Saturday, March 27, 2021

Syria and the Movies Part Eight: April 8, 1926

Cave, Sweet Cave

The Cavern

The group searches the cavern. An ancient rockfall blocks a tunnel leading deeper into the mountains, and there are two ledges to the east and west that are accessible by ladder.

Mikhail takes two of the riding blankets from the eight, very bored, camels and tries to have Pushok get a scent off of them. Unfortunately, the stench of camel musk is too strong for Pushok to get anything else.

Kane and Dr. Black climb the ladder to the western ledge. They find a small hollow with the remnants of an ancient fire, as well as crude cave paintings. The rest of the group slowly files up the ladder to the eastern ledge, which is similar in size, but which has a passageway that goes further on to the east.

Ron takes the lead down the passageway, which ends in an L-bend that goes to the north. Placed at the bed is a low, sandstone altar covered with bits of pottery and offerings. There are also additional cave paintings here, depicting several large figures offering small figures to a goat-like monster. To the north, Ron notes the flickering light of a distant campfire. He also hears the sounds of someone talking from that direction, and so he sneaks back and informs the rest of the group.

Vivian and Johnny take a moment to examine the altar stone. They learn that it is definitely of Tahijuh make, thanks to Johnny remembering the one art class he took in high school. Vivian also finds and translates a Valusian inscription on the altar, which reads, “we raise this stone in thanks to MACBRIDE, in honor of Father Serpent and Mother Goat.”

Terror at the Cave Mouth

Some of the group go back to the entry cavern to warn Dr. Black and Kane that they may have found other people in the cave. Dr. Black takes up overwatch on the eastern ledge, while Kane remains at his post on the western ledge. The rest of the group go back down the passageway, douse their flashlights, and start to carefully approach the distant firelight.

While all this is happening, Turki Nazar—who has remained at the mouth of the cave with James Raven and Brother Theodore—runs in and reports to Kane that he has heard howling and seen “something that looks like a dust storm,” just outside of the cave. He tells Kane that it might be the invisible monsters, but that they seem unable to pass the Elder Sign that Dr. Black and Brother Theodore placed at the cave mouth.

Kane tells Turki to go back and keep watch. Then he descends into the entry cavern, grabs the six camel blankets unclaimed by Mikahil, and brings them back to his roost on the western ledge. He plans to drop them on the invisible monsters should they breach the Elder Sign and enter the cave. This will, Kane hopes, give him something to shoot at.

A Mostly Silent Approach

The others wait a few moments for their eyes to adjust and then begin advancing toward the flickering firelight. They soon arrive in another large cavern littered with boulders. The campfire stands at the center of the cave, ringed by a pair of sleeping bags and two large, modern-looking tents.

Ron also notes that someone has set up a large, tallow candle a short distance away from the firepit, and that the candle is smoking, as if it had been freshly extinguished.

Ron creeps up to the nearest tent and peeks inside. He sees two Turks, clad in olive drab and holding rifles, waiting in ambush. He returns to the group and informs them of this.

The group moves to surround both tents. Ron looks into the second tent and sees that it is also occupied by two Turks with rifles. He also realizes, just at this moment, that the rhythmic pinging of metal on stone that the group has been hearing since their arrival has stopped. Ron is concerned that he doesn’t know when the pinging sound ended.

The group quickly moves in to dispose of the Turks. Their plan is to either pull up the tent stakes or cut the tent ropes and have the tents fall in to trap the Turks. This works, and the Turks are surprised. Ron slashes at one of the trapped figures with his blessed knife, slicing through canvas and meat and ending the life of one of the Turks immediately.

The other three Turks fight their way out of the tents and into the cavern.

One of them is the Turk that Ron headbutted in the police wagon way back in Boston. He points his rifle at Ron and screams, “Like a fish!  LIKE A FISH!” Before he can raise his rifle to shoot Ron, Judge Putnam presses the muzzle of his shotgun cane to the Turk’s side and pulls the trigger, killing him instantly.

The remaining two Turks swiftly fall beneath the group’s concentrated attack, leaving them alone in the cavern.

