Friday, June 10, 2016

Demonic Trails of Cthulhu: Prelude (Part Two)

My husband who plays Gipontel.
I took the first half of the "Drawn From The Water" adventure from Issue 2 of the Arkham Gazette and tacked on the Colours Out of Space from H.P. Lovecraft's own works.  Thus the mission involved the players tracking down a missing artist.  There were several modifications.  Walton's address was moved to Arkham, as were all other Kingsport locations.  Walton was the son of a cultist who belonged to Ambrose Mogen's "Half-Moon Cult" (which worshipped Belphigor as the Black Man rather than an Avatar of Nyarlathotep). 

Instead of using a scrimshaw piece connecting him to a Yugg, I had him commissioned by some scientists with Arkham University to try and capture the colours coming off the meteorite fragment they had taken from a certain farm which I placed not far from Annie Pernell's farm in Innsmouth (which I called Rowley, so my more knowledgeable player wouldn't automatically guess it, though he did in the end anyway).

I also included a private investigator as evidence of the Half-Moon cult's first foray into finding him.  Unfortunately the private investigator had attempted to interrogate Joe Sergeant of the Innsmouth bus and so when his blue hire car was spotted heading into the heath, the hybrid police officers pulled him over, arrested him and then took him to the jail to await ritual sacrifice.  Regrettably the players never spoke to Joe Sergeant, avoided the bus and missed all of that.

So they follow the adventure pretty well, though they don't get any of the written handouts because they all refer to scrimshaw that doesn't exist in this story, and even manage to track down the private investigator's blue hire car and find out that he was quite a paranoid fellow who slept in the car (more spy than private eye, as Mogens used him often).  They even hire the very same model.

They then head out to Falcon's Point, track down the address of Walton, and head over to the little abandoned farm. They pause along the way to try one of the marvellous blackberries which are so big and lush, almost impossibly so, only to find they taste acrid like an ant landing on your tongue (side effect of the Colour).

He warns them to stay away, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, Gipontel opens the door and takes a bullet to the shoulder (3 health points).  He slams the door shut after that and Nithriel has to try and patch him up without a first aid kit.  Then Gipontel crawls underneath the building (risen up on short stilts to keep it out of water) and uses his powers to split the floor beneath the ranting madman.  Walton refuses to leave, cannot even countenance it in fact.

Once the man falls the foot (misfiring), he tries to drag him down and under, just about managing to do so while Walton fires blindly into the dark (missing with every shot).  Then the man gets back up the hole with an empty gun, and the three converse about the mural on the walls which depicts his rendition of the farm and the Colour out of Space.  He has to keep painting, or so he believes, or the Colour will come for him.

They head directly toward that farm and see that the flora really is more marvellous and full, and then that it gets greyer and more brittle towards the buildings themselves.  I made use of the various skill use suggestions from the Bestiary in the Trail of Cthulhu book and Nithriel even gets to perform a little autopsy on a dead dog by the side of the road.

They arrive at the farm and head inside only to find a man on the couch calling for his middle son to fetch him some water (when Nithriel tries the kitchen tap, she finds the water is oddly grey and rasping like dry paper).  Much of what follows is taken straight from H.P. Lovecraft's short story.  The wife became deranged and so they locked her upstairs, where she crawled about on all fours and spoke in some ungodly tongue.  And then the same happened to their eldest son, also locked upstairs in a different room.  The youngest son disappeared over by the well, and where is the middle son?  He calls for him but he doesn't come.
They head upstairs and find the eldest son as little more than fragments of skin and desiccated flesh beneath the covers of his bed.  They go to see the mother and find her sitting on the bed, face crumbling inwards, but only as she raises her arm do they see she is still, in fact, alive.  So they rush over to her, Gipontel thinking he maybe should put her out of her misery with the poker he took from downstairs.  Just then they fill something brush past them, and realise (with an Awakening spend) that there was something in the room with them.  Something departing.

My friend who plays Nithriel.
Gipontel heads down after it while Nithriel considers how to save the woman.  In her true form she can provide a little health points, enough to keep her alive enough to move, though the woman is still badly mutilated.  Gipontel merely grabs the man on the couch and drags him outside.  The entity seems to avoid the light, which gives Gipontel the false idea that perhaps it is actually afraid of light, so when it starts upstairs he instructs Nithriel to rip open the window.  Which does nothing.

So Nithriel gathers up the woman as best she can and hurries out the window, gliding down on her wings.  But the motion has undone all of her healing, and the woman now verges on death, requiring the last of Nithriel's faith to heal.

