The Pyramids of Túcume

Playlist: Gymnopedie No.1 - Sky

SS Portero del Llano, Off the Peruvian Coast, 31st March 1941 04:04

Anné was still deeply unconscious when the last fragments of the summoned monster had crumbled to dust. Stepping over, Cyril laid a hand on her and cast the Healing spell, feeling the link spring up through him from Anné to the Thing that Waits for Pain, and biting back a scream as the agony of her spellburns ripped through him and then faded. Her breathing steadied, and she lapsed into the deep sleep of a practitioner who has exhausted their resources.


Joe climbed back up to the bridge, where he found the sailor Gonzalo still guiding the vessel. His eyes were wide with shock, but he was still functional despite the things he'd seen through the bridge windows. Joe explained the basics of what had gone on, and Gonzalo nodded, his suspicions of a curse confirmed. "Sí, el barco está maldito, como pensé."

Half an hour later, with the dawn ahead of them, they came into view of the lights of Lima.

Callao Harbour, Lima, Peru, 31st March 1941 05:48

Lima's Cathederal

With the very minimal local formalities of docking over, Joe offered the Supay idol to Gonzales. "If the captain doesn't recover," he pointed out, "you may be out of a job." Marcus chipped in, "It's gold; melt it down," he winced slightly down in his archaeologists' soul, "and the curse will break," probably he added mentally. Gonzalo looked at it, part wrapped in the captain's coat. "No," he said, "I'd rather be poor and not dead."

A few moments later, there was a soft splash, and a priceless but very dangerous Inca artifact disappeared into the murky waters of Lima harbour.

British Consulate, Lima, Peru, 31st March 1941 09:01

British Consulate, Lima

The British Consulate was a modest building in a not-very-magnificent part of town. The consul, Roderick Dennis, had been advised of their coming, though all he knew was that they were engaged in something “hush hush”; he seemed pleased to be able to help.  He was ready to offer access to what resources he could, but his budget was tiny. Apologizing profusely that the consulate wasn't large enough to accommodate them all, he explained that rooms had been provided at the Pizzaro Hotel.

Roderick Dennis, British Consul

He had done some initial research, and could confirm that the Hauer expedition headed up towards Tucume. When the team asked about the 'humanitarian' expedition sent by the Germans, he cheerfully confirmed that they'd passed through Lima around four weeks before, "Both of them," he commented.


"Oh, yes, two separate German expeditions; they must be really worried about Hauer to send that many people to look for him. No, no soldiers - not in uniform, but a lot of these expeditions hire ex-military as security. Bandits, you know."  

Hotel Parcia Dobano

Dennis had laid on three cars to take them to the area. The nearest habitation was a sugar plantation owned by a Monsieur  Landau just north of Chiclayo – from where a guide, horses and porters would be provided to continue up-country towards the ruins.  He introduced one Emilien Húaman, a local guide he trusted completely, who would assist them in their journey. He was also able to store their heavier equipment in the secure cellars of the Consulate - which offer they gratefully accepted.

Hotel Parcia Dobano, Lima, Peru, April 1st 1941 Dead of Night

Joe was sitting on guard out in the sitting room of the suite he was sharing with Anné and Cyril when a soul-tearing scream arising from multiple throats brought him to his feet, the Thompson that was never far from his reach leaping to his grip. Crashing through the door of one of the bedrooms, he found Cyril huddled in his bed, nearly weeping from fear and shock. As the others gathered, it transpired that each of them had had essentially the same dream.

Nightmare Blade

In the dream, each had been sitting in the dark at a campfire, in the jungle of Peru's upcountry, amongst their companions, and the guide and some other locals - probably the porters. In each case, one of the party was missing from the circle, though in the way of dreams the knowledge came with no distinction as to which of them it was. Everyone in the circle was, by some means, paralysed but aware, helpless in place. As the dreamer watched, each was slain in slow cruelty with a blade by the missing person, with the dreamer last, to wake as the blade slid into their throat.

It took some of them a long, long time to get back to sleep after that...

Between Lima and Chiclayo, Lima, Peru, April 1st 1941, 16:51

Willys Model 37 (no, really!)

Dennis’s cars, whilst not being the newest available on the market, were, for the most part, really quite comfortable, even on the hard-packed dirt roads of the Lambayeque countryside. The morning fog was still present, if a little wispier than it had been, and twilight was soon upon them, shrouding the passing fields and trees from view. Huamán spoke up, assuring the team that it would only take another couple of hours to reach the estate.


Ten minutes or so later, the engines and lights of all three cars suddenly stopped, leaving the convoy to roll to a silent halt. After a pause, the occupants began to emerge, with the drivers opening the sleek bonnets to try and establish the cause of the stoppage. Several of the team joined them, checking the engines with the aid of their hand torches, and discovering that as far as they could tell, nothing was wrong.

