The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep d20

Nebulous

Legend
ADVENTURE #28: City of the Great Race

The Living Wind has chased a fleeing Koori down the tunnel, leaving the highly-desired lightning gun not far from the investigators. They still don't know where they are in this massive, echoing place beneath the earth's crust, and aren't too eager to find out. More than ever, they regret their decision to follow the Mimi tribesman down into this black hellhole!

Chad and Lester retrieve the gun, discussing how it might be operated, inspecting its odd loops and handles designed for hands much larger than a human’s. Soon they think they understand how to discharge a bolt of lightning, partly because Lester remembers seeing this gun before! He finds it hard to describe, but he knows it has something to do with his bizarre experience with the Golden Machine. Unfortunately, Lester also suspects that the gun has a finite power source and will stop working at any time without warning.

While the two of them inspect the gun, Hans Hazzenbaum speaks quietly with Ronnie Talltree, the only Abo who survived the attack because he was standing further back (GM Note: actually, this is Liz's character, she was playing for the first (and last) time this adventure).

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The group discusses what they should do, and quickly decide that they do NOT want to follow the route of the Living Wind. There are only a few options, none of which are very appealing: head back the way they came, following the trail of light bulbs through these vast, dusty vaults, or spearhead into the darkness, taking their chances with whatever might be out there.

They take the latter option, and roping themselves together, forge off into the black, kicking up clouds of silent sooty gray dust. The ground is uneven and their movement slow, but they eventually reach a high rock wall. They move along the wall for half an hour, and finally see pinprick bulbs in the distance. They don't approach however, deciding first that they should mark this spot and backtrack in the other direction. Chad Slambody volunteers to be pointman (a naked pointman) so he strips down, (despite the constant 52 degree temperature) and scouts ahead. He eventually hears a humming generator and finds the same tunnel they exited previously before reaching the mysterious Blue Plaza. Rather than retracing their steps, they continue past the tunnel entrance, hugging the wall rather than wandering in the wide open black space that could house any number of unseen horrors.

A while later, after stopping and listening several times, they see another familiar trail of bulbs winking in the darkness. But it is where the bulbs lead that perks their interest:

A dim purple glow far, far in the distance. Again, Chad forages ahead, leaving the others in inky stillness, anxiously awaiting his return. Chad remains as stealthy as he can, picking his way over rubble and smashed masonry. The purple glow increases, and he soon discerns the shape of a huge hemispherical stone building with purple light emanating from at least two open portals. He estimates that the building to be at least 2000 feet across. He slides even closer until he reaches the smooth, cool stone of the exterior, and inches toward the portal. He hears a sound now, a constant thrumming and humming from inside, and carefully, he PEEKS around the corner.

The sight within shocks Chad and he reels back, not sure if he wants to enter this room or not. He returns to the others and tells them about what he saw, and together, they all return to the portal and look in.

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The purple light and humming obviously originates from a huge crystal hemisphere inside the larger stone hemisphere. It dominates the center of the room, flanked by four cyclopean pillars. But it is the statues that rattle the Sanity of each investigator:

Twenty-five tall, the sculpted obscenity of Sand Bat leers over a sacrificial altar. On three sides lurk equally horrible renditions of Outer Gods and Great Old Ones, their names unknown, their ranks obscure, although Lester recalls seeing similar sketches in the Necronomicon and Des Vermiis Mysteris. Slowly, having little option other than to wait outside or continue their trek, they enter the room and advance toward the devilish altar. The air tingles with hidden energy and the hair stands up on their arms. Lester inspects the dark bloodstains and determines that it is about a week old. No one wanders too close to the hideous statues, but the keen ears of Ronnie Talltree detects a mad scrabbling of claws behind the Sand Bat! A brief warning gives the investigators time to raise their guns, just as three bat-like abominations come screeching out from cover!

They are larger than a man, with wrinkled faces and maws dripping viscous saliva. They're fast too, and launch at the intruders, but a volley of shotgun blasts greets them first. Injured but alive, the Bat-Toad Things close the distance in a heartbeat and pick a target each, all but Lester Cobblebottom, (with 8 hit points) who has already started fleeing toward the exit (with the lightning gun).

The beasts are powerfully muscled, and Chad soon learns that besides their great strength, the creatures also possess hundred of needle sharp tubes inside their membranous wings, and Chad gets thoroughly cocooned and thrown to the ground! Needles begin draining his bodily fluids ("Which Fluid Exactly and How was It Drained?" being Leo's first question) and Chad goes on to fail Grapple after Grapple after Grapple, writhing in agony as his Dexterity is whittled away. Ronnie and Hans are having their own problems though, but Ronnie whips out his machete and begins hacking mercilessly at the Bat-Toads. Chunks of flesh tear and rip away, and the creature retreats before he can kill it.

Hans gets enveloped as well, but Ronnie is desperately hacking away while Chad's muffled screams emanate from the folds of his enemy. A machete blade comes incredibly close to stabbing Chad, but he does manage to wrestle away, but doesn't make it more than ten feet before the thing SLAMS into him and wraps him back up.
In the meantime, Lester Cobblebottom, huffing and puffing and straining his heart, has reached the archway out of the Purple Dome, but he hears the distant whistling and moaning of a Living Wind in the distance. Dismayed, he miserably begins trotting back to warn the others.

Ronnie and Hans kill the final two Bat-Toads, completely beheading the last one, but soon after they regain their composure, dust swirls and gusts up through the openings to the dome, and a gibbering Living Wind begins to circuit the structure, but seems hesitant to enter. The investigators wonder if it has to do with the presence of the electrified crystal hemisphere...?

Regardless, they are now trapped. The Living Wind was obviously attracted by the sounds of shotguns and pistol fire, and it is now navigating the exterior, a whirling, cacophonous entity of ire and evil. They don't have anywhere to run, practically nowhere to hide, and if the thing DOES decide to enter...

The trespassers investigate their surroundings, trying to find a way into the glowing crystal sphere, but it seems solid, although it shimmers sometimes as if moving. The only other item of interest are two female plug adapters attached to long rubber cords that stretch out of the room, following the trail of lightbulbs. Regardless, they come up with a plan--set dynamite around the statues and blow them to Kingdom Come, and try to obliterate the Living Wind.

Ronnie Talltree and Hans Hazzenbaum wait around the statues, while Lester Cobblebottom is volunteered to take the lightning gun and approach the exit. Maybe they can get some lucky shots off, but Lester is only halfway across the floor when a peculiar breeze picks up and begins forcing him against his will toward the exit! Chad notices and runs to help him, but he too is caught by the bizarre draft that tugs and pulls and tries to prevent them from retreating. The Living Wind is out there somewhere, forcing the investigators outside, but Chad throws a rope around Lester, and through extreme willpower they are finally able to struggle out of range. (GM Note: and i told them that this was a CR 13 monster; designed as an average encounter for four 13th level D&D characters; it could actually have killed them quite easily with a whirlwind or tornado attack; this particular Living Wind was toying with its prey first)

They switch exits and run to the far side. Sure enough, the Living Wind is heard following the perimeter of the hemisphere, but Lester is ready this time, and as soon as he sees the monstrosity slurping and slavering and slopping around the edge, he pulls the trigger!

LIGHTNING explodes from the discharge nozzle, splattering huge chunks of the Living Wind into ectoplasmic goo. The thing shrieks and retreats, whether dead or frightened they don't know for sure, but judging from the large amount of stinking fluid everywhere they very likely dealt it a mortal blow. If the Living Wind is mortal at all; they just don't know. Lester's lightning attack also destroys the line of bulbs and they all blink out.

They set the next stage of their plan into motion and detonate the sticks of dynamite; fortunately, Chad has demolitions skill and doesn't blow himself up. The statues erupt into a shower of stone and fire and dust, but the peculiar purple dome is unscathed. Feeling somewhat good about their endeavors, and the happy fact that they are still alive, they shoulder their gear and follow the trail of dead bulbs out of the Purple Plaza. Their only alternative is to set up camp and wait there for someone or something else to show up.

About twenty minutes later they see multiple points of light bobbing in the distance. This probably isn't good news, because even further back there looks like a large multi-tiered structure. Someone must have heard the commotion or is coming to see why the bulbs are burned out. The investigators retreat, quietly discussing their options, and finally decide to duck back inside the purple dome plaza, listen for whoever is approaching to get within range, and then hop and dump the lightning on them.

This is what they do, once again with Lester at the forefront, and they eventually hear the scrape of boots on stone, and see the wavering shimmer from several floodlights. Lester leaps around the doorway and FIRES!

Lightning crackles and burns into a group of about eight Aboriginal men. They are completely surprised, in the resultant blue glow, Lester sees that the two in the forefront both carry Lightning Guns themselves! They are electrocuted immediately, their hair sizzling, their skin blackening, popping and splitting, and they are launched out of the way. There's only a few left, but one man at the back of the group is Caucasian, wearing a yellow mining hat, and seems unphased by the attack. In fact, he's just staring listlessly at the ground, until someone puts a bullet between his eyes.

Within seconds the sneak attack is over and only one Koori cultist is alive. Hans screams at him in his native tongue to surrender or die, and is able to intimidate the man into submission. Blubbering and moaning, the Koori is clearly quite insane, his eyes wild, sometimes laughing and groaning, but he submits to intense questioning from the group. Between his garbled speech, muddled sanity and limited intelligence, the investigators are able to glean the following information:

a) He is a follower of Sand Bat, a great god who flies in the Dark.
b) a man named Huston is their leader and priest
c) They are all down in this dangerous place to do the will of Sand Bat toward the Great Work.
d) The Living Wind, also known as flying polyps, are not part of Sand Bat's plan, nor do they work for Sand Bat.
e) There are MANY many polyps, living deep in the vaults beneath this city.
f) This is the City of the Great Race, who died or abandoned it over 100,000 years ago. (and the investigators slowly realize that THIS was their destination all along! Brought here by the Mimi several days ahead of schedule without even having to find the hidden entrance).
g) Huston's headquarters are in the building behind them with multiple tiers.
h) There are about a hundred people in the city, all followers of Huston, their high priest.
i) Sand Bat is often summoned in an orgy of blood that takes place in the Purple Dome Plaza.
j) They are very scared of the polyps, but the lightning guns keep them away, and if you stay quiet and stay away from their doors, they generally don't bother you.
k) The dead Caucasian man was a dead worker for Huston. Huston made him that way. The investigator's surmise that he was a zombie and did not react to their attack
l) There is one way out of the city, and the cultists points in the general direction. It is several miles away, and guarded by a bunkhouse. Thousands of bats live there.
m) The three Bat-Toads killed in the Purple Plaza were holy servants of Sand Bat, to be regarded with respect and praise.

The next tidbits of information are scrounged from the charred pockets of the dead: 2 crumpled letters signed by R.H. One demands that the cultists practice their Shriveling Spell next Tuesday (a rather horrible spell that mutilated both Chang and Morty in the NY Chapter, long long ago), and the other note states that a "two legged deer" is free and running around, and there is no excuse why it can't be found.

The investigator's are somewhat comforted that they aren't as horribly lost as they first surmised. The Mimi cannot be trusted, that much is sure, for it hardly warned them of the massive dangers, nor did it warn of the large number of polyps inhabiting this lost city. But for now they have a goal, if not a solid plan, to thwart the next stage of Nyarlathotep's plan for world destruction.

And there we stopped.
 

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Nebulous

Legend
Adventure #29: Huston’s Headquarters

After interrogating the captured cultist, the party quietly dispatches him. Their main problem now is finding a place to rest. They are weary and injured, particularly Lester (as usual). They decide to find a place to camp in the dark, away from any main thoroughfares; it will be the safest option, if anything can be considered safe in these caves. But they now have three lightning guns to protect them if a Living Wind (or anything else) appears.

