First Step

Posted: June 22, 2012 in Online Reality Game

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lao-tzu approx 600 BC

The City and South London Underground Railway line swings across London from Euston and St. Pancras station through King’s Cross, Angel, Old Street, Moorgate and Bank before plunging under the River Thames near London Bridge on its way to the working class neighborhoods of Kennington and Clapham. It is a busy line, especially at this time of the day and the platforms are crowded with business men in their dark coats and bowler hats, ladies in colorful skirts hurrying to reach the shops before they close, or meet friends for tea, and plain working folk on their way home for an evening’s well deserved rest. The term Rush Hour has not yet been coined, but the streets above are packed with horse drawn vehicles and traveling beneath the city, though it brings one in contact with fellows from all walks of life, is much preferable to struggling through the teeming throngs above ground.

Old Street Station

Moorgate Station

At Moorgate station, the tube train wheezes to a halt, disgorging one set of passengers and taking on another. The driver looks out of his cabin window for the all clear signals from the porters stationed in each carriage and when he sees the flags wave, he eases the large brass lever up to the first notch in the control yoke to set the train carriages lurching forward in a jerking, slowly accelerating motion.

“Bank! Bank station is next,” call the porters in each carriage. Passengers wishing to alight at the heart of the ancient city of London, hard by the Bank of England begin searching around them for their briefcases of packages even as the train reaches it full speed of twenty five miles an hour, thundering along the narrow tunnel deep beneath the city streets, rocking from side to side as the wheels run from one section of steel rail to the next.

Suddenly, a few minutes before the train is due to reach the station, the driver slams on the brakes. The wheels squeal and scrape on the rails as they try to slow the lumbering behemoth. Inside the carriages, those who had been standing are hurled to the ground. Even those who had remained in their seats are shaken about by the swift deceleration, and gentlemen apologize profusely to ladies whose skirts they have inadvertently become entangled in.

Underground Train Carriage

Underground Train Carriage

The porter is confused and tries to calm his charges as the train shudders to a full halt. but he has no coherent explanation to offer.

“Must be a red signal flag up on the line,” is the best he can offer. “Maybe another train is stranded in the tunnel. Just be calm, ladies and gentlemen, I’m sure everything is under control.”

From the front part of the train comes a loud crumping sound. A second later a wave of intense heat blasts through the rearmost carriage. An instant later the heat is followed by a searing blast of cold and a wind blows wildly from the rear of the train forward, sweeping dust and debris along the tunnel and around the train.

From the next forward carriage the riders in the last carriage can hear screaming and sobbing that raises suddenly in volume and then cuts off abruptly.


Michael looked up from his book, a moment or two after the porter has spoken, not sure that he knows what is going on. Everyone around him seems slightly alarmed but even several months down in the Smoke has made him resilient to what public transport can throw at him. He is about to return to his reading, a phamplet he received through the Royal Mail the day before, when the whole carriage judders and heat washes over him.

A man beside him screams and Michael looks at him astonished.

Something in the noise jolts him and, quite unlike himself, he rises to her feet, stuffing the papers into his satchel and making his way down the carriage towards the front. Something in his mind says: “Anarchists…”


James Wodehouse is jolted rom his reverie by the squealing brakes. He is briefly entertained by the sight of dignified Londoners thrown into indelicate disarray, and amused by the thought that he will now be fashionably late, but his studied poise rapidly gives way to fear as some disaster befalls the carriages ahead.

James uncrosses his legs and stands. He sees the disarray of the general assembly, the movement of someone towards the front. Fear makes him unsteady, but he determines that his own mind take control of his actions. He makes a sudden, violent attempt to unfasten one of the lanterns, then, with a perfunctory “Pardon me,” steps over a sprawled shape on the floor which he takes to be a man, helps an attractive looking woman to her feet, and heads towards the back of the carriage before any further catastrophe can ruin his suit.


The Contessa would not, under any normal circumstances, be travelling on the London Underground; a dark, dirty and squalid rat run beneath the sprawling city above. However, her contact at Watkins Esoteric Books in Cecil Court had managed to find someone in possession of – allegedly – an incunabulum copy of the Corpus Hermeticum, who might even be persuaded to part with it, and who lived in one of the houses fronting onto Clapham Common. Before viewing it, she had decided to spend a day’s research at the British Library to check the possible antecedents of the work, and determine what if any identifying marks it might possess to verify that it really had been printed before 1500, and it had seemed unfair to keep McTiernan and Maria waiting on her all day, so she had sent them back to her Kensington home. That being the case, and for all of her doubts about the ‘Tube’, even she could see that the journey from Bloomsbury to Clapham Common was far more easily accomplished via the Underground than a long and – at this time of day – no doubt tediously slow ride in a Hackney carriage.

The train carriage was busier and warmer than she had feared, but fortunately a gentleman had offered her a seat, and she had tried to close her mind to the rattling of the train and the press of London’s great unwashed, clutching her bag and parasol close to her after Maria’s sombre warnings about pickpockets. However, as the hint of something terrible wafted from the front of the train, all of her her worst fears about the underground railway seemed to be realised. She tried not to think about just how deep below the ground they were, and looked around for anyone who might have any idea as to what was occurring.

She stood, trying to remain dignified amid what seemed to be becoming perilously close to panic.

“Is it a bomb?” she asked aloud.


Michael stopped momentarily in front of the well dressed and nervous looking woman, startled by the fact that he was thinking exactly the same thing, thou perhaps for different reasons. “Some engineering malfunction, madam….i suspect.”

He shifted his satchel self consciously to the other shoulder and pressed on.


Charles had been riding patiently, a stern but controlled expression on his face (similar to that worn by many an officer in his majesties army) as the myriad of London passengers came and went. He didn’t fidget or toy absently with the leather bag on his lap and the only movement a discerning viewer might notice would be the flickering of his eyes from one passenger to another. Quietly he was ammusing himself by diagnosing passengers with their likley illnesses. ‘Patient A: A handful of tissues and occasional sneezes. Poor fellow has hayfever; no wonder he prefers the tube. Patient B; The girl looks spritely enough. Seems to rather enjoy smiling at the male passengers, but a woman must make her earnings somewhere. Surprised shes not cold showing that much skin…but whats this…do I detect a slight swelling of the lymph glands? Hmm, yes, and the beginnings of a rash on her chest.’ He frowned. ‘Syphallis if im not mistaken.’

Suddenly his reverie was disturbed as the train slammed to a halt. At first he frowned, remaining seated and trusting that whatever engineering fault lying ahead would be appropriatly managed by the authorities. The blast of heat and screams from beyond though were another matter. ‘A bomb!’ Charles heard someone say as he began to stand. Military training welled through him as he called out calmly but sternly “Women and children to the back of the carriage.”. His mind was racing; perhaps there had been some engine failure rather than a bomb. Either way it seemed clear there had been an explosion. The people in the next carriage needed his help. Charles’ eyes darted through the crowd looking for someone fit and athletic. If he spied someone suitable he would call to the porter “Give that man a torch and send him for help at the previous station. Hurry!”. At the same time Captain Charles Hills-Nicholson was already moving up through the train. Ahead the carriage was dark, he wondered why he couldnt smell smoke. A wail of sorrow or pain echoed from the shadows and he reached into his bag to pull out the small torch held there.

Boldly he moved toward the adjoining doors. First and foremost Charles was a doctor. He was going to help the injured.


Penelope Montague is a mere child at 23, yet has been riding the train for several years now visiting friends for tea and other social events.  She sits quietly alone at the back of the train with her umbrella in her lap.  She brings it more for fashion than for rain or shade from the sun.  She sits quietly, like a lady should, especially when in the company of such dignified people.  She enjoys watching others in their daily behaviors and finds the people surrounding her quite interesting.
When the train comes to an abrupt hault, she steadies herself on the bench with her hands.  She remains quiet, yet is anxious as to what caused it.  She immediately looks for the closest exit, but does not react just yet.
Watching those around her, hoping a gentleman will do something.  Finally, one man stands drawing a torch and begins to walk to the front of the car.  One man suggest a bomb was to blame, which only made matters worse increasing the anxiety of everyone.
 Renee was nose deep in his notebooks and lost in thought for most of the train ride. He was still fuming over the many rebuttals to his theories he had garnered at the lecture in Oxford. He couldn’t wait to be back at his lab at the University of Paris to finally prove all the doubters wrong. At the time of the disturbance Renee was studying the movement of the particles of dust in the lamp light and scratching formulas to describe it. He was so lost in thought that he was unaware anything was awry right up until the point someone ripped out the electric lamp shedding light on his studies from the wall. Once he was aware of the situation his natural curiosity took over and Renee was eager to follow the other gentlemen to discover the source of the disturbance.

Pandemonium reigns as the passengers scramble to right themselves and then call out a hundred questions about what has happened. The idea of an Anarchist plot with an Infernal Device having been placed on the train quickly takes hold and there is a rush towards the rear exit of the carriage, which slows as the first arrivals contemplate the utter blackness of the tunnel behind them. One of the passengers thinks quickly and attacks one of the battery driven lamps attached to the carriage walls. It takes a bit of maneuvering, but the lantern is soon separated from the wall. There are ten such lanterns in the carriage.

One man, wearing the uniform of the Royal Fusiliers moves towards the front of the carriage carrying a doctor’s black leather bag. He has a grim expression on his face. He is expecting the worst having had first hand experience with explosions and their effects.

Underground Train Carriage Plan

Underground Train Carriage Plan

Another passenger calls for the porter to send a young man back to the previous station, Moorgate, to fetch help. This galvanizes the porter into action. He rummages in a locker built into the wall of the carriage and produces a handful of items: A lantern (paraffin or kerosene, depending on your version of English) with two lenses, one green one red (the lenses can be slid aside to allow white light out as well); a first aid kit, an ax and a crowbar with an unusual configuration in the handle that he quickly explains is used to unlock the junction boxes at rail switches.

“The next train will be coming down the track in less than ten minutes,” he says. “I don’t know if the station manager will know what’s happened here. We’ve got to assume the worst. We’ve got to stop it before we gets hit. There’s a crossover junction not far back. We can get out of this tunnel there.”

(Underground trains in London travel in single tunnels (tubes) barely large enough to allow the train to pass through.)

Meanwhile the military doctor has availed himself of a lantern from the wall of the carriage and made his way to the connecting door to the next carriage. There is a narrow door at the end of this carriage, a small platform arrangement hanging of the end of the carriage and then the same structure on the next carriage. Looking through the windows in the two doors he can see the next carriage, partially. The first few feet are illuminated by the same kind of lanterns as the one he is holding, the rest of the carriage is pitch black and he cannot see it at all.

Opening the door and stepping across the linkage between the carriages, he opens the far door and steps into the forward carriage. It seems empty. Moving quickly forward with his lantern, shining the light into the seats, looking for bodies or survivors he sees nothing. The place is swept clean. Even the usual debris on the floor is gone.

As he approaches the dark section of the carriage he realizes with a thrill that there is no carriage there. The structure simply ends about fifteen feet forward – a little father forward on the right hand side than on the left, he notes with his typical eye for detail. And as he lifts his own lantern high, he can see that there is no track in front of the partial carriage either, just a gaping hole. The front section of the train along with the track and the tunnel walls seem to have been simply obliterated.


Michael saw the man ahead of him in the carriage, and took him for a doctor immediately,the other passengers pressing past him in the opposite direction.
He pushed on, but could hear the porter’s words over the noise of the other passengers. He frowned. “Why go back and risk being hit by a train when we can go forwards and know we are….”
He got to the open door of the carriage a few moments after the doctor stepped through and could see him up ahead into the lighted part of the next carriage. The muttered words died on his lips. He expected darkness but this…this was not right. Instead of the pandemonium he anticipated there was a silence.
Michael reached up and pulled a lantern from the wall.
Over hearing the station manager explain that the next train could be heading our way, I turn to look back down the track.  Seeing only darkness still, I stand and move to the front of the car.  Holding the hand rails when I can and my umbrella in the other, I work my way past the other passengers nervously smiling at some.  I say nothing, but attempt to join the military doctor at the front of the car.Trying to figure out what has happened, I decide to open the train door stepping onto the small platform on the front of the carriage.  I stop and wait for the doctor to turn and explain what he’s seen.”Sir?  What do you see?  Is there anyone there?”  I whisper to him scared to step onto the next platform to join him.

