Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.7

Several weeks passed since the events of chapter 6.  

During this time, Smythe healed from his injury.  McKinley unsuccessfully studied the fungal samples he obtained from the blind assassins.  Benjamin continued to cover the new War government in London while waiting for news of his father's arrival (despite u-boat dangers.)

Lillian Grey, now living permanently with Tali, now suddenly found herself ill.  McKinley informed Tali that Lillian was most likely pregnant.

***

Friday, July 30, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

Smythe's bookseller contact, Bernard van Berck, contacted him at the end of July.  Meeting the man, Smythe soon learned that an auction of the effects of a French collector would be going up in Paris at the end of September.  The books Der Gerbrachen Tram by Ludwig Primm and a book about Marlowe's The King of Rags and Patches would be for sale.

Smythe asked Bernard van Berck to arrange for himself and his entourage to attend the auction.

***

Monday, August 2, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

Harris Benjamin received a telegram from his father, Ruben Benjamin, noting the elder Benjamin's ship was arriving in London late that night.  Finishing his work for the day, Harris Benjamin took a late taxi to the assigned docks on the Thames and waited for the river launch to arrive with his father and accompanying luggage.

Once underway, Harris told his father that he had arranged for the elder Benjamin to stay at the Regent Palace Hotel for the duration of his stay in London.  His father humphed and asked Harris if he was still "wasting his time with newspapers" and "when he was coming home to take up family responsibilities."  His son remained silent for the remainder of the trip.

Having finally arrived at the hotel, Ruben ordered several bottles of scotch sent to his room.  He made himself and Harris drinks while they waited on the old man's luggage to come up.

For the moment, the old man looked frail and told his son that he is dying.  Harris was surprised by the news and the candor.  He attempted to express condolence for his father, which earned the old man's ire.

Ruben told Harris that he needed to visit his friend Rupert Merriweather at St. Mary's Hospital in London the next day and asked his son to accompany him.

***

Tuesday, August 3, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

The next morning, Harris Benjamin crossed town to meet his father at the hotel, then they both rode to St. Mary's.  An older hospital, it had been updated during 1890s.  Ruben pressed his way through the nurses and found Merriweather's room.

There, Rupert's son, Bertrand Merriweather, and his wife, Agnes Merriweather, sat next to the dying man.  Ruben entered and was immediately challenged by Bertrand.  He brushed the young man aside, calling him a "little shit."  Harris followed amused.

Rupert asked his wife and son to step out of the room.  He did not acknowledge Harris Benjamin, but quickly looked at Ruben as the door to the room shut.  "You are the last, Ruben," he coughed. The elder Merriweather informed the Benjamins that his wife Anges has a box for Ruben before slipping into a coma.

Harris and his father left St. Mary's and returned to Ruben's hotel.  There the father informed Harris they should meet again the next day to visit Agnes.  Harris asked his father what the incident was about.

His father rebuffed him at first, but then once securely in his hotel room with a few bottles of scotch, Ruben Benjamin sighed and told his son a story of his youth.

"Years ago, when I came to London as a young man - this would have been the late sixties.  Let's see 1868.  I became involved with a group of spiritualists, yes I know.  Now you understand where my abhorrence began.  There I met Rupert Merriweather as well as several others.  We called ourselves the Dark Brotherhood, if you can believe it, and were lead by one Alastair Neville.

"Mostly it was opium and orgies, but once day Neville announces he has made several acquaintances in another group.  They called themselves the Silver Spiral.   They had provided him with a strange box of gold and a book.  Real magic, you see.

"Merriweather offered the use of a family farmhouse in Kent for the event.  Of course, none of us really believed Neville.  We planned on a quick trip, some fun, then back to London.

"Things went poorly.  Robert died the night of the summoning.  Harold some months later.  I returned to America by the fall of '69.  The others have all gone one after another. 

"We did something that night, Harris.  Let something out.  And now, before I die I need to put an end to it."

