Trail of Cthulhu - SoFo

The Armitage Files, Part Three

Sister Flora Godden and Felix Falwright planned to write a note of warning to slip under Alfie “The Half-Human Boy” Pivar’s door. On the way to do so, however, they were spotted by Madame Claudia, a fortune teller at the carnival. She read Falwright’s fortune, but there was nothing particularly noteworthy about it: Typical, vague pronouncements like “you are outgoing, but with a private part of yourself few people see,” and “you will soon come into some money.” During this session, she gave the impression of subtly and carefully trying to determine why they were here, and why they were interested in Alfie.

After some reassurances, she explained that since Alfie joined the carnival, she had become a kind of surrogate mother to him, and was concerned when she saw the investigators attempting to break into Alfie’s home a while back. But having been convinced they had only Alfie’s interests in mind, she introduced them to Alfie and let them explain the situation.

Alfie, learning he was in danger, asked what he should do. Shown a few photographs, he recognized Thomas Ongine as the man who had held him captive during his childhood. Madame Claudia said she had seen some members of the local astronomers’ league hanging around the carnival (though not Ongine himself).

The investigators found another traveling carnival, passing through a few counties over, which accepted Alfie — and Madame Claudia, who insisted on going with him. They have adopted new names, and should be several states away before the astronomers even realize he has gone.

Faced with the question of which lead to pursue next, our investigators researched Red Hollow, but could find nothing other than a canyon located near Zion National Park in Utah.

They then looked into the American Preservation League, an isolationist political organization run by Fred Jahraus. Detective Falwright subscribed to the APL newsletter. Falwright also asked Jahraus if he was familiar with Red Hollow, which he told Jahraus was a place receptive to his ideas. Jahraus did not recognize the name, but promised to look into it, and thanked Falwright for the suggestion.

The next lead was The Helping Hands, a charitable organization with local chapters around the world. The receptionist was reticent, obviously believing Detective Falwright to be closer to the hobos in the Helping Hands soup kitchen than a potential volunteer. So, leaning in to that impression, he dressed himself a bit shabbier than usual, and went to the soup kitchen. Sister Flora sensed no danger in the soup, which Falwright ate while talking to the downtrodden men in the place.

We learned that a regular there, “Old Cece,” has not shown up for a meal in a couple of weeks. Some of the locals are concerned, but others just assume he caught a train somewhere. Later investigation with the local police found that (as expected) no one had bothered to file a missing person report about “Old Cece,” but that there was an earlier disappearance where a report had been filed: Hasse “The Hessian” Norberg was reported missing by his daughter. She will most likely be the next stop on the investigation.

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The Armitage Files, Part Two

Attending an outing with the New England League of Amateur Astronomers, our heroes ingratiated themselves further with Enoch Moorhouse. Invited to Moorhouse’s home on a pretext of examining his son’s sprained ankle, they learned that Enoch was suspicious of the “inner circle” of the N.E.L.A.A. His father had been part of that inner circle, before he passed away about fifteen years ago, and his involvement with the group was mostly due to that connection, but Enoch himself didn’t much like any of the core members, and was not part of that inner circle himself.

Enoch loaned the investigators his father’s astronomical journals. A bit of examination by more highly-qualified members of Miskatonic faculty revealed that what purported to be tables of ascension and declination of observations were, in truth, encrypted records of the inner workings of the N.E.L.A.A., in reality a front for an offshoot of the Church of Starry Wisdom. They were involved in a plot to summon Nyarlathotep (in an unknown form), without the use of the Shining Trapezohedron, by means of a ritual in which first, a woman was impregnated by an unnamed entity; then, once the offspring of that union came of age, it would be sacrificed in the summoning ritual itself.

The cult secreted away the unholy child in a local carnival. Some Cop Talk and Accounting investigation revealed a financial connection between the carnival, and the N.E.L.A.A., by way of a Dr. George Belling.

