Friday, April 2, 2021

Syria and the Movies Part Nine: April 8, 1926


Dr. Black attempts to treat Ron’s snake bite. This is made much easier thanks to the fact that Ron’s fang wounds are unusually large and easy to clean out. It also helps that Ron did not take a full dose of the snake’s venom. Ron retains the tingling in his extremities, for now, but is told that he will probably survive being envenomed. Ron is thrilled.

Searching the Cave

Ron and Johnny rejoin the group as they thoroughly search the cave. They quickly discover that a large stone tile lies hidden beneath the sand on the floor. This tile is engraved with further images of the Goat and the Serpent, along with writing in Valusian that indicates that the tile, or what it covers, is a gateway to the gateway of the Nameless City.

The group discovers that the tile is inset into the stone floor of the cavern and might be covering something, but that it is far too heavy to lift without industrial equipment.

While the rest decide what to do, Mikhail brings James Raven into the room, along with Turki and Brother Theodore, and starts using quotes from “The Count of Monte Christo” to get further information about his “friends,” the invisible monsters.

James, at this point, has moved on and seems to be channeling “The Three Musketeers,” and continuously refers to Mikhail as D’Artagnan. James now seems to believe that he is Athos, and that the cavern complex is a holding of the Countess D’Winter.

This façade crumbles the moment that James lays eyes on the tile. In a rage, he grabs one of the picks left behind by the cultists and begins assaulting the tile with manic fury. Mikhail and Ron tackle one another, and James, in their attempt to stop the mad actor.

While they calm James. Kane inspects the tile. It appears that James, in his fury, has cracked it in half, and has created a small hole that Kane can peer through. Kane can tell that there is a void underneath, but can’t determine how deep it is or what it contains.

At Kane’s direction, the group pry the two halves of the tile out of the floor and, using tools and a great deal of effort, manage to slide them apart to create a wide gap.

The Cache and the Mosaic

Beneath the tile is a rectangular, two-foot-deep pit decorated with a colorful mosaic on the bottom. The mosaic depicts the most detailed rendition that the group has yet seen of the Goat and the Snake, as well as several other monsters of fanciful design. There are also glyphs placed around the edge of the mosaic, and Johnny immediately realizes their occult significance—this mosaic is, in fact, a magical gate.

 Resting atop the mosaic are the following:

  • A sheaf of rotting, yellowed parchment. These contain a ritual that allows the caster to turn the willing participant into an invisible monster.
  • Five vaguely humanoid terracotta statues.
  • A sixth terracotta statue that has been smashed into pieces.
  • A curious rectangular stone block surmounted by a statue of a two-headed snake.

One of the Terracotta Statues

The End of the Hunters

The group presumes that the terracotta statues are the reliquaries of the invisible monsters plaguing the Canyon of Devils. They also presume that the shattered terracotta statue represents the invisible monster that they killed in the storage shed. The group decides to try and break the terracotta statues to see what happens.

Dr. Black returns to the mouth of the cave and stands watch over the pathway that leads back into the canyon. Once he has situated himself there, the others smash the terracotta statues to pieces. Dr. Black hears inhuman shrieks of pain and anguish echoing around the valley. He watches, with no small measure of relief and satisfaction, as five barely visible outlines shudder, shimmer, and collapse into piles of acidic slime.

He returns to the rest of the group and proudly reports the hunters’ destruction.

The Two-Headed Serpent

The group assumes that the two-headed serpent statue is a powerful artifact of Yig and his cult. There is much discussion of what to do with this statue, and the group ultimately decides that they should destroy it.

The statue proves to be immune to mundane weaponry. Mikhail, reasoning that magic weapons may be necessary, loads one of his enchanted bullets into his gun and fires at the statue. The magical bullet damages the statue, but doesn’t destroy it.

Dr. Black realizes that it is time to test the might of Marcus’ reforged gladius. He steps up to the statue and, with two mighty swings, cleaves the statue effortlessly into three pieces.

The Two-Headed Serpent Statue, Pre-Cleaving

The Gate

The group then discusses what they know of the Nameless City and what they expect to find on the other side of the gate. After an intense debate, it is decided that Dr. Black will perform a ritual to open up the gateway, but that the group will not go through it. Instead, Judge Putnam send the drone he acquired from Look to the Future through the gate. He, and the rest of the group, will then be able to use the monitor on the drone’s controls to see what awaits them on the other side.

As Dr. Black begins the ritual, he will realize that it will cost him significant mental effort to both open the gate and keep it open long enough for the drone to explore the far side and return. Rather than use all of his magical power in the initial opening, he decides to call upon the unlocking power of his YOLE key to aid him in the ritual. This works, though several more teeth fall off of the key.

While Dr. Black holds the gate open with his willpower, Judge Putnam sends the drone forth. On the monitor, the judge sees that the far side of this gate opens out near the volcanic plain of As-Safa. The judge pilots the drone around various cinder cones. He eventually spots an encampment in As-Safa of what appear to be Syrian rebels. In order to avoid detection, he pilots the drone away from the encampment and back through the gate.

Travel Plans

The group decides not to use the gate to travel to As-Safa. Dr. Black is only too happy to let it close on itself and disappear.

Realizing that the terrain at As-Safa might be too difficult for their truck, they decide to bring the cultists’ camels along with them as backup conveyances and traveling companions. It turns out that Mikhail, possibly through his experiences of training with Pushok, is able to get the camels do more or less what he asks them to do. He becomes the group’s camel jockey.

Johnny redistributes the group’s essential equipment, packing the essentials on the camels and sending the rest back through his gate box luggage to Judge Putnam’s carriage house. This will leave the truck largely empty of goods and allow the group to instantly switch over from vehicle to camelback once they reach the volcanic plain.

Ron travels back to Staten Island, via the luggage, to help with the redistribution of the group’s resources. As he arrives in New York, Ron discovers that there is a sealed letter in the Staten Island gate box that is addressed to him. It is apparently from Luca.

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