They set off, and a few hundred yards from the Purple Dome Plaza they stumble upon a rift. The chasm is eight feet narrow at the smallest point, and they are glad to have used flashlights to navigate the broken terrain; they could have easily tumbled to their deaths. Chad ties a rope around himself and leaps across, but the others are very hesitant. It could be a fatal drop, and they fear that a living wind might lurk in the black depths. They distantly hear the whistle of slippery motion over eons-old architecture. They set up camp on the original side of the chasm and try to get some sleep, letting Ronnie Talltree take the first watch.

It is several hours later when Lester wakes up with a jolt, and sees several bobbing lights moving away from the Purple Dome Plaza. He wakes the others, and they creep forward together to get a better look. Upon closer inspection, still hidden well within the darkness, they discern five men, four of which are Caucasian, led by an Abo with a rifle. The Caucasian men carry gurneys laden with corpses, obviously the remains of the last cultist group that the investigators annihilated. Finding this an opportunistic stroke of good luck, they quickly decide to strike from cover. Dispersing closer, rifles and lightning guns in hand, they soon unleash volleys of blue fire over the unsuspecting cultists. Hair sizzles and catches flame; clothes erupt and fire leaps from charred eye sockets, and a shotgun blast levels the leader before he even knows what happened. Only one Caucasian man survives the attack, burning as he stands, but oddly enough, he does not scream in pain, nor does he try to extinguish the fire. He burns quietly for a few moments, his flesh blackening, peeling, falls to his knees, and finally keels over.

The investigators inspect the bodies and find wallets on a few of them, offering Australian names and places of birth in Sydney, Port Hedland, and other locales. They keep the wallets for later reference. The fifteen bodies are dragged as quickly as possible to the chasm and tossed over the edge (save for one, which Chad Slambody retains for selfish and nefarious reasons). They fear that the bodies were being taken back to the "headquarters" for reanimation. The group rests for a while longer, recovering some of their strength, and when ready, they move ahead toward the distant rectangles of light.

Chad scouts ahead and finds a three story building made of wood. There's a ramp on the right side leading up, with platforms and doors at three different levels. But there's also a guard on the roof waving a bright arc light back and forth in a random sweeping pattern, obviously trying to dissuade or spot anyone approaching. The investigators realize that YES, they have made some commotion with gun shots and explosions, but the lightning gun discharges could just as easily have been from cultists fending off polyps. They discuss their options, and lacking a better, cohesive plan, Chad decides to shoot out the spotlight from the maximum distance.

Two deafening retorts later, and the glass bulb shatters into a thousand pieces and the light winks out.

At this juncture, the group debates whether they should destroy this building now and sift through the remains, or try and infiltrate it. The ringleader of this cultist operation, Dr. Robert Huston, is possibly inside, and he is no doubt a dangerous animal. Ronnie and Chad flank right while Lester and Hans move closer, but Hans soon spots a new train of cultists approach the building from the left, nearly twenty of them in a long, staggered line under the dangling light bulbs. They are still several hundred yards away, but the investigators are completely hidden within darkness. A few cultists finally reach the front of the building and enter the bottom door, while two remain as guards outside, fearfully glancing around with clubs in hand. Chad and Ronnie lope back to the others after a quick surveillance run, and soon after, the man inside comes out rolling a 50-gallon barrel down the ramp, and Chad decides to SHOOT first and ask questions later.

His aim is true, and a split second after the guards spot his muzzle flare, the barrel explodes! Yes, 50 gallons of gasoline rip off a huge, fiery chunk of the building away, spitting flame and fumes and smoke high into the air, revealing in a hell-red glow more details about the alien architecture of the city. The cultists nearby are launched away with dying screams, but part of the building facade is on fire now and the resultant glow makes the investigators visible, albeit dimly.

Furthermore, after the explosion, the screams of men and women are heard emanating from somewhere inside the wooden structure.

The investigators start popping off more shots at the approaching cultists, missing more than hitting, and with riotous cries of rage and madness, the Abo's charge their location, bat-teeth clubs lifted above their heads!

Chad, Lester and Hans rattle off a few shots but most fly wide, although a few cultists are wounded. Soon they have closed within melee range, so Hans and Lester unpack their lightning guns and level off a few devastating bursts. Electricity spits and sizzles, and amid the screams of the dead and dying, the investigators ruefully grin at each other. Their pleasure is short lived when they realize that the shock troops were just a diversion for the more lethal spellcasters in the back ranks:

Hands lifted, terrible syllables rolling from their tongues in an unknown language, four Aboriginal cultists point at the investigators and unleash withering rays of black putrescence from their fingertips!

The Shriveling spells inflict horrible damage, and are nearly impossible to dodge. Lester writhes in agony, his skin rotting where the evil touches him. Hans screams in pain is well, and naked Chad Slambody loses a nipple to the dark magic; it melts from his naked chest like hot taffy. But the vile spells do not kill the investigators, and their next round of lightning guns demolish the sorcerers.

They regroup, and almost immediately break up into separate squads to cover as much ground as possible. Chad leaps over the flames engulfing the ramp and sprints to the second floor. Ronnie Talltree follows, while Lester scouts out the line of bulbs to make sure no one else is approaching, and Hans smashes out a first floor window and crawls into the room. It is a storage room obviously, filled with heavy crates, arc lights, tins of food and water, welding equipment, drills, mining hats and rope and shovels and wheelbarrows and steel track...and THREE 50-gallon drums of gasoline!!!

The fire is spreading quickly, crackling along the walls and eaves, filling their lungs with acrid smoke and inching ever closer to the combustibles. Hans tears through the room, throwing anything of potential value out the window and into wheelbarrows.

Chad peeks furtively into the second floor door, and sees several dozen Aboriginal captives locked in cages. The stench of refuse and bodily waste is nauseating, but he enters anyway, using Ronnie as a translator. The natives are terrified, pressing to the backs of the cages, but Chad almost immediately spots a pregnant woman nearly at the brink of birth. She's in late labor, huffing and puffing on the iron grid, and Chad doesn't like the sound of that. Bad things tend to come out of the wombs of captives; Hyapatia Masters in Kenya being a prime example. He nearly shoots her dead right there, but Ronnie talks him out of it. They try to open the cage doors, even wedging a crowbar in, but the doors are strangely sealed; there's not even a proper lock. In a moment of inspiration, Chad wonders if they are magnetically closed...

Hans warns everyone that there are barrels about to explode on the ground floor, so if they're going to rescue the prisoners and search the 3rd floor, they better get it done. The group clambers to the top landing, and very, very carefully, Chad peeks in, shotgun readied to blast the head off anything that moves, especially a madman of Nyarlathotep named Dr. Robert Huston.

Inside is a living area replete with a cluttered desk, a leather swivel chair, a mound of gear and equipment, bookshelves piled high with antiquated scrolls, a kitchenette, a rumpled sleeping cot, and a shortwave radio in the corner. There's no sign of a living soul. They begin rummaging through the room as fast as they can. Hans spots a strange metal helmet on the table with electrodes sticking out, as well as a copper bowl with Mythos runes. Both are confiscated. Lester finds in the desk a heavy handwritten manuscript entitled "GODS OF REALITY" that weighs in at a hefty 600 pages. He takes it, and Chad finds hanging on the wall above the shortwave radio a strange electronic device on a leather thong.

Intrigued, he rushes down the ramp with the device and sprints into the cage room. Sure enough, the mechanism sends a mild electric charge through the magnetic locks and unseals them. Unfortunately, at about the same time, he hears a horrifying baby squeal, and sees a putrid trail of greenish blood and slime leading from the loins of the mother. Something unwholesome indeed has sprouted from her, groping toward the bars with a wobbly head full of needle teeth, barely able to move on emaciated stubby legs. Chad dispatches it with a well-placed shotgun blast and splatters demon-baby all over the prisoners in the cage.

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Free now, but unable to escape down the ramp due to burning timber and smoke, they notice for the first time a knotted rope on the back of the building. One by one everyone begins slithering down until they reach the back of the complex, which is shrouded in darkness. But Chad can't stand to leave the gasoline barrels!

Against his better judgment, he orders everyone to get the hell away from the house, and he primes a single stick of dynamite against the outer wall. If placed just right, it will destroy the wall and allow him to roll a drum of gasoline out before it explodes. And as luck would have it, the wall ruptures just as needed and the barrels are still intact, although dangerously close to the flames. Chad and Ronnie manage to get one out and they collapse to the dusty stone outside only seconds before the entire headquarters erupts into a plume of flame like a Roman candle, raining burning debris down on their heads.

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Surrounded by soot and hot ash, trembling prisoners, the crackle of flames and splintering wood, the investigators huddle in the dust and the dark, their faces bathed in red, wondering what to do next.

And there we stopped.


P.S.

"GODS OF REALITY"

Monday, April 21st, 1923

Madness is the mark of the gods, the response to the whisper of ancient secrets, and the unseen hand that turns the world in its disordered course. With it, I have peered beyond mere dream and pattern, beyond childhood impetuosity and adult grief, beyond the analysis of which other men are capable. Accepting madness, I accept the gods and rule well with their gifts thereby…
 
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Nebulous

Legend
Adventure #30: Kakakatak

The headquarters of Dr. Robert Huston smolders on the ground. The investigators, dirty and tired, try to calm the fifteen frightened Aboriginal prisoners they've rescued. The prisoners are weak and injured, undernourished and some beyond or near insanity. They will be a burden to the party, so they decide to return to the Purple Plaza Dome and fortify there. Hopefully the Living Winds won't penetrate the electrified field within. Hopefully.

However, just as the group is nearing the dome, bright flashlights spill out of the entryway! Guns are raised, but they soon recognize their Chinese friend Chin Chang.

[GM Note: welcoming Dave back from a multi-session hiatus; read the recaps Dave, they help! NEW NOTE: Dave never read single email or recap] Chang seems sober for the moment, and somewhat befuddled from the bizarre circumstances. Apparently, as he relates to everyone else, the Tall Man returned to their camp outside of the Singing Stone, where he and David Dodge were awaiting their return. The Tall Man made it explicitly clear that the others needed Chang's help, so against his better judgment, he followed into the stone wall, plunging down into the cyclopean depths of this horrible place where the wind always seems to blow...

The weary prisoners huddle together, but the investigators don't have time to rest. Huston is out there somewhere, most likely aware of their presence, and planning his own malicious counterattack. David Dodge and three of his Abo assistants stay with the prisoners, while the others scout the remains of the destroyed headquarters. Ronnie Talltree is able to pick up a faint trail of footprints in the dust. He follows them with a hunter's intuition, leading the group under the trail of dim bulbs and power cables that stretch into inky blackness. This is the same route that the Shriveling spell casters first marched along, so the group is wary about meeting anyone. They've only killed about thirty cultists, so many more lurk here, most likely at the bunkhouse near the entrance.

Wherever that is.

Two miles later of nothing but dark and dust, the trail diverges. The second trail has no power cables snaking down the incline, but Ronnie's keen ears notice the distant echo of a mining pick. Nor do Huston's footsteps (assuming they ARE Huston's footsteps) deviate to the secondary trail, but they decide to investigate anyway. A short while later they find mining carts filled with rubble, broken picks and shovels, and curiously enough, an arc light illuminating a single Caucasian miner in a red sweater and mining cap, chipping away at a rock wall.

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He does not respond to their greeting, and they instantly suspect that this is yet another zombified miner. Chad risks getting close enough to inspect the man while the others keep their guns ready, and sure enough he finds odd burn marks on his scalp. Burn marks that correspond exactly with the electrodes on the helmet they scavenged from Huston's office. They leave him to his work, he seems harmless enough, and inspect the area for anything worthwhile. Hans finds two sticks of dynamite, but Chang thinks they might be more dangerous than normal because of aging nitroglycerin.

