Friday, February 10, 2017

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.16

Previously, the Lamplighters recently lost in medieval France had been reunited with the remainder of their team (Smythe) in early 20th century England only to learn they were the remaining active members.  Granted there were retired Lamplighters like Doctor John Watson, Reginald Smythe II, and the Consultant (known now to be Sherlock Holmes), but none who had been active for some time.

King George V of the United Kingdom, after meeting with Watson and Holmes - his grandmother, Victoria, had spoken highly of Holmes - he decided to formally fold the Lamplighter into Military Intelligence.

Cast

Reginald Smythe III - son of Baron Reginald Smythe II, dilettante and veteran Lampligther.

Dr. Thomas McKinley - Army medical doctor and veteran of the Western Front. Senior most member of the cadre.

Bertrand Merriweather - haphazardly thrown into medieval France with the Lampligthers as he defended family property, now a seasoned member of the cadre.

Alaard Vick - Oxford librarian, Afrikaner veteran of the First Boer War, student of Egyptology (player previously played Jeffery Llywellyn.)

Geppeto Ponzi - importer, fence, and middleman from Sicily.  Associate of the Smythe family (player previously played Tali and the Zoog.)

***

Saturday, September 18, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

The next evening the Lamplighters - Reginald Smythe III, Dr. Thomas McKinley, Bertrand Merriweather, Alaard Vick - met at Smythe's home in Paddington.  Joining them was a London-based "importer" and associate of the Smythe family, Geppetto Ponzi (cousin of the soon to be better known Ponzi.)

While leaving out discussion of their experiences with Horrors or in medieval France, Alaard and Geppetto were brought on board with the understanding that they were part of a British Crown operation to obtain specific items from an auction in Paris.

Alaard with his experience with the occult and Egyptology seemed very interested in the catalogue of items for sale.  McKinley, Smythe, and Merriweather did elaborate on the veracity of the occult. 

Ponzi with his connections to the London and Paris underworld as well as the ability to obtain information and items was brought on board to evaluate goods and distract any potential buyers.  He had no idea what he was getting into.

Having reviewed the catalogue, the group decided the items they wanted to give a closer look:
  • The Sword of Paracelus
  • The Diary of Nicholas Smythe - an ancestor of Reginald Smythe III
  • Der Gerbrachan Tram by Ludwig von Prinn - the author of De Vermis Mysteriis
  • Four Medallions dated to the Roman Empire - McKinley and Merriweather wanted to determine if these were similar to the medallions they had read about in the scroll
  • Egyptian Ankh of the Old Kingdom - Alaard wanted this badly

 ***

Tuesday, September 21, 1915 to Friday, September 24, 1915 - London, United Kingdom to Paris, French Republic

Just after midnight on September 21st, 1915, the Lamplighters boarded a small private yacht in the English town of Poole.  They traveled as quickly as the boat would allow and in a complete blackout.  McKinley's hands shook as he thought about u-boats.  The ship captain reminded them all that the minefields would probably keep the submarines out. Smythe reminded McKinley leaving at night was primarily to avoid being tracked by the Silver Spiral.
 
Soon they arrived in the middle of the night in the town of Goury.  There they were met by a private car and chauffeur that handed them a package and spoke the agreed on code words.  He acknowledged he been contracted by a man in Paris who matched the description of Sherlock Holmes' associate.

The trip to Paris took far longer than anyone expected road conditions were terrible and clogged with traffic.  The Battle of the Somme still raged to the east, and the military stopped them constantly checking for spies.

***

Saturday, September 25, 1915 to September, September 26, 1915 - Paris, French Republic

Smythe remarked that the city seemed less vibrant that it had when he was last here in 1911.  Alaard told them stories of being in Paris in the 1890s, while McKinley told them it was even more glum than when he had seen it a year before.  They had a few days in Paris to obtain evening wear for most of the cadre - only Merriweather and Smythe had adequate formal dress wear.  Smythe's Fashion Sense advantage helped dressed his companions in adequate white tie for the affair and thus avoid any minus for social interactions and influence rolls.

Ponzi reached out to his local contacts to arrange for his companions to obtain military handguns for the auction - just in case.

McKinley and Merriweather met with their local contact one Hercule Poirot - a former policeman now living in England.  He had agreed to travel to Paris to assist them at Holmes' urging.  Poirot, though he would not attend the auction, would help them should they require any assistance with the police or otherwise.

***

Monday, September 27, 1915 - Paris, French Republic

On the night of the auction, the Lamplighters traveled in Poirot's chauffeured car to the building in south Paris.  

They arrived early to mingle with the guests and decide what items they liked and what they thought might be junk.  Dr. John Watson had informed them that one of their duties was to recruit members for the new Lamplighters (ideally British), make contacts, and identify any opposition.

After viewing the ankh, Alaard decided he desperately need the item and would spend his own personal wealth rather than any money provided by the British government

Reginald, who had been entrusted with the government's resources, conferred with Ponzi and Alaard, agreeing they should attempt to purchase Der Gerbrachan Tram.

