Joined: 20 Jan 2006
|Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 3:29 pm Post subject: Horror on the Orient Express - episodes 6 - 8
|Professor Carlton-Gore and his gentlemen friends relaxed as the Orient Express slowly gathered speed and took them away from the the sorcerous Duke of Assentes and the unsettling events that had occurred in Lausanne. The peace did not last long however as the clink of glass and a familiar voice alerted them to the fact that the Duke of Assentes was not only on the same train, but was sitting in an adjacent compartment.
The Reverend Fellowes quietly sought out a waiter and alerted him to the fact that a murderer on the run from Police was aboard the train. The startled waiter went to fetch a steward.
As Dr Fellowes returned to his seat the Duke approached him. In a low voice the Duke whispered “give me the scroll”. Fellowes gave him a stern look and sat down. He immediately began to feel a painful burning sensation in his chest. He cried out in pain and a doctor was sought while Professor Carlton-Gore hurriedly dug the fake copy of the scroll from his bag and gave this to the Duke. With this act, Dr Fellowes pain immediately ceased.
Shortly thereafter the steward arrived brandishing a pair of handcuffs. Seeing these, the Duke made a hasty retreat. The gentlemen followed the steward in pursuit of the Duke and thought they had trapped him when he ran into a compartment. Following him the group was shocked to see him vanish into thin air before their eyes.
The gentlemen, somewhat shaken, resumed their seats. The remainder of the journey to Milan was passed in a subdued silence. Spirits revived somewhat on arrival in Milan when the gentlemen discovered that charming soprano Katarina Cavalaro had booked them into a very fine hotel in the Galleria.
Dr Fellowes in particular was very much looking forward to hearing Katarina sing at La Scala. He was therefore greatly disturbed to read in the evening papers that she had apparently been kidnapped.
That night the gentlemen were awoken by the sound of singing. Dr Fellowes was convinced that it is Katarina’s voice that they could hear and the gentlemen stumbled bleary-eyed out into the street to find her. They were surprised to find numerous other people coming outside to find the source of such lovely tones. The voice carried over rooftops and along the winding pathways of the Galleria and its source was hard to pinpoint. The gentlemen followed it down an alley, but found only a chameleon on a wall. A glimpse of movement on a rooftop made them wonder if Katarina was above them and they clambered after her. A short pursuit ended when the squeal of tires and the retreating rear-end of a large black car indicated that the singer had fled or been kidnapped once more.
The next day was spent quietly. Dr Carlton-Gore translated the scroll found in the dream version of Lausanne. This scroll is entitled “the scroll of the head” and appeared to be the ramblings of a “skinless one” about the Simulacrum.
That night was the night of the opera. Despite Katarina’s disappearance the gentlemen decided that they should still attend. They dressed in their best dinner attire and headed across to the atrium of La Scala. Here, amongst the chattering masses they found that most people assumed Katarina had run-off with a lover. Amongst other gossip, much mention was made of a “costumer’s curse”. Talk of the curse raised much interest amongst the gentlemen as its effects appeared similar to the curse afflicting the family in Poissy who had possessed a portion of the Simulacrum.
During the opera Professor Sapsford was shocked to hear Katarina’s voice singing along to the performance. The voice appeared to be coming from a man with a scarred neck sitting nearby. As Niles tried to move closer to investigate a prop onstage caught his attention and the attention of his fellows – along with that of the scarred man. A model torso used to support a piece of armour appeared to be fashioned of the same material as the limb currently residing in Commander Pembroke’s room. This was instantly identified as the piece of the Simulacrum thought to be in Milan.
The man with the scarred neck got up as soon as the torso appeared on stage and made to leave. Niles set off in pursuit, but was stopped by a burly man and was forced to turn back.
Marcel left the opera for a cigarette and once outside spotted a group of thugs beating up a bouncer at a back door to the opera house. He quickly fetched Professor Sapsford. While Marcel kept watch, Niles snuck into the now unguarded door and made his way to the prop room. Here he found the torso and, hearing footsteps approach, he stashed it inside a chest full of other props. Professor Sapsford had barely hidden the torso when the thugs, the scarred man and an old lady entered the room. Niles called out to Marcel who arrived just in time to see the thugs beat his companion to death.
