The Post-Modern Masks of Nyarlathotep

Episode XIII: The Sea So Deep and Blind (Part 12)

Tuesday, 30 September 1925

“Landfall tomorrow,” says Francis.

“Good,” says Freddie, standing somewhat stiffly near a porthole. “You know old man, I’ve been thinking. My whole life, I’ve had this damned bad luck. And I’ve been wondering…maybe it’s because I’ve kept trying to shirk away from, you know, dealing with things. Maybe…maybe there are things a man just has to do, you know. Maybe I’m on the damned uncomfortable adventure because…there’s something I’m supposed to take care of. Don’t you agree, old man?”

He never notices Francis had already left.

[FP surprised the hell out of me by changing his drive to Duty. We speculated that maybe the other Blakelys weren’t such horrid reprobates, which led me to finally ask what the story of Freddie’s dead parents was. Turns out that FP had misread me—I don’t mess with PC backgrounds unless invited—and had wanted me to use it as a hook.


Not long after I hit upon an idea that finally explains why M was so interested in Freddie, but that doesn’t come in until Episode XV.]


Monday, 1 October 1925

The River of Stars finally staggers into Melbourne harbor. Francis and Captain Hardekker immediately tell the story of the derelict freighter, leaving out all the supernatural details. There is a quick inquest, but between the two of them, they manage to deflect any further interest in the ship.

The main leads they have are to the Randolph Shipping Company, located…somewhere, in Australia. Jimmy asks Duggars, his Australian shipmate about where to look. “Are they in Eastern or Western Australia?” asks Duggars.

“Um…where’s Port Hedland?”

“West. Not much up there, mostly mineral extraction.”

“Is there anything we could…help fix? Any trouble?” asks Francis.

“Plenty of trouble. Go out to the outback, pull a Ned Kelly.”

Blank faces.

“He’s like a whatdyecallem, an outlaw.”

“Oh.”

“You’re probably best off heading to Sydney, if you want to do research, and then take a steamer to the west. Unless you can find some daft cove to fly you there.”





Monday, October 5 1925

Sydney proves to be a bustling colonial city. Francis, Jimmy and Freddie spread out to research whatever they can find about any local cult activity.

Francis heads down to the Territorial Police. “People go missing all the time,” says the corporal on duty. “Did’ye know that Australia has five of the most poisonous snakes in the world? I like when you Yanks come down under. D’ye like baseball, Mr. O’Donnell? Can’t figure that out at all—too many arcane rules. Not like cricket—that’s straightforward. In any case, I’d advise you to go down the University, talk to a Dr. David Dodge.”

“Thanks.”

“Oh, and if you do go out in the bush, watch out for the drop bears. Very vicious.”

“Drop…bears?”

“Yeah, they’re awful crafty. Drop out of trees if you’re not wary. Drop bears. G’day.”




Jimmy drops in on a French restaurant, where he meets Guy Forgeron, who has travelled ahead of them.

“Bon jour, Guy.”

“Ça va, Jimmy!”

“Uh..bien?”

“Hey, good! Have a nice trip? Get a lot of rest? I mean you look…you look…you look like hell, man.”

They have a light lunch. It starts at one o’clock and they are mostly done with the third bottle of wine by three o’clock. Francis joins them in time for brandy. Guy has brought a box of stuff from Francis’ apartment in Montmartre, including the last record his wife Isabelle recorded. He tells him that he picked them up right before he took his family to Réunion.

“So what are you hunting now, François? I heard you took care of Gavigan. You just let me know, okay? You took care of me when I needed it, man. I’m with you to the end.”





Tuesday, 6 October 1925

“I’m sorry, we can’t let you look at the stacks, Mr. Wright,” says the pretty young librarian at the University. “But…you said you’re an archaeologist?”

“Indeed I am.”

“I’ve never met one so…dashing.”

[Flattery use by JP.]

Jimmy spends most of the day at the library, occasionally being served tea by the librarian. He discovers that the Randolph Shipping company is near a part of the Great Sandy Desert where there are rumors…tenuous rumors, but frequently repeated…of a great, ancient city buried in the sands.

A city that predates the inhabitation of Australia by thousands of years.

He also finds out that the legends say the city was built by the gods, and destroyed by the wind.




Guy and Francis hit the University of Sydney, where they eventually track down Dr. Dodge, a strapping ginger-haired man in his 30s. He definitely seems like a field archaeologist.

“Occult activities?” says Dodge, after the preliminaries. “Like that Margaret Murray lady, with her witch cult? Oh, modern-day cults. I thought those were pretty rare.”

“They seem to be making a comeback. Especially the suicidal ones.”

“Well, Dr. O’Donnell, there’s one I know about, the Cult of the Sand Bat. Aboriginal cult, worships something they call the Father of All Bats. Lives in the darkness, hates the light, that sort of thing. I’ve been hearing rumors that they seem to be more active than they have in a long time. A colleague—mentor, really—of mine is more interested in this sort of thing. Professor Anthony Cowles. I could see if you could come by for dinner.”




Freddie hits the Australia Museum. He learns a lot about native animals, and native artefacts. One exhibit intrigues him—a painting of a bat with a strange, three-lobed eye. He remembers, from one of Charleston’s books he read on the ship, that Nyarlat-hotep is rumored to have such a form.

[Cthulhu Mythos use by FP.]

In the National Art Museum, he finds a painting of people hitting a bleeding man with clubs. The docent explains that it shows a ritual of a bat worshipping cult.




Professor Cowles lives in a suburban bungalow—an energetic, bushy-bearded man in middle-age. His rather attractive daughter Ewa greets them at the door. They have a pleasant dinner, and then brandy and smokes. Somewhat surprisingly, Ewa stays to drink with them.

“So, David tells me you’re interested in the cult of the Sand-Bat. They’re quite curious, actually. You see, all of the Koori cultures in Australia worship the Rainbow Serpent—its got a great deal of linguistic and cultural significance. But the Sand-Bat cult rejects the Rainbow Serpent in favor of their god.”

