Session 27: Belgrade 1923, Part Two

Originally posted July 17, 2017

In the Serbia village of Orasac, Umar and Dr. Wilke finished observing the ritual parade of the cigani. The locals believed this to be a quaint folk custom, but the Investigators recognized it as a magical ward protecting the locals from a powerful, devouring nature deity. Miss Crispin and Miss Johnson accompanied Ana Filopovic to a old, half-ruined church to pray against the “devil-worshipping pagans.” Miss Crispin grew suspicious about the inauthentic looking church, and Miss Johnson spotted horned, goat hoofed creatures about to attack. They broken into the Church, dragging off Miss Johnson while Miss Crispin held another one off with her crucifix and prayers. Ana screamed, but did not seemed quite as upset as one might expect.

Drawn by the commotion, Umar and Dr. Wikle arrived and the Investigators fought off the creatures with spells and firebombs, ultimately confronting a horror of twisted tree trunks and oozing tentacles. While the creature was destroyed, all the magic-using Investigators experienced strange surges of power that, to differing degrees, marked the parts of their bodies that were bound to the Simulacrum.

Back in the village, Dr. Wilke angrily confronted Ana, accusing her of calling up the monsters — something she blamed on the cigani. Father Filipovic coldly suggested the Investigators finish their business and leave town as soon as possible. While the others rested, Wilke visited the local cigani camp. The travelling folk had realized that their help protecting the town is not wanted, and that they should move on before being blamed for whatever happened next.

The next day, no longer welcomed in the village, they set off to visit the mysterious “Grandmother.” After a hike through fields and forest usually verdant for this time of year, they found an idyllic looking cottage tucked away in a mountain valley.

Inside was a shy young maiden, Kcerca, who appeared to be the wild girl they had encountered before. She was weaving a tapestry with an extraordinary detailed depiction of the village. The walls of the cottage were lined with shelves holding many fragments of statuary — with what seemed the Leg of the tucked among them.

Grandmother herself was flattered that travellers had come so far to see her and asked Kcerca to serve tea while she went to get some fresh baked bread. The young girl gestured for Miss Johnson to help, only to ensnare her in the suddenly animated statuary. The entire cottage began to shift and come alive around the Investigators. Dr. Wilke used his magic to pull the Leg off its shelf and Miss Crispin gathered it up in a table cloth. The Investigators quickly fled to the cottage door, only to find it was rising off the ground. They lept out, and saw the entire structure lift up on a pair of scaly bird legs. Grandmother began to chant prayers to Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat, but was felled by by more firebombs from WIlke and Miss Johnson. She collapsed into screaming flames and the towering, walking horror began to go beserk. The Investigators fled as quickly as they good.

They reached the safety of the pastures beyond the forested hills, only to see the Walker come charging out the trees, Kcera riding it, headed towards the Orasac. With some reluctance, they decided they had to do what they could to save the village. The creature’s huge strides would get it there well before they could arrive, but Dr. Wilke recalled the bone flute and suggested Umar try it. The unearthly tones of the instrument caused the monster to stumble and fall, monetary stopping its advance.

When they reached it, the Investigators found a strangely older and more vocal Kcerca. She had no desire to unleash the Walker on the countryside, for while it needed to be fed, such devastation would draw unwanted attention. Grandmother had found the Leg and used her magic to feed its power into the Walker, as an alternative to is usual meals of human sacrifice. She and the Investigators combined their occult lore to break the spell. The Leg itself still need to be calmed, and Miss Crispin took on the burden, enduring a vision similar to Dr. Wilke’s earlier nightmare of a robed figured being carried by a dark procession. The figured stood, on two strong legs, and reached towards Miss Crispin with a skinless hand.

Their partnership completed, Kcerca insisted the Investigators leave her domain, which they were eager to do. Her wishes were seemingly reinforced by a sudden plague of black chickens that met them at the train station and herded them aboard.

Commentary

From the start, our campaign has been on the Pulp side of ToC. For instance I’ve let players put points into Magic, and we currently have 3 out of 4 characters frequently using spells of sort (though each character has a different take on what they can do, from a Turkish scholar to Church of England medium). I’ve started pushing the nature of “magic” as a major subplot, building up to the idea that all Earth’s sorceries derive from the Aklo language, which was developed in Atlantis, and ultimately based on the symbols carved on the Sedefkar Simulacrum itself.

In the last session the Investigators encountered a Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath. Despite hints that confronting such an unknown dangerous threat might not be a good idea, they were determined to fight it — which they did mainly through spells (with some help from molotov cocktails). Rather than have them be devoured (as a straight fight would have gone) or somehow avoid the combat, I let them go at, with their efforts successful at keeping the horror from fully manifesting in the material world. But they began to experience surges of power associated with the parts of their bodies that were bound to the Simulacrum pieces they had found so far. I gave them an extra die of pool points to spend on their magic — with the consequence that the higher the role, the more their body was marked by the tower. Our Turkish scholar rolled a 6 and now was the symbols of the Left Arm of the Simulacrum branded into his own arm. In the next sessions I’m going to continue to press the idea that the magic the Investigators are using may ultimately derive from the Simulacrum and that they themselves are contributing to the drawing the Skinless One to the Earth and immanentizing an eschaton they think they are preventing.

This scenario was based on elements of Eastern European folklore, something one of my players had some familiarity with. At the climax of the ultimate encounter, I began to describe how the quaint country cottage the Investigators had found was transforming and lifting up into the air. That player starting exclaiming: “No… don’t!. Don’t do it Sam!” He foresaw, correctly, that the cottage was about to stand up on giant chicken legs, becoming the walking cottage of the Baba Yaga.

It was also an interesting moment when the Investigators had to face the necessity of saving the local village from this Walking Horror, even though there was no love lost between the villagers and the characters at this point. They personally wouldn’t have minded having the locals be devoured by Shub-Niggurath, but of course couldn’t really let that happen…

The next session is a return to the Dreamlands with several characters and story elements from early in the campaign making reappearances. It’s technically a side story, but I want to use it as an opportunity to reinforce the players’ awareness that both game, and the world, is moving towards an ultimate resolution. I frequently catch myself thinking “If I do this or that, it will be too obvious and spoil the mystery,” but I know that I actually do want make parts of the story obvious at this point, so the players can make true and informed decisions about how to respond to them.