Call of Cthulhu: The Waldegrave Mansion Horror (Game Thread)

Count Otto Black

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Waldegrave Mansion.jpg

October 31st 1923 - Day One

It is early afternoon. The weather is quite pleasant for this time of year, which is just as well if you came by car, since the roads around Knossos look as though it wouldn't take much rain to render them impassable by any vehicle less versatile than a mule. If you came by train you had a less bumpy ride, but you noticed the general air of run-down decrepitude. None of you are surprised by this. Even if you don't specifically know the local economy went into an irreversible decline when slavery was abolished, you've seen enough small towns to recognise one which, if it was human, would spend most of its time in a rocking-chair on the porch quietly awaiting death, and if it was a dog would have been put to sleep long ago.

However, there's nothing sinister about the place, even if more than half the buildings have boarded-up windows, and the inhabitants don't seem very friendly. They're no more unwelcoming than you might expect, given that their sleepy little town has been invaded by very odd people for an incredibly strange reason. The more devout Baptists among them probably think you're all in league with the Devil. In fact, Amthor proudly boasts of having made a pact with Satan as part of his show-biz persona, which tends not to make him all that popular in places like this.

You all arrive at roughly the same time. The train, which was specially chartered for the occasion because very few ordinary trains use this obscure branch-line any more, was quite crowded so you wouldn't necessarily have met one another on it, then again you might have. A small fleet of vehicles is shuttling the guests to the mansion, which is about three miles from the town, but this is taking a while, since some of the less robust hired cars couldn't cope with the twenty miles of potholed dirt-track between here and the highway.

There is some time to spare, and if you wish you may look around the town, though there's no obvious reason to do so. It looks as though it was once home to a few thousand people, but these days the population is probably in the low hundreds at best, and apart from the usual shops you find in every town, there's basically nothing here. None of the people you already know are important are at the station.
 

Tulpa Girl

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Margaret patiently bided her time while waiting for the next car to arrive to ferry her to Waldegrave Mansion, purchasing a bottle of soda at the local convenience store in the meantime. She will do some discreet people-watching as she waits for the next vehicle.
 

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Margaret has no difficulty gathering first impressions of the other guests, since nobody is behaving as if they might have anything to hide, with the possible exception of a somewhat out of place tough-looking burly fellow whose swarthy complexion and muscular build suggest he might be of Italian descent and could perhaps be a boxer (but OOC you know who he is already). Otherwise, apart from a sprinkling of people who obviously represent the media, some of whom are actually taking notes or have those little "PRESS" cards in their hatbands, most of the guests fit the stereotype of empty-headed bright young things with little purpose in life beyond having a good time spending daddy's money. Margaret is perhaps a little insulted that whoever sent her the invitation presumably assumed her to be as spoilt and vacuous as this lot.

The excited chatter is mostly as shallow as the people making it, and although a few of them are dropping occult terminology into the chit-chat in a way that suggests a casual interest in Theosophy and suchlike, far more of them are speculating excitedly about the unlimited quantities of real imported liquor that wasn't brewed in a bathtub which will hopefully be on tap in defiance of prohibition. The second most popular topic of conversation is making tasteless jokes about Earl Constantine's controversial leisure activities. Margaret doesn't know any of these people personally, though there are a few faces she recognises from the social circuit, or photos in magazine articles about "the It Crowd", none of whom are semi-famous for anything other than being rich enough to get invited to all the right parties.

And sometimes the wrong ones...

(The other PCSc will notice the same things because they're obvious, and no hints of weirdness because as yet there aren't any.)

After Margaret has admired the tumbleweed blowing down the main street for a quarter of an hour, a cab which, along with its driver, are obviously on loan from Little Rock, arrives to transport her to the mansion. The countryside, cleared for cotton and allowed to revert to prairie decades ago, is drearily featureless, but the journey is a short one. Quite a few vehicles are parked outside the mansion, including the tour-bus of the Earl Constantine Orchestra (which is jacked up and being worked on by a middle-aged black man in farming overalls, doubtless the best and only mechanic a town this size has to offer), and a large caravan which obviously belongs to Amthor because his name is painted on it in very big letters. The huge car to which it is attached is a gleaming symbol of his not inconsiderable wealth, fame, and ego.

The other guests are all inside the house, from which a man in a waiters' uniform, who looks exactly like the kind of person of whom quite a number would be hired for such an occasion, emerges briefly and shouts something to the new arrivals about assembling in the main hall for a tour which will be starting in a few minutes. Once everybody has arrived, it would seem you'll be treated to a guided tour if you'd like one.
 

