We began with the investigators still recovering from the shock of their encounter with the flying polyp. Rodrigo staggered back to his feet, dirt still clinging to his chewing lips, his eyes wide and wild.
Kakakatak was eager to move away from the gaping trapdoor in case more polyps arrived, and so the group moved on through the darkness of the city. They travelled through the dusty underworld for hours, passing huge ancient buildings whose extent was only dimly hinted at by the light of their torches. They rested several times. Eventually Kakakatak stopped. "WE ARE HERE".
He glided up a ramp of octagonal stones into another building, gesturing with his four arms for the investigators to follow. They found the alien creature pulling long scroll cases from holes in the walls, twisting the caps off with his claws, and pulling out large pieces of what appeared to be vellum. It placed these on a large stone table, much too high for human use, though George felt he had used such tables before, though then he had looked down on them instead of up.
Kakakatak spent several hours perusing the scrolls. Hubert managed to manhandle a couple of scroll cases himself, but he could not make anything of the alien runes and strange mathematical diagrams that he found etched onto the paper. The paper itself was of a strange material, light and flexible, but tough and impossible to tear. He managed to cut a piece off with his knife.
While they waited Hubert took Huston's manuscript from Rodrigo and began to study it. The manuscript conveyed enough about human perception and the nature of reality to cost Hubert a few Sanity points. The universe, Huston established, is so relative that no sane human can imagine it. In self defence, humans teach themselves not to see evidence of this, but some truths seep into consciousness through what we understand as dreams.
The document mentioned Gray Dragon Island, the City of Pnakotus, and the Mountain of the Black Wind. It described in detail a terrible ritual that Huston had to perform on Jan. 14, 1926, at particular moments of Greenwich time, in order to open the "great gates". Rituals were also to be performed at the other locations mentioned at the same time. It also told about a mind controller and how it worked, about lightning guns and how they could discourage or sometimes kill random flying polyps, and how by Nyarlathotep’s grace Huston was able to pull a Yithian forward through time.
The investigators sat and rested, eating their provisions whilst they waited. Then Kakakatak signalled he had found what he required, and told the group that they should return to his workshop. So off they trekked once more, mechanically putting one foot before the other. Rodrigo was continuing to act strangely, picking bits of dust and lint off the clothes of the others and popping them into his mouth with relish.
Warily the explorers passed back by the open trapdoor of the polyps, but luck was with them and despite their fears there was no further attack. It was with relief that they eventually arrived back at the seemingly blinding light of the strings of bulbs that marked the cultists roads through the city.
Without hesitation Kakakatak lead them back to his rooms and immediately began pulling strange bits of equipment out of boxes and heaps of scrap. He consulted the scrolls he had taken from the library often, making small adjustments to whatever it was that he was building as a result. There was nothing the investigators could do to help, so they tried to gather some strength for the journey still to come. Rodrigo took the time to start eating dust from the floor again.
|All that's needed for a time-travelling Yithian|
"I AM READY TO RETURN," it spoke in their minds. It's globular head lowered itself on its stalk down to a level with George as it addressed him directly. "HUMAN LIFE ON THIS PLANET IS DOOMED. GEORGE KIRKHAM, YOU MAY ACCOMPANY ME IF YOU WISH". George was dumbfounded, but politely refused Kakakatak's offer, telling the beast that he should stay and help thwart the plans of the forces arrayed against humanity. Kakakatak almost seemed to shrug.
Kakakatak glided to his machine and pressed some levers. A beam of light shone out against the wall, and the alien went to stand in its glow, casting a monstrous shadow on the wall. There was a flash, the shadow grew, beyond the mere dimensions of the wall, then simply disappeared along with Kakakatak. There was a hiss and a thin plume of smoke rose from the machine which was now sputtering and groaning before stopping all movement. Rodrigo leaped at the wall, colliding with it heavily as he tried to follow Kakakatak to wherever he had gone.
The group conferred and agreed they had spent long enough in this hellish place. They wanted to return to the surface and continue their adventure now that they had some idea of what they needed to do. So, they wearily set off once more and began to retrace their steps back through the city, using Rodrigo's hand drawn map as their guide (despite Hubert's suggestion that they split up!).
