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Brought to you by our friends at Chaosium, this special Call of Cthulhu one-shot features Keeper of Arcane Lore Taliesin Jaffe guiding investigators Marisha Ray, Erika Ishii, Phil LaMarr, Travis Willingham, Ashly Burch, and Liam O'Brien through a horrifying adventure.
Part I Edit
Set in 1890 in London's Crystal Palace, the Cat Club is hosting its annual cat show. Several nights before the show, a meeting for the owners is held. Six of them have actually entered their cats with the ulterior motive of gaining late night access to the Crystal Palace. They have been hired by Rupert Merriweather, a young American man with an interest in the occult, to sneak into the Palace's closed exhibits and retrieve an ancient casket for him. The casket has been moved to the Palace by Dr. Pocket, who managed its paperwork, upon Mr. Merriweather's request. Merriweather's butler, Bentley Badger will also be accompanying the group. The group of six consists of Mason Pocket; Bentley Badger; Alexandra O'Neil the adventurer; Hanako Hayashi the socialite; Ida Codswell the engineer; and Septimus Goodfellow the celebrity spiritualist.
Merriweather pulls all six of the group aside during the Cat Club meeting. He further explains to them the specifics of the job at hand, and tells them they probably have up to five hours to search. Since the Palace's exhibits are in disarray due to refurbishment, and the cat show is taking up some space, Merriweather cannot say precisely where the casket might be. He assumes no members of this group have met before, but assures them that each were selected because they are the best in their field.
The group takes some time to introduce themselves to each other. Alexandra and Hana actually do know each other, Alexandra has read Mason's historical pamphlets, and Hana has heard of Septimus from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Mentioning Septimus's profession brings up some differences in the group, as Ida and Bentley are the only members to declare themselves non-believers. Upon introducing themselves to each other, the group then describe their cats, and Alexandra, Hana, and Septimus takes bets on whose cat will win the contest.
Merriweather tells the group to meet him back in the room they are currently in after they retrieve the casket. They then head into an unlit and unoccupied area of the Palace. They meet a guard named Joseph Waylon at the guard post, whom they convince to let them into the closed exhibits and to give them his lantern. They look for a way to turn on the lights in the Electrical Arcade, but Ida is distracted as she finds an electrical generator of her own design on display under the name of the man who stole it from her. The group looks for the fuse box, switch the lights on and decide to investigate the room. Hana finds in one of the display cases an elekiter, a Japanese electrostatic generator invented by Hirana Gennai in 1776. Hana decides to reclaim this item and takes it with her.
The group goes on to explore the exhibits. They find several interesting objects and notes, but not the casket. Septimus checks the rooms they enter for presences from the other side. Bentley uses the sword concealed in his cane to remove a plaque from the fountain, revealing a time capsule. Inside is a red stone containing a black onyx pentagram. This is familiar to Alexandra. It is a red iris stone, used to channel power, usually in the form of heat or light, and is said to protect arcane doorways. She has been working with Indian monks to contain a monster called "The Village of the Hungry Night", and the monks have such a stone in their possession; though theirs contains a spiral, not a pentagram. Mason notes that red stones appear throughout mythology in connection to many cults. Septimus warns that touching the stone is a risk, and Bentley returns it to its bag to carry. Alexandra speaks to Septimus about "the other side" and warns him against looking too far: "The things I've seen you wouldn't want to wish on your worst nightmares".
Ida asks Hana to see the elekiter. In inspecting the object, she discovers a key, marked with a symbol of a cult of Gylcon, a Roman deity depicted as a snake with human hair. She also discovers a false bottom on the elekiter box, and inside finds a small black mirror. Mason remarks that red stones, black mirrors, and green glass are commonly found together in relation to cults. The group heads to the Egyptian Court.
