Top 10 blog posts of 2013 from Sci-fi, Fantasy, Cyberpunk and Cthulhu Mythos Horror

That was the year that was 2013

The Christmas tree is gone. The decorations are down. I’m staring down the barrel of 2014 with a sense of wanting to achieve big things.

Time to take a moment to ponder the year that was 2013.

I’ve been running this blog for  three years now, superceding the clunky thing I used to run. I’m loving the WordPress vibe – a fun place to blog, and a great counterpoint to the daily grind of crafting novels and RPG systems – where often there is very little to show for weeks at a time.  This is a place where I can pin-up the things I find online, or post promotional offers on my products or scribble down thoughts and ideas.  I’ve gone from a few hundred folks a month taking a peek to around 8,000 uniques a month. Very pleasing.

Here’s a countdown of the top ten ranking articles as viewed by you, from sci-fi and dark fantasy, cyberpunk, and the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Continue reading

Top 10 blog posts of 2012 from Sci-fi, Fantasy, Cyberpunk and Cthulhu Mythos Horror

That was the year that was 2012

The Christmas tree is winking away at you, glittering with lights and baubles; the bins are stuffed full of empty bottles and discarded wrapping paper. Now’s the time to actually relax a little and contemplate the fact we survived the Mayan apocalypse of 2012 and are rapidly approaching what is likely to be one of the most challenging years in human history. Will Europe survive as the interlinked economies teeter ever closer towards a brink of oblivion – and anarchy in the UK?  Will a global pandemic of weaponised bubonic plague unfold?  Will reality TV and plastic home-brew “celebrities” increase their hold on the declining values of western civilisation: Ancient Rome, anyone?  Don’t take your eyes off the ball.

Meanwhile, take a moment to ponder the year that was 2012.

I’ve been running this blog for  a couple of years now.  It’s a great counterpoint to the daily grind of crafting novels and RPG systems – where often there is very little to show for weeks at a time.  This is a place where I can pin-up the things I find online, or post promotional offers on my products or scribble down thoughts and ideas.  I’ve gone from a few hundred folks a month taking a peek to now over 17,000 uniques a month. Not bad. Quite pleasing, actually.

Here’s a countdown of the top ten ranking articles as viewed by you, from sci-fi and dark fantasy, cyberpunk, and the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

10

John Waters Says: We Need to Make Books Cool Again

john-waters-quote-we-need-to-make-books-cool-again

John Waters

09

Cyberpunk art ¦ future fashion or post-apocalyptic decadence – photography by Danil Golovkin

cyberpunk-art-c2a6-future-fashion-or-post-apocalyptic-decadence-photography-by-danil-golovkin

Future fashion or post-apocalyptic decadence? Photography by Danil Golovkin – All Rights Reserved

Danil Golovkin is a Russian fashion photographer who has a spectacular eye for detail.  These images come from a series that he calls Garbage Reign.  For me, these characters could fit very easily into a decadent post-apocalyptic scenario, where the “top of the pile” survivors perpetuate the same-old human instincts of social isolation and exclusion through fashion – are you a part of the club?  Equally as much this is pure cyberpunk, figures who float through the parties held by one of the corporate dynasties, members of the social elite or grifters waiting for the moment to move in on their mark.  Certainly these are images good enough to inspire a myriad of ideas.

View full image…

.

08

Cyberpunk ¦ digital photography – gothic blue in rubber suspenders #wallpaper by Terrorcat

cyberpunk-art-c2a6-digital-photography-gothic-blue-in-rubber-suspenders-wallpaper-by-terrorcat

Terrorcat – All Rights Reserved

Terrorcat. Heavily manipulated but I like this image.  More club-wear than sex; a character who can comfortably settle into the fringes of the dance floor where shadows are sliced apart by the laser rigs, a bemused grimace held in reserve for anybody who actually reacts to the partial nakedness.  Prowling the club with an easy and confident stride, fluorescent irises gleaming like predatory cat-eyes in the purple neon gloom.

View full image…

.

07

Reasons to like Lovecraft: Hastur, as The King in Yellow

king_in_yellow_by_jezebel

Hastur as The King in Yellow – image by Jezebel

Hastur (The Unspeakable One, Him Who Is Not to be Named, Assatur, Xastur, or Kaiwan) is a fictional entity (Great Old One) of the Cthulhu Mythos.  The King in Yellow is merely one of many aspects of this potent and truly amorphous denizen.

It is possibly one of the most written about and discussed Great Old Ones within this Mythos, and conversely, one of the least understood. This fuzzy, blurred and vague state of comprehension is exacerbated by a divide between literary fans of Hastur, and the RPG community. The fact Hastur is so hard to accurately quantify is no coincidence.

Read full article…

.

