- Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
- Radovan Venclovic, Romani ex-soldier
- Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
- Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
- Yan Nikolaev, Bulgarian police inspector
The next day was their appointment with Beylab the perspires, but not until the evening. At breakfast, they discussed the man and bear they had seen. Radovan was convinced he was benign, saying that anyone who an animal trusted couldn't be all bad, but Rosaline wasn't so sure. When Feyar arrived, the party asked him about the proper etiquette for the meeting. Feyar explained that no gifts were required, putting their minds at ease, and they decided to go investigate the Red Mosque. After a long walk through the city, they arrived at a crumbling building that pedestrians walked by without even a glance at its grim-encrusted walls. Several young men, perhaps a street gang, lounged in the doorway and beckoned, calling out "Nice things! Nice things!" and gesturing to the investigators. The countess approached, asking about the trinkets, but then asked about the gang and the mosque, no whether they had seen anything unusual in the mosque at night. Feyar translated the answer--that they sometimes saw other gangs, but no one else. She asked about the Brotherhood, but the gang had only heard rumors. They took the countess's money without incident, and the investigators left.
For a change of pace, the party spent some time on tourism at the Hagia Sophia. The ancient cathedral was glorious, but had seen better days. The Basilica Cistern was across the street, so that was their next destination. That was better kept up but empty of water. After lunch, they visited the Hippodrome, and then the time had come to go to the baths and meet with Beylab. Knowing that Beylab was a stickler for punctuality, the investigators made an effort to arrive on time, and entered the bathhouse and left the bustle of the street behind. The professor checked the skin of the other bathers, but none of them seemed to have any identifiable tattoos or marring of the skin. The women went off into their own section, and the men prepared to meet the perspirer.
Beylab was lounging on a navel stone in the bath, grossly fat, and awaiting his visitors. The professor, Yan, and Radovan approached as Beylab raised a hand, and they took places next to Beylab on the stone. He greeted the party and asked them what they want to know, and the professor mentioned the disappearances of children. Beylab explained that it was an evil statue-worshipping cult, and that the children had not appeared in the slave markets. He said that the cult extended to the city bureaucracy, and that the statue's destruction was key to ending the cult. The ritual of destruction was in the cemetery, in Garaznet's grave, and suggested that the break into the grave in the night. As he reached for water and made to speak more, a shape surged up out of the water behind him and cut his throat!
Radovan and Yan heard the roaring of flames and pulled the professor off the stone as fire surged up and seared the body of Beylab. As the assassin fled, the three gave chase before they were blocked by two other bathers. Yan noticed that one of them had a mismatched ear and the other had an eye that was cloudy, and shouted, "They're here!" He tried to shove past the men but they stood firm, and Radovan's sucker punch flew wide. They made no hostile action, and in a moment it was obvious why--the flesh of Beylab flowed off his bones like a wave, surging across the water toward the men like a red tide. One of the cultists was caught by the monster, shrieking in pain as it reared up over him and began devouring him, and the party fled in terror leaving the screams behind.
There were already police outside, and when they saw the Europeans one approached and spoke in broken English, asked them to stay and and give their statements. Another policeman entered the bath and returned in moments, vomiting in the street. Another policeman later took the investigators statements, and the professor left out the parts about the cult or the monster, describing only a madman assassinating someone else in public. The police called a cab and they returned to their hotel, where the professor explained what Beylab had told them. They debated what to do, but quickly decided that they could not visit the graveyard tonight. Yan and the professor dressed and went down to dinner and had a long awkward conversation about their backgrounds, while the others had dinner sent up to their rooms.
The next morning, there was a message from the British Embassy requesting their immediate presence, so they bolted down their coffee and took the car provided. They were met by Sir Douglas Rutherford, in a clear agitation. He got right to the point, saying that his son was abducted in the last night, and asked for their help. The investigators agreed, and the ambassador said that his son James was last seen in the embassy garden and that he suspected the servants. He summoned the servants, and they stood in a line while the investigators examined them. One servant had mismatched eyes, and when he noticed the attention, he took a step back. The professor shouted to arrest him, and as guards appeared and seized him, the servant screamed that the Brotherhood had the boy and there was no hope. The Skin Beast would come and all of them were doomed. As he struggled, the tattoo suddenly revealed on his arm writhed and the skin of his face drew inward, flowing down his mouth and choking him to death.
