Sunday, November 29, 2020

Cannich Part Seven: March 21-22, 1926

Seamus’ Return

The group takes some time to get their story straight about what happened on Creag Dhubh, and manage to put something coherent together without mentioning anything about cultists, earthquakes, magic, or similar. Tommy Hayes, a touch shell-shocked about what he has seen, also promises to blow his cover to the local police in order to lend credence to the group’s story.

Once this has all been decided, the group goes to the constabulary and awakens both Constable MacNeil and DI MacDougall. The two men are very glad that Seamus is alive and unharmed, and they agree with the group that it was wiser to bring the baby here than directly to his parents.

The group tells their story, and also shows the constable and inspector the list of coven names that they found in Duncan MacBain’s cottage. Constable MacNeil says that this list makes a lot of things that he was baffled and concerned about make a lot more sense. It takes little urging from the group to get him and DI MacDougall to stage a midnight raid, rounding up as many people from the list as they can.

DI MacDougall calls down additional men from Inverness. Upon their arrival they, along with the inspector and Constable MacNeil, go out in the police wagon to arrest the cultists. Tommy Hayes stays behind at the constabulary with two constables who are taking care of Seamus MacRae. Kane offers to help them with the baby and turns out to be a naturally gifted parental figure.

An Unwelcome Guest

While this is happening, Johnny steps through the gate box to Staten Island to return the group’s more dangerous and conspicuous hardware. Upon arriving in the carriage house garage, he notices a strange, gel-like liquid has been smeared on the lid of the Staten Island box. He also notices that the lock on the second set of gate boxes (which leads to his Atlantic City bolt hole and the hiding place for the group’s piece of the Disc) has been unlocked.

Johnny, assuming that whoever has gone through the gate box will soon be coming back, sets up an ambush, shotgun in hand.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group, concerned that Johnny has not get come back, decide to send volunteers through the gate box to check on him. Ron Deluca steps through first and almost gets shot by a hypervigilant Johnny. Then Judge Putnam steps through.

The three men decide to set up a larger ambush behind the gate box leading to Atlantic City. That way, they will be able to see who comes through the gate box before that person can see them.

A few minutes later, they are rewarded when the Atlantic City gate box opens and a battered, bloodied, and terrified Annie Chantraine crawls out of the gate box and onto the concrete floor of the garage, muttering apologies to someone and saying that, “she tried, but couldn’t find it.”

Look What Crawled Out of the Gate Box

The three men surprise Annie. She screams. During an initial round of questioning, Annie reveals that she was forced to go through the gate by a man who is staying at her cousin, Ian MacLennan’s place. She said that the man told her if she didn’t go through and bring the Disc piece back, that he would kill her cousin and burn Mullardoch House down.

Judge Putnam, with his grasp of psychology, realizes that there is something about Annie’s story that doesn’t add up. Johnny recalls that the Disc piece weighs in at 150 pounds, and it seems unlikely that Annie would be able to move it on her own. Ron decides that Annie is lying and threatens her with physical harm. Faced with Ron’s implacable anger and implicit threat, Annie adds that her cousin is secretly a sorcerer “or something,” and that the man who is staying with them, Peter Dubner, is a self-styled wizard who was teaching Ian magic.

Panicked and weeping, Annie tries to get the three men to believe her, with decidedly mixed results. Ron attempts to kill her with a knife, only to be stopped by Johnny and the judge. Johnny steps briefly into Atlantic City, confirms that the Disc piece remains undiscovered, and sets up a Warding around it so he will be warned if anyone else tries to disturb it.

He comes back to Atlantic City to find that Ron has gone back to Cannich and returned with Dr. Black. Dr. Black tends to Annie’s wounds and then thinks to ask about the goop smeared on the lid of the Staten Island gate box. Annie says that the man, Peter, told her to put it there and shows off the small glass bottle that it came in. Dr. Black reads the bottle’s label and discovers that the goop is batrachotoxin, a lethal poison. Counting their blessings that none of them ever touched the poison with their bare hands, the group convinces Annie to wipe it up and dispose of it.

The group decides to allow Annie to live. Dr. Black gives her twenty dollars and Johnny takes her through the Atlantic City gate to leave her in a random place on the boardwalk. He tells her that he doesn’t want to see her again. She is happy to oblige.

The four men return to Cannich, where law enforcement has returned with their first load of suspected cultists. DI MacDougall mentions that they were prevented from arresting Ian MacLellan or entering Mullardoch House because MacLellan pulled his noble rank on them and slammed the door in their faces. Several members of the cult, such as Duncan MacBain, are still missing. However, the police have arrested the oft-mentioned, but so far never-seen MacQuarrie brothers.

Andrew MacQuarrie


Jamie MacQuarrie

It is very late, and Mikhail, Ron, and Vivian have an important meeting in the early morning tomorrow. Everyone says goodnight and goes off to bed. Tommy Hayes bids them a good evening, and tells them he will be working with the Inverness police for just a bit longer before going to bed himself.

Monday, March 22, 1926

The police have picked up Fergus MacInnis, as his name was on the list of suspected coven members. This leaves Fergus’ disaffected teenage son Hamish in charge of the Slaters Arms. Lacking the owner/bartender and lead server, breakfast at the Arms is a slow and chaotic affair. Everyone eats, compares notes, and prepares for the day ahead.

The group receives three telegrams from Tammas MacIvar, who runs the post office. They are as follows:

One from Liam to Vivian, describing how he is has gotten a part in a major Hollywood movie that is being filmed in Syria.

Liam's Telegram to Vivian

One from Vito to Ron, informing him that Mikey Angelo has been found murdered in an unmarked grave. Vito also mentions that Mikey was found with a knife, whose handle was engraved RAD (Ron Anthony Deluca). Vito says that if Ron swears to him that he didn’t kill Mikey, he’ll believe him. He also asks Ron to tell Johnny that he said hi.

Vito's Telegram to Ron

One from Christopher Edwin to Judge Putnam. Mr. Edwin seems to be aware of the group’s recent fight with Bryan Slim/Carl Stanford, and explains that he saw a strange bird flying away south and east. He also mentions that he has sent information on the next leg of their journey to the judge’s next port of call.

Mr. Edwin's Telegram to Judge Putnam

Shortly thereafter, a courier arrives from Inverness, who delivers Dr. Kennedy’s sworn affidavit about the group’s adventure in the Hancock house to Dr. Black. Ron has already been cleared of all charges and had his personal property returned, but the group is glad to have the information, regardless.

At the end of breakfast, Constable MacNeil comes and informs the group that Seamus MacRae is back with his parents and that they are extremely relieved and thankful to the group for rescuing him. Constable MacNeil also says that he hasn’t run across Tommy Hayes yet, and asks the group to pass the MacRae’s well-wishes onto him should they see him.

The Search for Tommy Hayes

The group is immediately fearful for Tommy’s safety. Vivian recalls that Tommy is also staying at the Slaters Arms, and suggests checking to see if Tommy is in his room. Constable MacNeil and Ron both go to the room and the constable knocks on the door. When there is no answer, the constable suggests going downstairs to ask Hamish for the room key. Ron, not wanting to wait, shoulders the door in.

The room is completely clean and spartan, just like when Vivian entered it yesterday. The bed has not been slept in, and there is no sign that Tommy has been here recently.

At this point, Vivian, Mikhail, Ron, and Luca all prepare for their big meeting at Dunne’s Distillery. Before they head over there, however, they join the rest of the group and pay a visit to the constabulary.

The Ravings of Willie Wassle

None of the constables at the constabulary have seen Tommy Hayes, either. One constable remarks that he stayed at the constabulary last night for “about a half-hour after you all left. Then he said he was going to bed.” Everyone is concerned at what this might mean for Tommy.

At this point, someone starts shouting at the group from the very crowded constabulary cell block. It is Willie Wassle, who, among other things, shouts, “I wanna talk to ‘em. Let me talk with ‘em.”