Now pale, he, looking at his son, stated.  "I need your help."

Harris Benjamin was pleased and frightened.  "I have some acquaintances I need for you to meet."

***

Wednesday, August 4, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

Early the next morning, Ruben and Harris pay a visit to Agnes Merriweather at her home in SoHo.  She is dressed in black and alone in her parlor.  Asking them for tea, she tells the Benjamins that her husband had died the night before and that her son was out on business.

"Rupert mentioned a box," Ruben told her and she smiled.  "He told me when he first became ill, he wanted you to have this."

Finishing their tea and cakes, the Benjamins returned to Ruben's hotel where they were met by Tali, Smythe, and Dr. McKinley.

He related his story to the cadre as he had his son, then turned his attention to the box.  Inside was a yellow envelope and key, an oblong gold box, and a slim handwritten journal.

Opening the envelope, Ruben read the document and passed it around.  "It's the deed to the farmhouse in Kent."  He pocketed the key also.

Examining the journal, he nodded.  "This is Merriweather's own handwriting.  It is an account of our Brotherhood from June of 1868 to March of 1869."  He read sections aloud.  "The Dark Brotherhood formed with an opium smoking celebration in the early spring of 1868 with Rupert Merriweather as recording secretary. "  He pointed to a list.  "Here are the names of the members with the month and year of their deaths."

Robert Menkin - March 1869
Harold Copely - August 1869
Alastair Neville - June 1883
Crawford Harris - January 1903
Cecil Jones - March 1911
Rupert Merriweather
Ruben Benjamin

"I suppose I need to write August 1915 in for Rupert."  Ruben Benjamin looked at the cadre.  "We tired some seances at first.  Only later, at the farmhouse in Reculver, did we become dangerous.

"The ceremony is recorded here also.  Rupert was a fastidious note keeper even when the world was going mad."  Ruben took a long pull of whiskey.  "We arrived at the house late and Rupert lit a fire while Alastair carved something into the door frames and above the windows.  He then drew a hexagon and a spiral with a silvery substance from a box.  We all lit candles and placed them at the corners of the hexagon, while Alastair sat in the center."

Ruben's hands began to visibly shake and he drank more of the bottle.  "Alastair took this gold box." His rested his hand on the gold box with strange designs.  He handed the box to Smythe, who passed it to McKinley.  "Robert had small bundles of lavender he was to feed to the fire.  The rest of us were handed papers with writing in Latin that we were supposed to sing."  Ruben's breath became a bit ragged.

"Two god-damn hours of chanting and the amber began to smoke and bubble.  Black smoke soon filled the room."  Harris watched his father with surprise now as the old man cried.  "Robert fell to the ground screaming as all the blood poured from his body and rushed to the hexagon.  Poor, Robert. And poor, Harold too.  He tried to stop things.  He ran his foot across the hexagon then wouldn't stop screaming.  He took a candle and put out his own eyes."

"We all ran at this point dragging Harold.  Well, all of us but Alastair.  That bastard stayed.  He seemed pleased.  For a moment, I swear I saw something.  The size of a dog scurrying in the doorway."

"Rupert hired some men later to go back and close up the house.  They found no sign of Robert or blood.  I left for America that April and never came back.  Until now."

Examining the the gold box, they identified Egyptian hieroglyphs on the outside.  Inside, now empty, they saw some kind of writing unknown to the group.   Harris Benjamin's player asked if he could succeed with a consequence as he was close to the target number.  I agreed and decided that he would be infected with a memetic.  Benjamin recalled seeing the writing in Smythe's library.

Returning to the Smythe home in Paddington, they found the book, written by Smythe's great-grandfather, which discussed the Book of Hy-Brasil (a medieval medical book wherein the physician discusses traveling to the island off the coast of Ireland to learn medical cures.  Several symbols resembling those inside the box appeared hand-copied to in Smythe's great-grandfather's book.