The Second Wave

It is at this point that Johnny notices three men approaching from the mouth of a tunnel on the opposite side of the encampment cavern. Two of the men are dressed in cultist robes and masks and are carrying rifles. The third, to the group’s shock, is Duncan MacBain.

Goddamn Sassenachs!

While the judge reloads his shotgun cane, Johnny hefts his own shotgun and fires, shattering one of the cultist’s masks—and the face beneath it—with a well-placed slug. The second cultist, seeking vengeance for his friend, gut shoots Johnny with his rifle. Johnny collapses, unconscious, onto the folds of a tent beside the dead Turks.

Duncan MacBain shouts an invocation and a wave of crushing force smashes into the group, knocking them sprawling. Mikhail notices a strange glow coming from his jacket pocket as the wave strikes him—and suddenly recedes. Mikhail, unharmed, watches as the wave of force rebounds from him to smash MacBain against the cavern wall. Mikhail realizes that this is as a result of the protective effects of his corn mother doll, which is rapidly turning to ashes in his pocket.

Most of the group swarms MacBain and the surviving cultist, killing them, while Vivian runs back to the entrance cavern to fetch Dr. Black. Dr. Black arrives just as the battle ends and, with deft medical skill, manages to staunch Johnny’s wounds and bring him around. Johnny, feeling exhausted and woozy, returns to the entry cavern to rest and keep vigil with Kane.

The Inner Sanctum

The group proceeds to enter the passageway that MacBain and the cultists arrived from. This leads into another large cavern whose floor is covered by a shallow pool of water. At the far end of the cave, a rockfall blocks a passageway north into another area. The group notes that some work has already been done to clear away a portion of the rockfall, and that several picks and shovels are scattered throughout the area.

The group takes about forty-five minutes to clear away enough debris to make an opening between the shallow lake cave and the cavern beyond. Ron squeezes through this opening into a large, partially carved, rectangular cave with a thick, sandy floor. Ron’s flashlight throws deep, angular shadows onto the walls, and reveals numerous horrible cave paintings similar to those the group has found recently.

Ron notices one of the shadows moving very strangely. He draws his knife, just as a 20-foot black serpent (a truly gigantic specimen of walterinnesia aegyptia) slithers forward to attack. Ron goes toe to toe with the snake, badly wounding it with his knife, but getting bitten in the shoulder for his trouble.

Like This, But Bigger...

The rest of the group pours into the cave to help Ron. The giant serpent easily evades Judge Putnam’s shotgun blast, but Mikhail is able to wound it with his blessed Masonic blade.

Vivian, desperate to save her godfather, raises her hand and screams, “STOP!” in Valusian.

To everyone’s surprise, the snake pauses, staring at Vivian with its golden eyes.

This gives Ron an opportunity to jam his blessed blade into the bottom of the snake’s lower jaw and out the top of its head. This kills the snake instantly.

As the snake falls lifeless to the sandy earth, those in the group who know Valusian hear the voice of Yig, Father of Serpents, speaking into their minds. Yig is wroth with them for killing one of his children, and is especially angry at Vivian for presuming to use the words of its people to command one of its spawn.

Yig’s presence fades from the group’s mind, leaving them horrified, but relieved.

In the meantime, Ron begins to notice a slight, but painful, tingling in his extremities.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Syria and the Movies: Part Seven: April 8, 1926

The Missing

Ron, Kane, Mikhail, Judge Putnam, and Turki Nazar awaken at dawn the next morning, having had a fitful night of sleep in the foreboding canyon. Ron notices that Vivian, Johnny, Dr. Black, and Brother Theodore have not yet returned from their drive back up into the mountains and begins to organize a search for them. At about the same time, Mikhail notices that James Raven is also missing.

The team splits into two groups: Mikhail, Pushok, and Judge Putnam will set out in search of Mr. Raven, while Kane, Turki, and Ron will take the truck back up into the mountains to look for the others.

James Raven

Thanks to Pushok’s skillful nose, Mikhail and Judge Putnam quickly find James Raven. He has wandered about a mile to the north of the movie set before collapsing dehydrated among some rocks. The duo gives Mr. Raven some water, revives him, and discovers that he is now on a Three Musketeers kick. He explains to the pair (who he sees as Athos and D’Artagnan) that he attempted to go north to take revenge upon his enemies, led by the Countess D’Winter.