They return to the footprints and press onward into ever-encroaching darkness. Half and hour later the trail splits again, but with two interesting options: A dim red glow in the distance, and nearby, the dusty stone turns into a metal walkway. They follow the metal ramp, which segues into a steel plated tunnel, that soon opens into a thirty by thirty foot room replete with an astounding amount of electrical equipment. There are spare parts for motors, drills, engines, and other items that defy description. Many of the goods look terrestrial, but some is unearthly origins, with slick surfaces that defy known substances or utility.

Chad find an exit tunnel and scouts ahead. There's a second room, this one housing a bizarre black terminal that rises up through the floor and into the ceiling. It is covered with knobs and buttons, and one whole side is removed, revealing red, green and blue wires. There is a metal cot anchored to the wall, with a helmet hanging over it. They inspect the room carefully, but it eludes their understanding. There's yet another exit, and this time Chad finds a rectangular doorway that leads into a very dark room, but Chad doesn't step through. There's a closed fuse box to the right. His eyes fortunately drift to the tiny centimeter-wide holes that line both sides of the metal entrance. Lugging back a piece of dilapidated machinery from another room, he tosses it in the chamber. Sparks fly! The machinery has bounced off an invisible electric forcefield.

Chad busies himself with the faceplate on the wall after Chang bypasses the lock. He thinks he can reroute the power supply and perhaps deactivate it, but after fiddling around for a moment with the circuit board, everyone hears the distinct sound of radio interference from the first chamber. They backtrack, and find that Chad has rerouted power into a buried shortwave radio. Hans adjusts the dials, trying to zero in on the chatter, and then they clearly hear someone say: "Wycroft? Where are you? Wycroft?"

This is perhaps referring to Mortimer Wycroft, the strange owner of the Outfitter in Cuncudgerie where the investigators originally purchased their supplies. And in a revelation of certainty, Hans Hazzenbaum identifies the voice as Dr. Huston! (GM Note: Hans first encountered Huston several years ago when Huston stole archaeological evidence of the City of the Great Race from him). Hans' ire is raised, but they switch the radio off. There is the forcefield to investigate first. Chad throws another piece of equipment inside, and sure enough, the field is down. Gingerly, he steps in, shining the flashlight into the corners of an octagonal metal room...

...when something moves.

It is large and misshapen, rising from the shadows behind a black glass orb on a pedestal. A sinewy neck balances a bulbous head with three eyes, and Chad is too shocked to fire his shotgun. (i.e. lost initiative). Psychic waves instantly pound against Chad's skull, and he hears an alien voice inside his mind:

"GOOD. THE FORCEFIELD IS DOWN."

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The creature slithers forward, but Chad reacts in a split second. He leaps out the door and yanks the clamps from the circuit board.

"NO! RELEASE ME!"

The group scurries back from the door, but the creature doesn't pass the threshold. It carries an odd board in its claws, not unlike a synthesizer, and when Lester sees the creature he immediately recognizes it! His dreams rush back to him with alarming clarity, and pieces of a life from long ago stream into his consciousness. This is the lifeform he switched consciousness with, maybe not this exact creature, but the species in general. Lester is too stunned to ask any questions though.

[GM Note: because Jeff had to leave! I hope the second half of this recap doesn't confuse you too much]

The being continues communicating telepathically with Chad Slambody, while the others watch a very curious one-sided conversation as Chad argues back. The investigators naturally don't trust this large alien, and from what they've experienced in the City, everything down here is lethal. The being, identifying itself as Kakakatak, is a Yithian, a species that existed on Earth over 100,000 years ago. It politely, and insistently, asks for help.

The one called Huston-Robert has imprisoned it here by terrible magic, a Time Trap spell that yanked the Yithian through time. And naturally, the investigators make it clear that Huston is a "dick", that they HATE Huston, and reiterate that he is a "big dick". Kakakatak seems to sympathize with their anger (and learns several colorful curse words).

The group is still confused as Chad tries to relate the details, and Kakakatak tries to penetrate Hans' mind instead, but the anthropologist rejects the attempt. Stammering through the conversation, the group slowly learns that the Yithians were forced to flee Australia 100,000 years ago because of the Flying Polyps, also known as the Living Wind. The polyps were from a distant galaxy, and at one point actually conquered three planets in this solar system. The Yithians developed lightning guns to control the polyps, and finally locked them in deep, deep vaults. But the polyps escaped eventually, and this time the Great Race of Yith were nearly destroyed. So, to survive, they propelled their consciousness hundreds of thousands of years into the future into new bodies.

It is a complicated explanation that Kakakatak reveals, and it states several times in its roundabout way that the humans are not smart enough to fully comprehend. [Least of all Chad Slambody, already teetering on the edge of rampant necrophilia]

The group wants to know why they should help it at all, and Kakakatak says that he knows much about Huston's plans, including a powerful "device" at a hidden place Gray Dragon Island. This leads to the question of "why did Huston cast the spell in the first place?": Kakakatak explains that Huston desires to learn the secret of Time Travel and propel himself forward to 1926, just prior to the opening of the Great Gate and the End of the World! He is an impatient megalomaniac who has frayed the fabric of time and space with his meddling. The Yithian does not know how much damage Huston has actually inflicted.

Huston (who was originally Roger Carlyle's Freudian psychologist from New York, remember?) intended to torture secrets from Kakakatak, and has performed that job admirably, but Huston's magic has not fully succeeded yet. Furthermore, Huston has been taking pains to shield his mind from Kakakatak with Rituals of the Hexagram and Pentagram, and wearing special Mind Helmets.

The Yithian wants to bargain for his freedom with valuable information, and also offers the secret of returning life to the undead miners. They not actually dead, just vegetable-like and subservient. They are the workers who Huston (under the pseudonym "John Carver") originally hired to dig into the City. None ever made it home. The forcefield is temporarily dropped and the Mind Controller Helmet is given to Kakatak to work on.

Hans, Ronnie and Lester retrieve the miner they recently discovered, and find out that he follows simple orders. This IMMEDIATELY becomes a meta-game issue because the party has found a new, controllable Gas Camel! Even the Yithian is disgusted by the investigator's callous disregard for their own species. Ultimately though, it is decided to be unethical and cruel to strap a can of gas to this poor Aussie, so soon enough, after the modified helmet is attached, the man's memories and personality are returned.

He is very confused and in shock, and remembers nothing before being in the desert working for John Carver (i.e. Huston). And as a perk for their good deed, all investigators received 1 Sanity point. [making them regret the other 5 potential Sanity points they shot, electrocuted or burned previously]

One last question they ask, "What will you do if freed?" Kakakatak says that his only hope is to reverse the Time Trap spell, perhaps by finding an intact Library. The investigators have already salvaged dozens of scrolls and several books from the headquarters, so perhaps the key lies there. The Yithian is pleased to hear this, although he does not seem concerned about the potential fate of the world. Something about "there are many timelines."

The party feels that they can trust the Yithian now, so Kakakatak is released. He undulates by on a large gastropod "foot," and says that he might need help traversing parts of the City. Over the past 100,000 years it has fallen into terrible disrepair. The group heads out into the dust and dark, angling down, moving debris when needed, and some time later the Yithian stops and activates a powerful beam of light from a wall. Arching buttresses and towering columns are revealed, (which looked nothing at all like the Mines of Moria, nope nope nope) and then he opens a secret door into a chamber. Everyone crowds in and the door seals.

moria2.jpg


They are in a safe place, he tells them, where they can rest, free from harm if the Living Wind should come. A spare Lightning Gun is given to Chang. Supplies are very low, but the investigators agree that they need to bring the fifteen Aboriginal prisoners here from the Purple Dome. There was originally enough food in the headquarters to feed and water everyone, but it is burned down now, so there are very few supplies to share. The whole group (PC's and NPC's alike) must escape or they will eventually perish from hunger and thirst, and Kakatak says that Yithian food is incompatible with human physiology.

They all agree to rest here for a day, despite knowing that Huston is out there planning and scheming. They're just too weak and injured to risk a full confrontation. While resting in the hidden alcove, Kakakatak slips into a deep meditative trance, and Hans Hazzenbaum pores over "Gods of Reality," Dr. Huston's handwritten journal. Some of the conclusions come as a Sanity blasting shock to Hans, but he gleans not only impressive knowledge about the Mythos, but Man's position and the plans of Nyarlathotep in the near future.

Journal Details: (non-sequential, and tailored specifically to our campaign)

1. Huston is obviously a madman who regards most of humanity as insects beneath his boot. He aspires to become a true god and lord over the Earth. Chunks of the journal are written in code or shorthand.

2. There are three holy sites required for completion of the "Great Work." One is in Kenya (Mountain of the Black Wind), Australia (City of the Great Race) and China (Gray Dragon Island). A ritual is to be performed simultaneously on Greenwich Time during the full eclipse on January 14 1926. It is Huston's holy duty to perform his 1/3 of the operation.

3. A powerful Device is being built in China, the likes of which no one has ever seen. It will aid in tearing the veil between the worlds and ushering in a new era of destruction and chaos when the Great Old Ones will once again inhabit the planet. (and as Old Bundari saw in a prophetic dream-vision, "The Dead Shall Walk the Earth."

4. Someone known only as "H.F." is referred to again and again in China, in conjunction with the Order of the Bloated Woman.

5. The Purple Dome plaza is a storage device for power and life energy. They have been conducting death rituals to amass energy for the Great Work. Kakakatak knows more about this Dome. It is very old.

6. The journal mentions pulling the Yithian through time in order to learn secrets from him. It was a horrible spell and difficult to cast. The Yithian is resisting his torture and probes, but Huston knows he can break it eventually.

7. Huston has been casting experimental Chaos Magick to bend the fabric of Time. There have been some unexpected side effects in the caves. He mentions a Red Plaza and a "two-legged deer", possibly Johnny Bigbush.

8. Huston talks about how impatient he is and can not sit and wait for the eclipse. He wants to propel himself forward.

9. One of the cultists of Sand Bat, a fool named "JOHNNY BIGBUSH" tried to separate himself from the order recently. Angered, Huston used him in an experiment, but the spell got out of hand. Johnny is alive and being protected by the dogs. Huston doesn't understand what happened and is annoyed. This is the same man that Chad briefly worked with at Randolph Shipping.

10. Someone named Gavigan, whom Huston thought was dead or imprisoned, is said to be helping H.F. with a delicate matter.

11. Toddy Randolph of Randolph Shipping in Port Hedland is a fat, corpulent fool who demands too much for his services. Huston is thinking about silencing him.

12. The Mind Controller helmet works well enough, but takes far too long to implement. He wants to refine the process.

13. Huston is highly suspicious of the Yithian and fears that it is reading his mind. Huston performs lengthy ceremonies and rituals to shield himself, as well as wearing special helmets while interrogating Kakakatak. "The beast MUST reveal its secrets!"

14. Nitcrosis the Mummy was supposed to Queen and Warden of the Western Hemisphere. She was a lover to the Black Pharoah. Her demise was unfortunate, but not critical. Besides, it would have been a catfight between her and M'Weru ruling on the same continent.

15. There are those who would wreck and sabotage the Great Work, and they have been active in London, Egypt and Kenya, inflicting terrible damage to the plans. Huston is worried, but ultimately convinced that Nyarlathotep will crush them.

16. He mentions demons impregnating several Koori prisoners during Sand Bat rituals, but the births always stagnate and die or grow into deformed monstrosities. Still, he cannot bear to rid himself of Nyarlathotep's progeny. He keeps them. Somewhere...