The constables reassure the group that they do not have to speak with Willie if they don’t want to, but Johnny, undeterred, approaches the constabulary cells anyway. He finds most of the cultists sharing a very small space behind bars. Willie, who is at the front of the cell, raises his head and starts raving at the group.

Willie demands to know where Annie is, and whether or not she’s all right. Johnny explains, vaguely but patiently, that Annie is safe from harm and far, far away from Cannich.

To this, Willie responds, “she’d better be. You’d better not harm a hair on her. For if’n you do! If’n anyone does! I’ll call down Azzadod! I’ll call him and he’ll come and you’ll pay! YOU’LL PAY!”

Terrified at the implications of this, the group leaves.

 

Dunne’s Distillery

The Exceptionally Scottish Silas Dunne

While the rest of the group remains in town, performing various activities, Vivian, Ron, Mikhail, and Luca take the trip to Dunne’s Distillery. It is a humble, but seemingly prosperous, business, owned and operated by Silas Dunne. Mr. Dunne is quite the jovial, upbeat fellow. He invites the group, as well as Mr. Yacovangelo, Mr. Russo, and Mr. Rizzo into the distillery’s break room to conduct their meeting.

Dunne opens by apologizing. He explains that all manner of unpleasantness has happened lately, both in the village in general and in the distillery in specific. He mentions that two of his workers, the MacQuarrie brothers, have been apprehended in some kind of police operation. He further mentions that he is not surprised by this, as the brothers have often shirked work to get up to mischief, “including working for that Hancock fellow. You know, the one they found murdered in his house?”

Despite his outward appearance as a small-town bumpkin, Dunne shows some evidence that he is as ruthless as either of the two mafia dons represented at the meeting. He is eager to work with either of the dons to create new markets in America, the better to “stick it to the folks over at Macallan.” He explains that, while he likes Mr. Bernouse, the deal he was offered is not very profitable for him. Mr. Bianco’s deal, however, leaves him flush with cash.

Vivian and Mikhail explain that, based on their notes, that Mr. Bernouse is offering a lower-risk deal with a promise of payout to Dunne in the future, while Mr. Bianco is offering a high-risk deal with a large payout up front. They go on to insinuate, with some success, that the Bianco family deals more in gambling than in liquor and has less experience in the area. Mr. Yacovangelo counters with some snide remarks about the Bernouse family, as well as with the assertion that Bianco is looking to diversify and stabilize the city.

The meeting is interrupted by Dunne’s secretary, who is immediately yelled at in Scots Gaelic by Dunne. The pair of them go out into the lobby and get into a shouting match that the two groups of investors do not understand. A few minutes later, a rattled, but still-trying-to-be-pleasant Dunne comes back into the break room and explains that his presence is needed at the constabulary. He hastily arranges for the two groups to meet with him later on that afternoon before politely, but quickly, sending them all away.

Back in Cannich, Mikhail and Vivian decide that they need to work on stronger arguments to assault Bianco’s proposal. Ron and Luca crack their knuckles and prepare for the worst.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Cannich Part Six: March 21, 1926 (Night)

Regrouping and Rearming

The group split into two, with some returning to Cannich for various reasons, while others stayed put to watch the cottage. The plan was to take care of some things, come back together, and explore the tunnel into Creag Dhubh that was accessible from inside the cottage.

The Group at the Cottage

Mikhail went and fetched both Pushok and Seamus MacRae’s baby blanket from the car. He returned to find Judge Putnam sitting behind some shrubbery and resting his injured leg, while Kane Eastman picked up the scattered brass and explored the cottage a bit more.

While Kane was inside the cottage, he heard the door to the tunnel open up and hid himself inside the cottage’s tiny, filthy kitchen. Peering through the kitchen door, he watched as a misshapen figure in a hooded robe wandered around, resetting traps and trying to put the table back upright. When it failed at this latter task, it departed for the tunnel again.

Kane returns to the others to tell them this news, but only after searching the wood stove in the kitchen and finding a partially burned paper that read, “We went up…care of Chis…buried him at…no sign of…of the Disc.”

The Burned Note that Kane Found

Judge Putnam become very restless, and tells Kane and Mikhail that he wants to move as quickly as possible to rescue Seamus MacRae. The group agrees and approaches the house. Kane finds a long stick and uses it to disarm the rearmed traps. The group then uses stationery plucked from the ruins of Duncan MacBain’s living room to leave a note for the others. After tacking this note on the cottage’s front door, they prepare to descend.

The Group in Cannich

Ron attempts to cover up his bloodstained clothing before walking into the Slaters Arms and demanding the key to his room. He encounters both Luca and Jimmy Rizzo, both of whom attempt to engage with Ron, but quickly back off when they realize Ron has seen some shit tonight.

Ron changes his clothes, packs up, turns in his key, and checks in at the bed and breakfast a short distance up the street. The deaf old lady who runs the place charges him a reasonable rate and provides him with a small room with its own wood-burning stove. Ron uses the stove to get rid of his bloody clothing.

He considers going to sleep, but as he puts his head down, he hears the joyful laughter of a child playing outside. He opens the window and sees Nellie Thompson playing with dolls in the B&B’s yard. She asks him all innocently, if he has “had another fight with the missus,” which causes Ron no end of consternation. He proceeds to leave the B&B to confront the little girl and, after some questioning, realizes that Nellie knows quite a lot more than she’s letting on.

The Return of Everyone's Favorite Creepy Little Girl

Ron, dumbfounded by this information, goes to get his friends for backup.

Meanwhile, Vivian has also entered the Slaters Arms. She sees Tommy Hayes at the table and, remembering that his name is on the list of coven members they recently found, vows to get to the bottom of it. She then goes upstairs to talk to Luca, who tells her that Tommy is staying at the Arms, and that his room is right across the hall.

At Vivian’s insistence, Luca picks the lock. Then Vivian searches Tommy Hayes’ room. She finds a false bottom in one of Tommy’s suitcases that contains: a box containing powders and a brush, 100 pounds sterling in various denominations, a combat knife, and a small, black notebook written in a symbolic cypher. She replaces everything where she found it and, with the mystery of Tommy deepening, goes downstairs to meet up with the others.

No sooner does she do so than Ron comes running in, demanding that Vivian, Dr. Black, and Johnny go with him to meet Nellie Thompson. Tommy Hayes notices Ron and gives him an, “are you okay?” look. Ron ignores him.

The conversation with Nellie is fraught with frustration for Ron, as Nellie seems to revert to an average, if still precocious, child once Ron’s friends are around. Baffled at what to do, Ron sputters. The group tells Nellie that she should probably go home and go to sleep, which she says she will do. Once she’s out of earshot, the group decides to return to Creag Dhubh to rejoin the others and find Seamus MacRae.

At this point, Dr. Black suggests that they stop by the church to speak to Brother Theodore. His suggestion is mostly ignored, but it does prompt Ron to say that he does want to bring a stranger along with them back to the mountain. Specifically, Tommy Hayes.

Now the group is baffled. Ron, however, cannot be dissuaded from this course of action and insists that he, “knows people” and that he “has a good feeling” about Tommy.

Tommy Hayes, Just Happy to Be Here

At Ron’s urging, the group compels Tommy to leave the Slaters Arms and come talk to them outside. He seems surprised at the group’s interest, and explains, when asked, that he was concerned about Ron because he happened to notice some blood on Ron’s previous outfit. Ron refuses to tell Tommy much of anything, other than to explain that the group is going to rescue Baby MacRae and wants to know if Tommy will help. Tommy says he will. Johnny, completely distrustful of Tommy, vows to keep an eye on him.

Beneath Creagh Dhubh

Upon entering the tunnel, Mikhail waves Seamus MacRae’s blanket under Pushok’s nose. Pushok, noticeably skittish, picks up on the scent and leads Mikhail, Kane, and Judge Putnam deep under ground into a large cavern. The trio attempts to remain as quiet as possible, but Pushok, startled by something moving around in the dark, starts barking and yowling fiercely.

