- Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist
- Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
- Radovan Venclovic, Romani ex-soldier
- Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
- Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
It was a ten hour train ride to Sofia, and the party used the time to catch up Rosaline on what had happened in the forest and explain what they were up against to Radovan. To their relief, Radovan accepted their story of secret cults, lands of dream, and vampires without much question, and when the story was done, the countess proposed a toast "to those who are no longer with us." The party drank gladly, though with some tears in Jazmina's eyes as she thought of Demir.
As they lowered their glasses, Jazmina spotted her father's friend Radko Jordanov, sitting alone at the far end of the dining car and taking notes on some documents spread on the table in front of him. Led by Jazmina, the party approached, noticing over his shoulder the words "Sedefkar" and "Simulare," as well as "Dzhudzheta" underlined several times. Jazmina greeted him and he responded warmly, astonishment that they were on the same train. The party asked him his business, and he said that he was on the way to Sofia to catalogue Dr. Moric's possessions and was studying a student's old paper that had some remarkable similarities. The student Ivo Pinev found a statue head that he claimed he bought from a farmer and spun a fantastical tale of a prehuman race, which he named after the Dzhudzheta of Slavic myth. His paper was full of gross inaccuracies and he was laughed out of academia, but Dr. Jordanov added that he was surprised to see that the strange words like "Sedefkar" that he thought were simply fabrications were reflected in the papers from Mr. Moric's cache.
As he spoke, Jazmina and the countess noticed that one of the waiters had stopped doing serving and was blatantly listening in to Dr. Jordanov's conversation and taking notes in his serving pad, ignoring all of the summons from the diners. When he noticed the party's attention, he turned and began moving toward the far end of the car. When the maître d' asked him why he was leaving, the waiter drew a knife and slashed at him!
As the panic started in the car, Radovan jumped up and began leaping from table to table in pursuit, while Jazmina tried to force her way through the crowd. Radovan was notably more successful, forcing open the door at the far end and struggling with the assailant as one of the conductors tried to dissuade Jazmina pursuit. She was not delayed long, however, and arrived as the waiter was trying to leap off the train and Radovan was grabbing at the briefcase the waiter carried. As he grabbed at the satchel, the strap broke and it went tumbling off the train. Soon after, the pair were able to restrain the waiter, after which the conductor arrived with several men to haul him away.
Radovan followed his nose and found the corpse of a young man, stripped to his underclothes and missing his right hand.
The party reconvened and discussed the situation. They couldn't think of of a reason why the hand would missing, and Jazmina, the professor, and Rosaline eventually decided to go check on the man himself. When they arrived, the guards told them in confidence that the waiter had killed himself while he was in the cell. Jazmina spun a tale of a ring that the waiter had snatched from her, which got the professor entrance to the cell. The waiter had killed himself by stabbing himself in the eye, and after a moment controlling his stomach, the professor inspected the body. The waiter had both hands, no rings, no tattoos, and nothing suspicious about him. His search fruitless, the professor exited the cell and they all returned to their rooms, where the awaited their arrival in Sofia.
In Sofia they were met by a grizzled police inspector, Major Kristova, who took them to the station and questioned them about the events on the train. He seemed to accept even the strangest of their stories about cults, and when Rosaline asked if these events were common, he replied in the affirmative. He seemed like he wanted to say more, and at the countess's urging he revealed that there was a group of slavers operating in Sofia called the Butchers, who kidnapped people and occasionally took body parts as trophies. He urged them to be careful and report anything they saw, and led the group out to the street. As they left, the investigators noticed that the other policemen snickered at the inspector as they walked out.
Dr. Jordanov offered the use of his car to the group if they would drop him off and the investigators accepted. They took rooms at the Hotel de la Bulgarie, and while everyone else went to bed, the professor and the countess ordered up wine and cheese and had a quick meal before retiring.
In the middle of the night, Radovan and the professor were awoken by scuttling in the middle of the night and awoke to find disembodied hands clambering toward them! They began to scuffle, dodging the hands' attacks. Radovan grabbed his hand and hurled it out the window, and the professor tried to hurl blankets over it but failed.
In the other room, the countess was awoken by cold fingers as the hand plucked out her eye!
Rosaline and Jazmina were also under attack, but after the hands strangled them for a moment, they let go and began to run toward the heating vents. Most of the party let their hands go, and the professor's attempts to capture his were unsuccessful.
As the countess screamed in agony, Rosaline ran over and treated the wound while the professor called the front desk and demanded a doctor. Radovan closed the heating vents and searched the room before the doctor arrived and began to treat the countess. The professor said that he and awoken to figures in the room, but they fled as soon as they noticed their targets were awake. The doctor replied that this fit with the times, gave the countess some laudanum, and said the police had been called. The police took a statement, looked around, and then left, and the group drifted into an uneasy sleep.
As she slept her opium dream, the countess had visions of running through back alleys and climbing into a black car, leaving the city and speeding off into the country.
In the morning, Major Kristova was waiting for them in the lobby. The major did not buy their story of disembodied hands, and left in disgust after telling the investigators not to call him again. As they returned to their rooms, the countess told them about her visions and had another, of the car driving through the mountains, which had a very distinctive outline.
About this time, Rosaline, the countess, and the professor remembered what had happened to the priest whose eye was taken during the Fourth Crusade
As they were leaving, the hotel staff took the professor aside and told the professor that an eye was found in the alley behind the hotel, but it was green and her eyes were brown. The professor thanked them and the group continued on to Dr. Jordanov's house, where after an awkward explanation and breakfast, he wrote down the title of the monograph and the party split up to search. Rosaline eventually found it in the library.
