Friday, March 31, 2017

Its Hour Come Round at Last 2.1

Session played: March 4, 2017

Our first session for Volume 2, this played out as a strict investigative game where I gave them clues and they decided what to do.  Its Hour Come Round at Last is my bi-weekly tabletop game played in GURPS 4th edition.

***

Monday, June 12, 1916 - London

At the end of the previous week, MI 18 HQ in London contacted Alaard Vick, Geppetto Ponzi, and Reginald Smythe III and asked them to come in Monday morning - Smythe asked for elevenses.

Monday morning, Alaard took the train into London from Oxford, while Smythe had Nigel drive him, and Geppetto took a carriage.

They arrived just before (or just after) eleven am and were shown to a sitting room in the basement that Lady Margaret had setup next to the new library.  She and Alaard worked to create a London library for occult books.  The more delicate works were to be kept at the Oxford site.

Lady Margaret served as the Librarian of the HQ Library and also entertained.  Her sitting room opened into an atrium that ran through the center of the building where she had arranged a flower garden and water features.

When everyone had arrived, she called for tea, cakes, and a bottle of brandy.  She gave her hand to Geppetto and Alaard, but kissed Smythe on the cheek. 

"We have a few items to cover before Watson arrives," she told them.  "My researchers and newspaper cutters have found two incidents to bring to your attention."  Stirring her tea, she read a sheet of typed paper in front of her.  "The first is a newspaper item from the Times, March 1865.  Oxford girl, A.L. disappears between Godstoy and Bisney in October of 1864.  She returns one March after noon and was found in the river.  She thought she had only been gone a long afternoon rather than six months.

"She claimed to have found a hole and to have visited another world where she met horrific creatures who threatened her as well as strange but beautiful creatures.  She appeared unharmed other than her dunking.  Doctors assumed some kind of exposure madness but could not explain the missing time."  Lady Margaret handed the paper to Alaard he reread the copy of the cutting closely.

"This is nearby my home and our Oxford branch," he told them excitedly.  "I will speak to my daughter, Viola, and ask her to see if there are any local records."

Lady Margaret smiled.  "And I will have the researchers continue to look for related information.  Granted we only have four researchers right now and two clip newspapers."

Ponzi huffed.  "We need to hire more people around here."

Alaard added.  "Give the nature of what we do, you can't just hire anyone"

Lady Margaret stirred her tea. "The other item on the morning agenda are a series of explosions heard near Colchester."  She withdrew a series of newspaper clippings.  "These explosions were heard at an estate, owned by one Jason Bourcher, residing in Fingringhoe near Colchester."  She passed around the newspaper clippings of the sounds of explosions at the estate, the police investigation, and interview with Bourcher,.

Smythe poured himself another brandy and asked, "How are we involved?"

She opened another file.  "After the police investigation, MI-5 did their own.  Just like the police they found nothing unusual.  The house is old and in disrepair.  No sign of German saboteurs, which is what they suspected.  Here's the MI-5 report."

Lighting a cigarette, she continued.  "However, Watson has us monitor reports that come in from Richard Donovan II.  Donovan worked for Scotland Yard and MI-5 now after the reorganization."  Taking a deep inhale of tobacco, she withdrew another report.  "In his personal report, he mentioned seeing a three-eyed bird on the estate.  His version was not included in the official file and Donovan was placed on administrative leave."

"Why does Watson monitor Donovan's files?" Smythe asked her, passing the report on to Ponzi.

"His father," Lady Margaret replied, "was Richard "Dick" Donovan of Scotland Yard, the Home Office, and later the Lamplighters.  A contemporary of your own father, Reginald.  You might have read his detective stories in The Strand when you were boys."  Turning to Alaard, "or young men."

Alaard looked up from the report of the three-eyed bird.  "What happened to the father?"

Lady Margaret nodded. "Many of his cases dealt with jewel thieves.  From the files though, it seems these jewels weren't anything the police could identify.  No diamonds, rubies, emeralds. Just odd crystals."  He closed the file and passed it to Smythe.

Smythe sat his glass on the table.  "Let's see if we can get someone out to fetch Donovan's records at Scotland Yard."

The door to the sitting room opened and John Watson arrived out of breath.  "Sorry to keep you waiting, Lady Margaret. Gentlemen." Taking at an empty chair, he accepted a small dish of cake and a cup for tea.  "Now, the matter I am about to discuss is related to a personal friend, so I expect your delicacy.  That said, his concern is related to the work we do here."  Watson ate some of his cake and tea before continuing.  "Last night, I dined with my old college friend, Edward.  Edward Call.  He's now an affluent physician living here in London."

Clearing his throat he continued. "Recently, he was invited by a colleague to join some fraternal order in South London.  I assumed it was some Freemason imitator and wondered how much poor Edward was being taken for." He began rummaging in his coat pocket. "When I saw the name, I determined the department should investigate."  He passed a business card reading Order of the Silver Gate with a stylized gate.  "It could be nothing, but I have asked Call to be available for dinner tonight.  This is department business but...:

Smythe leaned in and took the card.  "I know just the club."

***

That evening the team met Doctor Edward Call at a a plain building in Knightsbridge..  No recognizable sign identified the places, but once inside Smythe led them to a quiet room on the top floor overlooking Hyde Park a few blocks away.  The decor and furniture was expensive without being opulent, and the wine was excellent.  All had dressed in evening formal, while Smythe sent Nigel around to Edward with a rental.