James stands at the doorway at the rear of the carriage and peers into the darkness. It looks forbidding. He spares a glance back down the carriage, glad that better men than himself are doing their duty, but perturbed by the lack of noise or fire that he feels would attend such a sudden crash.”Ten minutes you say?” James checks his pocket-watch.He tries not to let his apprehension show. There are ladies present, some of them quite well-heeled: a show of heroism is called for, certainly.”Alas for the efficiency of London trains!” he lightly jests. “Well then, we had best step to it!”

He drops with a fencer’s grace down to the tracks, lantern in hand, and removes a handkerchief from his pocket, which he hold over his face to avoid breathing in the dust. Intending to stay close to the porter, whose expertise he feels has suddenly become very relevant, he offers a hand to one of the more respectable looking women.

>“Some engineering malfunction, madam…. I suspect.”Madalena nodded with nervous gratitude as the man passed her, heading bravely towards the forward carriages, but his reassurance seemed ring slightly hollow. She was more relieved when the Army officer seeemd to take charge of proceedings. Thank God and His saints for the military presence of mind in a crisis! But she was becoming acutely aware that the only sound and bustle of activity was coming from this carriage, and through the connecting door there was only a silence and darkness from further forward. There were no lights visible from the chain of carriages further down the tunnel, no sound of any kind, as though the rest of the train had simply… vanished, with everyone aboard. While she was pleased that there were no cries and shrieks of any injured, that sense of absence made her nervous, and when the porter came to himself and began to talk about preventing disaster becoming catastrophe by alerting the next train, she could see the sense in evacuating down the tunnel to the branch point, even if it meant leaving the apparent safety and bright lights of the train carriage.A well-groomed man, apparently trying to make light of things, stood beyond the rear of the train and offered her a gentlemanly helping hand down to the tracks. Gathering her skirts and trying to ignore the soot that clung thickly to every surface down here, she accepted his hand with gratitude, and favoured him with a smile as she descended to ground level. Her time at a Swiss finishing school, particularly including lessons in how to emerge gracefully from a carriage, allowed her to negotiate even such an awkward drop with relative ease.
“Grazie mille, signore,” she told him, momentarily forgetting where she was. “I mean… thank you, sir.”Madalena looked at the tracks disappearing into the darkened tunnel ahead and all too willingly made to follow the signalman’s lantern, but could not resist a final glance back at the yawning darkness behind, still trying to puzzle out what could possibly have happened.

Charles blinked into the darkness. He’d been expecting…well…anything but this.

At the edge of the bleak nothing he hesitated; hardly believing what he saw. Where were the bodies, the debris? Where was the train? Confused he took a hesitant step forward, half sure that his eyesight was failing and swung his torch in a wide arc toward the darkness. Still there was nothing. He stood at the edge of an impossible abyss.

The woman’s voice behind him snapped his attention back to humanity and he was thankful for it. Grimacing he kept his eyes ahead and recalled his training; an officer would remain calm, in control at all times.

“Ma’am, if you would be kind enough to hurry the others toward the rear of the train…”. The fewer who saw what was ahead, the better. For a moment though Charles hesitated before continuing. He wished one of the lads from the Fusiliers was at his side or some other reliable fellow. But the train’s Porter was busy and the other male passengers had retreated rather than step forward. Despite himself he was impressed at the woman’s spirit. He could work with that. He hadn’t realised yet that the other man (Michael) had followed too.

Without looking back, and taking care not to move aside and reveal quite what was faced he called over his shoulder “If you would be kind enough to bring one of those lanterns forward…I’d be grateful madam. Be warned though, there is something amiss…”.

His eyes studied the darkness, willing the illusion to come to an end. “Hello? Is there anyone out there?” he called into the void. The train couldn’t simply have vanished. Behind him he could hear a lantern being worked from its place on the wall and this time he glanced back. At last he saw the other man (Michael), and offered a curt nod of camaraderie, relieved to have another chap at his side. “Dr Charles Hill-Nicholson.”. The introduction was hurried and distracted; but even under pressure servants of the British Empire knew their manners. Even as he spoke though the doctor turned forward again. Despite confusion at the missing train Charles knew time was of the essence in a crisis. If men or women ahead were wounded…

He took another step forward toward the edge of the carriage and began to kneel. Could he drop down from the edge of the train to where the track should have been? What was the edge of the carriage like where it had been ‘cut’? As his eyes adjusted to the gloom he added “The accident…or bomb must have buckled the metal…”Charles offered his theory half heartedly, hoping one of the others could explain better.

Where was the damned train?

The flicker of a moving lantern from behind gave him an idea and he called urgently “Hurry. One of you toss a lantern forward. I need to get down there to the injured.” At the same time he prepared to drop down.

Shining his lantern about, Captain Hills-Nicholson inspects the edges of the carriage where the void begins. He can see that the metal and wood have been cut cleanly as if with scissors the edge is so sharp. This close he can feel residual heat radiating from the metal and the wood looks singed as if it had been exposed for a second or two to intense heat. Beyond the abrupt end of the carriage stub he can see, when he shines the lantern downwards, that the track is also cut off as is the very floor of the tunnel. Looking around, leaning out as far as he dare, it seems that an enormous bubble of space has been created deep beneath the streets of London. And whatever created the bubble has taken away the vast majority of the train. It is only pure chance that the last carriage was spared.

Turning back into the carriage, and again using his lantern to look closely at details, he notices again that there is no debris on the floor. Typically the carriages are strewn with litter, but there is none here and he remembers the moment of intense wind following the event. Was it possible the litter got sucked out of the carriage? And the passengers too?

A quick estimate of the void’s size indicates a sphere of about a hundred feet in diameter has been somehow disappeared from in front of the carriage. The train tunnel seems to penetrate into the open space towards the upper section of the sphere, though the ceiling domes upward a good twenty or thirty feet above his current position. The faint light of his lantern makes it difficult to be sure, but it looks as if there may be an opening to his left, a vast circular patch of more intense black. To move forward from here would require climbing down the backward sloping side into the basin at the bottom of the open sphere and then finding a way to climb up again into the tunnels beyond — which it is too dark to see, but are presumably there. And if an ongoing train were to strike the two carriages in their tunnel, they would be tumbled into the bowl on top of whoever was down there.

The only way out would appear to be back by way of the tunnel they came through. And the clock is ticking.


Meanwhile, at the rear of the remains of the train, a mob scene is evolving. The conductor has jumped down onto the tracks with his lantern, hoping to get back far enough in the tunnel to give the oncoming next train enough room to stop before it strikes the carriage. Several others are struggling to get through the rear exit and run away as well. But the door is narrow and there is a fair jump down to the dark rails and filthy tunnel floor. Some ladies have been pushed aside and a few men in the clothes of clerks and laborers, the lower classes, are jamming the exit trying to escape. One or two men have made their way onto the tunnel floor and are running to catch up with the conductor. None of the player characters have succeeded in getting free of the carriage yet.

About two minutes has passed.


Charles’ heart pounded as he looked over the edge and realised aghast what he faced. Not only had the train vanished but something had stolen or obliterated an expanse of the earth itself below London. He wanted to swear, but with Penelope present he bit his tongue. Instead part of his mind grimly observed with a dark humour‘King Edward wont be pleased to find someone has been stealing his trains’.

“Mother of god…what happened?”.

The emptiness was dizzying. Yet he couldn’t quite imagine that a part of the world had simply vanished in a malicious bubble. Maybe there had been a gas pocket…or some natural cavern had caved in. Despite evidence to the contrary the doctor struggled to find a mundane explanation. There had probably been over 100 passengers on that train…they couldn’t have all been snuffed out.

At the same moment his eyes were drawn to the area of intense darkness. He squinted uselessly, wondering if it was possible that shape held the wreckage of forward carriages. A terrible intrigue tugged at his senses; what had happened? Captain Hills-Nicholson intended to find out.

Mind racing  he looked back to the milling passengers. An air of urgency swelled from the throng and he tried to calculate aloud. “10 minutes. The porter said 10 minutes, but he sent a runner back up the tunnel right?”. Awkwardly he set his bag down and reached for his pocket watch which he flipped open and set on the floor. He looked up at the two passengers who stood close by, talking quickly. “There could be people down there. I have to look. I need your help.”. While he spoke he scanned what remained of the carriage. There. His eyes narrowed on the remnants of copper wiring that had run through the ceiling lighting. With a swift couple of steps Charles climbed onto a seat to take a grip on the loose wires, and heaved. Connected only by hooks and already weakened by the incident the wires gave way and Charles dropped back down to the floor level, his weight adding to the force on the wires. He spoke hurriedly.

“Ma’am, if you please…I’d be grateful if you could watch the time and my bag for a moment. I shall need it momentarily.”. He would have smiled politely, but it came out as a twisted grimace. The wires were free now and he was moving back toward the abyss. With luck they might take his weight, or at least ‘some’ of his weight.

“Sir, if would you be kind enough…I intend to get down there. If there is any chance of survivors…”. He hoped the young man would help lower him down.

There was another problem of course. If there were survivors somehow in the wreckage at the foot of the void one man alone would not be enough to pull them clear. He would need help.

Almost immediately however, seeing more clearly the depth of the cavity, Charles hesitated at the side of the opening. He glanced back to the wire. He had extracted what, 10-15 feet of the stuff? But the drop looked double that, maybe more; it was hard to judge from this angle. If the gaping maw was a sphere, the tube opening into it was in the upper half. A drop down wasn’t so simple after all…
“Hold on, thats not going to be enough…” he muttered, wondering if the others had any better ideas.
Cursing his luck at not having any of his instruments with him Renee sets about studying the empty seats and gaping hole in front of him. His experiments are simple by necessity: dropping a rock into the hole to measure its depth, checking the configuration of the hole (Square, circle, etc), and is there any scorching or scarring on the remains of the train car/tunnel. If no one directly asks him anything or overtly gets in his way Renee will ignore everyone else and get to work.

Michael watcherd the doctor pull out the wiring, glancing back anxiously through into the carriage. “let me try something…”

[With Charles’ permission} he takes the wirting and wraps one end round the lantern’s handle. He quickly lowers the lantern down into the hole to see what he can see, playing it out to its full extent. “Let’s see if anything is down there to save…if not I think we should get back up the tunnel wiuth the rest.”


Apparently stymied in his attempt to escape by the undeserving rabble at the carriage’s rear, James releases the anonymous lady’s hand he is currently holding as self-preservation once more takes precedent over gallantry.

He stalks in the opposite direction, cursing his luck and casting about for some other means of egress, slapping windows and jumping up to push likely looking hatches in the roof of the car.


Arriving at the doorway to the second carriage, James hesitates, glimpsing something through the glass his mind immediately rejects and comprehending at once that those brave souls whom he had last seen charging in this direction like so many doomed light brigade had not been consumed by fiery destruction, but were, instead, alive, examining something, and… tying bits of wire together?

Hmmm, thinks James.

His adventurous spirit, passed down to him by his grandfather and reknowned explorer Sir Arthur Wittingdon-Wodehouse, along with this watch (which he notes now is faithfully shaving seconds from his oh-too-short life in the manner of all good watches) has not been entirely smothered by decadent London high-living.

There’s a story here, at least, he ponders, and one more interesting than “Train crashes – hundreds dead”. One which he briefly imagines himself narrating to a gaggle of stunning hier-esses over cocktails at some gay future bash. While playing the piano, perhaps.

With this heavenly vision calming him satisfactorily enough to present a confident face, he straightens his cuffs and moves casually forward into the car and stands behind the group, peering into…


Firstly I’m curious if this gaping hole has bisected any other underground spaces such as sewers, maintenance tunnels, or cellars. Any sound of running water coming from the hole? Also would anyone know if such tunnels would exist at this depth near the bottom or top of the hole? Anyway, onto my actions:

Rene has seen all he can from the ruined train car and his thoughts turn to escape. Without the strong possibility of safe passage by descending into the hole Rene’s curiosity will be outweighed by his desire to not be crushed by the incoming train. Looking back and seeing the throng of people also seeking to make a hasty retreat gives him pause. Furrowing his brow he thinks for a moment then turns to the doctor.