He holds out a small, battered leatherbound book. “This is a diary of a colleague of mine, MacWhirr. Went out prospecting in the Great Sandy Desert. Let me read you some excerpts…”

Mar. 23—We have discovered what appears to be remnants of an ancient city, rising from the shifting sands! I believe I have secured several good photographs of this amazing find, though the heat has ruined all but six of my photographic plates. By the pitting of the stone, the blocks and pillars appear to be more than 10,000 years old! Incredible!

Mar. 24—Four camels killed in the attack last night. I saw at least two abos, and more must have been skulking out there. I’m sure I hit one. That ends this trip—we’ll have to head back to Cuncudgerie and report this incident.

More than men were out there last night. I saw shapes much bigger than men during the attack. My evidence is the body of Old Sam

the camel, punctured and scraped is the best way I can described the remains, just like poor Jock. Since the attack lasted only a couple of minutes, it’s hard for me to believe that anything human could have done so much damage so quickly. But then what was it?
“MacWhirr was a geologist, and a good one,” says Dodge. “I believe his story. And all this happened in the northwest—the same place antiquities have begun to be shipped out of.”

“It would be terrible if Australia lost them,” says Francis levelly.

“Indeed. They belong here, and too the Kooris, really. I suppose it might pay to go up that way. There’s an industrialist in the area, an American chap—Noah Cross is his name.”

“I think it would pay to have an academic with us, to act as a guide,” says Francis.

“I can’t go myself,” says Professor Cowles, “as I have to look after Ewa. But David should be free to head up your way.”




Wednesday, 7 October 1925

The next day, they catch a mail steamer bound for Western Australia. Dodge is indeed happy to travel with them—he eagerly looks forward to exploring the ruins in the desert.

Of course, so is Miss Ewa Cowles, who is just as eager to head off for adventure and has easily given her father the slip.

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Episode XIII: The Sea So Deep and Blind (Part 11)

Monday, 21 September 1925

Accidents continue to pile up, and the ship slows as the crew struggles to repair the damage caused by snapping lines, ripping sails, and other damage. Everyone feels more and more tired, and a malaise grips the crew, who whisper among themselves that the ship has a poltergeist.

Francis gives Motumbo, the first mate, a gun. “There’s two bullets. One for you, and one for the captain. If the crew goes crazy and starts killing people, use them.”

[Me: You seem to have a remarkable ability to demoralize all the NPCs, OP.]

They reach the derelict freighter. Francis descends into the hold to retrieve supplies, while Jimmy and Freddie prepare some traps. They already know the spell will work much better after sunset, and steel themselves for the conflict.

[So the way I ended up running this was to tell the PCs: if you guys agree to not try and “hit the win button”, you can trust me to run this fairly on my end—so, rather than go through a long amount of preparations and planning, let’s just run this out and you can tell me what you’ve done as we do the scene. I was more interested in getting a good dramatic conflict than worrying about whether or not they could find a 2 X 4 on the derelict.]

The problem arises of finding people to contribute blood for the ritual.

[It requires either Health or Stability to pay off the spell; they need the help of the crew. I got cruel and told them they could get one volunteer for every two points of an interpersonal ability they spent. Luckily for the PCs, they have a lot of skills.]

Jimmy and Freddie make impassioned speeches, asking for volunteers to join them in fighting this demon. Freddie, of course, has a silver tongue developed in years of talking his way past gendarmes, and before they know what they’ve agreed to, two men have joined them.

Jimmy talks to an Australian he’s grown friendly with. “Listen, I don’t know if I’m going to get out of this, so, could you please make sure these letters get to my sis in Paris?”

Eyes swimming, the Australian grabs his arm. “I can’t let you go alone, mate,” he says, and joins up with the other two crewmen.

[Three crewmembers were able to contribute a total of 10 points of Stability.]

They make their way over to the cargo ship. Francis has turned on the arc lights, and their buzzing and sparks fill the air with an ozone smell. Jimmy has lit some torches, because the book recommended torches.

Jimmy and Freddie begin to chant the Vach-Viraj incantation:

“Ya na kadishtu nilgh’ri

stell-bsna Nyogtha; K’yarnak

phlegethor l’ebumna sya’h

n’ghft. Ya hai kadishtu ep

r’luh-eeh Nyogtha eeh, S’uhnngh

athg li’hee orr’e syha’h,”

The crew follow along. Suddenly, Jimmy and Freddie’s voices lock into unison, ringing out clearly into the night. A cold mist begins to roll over the ship, obscuring everything. Francis’ mind reels as voices seem to whisper disturbingly in the swirling air.

The mist begins to condense. The arc lights explode in a shower of sparks. In the dimness of the starlight and torchlight, something can be seen taking form.

A great, black, coiled serpent curled around the mast.

“What did you say?” demands a cold, inhuman voice that seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. “Say it again, and mean it this time.”

“Buddy system, go!” shouts Francis. The three crewmen pull out slingshots and fire little jars of nitroglycerin at the serpent.

[Retroactive Pharmacy spend by Francis. Yeah, he knew how to make nitro for “medicinal” purposes.]

The jars explode against the scaly hide of the monster, but don’t seem to do much damage. The three crewmen hurry over the side o the ship and slide down the ladder into a waiting launch.

Francis runs up into the superstructure and cocks the elephant gun he had left there.

The serpent roars and the great mouth clamps on Freddie’s arm. It tosses him across the deck. Jimmy yanks on a quick release line, and one of the crane booms slips out of its clamps and crashes into the serpent.

[Mechanical Repair and Preparedness from JP.]

Freddie bounces back up, shouts some dirty words in Aklo, and starts to run down the deck. The lloigor screams in rage and slithers after him.