The statue of Isis in the Egyptian Court is holding a black sun instead of red, which Mason notes is unusual. He asks Bentley to boost him up to look at the sun. It has writing on it that he can't quite read. He removes it from its pedestal, but Bentley is suffering from an old war wound and cannot keep him steady. Mason drops the sun and it shatters on the floor. Moments later the lights flicker out.
The group takes the extra lanterns they find in the Egyptian room, and Ida takes the worker's tools she finds there, and the group moves on to the Roman Court. Mason checks the crates, but they do not find the casket. The group decides to split up. Ida and Septimus remain in the Roman room, Bentley and Hana go to check in with the guard, and Alexandra and Mason return to the Egyptian room.
While searching the Roman room, Ida hears a tapping sound, but finds no source. She does find a silver chest in the Roman room, with a snake skin pattern in the metal, and three stones inlaid on top: red, black, and green. The key she previously found unlocks it, and inside is another red iris stone, this one containing a snake symbol.
Bentley and Hana speak to each other on the way to the guard post. It is revealed that Merriweather found Hana stealing a necklace, and blackmailed her into this adventure. She doesn't seem to mind too much, as she seems to be enjoying herself. The pair find Waylon at his post, but he is staring out the glass, not looking at them. When they speak to him, he only responds with one repeating phrase: "Nothing to worry about. Go about your business." Bentley follows Waylon's gaze out the glass, but notices that Waylon is casting no reflection. Bentley is shaken by this and develops the compulsion to check his own reflection in every mirror he passes.
Meanwhile in the Egyptian room, Alexandra advises Mason that it is probably best that the general public believe his theories to be fiction. He argues that truth is important, and that they must know what they are protecting themselves from. She agrees, but argues that such information is meant for people like them, not the masses who would likely panic. Alexandra reveals to Mason that his theories are correct. The monks she works with have a red iris stone, a black chalice, and have sent her here to find a jade planchette. The pair hear a tapping sound behind the statue of Isis, and notice two figures standing behind it, facing away from them.
Part II Edit
A shaken Bentley suggests to Hana that they rejoin the others. In the Roman room Septimus tells Ida that while she may not believe in the supernatural, he is very good at "reading the room, and the room is turning."
In the Egyptian room, a frightened Mason and Alexandra argue in whispers whether or not they should leave. They hear their words echoed back to them. Alexandra begins to constantly feel as though someone is behind her. Mason becomes fixated on his theories of shadow people, rambling on about them until stopped. He feels guilt that perhaps breaking the black sun caused this.
The others return to the Egyptian room. They compare experiences, and Alexandra asks to see the black mirror. She uses it to inspect the broken sun, and in waving it around the room something catches her eye. Septimus takes the mirror and points it behind the statue of Isis, using it to look behind him. He sees two gaunt men looking at him hungrily. The others shine their lanterns at the creatures and they vanish.
The group agrees that they need to get the lights back on. Ida says her generator should be able to get the lights on, but it needs a power source. Alexandra recommends the red iris stones. The monks have a meditation process to activate them, and they should produce heat. The group asks Septimus to use his abilities to activate the stone. He reluctantly agrees and they head to the Electrical Arcade.
As they're walking, Hana steps into a shadow and hands reach out to grab her. She resists and Bentley grabs her, as others shine lanterns on the creatures, sending them scurrying. Claw marks with an acidic edge are left on Hana's body.
The group runs to the generator, surrounding Septimus with their lanterns as he takes the star stone and tries to focus on it. He is forced to admit that he has no idea what he's doing, his accent changing from English to Irish in the process. He is a charlatan with no spiritual powers. Alexandra pulls him out of the circle, taking his place with the stone. She activates it, creating so much heat it cannot be touched. The heat starts Ida's generator, which she has wired into the power system. The lights flicker back on.
The group decides to head to the as of yet unexplored Byzantine Court. On the way, Alexandra takes a moment to try to tend to Hana's wounds. The groups comes across an automaton sitting at a desk with a quill. It is called the "Future Scribe" and Mason, Bentley, and Hana all puts coins in to receive fortunes. As they do, the lights go out again. Alexandra tells Ida that each red iris stone takes days to recharge. They realize they only have the time of one stone's power left to search in the light. The group sets off to restart the power.