“Dr. Charles Hill-Nicholson was it? My name is Professor Chausson. It appears there is a situation developing at the rear of the train that could use the attention of an authority figure such as yourself. Your desire to help any survivors is admirable but surely ensuring the safety of the living is paramount. We don’t need two train incidents in one day. Perhaps once these people are safe and the oncoming train warned we can return and investigate further.”


“Good Lord,” whispers James with what breath he has left, fantasies of assisting in some (hopefully perfectly safe) act of heroism vanishing into that cavernous space with most of colour in his face.

He blinks a few times, gives the nearest window a violent slap, then turns on his heel with a purpose, for it now occurs to him that forcing the main side doors aparts should be an easy task.

He steps back to the first carriage with a renwed sense of urgency and puts this plan into effect, enlisting any passenger who may still be stuck back here to help him.


Recognizing that exiting either end of the car would take too much time, I’ll move to the side door and attempt to pry it open. Setting my umbrella down, I’ll grab the two doors where they come together and attempt to pull them both open.

Looking at the gentleman next to me (James). “Good Sir… could you please give me a hand with these doors? Im afraid the power is off and they will not open willingly.”

I know it will be a very, very tight fit to jump down to the tracks along the side of the carriage, but I quickly realize that time is of the essence. If I dont move now, I wont have time to move back down the track to the junction and to safety.

I feel bad for those passengers waiting in line to exit the rear door, but not bad enough to wait with them, nor call their attention to the other possible exits. I begin to move with haste!


Charles lingered as the dim light of the lantern teased the shadows of the abyss. It was still too dark to make out everything but it was enough. The wires were to short and the there was no way forward.

Dimly he was aware of the professors introduction and it snapped his attention back from the impossible void. “Professor, if only we could have met in better circumstances.”. He squinted into the dark and pointed toward the opposite tunnel. “Below us must be the wreckage of the forward carriages. People needing help. But worse, even if the porter manages to warn the next train coming our way, there ain’t nothing that can stop the next train come coming from the opposite direction. Nothing unless we can get over there and somehow stop them.”. His heart pounded; it seemed an impossible task. Yet a fusilier would not shirk his duty while hope remained.

Charles looked back down the carriage. “We need rope, or something to get down there. But before that we need to clear these people; get them to a safety hatch or something. Call me if you find rope.”.

If the previous station didn’t get the warning in time another train would be ploughing toward them in minutes. A grim thought occurred to him as he realised the danger the runner was in. If he reached the station the train would be stopped. If he failed…then the train might still be stopped…when the train driver noticed the thud of the runners body against his vehicle.

Clearing his throat he made a decision. One of the others had correctly suggested order was required in the rear carriage, and so scooping up his watch he strode back there with certainty.

His voice was loud and sure “Everyone, calm down. My name is Captain Hills-Nicholson of the kings fusiliers. I am a doctor and there WILL be order.”. He tried his best to sound calm and reassuring. “There is a runner ahead dealing with the station and no need to panic. You two,” he pointed at a pair of men. “Get this side door open to allow another exit. The rest of you, form a queue, each helping the man or woman infront or behind. We’ll get this place clear for the emergency services in no time.”.


Michael left the lantern dangling in the inky abyss and climbed back into the carriage.


Cross Section of Gaping Hole Under London

Cross Section of Gaping Hole Under London

The Captain’s military tone cut through the babble of panicky voices in the rear carriage quickly enough. By now the side doors that would normally have been used to disembark from the carriage on to the platform at a station had been forced open and there were several available exits to the tracks. It was a tight squeeze to move along the side of the carriage, but manageable. Within a few minutes all of the passengers were off the train and moving along the tunnel, back in the direction they had come. The track was filthy and difficult to walk on, but the idea of another train coming this way any moment was enough to encourage even the most querulous of pedestrians, though many complained of turned ankles on the rough stone base, and the ladies’ clothes would be stained beyond repair by the time they reached a station.
About a hundred yards or so back up the track they came to a wider section. The train conductor was waiting there for them.
“This here’s a junction section,” he explained. “And we’ve got a siding line what comes in here.” He pointed to a tunnel that curved off to the right. “There’s a sub-station just a short distance down this side line and I’ve sent the other passengers ahead to get off the tracks there. It’s not much used. It services the Bank of England, but there’s a security guard there and an exit to the street. It will get us off the tracks before the next train comes through! Quickly, please!”
Siding Junction

Siding Junction

To punctuate his comments a whoosh of air gushed down the tunnel and the magnified echo of a train leaving the Moorgate station could be heard. He waved them quickly down the side line and hung his lantern in the tunnel where the next train was expected any minute with the glowing red lens pointed so that the driver would see it.

“The driver will see that and hopefully slow down enough,” the conductor explained, “but this is going to be a very dangerous place right soon. Please hurry along to the sub-station, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve got to put a call in to the Bank station to hold all the north bound trains as well.” The uniformed man hurried along ahead of them again, catching up to a handful of passengers already making their way along the siding line. Now that imminent danger of being run down by an oncoming train had been averted, complaints were coming out loudly from many of the soot-stained travelers.
The Siding Tunnel

The Siding Tunnel

Lady Barchester:

I’ll be sure to grab my umbrella before dropping down to the tracks below. I’ll follow the conductor’s directions and quickly make my way to the junction.

I’ll check to see that everyone has made it off the carriage including the gentlemen in the front of the car.


Madalena frowned slightly as the man who was attemtping to assist her from the train abruptly gave up and made his way to the other end of the carriage, where several people seemed to be staring open mouthed at what had happened.

The press of people was too great for her to wish to venture into the crowd, and she hovered uncertainly in the middle of the carriage for a while, half trying to overhear what the people at the front of the carriage were saying until the officer’s barked orders finally restored some measure of efficient disembarkation and she was able to make her way to the sooty tracks.

Making her way into the side tunnel as the conductor bids her, she will try to find one of the people who had been peering into the carriage beyond.

“Scuzi… what did you see there? What has happened?”


Having also followed the conductor’s directions, James, feeling as relieved as the rest of the crowd, trots up to Madalena.

“My apologies, I simply, er… had to lend assistance elsewhere! And you seem like a very capable woman, quite able to handle whatever circumstance throws at her, eh?”

Madalena smiled slightly, briefly unsure if looking ‘capable’ was a compliment, or indeed even true, but decided to take it as such. “Well, we are all victims of circumstance, sir, and must make of it what we can.”

James brushes some more soot from his lapels.

“And let me tell you, we are lucky to be alive – the entire forward train was simply gone! Swallowed up into some vast space, like something out of that Mr., um… Verne’s books.”

Madalena was dumbfounded at the news. “Gone? But… how is that possible? An underground chamber? A tunnel collapse?” But something about that terrible void felt unnatural, the work of dark forces.

“Quite exciting, in retrospect, don’t you agree, miss…?”

Madalena wasn’t quite sure whether to correct him or not. Under the circumstances, formalities seemed rather redundant, but she couldn’t in all conscience leave the poor man thinking that she was not married.

“Contessa… Madalena della Rovere,” she replied, with a slightly embarrassed grimace.


Michael breathes a sigh of relief (and immediately starts to cough up the dust and dirt he has inhaled and tries to keep pace with the military looking doctor.

“That kind of explosion. Or massive earth tremor….we don’t really know what other incidents have occurred. Perhaps this train is but one.” He is normally rather intimidated by men like these but the sheer strangeness of the last few minutes puts his normal caution aside.

Passengers in the Side Tunnel

Passengers in the Side Tunnel

The straggle of passengers from the oddly destroyed underground train has stretched out along the tracks with those who investigated the forward carriage, cut in half and hanging on the edge of a great looming void in the earth, towards the rear of the line. The conductor has hung his warning light for the next train and now hustles past the others towards the head of the line to help the passengers climb onto the platform at the sub-station ahead.

The sight of glowing electric lights down the curve of the tunnel bring sighs of relief that safety and escape are only a few paces away. The passengers move a little faster.
“Bit wet here,” says someone.
There's a storm drain alongside the tracks

There’s a storm drain alongside the tracks

“There’s a storm drain alongside the tracks,” explains the conductor. “Maybe it’s raining outside again.”

“I don’t think it’s water,” says someone in a squeaky voice.
Shining their lanterns on the stony track bed, the passengers can see pools of a black viscous liquid that seems to be trickling slowly along the tracks from the direction of the station lights ahead. From that direction is a sudden commotion and then a strangled off cry.
More than half of the passengers have already reached the station, but there is a wave of agitation passing through them. Some behind are pushing forward, eager to get into the light and off the tracks, but there seems to be a push back as well. And then there is a piercing scream of terror.
“Knives! They’ve got knives!” cries a woman from the lighted station. Her cries die away suddenly with a horrible gasping wet sound.
The Player Characters are perhaps a dozen yards shy of the platform at this point with five or six people in front of them. These people are turning to run back into the black tunnel.


“Some kind of riot…hooligans…” says Michael. He grabs hold of the doctor’s sleeve without really thinking about it and tries to pull him away from the chaos up ahead. “Unless you are armed, we need to run.” Michael is already stepping back and turning to run.

James presses himself against one side of the tunnel as those in front turn to run. He wants to run too, but as a fencer is instinctively reluctant to turn his back on anyone with a knife, and he also wants to get out of this damnable tunnel. His immediate reaction is therefore incredulity and caution, so he hesitates.

With one hand he perhaps ushers the lady he was talking to (before being rudely interrupted) into the side with him, to avoid being trampled. With the other hand he holds up the heavy train lamp, using the next few seconds to judge what exactly is going on.


Rene is no hero. Being at the rear of the procession with the other investigators of the forward carriage he will look for some sort of alcove or shadowed place to hide without being noticed. The danger of the oncoming train isn’t completely avoided so he won’t retreat back down the tunnel. All he wants to do is get out of the way, hide and avoid the mob.


The commotion ahead in the reassuring lit area abruptly caught her attention.

“Dear God,” she whispered, “what is happening?”

Madalena eagerly accepts a reassuring hand and moves to the side of the tunnel, out of the way of the rushing passengers, also craning her neck to try and see what is going on, and having a very nasty feeling about what the dark liquid trickling down the tunnel must be. Her instincts are telling her to run, as impractical as that might be in a full skirt, although there seems to be nowhere to go except the remaining half a train and the terrible void. For the moment she will keep close to James.


Posted: June 19, 2012 in Online Reality Game

In the sudden panic and rush away from the station, passengers trip and fall over one another and the awkward steel rails. Those who stand aside are not caught in the crush, but suddenly there are dark figures moving like shadows through the tangle, leaping and pouncing with flashing steel knives in their hands. Long blades glitter coldly in the reflected light from the station only yards ahead, and then run red with blood as they slash through limbs and necks. It is hard to judge, they move so fast, ducking and weaving through the rapidly thinning crowd, but there seem to be three or four of the shadowy assassins mowing down the passengers with ruthless efficiency.



And then they are upon the rearguard, where the Player Characters are clustered. One figure rises up before James and Madelena where they are pressed against the side of the tunnel. He is backlit, easy for James to see and he has leapt a distance to confront them, putting slightly off balance. James is used to bladed weapons and not frozen by the sight of the long knife. Indeed a cold calculation comes into his head as he automatically slips into a fighter’s stance. This is a battle he understands, though the odds are still with the armed man.

James will try to keep the lamp in his assailant’s face (hopefully if it’s dark behind us, the lamp might be a distracting?), try to pin the knife-hand, then use the lamp as a club. While also trying to avoid stumbling over the rail (is there an electrified rail in this era?)


Charles looked up from his position close to where the porter had been, where he’d been ushering folk along in an orderly manner, to see the glistening twinkle of cold steel. At first he had hesitated, the last thing he’d expected to see down here some sort of threat; then his military training had jumped into gear. Instinctively he surged forward toward the attackers, shoving innocents back on their way and reaching in his bag for the revolver that lay unused and unexpecting at the foot of his doctors bag.