Up on the balcony of the superstructure, Francis cranks a detonator and presses the trigger. An explosive at the base of the mast detonates, and the mask comes crashing towards the deck. As Freddie leaps up onto some coiled ropes, Francis hits a second switch and the net of cables he laid on the deck surges with the last dregs of the marine batteries. As the mast is about to crash into the serpent, it dissolves momentarily into mist. The mast hits the deck with a thud. The lloigor reforms on top of it, chuckling.

[Mechanical repair, plus a Reassurance spend to have had some one on the ship with Electrical Repair rig up the cabling. Sadly, OP rolled a 1 on 1d6 +4, barely scratching the critter. Since I want failure to mean that something unexpected happened, I threw in the bit about the dissolve. Then to be fair, I docked the lloigor Health, which it needs to spend in order to manifest.]

Jimmy picks himself up from where he had fallen after receiving some of the electrical shock. He draws his sawed-off shotgun and blasts the serpent in the nose at close range. The serpent swivels around its head, forgetting Freddie and slithering towards Jimmy.

Freddie draws the enormous revolver Francis had loaned him and empties it into the creature. Bullets ricochet off of the iron-hard scales of the creature.

Up on the superstructure, Francis draws a bead on the eye of the serpent. He fires both barrels of the elephant gun in a single shot. Blood and ichor spray out from the serpent, steaming in the night. The lloigor screams in pain and rage. It rolls around in obvious agony.

“You…think…you…have…won…” it moans, and then chuckles madly. It begins to chant. There’s a feeling of ozone in the air, like just before a thunderstorm.

Jimmy sudden remembers that the lloigor can create a massive implosion effect.

He turns to run. Freddie looks up. “J—”

WHUMP.

Mist and steam fill the night. Jimmy is yanked backwards off his feet. Freddie vanishes into the cloud of mist.

Gradually a sea breeze dissipates the fog. Jimmy is staggering around, holding his ears. The ship looks like someone has hit it with an enormous ball-peen hammer, crumbling a large section of the deck and hull together. Freddie is in the center of the crater, jagged pieces of metal jutting from his body.

There is no trace of the monster.

Francis summons the River of Stars by firing a flare. They row Freddie carefully back to the ship, Francis working frantically to stabilize him. Jimmy rubs his broken nose.

They manage to get Freddie into the sickbay. Francis spends several hours turning into a suitable operating theater. Crewmembers line up to donate blood.

“Did you win?” asks Charleston, tonelessly. Melissa sedates him.

Francis performs emergency surgery successfully on Freddie, and soon he is convalescing nicely. The River of Stars finds favorable winds and is soon moving with impressive speed towards Melbourne.

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Episode XIII: The Sea So Deep and Blind (Part 10)

Sunday, 20 September 1925

Jimmy is studying late at night in his cabin. The next day they should reach the derelict freighter and he is frantically trying to learn some spells to help them.

Dr. Mwimbe enters his room. “James, I can tell you something that will make this ritual much easier for you.”

“Why do I get the feeling it will be something I don’t like?”

“It will probably not be easy for you…but it will make it much easier to perform the ceremony.”

“Will I have to sacrifice someone?”

“…We can talk about that. Sacrifice is power, James. Look at this creature, the lloigor. It draws its power from the living. There is an incantation you can make. I can teach it to you right now. And it will make all sorts of magic easier for you.”

“What does it do?”

“You merely…ask the favor of magic-granting gods.”

“Would it be like performing a contract?”

“Yes. I happen to have a sample of the contract right here.” She flips open a long scroll with obscure Latin writing on it.

Jimmy starts. This seems like Mwimbe. In fact, she’s like the most Mwimbe he’s ever seen her, as if she was the perfect image of Mwimbe.

Nobody’s the perfect image of themselves, Jimmy thinks. Out loud, he says, “Mwimbe’s still in her room, isn’t she?”

“I am right here.”

“You’re not Mwimbe…”

“Who am I then, James?”

Jimmy looks into her eyes. He realizes they are totally black…no whites, no iris…nothing.

“C’mon, Jimmy,” says Mwimbe in a bantering tone. “Make a deal with me. I can take care of this critter for you. I mean, what are you going to do for the ritual? You’ll need blood. You gonna cut the throats of everyone in the crew? They wouldn’t like that, and I don’t think you’d like yourself after. Make a deal. Take a shortcut, I deal in shortcuts. Jimmy. I didn’t hurt you in the clearing because I like you. Freddie I can take or leave, and Francis…well, Francis will take care of himself. But you…I mean, it’s not like you’re going to win, but I admire that you’re still in there, pitching. You’re like one of them, what, big damn heroes. I like it when monkeys stand up on their hind legs and act like they’re people and everything. It’s cute. You’re like a cat.”

“You’ve just called me a monkey, a cat, and cute.”

“I can’t decide what you remind me of the most. I think there’s a little of me in all of you. You’re like the rabbit in those cartoons, the one that blows things up and everybody laughs…oh wait…you’re in 1925…well, you’re gonna love them if you live. I love the rabbit! I don’t know, he reminds me of somebody.”

“I’m not sure I can trust—”

“Oh, I always keep my contracts. Why would I want to hurt you? Come on, one-time offer, no strings attached. Tick tock, tick tock. Time’s a-wasting.”

Jimmy notices that the clock on the wall seems to have stopped.

“Come on,” continues the entity wearing Mwimbe’s form. “You really think you’re gonna pull this off? By being all sneaky? You don’t think the invisible creature hasn’t heard about it? Or that somebody might tell him?”

The entity chuckles horribly.

“Well…I…um…I want to save everyone on the ship…I don’t think I want to become anything that might destroy the world…”

“Waitaminute. Are you saying no to me? Because the last person to say no to me? That was Chuckles. Look what happened to him. Well, all right.” It peels out a business card from the thin air. “Here’s my card. Call me any time. Day or night. Operators are standing by, James!”

The numbers on the card are constantly changing.

“I’ll…keep it in mind.”

“Oh, and Jimmy? You know you’re the rest of the rabbit. See you in the funny papers, kid.”

