The Post-Modern Masks of Nyarlathotep

Episode XVI: Here Comes Your Ghost, Again (Part 16)

Down in the Nautilus, the bearded man shoves Freddie forward. “Go to salon. I will talk to Captain.”

Freddie walks down a companionway. He enters a sumptuously appointed chamber. Bookcases and vitrines line the walls, and tastefully elegant furniture and carpets set the room off nicely. On one wall is an enormous window, shielded by an iris valve on the outside.

Standing next to the window is a woman in a white evening gown. She turns as he enters the room.

“Hello, Freddie,” says Jackson Elias.

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Episode XVI: Here Comes Your Ghost, Again (Part 15)

Freddie and the bearded man leave, followed by Jimmy and Francis.

Nobody notices that the Rev is missing.

Down in the bowels of the mountain, Freddie is led to a port facility. Docked in it is a large submarine. It is like no submarine he has ever seen—somehow, it has the air of some kind of advanced technology about it.

“Are you Captain Nemo?” asks Freddie.

“Me, Nemo? No. Come down below, I will show.”

They clamber down into the submarine. At the bottom of the ladder, Freddie finds a plaque. Several images are raised in bas-relief on it, with inscriptions in Roman and Cyrillic characters below them:

A bearded, Slavic man over the image of a submarine, smaller and less advanced-looking than this one.

NAUTILUS I

1866-1868

An Indian man, over a larger and more impressive submarine:

NAUTILUS II

1870-1880

A vaguely English man (we might even say he looks a lot like James Mason) over a similar submarine:

NAUTILUS III

1884-1898

Finally, another Englishman, over an image of the current submarine:

NAUTILUS IV

Commissioned 1904

The Reverend walks through the lava tunnels, guided by the hissing of the snakes. He finds M’Weru’s room, full of anthropology texts…and texts of true wisdom.

He finds a copper bowl. “This is the bowl that she used to send evil dreams. And over there, the Mask that we never used.”

He rummages around for a while.

Over there., hisses the cobra.

“Ah, the portal that powered my machine gun! Thanks.”

Not a problem. You were always my favorite, Charleston. Have you seen my daughter?

“Probably.”

Stop pretending.

“What’s the difference between reality and pretending, anyway?”

Not a lot, for me.

The Rev Charleston picks up his Thompson and cracks open the breach. He digs inside and pulls out two of the horrible larvae eggs.

He bites into the first one and rips off the outer shell, exposing writing tentacles. He opens a clasp knife, pulls out his left eye, and snaps if off. He touches the raw nerve bundle to the larvae, and pushes it back into his eye socket, leaving a half dozen three-inch tentacles wiggling in the air.

He pulls out his other eye and jams the undamaged egg into the socket.

After a moment, he begins to be able to…see again. Not in any of the three original dimensions he was used to, but in dimensions up to the ninth. The world resolves itself into something much weirder but sensible to him.

He wraps a strip of cloth over his eyes and grabs several books. He takes the bowl, looks at it for a moment, then jams it, somehow, down the barrel of the gun. Being able to see in the seventh dimension helps him. He slings the Mask of Hyama over the side of his head.

Down in the chamber, Jimmy and Francis make rapid work of the demolition of the ray projector; by now their moves are almost synchronized. They make their way out through the corpses and pools of blood to the front exit of Mt. Ross.

They look out into the harbor, where the boats of the cultists are moored.

A pile of heavy weaponry lies just at hand. They look at each other.

Soon Francis and Jimmy are deploying a mortar and using it to sink as many ships as they can until they run out of ammo.

“You know, Jimmy,” says Francis. “That was as bad as it could possibly get. But somehow we’re still here.”

“We…have a mission to finish.”

“You have a mission to finish. My job is to make sure you do it. You have to do the ceremony.”

“You’re right. We’ve got to make it just a bit longer.”

One way or another, thinks Francis, I’ve got to make sure Jimmy gets through this.

[So, Olympian, I looked down at the wreckage of the PCs.

And then I thought.

They’d destroyed every cult branch except for Penhew’s bunch on Danger Island.

They’d survived a manifestation of Nyarlathotep himself.

If…ever I was to award Sanity to the PCs, this was the time.

