Monday, 3 December 2018

Trail of Cthulhu: Odd Goings On In Giza

Last time we left our stalwart investigators heading up towards the ancient plateau of Giza again, just as it seemed that British archaeologist Fletcher Norton was about to be jumped by a shadowy figure...

A quick reminder of who our investigators are:

  • Pearce Topless, a Dilettante with the drive of Arrogance, served unsuccessfully as a lieutenant in the Great War, now at something of a loose end
  • Humphrey Roade, formerly Military, now acting as butler and valet to the aforesaid Topless, Roade and Topless met in France in 1917. His Drive is Duty.
  • Filian Thrope, an Alienist from Ireland, he is the nephew of a nurse that Topless and Roade knew in France and a pioneer in trance therapy. His Drive is Arrogance.
  • Clark Fable, a British private investigator, he has been sent to Egypt to spy on Fraser Norton by the archaeologist's suspicious wife Lydia. His drive is Adventure.

Archaeologist Fletcher Norton is in the process of being attacked by a shadowy figure that has crept up on him in the darkness. Advancing across the desert sand come our heroes but it is Roade and Thrope who open fire as Topless realises he left his revolver in his luggage (failed Preparedness roll). The attacker flees and is clipped by a bullet from Roade.

"Bag that blighter Roade!"

Fable and Thrope advance on the fallen Norton, while Fable protects the girl Zita and Roade heads off in pursuit of the attacker - on his own, no less - across the causeway, switching on his flashlight as he goes (successful Preparedness check here).

The luckless Norton is found to have breathed his last and has been completely eviscerated in very short order, with his heart exposed and sliced open, Topless thinks by a claw. Bloody foot prints and viscera are everywhere, but Topless also notes some of them look like the prints of a large dog, but a bipedal one. Can a dog walk on two legs? He begins to get the shakes (missed Stability check) but Thrope steadies him (Psychoanalysis check). Topless is getting flashbacks to a ruined barn in France.

Fletcher Norton - not his day
On the other side of the causeway, Roade is scouting around for the fugitive, but to no avail. He does find a rock with some Egyptian hieroglyphs scrawled on it in fresh blood. He copies them down in his diary before returning to the others. It is too dark to track here.

Roade and Thrope carry the body of Norton back to the camp, while the others go on ahead to raise the camp and the alarm. The police are sent for and a hasty conclave is assembled, including the expedition leader Ronald Galloway and Will Mainwearing. Galloway is of the view that Norton was attacked by a wild animal.

Thrope and Fable retreat to a tent with the semi-hysterical Zita whom Thrope manages to hypnotise - they discover she was going to meet Norton in a romantic liaison and that she had no other designs beyond that. Thrope wanders off to ask Galloway if he can consult the archaeologist's reference library while Fable keeps an eye on the girl.

In Galloway's tent Thrope learns that Nitocris' name has been largely excised from most ancient Egyptian monuments, a sign that the Egyptians considered her guilty of heinous blasphemies. He also digs up a tale that claims Nitocris persuaded her brother the pharaoh to divulge many of the secrets of the cult of Osiris, for which the priests had him killed. Thrope also reads that according to some ancient legends, Nitocris was considered to be a sorceress of some power, who advanced the arts of mummification to a point where she could ensure her own immortality and rule an underground kingdom populated with ghouls (Library Use spend - 2 points).

Topless has a stiff brandy with Mainwearing, and persuades him to part with his - illegal - .303 rifle. Roade shows the hieroglyphs he copied to Mainwearing, who translates them as: "For the love of Nitocris, I do this."

Roade persuades Mainwearing to introduce him to Muharab, the overseer of the Egyptian labourers at the dig. Muharab admits to Roade that he and his men have been hearing some odd howls around the camp of late, which they attribute to the legendary ghouls of the desert places and not mere jackals.

Somewhere in this damned dig, someone has a glass of brandy...

Muharab assembles a posse of five men plus a Bedouin tracker to assist the investigators, and finds a machete for Fable. The group catches a couple of hours of rest to avoid challenging fatigue rolls from the GM. The Egyptians arrive, carrying digging implements. Some of them look worried. The sun is coming up over Egypt, so the team set out towards the causeway, leaving Zita in the camp.

The posse trudge across the desert, the rising sun behind them, heading down towards the Nile. They are able to now track bloody dog-like footprints across the rock. Eventually the trail leads them to a ridge of sand where the tracks stop. Despite further investigation, they can see nowhere the fugitive could have gone. The Egyptians get to work, and within a short time, a large stone door is revealed. It looks as if it once had writing on it, but this has been chiseled off.

As the investigators stand there pondering, they realise that Topless can see writing on the door, and although it is in hieroglyphics, he can read it: "Nitocris, Great Wife of Menthuophis, King of Upper and Lower Egypt." Cue a missed Stability roll and Topless loses a point of Sanity...

Next time: "I am dying Egypt, dying!"

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