reaching the Forked Road and camping for the evening, most of the group opted to go back and investigate the hole in the ground. Vidar and Drungar stayed behind.

A 30 foot shaft of wet rough rocks and roots was descended, with Brother Logan bouncing down the last 20 feet or so and needing to heal himself. A sloped wide and short lozenge type stone opening was traversed that led to a larger cavern. A magically lit stone was thrown ahead giving the impression of a 60 foot wide and at least 100 foot deep area sloping down. Tarena and Morgyn spotted Otyughs within. The group would have left at this point, but Nongo charged in to kill them. He briefly ended up in the embrace of one, whcih he killed with the help of Tarena’s flaming sphere spell. The remaining two rushed into battle after taking ranged damage. Tarena and Cetan killed one, while Brother Logan and Morgyn killed the other. Morgyn and Nongo had both been bit by the diseased mouths of the Otyughs, but both made their Fortitude saves.

At the end of the cavern, a cave-in was investigated. Cetan and Morgyn climbed through to the other side into a chamber (not a natural cavern) with a doorway and longer hallway beyond. They came across some treasure in that chamber and a gas trapped chest, which Morgyn narrowly disabled (thanks to his masterwork thieves tools). It surely had the capacity to kill Cetan and Morgyn had he failed. They transferred some of the silver pieces, 9 potions, and 3 scrolls into a sack, as well as taking a small metal shield, bow, and crossbow back through the narrow hole as sounds of something approaching was heard in the hallway beyond the chamber.

The caravan continued. A stampeding herd of Rothe was diverted by Vidar getting trampled a bit, and spells from Tarena and Cetan (calm animal and grease). In the distance, Morgyn spied two Worgs that had been pursuing the Rothe herd. They turned away from the caravan and disappeared from view behind the hills.

About halfway to Sundabar (prior to the trail to Newport) they ran into some locals who relayed a rumor of a dungeon uncovered outside their village by an earthquake. The caravan continued on and the group entered Sundabar. Vidar visited the Hall of Vigilance and was told there wasn’t a massive orc invasion or war (at this time).  Cetan went about appraising the treasure from the most recent and last adventures, trading in several scrolls in order to get “identify” cast on the other items. He also sold some of the other loot, and the other people in the party went about buying items.  Cetan also researched the ruins from the first adventure and discovered that it may be an old abbey of Selune that had been taken over by a cult of Shar before its destruction. The group also received a charter to investigate some disappearances north of the city for 100gp each, which is  where we will begin next session.

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Silver Marches, March session

Quick recap of events from the March session. (Nongo, Tark, Cetan, Terana)

The group had packed up the goods into the wagon and begun the track back towards Dead Snows, along with the freed dwarf prospector Throed. Morgyn (Rich) volunteered his horse for the wagon and scouted on foot as the party made its way back along the original route.

Things were going fine until the scene of the ambushed merchant’s wagons was approached. The group encountered a hungry scavenging giant stag beetle.. The beetle dodged the entangling druidic powers of Tarena (Michele), and in combat tore through the horse of Nongo  (JT) throwing him to the ground.  That had the group rightfully worried. Nongo bounced up in a rage and into the fight. General battle was joined. The first beetle was soon put down by blade and spell but was joined by 3 additional beetles in the area.  Tarena used an entangle scroll, Cetan (Markus) a grease spell, and many crossbow and bow shots were fired amidst the chaos. In the end John, Paul, Ringo and George were dispatched, Nongo collapsed from his wounds as his rage wore off, but Tarena and Cleric Brother What? (Mark K) healed him back to consciousness.  During the battle a group of roughly 17 orcs had been spotted by Morgyn about a half mile away moving north towards the mountains. They ignored the group and appeared to have some wounded among them.

Following the battle, the group sought out the beetle lair. In a small wooded glen a cave was located. Some old remains were discovered of a human and halfling within the cave, along with a sizable amount of treasure. The group made it back to Dead Snows arriving late at night and staying at the inn within the town walls, with Morgyn taking his leave until the next day.

The following morning, the group went to visit the salt merchant to return the recovered supplies and collect reward. Cran Frinch however had left shortly after the group departed Dead Snows on the the adventure. The group was left to haggle with his assistant and came out with half the money of the salt and the wagon, with promise of the other half if they return a week later. Anxious to purchase items of great value and to sell some of the treasure, the group decided to tag along with the next caravan to Sundabar. It was perhaps ordained that such a caravan was leaving for Sundabar the next day.

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Silver Marches, Session 2

SESSION 2 (for JT/Nongo)

PCs present:  Tark, Nongo, Morgan, Cetan

The party had burst out of the old chapel into the exposed cellar of the ruins and fought off the gnoll ambush quite handily and also with the aid of a stranger (Morgan), who came to the group’s aid.

The meager treasure of the gnolls was quickly gone over, and the decision was made to investigate what appeared to be the gnoll lair, that doorway at the base of the earthen ramp where the previous night’s battle had been waged. The group descended along a sloping and at times stepped corridor to a guard room and then a turn left continuing as before but deeper into the mountain. Two large but damaged doors led to a long, tall, hall with rubble and a statue initially thought to be a gnoll waiting in an alcove. The group continued down stairs at the far end of the hall to another room. This chamber had a very high ceiling, like an old construction shaft. There was also a very deep, unexplored, square pit opening the group crossed via a plank to an alcove and concealed door beyond.

At this point the concealed curtain of leather led into a more roughly hewn or mined space. The group found some of the stock of the salt merchant Gran Frinch in the second room and some other items. The space beyond was the gnoll common room. Our cleric (Tark) turned a gnoll zombie chained to the floor in a side passage and just beyond a conflict in a prisoner holding area erupted. The party interceded in a human and dwarf fighting in chains with 2 orc prisoners. The group killed the orcs. Around this time the group was also dealing with another evil presence. Beyond a partition on the other side of the common area, an obscuring mist and darkness were penetrated and an evil shrine with the spell casting head of an animated undead gnoll shaman needed to be overcome. This was eventually accomplished.

Hostilities subsided, there was a questioning of the human and dwarf held in the store room. The dwarf identified himself as a prospector named Throed. The human man identified himself as Hiraz Ganoch, Frinch’s partner, when aggressively questioned by the group. During the group going through the store room, Hiraz fled, was shot at and kicked the plank into the deep pit as he ran out of the dungeon.  The group has some of his belongings, included a rough map and some coins wrapped in an oddly patterned cloth.

A wagon wheel was found in the storage room to repair one of the wagons found along the way to the ruins. The group decided at this point to return to town with the goods, and not search the other entrances around the inside of the ruins. We left off with the beginning of that trip back. Throed has joined the group until you get back to  the village of Deadsnows.

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