And it was about this time that a third mysterious document appeared. Dr. Rice was watching over Dr. Armitage while he slept, pen and paper at hand to make observations. During the night, Rice was overcome by a sense of vertigo and lapsed into queasy unconsciousness. When he awoke about twenty minutes later, the new document lay at his feet. Unlike the previous ones, this document is undated, but contextual clues suggest a few months or so after the second document.

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The Armitage Files: Part One
Early Spring, 1934

Felix Falwright and Sister Flora began investigating the mysterious documents that had appeared to Dr. Armitage.

The Circus

As mentioned in the second document, though more of a traveling carnival than a “circus,” per se. The investigators paid their dime and watched the ten-in-one show, which featured a fire-eater, a tattooed lady, a strongman act, and several other freaks and human oddities.

Asking around among the other patrons, Falwright learned that about a year ago, the strongman Krotka had been involved in a minor altercation: A drunken customer had been bothering Nadia, the Tattooed Lady, and Krotka intervened and sent him on his way. The man, however, went missing and has not been seen since.

Poking around a bit, they noticed what appeared to be claw marks around the door to the traveling home of Alfie, “The Half-Human Boy”, one of the freaks in the show. They were dissuaded from picking the lock to enter, though, when they noticed Alfie watching them from behind a tent flap. The nurse’s medical acumen revealed that his deformities went beyond surface appearances; his entire skeletal structure is not consistent with any disease or disability she is aware of.

Alfie’s Mother

Investigation of Alfie in police and newspaper records revealed that a Teresa Pivar, presumably Alfie’s mother, was found dead in the woods about 16 years ago, the victim of a “bear attack,” according to newspaper reports. However, a bit of Cop Talk got access to the original coroner’s report, which did not seem consistent with that conclusion. Miss Pivar (for she was unmarried) had injuries that were almost explosive, rather than the tearing and biting you would expect from a bear attack. She had ligature marks on her wrists and ankles, and further investigation revealed that her employer had reported her missing about a year before her body was found.

Visiting the area where the body had been found, Falwright observed that it was an excellent location for star-gazing. Examination of the area also discovered withering, barely-hanging-on plants, not native to this area. Or at least, not native to this eraDr William Moore confirmed that these specimens were of prehistoric ferns, and other plants more suited to the Cretaceous (or even earlier), extinct for tens of millions of years.

The New England League of Amateur Astronomers

Making use of the Armitage Inquiry’s budget, the investigators each paid the $2 to become full members of N.E.L.A.A. At a League meeting, they met the president, Thomas Ongine, and most of the other 20-25 members.

Ongine seemed reticent concerning the clearing where Miss Pivar had been found years ago. And one of the other members of the League, a farmer named Enoch Moorhouse seemed particularly nervous, perhaps even guilty about his association with N.E.L.A.A.

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The Armitage Files: Prologue

January, 8, 1934

Dr Henry Armitage has called together the entire Armitage Inquiry to present a mystery…
Several days ago, Dr Cyrus Llanfer discovered, among some papers he had brought home with him, a badly-scorched envelope addressed to Armitage. It contained a document, in a somewhat crazed variation of Armitage’s own handwriting, a document claiming to be dated from some three years in the future. Armitage himself has no memory of writing this document. Armitage asked Llanfer to keep it between them while he pondered its significance.

Then, after a couple of days, Armitage discovered a second document, tucked under the blotter on his own desk. This one was dated from only about a year in the future. Again, in (more recognizably) Armitage’s own handwriting, and again with no memory of creating it, and no recognition of anything referenced in it, though Armitage did confirm that it is, indeed, the format he uses for his own rough notes (which would normally then be typed up by Llanfer for the Inquiry’s archives).

Dr Warren Rice and Dr Albert Wilmarth both felt that the simplest explanation is that Armitage created the documents himself, in some altered state of consciousness, or even as a symptom of a mental breakdown.

Dr William Dyer speculated that Armitage may have produced the documents while possessed, or otherwise under external influence. He suggests Armitage should be monitored at all times, watching for evidence of some alien consciousness.

