Dark City-Requim Morte

Case File One Part Five: The Case of Why's This School Open?

The Cask of Armadillo

After doing some research, Alvin uncovers some new information. Beckett moved to the City from Arkham, Massachusetts, where he had taught at Miskatonic University. He left under a cloud of suspicion for dabbling in the occult with students, which led to a mysterious death. Once in the City, he founded a weird cult called the Cult of Starry Wisdom, a theosophist cult that claimed to receive secrets from “hidden masters beyond the veil of reality,” a phrase Rufus can easily associate with various Bane cults for Banes of Secrets, or even some sort of Madness Bane from the Deep Umbra. The cult had about thirty members, until it was raided by the police and shut down in late 1800’s. Alvin can’t find any records of why it was shut down, but given that a lot of police records were lost in the labor unrest of the 1930’s, it’s not surprising. After the raid, Beckett retired from public view, leaving his position as a professor at Severn College, and became a hermit. When he died in 1904, his will specified he was to be buried in his house, which the authorities allowed, seeing as no respectable religion in the City would allow him to be buried in their graveyards, not even the eclectic secular societies, such as the Freemasons and the Oddfellows, would have him. After that, the house was rented over the years by various poor families, all of whom were dogged by mysterious illness and deaths. On several occasions, ghostly and psychic phenomena were reported, but the site seemed to be so low scale, compared to other sites in the City, that no one, other than the Crypt and Chalice Society, ever seemed interested.

J.T. gets bored waiting for intel, and decides he wants to corner the Guidance Counselor, hoping to force her to reveal what type of supernatural creature she is. He’s foiled when he gets there, as there’s a cheerfully decorated, pink sign saying she’s out to lunch and will be back in an hour. He waits an hour, but when he turns around later, the sign now says she’s gone for the day. Grumbling, J.T. returns to the club room to help decide what to do about the Beckett House. He goes through the gear again, noticing a few items that were overlooked before. He finds a baseball bat, an authentic 1940 Louisville Slugger, autographed by Babe Ruth, embedded with lots of nails, and with a pink tape wrapped around the grip, with a pink tassel. It’s labeled “Property of CeeCee.” When asked about who CeeCee is, Alvin blushes and just says she was a club member. They also find a rusty old crowbar, which gives off an oddly comforting feel. Rufus insists that it go to Tobi, who picks it up and finds it fits comfortably in her hand, as if no one was better suited to that crowbar than her. J.T. Takes the PK meter and the body armor, while Tobi takes the old black leather duster. Rufus notices that the duster is authentic leather and has been enhanced by Weaver magic. He also notices an old spot on the left chest of the duster, a faded place that looks like a star shaped badge of some sort went there once. Tobi finds inside that someone went to a lot of trouble to build into the coat a hidden shoulder holster, strap for hanging knives and grenades, as well as a sword sheath, into which she easily slips the crowbar.

Having divvied things up, they decide to skip afternoon classes and wait for nightfall, when Desmond picks them up and drives them down to the Mid-City location of the Beckett House. The house has a very ominous, brooding aura about it as they exit the limo. J.T tries the PK meter and gets a positive result, while Alvin’s equipment shows nothing. As they open the door with the realtor’s key Victoria obtained, a burst of cold air comes out. Inside, the lights work, but the air is freezing cold, and the air units are off. After some debate on recording things, Alvin straps the Go-Pro to Rufus’s head, starting Rufus-Cam. Using his Discern sight, J.T. notices that there’s an eerie green glow just out of the corner of his eyes, that fades when he looks directly at it. Rufus sniffs the door to the living room, and notices it has an earthy scent, like an open grave, and a reek of old blood. They open the door and turn on the light into a normal seeming living room, though J.T. notices a weird glow from the sofa. Alvin decides to set up shop in the living room and coordinate activities from there. Everyone except Tobi hears weird, almost sub-audible whispers about them, like many people talking at once.

