Originally posted Aug 17, 2015
The Investigators fled from the cave where they’d bound the dark figure. Miss Johnson was in need of medical attention, so they drove to Dr. Lorien’s house. Christian was not home, as he’d been working late, but Vernique welcomed them in. Dr. Wilke was called from Paris to join with the rest of the team.
When Dr. Lorien arrived he was shocked to see that Miss Johnson’s wounds matched those of both of the hotel doorman he’s been treating, as well as the shepherdess slain by the “killer wolf”. Fabien, the doorman, was not doing well for reasons the doctor could not diagnose so he was planning to take him to a Paris Hospital.
Umar checked in with Constable LaBree who was now convinced that the town was being plagued, not by a killer wolf, but a murderous madman. He warned the Investigators not to make any more reckless expeditions. He would send men to recover woodman’s Gervae’s body
The next morning Miss Johnson was doing better — surprisingly better, given how badly injured she was. The suspicious Dr. Wilke asked Miss Crispin to test Miss Johnson with silver — concerned that she had become a werewolf from her encounter. She showed no reaction to the test. Wilke and Umar meanwhile accompanied Dr. Lorien to Paris with the fading Fabien.
The ladies, staying behind, were introduced by young Quitterie to “la belle mademoiselle,” a strange woman she’d met in the forest whom her mother considered only an imaginary friend. The hooded figure introduced herself as Lilly and claimed to be Count Fenalik’s “daughter.” The Count wished to apologize for his “rudeness” and, recognizing the Investigator’s capabilities, now wanted to help them in their mission to assemble the Simulacrum, which Fenalik refers to as “his armor.”
The men returned with the unfortunate news that Fabien had died on the trip, despite all efforts to preserve his life. Constable LaBree had the disturbing news that Gervae’s body could not be found, and the madman had desecrated the grave of his first victim, the shepherdess, and carried off her body.
Curious about what knowledge she might have, the entire team met again with Lilly. Dr. Wilke, exerting all the self-control he could manage, quizzed her about what sort of being she was. She evaded many questions, claimed that she herself did not understand everything about her new state of existence, but largely conceded she and Fenalik were what could be called “vampires”
Her main intent was mentioning that others would be seeking the Simulacrum, as they have many times before when it had been broken and scattered. Fenalik claimed to be its true owner, by right of understanding it far more than anyone else. It was once owned by a sorcerer named Sedefkar, who gave it his name and wrote down his knowledge is a set of six scrolls. Her father does not know what happened to these scrolls — but previous clues point to at least some of them being a museum in Constantinople. Fenalik would prefer not to wait until “the current generation of men passed into dust,” before he reclaimed the Simulacrum, but was willing to if necessary. Until then his “children” such as her wished to accompany the Investigators and assist them. She promised that neither the Loriens or any of the Investigators would ever be their prey. She further warned that the fragments of the Simulacrum would have a “Baneful Influence” on those who possessed them. The only protection from this was contained in the Scroll of the Left Hand.
With this uneasy agreement, the Investigators dug out the entrance to the secret chambers of Fenalik’s mansion, which still existed beneath the Lorien’s house. There they found the remains of a hideous torture chamber, still littered with the bones of the many who had suffered there.
The end the catacombs was overgrown with the wildly blood roses. At the heart of the vines was the left arm of a statue, gleaming eerily. When Miss Crispin attempted to extract the arm, the vines came to life and tore at the Investigators. Umar was badly slashed, but, bandaged by Dr. Wilke, he dived in and grabbed the arm. He was flooded with alien perspectives and awarenesses, but managed to keep his wits. The vines collapsed and the Investigators hurried out.
Leaving a note for Lilly, and making their farewells to the Loriens — who seemed relieved of their arm ailments — the Investigators returned to Paris. They decided to at last board the Orient Express, recover by enjoying its luxuries, and stop at Lausanne, Switzerland to seek out Edgar Wellington and see what knowledge he might possess.
A goal in adapting this campaign for “Trail of Cthulhu,” and my own play style, was to have more direct involvement between the characters and the NPC factions who are also seeking the Sedefkar Simulacrum. Count Fenalik for instance is written as lurking the background and only occasionally getting involved in the scenarios (and then often as a deus ex machina). In our game, there’s been a direct confrontation, ending with Fenalik bound in a magic circle and severely limited in what he can do. Rather than either have him just break free (cheating players out of their accomplishment) or completely removing him from events to come, I’ve introduced the notion that victims of the vampiric Fenalik rise from the dead as his “children.” A nameless, murdered shepherdess is now an undead NPC who can perform some of the plot functions, though in a drastically limited fashion. Her main role will be to put the characters in the uncomfortable position of deciding what to do with a known, deadly evil faction that wants to help them. I don’t know how this plot thread will eventually resolve, but it should be interesting.
The session did end with the Investigators finally finding the Left Arm of the Simulacrum. If you know “Orient Express” there’s the Baneful Influence that the Simulacrum exerts. When I played the campaign, the version used still had the Baneful Influence eroding away Luck and Power. That’s changed in the printing version to be more of a general misfortune that the Keeper can use against the players. My Gumshoe interpretation was to have contacting the Simulacrum be a Mythos Stability test. The player was lost for a moment in an a nonhuman and non Euclidean perspective, but survived by making the gamble of spending two stability to give him the bonus on the roll. He came out it with a point in Mythos, but with a rash and pain in his own arm which will increase the difficulty of physical checks involving that limb. I plan something similar with each other fragment they find. In my outline of the scenario, if the Investigators had not already faced Fenalik directly at this point, they would have now, with him appearing and demanding the Left Arm. As written, he only appears as a chilling mist.
A few sessions ago the Investigators were considering taking a plane to Belgrade; they have now decided to finally get on the Orient Express proper. On route is Lausanne, Switzerland. In the campaign as written, the players would have found, along with Arm, a letter from Edgar Wellington, an Englishman living in Lausanne, that reveals he know about the Simulacrum, Fenalik,and the Sedefkar Scrolls. That bothered me. I am trying to keep careful track of what information all the various factions know, and it seemed another cheat against the players if someone else just knows all the information they have spent sessions laboriously collecting. The players know about Fenalik after days of digging through dusty libraries. Why does Wellington know about him? I’ve been seeding information about Wellington in early sessions, to tweak the players’ curiosities and position him as someone who knows something about the Simulacrum and Sedefkar’s Scrolls. He doesn’t know anything about Fenalik or where the fragments are currently. I have several other tweaks to the Lausanne chapter in mind which I’ll discuss in future posts.
The campaign is mostly “Pulp” in style, and I’m giving the players a lot of opportunity to recover stability. Most of them have “Sources” that they carry with them. One character for instance is Muslim, whose daily prayers are a Source. Another is an agent of the British government who gets Stability by sending reports — if that is, she reports the actual truth of what happens. We’ll see what the eventual consequences of that will be… Enjoying the luxuries of the Orient Express is written in the campaign to give characters “Call of Cthulhu” Sanity back, so I’m also giving them a little Stability from that. If all that ends up being too soft on them, I may make it harder to recover Stability as time goes by, or put them in situations where they might lose the transportable Sources they have with them.