Back past the generators they went, back through the red plaza, now free of the bodies of their prior assailants. Back over the rubble and cave-ins, back across the disturbing throbbing plaza that lay above some monstrous unknown creature. They didn't rest; they all wanted to be free of the City.
Back past the pit with the mewling, groaning abominations they continued, finally back to the bunkhouses near the entrance to the City. As they neared their destination they found their way blocked again by rubble. Rodrigo scrambled up, and as he did so a huge albino centipede skittered across his hand. He picked it up, considered it a moment, then took a large bite!
Luck was again on their side as they found no guards outside. Their trucks had gone, though there were a couple of other trucks parked nearby. As Hubert checked the trucks Rodrigo was busy licking his lips and chasing a small lizard that had scurried across his path. George checked the other shack and found some cans of fuel and a little water next to the small diesel generator.
They decided not to stick around and headed off before any cultists appeared, Hubert driving as they piled into one of the trucks. They followed the truck tyre tracks out into the desert, heading west by Rodrigo's compass, the sun climbing high in the sky behind them, and it was here that their good luck began to desert them.
Initially things went well as they followed the tracks and passed once again through the escarpment where they had been ambushed. After leaving the valley however the hard sand gave way to soft dunes, driven by the desert winds, and the tracks disappeared. They still had Rodrigo's compass to guide their way west, but their Navigation skills were poor and they soon became lost amongst the unending dunes. They carried on ever westwards, changing drivers when they became tired.
Sebastian happened to notice a thin trail of smoke drifting into the sky to the south-west. The investigators approached carefully, using their binoculars to see what lay ahead. The could make out a small group of Koori natives around a campfire, but decided to avoid them, wary after their experiences at the hands of the cultists. So it was that they let a good way of returning to civilisation pass them by.
The heat increased, and their provisions and water were low. Driving down one steep dune George hit a rock, and the truck lurched to a halt, the rear suspension broken. Could it be that after surviving all the horrors of the ancient city that the investigators might die lost and alone in the desert? Luckily George passed his Mechanical Repair with flying colours and was able to jerry-rig a strut out of some metal strips in the back of the truck.
Whilst they took the opportunity to rest Rodrigo went hunting and found a snake beneath a nearby rock. He tried to grab it, drooling at the thought of a meal, but it managed to burrow its way beneath the sand. The rest of the group finished off the last of their provisions. After resting the investigators got back in the truck and started off to the west once more.
For some reason Hubert then decided to floor the truck, accelerating excitedly... and failing his Drive Auto roll, consequently ramming the truck into a large rock. Sebastian had to spend a Pulp Point to avoid flying headfirst through the windscreen.
They had reached Cuncudgerie at last. They had been away and underground for over two weeks.
They spent several days recuperating in the Cuncudgerie Grand. Whilst there they heard rumours of a second ghost at Dingo Falls, that of Frank Slattery, and more worryingly of unexplained tremors out in the far desert.
Rodrigo had progressed from insects and was now hunting mice behind the inn to eat. The group kept a close eye on him, but it was obvious the horrors of the ancient city had taken their toll. After a few days they felt ready to travel and made plans to return to Sydney, aware that the clock was ticking and that in January the enemy's plans would come to fruition. They discussed how to proceed and decided to try and find passage to Kenya.
The journey back to Sydney, first by train back to Port Hedland, and then via tramp steamer was uneventful and allowed them to fully rest. It was a good time to reward them with some Sanity Points for defeating Huston and helping Kakakatak, even if they had not permanently stopped Nyarlathotep's plans in Australian.
Arriving back in Sydney the group decided that Rodrigo should be committed to a sanitarium for treatment. The ships cat had gone missing during the voyage, and Rodrigo had even started to eye the other investigators with a strange greed and hunger.
George used his connections with the Foreign Office to find a translator at the Chinese Embassy, and so they managed to obtain an English version of the Seven Cryptical Scrolls of Hsan. They knew where they had to go, what they had to do, and by when. They had a plan. Something told me it wouldn't be quite that simple however...