Thursday, July 22, 2021

The House of Edwin, Part Four: June 18. 1926

Preparations

With midafternoon—and the Solstice festival—drawing ever nearer, the group makes plans for what to do next. The group decides that recovering their Gate box is their first priority, since having it will give them access to their additional equipment and an escape route while preventing the Silver Twilight from having a back door into their inner sanctum. Dr. Black strongly suspects that the Gate box is in the mysterious tower, and the rest of the group agrees with him.

The group goes over their personal stores of weapons and Tommy Hayes, the British policeman, is quite taken aback to learn how heavily armed the London Group is even without the ordinance stowed in the judge’s garage.

After a long discussion, it is decided that the lion’s share of the group will remain on the island, with only the Clarks taking Jonas’ boat to the mainland. Judge Putnam, Johnny, and Brother Theodore do research in the Edwin library, with Christopher Edwin carried along and explaining his indexing system as best as he can. Ron and Vivian make a thorough search of the house for useful supplies. Mikhail, Pushok, Dr. Black, Kane, Tommy Hayes, and Horus first accompany the Clarks to the boat before setting out to explore the top of Sentinel Hill.

Departure and Ascent

Mikhail, Pushok, Dr. Black, Kane, Tommy, and Horus send the Clarks off. Stephen promises to take care of everything and asks if the group would like him to do anything once they reach Portland. Kane asks them to stay safe. Horus asks them to contact the Coast Guard.

Dr. Black gives Jonas an Elder Sign, which Jonas—a faithful Protestant—balks at. Dr. Black gives him an extra dollar and asks Jonas to hang the Sign on his boat. Jonas is very reluctant, at first, but the doctor is so persuasive that he ultimately accepts.

After the boat gets underway, the remaining group hikes up to Sentinel Hill. They find the amphitheater well-prepared for the evening’s activities and accidentally disturb at least one couple who had gone up to the hilltop to pitch a little woo. Finding very little of note in the amphitheater, the group decides to set out for the tower.

A Disturbing Find

Vivian and Ron gather bottles of lamp oil, hurricane lamps, rope, tools, and similar supplies that they think might be of use in surviving their next night on the island. They also wind up thoroughly searching the house, including the disused servants’ quarters on the third floor. Ron is concerned when he notices that the door to the quarters has rags stuffed under the gap in the jam and in the keyhole. His concerns only increase when he opens the door and notes the familiar smell of decay in the air.

He and Viv investigate and find the body of Ms. Bridger lying dead on a painter’s dropcloth in one of the unused bedrooms in the quarters. Ron inspects the badly decayed body and notes that Ms. Bridger was killed instantly and expertly by a single knife thrust to her back. The knife went up between her ribs and into her heart. Ron is no Dr. Black, but he thinks that the body might have been in the servants’ quarters for at least a couple of weeks, meaning that the Ms. Bridger that the London Group met wasn’t the real Ms. Bridger.

Vivian fetches Johnny from downstairs and asks him to study Ms. Bridger with his keen mind and knowledge of the occult. Vivian is particularly concerned that, unlike Christopher Edwin, Ms. Bridger’s body was kept on the premises instead of being hastily buried, and wonders what this means. Johnny remarks that none of Ms. Bridger is missing, suggesting that her remains were not used to fuel certain loathsome spells. In the end, he and Vivian guess that either the murderer was surprised and could not properly dispose of the body, or that the murderer needed to keep the body close at hand for unknown, likely Mythos-related, reasons.

In The Library

Judge Putnam remains in the library with the disembodied brain of Christopher Edwin. Johnny, Ron, and Vivian duck in and out of the library repeatedly, busy with other things, but also do sit down to help with additional research on the island, its people, and what the imminent Solstice festival might hold for them.

They find numerous references of the island’s bizarre, pagan-influenced past. The islanders apparently hold the Solstice and both Equinoxes in quite high regard. On these holidays, they hold festivals and pay obeisance to various spirits of the air and the water. The Mythos connections to these spirits are obvious enough alarm the researchers.

Ron finds a children’s picture book, lavishly illustrated, which serves as a very basic primer for the religious history of Chebeague Island and its many festivals. One large illustration depicts the “processional paths” that the islanders take on holy days. This image makes the researchers realize that the paths follow ley lines that crisscross the island. A bit of further research reveals that the ley lines intersect at the very place that the mysterious tower is built.

Johnny’s research leads him to reading numerous strange and apocryphal stories about “the deep ones,” who live beneath the sea. Vivian’s research allows her to find numerous pieces of information about “the mi-go, or the fungi from Yuggoth,” inhuman interstellar scientists whose technology and interests mirrors much of what the group has seen on the island.

The Tower

Mikhail, Pushok, Horus, Tommy, Dr. Black, and Kane approach the tower. Dr. Black is convinced that he hears a buzzing noise—akin to an angry swarm of bees—coming from the top window of the tower. It fades away before anyone else can hear it.

Desperate for further information, Dr. Black attempts to commune with Khaad Vistu. The priest aspirant laughs mercilessly at the doctor’s poor command of magic. He taunts the doctor, but does tell him that the tower is built upon a confluence of ley lines for some unknown, but likely magical, purpose.

The group explores the tower and finds it to be old, abandoned, and covered in climbing ivy. A quick look inside reveals that much of the tower is hollow on the inside, though there is a trap door in a shadowed roof high above. There are no stairs inside the tower, but there are metal rings on the walls that might provide an enterprising climber hand and footholds to reach the trap door.

As they investigate the base of the tower, the group notices, with rising alarm, that the dark shadows near the ceiling seem to be expanding, flowing down the tower walls like honey. Pushok barks in panic at the approaching darkness, but the group collects him and flees. They stand outside the tower and watch as the darkness not only fills it, but also seems to push out of the windows and doors, straining and stretching as if trying to leave the tower’s confines.

After a few moments, the darkness begins to recede, but now the group is assaulted by an awful buzzing noise. Pushok, Horus, and Tommy are overwhelmed by the sound and, glassy-eyed, retreat down the path back to the Sentinel Hill amphitheater. Kane, Dr. Black, and Mikhail choose to go after them, and find their friends quite confused, but otherwise unharmed.

Thoroughly bewildered and frightened by their experience in the tower, the group opts to return to the Edwin mansion and catch their friends up on what has transpired. On their way back, they note that the islanders’ procession has begun, and that a huge group of costumed revelers are marching down North Road, playing bagpipes, fifes, and drums.

A Very Merry Solstice

The London Group reunites and exchanges information. A plan is hatched to use Ron’s remaining sticks of dynamite to destroy the tower. Vivian suggests adding the lamp oil and other things she has found to add fuel to the fire, in case it is necessary.

Tommy Hayes, thoroughly rattled by what he has experienced on the island, asks for a loaner weapon from the London Group. Dr. Black kindly offers him his backup gun.

Brother Theodore offers to pray to Nodens for guidance, and leaves to seclude himself so that he might do so.

It is at about this time that members of the group hear the approaching music of the revelers. It appears that they are traveling up the side of the hill directly to the Edwin mansion. Realizing that the time for action is almost upon them, the London Group readies themselves as best as they can. Papa Doc Horus uses his borrowed bag of salt to create a “final line of defense” inside of the main hallway on the first floor. The rest load guns, sharpen enchanted blades, slip magical gems into their pockets. and post lookouts on the windows.

A few minutes later, the islanders arrive. They stand in the front yard of the Edwin mansion, playing, singing, and dancing for several minutes. Then, in unison, they cry out, “Happy Solstice, Mr. Edwin!”

The group watch pensively as the islanders woop and cheer before turning to march back down the hill. 

They only get a few steps, however, before all of them seem to be overcome by some outside force and collapse, unconscious, on Mr. Edwin’s front lawn.

As the last of the revelers slump to the ground, the London Group can hear the distinctive sounds of conch shells blowing in the distance…

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The House of Edwin Part 3: June 18, 1926

Early Morning Efforts

As the sun rises, several members of the London Group either try to catch up on sleep or freshen up in preparation for the day ahead.

