Friday, September 2, 2016

CoC #37: Masks of Nyarlathotep #17 "Greetings from Grey Dragon Island"

June 14, 1925,  Shanghai, China
It took a few moments aboard the cruiser before the investigators met a familiar, if not happy face.  Captain Taro was all business, as he confirmed their quarters and briefed them on their positions.  The investigators were limited to their quarters, the mess, and a small viewing area on the bow of the ship. 

Un/Fortunately for them, they were spry eyes, spotting a certain yacht, The Dark Mistress, beginning a journey upriver.  Quickly informing Taro, and with little maneuverability on the Whangpoo River to capture it, the Captain of the vessel gave permission to open fire with naval guns. 
Three separate guns were fired in rapid succession.  This first shell violently veered off course and into the Old City.  While there was certainly much destruction with that first shot, the second only produced a blinding flash. 

Steven O'Hara, David Kavida, and RJ Cunnighame all instantly became blind.  As the light subsided, the others could see a small mushroom form of a cloud grow from the river.  Whatever was aboard the yacht was quite volatile. 

At dinner, Taro informed his "guests" that Japanese Marines were performing a sweep of trouble spots and suppressing them as violently as possible.  They also have a list of Triad locations, some of which the Japanese government has had formal dealings with.  All this would be in the name of protecting Japanese (and British) trade interests, as well as the safety of their citizenry residing in the city.   After dinner, there was a final review of the landing actions.  Through Taro as an interpreter, the Japanese crew strongly reminded the investigators that they would remain on the island for eight hours without any update, but at no time would they work alongside the NCA squads.

June 15, 1925, Gray Dragon Island, East China Sea
The New China Army (NCA) ships ran slower than expected, so a late night raid onto the island under cover of darkness turned into a near-dawn assault.  Three assault boats from the NCA and one from the Japanese were dropped in the water and navigated the channel in the atoll towards the island.

Japanese boat with the investigators peeled away from the NCA boat whose mission it was to assault the lookout tower.  Behind both boats, a few could swear they saw one of the other NCA boats violently flip in the middle of the water.

The Japanese landed on the beach and discharged the investigators.  Apparently, the NCA recon team did horrible work.  Long, deep beaches were narrow strips of sand, the areas marked "jungle" were stunted palm trees growing out of  cinders, and the tall hill was in fact a 500-foot volcanic cone jutting out of the water.  The investigators brought little climbing equipment and most were riddled with scrapes, cuts, and sprains, RJ Cunninghame taking the brunt of it. 

By the time of the landing, the blindness of Steven and RJ had regained their sight from the odd explosion in Shanghai.  David was still limited to seeing shadowy outlines, but he insisted on coming along.  

Finally, the group reached the idol-laden trail up to the mountain.  There were no sounds of the NCA groups, or even alerted natives, so they continued towards the mountain.   

The trail ended at a lava tube about 150 feet above the beach.  Lichen and fungus illuminated the lava tube with an orange glow. 

The tube descended back down, possibly below sea level, into a giant dome.  A huge seven-story silver cigar shaped metal tube dominated the center of the chamber, surrounded by large permanent scaffoldings.  The tube sat on a small patch of group, surrounded by a moat of magma.  Numerous white hot pipes appeared to be pulling lava into the device.  A few people, clad in lab coats, were moving around the scaffolding, making repairs, adjusting control boxes, and completing ignoring the adventurers. 

The next thing the group noticed was a large statue near the back.  A large stone statue of the Bloated Woman would be disturbing enough, with her extended maw and multiple arms.   The fact that someone had mounted dismembered human arms atop it's arms, in various stages of decay.  

Most were turned away in disgust, but in Francois Guerin, something snapped inside.  He charged the sculpture with a hateful scream and began chucking grenades at it indiscriminately.   

The rest were safely out of his range, but a new problem had arisen.  Multiple pools dotted the floor of this dome, one had a number of nearly human fish men skulking out of its waters, alerted to Francois actions.  Just the perfect excuse for Dr Bob Wintermute to level his Lewis Gun and decimate the alien population.   