Toric

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Upon his arrival in town, Luca kept his head down, mostly lost in his own thoughts. The train ride had been boring and uneventful and having been absorbed in his own situation for the entire trip had set his mind to brooding. He wanted out from under the mob, but unfortunately he couldn't punch his way out of that. The rustic rural area of Kentucky he found himself in now might be a place he could disappear in. Maybe he could just wander off into the backwoods of this place and never return to New York. He'd miss fighting sure, but maybe there were things down here he could punch. Probably wouldn't be as satisfying as racking up a professional boxing record and collecting a hard earned purse.

So lost in his own thoughts was Luca, that he didn't even notice the attractive young woman people watching nearby. He did slip into a local five and dime though. As he entered the place, he didn't even realize what he was planning to do until he was paying for the crucifix and hanging it around his neck. The simple silver cross on a silver chain only set him back a couple of bucks, and as he exited back out into the pleasant weather, he felt comforted somehow by the cross dangling against his chest. He then set about waiting for transportation to the mansion for the strange party that he held an invitation for. He had almost forgotten that he was here to collect on Lester's debt.
 

Count Otto Black

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The woman behind the counter of the dusty little shop gave Luca a very strange look when he bought the cross, as if she wasn't sure whether to sell it to him in case he was going to use it for some foul blasphemy. He almost reassured her that although he couldn't honestly claim to be a good Catholic any more, he had no intention of selling his soul to the devil that or any other night. But on second thoughts anything he said would probably convince her of the exact opposite. And besides, round here they were mostly Baptists who reckoned the Pope was, if not the actual Antichrist, the next worst thing.

On arriving at the impressively vast Waldegrave Mansion, Luca noticed the black man in the farmer's biballs trying to do something by way of maintenance to the Earl Constantine Orchestra's tour-bus, which his mechanical knowledge, combined with the three-mile ride he'd just endured along a road consisting mostly of potholes, told him was almost certainly suffering from busted suspension if they were lucky, and if they weren't, dented wheel-rims and a cracked muffler too. The man would need to be either improbably well-equipped for a small-town handyman or some kind of mechanical miracle-worker to do the job properly, but it wasn't Luca's problem and he gave it no further thought.

He'd just finished admiring Amthor's Deusenberg, which Luca was able to deduce was his because the trailer hitched to it had "AMTHOR" written on it in very big letters indeed, and besides, who else would paint a classy limo like that a garish shade of purple to match his robes, when some flunky in a penguin suit popped up and said something about a guided tour starting in a few minutes.

As Luca headed in the same direction as the gaggle of twittering flappers and their beaux who were doubtless taking this tour, he almost bumped into a middle-aged Catholic priest going the other way, who pushed past him with a growl that might perhaps have been a very surly "excuse me!" Luca was reminded of the reaction of the woman in the shop by his own automatic doubt as to whether the man was a real priest or just an actor in holy drag who would later be partcipating in some kind of sacreligious parody, or perhaps even an honest-to-Satan Black Mass, something Luca had never been quite sure whether to believe people actually did but had always hoped they didn't.

But after a moment Luca decided that the priest probably wasn't a stooge in fancy dress. There was something about him which suggested that, whatever his purpose in being here turned out to be, he was deadly serious about it. Somehow this did not reassure Luca one bit.
 

Baeraad

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Millard passes some time before going up to the mansion by going to a few of the shops in town, making some trivial purchase and asking for stories about the place. There's probably nothing new to be found, but you never know when the local colour might have come up with something interestingly bloodcurling that you can use to spice up an article. Sometimes these rustic types have the most deliciously macabre imaginations...
 

Count Otto Black

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MIllard gets a very mixed reception indeed! Going to "a few shops" doesn't take him long, since most of the shops in town are boarded up, and obviously have been for a very long time. There's a general store which also serves as a post office, a hardware store which has the town's only gas pump and also sells a small selection of guns and ammo of the kind you'd use for hunting rather than self-defence, an inn called the Rotting Stump, and that's your lot.

The proprietors of both shops, especially the woman in the general store, flatly refuse to talk about the ghosts or anything else to do with the Waldegrave Mansion, and seem genuinely scared, as do most of the other citizens you approach. The regulars at the Rotting Stump, a small coterie of somewhat disreputable-looking old men who give the impression of practically living in the bar, are more forthcoming, after you've bought a round of drinks, and a few more rounds whenenever the speaker pauses and complains that he can't remember the next part because his mind's gone dry. Unfortunately most of the tales they recount are similar to what you've already found out.