Like Waton, Call was in his sixties and now a retired physician.  Mostly bald and thickset, Call, Watson had told them, had been an avid equestrian as a young man, but a fall let him walking with a cane.  He admired Smythe's club - "One of my clubs," Smythe admitted - commenting on its tastefulness.

 Their dinner interview went smoothly, Dr. Call remaked he had been invited took to be a neo-Masonic social club but now had his doubts.

“Everyone was friendly and well-spoken.  Many of the members are well off and I believe of high intelligence.  All in all they seem a good group of men.  I came way with a most favorable impression of the Order and the sort of person they wanted as a member.

“And yet, I could not help but finding it an odd place.  There are far more employees than seem necessary and they aren’t all the right sort of help.  Low class, foreigners.  One of them, a tattooed Pole I think, had this strange three bladed fan-like tattoo that seemed to move on its own when I looked at it.  Nearly made me sick
.
There are entire floors of the building that are sealed off from prospective members.  I took a wrong turn after going to the Water closet and was escorted back by that tattooed pole fellow. The whole place has an air of secrecy to it.”

At the mention of the tatoo, the team took interest and asked Call about the next meeting.  Call noted their next meeting was that Friday, June 16, 1916 and he would be happy to bring them as potential initiates. 

*** 

Tuesday, June 13, 1916 - London

 The next morning, the team met with Watson to discuss their dinner and the Order of the Silver Gate.  He agreed it fell under their domain for investigation.

Alaard spent the day searching (Research roll) for anything about the Order and located a reference to a book Daemonic Kultes of London written by  Herbert Grobenach of Paddington in 1735 that mentioned the Knights of the Silver Gate.   He also found the name of a local historian Barnaby Pritcher who wrote extensive histories on West Barnes.  His contact at the British Library agreed to search for the books.

He and Lady Margaret's newspaper clipping staff also found reference to a missing man from Mitchum, a neighborhood near Motspur Park (formerly West Barnes)

The London Times - June 1, 1916
  • Police today sought the information from the public concerning the puzzling disappearance of Mr. James Clark from his home at 1312 Newton Circle, Mitcham.
  • He was last seen at home by his wife at about ten o’clock on Monday night.  Mr. Clark is of medium build, brown hair, and 34 years of age. An omnibus driver reports seeing a passenger resembling Mr. Clark headed toward West Barnes at about 2:30 in the morning. Mr. Clark keeps a law office in West Barnes. His is a public-spirited, outgoing personality. Friends at Masonic Hall and at the Order of the Silver Gate expressed dismay when apprised of his disappearance.
Lady Margaret also briefed them on a followup to the A.L. case in Oxford from the 1860s.  Her researchers the day before found an account from April 1875 about a girl A.L. of Oxford who claimed to have gone through a mirror  and returned.  She became ill after refusing to eat and died two weeks after her wild claims began.  Autopsy showed all of her organs were reverse of normal.

While Alaard stayed at headquarters for research, Geppeto Ponzi contacted (Contacts) some associates in the Irish mafia of London as he looked into the Order and their muscle.  He found - thanks to Diplomacy, Charisma, and Luck - they had been supplying the Order with a steady stream of Eastern European security at surprisingly high turnover.  He also found they were avid purchasers of the morbid paintings of a Belle Epoque French artist, Sabine Chanteur.

Smythe spent the day at his clubs discretely asking about the Order or anything like it and finally came across a flier regarding a weekly lecture series sponsored by the Order called: Look to the Future. Furthermore, his tennis friend David Archibald, whose father was a member, told him there were two leaders: John Scott who ran things, and Carl Stanford who gave speeches at the Order and the Look to the Future.

*** 

Wednesday, June 14, 1916 - London

The morning of Wednesday, the team met up at London HQ again for tea, cake, and brandy, while Lady Margaret Jameson gave them any updates.  Two new agents to MI 18 but with police experience had been dispatched to Colchester, or more precisely to the village of Fingringhoe to investigate the explosions and any three-eyed birds.  The pair checked in the day before on arrival and were staying at The Whalebone.

Lady Margaret's researchers found another reference to disturbances of the Oxford area.   

April 1876, a year after the death of A.L.
  • Reverend Doctor Eric Bellman led a team of investigators to determine what had happened to A.L. on the river.  They claimed to have found a hole that appeared and explored it.  
  • His entire team, which notably consisted of a Reginald Smythe I, vanished after the hole disappeared. 
  • Six months later all but Smythe were found floating face down in the river.  They were each reported as mad.  
  • One of them, George Butcher, had changed.  His skin was glossy black and his hair glossy white.  He died three days later.
  • A journal was found on Bellman, but was written in nonsense rhyme.  One passage wrote, "It has taken Smythe.  Beware the JubJub bird!"
  • One P. Fogg of London arrived to take charge of the scene and had the entire group committed to an asylum.
Alaard mentioned his daughter, Viola, had been unable to obtain the medical files, but was now going to visit any of the locals who might recall the incident.

 Ponzi decided to tail Richard Donovan and learned from the man's housekeeper he had been spending time at the British Museum and Library the past few days.  There he found Donovan looking into the Bourchier family of Fingringhoe, books on Norse myth, and trying to find a copy of the Demonic Kultes of London.  

Alaard and Smythe visited James Clark's wife in Mitchum.  Smythe charmed Annaleigh while Vick questioned the housekeeper.  Smythe steered the conversation to the garden where he learned the members of the Order of the Silver Gate had given Annaleigh a present: a blue spore mushroom.  This he collected.

Alaard learned from the housekeeper that Annaleigh had taken a large payoff from the Order in order to stop searching for her husband.

***

The story continues with Its Hour Come Round at Last 2.2

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