Knives flashed; and the doctor’s gun rang like thunder in the enclosed space.



Seeing the commotion ahead, I step back and think of running. However, my curiosity impels me to stay. I am not a sheep that runs blindly with the others unless I know what the threat is! I jump to the other side of the tunnel to get out of their way. Across the tunnel I notice a few others waiting too. The man and woman I saw in my car. Then the doctor a bit behind them. I feel a bit of comfort knowing Im not alone in my decision to remain.

When I see the shadowy figures move about the crowd, I almost panic. My hand finds my umbrella to make sure it is with me. I see the attackers moving closer, springing about at their victims. Then, one lunges at the man and woman across the tunnel. I see the man step forward to take the assassin on. He is weaponless, but takes a defensive stance. He is a fencer!

“HEY!!” Yelling across the tunnel to him. I grab the handle of my umbrella and pull out a thin, two foot long steel blade hidden inside the umbrella handle. When he looks, I toss it to him.

Lets even this fight.


James hears the shout and senses something thrown, and none are more surprised than he to find his hand serendipitously heavy with the comforting weight of a blade. Here’s a spot of luck!


Almost as shocked as much by the combative actions of some of his companions as he is by the assassins, Michael is caught in indecision. He crouches down by the wall of the tunnel, making himself as small and unnoticed as possible and hoping the whole awful reality will just go away….


The appearance of a man with a long knife sends a shock of fear through Madalena. She can only hope and pray that James is able to defend himself, as she is able to offer little assistance. She feels that she can probably help him best by staying out of his way, but if she gets a chance she will retrieve the lamp from him, to free him up to defend himself properly, and try to keep it out of James’ eyes and in those of his assailant.


James uses the lamp from the subway wall to distract and threaten his opponent, which puts him on the defensive for a moment as he adjusts mentally to someone attacking him rather than fleeing. In that instant of readjustment, a woman’s voice calls out from the darkness and a slender object, glinting in the faint light, tumbles out of the black. James instinctivley reaches up and catches the blade by the handle, his swift reflexes and thorough knowledge of such weapons allowing him to handle the short sword safely even when arriving so swiftly and unexpectedly.

Penelope's Tricky Umbrella

Penelope’s Tricky Umbrella

Without hesitation, he steps quickly forward and lunges: A perfect ballestra attack, sliding his weapon under the blackguard’s defence and up through his rib cage and into the heart. The man’s expression of surprise fades quickly as the life seeps from him and he falls to the tracks.

James has successfully dispatched one of the leaping assassins, but now he is the focus of the three or four stealthy black shadows remaining. They turn towards him, knives raised as the fencer takes a defensive pose, ready to stand them off. Behind him, Madelan takes the battery operated lamp from his free hand and shines it in the eyes of the menacing figures.


In the precious seconds that James and Penelope have gained the others, Charles has fished his Webly from the depths of his doctor’s bag and fires at the advancing figures.

Charle's Webley Mark IV

Charle’s Webley Mark IV

In the darkness the first shot goes wide, but the second finds its mark and another black robed figure stumbles to the tracks, out of the combat.

Now the odds are more even. Three shadowy assassins stil stalk the survivors, but James with his gleaming blade and the Doctor with his military revolver step forward to stand them off.


Surprised and a little sickened by the apparent ease with which his assailant fell (having never inflicted any injury more serious to any man than stealing his top-hat or passing on perfectly-well-founded rumours of his indiscretions), James takes a step back and remains there, defensively, hoping the sweat doesn’t loosen his grip on the sword.

He is doubly shocked by the loud report of a gun in the tunnel, and then triply so when, although it now seems they are faced with at least one firearm, the thugs do not simply turn and flee.


James’ sense of self-preservation re-establishes its influence. He concentrates on staying near the wall (to prevent being surrounded or accidentally tripping over the rail), keeping the men at distance with the rapier, and hoping that his gun-toting ally thought to also bring more than two bullets on whatever his day’s business was.


Charles was no marksman. He was no brawler, no seasoned warrior. First and foremost he was a doctor and his face was grim as the Webly thundered in the confined space. He didn’t have time to look backward, but knew retreat was not an option. The next train would already have embarked on its inevitable journey and to back away would have been suicide.

As their assailants continued to stalk forward he felt his heart pound in his chest. What were these devils doing down here? There was hardly time to think; but one thing seemed clear. They had intended to kill all survivors and a little resistance hadn’t changed that mission. There was no bargaining to be had here. Backing away he fired again.

Stand Aside!

Posted: June 18, 2012 in Online Reality Game

By his own admission, Charles was no marksman and his third shot narrowly missed James as the two armed men stood boldly between the darting assassins and the other defenseless passengers. Nevertheless the show of determined and deadly resistance was finally enough to dissuade the killers’ advances and the skulking shadows withdrew towards the station.

Behind them, in the station, brightly illuminated and clearly visible to the survivors of the unexpected attack hiding in the tunnel, a tall figure in some kind of robes stepped to the edge of the platform and raised his arms. He gestured in a complicated way and spoke a harsh word that echoed in the tunnels. A flare of light burst from his finger tips and circled his head for a moment before darting along the tunnel towards the surprised passengers.



“I see you!” the man spoke, his voice penertrating and authoratative with a faint accent. “Stand aside that we may leave, and you will live another day.”

The whisp of light hovered at the side of the tunnel just behind them illuminating the entrance to the storm drain the conductor had mentioned, only seconds ago. The bright light also made clearly visible the nature of the viscous liquid moving sluggishly along the track bed — blood! Gallons of blood, dark and sticky, far too much and too old to have been spilled by the handful of passengers who were cut down so recently by the assassins’ knives.

“Stand back, I say,” the tall man cried out again, “and let us pass.”


Needing no further encouragement, Michael retreats further into the tunnel, past the stormdrain, keeping his eyes averted from the awful sight of the sea of blood lapping round his ankles.


James eyes the robed figure warily, his ears are still ringing from the shots.

“What do you make of it?”, he stage whispers to those nearby, glancing around to see who remains. “Is that… blood? Why do they want to go down this tunnel? Wh…?”

The situation is too tangled for James to unravel, and he would happily retreat through the storm drain without further ado, except that this may be perceived as bad form by those who remain. Besides, he feels aggravatingly reluctant to let obvious foreigners get away with such behaviour here, in the heart of the empire.

As to how to proceed, James hopes that those minds more suited for the task reach a consensus soon, and in the meantime cautiously takes a few steps towards the nearest of those who first fell to the assassins’ knives. He spares a glance away from the shouting figure to determine whether they are beyond his meagre ability to help.

He tries not to think too hard about the stream of blood and the wierd floating light.


Barely paying attention to what is happening outside of the immediate threat posed by the men with knives, Madalena was dazed by the weapon appearing seemingly from thin air, and James’ facility with it. Gunshots echoed loudly down the tunnels.There was a strange, surreal quality to the fight, as with everything that had happened since the explosion on the train.

. . .

As the assailants fall back and the fight comes to a brief halt, Madalena at last tries to make sense of her surroundings and events. Fighting to keep from giving in to the impulse to crumple into a swoon, she tries not to look at the horrible, gurgling flow along the tracks. It is a vision from some medieval hell. She can scarcely believe the volume of blood, or the weird light glowing in the robed figure’s hand, but she knows enough of the occult to begin to dimly realise that there is terrible magick afoot.

“Who are you?” she manages to shakily demand of the robed figure, “and what do you want here?”


Entrance to Ancient Storm Drain

Entrance to Ancient Storm Drain

As the last of the passengers murmur among themselves and move away from the eldritch light hovering above the ancient stone tunnel that leads to the storm drain, a dozen or so black clad figures swarm down off the station platform and scuttle quickly out of sight through the dank opening. They seem to be carrying several items of luggage with them. Slowly and with dignity the tall figure who has spoken to them approaches the drain entrance as well. The will of the wisp light that he has conjured apparently from thin air dances at the command of his upraised fingers and it zips quickly from person to person, hovering for a dazzling second in front of each.

“Who are you?” the Contessa demands shakily of the robed figure, “and what do you want here?”

“You have stood against me, and I do not tolerate defiance,” the man speaks in sinister tones. “I have marked your faces and you will be known to my men. Oppose me again and you will die.”

With that he swirls a long cloak it was not apparent he was wearing and in the instant of being hidden from sight, the light snuffs out and he is gone – presumably down the storm drain. The passenger’s eyes slowly adjust to the much more feeble illumination of the lamps taken from the train. The awful sight of what remains makes them wish, perhaps that they were still blind.

All the passengers who had been ahead of them trying to reach the safety of the platform are dead, their throats slit from ear to ear by sharp knives. There are lights on the platform, but no movement. The thick sludge of blood on the track bed still flows slowly towards the same drain the assassins have used to escape by. It cannot have come from the slain passengers – their blood has run and pooled on the tracks as well, and is much more fluid and of brighter red color.

Suddenly into the awful silence comes the roar and rattle of the train on the main tracks a hundred feet or so behind them. There is a protracted squealing of brakes as the driver tries to stop the hurtling train, having been warned by the hanging lantern of the conductor. Awful metallic shrieks fill the tunnel with a deafening cacophony of sound, and then a loud bang as the front of the engine smashes into the back of the carriage they have so recently fled. Screams of fear and pain add to the tumultuous noise, but the train seems to have stopped in time to not to go hurtling into the void ahead. The sounds slowly subside, followed by the noises of voices raised in fear in the tunnel they have left behind.



I’ll move up to the platform and see if anyone is alive. I’ll carefully walk among the bodies looking for signs of life. Maybe randomly tapping one with my shoe.


“Devilish fellow…” James comments absently after the blackness had swallowed the man, more disturbed by his arrogant dismissal of them than by his flair for the dramatic.

“We had better warn the other stations, before history repeats itself.”

He moves towards the station, pausing once to wipe off the blade on one of the dead assassins, and then again as he passes the lady examining the unfortunates, to whom he returns the sword-cane, hilt first.

“Thank-you for its loan” he says with a small bow and a smile. “Perhaps we can arrange an assault some time, in more civilised circumstances!” and he trots up the track, trying not to dip his shoes in the strange sludge.


As the mysterious figures slipped into the darkness Charles was quick to lower his weapon. He strode for his bag and looked at the unmoving bodies around him with anger and desperation.

We’re any of them alive? The doctor moved amongst them hurriedly, checking for pulses and any sign of life. He called out “Is anyone alive?”, hoping some of the other survivors would hurry to help.

Then Approaching one of the fellows he had shot, charles realised grimly that he hoped they yet lived. There were questions to be answered.


Rene let’s out a gasp and realizes that he hasn’t breathed throughout this whole ordeal. Seeing that relative safety has finally returned to the train tunnels, his curiosity takes over. He moves forward cautiously over the bodies trying to find the source of the bloody ichor, giving an especially wide birth to the bodies of the cultists.


Michael collects himself from where he has been cowering in the shadows and follows Rene up the tunnel towards the station. He averts his eyes from the sight of the dead passengers but stops to examine the dead assassins. Curious he tries to guage their ethnic origin, clothing and so on and sees whether any of them has any obvious possessions. He is not in the business of robbing corpses but this could be vital evidence, not be left to plodding policeman.

Watch out!

Posted: June 17, 2012 in Online Reality Game

Moving towards the platform the remaining passengers pass by the bodies of those who only moments ago were marching in the tunnel with them. Each has had his or her throat cut and lays awkwardly across the rails, the last of the blood still dripping into the sea of goo on the track bed. Penelope taps one or two with her toe, which is becoming sticky. Charles is more professional and thorough, but he finds none of the civilians alive.

The man he shot still lives, however, his breath coming in rasping gasps. The large caliber bullet has torn most of his left arm off and he is bleeding, but he will survive with treatment.