Jimmy huddles in the corner, shaken. And as if on cue, all the books on the table levitate up in the air and start swirling around, smashing into the walls of the cabin. The lamp goes out, plunging the room into darkness. Jimmy begins to shriek.

[5 point Mythos shock as the lloigor tries to scare/kill Jimmy.]

Francis, a few cabins down the companionway, hears a high pitched screaming that can only be Jimmy—or, as he will discover in the 1930s, the actress Myrna Loy. He bursts into Jimmy’s cabin. Just before he does, the books and papers not only stop swirling in the air—they land back on the table exactly where they were before levitating.

“Jimmy!” barks Francis. “Where’s your buddy? Everybody has to be in twos.”

“I’m sorry Francis…”

“Let’s go find your buddy.” (Jimmy’s buddy is Freddie, of course.)

“I saw him…he talked to me…he gave me his card…”

“Sure, Jimmy.” Francis looks at the card. It’s absolutely black on both sides.

“The creature knows, Francis. It’s pointless.”

“There’s nothing out there we can’t handle. I need you to be making traps tomorrow. We’ve been through hell and back, you and me.”

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Episode XIII: The Sea So Deep and Blind (Part 9)

Friday, 18 September 1925

Jimmy, of course, does not speak Latin. Freddie does. (So does Francis, but he’s conveniently forgotten his altar boy and med school Latin.) Dr. Mwimbe does as well, but she does not wish to, as she says, weaken her will by reading more occult books. She’s happy to add Jimmy as a patient, however.

Jimmy quickly locates the spell, and with Freddie’s help they translate a description of the creature in its material form—the forma dracona, in dog Latin. It will appear first as a heavy fog, then a serpentine dragonlike form, with claws and teeth and a really thick hide.

[Freddie and Jimmy both got a point of Cthulhu Mythos for reading the Liber Ivonis.]

There’s no specific ritual to force the creature, but he finds two spells that are perhaps useful: the Vach Virajincantation, and another ritual with Noor’s notes written all over them—in Arabic. Jimmy goes to Dr. Mwimbe.

“Oh yes…very interesting…very interesting indeed,” mutters the doctor. “Shame that she died.”

She explains that this is a ritual called the Saaamaaa Ritual, which is used to shield areas from entities from other space-times. “I am surprised she got this far,” she says. “There are eight lines, but not all are known. It seems that she found at least the first two…maybe the third line as well.”

[This is foreshadowing of my plans for winding up the campaign.]

They make plans. No one is willing to risk the River of Stars to the depredations of a manifested lloigor. Francis speaks to the captain, and the ship turns back, heading towards the derelict freighter.

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Episode XIII: The Sea So Deep and Blind (Part 8)

Wednesday, 16 September 1925

A yard collapses with a man on it; he is able to grab a rope, but the sail falls to the deck. Captain Hardekker is told that there may be some kind of “brain fever” that made everyone on the freighter kill each other.

“During the duration of this emergency, I’ll be giving the orders,” Francis says.

“What! That’s mutiny! The rules of the sea won’t allow me to concede control of my ship while I am master.”

Francis glances back at the fallen yard, then fixes the captain with a mournful gaze.

“…however, if you can take care of this matter, I’ll make sure you have no other duties…and I’d welcome your advice…” Hardekker finishes.

[Reassurance use by OP.]

The ship reduces sail, to give them some time to deal with the situation. Francis institutes a buddy system. Despite this, accidents begin to happen.

Jimmy and Freddie ask Melissa to wake Charleston up while giving him just enough tranquilizers to keep him from raving and screaming. They go down into the sickbay, and find Charleston propped up in a bed, arms and legs in restraints. He seems preternaturally calm.

[As mentioned above, CP wasn’t at this session, so I had some qualms about them interrogating his PC. I finally decided that I had a GMs out for this one: just because the lights were on, it doesn’t mean that Charleston was the one who was home…in other words, we don’t know who was speaking with Charleston’s mouth.]

“Hello, Freddie.”

“Hello, Charleston. We’re here to ask your expertise.”

“About…the creature?”

“Yes…can you tell me about this creature.”

“It will drain you of vitality. It will probably take a long time. That way it can enjoy it more.”

“How can we make it manifest?”

Charleston slowly swivels his head to face Jimmy. “I think Jimmy wants to know. Are you going to cast some black magic, Jimmy? It’s the only way. It’s a shame Dr. Mwimbe took the Al-Azif from me. I could have cast a spell…I know exactly where it is…”

“Are you saying Dr. Mwimbe could do this?” asks Freddie.

“But if you look in the Liber Ivonis, most of the ritual is there. Noor knew. Check her index. Such a shame about her, don’t you think?”

“Who exactly are you, and why are you helping us?” demands Jimmy.

“I’m Charleston.”

“No you’re not.”

Charleston has always been helpful,” says Freddie firmly. “Right Jimmy?”

A sneer briefly breaks across Charleston’s face. “Little Jimmy, playing by the seashore. You’re afraid of the big scary sea monster, aren’t you? Run along, now, Jimmy. Go play.”

Thoroughly unnerved, Jimmy and Freddie begin to leave. As Freddie is going through the doorway, Charleston speaks one last time.

“Oh, Freddie? I can’t say I like your chances. But I wish you luck.”

[I’ve always liked Ian Holm’s final line in Alien.]

Freddie drops in on Dr. Mwimbe. “I had an interesting conversation with Charleston.”

“That sounds like a terrible idea.”

“Yes, well, he mentioned your name. It seems we have a creature on board—what’s the name of it, Jimmy?”

“The lloigor,” says Dr. Mwimbe before Jimmy can say anything. “Yes, I know.”

“Could you make it manifest?”

“No, I do not know that spell.”

“Could you help Jimmy?”

“Help Jimmy? Jimmy is casting spells now?”

“Either that or release Charleston…”

“That would be a terrible idea! I didn’t want to say anything while he was more conscious, but he really scared me! That’s why I took the book away. I was terrified he was going to say something horrible in front of the Sultan and ruin my reputation among my own people.. How long until we reach Australia?”