Victoria then makes a joke about rooting around the couch for loose change, after Rufus sniffs it and smells that a corpse was son it at one time. She then sticks her hands under the pillows, which have an odd, soft texture and moistness to them. When she withdraws her hands, she has 75 cents in old coins, and her hands are covered in blood. Rufus’s sense of smell confirms its human blood, and Victoria is adamant that she obviously nicked her hands on something, since there’s no way human blood from some other source could have been in the sofa. After some consultation, and discussion of Rufus’s certification as a corpse sniffing and rescue dog, its decided that Alvin will monitor the team and house from the living room, while Rufus and the team will go door to door, checking each room methodically, until Rufus scents a grave. They then set out, checking the first door in the hallway, opposite the living room. Rufus smells a faint scent of what could be a grave, but on opening the door, they just find a storage area loaded with old furniture stacked haphazardly. J.T. and Rufus enter the room, and after a few minutes of looking about, some of the furniture collapse on them. Rufus and J.T. can tell the furniture was pushed by something. They manage to wiggle out, and head on.

The next door smells of mildew, and they don’t go in. They round the corner, and find the kitchen, the downstairs bathroom, and a set of stairs, leading up and down. There’s a thick scent of mildew about, the kitchen light is yellow and oddly dull, and Rufus can smell a corpse scent from upstairs. As they decide whether to go up or down, Rufus and Victoria hear a metal rattling from the kitchen. They dive out the way, but Tobi and J.T. get hit when a kitchen drawer falls out, and several knives hurtle at them. The knives hit J.T. and Tobi, but thanks to the armor they procured from the club stock supply, they manage to avoid damage. They feel now that whatever haunts the house is trying to drive them out, so that they’re on the right track, they decide to head upstairs and clear it before heading to the basement area. The head up the stairs, and see a long hallway with four doors. The first is the bathroom, and its clean(relatively) Their’s some red stains on the tub and leaking from the old faucet head, but Rufus scents they’re rust. They also hear an odd dripping noise that makes them feel uncomfortable for some reason.

They head to the next room, a bedroom. It’s dark and very cold inside, and the lights don’t work. The flashlights only show a dim glow in the room, and J.T.’s cold lantern doesn’t do any better. Rufus smells dead things inside the room. There’s an old style bed, with thick quilts. J.T. tosses in a glow stick, and it just shows dimly in the gloom. Tobi and Victoria hear a heavy breathing from under the covers, as if someone dying was laying in the bed. They enter the room, and Rufus sniffs around the bed. A sudden, violent psychic force grabs him and tries to pull him into the dark space under the bed, and Tobi and Victoria can see a human shape lying under the covers. J.T. draws deep among his reservoir of hidden power, and wards himself and Rufus. He’s surrounded by a warm, golden glow, and a white light streams out form him, driving back the darkness, which recedes like a sullen, living them. Everyone can hear a very loud, growling snarl, of something not human angrily reacting to the touch of the light upon it. The thing under the cover deflates, and the lights come on. The room suddenly smells normal, and feels normal. Tobi hugs Rufus, making sure he’s ok, but nobody hugs J.T. Nobody ever hugs J.T. Rufus and J.T. can sense that whatever was attacking them has retreated for the moment. They head to the next bedroom, which smells normal, and then the master bedroom, which smells of old blood. Rufus then senses something from the attic.

They pull down the fold out ladder, and J.T. lifts Rufus up to smell the air, which he confirms is old, musty, and mildewy, with a faint scent of dead flesh. J.T. then borrows Tobi’s compact, and uses the mirror to check out the attic, showing mostly boxes and old junk. They climb up and sense the same sinister, almost fluid darkness lurking about, but it recedes when J.T, gets up and turns on the light. The light swings back and forth, pissing off J.T. who loudly says the ghost uses too many old horror tropes. They search around the junk for a bit, and find a pile of dead rats and squirrels, drained of their blood and arrayed into an odd pattern that seems disturbing for some atavistic reason, which creeps out Tobi and Victoria. While they continue investigating, and old, heavy sewing mannequin tips over and hits Rufus and Victoria, bruising them. J.T. then breaks up the weird symbol made of animal carcasses, and they decide to head for the basement. The make their way down the rickety stairs, which J.T. again accuses the ghost of stealing from old horror tropes. The basement has a string smell of dead things under the mildew. Despite the fragility of the stairs, they manage to get down. They turn on the light, and it starts swaying again, irking J.T. yet again. Rufus can scent a strong smell of grave dirt and decay coming from behind the far wall. At this point, they all suddenly realize that Alvin has stopped feeding them info and guiding them.