Later, as they were drinking brandy with the ambassador, he said that he suspected the Red Mosque and while police searches had turned up nothing, he no longer trusted the police. The professor asked for excavating equipment, and while Sir Douglas was suspicious of his reasoning, he offered to provide it. He further suggested they speak to Lieutenant Douglas Hennessy about the British officer's death. The lieutenant met them in the lobby of their hotel, and the professor noticed that he was extremely nervous, constantly glancing around at the passersby. After asking what they knew, he said that the Drakes were part of a continent-wide smuggling and vice ring known for flaying people. He said that Evelyn was suspected in a murder, shortly before she disappeared, and that a local member named Phelps had recently turned up dead, but Yan realized that he was holding something back. The countess pushed further, mentioning the flayings that the investigators had encountered, and the lieutenant revealed that Mr. Phelps was deformed, half his face having been seemingly melted. The lieutenant said he was being transferred out, but asked that they tell Sir Douglas anything they discovered, and then he left.
After preparing, the investigators went down to the docks to hire a boat. Feyar suggested hiring a fishing boat, and they chartered the boat of a man named Haqim. And they were crossing the straight, Rosaline and Radovan noticed another fishing boat crossing on a similar course, but it remained at sea instead of docking, and it was too far away to make out any details. They landed and Haqim promised to wait, and the party made the short walk to the cemetery.
The countess's player: "Is this grave-robbing? Three of us are white. It's archeology."
After two hours of searching they found the tomb of Garaznet, its letters almost entirely faded away from the weathering of centuries. As Radovan and Yan began digging, Radovan noticed that the dirt wasn't as packed-down as it should be, but shrugged and kept digging. After some time, as the shovels clinking against a stone box, a man approached. He was babbling, in tattered robes, and Feyar explained that he was called the "Companion to the Dead." The professor listened, but most of what the beggar said was nonsense. He urged on their digging and said that "they" were numerous tonight as Yan and Radovan levered open the tomb of Garaznet, but when he heard the sound of stone on stone, he screamed "Don't let him out!" and leapt onto the countess and professor, flailing away. Eventually he backed away as an overwhelming foetor comes from the tomb. The lib slid back, and inside was a bubbling vat of flesh!
The flesh flowed out of the tomb and wrapped around one of the countess's legs as Rosaline began screaming in panic and Yan staggered around sightlessly. The professor threw a lantern onto the monster but it seemed to have no effect, and as he was looking for another weapon, dozens of shapes appeared out of the darkness and the Brothers of the Skin captured the party. The party was disarmed and tied to stone monuments with the weapons just out of reach and formed a circle, which parted to reveal six cultists carrying a squirming bundle. Four others brought in an older man, ancient and shriveled, on a chair born on their shoulders. He questioned them about the scrolls and the statue, but the party was silent. After a short moment, the old man looked at Radovan and began muttering. Radovan's skin twitched and seemed to rot, and Radovan shrieked for a moment and then slumped in his bonds. After further questioning, the old man again muttered and the same thing happened to Yan, though before he fell unconscious, Yan yelled that the simulacrum was in the bank vault. ( Content warning: Violence toward children )
On the Golden Horn, Aktar led them to his room, a small cluttered dwelling. In the light, he seemed vaguely familiar, but none of the investigators could place it. Aktar revealed that he was disguised as a Roma, but actually worked for Ataturk spying out threats to Turkey. His daughter had been kidnapped by the cult, and he had followed the cult to their headquarters and found what remained of his daughter. He suggested they join forces and fight the cult. The investigators agreed, and they decided that they needed to get to the Sedefkar Simulacrum before the cult did. They arrived, leaving Radovan and Yan behind in Aktar's room, and found the bank closed, so they immediately changed tack and went to the hotel. The front desk clerk asked them if they had gone and come back--the cult had obviously already been there. Their roomed had Ben searched, and the scroll was missing. Aktar suggested that they must go to the cultist's headquarters immediately and warn the British and French, and they traveled to the cistern where the secret entrance to the cult's headquarters was. The stairs led down into water, but there was a small boat, and Aktar rowed them through the water to a secret passage, and the investigators travel down a spiral staircase. At the bottom were ooze-covered walls and a small door, on the other side of which was a tomb lit by a greenish glow and covered with horrific carvings.
Across the chamber was an antechamber with a guard facing away from them. Rosaline whispered that he had to be subdued, and Aktar drew a knife, crept behind the cultist, and cut his throat. As lights entered the room, shelves of scrolls were revealed, but a quickly glance didn't reveal anything out of the ordinary and the group continued on through a surgical room separated from the main room of the mosque by a curtain. The professor peeked out and saw a large group of cultists, but they were all facing away from the curtain, so the investigators slipped out into the room next door, only to find that it was a meat locker filled with disembodied limbs. There was also the body of a skinned woman hanging on a meat hook, and when the countess saw it she gasped but steeled herself. Rosaline noticed a pearl necklace lying on the floor, and she discretely pocketed it.