This draws the attention of one of the denizens of the cave who pulls out some kind of ray gun and starts firing silver-white beams at the trio. The group takes shelter behind some stalagmites and return fire. Kane fires off a volley and hits, and seems to kill, their attacker.

Meanwhile, the other group has returned to Creag Dhubh and has found the note left by Judge Putnam, Kane, and Mikhail. Dr. Black determines that the trio left the note about 20 minutes previously. Armed with this information, the group, including Tommy Hayes, enters the tunnel and follows after them. Tommy, a Londoner, notes the arsenal the group is carrying and remarks how illegal it is, attempting to lighten the mood. The rest of the group mostly ignores him.

As they progress, they hear the gunshots from the battle described above. After a few minutes of calling out to one another and searching through the cave, they manage to find the others and become one group again. At this time, Kane approaches the downed, robed figure who is laying face down in a spreading pool of black blood. Kane flips the figure over on its back, revealing that it is a hunched and ugly serpent-like biped. The group is collectively horrified.

Everyone's Favorite Valusians

Things get a little bit ugly when Tommy attempts to commiserate with the group, only to be told that they know that he is a member of the coven and, as such, is likely responsible for the horrifying things that they are encountering. Tommy protests his innocence and, when the group presses him for evidence, reaches into his pocket and pulls out a badge. He tells them that he works for Scotland Yard, and that he is in the process of infiltrating the Cannich Coven to bring it down. Johnny still doesn’t trust him.

The Attack of the Serpentpeople

The Caverns of Creag Dhubh

By now, the group can hear activity going on in other parts of the cavern complex. Realizing that they have almost certainly been discovered, they attempt to move as quickly as possible to find Seamus MacRae. Pushok picks up the scent and leads the group down a doglegged tunnel into another large cavern, dominated by an altar stone and by carved stone stairs that lead up into the darkness.

In the room are two serpentpeople who, from positions on the stairs, fire at the group with projectile weapons that look like a strange amalgam of glass and metal. These weapons fire the silver-white beams seen previously, one of which strikes and wounds Dr. Black. Johnny returns fire, killing one of the serpentpeople. Dr. Black uses his magical ability to Wrack the other serpentperson, ending the battle almost as quickly as it began.

Dr. Black finds that the light weapon has marred his skin with a strange, straited starburst pattern, and has done so without causing any damage at all to his clothing. He wonders just what sort of damage the weapon has wrought on him while the others make a quick search of the room. Johnny discovers that the sacrificial altar is consecrated in the name of the Crawling One, He of Many Faces. The others can also hear distant, hissing conversations throughout the cavern complex. Vivian and Johnny both realize that the conversations are actually in Valusian.

it is at this point that Ron is very sure he hears a baby cry out in the distance.  Dr. Black and Tommy guard the cavern while the rest of the group, with lights off, creep carefully in the direction of the baby’s cry. They eventually find their way through a narrow tunnel into a smaller cave, where two serpentpeople hiss and spit at one another and a baby—presumably Seamus MacRae—beings to cry.

This room has numerous objects scattered about the floor, but the group is moving slowly and cautiously enough that they don’t disturb any of them. Very carefully, Vivian bends down, picks up a heavy, stick-like object, and hurls it at a far corner of the cave. The resulting noise alerts the serpentpeople, one of whom wheels at the sound and opens fire with its ray gun. The bright flash of its discharge illuminates the chamber, revealing that one of the serpentpeople is holding a squalling baby.

The group attacks! Judge Putnam poleaxes armed serpentperson with the head of his cane, knocking it unconscious. Ron lets out a roar of pent up aggression and runs in to garrote the other serpentperson with a length of piano wire. Kane deftly moves along with Ron and scoops up Seamus MacRae, just as the serpent person drops him. Mikhail draws his enchanted masonic blade and gives a final coup de grace to the slowly strangling serpentperson.

The Escape

Having found Seamus MacRae, the group votes that it is more than past time for them to flee. They return to the main cavern to collect Tommy and Dr. Black. At this point, they hear two distant voices raised in a ritual chant—one of whom, Johnny notices, has a very thick Scottish brogue. Johnny catches a few words in Valusian that sound like, “terror, earth, destroyer,” and urges the group to get a move on.

The group retreats, and is almost back to the tunnel that leads up to the cottage when an earthquake hits! No one is hurt, thankfully, but a rockfall splits the group into two. On the side of the tunnel nearest the cottage is Kane (and Baby MacRae), Dr. Black, Judge Putnam, Vivian, and Ron. On the other side are Mikhail, Johnny, and Tommy.

The group nearest the exit runs out of the cottage and into the night. After ensuring that Seamus MacRae is safe, Judge Putnam and Dr. Black race back into the tunnel complex to rescue the others. Meanwhile, the group trapped in the cavern attempts to make their way to the stone staircase, their progress slowed by frequent earthquakes and falling rocks.

After a harrowing few moments, Judge Putnam, Dr. Black, Tommy, Mikhail, and Johnny all meet in the altar room and, as quickly as they dare, ascend the staircase. This leads them to a small brick room with a stone ceiling that, to their dismay, seems to offer no way out. However, the group has discovered their fair share of secret doors and, after a quick search of the room, finds a brick that, when pressed, causes the ceiling to slide back. They ascend into the empty air, finding themselves on top of Creag Dhubh by the standing stones. The altar in the midst of the stones slides back into place, blocking the staircase from view.

The "Terror, Earth, Destroyer," That the Group Did NOT Meet

The Better Part of Valor

The team regroups and flees the still shaking mountain. Once back on the main road to Cannich, they decide to first go to the constabulary and turn in the wee baby Seamus.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Cannich Part Five: March 21, 1926 (Afternoon)

Taking Stock

Mullardoch House Today

Kane and the judge are at Mullardoch House. Johnny has left Mullardoch House to get the car (and the Gate Box) to take back to Kane and the judge so that the three of them can arm up and go after Duncan MacBain.

In Cannich, Mikhail, Vivian, and Dr. Black all learn about what happened to Ron while he was separated from the group. Vivian and Dr. Black call Inverness to speak to Dr. Kennedy. They explain what has happened and ask Dr. Kennedy to send a statement that will prove Ron’s innocence. Dr. Kennedy agrees to send it to Cannich tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Mikhail uses his brash, American attitude and his legal skills to get DI MacDougall and the constables to release Ron into his custody. MacDougall allows it, provided that 1) the items confiscated from Ron remain in police custody for now. 2) Ron surrenders his passport and other travel papers and stays in Cannich. 3) Ron does not leave the village without an escort.

Ron, after being sprung from jail, immediately ditches Mikhail, climbs into the Gate Box, and goes back to New York City. While there, he sends his ex-wife a lot of flowers, buys a new suit, re-arms himself, and notices that the judge’s secretary, Terrance (who is house sitting for the judge), is wandering around the property while packing heat.

Suspicious Activity

While wandering the grounds at Mullardoch House, Judge Putnam encounters a disheveled, wild-haired madman who raves at him for a moment before leaving. The judge is concerned, but not overly so. Meanwhile, Kane, who is in the conservatory, catches sight of a red-haired man. The man appeared to have been intending to enter the conservatory, saw Kane, and left. Kane attempted to track the man down, with no success.

Meanwhile, the group in Cannich noticed that Wully MacMurdo was not at his usual place by the bar, and also noticed that their rooms had been thoroughly, but carefully, searched. They soon met up with Johnny, who had finally arrived to fetch the car. They inform him that their rooms have been searched and Johnny checks his own, only to find that he, too, has had his privacy violated.

Vivian, Mikhail, and Dr. Black decide to stay in Cannich, for now, with Vivian and Mikhail using their time to pore over the documents for the Dunne Distillery deal. Johnny drives back to Mullardoch House, but not before receiving a telegram—addressed to the judge—from Tammas MacIvar.

