CoC Orient Express

The Dreamlands and the Scroll of the Head

Saturday January 13th, 1923

 

Nikolai goes to check in with the local family before we leave Paris. During dinner, we move the arm to Hassan’s room. As we gather for dinner, there’s a new woman, Content Not Found: miss-cavollaro, an Italian opera singer. She doesn’t pry, and mostly talks up Milan — and she’ll have rooms waiting for us in Milan at Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle.  Nikolai and her talk all night until Lausanne, but I turn in around 11PM. Mabel has an odd dream – becoming aware of walking the cobbled streets of an old town, veiled in a golden thick mist, maybe dawn or dusk. We can see through the mist an archaic bridge with moss-covered stone covering a gently chattering river. She sees 15-20 cats, and reaches down to pet one, but it’s angry, and yowls at her. In my dream, I’m in a similar setup, but hear a yowl from the bridge and head that way. Mabel leaves her side and we meet in the center. Mabel shows her arm – in the dream, it’s unharmed. The black and white cat Sofia talks to us, in a feminine voice – she asks the cat about Fenalik, she tells us we have to catch the train, and that’s all I remember. 

 

We will arrive in Lausanne at 3:30AM.  We are awoken at 3 AM to prepare to get off the train. At Lausanne there is a bit of layover, as there is an engine change and car change here. The Swiss police come to check our passport.  Lausanne is in a French-speaking area, but many residents also speak German. 1-in-4 residents are non-Swiss. A cathedral and castle in town, overlooking Lake Geneva. Streets steep and irregular in the town though. There’s a library, an art museum, a university, and Lake Geneva.  We decide to stay at the Lausanne-Palace-Beau-Site hotel, downtown.  Edgar Wellington’s house is near the cathedral, a bit farther north from our hotel. We get to the hotel… and there’s tons of fezzes everywhere! Turkish men in fancy dress and fezzes. Several other European delegations are mingling here as well. The Conference of Lausanne is present, which will eventually establish the Treaty of Lausanne, establishing the Republic of Turkey and ending the Ottoman Empire. We check into the hotel. Hassan asks some of the delegates how things are going: “Cordial." 

 

Mabel’s letter to Wellington had referenced the Cult of the Skinless One and requested more information (since Wellington had reportedly been threatened by them). 

 

While he sleeps, Bennington awakes with a feeling that he is being watched, but he doesn’t know by who or from where. Nothing turns up, though, and we talk about it at breakfast.

 

At breakfast, we discuss my and Mabel’s shared dream – Mabel's definitions of normal and odd - and the possibility that it’s part of the arm curse. Also, apparently to Mabel, shared dreams and psychic tendencies are normal, but the arm being involved is ‘odd’. She talks about Fenalik, and Ba and Ka – some sort of Egyptian soul mumbo jumbo. In Egypt, the spirit involves the Ba and the Ka (as well as other parts). The Ba is who you are, can float and explore the galaxies and the worlds above us. The Ka is the vital spark and when it leaves, death occurs. Bad things happening to Ka can result in ghosts and hauntings. Ka can be put safely into an item, freeing the Ba to explore. Burial rituals were meant to preserve the Ka so the Ba was free to float around. Ba often takes the form of a human head with a bird shape. Ka takes the form of food and drink, sustenance. Both combined mean spirit and soul.  Possibly there’s something having to do with reincarnation but that’s a more out-there Golden Dawn theory. 

 

Fenalik… maybe his Ka is in the simulacrum? Maybe his Ka was shattered when the statue was broken? Maybe the statue is a different body that’s lost its Ba?  And how did Mabel get tied to the statue’s arm? 

 

But.. apparently Mabel and I shared a dream, and she thinks it’s not that unusual. Maybe it was supposed to be an introduction to that cat? Mr. Bennington thinks it could be a cat’s dream, and that the talking cat could have been a representation of the goddess Bast, but that to find out for sure we’ll have to get another dream or interact with more cats otherwise.  We all have action items to think up questions to ask a cat in a dream. This is also normal.

 

We arrive, lunchtime, at  Edgar Wellington's house. A weathered sign reads “Wellington Taxidermy”, but crimson curtains prevent us from seeing inside. We are expected. We meet Wellington, and are introduced. The house is a little unnerving – every room has a fireplace, and is kept uncomfortably warm. Animals of every description pose in a surreal , conflicting tableau. Lavender in vases everywhere, not quite hiding the odors of decaying flesh, damp fur, and formaldehyde. He offers tea. He has his brother William Wellington fetch it. 

