Friday, February 26, 2021

Syria and the Movies Part Six: April 6-8, 1926

The Scoop

Kane Eastman visits Roseanne Bartlett in her hotel room. Kane, misinterpreting Ms. Bartlett’s approach, proceeds to casually start unbuttoning his shirt in her presence. This causes Ms. Bartlett to react with shock. Kane calmly replies that the room was just too warm, but that he can leave his shirt on. Ms. Bartlett is grateful.

Kane proceeds to weave some lies about Palm Tree Studios and the film’s delayed production in order to throw Ms. Bartlett off the trail. She is appropriately grateful for the juicy scoop, which includes a sordid love triangle between Raven, Anikov, and Batiste.

Ms. Bartlett attempts to pay Kane $50 for the information, but Kane demurs and says that all he wants is some information in return. After making her $50 bill disappear again, Ms. Bartlett tells Kane that she has heard rumors about another group who is sniffing around Palm Tree Studios. This group, who she thinks has gone out to visit the set in the Syrian Desert, is led by a Scotsman and seem to be looking for something. She doesn’t know any more than that.

Kane, happy that he has found something, but worried that there is a Scotsman in the area, bids Ms. Bartlett goodbye. Ms. Bartlett hints that, should Kane return with even juicier information, she might permit him to take off his shirt in her presence.

The Glasscutter

At Dr. Black’s request, Brother Theodore has made the acquaintance of a glasscutter in As Suwayda. The man spends the evening using his skills to transform the two camera lenses created by von Varnstein into two pairs of slightly more portable binoculars. Ron makes sure that the glasscutter doesn’t take any of the remaining lens fragments home with him.

The Accusation

Turki Nazar. Alien Monster?

Having heard Dr. Black describe Turki Nazar’s yellow socks, Ron is convinced that Turki is another incarnation of Nathan Torpley, Nellie Thompson, and Lostalus Black. Early in the morning, Ron confronts Turki Nazar and tells him that Ron knows who he really is. 

Turki asks if Ron has told other people, and is informed that “only the group” knows. Turki asks Ron to keep his secret private from other people, which Ron agrees to. Ron promises Turki a prize (the Ouroboros Ring of Nephrem-Ka) if Turki promises to leave the group alone—especially Vivian. Turki accepts.

April 7, 1926, Final Preparations

The next morning, the group (along with Brother Theodore, Turki Nazar, and James Raven), make final preparations before their journey out to the movie set. Judge Putnam receives word from the hotel desk that the book that he and Vivian reserved is now available in Damascus. Judge Putnam also receives two telegrams.

The first is from his secretary, Terrance, who says that he has been unable to find Anne Chantraine, and also that he expects that the Look to the Future group’s assets will be unsealed by another New York judge within the next few days.

The second is from Christopher Edwin, who tells the judge that, according to a colleague of his, it is possible to control the gate to the Nameless City so that one doesn’t have to arrive in the Well of Souls and be (presumably) annihilated. Edwin mentions that some other locations are “The Path of the Penitents” and “The Approach to the Bone Ziggurat.”

Ron begs a pinch of the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi from Johnny and surreptitiously throws it on Turki while he is helping to pack up the truck. Nothing happens to Turki. This only makes Ron more suspicious.

Terrance's Telegram to Judge Putnam

Cristopher Edwin's Telegram to Judge Putnam


The London Group, and their hangers-on, depart for the movie set. Johnny and the judge take the lead in the sports car, while Kane follows behind them in the truck. Thanks to the maps they brought, Turki’s knowledge of the area, and Johnny’s eagle eye, allow them to make their way to the canyon where the movie set is.

The group begins a gradual ascent toward some distant mountains, with Johnny following the scant tire tracks that haven’t been covered over by desert sand and wind. The area becomes rocky and, as the sun rises higher in the sky, very, very hot. The group decides to park their vehicles in the shadows of some large rocks and wait for the heat of the day to pass.

A Long Lunch Break

The group rests. James Raven sits in the back of the truck and curls himself into a fetal ball. Turki and Brother Theodore, who seem to have developed a good rapport, are also in the back of the truck playing cards. 

At some point during their stay, an elderly man comes down the mountain path, leading a very tired-looking camel behind him. The group approaches him  and, using Turki to translate, asks this wanderer about the immediate area in general and the movie set in particular. The wanderer begs them not to go farther, for beyond the mountains like a place called “the Canyon of Devils,” an evil place cursed by the Tahijuh.

