Horror on the Orient Express Nouveau
Arriving in Lausanne Switzerland at 6:45 AM the PC’s have time to get some coffee and ask around for a place to stay. After securing hotel rooms they go looking for the authors of the letter to the Lorien’s.
Arriving at the address on the letter they find themselves at a taxidermists shop run by Edgar and William Wellington. Edgar cares for his brother, disabled from the Great War.
Discussing the scroll that the Wellington’s have:
- He acquired the scroll during the war, trading it from a Frenchman in exchange for rations and cigarettes. The owner was named Raoul Malon, who said only that it had been in his family for some time.
- The scroll is a confusing mixture of Turkish words written in Arabic letters, and he has been able to translate little of it.
- The scroll refers to an artifact known as the Sedefkar Simulacrum, a humansized statue either made in or found in the rubble of Byzantium.
- Of the simulacrum, its last owner was a French nobleman, a Comte Fenalik, who lost it after arrest and imprisonment just prior to the French Revolution. All trace of it has since vanished.
- His research hit a dead end and that now he is willing to part with the scroll he possesses in order to help pay for the care of his brother.
While discussing the sale the front doorbell rings and Edgar returns with “my old friend, the Duc des Esseintes.” The Duke is an amateur occultist like himself, and who is also interested in the scroll. Before going any further the Duke wants to see the Scroll. Edgar responds that he would love to oblige
except that it rests in a bank vault at present. Amicably he suggests that the investigators come along to a meeting of the 7:30 Club tonight, where a deal can be made regarding the scroll, and a pleasant evening had by all.
This agreed upon by all and Edgar asks the Duke to show the PC’s around town. His tour includes the Cathedral, Cantonal Museum and Library, Le Signal, and the cafe Le Chat Noir where they will be meeting this evening. At this point the Duke takes his leave and PC’s then wait until that evening to meet with the others.
Going to Le Chat Noir that evening they are greeted by Maximillan von Wurtheim, the third member of the 7:30 Club. He apologizes for the other members lateness due to business and says they will be arriving shortly. The charismatic Max spins tales of his history and misfortunes for quite a while. After a couple of hours some PC’s leave to check on Edgar at his home/shop while the rest return to the hotel.
The front door of the shop is slightly ajar when they arrive. Searching the house the downstairs is fine but the upstairs area is in shambles. In the kitchen William is dead by stab wounds to the belly and back, a bloody knife dropped beside him. His shirt has been ripped open, and a large flap of skin has been cut from his back. The expression on his face is one of utmost horror. Edgar’s body lies cold and dead upon his bed .Medical doctors or
pharmacists suspect drug overdose as the cause of death. An examination of the corpse uncovers two fresh needle marks, one among many
in the left arm which Edgar (being right-handed) probably made, and a single one in the right arm, difficult for Edgar.
The following clues are found:
- A receipt, left on Edgar’s writing desk. The receipt bears today’s date, and is from a local stationer. It is for sealing wax and fine parchment.
- An empty morphine bottle and below, on the floor, an emptied syringe.
- A scroll hidden beneath Edgar’s bed. The scroll is elaborately tied, and sealed with fresh red wax. The PC’s determine that this is a forgery and upon breaking the seal and opening it find it to be blank.
- A green bottle, mostly full, on which is a label, “Dream Lausanne.” The container is about the size of an ink bottle. The contents looks remarkably like muddy water. Holding it up to a strong light, an observer can detect tiny silvery particles suspended in the dank fluid.
- Edgar’s diary, open on the floor
The PC’s take all the clues of interest and then one leave to report the murders to the local police while the other returns to the hotel to tell the others. The PC with the police convinces them of his innocence and good intentions using his own status as a police officer in England and quickly returns to the hotel.
At the hotel the others have read the diary and deduce that the real scroll is somewhere in “Dream Lausanne” which can be accessed by the drug in the green bottle. Everyone but the Turk takes a drink of the drug and passes out in the hotel suite.
They awaken in the same hotel suite but the lights are replaced by candles and all items of technology are replaced by equivalent items from circa 1400 AD. Leaving the hotel the sky has a rich purple tint, like a permanent dusk. Street intersections are occasionally adorned by gibbets, many of them
occupied. Everywhere the investigators perfectly understand the language and the writing, though it is not English, or French, or recognizably anything else. People wear medieval costume and they are streaming uphill towards the cathedral, in the direction of the tolling bell.
Arriving at the Wellington’s taxidermist shop the front door stands open. The shop is reassuringly familiar, yet it is not the same shop they
left hours ago. Here everything is more primitive. In place of electric lights, for instance, torches burn on the walls.
- The front door stands open, with evidence that it has been forced recently.
- The front room is still a show room, but the animals have been so crudely preserved that many of them are decaying.
- The door to the rooms in the upper level cannot be opened by any means.
- The study is in disarray. The writing implements are vellum and quills, but are scattered across the room.
- The store room stinks of rotting meat. The badly-stuffed bear is a festering horror.
Despite their best attempts, the PC’s searching of the house does not turn up the scroll or any other clues.
After a series of strange encounters and interludes the PC’s finally make their way to the top of the hill and the cathedral where everyone is gathering.
In the Place de la Palud is a huge crowd and at the center of it rises a large platform. Upon the platform are three figures: a bronze statue with no hands that had been previously seen at the cathedral, a hooded robed figure, and Edgar bound in chains. The hooded figure then speaks and unveils itself as the Duc des Esseintes calling himself the Prince. Edgar is being tried for treason for withholding the scroll from the Prince. The PC’s volunteer to serve as his advocates. The Prince calls for and receives a volunteer who then has his skin torn off by the crowd. Using the flayed skin the Prince drapes it over the statue and casts a spell that animates it to serve as the judge.
Speaking briefly to Edgar the PC’s are told he was resting in the shop after arriving to get the scroll and was taken by the Prince’s men. He does not know why he has been arrested nor why his “friend” has turned on him. He offers to give the PC’s the scroll if they save him. When told he is already dead he refuses to believe it.
After three sets of accusations and rebuttals the judge decides to rule in favor of the PC’s defense. The chains fall away and the PC’s leave the square with Edgar as the crowd parts and the Prince throws a tantrum on the platform. Just as they clear the square the Prince shouts for the crowd to bring the PC’s and Edgar back to him. Fleeing through the streets the PC’s avoid the mob and get back to Edgar’s house. Edgard retrieves the Scroll of the Head from inside the horrific stuffed bear and presents it the PC’ just as the mob starts breaking down the door. Edgar leads them to the back door of the house which opens onto a featureless plain and sky the color of ash with another door standing by itself in the distance.
The PC’s flee out the door but Edgar finds he cannot cross the threshold and is torn apart by the mob next to the open door as the PC’s retreat. They exit through the other door on the plain and awake back in the hotel just before dawn. They still have the scroll from their dream.
Realizing that the Prince would probably still pursue them to get the scroll in the waking world they decide to board the train as soon as they could. Using one PC’s artisan skills they decide to recreate the wax seal on the fake scroll using the materials in the Wellingtons’ house before they leave. Once on the train they are having breakfast when the Price is seated with them at the table. The Prince congratulates them on their success and threatens them with horrible torment and death if they do not give him the scroll. So they give him the fake scroll and he magically teleports away in the middle of the Orient Express dining car. Thankfully, no one else saw him vanish.
The PC’s then open the real Scroll and start to examine it.