 

Wellington asks us what we want to talk about. We want the background. He got involved in this part of the occult during the war. He received the scrolls from a Frenchman, Raoul Malon (see Malon Report), in exchange for rations and cigarettes. The scroll itself is confusing, a mixture of Persian and Arabic words, written all in Arabic. But it was through that scroll that he learned of the slightly-larger-than-life statue found in the rubble of Byzantium. The last owner was a Comte du Fenalik, who lost it after his arrest and imprisonment. The artifact as described was an item of some power. What power? Also meeting today with Duc Jean de Floressas who’s shown an interest in the scrolls as well, and tonight, maybe over dinner, we could have an informal auction of the scroll. The scroll goes into some detail on the power of the simulacrum. 

 

The Scroll of the Head, Wellington has. 

The Scroll of the Belly, of the Legs, of the Left Hand, of the Right Hand, Topkapi museum has the 4 scrolls that he doesn’t.

 

Early in the last century, a young scholar named Salim Makryat read the scrolls, seeing them as relevant to the birth of Ottoman power. And they play to his desire for power… and sadism. The scrolls allowed him to worship a being that he called the Skinless One. He gathered others, taught them magic from the scrolls, and thus began the cult — calling themselves the Brothers of the Skin. 

 

Wellington believes Salim Makryat to still be alive 100 years later, probably with magic described in the Scroll of the Belly. 

 

Is there something about the magic of the Brothers of the Skin that makes them all look the same? Yes. They all grow to look like Salim. Mehmet was his son, who also looks just like him. 

 

The actions of a group of cultists caused him to lose control of scrolls… or at least, the 4 he had. He never had the Scroll of the Head. 

 

Mabel knows that some spells may require a specific scroll… but not all. Sometimes the knowledge is enough. 

 

Wellington is leaving tonight – the cult is in town, and after him. He’s seen a Salim, in the service of the Ottomans.  He wants to leave with a lot of money – like 1250 pounds. 

 

We ask for the room to discuss. As he leaves the room, Mabel asks William to remove his hat. He demurs… but acquiesces at gunpoint. He has a horribly misshapen head under the hat, but it’s not a fez-related illness. We apologize. 

 

Nikolai calls a friend and asks about this Duc Jean, and whether he has 1250 pounds to spare. He’s way fringe, but does. 

 

We reluctantly decide that we can spend the cash, but Hassan points out that we need to get them out NOW, and points out the other two murders by explosion without warning — and knowing that the cult is in town… he needs to leave. NOW

 

Most of the group leaves as Hassan moves to answer a knocking at the door. It’s a Frenchman. Not a Salim. Nor wearing a fez or hat. Introducing himself as the Duc Jean Floressas des Escientes. Hassan tells him that Mr. Wellington had to leave on short notice, and allows him to come in and look around, which story is luckily backed up by the obviously hasty exit. Hassan says it’s owned by one of the rich Ottoman men he met at the reception last night, and Hassan is just watching for it. Duc Jean is disappointed and hopes to see him tonight, angry.  

 

The group goes to Le Chat Noir Lausanne. 

 

Kelly and Edwards go to the hotel to sit guard on the arm. I close the drapes and keep an eye outside while we wait. Edwards wanders downstairs for tea to do some drawing and scout a bit. Edwards comes back quickly, having heard heavy footfalls in an empty hallway… which she then passes… and then they turn around and follow her. She turns around again, and the footsteps stop… then follow her after she goes down the stairs.  She comes back and reports the strangeness. 

 

Hassan returns to the hotel and goes to his room, packing up, and then comes to the other room to pack up as well. 

 

In Le Chat Noir, Mabel considers getting laudanum or opium in case she experiences more pain as a result of the statue arm. There is more discussion of the scroll and the cost — he’ll need some time to recover the scroll. Apparently literally? It’s stored in the late 1300s / early 1400s? He apparently has a liquid in a dropper that can result in time travel of some sort, but only to a particular time… and that’s where the scroll’s stored. 

 

Before returning to Le Chat Noir, Hassan works his local Turkish connections to try to see if there was a Makryat staying here, but  unsuccessfully. We all try to do a bit of investigating, but it’s not our crowd. We head to Le Chat Noir. 

 

We test the arm to see if I’m linked to it as well after the shared dream… and I’m not. Another bruise for Miss Mabel.  We also try two large ice cubes against the cloth. Edgar Wellington stays in his trance for a number of hours, through dinner in fact. I take a quick search around the club, and am pretty sure nobody is spying on us… except maybe for the club’s mascot, a black cat. 

 

Barrington and Beddington discuss what’s in Wellington’s ink well, and whether it’s got a corpse part in it and that’s why the weirdness around the date. 