His ramblings cause both Judge Putnam and Mikhail to take a closer look at the area. While they don’t see anything of note in their immediate vicinity, Judge Putnam does spy what looks like a distant cavern in the mountains that border the canyon to the north. He suggests to Mikhail that they return Mr. Raven to the others, tell them about the cave, and then go and explore the cave later.

They are just about to depart for the movie set when, from out of nowhere, a giant rock smashes to the ground very close to Mikhail. Judge Putnam fireman carries James Raven as quickly as he can, while Mikhail uses the converted von Varnstein binoculars he “borrowed” from Ron to scan the area.

Mikhail is shocked to see a hideous creature, identical to the ones spied on the outtakes reel, using its gigantic crab claws to wrestle another boulder out of the ground. Mikhail draws his .45 and fires an enchanted bullet, only to be totally perplexed when the creature somehow blocks the shot with its rock.

The creature throws its rock, but this time it falls well short of Mikhail. Mikhail provides cover as he, Judge Putnam, Pushok, and James Raven flee back to the set. The creature does not follow.

Back the Way We Came

Ron, Turki, and Kane are all squished into the truck cab, with Ron driving and Kane riding shotgun. Ron, still suspicious of Turki, tries to dismiss and ignore him as Turki asks questions and offers advice during the drive.

The truck gets far enough up the mountain that Ron and his passengers can see Johnny, Dr. Black, Vivian, and Brother Theodore walking slowly down the pathway back to the valley and the movie set. Relieved that his companions are all right, Ron tries to drive a little faster, only to have the body of the truck clang and shake wildly.

Ron stops the truck while Kane gets out. He inspects the area around and underneath the truck and finds nothing that the vehicle could have struck during its ascent. Gun drawn, he moves around to the back of the truck, with Turki following close behind.

As Kane lowers the truck’s back gate, he sees something moving around in a pile of blankets inside. Concerned that it might be one of the invisible creatures, he takes a shot at it, but only succeeds in denting the back wall of the truck near the cab.

At this point, Ron has also left the truck and has come around the back. He goes into the truck to investigate, but finds nothing. However, as he is in there, Kane sees (and Ron feels) the truck’s shocks deflect, as if something heavy either got in or got out of it in a hurry.

Meanwhile, up the mountain, the group notices that Ron and company are having some issues with the truck. Dr. Black uses the second pair of lenses to scout the area, in the hopes that he can locate any invisible creatures and warn his friends.

After a lot of panic and flailing around, nothing else is discovered on the scene. Hoping that the creature has left, Ron drives up the mountainside, collects the others, and returns to the movie set.

Farewell, Ansaldo. You Were a Great Car For Ten Minutes!


The reunited group shares information and theories as they enjoy a late breakfast near the truck. Vivian, Dr. Black, Johnny, and a rattled Brother Theodore describe their meeting with Nodens and show off the strange statue that they acquired.

Vivian also breaks the news that Nodens destroyed the Dagger of Nephrem-Ka. At this point, Turki, who Ron suspects of being connected to the dagger, loudly swears an ill-timed oath. It turns out that he is not distressed about the dagger at all—he just wanted to smoke a cigarette and had mislaid his matches.

Ron passive-aggressively gives Turki his lighter, but only after popping out the flint. Turki, baffled at Ron’s poor behavior, asks Brother Theodore for some matches. The monk obliges.

Ron decides that he needs to take a walk or he’s going to punch something. He asks Vivian to accompany him, and the pair go off to explore some of the other buildings on the site.

The Storage Shed

Ron and Vivian go over to the nearest building—a windowless structure with a single door and a heavy-duty lock. Ron makes use of his by now familiar door opening technique to smash in the door, but only succeeds in bruising his shoulder. Vivian takes a moment to calm Ron down before deftly picking the lock.

The building appears to be the storage area for the film crew. The many industrial-duty shelves inside contain props, costuming, cameras, lights, and myriad other equipment needed for the shoot. Vivian and Ron explore the building, hoping to spot anything useful. Vivian finds a trunk containing three additional von Varnstein lenses, two flashlights, and an empty .22 rifle.