Mullardoch House

Johnny arrives, parks the car, and goes off to find Kane and the judge. He is intercepted by Annie Chantraine, who graciously welcomes him to the house and invites him into the kitchen for lemonade and baked goods.

While the two share pleasantries, a frenetic knocking at the back door throws the kitchen staff into a bit of a tizzy. They beg Annie to answer the door because, “we know it’s him, and you’re the only one who can calm him down.”

Annie answers the door, and Johnny encounters Willie Wassle, the wild-haired man that the judge encountered earlier. Willie seems concerned that Annie is going to be harmed, and proclaims that “Azzadod the Great” has shown signs and portents that evil is going to befall her. While Willie vows to protect Annie, and while Annie tries to calm Willie down, Johnny recalls certain things he read in the Necronomicon and shudders.

Once Willie has been calmed and sent off, Annie explains that he is a homeless hill vagrant, mad, but quite harmless, who now lives in her cousin’s barn on the Mullardoch House property. Johnny, unnerved, politely extricates himself from the conversation and goes to find Kane and the judge.

In the meantime, Judge Putnam and Kane have found the car and decide to wait around for Johnny to get back. While doing so, they spot Wully MacMurdo on the Mullardoch House grounds. Kane tries to say hello to him, but the man studiously avoids him.

Willie Wassel, One of CoC's Ubiquitous "Madmen"

Ron’s Trip

While in the carriage house, Ron thinks he hears someone else in the house with him. He searches carefully, but finds no one in the house. The only two things he notes that are unusual are 1) a slightly ajar closet door in Johnny’s room, which he searches and then closes and b) that the Gate Box (of the Scotland pair, not the Atlantic City pair) has had its lid open even though Ron is sure that he closed it.

Realizing that something might be wrong, Ron hops into the Gate Box and returns almost immediately to Scotland. He pokes his head out of the Gate Box to see a very concerned Johnny pointing a gun at him. He also realizes that he is not in Cannich anymore.

The four men swiftly catch one another up. Johnny hands over the telegram he was given to the judge. It is from Terrance, who has become extra vigilant because he thinks he spotted people wandering the grounds the night before. Johnny, concerned by this and by Ron’s recent report, uses the Gate Box and quickly searches the carriage house. He finds that Carl Stanford’s cane, which he had kept in his bedroom closet, is gone.

Oh, We Totally Forgot About the Telegram!

Johnny returns and tells the others what he has found. The group decides to return to Cannich, get everyone together, and get them up to speed on their future plans. After a quick driving montage, the group is together, parked on the road between Mullardoch House and Cannich, within sight of Creag Dhubh, Duncan MacBain’s mountain fiefdom.

Johnny ferries weapons and other gear back from New York City and arms himself with one of the deadly futuristic rifles. The rest of the group, armed and ready, proceeds along a very poor access road up the side of Creag Dhubh.

The Battle of Creag Dhubh

MacBain's Cottage

The sky is heavily overcast with clouds by the time the players reach their destination. A tall, sheer cliff looms in front of them, a ramshackle cottage built up against its base. Atop the cliff is a rough circle of standing stones, standing askew on the mountain like an ancient crown.

While the rest of the group proceeds to creep forward to complete the snare, Judge Putnam brazenly walks up the muddy walkway to the front door and plans to announce himself with his usual patrician-level indignance. On his way up to the house, he spies a slender wire stretched between two bushes. Realizing that this is likely some kind of booby trap, he steps over the wire, walks up to the front step, and raps his cane on the door.

“Duncan MacBain! Come out here, please!”

At about this time, Vivian notices a robed figure stalking between the standing stones atop the cliff. She pulls a borrowed .38 from her purse and opens fire. It is impossible to tell if she hits or not.  She warns Johnny, who ceases covering the judge with his rifle, and brings it to bear on the figure on the cliff.

It is at this moment that everything goes to hell.

The clouds above swirl into a vortex. The figure starts calling down lighting from the sky, arcing it into the group. One of the bolts strikes Ron, wounding him.

Realizing that the jig is up, Judge Putnam attempts to smash in the cottage door with his shoulder. Twice. To no effect. He then blasts away at the door with his shotgun cane. The door holds.

Vivian rushes to the shelter of the cliff face. Mikhail, Kane, Ron, and Dr. Black all run across the yard to join Judge Putnam at the front door. There is much pounding on the door, but it holds.

Johnny sights on the figure and fires his future rifle. He is surprised to discover that he has accidentally set the gun to full auto. He fires a full magazine into the figure in about ten seconds, causing more than enough damage to tear a normal man to shreds. The figure screams in agony, but somehow shrugs it off.

Mikhail tries the doorknob. The cottage door opens. It has been unlocked this entire time. Mikhail pushes open the door and triggers another trap. This time, a mounted crossbow on the opposite wall fires a bolt at the door, narrowly missing the group.

Ron attempts to rush into the room, only to slip and fall on the damp lawn.  Judge Putnam also forces his way into the room, only to step on—and trigger—a concealed fox trap. Fortunately, the judge’s boots prevent him from taking too much damage.

The rest of the group comes into the room. Ron notices that the only pieces of furniture in the room are a table loaded with books and papers, as well as an accompanying chair. Furious at the lightning and the traps, he grabs the table and flips it. This triggers several more traps, but the weight of the table prevents them from injuring the group when they go off.

The figure, still alive after being riddled with bullets, strikes Johnny with lightning. In agonizing pain, Johnny drops his future rifle, draws his pistol, and returns fire. This earns him another lightning bolt to the chest, which nearly kills him.

From her vantage point by the cliff, Vivian sees a narrow trail leading up to the top of the mountain. Realizing it may be her only chance to stop the figure and save Johnny, she begins her ascent.

Most of the rest of the group run out of the cottage to support Johnny and stop the lightning caller atop Creag Dhubh. This includes Judge Putnam, who frees himself from the fox trap. This does not include Dr. Black, who has knelt down, opened up his doctor bag, and was making plans to treat the judge. He is baffled at being left alone.

Lightning arcs down from the sky for a final time, striking Kane and hurling him through the air like a ragdoll. Kane takes no damage apart from losing half of his dress shirt. Through the smoking hole in the fabric, he sees that the gris-gris bag that Papa Doc Horus gave him is crumbling to dust—perhaps fulfilling its unstated purpose.

Ron is alarmed that he cannot see Vivian anywhere. Johnny tells Ron that he thought he saw Vivian climbing up the mountain. Ron tears off after her.

By this time, Vivian has reached the top of the mountain. She sees the figure, her back to her, preparing to call down more destruction onto her friends below. She opens fire with her .38, blasting the figure in the back and dropping him down, out of sight, behind the altar stone. Wanting to make sure that the figure is dead, Vivian walks carefully around the altar and prepares to give the coup de grace.

Just as she rounds the corner, Ron reaches the top of the mountain.

“Viv!”

In the moment that Vivian is distracted, the figure levers himself upright using the altar stone as support. The wind tears at the figure’s perforated robes and pulls the cowl from his face. It is none other than Bryan Slim. Before Vivian can react, Slim makes a mystical gesture and proclaims:

“You will kill Ron Deluca.”

Horrified at her actions, Vivian turns and points her gun straight at Ron’s head. Just as her finger involuntarily squeezes the trigger, she is able to turn the gun to the side just enough so that the shot goes wild, missing Ron.

Ron, spurred onward by a rage so volcanic it would shame Vesuvius, sprints across the mountain top, leaps over the ancient altar stone, and tackles Bryan Slim. He proceeds to beat nine kinds of hell out of Slim, using both his fists and the corner of the altar to mortally wound the bloody and bullet-riddled sorcerer.

Just then, a shriek from the clouds above causes everyone in the group to freeze. Ron stands dumbfounded as a huge, corpse-like, bat-winged beast descends from the sky to land on the altar stone. Ron and Vivian can only watch as the creature, with surprising gentleness, scoops up the broken body of Bryan Slim and takes wing. A dozen wing beats carries it up through the clouds again, out of range or sight of the group.

