At long last our team kicked off Masks of Nyarlathotep last night. We assembled our 6-character team, having done some advance research into Jackson Elias, as well as the events and personalities of the Carlyle expedition. So, after receiving a nervous call from Jackson himself, we arrived at the Chelsea Hotel where we were to meet him and headed up to the room.
After knocking at the door, we heard suspicious, scrambling sounds within the room and Jeremiah Stone, our broad shouldered Vermonter country boy and Reinauld de Marchand, French arms smuggler helped the door off it’s hinges. Inside, we saw a flash of a figure disappear out the window and encountered two hostile men with long knives and one with a pistol. Jackson Elias was face down on the floor in a pool of blood. Revolvers and pocket automatics were drawn, and members of the team poured into the room. The armed men were black and wore turbans decorated with animal bones. Note the use of the past tense. The team brought these goons down quickly with gun play and the only survivor was the figure who sped down the fire escape and into a waiting black sedan before the team could catch him. A lucky shot grazed him.
We quickly searched the room, Jackson, and his assassins before the police arrived. This turned up a treasure trove of confusing clues. Lt. Poole of the NYPD and his team detained the team for questioning and were fascinated to learn that Jackson was a writer whose subject matter was deadly cults and noted they’d had a large number of deaths in recent months where the same symbol found carved on Jackson’s forehead marked the victim. This scene was the first time they have found an assailant. Poole and his team were so thrilled with the break in the case that maybe they were lenient on Sullivan Act violations on the part of a few team members.
We bore the horrible news to Jonah Kensington who was devastated, but very helpful. With prompting he shared notes Jackson had taken while in Kenya and also a very telling page written while he was in London. He is making funeral arrangements for our fallen friend.
We began the session with knowledge of the Carlyle Expedition’s members. One area of particular interest was the files of Dr. Huston, the psychologist. Seeing Jackson’s note about his own dreams and his intent to check doctor’s notes of Huston taken on Roger Carlyle confirmed we had to get these notes. Psychologist Edward Greene and mob doctor Ernie Schmidt were able to negotiate bureaucracy to review Dr. Huston’s patient notes on Roger Carlyle. The good doctors came back with fantastic stories of Carlyle’s lunatic dreams and a suggestion that Dr. Huston was blackmailed into joining the Carlyle expedition. Maybe Carlyle was more of a maniacal driving force in the expedition than we’d earlier thought. Our gut instincts were that James Bond-style villain Sir Aubrey Penhew was the evil mastermind . . . but maybe Carlyle’s more than just another gullible, deep pocket. Is Hypatia Masters “the priestess/Anastasia/M’weru”?
What we’ve seen now suggests to us that the principal members of the Carlyle expedition could all be alive. We saw reports that Brady was in Hong Kong, which could help explain Jackson’s matches (or are they from Chinatown?), and the ship picture showing a Chinese junk in the background. So, Hong Kong looks like a future destination.
The note from Faraz Najir in Egypt suggested he was negotiating the sale of ancient curios to Carlyle, which can’t be a good thing. What evil relics did he sell him? Who was his “agent”? Carlyle’s dreams of inverted ankhs, flawed pyramids, and mentions of godhood smack of Egypt, too. Cario is certainly in our plans. We know the team stopped here, and why else did Carlyle bring on a famed Egyptologist? Jackson Elias’s notes suggest a careful review of the Carlyle group’s Cairo itinerary.
Beyond this, we have information about the Bloody Tongue cult which is based in Kenya . . . and recurring mention of a place called the Mountain of the Black Wind near the Aberdare Forest. The New York branch is who murdered Jackson. Where else might this cult extend? Someone named Johnstone Kenyatta is someone we need to see while in Nairobi. Right now, this seems like the most significant place of activity. It’s where everyone disappeared, home of the cult, and it’s a geographic point we could explore. So, the team is keen to get here . . . visiting Cairo as a way point.
We found a card for Edward Gavigan, who now heads the Penhew Foundation. We know Carlyle stopped to pick up Sir Aubrey in London and they did a little research. There’s not as much compelling evidence to spend time in London as there is to visit Cairo, Nairobi, and Hong Kong. London is on the way, however, and we are all very suspicious of the Penhew Foundation. It would be a total fishing expedition at this point.