Dr. Black, Judge Putnam, and Vivian avail themselves of the numerous tomes in Christopher Edwin’s library. Dr. Black learns a spell called The Keenness of Two Alike, which he hopes will allow him to commune with the memories of the dead priest aspirant that seems to have taken up residence inside of his head. Judge Putnam confirms that there was a real Christopher Edwin, that he did communicate with various members of the group, and that he did invite them to Chebeague Island to discuss plans for thwarting the Order of the Silver Twilight. Vivian, meanwhile, learns quite a bit more about the rise and fall of the—apparently—globe-spanning empire of the serpent people, and also finds a description of the Arc of Vlactos.

Meanwhile, Ron hikes into town to get the lay of the land. He sees several becostumed villagers preparing for the day’s Solstice ceremony. They excitedly invite him to the festivities later, which begins with a potluck lunch in the village square at noon. Ron learns that the island’s sole telegraph has broken down. He also visits the north ferry dock and overhears a crusty old sailor in a yellow rain slicker telling the dockmaster that the ferry has broken down and will not be able to come out until tomorrow. The dockmaster says that this bodes ill for getting money from tourists who wanted to visit the Solstice festival. Ron feels as though it bodes ill for other, more personal reasons.

Some Costumed Islanders

Ron also notices that the islanders have hung witches’ balls up on their front doors and mailboxes. Also, it seems that the fishermen of the island have spread their nets out on the shoreline, with their attached witches’ balls gleaming in the sun. Ron, who is not a fisherman, is still wise enough in the way of fishing to know that the nets are not arranged to catch fish. He wonders if they are displayed in this manner for a different purpose.

A short time later, Ron returns to the Edwin household to find Johnny and Papa Doc Horus preparing a simple breakfast for everyone.  Horus also borrows a large quantity of salt “just in case.”

As the group and their allies discuss their findings, Tommy Hayes, insists that they tell someone about the dead body they discovered in the back yard. The London Group try to dissuade him from this, partially because there’s no one to tell, partially because it seems as though all communication with mainland authorities has been cut, and partially because they fear that they will tip their hands to the islanders.

The Clarks, meanwhile, have decided that they are going to try and leave as soon as possible. Their attempts are thwarted when James and Stephen tell Angie that their car won’t start. Angie goes out to investigate, with the rest of the group in tow, and she and Johnny soon discover that someone has put sugar in the gas tanks of all the vehicles—including Ms. Bridger’s sporty motorcycle.

Johnny thinks that he can salvage the judge’s car by draining and cleaning the gas tank, though he will need to replace the fuel if he’s going to be able to drive the car anywhere. While he and Angie work to disconnect the gas tank, Ron points out that they need to make sure that the south ferry is up and running. Otherwise, they’re going nowhere.

The group takes another quick search of the house and its environs. Dr. Black takes this opportunity to cast The Keenness of Two Alike, which allows him to join his intellect with that of Khaad Vistu, the long-dead priest aspirant of the Nameless City.

Meanwhile, Ron wanders around back to give the property a closer look. There is a great deal of standing water where the back garden should be—likely due to some drainage issues. Ron also sees a thin film of brownish-black fluid floating on the surface of the water. This reminds him both of the stain Vivian saw on Miss Bridger’s bathroom door, as well as the creepy fluid prominent in some of Stephen Clark’s older paintings. Believing that there is something in the water, but not wanting to touch the brownish-black fluid, Ron pulls a stick of dynamite from his pocket, ignites it, and throws it in the water.

The resulting explosion terrifies everyone, rattles the Edwin mansion, and cracks a few windows in their frames. One by one, the members of the London Group come around back to investigate the source of the explosion and/or to castigate Ron.

It becomes evident that the explosion has blown a fracture in the bedrock of the large hill/small mountain upon which the Edwin mansion sits. This allows the remnants of the standing water that weren’t catapulted skyward to drain down into the fracture, leaving a patch of saturated mud behind. The group discovers nothing of note left behind. Ron insists that he was helping.

The explosion is loud enough that it reaches the nearby village, and soon a handful of villagers has come up the old, worn out staircase to the Edwin house to investigate the noise. The London Group insists, repeatedly, that what the villagers heard was simply a car backfiring. Dr. Black then attempts to distract the curious villagers by asking them if he could purchase a can of gasoline in town.

The amiable villagers offer to escort Dr. Black into town so that he can get some gasoline. Fearful that he might be ritually sacrificed by the villagers, much of the rest of the group goes with Dr. Black. At the same time, Ron decides to lead a party to the southern ferry dock to see if egress from the island can be affected from there.  Mikhail, meanwhile, puts Pushok on a leash and walks down the old, moss-covered staircase to the northern shore of the island.

Errands in Chebeague

Ron and his group learn that the southern ferry is also broken, and is floating dead in its mainland port until the proper parts can be delivered. Ron’s group is concerned about this, fearing that both ferries being out of order on the same day is no accident. They talk among themselves about other ways to leave Chebeague Island, bandying about such ideas as using the Gate box luggage, hiring a boat, stealing a boat, or building a raft with supplies at the house.

Another Costumed Local

Dr. Black and his party venture into town and acquire a can of gasoline without any fuss. Dr. Black’s group notices that the islanders are setting up the potluck luncheon on the village square. They also notice that several of the islanders are preparing or donning costumes that consist of great quantities of fur, straw, and cowbells. Ornate masks are also a feature of these costumes. These costumes are strange and off-putting enough that Dr. Black’s party grows even more wary.

Mikhail, having heard Ron’s reports of the witches’ balls, and having heard that the handblown glass spheres seem to be a facet of the strange religion of the island, takes his witch ball down to the shore and places it in the water. Mikhail prays to the “spirits of the water,” asking them to protect him and his friends and to defeat his enemies.

He watches, with a mixture of fascination and terror, as the witch’s ball floats out into the Atlantic of its own volition. When it is several dozen yards from shore, a dark shape swims up from the depths, grabs the ball, and vanishes back into the deeps. Mikhail has an unshakeable conviction that his prayer has been heard. For better or for worse.

The Group Reunites/The Luncheon

The London Group reunites, shares information, and decides to visit the potluck luncheon in the town square. The members of the group share their misgivings about what has occurred, what is about to occur, and how they might be able to get the hell off of the island before anything bad happens. There is some discussion of, at the very least, sending the Clarks, Brother Theodore, Tommy Hayes, and Horus to safety by means of the Gate box.

During the luncheon (which the group does not partake in), several members of the group notice the sailor in the yellow rainslicker standing off to one side under a tree, smoking a pipe and watching the proceedings with a baleful gaze. One by one, the group drift over to introduce themselves to the man, who introduces himself as Jonas, a lobsterman, who is the captain of a thirty-foot vessel currently moored at the north ferry dock.

Jonas tells the London Group that he was given a small stipend to travel to Chebeague Island and let them know that the north ferry is out of service until tomorrow. He mentions that he, a God-fearing Protestant, dislikes the island, its people, and their pagan ways, and pans to be well-shut of Chebeague long before the Solstice festival gets underway. When the group presses him on details of the festival, Jonas says that he has never attended, but that he is still strongly against it anyway, as it’s definitely heathen and unrighteous.

Seeing an avenue of escape, the group asks Jonas if he will take them, their companions, and their luggage back to Portland. Jonas agrees, for the frankly ridiculous sum of $1 per person. Realizing that he has them over a barrel, the London Group takes Jonas up on his offer. They tell him that they will be returning to the Edwin manor to pack, but that they will meet him at his boat shortly.

Jonas the Fisherman, Looking Quite Old-Timey

Lost Luggage/The Cylinder

The London Group return to the house and begin to pack, only to discover, to their great alarm, that the Gate box has gone missing. Even more disconcerting is the fact that Dr. Black’s warding spell, which he had placed around the Gate box, remains intact and somehow undisturbed despite the theft.

With their easiest means of escape and resupply taken from them, the London Group hastily changes their plans. They decide to leave their cars behind, pack quickly, and pay Jonas to take themselves and their allies back to Portland. They realize that whatever forces are conspiring to keep them on the island will be at a disadvantage once the reach the mainland and, once they have escaped to Portland, they can formulate a plan and strike back.

As the group hastily packs, Dr. Black notices the strange cylinder that Ron had found the previous night. This cylinder has been placed on an end table in the dining room, next to the pile of strange equipment that Vivian had found hidden in the wall space the previous night. His mind still enhanced by the Keenness of Two Alike, Dr. Black suddenly realizes that the connector on the strange equipment fits into the various ports up and down the sides of the cylinder. Curious as to the nature of the cylinder and the devices, he begins plugging various parts into various other receptacles.

