PCs Present: Ruby Khan, Father Rienolf, Simon Bailey, The Professor
[Writing this from two-week-old memory, so I’m sure there’ll be some gaps or innacuracies. If anyone catches something that I missed or goofed up on, just drop me a line or leave a comment and I’ll make the necessary correction(s).]
Events: We picked things up after last session’s cliffhanger ending—Worlsman surviving five point-blank gunshots—with the group wondering how to proceed against a seemingly immortal, unkillable foe. After the shooting Worlsman dismissed everyone, saying the ceremony would be ready for completion in a week’s time and to return then.
Upon arriving back in the City and rendezvousing at Scott Drake’s penthouse, the group was greeted with further bad news: Professor Niall had been delayed and would not be arriving for three more days. This message had been conveyed by Air Mail, along with a sealed envelope, which Professor Niall instructed the group to take to the law offices of Coutts and Winthrop while they were waiting for his arrival.
After a quick background check on the law firm (seemingly on the up and up), the group headed over the following afternoon and made the acquaintance of one Randolph Coutts, Esq. He opened the sealed envelope in their presence and, after a quick read, informed them that Professor Niall had sent permission for the group to access the Zebulon Pharr collection.
No one had heard of the collection before, but they trusted Professor Niall to send them in the right direction and so piled in to Mr. Coutts’ Packard sedan and headed down Market Street for the Ferry Building. There they took the same ferry across the Golden Gate that had brought them to El Profondo Ranch, but upon arriving in Sausalito the car took a different route, through Muir Woods and down towards the Pacific Coast.
The Zebulon Pharr collection was housed in an immaculate Mission-style mansion overlooking the ocean. Inside was housed the personal library of famed 19th-century anthropologist Zebulon Pharr. As the afternoon waned, the group pored over Pharr’s personal notebooks, looking for clues about Worlsman. They didn’t find anything directly connected to Worlsman, but they did find a reference to a ceremonial robe that matched the type Worlsman had worn at the last ceremony. Tracking back from this, they found the robe was connected to the worship of deity venerated by certain decadent shamans and medicine men along the West Coast, known as “The Father of Earthquakes, Shudde M’ell, greatest of the Walkers Beneath, or Chthonians!” A note had been added in the margin—at a later date, presumably, for it was in ink: “Merciful heaven, can it be? Do they walk beneath our city streets and we know it not? I fear we have but felt Him stirring in his sleep. Let us pray that no-one wakes Him or we shall perish utterly. 1906.”
They also found notes from the several months in the 1860s that Pharr spent with a local medicine man named Coyote Runs Backward, who was increasingly concerned about the return to the region of someone called “He Who Casts No Shadow,” a name which could be translated both as “The Soulless One” or “The Deathless One.” Coyote Runs Backward seemed to fear this person’s ability to talk to “the walkers beneath,” who he said could “eat up a whole tribe.”
Their researches at the Pharr collection were not done yet, however. As darkness gathered outside, Mr. Coutts, acting on instructions in Niall’s letter, took the group to a fireproof safe set into the wall of the main library. From within the safe he withdrew an ancient book that looked to be at least 500 years old. It was written in Latin, so Father Rienolf did the honors of reading the passage Niall had indicated should be consulted:
“Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key andguardian ofthe gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where they shall break through again. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once, They shall soon rule where man rules now. They wait patient and potent, for here shall they reign again.”
Reading the passage left Father Rienolf sweating and shaken, and everyone repaired to the parlor for drinks before heading home.
The following day, Simon, acting on evidence he’d seen at the ranch, called in a tip to the Marin County sheriff’s office that El Profondo was running a bootleg winery operation. He also saw to acquiring a shipment of grenades Father Rienolf had arranged through the Bailey Import-Export Company.
The next day, Ruby began to hatch a plan to return to El Profondo and do some snooping [can’t remember the exact reason…any help?]. She hired two Pinkerton agents to accompany her on a nighttime infiltration that evening. They took the ferry and drove out to El Profondo, parking on the far side of the vineyards. The loud whirr of Worlsman’s jacuzzi cooling machines provided ample cover for their infiltration through the vineyards. The breeze created by the machines overhead caused the vines to wave in a eerie fashion, but it was nothing to when, about halfway through the vineyards, Ruby—second in the file making its way up a path between the rows of vines—was sprayed with warm blood!
The headless body of the Pinkerton who had been taking point could just be seen in the shadowy moonlight. Squinting through the gloom, Ruby could make out the deadly trap: one of the jacuzzi machines had been inverted so that its spinning propeller blade was right about head level! Unwilling to continue, Ruby and the other detective retreated with the body of their luckless companion.
Ruby arrived back at the St. Francis Hotel, her clothes stained with blood. She related the tale of her aborted attempt to sneak into the Worlsman complex, and the group resolved to try again all together, this time with the stated intention of returning to Worlsman’s crypt to see if Father Riefnolf’s dynamite had done its job.
