Sunday, September 6, 2020

Look to the Future Part One: February 6 and 10, 1926

NOTE: My Call of Cthulhu game resumes with the second adventure in the Shadows of Yog-Sothoth campaign, "Look to the Future." The text describes this as a quick, fun adventure that will take players one session to complete. 

My players have been playing for six sessions and there is no end in sight. To be fair, I have added on a lot of information, details, and activities to make the game world, and the campaign, feel bigger than it is. My players are also very interested in their own personal goals and sidequests, which tend to take up quite a bit of each session.

And now, on to the game! 

Judge Putnam's New Letterhead

After several months apart, Judge Putnam sends out letters to the rest of the group using his newly printed, and very official, London Group stationery. He informs the group that he has been keeping a very close eye on the work site where the Silver Twilight Lodge once stood. From his investigations, it seems that nothing of a supernatural nature was unearthed from the site and, as far as the city’s hired geologists could determine, there was no evidence linking the destruction of the Lodge to the London Group. He also notes, with some satisfaction, that there is no sign that the Order is recovering or continuing following the fall of the Lodge.

The letters end with a request for everyone to attend a dinner at the judge’s house on February 6th, at which his man, Johnny, will prepare a potato-based Moussaka. He mentions that he wishes to see everyone, but also to discuss a strange matter that has come to his attention.

The Dinner Party

The group spends some time catching up and discussing what they have done since destroying the Lodge in late October.

Doctor Reese Black: Spent several months recovering in the hospital, after which he took a tour of various historical sites and libraries in Europe. He is quite coy about what he was doing there, but seems to have had a very pleasant time.

Johnny Doukas: Has purchased a large, previously owned truck for the group’s use, as the judge’s touring car is not the least conspicuous vehicle around. He has also purchased guns, ammunition, and medical kits, which he has hidden throughout the judge’s house. If the group needs to make a stand against enemies, he explains, they will be ready. The others hope that it doesn’t come to that.

After dinner, Johnny gifts the others with silver pendants decorated with the Elder Sign. These pendants are, in fact, lockets, each of which holds a key. To explain the purpose of these keys, Johnny has everyone come to the carriage house, where he reveals a large, locked steamer trunk. This, he says, is one of a second set of Gate Boxes that he has taken pains to construct. The keys unlock the trunk and provide a modicum of security. The other Gate Box is in Atlantic City, near the home of Johnny’s parents. Johnny also mentions that he has procured a motorcycle, which he has stored with the other box, to allow for a quick getaway.

Mikhail Dimathias: Has spent quite a lot of time visiting James Clark in Bellevue, where James is currently being treated for his nervous attack.  He has also spent a lot of time with Angie, who has also been visiting James. Mikhail informs the group that he strongly disagrees with the sanitarium's doctors about James’ care, and wants to release James into either his own custody or into Angie’s. He mentions that he would like to do this prior to February 14, 1926 when James is due to undergo some kind of procedure. After dinner, he privately asks Judge Putnam to help with a court order that will allow him to free James. Judge Putnam explains that this would be easier if he were a blood relative, and asks if Mikhail knows if James has any family members that could help.

Ron Deluca and Vivian Bernouse: Vivian is cheered for being the toast of the town and the lady of the moment in the society pages. Others note that her relationship with Ron is strained, though not in the usual way. There are numerous oblique mentions of Connie as Ron’s “ex-wife,” as well as allusions to catastrophic events that occurred at the Bernouse family Christmas Party. Ron has also grown a bit of a self-pity beard, which Vivian gently mocks him for.

Vivian also mentions that she has seen Deb and Angie several times, and that, through them, she has learned that the Order of the Silver Twilight has made no efforts to rebuild the Lodge or restore their ranks. When Mikhail mentions his frustration at being unable to get James out of Bellevue, Vivian says, “Oh, Angie told me he had a brother. Have you tried talking to him?”