A horrible site on the platform

A horrible site on the platform

As they reach the platform itself an awful sight greets them. Bodies are stacked up like cord wood alongside the walls of the white tiled station. Dozens of bodies. Perhaps hundreds. Men. Women. Children. Mostly Asians, but whites and negroes among them, though all seem at a glance poorly dressed, street people. Each has had their throat cut and their blood is what has been trickling down the train tracks – after having washed over a complicated design painted on the concrete floor of the platform.

In the right hand corner of the platform (it opens to your right) is a circular opening about ten feet in diameter that is clearly not part of the original design of the station. The end of a ladder is rested on the platform floor and extends inside the dark opening, sloping down slightly into what looks like a large, spherical void.


Finding the living enemy Charles growled, calling to the others. “One of them is alive. Get over here!”.
Whatever had happened in the bowels of London had been terrible and wrong. The doctor had seen death before but even he was shocked by the number of bodies and the merciless brutality that had taken their lives. None of the fallen were soldiers. Maybe this man had answers…

Acting quickly he scanned the ground near the ‘cultist’ and made to kick away any weapon within reach. If any of the other passengers came to help he would bark “Hold him down. You, get his legs. You, his arm.”. At the same time Charles dug into his bag for his tourniquet and efficiently slid it into place to staunch the flow of blood. As he tightened it he knew from experience the patient would feel a burning pain and dizziness and the doctor within him ached to reach for the sedative in his bag. Instead though he needed the man awake. Leaning over the victim the doctor demanded authoritively “What have you done? What is this?”.

Unless any of the other passengers objected though, Charles would automatically begin to prepare a syringe with a sedative. He needed answers, but was a doctor first and foremost.

Medallion worn by assassin

Medallion worn by assassin

[As Charles works on the wounded assassin, applying the tourniquet, he notices that the man, who seems to be of Asian ethnicity, is wearing a brass medallion and seems to have many tattoos. The assassin’s knife, the blade sticky with blood from the passengers he had killed also looks to be of an Oriental design — and very sharp.

In response to the military man’s sharp questioning, the assassin manages a grim chuckle and he hisses in broken English:

“The War Lord’s will is not questioning by nothings like you. His will is all. Yog Sothoth be praised!”

The man wriggles suddenly, still powerful and determined, despite his awful wound, and he pulls a metallic star shaped object from within his robes which he tries to stab at Charles’ wrist. The points of the star are razor sharp and coated with a dark stain.

Luckily the star cuts only into the heavy cuff of the doctor’s uniform and does not slice into his skin. After this single swift attempt at attacking the doctor, coming as fast as a striking snake, the assassin grips the star in his hands and squeezes. The points stab into his flesh and the man stiffens in agony. The end is very swift as he gasps once or twice and then shudders into final stillness.]


Poisoned throwing star

Poisoned throwing star

James, one hand on the platform edge, spirits momentarily lifted by the prospect of escape, freezes at the awful sight. He tries to take it all in, but it doesn’t seem possible, a grisly abattoir where Moorgate should be.

He hears someone say something, some orders barked, and some part of his brain is happy to fall in with those orders for the present. He turns away from the vision of hell and kneels down to help the doctor, until his rational mind can reaquire the reins.


Madalena is grateful that at least the conductor’s lantern has done its job. Enough people have already died today. But she is not prepared for the discovery of just how many that truly is.

The Contessa swoons and grasps at the tunnel wall for support at the sight of such a slaughter; so many that it is perhaps almost mercifully hard to discern individuals. But her eyes are drawn to the design on the platform. Once again she is convinced that this is magick, but beyond anything that the Golden Dawn has ever hinted at – surely the blackest, most unspeakable kind that she could ever conceive of. She stares for a while at what she supposes to be a magic circle, eager to have something other than the charnel house to look at, trying to commit the pattern, like the sorceror’s face, to memory, though she knows at the back of her mind that this is a scene that she will be reliving for many years to come, in her nightmares.

[She looks at the hole in the corner of the platform.] It is equally clearly not part of the station’s original design. It seems similar to the huger void into which the rest of the train fell.

[Trying to see more,] she will shine the lantern that she took from James into the void to see if she can see anything in there.


Michael pockets the piece of medallion and knife, being careful to keep his clumsy fingers away from the blade. It is only as he looks up that he takes in the true scale of slaughter at the end of the station. “Mg God where did all these people come from…” he whispers under his breath before vomitting violently on the tracks in front of him (san fail, seven points lost….). Pulling himself to his feet slowly, he wipes his mouth and in a daze approaches the design etched into the floor.

Certain meetings he has attended…certain others he has heard tales of…there is plenty of the occult at play here though more Crowley than Keats. Keeping his eyes away from as much of the slaughter as possible he examines the design.


Blinking after the dazzling display of the robed figure, Rene scrambles out of his hiding place and rejoins his companions on the platform. As his eyes fully adjust, the sight before him causes his knees to buckle (Sanity check fail) and his vision to go blurry. However, he manages to grit his teeth and regain his composure (only -1 sanity). The knuckles on his hand clutching his briefcase have gone white.

Occult design on platform

Occult design on platform

Rene takes a close look at the symbol on the floor hoping to recognize it. He’ll also jot down a sketch in one of his notebooks. He is also curious about the dark hole in the corner but lacking the agility to fully explore it he won’t be the first to do so. He will encourage any others who share his interest to go forth. He will also query the other survivors as to if any of them have heard stories of people going missing or other such dark happenings in the city lately, as he is not a local.


Michael finds himself next to Rene as they examine the symbol and he watches him sketch it. “The occult is at work Sir, and its work is only just beginning I think.” He tries to get his bearings, guaguing whether the holes in this area could be connected with the larger one that destroyed the train. He also peers warily down the ladder…


James relaxes his grip on the dead man, appalled by his fanaticism. The incomprehensible and murderous nature of his actions seem utterly alien to him, and with uncharacteristic anger he tears the brass medallion from the man’s neck, stands up, and glares at it, as if expecting some revelation.

When none is forthcoming, he leans down and picks up the knife. He wipes the blade clean of gore and, hopefully, any other lethal substances, on the man’s clothes, and looks for the sheath it was held in, if any – if not, wrapping it in a handkerchief and putting it in his coat pocket.

He steps up onto the platform proper and turns to address the apparent doctor.

“James Wodehouse, sir,” and turning his eyes with reluctance back on the gruesome scene:

”Have you ever seen such a thing?”


Charles stood alongside James, extricating the deadly poisoned star from his assailants morbid grasp. It flickered in the moving torch light and he reached for his ‘kercheif to wrap it safely.

Despite his experience in the field Charles felt his heart pounding and the scuff on his wrist from the attempt on his life was a cruel reminder of how close the blade had come. James’ introduction though was a welcome distraction and he forced himself to respond as befitted a man of the kings army.

“Captain Charles Hills-Nicholson, at your service Mr Woodhouse. I am, as you may have surmised, a doctor.”. The unmoving bodies around them seemed too many to count. Innocents brutally murdered by a force twisted and unwelcome in his city. Charles shook his head. “No, I’ve seen nothing like this. Death yes…many a soldier on a battlefield who knew what he faced. These men and women though…their lives were stolen by ungodly folk.”.

He paused. By now he knew none of those lying unmoving would open their eyes to see loved ones again. The only survivors were James and the other passengers congregating near a gaping darkness that Charles couldn’t yet make out. There were no more patients here for the doctor to help but back up the tunnel they had heard the screeching snarl of metal as the next train had slammed on its brakes. Were there injured folk there who needed his help? He thought quickly.

“Did you hear what that devil said? A warlord named Yog Sothoth wasn’t it?”. Charles pointed toward the station where the enemy have disappeared. “We need to secure this place, then go back for help. The police need to see this.”.

Picking up his bag he began to stride toward the platform. His eyes narrowed as he realised what lay ahead; more unnatural voids.

The Bank of England

Posted: June 16, 2012 in Online Reality Game

Charles came to a halt before the gaping spaces. Soon this area would be crowded, but who knew if further dangers lurked.

“This is all wrong. How has such a feat been achieved?”. Part of him wanted to pursue those responsible for the massacre. But as he gazed into the darkness he realised the ladders ahead were ominously placed. The doctor knew he would struggle to traverse such a precarious path. The fencer though…

“I’ll not cross those, but if you need my aid at all James, just give me the nod.”. Perhaps shining a torch to light the way, or using his weapon to provide cover to anyone crossing the ladders would be valuable. At least until the darkness enveloped them…

While he waited to see what the others would do though he focussed his thoughts on the occult symbol. Did he recognise it? And what was it made from?

Charles looked around for something heavy; part of a rail, or loose pipe he could wrench from the wall. Failing that he would use the weight of his boot, and turn whatever strength he had at attempting to damage or erase the symbol. It was wrong and served the purpose of men who had shown themselves evil. It did not belong in the King’s realm.

James follows Charles and peers disbelievingly into the dark space. He puts a toe experimentally on to the first rung, then withdraws it.

“In there, are you mad? There is a fully competent and well-staffed constabulary a few short flights of stairs away, you know. They’ve signed up for exactly this sort of thing, and I feel it would be positively uncivic to deny them their calling.”

James has clearly now calmed down enough to regain some of his wit, which he is clearly currently using to fend off the horrors that his rational mind – damn that nagging thing – is stubbornly trying to get him to revisit. He has also regained his sense of proportion, which is coincidentally very close to his sense of self-preservation, and it is telling him that staying down here is a good way to end up stacked like so much firewood like these unfortunates.

“Besides, we suspect where it goes – where we just came from. Why should we want to go back there!? I have already barely clung on to my poor sinner’s soul already today, I feel a fortifying drink at a congenial club to be a more appropriate rallying point.”

[OOC – I suppose my thoughts were that the bodies were described as varied by mostly poorly dressed Asians. So, it seems they were not just unluckily standing at the station, waiting for a train, but rather marched here en mass while alive, and then killed? Perhaps, being poor, with promise of pay? I don’t know. Would be hard to get an army of beggars here in that way without comment from authorities, which has me worried about what’s happened above.]

Just because it is easy to misinterpret text and your characters are ‘really’ there with this happening around them, so they would know/sense this stuff:

• The sub station you have come to is not a public station. The conductor mentioned that it was a side station used to service the Bank of England and it is clearly a much more utilitarian place than the other stations you have seen with no signs or maps or advertisements on the wall.
• The stairs will presumably lead up to the bank, and at a guess will be locked and guarded above. It is an underground route into the premises of the bank.
• The victims do not look like train passengers — they are mostly Asian and all very poverty stricken in their appearance. The most likely way they got here is through the storm drain that the assassins used to escape — though they could have been marched down the main tunnels at some point during the middle of the night when they are not in use. They most certainly did not come down through the bank. It would also occur to you that the victims did not all need to be here when the killing started. They may have been brought in in batches through the sewers and dispatched upon arrival.
• There are hundreds (apparently) of victims. Even working quickly it would have taken the assassins a long time to kill all of them. This process was started well before you descended to the underground and boarded your own train. The doctor will also notice some flaking splashes of dried blood at the edges of the gore that must be hours old.
• The ladders are long — at least 20 – 30 feet — and probably could not have come through the sewers. They must have come in through the railway tunnels — but who knows when.
• When you boarded your train there was no indication of any problems on the lines. If the holes had been there for a while, the trains would have stopped running within half an hour as they crashed into the open space. This has all manifested very recently. Indeed, you were there no more than fifteen minutes ago when your train was cut in half by whatever did this.
• The holes, as you inspect the edges in the tiles of the station wall are cut as clean as a whistle with seared edges as if the tile were exposed to intense heat. This reminds those who saw it of the edges of the carriage walls in the part of your train that was cut in half. The direction of the openings that you can see seems to point towards where your train was destroyed.
• When you looked down into the big hole that ate your train, you did not see any lights or ladders. Good chance the ladders do not go that far. Where might they go? What’s between the station and your train?

Madalena and Michael look at the symbols drawn on the station platform in what seems to be black paint. They are done with skill, but in a hurry, they would judge, reminiscent of the stylized alphabets of the east where writing is done by brush rather than steel nibs. As a group the symbols mean nothing to either of them, although there are any number of individual sigils they recognize: The elemental sign for earth, the symbol for both Jupiter and Saturn among others. Most of the glyphs are unknown and somewhat disturbing to look at too closely, almost as if they had a life of their own beneath the rivulets of blood and were straining to be free.