“At this rate, never.”

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Episode XIII: The Sea So Deep and Blind (Part 7)

Tuesday, 15 September 1925

Jimmy “borrows” some books from Charleston. He tries to avoid reading the books themselves, sticking to the meticulous notes kept by Noor before she died. He concentrates on invisible things. There are far more of these than he had believed.

Inspiration strikes; he limits himself to sea-based scary things. This carries him past Noor’s detailed notes, past Charleston’s extremely disturbing notes. And that leads him to a creature that might be the source of certain sea serpent myths. An alien being, one that is mostly invisible, mostly immaterial, but sometimes manifests as a scaly creature made of mist.

The name of this being is lloigor.

It feeds on the intellectual energy and emotions of sentient beings, draining their vitality while they sleep.

And he feels the clammy grip of fear on him. Because for the last couple of nights, he’s woken up feeling…ill. Tired. Like he hadn’t rested at all.

[Three points of Stability and 1 point of Sanity was the cost of the Mythos spend for poor Jimmy.]

Jimmy realizes that the the cultists on the ship must have summoned up a lloigor, using a terrible ritual involving human sacrifice and calling upon the Dread Name of Azathoth and Nyarlathotep. And that this creature is now ontheir ship.

“What ho, Jimmy!” says Freddie, sticking his head in the cabin.

“Freddie, how have you been sleeping?” pants Jimmy.

“Well, to be honest I don’t think shipboard life suits me. I get these damned headaches.”

[I charged everyone two points of Health loss because of the lloigor’s activities.]

Jimmy drags Freddie to Francis.

“Everything okay, Jimmy?”

Jimmy relates what he found out in a single run-on sentence.

“This is not something we can’t deal with,” says Francis.

Jimmy explains that it must use its own vitality to manipulate the outside world, which is why these creatures tend to stay invisible. It can be forced to take on material form…if he can only locate the right spell.

The River of Stars has become a haunted ship.

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Episode XIII: The Sea So Deep and Blind (Part 6)

Sunday, 13 September 1925

Jimmy is up on deck early in the morning, playing with his rabbit’s foot and thinking despondently about how long it has been since he spoke with his sister. Suddenly, he jerks up. Ahead of the ship, a large shape can be seen looming in the mist. As the River of Stars gets closer, it is revealed to be a dilapidated cargo ship.

“Ship Ahoy!” shouts Jimmy.

The ship is completely silent. A Norwegian flag dangles limply over the stern. Captain Hardekker quickly determines that the ship is drifting.

“We must offer assistance,” he says.

“What assistance?” demands Francis. “They look fine.”

“Well, assistance and salvage.”




The former second mate, now acting first mate, is an African named Desmond Motombo. He takes Freddie, Jimmy and Francis over to the drifting cargo ship in one of the launches. They climb up a ladder and stand on the deck.

The silence is eerie only the way a place that normally bustles with activity can become by being absolutely silent.

Francis and Freddie call out, but there’s no answer. The deck is pretty messy—equipment is strewn about, indicating that it must have drifted through a storm.

“Let’s see if we can find the manifest and log,” says Francis. He pulls upon a door into the superstructure at the aft of the ship.

A hideous stench rolls out, the stench of decaying human flesh. Francis jerks back, pale.

[OP failed a Stability check here.]

The smell is far too prevalent to be only the eight or ten people on a standard steamship crew. With a sinking feeling, Francis begins to suspect that it was involved in human trafficking.

On the second deck, they find their first bodies. The companionway to the bridge is carpeted with dead bodies. Francis examines the corpses. Most have died from blunt force trauma to the head, but some have been stabbed or shot—these are concentrated at the end of the companionway. The door to the bridge is closed. Some bodies look as if they were scratching at the door.

Jimmy notices something very alarming. Most of the people whose heads were bashed in have an ecstatic look on their faces. At the end of the hallway, he finds someone wearing a sailor’s cap—possibly a member of the crew. His face is frozen in an expression of pure horror.

“Get some pictures,” says Francis to Jimmy.

[OP was running this as a crime scene, triaging the bodies—blunt force trauma, GSW…]

They drag some bodies down the companionway and out onto the deck, to clear passage to the bridge. The work is incredibly gruesome. The door to the bridge proves to be locked—and barred from the inside.

Francis draws his gun to shoot out the lock, but Freddie grabs his arm. He holds up a prybar. “Might be better, old man.”

Jimmy spends some time working on the door but eventually he manages to cut out the lock and push the door out of the frame. Something heavy is blocking it from the inside. He and Francis push hard for a while, and finally a large bookcase crashes to the ground. They crowd into the bridge.

[Locksmith determined the door was jammed and barred, Mechanical Repair forced it open, and a four point Athletics spend pushed down the bookcase.]

The bridge is hot and stuffy, and reeks of decaying flesh. The ship’s crew is here, lying on the deck. The storm shutters are closed across the front windows, and there is no sign of forced entry.

But the crew looks like they were violently torn apart.

Freddie opens the windows, and Francis finds the ship’s log. He discovers that the ship sailed from Port Said, traversed the Canal, and then called at Ceylon. From there, they were supposed to head to Cape Town.

And then the log entries skip several days.

After the gap, he finds some entries in handwriting that gets worse and worse. It looks like whoever kept them was trying to figure the position with dead reckoning based on guesswork.

Francis, puzzled, starts to methodically search the desk of the ship’s captain. Behind a panel, he finds a hidden manifest. It seems at Ceylon, he took on a large number of passengers—over a hundred. Of course, the ship is not rated for passengers, but they offered a large amount of money. Unusually, they did not give a destination—they said it would be provided en route.

Francis sweeps all of these books into a bag, hoping Captain Hardekker can make something of it.

[Pilot is the general purpose Navigation skill here; I’d treat it as an investigative skill for these purposes. But none of the PCs have any.]