Mikhail then remembers that James does have an estranged brother, named Stephen, who lives in New Hampshire. He decides to telephone him later.

Kane Eastman: Reveals that he has been playing gigs and has been having a really good couple of months. He also tells the others that he spoke with his friend, “Papa Doc” Horus, the voodoo priest. Horus told him quite a bit about the evil demon known as Yog-Sothoth, and about the demon's ability to open doorways between our world and the next. Horus went on to say that there are many terrible creatures who live in the outer world, who are waiting by the barrier, “which is as thin as a soap bubble,” for doorways to allow them access. Horus also told Kane that their battle with Yog-Sothoth isn’t over. In fact, it’s only just begun.

This leads Mikhail to talk to Kane about several occult objects Mikhail purchased at an antique shop in Berkshire County. Kane offers to take Mikhail to meet Horus after dinner. Mikhail accepts.

The Judge’s Proposition

The Rothschild Letter, Page One

The Rothschild Letter, Page 2

During dinner, the Judge passes around the letter that he received from his friend, and former attorney, Raleigh Rothschild. Raleigh retired at the end of October, and moved with his wife to Cambridge, MA, where he took on an adjunct faculty position to teach law at Harvard. On a lark, Rothschild joined a business management group called “Look to the Future,” which is run by Lostalus Black and Bryan Slim. Rothschild explains that the weekly meetings feature lectures and seminars about “the power of positive thinking,” and “visualizing success,” which is much as one would expect.

On the weekends however, the group is led in a chant by Lostalus Black (the chant, transcribed in Rothschild’s letter, includes the word “Yog-Sothoth,” which rather piques everyone’s interest). After perhaps an hour of chanting, several volunteers on stage vanish before the crowd’s eyes “like a magician’s trick,” only to return a moment later laden with goods acquired from the future. Rothschild was so impressed that he paid $100 to acquire one of these future artifacts as evidence, which he has offered to show Judge Putnam should he ever come visit.

Rothschild explains that, while he was intrigued by Look to the Future’s activities, he was not certain that everything  was entirely aboveboard. He mentions some circumstantial evidence for this, including that Black and Slim are always accompanied by bodyguards. He also explains that, after each weekend meeting, he felt increasingly sickly and diminished, as well as suffering headaches and other strange symptoms. He has since quit the group, but would rejoin it if the judge, after discreetly investigating it, proved that everything was on the up-and-up.

The group agreed that this was definitely something worth investigating. Everyone said that the smartest thing to do would be to go to Boston the next day to meet with Rothschild and investigate Look to the Future. Mikhail begged off actually going to Boston, saying that he would instead spend his time getting in touch with Stephen Clark.

Ron informed the group that, when he had planned to “go away for a while” with Connie, Vincenzio Bernouse offered to put him up in a safe house he had set up in Boston. Ron promised to ask Vincenzio if the group could use the guest house as a base of operations. Rather than deal honestly with his boss, Ron proposed saying that it would just be him and Vivian going up to Boston to look for concert venues at which Vivian could perform. This made everyone a little nervous, but they all also agreed.

A Visit to Horus

Kane and Mikhail visited Horus. Horus analyzed Mikhail’s purchases from the Berkshires. He dismissed the Witch’s Ball as mere occult superstition, but told Mikhail that the Corn Husk Doll might protect Mikhail from supernatural forces relating to the Old Ones. He also said that the medicine bag he made for Kane served a similar purpose. This prompted Mikhail to buy a bag and Kane to purchase a second one, just in case. Horus told them they could come back at any time, especially if they wanted to buy more bags.

A Phone Call to New Hampshire

Mikhail borrowed James’ appointment book and flipped through it to find Stephen’s phone number. The person that he reached was not Stephen, but was instead someone who was watching Stephen’s house while Stephen was in Boston. It turned out that Stephen’s latest collection of paintings was on display in the Museum of Fine Art, and Stephen was staying there to help with publicity and touring and so on.