The Aftermath

The group reconvenes inside of Duncan MacBain’s cottage, where Dr. Black treats everyone’s wounds as best as he can. When Dr. Black goes to get the room’s one chair, so that a badly electrocuted Johnny can sit comfortably, he finds that the chair is knocked over and that someone has affixed an envelope to the underside of its seat.

Fearing another trap, the group carefully removes and opens the envelope. In it, they find a letter from Carl Stanford to Duncan MacBain. They also find a typewritten list of everyone in “the Coven.” To Ron’s slight dismay, this includes his new friend, Tommy Hayes, the Englishman.

The Coven of Cannich


Carl Stanford Says, "Hi."

After spending some time catching their breath, the group searches the cottage. This proves to be trivially easy, as the cottage is very small. Mikhail finds a door that leads into a passageway that seems to descend into the belly of Creag Dhubh. Others in the group find a makeshift extra bed in the cottage’s bedroom, which seems to indicate that someone has been bunking with MacBain. The group also finds a gold pocket watch stuffed in a drawer. On its back is the engraved monogram HMH.

The group decides that they will leave the area, go back to Cannich, and prepare their next move. Ron, who has thoroughly bloodied another new suit, wonders how he will get into the village without being noticed or stopped by the police.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Cannich Part Four: March 21, 1926 (Morning)

Detective Inspector Liam MacDougall

Dawn Preparations

At dawn, several constables and a supervising DI from Inverness, Liam MacDougall, drive into Cannich and part outside the Slaters Arms. DI MacDougall coordinates efforts with his own men and with Constable MacNeil.

Tammas MacIvar, Postmaster of Cannich

The group eats, exchanges notes about what happened the previous evening, and makes plans for the day. They are visited, briefly, by Tammas MacIvar, who drops off two telegrams—one for Judge Putnam and one for Mikhail. The judge’s, from his correspondent Christopher Edwin, is a semi-coded warning that Bryan Slim has beaten them to Scotland by a narrow margin. Mikhail’s, which is from Stephen Clark, describes that Stephen’s frantic painting has resumed. Stephen reports painting standing stones, robed figures, snakes, and similar.


Making Telegrams is Fun STOP

Shortly thereafter, Luca checks in with Ron and Vivian. Mr. Potafiori is still doped to the gills, but Luca vows to stay behind and keep an eye on him, instead of helping with the search. He also notes that Russo, Rizzo, and Yacavangelo are also staying behind—the big reason why he wants to remain at the inn.

Father MacBride enters the Slaters Arms and gives a heartfelt, though a touch halting, blessing for those searching for Seamus MacRae. He also says that he has suspended church services for the day, but will keep the church open for any tired searchers looking for comfort and spiritual guidance. Shortly after the priest gives his blessing, DI MacDougall explains that volunteers will gather at Muchrachd and be assigned to various search details.

Anne Chantraine gives a brief announcement, saying that searchers are welcome to stop and rest at Mullardoch House, which is owned by her cousin. 

Constable MacNeil tells the group that, once the search party has left town, a smaller group of constables will be conducting a thorough investigation of the Hancock house.

The group learns that Fergus MacInnes and Wully MacMurdo will be staying behind at the inn—Wully because he’s not much for walking, Fergus to keep the place open for the searchers and to watch over Wully. Maggie MacNair, the inn’s waitress, will be accompanying the group, however.

Kane tries, unsuccessfully, to tempt Wully to join the search party with promises of alcohol. Wully refuses, but does answer Kane and Judge Putnam’s questions about “standing stones” in the area. Most of what he says seems to be nonsense—according to Johnny—as he talks about druid rings and ogham trees and things that are clearly Irish and not Scottish.

On their way out of town, members of the group note a few things of interest. Dr. Black sees Tommy Haynes, the Londoner, drop back from the search party that is mustering to Muchrachd and turn back toward Cannich. Ron notices that, despite all protest to the contrary, Fergus closes the front door on the Slaters Arms the moment the search party is almost out of eyeshot. Ron decides to double back.

What Ron Saw

Ron stealthily approaches the Slaters Arms. He is unable to get a good look at the bar area of the inn from the closed front door, so he tries to sneak around back. As he does so, he notices that Tommy Hayes also appears to be sneaking around the back. Ron pulls back out of view just as Tommy approaches the inn’s kitchen door and is met by Fergus, who invites him in.

Ron creeps over to the kitchen door in the hopes of overhearing anything that Fergus says to Tommy. He manages to hear a few out-of-context words—mostly Tommy asking Fergus what’s to be done now that everyone else is out of town. At this moment, Ron is ambushed from behind, bashed on the head, and sent into dreamland.

At Muchrachd

The Charismatic and Personable Duncan MacBain

The searchers are divided into smaller parties and assigned to constables. The protagonists’ group gets to stay together and are assigned to Constable MacNeil and DI MacDougall. Conveniently. They proceed to the location that Pushok had discovered yesterday, hoping that they might find evidence or that Pushok might pick up on some hitherto unknown clue.

Both policemen are devastated to discover that someone has semi-randomly dug holes throughout the muddy area where Seamus MacRae’s scent trail abruptly ended. They are then shocked to learn that it was Mikhail himself who came out here in the dead of night with a shovel and started digging around for clues. DI MacDougall rakes Mikhail over the coals for a bit, and accuses him of disturbing a crime scene. He soon understands that Mikhail was just trying to help, and continues with the investigation.

Pushok does not find any further scent trails. Johnny, who seems to be increasingly in touch with dark forces, realizes that a Gate spell has been cast in the area recently, perhaps explaining the abrupt end to the trail. He alerts the group to his findings in his usual subtle manner.

Vivian notices that a figure is watching them from a distant hilltop. Mikhail remarks that the same (or similar) figure was also watching him, Pushok, and Constable MacNeil on the previous day. Constable MacNeil seems a touch taken aback by this, as that this mountain, Creag Dhubh is claimed to be “owned entirely” by Duncan MacBain, the last of the MacBain sept in the region. MacBain’s claim is not true, but that does not stop him from threatening any “trespassers” with his shotgun.

Unbeknownst to the others, Johnny had also ventured out the previous evening to see if he could find the spot where Seamus MacRae’s trail ended. It seems he missed it entirely. Instead, he used the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi to reveal a ley line, which went up the side of Creag Dhubh. He ascended the mountain, only to be nearly shot by MacBain. He was then able to overhear MacBain talking with another man, whom he recognized as Bryan Slim.

Johnny privately informs the group of this as they continue searching the countryside.

DI MacDougall deems MacBain’s behavior to be just suspicious enough to warrant investigation. With Constable MacNeil’s help, he leads the group to the slops of Creag Dhubh, only to be encountered by a shotgun-wielding MacBain. MacBain, to put it briefly, is a colossal dick. He not only does not care that there is a missing child, he claims that children going missing is good for him, because it means fewer damn townies trespassing in his lands!

Discourse with MacBain goes rather poorly. This is not helped by Johnny secretly throwing the Voorish Sign and then flipping MacBain off (which is responded to in kind), or by Johnny revealing the ley line leading up the mountain. It also doesn’t help that Dr. Black continues to make, perhaps well-intentioned, but inflammatory comments.

The meeting ends when MacBain refuses to permit the policemen to search his mountain for signs of Seamus MacRae. DI MacDougall vows to return with a warrant. Mikhail, remembering Johnny’s tale about MacBain shooting a rabbit instead of Johnny, asks if a brace of rabbits might be enough to permit a search of the property. MacBain grudgingly agrees before departing.

By this point, Johnny has decided that MacBain is another sorcerer that needs to die, and so he begins to put plans into motion.

What Happened to Ron?