There was nowhere else but he main chamber, so the investigators snuck into the mosque chamber and crept into the crowd. In the center, under the mosque dome, is a stone slab with five indentations carved into it. Five children, James Rutherford among them, were led into the chamber and waited nervously near the slab. Aktar suggested that he would create a distraction while the others rescued the children, and lacking options, they agreed. As they waited, red-robed figures brought out the Simulacrum and placed it into the indentations on the slab. The old man also came out and pulled a scroll out of his robes, and began chanting. The professor understood part of the ritual, asking for power through the suffering of the flesh. As he stepped forward to end the ritual, his mouth sealed itself shut. The investigators began to usher the children out of the mosque, Aktar shouted, "foreign traitors!" and stepped forward, seizing the scroll, and completes the ritual. The statue absorbed itself into his flesh, and Aktar laughed manically and revealed himself as Mehmet Makryat, son of Selim Makryat, the new master of the Brotherhood of the Skin, and ordered the cultists to kill their old master, which they did with enthusiasm.
The investigators tried to run, but they were overwhelmed and escorted away. They were led past other cells full of maimed and mutilated prisoners, begging and whining, and shut into a cell on the top of the minaret of the Shunned Mosque. The professor understood some of the guard's speech--they were discussing the "flapping man," who might come for them, and they were desperate to retreat. As they left, the light revealed a shape in the corner, limbless and eyeless, covered in a blanket. He shouted out at the party, and Rosaline recognized the voice of Professor Smith before he fell unconscious.
Hours later, the door opened to reveal Mehmet Makryat, who lit a cigarette and monologued about his plan. He had impersonated Professor Smith from the beginning, setting the investigators on their entire quest, and revealed that he had been following them along the way and helping them overcome their difficulties. He thanked them for helping him defeat his father, and asked them how they had defeated Le Comte
. They did not answer, and Mehmet explained that the Simulacrum's power was corrupting them already and they had only one hundred hours remaining in their lives, and that he was off to London to retrieve the Ritual of Cleansing that would save him from the Simulacrum's effects. With a smile, he said that he would unchain them so that they could see their bodies fall into slime, and he left. When he did, Professor Smith confirms Mehmet's story, but he said that the brothers believed the Flapping Man was a spirit of rage, and they could use that to escape. After some time, a pair of guards arrived to unshackle the investigators. As the countess passed Professor Smith, she flapped the blanket and screamed, and the the guards ran back down the stairs. Rosaline looked at Professor Smith and, after a short internal struggle, she slit his throat to end his suffering. Then the investigators fled down the stairs past the cells, past flayed skins, and the countess grabbed one and put it on. She ran out and babbled in a mix of languages, and the Brothers ran screaming in fear. The countess heard something behind her, and turned to see the real Flapping Man charging the Brothers. With that as a distraction, the party ran. Outside was James Rutherford, who ran up to them as they fled, as the sunrise washed the walls of the Shunned Mosque with blood-red light..
Annals of the Fallen
- Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
- Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic, devoured by the living lair of the Baba Yaga in the forests outside Orašac, February 13th, 1923.
- Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist, killed by a thrown grenade during a battle with the Butchers at Sofiiski Universet, February 15th, 1923.
- Radovan Venclovic, Romani Ex-Soldier, driven to madness by the beast of flesh in the cemetery at Üsküdar, February 20th, 1923.
Over three thousand words. This was action-packed from beginning to end.
This part is, frankly, one of the weakest parts of the entire campaign--not only is it a railroad from start to finish, it has the players betrayed and captured by someone they thought would be their ally multiple times in sequence and the revelation that the entire quest across Europe and everything they accomplished was all at the bidding of the villain, so it would have been better if the PCs had just ignored Professor Smith's plea entirely and went on with their lives. I knew this was coming, and I've known for the entire game, so it didn't bother me that much. And it is a cosmic horror game, so it does a good job of showing the investigators' actions coming to naught. But as a roleplaying game device, it's poor form.mutantur
said that the new version of the campaign has an option to end in a climactic battle at the Shunned Mosque where the PCs kill Mehmet Makryat and destroy the cult once and for all, which allows for immediate revenge. It's not how the scenario originally went, however, so we're going to do the original ending. That means there's two, maybe three more games and then we're done with the Horror on the Orient Express!