Trail of Cthulhu: Boundless Deceptions

Malta: Catacombs and a Companion

From the Notes of J. Murphy

Evening, at dinner. Table in restaurant by window.

 

Old crone on street stops, glares through the window, makes weird gesture—ward against evil eye?—then scurries away.

 

After dinner, feel like we’re being watched. Trailed. No sign of anyone, but I have a bad feeling about it. Stop for V to pretend to gawk at trinkets, but nobody suspicious. Some heads turn for V. Of course.

 

Duck down side street, see nobody. Probably tipped off our tail that we were twitchy.

 

Careen back to hotel (it’s an island. We didn’t need to buy a car.).  All seems normal. Except for the hairs on the back of my neck.

 

 

Pre-dawn. Heading to St George Fountain, arguing with V about her “incognito” approach. Hundreds of dollars for the hat, coat alone. And she wanted to roar along in the car, too!

 

We get to the garden which has the fountain. Dawn arrives as we wait; old man strolls along, whistling. Stops at corner, feeds pigeons, walks to fountain, sits near, but not next to us.

 

Old man is Sir Godfrey Wells. A knight, mostly ceremonial. Last of the secret order. Protected city…from a “variety of things.” How helpful.

 

May know something about the “interesting things” we have seen and are looking to find and stop.

 

Leads us through twisting streets to a bakery, leads us straight through the bakery and its kitchen, to a winding passage and tunnel beyond.  We seem to wind through a labyrinth, crossing intersections and passing side tunnels. We lose all sense of direction. Which is probably the point. About 20 minutes walk, enter small shrine chamber. 16th century, if I guess right.

 

Alcoves with books, another nook with cots.  Fresco with knights on a long rocky ridge, fighting a shapeless beast with many limbs. V recognizes the symbolism—knights on site of Valleta, fighting the idea of evil.

 

 

He knows some details of what is in the warehouse.  Inside the fence, a field of mouths, writhing in the ground. Smallish ones, not like the big one Brooks had. Must be a big one inside, spreading Nectar.

 

Had heard of Donovan shipping Nectar out to Europe.  Very wealthy, private, quiet. His wife Portia was more social. They have a young son. Portia was killed recently. Wells thinks it was a show of force by the cult, to keep Donovan in line.

 

Donovan leaves his house regularly, visits his ill son at the hospital. Cult maybe using Nectar on the son. Looks unhappy, unwell. But not the look of a prisoner.  Son is maybe 10 years old.

 

Regularly half a dozen men at his house. Guarding house. Keeping him there.

 

Warehouse: Wells didn’t notice its activities until recently, until his continental contacts traced the Nectar back to Malta.

 

Wells says the catacombs run all over the city! Secret tunnels everywhere!

 

But the other knights left traps in the catacombs. We need to be cautious, wary of tripwires, triggers. 

 

He can give us directions to a couple of tunnels, that can connect from the warehouse where V stashed her dynamite, to the warehouse that

 

 

 

He knows the “mouth” as Nyarlothotep.  Heard of it from an illustrated text, which contains a spell to unravel its manifestation.  He gives us the leaf with the spell.  Account from knights who tried to find, eradicate a cult that came from Alexandria, until seeking aid from some other power. Silver-skinned shape shifter?  How many of these . . . old gods. . . are there?

 

V suggests investigating the son. Putting him out of his misery if he’s like that poor woman in Mexico city.  But draws the line at kidnapping him to use as leverage against Donovan. Apparently that’s too far? I seem to have trouble telling, these days, what is justifiable and what is not.

 

Trip to hotel to pick up supplies.  Back to bakery; Wells leads us to tunnel to our warehouse.  Sketches a map from there to shrine; but won’t map shrineà Donovan. Smart. In case we got caught.

 

He leads us to the exit near Donovan’s warehouse. Many winding catacombs, filled with centuries of dead and rotted knights. Maltese cross carved into the wall.  Crossing passages less carved, less decorations.  Maltese crosses at significant intersections.

 

First trap: sprung.  Rotten body, scattered bones. Blade juts out from the wall on decayed beam. After this, veering off into a side corridor.  Some distance on, another Maltese cross, made of very tarnished metal. That one’s a trap.  Small hole in ceiling above cross, maybe for a dart or spear.  Not our path.

 

Another intersection, with a silver cross.  Another trap, but Wells can’t pass it. V spots a trigger stone on the floor, and disarms it with little trouble.

 

Beyond, tunnels Wells hasn’t ever walked. Says he knows the way. Counting passages.  Stops short after ducking into a tunnel—my light catches a tripwire. Ceiling will drop a blade. With rope and wrench, manage to spring the tripwire. Big axe blade sweeps down through corridor, swings back and forth. We move along.

 

Corridor ends at circular chamber, with narrow stone well in the floor.  More maltese crosses in stone.  Old well shaft up above, but surface is at least 30 feet up.  “From here, we descend.” Even deeper? We tie off a rope, climb down 10 feet into below chamber.  Even older ruins here.  V thinks it is thousands of years old!

