From Tatters of the King
Session Report - Played Monday 4th September, 2006
Steve Irwin - R.I.P.
Monday December 31st 1929
Wimbledon Cemetery, the funeral of Doctor Frederick Bartlett. In the face of some cold stares from Bartlett's family, the investigators retire to a nearby pub and make plans to travel to Nepal. It is decided to book passage on the next available ship, which will be 'The Viceroy of India', a new P&O liner which leaves Southampton on Friday.
It is agreed that to avoid the crossing of the Bay of Biscay, never pleasant at this time of year, the investigators will travel by train to Marseilles and meet the boat there on Sunday.
Friday January 5th 1930
The investigators leave England and head to France, taking a train south to the port of Marseilles, where they buy the gear they feel they need for the journey - walking shoes, packs, alpine rations and survival gear.
Saturday January 6th 1930
All three investigators experience disturbing dreams containing themes and imagery from the Hastur mythos. All feel the influence of the King in Yellow is growing.
Sunday January 7th 1930
The investigators board The Viceroy of India for the 11 day voyage to Bombay. Over the next week and a half they will spend a lot of time with their dining companions on Table 8, who they meet that lunchtime (with the exception of Mr Thomas, who does not appear until dinner).
- Julian Knight - a diplomat returning to India, who implies that he may be some kind of a spy and clearly has an eye for the ladies and a taste for brandy
- The Reverend Ian Gore - a missionary with the British Bible Society, on his way to continue spreading the Word in the interior of India
- Mrs Henrietta Tullis - the matronly wife of the Cultural attache in Bombay, returning from visiting her sick sister and very much the 'mother hen' of the group
- Stephen Thomas - a pudgy, bespectacled man. A minor civil servant taking up a new post in India, Stephen always has his head in a book.
- Miss Francesca Nicholson - a pretty, vivacious typist on her way to visit relatives and see the sub-continent. She knows Nathaniel Browne's work and is especially happy to meet him.
- Miss Patricia Berry - Francesca's quieter, less glamorous friend and travelling companion from a monied background, she busies herself in voluntary work. As Franscesca's attention has been monopolised by Browne, Julian Knight immediately latches on to Patricia.
Note: At this point, Julian Knight is being played by Marcus Gustafsson and the other players think that Julian is his new character in the campaign.
The investigators get on well immediately with most of the diners, with the exception of Mr. Knight who almost immediately inspires dislike.
The afternoon in mostly taken up in trying Skeet shooting, a pursuit at which Mr. Knight proves himself quite inept, while the others attempt to pick up pointers off the obviously more experienced Withers.
By dinner that evening, Francesca has attached herself to Browne as is hanging on his every word, while poor Patricia finds herself the object of Knight's attentions, something that is making her increasingly uncomfortable.
During dinner Saunders sees a swarthy looking man looking into the dining room and is sure he's seen him before, though he cannot place him.
At the end of the meal, when it is time for the ship's orchestra to strike up, Withers notices Knight is ordering a drink and chivalrously steps in, inviting Patricia to be his dance partner for the evening. Thus paired up, Withers and Browne go to the dance floor, Knight to the bar and Andrew Saunders wanders off on his own for the evening.
Francesca returns to Nathaniel's stateroom where she discovers a copy of Talbot Estus's play amongst Nathaniel's books. Remembering the dedication from 'Tatters of the King' she asks if she can borrow it. Browne agrees.
Past midnight, Withers hears Saunders return to his cabin. He wonders quite where his friend has been and, remembering Saunder's mention of the swarthy stranger, decides to investigate. Gun in hand, he knocks at the door of Saunder's state room and is answered by a flustered Saunders who, nevertheless, ensures him that all is well.
Monday January 8th 1930
The ship steams on across the Mediterranean. A game of deck quoits takes place, and Henrietta Tullis presses the investigators into competing against the reverend Gore. Withers and Browne encounter Francesca Nicholson and Patricia Berry once more, and Patricia is impressed to see Withers win handily, despite his protestations that he has never played before.
During the game, Saunders sees the swarthy stranger once more, but still cannot place him, or catch up with him.
While the ladies spend the afternoon in a painting class, Browne tries his hand at violin lessons, Saunders stalks the deck searching for (and failing to spot) the mysterious stranger and the others wile away the time in various pursuits.
By dinner, Saunders is constantly looking out for the stranger, and the others are starting to get a little worried about him. During the meal, Mrs Tullis and Rev. Gore box Knight in to stop him from bothering Patricia, and Withers finds himself once more spending time with young Miss Berry, whose reticence and shyness is slowly fading.
After dinner, as the orchestra strikes up, Withers notices Saunders sneaking off, makes up some quickly invented excuse to extricate himself from his dance with Miss Berry and trails him. Saunders passes into an area signposted as for 'Staff only'; Withers (after a brief pause for an internal debate about going into a place that is out of bounds) follows and runs into a lascar seaman. Wither's makes to push through regardless of the lascar's protestations, but the raised voices alert Saunders who emerges from a nearby door with an unreadable look upon his face. Withers sees the name "Head Steward Wilkins" on the door from which Saunders has emerged.
Saunders tells Withers that Wilkins is an old friend and refuses to say any more.
Back in the ballroom, Knight, having escaped the attentions of Rev. Gore and Mrs Tullis, has managed to get Patricia to dance with him, unprotected by Francesca and Nathaniel who have gone for a walk together. When Knight goes for a drink, Withers rescues her and when Knight returns, Mrs Tullis asks him to dance. Knight drains his brandy glass and accepts his fate.
Withers attempts to question Browne about Saunders' behaviour. Browne, guessing what is going on better than Withers, attempts inexpertly to deflect his attention, but succeeds only in piquing his curiosity.