Ron awakens with a battered head, hands tied behind his back, on one of the couches in the Slaters Arms. He is accused by Fergus and Wully of sneaking about in the kitchen and nicking stuff, which Ron flatly and angrily denies. Ron notes that Tommy Haynes is observing this conversation, and attempts to coerce the Englishman into giving him an alibi. Tommy refuses, but seems very uncomfortable about the whole thing, and asks Ron to take it easy.

Ron discovers that Wully smacked him over the head with a cutting board. Then he and Fergus tied him up and went for the constables. Wully and Fergus stay far enough away from Ron so as not to fall victim to the legendary “Sicilian Headbutt,” and so Ron can do little but vent his temper on the two men. He is further goaded into a rage by some unpleasant, and frankly racist, statements by Fergus, which only makes Ron more angry and unhinged in appearance when the cops show up.

The two constables escort Ron to the constabulary, where they ask him to empty his pockets and prepare to lock him up in the village’s one holding cell until DI MacDougall returns. Upon realizing that Ron has piano wire and brass knuckles in his pockets, they force Ron to undergo a pat down. Ron reveals the enchanted knife in his boot, for which the constables congratulate him. He does not, however, reveal that he has a gold cigar case that he took from the Hancock house. When the constables find it, they explain the gravity of Ron’s situation and, very politely, lock him in the holding cell.

Ron attempts to become friendly with one of the constables, Constable Thomas, even going so far as to offer him a hefty bribe. Constable Thomas refuses the bribe, as all proper coppers should, but doesn’t seem to hold the attempt against Ron at all.

A little later, Constable Thomas allows Tommy Haynes, of all people, to enter the constabulary alone to speak to Ron. Tommy tells Ron that he is sorry he hung him out to dry, but he does tell Ron that he knows he didn’t do anything wrong, and that he is on Ron’s side. Ron thanks him for the information.

The Return to Muchrachd

DI MacDougall returns to Muchrachd with the rest of the group and Constable MacNeil. He commandeers a police wagon to take him to the constabulary, so that he can ring a judge in Inverness to get a warrant for Creag Dhubh. The rest of the group decides whether they’d like to stay in Muchrachd, resume the search, go back to Cannich with the Inspector, or do something else.

While milling about, Mikhail and Johnny see an adorable little girl playing in the dirt, oblivious to the cares of the adults all around her. They go up to speak with her and learn that a) her name is Nellie Thompson and b) she has a secret. Apparently, she saw a figure in a hooded coat climbing out of the MacRae house a few nights ago holding a small bundle. She mentions that the figure walked somewhat funny, with a “sliding stride.”

Johnny, realizing that this is important evidence, informs DI MacDougall and asks him to interview Nellie, which he does. Mikhail continues to talk to Nellie for a short time after, allowing Nellie to pet Pushok and ask questions about the group. When Nellie asks about “the pretty lady,” Mikhail informs her that that’s his friend, Vivian, who is a musician.

At this point, the girl grins an unsettling grin, says that she would “love to hear Vivian play the violin someday,” and then runs off for home.

The group splits at this point, with Judge Putnam, Kane, and Johnny going to Mullardoch House, and the rest going back to Cannich in the police wagon.

Nellie Thompson, a Perfectly Ordinary Little Girl

Ending Actions

Kane, Johnny, and Judge Putnam arrive at the palatial Mullardoch House. They are welcomed by Annie Chantraine and briefly introduced to Ian MacLennan, gentleman farmer, owner of the property, and probably a minor lord of some sort. Johnny decides to go back to Cannich for the car (and the gate box) in preparation to search the home of Duncan MacBain and, you know, probably kill him.

Vivian, Mikhail (and Pushok), and Dr. Black return to Cannich, where they learn from Luca about Ron’s recent mishaps (and also that Luca won $10 from the Jimmies in a game of cards). Vivian and Dr. Black talk to Ron about what happened, and Dr. Black promises to gather evidence on Ron’s behalf. Mikhail, meanwhile, goes to see if he can find his trapper friend, Robbie MacLaren, and arrange to purchase a couple of rabbits.

Laird Ian MacLennan, Gentleman Farmer



Friday, November 13, 2020

Cannich Part Three: March 20, 1926 (Night)

High Times at the Slaters Arms

Judge Putnam and Kane return to the Slaters Arms with Dr. MacParlan and a very heavily sedated Mr. Potafiori. Their arrival gets some attention from the group of locals that remains in the bar this late at night, as well as from Jimmy Rizzo and Jimmy Russo, who realize that the Bernouse lawyer’s problem is, likely, their employer’s gain. Fergus, seeing the duo’s plight, offers to pour them drinks downstairs once they get Mr. Potafiori settled.

The judge, Kane, and Dr. MacParlan help Mr. Potafiori into bed. Kane informs Luca of what happened to Mr. Potafiori and Luca, realizing the issue, opts to camp out in front of Mr. Potafiori’s room for the rest of the night. By Luca’s later report, the terrified lawyer remains undisturbed until morning.

Dr. MacParlan bids Kane and the judge a fond farewell and departs. The duo then travels to the bar and have a drink with a small group clustered about the bar. Some of the faces are familiar, some are not, but all of them are introduced by a very gregarious Fergus. They include the following:

Wully MacMurdo: The barfly that the duo already knows. He manages to connive more drinks out of Kane, though Kane insists that the Wully polish off a huge glass of water first. Which he does.

Maggie MacNair: The waitress, who is always good for a quip or a parting shot amidst her excellent service.

Angus MacNair

Angus MacNair: Maggie’s brother. A strong-jawed laborer of some unspecified type.

Annie Chantraine

Annie Chantraine: The blond woman everyone has seen at various points throughout the day. She is apparently staying with her cousin on his farm (the biggest and wealthiest one in the area) outside of town. She is apparently fresh out of University and has traveled extensively, and there is some rumor that she either chooses not to or cannot return home. Kane notes that she speaks Scottish with a slight French accent, and learns that she spent quite a bit of time as a youngster “on the Continent.”

Alistair MacGivillray

Alistair MacGivillray: The schoolteacher. Smarmy and charming, and fond of ostentatious bowties. He is also, as both the judge and Kane both note, a bit of a conniving thief. They independently see him stealing sips from other people’s drinks, as well as change left behind as tips by other patrons, when he thinks no one is looking. Judge Putnam successfully plies him for information, and learns quite a bit about the town.

Tommy Hayes

Tommy Hayes: A Londoner who seems to have been accepted warmly by the folks at the bar, even though Fergus continually refers to him as a “Sassenach.” (This is the equivalent of being called a “Flatlander” by someone from Maine, or more or less.) He seems like a friendly sort.

The duo gets into a bit of banter with the locals, share drinks, and get a bit of a better view of the lay of the land. There is some talk of the impending search that will take place in the morning, once Constable MacNeil’s backup from Inverness arrives.

The Investigation of Hancock House

The Hancock House

The group at the house, consisting of Ron, Mikhail, Johnny, Vivian, Dr. Black, and Dr. Kennedy, quickly recover from their awe and fright at being consulted by the ghost of Henry Montague Hancock. Mikhail attempts to use Psychology to sooth the panicked and animalistic ghost, calming it enough for others in the group to question it. The ghost seems incapable of speaking, so Dr. Black attempts to question it by writing on a convenient scrap of paper. Unfortunately, the ghost also seems incapable or unwilling to read Dr. Black’s words. Ron jokes that it might be because of his “doctor handwriting.”

At the group’s urging, Mikhail uses his “witch’s ball,” to no effect.

Vivian presents the crucifix from her rosary to the ghost, hoping that seeing such a symbol of sacrifice and mercy will, somehow, get through to the vestiges of what was once Henry Hancock. Alas, whether due to the presence of the Godly symbol, or for some unknown reasons, the ghost takes that moment to vanish.

The group takes stock of the situation and decides that the first thing they need to do is to search the rest of the house. Just as they are about to do that, Vivian and Johnny have simultaneous intuitive leaps of logic, the process of this goes something like this: the fireplace in the living room was unusually clean, and the ghost came out of the kitchen fireplace to attack Vivian, therefore, Henry Hancock’s body is hidden in the fireplace.