At that moment, one of the shelves nearest the door tips over and crashes, blocking the only exit from the building. Vivian and Ron realize that they have likely just been trapped inside by one of the invisible creatures and try to make a run for it. At that moment, Ron notices that something is trying to tip one of the shelves over on top of the pair of them. Ron lunges forward to grab the shelf and keep it from falling, while Vivian pulls out a knife and starts slashing blindly at the invisible creature.

A Daring Rescue

Back at the truck, the others hear shelves crashing and Vivian screaming. Turki and Brother Theodore offer to watch James Raven while the rest of the group rushes to investigate.

Judge Putnam and Johnny draw weapons while Kane, Dr. Black, and Mikhail struggle to clear the toppled shelf from in front of the doorway. Kane heroically exerts himself in this endeavor, badly tweaking his back, but successfully unblocking the door.

The group charges into the room. Mikhail stabs the invisible creature with his blessed Masonic blade, which weakens the creature enough for Ron to push the shelf up, over, and on top of it. The group surrounds the pinned creature and unloads their weapons into it. It thrashes and screams, narrowly missing Mikhail and crumpling another, nearby shelf with a single blow.

Mikhail thrusts his blade into the creature again, while Ron draws his blessed knife from his boot and plunges it into the creature, killing it. The group look on in horror as the creature more or less disintegrates into a puddle of caustic, reeking slime.

Relieved, the group beat a hasty retreat into the dry, clean desert air.

The Search Continues

The group decides to stay together and search the rest of the movie set. Looking in windows, they discover that two of the buildings are dormitories for the cast and crew. Ron shoulder checks a doorway into a third building that turns out to be divided between a kitchen and dining room for the cast and crew and a decked out feasting hall that appears to be part of the set.

The group goes through the kitchen and finds sufficient dry goods to sustain them for quite a while, should something unforeseen happen, as well as all the pots, pans, and utensils necessary to cook, serve, and eat them. The group also discovers that the kitchen was run thanks to a gas-powered generator, which they take great pains to get going again. Once they clean the sand out of the generator’s workings and give it a good, swift kick, it starts up right away, powering the building.

Ron searches the feasting hall area, but finds nothing. However, when he opens the front door of the feasting area, he notes several booted prints that belong to no one else in the group tracking through the dusty ground outside.

The group follows the prints and deduces that they have come from, and have returned to, somewhere to the north of the movie site. The group realizes that they are not alone, and that these other interlopers are likely based out of (or near) the cave that Judge Putnam and Mikhail discovered.

To the Cave

Nobody's Business But These Guys'

The group drives out to the northern mountains, where they find a narrow, much-traveled path leading up toward the cave. Unable to take the truck onto the path, the group continues on foot, traveling deeper into the mountains.

They soon come to a flat, open area next to a sheer cliff face. Atop the cliff is the entrance to the cave. Over the entrance to the cave, the group notice several large piles of carefully stacked boulders. They soon determine the purpose of these rocks when they find the nearby body of a man in olive drab that has been crushed by a boulder.

The man’s uniform triggers vestigial memories in the group. Johnny realizes that it is the same type of uniform worn by “the Turks” whom Bryan Slim had hired to guard the Look to the Future building in Boston.

As quietly and as cautiously as possible, the group continues their trek up the pathway, reaching the cave mouth without further incident. Vivian steps into the cavern a short distance and explores while Dr. Black and Brother Theodore place one of the group’s Elder Signs at the cave entrance. When questioned, Dr. Black explains that the Elder Sign should prevent creatures of the Mythos from entering the cave behind them, which will mean that any invisible creatures outside the cave remain outside.

Vivian comes back to report that the tunnel opens out into a larger cavern just ahead, and that that cavern seems to have been turned into an impromptu stable for several camels. Judge Putnam, who has insisted all along that the creatures spotted on the outtakes reel were camels, becomes outwardly smug.

As the group venture deeper into the cave, they hear the sharp, pinging sound of metal banging against stone. Johnny notes that there could easily be worse noises.