As they began to investigate more deeply, all three suddenly sparked back into life with no warning, cueing much muttering, scratching of heads, and kicking of tyres by their chauffeurs. Glancing around to see if any external agency for these events was visible, it dawned on the team that it was much lighter than they remembered. First one, then another, glanced at their watches. Bewilderingly, all showed around an hour earlier than it had been before the cars stopped.

Cyril was the first to say this out loud, and as he did so he noticed the drivers shooting him dark looks, telling their rosary beads, crossing themselves and spitting to the side.

Discussing it as their journey resumed, the group were reminded of things some of them had read in The Book of The Machine. While Viracocha's Mirror was described as the sighting device for the Palladion, other comments had left the impression that it could see immense distances in order to achieve this. Re-reading these, Marcus realized that they could also be interpreted to mean that the device could see distantly in time as well as in space. These strange events might be no coincidence.

Estate of Monsieur Landau, North of Chiclayo, Peru, 1st April 1941, 18:15

An hour or so later, the tired and slightly bewildered group arrived at the plantation house of Landau in Chiclayo. They were greeted warmly by Landau’s estate manager, Qari Morales, who escorted them to their rooms, and informed them that dinner would be served, after cocktails, in around an hour’s time. Until then, they were free to freshen up and settle themselves in.

Dr Etzel Hauer

Joe detained Morales for a moment, asking about the German expeditions, and had it confirmed that all three had passed through Chiclayo, though he personally had not seen the second or third; he remembered the "sad doctor" from the first. From what he had heard, each comprised around ten individuals.

The estate house contained an eclectic mix of Central and South American artefacts; most were Peruvian, although there were a few examples from Mexico and Bolivia. Perusing the collection was an American, Faramund Armbruster. As they browsed the collection together, Marcus realized that Armbruster was making a very careful mental note of the size, shape, and (no doubt) value of every piece he handles. Engaging him on the topic of the artefacts confirmed to Marcus and Cyril that - regardless of his motives - his knowledge of the field was comprehensive and wide-ranging, right down to how the items might have been made.

The Golden Mask

One particular item which caught everyone’s attention was a golden mask. Approximately 18" across and 12" in height, it resembled a bearded man with wing-like, turquoise green eyes and heavily ornamented ear decorations. There was something unsettling about the mask’s gaze, which managed to be both sinister and melancholy at the same time. Discussing it, Marcus, Cyril and Armbruster tentatively identified it as depicting a deity of the Lambayeque culture or, possibly, Naylamp, the culture’s legendary founder. It was an interesting intellectual pursuit to while away the wait for dinner.

Over dinner, Armbruster broached the question of the team's destination. The assembly of horses and porters made it obvious they were heading up-country, and the American seemed very keen to obtain an invitation to travel with them. The team had rapidly evolved a firm distrust of the man, however, and declined firmly.

After dinner, Marcus had another try at teaching Joe the simple gestures and incantation of the Voorish Sign, and - not entirely to his delight - the tanker managed to grasp it this time.

Between Chiclayo and Túcume, Peru, 2nd April 1941 15:02

Emilen Húaman

The trip to Túcume took the group through leafless woodland and scrub of algarrobo (carob) and jocote (a plumlike fruit tree), which was still wrapped in a shifting blanket of fog despite their increasing distance from the coast. Goats belonging to the locals foraged beneath the branches looking for any sustenance they could find, and their mournful bleating just added to the eerie atmosphere.

None of the team were especially experienced at riding horses, but with them guided by Húaman and his porters, even a complete novice could easily stay aboard with no difficulty.

As they approached the ruins, Anné and Joe's sharp senses picked up the sound of marching soldiers and the jingle of metal equipment; familiar to both, but unexpected here. After a moment, both realized that there was rather too much of the metal sound for the kind of soldiers they were used to.


Movement in the trees to their right became visible, and closer examination showed a company-sized group of troops marching through the trees. Joe unpacked his binoculars and looked again, mouth opening in surprise. What he saw was, quite simply, impossible - a company of Spanish conquistadores of four hundred years ago.

They didn't look like modern people dressed up, either. Their equipment was used, worn, grubby; the men themselves were battered, tired and wounded. They wore and carried their gear in such a natural way that it was obvious it belonged to them.

Anné slipped from her mount and moved towards them, but oddly, however far she moved, they always seemed the same hundred yards or so away that they did to the others. After a little while, they simply melted away, leaving no tracks or trace. "Either they're really good at walking through a forest," said Joe, "or they weren't really here at all."