Ron pokes his head into the living room fireplace to look and, sure enough, discovers that the lifeless body of Mr. Hancock has been shoved, Murderer in the Rue Morgue-style, into the chimney.  Even Ron, a stone-cold mafioso, is unnerved by the obvious brutality suggested by this find.

The group agrees that they should not move Hancock’s body until they make a complete search of the house, which they proceed to do. They find the following:

Second Floor: The master bedroom has been thoroughly ransacked, and there are numerous holes in the walls likely caused by an elephant gun. They find a photograph of Mr. Hancock’s associate, Dr. Alan Chisholm. Ron notices that the upstairs bathtub has a pinkish ring and that, plus the nearby presence of several bottles of cleaning products, leads him to check the drain. He finds a trace amount of blood beneath the drain lip. Johnny uses the powder of Ibn-Ghazi and it reveals the blood that the murderers tried to scrub away, as if it were magical Luminol.

Dr. Chisholm

First Floor: Ron notices a slightly askew drain in the floor of the first-floor bathroom. Removing it, he finds a green stone marked with an Elder Sign—likely the one mentioned in the Hancock letters.

Basement: A study in the basement has been so thoroughly trashed that there is nothing of value left. Intruders have gone so far as to dynamite open a wall safe, seemingly heedless of the potential noise or destruction that this might cause. Dr. Black searches the interior of the safe, but aside from some bits of ashes, cannot determine what it might have once contained. The group also finds a room set up like a university archaeology laboratory, including two autopsy-like tables with ancient skeletons and several long, flat drawers on shelves that contain various artifacts. Another room, with fine wooden paneling, has about fifty animal heads mounted on the walls, as well as a glass trophy case in the middle of the room.

Hancock’s Secret

At about this time, Kane and Judge Putnam, a bit worried that their companions have not returned, go to the Hancock house to see if everything is all right. Pushok, ever vigilant, nearly attacks the judge, but stops once he realizes that Judge Putnam is part of his pack.

The group catches the duo up on the recent happenings. Judge Putnam, intrigued at the archaeology lab, decides to have a look for himself. After looking over the bones and the artifacts, he finds a small journal that seems to be an account of Hancock and Chisholm’s findings. The book describes a dig on Loch Mullardoch, which features numerous Roman artifacts, as well as “a temple to Azog” and “a statue of a faceless sphinx.” The judge surmises that the skeletal remains are likely that of Roman soldiers, which prompts Kane to pass around the “Summary of the Expedition to Loch Mullardoch” that he “found” in Father MacBride’s office.

Father MacBride, Unaware of the Missing Letter

Vivian, meanwhile, is convinced that Hancock has hidden something important in the house, which the intruders and murders were obviously looking for. She and Dr. Black do another search of the house, and find something curious in the trophy room. A shooting trophy (which features a statuette of a bronze hunter holding a rifle), seems to have been rotated away from its original position, which is clearly marked on the velvet beneath it. When Dr. Black and Vivian open the case and reposition the statue, the rifle then points to a warthog head hanging on a nearby wall. Dr. Black notes that one of the warthog’s tusks is askew and attempts to straighten it.

This, of course, unlocks and opens the secret panel at the far side of the room, revealing a tiny cubby hole containing only a table and a dual-locked iron box. Further, the box is also closed with a wax seal, to make any tampering obvious.

Johnny dusts the box with the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi, causing a golden glow to briefly emanate from within. Johnny then picks the locks, scrapes off the seal, and opens the box, revealing a roughly trapezoidal object wrapped in brown paper. He attempts to lift the parcel out of the box, but finds it to be far too heavy for him to move (it weighs about 150 lbs.).

Ron, however, has no trouble removing the parcel and, at the group’s insistence, he carries it to the desk in the archaeology lab. After carefully unwrapping the package, they discover that they the parcel is made of solid gold and is also the central portion of the R’lyeh Disc.

A Portion of the R'lyeh Disc

Plans

The group decides that now is the time to inform the authorities about Mr. Hancock. Dr. Kennedy, Dr. Black, Mikhail, and Pushok go to the Constabulary and awaken Constable MacNeil (who lives in an apartment above the office). Dr. Kennedy explains the situation in as vague terms as possible. Constable MacNeil, baffled and demoralized, says that he will accompany them to the house after he contacts Dr. MacParlan.

Ron, a troublemaker and felon, does not want to be anywhere near the house when the cops arrive, so he escorts Vivian back to the Slaters Arms. They check in with Luca and Mr. Potafiori and, finding that everything is as all right as it can be, retire to their rooms for the night.

Johnny, meanwhile, sneaks back to the parking lot behind the Slaters Arms, gets the car, and drives it to the Hancock house. Between himself, Kane, and Judge Putnam, they are able close the secret door and transfer the segment of the R’lyeh Disc to the gate box on the judge’s car. Johnny takes the disc segment through and, in order to make sure it is as safe as possible, proceeds to take it through his second set of gate boxes to Atlantic City. He returns and waits outside the house with the judge and Kane until the others arrive.

Dr. Black, Dr. Kennedy, Mikhail, Pushok, Constable MacNeil, and Dr. MacParlan arrive on the scene a few minutes later. Between them, the group performs the unpleasant work of removing Hancock’s body from the chimney. It is clear from the wounds on Hancock’s body that he had been heavily tortured before having his throat cut. Neither Dr. MacParlan nor Dr. Black can determine an accurate time of death, but considering the body’s bloating and putrefaction, Hancock has been dead for at least a week or more.

Constable MacNeil asks the group to not say anything to anyone about the house or Mr. Hancock. He wants to wait to do any further investigations until the early morning, when the police from Inverness are due to arrive to help search for Seamus MacRae. He says he will tell the Inspector about the murder once he arrives, and that, hopefully, there will be enough men to secure the scene and search for the missing baby.

Dr. Kennedy, meanwhile, decides that things are getting too dangerous for him in Cannich. He thanks the group for helping him to find out what happened to his colleague, leaves his calling card, and makes plans to return to Inverness that night. He also tells them that he will attempt to acquire funds to pay the group for their investigative help.

At this point, the group returns to the Slaters Arms to rest and await the next morning.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Cannich Part Two: March 20, 1926 (Evening)

Seamus MacRae

The Search for the Wee Baby Seamus

Constable MacNeil acquires a baby blanket from the MacRae residence. Pushok gets a good sniff and takes off through the hills, with the constable, Robbie MacLaren, and Mikhail hot on his heels. They follow Pushok westward for about an hour when Pushok seems to lose the scent. Mikhail tries the blanket again, but Pushok makes no further progress.

The area is a small gully between hills, waterlogged and strewn with gravel. The three humans turn up no further evidence at the scene. However, Mikhail is extremely disturbed to note that someone standing on a far-off mountaintop seems to be watching their progress.

Dinnertime at the Slaters Arms

Maggie MacNair, the Waitress at the Slaters Arms

The rest of the crew settles in at the inn after making their tours of the town. Ron, having bought some more “local-appearing” clothes from the general store, dresses up in them and now looks slightly less out of place. He relaxes at the bar and cases the joint, while Judge Putnam plies Wully MacMurdo with drink and attempts to get more stories out of him.

Mikhail comes back, footsore and muddy, with a very happy Pushok beside him.

The dinnertime rush starts coming in. Several members of the group notice that Maggie, the waitress, seems to be having fly-by conversations with a blond woman they saw in the crowd outside earlier. They also note that the older man, who they first saw having lunch, hasn’t moved from his spot and appears to be drinking tea and reading a book about Picts.

Fergus MacInnes announces that dinner will be served, and those that would like a quieter dining experience may head over to the dining room. Most of the group goes to the dining room, seats themselves around an eight-person table, and talk to Maggie about ordering dinner.