Dr William Moore reminded the group that they already knew of cases where apparently normal men have been overcome by atavistic impulses from some ancient and inhuman bloodline. Also, for certain prehistoric races such as the Elder Things (ruins of their civilization were found in recent Miskatonic expiditions to the Antarctic), time may have flowed in a nonlinear fashion. It is possible the files are authentic, and that the peculiar consciousness Armitage is in contact with may be his own future self.

Dr Wingate Peaslee opined that he has seen now sign of mental defect in Armitage’s demeanor. He suggests that, with all this group has experienced, they must allow for possibilities that defy rational thought. Whether produced by Armitage while insensible, or by another entity imitating his handwriting, what he feels the Inquiry should focus on is the contents of the document, not their means of production, and that they should attempt an independent verification of their contents.

Dr Tyler M. Freeborn suggested a human conspiracy: The Inquiry presumably has enemies, and even enemies motivated by supernatural agendas might attack by non-occult means, such as forging documents to sow confusion and dissent.

What happens next will be largely up to the investigators…

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Kentucky, Part II

The night passed uneventfully. The next day, Sister Godden and Det. Falwright got word from their contacts in New York: Josef Hofmann, and his ancestors, were indeed known in book collecting circles, and had been since around 1795, when the Hofmann family moved to Kentucky from Europe. No one knew of any of them having bought the specific missing book, which might mean the family brought it over with them.

Viola Pelfrey was found, in the words of the New York detective who followed up with her, “living in sin with that Negro,” Clayton Stone. The musician was known to have had a few run-ins with the law, related to heroin possession, but he had not spent time in prison (he had plead out the small charges in exchange for stays in rehab, instead). Ms. Pelfrey also said she had received some letters from her brother, Rev. Jim Pelfrey, but that the first few were so disturbing, after that, she simply returned them unopened.

With no other leads to follow, the investigators took advantage of Rev. Pelfrey’s Sunday morning church service to break into his home and look around. They found that he had saved the returned letters to his sister in a red, lacquered box under his bed. Mr. Hofmann’s missing book was on the pastor’s desk. This specific copy proved to have hand-written, Mythos-related notes in the margins throughout, probably written centuries ago by some earlier owner. The Reverend’s sermon notes suggested two separate “lines” of services: One set of fairly standard Southern Baptist preaching, and another, parallel set seemingly focused more on missionary work; designed for the conversion of unbelievers. However, as time went on, these began incorporating more and more Mythos-related information, attempting to reconcile a kind of debased Christianity with worship of fertility goddess-thing Shub-Niggurath, and of Abhoth, “Source of Uncleanness,” a kind of pestilence-and-disease deity.

The preacher’s home also contained his spelunking gear, and crude maps showing the way to a cave entrance, and the interior passageways. The investigators decided to brave the depths of the earth. Unfortunately, they also botched their attempt to cover their tracks, accidentally tearing a page out of one of the preacher’s notebooks. Their presence here would end up being easy to detect. Since they now had nothing to lose, they took Hofmann’s stolen copy of Saducismus Triumphatus with them.

Inside the cave, they began seeing typical cave fauna — blind cave crickets, cave spiders, and the like. After a bit, they reached the first of two indicated large caverns on Rev. Pelfrey’s map, this one containing a still pool of greenish water. A few blind cave fish were just visible in the water, and Det. Falwright thought he caught a larger shape moving underwater out of the corner of his eye. They continued along a path past the pool toward a passage on the other side, but were attacked by a pair of bizarre, half-man, half-fish creatures coming out of the water: Pale, with filmed-over dark spots where their eyes would be. The nurse was injured badly in the fight. The detective was hit as well, but managed to kill one of the creatures, and injure the other badly enough to drive it back into the water. Around a bend through the deeper passage, the two bandaged their wounds and continued onward.

As they continued down the passageway, ever more abhorrent things manifested: First, a kind of blind cave toad, then obscene chimeræ of bat and bird, insect and reptile, flopped and slithered along the stone floor. A disembodied arm crawled and bit at a leprous rat with a mouth in the palm of the pale hand.