 

9pm, it’s been 7 hours. Longest ever per William is 8 hours. Hopefully we’re close. Mabel offers to sponsor me into the Golden Dawn. Then somebody knocks on the wall next to the curtain and it’s a friend of William’s — Maximillian von Wurtheim. He was supposed to be at the dinner and was wondering why he wasn’t. Max’s story – an evil brother, an ancestral fortune, father who dies suspiciously. 

 

10pm… and we… might need to send somebody in after Edgar. I ask William for Edgar’s notes, since we’re considering doing this. Edgar’s notes refer to Dream Lausanne, where he put the scroll, and his communications with the Duke. Mr. Bennington will go under first, then myself and Miss Edwards. Bennington is out like a light almost immediately.     As soon as Bennington is out, there’s an oppressive level of drowsiness that hits all of us… me the worst, I’m dizzy. 

 

At Miss Barrington’s suggestion, Nikolai sets up Max with a ladyfriend for the night. William went to sleep to, so the conscious ones stay just outside. 

 

The away team goes to what is apparently Medieval Le Chat Noir. Bennington is in a chair, Hassan on the floor, Miss Edwards is there also.  They don’t look quite like themselves, but with nondescript features instead. There is also a hunchback there (William). They see a gibbet at every crossroads, but all unoccupied. It’s all very gothic. There’s a gaping crack in the road where an icy wind blows from. They see people costumed in various costumes: Death, Angel, Soldier, Lion, a Turk (weird in this century), an Assassin, Rustic Lass, Rustic Lad. Street strewn with flowers and bulbs of garlic. They see a woman boiling… meat. The bells of the cathedral are ringing. There is a statue covered in rags down a side street. As they approach, they hear a weird, discordant, but hauntingly beautiful music coming from the statue, a mix of stone and wire woven together in human form, and the rags are scraps of flesh. Between the legs of the statue are two figures that appear human except for their featureless faces.  They come to a man speaking to a crowd, about “this man’s criminal conduct in withholding constitutes a crime. He needs to stand trial!”. Hassan recognizes it as Duc Jean — they think Edgar must be the man in question, and he hasn’t given up the scroll. 

 

We look in occasionally to see what’s going on with the room… and when I do, I notice a green glow from within the luggage — it must be the arm amplifying spells! We need to get that arm out of the room. It’s reachable with a broom, and with some effort… and maybe with my eyes closed… I can get it out. 

 

In the dream world… Bennington sees Dream Hassan… die. Then Dream Amanda… dies. Then Dream William… dies. Dream Bennington decides now is a good time to go back to the inn hoping that the plan is back on. We find out that you can only take across what you’re holding, so I go with a knife in my teeth, my 1911 and 2 clips in hand. 

 

Nikolai and I wake up in the old medieval version of the room where we went to sleep, at a moment when Bennington looks away — we see different versions of ourselves. But the others… where are they?  Bennington leads there in haste. 

 

Edwards comes to in the cathedral, with a crowd staring at her. Hassan has fallen down to the ground near the cathedral. The crowd is a score or a bit more people, one guy wearing medieval nobleman’s clothes. Another guy on the altar, his hands bound, looking like he’s been beaten. Most people armed with clubs and peasant weapons. 

 

My group meets up with Hassan, who hands us additional ammo for the guns. Nikolai is going to try to talk to the Duc, but wants to be better dressed, so goes to the chateau he knows of nearby where there would be noble clothing for him and Bennington. 

 

Hassan brought back a suit of chain mail which Bennington puts on.  Nikolai enters as the Duc is referring to Amanda as the ‘Skin of Justice’. 

 

“More strangers! Are you here to take the part of the criminal?’

 

The statues in the church turn and look at the group. Hassan yells “Kelly” and I take the shot I’ve been lining up. The bullet goes through the chain he was wearing, breaks the skin, draws blood… then flattens and the bullet pushes out.  A battle ensues. 

 

He’s scary fast, and gets a hit in on Miss Edwards. The stone statues lumber closer to us. I miss with a couple of shots (which I shouldn’t have!) and Miss Edwards knocks the knife out of his hands. Nikolai hits him though, with Mabel’s .32, and hits harder than my .45. Edgar shouts something in Arabic (“Go to the well”)… which I don’t understand (thick Swiss accent, I think), and jumps out the stained glass window — and then Hassan yells for me to leave, so I go after him. Edwards sees him lift up his dagger and We all group up and run to a well, next to a taxidermy building. Edgar ran into the taxidermy building and pulls a couple of gooey scrolls out of a well. Edgar tells us that we just return back to the room where we dream and we can come back… and we do. We give him the money, he gives us two scrolls… the original, and the translation. And a third… the ‘bad’ translation!

 

Both Wellingtons made it to the smuggler, and we prepare and head out to the train station. 

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