As he popped out the first drum of ammo to reload it, something else exploded out of the water.  At first glance, it was simply a large splash of something residing in the pool, but with the light from the magma and the smoke and dust from the explosion revealed a barely visible formless mass, undulating towards them.   Wintermute leveled his gun again and could barely control the machine gun as it sprayed into the supposed area of the creature.  Only after two dozen shots did the concealed creature let out an unsettling cry of pain, but it continued to move forward
David Kavida's sight had slowly been returning, the shadows had evolved into a fuzzy tunnel vision.   With his escorts busy, he fumbled towards to the wall and worked his way down closer to Francois.  As he felt his way around the wall, he was surprised to feel a cold steel bar, then another, and a few more, running from the floor to at least above his head. 

His appearance alerted the inhabitants inside, as numerous naked women clamored towards the bars of their prison.  Fuzzy vision aside, he could see many of them half-starved and beaten, but most had large distended bellies of pregnancy.   He had only gotten a short description of the beasts Wintermute had slaughtered, but the reporter's mind quickly ascertained the fiendish purpose of human women.  Almost all doubt of his new compatriots' stories vanished, as he realized their was only one thing to do.

One by one, he took his own grenades off his bandolier, pulled their pin, and chucked them into the prison.   Before the others had a chance to notice, the woman had been ripped to shreds from the fragmentation grenades.  Kavida took a few moments to compose himself, and moved on towards Francois, who had run out of grenades and had begun beating the statue with his own bloodied fists. 

O'Hara did his best not to attract attention, working his way towards the scaffoldings.  Some of the lab coat clad people attempted to shoot at him, but they were quickly dispatched by O'Hara's pistol.

Father Dorian Dolan had seen enough.  Following these crazy Americans on their own dime had seemed like a fair alternative than converting the soulless masses of Egypt, but now his own survival was paramount.  He stumbled for a second and began running back towards the lava tubes.

Despite Wintermute's best efforts, the invisible mass of terror continued hurtling down onto his position, by the grace or luck of the gods, he narrowly eluded a pseudopod of the creature with multiple rows of teeth on it.   The beast failed to maneuver back towards him, preferring the stumbling priest.  Within seconds the upper torso of Dolan disappeared as if a brutal set of teeth snapped it off his legs.  Within a few more nothing more than some pooling blood remained.

A hail of bullets whizzed down from the lava tube and struck the creature.  Brady's team had finally arrived!!!  Their own Tommy guns caused the creature pain, but between malfunctioning equipment and failed sanity checks, the members of the NCA were simply additional appetizers for this monster's insatiable appetite.

While the gunfight continued, O'Hara had dispatched a few more "technicians," and was about to scale one of the scaffoldings, when he spied a steel door against the far wall of the cave.   The door opened to a second steel door, set up that only one could be opened at any time.  This, he thought, might lead to something good, and by good, he meant very very bad.

Another drum of Lewis Gun ammo, and two magazines of .45 ammo later, the invisible monster stopped violently lashing out at the Brady and Wintermute, rather is began oozing towards the low spots on the dome floor.  A visibly distressed Brady was concerned that the other groups were not there.  Mu Hsien, the Chinese occultist and historian who had translated for Brady, came down the lava tube.  With no "innocent" NCA members to partake in the ritual, it would be up to the group to install the seals.  "With hope, we have sacrificed enough purity when the seal was made and the powers will accept parts of our tinged souls." 

Although Brady looked exhausted and frazzled, no one could expect him to vomit blood and collapse to the ground.  One less person to help with the ritual....

While scoping the area, O'Hara emerged out of the metal door.  Inside had been the main workshop.  In the smallest words possible, he tried to describe what was inside:   The explosive top of the rocket, an altitude-measuring trigger, the plans for the rocket, and material that he believed could be similar to what caused the explosion in Shanghai. 

Around this time, David emerged out of a different chamber off from the cave.   Inside this chamber were hundreds, if not thousands of Egyptian artifacts, large and small.   If Penhew was indeed still alive, this collection would make perfect sense. 