Finally, they reached the second cavern. Here was a mind-numbing horror from fevered nightmares: A huge, phosphorescent pool of protoplasmic filth, continually extruding pseudopods, eyestalks, gibbering mouths. Bits of it would split themselves off, taking on the misshapen, diseased forms they had seen crawling away. Many of these would be snatched up by tentacles and absorbed back into the whole. They had encountered an intrusion of Abhoth, Lord of Filth, into our world.

Understandably, they fled. Back in town, Detective Falwright at first favored abandoning this benighted place and returning to New York, but a telephone conversation with Dr. Armitage convinced him he had a duty to deal with this threat to humanity itself, to whatever extent was possible. They learned also that after church service, Rev. Pelfrey was seen returning home; not long after, he was seen departing toward the woods in rather a hurry.

The investigators returned to the preacher’s house, finding his spelunking gear gone, and quite a few hastily-scrawled notes strewn about. It seems the preacher was devising a ritual which would merge the occult influences of Shub-Niggurath and Abhoth, into the creation of some kind of horrific plague, which would “drive people away from licentiousness and toward righteousness.” Although he seemed to have convinced himself that this was God’s will, Pelfrey also seemed to fully expect to be personally damned for this demonic work. He was also on an apparent timetable: Astrological notes indicated a spread of 3-4 days, centered on the current date, with the next celestial alignment not occurring until the early 1970s. Apparently, the obvious fact of his having been found out (i.e., the torn note page and missing book) pushed him to finish his work immediately.

Our heroes pursued him back into the cave. They were able to sneak past the pool of water where the blind cave Deep Ones lived, and found the preacher chanting near the pool of Abhoth, along with a kneeling blind Deep One, apparently a volunteer to be the vessel into which the occult power was to be poured. Dripping pseudopods caressed the preacher as he chanted.

With one blow, Det. Falwright slammed into the preacher, interrupting his spell-casting. Whether from that interruption, or simply from the jolt, we may never know, but either way, the Rev. Pelfrey was swallowed up in the pit of Abhoth’s filth, along with his Deep One acolyte. As feelers and tendrils crept toward the investigators, they fled back to town once again, having disrupted this potential ritual, at least until the stars are right again.

Epilogue

They returned Mr. Hofmann’s book to him, and recounted what they had seen. Hofmann volunteered to go into the cave himself with enough dynamite to induce a cave-in, and seal off the cave. Well, unless, of course, the caves here connect to the larger Mammoth Cave system via another path. And hoping that Abhoth’s presence in our world is limited to this one pool.

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Kentucky

Dr Armitage’s first assignment to Sister Flora and Det. Falwright was to investigate a news article, provided by a clipping service he employs, concerning a rash of strange animal deaths in a small town in Kentucky. People in Daltonville, in “cave country” near the recently-established Mammoth Cave National Park, have reported finding livestock and wild animals drained of blood. Local preacher Rev. Jim Pelfrey, also an amateur spelunker, opined that whatever was responsible might be an unknown creature coming up out of the nearby caves.

In Daltonville, the investigators interviewed several of the locals. The Rev. Pelfrey directed them to a nearby cave, but poking around in it revealed nothing but an ordinary colony of bats. That night, however, they were awakened around midnight by a loud crash from the woods. There, they found the body of Boyd Dwayne Redfern, apparently crushed by a falling tree, though no tree was evident. Falwright noticed some highly unusual tracks: Cloven-hooved, but easily as big around as an elephant’s foot. These tracks led away into the woods, where the ended abruptly at a gnarled, twisted oak tree.

Or, at least, what appeared to be an oak tree. The shape of the thing reminded Falwright of a description he had seen in a Mythos tome of the “Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath,” a creature described as having cloven hooves, a central body, and four huge tentacles rising up from it. The investigators also noticed fresh blood on one of the thick trunk branches of the “tree.” When they returned to get a better look at the tree in the morning, it had disappeared, with not so much as disturbed earth to suggest it ever existed.

Asking around, they learned that Boyd Dwayne had worked as a landscaper and general handyman for Josef Hofmann, an “old money” sort living on a small plantation house on the outskirts of town. The townsfolk also made vague references to a “girl that broke his heart,” though they were obviously reluctant to elaborate.

