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MoN 18: Sinister Doings in Puno

George was utterly convinced he caught a glimpse of Mendoza in the crowd. How this was possible, the archaeologist was unsure, given he had blown the man’s brains a few days previous.

Jezebel remained horribly unwell and thus decided to stay in bed all day. More than one of her companions was secretly relieved at this development.

Yesterday. Jackson had located his contact Nayra. Usually, she dwelled in a house high in the hills, but she had fled to one of the many floating islands dotting Lake Titicaca. Apparently, she believed she might be in danger after suggesting to Jackson last time they met that Luis de Mendoza could be one of the kharisiri.

With this news, Ikil and George accompanied Jackson to the docks. Dr Dudley and Jacob were still beset by altitude sickness and remained at the hotel. Hiring a boat, the reduced group rowed out to the island. It lay two miles or so away—Lake Titicaca is vast—and the journey took a few hours.

As they approached the island, George realised a rowboat had been following them since they had left Puno. Although the other boat hung back about a half-mile the sharp-eyed archaeologist thought there might be two people in the boat.

When the trio of westerners arrived at the floating island, Ikil decided to stay with the boat—both to keep an eye on the other boat and to ensure none of the natives stole their rowboat. Light rain rendered his vigil somewhat miserable.

The floating island on which Nayra hid comprised a great mass of woven reeds and mud, on which stood seven huts. Nayra came out to greet George and Jackson, and they quickly ducked back into the hut to discuss matters. Nayra did not speak English, but Jackson spoke good Spanish and translated for George. A lengthy conversation ensued in which Nayra revealed she knew where the supposed lost pyramid stood. Apparently, her people viewed it as a cursed place—they believe an evil god was trapped within by spells woven in gold—and would not go there. However, she marked the place on a map after Jackson explained he planned to travel there to get to the bottom of the kharisiri and the death cult he believed Larkin and Mendoza had been a part of.

With this vital information secured, the trio returned to Puno, preceded by the other rowboat that had followed them out onto the lake. The other rowboat reached the shore first—obviously—and George watched keenly as two Peruvians clambered ashore and lost themselves in the crowd.

More disconcertingly, on the way back to the hotel, George was utterly convinced he caught a glimpse of Mendoza in the crowd. How this was possible, the archaeologist was unsure, given he had blown the man’s brains a few days previous. Whoever the man was, George got the distinct impression he wished the redoubtable archaeologist ill.

In any event, the group discuss their next move. As night fell, no one left the hotel. All felt that Mendoza might indeed be lurking in the vicinity and that it would be unwise to be ambushed by the deathless conquistador in some dark alley far from help.

27th March 1921

The expedition members’ plan to lay low for a day or two was thrown into confusion and disarray the very next morning. Ikil, keeping watch from a hotel window, spotted a plume of smoke rising into the air from the direction of Lake Titicaca. With a sense of foreboding, the group—minus Jezebel—rushed to the docks.

It seemed their worries were justified. A pall of smoke rose from the direction of the floating island on which George met Nayra. They quickly confirmed their fears by bribing two fishermen to row them out to the site. Everyone on the island was dead. While someone had set fire to the island, Dr Dudley confirmed—after careful examination—that Nayra’s corpse was more shrivelled than he would expect from the fire and that she bore a wound strikingly similar to Rizo’s.

As the island began to sink, the group hastily embarked and had the fishermen row them back to Puno. However, several of the group started to realise the fishermen had grown cold and distant toward them. Jackson realised this might be because the peasants suspected the white members of the group of being kharisiris!

This revelation worried the party, and so they rushed back to the hotel. There they discussed their next move. Jezebel remained deeply unwell, although she seemed to be responding to Dr Dudley’s deft, gentle treatment, and it was decided the group could not immediately set off for the pyramid.

In the end, a compromise was reached. Jackson Elias could still move around Puno easily, and while the rest of the group holed up at their hotel, he would gather the resources and supplies—including yet more dynamite for George.

The expedition was further bolstered, surprisingly, by the arrival of a new member: Reginald Adams. Reginald was an English explorer who had planned to join the expedition a week ago. However, his ship had docked later in Lima than expected due to a manhunt scouring the docks for a murderer thought to be at large in the area. Hearing this, Jezebel Slaughter began to suspect Reginald might be lying and, in fact, be looking for her. Thus, after speaking to the members of the expedition she trusted, she again fled.

1st April 1921

Perhaps ironically, on the 1st day of April, the expedition was finally ready to leave Puno. Initially, they made good time and following George’s map, they headed south and a little east toward the lost pyramid.

The first day was somewhat uneventful, except Ikil had a sphincter-tightening close shave with a gigantic anaconda fully 30-foot long! Luckily for the redoubtable bodyguard, the massive snake had recently eaten—as evidenced by the outline of some unfortunate animal poking through the snake’s side.

In any event, the rest of the day’s travel was uneventful. The same could not be said of the night. George—on watch in the small hours before dawn—was startled from his reverie by Ikil and Jacob bursting from their tents. Ikil brandished his rifle while Jacob carried a torch. A strange noise, a bit like a strangled squeal—had awoken them. As Jacob played his torch over the picketed donkey line, he illuminated a pale-skinned, gaunt man wrestling one of the donkeys to the ground…

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

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