So I gave out two Sanity points to everyone but the Rev, who hadn’t lost anything…well, except for the four he lost when the snakes whispered the entire Al-Azif in his ear and gave him a quick four points of Cthulhu Mythos.

This gave both Francis and Jimmy back a Pillar; JP took “Close the Gate or Die Trying” and OP took “Jimmy will survive this.”]

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Episode XVI: Here Comes Your Ghost, Again (Part 14)

The bearded man leads Francis into a cavern made of ice. It is filled with leathery things that look like barrels…except they’re not barrels…they’re…oh God…are they things

“What the hell are these things?”

“It is difficult to explain…these were the original owners of this complex. Aliens from a distant star. They inhabited Earth in the past, an Elder Race of beings. They probably will not take well to people summoning a dark god here.”

“What do we need to do?”

“Warm them up. I was thinking of an oil fire.”

“I have some of my special cocktails.”

With the help of the “O’Donnell cocktails” they quickly start a fire.

“I don’t know how you could have travelled with M’weru for so long without realizing who she was.”

Francis shrugs. “I really didn’t know who she was.”

Several of the barrels suddenly sprout long, filigreed limbs…webbed like wings…and five sluglike limbs. They hop up. One approaches Francis and quick as lightning…grabs his lightning gun. It whistles for a few moments as it swiftly examines the weapon, then hands it back.

Francis whistles back. The “barrel” starts forward but is dragged back by its companions.

“Probably telling him you’re not worth it in their language,” says the bearded man wryly. “We should let our…friends do their work. You do not want to go out there.”

“I know,” says Francis. They follow the aliens until they approach the gigantic chamber, then turn aside.

Behind them they hear the cries of ecstasy turn into screams of surprise…and then pain.

The flare erupts around M’Weru, outlining her in fire as the mystic shield she has woven around her absorbs most of the damage. The guard open up on Jimmy, but his armor turns away some of the bullets. The ricochets that are headed for Hypatia turn into flowers and flutter down to the floor.

“James!” says M’Weru.

Jimmy laughs mindlessly and unconcerned with the bullets raining down around him draws his gun.

Freddie grabs the Sword and chops a guard’s head off.

The Rev rolls behind the couch as soon as the guns go off. The cobra continues to whisper into his ear, speaking, explaining…translating.

Translating the “Latin” of his book, the cipher his “bibble” is written in. The cipher that Charleston had written all his spells, all his notes from the Al-Azif, the cipher that the Reverend couldn’t read…but Charleston could.

The snake continues to whisper, driving sanity and light from the mind of the Rev.

Jimmy sees the enormous form of the Dark Lord spin and turn into a whirlwind, heading out of Mt. Ross to spread tidal waves and destruction.

At that moment Francis and the bearded man burst into the door. Francis electrocutes one of the guards, and the bearded man shoots another with his own lightning gun.

Jimmy turns calmly, without concern, and shoots the last guard dead.

M’Weru turns, and gestures to Mirabelle. “Come to me, my child.”

[CP: I assume she’s nuts too.

Me: Not really.

FP: She’s a demigod, she doesn’t have PC limits.

CP and I have the same excellent but eccentric piano teacher, so I offered this up: It’s like what he says about 13th chords—that to him, that’s just normal harmony? To her, this is just…Daddy.]

“Mirabelle, you don’t have to go with her,” says Freddie. “She really can’t stop you if she wants to.”

“She said she’d hurt mommy.”

“I don’t think she really can hurt either of you.”

Mwimbe hesitates, caught on the horns of a dilemma—her only threat is to use the Dagger of Thoth on Mirabelle…defeating her whole cause, and angering the Dark Lord.

[OP: N doesn’t really care about his progeny.

Me: He has a complicated relationship with them…

CP: But that’s the irony! He’d still kill Mwimbe anyway!

Me: Yeah, he is kind of a dick…his portfolio is basically dickishness…]

Freddie steps forward and thrusts the Sword into M’weru.

[FP pointed out that Pearkes had once thrown the sword. I weakly protested that “But that was Pearkes,” but it seems to be workable, just with a big minus.

FP then went hunting for an Investigative spend to help the roll.

FP: Howabout Art History? I saw all those paintings demonstrating techniques.