McKinley, on viewing the medallions, became a bit ill but confirmed they were identical to the ones mentioned in Tulius Varro's tale.

Merriweather told them he was going to try to buy the Sword of Paracelus with his own funds, though Smythe noted that if the auction price went beyond Bertand's funds then he would obtain it for the government.

Reginald in particular wanted the Diary of Nicholas Smythe for himself, while Ponzi set to distracting the other guests towards items of lesser importance.

The central piece everyone seemed interested in was a riveted brass head with hinged eyelids and jaws. It's origins and age were unknown.

As the guests drank champagne, chatted, and observed the auction items, the Lamplighters decided two attendees - both British - would make good recruits.  Lady Margaret Jameson, the daughter of a steel baron, was already socially familiar with Reginald Smythe III, and once she realized he too was interested in occult things she chatted with him all during dinner.

Both Alaard Vick and Sir Martin Murry were of the same age - their fifties - both had been young men during the First Boer War (though on opposite sides) and both had harrowing experiences with the unnatural in the colonies.  What could have been a difficult meeting of former combatants ended with mutual respect.  Diplomacy, reaction rolls.

Gepp Ponzi made the acquaintance of Count Nikolai Tychevski, who had fled Russia after annoying Rasputin and now lived in Greece and Paris.  The Count had heard of Gepp through mutual Paris underworld connections.  He himself had ties to the Parisian and Greek underworld.  After good Diplomacy/influence, the Count became available as a Contact advantage for Gepp.

They chatted with many others of the crowd, but made no progress in recruitment or contacts.

McKinley and Merriweather thought the German Klaus Hunderpress was not German at all, so they decided to watch him. 

After dinner they moved to another room for the auction.  Reginald bought the book, The Magus, for Lady Margaret. She was quite taken with it and Smythe; they made arrangements to see each other socially in London.   It's an 18th century English text on Enochian, Ceremonial Magic, Astrology, and Horror Lore.  It remains to be seen how she will take this new information, but Smythe's player did seem to think having her as an Ally or even Dependent if they two became engaged would be of interest.

Smythe also won his Diary, and for the British government he obtained the Roman medallions and Der Gerbrachan Tram. McKinley purchased an Inuit Shaman bag for "anthropological curiosity." Alaard spent his entire life savings for the ankh from ancient Egypt, while Merriweather was unable to buy the Sword of Paracelsus with his own money and had to rely on Smythe and the British government.

Everyone liked the auction.  If they were interested, I had them bid against competitors.  If not, someone got it for some price.  I kept track of what money the NPCs had.  They kept track of their own pools.

While they were waiting on the brass head, they all took lavatory and refreshment breaks.  Finally, they heard a scream from the other end of the building.  The auctioneer and one assistant ran off to investigate.  The Lamplighters stayed put. When they returned horrified, a crowd drew around them and Merriweather managed to sneak over to the Sword of Paracelus and touch it.  The black crystal in the hilt sparked and Merriweather - who failed his Epilepsy roll - passed out.

McKinley, Ponzi, and Alaard rushed to care for Merriweather, while Smythe, Lady Margaret, and Sir Martin followed the auctioneer to the scene of the scream.

***

Bertand lay naked in a cave.  He smelled a deep musk nearby.  Sitting up he realized he could see though dimly in the dark, and across the cave from him sat a great dire wolf like the bones he'd seen in the British Museum.  "What do you want?" the wolf asked him in his mind.

"I wanted the sword," Betrand sputtered.

"You can have it," the wolf sniffed, "if you are mine."

"I am yours."

***

After his seizure subsided, Bertrand Merriweather looked around for the sword, but it was nowhere to be seen.  His hand burned some and, glancing at it, he saw a strange pentagram-like tattoo of silver freshly burned on.  He also felt a tingling on his scalp.  Checking his bag, he realized his iron-wolf helm was gone. 

At the end of the hall, Smythe, Lady Margaret, and Sir Martin rushed into an open room behind the auctioneer.  There lay the bloody remains of one of the assistance with a blood trail to a dumbwaiter.

Sir Martin cried, "Not again!"  and stepped back into the hall.  Lady Margaret swore then laughed. "Does this happen to you often, Reginald?"

Smythe turned.  "Seems to be."  He pulled the auctioneer to him.  "Go back and collect my companions."

Sir Martin accompanied the auctioneer back to the main room.  There he found a glass of gin and sat down next to Alaard.

Merriweather, McKinley, and Ponzi followed the auctioneer to the scene of the murder.  On arrival, the Doctor examined the body.  "This fellow was torn apart by teeth," he said.  "The marks are similar to those on the bones in Kent."

They decided to head downstairs and track the dumbwaiter.  Smythe told the auctioneer to contact Poirot instead of the normal police and asked Lady Margaret to keep an eye on everything.  Reluctantly, she agreed.

