Monday, June 11, 2012

Cthulhu Gaslight: To Egypt

Cast of Characters:
Thomas Roquefort, American, archaeologist and adventurer, recently arrived in London after an expedition to Egypt
Richard George Thomas Lumley, second son of the Earl of Scarbrough
Jasper Burnside, physician and in the last two years something of a hermit. It's common knowledge that he has lost someone close and there are rumours aplenty for those willing to listen (he's my character)

last time

The group meets with Sir Jeffrey at the imposing headquarters of the Egyptian League. When asked, they all state that they do believe that a cult is responsible for the murders and that they at the very least think that the Fire of Re may exist - and if it does, it is too dangerous to let it fall into the hands of a cult.

Sir Jeffrey tells them that the Egyptian League will mount an expedition to Hermopolis Magna, supposedly for some excavations, but in reality to look for the Fire of Re and for the cult. Thomas is to lead the expedition and both Jasper and Richard agree to come as well. Since the situation in Egypt is a bit shaky at the moment, they will be accompanied by Captain Stuart Hayden of the 19th Royal Hussars and twenty of his men.

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When they leave the building, Thomas notices an open door and takes a look inside to find an excellent replica of Cleopatra's Needle (the emblem of the League). He is troubled to say the least because he has had bad  dreams of this exact place before, but he finds nothing to substantiate his worries.

A week later (Thursday, 20th November 1890) the SS Rule Britannia leaves for Egypt. The crossing is rough and two crewmen die during the storm. Their deaths are accidents, but it's hard not to remember what the Duke of Clarence said about the voyage of Cleopatra's Needle to London and how it cost the life of several sailors as well.

The ship stays at Gibraltar for two days for repairs. Richard uses the time to ask Jasper about the rumours he has heard. Jasper has no intention of telling this story twice, so they go to find Thomas and Jasper tells them both. Two years ago, his wife Clara was pregnant with their first child and what seemed to be a normal pregnancy turned into a nightmare when Clara one day collapsed with severe bleeding. By the time Jasper arrived, it was already clear that she had lost too much blood to survive and she asked him to try and save the child. Jasper performed a Cesarean section and his daughter lived for a short hour, but she was not strong enough to survive.

Richard and Thomas listen to all this quietly and uncomfortably, Thomas in particular since he remembers his first conversation with Jasper (scroll down to the end). Jasper excuses himself and no-one sees him until the ship leaves again, but he does seems almost relieved and he appreciates that Richard asked him instead of simply believing the rumours, like so many other people do.

Monday. the 1st of December, sees their arrival in Alexandria. Inspector Fox, who accompanies them, has suffered from sea sickness the whole journey and he's more than glad to see land again, but Jasper suspects that there's more to his frankly deadful condition. After beating around the bush a bit, Fox asks him for something to help him sleep. Jasper gives him laudanum and continues to gently prod the Inspector until he finally admits that he has been dreaming the same dream every night since they have set out from London. In his dream, he sees an Egyptian temple, with a human figure lying bound on the altar. Lead by a priest, a procession enters the temple and when the priest is close enough, Fox realises that he has the head of an Ibis. He tries to tell himself and Jasper that it's all just dreams and doesn't mean anything, but Jasper is less than convinced. But at least the Inspector gets a good night's sleep with the help of the Laudanum.

In the morning, they arrive in Cairo and make their way to the Shepheard's Hotel. Captain Hayden clearly enjoys being in Egypt again and leaves a unpleasant impression with the group with his arrogant and downright rude behaviour towards anyone who isn't British. After breakfast, Fox tells Thomas about his dreams at Jasper's insistance. Thomas says that he has had similar dreams and he agrees with Jasper that it may well be more than just dreams. They ask Fox to stop taking the laudanum, at least for one more night, because they want to get more details from his dreams. Fox is not happy about this and says he'll think about it.

Thomas goes to see an old friend and finds that the adress he has for her is the old observatory. No-one answers the door (which has a doorknocker in the shape of a cat's head) and after a while Thomas prepares to leave. He's called over by a man who tells him to come back in the evening.

In the meantime, the group goes to a small cafe Thomas knows and there they swap conspiracy theories. They are all more than doubtful about Captain Hayden and find it absolutely possible that he and his troops are there to get their hands on the Fire of Re. None of them trust him and they don't trust Sir Jeffrey all that much either. But there's not much they can do right now.

While they are speaking, a small boy comes up to their table and places a small brass statue of a cat there, an invitation by Thomas' friend. Jasper decides not to accompany them because Thomas cannot say how long the visit may take and Jasper has no intentions of leaving Inspector Fox alone during the night.

So Richard and Thomas go to the observatory alone where they are let in by a huge Arab who takes them up to the top of the tower. There they meet Emily Eggerstett, who may be blind and quite old, but who gives the impression of seeing and knowing a lot more than most people. Richard notices several cats in the room, including the one on Emily's lap.

Thomas tells Emily the whole story and the more she hears, the more grave she appears. She warns that they have gotten involved in very dangerous things. The dagger with the ibis-headed handle is a very powerful weapon, but if used by someone who doesn't know what he's doing, it's more likely to kill the wielder. She also tells them that the Fire of Re is indeed deadly, but she cannot say what exactly it is.

The Book of Toth has been taken out of Egypt by the Cult almost three thousand years ago and hidden in a secret place. That place is a ride of five days and nights from the House of Toth, but so far no-one has found it. Uno is the place to start the search for the book, but Emily warns them that they better be sure of their intentions and that there may be traitors, even from their own ranks.

They take their leave from her. At the foot of the stairs, they find the Arab who has been killed and they hear the sound of wings from above. Thomas runs back and is just in time to attack two men in black burnouses who have climbed into the room from the roof. He misses the attacker closest to Emily, but at least stops him from killing her, and he is wounded by the second man. By now, Richard has followed him up the stairs and he shoots and kills the man who is standing in front of Emily. The second assassin comes towards Thomas, but stumbles and Thomas can easily evade the attack and incapacitates him.

Emily has been very calm all the time and has not made any move or tried to protect herself.  She tells Richard and Thomas to leave and refuses to come with them when Thomas asks her to. They finally obey her and when they turn to leave, they see a pounce of cats who descend on the assassins and tear them apart.

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Cats of Ulthar, anyone?

I'm enjoying Egypt. It's Jasper's first time abroad and despite the fact that he feels like a pawn in this game, he relishes the new experiences.

Player paranoia is starting to show. Our characters all suspect that they are being used and fear that they may be expendable. The presence of Captain Hayden does nothing to calm their suspicions. I'm fairly sure that the real problems will start once we have found what we're seeking (if we find it) because none of us is eager to hand the Empire such a powerful weapon, patriotism or not.

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