The Pyramids of Túcume, Peru, 2nd April 1941 16:30

Keeper Note: Rediscovered by the German engineer turned amateur archaeologist, Hans Brüning, towards the beginning of the 20th Century, the site has been investigated by a number of professional scholars since, including the Americans Wendell C. Bennett and Paul Kosk. Consisting of over twenty large adobe pyramids grouped around a central hilltop (known locally as El Purgatorio or the Cerro la Raya), the city was once home to the Lambayeque culture, before they burned and abandoned it around the mid-1540s. The buildings do not closely resemble the standard Western conception of a pyramid. Badly weathered by El Niño climate events, they look more like gigantic, decaying termite mounds than the majestic structures of Egypt. The locals still shun the place thanks to its association with the devil, and only the archaeologists, huaqueros (grave robbers), and curanderos (witch doctors) dare to cross its boundaries..

The Pyramids of Túcume, with El Purgatorio in the background

It became quickly apparent as the team spread out to explore the site that no-one was currently excavating here. Various abandoned digs were dotted around, some looking to have been carried out with scientific precision and proper respect for ancient remains; some had been executed with the "pickaxe and gelignite, grab the loot" philosophy.

For some time, the team scoured the ruins, sure that this was where the clues pointed to for the last Palladion piece. But the orichalum statues remained motionless and scanning with the Voorish Sign revealed only the long-faded flows of faith that had once driven the occupants of this place.

As they did this, they also became aware that they were being followed. A little childishly simple backtracking allowed Anné to pretty much bump into their follower. She relaxed a bit as she realized it was catch a wild-looking, scrawny, and somewhat filthy creature wrapped only in a rough blanket and a loincloth.


"Ah," said Húaman, joining her as she held him without difficulty, "It's only Churan." He explained that no-one knew quite how long Churan had been hanging about the ruins at Túcume, although the locals claimed he has always been there. The archaeologists at the site had learned to ignore his strange pronouncements and occasional petty pilfering because he did seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to locating artefacts or warning of impending storms.

Joe spoke gently to the man, and offered out two things; his water flask with one hand and a bottle of whiskey - only American, but still good stuff - with the other. Churan's eyes widened and he grinned in pleasure, but he reached for the water first, taking a drink with an almost formal air, as if completing a ceremony or accepting an offering. After returning it, he accepted the whiskey and took a slug in a much more relaxed manner, nodding happily.

With Húaman's help, the conversation with Churan progressed. He'd seen the three groups of Germans pass through, and had spoken briefly with Dr Hauer - "Not a happy man, senor," he said, shaking his head sadly. The two subsequent groups he'd avoided, not liking the looks of them. As he spoke, Marcus, remembering the ship's captain, cast a Detect Enchantment and looked around, scanning the site as well as Churan himself. "Ah! Tu también eres un curandero," commented the old man, as Marcus' senses told him he was looking at another spellcaster. He bowed to Marcus in respect.

Keeper Note: Churan's Prophecy: "Soon it will not be your time. You would be better to go now while it still has to master you. Beware the flames if you do not want to see me again yesterday and tomorrow.”

Suddenly his expression fixed, and he began to chant in a tone totally different to his normal spluttery ramble. Translating quickly, Húaman frowned in puzzlement. "It makes no sense," he muttered.

The site was beginning to feel reasonably safe and comfortable to the group, and as they finished talking to Churan, and provided him with a good meal from their supplies, they realized that dusk was gathering. This seemed a very good place to camp - several campsites left over from expeditions had useful features and some items of equipment still in place. With the camp set up and a meal consumed, the idea occurred to the team to scale El Purgatorio and take a look around.

Night over Túcume

The ascent was not without its' challenges, and Cyril came within inches of not only plunging off the side of the hill but dislodging a chunk of stone to fall on him. They made it, however, and settled onto the top of the hill. The whole of the site was spread beneath them, spectacular and majestic, and they looked around it for a while. Then, slowly and magnificently, the sun sank below the distant sea and night fell.

Slowly the stars came out, wheeling above them, brightly studding the ebon sky. Many of the team had studied tomes of the Mythos, and there was much of Astronomy in the unlocking of the secrets of the World Beyond. With a view like this, that link was much clearer and everyone began to feel a deeper understanding of the connection between the astronomical and the arcane.

The Sun Rises

Despite their ostensible predicament, atop a tall hill in utter darkness and unable to get down, no-one felt in danger or threatened. The very reverse; all were calm, relaxed, at one with themselves. The hours moved on.

Finally, a pale glow appeared and gradually the sun began to climb into the sky over the ruins. Warm golden light washed across the landscape, pushing back the darkness and renewing the land in a mystic event older than time. The immense release of positive life energy flowed over, around and through all of them, renewing and healing them. A feeling of strength and resolve built within their spirits, a conviction that - whatever dark forces and evil powers were ranged against them - the forces and allies of the Light would ultimately prevail.

Almost in surprise, the folklore experts among them realized that, unintentionally, they had held a vigil as meaningful as any knight's meditation before his dubbing. As the first rays of the sun touched them, there was an almost mechanistic sense of completion. They had watched the Cycle of the Heavens above them, and they would never be quite the same again.


Session Date: 11th February 2020