Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cthulhu Weimar: Dead Children

last time

Time: April 1921
Place: Berlin

Cast of Characters:
Doctor Karl A. Schwarz - physician who works at the Krankenhaus Moabit and who has a surgery on the side in Berlin Wedding (a district known for being a stronghold of the Communist Party and for being populated almost exclusively by working class people)
Gero Thalmann - a student from a middle-class family who plans to become an architect. Meanwhile, he's involved with the Communists and has taken an interest in the pressing social issues of the time. He has been living in Berlin for about a year.

28th March 1921, Monday

Gero wrote a letter to Doctor Schwarz, asking if he can call on him at his surgery (which is not much more than a glorified storeroom in a backyard). When he does, he brings two big crates filled with medical supplies. He doesn't really want to explain how he got his hands on those, but assures Schwarz that they are not stolen. He just knows someone who knows someone. Schwarz accepts that explanation for now, particularly since the supplies are badly needed. He asks Gero to meet him later, though, when they will have time to talk.

As Gero leaves, Otto, one of Schwarz's assistants, calls the doctor out into the backyard where a group of people has gathered around a boy who is clearly badly hurt, but who doesn't seem in any pain and is rather unwilling to let himself be treated. He's not resisting, but he says that he cannot be helped anyway. Schwarz talks to him, horrified by the boy's injuries, and finally the kid allows himself to be taken into the surgery. By all rights, he should be dead. And when Schwarz examines him, he finds that there is no heartbeat. Yet the boy is clearly alive. He says that he feels no pain and doesn't want something to eat or drink. The concept seems to be a bit unclear to him.

click for dead children

While Schwarz bandages the worst wounds (which are not bleeding, although they should), the boy tells him that his name is Armin and that he has fled from an orphanage at the Goethepark. He had been held captive and he had been mistreated by one Doctor Haensler, just like the other children. As far as Schwarz knows, there is no orphanage for miles and certainly not one located in the park.

He can't do anything further for the boy and he lets him go, as Armin asks him to. Before he leaves, Armin tells Schwarz that he cannot die because he is already dead and that he somehow returned to his body when he fled the orphanage. He remembers living there and being killed and he thinks that the date was the 20th January 1901.

There are too many other patients and Schwarz has enough work for hours to take his mind off things. Unfortunately, he neglected to eat properly (as usual) and he took two shots from Otto's moonshine to calm his nerves after the encounter with Armin (not as usual). And so he simply collapses after the last patient has left and goes from a short faint into sleep. Gero arrives to find him still asleep while Otto is keeping an eye on things.

Once the doctor is awake again, they go to a pub a few blocks away, the Kaschemme (≃"dive bar") to eat something. They talk a bit and Gero explains that he knows someone whose father is a chemist and he got the medical supplies that way. They both know just how much money it all would bring on the black market, but Gero doesn't really have to worry about money and he wants to help.

Schwarz tells him about the boy - he has to tell someone, no matter how ridiculous it all sounds. Gero at least doesn't laugh at him - actually, he seems to believe the story. He remembers that there used to be an orphanage at the Goethepark (build by a well-known architect) and they decide to go and take a look. When they arrive at the park, the house does indeed stand there, although neither can remember seeing it before. A man in a white lab coat is just pulling a boy into the house and Schwarz recognises Armin. They decide against calling the police - what would they say anyway? Also, Schwarz is not all that keen on explaining what he does in his surgery, the whole thing is not completely legal, to put it tactfully. And so they agree to do some more research and meet again tomorrow. In leaving, Schwarz sees the face of a young girl, very pale, at one of the windows. A single tear is rolling down her face while she looks out at him.

29th April 1921, Tuesday

Gero does some research at the library and finds out that the orphanage had been founded in 1895 and there had been a number of rumours and scandals that eventually lead to an investigation. Tthe orphanage was to be closed when it burned down in 1901. No bodies were ever found, not of the children and not of Doctor Haensler.
Schwarz asks his favourite nurse Ingeborg to help him out and she turns up another interesting tidbit of information: Haensler was not only a gifted physician, he was also known for his invention of a drug that amplified pain (the military had use for such things) and he had a certain reputation as an adept of the occult.

Schwarz has just enough time to return home after his shift at the clinic and while he dresses, he sees the face of the girl again, in his mirror. He jumps back and she disappears, leaving a crack in the mirror behind. Gero goes to take a look at the house in daylight and it's still there. He asks a woman who walks by what that house is and she says that those are the ruins of the old orphanage.

Come evening, they return to the house. This time, they notice that even though it's spring all over Berlin, the garden around the house is barren, like it's still winter there. The windows are lit and the door opens easily when Gero pushes it. They enter into a lobby, like that of a hospital, with a desk, a couple of potted plants, a painting on the wall and corridors opening up on either side. There is also a door that leads into Doctor Haensler's office, but it is closed. A look at the desks reveals a couple of records for patients, dated 15th January 1901 at the latest. Everything is covered in dust.

Gero busies himself with opening the door, scandalising Schwarz a bit by producing a couple of lockpicks. Menawhile, Schwarz takes a look at the painting and discovers that it's a child's drawing, signed 'Anneliese'.

Just when the door to the office clicks open, Gero hears a voice next to him: 'I wouldn't go in there...' He looks up to see the little girl and drops his lockpicks when he jumps up. The girl warns them that they will 'wake him up' when they go into the office and before the vanishes, she confirms that her name is Anneliese. Gero and Schwarz are alone again in the lobby.


What happens next

I might say this at the start of every Cthulhu adventure, but let me say it again: I have a bad feeling about this. I get a very "Devil's Backbone"-vibe from this orphanage (not intentionally, the GM hasn't seen the movie) and I'm doing a perfect job of creeping myself out.

Here is a map for the campaign. I'll add places to it as we go along. It's nice to be able to follow the characters around, even though Berlin has changed a lot in the last ninety years (ninety years...somehow, the 1920s always seem to be seventy years ago for me...stuck in the 90s, sorry about that).

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