Hofmann, however, was less reticent. He explained that Boyd Dwayne had been in love with Viola Pelfrey (the preacher’s younger sister), but that she did not return these feelings. About a year ago, Viola left town with a jazz band, on their way north from Nashville (possibly headed towards New York), particularly in the company of a saxophone player named Clayton Stone. Both Boyd Dwayne and the Rev. Jim were apparently devastated by her departure (when asked about it later, the preacher said, “I have no sister. Not any more,” and refused to speak further).

Hofmann also noted that Boyd Dwayne had borrowed a book from his collection, the Saducismus Triumphatus, by Joseph Glanvill. Hofmann said the book is of more sentimental than monetary value to him, but would like it returned if they should happen to come across it.

Hofmann’s library was a fairly impressive collection of mostly occult works, a handful of histories of Hungary and Eastern Europe, and a handful of minor Mythos tomes. If there was an overall theme to the collection, it was myths and legends (and… more?) concerning vampires. It was around this time that the investigators noticed that they had not seen any mirrors in Hofmann’s home, and indeed every other reflective surface was tarnished or dusty. And that heavy shutters were drawn over the windows during daylight hours. Asked about his interest in vampirism, Hofmann explaned that if you traced his family history back far enough, they originally came from Hungary, that his father and grandfather had started the collection, and he had continued what they started.

The missing book was not in young Boyd Dwayne’s home, but the house had been inexpertly ransacked before the investigators arrived. Telephoning their contacts in New York and Arkham, Falwright and Sister Flora asked Dr. Armitage to ask around as to whether Hofmann was known in rare book collecting circles; and some fellow police officers to try to track down Viola and Clayton in New York. With that, they retired to their rooms to sleep, wait for responses from their contacts, and, apparently, hope for more mysterious creatures to pop up in the middle of the night.

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The Armitage Inquiry
An Interlude

After their recent successes, Sister Godden and Detective Falwright were invited to visit Dr Henry Armitage in Arkham, to discuss a proposition.

Armitage said that, like our intrepid investigators, he and several of his colleagues at Miskatonic University have recently become aware that the world is not always as it seems. That there are Things out there that threaten humanity; that someone must do something, and as no one else is forthcoming, it is up to us. He has formed an informal “Inquiry Group,” similar to the interdisciplinary collection of scholars who advised President Wilson at the Versailles talks in 1919. The Inquiry has a modest budget from the university, and Armitage asked the investigators to take part.

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The Kidnapping, Part Two
Shavertown, NY

After reporting the presence of the men in the shack to the detective’s superiors (who began planning an arrest raid for the following day), Falwright and Sister Godden followed the trail to Shavertown, where a local drunk named Mad Zeke told them that the Wisner family “have been servants of them below fer an age,” and pointed them toward Wisner’s shack on the outskirts of town.

They found the shack guarded by several large dogs, but could hear the cries of a baby from within. Sister Godden lured the dogs away into the woods, but the resulting noise drew Ambrose’s mother out, with her Tommy gun. She and Det. Falwright traded shots, but the detective’s police training won out, and Mrs. Wisner was taken down. Meanwhile, Ambrose had slipped out the back door with Adam and into the woods.

The investigators followed his tracks to stony steps leading down into an underground cavern, lit by an eerie phosphorescent moss. Ambrose was there, frantically pounding on the stone wall, and shouting, “Please! You must come now! I know it is not the appointed time, but you must come!” When approached, he handed Adam over, unresisting, and sank down in defeat, saying, “they ain’t coming. I didn’t reckon you’d find me so soon, thought I had ‘til they’d come with the moon. Take that wicked child and leave me be here.”

Suddenly, the wall of the cavern vanished, opening to an adjoining cavern lit by an electric blue light. Two human-shaped figures entered, long-skulled, copper-skinned, one with a silver staff tipped with a blade, the other holding some kind of gun. The investigators were then subjected to a telepathic link, with visions of Jacob Cornelisz, and the figure with the spear motioned for Sister Godden to give him the child.