Me: I’ve seen those pictures, they’re not useful as a manual. Besides, Art History for Freddie is basically standing around in the British Museum looking at all the stuff they stole.

FP: Howabout a Flattery spend on the GM?

Me: I am immune to Flattery.

CP: Anthropology? Because you’d have to learn about throwing weapons?

Me: Enh, not primitive enough. If it was a spear or an atlatl…

CP: It has a similar arm motion…

Me: So does throwing darts and masturbating, but it’s not really applicable.

CP: I’ve got a new euphemism—“Throwing a scimitar.”

Then we realized FP could just charge forward and attack.]

The Sword of Akmallah hits the mystic shield, and slides through it slowly, inevitably. M’Weru watches with a desperate look in her eyes as the blade cuts down into her shoulder.

[FP, to OP: How ruthless are you?

OP: Pretty ruthless.

FP: We’ve already established that the Sword conducts electricity…]

Francis charges in and fires his lightning gun point blank…at the hilt of the Sword. Electricity arcs around Freddie’s hands, flowing down the blade, and thoroughly cooking the former Dr. Mwimbe. Both Freddie and Francis shriek as the feedback flings them across the room.

Freddie staggers up. “Mirabelle, are you all right?”

“You killed the nice lady.”

“She wasn’t actually that nice.”

“You’ll take me back to my mommy?”

“That’s the general idea, yes.”

“Will it help with my bad dreams?”

“I…really don’t know. Now you, sir,” he says, addressing the bearded man, “Who in blazes are you?”

“I am friend. You remember, long time ago? In New York? About ”http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/comment/412151">Mary Rider? You go to Chelsea, talk to her husband? Was me who called. You, I must show. Important thing. Explains everything."

“Can we do it not here?”

“We must do it not here. I have to take you down, to secret port below mountain.”

“Gents,” says Freddie.

“We’re going to take care of that equipment,” says Francis. Jimmy starts to nod. He nods rather too long before Francis stops him.

“Mirabelle, come along. Oh, and Hypatia—”

But there’s no one there.

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Episode XVI: Here Comes Your Ghost, Again (Part 13)

“Come here, my child,” says M’Weru. Mirabelle walks out onto the balcony. The crowd bursts into an orgiastic spasm of violence and ecstasy.

[Me: The crowd goes nuts. And when I say nuts, I mean really nuts. You should probably make Stability checks.]

Freddie notices that Mwimbe is holding the Dagger of Thoth—the weapon that supposedly can kill a Mask of Nyarlathotep.

Jimmy notices something…happening in the vast volcanic chamber. What first looked like some kind of mist seems to be…solidifying in the chamber, into some kind of whirlwind like crowd. He tries not to think about how big this whirlwind is.

“He’s coming,” says Hypatia. “Ah…he’s almost here…”

And then he is there. The Dark Lord. Nyarlathotep.

A vast, enormous being, standing on three huge legs…beyond elephantine, like the limbs of some horrid monstrosity from Earth’s past. Huge clawed arms…at least three…branch out of the hideous, bulbous body. At the top of it is a great maw, full of jagged, sharp, spade shaped teeth. But above that is the most awful part—no eyes, no nose, no ears, just a tremendous lashing tapering limb, horribly twisting and flicking, spraying a viscous red slime everywhere.

The Bloody Tongue has come.

As they watch, astonished, at this awful appearance—awful in the true, oldest meaning of the word—the gigantic claws reach out blindly, stabbing into the swirling crowd of humanity gathered around it. The claws pull back, carrying broken bodies that it shoves into the champing, grinding maw. The chamber fills with the shrieks and cries of the cultists.

They are not cries of terror or pain, but longing, desire, and ecstatic pleasure. “Take us, O Lord!” they cry in a dozen, a hundred languages. “Destroy us and make us one!”

Jimmy stands and watches, astonished, stunned, his mind reeling. His hand, which had been stealthily reaching for his flare gun, dangles at his side bonelessly. All a lie, he thinks. Everything I believed. Nothing has a purpose. Nothing! It’s all random.

A tear forms at the corner of his eye. All my life, I tried to not judge by appearances. But that…HIM…he’s so clearly what he is…Evil. Monstrous. Beyond all understanding.

