Friday, January 29, 2021

The Orient Express Finale: March 26-April 3, 1926

It takes quite a while for the train to get moving again. This causes further delay not only for the group and the passengers on their train, but also for trains all along the line.

The mood is strained. Most of the staff, as well as several passengers, saw the “ghost” rampaging through the train. Between that terrible apparition, the dual murders, the sabotage to the train, and the destruction of the baggage car, everyone is tense and terrified.

The staff continues to do their jobs with deeply ingrained professionalism. They move the surviving luggage from the baggage car and distribute it as evenly as they can between the recreation cars and passenger cars. Once the baggage car is emptied, and once the staff determines that the undercarriage of the car is structurally sound, the train is cleared to continue its journey.

(At some point during all of this, Mikhail finds a very long access ladder that descends from the top of the bridge to the defile below. Amidst shattered luggage and the smeared remains of Mr. Smith, he finds his Masonic blade.)

Even after all of this, the journey is still much slower than it should be. The locomotive’s controls were severely damaged by the possessed engineer and, though they have been jury-rigged back to something approximating functionality, none of the staff wants to risk causing further damage. That, plus the fact that both the engineer and the fireman are out of commission, makes the remainder of the journey to Milan taken an agonizingly long time.


The wait in Milan for a new locomotive, a new berth car #8, and a new baggage car, is similarly frustrating. Especially for Liam, who feels his dreams of movie-stardom slipping away from him. He attempts to send a telegram to the offices of Palm Tree Studios on the platform in Milan, once he realizes that he is definitely not going to make the April 1st deadline.

Quite a number of passengers who were not previously expecting to get off at Milan get off at Milan. Some have decided to wait and see if their tickets are valid on another, slightly less accursed, train. Others choose to abandon their travel altogether and return home, having decided that they have had quite enough excitement to last them for the rest of their lives.

Several passengers remain, including Ingrid and Greta, Mr. Craegen (who is determined to go to Venice), and Luci Martin, who is also traveling to Syria on journalistic business.

The End of the Investigation

The incidents surrounding the two murders is, frankly, so bizarre that everyone more or less wants to wash their hands of them. This includes Inspector Thorne, who, after hearing the group's heavily edited  tale of their final fight with Mr. Smith, rules that the case is closed. Thorne tells the group all that it is now fairly clear to him that Smith not only killed both the countess and…himself? Temporarily? Maybe? But also attempted to frame them for the murders. Murder/suicide. Whichever.

He realizes that he does not have all the answers to this puzzle and attempts to probe the group for information. He asks about Bryan Slim, about the group's connection to Smith, and about what they could have done to garner such hatred. Judge Putnam and Mikhail are able to deflect enough of his questions that he doesn’t get much of anything, but also doesn’t believe that the group is lying to him. 

The group later learns, by osmosis, that the Prussian Countess was a woman by the name of Uda Edelweiss. There are rumors that this is not actually her name, that she is not actually a countess, that all of her fine jewels are actually made of paste, and that she was actually a con artist and grifter.

The group is congratulated for assisting in the apprehension of Dwight Featherstone (aka Gordy Ottelly), a member of a drug smuggling ring that the international police have been attempting to shut down for quite some time. Inspector Thorne hopes that Gordy will give up the names of his cohorts in exchange for a lighter sentence, and hopes this marks the beginning of the end of this particular gang of smugglers.

Conductor Jannsens informs the group that, as you experienced undue hardship and delays during your trip on the Orient Express, the company will be refunding the cost of their tickets. He apologizes for the inconvenience.

Athens to Damascus

The group's journey from Milan to Athens is a quiet and restful one. The weather in Greece is balmy and sunny, despite it still being early Spring. The people of Athens are friendly and welcoming, and Johnny is able to use his limited Greek to locate a very good restaurants and arrange for a tour of the city center and of the Acropolis.

Several hours later, as the sun sets over the wine dark sea, the group sets sail from Athens. They arrive very early the next morning in Beirut. While the bags are unloaded, Johnny, Dr. Black, and Kane arrange for passage by car to Damascus. Unfortunately, they discover that there is no one awake at this hour to rent cars from. However, the trio encounter an earnest young man named Faisil, who promises to take the group to Damascus in his truck.

The truck is Great War surplus, with a wobbly suspension and a loose gearbox. Most of the group rides in the back with the luggage, several bales of hay, and the pungent aroma of goats. Judge Putnam rides in the cabin with Faisil. During the drive, he learns about the young man’s opinions on a wide variety of things, from his barely concealed hatred of the French, to why Italians are nicer than Spaniards.