As the countess was searching, she had another vision, a stronger one almost crystal-clear. A person walking through a cavern carved out of the living rock.
In the study again, Jazmina sat down with the manuscript and began to read it. It claimed that the idol was created by prehuman dwarves, ridicules the academic establishment, and says the idol was sent to Dr. Todor Mativ at Sofiiski Universet. At that name, Dr. Jordanov pales and says that Dr. Mativ had killed his wife and sons and was found wearing their skins. He rushed at the police and was shot down like a mad dog. Years later, his assistant killed herself by stabbing herself in the eye. Dr. Jordanov sat down and said that he was done with the investigation, but the countess managed to drag a promise out of him to contact the Sofiiski Universet and arrange and introduction with Professor Chedenko.
As the investigators were leaving, the countess had another vision, again in the same cave. On a huge overhang, images were carved of mammoths and men wearing antlered headdresses.
At Sofiiski Universet, the staff were supremely uninterested in the urgency of the party's plight, until a professor of English took pity and, in a roundabout way, asked for a bribe. The countess gave over the money and he led them to Professor Chedenko's office, Jazmina knocked, and the investigators entered. Professor Chedenko was slightly absent-minded and easily distracted, but when Jazmina mentioned the Dzhudzheta Idol, Chedenko opined that it was probably a fake, maybe plastic. Rosaline tried to impress the urgency of their mission onto him with Jazmina's help translating, and Chedenko offered to show them the idol. Up a stair and down a hall lined with armor, was a door, and through the door was chaos. A headless man, spurting blood, and two seriously beaten men lay in the scattered parts of the workroom. Most of the investigators were okay, but for the professor this confirmed that Le Comte truly was after them, and he fled screaming.
The others saw men in dark clothes climbing out the window. One escaped, but the others turned at the opening of the doors and moved to attack. One of them had a shotgun, but his wild firing missed as Radovan charged in toward them. The other hurled a grenade. Jazmina tried to kick it back and Rosaline tried to throw it, while,the grenade man pulled a handgun and shot Radovan in the chest, dropping him. Then the grenade exploded.
Rosaline and Jazmina were seriously wounded and the countess, though she had run, was still shaken by the explosion. She stood up and treated Radovan and Rosaline, but her attempts to save Jazmina were unsuccessful, and Jazmina bled out on the floor of the Sofiiski Universet.
As Rosaline worked, the countess looked out the window and saw the men in black standing by a large truck with a covered back. It screamed out of the parking lot and right into another car that moved to block it, plowing through the car and sending its driver flying. This knocked off the tarp and revealed a maxim gun, which the assailants fired at all the other cars in the parking lot as they fled.
The countess applied first aid to the only one of the survivors in the room, who muttered "Men. Robes. Who wear shoulders not their own," before passing into a coma. She checked on Professor Chedenko, but found that he was dead, and as she stood up she had a vision of a group of men in black robes walking through a fanged maw carved from living stone.
The students and faculty of the university arrived and, after some panic and worry, doctors were called, and Major Kristova was there as well. He said that he would protect them from the rest of the police, taking them in as witnesses, and he warded off the rest of the police when they tried to question the investigators and took the group away.
He managed to arrange some time for the investigators in the library, and the countess asked about the mountains. The librarian recognized it as the Sredna Gora, a local mountain range. Rosaline and the professor did some general research into eyes and heads, finding a few fragments about the eyes being the windows to the soul and cave paintings being symbolic representations of the animals. Then they left the library, went into a truck, Major Kristova whispered a password and the truck drove around randomly to confuse pursuers until it arrived at an abandoned bakery, where, after an exchange of knocks and passwords, they were admitted. In safety, they shared stories with the Major, explaining the cults that chased them, and the major replied that he had been chasing the Butchers for three years and now, the location of their base was finally known. The major said they would need a plan, and then attack tonight. Then he offered the base as a place to rest.
As they rest. The countess had another vision of horrific mutilations performed by something not quite seen. Limbs ripped out with impossible force, screaming faces torn apart, before something rushed at her and vanished in an explosion of light. As the countess panicked sightlessly, her brain refusing to see anything at all, she realized that the pain and itching in her eye was gone. Perhaps she was safe?
As they were resting, the group received a call from an informant saying that they saw a truck passing near full of bullet holes. The major stood up and said that this was their chance, and after passing out weapons, they all left to take the fight to the cult.
Annals of the Fallen
- Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
- Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic, devoured by the living lair of the Baba Yaga in the forests outside Orašac, February 13th, 1923.
- Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist, killed by a thrown grenade during a battle with the Butchers at Sofiiski Universet, February 15th, 1923.
The deaths are coming faster now.
I forgot about the eye! And those cultists in the library were much deadlier than most of the opposition we've faced this far. Shotguns and grenades? We're going to need to start carrying tommy guns like the most stereotypical of Call of Cthulhu protagonists. At least now we have a group of heavily-armed paranoid conspiracy theorists on our side. It's almost like we're playing Delta Green again!
When I failed the SAN check in the library, I drew from mutantur
's deck of failed SAN rolls and got unshakeable belief, so the professor is now even more convinced than ever before that the hand of Le Comte is behind everything. And honestly, I don't see why that's not correct. Once you admit that there are vampires, well.