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Subject: Part 1. Intro and a play rss

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Keith Craig
United States
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Keepers note: We are playing this using Pulp Cthulhu rules.
One player will miss the first 3 sessions so he made a mysterious character that will show up later

Character introductions:
Bartholomew Barstow, scientist, egghead, professor. Gadget maker and weird sciences are my back ground. I spend most of my time in my physics lab at the University of London where several students seem to always be under foot.

John Roberts, museum curator of the Wallace Collection housed at Hertford House in Manchester Square.
A libertine originally from America, he divorced his wife due to infidelity on his part. He has a 10 year old son and intends to live his life to the fullest. He is also selfish. He truly appreciates art but cannot produce anything artistic, drawing mostly darker subjects.

Oliver Richardson, parapsychologist at the Chiswick Asylum in the London Borough of Hounslow. Driven to understand what drives the madman, for a madman killed his father who also was an asylum doctor. Too buried in his patients to care for himself. Thus, disheveled with rumpled clothing and food stains on his shirt. Skilled hypnotist using his father’s gold-chain pocket-watch as his focus. Works with the police identifying serial killers.

Evie. Mystic artist.
I not only draw what I see in reality, but in the mystic world as well!

Wednesday, 17 October, 1928: The car rocked awkwardly as John (all 340 lbs) stepped out to make room for the new passengers to climb into the back seats, “Evie, Bartholomew. I am so glad you could join me for this new play. I had a hell of a time convincing Oliver to come socialize. Harder still helping him find a clean shirt. I told him if he drove, I’d get the drinks and snacks. I didn’t tell him those are free with this opening night production tickets my office passed out. It’s an adaptation of a French play now titled ‘Carcosa’ or ‘The Queen and the Stranger’. Here’s the flyer that came with the tickets.”

One thing can be said about Oliver’s 1921 Bentley: with two 300 lb men in the front seats, it has solid traction in this harsh London winter. While Oliver could be considered a slob, he does pamper his car he got for a steal after its wreck. Refurbished with extra strong suspension.

Oliver pulled up to the front of the Scala Theater on Charlotte street and let the valet service park his baby. The three men escorted Evie up the steps and paused to shake the snow off their heavy winter coats before entering the theater lobby where they found a small crowd of fellow patrons. John seemed disappointed, “For an opening night I was expecting more. But then I don’t really know anything about this play. Ah, here’s a program listing the cast.

Now what does everyone want to drink?” A timely question as a waiter approached with a tray of champagne glasses. “Bubblies. Oh Oliver.” Oliver tried to explain, “I’ve never had this before. The bubbles tickled my nose.” Which explained the champagne stains on his once clean shirt [DEX 94].

Soon a woman wove thru the crowd ringing a chime signaling the play about to begin. All entered the theater with the foursome taking front row. Maybe it was only John and Evie who quickly realized the play was a low-budget production. The stage props very bland, the story slow moving and haphazard. Even the acting lacking. Act I set the scene of Cassilda, queen of Yhtill, and her 3 children leading a hum-drum life. Soon hisses and low-volume “boos” began to waft from the audience. “Boring.” But the play continued into Act II where a bone-white-masked stranger entered the stage. The actor droning on in stale dialog, something about Yhtill becoming Carcosa and a king in yellow. When suddenly the masked stranger opened his cloak revealing a strange symbol to the audience. [POW checks] And just as suddenly the curtains closed, the play ended.

The theater lights coming on revealing the audience in chaos. A man one-row back choking his female companion; other men in an all-out brawl; a woman crying hysterically. Even John in some kind of a panic rising to then rush toward a side exit. Bartholomew rose to strike at the choker with his umbrella, “Calm yourself man. We’ll have none of that.” For all the chaos behind them, Evie jumped on stage to rush behind the curtain to confront the masked stranger. A touch of his shoulder to ask the meaning of the last act but really a touch to activate her clairvoyance [he’ll die of old age]. Yet it’s the theater manager Mr. Noble who intercedes, “You can’t be up here. Wait in the lobby for the actors who will be out shortly. What do you mean there is a riot in the audience? Why yes, I’ll call the police.”

And yet the chaos continued. Oliver tried to break up the fight using his swinging pocket-watch as a distraction for hypnosis to no avail. Another man chasing after John headed for the exit. But as quickly as the riot began, it soon tapered off. Upon questioning the crowd, “I thought you had robbed me and I chased after you.” “Sorry chap, I thought my wife here was being unfaithful with that gentleman over there.” “I struck you because I thought you called me a liar and a cheat.”

Embarrassed, most of the crowd quickly departed the theater such that only the four remained when the actors and police appeared in the lobby. Mr. Noble having to take the police aside to explain. Meanwhile, Evie made certain to shake the hand of each actor/actress thanking them for their performance (but really to get a reading of each). It quickly became apparent even the performers were rattled by the symbol on the cloak revealed during rehearsal. Oliver remembering how Queen Cassilda turned her head just before the cloak was opened. And that’s when Mr. Noble appeared, “You’ve ruined my reputation. This has to be the worst play ever to cross my stage. Grab your costumes and your props as THIS play is over.”