My life is a lie.

Freddie’s mouth hangs open. Except for his phenomenal breeding, he would be drooling slackly. Why did I care so much about what the Aunts thought mattered? What was the point of that? So many wasted years…so meaningless in a universe where THAT exists…

M’weru arcs her head back and laughs boisterously.

[So. This is a five-point Stability check to begin with: You witness an obviously unnatural and threatening omen or magical effect. But! Seeing Nyarlathotep in his non-human Mask bumps that up five whole points, making it a 10 point Stability test that is of course a Mythos shock, so TN of 5.

But wait! There’s more, and all of it bad. No matter what, you’re going to lose at least four Stability pool just for seeing this guy, and any Sanity loss gets bumped up by 4 points. Worse, there’s a mininum 3 point Sanity loss.

So, the players made the spend (4 points) to succeed at the check, which cost another 4 points for the minimum loss. Freddeie wasn’t shaken, but both lost three points of Sanity.

JP spent 4, then took the extra four to go to 2. I actually screwed this up-he should have lost 5 points and gone nuts; instead I only charged him 4 (the 3-point minimum plus 1 point for being blasted on a Mythos shock) but what the heck, he could have spent the points differently and I may have screwed up the minimum loss rule (if you spend, does that count against the minimum?)

This was enough to smash Jimmy down to Sanity 1, crumbling his Pillars and leaving him without any. Freddie likewise had a Pillar crumble, which I’ve simulated in the interior monologue above.]

Slowly, without thought of concealing his action or trying to aim, Jimmy raises the flare gun and fires it at M’Weru.

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Episode XVI: Here Comes Your Ghost, Again (Part 12)

Down in the crowd, an Australian elbows Francis. “M’Weru, ain’t she a looker!”

“Grunt.”

Francis takes this moment while everyone is staring up at the balcony to hop the fence and sneak towards the gigantic ray gun. He heads for a booth that looks like it controls the…weapon, or whatever it is.

He springs into the booth. Inside is a bearded man in a cult robe, fiddling with control panel in a very sabotagelike manner.

They stare at each other.

“Are you…a friend of Freddie Blakely?” asks the man cautiously, in a thick Eastern European accent.

“Yes….”

“I too am a friend.”

“What was the name of his lost love?”

“Miss Elias, of course.”

“All right. What are you up to?”

“Not everyone who works for the cult believes in what they do—”

Francis grabs him and shoves his silenced Luger in his face. “What?”

“We…do…business…for them…but…I…don’t…want…the world…to end,” the man manages to cough out.

Francis releases him.

“Do you want to disrupt the ceremony?” asks the man.

“Yes.”

“Come with me then. I know where to get help.”

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Episode XVI: Here Comes Your Ghost, Again (Part 11)

The door to the apartment opens. In walks Jimmy.

“What ho, Jimmy. And let me guess—this must be M’Weru,” says Freddie.

Hypatia looks at him with a strange expression. “Just how long have you known her for?”

“Almost a year. It’s very, how shall I say, nefarious.”

Hypatia stares. Her face twitches. She snorts, then barks out a stifled laugh, before breaking into a guffaw. “Oh my goodness. I need a drink. You want a drink?”

“We lack only Mr. O’Donnell,” says Mwimbe. “Mr. Chiu is on his way. Now James, where is Francis? I think you know. If I were to say, cut your head off—”

She fingers the Sword of Akmallah menacingly.

“Careful,” says Freddie. “The Sword cuts both ways.”

“I am aware of how it works. I was present when it was forged.”

At that moment the door opens again and the Reverend Jones is frogmarched into the room by two goons.

“Ah, Mr. Chiu.”

“He only replies to Dr. Jones,” says Freddie.

“What is this?” says Mwimbe. “He is blind. Who did this to him?”

The Rev starts, having finally placed the voice of the woman who spoke with him before.

“Ho Hsi-tzu, or whatever you want to call the being living in her. With the Sword.”

“The best thing—the reasons you are not dead a thousand times over—is because you killed that monster…oh, I am sorry Patty. I did not mean to reveal anything.”

“Ah, it’s okay. Shakhti dies a lot.”

“Find O’Donnell,” says Mwimbe. “He must be in here somewhere.”