A high pitched, “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” emanating from one of the devices makes Dr. Black reconsider and hastily remove the devices from the cylinder.

Eventually, however, curiosity from the rest of the group overrides Dr. Black’s caution. Once again, the devices are hooked up. Once again, there is a high pitched “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” which, blessedly, fades after a few seconds.

Then, from the device, the group hears a flat, metallic voice. “Hello? Is anyone there? Why can’t I see you?”

The voice eventually identifies itself as Christopher Edwin, though Judge Putnam takes some pains to question the voice in order to determine its identity. Once the voice has answered several pointed questions, the judge is more or less reassured that the group is truly speaking to Christopher Edwin, though they don’t quite know how.

Johnny, who has read far too many Mythos tomes in the past year, explains that this device is likely a mi-go brain cylinder. If that is, in fact, the case, it means that someone has removed Christopher Edwin’s brain from his body and placed it inside of the cylinder for safekeeping, storage, and transport to the distant world of Yuggoth.

Unsurprisingly, Christopher Edwin does not take this news very well.

Once the group manages to get Mr. Edwin calmed down, he explains that he was very much looking forward to meeting them all, that he did have plans to stop whatever the Order of Silver Twilight is doing on Easter Island, and that he will happily contribute his knowledge, his skills, his finances, and his library to the London Group’s cause.

Stunned at finally meeting their mysterious host and benefactor, the London Group attempts to gather their wits about them so that they can most easily effect their escape.

Nellie Thompson

She's Baaa-aaaack!

Ron realizes that the situation has become quite dire, and feels that he needs to summon Nathan Torpley/the Many-Faced Stranger to get advice, help, or both. He knows that Vivian took the Ouroboros Ring away from him, but also knows that Vivian is too smart to leave such a potent magical artifact on the nightstand at home. While the others are discussing plans, Ron slips into his goddaughter’s room, roots through her belongings, and finds the Ouroboros Ring hidden in Vivian’s compact.

Ron proudly announces to the group that he has found the ring and plans to use it to summon Nathan Torpley. The group attempts to dissuade him. When their arguments do not change Ron’s mind, Vivian suggests that Ron team up with someone to share the cost of summoning Mr. Torpley, so that he is not rendered as weak as a kitten by expending almost all of his vitality. A bemused Tommy Hayes agrees to help, and is frankly shocked when the spell takes effect and he nearly passes out from the effort.

Moments later, the group hears a rolling, thudding noise from upstairs, accompanied periodically by the sound of a jauntily tinkling bell. The group goes to investigate to find Nellie Thompson riding a tricycle around and around the second-floor balcony. Nellie is, of course, very amused to see everyone.

Ron petitions Nellie for aid, only for her to tell him that, “other people have gone to great effort to keep me from intervening on your behalf directly.” Nelly tells Ron not to worry though—she’s left something special somewhere in the house that might help him, if he can find it.

With that, she drives her tricycle into the closet and disappears. Shortly thereafter, the group hears the tricycle bell ringing again, this time from downstairs.

Following the sound of the bell, the group enters a hitherto unexplored room, which turns out to be the mansion’s music room. Amidst the dusty instruments and stacks of sheet music, Vivian locates the Jade Sphinx, which has been placed on the fireplace mantel. Vivian inspects the sphinx and discovers that the black gemstone—which will allow them to summon the Hound of Nephrem-Ka—is still safely ensconced within its base.

The Return of this Awful Thing


Friday, July 2, 2021

The House of Edwin Part 2: June 18, 1926

The Eponymous House

Stephen’s New Fresco

As the group watches, Stephen Clark sketches out an eerie and foreboding tower. A hooded figure stands in the foreground, their back to the group, long tendrils of beard curling out from their hood.

James is overwhelmed by the scene and shuts down, while Angie begs the others to “do something” about Stephen. Ron grabs the artist by the scruff of the neck and hauls him down off of his chair, but Stephen continues to pantomime drawing on the wall and seems completely oblivious to Ron’s attempts to corral him.

The group agrees that Ron should release Stephen. Ron does and then promptly goes back upstairs to put on a pair of pants (he was previously in his undershirt and boxers) and to wake Kane Eastman, who has blissfully slept through the early morning commotion. Meanwhile, Dr. Black takes a bit of charcoal from the cold dining room fireplace and writes, “MAINE” on the wall near Stephen’s drawing.

Stephen ignores the word and continues to draw, incorporating Dr. Black’s word into his new artwork. He finishes shortly after Kane and Ron return to the dining room. At this moment, Stephen’s artistic fugue leaves Stephen, and he collapses in the chair and places his head in his hands.

Dr. Black inspects the finished artwork and sees that numerous robed figures are standing in front of the tower. They are exceptionally well-detailed, despite Stephen’s haste and choice of materials. Two notable figures are a woman holding a rifle and a misshapen man who seems to favor his left side.

Judge Putnam peers at the tower and, ultimately, recognizes it from a diagram that he saw in Johnny’s Mythos notes. After the judge mentions this to the group, Johnny confirms that the tower is, indeed, identical to one that needs to be built in order to Call Yog-Sothoth.

Deeply concerned at the night’s events, the London Group decide it is long past time to warn their host of these new developments. Tommy Hayes tells the group that he knows where Mr. Edwin’s rooms are, as they are next to his rooms on the second floor. Johnny and Judge Putnam accompany him.

The First Floor of the Mansion

The Grim Matter at Hand

Repeated knocks on Mr. Edwin’s bedroom door go unanswered, and so Johnny picks the lock. He, Judge Putnam, and Tommy Hayes enter Mr. Edwin’s bed chamber and find it well-secured from within, with all doors locked and all windows closed and latched. The rooms are well-appointed, but also empty, and the bed does not appear to have been slept in. Most ominously, Christopher Edwin’s wheelchair is tipped on its side and lying next to a hope chest at the foot of the bed.

The three men search the room, finding nothing unusual or untoward until Johnny peeks under the bed. There, he is shocked to discover a dismembered hand, perfectly preserved, but fitted to a plate of bright silver metal at the wrist. On this panel are various levers and switches of curious design. Johnny becomes a bit overwhelmed at the sight of the hand, which the three men are convinced belongs to Christopher Edwin.

They return to the dining room and present the hand to the others. Dr. Black confirms that it is a real hand, perfectly preserved and all but devoid of trauma. He does note that it appears that the hand was severed with a very sharp, very hot blade that cauterized the flesh at the wrist.

Mikhail calls a skittish Pushok over and has the dog take a good whiff of the hand. Mikhail then puts a leash on Pushok and asks him to track the scent. Pushok leads Mikhail on a merry chase all across the first floor of the house, with Dr. Black in hot pursuit. Pushok stops for a while in front of a door before darting back toward the loggia and the terrace in the back of the house. Mikhail, fearful of what might await him in the darkness outside, orders Pushok to a halt and brings him back to the dining room.

At this point, Kane Eastman discovers that moving the switches and levers on the silver base allows him to manipulate the hand in a disturbingly lifelike way. Johnny says that he has read something about this in his occult notes, and suggests that the same beings who built the hand mechanism are also responsible for building the artifact/device that Ron stole from the Miskatonic University Library.

The Second Floor of the Mansion

Fervent Searching

The London Group splits up to search various areas of the house.

Tommy Haynes and Judge Putnam thoroughly search the rooms on the second floor. Tommy points out the suites of rooms that are currently being occupied by himself, the Clarks, Papa Doc Horus, and Brother Theodore. They also find and search a dusty and long-in-disuse nursery, which is filled with ancient children’s toys, cribs, a rocking chair, numerous shelves, and a doll house that appears to be a scale model of the Edwin mansion.

Judge Putnam notices a wedge-shaped disturbance on the floor in front of one of the shelving units, and persuades Tommy Hayes to move it away from the wall. Tommy does so, only to find that the shelves swing back on hidden hinges, revealing a secret crawlspace in the wall. Judge Putnam sends Tommy to fetch a torch.