The next morning, the group noted with dismay a small article in the Chronicle about a raid on the El Profondo Ranch vineyards that had failed to turn up any evidence of illegal wine making. Clearly Worlsman had the local authorities in his pocket. Around noon, Professor Niall arrived at the St. Francis by taxi from the Ferry Building and immediately set to work getting up to speed with the group. His manner was crisp and impatient, not bothering with petty formalities or trivial conversation.
Niall had brought a copy of the scholarly journal De Magistri Draconi in which his original article on homunculi had appeared.
“Your correspondence gave me great cause for concern,” Niall explained. “My article, based on a passage in the Malleus Maleficarum, examined how a sorcerer could create a sort of reverse voodoo doll in which all the harm that befell the enchanter would be transfered to his simulacrum. I believe the article struck too close to home for Worlsman’s comfort, and he republished my article with telling changes made to the conclusion. Had he not panicked in such a way, he would never have drawn attention to himself,” Niall added with a wry grin.
The group then went on to tell Niall about Worlsman’s preparations at El Profondo.
“It is as I feared,” Niall said. “Based on what you told me in your telegram, I feared Worlsman was working to contact Yog-Sothoth. It sounds to me like his aims are far more drastic than I had dared imagine.”
The group then told Niall about their attempted dynamiting of Worlsman’s homunculus.
“A worthy attempt,” said Niall, “but perhaps futile. If you destroyed the simulacrum, then Worlsman can never be killed. But I do not think that’s possible. I think only the creator of such a creature can truly destroy it.”
“So we have to get Worlsman to destroy his own homunculus?” came the incredulous question.
“It’s a tall order, I admit,” said Niall sadly.
“Too bad we can’t get the homunculus to go after Worlsman,” Drake piped up from a darkened corner.
“Of course!” Niall exclaimed, slapping his forehead. “From the mouths of babes…”
Niall then dispatched Ruby into the city to gather a laundry list of strange alchemical and occult devices and ingredients.
Niall’s news only redoubled the group’s resolve to discover the fate of the homunculus. That night they departed once again for El Profondo. Father Rienolf made sure to bring plenty of dynamite.
Forewarned by Ruby, the group was able to sneak through the vineyards without falling victim to the inverted jaccuzzi machines, which were distributed all over the grounds. Theorizing that the vibration of the machines might also be serving some purpose to do with contacting the underground chthonians, Rienolf made sure to rig several jaccuzzis with time bombs set to blow an hour before dawn.
The group then proceeded to the Worlsman family crypt. This time, after hopping the fence, they found the crypt doors locked. Ruby made short work of the lock, however, and soon they were descending once again into the dark crypt. They found evidence of the explosion on the walls in the form of smoke and shrapnel damage, but all the coffins were intact and in the same positions as last time they were there.
This time the group went about opening the four coffins set in niches before addressing the central coffin. The two coffins labeled with the names of Worlsman’s deceased mother and grandmother did indeed contain moldering corpses, but the two coffins labeled with the names of Worlsman’s father and grandfather contained only bricks wrapped in canvas.
The central coffin was then opened; the simulacrum was there, unharmed by the dynamite but bearing five fresh bullet wounds in its torso. It appeared Niall was right! The group took the carpet they’d brought along to help in scaling the spiked fence and wrapped the simulacrum up. They then snuck back to the car with the body in the carpet, loading it in the trunk and making a beeline back to San Francisco.
Arriving back at the hotel well after midnight, the group found Niall in his room on the 12th floor. Sweating and a bit wild-eyed, Niall invited them in. There they found that he’d rolled the carpeting back and pushed his bed against the wall in order to draw a pentagram on the floor. In the center of the pentagram sat a glass phial and two scroll tubes. The group triumphantly revealed its prize, unrolling the simulacrum from the carpet onto the floor of Niall’s room.
The professor was impressed with the group’s resourcefulness.
“Well done!” said Niall. “I can now show you in person what the powder in the glass phial is for.”
With that, Niall retrieved the container, uncorked it, and sprinkled a golden dust over the homunculus. The dust seemed drawn to the creature’s skin like a magnet and, upon contact, was quickly absorbed.
“This is a rough approximation of an ancient Egyptian alchemical formula known as the Dust of Osiris,” Niall explained. “The true formula has been lost, and I have spent many years attempting to reconstruct it. In its pure form, the Dust is said to bring animation back to the dead; since our friend here is actually half-alive, hopefully this corrupted formula will suffice.”
Niall then took one of the scroll tubes and withdrew a parchment square.
“This is a Square of Saturn. It is similar to the Square of Mars Worlsman used to kill the detective I hired, but it is a square of uniting.”
He then placed the square on the homunculus’s chest, where it seemed to glue itself to the creature’s flesh. The numbers in the magic square began to glow slightly.
“The trick, then, will be to slip the other square onto Worlsman’s person. Do it as close as you can to the time of the ceremony, when Worlsman will be most distracted and least likely to counter the square’s magic.