The group passes through several checkpoints on the way to Damascus, all of them stationed by members of the French Foreign Legion. At each checkpoint, they are asked to step out of the truck and show your passports. At one checkpoint, the very thorough commandant demands to search the truck. Faisil acquiesces, nervously, and everyone waits while half a dozen French soldiers pick over the luggage. Johnny sweats noticeably when the commandant himself takes a seemingly undue amount of interest in one particular piece of luggage, and is relieved when nothing comes of it.

After his search is complete, the commandant at last smiles, returns the group's documentation, and bids you a good morning. 

It is just after noon when the London Group at last arrives in Damascus. Faisil informs them that the best place for then to secure cars, lodging, or anything would be from the people who work in and around the train station. He drives the group to the station and cheerfully begins to unload bags as the group disembarks, stretches, and tries to massage their spines and glutes back into some semblance of working order.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Orient Express Part Four: March 26, 1926 (Even Later)

The Scooby Doo Hallway Routine

The group moves back and forth between rooms at somewhat dizzying speed. A brief, but likely incomplete overview:

  • Luci Martin, at Vivian’s request, calls Dr. Black into her cabin to tend to Vivian. Dr. Black gives three warning knocks on the wall of the train.
  • Johnny and Kane, hearing those knocks, leave Smith’s cabin and return to their own cabins.
  • Judge Putnam remains in his cabin talking with Craegen. Worried that whatever tried to possess him might do so again, he removes the bullets from his cane gun and other weapons.
  • Liam leaves his cabin and breaks into Featherstone’s cabin.
  • Mikhail calms Pushok and goes out into the hallway to join the others.
  • Kane returns to Smith’s room and attempts a meditation. He notes that there is a presence in the room (the same one that tried to possess him), but this time it doesn’t bother him. Kane doesn’t feel anything else. On further searching the room, he finds that Smith’s battered trench coat has an extradimensional pocket in it.
  • Kane leaves to show the coat to Johnny.
  • Johnny reads the Astral Projection scroll and begins to put the pieces together as to what’s going on.
  • Dr. Black confirms that Vivian is all right. He begins to suspect that a group meeting might be in order. He gets the group together and tries to muster them to head to the Recreation Car.
  • Liam breaks into Featherstone’s steamer trunk and finds a large quantity of what appear to be drugs. He is surprised by Featherstone, who puts the barrel of a gun to his forehead. He is unable to reason with Featherstone. Featherstone orders him out into the hallway. 

The scene ends with most of the group clustered at the Recreation Car side of the hallway as Featherstone escorts Liam out of his cabin at gunpoint.

The Incriminating Note in Smith's Pocket, Which I Forgot To Show You Earlier

A Double Arrest

Featherstone begins shouting, quite loudly, that he found Liam in his cabin, and so Liam must be the murderer. The group, distrusting Featherstone, manages to tackle him and get the gun away from him. Mikhail draws his Masonic blade and holds Featherstone at swordpoint just as Jannsens the conductor and Inspector Thorne arrive.

Jannsens searches Featherstone’s cabin and confirms that the man was carrying a very large quantity of opium in his trunk. Inspector Thorne, convinced that both men are guilty of something, drags them to the Recreation Car and handcuffs them across the table from one another while the investigation continues.

Thorne then speaks to Mikhail and, while commending the young lawyer on helping to detain a criminal, explains that deadly weapons are not allowed on the train. Despite Mikhail’s protestations, Thorne confiscates his Masonic sword.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group convenes and goes over what they learn. They suspect that someone on the train is astrally projected and is repeatedly attempting to possess people for their own ends. Dr. Black seems to think that whoever is doing this is trying to delay or prevent them from getting to Syria. Johnny notes that, according to the scroll, if someone resists possession by the astrally projected person, they cannot ever successfully be possessed by that person. The group realizes that the astral projector must have left their body behind, which winnows down their list of suspects.

Inspector Thorne orders everyone to return to their cabins, which they do. At this point, Kane shows Johnny the coat he took from Mr. Smith’s room. Johnny experiments with the pocket and realizes he can pull items from it by concentrating very hard. He immediately puts the coat on.

The group is unsure of what to do next. Their hands are forced, moments later, when the train lurches into motion.

Dwight Featherstone, Opium Runner

Runaway Train

The group encounters a pair of porters, running toward the front of the train and shouting in French. Liam is able to translate that the two men don’t think the train should be moving, that pulling the emergency brake didn’t stop it, and that they need to find one of the conductors.