Meanwhile, Vivian and Ron go to the third floor in a desperate attempt to rouse Ms. Bridger. When she does not answer her knocks, Vivian picks the lock on the door before Ron can smash it open. Inside, they find a very spartan, but extremely tidy, set of rooms. Similar to Mr. Edwin’s room, the bed does not appear to be slept in.

Vivian notes a trickle of black or dark brown liquid on the door that leads into the bathroom. She examines it and discovers that it isn’t blood, but it does have a strong, organic smell.

Ron hears a humming noise from one of the other rooms in the suite, which seems to have been converted to a storeroom and is currently stacked with boxes, old furniture, and the like. Ron enters the room and notices a strange glow coming from the center.

Downstairs, Johnny decides to head upstairs to help Vivian and Ron. Meanwhile, Dr. Black opens the door that Pushok scented on and discovers that it leads into Christopher Edwin’s massive occult library. He sees a cot with several dirty dishes around it, an empty wheelchair, and a writing table in the center of the library. On the table is a cuneiform tablet which Mr. Edwin seemed to have been in the process of studying. A search of the desk’s single drawer holds Mr. Edwin’s incomplete notes on the tablet in exceptionally neat handwriting. It appears that the tablet names the day and the time that the “Isle of the Guardian” last breached the waters, and that Christopher Edwin was attempting to use that date to determine when the stars “would next be right” for the isle to rise.

Ron discovers that the glow and the hum comes from a strange metal cylinder hidden in the storage room. The cylinder appears to have liquid sloshing around inside of it, as well as several attachment ports—as if for hoses or similar—but no obvious way to open it.  Upon seeing the cylinder, Johnny insists that it was made by the same creatures who made the library artifact and the hand attachment.

On a whim, Vivian decides to search the nearby bathroom and, with Ron’s help, removes the mirrored vanity cabinet from its spot over the sink. In the void behind the cabinet, Vivian finds several strange silver devices, some of which look a bit like camera parts, others of which are unidentifiable.

A Curious Cylinder

Secret Passage

Tommy returns with a torch and he and Judge Putnam return to explore the secret passageway. They soon discover that the passage leads into various parts of the house, including Mr. Edwin’s suite and Ms. Bridger’s suite, as well as to an access ladder that leads into the kitchen.

Johnny, who is currently with Ron and Vivian in Ms. Bridger’s room, hears the Judge and Tommy banging around in the walls and abruptly smashes through the plaster, making a hole that connects Ms. Bridger’s room and the secret passageway. They also find a concealed door into the room behind a cabinet, as well as a similar concealed door in Mr. Edwin’s room and the kitchen.

The Third Floor of the Mansion (So Many Bathrooms)

The Dawn of the Longest Day

By this time, the sun is just about to rise on the morning of the Solstice. Emboldened by the coming daylight, the group begins to explore the area immediately around the mansion. Vivian notices that Ms. Bridger’s motorcycle (and side car) is still parked beside the house with all the other vehicles. Mikhail, who is examining the partially flooded backyard through the glass doors leading out to the loggia, sees a hummock of earth that appears to have been freshly turned over.

Expecting the worst, the group acquires shovels, wades out to the hummock, and begins digging. They soon find the withered body of an elderly man, who is missing his face, both his hands, the top of his head, and his brain. Dr. Black suspects that the body belongs to none other than their host, Christopher Edwin, and is baffled by the fact that, based on decomposition, Edwin has been dead for at least two weeks.

Exhausted and bewildered, the London Group decide to bathe, change clothes, eat, and regroup before deciding what to do next. Dr. Black suggests that some of them spend time researching in Christopher Edwin’s library, in the hopes that they might find some answers there.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The House of Edwin Part 1.5: June 17, 1926

Chebeague Island, Maine

Before We Sit Down to Dinner

The London Group is show to their rooms on the third floor of Christopher Edwin’s mansion and are told that they have some time to rest up before dinner. Kane, Judge Putnam, and Vivian take the opportunity to wash up and change. Dr. Black spends the time thoroughly searching his own room and the surrounding rooms for anything that looks even remotely like a secret passage. Mikhail, Ron and Pushok take a stroll around the ground and Pushok, for whatever reason, is skittish. Johnny volunteers his services to assist Ms. Bridger with the preparations for the evening meal. This gives him quite a bit of gratitude from Christopher Edwin’s sole servant, as well as an opportunity to poke around in the downstairs part of the house.

At some point during this, Kane calmly walks the upper hallways of the house and has a meditative smoke. He also looks to see if any of the smoke from his cigarette is blow about by unusual drafts—thereby suggesting secret passageways. Despite his cleverness, he doesn’t find any.

Dr. Black persuades Ron to grab him some small, white stones from around the Edwin estate so that he can cast his warding spell on the group’s magic luggage. This goes perfectly smoothly.

Eventually, Johnny is sent up stairs to fetch the others for dinner.

The London Group's Rooms at the Edwin Estate

Old Friends

The London Group joins Mr. Edwin and his other guests for dinner, and is somewhat surprised to discover that they all know one another. His other guests include: James and Stephen Clark, Angie Clark (nee Hutchinson), Papa Doc Horus, Brother Theodore, and Tommy Hayes.

Everyone dines on a fantastic meal prepared by Ms. Bridger (with some help from Johnny). Once the dishes from the meal are cleared and everyone has gotten coffee, tea, and cake, Christopher Edwin invites his guests to talk about their experiences with their shared enemy, the Order of the Silver Twilight. The group swap stories and catch one another up.

Christopher Edwin explains that the London Group and their allies have dealt several critical blows to the Order, depriving them of critical assets, killing their important agents, and throwing their timetable into disarray. Despite this, the group’s job is not done. Edwin believes that the Order’s ultimate goal is to raise the dead island of R’lyeh and awaken the Herald who sleeps there. Even though the London Group has destroyed two thirds of the disc, the magical potency that remains in the third piece is enough for the cult to do their work, “with sufficient sacrifices.” Their success is made even more likely by the fact that they have, according to Edwin, recovered the shards of the Arc of Vlactos.

Edwin then explains that he knows where the Silver Twilight plan to strike next. He reveals a telegram that he says he just received from another one of his agents, David Lee, who is currently residing in Chile. According to the telegram, Lee has spotted two heavily laden ships—which he believes belong to the Order—getting ready to set sail for Easter Island. Lee also mentions that he has also spotted someone he believes is one of “the twins.”

The Telegram from David Lee

Edwin explains that he is happy to spend a portion of his family fortune to get the London Group (along with any of his other guests) booked on a ship out to Easter Island without delay, in the hopes that they can arrive in time to thwart the Order of the Silver Twilight’s plans. The group agrees to this, and much of the rest of the discussion is spent learning about the so called “twins” working for the Order.

Edwin explains that the twins are inhuman monsters who can shapeshift into various different human forms. Edwin has never encountered them himself, but explains that the twins are very old, very powerful, and are considered “Wizards” of the Silver Twilight, a rank shared only by the departed Carl Stanford. That the twins have taken the field means that whatever the Order plans to do in Easter Island is critically important and must not succeed. He also explains his believe that, while the twins often work together, they likely have means of communicating with one another across vast distances, so it is likely that whatever one knows, the other knows.

At this point, Christopher Edwin announces that he is growing fatigued. He thanks his guests and excuses himself, but not before suggesting that they can use the rest of the evening to relax, read, walk the grounds, or take in the sights that both the island and its small village have to offer. He also mentions that there are likely activities going on down in town, as the islanders are celebrating their yearly Solstice festival.

The London Group all decide to travel down to town. The rest of their friends, tired from their long trips, decide to relax in their rooms. Everyone parts ways, for now.

Is This a Cult?

The London Group drive down into town. Despite it being around 9:00 in the evening, in Maine, the islanders are still awake, outside, and enjoying their summertime festivities. A small carnival-type area, with a stage, food vendors, and the like, has been set up in the center of town. While singers, musicians, and magicians take turns on the stage, the islanders wander around dressed in bizarre finery. The group notes that the strange shrines, which they noticed on their initial arrival to the island, are much more numerous here. All of these different elements come together to provide a strong pagan vibe.

Johnny is so alarmed by this vibe that he immediately turns the car around and drives back toward the Edwin Estate, with Judge Putnam still inside.