During dinner, Constable MacNeil enters the Slaters Arms and informs everyone that he has contacted the police in Inverness, who will be sending down men bright and early tomorrow morning. The men, he explains, will be searching the hills for Baby MacRae, and Constable MacNeil invites the rest of the town to join in the search. He also praises Mikhail and Pushok for giving him “a good lead” on where to start looking.

Ron, who is still in the bar area after dinner starts and the constable leaves, watches as the older man gets up and walks into the dining room. Ron, sensing an opportunity, goes over to investigate the man’s table, and finds a crumpled-up envelope underneath a chair. Ron takes the envelope into the bathroom, removes a letter from inside of it, and begins reading. Despite keeping himself steadfastly out of the “weird shit” that’s going on, he knows enough to be very concerned about the letter’s contents.

The Letter Ron Found

Meanwhile, in the dining room, the older man politely introduces himself as Dr. Andrew Kennedy, from Inverness, and asks if he might speak with them about a personal matter. The group invites him to the table.

Dr. Andrew Kennedy

Dr. Kennedy’s Story

Dr. Kennedy explains that he is the colleague of a Henry Montague Hancock, a big-game hunter and explorer who currently lives in Cannich. Recently, Hancock wrote to Dr. Kennedy that he and his business partner, Dr. Chisholm, had made a significant archaeological study in the area. Hancock informed Kennedy that he would “soon need your expertise in early British cultures,” and says that he will contact him later about coming to see the dig site, once things are more stabilized.

Dr. Kennedy goes on to say that he has heard no further word from Henry, but has received three letters from Hancock’s nephew. He tells the group that the contents of the letters are quite distressing to him, and that he is concerned that something untoward has happened to Hancock and Dr. Chisholm.

At about this time, Ron approaches the table with his letter, which he hands to a consternated Dr. Kennedy. Once Dr. Kennedy is reassured that no one but Ron has seen the contents of the letter, he carefully hands them around to the group. The group discovers that the three letters are from Henry to his nephew, with annotations written on the bottom of each letter from the nephew to Dr. Kennedy. Two letters are written in a kind of code, warning about cults, mysterious activities, Henry having hidden something, and Henry trying to acquire multiple, “star-shaped stones.” Dr. Black assumes that these stones are Elder Signs.

Another of the Hancock Letters

The last letter is deemed a forgery, not only by Hancock’s nephew, but also by Kennedy and the group. It is clear that someone sent the third letter to dissuade anyone from looking into Hancock’s disappearance.

The group decides to finish dinner, leave the Slaters Arms, and find a quiet place where they can plan and speak more freely.

The Forged Hancock Letter

Nighttime on the River Cannich

The group, with Dr. Kennedy included, all go to the spot on the riverbank that Johnny and Judge Putnam discovered earlier. Dr. Kennedy explains that he came to Cannich to search for signs of Hancock, only to be told that Hancock and Chisholm had both left abruptly for Africa.

Kennedy remarks that, considering the content of the letters, this is most suspicious, and he fears that one or several people in the town are lying about what happened to Hancock and Chisholm. He also said that he wanted to conduct his own investigations, but he didn’t think he could trust anyone in Cannich to help him. He decided to approach the group because they seemed like (mostly) upstanding citizens, but also outsiders with no ties to the community.

The group holds a quiet meeting out of earshot of Dr. Kennedy. They are in agreement to help him, but Kane is not convinced of Dr. Kennedy’s veracity, and warns the group against telling him too much about their own activities. The group agrees to this.

Dr. Kennedy is relieved to learn that he has acquired the group’s help. He tells them that he had been by Hancock’s house earlier in the day, but that it was locked up tight and he could find no way of getting inside. He proposes to lead the players to the house and start looking for clues there.

Hancock’s House

While the group attempts to pacify Mr. Potafiori, Ron climbs the front steps to Hancock’s front porch. He finds the front door lock, but easily shoulders it open, allowing access to the house.As they approach Hancock’s house, the group hears a terrified scream. Upon investigation, they discover Mr. Potafiori, panicked and babbling, sitting in the middle of the road outside of the Hancock house. The group attempts to calm him and manage, after much prodding, to determine that the Bernouse family lawyer was out for an after-dinner walk when he was assaulted by a ghost. When asked where the ghost came from, he gestures vaguely in the direction of the Hancock house.

The rest of the group eventually decides that Kane and Judge Putnam will escort Mr. Potafiore back to the Slaters Arms, where he can rest. Everyone else, including Pushok, venture into the house.

At first, their investigations turn up very little. They note the very masculine decorations, hunting trophies, and photos. The also note that there is a double gun rack over the fireplace in the living room, upon which is perched only one elephant gun. They also locate a closet filled with clothing monogramed with HMH, including a hunting vest whose 20 ammunition loops contain 18 elephant gun rounds between them.

In the front hallway, the group discovers a swagger stick standing in an umbrella stand. Dr. Kennedy informs the group that this belonged to Hancock, and that the man never went anywhere without it.

At some point, Pushok goes berserk and races through the house to stand at the front doorway. He then faces inside the house and starts barking his head off, refusing to stop when Mikhail commands him to. Concerned that Pushok has detected the ghost, Johnny produces some of the Power of Ibn-Ghazi that he had made before the trip. The dust reveals a ribbon of spectral energy vanishing upstairs, but no actual sign of the ghost.

The group splits in two, with Vivian, Dr. Kennedy, and Ron searching the rest of the first floor. Johnny, Mikhail, and Dr. Black climb to the second floor. There they find a bedroom that has had two very large holes blown both through its door and through the outer wall on the opposite side. It is clear that this damage was caused by an elephant gun, or a weapon of similar caliber.

The upstairs group does not have long to ponder their discoveries, because they are distracted by a piercing scream coming from downstairs. They rush into the kitchen, where they find Dr. Kennedy in the fetal position on the floor, Judge Putnam staring in disbelief, and Vivian screaming and thrashing at a nimbus of blue white light that has engulfed her. The light is also screaming.

Fortunately for Vivian, Johnny let Vivian borrow one of the group’s blessed blades a short time earlier. Vivian uses it to good effect to push the glowing protoplasm off of her. It retreats to the kitchen stove and hovers behind it, seemingly breaking off its attack for the time being.

Johnny casts another pinch of the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi. The glowing protoplasm takes on the shape of a battered man, his spectral form covered with bruises, burn marks, and cuts. They recognize the man from the numerous pictures around the house. Vivian has just been attacked by the ghost of Henry Montague Hancock.

Mikhail tries to talk consolingly to the ghost as the scene changes.

A Somewhat Livelier Henry Hancock

Kane and Judge Putnam

On their way back to the inn, Kane, Judge Putnam, and Mr. Potafiori pass by the town church. Seeing lights on inside, they decide to knock on the door. They are greeted by Brother Theodore, who informs them that Father MacBride has gone to bed for the night. Seeing that Mr. Potafiori is in great distress, Brother Theodore invites them in and offers to fetch the town doctor. Kane and the judge accept.

Kane takes the opportunity provided by Brother Theodore’s absence to search the church for clues, as he has been very suspicious of the town priest since meeting him earlier in the day. Kane finds nothing unusual in the church, but does find a handwritten letter in Father MacBride’s office that he takes for himself.

The Letter That Kane "Acquired"

A short time later, Brother Theodore returns with Cannich’s doctor, the elderly—yet still spritely—Dr. MacParlan. The good doctor treats Mr. Potafiori and says that, “though this is a quiet place, there are strange sights, sometimes.” He also says that he is glad that Mr. Potafiori didn’t go into the hills, were help is much farther away and things can get even more dangerous.

Dr. MacParlan recommends bedrest and provides Mr. Potafiori with a sedative. Judge Putnam and Kane thank the brother, bid him farewell, and return Mr. Potafiori to the Slaters Arms with Dr. MacParlan. Upon entering, they see that Luca is having a great deal of fun playing darts with some of the locals.

The Lovely Dr. MacParlan