Gipontel takes the roof off the car and forms it into a stretcher for the woman, then reconnects it to the top of the car, hoping that she can survive the bumpy ride up the hill and back into town.  Luckily they took the right road and passed Dr. Bloom's office.  Dr. Bloom was quite a strange sort of fellow, and his mix of alchemy and occult books, and mention of his loss of license, certainly caught Gipontel's eye.  They had to return to him twice more to check on the adults and each time Dr. Bloom forgot who they were (more he didn't recognise them as he knew them once they pointed out the connection).

They rent to the Bar and Grill for dinner (and it was quite late in Real Life) and so I pointed out what they had for dinner both in and out of game that was quite themed.  They had a choice of baked beans, spaghetti and meatballs, devilled ham or tuna, all canned.  The look in their eyes when I brought out all those cans after their very fancy lunchtime made it all worth it.  Though as it was quite late one of the players was just hungry and got the joke more after he'd eaten it.

I played up everything smelling of fish, but I didn't describe the Innsmouth Taint as I still wanted to hide the location.  The well-read player figured it out anyway but here's hoping when they finally return he'll have forgotten his assumptions.  Maybe.

So at the Bar and Grille, Moira Brooks, a hybrid who works there, tries to chat up Gipontel despite his young sixteen years of age.  She convinces him that she'll show him the smuggler's tunnels, using quite dirty metaphors for other things that he didn't quite realise, but that she'd only show him alone.  He went away with her into a nearby empty house and she tried to put his hand on her You Know What.  He snatched his hand away, scolded her, but she was pretty unrepentant.

Gipontel marched off to find Nithriel and the two headed back to Arkham for the night.  Nithriel stated they would be exploring the well tomorrow morning, and when Gipontel tried to explain the reasons why they shouldn't, she told him that she'd go with him or without him.  The two younger kids were still missing after all.  So they returned to the tainted farmhouse and Gipontel spent a couple hours (Relentless, Forge Power) digging a hole down beside the well in the hopes that there might be a cave system beside it, but finding only groundwater.  So he breaks through at the bottom and the grey raspy water rushes over his hands and brings with it two small skulls.  Cue more stability loss!  It gets even worse when he feels the cool draught and sees the slight phosphorescence of the Colour out of Space.

So he flashes his light on it but it really doesn't seem to care, so he gets the hell out of there.

They go back to Walton whom Gipontel sealed into his farmhouse (think I forgot to mention that) and he's still unwilling to leave.  He can't.  He just can't bring himself to.  So they head to Eliot's Drug Store to get some sedatives.  While there they see some rather lovely orchids out the front for sale that seem rather out of place (bred by Lester Davies) and find out a bit about the florist. 

Gipontel is figuring that perhaps this Lester Davies is draining the good health out of the farmlands for his own plants but when they drive by his address (after bribing Eliot) they find the street is still pretty weed-racked and figure it for a red herring.  A shame because Lester Davies is a Cryptic Rabisu (angel of the wilds) and a meeting with Gipontel might have slowly teased that loose.

Before heading back to Walton, they stop by the telephone booth to contact Ambrose Mogens at his estate but as he's no longer at home (busy entertaining the Ashburnes), they end up having to invoke him.  Or rather, Nithriel does while Gipontel stresses over what they have learned to date and how best to proceed.

Luckily Belphigor has had a few hundred years as Ambrose Mogens and is a dab hand at both the Occult and History.  He recalls a few legends of strange natural disasters, fey things of strange colours, seen in medieval Europe and that in one instance they got rid of it by feeding it lots of pigs. He also warns Nithriel to keep an eye on Gipontel because who knows what these stresses could do to a Silver Legionnaire fresh from the Abyss?  "He's seen some things…."

To make it even better, Gipontel's player kept roleplaying his character's thoughtful distress and so when Nithriel's player slid him a sidelong and appraising look it was quite a beautiful moment.

They head to Newburyport to purchase some pigs from a local farmer who had been to the Sunday market (it's Sunday now) and have them dropped off in the barn.  They shut the doors on the place as it grows dark and the well begins to glow.  They head over and drug dear Walton's food and then put him in the back of the car and then drive their hire car all the way to New York.

A week later Nithriel goes back to check on it and finds the whole area surrounding the farm is little more than a blasted heath with two small holes in the ground where Gip's efforts and the well had stood.  And things go back to normal.

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