When she refused, she was hit with another, more disturbing vision: A naked human woman, and a dark and loathsome shape descending on her from the sky. In her vision, Adam swelled obscenely, his human frame transforming and warping into some bizarre miscengenation of mortal and godling. Again, the figure motioned for the infant, and again, Sister Godden simply backed away.

Detective Falwright now opened fire on the mysterious figures, wounding one, but taking a nasty hit from the ray gun in return. Sister Godden fled up and into the open with Adam, and when they saw she had escaped to the surface, the figures retreated, dropping the spear behind them, and closing up the wall. Ambrose Wisner, unfortunately, was trapped in the stone when the wall returned, and was bisected.

While they were in Shavertown, the police raid on the waterfront shack did not go off entirely without a hitch. In the middle of the raid, the residents of the shack and the police alike were indiscriminately attacked by what one witness described as “an oil slick,” a viscous, black substance floating on the surface of the river that somehow rose up and attacked. All of the kidnappers, as well as two policemen, were killed.

Left now with the question of what to do with Adam, apparently the offspring of Maria and a demonic entity, but otherwise a seemingly normal, innocent child, the investigators made arrangements with Sister Godden’s chapter for Maria’s sister to adopt the child, with all necessary legal paperwork, leaving no ties to the Cornelisz’s. The authorities, and Mr. and Mrs. Cornelisz, were told that Godden and Falwright found nothing in Shavertown but Mrs. Wisner, who they were forced to kill in self-defense, and a dead body (well, half of one), with no sign of Adam.

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The Kidnapping
Part One

Sister Flora Godden was called to the home of Jacob and Harriet Cornelisz by a family friend, Colonel Ellis, when the Cornelisz’s infant son, Adam, was discovered missing. Det. Falwright was also called in to investigate the disappearance.

They found the Cornelisz’s maid, Olga, to be upset and nervous, and she eventually agreed to speak openly only outside the house. There, Olga revealed that she was involved in the kidnapping, due to her fears for the child brought on by her discovery of a diary written by Maria, the Cornelisz’s previous maid. Maria’s diary contained a bizarre account of her having been apparently used in an obscene ritual summoning of an unidentified entity, which impregnated her, the child, Adam, being then claimed by the Cornelisz family as their own.

The next day, a ransom note was delivered. The investigators observed the ransom handout, and followed the pick-up man back to a shack on the waterfront along the river. Shortly after, a different man emerged and went to a nearby telegraph office. The detective was able to obtain a copy of the telegram he sent, which indicated to someone named Ambrose Wisner in Shavertown that the money had been delivered, and that he could now come back.

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The King's Men
Intro adventure (from "Arkham Detective Tales")

Felix Falwright and Sister Flora Godden investigated the death of NYPD Detective Thomas Talby. At first, it was assumed to be a suicide, but further investigation revealed that Det. Talby had fired his gun at an unknown assailant.

Investigation led to Arkham, Mass., where Talby had been researching his own family history, and it gradually became clear he had been encouraged in this by one Miriam Rosewall. Talby (and Det. Falwright both descended from members of a company of British Colonial-era soldiers, who had broken up a witch-cult in 1699. The Rosewall family had descended from members of that witch-cult, though the PCs may or may not have ever understood this…

In the course of this investigation, our heroes also met Prof. Armitage at Miskatonic University, who was (in this initial meeting) rather reticent.

Our heroes discovered Miriam’s sister, Irene Rosewall, unconscious on an island in the Miskatonic River. Returning her to her home, her father had been possessed by an unearthly entity (and died immediately when said entity fled his body upon discovery).

Following the spiritual entity, Falwright and Sister Godden found Miriam Rosewall at the site where the entity was originally bound by the 1699 soldiers. She had obviously freed the creature, and sent it to attack. Falwright was briefly possessed by the entity, known as The Messenger, but he was eventually able to throw off its influence. Miriam then attempted to cast a spell allowing The Messenger to possess the Sister, but was rendered unconscious before it could take effect.

Miriam Rosewall was taken into custody, and The Messenger, whatever it was, flew off into the wilderness. You can’t help feeling it isn’t the last time it will be heard from…

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