Liam bribes Johnny to pick the lock on his handcuffs, which Johnny does. Liam then remains in the Recreation Car to taunt Featherstone. Liam eventually gets close enough to Featherstone for the other man to punch him and then slap the cuffs back on him. All the while, Luci presides over the insanity and tries not to take sides.

The rest of the group pushes forward as far as they can, only to find Jenssens and Thorne in one of the passenger cars, unable to get the door open. At someone’s suggestion, Thorne uses the gun he took from Featherstone to shoot out the lock on the door. The door still refuses to open, and Jannsens and Thorne both think that whoever has started the train has somehow jammed the door on the other side.

While two porters retreat to the dining car to get a coffee urn to use as a battering ram, Dr. Black studies the door and notes that several mystical runes have been hastily carved into the lintel. He begs a penknife off of Jannsens, climbs on a bench, and starts defacing the mystical runes.

In the midst of the chaos, Mikhail manages to coerce Thorne into giving him his Masonic sword back.

Just before doing this, Dr. Black notes that Jannsens’ penknife has traces of wood shavings in its mechanism, which leads Dr. Black to suggest that Jannsens may have carved the symbols himself while possessed.

The porters return with their coffee urn battering ram just as Dr. Black destroys the last symbol. The group opens the door and proceeds into the next car, only to find that the forward door to that car has also been warded…

The group now notes that the train is moving at increasing speed through the Italian Alps, and several in the group suspect that the mysterious possessing spirit is trying to get the train to derail or crash.

One of the Doors that Blocked the Group's Path

Throw Eastman From the Train

While Johnny and Dr. Black destroy the wards on the next door, Vivian and Kane climb the access ladder between the cars and head for the roof of the train. Their plan is to cross the top of the car, descend on the ladder on the other side, and head through the coal car to the engine.

This daring maneuver is cut short when the train goes around a steep curve and Kane is nearly thrown off the train. He manages to hang on, and Johnny sees Kane’s kicking feet through the windows of the car. Johnny steals the coffee urn and uses it to smash out the train car’s window, so that he can grab Kane and drag him inside the train. This proves to be unnecessary, as Vivian grabs Kane and hauls him back up onto the roof of the train.

Taking greater care, Kane and Vivian make their way down the ladder on the far side of the car and into the coal car. They reach the engine car just as the rest of the group removes the wards on the last door and forces it open.

Engine Showdown

Kane and Vivian arrive in the engine to find the train’s fireman unconscious in a pool of his own blood. Nearby, the engineer is hunched over the smashed controls. Looking on with anticipation as the train hurtles on along a tall and narrow bridge.

Vivian grabs the fireman’s shovel and uses it to knock the engineer unconscious. She and Kane look at the controls, trying to figure out how to repair or deactivate them, when the rest of the team barges into the engine compartment.

Judge Putnam slots the tip of his cane into the remains of the throttle mechanism. Using the cane as an impromptu lever, he is able to safely bring the train to a stop on the bridge.

Dr. Black tends to the fireman as Jannsens, Thorne, and the others try to figure out what happened and why the engineer started up the train without orders.

In the midst of this Johnny notes a strange shimmering in the air, as if of rising heat, coming off of the engineer’s unconscious body. Thinking quickly, he casts some of the POWDER OF IBN GHAZI into the air, revealing an apparition with the face of one Mr. Smith. Smith flies toward the back of the train, his presence terrifying and terrorizing the train staff. The group follows after Smith, suspecting that he is going to try to return to his body.

Liam, seeing the group passing through the Recreation Car, picks the lock on his handcuffs and follows after them. He leaves a sputtering and disbelieving Featherstone chained to the table.

The Bridge

Dealing with Baggage

The group arrives in the baggage car to see that something is stirring beneath the bloody cloth on the stretcher within. The group, now certain that Smith is regenerating himself, surround the stretcher and attempt to hurt him badly enough to keep himself from healing. Johnny does very little damage and is seized and strangled by Smith. Vivian, amped up on terror and adrenaline, manages to pull Smith’s hand off of Johnny’s neck.

Dr. Black casts the Wrack spell on Smith, only to have it rebound on him and strike him with full force. Dr. Black curls up in an agonized fetal ball, and is out for the rest of the fight.

The group inflicts superficial damage on Smith, but not enough to keep him from acting. He sits up and, with a word and a gesture, blows out the side wall of the baggage car.