Madalena will take pencil and use the flyleaf of a book in her bag to try and jot down as good a representation as she can of the design.

As James speaks of the police, Madalena looks up from where she has been trying to transcribe the symbol on the platform.

“Sir, I have no wish to cast aspersions upon your country’s police, but I think that an atrocity such as this is likely to far beyond any experience or competence that they might be able to bring to bear. This is nothing but the vilest black magick, and no policeman of my acquaintance has the imagination to conceive of such a thing.”

“You are correct, I am sure,” she continues, “that these voids were created via a similar means to the great one into which we were nearly drawn, but they are on a much smaller scale. My intuition tells me that whatever terrible thing passed upon this platform was the cause of the great void, but the lesser ones here may have been merely a means of entry prior to that. Whoever used them had the forethought to bring ladders – it could be profitable to discover where their origin is, if anyone feels up to the task.”

James chortles a little at the notion of black magick, of all things! The symbol on the floor looks more like… like some sort of experiment in the physical sciences. He spends a few moments formulating a tremendously satisfying and witty riposte, unfortunately blanking out a little at Madelena’s clever account of the situation, and is on the point of delivering it when he is accused of not being up to the task.

By a woman! And an apparently foreign woman at that!

James Wodehouse winces theatrically, draws himself up, turns, and without pausing for his better judgment to once again ruin his day, attempts to glide across the first ladder in one breathless rush.

Madalena is surprised and yet rather impressed with James’ apparent Devil-may-care bravery. The contrast between his occasional diffidence and his bursts of action in the tunnel seems a stark one.

“What an extraordinary man,” she cannot help exclaiming aloud.

James is well coordinated and once he starts out across the ladder he finds the going hair raising but not especially difficult. When he reaches the end of the first ladder he can see it rests on a raised edge of seared bedrock formed where two bubbles have come together. Another ladder reaches out into darkness beyond him and he can see a larger opening perhaps 25 feet ahead with yet a third ladder proceeding on into the bowels of the earth. Behind him the other remaining passengers from the ill fated train are dark silhouettes staring in at him with the bright lights of the station behind them.

There is a distinct odor in the hollow space of something nauseating and rotten.

Teetering at the second hole, James looks back. It occurs to him he has no lamp and, feeling that he has made his astonishing bravery sufficiently obvious to all present (not least himself), he glides back along the ladder to the platform.

“It’s dark, I… Well, ahem, the ladder seems sound. Fairly stable.”

He looks between the assembled personages and the forbidding darkness a few times, trying to get a read on what they intend to do exactly.

“Bad smell, though. Broken gas pipes maybe, or…” he gestures at the bodies, “more dead.”

Good old practical Charles is thinking about the bubbles, and in particular which way they run.
If they emanate from the symbol underground, below the bank of England, he’s wondering what the potential ‘target’ is.

Can he tell which direction then go? (Given he knows generally the direction which the tube line he is on runs in). Can he tell if the bubbles appear to be consistent in size, or if they vary/increase/decrease? From the image you sent through of the station it looks like they head South East (though there was no orientation on that map)

As James tip-toes along the ladder into the darkness of the void, the others can hear the first faint voices of the passengers and crew from the second train – the one their conductor saved from a nasty crash by hanging the red light. The crew from the second train seems to be leading the passengers along the same route the first conductor used – along the siding line to the sub-station that services the bank.

As the new arrivals come closer, those on the platform hear the first incredulous notes of surprise in their voices, then horror and finally fear as they discover the bodies on the rails with slit throats and the river of blood along the track bed.

As James bounds back along the ladder into the relatively brilliant light of the very utilitarian station, the conductor of the second train emerges from the dark train tunnel and sees the small group standing by the hole in the corner of the platform.

“Murderers!” he cries in fury. Then over his shoulder he calls “There they are! The filthy killers!”

A dozen or so men, some in suits, some dressed as workmen, run forward out of the tunnel and start to climb onto the platform to apprehend those standing there.

“No, no!” cries James, raising his arms. “We are passengers – from the other train!”

James thinks dashing back along the ladder at this point may be interpreted as an admission of guilt, although he keeps the possibility open.

Charles heard the oncoming passengers and advanced toward them, his hands raised. His uniform would identify him and his voice called into the darkness “Is anyone hurt? I am a doctor. Some tragedy has occurred here; we fled the advanced train.”

As the conductor emerged into the dim light Charles moved toward him as openly as he could. “Sir, please, hold the other passengers back. People do not need to see this.” He hoped to appeal to the man’s sense of responsibility and make him feel in charge rather than threatened.

“Tell me how I can help you.”

The doctors heart pounded in his chest as he realised he could be about to be assaulted by a confused mob. Still, a man in the king’s army did not panic. The least he would do is buy time for the other innocent passengers.

As the mob of men approach them, Rene fades towards the back of his rag tag group. ‘Better to let the brave and the foolish approach the angry mob,’ he thinks.

Michael moves to one side, behind Captain Hills-Nicholson and drops the dagger he took from one of the assassins onto the ground.

Penelope is not so diffident. She is an aristocrat and the very idea that she might be confused with the sort of person who would commit such an act is unthinkable – and outrageous!

“I am Lady Penelope Barchester,” she announces in a commanding tone – the voice of nobility born addressing lesser beings. “My father is the Duke of Barsetshire and you are being impertinent!”

Stepping to the edge of the platform where the conductor gives ground, as do the other passengers who only seconds before were intent of bloody revenge, she survey’s the new arrivals.

“I am late for a very important appointment,” she says in a low but nevertheless chilling tone. “The City and South London Underground Railway publishes a timetable that indicated that I would arrive at my destination almost twenty five minutes ago. I have not arrived. I am indeed stranded underground in some dismal side station surrounded by dead people. My train has been cut in half, my fellow passengers have been murdered, and I have been personally threatened by Laskar assassins.

“Do not think, my good man that I shall not complain of this treatment to the management. I shall. In the most strident terms.”

She stands aside to allow the uniformed man who is by now pulling at his cap and almost bowing down in front of her to mount to the platform.

“You may now show us the way out of this station. And be quick about it!”

“”Yes, mum!” he stammers. “Yes, yer Ladyship. Sorry about the confusion, mum. Only it looked . . .”

She raises an eyebrow and draws breath to speak again, but he hurries on.

“The exit is over there, mum. Up them stairs. Maybe I could move them bodies for you?”

Lady Penelope gives him the faintest nod of acknowledgement and he hurries to start pushing piles of forlorn bodies aside to clear a path up the stairs. He is soon splattered with sticky blood as reward for his efforts, but he does create a pathway to the stairs which are open beyond the first few steps.

The young woman turns and gives a mischievous wink to Captain Hills-Nichols.

“It never does, Captain, to let them think they are in charge. They are not.”

She swings her umbrella with the hidden sword and strolls delicately past the murdered victims, stacked like cordwood, towards the stairs where the conductor is still clearing the way through. Some of the newly arrived passengers mutter behind her back, but she has clearly established herself as someone who is not to be disobeyed, and she ignores them completely.

James, now presented with the choice between venturing deeper into the gloomy earth towards who-knows-what, and bobbing along in the wake of this magnificent Lady Penelope like so much flotsam, chooses the latter. He closes his jaw and follows her.

“Good show, my lady,” he says, arriving at her side swiftly in an effort to intercept the wink-favoured Captain’s attempts to do likewise, and casually offering a hand to assist in navigating the carnage. “Can’t be having the riff-raff runs things now, can we?”

James motions encouragingly at the conductor to hurry it up a bit with the corpse clearing.

James hurried forward to catch up with Lady Penelope just in time to offer her his arm as she stepped over a corpse’s out-flung arm and a puddle of blood. She rested her hand on his arm thankfully and smiled at him, a radiant smile that drew him in to her world for just a second and pushed the horror of their surroundings into the background.

“Thank you so much, my dear,” she said in a low, husky voice that thrilled him. She glanced down at her shoes, expensive suede boots with a delicate heel and colored laces. The leather was stained with grime from the tunnels and blood from the platform.

“I don’t think these shoes will ever be the same again,” she sighed regretfully. “I bought them in Paris.”

Behind them, Charles offered medical services to any of the passengers from the second train who might need it, but no one asked for help. Their twists and sprains paled into insignificance as they caught sight of the victims of the bizarre massacre on the station platform. One or two vomited violently and all turned pale, their moaning and grumbling silenced by the immensity of the horror that confronted them.

The conductor cleared away the last of the stacked bodies blocking the stairs and led the way upwards, bowing and scraping for Lady Penelope and her escort. The steps turned once to the right and again to the left and then stopped at a landing. A strong iron door closed off the corridor her. The conductor hesitated a moment and then found a pull cord against the wall. He tugged on it and a bell clanged faintly on the other side of the door.

Twice more he had to pull the rope before a small window in the door at head height slid open.

“What the devil are you doing there?” snapped a bristling mustached face through a grillwork of steel mesh.

“Been an accident on the main line,” said the conductor. “Lots of people dead. This is the only way out.” He stepped forward to speak quietly to the man behind the door, but his voice was not made for whispering and those in the front ranks could hear quite clearly.

“Murder on your platform too. Hundreds of bodies. Better get the Peelers.”

The mustachioed man’s eyes opened wide in surprise, but he held his ground.

“You’ll have to wait here until I can get the governor to open the gates. I can’t let any Tom, Dick and Harry through here – even if he is in a uniform. This is the Bank of England!”

Lady Penelope stepped forward and treated the fellow behind the door to the same imperious tone that had swayed the conductor below – but to no effect. This fellow was made of sterner stuff. He nodded and “Yes, Ma’am,” –ed and “No, Ma’am,” –ed for several minutes, but always came back to his resolution.

“I cannot open this gate without the Governor’s express permission, my Lady. It is a security measure to protect the treasures of the country. You must understand that, my Lady. It is no reflection on your status, Ma’am. The King himself could not come through this gate without the Governor says so.”

Eventually his patience wore out and he simply shut the sliding panel in her face.

Long minutes passed as the stair well behind them filled up with the last of the passengers from the second train. The air became warm and then thick with body odors and the stench of bad breath. A lady feinted and Charles knelt beside her to revive her with smelling salts from his bag.

After an interminable wait of perhaps half an hour the sounds of locks and bolts being opened on the far side of the door brought a sudden rush or relief to the crowd. When the door finally opened, however, a gasp of surprise greeted the sight on the far side. A rank of soldiers carrying rifles stood three deep in the corridor beyond. In front of them was a tall, portly man in an expensive suit wearing a monocle.

He held his hand up to halt the many expostulations of indignation and innocence.

“I am Sir Bernard Wittington, Governor of the Bank of England. I understand there has been an accident in the underground train tunnels, but you are all standing in the Bank of England without permission and at this moment you are all guilty of criminal trespass. We have no intention of pressing any charges. But we also have no intention of allowing a crowd of unidentified strangers traipse through the bowels of the nation’s treasury without at least confirming your story.

“Are there any injured or sick who need immediate attention?”

With remarkable efficiency Sir Bernard and his troops began to manage the situation without allowing anyone to leave or wander off unattended. Passengers were escorted to toilet facilities as needed and rooms, albeit sparse and furnished only with hard backed chairs, were provided where the passengers could sit. Through all this hard faced soldiers with weapons at the ready observed passively and moved to intercept anyone who tried to leave the designated areas.

Lady Penelope tried again and again to exert the privilege of her rank and was each time rejected, politely but firmly by Sir Bernard who was clearly a very calm and experienced negotiator. He never lost his temper, no matter how vile the imprecations hurled from the crowd, and he never once waivered in his control of the crowd.

After an hour or so another group of people joined the ranks of the bank employees and the soldiers on guard. A dozen or so uniformed policemen took up position alongside the soldiers and three plain clothes detectives spoke briefly to Sir Bernard. The eldest of the three then turned to speak to the crowd of passengers. He had salt and pepper hair and a short but bristling beard shot through with streaks of grey. He spoke with a distinct working class south London accent.

