Masks of Nyarlathotep (Part 6)

( Completing the Cairo chapter of Masks)

As the attackers approached they split into two group, two men assaulted Fr. Parks, the remaining three charged the tent. Inside the tent Edwin, William and Francis were awakened by the commotion. Only Edwin saw the shadows of the approaching assailants and scrambled for his weapon.

Fr. Parks fired his holdout pistol taking out one of his attackers with a clean shot. The second man lunged for the priest and caught him across the chest with his blade. Fr. Parks stumbled but caught himself and wielded his now useless pistol like a club.

Even as Edwin and William drew their weapons, swords pierced the light canvas of the tent. Francis received a deep cut on his shoulder. Again the swords plunged through, Francis was stabbed in the back. Edwin fired his shotgun, a cry of pain confirming he had hit something.

Back on the dune the battle between the black clad arab and the priest raged on. It seemed to be going the way of the former as Fr. Parks struggled with his wounds.  The tide started to turn back with both Edwin and William taking out an attacker each, it was not long before the other fell too. Soon afterwards, Fr. Parks managed to reload his weapon and shot the last of the five.

A quick check over the belongings of the dead men revealed an assortment of vicious weaponry and that each man carried a medallion with an inverted ankh – the symbol of the brotherhood of the black  pharoah. It soon became apparent that their jeep had been sabotaged, but it seemed to have been done in haste and was quickly restored to working order. Fr. Parkes and Mr. Drake were brough to hospital in Cairo to have their wounds seen to, while the others took a well-deserved rest at their hotel.

Next morning Edwin and William had an unexpected guest at the hotel, he introduced himself as Leon Duval (GM note: another player character), a detective with the Cairo police. Leon had several question about Omar Shakti whom the investigators had recently been in contact with. While the trio exchanged information, Fr. Parks and Mr. Drake returned from the hospital. After an initial tense exchange the group decided to share with Leon the truth of their investigations in return for his assistance.

Moments after this decision had been reached, the groups planning was interrupted by a very agitated Janwillhem Venheulen. He pleaded with the group to return the Black Rites scrolls to the place where he had found them.  He did not calm down until the group relented and agreed to travel with him to the old city to return the scrolls. Janwillhem revealed he had been approached by a beautiful lady who demanded he return the scrolls, when he tried to reason with her she ‘changed’ appearance and became very aggressive. Subsequently he found himself plagued by cats who would hiss at his approach, follow him around and scratch him. The man was obviously at his wits end.

At the small temple deep in the old city, Janwillhem placed the scrolls back in the secret compartment below the statue of Bast and fled into the city, leaving the investigators to examine the intriguing place of worship. After some fruitless searching a woman entered the temple. Although a little surprised at their presence she told them how her mother had introduced her to the place and that she had come to offer a prayer for her missing cat.

Feeling a little uneasy in the strange temple of darkened alcoves and mysterious cats, the investigators returned to the hotel. Meanwhile Leon decided to scout out the mansion of Omar Shakti. There was little activity there but he did overhear two field workers speaking in hushed voices mention that something was going to happen that night.

Leon returned to the investigators hotel and relayed his discovery. After much discussion and debate, it was decided that there could be valuable clues  behind the closed doors of Shakti’s house and that, in this case, breaking and entering was justified.

Later that night as they approached the mansion they discovered large numbers of the fellhadin workers  walking the road to the mansion, the huge cast iron gates swung open and  several covered jeeps turned onto the road along with more workers. A hurried conference came to the conclusion that this odd procession could be more interesting to the investigators than the contents of the house.

The column of robed men grew a it proceeded to it’s destination, soon it was apparent something big was happening. Then in the distance the great pyramid of Khufu rose over the trees making their destination apparent. The investigators could follow closely no longer as they entered the open Giza plateau. The cultists walked to the sphinx and as they gathered a chanting could be heard. Leon translated from the Arabic : ‘Mighty is the god whose breath brings death and touch brings madness’.

Even as the chanting finished the stele in front of the sphinx shimmered and grew translucent, much to the investigators amazement. The cultists one by one walked into it’s glow and disappeared. Even though shaken by this sight the investigators bravely followed, waylaying a few straggling cultists and taking their places.

