All At Sea

Playlist: The Bounty - Vangelis

The Gilman House Hotel

Gilman House Hotel, Miami, Miami, United States, 22nd March 1941 13:20

After the apalling escalation of events the previous day, the team sensibly decided to hunker down for the remaining two days until their ship was to sail. By good fortune, the late de Marigny's effects had included a receipt for payment to a company called Petróleos Mexicanos for passage to Peru for seven plus personal possessions aboard the SS Portero del Llano.

The time was spent resting, recuperating and preparing. Joe and Anné spent some time working to learn spells from various books, including the unfortunate de Marigny's personal book of largely beneficent magic - with no success.

Cyril Boston-Flint

The staff were withdrawn, uncommunicative and of a very low type; the only person they seemed to pay much attention to was Cyril, for whom they were apparently prepared to do anything.

Waterfront, Miami, United States, 24th March 1941 15:28

Keeper Note: The SS Portero del Llano, nee FA Tamplin, was built on Tyneside. She was torpedoed and sunk by mistake as an Italian ship east of Florida by U-564 in 1942, forming a major part of the causus belli for Mexico’s entry into WW2.

On the designated day the group presented themselves at the harbour, and located their vessel after asking around. On finding it, they stood and stared for a few moments.

Mexican Sailor

Once a product of British shipbuilding craft, the vessel had seen very hard usage. She was covered in rust and poorly maintained, and seemed to slump in the water. A swarthy, ill-favoured Mexican seaman lounged on the rail looking down at them, while a slightly less dodgy looking individual waited for them at the bottom of the gangway.

He was the local factor of Petróleos Mexicanos, and after checking their paperwork, ushered them aboard. His furtive air lent credence to the suspicion that de Marigny had pulled strings and paid bribes to arrange a non-standard passage for them with no questions asked.

Guided to their cabins with scant ceremony, the team were brusquely shown areas of the ship that they were allowed to use - access to the galley, the pretty unspeakable heads, and a section of deck outside their spartan but reasonably clean cabins - and made aware that they were not at all welcome anywhere else on the ship.

By the smell, she was hauling refined diesel fuel to Peru.

Half an hour later, several of them leaned on the rail and watched with little regret as the United States of America faded away into the grey morning light. They were quite glad to see the back of it.

Birapeer. Aimo is off over the Horizon again for 5 months in the Falklands, so Birapeer will be away doing something different. With luck, we can do some PBEM on that!

Birapeer Mansukhani Singh remained behind. He had prayed for guidance, and his conscience told him that their involvement with de Marigny had left him with a responsibility. While the others headed to Peru, the Sikh planned to travel to New Orleans and try to fill in for de Marigny until Deadman's organization could recruit a replacement.

He took with him all the Deep One gold and jewelry, for Deadman to examine; no-one fancied the idea of carrying that aboard a ship heading out into the open ocean.

Captain Miguel Absalon

SS Portero del Llano, Carribean Sea, 28th March 1941 09:49

Four days out from Miami, a furious battering on the door of Charlie's cabin preceded the appearance of the ship's captain, Miguel Absolon, amid a torrent of hideously accented Spanish that totally overwhelmed the Yorkshireman's ability to understand it. Joining them, Joe managed to piece out that the man was demanding to know where "Gregorios" was. Gregorios, it appeared, was one of the crew, and according to Captain Absolon he was missing - vanished towards the end of his night shift. As the only thing that was different aboard the ship was the passengers, Absolon was convinced that they were responsible. "You have murdered him!" he snarled. Joe snapped back, "¡Demuéstralo, melón!" using what he thought was an insult but producing a puzzled look from the captain.

Joe gestured into the sparse cabin, with its bunks and small heaps of bags of the team's gear - clearly nowhere to hide a body - and added "No hemos salido de nuestras habitaciones" - "We haven't left our rooms". The captain scowled. "¡Así que tú dices!" - "So you say!" - he growled. He threw up his hands with an incohate snarl and stormed off again.

After that the eleven remaining crew were even more sullen and hostile. Marcus scanned around with the Voorish Sign and discerned with interest a thick strand of fear flowing through the other emotions aboard. No harmful magic seemed to be in play that he could locate though.