In one corner, Freddie finds a scrap of yellow silk. Much like the silk the robes he wore in Egypt. To the cult ritual.

They rapidly retreat to the launch. It can’t cover the distance between the derelict and the River of Stars quickly enough for them.

“That was a ship of death,” Motombo intones.

The River of Stars raises sail and hurries away from the derelict freighter. Francis delivers the logbooks and manifest to Captain Hardekker. Jimmy wonders if they could sink the ship, but when informed that the way to do that would be to go deep into the hold and open the scuttle valves, he quickly demurs.

[So, here’s an interesting thing. I threw in the detail about the bridge crew having been torn apart as a little color detail; the kind of thing that happens when you mix cultists with…well, anything. I figured somebody had summoned up a Dimensional Shambler, and that was all there was to know.


But as soon as the PCs were back on the River of Stars, JP began asking about the mechanics of a Cthulhu Mythos spend; I ran them down, noting that there’s a way to rebuild Sanity pool loss via psychotherapy. The other players pointed out that there was a psychiatric nurse, a full-blown psychiatrist, and two PCs with points in Psychotherapy traveling with the group. JP decided to risk the spend.


“I’m probably going to regret this, but…” said JP


“—but this is a Cthulhu Mythos game,” said FP.


So, Jimmy started to do research. And…I had to make a decision. Figuring out it was a Shambler, hey, that’s maybe two points of Stability and on we go. But…JP was interested in this mystery. So…maybe the answer should be more interesting than that. I couldn’t decide! So, I decided to just ask the group; how interested were they in this mystery? Did they just want to go on to Australia? Or take the time to explore this a bit. Everyone was non-committal on this question, so I decided to follow my instincts, based on JPs interest, and make the answer more than just a Shambler.

Captain Hardekker analyses the logs. It seems the freighter did indeed start heading for Cape Town, but after a while they began to head due south.

“What’s south?” asks Francis.

“Nothing. Some small islands. Then Antarctica.”

The Captain also is of the opinion that based on when the logs stopped, they probably stopped because the crew was prevented from keeping them—he suspects the ship was taken over. When the log resumes, it’s just dead reckoning.

Based on this, the Captain and Francis agree that what seems to have happened is that the crew were overpowered by the passengers at one point—perhaps the crew expressed doubt about where they were headed. At some point after that, the crew seems to have retaken the bridge, and the freighter’s captain may have cut the engines to let them drift. Then something got inside the cabin, and killed them all.

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Episode XIII: The Sea So Deep and Blind (Part 5)

Tuesday, 1 September 1925

Several days pass, with the ship making excellent time, but in increasingly worse weather as they hit some fierce late winter storms. Sometime after midnight, a very seasick Jimmy makes his way on deck. Shivering in the icy spray, he attempts to light a cigarette.

There is a flash of lightning, and in it he sees several members of the crew, with weapons in their hands, heading towards the wheelhouse.

Jimmy draws his gun and runs toward them, spraying bullets everywhere. The mutineers stop and turn around. Several hit the deck. But four draw knives and charge at him.

[We ended up treating this as an Intimidation spend, rather than a Firearms test.]

Down below deck, Francis looks up when hears a banging noise. Probably just a sail flapping, he thinks.

Bang.


Bang. Bang.


BangBang.

He slips out of his hammock and throws a pistol at a sleeping Freddie. “There’s trouble,” he says as Freddie sputters awake. “Stay here and shoot anyone who tries to kill you.”

Francis slips out into the hallway. In the dim light of the gimballed lamps, he sees two men with knives creeping down the hallway. He aims his silenced pistol and shoots one of them twice. The other mutineer flattens himself against the wall.

A crash comes from Francis’ cabin, a sign that Blakely is finally waking up. The mutineer starts for a second. Francis seizes his opportunity and runs down the hallway, slamming the man into the wall.

Back on deck, Jimmy scampers away and starts climbing one of the masts. The ship pitches beneath him as he shoots past the top and into the topgallants. Glancing back at the deck, he sees two mutineers climbing up the shrouds after him.

Jimmy draws a surprisingly large knife and starts hacking at the rope. “If you keep climbing, I’m cutting it all the way through!” he shouts out.

The mutineers start climbing faster.

Jimmy saws through the rope. The high tension shroud snaps back in his face, and he stumbles back into the mast, nearly slipping off the yard. One of the mutineers crashes into the water, but the other starts inching his way down the yard.

Jimmy looks down again. He sees Francis come out on deck, holding a can of coal oil. He watches Francis lash the can to a rope, puncture it with his knife, and then start hauling it up until it is level with with him.

Down on deck, Francis aims a flare gun up at the sails.

Jimmy’s eyes widen and he starts to slide down one of the shrouds. Francis fires the flare gun. It arcs high in the air, then lands perfectly on the can of coal oil, which explodes.

Freddie knocks on Captain Hardekker’s cabin. “Good morning, Blakely,” he says.

“Morning. It seems that some of the crew are trying to kill us.”

“What?” Hardekker runs inside and pulls some switches. Klaxons begin to ring. Hardekker grabs a cricket bat and races with Freddie onto the quarterdeck.

The mate who was standing the watch has been stabbed to death in the wheelhouse, and one of the ship’s boys reports that he found the first mate dead in his cabin.

Four Lascars jump up onto the quarterdeck, knives drawn.

There is a shriek behind them and Jimmy comes swooping down one of the shrouds. He crashes into the surprised Lascar, knocking him unconscious to the deck. Jimmy stumbles to a stop by slipping into the captain, who goes sprawling.

Two of the Lascars stab at Jimmy as he lies on the deck, but he rolls away from them. Freddie shoots one of them in the face, and he falls bleeding to the deck. Francis draws his enormous Webley revolver and shoots another in the back.

Then he pauses. Two of the Lascars have grabbed the Captain and one of the cabin boys. “Drop your weapons,” one croaks.