17. Roger Carlyle disappeared in Kenya around the same time Jack "Brass" Brady did. No one has ever seen them again. Brady was an ignorant idiot too weak to assist Nyarlathotep, Huston thinks. "His mother did not love him, obviously."

18. Mentions several times of a "Dark Mistress" in Shanghai.

19. Huston was present in Kenya at the Mountain of the Black Wind several months ago, and achieved orgasm while watching some meddlesome priest of God get devoured by giant rats... (eeewwwwww!) [GM Note: and that's not from the book, just me being gross:)]

20. ?
 

Nebulous

Legend
Adventure #31: Out of Time


The investigators (a.k.a. the homicidal arsonists) have rescued Kakakatak, intellectual member of the Yithian race, from the clutches of Dr. Robert Huston, priest of Nyarlathotep and former NY psychoanalyst for millionaire Roger Carlyle. Now, huddled together with the Aboriginal prisoners, they rest in the secret room that Kakakatak opened for them. Huston's journal unveils many, many clues regarding his state of mind, and the purpose of the idols and altars in the City. It most importantly reveals that a terrible machine is being built in China near Shanghai that will help usher in the doom of the world on January 14th, 1926. Each of the holy sites in Kenya, Australia, and China will funnel energy into the ritual, although the investigators have inflicted massive damage upon the Purple Dome by dynamiting the Sand Bat altars. They wonder, Has that been enough to disrupt the Great Work? Can they stop the ritual at all from here? Perhaps. They just don't know.

Huston's trail has undoubtedly grown cold, so the investigators don't worry about trying to catch up with him. Their food and water supplies are low, and the Aboriginal slaves need nourishment. In the meantime, Kakakatak wants to find a hidden library so he can hopefully reverse the Time Trap spell. To assist him, two Abos are volunteered (much to their chagrin!), and the Yithian's claws gently clack around their trembling shoulders. Kakakatak wishes the investigators well with telepathic sympathy, and perhaps they will meet again in a different time and/or place. When questioned directly by Hans Hazzenbaum about the future of Earth, the Yithian does not seem concerned, and the PC's ponder the pernicious unpredictability of time travel (and whatever Back to the Future II taught them; "You should watch it Kak! You might learn something useful!").

With a particularly good idea, Hans asks if Kakakatak can imprint him with a mental image of how the city looked in the past. The Yithian complies, placing those intimidating claws on Han's head, and tingling warmth buzzes through his brain. An hour later the German anthropologist has acquired vivid memories of the Great City in its prime: vaulting ceilings of incredible splendor; crystal halls and exquisite architecture on a scale larger than anything ever seen before. The city resided mostly on the surface, but has long since fallen to disrepair. Only the labyrinthine under-vaults exist now, but these have been subjected to massive damage from shifting tectonic plates and the cyclonic fury of the polyps.

He has a rough idea of where the original gravity-lift pads were located, but Hans comes away with the impression that the Yithian, while benign enough, considers the humans an inferior species. Kakakatak soon slithers out of the secret chamber on its large gastropod foot, the Abos with him flinging back fearful glimpses until the darkness swallows them all.

The party decides to leave their safe little hole, bringing the prisoners along, and find the exit. And if there are as many Sand Bat cultists lurking around as they think there are, it won't be easy. An hour later they have reached the junction where they first rescued Kakakatak. In the distance looms an indistinct red haze, the path and lightbulbs stretching that general direction. Chad feels that he should conduct some nude reconnaissance, so he scampers ahead into the dark. Several hundred feet away is a massive, flat circular dais raised a few inches off the floor. The red light seems to come from the air itself, but is bright enough to negate any shadows. Rubble litters the dais, but the figure sitting at the center is what bothers Chad:

A hundred yards distant squats a black man with a dingo beside him.

dingo.jpg


Chad gets the others, and after conferring quietly, Chad, Ronnie and Hans advance into the stone circle, leaving behind Chang (note that David was absent this session, with some interesting side effects for his character), David Dodge, and the fifteen rescued prisoners. There is a discernible "pop" in air pressure as they step up onto the massive round dais, a sensation in their skulls that doesn't quite dissipate. The red light suffuses everything, and looking up, the ceiling appears murky and insubstantial, almost like clouds or mist. There is even a rumble of thunder, and the stone floor slightly vibrates.

The man can clearly see them approaching. There's no good place to hide, they're mostly out in the open, so they quickly ready actions to fire off a shot at either the dog or the man if anything "unpleasant" happens. The dog in particular worries them.

When a few hundred feet onto the dais, the group spots another dingo leap to a rocky pile, and then leap off -- and vanish! It blinks out of sight, completely unnerving everyone. The three investigators finally reach speaking distance with the Aboriginal, and Chad asks him: "What are you doing here?"

The old man is in his forties or fifties with gnarled skin like bark and a mop of tangled black hair. The dingo sits quietly between his legs, peering intently at Chad, Ronnie and Hans. He answers in English, "Too scared to leave, but my friends keep me safe," the accent thick, his voice quiet and dry. "Huston does not come here anymore. Evil, evil man." The group confirms that they hate Huston too, and he is about to answer more when far in the distance, Lester, David Dodge and the other rescued prisoners see several more dogs suddenly appear behind their companions!

Hans catches sight of the dog from the corner of his eye, but his reaction is too slow. The dog leaps forward before Hans can swivel...but the dog only begins licking his hand! The other dogs seem equally affectionate, and the group slowly lower than rifles and shotguns. They motion for Lester to run up. He crosses, his ears popping too, wading into the thick red light and the increasing gusts of wind. Swirling clouds are now concentrating counter-clockwise above them. They continue questioning the old man, asking him why he sits here, and most importantly if he knows the way out of this horrible place. Chad Slambody suspects this is Johnny Bigbush from Huston's notes, and Johnny confirms this. But Johnny looks a world of difference from their last contact a few weeks ago at the Randolph Shipping Company (JB was a dock worker who was fired in Recap # 17). The man sitting here is easily thirty years older than how Chad remembers him, but he can distinctly see the resemblance.

Johnny goes on to say how he felt horrible for the crimes he had committed; murder and rape and other atrocities, all for the glory of Huston's dark god, the Sand Bat. Johnny even sacrificed some of his own cousins, bashing their brains in with bat teeth clubs. His sins were insurmountable, and Johnny had gone to Huston to tell him he could no longer be part of his organization. Johnny suspected that he would die, and wanted to in many ways, and Huston indeed tried. Johnny was rounded up with other prisoners and subjected to a spell here in the Red Plaza, indeed, the very place where Kakakatak was pulled through Time itself. But Huston's manipulation of the fabric of time and space have caused grave fluctuations with unintended side effects. Time is warped in the Red Plaza, bending to the whim of storms that sweep across it. Huston barely escaped with his life, and Johnny would have died too, rotted away to dust and bone (and the investigators now see piles of dust, skull fragments and dessicated ribs scattered about)

...if not for the dogs.

These strange dingoes appeared out of nowhere, surrounding him, yipping and yapping and licking him, their presence protecting him from the storm...and from the /others /that appeared. Chad and Hans question him further about these "others", but quickly, for the unnatural weather has begun to terrify them, and Lester regrets running out onto the dais in the first place!

"The hounds of mist," Johnny whispers. "They come from the corners. The air itself. They are Chasers. Hunters. Devourers. And they are coming...now."

The party gives Johnny a cursory invitation to leave with them, but he is too scared to leave. He has no hunger here, no thirst, no wants or worries. Perhaps he can forget his sins, and so long as his friends stay, he feels safe. So leaving Johnny Bigbush to his fate, whatever that may be, the group rushes off, three yellow dingoes yipping and barking around them. David Dodge and the prisoners are a hundred yards away outside the plaza, but the wind has kicked up red dust storms and they are soon completely obscured. Pressure builds in everyone's heads, staggering them from the sudden onset, and even Chad Slambody is thrown to his knees. A horrible sensation ripples over them and Chad looks at his hands, seeing them wrinkle and crease, age spots spattering his perfectly toned skin. The muscles of his face and biceps sag, and to the shock of the others, Chad has physically aged nearly 10 years in a matter of seconds! I'll need double the toning oil, no doubt about that, he muses.

Lester, Hans and Ronnie also writhe under the magic, aging as well, but the dingoes stay close, trying to stay in physical contact with the humans. But their problems are only worsening. Even a minute later they still have not reached the edge of the plateau. Red dust envelopes them on all sides, and the howl of places that stretch deep and dark and maliciously into unknown spaces between the stars. Large shadows begin flitting in and out of sight, great hulking shapes much larger than a man, bestial and feral. The blink-dingoes snarl and yap, scanning all directions. Weapons are ready, even a lightning gun is unpacked, and none too soon for a black shape appears out of nowhere!

hound.jpg


Shotgun pellets explode over the beast and then it launches at them, a creature of horrible canine jaws that distend like a snake's maw. It flies toward them, literally, but a dingo intercepts and the duo tumble to the ground, snarling and biting. More shotgun blasts are leveled at the abomination, and soon it is splattered to oblivion and melts into a puddle of blue goo. More shadows encircle the party and within seconds they realize they've been surrounded by what Lester suspects are called Hounds of Tindalos, creatures that prey upon anyone traversing the Timeline. Their concentration here must be testament to just how much chaos Huston has inflicted.

Blinking spontaneously onto the backs of the Hounds, the dingoes tear into them with their teeth. But the Hounds are larger and stronger, and their wounds begin to heal even as they are created. The investigators linger for a moment to help the dingoes, but then decide that this might be the best opportunity to flee; if the rampant aging process does not kill them soon, the Hounds will with overwhelming numbers. Limping on muscles that are suddenly tight, joints that creak and grind, Lester, Chad, Hans and Ronnie keep trudging through the swirling red murk, hoping they're going the right direction and not just wandering deeper into some metaphysical hell.

The sound of combat eventually fades behind them, the opaque redness thins, and the group finally stumbles off the shallow dais into the familiar, bleak underground halls. They are uninjured, save for some ability point damage Chad sustained from his aging. A single dingo remains with them, standing on the path that actually circumvents the red dais. Behind, the crimson murk is still thick, and Johnny Bigbush cannot be seen. However, their friends Chang and David Dodge and the Aboriginal prisoners they had left outside the dais are GONE. The group is dismayed by this turn of events, but Ronnie is unable to find their tracks in the confusing mishmash of prints. It is almost like they vanished. Hans takes an immediate liking to the dog, and is pleased to see that it remains with them, trotting ahead and occasionally vanishing and reappearing nearby in its peculiar fashion. Lester surmises that it must be some sort of evolutionary offshoot of the hounds, and that they are bitter enemies.

Using Kakakatak's mental imprint, Hans guesses the direction the exit might lead, and fortunately there is a trail of dim bulbs winking down into darkness that leads roughly the same direction. An hour later they reach a junction where another gasoline generator sputters, and have two choices: a dim blue glow to the left, or the possible exit from these deadly caves to the right. There is still no sign of their lost companions, and after a brief delay, they decide that getting out should be their chief priority. They are still wounded and in need of rest, food and water.

A short while later they see more lights in the distance and the outline of several small bunkhouses. A few humanoid shapes mill about in the gloom, so Chad slithers ahead "nude incognito" (so covered in congealed dust and sweat that's he's barely recognizable as human) and scouts it out. The walls of the cavern close in at this place to form a natural chokepoint, and there are several one-story structures erected. Beyond them, a wide stairway ascends. Chad sees about four or five cultist sentries, but they don't seem particularly alert. Regrouping with the others, they all move up and plan their course of action: dynamite surprise, and mow down anyone who survives. It is a tactic that has always worked well.