Some of the More Outlandish Islanders

The rest of the group are also leery about the islanders, but they decide to remain in the vicinity of the town square to gather additional information. Among the more notable encounters are the following:

  • They noticed that the telegram from David Lee had no date on it, and so they decided to stop by the telegraph office to acquire further information or see if Mr. Lee had sent another telegram. They discovered that the telegraph office was closed until further notice for repairs.
  • Ron caught sight of one of those “ring the bell and test your strength” games and decides to pit himself against it while Kane looks on. Ron, who has a lot of past experience swinging heavy hammers, does very well for himself. So well, in fact, that he unwittingly wins the immediate adoration of one of the village girls. He doesn’t find out about this until shortly thereafter.
  • Dr. Black takes in one of the magic shows at the stage and realizes, to his dismay, that this is 20 minutes of his life he will never, ever get back.
  • A bunch of excitable village children overwhelm and overstimulate Pushok, and so Mikhail decides to take him for a walk. He brings Pushok down past the ferry docks, and notices that the ferry is no longer there. A helpful sign informs him that the ferry will return to the island for regular trips sometime tomorrow morning.
  • Vivian tucks herself into a shadowy spot between two buildings and listens to the gossip of the passersby. She learns that something has been breaking the islanders’ lobster traps, although some of the lobstermen have discovered bits of gold and jewelry left behind in the wreckage, “as if someone were apologizing for breaking it.”
  • Vivian also learns that one of the local boys is very angry at a certain “flatlander,” who his girl is making eyes at. Vivian doesn’t even need to make an IDEA roll to guess that the boy is talking about Ron.
  • The local boy finds Ron and challenges him to a fight. Fortunately, Kane is there to help smooth the situation over. It also helps that Ron is so intimidating—even when he’s doing nothing at all—that the boy decides he has bitten off more than he can chew. He leaves, with his friends razzing him for his cowardice.

Oh, Yeah, It’s a Cult

While on their way back to the Edwin household, Johnny and Judge Putnam spot a small group of people singing and chanting by one of the numerous shrines that dot the island. Realizing that he should probably learn more about what’s going on before he retreats to the safety of the Edwin house, Johnny pulls the car over and he and the judge get out. Both men find the group of islanders very friendly and only too happy to explain their local customs.

One woman, the most talkative of the bunch, tells Johnny and Judge Putnam that they haven’t seen the best part of their festival yet. This is apparently going to occur tomorrow evening, on the official longest day of the year “up over there on Sentinel Hill.” Johnny presses for details about this part of the festival and learns that a group of costumed mummers will process to the top of the hill with the rest of the islanders in tow. Once they reach the summit, they will engage in a sun ceremony filled with songs, prayers, chants, and fun.

It is about this moment that Mikhail and Pushok, who have continued walking away from the town area, spot Johnny and the judge and move to join them. The now larger group continues to converse with the islanders, and learns that they conduct their prayers and sun-worshipping songs in Portuguese, and that their various costumes are handed down from generation to generation.

Judge Putnam mentions that he wouldn’t mind taking a look up at the top of Sentinel Hill. The islanders, pleased at his interest in their customs, are only too happy to bring him up there. After a bracing walk, the three men (and Pushok), emerge from the trees surrounding the hill to find that the summit is well maintained, mowed, and features a large amphitheater for the ceremony.

The three men get their bearings and notice that, not only is the hilltop where the Edwin estate stands visible from here, but that there is also an old, stone tower standing just above the treeline on another nearby summit.

After some more polite conversation, the islanders escort the three men (and Pushok) back to the judge’s car, before going back to the town proper to retire for the night.

The Distant Tower Up Close

A Not Terribly Quiet Evening

As the members of the London Group reconvene, it seems as though the town festival is gradually running out of steam. The group watches as the food carts get put away and the islanders return sleepily to their homes. Realizing that they, too, ought to get some rest, they get into their cars and drive back up to the Edwin estate.

Sleep comes quickly, but the group’s rest is soon spoiled by a sudden banging and crashing from somewhere downstairs. Worried at what this could mean, the group gathers themselves together and heads to the first floor to confront the source of the noise. They swiftly discover that it is coming from the dining room.

As the London Group enter the dining room, they see a very worried Angie Clark and a very frightened James Clark begging and pleading with a manic Stephen Clark, who has pushed a chair against one of the dining room walls and is standing on top of it. Ignoring the pleas of his brother and his sister-in-law, Stephen frantically marks up the blank wall with bits of soot and charcoal he has pulled from the dining room’s fireplace.

The group watches in horror as a terrifying picture begins to emerge from Stephen Clark’s crazed artistry...

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Mob War Part 8: Friday, June 10, 1926

Mob War Wrap-Up

Ron, still wanting answers, takes an unconscious Fredo Albanese to one of the Bernouse Family safe houses, strips him to his undies, and ties him to a chair in the basement. When Fredo comes to, Ron questions him about his involvement of the death of Gabriella Puglisi. Fredo is baffled by the line of questioning, so much so that Ron suspects there might be some kind of Mythos hijinks involved. Realizing that he is not smart enough to figure this out on his own, Ron uses the safehouse phone to make some calls.

He eventually tracks down the hospital where Luca is staying, and, through that, is able to talk to Kane and Johnny. Ron pleads with them both to come to the safehouse to help with the Fredo situation, which they do. Kane, ultimately, tries to hypnotize Fredo to unearth any repressed memories he might have.

It turns out Fredo has a lot of repressed memories, which Anne Chantraine ordered him to forget about. Fredo calmly explains to Kane that he was mentally dominated to kill Gabriella and then suppress all memories of the event, and of knowing anything at all about Chantraine, from his mind. Kane thanks Fredo, tells him that he will remember all of his repressed memories when he awakens, and brings him out of his trance. Fredo is horrified at what he’s done.

Kane and Johnny manage to talk Ron out of killing Fredo, and thereby making the aftermath of tonight’s all-out mob war even worse. Ron calls the Bernouse mansion and talks to Giacomo, who, after distinguishing himself in the service of the family, is now called “Jacky the Kid” and has been temporarily given Luca’s phone duties.

Ron persuades Giacomo to wake both Vivian and her father (separately) and to ask them for advice about the situation. A pissed off Vince is actually relieved when Ron tells him what all went down and that he has not yet murdered Fredo Albanese. He tells Ron to go home, and that he will send some men to the safe house to babysit Fredo. He tells Ron that he will meet with Fredo’s boss, Don Genovese, in the morning, and that they will decide what will happen from there.

While all of this is going on, Vito drops in to visit the others in the hospital. He brings baked goods (including a cannoli for Ron). After wishing everyone well, he departs.

Everyone (but Ron's) Second-Favorite NPC

Dr. Black promises to stand vigil while his friends rest and recover. He even goes so far as to slip a sheet over the mirror in the recovery ward’s bathroom—just in case Anne Chantraine wants to try anything. She doesn’t.

Dr. Black has a dream of ritually sacrificing numerous offerings to the four gods of the Nameless City. The dream shifts, and he realizes that he has been inhabiting/sharing space with a rune-covered, orange-skinned man. The man informs Dr. Black that he is the one who failed to walk the Path of the Penitent, whom Dr. Black absorbed. He says that, because Dr. Black overextended himself to cast the Wrack spell on several people at once, he has strengthened the bond between them. Dr. Black awakens, fearful in the knowledge that this long-dead priest may attempt to exert further influence over him.

Transition to the Next Chapter

A week goes by. Mikhail, Judge Putnam, and Luca recover from their injuries and are discharged from the hospital. Luca needs a second wheelchair to transport all of the flowers, food, and gifts that his well-wishers have been sending to the hotel.

At some point, Papa Doc Horus tells Johnny that he has acquired the rare botanicals that Johnny asked for. Johnny picks them up and mixes a restorative drink for Judge Putnam. The judge imbibes this without hesitation, and soon loses all craving for human blood.

Several high-level meetings occur between the four surviving heads of the Five Families. There is an immediate ceasefire in the mob war. The Bianco/Bonnano Family is leaderless and in shambles. No one can find Anne Chantraine anywhere. Most suspect that she has fled the city.

Ron manages to weedle the phone number for the place his wife and son are hiding out away from Darragh and gives them a call. It goes as well as one might expect. Ron Jr. is worried and nervous. Connie pendulums between scared and really, really angry.

