Joined: 20 Jan 2006
|Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 12:01 pm Post subject: Horror on the Orient Express - episodes 10 and 11
|Reverend Fellowes and his companions were relieved to have left the violence and chaos of Venice behind them. The train to Trieste was slow, but once they were away from the sea they began to relax and feel a little more secure. A discussion about the dangers they had faced was overheard by another traveller, an Englishman. This fellow sold travel insurance for a living and Peregrine, Marcel and Riccardo were quick to take advantage and purchase comprehensive policies.
Trieste was cold and windy when the travellers arrived. The gentlemen were forced to wait upon a bleak platform for some time before a cab arrived to take them to their hotel. The hotel was pleasant, warm and stocked both fine wines and delicious foods. A glass or two and a plate of hot food was enough to return the gentlemen to good spirits. Nonetheless, the trials of Venice had been great and it wasn’t long before a weariness overcame them. An early night was had by all.
Professor Smith had advised Dr Fellowes to “look up Johann Winkelmann at the museum” in Trieste so after breakfast a cab was summoned and the gentlemen headed to the Museo di Storia e d’Arte, the most prominent of the local museums. On arrival Dr Fellowes sought to make an appointment with Herr Winkelmann, much to the amusement of a curator. It transpired that Johann Winkelmann, a Vatican librarian, had died in 1768 and his body had been interred in a sarcophagus to be found in the museum’s garden.
The gentlemen braved the howling winds and cold and headed into the garden. Here they found an extravagant, but otherwise unremarkable, tomb. Dr Fellowes returned inside to ask more questions of the curator and in his absence Zlatan and Slovdan made the regrettable move of opening the tomb to see if any clues lay inside. They spied nothing however and only managed to scandalise the vicar on his return.
With the tomb revealing little, the gentlemen headed into the museum’s library and sought what they could in books here. They managed to find some considerable mention of Herr Winkelmann in a number of works. It transpired that he had been murdered by someone attempting to steal some unnamed medals.
A reference to a diary was made in one source and the current owner of this was sought. Contact details were obtained and an appointment to see him made for the following day.
The gentlemen slept poorly that night. The wind howled around their hotel and the noise grated upon their nerves.
At one point during the long and lonely night, Dr Fellowes was roused from his bed by a crash. He leapt from his covers and hurried to turn on the light. He observed that the wind had blown his windows open and, as he watched, it flung open his bible and sent the pages fluttering. In an instant after the light was turned on the wind ceased, leaving the bible open. Dr Fellowes hastened to fasten the windows and then looked at the page at which the book had been left open. Here he was shocked to see the book open to Samuel 2:21, which cautions against exposing the bodies of the dead to the air.
Dr Fellowes rose early the next morning, certain that the sign he had received in the night was related to the desecration of Herr Winkelmann’s tomb. He told his companions over breakfast of his desire to put things right and urged them to come with him to the museum. They refused.
Dr Fellowes caught a cab to the museum alone. Once there he approached a curator and told him that he was aware companions of his had tampered with the tomb (although they had taken or broken nothing) and that he wanted to ensure that Herr Winkelmann was properly reinterred. Dr Fellowes was rather saddened, but not at all startled, when shortly thereafter the Police were summoned to arrest him.
Meanwhile, Dr Fellowes companions paid a visit to Antoni Giovanni, who currently possessed the diary of Johann Winkelmann. This they viewed and translated. They discovered that Herr Winkelmann was visiting Trieste to give some kind of amulet to “beasts” living in nearby caves.
The gentlemen returned to their hotel puzzled. The tale of the amulet seemed interesting enough, but it told them nothing about the piece of the Sedfkar Simulacrum they sought.
On arrival at the hotel they quickly became aware of the Reverend Fellowes arrest and so fled in a panic – fearing that their own arrests would soon follow. They packed their bags and took to cheap rental accommodation in a more discrete part of the city.
That night Zlatan, Marcel, Riccardo and Slovdan were all haunted by the howls of the wind once more. Each suffered visions and heard voices, but Slovdan suffered the worst. He was thrown into a panic by the wind and locked himself into his room.
As night turned into early morning, Slovdan’s companions were roused by a spirit that they identified as the ghost of Johann Winkelmann. This spirit led them to the cellar of an abandoned house and then disappeared into a stone slab in the floor of the cellar. Zlatan lifted the slab and found a gold amulet lying beneath. He picked this up and at once was filled with a cold blast of energy and then a warm, pleasant feeling. The ghost then reappeared and told Zlatan to “take this amulet to the caves, for the things will appreciate the gift”.
The companions returned shaken to their hotel. The wind seemed even stronger now and caused lights and power to flicker and occasionally die.
At breakfast the next morning the companions received another shock to their already unsteady dispositions. In the morning paper an article was found describing the arrest of Reverend Fellowes and of his failure to tell Police the names of his accomplices. The article stated that the Reverend could be charged with the very serious crime of “Obstruction of Justice in State Investigations”. The article carried with it a request for people to come forward with information about the vicar’s companions and included a brief description of Slovdan.