The deck pitches under their feet. Francis brings up the pistol. Without saying a word he shoots the mutineer holding the boy.

[OP was out of Firearms, but took the shot anyway.]

“That’s to show I mean business,” he says.

A man in a turban strides out onto the quarterdeck. He is wearing black robes and holding a pistol. “There is no need for any further violence. This is between me and Mr. O’Donnell. Drop your weapons.”

Meanwhile Jimmy and a mutineer are rolling across the icy deck, heading right for the edge. His gun slips out of his hand and slides into to the ocean. As he and the mutineer continue to slide, in a flash of lightning Jimmy can see an enormous wave heading directly for the ship.

Jimmy grabs the mutineer, and shoves him in front of him. A well placed kick knocks him over the side and he splashes into the ocean. The deck begins to pitch the other direction, and Jimmy starts sliding back.

And an enormous wall of water crashes into the boat, inundating everyone.

Francis tumbles backward, dropping his gun, but managing to grab the rail and stand upright. The man in the turban grabs a shroud and swings around in the thrashing water, firing at Francis who ducks at the last minute.

Freddie is thrown against the rail, still aiming at the turbaned mutineer. He shoots at him but misses cleanly. The last two mutineers rush at Freddie, stabbing at him with knives as Blakely starts running around a mast.

“Jimmy, help Freddie!” shouts Francis. Jimmy starts crawling towards Blakely.

“How sporting!” thinks Freddie. “I can use my old Oxford tech—”

The mutineer in front of him suddenly ducks. “Why would you duck?” thinks Freddie. He turns around and a swinging yard smacks him in the face.

Jimmy leaps forward as the ship begins to pitch again and tackles the other mutineer, who stabs him as they hit the deck. Francis stumbles forward and decks the turbaned man. He slips back, dropping his gun but grabbing Francis and the both fall down and start sliding towards the rail.

Freddie continues to dance around the mast, laughing at the mutineer. Until the man stabs him in the chest.

“Oh,” says Freddie. Blood stains his shirt. He steps back, holding his stomach in pain. He raises his pistol and blows his assailant’s head apart.

Francis and the turbaned man continue to tumble down the deck, careening towards the rail—

Blue-tinged Leverage style flashback!

-Francis is back in Durban, buying supplies. He sees a small ice ax for sale. He picks it up, considers it, and then adds it to his purchases-

—Francis pulls the ax out of his coat. He lashes out with it at the turbaned man, who pulls back in surprise, slips, and then falls over the rail into the sea.

Francis continues to slide down the deck. He jams the ax into the deck—

-and the handle begins to slide out of the pick-

[Failed Athletics roll by OP]

Blue-tinged Leverage style flashback, part two!

As Francis leaves the supply store, the camera zooms in on the box he found the pick in. “Souvenir—not for actual use,” it says.

—with a gasp, Francis smashes into the rail and tumbles into the ocean. A freezing cold wave smashes him into the side of the ship.

Jimmy sees Francis fall overboard, but has a Lascar on top of him. The deck pitches back and forth under them as they roll around. The mutineer catches him with a vicious cross. Jimmy starts to black out, but shakes his head free of cobwebs.

The deck pitches back again. Jimmy begins to count. “One…two…three…”

“Why are you counting?” shouts the mutineer, trying to stab him.

The deck pitches again. “One,” says Jimmy, rolling away from the mutineer. “Two,” he says, jumping to his feet and grabbing the mutineers arm as the ship pitches back. “Three,” he says, as the ship pitches in the other direction, yanking the mutineer backwards.

“Four,” he says, punching the man square in the face as the ship pitches forward. With the added momentum he knocks the man off his feet, over the rail, and into the ocean.

[Outdoorsman spend by JP to use the ship’s motion to refresh his Scuffling pool.]

Francis is trying to claw his way onto the side of the ship when a life preserver flutters down next to him. He pulls it over his head and scrambles up as someone pulls him back up over the railing.

To his astonishment, it is Jimmy at the other end of the rope, bleeding from several cuts, one eye blackened, but with a proud glint in it.

“Jimmy,” says Francis as they stagger back to their cabin, “I’m proud of you.”

Three mutineers are found dead outside of Dr. Mwimbe’s cabin, a look of pure terror seared across their faces.

With so many of the crew dead, everyone is press ganged into the crew—cabin boys, the remaining two mates, and Freddie and company. None of the latter are anything close to an able seaman, but they do their best, hauling on whatever they’re told to haul and scrubbing what needs to get scrubbed.

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Episode XIII: The Sea So Deep and Blind (Part 3)

Tuesday, 25 August 1925

At dawn, Francis and Jimmy meet Mwimbe, Gilbert, Miss Ford and Charleston at the docks. Freddie arrives shortly thereafter, stripped to the waist and wearing a turban, out of breath from having run all the way from the hotel after finding the name of a ship captain on a slip of paper in the room. He is carrying much of their luggage.

Jimmy observes the crew boarding the ship. They strike him as disreputable even for the waterfront. There are surprisingly few of them; Captain Hardekker mentions that the ship can sail with fewer than twenty men. “You have to take what you can get, when you go looking for a crew with sailing experience. Especially with no guaranteed passage back from Australia.”




A tug drags them out of the harbor, and soon the River of Stars spreads a remarkable amount of sails. Not long after, Durban sinks below the horizon. The ship speeds on, clearing ten knots most days, heeled hard over into the icy waters of the great Southern Ocean.

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Episode XIII: The Sea So Deep and Blind (Part 2)

Francis is cleaning his guns in the safe house when there is a knock on the door. He picks up a gun and opens the door a crack.

An extremely elegant Englishman is standing in the hall. “Good afternoon, sir. My name is Jeeves. I am an acquaintance of Mr. Blakely.”

Francis cocks his pistol.

“Indeed, sir, I anticipated that reaction. May I present my card?”