“As a general rule,” says Freddie, “he’s wherever the most shooting and destruction are.”

“There’s going to be a lot of that soon,” says Jimmy.

“You have no idea, James. But I must thank you all. You have done a great service, for without your help we would never have been able to find Mirabelle.”

On cue, the girl is brought into the room, dressed in some bizarre getup that looks vaguely Egyptian.

“A sacrifice?” asks Freddie. “Or a vessel?”

“Oh no, no. Mirabelle is the next generation of humanity. She was fathered specifically for this great task. She…is the daughter of our Lord.”

“Which lord is that?” asks the Rev. “Jesus?”

“The Dark Lord, Charleston.”

“I’m going to have to check my translation.”

“You know, I liked him better when he was just crazy.”

The Rev sits down and pulls out his “bibble.” He holds his arm up, and the cobra he calls Charleston starts to look at the book. It hisses in his ear, and licks his face, tracing out the letters.

[Me: I can’t decide if I should call for a Stability check, or a bite your tongue to keep from laughing check.]

“Well, that’s a new one even by me,” muses Mwimbe. “I apologize for the deception, Freddie. I couldn’t tell you, since we worked at cross purposes, although often our goals coincided. Shakhti, for example. And Huston was a dangerous man with bad ideas.”

Freddie lowers his voice, so that Hypatia—who is at the bar—cannot hear him. “And what happened to her?”

“Why…Patty died. Inasmuch as she can die. I do not know what her plans were for this eventuality.”

“So there are contingency plans?”

“Why, Mr. Blakely, there are always possibilities. Now, the conspiracy members each have their own plans. My plan is to destroy this infestation of the Europeans on Earth and restore the natural heirs of humanity—the true Africans—to their proper place.”

“What about Mirabelle?”

“Ah, she is special. As I am special, and Patty is special. But Mirabelle…is very special.”

“Does it help that I’m Russian now, and so technically Asian?”

“Not particularly. Do not worry, we will not kill you right away. In fact…we have so much to show you…that will probably take care of the problem for me.”

She slides back the glass doors and steps out onto the balcony. “NYAR GASHANA! NYAR SHTHANT!”

NYAR SHTHANT! NYAR GASHANA! NYAR SHTHANT! NYAR GASHANA!”

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Episode XVI: Here Comes Your Ghost, Again (Part 10)

The Rev moves away from the crowd. He has no idea where he is going, but the snakes lead him confidently down into the lower vaults. They seem to be looking for something.

“Where are we going?”

Ssstorage.

“Why? What are you looking for?”

Sssomething you made.

I made?”

“You!” says an imperious voice. “What are you doing there. Charleston! Come here!”

The snakes go quiet, leaving the Rev completely in the dark. He stands still.

The other person sighs. “Reverend, are you looking for something?” she says.

“Have we met? I’m the Reverend Jones.” He bows in the wrong direction. “Who do I have the honor of addressing?”

“You may call me the Priestess.”

“A fellow worshipper! Praise God.”

“Praise. I think I know what you are looking for. It is in my apartment. Why don’t you come with me?”

“Oh, I see. Well, I’m flattered, but when I took the collar I took an oath…”

“No, no, nothing like that. I will have some of my followers take you there. I have a small matter to attend to.”

“Well, thank you! It was a pleasure meeting you, and I hope we meet again.”

“I think we will,” says M’Weru, “In one way or another—or one lifetime or another.”

Francis keeps staring down the other guards. One of them nervously comes up to him. “I don’t have you on the duty roster. What’s your name?”

Francis grunts.

“Oh, do you not have a tongue? That should have been on the roster…”

Francis holds up four fingers, and grimaces.

“Oh…I…well, carry on then,” says the guard. He sprints back to his friends.

Jimmy is taken up through old lava tunnels to the detention wing. His guide points to the last cell in the block, and he hurries to it. Inside he finds Dr. Mwimbe, chained to the wall. She is badly bruised and looks like she has been beaten.

“Is that you James?”

“Yes.”

“Are you a cultist? Have you been lying to me all this time!”

“No!”

“Come, I’ve kept my head about me. Unchain me, and I think I can guide us out of here.”