There was such an overload of clues that we had trouble processing them and needed to take some time to review and form a plan of attack. What should we investigate first? Being pulled in so many directions, we decided to stay simple and stick to a plan of pursuing a few leads locally in New York (Emerson Imports and Erica Carlisle) as well as back in Mass (Widener Library at Harvard and Australian Dr. Cowles at Miskatonic).
Monsieur de Marchand and Jeremiah paid a visit to Emerson Imports to inquire about Silas N’Kwame. They learned that Jackson had made a similar inquiry and intended to meet with Silas N’Kawme at a Harlem occult shop called Ju Ju House. Could this be a local safehouse for the Bloody Tongue in New York? The bastards behind Jackson’s death would have to pay.
In the mean time, Jackson’s notes mentioned the importance of mysterious books in a safe in Roger Carlyle’s family home. So, book thief Victor Hamilton and scandal sheet photographer Sandy Bartlett contacted Erica’s attorney Bradley Grey in hopes of setting up a meeting with the powerful heiress. To gain Erica’s attention, the two devised a plan. Sandy had a friend from a couple papers call Carlyle business offices and Grey’s firm to ask some probing questions about rumors of Roger Carlyle having received stolen rare occult books. Following on the heals of this, Victor and Sandy introduced themselves as private investigators hired to recover stolen occult books belonging to a private collector . . . and noted that they had reason to believe these might be in Roger Carlyle’s safe. Victor and Sandy noted that they remember the unfortunate attention Roger’s death had caused the family and hoped to discretely broker the return of the stolen books to their proper owner . . . before vicious newshounds ran an ugly article drawing unwanted attention to the Carlyles. Grey was able to secure an appointment for Victor and Sandy to meet with Erica in a few days.
The team regrouped. Drowning in clues at this point, the team felt like things were progressing very well and began putting theories together. Before proceeding, the team agreed that a full force visit to the Ju Ju House was in order. The whole team packed up and headed out to Harlem. Spotting a nearby Baptist church, the team stopped in and spoke with the Rev inside. Hoping the Rev. might harbor hostility to the occult heathens trafficking in false idols and witchcraft, the team tried to gain an edge. The Rev. was less concerned than was hoped and deemed the place a harmless shop that sold relics from the motherland. So, we went in with nothing but strong suspicion that the Ju Ju House and Silas N’Kwame were tied to the turbaned Africans who killed Jackson.
Inside the shop, the team encountered elderly Silas N’Kwame who denied he ever spoke with Jackson Elias and revealed the slightest of flinches and a stonewall response when we mentioned Jackson’s murder and made references to the bloody tongue. The team got a little aggressive searching the shop and N’Kwame shouted out. Team members watching the door observed armed hostiles approaching. The team found a trap door and incapacitated N’Kwame while knife wielding men with those familiar turbans entered the shop. Gun play erupted, resulting in fatalities among the cultists and a few largely minor injuries to members of the team.
All went down the trap door down to a locked door. With a key found around N’Kwame’s neck, we gained entry. Inside, the team found a chamber etched with strange symbols and decorated with occult African trappings. From behind a curtain a shaman and zombies poured out to attack the group. Two other zombies operated a mechanism and began to raise a large stone cover to a pit . Horrific shrieks and the foulest odors emanated from within the pit. At once, the team immediately made it a priority to prevent this lid from being raised and letting whatever was inside to get out. In the ensuing battle the team was battered, but managed to overcome their adversaries without any of its members dying and without the pit residents escaping. The dice were very kind and tactics sound.
After the battle, the team located a number of artifacts that will need to be researched. Quickly gathering these clues, the team evaded police and made their way back home to consider options.
So, on the horizon for inter-session and next go . . .
a. Meeting with Erica Carlyle in hopes of obtaining books in Carlyle’s safe (referenced in Jackson’s notes)
b. Attend Jackson Elias’s funeral
c. Return to Massachusetts to meet with Miriam Atwright at Harvard and Prof. Cowles at Miskatonic
d. Research Ju Ju House artifacts
e. Decide whether to go to Egypt, Nairobi, London, or Hong Kong next.