Miss Jean Hewart began crying at the thought of being out-of-work. Which brought John to her side for comfort. Her complaints of sleepless nights. But her story soon drowned out by the appearance of Talbot Estus who portrayed the stranger, “Magnificent. Yes, yes, an excellent presentation. Couldn’t you feel the power and the draw of the king in yellow. Don’t listen to Noble; he doesn’t appreciate talent and the art. You all were wonderful. I was wonderful.” Full of energy, Talbot couldn’t stand still. Constantly walking by a window to peer outside, “Yes, a marvelous night.” Yet for anyone else looking outside, the sky overcast and dreary with not a star twinkling above.

Evie and John are drawn to Talbot like moths to a flame; both seeking details of the play. “Actually, performed in Europe ages ago. Then Mr. Chambers in America translated the play in the early 1900s. Back then it was called ‘Magnus Opus’. But I tweaked it…for the better don’t you think? Yes, yes, the king more prominent.” A loud but distracting opportunity for Oliver to approach Jean, “Sorry, but I couldn’t help overhear your complaints of sleepless nights? I am a doctor; maybe I can help you. You say troubles began after your first rehearsal? Maybe under hypnosis I can help you suppress whatever thoughts and images are causing the discomfort. How about a Friday evening session? I’ll see you then.”

It was past midnight when the four climbed into the car. An interesting ride home as they compared notes of what had transpired. Each with his/her own memory of the final scene. “Cassilda was oblivious to the arrival of the masked stranger. She began a soliloquy about her children. Only after the others left did the stranger step to the front of the stage.” “What are you talking about? Cassilda greeted the stranger upon his arrival. Clever word play that obviously was hiding a truth. I was distracted by a couple rising to leave behind us but I returned my attention to find the stranger embracing the queen.” “Poppycock. No one left their seats. And the stranger never touched the queen.” Confusion as to who saw what. “Evie, what do you make of that symbol on the stranger’s cloak? Could that be the source of mesmerizing the audience causing such disjoined visions? What mystical powers prevailed? And who is this ‘King in Yellow’?”

Thursday, 18 October, 1928: The chilly dawn frosted the windows of the Hertford House where the Wallace Collection was displayed. John made the rounds trying to find out who had delivered the free tickets, “I’m sorry sir but they were sitting in the in-box when I arrived yesterday. An unlabeled envelope; but they must have been from one of our donors.” Even the doorman didn’t remember the delivery boy, if that was who dropped off the tickets. Perplexed, John went into his library researching book references of a yellow king. Hours of research without success.

“Excuse me, Mr. Roberts. I was doing my security rounds and found something queer. Thought you’d want to look.” The guard led John down the halls to the men’s lavatory. There, on the wall, smeared in poo, was the symbol…upside down. The guard surmised, “Probably some demented kid thinking it was funny. Wish I’d seen him to make HIM clean this mess.” But John realized the smear too high upon the wall for some kid. Did another museum worker also get tickets to the play? Maybe another museum patron saw the play and the disturbing symbol. Was he too affected by its mesmerizing pattern?

Evie couldn’t get the symbol out of her mind. She had already spent hours researching her mystical books for any reference to the symbol and the yellow king. She thumbed thru 3 books stacked on her desk, flipping pages, not realizing she was doodling a repetition of the symbol swirls on her notepad. And that’s when the phone rang with Jenny Barnes on the line, “Evie, I’m glad I caught you. I finally was able to schedule a seance with Madame Marie LeBranche this Saturday evening. You HAVE to join me. Yes, you can bring friends. Imagine, the chance to speak to Harry Houdini himself. He’s been dead, what 2 years now? He always said he would reach back to contact the living after his death. And we might be his first contacts. How thrilling!”.

The desk seemed trashed with wires, capacitors, diodes, and other electronics. But to Bartholomew is was a purposeful collection of needed components, “Something for crowd control. Umbrella thumping had no effect; I need something audible to rattle their senses. Yes, a buzzer. No, a horn. Louder than a car horn and something small I can carry. Something to stop all that bullying. I think I’ll call it a bully-stopper. Maybe anti-bully. I know, a bullhorn.”

Fortunately Oliver’s schedule was clear of patients for the day. Which allowed him time to scan his files for any patient records that mentioned a symbol or reference to a king. Nothing. So Oliver jumped into his car and headed to the police station where he occasionally assisted as a profiler of serial killers. Sergeant Jonsson at first hesitant till Oliver mentioned the prior night’s riot at the theater, “Well, in that case, yeah have at the files.” Within hours Oliver found reference to 2 patients who died New Years Eve, 1925 in East Anglia. A note in the records mentioning a ‘King in Yellow’.

When Oliver returned to his office, he found a letter in his inbox. A request from a fellow doctor at Saint Agnes’ Asylum, seeking expert opinion on the matter of an inmate up for release. A request for a professional parapsychologist’s opinion; Oliver’s opinion! Needless to say, Oliver quickly marked his calendar for the appointed October 28th meeting at the Great Western Hotel. And without his own secretary, he penned his own reply of acceptance and put the letter in his outbox.