Judge Putnam convenes the London Group at his house and starts making plans for their trip to Chebeague Island, and to the home of Christopher Edwin.

The House of Edwin Part 0.5

The London Group sets out on a two-day trip that will bring them to Portland, and to the ferry that will take them over to Chebeague Island. They stop over at a bed and breakfast in MA for the night. The group studiously avoids going to Ashby.

June 17, 1926

While passing through New Hampshire, the group collectively decides to stop in on the Clarks. They make the detour, only to find that Stephen, Angie, and James have gone off on an outing of their own. The housekeeper, Mrs. Harris, invites them in for tea, coffee, and crumb cake, and gives them a chance to rest and recover from their long drive.

When asked, Mrs. Harris explains that James is doing well, but that Stephen has had one of his “episodes” again where he obsessively paints non-stop. She says that this particular bout ended sometime last Saturday morning, which she was quite relieved about. She says that his return to normalcy is part of the reason why he, his brother, and his sister-in-law all went off on this trip.

Ron, curious and fearful about what Stephen has painted, persuades Mrs. Harris to temporarily part with the spare key to the studio. The group lets themselves in and has a look around. Inside, they discover several paintings, including:

  • Anne Chantraine sitting at a vanity doing her makeup. However, the reflection in the mirror is not of her own face, but of Fredo Albanese’s. Fredo looks terrified and ashen-faceed.
  • A very large painting depicting the shootout at the entrance to the Astoria Hotel. Kane is very discomfited to seem himself and Luca portrayed among the hotel’s defenders.
  • A painting of a hilltop overlooking the setting sun. A robed figure stands with their back to the viewer, watching the sunset. 

The group thanks Mrs. Harris for her hospitality and resumes their journey. They take their cars onto the ferry in Portland and arrive, without incident, at Chebeague Island about an hour later.

Chebeague Island

The London Group disembarks in their cars and begin driving away from the ferry dock, only to encounter a formidable looking woman standing by the side of the road. The woman holds a neatly lettered sign that reads, “EDWIN.”

The Formidable Ms. Bridger

When the group pull their cars over, the woman approaches and introduces herself as Ms. Bridger, Christopher Edwin’s servant. She explains that Mr. Edwin’s other guests have already arrived, and that she will be happy to escort them to the Edwin household, where they will get a chance to rest and wash up for dinner. She asks them to remain here momentarily while she fetches her vehicle.

Ms. Bridger departs, returning a few moments later wearing a leather cap, goggles, and riding on an Army surplus motorcycle with attached sidecar. The London Group follow her down North Road and get to do a little bit of sightseeing as they travel to Christopher Edwin’s house.

They see that Chebeague Island is sparsely populated, though the few houses are neat, tidy, and very New England. They see boats beached on the shoreline, bathers enjoying themselves on the beaches, and several people digging for clams in the low tide. Mikhail is excited to note numerous fishnets hung out to dry on sheds and on fences—most of which feature witch’s balls glittering in the June sunshine.

The group also notices several odd shrines that have been built here and there along the road. Most appear to be collections of bundled sea grass, flowers, beach glass, shells, and other bric-a-brac. The group does not have a chance to investigate them to discern their purpose.

Judge Putnam notices a man in a rain slicker and fisherman’s hat standing by one of the shrines. The man turns and looks for him with a baleful, wall-eyed stare.

The Mysterious Fisherman (Artist's Rendition)

A few minutes later, the group follows Ms. Bridger as she turns off of the road and travels uphill, into the island’s interior. She takes them to one of the tallest hilltops on the island where, surrounded by overgrown forest and gardens, stands the somewhat dilapidated mansion of Christopher Edwin.

The House of Edwin

Ms. Bridger brings the group through the front gate of the house over to the kitchen dooryard, where they park their vehicles next to several other cars. The group gathers their belongings and follows Ms. Bridger inside.

Despite the condition of the outside of the mansion, the inside looks well-tended and cared for—if a bit worn. As the London Group divests themselves of their coats and hats, Ms. Bridger tells them that there are bedrooms on the second and third floor, most of them with their own washrooms and dressing rooms. After some discussion, the group all decide to occupy the rooms on the third floor, with an idea of being close together in case of an emergency.

Mr. Edwin and His Gravity-Defying Wheelchair

Before Ms. Bridger shows them to their rooms, she brings them into the dining room where they are at last introduced to their host, Christopher Edwin. Edwin is an elderly, frail-looking man with a hoarse voice and a dry cough, who appears to be confined to a wheelchair. Despite his infirmities, he greets the London Group politely and with enthusiasm. He says that he is delighted to meet them at last, and that, he hopes, after a wonderful dinner prepared by Ms. Bridger, they can all work together to find a way to bring down the Order of the Silver Twilight once and for all.

With that, Mr. Edwin excuses himself and moves to an adjacent room to rest before dinner. Ms. Bridger escorts the London Group to the third floor. She puts Vivian in the room next to her own, as is right and proper, and allows the rest of the group to situate themselves however they choose.

As Ms. Bridger takes her leave to tend to the rest of dinner, Johnny offers his assistance. In part because she appears to be the sole servant in this massive house. In part because he wants to snoop around.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Mob War Part 7: Friday, June 10, 1926

NOTE: The following episode recap describes an extremely messy, protracted combat in two locations. Viewer discretion is advised.

As a reminder: Ron and an invisible Johnny are upstairs in the ball room with the heads of the Five Families and their bodyguards. Kane is out front with Luca and most of the other enforcers. Vivian is in the Astoria dining room, near the front entrance. Judge Putnam is in the lobby, standing beside the fireplace. Dr. Black is seated in a chair near the access door to the stairs, reading a newspaper. Mikhail is out in the back of the hotel.

The Astoria Hotel

A Million Monkeys Hammering on Chicago Typewriters

Out behind the hotel, Mikhail hears the screeching of several tires. Down an alley, he sees three large, black cars driving down the street and turning quickly onto the road leading to the hotel. Mikhail, concerned that this is the beginning of something very nasty, runs into the hotel and tells Dr. Black.  Dr. Black runs past Mikhail and out the back door into the alley.

Out front, Kane, Luca, and several of the other mobsters hear the screeching of tires and start to get nervous. Kane draws his gun.

Moments later, the three cars pull into the horseshoe driveway in front of the Astoria Hotel. Several men get out of the cars and, using them as cover, open fire with tommy guns on the fa├žade of the hotel. Patrons and staff scream and flee, while the mafia out front return fire. Kane and Luca use a concrete planter for cover and manage to avoid being struck by any of the suppressing fire.

As the men ditch the empty drums from their tommy guns and reload, a horde of men armed with shotguns leave the car and rush into the hotel. They are delayed by the hotel’s revolving door, but are aided by the fact that the hail of automatic weapon fire has more or less shot the front windows to pieces.

Kane and Luca return fire, killing three of the attackers with relative ease.

Vivian, who is inside, sees Giacomo, the young mafioso that treated her like a literal princess earlier. She urges Giacomo to come with her and hide inside of the restaurant’s former bar (now currently an ice cream parlor). The pair hide until most of the panicked crowd has left the restaurant. Then Vivian and Giacomo flee into the kitchen and up a set of access stairs to the second floor.

Dr. Black, hearing the shots, races down the alley into the backstreet and pulls the nearest fire alarm. He then proceeds to run back to the back door of the hotel, hoping to enter and aid his friends. He is disturbed to see that the panicked patrons and staff, intent on fleeing the massacre in the front of the hotel, are rioting and stampeding, trampling one another in an attempt to exit the building. Dr. Black puts his plans on hold and does crowd control, turning the rout into a more orderly exit and saving many lives.

Now That's a Lot of Guns

Mikhail, realizing that he can turn the hotel’s broken revolving door into a choke point for the invaders and, ideally, a kill zone, moves to intercept the shotgun-toting heavies before they can get into the building. He is aided by the judge, who takes up a position near the fireplace and unloads first his shotgun cane, then his handgun, into the men trying to push through into the hotel.

Judge Putnam is shot and grievously wounded by one of the shotgun-wielding invaders. He remains conscious, and retains just enough of his strength to drag himself into the unlit fireplace for protection. He has an overwhelming desire to lap up the blood of friend, foe, and bystander alike that has collected in several pools around the lobby, but he is far, far too weak to reach them.