Marcel fled the prop-room with the thugs in pursuit and made his way to the policemen stationed outside La Scala. He barely managed to raise the alarm when the thugs arrived. The policemen were unarmed and proved no match for the thugs who drew pistols and shot one lawman down and then fled in a large black car.
Hearing the shots, the Reverend Fellowes excused himself from the opera and made his way onto the street in time to see Marcel climbing into a taxi. Peregrine leapt after his companion and found a third man trying to climb in behind them. This man was a member of the local press and was as anxious as the others to identify the thugs.
The taxi driver was promptly bribed to follow the dangerous killers and pursuit was made through the industrial back-areas of Milan. Eventually the thugs’ car stopped outside a warehouse and the occupants ran towards the door. As they did so something large and black dropped from the sky and attacked one of the thugs, sweeping him back into the dark sky as he screamed in terror. Taking advantage of the momentary panic Marcel dashed forward and knocked down the thug carrying the torso while the pressman, now identified as Riccardo Paparazzio, started taking photographs of the criminals.
Marcel snatched the fallen torso from the ground and ran back to the taxi. As soon as he leapt onto the running boards the taxi-driver pressed his foot to the floor and the gentlemen roared off into the night.
On return to the Galleria the police were seen removing two bodies from La Scala. Despite this, it was not until the next morning that Niles Sapsford’s absence was noticed. At that point a concerned Reverend Fellowes made contact with the police. He, his companions and Mr Paparazzio were called in to make statements. By this point Mr Paparazzio had become convinced that there was a big story of some sort at the bottom of all of this and he began to ask prying questions of the Englishmen. Finding that they were struggling in Italy without a native speaker they decided to tell him what they knew in exchange for his services as a translator.
The morning papers reported the violence at La Scala and also the death of the thug taken by the thing in the sky. His name was Arturo Faccia and was described as a businessman who had recently returned from a business trip to Turkey.
Niles Sapsford was buried in a sombre ceremony at the English cemetery.
The next day the gentlemen asked Mr Paparazzio to accompany them to Venice. He agreed and arrangements were made at the station. Here the travellers met a heavily veiled young woman in black. Reverend Fellowes approached her and asked if she had recently lost a loved one. She said her father had died and the vicar did his best to console her. The girl, Maria, appeared very grateful for his kind words.
The train was delayed due to heavy snow in the Swiss Alps and was late arriving in Venice. When the train eventually did arrive it was met by a full platform, including a number of unsavoury gentlemen in the uniform of the Italian Fascist party. These thugs harassed Maria so Carlton-Gore moved to assist her with her bags while Reverend Fellowes took the young lady’s arm and attempted to help her move past them. One of the thugs promptly punched the elderly vicar to the ground and then kicked him in the stomach, breaking a rib. Reverend Fellowes called for the assistance of two nearby policemen, but they ignored his cries. The Reverend’s actions were not in vain however, as during the violence Maria managed to slip away with the assistance of a young man who had been waiting on the platform.
Reverend Fellowes was taken to hospital and received treatment overnight. He was not up to doing much the following day, but did manage to lodge a complaint about his attack with the British Honorary Consul. Meanwhile Mr Paparazzio, Marcel and Professor Carlton-Gore conducted some enquiries. Professor Smith had mentioned a piece of the Simulacrum had been sold in Milan during Napoleon’s invasion and the enquiries discovered a connection between it and the de Gramanchi family, who ran a doll-factory in Venice.
That evening the young man who assisted Maria at the platform approached the gentlemen as they dined and introduced himself as Georgio. Georgio told them that he and Maria were very much in love, but that a senior member of the Fascist party – a man by the name of Rossini – wanted her hand in marriage and to this end had had her father killed. Georgio passed on an invitation to the gentlemen to attend the funeral of Maria’s father in two days’ time and then departed.
The next day the gentlemen made their way to the de Gramanchi family doll factory. Here they found the current head of the family a generous and helpful (although somewhat dull) soul who was more than willing to assist them in their enquiries.
After making an appointment to return the following day the gentlemen returned to their hotel. Mr Paparazzio made a detour along the way and passed photos he had taken of Reverend Fellowes being beaten by the Fascists to a leftist paper. This action appeared to make a strong ally of the paper’s political editor.