During this conversation, several members of the group ask if the wanderer has anything to sell that might help them in the desert. The wanderer smiles and offers them a jar containing ointment that will drive off the desert flies. He offers to sell the jar to the group for $5 in either American dollars or French francs. The judge expertly haggles him down to $3, which the wanderer accepts.

Johnny converses with the wanderer a bit in Arabic. When it becomes clear to the wanderer that Johnny and his friends are going to be pushing on to the Canyon of Devils despite his warnings, the wanderer fetches a second jar from the pack on his camel. Using the kohl inside, he hastily scrawls a tree-shaped symbol on Johnny’s forehead. Then he departs.

Turki’s Confession

Ron quietly gathers the group together and tells them both of his conversation with Turki and his suspicions that Turki is secretly Nathan Torpley, et al. The rest of the group seems not particularly concerned ab out this, and Johnny even goes so far as to say that it’s “better that we have him with us, then.”

Frustrated, Ron leads the group to confront Turki. Dr. Black, who has come around to Ron’s side, greets Turki by calling him “Mr. Torpley.” Turki is confused and concerned as the group more or less surround him.

Ron insists that Turki come clean about all of his secrets. Turki, after ruefully looking at the group, agrees. “There’s no one around to hear this, anyway, and since Ron has told me you already know, I might as well just tell you…”

Turki goes on to say that he is ethnically Druze—something that Vivian had already guessed—and that he is actually an active member of the Druze Resistance. He has gotten a job at the French Embassy and uses his access to smuggle out information to the resistance fighters. Turki knows that the group are Europeans and Americans, and are likely on the French side, but he begs them not to reveal his secret to anyone else. The group more or less promises to keep his secret, with Johnny saying that he doesn’t much care either way, and with Brother Theodore chortling and saying that, as a German, he never liked the French.

Ron is furious, and is sure this is just a made up story to hide the fact that Turki is secretly, some kind of monster. He swears to get to the bottom of this.

Night Arrival

The Canyon

Sometime after four in the afternoon, the group resumes their trek up into the mountains. They reach the summit of the mountain range just as the sun is setting. Below them, wreathed in twilight shadows, is the Canyon of the Devils. The group easily spies a cluster of buildings that looks like the movie set, as well as an access road leading down out of the mountains.

The moment that the group begins to descend to the bottom of the canyon, they are all overcome with fear and dread. Brother Theodore mutters to Dr. Black that they are in an evil place, “the place of the adversary,” and that they must be cautious. Dr. Black and the group agree, and carefully drive the last few miles into the canyon.

They arrive at the movie set and park just outside of it. Several of the buildings are obviously just sets, made of canvas walls and able to be rearranged as needed. There  are also several more modern buildings with tin roofs that might have been used for storage and housing for the cast and crew of the film. Most interestingly, an ancient tower stands on the outskirts of the movie set, notable for it looking unlike any of the other buildings.

There is much discussion about what the group will do next and where and how they will rest for the evening. Dr. Black wants to find a building with as few doors as possible, so that he can ward against the invisible creatures with the group’s now sizeable collection of Elder Signs. The others in the group vacillate between finding a building to sleep in and just sleeping in the truck until morning.

At some point, Johnny mentions that he would like to have a look at the tower. Mikhail, Pushok (who is now garbed in dog armor and a small conquistador’s helmet), Judge Putnam, and Dr. Black decide to come with him. They will take one pair of binoculars, leaving the other with the group at the truck.

The Tower

Johnny, Mikhail, Pushok, Judge Putnam, and Dr. Black all venture into the tower. They quickly discover that it is simply a more permanent part of the movie set. They go upstairs and discover that the top room of the tower is the very place where the frightening scene staring Monica Anikov was filmed. A quick search of the room reveals several gruesome-looking three-toed footprints on the floor by the window.

A distant scream from the vehicles alerts them that something is amiss.

Pushok starts barking as a clattering bang echoes up from below. The group retreat down the staircase, where they see that a tall brazier, filled with coal, has been pushed over across the tower’s entryway. Johnny readies his shotgun as Mikhail scans the room with the binoculars. Mikhail sees a large, hideous form hunched behind a table, which he points out to Johnny. Johnny opens fire and misses badly, doing little but bring a part of the tower ceiling down nearly on top of them.