Tuesday January 9th 1930
The ship steams into Port Said. Many passengers disembark to explore the souk and experience some exotic culture.
Back aboard, dinner that evening has an Egyptian theme. Over dinner, Julian Knight shows another side to his personality, taking a great interest in the investigators and their travels. Soon this becomes a suspicious amount of interest, as if he is trying to find out something specific.
At the end of dinner, to the great surprise of the investigators, Knight does not attempt to get Patricia to dance, but simply stands up and leaves. The investigators discuss the mysterious note and decide that Withers will go, but Saunders will follow and watch from the shadows.
At the bow, nobody turns up. Withers waits for only a few minutes, then convinced that this is a transparent plot of Knight's decides to return to the ballroom where, at about 5 to 10, Knight had turned up and immediately started to work once more on Patricia's affections.
Just as Withers starts to leave a lascar turns up with another note, requesting a 15 minute delay prior to the meeting. Withers does not buy this and hurries back to the ballroom where, with a bit of help from Francessca, he once more rescues Patricia from Knight. Patricia is starting to greatly like Withers and tells Francesca who in turn tells Nathaniel.
Saunders hangs back near the bow and sees a shadowy figure arrive at 10.15, wait for a minute then slip away. Saunders attempts to follow, but quickly loses the trail.
Wednesday January 10th 1930
The day is spent travelling through the Suez Canal, a fascinating and unique maritime experience.
At lunch Henrietta Tullis mentions the traditional end of voyage show at which each table puts on a small act. Francesca Nicholson happily suggests a performance of part of 'Carcosa: or the Queen and the Stranger', but both Withers and Saunders veto this, citing emotional reasons around the death of their 'friend' Talbot Estus. Instead it is agreed that the table will put on a recitation of Gilbert and Sullivan songs.
Saunders has a reasonable singing voice, as do Francesca, Mrs Tullis (unsurprising as this is a hobby for her), and the Reverend Gore. The big surprise is Mr Thomas, who turns out to have an excellent baritone once coaxed from his initial reticence.
The others are cobbled into a larger chorus where their lesser vocal talents are better merged.
At dinner, Mr Knight fails more miserably than ever at trying to pump the investigators for information and in trying to chat up Patricia, and decides instead to drown his sorrows at the bar.
Absolutely nothing sinister happens this evening.
Thursday, January 11th 1930
This afternoon the traditional Port vs Starboard cricket match takes place. All of the investigators take part and perform variously well (and Julian Knight seems to playing as though he is drunk, even hitting the first mate with an ill-timed throw), but it is Andrew Saunders who shines, very oddly for a Scot. Despite a couple of mistakes in the outfield his outstanding batting and bowling talents end up winning the match virtually single-handedly. Saunders is carried to the bar on the shoulders of his team-mates in triumph!
Returning to his stateroom, Browne is shocked to find that he has been burgled, The Turner Codex is gone, along with the note from Villiers' studio, whcih was tucked between the pages. Browne reveals his suspicion tbat Julian Knight is involved, citing his recent behaviour and the mysterious notes. Knight is questioned by the Chief Purser and instantly cracks under the slightest pressure, revealing his involvement with a mysterious Italian who offered to get Withers out of his way in return for all he could learn about the investigators' reasons for travel to India.
Knight also reveals that he was told that a note left for 'Aldones' at the telegraph office could be used to make contact.
It is decided to draft such a note suggesting a midnight meeting somewhere on the ship, and that whoever picks up the note should be identified or even followed if possible.
The note is so drafted, delivered and picked up. The man who picks up the note is identified as Umberto Zavaroni from stateroom 217.
That evening no dancing follows dinner. Knight stays well away from Patricia and the ladies retire to play cards to allow the men to carry out their business.
Saunders, Withers and a couple of burly crewmen head to the bow while the chief purser and Browne let themselves into the room opposite Zavaroni's and wait.
At 11.45 a man appears at the door to 217, knocks and speaks in Italian. Watching through the peephole, Browne sees him draw a stilleto as Zavaroni's door starts to open.
Browne bursts into the corridor shouting a warning, Zavaroni opens the door. The assassin strikes, glancing a blow off of his target's money-belt. Browne steps out, swings a well placed fist and smashes the attacker's nose back into his face knocking him out cold. The stilleto falls to the ground. A Yellow Sign is embossed on its handle. Browne quickly pockets the knife.
At this point, Marcus Gustafsson starts to play Umberto to everyone else's surprise. It is now revealed that Knight was never his player character, but a mere piece of misdirection, and instead he will be playing Umberto.
It is soon revealed that the now unconscious assassin burgled Browne's cabin and that Umberto has long been a thorn in the side of the Brothers of the Yellow Sign. He says that 'Zavaroni' is a fake name, but that they can call him 'Umberto'.
The other investigators arrive in time to hear Umberto's tale of following their footsteps for months after his investigation of the activities of the Brotherhood caused him to become aware of their group. A former Vatican investigator, he takes the threat of Hastur very seriously and hopes they can be allies. It turns out that it was Umberto who, using the name 'Aldones', enlisted Mr Knight to find out more about the investigators, trying to verify that these were indeed the group he had been trailing for so long.
Saunders, Withers and Browne look at each other, in their eyes the unasked question - 'Can we trust this man?'. Browne notices that Umberto wears the symbol of The Order of the Sword of St. Jerome, the Vatican's (surely mythical?) occult investigation arm. After a long discussion it is established that with the amount that Umberto seems to already know, it would be fairly pointless for the others to disassociate from them as he would probably just follow them anyway.
Continue to Session 13.
Link to come...