“I am Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard,” he said. “There has been a robbery at the bank. Someone has tunneled in to the vaults from the station below. The station you all have so recently emerged from. We know there was an accident on the train line, and there are engineers looking into what happened there. But my job is to solve a crime.

“It is quite possible that the thieves are among you. I’m sure that most of you are exactly who you say you are. But it would be easy for those who broke into the bank to mingle among a group of strangers and try to affect their escape hiding amongst you.

“It will take some time, but my plan is to speak to each of you individually and establish your identity. I will also be asking you what you saw on the station and in the tunnels below.”

A general hubbub of protests issued from the crowd.

“The longer you protest, the longer this will take,” said Lestrade, not in the least bit swayed by the anger of the group.

“I understand that there is a group among you who were on the first train and arrived at the station before the passengers from the second train. We will start with them. Lady Penelope? Will you accompany my sergeant to the interview room?”

One by one, the surviving passengers of the original train are conducted into a small office and interviewed by Lestrade and his detectives. They ask who you are, if you have any form of identification, and then they ask for a detailed description of what happened. I don’t expect you to write it all down, but I do want you to write back (just to me) the highlights of what you intend to tell them – and more importantly, if there is anything you wish not to tell them.

I can’t think of anything James would leave out or lie about. The bit about the ‘magic light’ he would probably misremember as something more mundane, like the guy throwing a torch at them. He might describe his own role slightly more heroically.

He’ll hand over the dagger he pocketed, saying he took it to defend against more of the blighters. He would hand over the medallion, but I’d rather James genuinely forgot he took this unless pressed, which isn’t unreasonable given he was a bit shell shocked at the time.

His attitude won’t be defensive or guilty, more like ‘what are you civil servants going to do about this?’ and ‘I have a dinner engagement to get to.’

Charles will be extremely helpful and honest with the soldiers in particular, quickly making his rank and details known (hopefully they will have mutual respect). His loyalty is more to the army than to the other passengers at this point, and will give a detailed report on what was seen, and who attacked who, including revealing James climbed along some of the ladders.

He will suggest his belief that the robbers came through the bank of England, and then away through the tunnels. He won’t suggest the voids are magical, but will suggest they are somehow engineered as a getaway or route to the vaults.
He will indicate the direction of the route, and urge Lestrade to send troops South West in the line of the bubbles toward any other vulnerable/valuable targets. He will mention the names of the warlord etc that were given by the assassins.

He will ask Lestrade if he is suspicious of any particular passengers, and indicate that he can vouch for them. He will offer to shadow a passenger/befriend them if Lestrade is very suspicious, and promise to report back.

James begins the interview feeling relieved that this catastrophic, though admittedly exciting, event in his life is safely behind him, and ends it feeling positively rattled. The sudden crash, the flight through the tunnels, and the encounter with the strange Chinaman had set his heart racing, but the unsettling assured words of this fat man and the threat that they described wormed their way into his heart and nested there. Even the piled corpses which even at the time he had been conscious of blanking from his memory now rise bloated to the surface of his thoughts.

So he is quite subdued as the interview closes, and allows himself to be ushered into the street, which now seems so inimical to him. He breathes the reeking fumes of London air, no real relief from those tunnels at all.

God, I need a drink!

He hails a cab, and is about to step into it, but then has doubts and waves the irritated driver on. He hails a second cab and, eyeing this driver suspiciously, orders a destination two streets away from his home address and climbs inside, meaning to walk the rest of the way and then lock himself in for the night with his drinks cabinet for company.

Rene has been compliant throughout the whole ordeal with the police. Answering questions when asked and giving his full account of the events that transpired. He gives his due diligence but is not overly enthusiastic about talking to inspectors who clearly wouldn’t have much more of a clue than he about what exactly happened down in the tunnels. When the fat man with the cane enters however Rene feels compelled to tell this man every detail of what he encountered in the underground. Showing his sketch of the dark symbol and even getting as technical as possible with his hypotheses and scientific knowledge of what he saw. If anyone could offer to sate Rene’s curiosity it was this mysterious man.

And once the not so subtle threat to his life was revealed and offer of assistance, Rene’s desire for answers and security would compel him to seriously consider the proposal. “Monsieur, I am not a citizen of your Empire nor some brave hero but I have seen things today I couldn’t begin to explain if I were to live as long as you say this Fu Manchu gentleman has. I’ve seen what these people are capable of and it leads me to heed your warnings. You seem to know much about this man and his organization. I am a man of science thrown into a dark world of mysticism but if I can be of assistance, you have me,”

[OOC – I think James is more the sort to make his troubles go away by not thinking about them. He does some pacing around, has a few drinks, calms down, then decides spending the evening in his club doing more drinking with familiar faces will cure everything. He tells his manservant to go out on to the street and hail a cab, and then dashes from the door into it when he has done so, slinking down into the seat with his top hat tipped forward until he reaches the club, repeating the procedure at the other end.

Assuming he manages all that, James probably tells all that has happened to him in lurid detail to his friends after an amount of prompting appropriate to seem reluctant, perhaps theatrically demonstrating his sword fight with a pool-cue from atop a table.

The next day he plans to sleep in and recover, read the papers, receive callers and the like, and hopefully this will all seem like a bad dream by then.]

Charles had been open and honest with the authorities as soon as the questioning had begun. He had no reason to doubt His Majesties police, and the appearance of the soldiers only served to reassure the doctor further.

When the fat man arrived Captain Hills-Nicholas had stood respectfully and extended a smart salute. He nodded agreement and did not quail as conversation turned to duty and battle. “Sir, I chose to enter the service of the King many years ago. I have only last month returned from guarding the farthest corners of His Empire, and if there is but the slightest threat to London, then it is my honour to serve.”

He frowned and added “But I must ask, what is your name? What is your rank? You are clearly a fellow of import to command this force and hold the respect of Lestrade. I would know my commanding officer?

“There are many fine men in the army; my own regiment is unstationed at the moment. Why do we not turn our force against this Fu Manchu? If he dares to threaten us on our own lands, then the devil should feel our anger. I could return to my regiment this evening and ready them for an outside attack. We would teach those devils a lesson!”

Charles was direct and unsubtle. In the army you had to be like that.

“Even if this Warlord is a descendant of some fellow 150 years before…” (Charles assumed the fat man had mis-spoken. No man lived to 150), “…he is still a man. What is this ‘joining’ you offer? What do you ask? I am at your service.”.

After the conversation was finished Charles would gladly offer his details to the other passengers and let them know where he could be contacted. Hills-Nicholas was lodging in a house near the barracks which was reserved for officers who were on leave and unstationed, though few stayed for longer than 6 weeks before the King would have new orders for them

OOC – Charles doesn’t leave the bank until late after discussion with the Fat Man. Depending on what else the Fat Man says next, he will probably loiter to share a taxi with another of the passengers if they chose.

Michael’s impatience with the forces of the state and their high-handedness simmers gently through the long wait and he is cold-eyed by the time he is interviewed, telling the police as little as possible.

That stance does not survive the encounter with the mysterious obese man. Michael cannot decide what he thinks of him but there is something of the secret society about him that has always thrilled Michael. Even the evident likelihood of his violent death at the hands of an ancient Chinaman does not entirely take the shine from it. He tells the man everything he knows, possibly more than he knows in some cases – he wants to impress the man, not just to seem worthy of protection but because his obvious intelligence and power is flattering to Michael.

He asks little of the man except, rather simply: “I don’t need to think about it, Sir. I want to join. When do I begin?” Accepting whatever answer he is given, Michael hurries into the night, anxious to get home. Seeing a fellow passenger from the train carriage, he shyly hails him.

“That man…extraordinary. What did he say to you?” [this is directed at Charles]

Charles nodded gravely as ‘M’ gave his details. The doctor was still skeptical, but would heed the given warning for what it was worth. He’d seen enough in Tibet to wonder if there was more to the world than his practical parents had taught him…

“The Diogenes Club. I had an officer who used to go there once…” That had been years before and Charles hadn’t seen old Colonel Lloyd Halsey since. Hadn’t the old officer disappeared or something? Charles couldn’t quite remember. The fleeting memory only served to make M’s words more mysterious.

“Very well ‘M’. You know where you’ll be able to find me. I will await your contact.”.

With that, Captain Hills-Nicholas had been excused from the ‘interview’ and made his way into London’s dark evening. He didn’t know what to make of everything they had seen. Should he go back to the barracks? Or maybe someplace else. Any brooding on the matter was quickly halted though as a familiar voice called from close by “That man…extraordinary. What did he say to you?”.

Turning to see Michael he felt a quiet reassurance. Something in the shared experience bonded those few passengers and here was a man Charles could relate to. Here was a man who gave his real name and didnt talk in riddles.

“Indeed, quite a fellow that one. He…”, the doctor paused. Had M held the same discussion with all the passengers? That would be logical…or perhaps his position as a Captain in the army made Charles more trustworthy. He hedged his bets. “Called himself ‘M’. Said we ought to be careful out here… What did he say to you?”. Charles voice trailed off as he waited to see if Michael would confirm what he’d been told.

As they walked Charles found himself glancing left and right into the deep shadows of side alleys and curtained windows. The city he’d felt at home in only a few hours before suddenly felt menacing and off key. “Where are you staying Michael?”. The doctor signalled for a passing cab to slow down. “I’m lodging in a house near the barracks. If your place isn’t close, I’m sure there is a spare room you could take?”. Charles left his meaning unsaid. If their lives were in danger they’d be safer together…

Two days pass. The newspapers, after their initial horror at the loss of life in the collapse of the underground railway tunnels, quickly turn to blaming the government, questioning whether the new Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, is up to the job of running a modern country. For the average man on the street, however, the incident is already becoming a thing of the past — except for those forced to find alternative means of transportation to and from work.

The weather remains cool with occasional cloudbursts to soak the city.

As our heroes mull over what has happened and how they will respond, each receives by hand delivery a cream colored envelope containing a monogrammed calling card with the single initial M. On the back of each card in beautiful cursive script is the summons:

“New Scotland Yard at 6 pm. Ask for Lestrade”

The offices of the Metropolitan Police force have become legendary. Scotland Yard, a name that recalls their original facilities in a stables nearby, has recently been renovated and increased in size as the modern police force takes on more and more detectives and administrators. Lestrade’s name is well know, apparently, and those asking to see him are conducted quickly to a second floor turret office, already crowded and redolent with cigarette smoke. The bulk of the fat man known simply as M is perched on the swivel chair behind the desk and Lestrade himself is leaning with his hip on the sill of window that looks out over the Embankment and the River Thames beyond, swollen and brown with the recent rains.

When you are gathered, M speaks in his deep, cultured tones.

“Lestrade and his men have been busy. They have discovered many things which I wish you all to know. I will let him tell you in his own words.”

Lestrade coughs self-consciously but launches into his tale in much more common accent than M’s.

“We have spoken to the officials at the Bank of England, The holes leading from the railways station intersected a corner of one of their deepest vaults and a series of ladders allowed entry. The very presence of the long ladders indicates that this was indeed the main purpose of the incursion. We have no idea how the holes were created,” he glances uncomfortably at M as he says this, but the fat man merely looks back blandly. “But we do think we know why they broke into that vault.

“Only one thing was stolen. An antique chest of cedar wood lined with lead. The contents of the chest are cataloged as being:” he reads from a type written sheet of paper, “One gold ring set with sapphires and emeralds bearing an occult symbol as a seal. One leather bound manuscript of parchment folios, illustrated and written in Coptic with a gloss in Aramaic, tentatively dated as third or fourth century Egyptian in Origin. One obsidian sacrificial knife or athame with a handle of bone, tentatively identified as human in origin.”

He looks up from his sheet.

“You’ll be wondering why these objects were stored at the Bank rather than a museum,” he says. “So did we. The Director of the Bank looked up the records and told us that they were initially housed at the British Museum but were moved to the Bank some thirty years ago at the specific request of Sir Richard Burton, the man who originally discovered the chest and artifacts in a tomb in Persia during the 1850’s. Apparently there was some urgency about the request — to defend the realm — the transfer order says. The order was signed by her Majesty Queen Victoria herself.”

