Wednesday, 6 May 2009
The Lamberley Terror
Kevin Cooper. Ex-soldier. (Stephen R)
Claudia Henshaw. BBC World Service journalist. (Manoj A)
"Mad Frank" Nicholson. Financial consultant. (Ben F)
Christina Palmer, "security advisor". (Jon D)
Three months passed, during which Kevin and Frank wandered, lost in a haze of insanity, and Claudia continued her researches into Stardust Investigations, before going on a sanity-soothing holiday to the United States. The team reunited at the Stardust offices, where Haruki Maru asked them to investigate reports of unusual animal attacks in the small Sussex village of Lamberley. He suspected tabloid hyperbole, but requested that the group investigate just in case. They were also introduced to Christina Palmer, a new employee who was on her first job for the company.
The team set about researching the village, finding a small number of notable mentions through the years. The village manor house, Lamberley Hall, had a long history, including use as a prison during the Civil War, and was known as having one of the finest non-academic libraries in the country; Frank's interest was piqued by this titbit. They also discovered that there were reports of a "vampire" plaguing the village in 1896, reports somewhat similar to the latest wave of attacks, as well as sightings of a large grey canine creature across Sussex, including near Lamberley, in 1939. The investigators also got hold of a map of the village and Cooper began to plot the attacks and sightings, hoping to find a pattern; looking at the map, Frank saw what he was sure was the Yellow Sign in the shape of the village, and became quite disturbed, certain that the settlement had some connection to Hastur and the King in Yellow.
After a couple of hours putting together an inventory of investigative equipment, the team headed down to Sussex in Frank's van. Arriving at the village, they split up, with Frank and Christina going to Lamberley Hall to investigate the library, and Claudia and Kevin going to interview the victims of the attacks. At the manor, Frank and Christina considered joining an official tour of the house, but instead made their own way to the library; on the way, the young "security advisor" noticed that one of the windows had been sealed with electrical tape, and taking a closer look, noted that it had recently been forced open and the connection to the alarm system cut. In the library, Frank found a copy of The King in Yellow on one of the shelves, which he then attempted to take, drawing disapproval from the security staff. While Frank caused a distraction with his strange behaviour, Christina palmed the book (which looked like Crop Rotation in the Sixteenth Century to her) into a fold of her jacket and then left the building.
Meanwhile, the soldier and the journalist interviewed two of the recent attack victims. They assembled a rough picture of the creature, literally in Claudia's case as she got out her art materials, and also found out some local gossip, including the recent tragic death of a local girl, Lucy Elton, from some unknown ailment. They were unable to meet with the third witness/victim, so decided to return the next day, meeting up with their colleagues at the village pub, where they managed to secure a room for the night. At the pub, they compared notes, Frank displayed his find (which looked like Crop Rotation in the Sixteenth Century to everyone else), and Cooper noticed a man at the bar watching them. Heading over for a casual chat, the ex-soldier discovered that the fellow was over from the US investigating the animal attacks for his website, cryptoquest.com; he became quite interested when he discovered that the group were also on the same trail, and he and Cooper made a tentative agreement to share information.
The next day, the investigators travelled just north of the village to visit the last of the witnesses, a farmer who had seen something fast and grey bothering his sheep. His recollections backed up those of the other witnesses, and he also showed them the remains of one of his animals, which he had been keeping in order to show his insurance agents. By all appearances, the poor creature had been torn apart by something much larger and more ferocious than the local fauna. Farmer Myles also confirmed the story of Lucy Elton's death, but could not understand why the team were so interested.
Cooper sensed a connection between the attacks and the deceased Elton daughter, and suspected the father of dark dealings. The group then went to Elton's house for an interview, finding the man a distraught emotional wreck. As Claudia And Kevin sat down with Elton, Frank and Christina sneaked off to investigate his home, the former searching the kitchen and garden, while the latter looked upstairs. Christina found a large number of prescription sedatives in the bathroom, a pristine child's bedroom that had all the feel of a shrine, and a bundle of photocopied sheets in an unknown language (Frank later confirmed it as mediaeval Latin) under the bed in the master bedroom. Downstairs, Frank raided the kitchen for something edible, then wandered into the garden, discovering a heavy padlock on the shed. Curiosity got the better of the unsettled financial consultant and he managed to wrench the lock off the door before shuffling inside. It seemed like a pretty normal shed until Frank noticed an area of disturbed earth in one corner, and, getting on his knees, he dug up the ground with his bare hands. In a shallow grave Frank found Mr Twinkles, the missing cat of one of the witnesses interviewed the day before, and deciding that the dead animal was an important clue, stuffed its chewed remains into his rucksack.
The team then left Elton's home and conferred on the next course of action. With the evidence they'd found, and Cooper's dark suspicions, they decided to return and confront the man. Accusing him of corruption, sorcery and other misdeeds, the group managed to break through Elton's haze of misery and he broke down and revealed some of what had been going on, although the grisly details were far from clear. He told them that "she" had "come back" but "wasn't right" and agreed to take the investigators to her. Elton led the team to the woods just outside the village, but Cooper's new phobia of trees paralysed him, and the rest of the group had to venture forth without their most effective fighter.
In a clearing at the heart of the woods, the group discovered the secret Elton had been hiding as they saw a monstrous figure lashed to a tree with ropes. It had a vague humanoid shape, but its limbs were long and thin, its skin was grey, and its head was misshapen and distended; despite the deformities, it did have the recognisable look of a human child. By this point, Elton had collapsed to his knees, his mind gone once more, and his ramblings seemed to suggest that the creature was indeed his daughter, somehow back from the dead. The investigators decided to take both Elton and his daughter back to headquarters, but nervous of tackling the creature without sufficient combat abilities, they went to fetch the waiting Cooper. Gathering his courage, the ex-soldier put his fears aside and went into the trees to see the thing for himself.
In short order, the creature was sedated, and both it and Elton were restrained and bundled into Frank's van for the trip back to London. There they were met by Maru, who, impressed with their success, agreed to allow the team to accompany him as he took the creature to Stardust's storage facility...
A bit of a scrappy one this, as I'd prepared two main plots, but due to the loss of a player, I had to drop the storyline centred on his character and hastily bulk up the other to compensate. It seemed to work, although the joins were obvious from my side of the Keeper's screen. I think the players were a bit surprised by how relatively sedate the scenario was, with no major sanity loss, and the "big" monster trussed up before their arrival, and may have suspected that I was being soft on them following the harsh ending of the previous scenario; however, their success came about mainly as a result of their actions during the investigation and the order in which they did key actions. Had they done things in a different way, they were unlikely to have had such an easy ride. All that said, there were some surprises in the dropped plot, but nothing too huge. I'm not sure if the players were surprised that their request to see Stardust's storage facility was accepted, but I enjoyed seeing them be proactive in their plans, as I've been trying to steer the campaign in a more sandbox-style direction; I think we're all keen to see what happens when they get to the facility.