Through the stele the investigators found themselves in a small, enclosed stone room with a single corridor leading out. Down the corridor the flickering torches of the cultist procession could be seen. Adjusting to the new surroundings the investigators pressed on, noticing that the wide corridor branched at several points into further,wider corridors.

Fr. Parkes and Edwin August took one of the branches in the hopes of bypassing the cultists.  Taking the precaution of marking their progress on the sandstone walls as they went. After an eternity trudging through the eerie darkness they found themselves at a dead end and had to retrace their steps.

Meanwhile Leon, Williams and Francis pursued the cultist on the main trail, unsure if it was safer to follow the light of the cultists or  chance the dark side tunnels. Francis, leading the trio, thought he heard heavy breathing from behind. Looking around he saw, looming over Leon, a giant of a man with a crocodile head. Momentarily losing his wits  he raced away from it towards the cultists. William, wondering what had spooked his friend turned too and found himself joining the race to the cultists.

Alone and frozen with fear Leon listened to the dull, heavy footfalls and breathing, unable to do anything but continue his own slow walk. His common sense eventually made him break into a run and reach his companions, who had stopped just short of the unholy pilgrims. Turning to see what his stalker had looked like he saw only a dark, empty corridor.

Edwin and Fr. Parks were now within sight of their companions and upped the pace to rejoin them, as they walked they noticed images carved on the wall of such a despicable natured that their minds, mercifully, could not hold the detail long. The cultists now entered a widened area of  the tunnel leading to some huge steps. Already the unspeakable chanting had begun anew. One last turn off the main tunnel remained before the widened area. The investigators knew that the wrong decision could mean they would never see the light of day again. Francis,Leon and William followed the cult. Fr. Parks and Edwin, having the groups only light, took the offshoot of the main path.

Looking up the stairs the intrepid trio saw a gigantic room with pillars reaching up to a seeming infinitely high ceiling. The chamber was packed with the cultists. Again they doubted the wisdom of their choice and spoke in whispers of  returning the way they came, but to have come so far and return empty handed?

In the damp side tunnel Edwin and Fr. Parks shivered as a cold breeze passed over them. Suddenly their light extinguished and they were left in total darkness. they had to feel their way along the odd, slimy walls to the main tunnel.

Leon walked up the steps slowly, close behind him William Caltrow and behind him Francis Drake. Leon saw a raised dais with a sarcophagus sitting on it. he was about to proceed futher when he saw the creatures with the heads of animals and the bodies of men lined the walls.  Crocodiles, ibises, falcons, hippopotami and other animals revered among the ancient egyptians all blasphemously blended with humans.  His steps faltered. Seeing the same things William fled back to the relative safety of the bottom of the stairs.

Edwin and Fr. Parks arrived at the stairs. Ever brave, the good priest walked up beside Leon and surveyed the scene. Hundreds of cultists looked on as Omar Shakti stood on the dais behind the sarcophagus . Then Fr. Parkes saw the crocodile headed man standing to his left and exclaimed involuntarily. Luckily the cultists did not hear over the chanting but the crocodile man did. He turned his head so that a single eye looked at the priest head on. Fr. Parks stepped down.

Now only Leon stood near the top of the stair. He saw Shakti push the sarcophagus lid over onto some unfortunate cultists. He saw the beautiful woman wrapped in mummy rags stand up and take Shakti’s hand. He had thought Shakti involved in some shady dealings, murder even but he was not prepared for this, or what came next.

The mummy-woman and Shakti renewed their chanting and from the back wall of the temple something masive moved. In a few earth-shaking steps the Black Sphinx had entered the main hall. It bellowed, it’s five maws dripping saliva. Leon Duval smiled the smile of a madman.

The sphinx charged, killing cultists in its way, as it sensed its uninvited guests. The other investigators momentarily stunned by this beast nevertheless has the  wherewithal to flee blindly back down the tunnel. Leon did not.

As  the cultists pursued them down the tunnel, their ritual spiked clubs in hand. The investigators made it back to the room they started  in, realising they did not now how to return to the stele. The cultists bloodthirsty shouting drew ever nearer. “Nyarlathotep” said the priest, even as the first cultists entered the room.

On the plateau of Giza, four of five fled the ancient sphinx. One thought unanimous in their minds as they reached their jeep.

Time to leave the land of the pharoahs.

Leon Duval - Only briefly a member of the investigation team.

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