Joe unpacked a pistol and began wearing it openly, as did a couple of the others.

SS Portero del Llano, Panama Canal, 30th March 1941 20:12

As the rusty tub wallowed through the mighty canal, the captain was back. This time he was even more apoplectic, and also clearly afraid. This time, the sailor Abramovich was gone, again without trace, again while patroling the ship alone on the night watch. He raved and accused for a while, until Joe snapped, "We'll stand watch with you tonight, see if we can catch who or whatever is doing this!" The captain recoiled, and Charlie stepped in to try and smooth things down - unfortunately his grasp of the language was poor enough that he managed only to vilely insult Absolon. Both he and Joe stomped off in a rage.

As night fell, however, the party tackled up and set watches in "passenger country". They now openly carried serious hardware, and the crew eyed this in passing; but as they also now had baulks of wood, large spanners and the occasional revolver on display, there was more sense of fellow-feeling than before.


SS Portero del Llano, Panama Canal, 30th March 1941 22:14

Daring the crew to object, Marcus and Anné took a patrol, using a mixture of magic and Mk1 Eyeball to scour the ship for the untoward. They couldn't help noticing that half the eight lifeboats were either broken or missing; Anné also spotted something odd in the davits on the far side of the ship from their quarters. Instead of a boat, a grey cylinder seven feet long and three across hung over the water. Persistent enquiries received first a burst of incomprehesible Serbo-Croat, then demands to "get off my bridge!" from the captain.

Joe managed to get into conversation with one of the sailors, a man named Gonzalo who seemed a bit less hostile than the others. Over smokes and a swig of something warming, he wheedled from him some more details. The ship had originally had a crew of fifteen, and supplemented its captain's income by quietly shipping bootleg archaeological finds north and Bourbon whiskey south. Joe quietly decided not to mention this to Marcus or Cyril. Gonzalo confirmed that crewmembers had been disappearing at irregular intervals ever since the ship left Lima last trip, and was rather fatalistic; he, like many of the others, believed that the ship was cursed by el diablo and there was nothing could be done to fight it.

SS Portero del Llano, Off the Peruvian Coast, 31st March 1941 03:06


Later, as Joe and Cyril were watching in the dark hours, the sound of footsteps became audible. Around the corner of the superstructure, walking towards them, came one of the sailors - Costas, Joe thought his name was. His pace was odd, slightly uneven; reminiscent of a sleepwalker. Shouting and waving attracted no attention, and it dawned on Joe that he was heading directly for the rail and the sea below.

Cyril laid hold of the sailor, but with a heave that would have racked an aware man with pain the sailor, still expressionless, pulled free and carried on walking. Both jumped him and this time got him pinned to the ground.

The noise had attracted attention and the rest of the crew was soon gathered around, regarding the slowly squirming, silent sailor and his vacant expression. Half of them began to back away again, crossing themselves and spitting, muttering prayers; "¡El diablo lo maldice!" Marcus, awakened by the noise, cast a different spell, Detect Enchantment. This piece of magic, while far less powerful than the Voorish Sign, was far less damaging to the caster and more specific in its purpose - it allowed the discernment of curses, enchantments, hexes and magical dominations. Marcus' vision expanded, showing him Costas' rather grubby soul as a flow of energy overlying his features; this was reasonably normal. What was not normal was the representation of black briars, cruelly wound around his soul, spiked and barbed thorns of hostile magic embedded here and there, and cutting his spirit as they pulsed gently. The crew are not wrong, he thought in dull horror.

At this point the captain hurried up and started organizing his sturdier crewmen to haul Costas off to the brig - a converted workshop in the depths of the hull. After a moment, the team were left alone. Marcus, spell still running, turned and began to slowly trace it back along Costas' path. The trail led in a pretty straight line back to the door of Captain Absolon's cabin, where it suddenly faded to nothing. Glancing around, he tried the door.