Mikhail, in a last-ditch effort to keep Smith from leaving, stabs at him with his enchanted Masonic blade. Smith snatches the sword from Mikhail’s grasp and leaps for the hole in the side wall.

Just as Smith leaps clear of the train, Judge Putnam raises his cane gun and opens fire, blasting Smith and filling the air with a red mist. Smith drops lifeless into the crevasse below, thus ending the fight and this stage of the adventure. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Orient Express Part Three: March 26, 1926 (Later)

Mikhail’s Interview

Mikhail, still reeking of turpentine, spins his tale about being abducted by a stranger and dragged into the baggage car to Janssens and Thorne. Thorne is skeptical of Mikhail’s story, and asks what Mikhail was doing by the baggage car when he knew he wasn’t allowed to go near there. Mikhail explains that he was walking Pushok. Thorne counters with the obvious fact that Pushok isn’t around. Mikhail screams, “MY DOG!”

The interview ends a short time later, with Mikhail immediately feeling to the recreation car to tell his friends, “Pushok ran in here. You found him. You put him in my cabin. Okay? Okay!”

He then goes to change his clothes.

Inspector Malachi Thorne

Liam’s Smarm and Kane’s Meditation

Liam ingratiates himself with his fellow passengers. He speaks to Greta and Ingrid, who have one of the rooms next to Smith, and tries to get information from them. He learns that Greta got up to use the WC at 2 am and noticed a terrible smell coming from the area in front of Smith’s door (which was also in front of Archie and Liam’s door). She found a porter, but by the time she brought him back, the smell had dissipated.

Liam also talked to the Abernathys, who have the cabin on the opposite side of Smith’s. He becomes suspicious of Mrs. Abernathy when she mentions that she doesn’t like or trust Detective Thorne. She then admits to not telling him anything. When pressed, she mentions that she woke up in the middle of a night from a nightmare, during which she was sure she heard some kind of chanting. Despite this, she refused to volunteer the information to Thorne.

Meanwhile, Kane has, while under observation from the judge and Johnny, been going to various locations and meditating in them. His plan is to open his mind and see if, by doing that, he can discover anything of interest. While on his travels, he also attempts to gain access to Smith’s cabin, but finds that it is locked.

Kane first meditates in the cabin he shares with Dr. Black, and finds nothing unusual. He then meditates in Johnny and Judge Putnam’s  cabin and finds himself briefly overpowered by an alien presence. He manages to expel the presence from his mind, but is shaken by the result.


Kane theorizes that the murders/attacks are progressing in a zig-zag pattern starting with the Countess’ room. He suspects that Vivian’s cabin might be the site of the next attack. He admits that his reasoning for this is tenuous, but it’s what he’s got to work with.

The group decides that they need access to Smith’s cabin. Johnny believes he can pick the lock, but would prefer to do it at night when there are fewer people around.

The group also thinks that they should talk to the rest of the passengers in Berth Car 8 to see if they can learn anything else. At around this time, it is suggested that Vivian make the acquaintance of Luci Martin. In part because she seems particularly astute, and in part because Vivian and Luci could share a cabin and be safer together.

Jannsens, the Conductor

Dwight Featherstone

Mr. Featherstone emerges from his stateroom and goes to the recreation car. He immediately makes a nuisance of himself, complaining about how the train staff have damaged his personal effects and so on. Several members of the group, including Liam and Dr. Black, insult Featherstone and fluster him so badly that he turns to depart.

At this point, for reasons that are unclear to everyone, Dr. Black picks up a breakfast roll and hurls it into the back of Featherstone’s head.

Featherstone wheels around and says, in a much coarser accent, “Oy, which one of you pillocks did that?”

Everyone in the recreation car reacts with stunned silence. Featherstone regains his posh demeanor and returns to his cabin.

Liam, recognizing a con artist when he sees one, goes to Featherstone’s cabin to confront him. He discovers that Featherstone has all of his luggage (including a large steamer trunk) in his cabin. Liam attempts to get Featherstone to drop the act, and even reveals his own real Irish brogue to do so. This, plus some further needling, causes Featherstone to break character. He grabs Liam, slams him against the cabin wall, and tells him—in a coarse Cockney accent—to mind his own goddamn business.

Liam reports back to the group. Everyone is now fairly certain that Featherstone is a criminal of some stripe, and possibly a smuggler. At this point, Dr. Black goes to confront Featherstone and attempts to pin the murder of the Countess on him.