The plan nearly fails off the bat when Chad fumbles the thrown dynamite, but he is able to miraculously PUNT the explosive back into the settlement. The initial relief of not being blown up is undermined by the dynamite being poorly placed; it only kills one man, but then everyone with a shotgun or rifle unleashes immediately. The noise dislodges THOUSANDS upon thousands of bats that swoop down out of the cave and up the stairwell, a great cacophony of shrill madness. The cultists are unprepared for a sneak attack and the investigators drop them one at a time, blasting heads apart with bloody aplomb. But twelve more enemies swarm out from the buildings and streak toward them, screaming and waving their clubs, but the investigators kill most before they can make contact. Hans even pounds a bullet through two foes at once! Even as the last of them get within melee range, Lester takes down four with a well-placed lightning-gun burst.

Within thirty seconds of the initial attack handfuls of dead cultists litter the ground, but the investigators are well aware of the danger noise brings:

Flying polyps.

polyp.jpg


Already they hear the distant crooning and wailing of the incorporeal demons, so they tear through the bunkhouses for any clues or food, and do find cans of beans and tins of water. They rush up the stairs, slipping on wet white bat guano, their breath heaving in their lungs as the blackness gradually shifts to lighter shades of gray. Daylight lurks in the alcoves several hundred feet above, and just when they're at the top they see the outline of two more cultists, rifles aimed down at them.

"The wind is coming!" screams Hans. "The wind is coming!" This (true) threat is enough to convince the guards to flee, and moments later Hans, Lester, Chad and Ronnie burst up the steps into a canvas tent. Sandbags, barrels of gasoline and a churning power generator are here too. Just outside the large tent are two Dahmler diesel trucks. Beyond that, four cultists are fleeing for the hills, and behind, down in those deep, black, black cyclopean depths, gusts of wind push up the stairs, followed by horrible gurgling and slavering.

Fortunately, one truck has keys in the ignition, so they toss all of their stolen supplies in the back (including the blink dingo!), clamber aboard, and Chad mashes the pedal to the metal. The truck trundles ahead into the fierce Australian afternoon while Lester and Hans peel back the canvas and watch the tent. Sand is swirling around in violent eddies from the enclosed stairwell, but then the truck swerves around a bend and the entrance to the City of the Great Race is blissfully lost from sight.....................

They travel for a short while, not sure of where to go or what to do. David Dodge and their friend Chang are still missing, probably lost or captured (or dead!) down in that black pit. But there's not much they can do, not yet. They decide to rest in the shade for several hours, gain some strength back, and then return later and see what happened. Time passes, and when ready, they return in the truck and find considerable damage done to the area. They confer among themselves and decide, at the VERY LEAST, they can go down the steps again and search the bunkhouses. They briefly consider returning to the blue glow they saw at the last junction, but the threat is just too great. They are fortunate to be alive, and fortunate to have found so little resistance at the exit. Nowhere did they encounter the fifty or sixty cultists that they originally expected. But the bunkhouses have been destroyed. Utterly. A flying polyp has swirled among them, smashed everything and consumed the corpses of everyone. There is nothing left to do, and too much of the city to explore (approximately 24 square miles) to find their missing companions. Robert Huston is still at large somewhere, and the Sanity and Stamina of everyone is dwindling.

With heavy hearts and feet they clamber back into the truck, and using the original map from David Dodge, Ronnie Talltree navigates them back toward Cuncudgerie. The weather is unseasonably hot, and the mysterious Singing Stone slides by in the afternoon haze two days later, where the Tall Man first approached them (and whom the investigators would still gladly riddle full of bullets!), followed by signs for Dingo Falls and the eerie abode of the Slatterly Clan, and two days after that, after suffering multiple popped tires and overheated radiator trouble, the group lumbers into Cuncudgerie just after dark.

works.jpg


But fireworks greet them. Nothing too flashy, but neither Hans or Ronnie know what the celebration is for, and they're both locals. The streets are filled with people tipping their mugs and bumbling about half-drunk, watching with feverish smiles the starburst of colored lights in the night sky above. When asking what the event is, Hans is harshly answered:

"Where ya been, living in a hole? It's New Years Eve, moron. Tomorrower is January 1st, 1926!"

And with awful dread, the investigators realize their predicament. At least four months have lapsed in the caves, not just the few days they thought. Chang and Dodge did not vanish -- Lester, Hans, Chad and Ronnie did! Their friends must have given up hope and wandered away, and this explains why the exit was so woefully unprotected--from the cultist's point of view, the party had been gone for many months and were probably assumed to be dead or have escaped. Huston has had four months to mop up the damage, rebuild, refortify, and according to the clues, a ceremony takes place on Gray Dragon Island in just fourteen short days, a ceremony that will tear a rift in the cosmos and the world will meet a fate worse than death. Can they still strike at the beating heart of Nyarlathotep's organization? Do they go back? Do they continue?

Somewhere in Shangai the Order of the Bloated Woman is making final touches to the plan, and the ragged investigators don't know if they have time to stop it.
 
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Nebulous

Legend
Adventure #32: Mr. Chang's Miraculous Escape

PART 1: Chang's Story



Fireworks explode over Cuncudgerie, bathing the investigators in bursts of colored light. It is New Years Eve, 1926, and they have 14 days until the end of the world when Nyarlathotep's plan comes to fruition. They discuss their options: first and foremost they need a plane, it's the fastest way to get anywhere, but they haven't seen any planes. They're very rare and expensive. They also need to resupply, and Hans figures he might have time to return to his house in Port Hedland where the others can regather their stashed supplies. And they might want to give Mortimer Wycroft a visit, because they know he has worked with Huston and the cultists, and more importantly, he owns a shop with lots of stuff to steal.

Ronnie Talltree, one-time PC relegated to NPC, bids adieu to these whitey weirdos. He's seen enough crazy :):):):) recently to last him a lifetime.

Hans Hazzenbaum looks around for the blink-dingo...but it is nowhere around. Unsurprising; this beast seems to have no normal modes of eating, drinking, or defecation. Hans feels that it is lurking in the corridors between Time, waiting for the vile Hounds of Tindalos to spring again on the victimized time traveler's from Huston's mad schemes...

The others head back to the Oily Rag Inn where they initially stayed many months ago, but WHO do they see sitting at the bar pounding shots of whiskey?

Chin Chang!

Chang slouches on a barstool, deep into his cups, looking far more weathered and downtrodden than ever before. His head has been shaved, but hair is growing back in patchy tufts that he keeps hidden beneath a crumpled felt hat. His expression upon seeing his companions is one of disbelief, then confusion, and then drunken exultation.


“Good Christ, you’re alive!” he slurs.

“Mr. Chad, and Lester, I…I thought I would never see you again! Is this real? What happened to you? The last Dodge and I saw, the four of you had stepped onto that red dais, where the Abo was sitting with some dog. As soon as you started heading back the wind began to blow and clouds of dust spun up. We were afraid it was one of those Living Winds, so we backed off the path and waited, but you never came out. A few minutes later it cleared up, and all we could see was that black fellow sitting out there as if nothing had happened. It was a trap, we knew it, and we called out for you as loud as we dared, waiting hours for you to return. We were scared to go out and vanish just like you did, so we finally gave up and kept going.

We kept going, God help us, trying to find a way out of those caves.

lights.jpg


We followed the trail of bulbs. The prisoners could barely keep up. Moaning and dragging their feet, it was all Dodge and I could do to push them on. We finally saw more lights in the distance, but…but they were waiting for us.

Sixty at least. They’d barricaded themselves behind these small buildings with guards everywhere. But more cultists were hiding off to the sides, in the dark, watching us struggle along the trail. It was the only way out and they knew it. Came at us from both sides.

They killed some of the prisoners first, hacking them down in cold blood, but me and Dodge fought back. I still had that lightning gun, and I burned a dozen of them to a crisp before the rest mobbed me. They beat me and Dodge senseless, and I admit, chunks of my memory aren’t so good anymore. Or maybe I don’t want to remember.

They trussed us up like pigs and carried us off, I don’t know where, and left us in a dark, dark room. They finally threw in scraps of bread and water, and I wondered why they bothered keeping us alive.

Well. I found out.

Huston finally came, and for the first time I put a real face to the man who I’d been searching for since New York City. If only Morty and Arnold knew how far into this mess I’ve come, they would be glad they died already.

huston.jpg


Huston is mad! A loony, you can see it in his eyes. He’s doesn’t have a lick of sense anymore, and he raves on and on and on about gods and destiny and eternal prosperity. Dr. Dodge, now, he didn’t fully understand this whole Dark God business. We never told him all our experiences. Like we never told Oscar Ochenta, or that Dr. Blume in Cairo…the less they know the better, but they died all the same.

All the same.

Huston interrogated us. And it hurt. It hurt bad. And when he thought we were lying, he dragged me to that room where we found that weird alien. There was a cot in there with…with this helmet thing. He strapped me down and plugged me into it. Oh Lord, he wanted to read my mind, to peel me apart one layer at time! For hours it felt like hot needles were poking into my head. They shaved me. I could smell skin burning. I could feel my brain melting in my skull while he rummaged around inside. I never stayed conscious for long; I would pass out, wake up in darkness hours or days later, only to repeat the process!

I tried to resist, I tried my hardest, but he found what he wanted. All my memories, all the way back to when we first found Jackson Elias dead in that hotel room in January.


jackson%20elias.jpg


I can’t even remember all that happened now. He knows where we went, who we talked to. He knows that me, Morty and Arnold got that fellow Gavigan in London arrested. He knows we killed that mummy under the pyramids in Giza; he knows we destroyed the monster in the Black Mountain in Kenya; he knows everything!

And he knows your faces. Every little detail that I could remember he etched into his own mind. I had actually forgotten what you looked like until you stepped into the bar, and then it all started flooding back. This went on for I don’t know how long. Days or weeks or months. Dodge was tortured too, and I could hear his screams. Always screaming. That poor man, he just wanted to find a Lost City. Well, I suppose he got his wish.

dodge2.jpg


But Huston got what he wanted from Dodge, too. He and Hans knew each other professionally, and Huston discovered where Hans lived, in Port Hedland. Huston knew that we had stolen that Golden Machine from the warehouse, and we had stashed it Han’s home! Huston told me all of this, gloating the whole time, the evil bastard. He sent his cronies to retrieve it, and they found that old woman still there, what’s her name, the old biddy in the wheelchair? She’d been looking after Ma’Moud until our return, along with Han’s housemaid.

mamoud.jpg


I think they killed her. I don’t know about the boy, but Huston said they took what they needed and burned the house down. Probably burned our trunks too, I don’t know for sure. The fools were just there for the machine. I guess they had found it in the City and were shipping it off to another cult branch.

Huston wanted to know where you were. And how you escaped. How did we find his hideout? Did we know his plans? Answers I wanted to know myself, but it was like you had just disappeared into thin air. But Huston told me, after he knew that you had vanished in the Red Plaza, he said this, laughing:

‘“Rotted to dust! Even their bones are lost forever. You’re friends did not escape, foolish mortal. The sands of Time consumed them!’”

Anyways, I don’t know how long we were there. It all just blurred together into a haze. One day they tied me and Dodge up and dragged us into the city. We were led along with a bunch of other Aboriginal prisoners just as pathetic and weak as us. They took us to that Purple Dome Plaza, where all those blasted statues were. I think you told me you fellas had dynamited it a long while back. Four or five months ago I guess it was.

Well, it was still in poor shape, but they’d been rebuilding. The big Sand Bat statue was erect again, and they were ready for some bloodletting.

I’d seen this song and dance before and knew our time was up.

