4 min read

MoN 056: Deep in the Great Sandy Wastes

Kirk again woke screaming, but this time, his screaming was particularly high-pitched and prolonged

With the group reunited in Cuncudgeriue, the investigators planned their next move. It seemed that another expedition into the Great Sandy Desert was in the offing—and this time, the group knew where they were going and what they were looking for! Success was assured.

However, before the expedition could start, things went wrong. Dr George Burton announced his decision to leave the group and return to London. The news of a ruined city in the desert was too exciting for the intrepid archaeologist. He determined to travel back to the heart of the empire to set about organising a proper expedition to visit this important site—the remainder of the group was to serve as an advance guard and to gather as much data and photographs as possible.

With drinks drunk, goodbyes exchanged, and provisions gathered, the balance of the group set off into the interior on the 12th. The first three days of travel were mainly without incident. Going was slow, and it was hot and dusty, but the group, led by Gilbert, made good time.

By the 14th, they had found the Canning Stock Route and retraced their steps northeastwards. However, late in the day, they encountered a lone aboriginal woman stumbling along the trail. The woman was terrified, dehydrated, exhausted and suffering from exposure. Ignoring their offers of help, clearly terrified at their appearance, she stumbled off into the desert. Several of the group gave chase, and Kirk eventually caught her. Dragging her back to the lorries, they tied her up—for her own good—and tried to befriend her. Unsurprisingly, this approach failed. Although they fed her, they would not loosen her bonds or let her leave. By the next morning, though, it was clear that she was not going to trust them. Perhaps—Gilbert remarked—her restraints and Kirk's incessant night-screams might have something to do with it…

When the lorries started up and continued along the trail, the woman screamed loudly, and her escape attempts escalated into a frenzy. Jacob was hard-pressed to contain the terrified woman. Finally, the investigators relented and let her go—giving her a camel and some basic provisions. As she disappeared westwards, though, they couldn't help but wonder if they had done enough to help her. Would she survive all alone, or would something horrible befall her?

Pushing eastward, the group passed the northward turn that would take them to the abandoned mining camp. A few hours later, they reached the best point—Gilbert determined—to turn into the trackless, sandy wastes of the desert. Topping off their supplies of water at the nearest well, they pushed off into the sandy wastes. By nightfall, they had made another five miles and reached the lip of a rocky escarpment. 

On the 16th, Kirk again woke screaming, but this time, his screaming was particularly high-pitched and prolonged; it was his worst episode yet. Shaving seemed to hold a particular worry for Kirk, and when he had finished, the result was not up to his usual standards. 

However, such oddness would not discourage the party from their goal. They were so close! They found a way down the escarpment suitable for trucks and slowly progressed into the interior. Here, the ground was rockier, and there seemed to be less sand. Another escarpment—this time pierced by a ravine—lay in their path. 

Luckily, the ravine was traversable by lorries. Unluckily, once they entered the ravine, they entered the sights of a skilled sniper. Shooting at long range, he shattered the lead car's windscreen—covering Charles, Alice and Jeffrey in glass shards. As Charles and Jeffrey enthusiastically but haphazardly returned fire, a sniper's bullet clipped Gilbert, another holed the truck's petrol tank, and a third spectacularly deflated a tire. 

However, by now, Kirk had got into position. Taking his time, he coolly took aim and fired—killing the sniper with a near-perfect shot! 

While essential repairs were carried out on the lead truck, Charles and Jeffrey scouted the sniper's hide—which was obviously a prepared position given its shelter and the many tracks leading into and out of it. Whoever was out here did not want visitors.

Another hour or two of repairs saw the small convoy again on the move. Emerging from the ravine into a flat area of sandy desert, the group closed in on the coordinates given to them by Robert MacKenzie. Worryingly, the obvious tracks of many trucks lead onwards—this was obviously an established route of some sort.

As they got closer to their goal, strange blocks began to emerge from the sand here and there. Several of them gave Kirk quite some concern. He seemed to view them with restained fear but would not speak of his concerns.

A final dune barred the convoy's path. While the track curved gently around the dune, Charles and Jeffrey had heard something—the quiet phut phut phut of a generator. Reconnaissance was performed. Beyond the dune—amid more stones and a great array of rubbish—stood a small hut. In front of it, three trucks were haphazardly drawn up. A slow and deliberate examination of the situation through two pairs of binoculars revealed at least six men—all armed—either lying under the trucks or lurking in the hut.

The nearest decent cover gave out about 50 yards from the hut. It seemed that any rush at the position was doomed to fail—the defenders seemed almost as heavily armed as the investigators. The group fell to discussing what to do next. Charles wanted to leave, while Kirk favoured some kind of dynamite-themed attack…

This post is a session summary for my weekly 7th edition Call of Cthulhu Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign.

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