While walking past a mirror, Mason catches sight of a reflection in the glass that doesn't match the person on the other side. Where Hana's reflection should be is instead the reflection of the guard, Joseph Waylon. He is tapping on the glass and shaking his head. He points to the Machine Arcade. Mason points him out to the others.
After returning the lights, the group decide to split up. Alexandra and Ida head to the Hall of Justice, Hana and Mason to the Bazaar, and Bentley and "Septimus", now Archie, to the room where the cats are being held. Alexandra and Ida find nothing in the Hall of Justice and head back to meet the others.
Bentley and Archie find the casket, along with not all, but most of the cat contestants. Bentley uses his cane to break the casket's glass case, and the casket opens, letting out a horrible shriek. A mummified cat is inside, but quickly dissolves. The dust spreads through the room, infecting the cats in their cages. The cats go feral and begin to viciously attack their cages in an attempt to get out. Bentley grabs the casket and he and Archie run out of the room.
Meanwhile, Hana and Mason search the Bazaar and find a jade planchette. Not long after they hear the shrieking of the now possessed cats and head toward the commotion. Just as Alexandra and Ida are rejoining them, the lights go out again.
Archie makes a break toward the exit, leaving Bentley behind in the dark as he took the only lantern between them. He reaches the entrance doors, but is stopped by four people in Elizabethan clothing reflected in the mirror, tapping the glass. He runs back toward the group.
Now reunited, the group discuss next steps as the darkness grows around them. Alexandra is given the planchette. She tries to use it on the red iris stone, but two hands emerge from the shadow cast by the planchette. She jerks the planchette away from herself, avoiding being grabbed, but knocks Hana's lantern to the ground in the process. The lantern breaks, diminishing the light around them. Alexandra then tries to use the planchette to examine the black mirror. When Ida passes her the mirror, the planchette in Alexandra's hand passes in front of Hana, and again two hands emerge to grab her. They get a fistful of hair before Hana manages to free herself. Alexandra then checks the shards of the shattered black sun beneath the planchette and sees a glimmer. She suggests they return to the Egyptian room. The more numerous remains of the black sun there hold the same shimmer under the planchette, but offer nothing more. There are now three figures in the shadows behind the statue of Isis. Alexandra worries that Mason was right and the black sun may have been needed to contain the shadow people.
The group decides to head toward the Royal Apartments where they were set to meet Merriweather again. They plan on moving slowly and concentrating the light of their lanterns around themselves for protection. As they walk, Ida is attacked from the shadows twice, the first time by two backwards men, whom harm her but do not grab her. The second time, a backwards woman bites into Ida's shoulder and drags her into the shadows. The others watch as Ida, and her lantern, disappear. They all abandon stealth and run.
Archie, panicked by Ida's disappearance, splits from the group, planning to use a fire poker he picked up to smash through the glass walls. He vanishes in the shadows, but for a severed head the others see rolling on the floor before also vanishing into the darkness. His lantern also is taken by the shadows, leaving the remaining survivors with only the one held by Alexandra.
Mason catches sight of Ida's reflection in a mirror they run past. She is tapping on the glass and encouraging him onward. Teeth from the shadows bite into his leg. His sanity is shaken, and he becomes convinced that shattering the mirror will release Ida. He does so to no effect. The rest of the group, unaware he had stopped, leave him behind in the darkness. He doesn't feel the shadows take him.
The remaining three survivors run for the exit. In the glass they can see Ida and Mason pointing them towards the Royal Apartments. Behind them, backwards shadow people chase them, and a twisted form of Archie is now among them. They push the doors open and stumble into the brightly lit room, shutting the doors behind them. Merriweather is there waiting. He is surprised by their haggard appearance. Bentley throws the casket at Merriweather's feet. Merriweather goes to open it, despite the group's protests, and is surprised to find it empty. Bentley roughly describes the feral cats and shadow monsters.