Huston was there in full regalia, accompanied by dozens of his servants. They beat prisoners to a pulp with bat-teeth clubs, but they saved the worst for me and Dodge. Huston took Dodge first, hauled him naked and screaming onto the obelisk, chanting those horrible prayers the whole time. I couldn’t bear to watch, but they forced me to, pried my eyes wide apart.

Huston cut his chest open with a stone knife and ripped his beating heart out, holding it up in the electric blue buzz of that dome. Then Huston ate his heart. And then the cultists ate what was left of Dodge.

I was up next, and I admit, I’ve never been so scared in all my life. I would have pissed myself again if there were anything left to piss. They dragged me onto that slick hot slab, and…and…

‘“A worthy foe,”’ I remember him saying. ‘“Your blood will be sweet to my Master. But not even your ignorant meddling can stop the Rending of the Veil.”’

He raised that stone dagger, so I just whispered my last prayers, confident that I had done the best a man can hope to do…

…but then I felt pain in my head and body the likes of which I can barely describe. It’s like every cell in my body was quivering. Huston screamed, and I heard every single one of those boys screaming in pain too. I rolled off the altar, unable to see straight, this sonic shriek so harsh in my head that my teeth rattled in my gums…

…and that’s when I saw it.

That damn alien had come back. It was carrying what looked like a lightning gun, but it had this vibrating funnel on the end, and all kinds of tubes coming out, attached to its back. It slithered slowly across that wide plaza and put a metal circlet around my head, and all of sudden, just like that, the pain stopped.

And then…and then that thing spoke into my mind.

‘“I have failed,”’ it told me. ‘“I can never return. Never to leave this zone. Flee while you can human. Follow the lights south and then west. Do not stop. Do not look back. Find the surface, and enjoy the short time Earth has left. In the sun.
I shall remain here. This device will falter soon, and they will come after you. Do not stop. Do not look back.

I can offer nothing more, except…Remember.”’

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It put an appendage on my face when it said that. Remember. Strange thing to say, huh? Like how could I forget? [
GM Note: Savvy players got my Star Trek 2 reference!]

Anyway, I stumbled out of there without another word, but in retrospect, I wish I had killed the hell out of Huston. But I didn’t. I ran for my life.

I could still feel that big alien in my head even when I was staggering under that long trail of light. Running through a Blue Plaza I could feel his thoughts, even when I was climbing these tall stairs smeared in bat guano. And I could feel his thoughts when knives and clubs pummeled him to death soon afterward, his cries echoing in my brain like a dying voice in a canyon…

That big stupid alien gave itself up to free me, but it wouldn’t raise a finger—or claw—to hurt anyone else. It just didn’t want to be here anymore.

There were no guards at all, everyone was at the ritual. I got a truck running outside. It had some onions and a pouch of warm water in the backseat; that was it. I tore off into the desert, not having a clue where to go, just knowing that I had to get as far away as possible. I heard dim explosions later, and saw a plume of dust far behind me.

I drove for hours. I can barely remember this part, but I ended up driving straight into a ditch and couldn’t get out. I started walking, straight into the night, with just a bag of onions and a thimble of piss-warm water.

I walked for days, not knowing where I was going, expecting any second for someone to slide a stone knife between my ribs, or plant me on a spit and eat me. I started hallucinating. I would see these dingoes sometimes out of the corner of my eye, and sometimes I thought they were real…but sometimes they weren’t.

I even saw that big stone on the hill, and that goddamned Tall Man up there, beckoning me to come closer! Just a little closer…or maybe it was just a dream…

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At some point a bunch of cow herders found me nearly dead out in the middle of nowhere. Snakebit, sunburned, dehydrated, delirious and amnesic, they took me back to Cuncudgerie and patched me up.

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I’ve been here for weeks. I don’t even know how long exactly. I haven’t seen you since August, and I figured without your help, there was nothing to do but wait.

Wait for the end, just like that big alien said. Enjoy these last days we have.
So I can do that, can’t I?

Can’t I?

Are…are we?”
 
Last edited:


Nebulous

Legend
Very, very cool. Just wanted to chime in on how good this storyhour is. Please keep up the great work.

Hey, thanks for the encouragement. I'm going to try and wrap this one up in the next few weeks. The stories are all done, just have to polish it some more. It was one hell of a campaign.
 

Nebulous

Legend
Adventure #31: Mr. Chang's Miraculous Escape

PART TWO: Gavigan!


That's Chang's story, and the companions drink with him in solemn remembrance of Dodge, GiGi, and poor, poor MaMoud, the loyal Egyptian boy who trusted them for many adventures now [they first met him in Episode # 10: Hello, Cairo]. Maybe there's a chance he's alive, and Hans vows to find out (although Hans only met him once). Angry now, and realizing they're even more screwed than before, with barely any belongings left except for what's on their back and about $1000 left over from Ali Kafour, they discuss their options.

Lester Cobblebottom suspects from what he knows about the Mythos, if they can completely :):):):) up one of the 3 holy sites, the ritual can be stopped. The City of the Great Race is nearby,and Huston is alive and dangerous. Lester is not sure though if that plan will work 100%, and they're also aware that a mysterious Terrible Machine is being built in China. Still, The City seems like their best bet, so they ask around about where a plane could be rented, and a few locals point out that Mortimer Wycroft, The Deadfella Man, has been known to call in planes from time to time. They decide to sleep on it, because there is no way they can think of to get a plane tonight.

In the morning they scope out Wycroft's Outrigger, and peeking through windows, can't see anyone inside. But it's a two story building, so he could very well be upstairs. Someone else confirmed that he actually does live here.

The back of the building is shielded from sight, so after hopping a chain gate, they try to enter the back door. The lock isn't hard to pick, but the heavy oak crossbar on the inside is impassable. They try the front door too, risking being seen in broad daylight, but it's still early and the late night revelers are sleeping off hangovers. The front door is similarly barred, so Chad Slambody resorts to the old fashioned entry: bash it down.

They return to the backdoor, and with Chang's help, they start ramming the door. It takes nearly a minute of concentrated effort, woods splintering under their combined weight, and finally the hinges give way. It makes a lot of noise, but not as much as the double-barreled shotgun leveled at them inside! "Get the :):):):) outta here ya thieves!" screams Wycroft, and unloads at Chang. Chang ducks, pellets tearing his arm, but most just rip out chunks of the door. Two black Abos on either side of the door swing machetes (or shortswords!) at Chad, but he deftly knocks their clumsy swings aside. Before Wycroft can shoot again, Chang grapples him, forces the gun down, knees him in the gut, and then throws him to the floor and starts strangling.

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"Wait! We need him to talk!" cries Lester. And then he plants a bullet through the neck of a cultist. Blood squirts betweens the man's fingers and he falls dead. Chang and Wycroft keep wrestling, the latter streaming garbled obscenities, while Chad slashes the throat of the second cultist. He falls atop the corpse of his fallen comrade. Wycroft can't fight back forever, he's outnumbered and they finally subdue him. He's beat up, tied and gagged, and hauled upstairs while Lester and Hans try to barricade the back door, but it is very damaged. Then Lester checks the front window. Crap.

The gun shots have gained attention. There are people in the streets looking cautiously around, a few of them armed. But the Outrigger isn't targeted quite yet, and Chad has the clever idea of sneaking out the back door and firing off pistol shots to lead them away. It's a risky maneuver, and he's gone a long time in a desperate footchase to avoid pursuers or witnesses. In the meantime, Chang, Hans and Morty threaten Mortimer Wycroft. They need a plane, and they need it NOW. Wycroft is uncooperative at first, cursing them, telling them he knows who they are, but the investigators are relentless, and Wycroft finally succumbs (and all the while they passed multiple rolls that someone would come snooping around the Outrigger and see the busted back door)

There's a radio upstairs, and an hour later Wycroft is able to get a chap named Lonnie Magoo on the line. He sounds sleepy and irritated, but the investigators tell Wycroft to tell him that plenty of money is involved. The cargo is 4 passengers, and they need to reach coordinates in the deep desert as soon as possible. TODAY. Lonnie Magoo perks up and says that he can be there in 3 hours, flying down from Port Hedland. The investigators have already decided to return to the City of the Great Race, and using Han's knowledge and Lester's knowledge, map it out as well as possible.

They're gonna kill Huston and blow the Sand Bat to hell once and for all. Or, they can just kick back and rule Cuncudgerie like kings! Nobody is going to argue with the hot end of a lightning gun (they still have three).

Someone comes to the door of the Outrigger and starts knocking, asking for Wycroft. Wycroft says that it's the local constable, but they force Wycroft at gunpoint to answer that he hasn't seen or heard anything. The constable's investigation continues elsewhere. The PC's manage to maneuver their stolen truck around the back of the Outrigger and they start throwing in everything they can find. Wycroft is tied up and gagged and Chang stays behind to guard him. The others drive out to the landing strip.

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An hour later than expected, they see a plane approaching. It bumps to a landing, and out hops a jovial Aussie who introduces himself as "Lonnie Magoo, my services for you!" He has a few simple rules: cash up front, and no questions asked by either party. He doesn't care what they're doing or why, and they shouldn't ask too much about him either. But there's no way the Silver Bullet can carry that much stuff, not with four people in it, so they strip it down to the necessities: guns, extra bullets, one lightning gun, and dynamite stolen from Wycroft. Sparking a fat marijuana joint ("I never fly sober," he tells them) Lonnie takes them out to the coordinates of the City, and by pure luck they are able to find a suitable strip of road nearby used by the trucks at the dig site.

They tell Lonnie to give them a few hours, and they'll pay him extra. He agrees, kicking back and lighting another huge joint. But he doesn't have to wait as long as they anticipated. The entrance to the City has been destroyed. The few trucks are burned out shells. The tents are flattened. They wonder if they have enough dynamite to blast their way back in, but it is probably a quarter mile or more of rock and sand. They even briefly consider finding the Singing Stone and seeing if the Tall Man will let them back in, but that's a long shot and they scrap it. Discouraged, they load back up on the plane and tell Lonnie that they have had a change of plans:

Plan B. They need to reach Shanghai. Fast. And try to stop the Terrible Weapon, whatever the hell it is. No doubt, The Order of the Bloated Woman will make that difficult.

"Bloody Shanghai!" balks Lonnie. "You chaps will have to pay out the arse for that!"

They're low on money, but Lester can get more wired to him. Even better, they make a deal with Lonnie. They show him what the lightning guns can do by discharging a brilliant burst, it's electric glow kindling greed in Lonnie's eyes. "Holy :):):):)! What is that?" Two lightning guns are worth an untold fortune, and the PC's lie and tell him the charges never run out. He accepts the offer, and after packing up what they can at Cundcudgerie, they head north for Port Hedland.

Mortimer Wycroft, the Deadfella Man of Cuncudgerie, is last seen writhing in the back of an abandoned truck, his wild eyes shooting daggers of hate at them...

By January 2nd they've reached Port Hedland where Hans Hazzenbaum tries to put his affairs in order. He has been assumed dead and missing for several months now. There is an insurance settlement that he picks up for his burned down house, and Hans makes inquiries as to what happened. No one knows for sure, but the corpses of two women were found in the ashes. They spend more time asking around if a little Egyptian boy was found, and they eventually hear that yes, one was seen in the vicinity. MaMoud escaped after all. Chad, Lester and Chang are especially relieved to hear this, and Hans goes the extra step to set up a fund and contact information for Ali Kafour at the Cairo Museum. If MaMoud is found by the local authorities, he will have transport back home. If the PC's can stop the ritual, even if they die trying, at least the boy can live the rest of his life in peace. If they DO manage to return, Hans sets some money aside for himself to fall back on.