***

Friday, August 6, 1915 - London and Recluver (Kent), United Kingdom

Ruben and the Lamplighters agreed they would drive to Kent on Friday.  Smythe arranged for a larger car to hold their things while everyone obtained supplies or arranged leave.  Tali told Lillian he had to repair a steam engine in Bristol.  Smythe brought his valet, Nigel, to attend him.

Arriving at Ruben's hotel, Harris was informed by the management that the housekeepers had found him dead that morning.  Harris was relieved and saddened by the news.  Dr. McKinley expressed his opinion that Ruben may have died of the cancer.

Harris arranged for his father to be embalmed, leaving a handsome payment and telling the mortician he would return in a few days to deal with the rest of the affairs.

Resultingly, they left London late.  Unfortunately, Smythe had already been drinking heavily, but continued to drive as it was his car and no-one else knew how.  Some miles from Recluver, they encountered a herd of sheep near the road.  Smythe decided if he could just speed around them quickly, then they wouldn't have to wait.  He misjudged the conditions of the dirt road in the rain and plowed through the herd of sheep crushing the engine and bruising the driver and passengers.

When the time the sheep owners arrived, Smythe convinced them he would pay for all the sheep if they would take the cadre to the nearest inn.  After some deliberation, they agreed.  The investigators rode in the back of the haywain for nearly half an hour, soaked through from the rain, until they arrived at the King Ethelbert Inn in Recluver.

The innkeeper sent his daughters to prepare rooms for them as he stoked a fire and brought them all some warm wine.  Smythe asked about the nearest telephone - a good hour walk away - and told Nigel he was to go call "Daddy" Smythe in the morning about the car.

Dr. McKinley asked the innkeeper about Merriweather's house, then asked a farmer sitting in the inn to take them their in the morning.  They all ate heavily of stew and bread, then tired, battered, and cold they retired for the evening.

***

Though each member of the group fell asleep in their own room, they woke laying in a small circular marble room, each upon a marble slab.  Bronze sconces dot the walls.

Sitting on a final slap, a grey cat licked its paw.  "I wondered when you would wake," it said.

McKinley, Benjamin, and Tali questioned the cat but reach no clear answers.  McKinley suspected he was dreaming.  Tali became frustrated when he asked the cat why they are present and the cat said to seek the Lost City.  Tali tossed the cat who hissed and cursed him.  "I pity what will happen to you."

Walking down the marble staircase they approached a great white marble room with a blue domed ceiling painted in silver and gold stars.  A large malachite pool filled with water sits in the center of the room.

As they approach the pool, a twenty foot creature with furry taloned feet and furry arms with two forearms entered from a side wing.  Two squishy pink eyes jutted from its head, while a great vertical mouth with yellow fangs run from the top of the head to the bottom.  The creature stood before the pool slobbering.  "Maker your offering."

They questioned the creature who only pointed to the pool and repeated itself.  Tali smiled and poured some alcohol into the pool.  "Your sacrifice has been accepted," the creature replied.

Smythe removed his car keys and tossed them into the pool.  The creature was pleased.

At this point, McKinley and Benjamin began questioning just what the sacrifice was and what lasting repercussions might occur.

Finally, after some thought, the doctor threw a tear into the pool.  The doctor, most cleverly, stated who would offer the memory of the black crystal's killings from the night of at the theatre several weeks earlier.

They offerings made, a bronze gate in the wall of the room appeared and opened.  The creature pointed and they descended a series of worn marble stairs until they came to an open metal gate.  At the bottom of the cave they found themselves in a forest of late afternoon sunset.

***

Saturday, August 7, 1915 - Recluver, Kent, United Kingdom

They each woke suddenly from the rush of wind and rain against the windows of the inn.  Tali noticed he was holding the silver medallion with a spiral on it - the very same medallion he and McKinley had taken from the corpse in Grove months ago.

***

Heavy roleplay session after a long break.  The players are increasingly good about requesting rolls to see if their disadvantages come into play.

The story continues in Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.8.