Mikhail fights off the attackers with sword and handgun. Unfortunately for him, his handgun jams at a critical moment, allowing the invader he is fighting to smash him in the temple with the butt of his shotgun. Mikhail collapses unconscious and heavily concussed.

Kane and Luca swing around and attempt to bring their weapons to bear on the invaders that have stepped over Mikahil’s prone body and are pouring into the lobby. Both of them miss. One of the attackers fires his shotgun at Kane, and likely would have killed him had not Luca pulled the singer to the ground and taken the brunt of the shotgun blast in the back. Luca falls unconscious, crushing Kane beneath his massive, refrigerator-like bulk.

Smoke and Mirrors

Upstairs, “Big Grin” Bianco is both grilled and castigated by the other family heads. Ron notices that “Big Grin” seems to be trying to pull himself out of his fugue state, and seems to have done so once Don Genovese has gone up one side of him and down the other.

Don Genovese concludes by saying that he is appalled at the attack on Vitale’s Gym—a long-established neutral ground—and warns Bianco that his actions could lead to a mob war. He goes on to say that the rest of the families have attempted to keep things civil for as long as possible, because the last time they all went to war with one another, innocent people died. Don Genovese, Gambino, and Luchese all nod their condolences to Don Bernouse, whose wife, Maria, was one of those innocents.

“Big Grin,” who by now seems more in command of his faculties, apologizes to the other family heads. He tells them that he doesn’t know what has been going on, but he will do whatever it takes to make it right. The other dons inform him, in no uncertain terms, that he must deal with his new girl, Anne Chantraine, and get his outfit under control.

Johnny, who has been keeping a careful vigil on the room, notices the mirror on the north wall beginning to darken. Suspecting magical shenanigans, he fires a single shot from his future gun, damaging the mirror but not destroying it.

Everyone in the room looks up in shock as a very large image of Anne Chantraine appears in the damaged mirror. She taunts the men assembled in the room and tells them that she would very much like to be the “capo de tutti capo” of New York city. The dons of four of the five families all scramble to understand what’s going on.

“What is this?” shouts Don Luchese. “Some kinda moving picture?”

“In color?” yells Don Gambino.

“With sound?!” cries Don Genovese.

“Big Grin” Bianco simply remains in his seat, vacant again and exhausted-looking, and says to no one in particular, “that’s my girl…”

His Girl

Realizing that the family heads are not going to turn over control of the city to her, Anne sarcastically comments that she expected that, and is more than willing to do things the “hard way.” This coincides with the beginning of the assault out in front of the building. Those assembled for the meeting, already panicked by Anne’s magic, scream in terror as a fusillade of gunfire pours into the front of the Astoria Hotel. Dons Gambino, Genovese, and Luchese are all ushered out of the room by their bodyguards. Ron pushes Vince out of his chair and onto the carpet, the better to keep him in cover, and then grabs the back of “Big Grin’s” head and slams him face first into the table.

Johnny, totally fed up with Anne’s magical power, shreds the mirror with a burst of fire from his future gun.

“Big Grin,” angry and enraged, flips the table, stands up, and pulls a gold-plated, pearl-handled .45 automatic out from inside of his jacket. Ron manages to dodge “Big Grin’s” first volley of wild shots, slip his brass knuckles onto his fingers, and repeatedly punch the disgraced don, shredding his face into hamburger.

It is about this point that Vivian and Giacomo reach one of the doors to the ballroom. They sneak inside and, without drawing any attention to themselves, manage to reach Vincenzio Bernouse, who is lying in a heap next to the overturned table.

“Help me get Papa outta here,” Viv tells the somewhat overwhelmed Giacomo.

“Big Grin” sprays lead from his custom handgun. Ron throws himself on the floor to avoid the shots and rolls around behind the overturned table.

“Hey, Viv!” he says, right before “Big Grin” steps around the table and blasts him in the chest. Ron lets out a gurgle and passes out from the shock and blood loss.

“Big Grin” is about to deliver a coup de grace with his pistol, but Johnny, who is still invisible, sights down on the mob leader and puts a future bullet straight into his brain. “Big Grin” dies on the spot, his gold-plated automatic falling from his lifeless hand.

While Vivian and Johnny attempt to perform lifesaving first aid on Ron, Anne Chantraine projects herself into another mirror. She doesn’t manage to speak more than a couple of words before Johnny blasts that mirror into glass shards.

Under Vivian’s frantic and amateurish care, Ron Deluca gradually comes around.

“Okay,” she says to Johnny and Giacomo. “Pick his ass up. We gotta get out of here.”

No sooner does she say this than Anne Chantraine possesses the last two giant mirrors in the room. From one, she leers out at the investigators, congratulating them on their cleverness and chutzpah. From the other, she manifests a wall of horrifying tentacles with the intent of crushing and consuming them. Johnny empties his magazine, destroying the last two mirrors and banishing the tentacles back to the horrifying abyss from whence they came.

Johnny then tosses his future gun aside and helps Giacomo pick up Ron.

Unbeknownst to everyone, Ron has enough presence of mind to grab the gold-plated automatic as a “spoil of war.”

Ron's New Gun

The Agonizing End

Johnny, Ron, Vivian, Vince, and Giacomo flee down a flight of stairs and reach the back entrance just as the invaders pour into the lobby and Dr. Black re-enters the hotel from the alley. Desperate to stop the attackers and save his friends (and Vince and Giacomo), Dr. Black overexerts himself to try and cast the Wrack spell on the six shotgun-wielding men that are running toward them. He calls upon wells of strength and dark knowledge that he did not know he possessed and manages to affect five of the men, sending them thrashing to the ground, weeping blood and shrieking in animalistic agony. Between them, the group gun down the last man standing.

The attackers who remained outside with the cars see that their initial onslaught has been defeated. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, they pile back into their cars and drive away.

Vivian, Vince, and Giacomo flee out the hotel’s back door and into the night.  They reach the Bernouse house an hour or so later. Giacomo has so distinguished himself during the encounter that he is quickly given a nickname—Jackie the Kid.

Ron, who is walking wounded, decides to head up front and see how everyone else is doing. Johnny, who is still invisible, goes with him. The two men encounter Fredo Albanese, who took a bloody shoulder wound in the fight and is now trying to flee before the cops arrive on the scene. He arranges a truce with Ron and promises to get him both safely away from the hotel and to a doctor. Ron, realizing that he may not have a better chance to get information from Fredo, agrees to the terms. Johnny stalks along behind them.

Dr. Black does triage on Judge Putnam, Mikhail, Luca, and various other patrons, staff, and mafiosi injured in the assault, and is just about finishing up when the police and a hook and ladder firetruck arrive on the scene.

Luca, Mikhail, and Judge Putnam are taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. After a few hours in surgery, they are expected to make a full recovery. Kane and Dr. Black stay with them for the rest of the night. They are eventually joined by Johnny who, after realizing that the judge isn’t coming home, calls around to various hospitals to find out what’s become of him.

Both Johnny and Dr. Black are very relieved that the judge was unable to drink human blood during the assault, despite really, really wanting to.

After Action Patch-Up

Johnny and Ron accompany Fredo Albanese to a sketchy basement apartment in a nearby neighborhood. This place is owned by a hairy, angry “doctor” named Slavoz, who treats both Ron and Fredo’s injuries. Ron notices that Fredo has old bruises on his side, which indicate that he was in a scuffle relatively recently.

Slavoz remarks that he “still has the ring,” that he pried off of Fredo’s finger the last time he was here. Realizing that this might be the evidence that they need to implicate Fredo, Johnny roots around in the filthy apartment looking for it. He soon finds it in a dirty tray near the kitchen sink. It is, unsurprisingly, a Silver Twilight Lodge ring, its band crushed almost flat by an alarming amount of force.

Fredo seems unconcerned that Slavoz has mentioned the ring. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, I was going to give to jeweler to have band fixed, like you wanted. Haven’t had a chance to go yet. Maybe you want it back?”

"Doctor" Slavoz

When Fredo nods in the affirmative, Slavoz begins rooting around for the ring. At this same moment, Johnny taps Ron on the shoulder and quietly drops the damaged ring into Ron’s jacket pocket.