Jimmy easily frees her, and puts one of her arms over his shoulder. “Come on, Doctor.” They exit the cell and begin moving through the tunnels.

“Thank you, James. It was terrible. They beat me and drugged me for days.”

“I can imagine. We’re here to get you and the little girl out. Do you know where she is?”

“No, but she is very important to them somehow.”

“She seems to be mystically born—unknown father…”

“Ah. I had conjectured that as a possibility. Oh, this is so bad. Have I ever told you about when I was a little girl, when the Germans were putting down the rebellion? The Maji Maji uprising. This was…1905.”

“No, Doctor. Which way?”

“Up. I was sent to be with my mother’s people. She was Ameru, from near Mt. Kenya. It was strange. I was raised in convent schools. I was very European-proper, I had never been with my mainland relations.”

“I’m sorry that you had to go through that…”

“It is all right. Of course, I couldn’t use my real name—my father was an official in the German Colonial Service, so I might have been killed by rebels. My mother said, I should use the name, Wameru—it means, ‘girl of the Ameru people.’”

“Now where?”

“Keep going up. But there was a very mean girl there, and she called me a different name—Wamweru; it meanslight-skinned, but I knew that she meant that I was the girl who was white on the inside. She wanted it to be a terrible insult. I never forgot; after that I knew that I had to learn about my people, become one of them, defend them.”

They turn a corner. As they walk down it, two cultist guards fall silently in step behind them. Jimmy looks over his shoulder and starts as Dr. Mwimbe straightens up.

“So, when I joined the Cult, it only seemed natural that I take the insult as my name with them, so that I never forgot who I was and why I was fighting. But you know the English. Sir Aubrey could never pronounce it correctly. So he gave me a different name. M’weru.”

Jimmy gulps.

“I believe that there ceremony is about to begin, James. Will you please come with me?”

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Episode XVI: Here Comes Your Ghost, Again (Part 9)

Inside Mt. Ross they discover an enormous chamber, filled wall to wall with cultists.

Jimmy and Francis head off towards the Australian delegation. They find them gathered around some incredible technology—some kind of ray gun or projector; very close to the much smaller models they saw at Gavigan’s party in Venice.

Freddie and the Rev head into the crowd, with Freddie edging them away from the middle; he has no desire to be in the center of the room.

“I think we fooled them!” says the Rev.

Right at that moment several large men with clubs surround Freddie. “Mr. Blakely? Would you mind coming with us?”

“It’s because we asked about Isabelle, isn’t it?” says Freddie. He discreetly drops the rope tied to the Rev, who sidles away.

[Me: Jimmy’s disguise worked just fine; you’d have been home free, except for somebody tipping them off by asking about Isabelle.

CP (deadpan): Who was that?

Me: “Had Woody only gone to the police, none of this would ever have happened…”]

“Aussie Aussie Aussie!”

“Oi oi oi!”

A large group of men with clubs ring the ray projector, which is also surrounded by a chain-link fence. “Hey, is that some of that what d’ye call it, ceremonial armor?” says one of the guards to Jimmy and Francis. “I’ll bet I could still take yeh.”

“Grrr,” says Francis.

“Oi! Watch it! And secure that gun of yours, I thought we weren’t allowed to keep ’em charged in here.”

“Can you imagine? All the lives he’s going to take for the Dark Lord?” says Jimmy.

“Well, we’re all going to die eventually. Or, you know, in a couple of hours. And I can’t wait!”

Jimmy nods nervously.

Freddie is led up several staircases and through narrow corridors cut out of the living rock…to a surprisingly modern Art Deco apartment, furnished mostly in white. A pair of glass doors lead out onto a balcony jutting above the huge crowd of cultists.

Freddie sits down as soon as the guards relieve him of the Sword of Akmallah. They place it on a tasteful end table and step into the corners.

Sitting across from him is Hypatia Masters.

“What ho, Hypatia?”

She looks at him quizzically. “Freddie…Blakely, right? I knew you from New York, right?”

“Ah, I see. I think we’re on different timelines.”

“Oh, have we met? I mean, since? No, no, don’t tell me—spoilers. So I’m going to know you, eh?”

“Do you know Shakhti Bey?”

“You kidding me? I’ve been hating that guy since the Third Dynasty.”