Merriweather opens the doors, revealing dozens of shadow people and demonic cats charging towards them. The lights begin to flicker. He takes the casket, one of the red iris stones, Alexandra's jade planchette, and a necklace of his own and begins a ritual. Alexandra steps in to help and together they complete the spell and trap the monsters in the casket. As they do, Bentley notices in a mirror that Merriweather's reflection does not match his body. His reflection physically gathers all the evil spirits into a whirlwind and forces them into the casket, losing substance in the process, while Merriweather himself does not move. With the evil forces contained, the lights return to full strength.
Merriweather asks that Alexandra and Hana do not speak to anyone else of what has happened, but he will be hiring them again in the future. Hana asks that Ida's generator be relabeled under her own name. Merriweather agrees, and assures them her parents will receive the compensation she was promised. The survivors will also be paid in full. He also allows Alexandra to keep the jade planchette and Hana to keep the elekiter. It is implied Hana is going to give it to her parents. Merriweather then asks Bentley if he would still like to keep his job. Merriweather wants him to, but understands if he'd rather walk away. Bentley agrees to remain in his employ. Merriweather is pleased, especially since he expects he'll need Bentley's help to unbind himself from the sacrificial magic he used to seal the casket. Bentley mentions their companions left behind, and Merriweather tells him some may have survived. They may merely be trapped, and one day it may be possible to free them. Merriweather then leaves the group, saying he'll give them a few minutes to prepare a decent lie before sending medical help for Hana's wounds.
Left to their own devices the group discusses future plans. Bentley asks Hana about the continued "escapades of the Night Fox" and Hana reiterates that she is always up for a lark. Hana asks where Alexandra is headed next, and is told that she intends to rejoin the monks. Alexandra hopes to further help them in their goals, and to strengthen her own mind. She doubts the night's encounters will be their last of the kind. Hana offers to visit her, and Alexandra is receptive. She tells Hana that nobody else will be able to relate to what they've just experienced.
Featured Characters Edit
Player Characters Edit
- Rupert Merriweather
- Joseph Waylon
- Harrison Weir
- This episode functions as a tie-in prequel to the published Call of Cthulhu adventure 'Edge of Darkness', from the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Starter Set. In both adventures Rupert Merriweather gathers the PCs together and initiates the plot, although he appears to be in the prime of life in 'Shadow of the Crystal Palace', but is elderly and dying by the start of 'Edge of Darkness'. As Taliesin explains at the beginning, Chaosium (the publishers of Call of Cthulhu) originally suggested they use one of the published adventures in the Starter Set. To avoid spoiling a published adventure for listeners, Taliesin instead wrote 'Shadow of the Crystal Palace' as an original story that could act as a tie-in.
- The internal layout of the Crystal Palace with its various 'courts' displaying art and artefacts from various time periods corresponds in broad strokes to the real layout of the Crystal Palace after it was relocated to Sydenham Hill in 1854 (having originally served as a temporary exhibition building in Hyde Park in 1851).
- Likewise, the Crystal Palace really did host an annual cat show from 1871 onwards, and Harrison Weir (whose resignation as cat show judge is mentioned by the Cat Club chairman at the beginning of the adventure) was a real person, later dubbed the 'Father of English Cat Fancy'. This means the one-shot can be dated to 1890, the year in which Harrison Weir resigned his judgeship in real life.
- ↑ Fan art of Septimus Goodfellow, Dr. Mason Pocket, Captain Bentley Badger, Ida Codswell, Hanako Hayashi, Alexandra O'Neil, and Taliesin Jaffe as The Keeper of Arcane Lore, by alexielapril (source). Used with permission.
- ↑ Fan art of Captain Badger, Alexandra O'Neil, and Hana Hayashi, by Elaine Tipping (source). Used with permission.