Fredo seems unbothered that Slavoz is unable to find the ring. With a jaunty, “It’ll turn up,” he thanks Slavoz for his work and goes to leave. Ron (and Johnny) goes with him.

Outside, Fredo withdraws a pocket mirror from his coat, checks himself out in it, and begins combing his hair. Ron, alarmed at the sight of yet another mirror that could be magicked by Anne Chantraine, yanks the pocket mirror out of Fredo’s hand and hurls it into the street. Fredo is about to complain when mist pours out of the mirror, slowly resolving itself into the shape of a large, winged, serpent-like beast.

The three men flee and manage to elude their spectral pursuer. Sometime later, while recovering their breath in a distant alley, Ron tries to ask Fredo questions about his involvement in the murder of Gabriella Puglisi. When Fredo professes not to know anything, Ron gives him a love tap to knock him unconscious. Johnny becomes fully visible a short time later, and the two men cart an unconscious Fredo off to an “undisclosed location” where Ron can question him further.

Johnny, not wanting to get his hands dirty in this particular way, returns home. When he finds that Judge Putnam isn’t there, he begins calling around to hospitals until he finds the one that the judge has been admitted to. He reaches the hospital ward a short time later, and explains to the others what happened after the battle in the Astoria Hotel.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Mob War Part 6: Friday, June 10, 1926

In Upstate New York

Dr. Black, Johnny, and Judge Putnam decide to tie up their formerly invisible assailant and drive him back to Staten Island for questioning. They return to the judge’s property without incident. The judge’s new personal security force is skilled enough at their jobs to know to not ask stupid questions about the man tied up in the back seat of the car.

The assailant doesn’t reveal terribly much under questioning, other than that he has been sent by Anne Chantraine to kill them all for $100 a head. Johnny goes to fetch a shovel and prepares to get down to the dirty business of getting rid of their assailant, while Dr. Black employs his tried and true, “scalpel stab to the shoulder” method if interrogation to get more information out of the man.

This doesn’t work, and the sight of so much blood pouring out of the man’s shoulder inflames Judge Putnam’s already barely in check bloodlust. Dr. Black realizes his grave error just in time to keep Judge Putnam from feeding on their imprisoned assailant, and Johnny returns, shovel in hand, to find the two men wrestling around on the floor.

Johnny very quickly takes control of the situation, sends the judge upstairs into the carriage house to compose himself, and orders Dr. Black to clean up the garage. Johnny then takes the assailant to Atlantic City and takes care of him.

At Vitale’s

Ron, thinking better of it, asks Kane to help him carry the man who attacked them into the gym’s basement. They do so without anyone in Vitale’s, apart from Vivian, noticing that they have done so. It seems that the rest of the made guys are too badly freaked out by both the breach of mafia etiquette and the horrors recently on display in the men’s room to notice anything so mundane as two guys carting a third guy down into the basement.

Vivian remains in the main room, which means that she is perfectly situated to hear an argument that starts just outside the gym’s front door. Peeking her head out Vivian sees Jimmy Russo (Big Jimmy) accosting the second of the two suspicious men that she spotted earlier (he went outside, while his friend went into the bathroom to ambush Ron and Kane).

The altercation draws the attention of several other made guys, but also of the two cops who have been following Ron around in their totally inconspicuous, unmarked cars. Vivian notes that the older cop, Dougherty, seems a bit too friendly with Jimmy Russo, and suspects that he is on “Big Grin’s” payroll.

Vivian goes down into the basement to warn Ron that the cops are right outside. Ron acknowledges this, but it doesn’t prevent him from playing reasonable cop/psychotic cop, with Kane and their assailant, whom he has just tied to a chair with some old jump ropes.

The assailant quickly gives in to Ron’s intimidating demeanor and slaps to the face. He tells them that he is working for Anne Chantraine, and that she has promised to pay them to take care of “the seven people she don’t like, in particular.” The man adopts a very tough demeanor, and clearly doesn’t seem to realize, or understand, how badly over his head he is.

Ron ultimately decides to work the guy over a little bit, go through his pockets, and then turn him over to the cops outside. On his search, Ron finds a small vial containing a bluish liquid. He notes that the man has no wallet or identification.

Kane, Ron, and Vivian cart their captive assailant up the steps and out the front of Vitale’s. Dougherty seems pleased that both men are caught, and offers to take the two men down to the precinct for processing. The other cop, a younger man who seems like a bit more of a straight arrow, asks if he needs help with the two suspected criminals, or if he would like to perform anything remotely resembling proper police procedure at Vitale’s. Dougherty insists that the younger cop remain on the scene with Ron. Dougherty promises to take the two suspects down to the precinct and will “be right back.”

The younger cop doesn’t notice that Jimmy Russo hops in the car with Dougherty and the two assailants. Viv points out that two assailants have literally no idea how fucked they are as Dougherty drives away.

Ron decides that it is high time that they get the hell away from Vitale’s, and that they need to meet up with the rest of the team.

A Meeting with Don Bernouse

Ron calls around and tells everyone to meet him at the Bernouse residence. He has a plan, and he thinks the London Group needs to meet and share information. Johnny is willing to drive the judge and Dr. Black over. Mikhail, who is home alone researching mind controlling magic, is also happy to attend.

It turns out that Ron’s big plan is to invite all seven members of the London Group into the Bernouse house for an impromptu meeting with Vincenzio Bernouse, Viv’s father. He tells Luca of his plan and, while Luca balks, he goes to fetch the “old man” anyway.

About fifteen minutes later, Luca and Vince join the London Group in the dining room. Ron and the others proceed to fill Vince in on the mafia-related shenanigans that have occurred, while studiously leaving out the magic-related shenanigans. Vince agrees with the group that “Big Grin” has completely lost control of his outfit, the Chantraine lady and her goons are messing everything, and that the attack inside of Vitale’s was definitely a bridge too far. He promises to call the heads of the other families and schedule a meeting to discuss these issues.

While Vince is talking to the heads of the other families, Luca and the London Group go to a steakhouse for dinner. While there, they catch one another up on what occurred earlier in the day and try to make plans for later. Mikhail explains that he thinks that Anne Chantraine is using mirror magic to hypnotize or mentally dominate her lackeys. He thinks that it might be possible to end this domination by blocking line-of-sight contact with any mirrors she’s using. Ron shows off the small vial of liquid, which Johnny suspects is the same type of invisibility potion that the Ossining attacker, and Mikhail’s unseen assailant, used.

Toward the end of the meal, Vivian gets a call out at the host’s stand from her father. Vince tells her that the heads of the five families will be meeting at the Astoria Hotel, later tonight, at 8 pm. He says that he wants her and her friends there, in case one of the other families tries something suspicious.

Vivian informs the others. They all proceed home to gear up and get dressed up in their glad rags for a night at one of New York’s more expensive hotels.

The Astoria Hotel

The group arrives at the Astoria Hotel to find that several made guys are already congregating in small groups outside, trying to blend in with the posh folks who are either staying at the Astoria or dining at one of its many restaurants.

It soon becomes apparent that only the dons of each family, plus one bodyguard, will be permitted to enter the meeting. Vince takes Ron with him for protection, ordering Luca to wait outside with the others and watch for signs of trouble. Johnny, who at this point is loaded for bear, quaffs the invisibility potion and follows Vince and Ron inside.

The others take up positions both inside and outside the hotel. As far as they can tell, nothing strange or untoward is going on.

“Big Grin” Bianco is the last of the dons to arrive. The group and the mafiosi in attendance are shocked to note how diminished, enfeebled, and confused Don Bianco looks as his bodyguard very gently coaxes him into the hotel for the meeting.

The location of the meeting is a ballroom on the second floor. A table and five chairs have been provided for the dons. They all sit, with their bodyguards standing just off to the side and behind them. Ron is fascinated and disgusted that “Big Grin” needs help getting to his chair.

The three other family heads (Gambino, Luchese, and Genovese) are all extremely elderly men, but all of them seem to be much more on the ball than Don Bianco is. They start lambasting Don Bianco for his inability to control his men, and for allowing his girlfriend to run amok in Family affairs.

As they begin to discuss the unfortunate implications of the attack on Vitale’s earlier in the day, Ron and Johnny both notice that the walls of the ballroom are covered with mirrors…