“They you’ll be very happy in the future.”

“I find I’m usually happy in the future. Things just keep getting better and better. So, you’re here for the ceremony? You should have let me know back when we were in New York—of course, I was different then…”

“And I was a bit more of a wastrel.”

“Yeah, you’ve got an air of something about you…”

“World-weariness?”

“No, more that I can see your brain extending out into five-dimensional space.”

“Could you tell me a few things about Jack and Vanessa, and the rest?”

“Oh, you’ve met Vanessa? She was so said before. Much happier, except for the crazy. I mean, before she met Huston, she had just everyday crazy; the Dark Lord added that little soupçon of ‘I need you for my evil plan’ and Huston stirred that up. Aubrey was a sweet guy, he’s got the job of opening up the gate and sending Humanity on the great leap forward. Me, I just want to have a good time. Vanessa wanted to be Vanessa. Huston, well, he was nuts—totally on a power trip. Shakhti, well, we had to cut him in because of what he is…”

“Was he really Gilgamesh?”

“Certainly acted like he was. Dunno. Said stuff like he knew Adam.”

“But M’Weru—now, I never met her. Will she be here?”

“Oh yeah. It’s her show. See, she’s the Dark Lord’s favorite. See, some people are just ready to take the next step forward. Humbly, I’m one of those. But M’Weru…well, she made herself what she is, and the Dark Lord appreciates that.”

“Francis, I don’t even know how that thing works,” says Jimmy. “I mean—maybe that’s the power source…we could pull the plug there, I guess, but there’s a non-zero chance of us going into another dimension.”

“Jimmy,” says Francis. “Go find Dr. Mwimbe. Bust her out, and get her to the ship. I’ll stay here and blast the conductor or whatever when or if they light that thing up. Take this flare gun. Fire it off if you succeed.”

Jimmy scampers away, and then slows. He’s a high-ranking cultist, right? So he should be using that.

He buttonholes an official-looking guard. “Take me to the high-level prisoner’s block!”

“Yes sir!” gulps the guard. “What’s your name?”

“My name…um…doesn’t matter! Let’s go!”

[Bad Luck, remember?]

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Episode XVI: Here Comes Your Ghost, Again (Part 8)

Friday, 31 December 1925

Thanks the expert seamanship of Captain Hardekker and Mr. Motombo, the Sterkte manages to make decent time through the high seas, closing in on Kerguelen Island.

Kerguelen—the Desolation Islands! The last landmass of any size before Antarctica itself, once a whaling station, destined to become a French research station, but currently deserted.

At least officially.

Charleston The Reverend Jones is standing in the bow of the ship, his snakes pointing their noses into the wind. Freezing spray lashes his face. Suddenly they all begin to hiss.

“What?”

Massstsss. Ssshipsss. Sssstraight ahead.

“Oh. Ships ahoy!” the Rev shouts.

“How does he know?” says Jimmy, in the cabin.

Hardekker brings the ship around. “We’ll have to circle around and see if we can land somewhere else.”

They finally put ashore on the other side of the island. As it turns out, there’s a volcano on Kerguelen—Mount Ross. They set out for it. The landscape is blasted tundra, with trees bent over 90 degrees from the constant blast of wind.

As they round the flanks of the mountain, they see a large encampment of people on the seaward side. People from all around the world are gathered there.

Gathered there, putting on cultist robes and walking into a cave at the base of the mountain.

“We have a supply of those robes we’ve been lugging around,” points out Jimmy.

“Won’t we have to get rid of our armor?” says Francis.

“They’re a cult,” says the Rev. “There’s going to be a lot of weirdos. Just put it on over the robes. It will be fine.”

“How the hell are you walking around anyway?” demands Francis. “You’re blind, right?”

“Completely! God is leading me!”

The snakes hiss.

“Oh, and wear the lightning gun openly. Only a high-level cultist would have those!”

Jimmy arranges their disguises. Francis goes as the silent, fierce bodyguard type—gun, armor, and face. The Rev ties a rope around his waist and Freddie grabs one end. Freddie himself looks like a high-status cultist—he has the salt-and-pepper hair, hollow eyes, and general malarial complexion.

