Bar Cordano, Lima
March 18, 1921
As the late summer evening drew in, a disparate band of westerners gathered at Bar Cordano to meet each other for the first time and to hear more about the Larkin Expedition which they have travelled so far to join
The diners comprised:
- Augustus Larkin, the expedition leader
- Luis de Mendoza, Larkin's manservant
- Jesse Hughes, a folklorist from New York
- Amelia Franklin, a beautiful yet impetuous American woman with no obvious reason to join a lengthy trip into the interior; in reality, Amelia was none other than Jezebel Slaughter come to Peru without her beloved Rupert who had mysteriously disappeared the day before the couple had been scheduled to depart for Peru
- Dr Dudley Franklin, a veteran of the Great War and medical doctor in Peru for "personal reasons"
- Dr George Burton, an English archaeologist compelled to uncover the world's lost secrets and civilisations
- Ikil Lit, a veteran of the Great War, professional bodyguard and Dr Dudley's friend
- Jacob Rossini, a reporter for the Boston Globe, on the trail of a sensational story
The expedition's organiser and leader, Augustus Larkin, was a cordial, if a little unwell, host. His servant Luis de Mendoza was a different matter and glowered through dinner. Mendoza seemed to have a particular problem with Jesse Hughes.
While the expedition members ate, Larkin told of a mysterious forgotten pyramid in the southern Peruvian highlands and of gold artefacts waiting to be brought back to civilisation. He even presented two such objects: a golden pendant and a gold cup studded with gems. (George identified them as coming from two different cultures.) Larkin further explained his general plan—to drive down the coast before turning eastwards to Puno. From there, the expedition would buy pack animals and head into the interior. During the discussion, he was forced to confess, after a question from Jesse Hughes, that he had destroyed all his research so no one else could steal it and reach the pyramid first. This revelation caused some suspicion from several of the expedition members because Larkin could produce no actual proof the pyramid actually existed.
In any event, Larkin soon called proceedings to a close. He was ill—recovering from a bout of malaria—and needed to rest. Dr Dudley, however, suspected there was more to the tale as Larkin exhibited several symptoms synonymous with opiate withdrawal. Before Larkin could depart, Amelia hurriedly took her leave. Her internal alarm bells were ringing, and she did not trust Larkin. Impetuously, she decided to follow the pair, but they spotted her as they exited the bar. Improvising quickly, she explained she wanted to explore the city and walked with them back to their lodgings, Hotel Espana.
Meanwhile, at the bar, Jesse Hughes invited the other expedition members to stay for a drink. Discovering his new partners were suspicious of Larkin, he revealed he had lied at dinner. The name Jesse Hughes was a pseudonym. His real name was Jackson Elias, and he was not a folklorist but a writer specialising in books about strange cults. He suspected Larkin and Mendoza of being part of a death cult, and he was in Lima researching his next book, tentatively entitled The Hungry Dead. He suspected the cult might have over a dozen members and that it may have originated hundreds of years ago when Spanish conquistadors first arrived in the new world. He dismissed ancient stories of fat-sucking vampires but admitted that it was more contemporary stories of murders and mutilations that had first piqued his curiosity. Clearly, something was going on, and Jackson sensed a sensational story.
Jackson was delighted the other members of the expedition shared his suspicions. He went on to reveal he had arranged a meeting for tomorrow afternoon with Prof Sanchez at the Museo de Arqueologia y Antropologia. The two had been in correspondence with each other, and Prof Sanchez had recently sent Elias a note explaining he may have located a manuscript and artefact in the university's archives which might shed some light on the mysterious lost pyramid and the death cult. Jackson invited his new friends to come along to the meeting, and they gladly accepted his invitation.
With this plan set, George, Ikil and Dudley returned to the hotel while Jackson and Jacob stayed at the bar for a final nightcap.
At Hotel Maury, George, Ikil and Dudley discussed a strange discovery they had made earlier. It seemed they had all had the same—or very similar—dream on their first night in Lima. The dream involved a hotel room door with the number 410. In their dream, all had heard strange sounds from behind the door and had experienced a feeling of dread and horror. They decided to find room 410.
This they easily did. When the coast was clear Ikil picked the lock while his friends kept an eye out. Ikil easily defeated the primitive lock and carefully eased the door open. It was dark inside; only the soft summer moonlight illuminated room 410. Listening carefully, Ikil could hear soft snoring coming from the two shapes on the bed. Seeing nothing out of place or sinister, Ikil shut the door again and reengaged the lock.
A swift trip to the lobby and a hefty bribe to the desk clerk gained the trio the names of the people staying in 410. The husband and wife—Domingo Chavez and his wife Maria—were booked in for the next week or so on a sightseeing trip. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and so the three retired to their rooms. Tomorrow might be a big day!
An Alley Somewhere in Lima
Earlier that evening at Hotel Espana, Amelia's attempts to gain access to Larkin's hotel room had been stymied by the hotel's elderly, white-haired owner, Petronila Cupitina. Not to be denied, the beautiful and impetuous American took station at a nearby bar with a clear view of the hotel. An hour or so later, her patience was rewarded when Mendoza left the hotel. The hot-headed woman followed the unkempt man through the streets until he ducked into an alley. Looking around the corner, she saw Mendoza talking to another man. Amelia couldn't speak Spanish, but as she leaned closer to hear what they were saying, disaster struck—she knocked over a couple of wooden crates discarded at the alley's mouth.
Mendoza reacted with blinding speed, spinning around to send his piercing gaze toward the end of the alley. Luckily, it was dark, and Amelia was mostly hidden. Mendoza did not seem to see her. For a few moments, Amelia considered whether she should whip out her shotgun and kill the men, but—amazingly—she decided this might not be her best course of action…yet. Thus she quickly retreated to Hotel Maury to tell her new friends what she had witnessed.
This post is a session summary for my weekly 7th edition Call of Cthulhu Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign.
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