The shock of this article and the continuing winds were too much for Slovdan. He took to his room once more and refused to leave. Zlatan, Marcel and Riccardo left him there and decided to journey to caves that their Baedeker said lay to the north of Trieste.
The caves were a noted tourist attraction, but the inclement weather kept all but the most foolhardy away. The gentlemen employed a guide – a Mr Yankovic – and embarked upon an electric train which led into the depths.
The caves were vast and contained many bizarre and macabre rock formations. The guide led them deeper and deeper and then, once they were alone in a vast cavern, confronted Zlatan about the amulet worn around his neck.
There was a sudden and brief struggle as the lights dimmed and the guide made a grab for the amulet. Zlatan and Riccardo wrestled him to the ground and then heard footsteps approaching in the dark. The guide demanded the amulet, saying that it belonged to the “dragon”.
Torches flickered into life to reveal three men approaching, one armed with a pistol and another with a knife. The guide called out to the third man as “master” and this figure stepped forward to reveal a terrible tentacle writing where one of his arms should have been.
Zlatan tried to negotiate with the new arrivals, but they would have nothing to do with him. While their torches were focused upon the Bolshevik, Marcel snuck forward towards them while Riccardo hid himself.
Once it became clear that negotiation would not work and that the only intention of the strangers was to kill the gentlemen, Zlatan and Marcel tried to rush them. Marcel quickly knocked down the gunman, although not before a bullet had grazed his head, and Zlatan snatched up the gun. The tentacled “master” and his accomplice turned off their torches and tried to attack in the darkness. Marcel was knocked unconscious by a tentacle that came from the gloom and struck him across the brow.
As the master and his accomplice moved forward Riccardo picked out the master in the light of his torch and Zlatan bought him down with two rounds from the stolen pistol. Riccardo and Zlatan then battled the two remaining figures, bringing one to his knees and forcing the other to flee.
In the aftermath of the battle Zlatan tied up the wounded prisoner while Riccardo revived Marcel and bound his wounds. Once Marcel was on his feet, the companions forced their prisoner to lead them to the “dragon”. Discussion with this prisoner also revealed that the dragon’s lair may well have contained a piece of the Sedfkar Simulacrum.
The companions were led through winding tunnels until they came to another cavern containing a pool of black and brackish water. As they entered this cavern a voice filled their heads saying “at last, you have bought me my amulet”.
The voice was oppressive and filled each of them with a deep depression, Riccardo in particular. He sat upon a rock and felt the will to continue seep from him, while Marcel and Zlatan scanned the room for any sign of the Sedfkar Simulacrum. Marcel spotted something that looked like it could be a right leg made of porcelain. Zlatan snatched this up as the voice continued in their heads, angry now and demanding that the amulet be handed over at once.
Zlatan gave the leg to Marcel and then picked up the stationary Riccardo. The room began to shake and shudder as they fled. As they neared the entrance a rushing sound of water sounded behind them. Rocks fell from the ceiling and Riccardo was struck. Then a shot rang out. In the muzzle-flash the shadow of a great dragon could be seen rising from the water.
Back the way they came the companions fled. Behind them was the occasional flicker of a torch, but Marcel fired a few shots from the stolen pistol and kept their pursuer at bay.
The gentlemen fled the caves and leapt into a taxi in the carpark outside. Marcel ordered the driver to take them at all speed to Trieste, telling him that he had his companions had been wounded in a cave-in and needed treatment. The driver complied and the taxi raced off with a screech of tires.
Some miles down the road however, something began to happen to Zlatan. He began to shake and the space around him appeared filled with vibrations and heat. The taxi shuddered to a halt and Riccardo leapt out. Zlatan tore the amulet from his neck and tossed it aside, but in the next second there was a massive explosion which destroyed the taxi – with Zlatan and Marcel still inside. Riccardo watched on in horror. He saw the undamaged leg of the Sedfkar lying amongst the ruins of the taxi and, hearing a car coming along the road from the caves, snatched this up and fled into the forest.
It was many hours later that Riccardo returned, alone and injured, to Trieste. Here he found Slovdan still locked in his room.
Meanwhile, Dr Fellowes managed to escape Police custody with the assistance of a lawyer and a number of rather dubious “fees” paid to the detective in charge of his case. Finding that his companions had departed their hotel, the good Reverend decided that they must have travelled on to Belgrade. With this thought in mind and anxious to leave Italy behind him, he boarded the next Simplon-Orient Express train to that city. As the train pulled into the station, Dr Fellowes noticed a young associate of his good friend in London, Mr Henry Rothchild, aboard. Dr Fellowes hailed this young gent (who was named Ronald Fitzherbert) and discovered that he had been dispatched by Mr Rothchild to assist Dr Fellowes with his legal troubles. Leading the fellow back into the train, Dr Fellowes treated him to a glass of scotch and told him that he hoped those troubles were now behind him.
My favourite roleplaying memory - "Daisy at Colonus", two drunk cowboys and a pantomime cow in a 'reinterpretation' of Sophocles greatest play.