Strange things began to occur in Venice. Two gruesome murders occurred and these were blamed on Bolsheviks. Blood was also found on a number of the city’s statutes. Some Christians saw this blood as miraculous and many filled the streets to witness it, but the gentlemen were more inclined to believe that the blood had dripped from the prey of some flying beast.
The gentlemen returned to the toy factory the following day and discovered a little more about the man who appears to have bought a piece of the Simulacrum 120 years ago. This man, Avisi de Gramanchi was said to be some kind of magician who imprisoned souls in the dolls he made.
The party were shown to the toy factory archives. These were located in a water-logged and dark room. After a short period of research Professor Carlton-Gore and Reverend Fellowes set off to attend the funeral of Maria’s father. This was held on a small island in the lagoon and the water of Venice appeared unusually high, greasy and foul as the water taxi made its way to it.
After the ceremony the two Englishmen were invited to Maria’s family home for some light refreshments. Here they had another encounter with the senior Fascist they now know as Rossini. Reverend Fellowes tried to make peace with him, but his attempt was arrogantly rebuffed.
After a short time Rossini left the house and Reverend Fellowes and Professor Carlton-Gore departed not long afterwards. They were accompanied by Georgio who summoned a gondola for the three of them. They quickly fell into relatively easy conversation and a heavy fog had rolled in, so it was not for some time that they noticed they were not travelling towards their accommodation. When questioned, the gondolier appeared nervous and refused to change course. At this point the sound of running could be heard along a nearby jetty. Carlton-Gore took immediate action and knocked the gondolier into the stinking water. His pole was fished out as he swam away and a group of Fascists appeared on the jetty. Georgio quickly poled the small vessel away from them. Footsteps could be heard following the course of the gondola for some time, but eventually the gentlemen felt confident that they had lost their pursuers.
Once back on dry land, Carlton-Gore and Fellowes rejoined the others at the factory but little was discovered from the dank archives. Signor de Gramanchi invited the gentlemen to his house for dinner and a very pleasant evening followed.
On the way home from dinner Marcel spotted two strange fish in the canals. He caught only a glimpse of them, but they appeared large and had man-like arms and legs. Reports in the next day’s papers indicated that such sightings were common that night. Other reports indicated that rioting had broken out in several sectors of the city and that Bolsheviks had looted a number of shops.
After breakfasting Reverend Fellowes purchased a copy of Pliny the Younger’s “Letters” and dropped this around to Georgio – with whom he had discussed the Roman natural philosopher. Georgio appeared surprised, but touched, by the gesture.
The gentlemen returned to the doll factory and made much better progress with their enquiries. They found that Avisi de Gramanchi had bought a fake leg “made from a strange ceramic material” from a wounded Napoleonic solider and that this had later been used to repair a statue in the courtyard of the Palazzo Rezzoniani. A visit was made to this palace and it was found to be locked and empty. A sign indicated that tours could be arranged through the caretaker. The caretaker was sought out and after some enquiries it was established that the leg was likely to have been used on an automaton in a tall clock tower in the courtyard. The caretaker refused to allow the gentlemen access to the automatons, citing safety concerns, and proved quite immovable on the subject.
The gentlemen return to their hotel wondering how to proceed and found a note waiting for them from Maria. She stated that Rossini had taken her captive and was holding her against her will. Reverend Fellowes had some concern that this note may be a trick, most notably because it had been sent to them and not to those closer to Maria or more capable of obtaining her release. Nonetheless he felt obliged to act. Seeing as his companions were largely either elderly or crippled he decided to seek out Georgio.
Georgio identified the writing on note as Maria’s and the young hot-head was inclined to immediate action. Reverend Fellowes counselled against this and instead suggested that the Bolshevik leadership might well be interested to know the location of a senior member of the Fascist party and what he had been up to. Georgio, a Bolshevik himself, agreed that the Bolsheviks might well be interested in this news and might well wish to take action on it. To this end he agreed to contact them and accepted a sum of cash for use to encourage their action and then departed into the night. As he departed he told the gentlemen to meet him at a rather noisy tavern a few hours later.
My favourite roleplaying memory - "Daisy at Colonus", two drunk cowboys and a pantomime cow in a 'reinterpretation' of Sophocles greatest play.