[GM Note: i particularly enjoyed the "Short Term / High Yield" trust fund joked about during the sequence above]

And then they're off for China, for better or worse, to complete the final leg of a horrible journey. Lonnie Magoo, as an excellent smuggler, has actually transported opium and other illicit cargo to Shanghai a number of times. He gets stoned and tells many stories, and the PCs can't avoid getting stoned in the small compartment and having to listen. It's four days to China, stopping as often as possible to refuel. The load they're carrying is very heavy and requires them to hop to ports across the Indian Ocean. Lonnie gives them the lowdown on the current state of China and Shanghai, and the PC's find that they're about to set foot in a political and social hothouse:

1) The British opened Shanghai to occupation and imports in 1842
2) Population is about 2 million; 20,000 are non-Chinese, mostly Japs
3) All layworkers are Chinese; upper crust management can be other races
4) Economy is in RUINS; even the moderately wealthy can live like kings.
5) 100 different political factions fie for power. Very dangerous!
6) Built on the Yangtze River
7) Tuberculosis is a major problem
8. Walls everywhere; guards everywhere; no one trusts anyone
9) Uniformed Chinese are respectful and courteous; beware anyone else.
10) Post WW1, there are daily riots in the streets. Ties directly to the ruined economy

Lonnie Magoo "My Services for You" is questioned by the investigators as well, although Hans tries to keep his line of inquiry subtle. Hans wants to know in particular if Lonnie knows about Mortimer's association with the Cult of the Sand Bat, and if Lonnie is a cultist or cult associate himself, like Wycroft. But Lonnie keeps a cool (stoned) demeanor and they can't glean any deception from him. He seems to be shooting straight, but the PC's have seen too much to trust anyone. After all, Lonnie IS a ruffian. Lonnie is also asked about several islands, with red herrings thrown in there to confuse the real question: Gray Dragon Island. Lonnie denies hearing about any of them.

Four days after leaving Darwin, they come to a bumpy landing on a hidden strip between to wet rice fields. The air is mild, and they step out into the sun on January 8th 1925. Six days until the ritual is to be completed. Chang can barely remember when this terrible ordeal started on January 15th, 1925. Nearly a year ago...

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Lonnie has proven himself trustworthy, at least for the right price. They ask him about places to stay in close relation to The Stumbling Tiger Bar on Lantern Street, the only solid lead they have in Shanghai. According to a matchbox that Jackson Elias had in New York (which Chang found), Jackson was there snooping around.

All Leads:

1) Stumbling Tiger Bar
2) Jack "Brass" Brady was seen somewhere in Shanghai, and he's their main lead.
3) According to cultist rumor and evidence, Brady is some sort of renegade enemy who can't be found. Only Chang has seen EVERYTHING about Brady and attests to his significance.
4) Someone named H.F. (according to Huston's journal "Gods of Reality") is the leader of the Cult of the Bloated Woman.
5) Bloated Woman is the Chinese branch of Nyarlathotep, although lesser known Masks exist in many other countries.
6) Gray Dragon Island is important, once again, according to Huston's stolen journal.
7) Someone or something named "Dark Mistress" is referred to several times in Huston's journal
8. Although the ledgers are all missing now (burned or stolen from Hans's house in Port Hedland) Chad remembers a clue from China: Ho Fong Imports received cultist items.
9) Ledgers from New York (Ju-Ju House), Gavigan's estate in England, Mombasa, Nairobi, and Australia (in Toddy Randolph's warehouses) all collaborate and prove that these sites were exchanging items.
10) According to Huston's journal, someone named Gavigan in Shanghai is helping H.F. with "a delicate matter." The name Gavigan gives Chang pause.

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Shangai is huge, bustling, manic and...stinking. Roting fish and exhaust fumes waft over the city from the Yangtze River. Walking in from the landing strip, the PC's are soon lost in the bustle and roar of 2 million people and a shattered economy. They navigate to their hotel with Chang's help, who is a Chinese native and speaks the language fluently. Lester Cobblebottom speaks it as well, but it hesitant to make that fact known. He prefers to keep it hidden.

The Stumbling Tiger Bar sits unobtrusively on a dirty corner of Lantern Street. Upon entering, the tavern is a dingy dirty place, emanating twanging music and sour alcohol. It is one room, plastered with years worth of smoke and displaced saliva on brass spittoons. Lester cringes at the many diseases that might spawn in a place such as this. There are about eight people in here, some alone, some sitting in pairs. The bartender is a chubby Chinese man wiping the counter down.

chum.jpg


The investigators saunter up to the bar and order drinks. Chang asks the bartender if he happens to know an American named Brady. The bartender looks around, his face somewhat impassive, and simply says, "Knew man once named Brady. Think he leave Shangai."

Almost imperceptibly, Chang and Chad notice a man at at nearby table lean back in his chair at the mention of "Brady." As if to hear their conversation better. Sniffing, Chang takes his beer and approaches this other man. Hans and Chad don't know what anyone has said yet, but Lester does. Chang is about to ask the Asian man a question, when Chang spots someone at a table further back.

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A man he hasn't seen in nearly a year. Edward Gavigan of the Penhew Foundation! He looks different, grizzled and coarse, certainly not the clean cut and charming socialite from before. Their eyes briefly meet, but Chang doesn't know if Gavigan recognizes him or not. By all odds, Chang should have been dead a long, long time ago. With mixed emotions, Chang stops at the table of the man who leaned back in his chair.

"Help you friend?" the man asks. [GM Note: the picture of this fellow looks suspiciously like the dude from Big Trouble in Little China]

taro.jpg


"You know a guy named Brady?" asks Chang. "Jack Brady? He's American. He's maybe been in this pisshole before."

The man's eyebrows furrow together and he purses his lips. He glances at Lester, Chad and Hans and the bartender. "Perhaps I do. Perhaps I don't," he whispers back. "But this is not the place to ask such questions. Meet me in the alley outside, alone, in fifteen minutes." He tips his hat, finishes his drink, and leaves. Chang returns to the counter where the others are waiting. The bartender is furiously rubbing the counter, eyeballing everyone.

"The other man!" says Chang in a low voice. "I know him! That's Gavigan! From London! Leader of the Black Brotherhood before we screwed them over, and the son of a bitch looked right at me!"




And there we stopped.

P.S. I think you'll level up here: everyone to 8 except Chang, he's 7.
 

Nebulous

Legend
Adventure #32: Jack "Brass" Brady

Part 1: Mayhem in the Streets

Following up on their best lead after leaving Lonnie Magoo and his Silver Bullet, the investigators have dropped questions at the Stumbling Tiger Bar, knowing that Jackson Elias or Jack Brady or both men frequented this place. Chang is hunched at the bar after seeing Mr. Edward Gavigan, who may or may not have identified Chang. It has been a long, long time since they met, nearly a year, and both men look somewhat different. The bartender continues to mop the counter with mechanical strokes, eyeballing everyone. Lester, Hans, and Chad all order drinks, agreeing to follow the plan:

--in a few minutes, Chang will exit and find the Chinese contact in the alley. Supposedly, he knows something about Brady. Of course they don't trust him, so Chad will follow in the shadows in case anything goes wrong. Gavigan continues to sip whiskey in silence, brooding and seemingly oblivious, and Chang soon saunters out of the Stumbling Tiger. There are many narrow, stinking alleys outside, so he's not sure which way to go. He turns left, and sees a man leaning against the wall not far away. Chang approaches him.

"That's close enough," says the man. He holds a hand inside his coat, as if touching a gun. Chang is careful to ready his own pistols. "What is your name? Who do you work for? What do you know about an American named Jack Brady?"

The questions come fast and furious, and Chang stammers out his answers. He isn't here to deceive anyone, but he'll gladly shoot anybody that crosses him. [The murderous Mafia instinct usually overrides the kindly priest instinct]. Chang gives his name, saying that they don't work for anyone at all, they're a private outfit, self-financed, and they know that Jack Brady used to be a member of the Carlyle Expedition out of New York City in 1920. And that Brady had some sort of falling out with the rest of the Carlyle expedition.

"Carlyle? Who? What are you talking about? I can sniff a lie at thirty yards. I'll ask you again, who do you work for? The New Chinese Order? Firm Action? WHO?"

Chang is alone, but suspects that Chad Slambody has his back if this conversation goes sour. Sure enough, Chad has reached the corner and is peeking around. He sees Chang and the contact, but can't quite make out the words (nor does he understand a lick of Chinese). Meanwhile, Edward Gavigan stands, stretches, and goes to the restroom. It's a single room, but Lester and Hans immediately suspect that there might be a window! Lester hasn't unveiled the fact that he can speak and read Chinese, so he continues surveillance inside while Hans trots outside the bar to see if Gavigan is climbing out.

Hans doesn't see any exits, but on the way back a bar patron presses past him in the doorway. The man glares darkly at Hans, and Hans checks his pockets for anything stolen (or dropped off) but seems untouched. The man walks down an adjacent alley and lights a cigarette.

thug.jpg




Back to Chang:

The contact is full of questions, each one loaded with potential threat. Chang doesn't know if this guy is a cultist or a free agent, or how dangerous he is.

"What do you know about a superweapon?" hisses the man. "If you have any information you better reveal it now, for your own good."

Actually, Chang DOES know about a superweapon, but only the sketchiest details. Huston's Australian journal hinted about it several times. "We've heard about a superweapon," says Chang. "Probably at a place called Gray Dragon Island. Do you know where it is?"

The contact furrows his eyebrows. "I know of it. A small dormant volcano in the middle of no--"

Soft clapping interrupts him. Chang and the contact spin around to see Edward Gavigan step out of the shadows behind them. "Ah, Mr. Chang I presume," he says in English. "I thought that was you inside, but wasn't sure. It has indeed been a long, long time since we last met. I cannot thank you enough for my extended stay with Scotland Yard."

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"You're welcome," growls Chang. He unhooks both pistols from their holsters.

"Before you do anything rash, let me offer this word of warning: if you find Jack Brady before we do, give him this message. "Return the Cryptical Books of Hsan to Ho Fong within three days, or Mei-Ling dies a slow, agonizing death at the Seven Gates of Heaven. If we find him first however, it won't matter. Good day, gentleman. We'll meet again."

Gavigan turns and walks down an gloomy alley toward Flower Street. Chang whips his pistols out and pushes past the contact, who looks surprised at the turn of events. "Wait! What are you doing?" he hisses. Chang ignores him a speeds around the corner, intending to finish off Gavigan once and for all! He shouldn't have been so brazen and haughty without ample backup. Gavigan is leisurely strolling away, and Chang doesn't hesitate. BANG! The bullet catches Gavigan in the shoulder. He flinches. Stops. Turns.

"That...was not wise."

BANG!

The second bullet catches him above the heart. Gavigan flinches again, but not the reaction expected from a man shot twice at close range. And Chang does what Chang does best: HE RUNS LIKE HELL! He flees past the Chinese agent, who is yelling: "Don't kill him! We need him!" But Chang is already thinking that killing Gavigan might be harder than anticipated. Chad Slambody doesn't have any qualms about trying though. After the first gunshot, he enters Aggressive Mode, oddly enough fully clothed and ungreased (so far). Chad dashes past the Chinese agent who seems unsure what to do.

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Back in the bar, Lester and Hans hear the gunshots and leap up. Hans gets out first, but Lester is accosted in the entryway by the same man who was smoking the cigarette. He CHARGES Lester, a poisoned sickle raised over his head. He slashes Lester's arm as someone else simultaneously tries to kick Lester's leg out from beneath him. Lester is being attacked by two thugs, even as the bartender leaps over the counter screaming "No fighting here! No fight!"

But Chad is itching for a fight, and he spins around the corner, prepared to pummel Edward Gavigan to death, a man he knows knows only by reputation. But Chad is stopped cold in a VERY painful way.