Friday, 19 October, 1928: The day seemed to drag on forever as the four friends became buried in their daily work. Kind of stuck inside anyway with the heavy snowfall. Oliver so wrapped up in his work, he’d forgotten his appointment till the rap at his door, “Mr. Richardson? I hope I’m not too late. The trolley was running behind schedule what with all this snow.” Oliver looked up from his desk at Miss Jean Hewart standing at his door, “Oh, no, no. You’re just in time. Here, let me tidy up.” Indeed, a mess with case folders scattered across his patient couch.

Jean hesitant and a bit embarrassed now that she was actually sitting on the couch. But Oliver easily comforted her as he rhythmically handled his pocket-watch, “On the contrary, we have all the time in the world. Just relax, take a deep breath. It must have been a busy day. You must be tired, oh so tired, so sleepy, sleep, sleep. Now let’s go back to when your restless nights began.” By now Jean was completely hypnotized and remembered her troubles beginning from the first play rehearsal. The image of a king in yellow haunting her visions. A city, but not London. No, different with towers. Oh so many towers stretching to the sky. A lake, a large lake. Ripples upon the water. Fish jumping. Fish? More fish-like creatures emerging from the waters.

Oliver stepping into her memories trying to supplant happy thoughts of her dancing. Finally snapping his fingers to bring her out of the trance, “Now remember, dancing is your happy place. I’ll check back with you in 4 days; say next Tuesday the 23rd. I’ll buzz you to confirm the appointment.” As Oliver escorted her to the front door, he couldn’t help but notice the clear night sky with stars twinkling overhead.

Saturday, 20 October, 1928: Bartholomew always the skeptic, “A séance?! Really Evie, you actually believe in this stuff? It’s nothing but smoke, mirrors, and wires. Sure, I’ll come along just to prove my point. No, no. I’ll be nice. I’ll let the Madame do her parlor tricks. I’ll just show you after the performance. And if things really get scary, I’ll demonstrate my newest invention.” Evie talked the others into joining her, once again having Oliver drive the group.

Jenny was already seated at the round table covered in a dark cloth with a flickering candle in the middle. An assistant led the others into the darkened room and ushered them to the chairs around the table. Four other strangers sat at the large table. Bart whispering how they must be in on the act. Evie hushing him. The lights turned low, incense wafting thru the air. Then dark curtains parting at the arrival of Madame Marie LeBranche who seemed to glide into her seat, “Please, all join hands and focus on the candle as I try to call upon Harry to join us.”

A lot of mumbo-jumbo, moans and groans, as even Evie recognized the childish act. She kicked under the table at Bart when he gave a weak cough scrambling the words “Bull shit.” But it was John who screamed, “Something kicked me!” But the madame continued. Then, 30 minutes into the séance, a spark flickered above the candle. Bart looked toward the ceiling for flakes of gunpowder or other flammable source. Nothing. But he did notice even the madame seemed startled at the spark which seemed to grow. The sparks growing in a circle as if paper caught on fire and burning from the middle out. And in the void of the center…ripples upon a lake. A city of towers in the background. Then suddenly a stranger stepping forward to remove his mask. [SANITY check]. Chaos erupted around the table.

“Oh hell no!” [Failed Sanity-7 points: Indefinite Insanity] Oliver tried to push away from the table but the chair’s back-legs caught on the rug toppling him over. Oliver crawled toward the front door finally gaining his feet in a mad dash outside. Marie screamed in utter terror as she gouged out her own eyes. A stranger fainted. Bartholomew tried to intercept Oliver but he was seated on the opposite side of the table with too many scrambling people around him. By the time he got to the door, he could only watch the taillights as Oliver sped away.

Evie was one of the few to survive the fright, “Don’t just stand there. We need to get Marie to the hospital.” Bart gave her the bad news of Oliver’s departure. And the other strangers seemed too shell-shocked to remember how they got to the house. Car? Keys? John scrambled to find a light switch for the room as the madame and her assistants were long gone. In a side room they found a phone, “Yes, we need medical assistance NOW. No, we don’t have a car. You have to send an ambulance.”

Oliver woke from his trance. A lake before him with towers in the distance. Then realization it was the Thames River before him and the towers of London’s Big Ben. As he looked about, he found himself standing on the ledge of the Southwark Bridge holding onto a cable support. How the hell did he get up there?! Panic as he slowly crept down. A long sigh of relief once he stood on the bridge road itself. Minutes before he could muster the resolve to drive back to the séance house where he found his friends gathered with a patient in waiting. No questions as the entourage packed Marie into the car then climbed in for a fast trip to the hospital.

Oliver barely stopped the car as the others ushered Marie thru the emergency door. By the time he parked the car and entered the hospital, the others were seated in the waiting room. As Oliver approached, he passed a gurney being wheeled down the hall. The sheet suddenly slipping off the face. “Father?” Oliver was definitely having nightmares. Hours in the waiting room till the doctor emerged, “Your friend is sedated and resting comfortably. I’m afraid there is nothing else we can do. Her eyes are gone. She’ll need specialized care.”

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