 

Room very dark, cramped. Maybe only 5’ high in most places. Scratchings on walls, religious or mystical purpose to them.  Strangely cold and clammy, down here in the darkness. 

 

Flashlights struggle to shine through the murk, but we can see cramped tunnels leading off in various directions. Strange—couldn’t tell my way in the catacombs, but here, I know we’re going north. Maybe the brickwork confused me?

 

Tunnels hacked out of raw stone, deep beneath the city. Wells is uneasy.  Wider chamber, slightly larger, almost enough room to stand up in.  Columns of stone; supported by wooden posts wedged in at crazy angles, barely supporting the walls, ceiling. Can’t move through the space without moving a bunch of the posts.  Moving the dynamite through is not going to be fun.

 

After much discussion (dang woman can’t identify a loadbearing post when she’s looking right at it), we shift enough posts to make our way out. 

 

The room beyond has caved in, with catacombs falling in from above.

 

We need to climb up, then Wells says we’ll be at the inner catacombs, which may be full of seawater, or may be open, directly beneath the warehouse. I stay behind, V and her young knees go up and scout.

 

Tunnel is partly flooded with brackish seawater, harbor filth, oily film.  Have to wade in, and the pathway dips deep; water level at chest height.  Vivienne, disgusted, wades in.  40 feet of revolting wading through slime, to reach a false wall which will lead into Donovan’s warehouse.  (Wells couldn’t have explained that BEFORE the disgusting water?)  Apparently the door is plywood, painted. 

 

Vivienne missteps, comes tumbling back down the rubble.

 

Not many good options.  Will be too hard to haul enough dynamite up the rockfall, then past the water, with only three of us. There’s a dock next to the warehouse building, so we could take a boat, but that would be obvious.  Could park the car nearby, loaded with dynamite, then use the tunnel to get in?  Too hard to move dynamite AND sneak. 

 

 

In catacombs with Sir Godfrey Wells.  General agreement that the catacombs probably aren’t the right way to proceed.  Return to shrine in center of catacombs.

 

Borrow a dusty yet serviceable overcoat for V to cover up her fouled outfit. She gripes, of course. At least it covers the smell a little bit.

Immediately starts stripping off clothes underneath the overcoat, says she feels strange, there was something in the water.  We take a fouled stocking back for E to analyze. Have to keep her from peering too closely at it, though.

 

Wells rummages, finds a vial of fluid. Says it’s one of a kind? Holy water—not any holy water, blessed by a priest, Father Rodriguez, who recently died. No other holy water they’ve tried has worked. But this has worked to counteract Nectar.  This is the remaining sample.

 

Return to bakery, the street.  Car.  Hotel.

 

 

Storm rolling in. Starting to rain. Maybe good cover, albeit dangerous by water.

 

Hotel. Phone message from JWR – a “Doctor Armitage”? Who the hell is Doctor Armitage?

 

Man speaks up in lobby, “That’s me.”

 

Armitage knew JWR’s father as a pharmacist/pharmacological magnate.  Knew the father fell out of the public sphere in ’24.  JWR told him she was investigating Nectar, solicited his help, sent him to Malta to meet with us. 

 

V accepting. He presents his passport (in exchange for mine. At least he’s a little bit suspicious, which is healthy.).

 

He’s a chemist. Professor of chemistry. (So he’s like a chemist, but doesn’t work for a living.)  Has been briefed on Nectar, the global spread of the drug organization.

 

The Prof starts to wring out the stocking, while we discuss the last sample we had, its effects on the UCLA chemist. E comments that we did have a small amount of the sample left, which I took and kept from her. I remember I had it with me in my luggage, in a small locked case.  Bring it out, give it to him with another warning.

 

Armitage gets to work analyzing it, discovers what the other chemist did: viscous, musky/mossy odor, some part of the fluid seems to be alive, not just biological but actually still alive.  This rattles him a bit. (Poor kid. This might be his last chance to run.)

 

While V, E and I discuss what to tell him about the substance, the cult, the truths we have had to face…he continues to fiddle with his equipment. We emerge, and see he is getting enthralled just like E. Shit.

 

I confiscate the sample. Armitage protests, as does Emma.  We discuss the warehouse, this storm which would be perfect cover. Boats probably out. Viv could crash her car in, but that leaves the guards and the mouths in the grounds.  Could try to sneak through the fence, but guards and grounds again.

 

Could stake out the warehouse, see if vehicles come and go?

 

We return to discussing Donovan’s son. V still opposed to a kidnapping to draw Donovan and his guards away.  (We briefly tell Emma and Armitage about Donovan’s wife, having “died” in suspicious and un-observed circumstances, Donovan’s withdrawal from society, his son secluded in the hospital. And our theory that Donovan’s wife and son may be suffering from Leticia’s fate. 

 

Everyone else horrified by idea of using Donovan’s son as bait or a decoy. Maybe I’m losing more of my way than I thought? But it seems hardly any worse than what we did in Los Angeles. And if the kid is suffering like Leticia was, as Henry and Vivian had described…death would be  a mercy.

 

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