Alarmed, they head back upstairs, and find Alvin unconscious in the living room. He seems to have a concussion, and a bloody head wound, as if something supernaturally strong struck him from behind. There’s a weird video on P-Tube running on Alvin’s laptop, showing what looks like an old school camcorder recording of a group of investigators exploring the same house, dated from twenty years ago. They get to the basement where something attacks them, chasing the survivors out of the house, where they end up killed by whatever the thing is. Worried, they call Desmond in, and he proves very skilled at first aid, bandaging Alvin up and getting him into the limo, which has a seriously well stocked first aid kit. The team then decides to finish things off instead of retreating, and head back down to the basement. Rufus and J.T. determine that the far wall is a false wall, with a narrow space behind it. J.T. borrows Tobi’s crowbar and begins breaking down the cinder block wall, which crumbles easily, too easily under the blows from the crowbar. While they are working, a beam cracks loose and hits Tobi, but she isn’t damaged by it. He cracks a big enough hole in the wall to determine that there’s a narrow space behind it, and shines a light through, at which point Tobi says “This is some Cask of Armadillo shit.” And J.T. replies “That’s dumb. Everyone knows the story is the Cask of Monte Christo.”

After the impromptu literature discussion, the team hears a scuttling and squealing from the space behind the walls. Rufus determines they are rats, and he tries to talk to them in beast speech, but realizes they are controlled by something. He then draws upon his connection to his totem, Rat, and dispels the control over the rats, allowing them to disperse. They then toss a glow stick in and shine a flashlight. Its revealed that the inner wall is of plaster, and has a very disturbing mural painted on it, of some alien city under strange stars, with deformed, sallow human figures scattered among the terraces and balconies of ziggurat shaped buildings, enjoying decadent pleasures. A huge, worm like creature, with tentacles coming from around its huge maw, coiled among the buildings, snatching the humans and devouring them. Rufus can determine it’s a rendering of the Wyrm, showing some Umbral realm, and that it’s a focal point for some Wyrm fetish. The painting jars Victoria’s memories in some way, leaving her very cold and disturbed. In the corner of the mural, Rufus can see a signature, of Belial Stillwell, and doesn’t point it out to the group. J.T. and Tobi then break down the mural, destroying it. Revealed behind the hole is a small, damp room with a dirt floor and plaster walls oozing discolored water, with mold and fungus growing over it, including bleeding mushrooms, that drip a blood like fluid.

In the center of the room is a grave, also overgrown with a weird, pale fungus that looks like discolored hands reaching from the earth. A cracked, faded, mold covered head stone lists the name Josiah Beckett, a death date of 1914, and the phrase “To serve the Master in life is to serve him in death.” The whole room feels cold and foreboding, with some angry, unseen presence held only at bay by J.T.’s power. They quickly take some photos of the grave, and a handful of the damp earth, and decide to leave. In the limo, on the way home, they discuss what to do about Alvin. Desmond points out any regular hospital will make a full incident report to the police. He says that the Stillwell family has a controlling interest in a small, private hospital called PrimeCare, and that taking him there will save a lot of fuss and questions, which after some discussion they reluctantly agree to. They drop Alvin off, and find out that his injury will be listed as an ‘accident’ from goofing off and that the Victoria’s family will cover the expenses. Afterwards, they debate what to do about the house, with J.T. insisting on its destruction, and Tobi and Victoria pointing out that it seems if the ghost is left alone, it’s not a threat. Rufus finally signals that he “knows a guy.” Who can take care of it, and decides to inform the Bone Gnawers about the place, while J.T. assumes he’s going to let the big guy they met at the Crypt and Chalice rave deal with it. They then get dropped off at their homes, and clean up and turn in for the night.

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