Waves of energy ripple from Gavigan's outstretched hands as a readied Fist of Yog-Sothoth slams into Chad. He is launched clear off his feet and crushed into the wall behind him, splintering wood and fracturing ribs. Two expended Action Points save him from nearly dying, and Gavigan calmly strolls away, whistling.

Hans and Lester meanwhile are having a tough time with the thugs. The sickle is poisoned, but Lester is able to avoid serious damage. Hans misses several shots and hits a few more, but neither thug is killed. The bartender attacks one with a heavy skillet, screaming "No fighting here!" over and over.

But police whistles are shrieking across the district. They're about to get pinched, and if they go to jail now they'll never get out in time to save the world.

The thugs run, one of them limping with bullets in his shoulder and stomach, but the investigators don't give chase. They reconvene in the alley, Chang and Hans helping Chad walk. The Chinese agent holsters his gun and says: "We'll talk again. Tell me where you're staying. Meet me there in one hour!" They tell and he runs off. Using Chang's ambivalent and questionable knowledge of Shanghai from undetermined past visits, he tries to lead them in a roundabout way back to their hostel. Uniformed policemen are seen in the streets, but the wounded investigators duck into a busy, colorful, frantic street parade. Fireworks are spinning and popping, and they merge as well as they can, picking up a change of clothes from street vendors.

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But their best disguise comes from a Chinese dragon in the parade! They lure a chain of dancers into a dim alley and beat them unconscious, stealing the dragon costume and eventually meandering their way back across town where they ditch the dragon. As he said, the Chinese informant is waiting for them in the shadows near their hostel. They all go upstairs where the questioning continues, Chang still the translator, although the agent knows a smattering of English.

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The man introduces himself as Isoje Taro, COMMANDER Taro, an operative for the Emperor. He won't say much more beyond that. He says that he is aware of a militant group in a warehouse on the docks, on Karo Street. This group, a tangent of the New Chinese Order, might have something to do with Jack Brady and a superweapon. He has had agents stake it out in the past, but could confirm nothing. If Brady is involved, that is well hidden. Agent Taro also says that McChum of the Stumbling Tiger Bar might know where Brady is, which is probably why Gavigan and his goons were also there. Taro isn't sure who Gavigan is, only that he works for the wealthy businessman Ho Fong.

Now, it’s the PC's turn to share. Again, they claim to be freelancers who are interested in Brady and the superweapon, and they have inside knowledge that there is a timeline ticking down. They show him Huston's journal which talks about a weapon, and mentions Gavigan, and the initials "H.F." which could be Ho Fong. Gray Dragon Island is mentioned, but Taro confirms that it is an unclaimed rock in neutral waters, named so because of active steam vents that gives the illusion of a breathing dragon. It would take a day to get there by boat.

They ask Taro what he knows of the Order of the Bloated Woman, but Taro says it's only a myth. As far as he knows, they're up only up against military fanatics, not the supernatural, in which he does not believe.

Isoje Taro departs soon afterward. The investigators still don't trust him, wondering if they're being led into an elaborate setup by the cult. But they have a few new options now:

1) Go find this warehouse where Brady might be
2) Learn more about Gray Dragon Island
3) Pick the bartender's brain, McChum, if he really knows where Brady is or not.

chum.jpg


Lester uses his Chinese language skills to research the island while Chang talks to McChum, and the bartender isn't too pleased to see Chang back so soon. But Chang throws some Mexican silver dollars his direction and McChum quits complaining.

"Look," he says. "Brady saved my life once. I owe him that. I haven't seen him in these parts for months." Chang asks a few more questions about Roger Carlyle and Jackson Elias, but the bartender is elusive and vague. Chang finally leaves a message with him: some friends of Jackson Elias are looking for Brady. If Brady comes here, let him know. McChum shrugs and agrees. In the meantime, Lester is only able to find out that Gray Dragon island is surrounded by deadly reefs, so it will take a skilled boatman or someone familiar with the area to reach it.

They mull over their options as time continues to dwindle, and the end of the world creeps ever nearer…
 

Nebulous

Legend
Adventure #32: Jack “Brass” Brady

Part 2: Kidnapped


And the investigators decide to follow up the next clue: the warehouse for Firm Action.

All that Isoje Taro told them is that these guys are militant anarchists that the Emperor is having watched because they might be building a superweapon. There are many political factions vying for control in China, and everyone seems to have a private army. If Brady is involved with this group, the investigators need to find him.

And then there's that whole business of someone named "Mei Ling" to be killed within three days as the Seven Gates of Heaven if Brady doesn't comply.

They walk down the docks, and it's night now so Chang is getting jumpy. But along the way Hans spots a docked boat in the harbor that gives him pause. There are English letters stenciled on the side: DARK MISTRESS.

The words burn in his brain, but he can't remember where he saw them. He quizzes the others, but they can't remember either. It's not until Hans pulls out his crib sheet of Huston's journal that he sees a small scribbled reference to something called "Dark Mistress in Shanghai." So it's a boat! They are immediately torn between two options: investigate this boat, or try to find Brady. There's even the option of just tossing a few sticks of dynamite aboard and sort the mess out later. There's nothing explosives can't fix.

The boat is dark and possibly unmanned, but they decide to find the warehouse. Later, they might check out the boat in more detail. Within half an hour they've found the street, and there is a heavily boarded warehouse next to a loud, steaming metal foundry. Chad sneaks down an alley, but has just barely turned the corner when he sees guards at the end:

Three of them in front of a padlocked door, all bearing automatic weapons.

Chad slowly steps back into the shadows. He's tough, but three machine guns would cut him to ribbons, and he hasn't recovered from Gavigan's magic spell yet. So the investigators devise a clever plan. [GM Note: And Dave wasn't there to object to Chang between thrown into danger!] Using Chang as a courier, the investigators whip up a letter as if it was written by Jackson Elias to his old acquaintance Jack Brady. They sign it J.E. which seems fashionable to do, and send Chang down the alleyway--unarmed!-- to deliver the note. Hopefully the note will somehow reach Brady who will contact them. They really don't know any other way to find the man.

So, while Lester, Hans and Chad hang back out of sight, Chang approaches the guards, who immediately raise their machine guns. "STOP!" Chang stops and hands them the letter, which is immediately ripped open and scanned. One guard nods at the door. A second guard unlocks the padlock. The third keeps his gun trained on Chang. Chang swallows. They motion him inside, and Chang's too scared to squeal, "But i'm just the delivery guy! This wasn't part of the plan!"

A guard follows him inside, and Chang's nearly releases his bowels when TWENTY armed men and women swing their pistols, shotguns, and automatic rifles in his directions. "ON YOUR KNEES!" the guard bellows, and kicks Chang down. He's smacked a few times, bound with rope and gagged and thrown into a very, very dark room.

Just as dark as the Great City beneath the Outback, and Chang's phobia kicks into high gear, piss squirting hotly down his leg.

Ten minutes after Chang's departure, the others still haven't heard from him. They wait a half hour and start to get very worried. They heard and saw nothing. He was supposed to come straight back. Chad sneaks up again and sees two guards. They wait a full two hours, and still no Chang, and they realize that something bad has happened. They're thrown Chang to the wolves with no clue how to rescue him! They debate killing the guards, but a little metagame knowledge of the army inside deters them. Chang could easily be killed.

Frustrated now, they work their way back to their hostel, but instead of going inside, they find a place to stay nearby: a ramshackle two-story building with squeaking stairs and even squeakier rats, but it serves as a lookout point. Hans takes first watch, and they observe their hostel across the street to see if anyone is coming or going. Much later that night they do see movement and hear harsh drunken voices in the street, but more importantly, they find a sheet of paper slipped under the door to their hideout:

"9 am. Autumn Cafe."

Someone knew where they were anyway, and they realize that Shanghai is full of deception and subterfuge. The next morning they arrive at the cafe as instructed and order green tea and sweet cakes. Twenty minutes later, a Caucasian man casually sits down with them.

brady.jpg


"My name is Jack Brady," he says quietly, "and I think you've been looking for me. We got your friend too, but don't worry, he's alive. For now anyway, if you stay on the level with me. Now keep seated! I'm sure you got questions, but i got some talkin' to do, so you listen up and you listen good."

He is in disguise and only looks vaguely familiar to the picture they possess. Jack Brady launches into an extensive story with hardly a hitch, and the investigators are drawn further into the web of lies and malice that have plagued them and the Carlyle Expedition for such a long, long time. It is a tale of terror.

WHAT BRADY KNOWS IN A NUTSHELL

1) He was with the Carlyle Expedition from the beginning and always considered Roger a good friend. He was Roger's bodyguard.
2) Sorry to hear that Jackson Elias is dead. He told Jackson EVERYTHING he knew in hopes that people would read his book and destroy the cult
3) He knew that Roger's black girlfriend M'Weru was trouble. Roger foolishly followed her without question.
4) Roger had bad dreams about becoming a god, especially in Egypt.
5) In Cairo, Roger talked about "destroying the eye to open the path"
6) Roger climbed the Red Pyramid in Dhashur and worked terrible magic. It broke the seal in half. Brady took one half of the seal. The other was never found.
7) Brady knows what happened; the seal kept evil things out of the world, and Roger broke it on purpose
8) The whole Carlyle gang, except Brady, disappeared inside the Bent Pyramid for days [this is where Neville turned into an elephant and stomped Nephren-Ka]
9) They eventually came out, but looked younger and acted different.
10) They went to Kenya, where Roger told Brady that they had found a true god who would help them rule the earth.
11) Patricia was sick a lot [the PC's know that she was host to the Spawn of Nyarlathotep in the Black Mountain five years later, another "Bloated Woman"]
12) Before they left Nairobi for the Black Mountain, Brady decided to kidnap Roger. He drugged Carlyle, stole the money box, and headed to Mombasa
13) Roger regains some composure, but upon realizing what he has done, goes even more insane. Brady finally leaves him in an asylum in Hong Kong.
14) Brady had friends in Shanghai and planned to stay there...until he saw Aubrey Penhew aboard the Dark Mistress, and knew the evil would never end.
15) Brady knows that there are cults scattered across the globe under different names, infiltrating every culture, continent and social class.
16) Firm Action is a militant branch of quasi-terrorists who Brady has convinced to attack Gray Dragon Island.
a. Firm Study, Belief, Practice, Action
17) Mr. Mu, an ally and scholar from the Chinese Museum is translating the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan
a. Brady learned that this Mythos item was coming to China via boat and hijacked it. Ho Fong found out, and has been trying to get it back.
b. With the book translated in the next few days, they can create The Eye of Light & Darkness and place a ward on Gray Dragon Island
18) Evil beings cannot approach or be summoned near the eye, although without the second half, the power is greatly weakened.
19) If successful, Brady wants to place similar wards in Australia, Kenya, and the Bent Pyramid.
20) The partial Eye will not be invisible, and Nyarlathotep will know how to destroy it. But it's better than nothing.
21) He's not sure what the superweapon is, but Ho Fong has been importing parts from around the world for a long time. Spare parts are in other warehouses.
22) Brady doesn't know what to expect on Gray Dragon Island, and that greatly frightens him.

The investigators have a turn to ask their own questions, but one thing they DON'T mention is Mei-Ling! This is quite possibly Jack Brady's girlfriend in Shanghai, a cheap little street whore perhaps, who knows? But if Brady finds out that Ho Fong and Gavigan have kidnapped her, that could very well jeopardize the entire mission.

Assuming, anyway, that Brady doesn't already know. After all, someone named Chin Chang has been crying, pissing and pooping himself all night, begging for release from a dark, dark room...
 

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