Still eyeing him suspiciously, Francis lets Jeeves into the room. “I see you have prepared yourself quite splendidly for your trip to Australia. May I help you arrange transit? A man named Captain Jan Hardekker can provide you with transport that I think will be very difficult to trace.”

“Thank you, Jeeves,” says Francis, somewhat amazed, as he lets Jeeves out.

Not much later, he and Jimmy arrive on the waterfront and head to the docking slip Jeeves wrote down for them. To their surprise, tied up there is a 250 foot long, four masted, steel-hulled clipper ship.

“Captain?” says Francis to a rather weatherbeaten, gaunt man standing on the dock, shouting orders.

“Yes? Ah, they told me someone would be coming down,” he says in a thick South African accent. “Jan Hardekker.”

[My South African accent sucks normally, and completely deserted me this session, so poor Captain Hardekker generally sounded like an Irishman with a cold.]

“Frank. I understand you’re going to Australia—”

“Ja, it’s the last voyage of the River of Stars—”

“Last voyage!” says Jimmy. “But she’s beautiful!”

“Ja. Steamship lines have destroyed the clipper trade, except for some German ships. But she’s as fast as anything on the water. We’re leaving for Melbourne tomorrow, going to lay her up when we get there.”

Francis arranges to meet the captain with his “company” the next morning. They’ll sail on first tide.

[So, clipper ship isn’t as nuts as it sounds. Down in the “Roaring Forties”—40 degrees southern latitude—the winds blow nearly constantly from west to east, and with no land in the way they hit high velocities. Normal passage from South Africa to Melbourne would be about 25 days; this is about twice as long as a steamship, but only long haul liners could make the trip direct rather than going through Ceylon. The other advantage is that practically no one would expect a sailing ship, so the PCs would have nearly untraceable cover. Nearly, of course, is not a sure thing in an RPG.

And anyway CLIPPER SHIP! How cool, right?]

Freddie and Wooster have been drinking—and not paying—their way through several bars. Along the way, Freddie came across the same issue of the New York Inquirer as Jimmy bought; his eyes are drawn to a long article about the relationship between the wounded Bradley Grey and the “terrorist” Freddie Blakely. One passage at the end of the article strikes him like an ax between the eyes:
The acting editor of Blakely’s weekly, the “Golden Sentinel”, Miss

Sheila Brisbane, said that the paper had no comment on the attack on

Mr. Grey and no knowledge of Blakely’s current whereabouts.
“Adelaide’s alive?” he mutters, and staggers out to find a telegraph office.

STUCK IN BLOODY DURBAN STOP HOPE DORIAN’S ALL RIGHT STOP HOPE YOU’RE ALL RIGHT STOP

PLEASE WRITE BACK SOON MAY BE HEADED BACK TO ENGLAND INVOLUNTARILY STOP

He of course never notices the strange man who watches him carefully while he is in the office, and follows him when he leaves.

Later that night, Francis is sitting up in his room. He’s spent a long day spreading a safari cover story to all and sundry. He hears someone shouting from the street, and looks out the window.

Freddie is standing outside the hotel, about to shout out again that he has lost his key, when several men in suits surround him and knock him to the ground.

[Rare fail of a Sense Trouble roll by FP.]

Jimmy, who had been sent out by Francis to find Francis, sees this just as he approaches the hotel.

The men handcuff Freddie and start dragging him away. “You’re comin’ with us,” says one in a thick South African accent.

“Don’t say anything, Freddie! I’m his lawyer!” shouts Francis. He hops over the windowsill and slides down the awning to the street.

Freddie, who has been taking lessons from Gilbert, starts fishing around in his cuffs for the handcuff key he keeps hidden there.

Jimmy tries to creep up on them but one man peels off, draws a gun, and starts looking in the shadows for him.

[Failed Stealth roll by JP.]

Realizing that he has been “blown”, Jimmy shouts out “Stop in the name of Military Intelligence!”

Francis races up to them, whips around the corner while drawing his sawed-off. Freddie has been tossed to the ground behind three of the agents, who are reaching in their coat pockets, probably for guns. As Francis takes this all in, he sees Freddie unlatch the handcuffs from his wrists. But what most concerns Francis is that he can see a fourth agent aiming a gun at Jimmy, who is blissfully unaware that he is dead in the sights of a gunman.

Francis draws his heavy revolver with his left hand. Holding guns on everyone, he shouts out, “I see you there too! Drop it!”

[Intimidate spend by FP to keep them from shooting Jimmy.]

“This isn’t any of your concern,” says one of the agents. Behind him, Freddie gets up and takes off for the alleyways.

Francis waits until Freddie has turned a corner. “Hey, he’s getting away!”

The agents whip around, and are about to run after Blakely, when they realize that a crazy American with several guns is now behind them.

“Well, let’s go,” says Francis, and starts running down a different alley than the one Freddie took. The agents exchange glances and follow him.

In the narrow warren of alleys and streets, Jimmy soon manages to give everyone the slip. He heads for the rally point, one of the hospitals in the city. Suddenly he stops dead.

He doesn’t have his rabbit’s foot.

It’s in his other pair of pants.

Back in the hotel.

Freddie, having blissfully forgotten about the rally point, doubles back and heads for the hotel, the now no-longer safe house. As he approaches, he sees a man standing in the doorway.

He decides to take advantage of his recently acquired tropical tan and goes for a North Indian disguise. He fashions a turban out of a sheet, strips off his shirt, and walks up jauntily to the hotel.

The man in the doorway stands up. With a sinking feeling, Freddie realizes that the agent is Indian himself.

Freddie plays mute, and responds to the man’s questions with grins and gestures towards the back of the building. The agent shrugs and goes back to smoking.

From the back, Freddie sneaks into the servants’ entrance and climbs up to his room. He glances around, shrugs, and grabs some clothing—Jimmy’s clothing, since Francis’s clothes won’t fit. Of course, the rabbit’s foot is in the pocket of the trousers he puts on.

[For “manipulating the metaplot” in such an egregious way, I charged FP an experience point.]

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