Mikhail thanked the house sitter and hung up, only to call the others to let them know he would also be going to Boston with them the next day.

February 10, 1926

The Safe House's Jovial Caretaker

The group caravans up to Boston in multiple cars, arriving at the safe house without incident. There, they meet a jovial Italian caretaker. Ron bribes him to silence with $50 and Dr. Black wins his affection with a selection of delectable pastries from a famous New York bakery. The caretaker tells them that he can help them with everything they need around the house, including “ventilators,” his code word for firearms.

Ron explains that they’re all set for ventilation, but wants to know what they can do for alcohol. The caretaker says that he can bring something by, but also says that if Ron goes to a certain address and asks a certain person about “wanting to see the animals,” he can get everything he needs.

Calling Rothschild

While the group gets settled, Judge Putnam calls Raleigh Rothschild and informs him that he, and some of his investigative team, are in the area. Rothschild is overjoyed, and agrees to meet the group at a local restaurant at 6 pm for dinner. He promises to bring the artifact he purchased, as well as to answer any of their questions to the best of their ability.

The Museum of Fine Arts

The group visits the museum in the hopes of meeting Stephen Clark or seeing his artwork. Stephen is not there, but the art is. While the rest of the group tours the exhibit with a helpful docent, Ron, overwhelmed and bored by all the fancy art, wanders the statue gallery and ogles naked marble bosoms.

The Clark exhibit, entitled “Fractures of My Mind,” is an astonishingly large collection of oil on canvas, acrylic on canvas, and pastel on paper, all of varying size and compositions. Common to each piece of art are jagged fissures, like the cracks in a glass, that subdivide each work into several smaller sections. Clark then uses these sections as smaller framing devices, where he depicts numerous surreal imagines that are variations on the following:

  • Hooded figures
  • Open gateways
  • Candles
  • Torches 
  • People in chains

The group eventually reaches what the docent describes as, “the heart of the exhibit,” a massive 15’ x 18’ painting called “My Brother’s Broken Mind.” The docent states that this is the first piece that Stephen painted, on October 22, 1925, which was the basis for all the other art in the exhibit. The group realizes, with some concern, that the 22nd was the date that they blew up the Lodge hall. They are further concerned when they learn that Stephen painted his keystone work in one day and completed the rest of the artwork in the exhibition in one month.

Investigating the large painting only makes the group more uncomfortable, as it depicts places and people that they have seen and experienced, but which Steven could not possibly know about. It includes, among other things: James Clark, manacled and starving, in a cell, with Mikhail’s face reflected in one of his eyes; The oubliettes beneath the Silver Twilight Lodge, and the nightmarish beasts they contained; a large building engulfed in flame; someone that looks very much like Dr. Black lying, mortally wounded, beside a pillar of some kind.

The group also notes another piece of artwork that is slightly different from the others, in that it depicts a large, white, lozenge-shaped building and a man in a fez who is smiling menacingly. This man reminds Vivian of Nathan Torpley.

Thoroughly unnerved, the group thanks the docent and leaves the exhibit, but not before getting Stephen Clark’s Boston contact information. Mikhail resolves to track down Stephen so that the group can meet with him, while the rest of the team goes to have dinner with Raleigh Rothschild.

The Dinner

Raleigh Rothschild, Esq.

The rest of the group had dinner at a nice restaurant with Raleigh Rothschild. They found Rothschild amiable and agreeable, and willing to answer all of their questions. He elaborated further on the strange ritual, and this led Kane and Johnny to believe that Lostalus Black was using the assembled participants as a very large energy battery to power his time traveling spell.

Rothschild showed off his artifact, a pan with a bakelite handle and a strange black coating that Rothschild insisted allowed food to slide right off the pan without effort. The group was baffled by it, and even more confused by the makers’ mark, which read, “The Bobby Flay Collection: 2016.”

The Artifact--From the FUUTUUURE!

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