So tasked, the group took the following day to rest up before embarking once again for El Profondo and the final ceremony. Arriving at the ranch mid-morning the next day, they found the grounds a beehive of activity. Father Rienolf noted with satisfaction the gaps in the vineyards where once had stood jacuzzi machines. Whatever wreckage was left had been cleared away by this point, but obviously his bombs had gone off as planned. The group also noted the stone tower near the ranch house had been completed and now stood about 30 feet high.
In the trunk of their car the group had brought their luggage. Scrunched up in the largest steamer trunk was Worlsman’s simulacrum; Niall had explained that once the Square of Saturn was placed on Worlsman, the homunculus would come to life and attempt to unite with its master. The closer the creature was to the sorcerer when this happened, the better.
The group met up with Daphne Bell, who directed them to their rooms and informed them that the ceremony was due to take place that night after dark. They were to spend the day practicing their mantras in their rooms, as Mr. Worlsman would be down in the cellar once again engaged in preparations of his own.
The group split up at this point. Ruby and Professor Wood returned to Worlsman’s private office to see if they could find anything else of interest. Returning to the safe behind the portrait of Wurtzman, Ruby correctly deduced the alphabetical combination: Y-O-G-S-O-T-H-O-T-H. Inside the safe she found the deeds and titles to Worlsman’s ranch and residence in the city as well as the two Leontov books stolen from the Civic Center library. She took everything while Professor Wood tried to set a booby trap in the safe with one of Rienolf’s grenades. He instead nearly succeeded in blowing himself up, and the two burglars beat a hasty retreat.
Meanwhile, out on the grounds, Father Rienolf stole around, setting more time bombs…
Meeting back in their quarters, the group waited out the remainder of the day, going over their plans for that evening…
Summoned by a bell, the group headed downstairs after sunset, meeting up with other Society members, all of whom were whispering excitedly about the night’s coming events. Simon had hoped to slip the Square of Saturn into Worlsman’s robes but didn’t find the right opportunity. Having received their own robes, the group and other participants followed Worlsman and Miss Bell out to the stone tower. The grounds were lit by torches held by Worlsman’s inscrutable guards and the sorcerer turned to address the assembled crowd. With a mad gleam in his eyes, he began to speak: “Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall rule where man rules now. Yonder city shall be one with Kadath in the cold waste, but its passing shall procure their coming!”
As Worlsman turned to ascend the tower, Father Rienolf rushed forward, initiating the group’s “Plan B”—Rienolf had the Square of Saturn concealed in the palm of his hand, and he caught Worlsman in a hearty embrace.
“My lord! We will follow! Thank you for the revelations you have brought us!” Rienolf cried, pretending to sob in ecstasy. Worlsman gingerly extracted himself from Rienolf’s bear hug, clearly checking his revulsion. Instead, he forced an ingratiating smile and patted Rienolf on the shoulder and turned back for the tower. The group all saw, much to their delight, the Square stuck to Worlsman’s back, right between the shoulder blades, glowing softly.
The other Society members began their ritual chants as Worlsman reached the top of the tower. The sorcerer began to intone a terrifying chant as an icy wind sprang up out of nowhere. A ragged cloud began to coalesce above the tower as the group glanced around nervously. Then, above the wind and Worlsman’s unearthly chanting, they heard screams of alarm. The homunculus was emerging from the darkness! It was surrounded by glowing motes of light, the square on its chest glowing radiantly.
As if on cue, Rienolf’s bombs began to go off, painting the dark grounds with orange fiery light. Simon rushed forward, pretending to scream as well and disrupting the ceremony further. Worlsman, sensing something was wrong, looked down and saw the homunculus beginning to ascend the stairs of the tower.
“No! It cannot be! Not now!” he screamed. “Yog-Sothoth! Save me! NOOOO!”
The homunculus had reached the top of the tower and moved to embrace Worlsman. As soon as they touched, there was a terrific flash of light and the group saw a figure crumble to dust atop the tower and another plunge to the ground. Rushing forward, they saw what appeared to be the homunculus but wearing Worlsman’s garb. The creature that had once been Worlsman now lay dead at last.
The wind had died as soon as Worlsman hit the ground, but was now replaced by a low, insistent rumbling and distant chanting that seemed to be coming up from the very ground! The group high-tailed it for their car, Professor Wood scooping Daphne Bell up and hoisting her over his massive shoulders. As a tremendous crashing, rending sound reverberated behind them, Rienolf peeled rubber and drove at breakneck speeds along the winding roads leading away from El Profondo, none of the passengers daring to look back [party poopers!].
Strangely low-key stories in the paper the next few days reported on the apparent complete destruction of El Profondo ranch by what appeared to be a highly localized seismic event. Daphne Bell returned to her family in Pennsylvania, swearing off the occult for good. Ruby began the process of transferring ownership of the Worlsman Residence at 206 Hyde St. to her name and the group heaved a collective sigh, knowing that they saved the city of San Francisco and quite possibly the world from a terrible fate.