Lestarde looks at M who takes up the tale.

“Clearly Fu Manchu has stolen these objects with some necromantic purpose in mind. There can be little doubt he commands arcane forces and for him to spend so much effort and energy to steal these objects makes me believe that something even worse is in the offing.

“When last we met, I asked for your help. I had not expected to do so so quickly but I ask you now to assist us in discovering what game this fiend has in play. The police are good at uncovering facts, but not imaginative enough to follow their import.”

Lestarde squirms a little at this but says nothing.

“You gentlemen come from many different backgrounds. You are not investigators by training, but you have been touched by Fu Manchu and I can offer you now the opportunity to track him down before he does more damage.

“What say you?”

James looks around at the others quizzically, before tapping out his cigarette and offering his response.

“Well… why not, eh?” he says, with a nervous laugh that somewhat spoils his carefree attitude. His sleep has been troubled of late, and his face looks uncharacteristically haggard.

“Can’t be having dastardly foreigners running about London, pilfering willy-nilly, can we? eh-hem <cough>.”

“But ‘arcane forces’? Really, gentlemen.”

After this unnecessary expostulation, James lapses into more uneasy fidgeting, smoking and frowning in further efforts to disguise his true motivation, which is that he is scared. Damned scared.

Charles’ research into Fu Manchu has uncovered that the word Manchu means Leader or Warlord. The epithet Fu means Great — so Fu Manchu equates to the Great Warlord or Great Leader in English.

Charles has been lucky to come across a fairly modern American pistol that fits the bill for Michael. The Savage Model 1907 .380 caliber automatic pistol is compact in size, easy to fire, packs a fair wallop and holds ten rounds in the clip. One of his Army officers has one and is willing to sell it along with a holster, spare clip and 50 rounds of ammunition.

Charles frowned at what he heard. He’d been about to say the same thing as James, but a small part of him held back. The doctor had been stationed in some far flung places…he’d heard and seen things that he didnt think were possible, and so despite his doubts he continued to listen.

“Do you know anything else about these items, or if Burton has ancestors who might help us? If so, a letter of introduction might be favourable…”.

Charles glanced cautiously around the room.

“The Great Warlord ” (his research had shown that was exactly how ‘Fu Manchu’ translated) ” and his cronies murdered many good people of London. It is a crime that cannot be left unpunished. I for one would see it as my duty to assist with any investigation. Can you get word to my regiment that I will be posted on special duty?”.

He paused, considering the dangers ahead.

“We have seen that Fu Manchu is a merciless killer. You said yourselves that we are in danger. To stay safe we will need to avoid our usual haunts and will require resources, is there any way you can help? For starters, I know a couple of trustworthy chaps back at the barracks. Assign them to my service. Then, if you have funds to support, I intend to book 3 separate suites in 3 separate hotels in 3 separate names. We will use these as a base for investigations, and I would ask those men to guard them.”

The doctor drew a deep breath and looked to the other passengers.

“My friends, for good of for ill I believe we are in this together. What you do next is your own choice, but I would urge you to join me.”

Michael lets the others take the lead for now. He knows the British Museum well – there may well be those there that can help them on Burton’s mementoes.

He says to Charles: “I agree we need to show solidarity or be picked off one by one. Though I should warn you, my own resources are not as plentiful as perhaps others in this room.”

He says to Lestrade: “These officials at the Bank. Do you consider them fully questioned or might there be more to discover in their records?”

James waits for M’s response, then ruminates aloud.

“Sir Richard Burton, eh? A renowned swordsman, among other things; wrote a fine book on the subject. Yes, I suppose following in that man’s footsteps could do wonders for a gentleman’s reputation.”

He is enthused for a moment by the thought of dueling with this ‘great general’ fellow, no doubt in a suitably dramatic locale and for the freedom of some dusky princess.

“Oh, and I agree – I expect the British Museum will have required detailed notes on the providence of the items in question when they were received. I don’t believe Burton was a knight at the time.” This latter remark said with some sarcasm and a wistful puff of smoke.

M greets Charles’ suggestion of seconding members of the military to act as body guards with a dubious eye.

“The fewer people who know where you are the better,” he says. “You would not believe this devil’s reach when he decides to twist a few arms. No man alive can be expected to protect you when he thinks his wife or his mother or his daughter might be at risk if he does. I can make arrangements for you to be freed up from your duties,” he nods at Charles, “and for you private chaps, I can offer a small stipend to cover expenses, keep the larder full and what not. Hardly a living wage, but enough to get by at least.

“Inspector Lestrade will also provide you with one of his young men to act as a liaison – a contact in the Force you can trust. Detective Constable Teale will be able to reach Lestrade at any time.

“As to Burton’s descendants, his wife died many years ago and they had no children. Their property – it was mostly hers – reverted to the family. A nephew, I think – Baron Arundell – if memory serves. He took possession of the entire estate at Mortlake. The Burtons are buried in a most unique tomb. It resembles an Arabian Tent, also at Mortlake, near Richmond, on the Surrey side of the River.

“You might well start there.”

To Michael’s question about the interrogation of the bank staff, M lifts and eyebrow.

“You have a dim view of authority young man,” he says. “I approve heartily. Their questioning continues under the direction of Lestrade and young Teale, but no evidence has surfaced that implicates any of them. We will keep you informed.”

To James’ comment about the British Museum, echoing the Captain’s own, he nods in agreement.

“Knowledge will be our strongest defense against this monster,” he says. “His foul game is afoot. By the sheerest chance we have a whiff of what he is planning, and now we must search heaven and earth to find out what he plans to do with these objects he has gone to such great lengths to steal. The British museum will do well as a starting point.”

He takes one of his plain calling cards from his enormous waistcoat pocket and scribbles a quick note on the back of it.

“Give this to Sir William Bracknell at the Museum. He is the curator of the rare manuscripts section of the library there and a member at my club. He will afford such assistance as he can.”

“I agree that you would do well to leave your current residences. I suspect they are already under surveillance. Lestrade has provided secure exit from the country for the two ladies, and he may be able to help you with safe houses in London. Whatever the details, it is best I do not know.”

The big man draws out an elaborate silver sniff box, extracts a pinch of white powder and inhales it. Lestrade looks annoyed at him.

“Do you have any questions, gentlemen? Otherwise I bid you Bon Chance”

James sighs, some part of him regretful that Lady Barchester has been so cruelly whisked away, admittedly to safety.

“My current residence had been growing tiresomely familiar anyway, a change of address will be no great hardship.”

He makes a mental note to have his manservant take care of the details. Somewhere tasteful, top-floor.

“As for questions, now I can think of none. But it may be a convenience if we are able to contact you in a pinch later, over the telephone – perhaps by means of those public police-boxes. A key, or permission, or what-have-you, would be marvelous.”

Charles listened carefully as M’ elaborated on his tale and offered what support he could. When he spoke of the devils reach he nodded sagely. “True. Perhaps the fewer men risked by this mission the better.”. James and Michael seemed hardy enough fellows and they at least would believe in the threat they faced.

“So we have the museum, and Burton’s property at Mortlake. I’d say a visit to Baron Arundell might be in order once we know a little more of our subject matter. Who knows what Sir Richard left at his estate. I wouldn’t be surprised if the attic was full of unusual finds or diaries of his voyages.”. Sorting through such things would be another matter however. Surely the museum would be more ‘focussed’.

“M, I would ask that you send Baron Arundell a letter of introduction on my behalf, though if you would be kind enough not to mention these other chaps I’d be grateful.”. When the time to visit came it might be handy if they had different courses of approach. Charles could try the ‘official’ enquiry, while the others might try an alternative approach, say posing as tradesmen. “Perhaps do not be specific about the threat, but make him aware some unsavory characters have been showing unwelcome interest in Burton’s artifacts and that the King offers our support to ensure his security is adequate.”.

Unless M or Lestrade had any more to add, Charles would finish his drink and stand. The dark wooden panels of the room made it feel cozy and safe. Yet the single window over London’s rooftops displayed a cold grey day outside. Reaching for his coat he pulled the collar up around his neck and invited the others to join us.

“Unless there is more to add, I say there is no time like the present. Let us pay a visit to Sir William Bracknell.”. He saluted to the officers present and made for the exit. “I will flag a taxi and have it drop me off around the corner, just in case we have anyone watching us already. It wouldn’t do to have them trail us to the museum. I will await you four streets north and one east.”.

With that, Charles slipped from the room, the weapon in his pocket suddenly feeling heavier but more welcome than before.

“Very well,” says M. “I will write this hour to Arundell and ask him to receive you in two day’s time. He’s a bit of hot head, but his heart is in the right place. He’ll do as I ask.”

As they leave Inspector Lestrade’s office the young Detective Constable Teale offers them each one of his calling cards: Claude Eustace Teal
“My telephone number is at the bottom,” he says. “I will arrange accommodations for tonight at number 22A Old Castle Street, just off the Whitechapel Road, near Aldgate Station. Here is a key. My men will be close by watching over you.”

Despite Charles’ elaborate precautions, he detects no sign of being followed and soon alights from his third cab at their final designated rendezvous. The others also notice no lurking strangers and they make their way nonchalantly towards the side entrance to the museum recommended by M.

“Private entrance,” says the uniformed guard who answers their knock. “Public enters through the front door. Though it’s getting late. Museum shuts in half an hour.”

Presenting M’s calling card they are reluctantly allowed inside to wait in a narrow corridor while the guard takes the card in to Sir William’s office. The surprise on his face is clear when he comes out a moment or two later to invite them inside.

“Sir William will see you now, gentlemen,” he says in a hushed voice as if he had just witnessed a savage dog lick their hands in pleasure.

Sir William Bracknell is well dressed in old fashioned but very well tailored clothes. He is perhaps sixty years old with graying hair and the erect stance of an ex-military man. He stands to greet them and moves with a distinct limp around the desk. A heavy cane stands in an umbrella stand nearby.

“You come well recommended, gentlemen,” he says flicking M’s card with his thumb and returning it to them. “What Mycroft desires it is my pleasure to provide. How may I help you?”

Michael plans to let his posher companions do the talking for now, contenting himself with giving the room (and its occupant) a thorough looking over. He also keeps an ear out for anyone using the corridor outside – he has no intention of the devil reaching him so early.

“Mycroft, eh?” James comments, airily, and seems about to expand on this, but recognizes the man before him as the sort not overly fond of airy or unnecessary remarks, and his mouth, as it were, refuses the fence.

“Ahem. Wodehouse,” he introduces himself, and the others too, if they are not forthcoming.

“You will forgive my friend here,” he says, noting Michael’s skittish behaviour. “If you are familiar with M – uh, ‘Mycroft’ – then you also may appreciate that our business with you is important and urgent. We are out-flanked, as you may say, and like any good soldiers, press the attack!”

He expects this waffle is going down well with the old bird, and charges into the breach without further doubts, but is infected somewhat by Michael’s conspiratorial unease, and lowers his voice.

“We were given to understand that that great world-trotter, Sir Richard Burton, deposited within these hallowed halls certain Persian relics, and that these items were re-housed in the Bank of England three decades ago. Our purpose here is to discover, if we can, the exact nature of those items.”

“No doubt, you had records, and… what-not.” He waves his hand as if to indicate they might be sitting on a shelf nearby. “And as a museum, I expect you are quite good at holding on to dusty, out-dated bits of paper.”

James chortles as his own witticism, then seizes up quite visibly as it occurs to him that he has probably committed one of those astonishingly fatal gaffs that have made him persona non grata at certain family functions.

James wilts under Mrs. Hasting’s disapproving glare, feeling like a school-boy being chastised for some basic error.

“Sh-sherry sounds just the thing,” he coughs out, tugging at his over-starched collar.

He wishes he had that bit of paper M. had. Or been less distracted by the mortal fear he felt during most of that particular interview, and could remember exactly what he read out.

He offers: “Some kind of ring. Or was it a jewel? And a sort of book, I think. Also, a knife. In a wooden box. Have a rummage, see what you come up with,” and concludes with a chipper smile which he has been reliably informed by certain ladies is “knock-out.”