Realms of Cthulhu - 2.3 The Old Man & The Trunk
by, 21st May 2011 at 11:59 AM (522 Views)
SESSION 2, part 3
Dr. Kenneth Lokar and Jenny Barnes were made of stern stuff, having confronted a slavering horror and lived to tell the tale. Claudette, the maid, brought them linens and hot water and helped them dress their wounds, which were painful but brought no other ill effects that they could see. Draining a tumbler of illicit brandy he found behind the bar in the foyer, Dr. Lokar bade Jenny to continue their investigation of Drake Manor.
The remainder of the ground floor of the spacious manner was unremarkable, at least in any context that concerned Lokar and Barnes. Old money was evidenced in the rich European furnishing, the aged portraits of distant Drake ancestors, and the many and varied statuary, pottery and other adornments. Thieves would become wealthy almost overnight and it was a miracle that the place hadn’t been ransacked, considering the meager staff. Obviously, Samuel and his pit bull were vigilant and effective guardians. Or perhaps it was something else entirely that kept people away.
Proceeding upstairs to the second floor, the investigators discovered what had to be the bedroom of Jonny Drake. Claudette did a remarkable job keeping the interior of Drake Manor clean, swept and freshly appointed. Not this room, however. The stale odor of tobacco and neglect filled the air as it became apparent that the room hadn’t been cleaned in ages. Clothing, along with needles, opium pipes and all manner of illicit paraphernalia, littered the nightstand and the surrounding floor. Jonny’s writing desk stood against the wall near the foot of the bed, piled with an unruly collection of stationary, pens, inkwells, and bound stacks of letters. One page stood half-finished in the center of the desk bearing the salutation “Dearest Diamante” followed by pleas of undying love and unfulfilled promises of undying bliss. Jonny wrote that he would meet this Diamante “at the usual place and time” but the letter was never, and would never be, finished. A desk calendar stood nearby with the date August 26, 1927 circled in red ink–the date of Jonathan Drake’s murder. Dr. Barnes took the stack of letters and shoved it into a coat pocket.
The master bedroom, obvious from the double doors bearing the Drake seal, was locked and the investigators chose to leave it undisturbed.
The Old Man
Descending once more to the ground floor, they decided to climb up into the observatory tower and confront the master of the house himself concerning the strange and fatal goings-on. The door to the tower was unlocked and the well of the spiral stair unlit. As they ascended, they detected a vague buzzing noise whose intensity and frequency varied chaotically. Reaching the door at the top of the stair, Dr. Lokar rapped for admittance. A moment later he noticed that the buzzing had ceased. The door opened and a frail, elderly man with wispy white hair stood silhouetted in the light of an incandescent bulb–Dr. Emery Wallace Drake, the once-renowned astronomer, awarded a peerage by Queen Victoria herself for his contributions to science.
The story of his rise and subsequent ignominious fall was well-known in academic circles. Some years earlier he began offering for publication a series of treatises dealing with the existence of life on Mars, which he claimed to have discovered. His assertions were as extraordinary as his supporting evidence was thin. At first his reputation suffered no significant harm but his obsession with the topic and the single-minded zeal with which he increasingly bombarded his colleagues with his views led him into severe disrepute. Frustrated at every turn and unable to find a credible ear for the fruits of his research, he sunk into a severe depression. He had the presence of mind to seek professional help and check himself into Arkham Sanitarium for a year, an act which stabilized his psyche and simultaneously drove the final nail into his professional reputation. The sanitarium’s psychiatrists declared him well enough to be released and resume his life but he was never quite the same again. He became a recluse and was never seen outside manor, rarely even pausing from his studies in the observatory to take his meals or sleep in his own bed. A new research target was in his sights–the possibility of a hitherto unknown planet at the edge of the known solar system which perturbed the orbits of Neptune and Uranus and whose alignment with Mars was impending–and he pursued it with the old obsession. But with the passage of years and the frailty of age came a descent into senile dementia, and there was no one left in the whole wide world who took him seriously.
Dr. Drake invited Dr. Lokar and Miss Barnes into his observatory as old friends. It quickly became apparent how out of touch with reality he had become. Questions were met with blank stares or jolly nonsequitors. He was in deep denial over his son’s death, which Claudette attempted to communicate to him after Det. Strawbridge had called the manor late the previous Friday night. Dr. Lokar even confronted the old man directly about the tragic situation deep in the cellars. Disturbingly, Dr. Drake went so far as to insist that the two individuals must have been guests, and that the cell was the guest house. He said he hated for his guests to be lonely, so he had them room together. Lokar’s and Barnes’ jaws hung open incredulously by the end of the interview and they decided the old man could be of no use to themselves or anyone else in his current state.
Only one area of the manor was left to search, the attic. The investigators discovered the closet containing the pull-down stairs in the ceiling and cautiously climbed up. Only a pale, meager light illuminated the vast space despite the many windows, the grime of age having coated them almost completely. Sheet-covered furnishings and castoff nicknacks from generations of Drakes were pushed against walls and piled on each other. One ray of bright light, however, shone through a broken pane in the southeast corner of the attic. Dr. Lokar and Jenny approached and saw a shattered window–shattered from the outside, such that glass shards burst into the attic. Dr. Lokar peered through the jagged opening at the ground three stories below them. No ladder or rope was visible, no fire escape, and no ledge upon which a burglar could perch. Then they saw that other nearby windows, although unbroken, bore scratch marks in their think layers of filth.
A large trunk was the only item near the broken window, and it, too, had been scratched and marred by–something. The wooden box was reinforced with metal strips onto which had been imprinted a recurring pattern or design of a sort of stylized leaf. A metal lock secured the latch, and onto this, as well, was a singular leaf of this pattern. Dr. Lokar searched his memory and suddenly realized that he had seen this symbol before. In the very last document he had been able to peruse in the University’s Orne Library was superstitious talk of a warding glyph that was proof against various forces of evil. It was an Elder Sign. But was something being kept in the trunk, or kept out? The broken window, the scratching, the obvious attempts to gain access to whatever the trunk contained, all played their part in answering the question.
Lokar and Barnes were able to manhandle the trunk to the first floor and out the front doors. The contents made a dull, muffled thumping noise as the trunk was turned this way and that. Neither investigator could articulate why but they felt they simply must spirit the trunk and its cargo far away from Drake Manor. Lokar put the trunk into the boot of his automobile and slammed the lid.
Jenny swore she could hear multiple voices coming from the groundskeeper’s cottage. She rapped on the door and called for Sam to come out and answer questions regarding the horrifying discovery in the cellar. In the long pause before he answered, she heard what sounded like a door closing and considered the situation suspicious.
Sam emerged, shotgun in hand, and closed and locked his door behind him. He strode to the car to speak with Dr. Lokar. Jenny, meanwhile, loitered near the cottage attempting to discern the source of the strange voices and noises. At one point she even grabbed a large screwdriver that was lying on the ground and tried to pry a window open. Her clumsy, blatant attempt at breaking-and-entering was spotted by Sam, who, angered by the sheer nerve of the two, gruffly ordered them off the property at gunpoint.
Lokar and Jenny got in the car and drove back toward the main road to plan their next moves.