In which the players take Larkin to the Pyramid.
Reminder: My players don't entirely know they are playing through Masks of Nyarlathotep. As far as they know, this is a 1920s Pulp themed Fate Core game. This article does contain spoilers for the new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep.
Cast of Player Characters This Episode
- Lin Ru-Shi - A Hong Kong street urchin that grew up to be a thief.
- Lord Declan MacManus - A minor Irish Lord and Great War pilot turned smuggler. Lives on his flying boat and has a way with the ladies.
- Abdul “Abe” Tepema - An Englishman of color, born in Egypt, he has a little knowledge of the old magic, and is a skilled detective.
- Salim Dali - A negotiator, translator, expedition assistant extraordinaire.
- Doctor Bhisaj - Great War ambulance driver that recently completed medical training in London. A bit too trusting for his own good.
The player of Sebastian was not able to attend, so his character was essentially ignored as we weren't able to come up with a good excuse for him to not be present.
The group is also accompanied by the NPCs of Jackson Elias and a reluctant Professor Sanchez.
When we last left our cast of globetrotting explorers, they had learned more about myths of the pyramid and the Kharisiri, and decided that Larkin was a victim that the monsters were attempting to prepare as a vessel for the dark god in the pyramid. In particular, they thought his situation was similar to that of the author the journal from the museum, only his mind had been altered with magic somewhat. Their plan was to rush to the pyramid, a three day journey by footpath, and slot the gold fragment back into the "spell worked in gold" before Mendoza an his fellow monsters could catch up with them.
The players made arrangements to leave on an expedition the next morning, so almost everyone spent the night in a local hotel. Declan slept on his plane. The players made no moves to observe or secure Larkin, so I determined that he cast a spell that night to make everyone more greedy for the gold in the pyramid. The spell was limited to those present in the hotel at 3am, when the spell was cast. That night, everyone dreamed of gold in the pyramid and what they could with that kind of wealth, and then awoke with a strong sense of greed (and a magical aspect placed on them) except for Declan, is is conveniently naturally greedy. My players were good about accepting this aspect and effect while assuming their characters either wouldn't immediately notice or want to share the thoughts of greed.
They gathered up their supplies, mules, and hired bearers and headed out of town on foot. After an hour or two it became clear that Larkin was not healthy enough for a three day march, so they had him ride a mule, and divided that animal's supplies among the others and the bearers. At the end of the first day's march through the mountains they made camp on a flat area at the upward slope, unconcerned about the steep drop off at the down-hill side of the road. They took turns keeping watch around the fire all night, and an hour or two past midnight Declan, on watch, heard a noise from the slopes above the camp. He casually and quietly tried to wake the rest of the team, successfully getting Lin Ru-Shi awake but causing a bit of a ruckus getting Salim up. At that point, everyone was awake, but the source of the noise up the hill had stopped. Most of the group went about making a distraction at the fire, while Ru-Shi snuck up the slope and got the drop on a Kharisiri in rags lurking up the hill. She knocked it down the slope, with it landing near the fire. In the light it was clear that it was a feral kharisiri conquistador, making it one of the original monsters but also somehow not as alert or intelligent as the other Kharisiri they had encountered thus far. In the ensuing fight, the creature was burned in the fire and lost an arm before it attempted to flee. It was shot in back as it ran, but fell down the cliffs so the body could not be found and fully dismembered. It was, however, now missing an arm. No one slept much after that (and I had them roll to resist the hardships of long marching at altitude with interrupted sleep. Using fate rules, I treated this as a flat attack they they resisted with Physique, and which inflicted mental stress.)
On second day of travel, they came over a ridge and found a man hunched over a child. Ru-Shi, who has a thing about children, and Declan, who thinks himself a monster slayer, both charged the man, assuming him to be a Kharisiri caught feeding. They would later learn he was actually the boy's father who had found his son half-dead, and in turn thought the whiteman charging him was the monster responsible. It took Salim with some well rolled negotiation skill to stop the fight from going lethal, in the end only a donkey was injured. Doc provided some incredibly well rolled medical care to the boy, likely saving his life.
The expedition spend the night at the family's farm with the bearers setting up tents in the yard and several of the players getting to at least sleep inside. The players asked the man and his wife about the blighted valley and the pyramid and heard that the place is considered cursed. When they find out the group is carrying gold from the pyramid, they demand it be removed from their house. Ru-Shi, still feeling very greedy, decided to sleep with it in the barn. Declan, being white, was also not especially welcome in the house. Ru-Shi woke up in the early hours before dawn to find Larking with eyes like the night sky ("They're full of stars!") casting some kind of spell, and knocks him out with the gold bar she'd been sleeping with. Realizing that several members of the group were greedier than normal and Larkin was now most likely the cause, they figure out how to wipe the magic out by replacing it with new spells. They spend the morning casting spells on each other (mostly Salim's negotiation enhancing meal ritual cast over breakfast) to clear the greedy magic away (this is a feature of the magic system in my game: only one spell at a time per target.) They also debate what to do with Larkin, who is clearly more than an empty vessel. They decide they can't just kill him, and the farm family indicates that he will not be permitted to live if he is left on their property.