Captain's Cabin

Luck was with them; the captain had locked his door as he rushed out to the commotion, but it had "bounced" out of the rebate, and the lock bar had thrown outside the hasp, not inside. Slipping inside, the team looked around. The cabin was untidy, with clothes, charts and boots scattered here and there. Aided by the remnants of his magic, though, Marcus' eyes went to the railed shelves and locked onto an object that looked out of place - a golden idol, about 8" high.

Supay, God of Death

Moving closer, Marcus recognized it with a shudder. It was a representation of the Inca Death God Supay; not a common subject, and less so given the few Inca objets to survive the conquistadores. It was also quite clearly the source of the magical attack suffered by Costas.

Marcus and Cyril approached it with extreme care, taking a heavy oilskin coat from the back of the door and wrapping the thing in it without getting it near their skin, then turning to leave the cabin.

Outside watching out, Joe looked up sharply as Captain Absolon and two burly sailors came around the corner. There was a moment's silence and then Joe, almost apologetically, lifted his Thompson to cover the three seamen and gestured downwards. "Baja tus armas por favor." Absolon scowled at him as he dropped his pistol. "Ah, por lo que son malditos piratas entonces," he growled. "No, not pirates," he protested.

It took a lot of work - and the belated discovery that Absolon spoke French, allowing Anné to take the lead in communicating - to get across to Absolon that the idol, now being held over the side by Cyril, was the source of their troubles. Once they had, Absolon formed the unshakable view that this was just a ploy to steal his prize treasure - lifted from the last consignment from Peru. He refused to believe any of this "fairy tale stuff". Eventually Marcus lost patience and, touching him on the arm, cast a Healing.

He knew it had worked when the connection opened between himself, Absolon and ... whatever it was that waited beyond, and the pain of the captain's buttock boil and bad tooth washed momentarily through him and away. The captain staggered, eyes widening, and sat down on the deck. The demonstration had been too good; for the moment, he appeared to have no idea where they were or who anyone around him was.

Reluctantly, Joe and the others dispersed the sailors to their tasks. Gonzalo was put in charge of the wheel to keep them in a straight line, and the team gathered to discuss what to do. Some wanted to pitch the thing straight over the side; others wanted it to go to Deadman to be safely studied and properly made safe. "Post it to Hitler!" suggested Charlie, relieving the tension slightly. Finally Anné spoke up. "I have a summoning," she began.

Byakhee. I note with amusement that the writeup linked above is from two years ago exactly.

The creature she proposed to summon was something most of them had seen before, in the hydroelectric power station at Cascata di Lares. It was called a Byakhee, and forbidden books studied by various team members since then had included accounts of them being used as steeds and messengers by sorcerors.

Carefully preparing herself, Anné laid out the prescribed pentagram at the bow of the ship with great care, knelt within it and produced the small silver whistle required for the summoning spell. Closing her eyes, she began to play the odd, dissonant notes.

Everyone else backed away, lining up angles of fire ready to deal with what might come, remembering that the last one had been anything but bulletproof but alert for trouble.

Keeper Note: The way the mechanic works, the summoner decides how many Magic Points to use for the summoning (each one gives 10% chance of success), and then must overcome the POW of the summoned creature with what was not expended. Anné put 5 into Summoning and 7 into Binding, not a bad balance, but a Critical on the Summon and a fail/Push/fail on the Binding was not a good result. Cyril's Critical rifle shot was just in time!

After nearly an hour, flapping noises became discernable and the thing faded into view in the sky above the ship. As it descended, even those who'd seen one before blanched - by comparison to that, this was huge, over double the size.

Anné stared upwards, white-faced, and terrified. She stuttered through the words of the Binding, but her control was gone and the magic got away from her. The flow of arcane energy she'd felt as the summoning was enacted suddenly intensified, drawing more and more energy. All her magical power went from her in an instant, but the flow didn't stop and her life force began to follow it. Agony ripped through her body, blood poured from her eyes and nose and she collapsed to the deck.

Behind her, Cyril lifted his Lee-Enfield, and the rifle that had served on so many British battlefields in so many countries did not let him down. With a loud crack, the bullet few true, striking the Byakhee straight between the eyes and killing it instantly.

Shocked, the team simply stared at each other.

Session Date: 4th February 2020