We were in London when we get an invitation from Smith to attend a Challenger’s Trust Banquet Lecture, an annual event to report on discoveries of great import. The trustees encourage idiosyncratic and amusing but informative lectures, seeking merely to be amazed. Curie, Edison, etc., all spoke here. The date: Wednesday, January 3rd, 1923, at the Imperial Institute, in Kensington.
It’s a fancy dress event, so gowns, suits, etc. Professor Smith is speaking, known as a famous debunker of spirits, mediums, etc., but doesn’t give us any info beforehand.
January 3rd, 1923
Smith’s presentation is entertaining as he goes through the charlatans he’d disproved. “Categories of repetitious phenomenon” — i.e. haunting. Tonight he will show tonight that perception by a human is not necessary to see the hauntings. A haunting = a person or thing must have existed, then disappeared, then reappeared multiple times. He presents 3 hauntings in detail: a Breton fishing boat, a Norwegian woman, and a hansom cab, each photographed from three or more angles. On some slides you can see other photographers THROUGH the images.
Hauntings don’t survive forever – most in last 5-600 years, although England has been occupied for 3,000 years. Only a few hauntings that have lasted from Roman times.
He theorizes that something is happening at the atomic level — clues to the realms in which these invisible things exist when they’re not here – “Paraphysicality”. Possibly move through time, or beyond death.
It’s met with polite applause, but cooler than the earlier, lighter, section.
The PCs start gathering afterwards and discuss, there’s a mix of belief and not. He invites us to a shoot this coming weekend, to see an apparition in person, in London. Smith tried to touch the Norwegian woman, but his hand went through it — it was notably cold. The one we’re going to see is the “London Man”, only recently gone missing, August 21st 1922. Smith is working on a calendar tracking when each apparition will appear.
He invites us to lunch at the Oriental Club on Sunday, January 7th.
We introduce ourselves. Bennington says that a ghost happening 6 months later is almost unique in his experience, he seems knowledgeable about such things.
Merik investigates the death - Henry Stanley, 41, of Stoke-Newington, reported missing by landlady Constance Atkins. She responded to a cry, found a room full of smoke. He’s a train enthusiast and spotter. Possibly spontaneous human combustion, like Jay Thurston in 1919.
I go out drinking with Nikolasha, and we have a fine time out on the town. He invites me to his birthday party on Saturday.
January 6, 1923
In the news, - eyecatching stories: A potential occult happenstance, man dies three times in one night. Three slain men, each bearing positive id as Mehmet Makryat. Each of the victims bear superficial resemblance. The real Mr. Makryat cannot be found. Passports of these Turkish nationals record independent worldwide travel over the past 3 years. Inspector Fleming is interested in talking to anyone with more information. Also: Professor’s home burns – Julius Arthur Smith, a well-known figure in academia is missing after his house burns. Beddows, his manservant, was seen running from the home.
I get to the Professor’s house first. The house fire was obviously an intense one, the house has been burned down to ashes and sticks, still smoking from the night before. The crowd watching is still around, and there is a bobbie on the scene for crowd control. The bobbie says the Professor is missing, and the man was seen rushing out just before the fire. Haven’t found the Professor’s body yet, so he’s just ‘missing’. The detective doesn’t think he’s in there. Arson investigator says the fire wasn’t hot enough to burn bones. Miss Barrington and Baronetess Barrington arrive next. We look around the scene a bit. An explosive of some sort went off in the dining room of the house, a moderately powerful explosive — and it should have made quite a boom when it went off… and broken windows for a block. Miss Edwards joins us and agrees about the explosive.
Merik is on the way to the site when somebody hisses at him from the alleyway. It’s Beddows! Beddows says, “There are assassins about! The Egyptians that the Professor warned about!” We see them as we walk along. Smith has been hurt and we’re going to go to him now. Since Merik was hailed by him rather than Merik seeing him, it’s probably not a trap. Beddows says there are three assassins, from Egypt or maybe Ottoman Empire. Beddows doesn’t know how they got into the house. He describes three generically Ottoman men.
Beddows brings the group to Cheapside, in the bad part of London. The professor is currently hiding at Beddow's cousin’s apartment — the cousin is a bit of a wastrel, but won’t tell anyone. Beddows paid him off and he’s probably drinking. We get to the tenement, and see the Professor, badly burned – no hair on his head, 2nd and 3rd degree burns over most of his body. Mr. Lantern says that we need to get him to the hospital or he will die. Smith refuses to go, and wants to talk to us first, in case he doesn’t make it.
“It’s the Cult of the Skinless One. He tells Miss Barrington, they’ll be coming for you and your parents. They’re searching for an artifact in pieces and I know where it is. I stayed in London where they could not get me. I thought I was protected, I thought I could keep them away, but my protections failed. The artifact is the Sedaf Kar Simulacrum. A statue in pieces, and a source of great power. Taken apart at the end of the 18th century, and scattered across Europe. Now my defenses have failed and they’ve gotten my notes. You need to find the pieces first and bring them to Constantinople so the Frenchman can destroy them. The statue can only be destroyed if it’s whole. It was dismembered in Paris, owned by Comte d’Fanuc, lost just prior to the revolution. Napoleon’s men carried some of it to Venice. A third fragment is in Trieste, taken there at the same time. Seek Johan Winkelman at the museum in Trieste, he will know more. Maybe a piece in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, Slovaks, start at the Natl Museum of Belgrade. Dr. Milvan Totorovic is the curator. Another part lost near Sofia during the Bulgarian War, 1875, hidden from invaders like other things of value, maybe buried. Final piece sold in Paris just after the War, taken to Milan. The Frenchman will not help you. In Constantinople there is a place called the Shadat Mosque, and with the scrolls you’ll be able to destroy the statue even without the Frenchman’s help. The Frenchman is a purveyor of occult knowledge, and might be willing to help us IF there’s a price. Thanks to Mr. Lantern’s skills, the Professor actually survives the trip to the hospital.
I go with Miss Barrington to her house — and it, too, is burning, and the fire brigade is fighting it. Barrington is calling for her father, but to no avail. Similar noiseless explosion, a huge flash. A quick check shows her father’s horses are still here. Lady Barrington arrives, and is similarly distraught – neither Barrington thinks he would have left.
Since this scene is much more recent than Professor Smith’s, I think I might be able to find tracks. It’s complicated by the onlookers and the fire brigade. I circle the house, though, and I don’t find any tracks that are out of place. They’re not just hard to find… I’m pretty sure they’re not present. How did they get in?
Eventually, the fire calms, and they find the body of Barrington’s father, as well as some house servants… but no dead assailants.