One story you haven't heard concerns Chief Hooting Owl, the savage Shawnee scalp-hunter. Apparently, if you go at night to "the old injun buryin' ground", which you gather is a clearing in the woods a couple of miles outside the town in the opposite direction from the Waldegrave Mansion, sooner or later you'll hear an owl hoot. If you then call out "Chief Hooting Owl, is that you, who-who-whooo?", after you've done this three times, the chief himself will appear and ask you three mysterious secret questions, which if you get them right, will make him reveal the location of the mysterious secret gold mine of the Shawnee. But of course if you get them wrong he'll take your scalp. All of which is true because the old rummy telling the tale once knew a man whose father met someone whose brother's friend did this but answered the questions wrongly and after that nobody ever saw him without a hat.

Your chat with the pastor was less silly and possibly more useful. Dismissing all the ghost stories as superstitious nonsense which can't be true because the good Lord provides two, and only two places for the deceased to spend eternity, so they can't possibly be wandering around the Earth scaring good Christian folk, he shows you the grave of Augustus Waldegrave in an attempt to demonstrate that he's resting peacefully like everybody else. It's marked by a small and very simple stone with nothing on it but his name and the relevant dates, and there's certainly no sign that the occupant has been at all active recently.

However, when you astutely observe that the grave is outside the churchyard and that's a bit odd, the parson becomes flustered, saying something about an old tradition of not burying people in consecrated ground if they were... Here he stops, obviously having said too much, and when you try to get him to finish what he was going to say, he blusters about suicides and unbaptised babies, as if either of those could possibly apply to Augustus Waldegrave.

He then changes the subject by pointing out a nearby hollow. This, he explains, used to be a mound under which the slaves who rebelled and were subsequently slaughtered were buried in a mass grave, but about forty years ago, the pastor of the local negro church arranged for the bones to be exhumed and reburied properly. You get the impression that the pastor you're talking to thinks this was too good for them.

Intrigued, you go to the district known as "darktown", which seems to be slightly more thriving than the white part of town, possibly because poor black folks are even poorer than poor white folks and therefore less able to move away. Unfortunately it appears they've heard about you, perhaps from a black man you noticed slipping away while you were trying to get some of the white townsfolk to spill the beans, and you literally can't get a word out of anybody, because they go inside and slam the door when they see you coming. But you are able to confirm that the slaves have been reburied in neat rows of well-tended graves, each marked with an stone reading: "An Unknown Slave - Rest In Peace". There is also a large granite obelisk listing the names of all the deceased. The one grave with a name on it is the last resting-place of the notorious Absalom, who, like all the other slaves but unlike his master, has been laid to rest in what is undoubtedly consecrated ground.

Having gotten all you can for the time being out of the townsfolk, you hurry back to the station and get a ride to the mansion, where, because you caught a slightly earlier train, you arrive only a few minutes after the others, just in time for the guided tour.
 

Dumarest

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Sorry, I didn't realize we had begun...

J. Pierpont zips through town in his Stutz Bearcat, sipping from a bottle of champagne while he monologues aloud, "How can anyone live in this place? It positively gives me the jitters! Ah, well, I'll bet there are some colorful characters in this neck of the woods. Say, I wonder who'll be at this bash? I do hope there'll be pretty girls and dancing!"

If the directions aren't obvious, I'll ask a local how to get to the mansion. Either way, I'll skid to a sudden halt out front and assume a valet will do the parking for me and accept any drinks on offer from any butlers or caterers I run into once inside. Then I'll try to ascertain (1) who is the host(ess) and (2) are there any pretty girls?
 

Tulpa Girl

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Margaret was grateful that the trip to the mansion was a short one, given the condition of the roads. My goodness, she thought to herself, they should really do something to smooth these roads out. This is the twentieth century, after all. She did not indicate her displeasure to anyone else riding in the vehicle, however, stoically keeping her thoughts to herself.

She was vaguely put out by the rather vacuous company she had been lumped in with. She consoled herself with the belief that she had been invited more for her interest in supernatural activity.

Once at the mansion, she will fall in with the others, joining in to the crowd being led on the guided tour.
 

Tulpa Girl

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if it comes back, just assume I made the obligatory 'that which is not dead' reference.
 
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