With no apparent sense of forthcoming danger, the group debated what to do with everything.  The cryptic plans for the rocket were immediately caste into the magma. The top (warhead) and trigger were to be crudely disassembled and buried on the island.  The radioactive material would be "accidently" dropped off the boat as it left the atoll for the Japanese cruiser.  But first they had a ritual to conduct.

Francois had also fallen unconscious from his violent bout of madness (that destroyed the severed limbs, but the statue remained perfectly intact without a scratch on it.)  

With the success of the mission and ritual in doubt, it was decided by the rest that Francois' mindless state was a moment of innocence and they sacrificed him towards the seal!    After two hours, the entire group was drained, but the seal merged with the ground and disappeared.  Hopefully, the mission was accomplished.

They disassembled the warhead and trigger, burying it's parts on various parts of the island.    Finally, they went back to the beach and brought in the Japanese to their findings.

As they were escorted back to the cruiser with Mu, some violent battle had taken place in the atoll.  Bodies of NCA soldiers intermingled with those of the strange fish-men and even a few Japanese soldiers.  Both NCA ships lay scuttled or sinking in the waters.    To O'Hara, it was a perfect spot to drop a container of radioactive waste.

For the next few days, the investigators were restricted to quarters as salvage crews arrived to recover not only the actual "weapon" (sans plans, warhead, and trigger) as well as recovering the Egyptian artifacts.    During that time there were sounds of gunfire and violence, but by the time they were released from their quarters, if it occurred, there was not sign of it. 

June 22, 1925, East China Sea en Route to Japan
The investigators were escorted from their quarters to the officer's mess.  Captain Taro and two higher ranking officers.  Taro thanked them for their assistance in obtaining the weapon, but members of the Imperial Japanese government had additional questions, so they were being detained for additional questions... in Japan.

Given their "full" access provided to them previously, the group ventured towards to the bow of the ship for the last few glimpses of the dreaded island. 

Staring off into ocean, everyone of the members noticed something odd amongst the sea foam.  Rather than yet another fish creature, it was a bare-chested man with white flowing hair and beard.  It could very well have matched a drawing of Poseidon or Neptune from a mythology book, but each of them, they knew the deity's full name... Nodens.  And unlike all the other entities that they had encountered over the years, this one seemed, at worst, indifferent, perhaps a little bit sympathetic, if the thoughts of gods could be described by mere humans.  

And as they turned to speak with one another, they made a startling discovery:  RJ Cunninghame, big-game hunter, who had been standing amongst them, had vanished.    Perhaps David's claims of his earlier death were founded on truth.  For those with an understanding of the Mythos knew that Nodens was considered a Saint of sorts towards the war-mangled and the warriors past their prime?  Was RJ's spirit made whole a gift, an act of aid, or just happened to walk alongside the investigators at the same time.

Not that the question was important.  First, they needed to concoct a full proof story as to why Cunnighame jumped off the back of the ship into the ocean...   The first of many falsehoods they would need to tell the Imperial Japanese government to protect themselves, and humanity in general, from the madness encircling the world.

Herein lies the end of the actual role-playing of Masks of Nylarathotep,  There's a fun cataloging of the carnage coming soon, as well as an episode #18, where I document how the survivors get back to the States after an unwanted vacation in Japan.

As the investigators were seven months early for the big dramatic ceremony, I allowed a few rolls to determine just what was happening on the island.  A few mysterious luck rolls and a few yes/no answers made an interesting scenario. 

While the investigators were holed up in the NCA warehouse, The Dark Mistress had arrived in harbor.   The veritable invasion by the Japanese caught EVERYONE off-guard, including Penhew.  It can be assumed that to avoid getting caught up in the "police action" the crew hope to slide out of the harbor, work upriver a bit, and wait for everything to blow over.    A few tough Spot Hidden spots made, and a great Persuade roll with Taro created the scenario of naval guns firing on the river. 

Yes, those that have read the campaign, the secrets powering the yacht (and rocket) shouldn't be that volatile.  But seriously, if I'm changing history this much, blowing up the Old City and killing thousands with the blast and latent radioactivity isn't much of a stretch in a Cthulhu game.

Next: Masks #18 - Greeting from Nippon

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