At the entrance of the cave, they are met by a man with a clipboard. “Australian…Australian…Egyptian…Chinese…”

“Repent!” says the Rev.

“Uh-huh.”

Francis growls.

“Hey, calm down man. I’m just trying to figure out what section to put you guys in. And seriously, lighten up—if you can’t be happy to be here for Ceremony and the birth of our god, well—I just don’t know what kind of people you are.”

“Can you check a name for me?” asks the Rev.

“Sure. Which name?”

“Isabelle O’Donnell!”

The man gives him a sharp glance. “Let me check…nope. Nobody of that name. Now, just go inside, straight up the ramp.”

They head into the darkness.

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Episode XVI: Here Comes Your Ghost, Again (Part 7)

It takes several days to lay in enough food and fuel to start the trip south, and even in the Southern Hemisphere summer the Roaring Forties are not particularly less treacherous.

Francis and Guy go out to tie one on. They check out every bar in Calcutta, asking for French wine, and when they can’t find any, buying the cheapest drinks there.

They drink a lot of gin and tonics.

“François, let me be frank—she scares the hell out of me. Is she a vampire?”

“Yes.”

“You know, there was a time that would have been hard for me to take, but now? I’m glad she’s just a vampire.”

“She’s coming with me. I’ll take care of her needs.”

“But she’s trapped in a hell of a living death!”

“She doesn’t want to die, or at least she can’t ask me to kill her.”

“I think this is a bad idea. You need to start thinking, and not with little monsieur. Now go ahead and hit me.”

Francis decks him.

“That’s it, get it out of your system!”

“Now, hit me.”

“I can’t hit you.”

“Oh? I take care of my wife, like you’re not taking care of your wife.”

Guy punches him. Soon they are rolling about in the street, brawling.

Several hours later, they are in the back of a pub, singing Christmas carols together and boozily crying.

“That’s the spirit, gents! Happy Christmas!” says the publican.

[This was OP’s Solace refresh scene.]



Freddie visits Wilhelm Canaris. “I don’t suppose I could prevail upon you to visit this part of the Indian Ocean?”

“Mr. Blakely—uh, my dear Count Orlok—that appears to be British territory.”

“Indeed.”

“Are you asking me to strike a blow against the British in an area where they are extremely unlikely to know anything took place?”

“Unless someone blabs.”

“Would, say, a medium cruiser be of any assistance?”

“My friend Francis would probably think this to be very useful.”

“I’ll make sure you have a code book and the call sign for the RMS Emden.”




Jimmy visits Isabelle. “I’ll be honest, I am very conflicted about you, and worried about Francis.”

“I worry about my husband too. You are thinking, that it is better for me to be destroyed. I cannot maybe disagree with you, but it is not in my nature to wish for annihilation. James, it seems to me you are very wise. I understand Francis works for you now?”

“He’s my partner.”

“What can I say to you? That I do not wish for life anymore? Of course I want life! But so much is different now. It is not the same the life. So much is tasteless and dull. Except for François. Whom I love.”

“If you ever feel that you are going to do something…wrong…let me know. And with a word, I will end it.”



Before they leave, Francis buys Isabelle a necklace made of tiny rubies for Christmas, since they cast off on Christmas Eve.



Freddie has a dream. It’s of Jax, which is normal—he’s been having calming dreams of her for months. But this is different—rather than being set in Paris, it’s in New York.

“Looks different. Probably because I have something to say. Well, Jax, the thing is, I’m breaking up with you.”

“Typical. Easier, because I’m dead?”

“I suppose. It seems I’ve come to some sort of epiphany. I wish you the best afterlife. I’ll try to finish your mission, save the world…but I’m not doing it for you anymore.”

“Why are you doing it then?”

“Out of a sense of duty, I think. I guess Jimmy has been rubbing off on me.”

[And with that, FP bought off his Symbol. And he didn’t have a Solace!

FP: What do I need to get a Solace back?

Me: Use XP to raise your Stability.

FP: But I’m at max!

Me: Well, I guess you’re all alone then.

(As it turns out, FP had forgotten that he lost 3 points of Stability when Gilbert died, so he could eventually use them.)

Freddie’s new Symbol was Sheila’s last letter to him from Paris—her “I’m leaving you” letter. Very Freddie.]

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