Featherstone drags the doctor into his cabin and tells him the following. He was awake in his cabin and heard the Countess being murdered next door. He admits that he did not call for help or go to her aid, because he wanted to stay alive, thank you very much. As Dr. Black leaves, he apologizes for throwing the roll, which makes Featherstone apoplectic. Dr. Black slams the cabin door in his face and scurries back to the recreation car.

The Abernathys

During lunch in the dining car, Kane breaks the ice with the Abernathys by congratulating them on their recent nuptials. Mrs. Abernathy shows off her ring and chats about the couple’s honeymoon plans. It appears that Mr. Abernathy is Greek on his mother’s side, and wanted to take this opportunity to visit the “Old Country.”

Johnny confirms that Mr. Abernathy’s story is plausible by speaking to him in Greek and asking him where his family came from. After a hasty check of Google maps, the Keeper is able to have Abernathy reply with a real district in Athens.

Upon further questioning, Mrs. Abernathy once again reveals that she is afraid of Detective Thorne and suspects him of all manner of unpleasant things. Her husband opines that this he is German, and they are, by nature, terrifying. Mrs. Abernathy goes on to describe her nightmare experience from the previous evening.

This is enough for the majority of the group to rule them out as suspects.

Luci Martin

During dinner, Vivian politely asks to dine with Luci, who has spent most of the train ride writing feverishly in a notebook. Vivian finds Luci to be intelligent, perceptive, and dryly sarcastic. She learns that Luci is a Frenchwoman, from Paris, and is a reporter.

Luci says that, as Thorne has made no progress in discovering the murderer, she has taken it upon herself to solve the case. She has filled one of her notebooks with her observations of the other passengers and her details on the case. She has her suspicions, and she hopes to be able to discern which of the passengers is the murderer before they strike again.

Vivian explains her own thoughts on the murders and suggests that she and Luci team up. She also suggests that she and Luci, being unaccompanied young women on a train, share a cabin for the evening for safety and strength in numbers. Luci accepts.

During this conversation, Mikhail and Liam wander over to the table, sit down, and order drinks. Luci grills Mikhail about his misadventures with Thorne and asks him what he was really doing by the baggage car. When Mikhail says that he was walking his dog, Luci points out that Mikhail didn’t bring his dog with him to the baggage car.

Mikhail stammers and leaves. Many of the players note that they would like to play Luci should their own characters bite it, as she is both snarky and smart.

Eric Creagen

Creagen has spent the majority of his time on the train in his cabin. Judge Putnam, after hearing about the man’s interesting history from Johnny, decides to investigate further. He goes to Creagen’s cabin to introduce himself and spends some time talking history and archaeology with him. Creagen finally relaxes a little bit.

Later on, the judge invites Craegan to his cabin and asks him to bring the arm of the mysterious statue that he has acquired. The judge mentions to Johnny that this will allow them to observe Creagen more closely, and also allows Creagen to be more easily protected should the murderer strike.

Everyone else pointedly leaves Featherstone alone in his cabin and to his own devices, because they don’t like him very much.

Night Investigations

The interior train lights dim and the other passengers return to their cabins to sleep. Vivian accompanies Luci to her cabin to discuss plans. Creagen brings his statue arm over to Judge Putnam’s cabin to discuss it with him.

Meanwhile, Dr. Black sets up a watch in the hallway while Johnny and Kane break into Mr. Smith’s room.

Johnny picks the lock easily. He and Kane enter Smith’s cabin and find dried blood sprayed everywhere. Smith’s threadbare coat hangs on a hook at the door. The mattress of the cabin’s single bed is soaked in blood, as is the floor and the walls. Johnny notices that the attack was apparently so vicious that sections of the cabin’s carpet have been torn up in places.

Underneath one of these torn up sections of carpet, Johnny notices a sheet of old parchment. Its contents are in Arabic, which Johnny understands. It is apparently a Mythos spell and allows its caster to Astrally Project.


At about the same time as all of this is going on, Pushok starts barking and turning tight circles in his cabin. Mikhail tries to sooth him, to little affect.

Vivian feels an icy cold presence descend upon her mind, and she feels an almost irresistible urge to kill Luci Martin. Vivian manages to shake off this urge before she acts on it and before Luci notices.

A moment later, Judge Putnam is overcome with an icy cold presence and picks up the statue arm with the full intention of bringing it down on Eric Craegen’s unprotected head. He, too, fights off the alien presence controlling him. Craegen seems not to notice anything untoward, and continues on describing the statue arm.