(Note: I had everyone that didn't sleep inside make another roll to deal with the harshness of the expedition.)
They tie Larkin up with ropes and toss him over a mule, and head on towards the pyramid. The expedition bearers, hired in Puno, refuse to go on further and instead promise to remain camped out at the farm for the next three days before they declare the group dead. The group heads out without them, a little chagrined at the confidence the bearers have that they won't be returning, but taking all the mules, and Larkin, with them. No one seems to question that Larkin isn't putting up a fight.
In the late afternoon of the third day the group comes over a high mountain ridge and looks down on the pyramid in the wasted valley. They arrive in time to see two Kharisiri feeding the father by discouraging fat into a crack on the top of the pyramid, and then observe the two monsters climb down a hole in the ground.
The spend another hour coming around the side path on the valley and approach the pyramid and the wall around the grounds in the safest path. They decide not to trust the entry archway and instead a few of them climb the wall. Looking around, they openly discus their plan to locate the tunnels and repair the wards, which results in the fragment of the dark god inside Larkin to give up on his subtle plan of hoping they would loot the gold on their own. He takes full possession of Larkin, which at this point is such a weak vessel that the party can visibly see his body dying while the thing talks through him. God-Larkin has no issue breaking the ropes that bind him and turns to the players and mocks them while the stars shine through where his eyes should be. He offers them a more direct deal: take as much gold as they can haul away from the pyramid, and he will let them live to spend it. He will keep all his little children away from them, otherwise they can all die, and he will simply have to start over with new volunteers. Declan is not entirely untempted by the idea, and banters with the god for while, learning that the god has plans for within the next year or so (my timeline is altered from the main book, with Peru set in early 1924), and that he has many names and worshipers all over the globe. While this conversation takes place, Doc loads up four syringes with all the remaining heroine, more than enough to kill a man, and gives it to Lin Ru-Shi. She makes an impressive leaping attack, plunging a pair of syringes into each side of Larkin's neck, and driving the plungers home to inject what should be a lethal dose or raw drug directly into system. That god-larking's reaction is to giggle instead of dying outright frightens the group, but also encourages Declan to use a slug-loaded shotgun to finish the job, taking God-Larkin's head clean off.
The players burn waht's left of Larkin's body. They also burn out the charnel hole they had seen the kharisiri crawl down, using up all their lantern oil and alcohol to get it burning. A few of the characters attempt to look down through the crack on the top of the pyramid. Salim is too overwhelmed by the stench, but Abe manages to get a look, but not before vomiting into the crack. The view of the swarming fat-worms is not pleasant, but he mostly holds it together. They briefly consider ways of killing the mass through the crack, but the best they can come up with is fire, and they have now used all their flammable materials on the charnel hole. They decide to stick with the gold-spell-repair plan.
While the tunnel of corpses and bones burns, The group takes turns at watch that night. They actually setup camp over the ridge but keep track of it from the high point, trusting the fire to keep the Kharisiri trapped, if not dead. I didn't tell the players it, but as GM I figured the smoke was sufficient to kill the two Kharisiri, but that they regenerated back after the fire burned out.
The next day, the players descend into the now smokey tunnels under the pyramid. Inside they fight the Kharisiri in creepy dark tunnels, where the monsters lung at them from side passages in the dark. Having dispatched the monsters, they debated looting a chamber full of gold trinkets of various ages, and eventually managed to patch the gold spell, although not without issues involving a pool of rancid fat and worm-monsters. One of the "maggots" burrowed into a cut on a PC, and Doc had to surgically remove it.
Once the gold was fitted back into the pyramid base, all the maggots left in the fat-pool popped in a disgusting manner, and the crack through which they were leaking closed shut. When the characters got back onto the surface, they arrived in time to watch several Kharisiri, called by Larkin, drop dead on the road. In particular, Mendoza's body shrivvles and dies as age catches up with it, while the younger kharisiri seem to sicken and die like they are hollowed out.
Declan and Jackson Ellias advocated for taking some of the non-spell gold, and Abe actually pocketed some while no one noticed, but most of the rest of the group wasn't comfortable with taking gold which might be cursed. That left Jackson and Declan with large shares to strap to the mules.
They returned to Puno, and then flew back down to Lima. Jackson Elias thanked them for their help and said he would have to edit a lot of the supernatural out of his next book, afterall, no one would believe him if he used the whole truth. He also expressed an interest in learning more about Larkin, as it looked very much like Larkin's arrival in the area is what caused the Kharisiri to become more organized and expanded their numbers. God-Larkin's rants about more names and cults also intrigued Jackson.
Next Time: The Roar of the 1925 New York!