Smythe, Merriweather, McKinley, and Ponzi gathered themselves and their hidden weapons, then descended first to the ground floor and then to the basement.  They found the gory entrance to the dumbwaiter and a series of vaults, one of which was open.  In the open vault, the found the back wall of brick and plaster had been knocked in from the other side and the passage led into the Paris underground. 

Merriweather, still a bit unsteady, found - Tracking roll - a variety of footprints in the dirt and mud of the tunnel, but noted the ones they wanted were barefeet quite like those of the rat-faced things of Kent.  Everyone but Ponzi swore and checked their guns.  Ponzi seemed confused and asked. "Rat-faced things?"

Before anyone responded they saw several large scorpion like creatures crawl from holes in the tunnel and rush at them.  Smythe, McKinley, and Merriweather - passed Fright Check - fired their pistols at the things, though no bullet seemed to penetrate their carapaces.

Ponzi - failed Fright Check - ran away screeching, yet, looking back the entire time, he did not see the thing that grabbed him, pulled a canvas bag over his head, and bound his limbs.

Smythe backed into a side tunnel to shake off the scorpion and he wast captured as well.  McKinley was stuck and felt the poison in his leg.  Merriweather suddenly dropped his gun, and the Sword of Paracelus was in his had and the iron wolf helm on his head.  He cut through the scorpions quickly as if they had no armor, then stopped to catch his breath.  The Sword and Helm seemed to vanish.

McKinley was trying to find something in his bag for the venom when a pale blue gas filled the tunnel and - Failed HT - they passed out.

***

Waking, some time later, the group found themselves bound to old wooden chairs to one side of a cavern filled with rat-faced things.  Ponzi was visibly distressed.  In the center of the room sat the bronze head on a shabby table.  Karl Hunderpress, wearing a purple robe and holding a long knife, smiled at them.

"Finally, you are awake!" He seemed gleeful.  "We can begin.  I will drain the blood from each of you into the head and ask a question.  Thank you for volunteering."  He laughed again.

Murmuring among the rat-faced things grew louder, and suddenly several of them seized Hunderpress, forced him over the brass head, and slit his throat with his own dagger.  As Hunderpress died and the blood soaked into the brass head, it opened its eyes and spoke.  Ponzi passed out.  Merriweather tried to make the sword appear, but nothing happened.

One of the rat-faced things growled at the brass head, which then responded in both a growl and what sounded like English.  "The Mother remains, but the King grows near.  Soon his children will pierce the shroud.  Go to her sacred places and prepare as you have been waiting."

The creatures piled away into various tunnels taking the brass head with them.  Soon only a few, including the one who asked the question, remained.  "You are Tali's friends.  The Mother has use of you," it hissed.  Before they left, the rat-faced things loosened the captured Lamplighter's bindings.

Once they had struggled free, they found their firearms and bags. McKinley sought to treat the scorpion sting, only to find it already healing.  Rummaging through Hunderpress' clothing, Merriweather found a pair of passports.  One German, in the name of Karl Hunderpress, and the other British, in the name of William Gabriel.

McKinley recalled - Eidetic Memory helps again - that Gabriel was the the Silver Spiral member who had threatened Harris Benjamin Harrison in the train car and who they believed had planned the black crystal attack on the Prime Minister.  No one but Benjamin had ever gotten a close look at the man.

Returning to the auction house, they met Hercule Poirot who arranged for the vault to be closed and the bodies removed.

Smythe told the group he would be accompanying Lady Margaret Jameson back to London.

Alaard and Sir Martin agreed to meet to discuss the events.

Ponzi exchanged contact information with Count Nikolai.

Paying for their items, the Lamplighters prepared to return to London.

***

It has been busy lately between work, a class in Javascript, and my two year old, but I have finally finished the last write up of Its Hour Come Round at Last - Part I.

In a way, this has been the prologue. Part I has been about the end of the Lamplighters as they are folded into the beginning of the modern British Intelligence Service.  The stories branched widely to reveal on a surface level the different types of stories they can pursue.

Next we will adding to or reworking characters and bringing them up to 150 points.  They will receive the Hidden Lores, some of the languages (like Middle French), and their Patron on top of this 150.

After that, we will spend a session reviewing Part I, identifying loose ends, clarifying what their characters have been doing between September 1915 and the early summer of 1916, and then what interests the group has.  Part II will move toward a sandbox approach as the players will bring up what they want to pursue and I will plan accordingly.  Furthermore, we may have several investigations going on at the same time.

I will be creating a set a 150 point combat characters as second character for each player.  They will be able to call in and substitute their character on a successful Patron roll.

Also, I am putting together a ring binder with sleeves to store my GM charts and pages detailing each characters disadvantages.  I will also be adding more complexity - such as body locations for injuries.

All in all it has been a good introduction to players who have never played GURPS and good experience for me in running GURPS.

This story will continue with Its Hour Come Round at Last 2.0.


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