The group flees the tower and runs back to the vehicles, hoping their companions are all right.

What Ron Saw

Ron, still sure that Turki is actually a monster in human shape, decides to look at the Syrian translator through his pair of von Varnstein binoculars. He trains the lenses on Turki, who is again playing cards with Brother Theodore in the back of the truck. To Ron’s annoyance, he sees nothing unusual about Turki.


James Raven, who is sitting in the back of the truck by the cab, appears to be rocking back and forth and muttering to some huge, misshapen thing that Ron can now see. Ron, realizing that one of the invisible creatures is in their midst, shouts for Kane and presses the binoculars into his hand.

After arguing with Ron for a moment, Kane puts the binoculars to his eyes and looks in the truck. James Raven is sitting there quietly, alone. Kane is about to scold Ron for seeing things when he happens to raise the binoculars a bit and spy a huge, misshapen thing squatting on the truck’s roof. Kane lets out a yell as the creature dives off into the night.

Kane and Ron inform the others about what they have seen. Brother Theodore turns out to be most curious about what they’re talking about, and Ron takes that opportunity to press the binoculars into the monk’s hands. Brother Theodore looks through the glasses, but what he sees does something horrible to his mind. He collapses on the canyon floor, shrieking at the top of his lungs.

Ron's Player: "Oh, That's Not So Bad..."

An Appeal to a Higher Power

Johnny’s group returns from the tower and hastily convenes with the other group. They now know that the invisible monsters are here, nearby, and actively tormenting them. There is discussion about what should be done next.

During this discussion, Brother Theodore seems to mostly come to his senses. He tells Dr. Black that he must go back to the summit of the mountain range and petition his patron for aid. For the first time, Brother Theodore reveals what some in the group have suspected—that his patron is actually Nodens of the Great Abyss, an Elder God. Vivian informs Brother Theodore that she knows a ritual that allows her to contact Nodens. Brother Theodore invites her and Dr. Black to go with him. Johnny invites himself along as a fourth, and offers to drive the small group back up to the top of the mountain range.

The rest of the group hunkers down and tries to remain vigilant against their unseen threat while Vivian, Dr. Black, Johnny, and Brother Theodore reach the mountain top and cast the ritual to contact Nodens. At once, the quartet is covered in iridescent, alien fog that confounds their vision. Within this mist, they soon find a hitherto unseen mountain path that leads ever upwards toward a sky filled with alien stars.

Upon reaching the summit of this path, they find something like an ancient Viking longhouse, from whose doors spill a grey-white light. At Brother Theodore’s insistence, they enter and are confronted with an ancient, bearded man who is about nine feet tall. The man, presumably Nodens himself, does not seem particularly happy to see them.

Nodens castigates Vivian for bringing a relic of his most hated enemy into his presence. Dr. Black, realizing that Nodens is talking about the Dagger of Nephrem-Ka immediately tries to intercede on Vivian’s behalf. He tells Nodens that he’s the one responsible for the group having the dagger, and that any blame for its presence should fall upon him.

Meanwhile, Vivian reveals the dagger and holds it out to Nodens, offering it to him to do with as he wills. Nodens, seemingly mollified by this, allows Vivian to place the dagger in his outstretched hand. He then crushes the dagger into silver-grey dust.

The group attempts to prevail upon Nodens for aid with their current quest. Brother Theodore, still shocked by what he has seen, proves to be very confused and distraught when Nodens more or less refuses to aid them. He petitions Nodens one final time, but all that happens is that the mysterious fog rises up to swallow them all…

Nodens, the Lord of the Great Abyss

April 8, 1926, Final Preparations

Johnny, Brother Theodore, Vivian, and Dr. Black all awaken the next morning on the mountain top. They are arranged so that their feet are all pointed toward one another and so that their bodies form a cross on the ground. In the gap between all of their feet stands an oily black statue of a faceless, winged monster. The group has the impression that they can use this statue to summon the beast it represents to aid them. Once.

Thoroughly rattled from their experience, the quartet prepares to rejoin the others, only to discover that someone or something has torn the engine out of the sports car and deposited it in the car’s front seat. With no way to repair such catastrophic damage, the quartet begin their descent into the canyon on foot, hoping that their friends below are all right.

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