06

Sci-fi Art: Robot #wallpaper – Big Bot, by Benedict Campbell

big-bot-art-by-benedict-campbell-cyberpunk-science-fiction-art-robot-head-and-torso-sony-houseman-concept

Big Bot, by Benedict Campbell – click to view full size

Part of a series of images from the liquid metal, carbo-plastic, hydrogel and permacrete core of visual creators on the Internet. Images that stir my senses and evoke plots and concepts for what I’d like to see (or fear) in the future.

Read full article…

.

05

Photography ¦ submission and sex games – the naked skill of Igor Vasiliadis

photography-c2a6-submission-and-sex-games-the-naked-skill-of-igor-vasiliadis

Image by Igor Vasiliadis – All Rights Reserved

This is a great image from the highly accomplished and experimental Moscow based photographer Igor Vasiliadis.  It immediately weaves some stark and intriguing story possibilities into your mind; sex games and the roles of sub, dom and voyeur.  Of course, it could equally plunge a little further into the realm of dark art if you consider that the centre-posed figure is not taking part in this with any sort of free-will.  What is the distant male figure expecting to observe?  His relaxed posture speaks of a boredom with the mundane pleasures of life – a killer or thug who’s sensitivity has been dulled and blunted by repeated exposure to the visceral highs of violence and danger. Or is he just a bored businessman looking to satisfy shadowy sexual desires that some men can’t exorcise with their pretty wives?  There’s certainly a sense of mystery within the glossy and brightly lit image; shadows that are more off-camera than in-shot.  I’d strongly recommend you check out Igor Vasiliadis’ website, there’s some fantastic images brought into enigmatic life with silver and cyanide.

View full image…

.

04

The Ninth Gate: occult and tarot-like symbolism in the engravings by Aristide Torchia and Lucifer, plus wider meanings of the movie

baroness-kesslers-copy-of-the-nine-doors-to-the-kingdom-of-shadows-de-umbrarum-regis-novum-portis-burns

A copy of The Nine Doors To the Kingdom of Shadows – De Umbrarum Regis Novum Portis

The Ninth Gate is probably one of my favourite movies of all time, as is the official soundtrack. A film by Roman Polanski, its stars Johnny Depp as the ambivalent protagonist, Lucas Corso; and features an incredible performance by Frank Langella as the brazen, smug and sinister collector of all things diabolical – Boris Balkan – a wealthy man where money and morals are no obstacle to acquiring books that deal with the Devil.
The film is an adaptation of The Dumas Club, a book written by Arturo Pérez-Reverte.
I’m a huge fan of H.P.Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos cycle of stories which provide unnerving glimpses of a pantheon of Outer Gods and their minions, writhing obscenely within alien vortices of inarticulate sounds and invisible light, sometimes only just beyond the perceptions of ordinary folk. The cosmic horror of the Mythos has nothing to do with this movie which limits itself to the spiritual, psychological and metaphysical menace of Evil, and all its many incarnations within the Quantisphere (the realm of Man, Spirits, Elementals and Angels & Demons).

Read full article…

.

03

Sci-fi Art: Cyborg #wallpaper – Under Construction, by Benedict Campbell

sci-fi-art-futuristic-concept-under-construction-cyborg-girl-digital-art-by-benedict-campbell

Under Construction, by Benedict Campbell – All Rights Reserved

Yet another brilliant piece of digital art by Benedict Campbell. Sums up the nature of synthetic humanoids perfectly – and perhaps the darker aspect of male interest in the female form: an attractive woman with blank, almost submissive features lacking the “complication” of limbs?  Or just a bit a cool cyber tech eye candy for your computer desktop.

View full image…

.

02

Reasons to like Lovecraft: Mi-go (Fungi from Yuggoth)

reasons-to-like-h-p-lovecraft-mi-go-image-by-skullbeast

Mi-go investigating human – click for full size – WARNING: Graphic content

The Mi-go are highly intelligent and independent race, renowned for their worship of the Outer Gods: Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, and Shub-Niggurath.

Also known as The Fungi from Yuggoth, their first appearance in Lovecraft’s work was within the excellent and spine tingling tale The Whisperer in the Darkness, since then they’ve been brought in as “bugs” in CthulhuTech and given some decent exposition in Pagan Publishing’s sourcebook for CoC: Delta Green Eyes Only Volume One: Machinations of the Mi-Go.

Read full article…

.

01

Post-apocalyptic #wallpaper – UTOC Public Safety Notice from early days of Yellow Dawn – Infection Warning

art-wallpaper-sci-fi-cyberpunk-zombie-infection-public-safety-warning-sign-from-yellow-dawn-an-rpg-by-british-cyberpunk-horror-author-david-j-rodger

Artwork: Ben Chapman

This is a public safety notice from the early days of the catastrophic, apocalyptic event known as Yellow Dawn, when the Infection was even less understood than it is today.  It’s an example of UTOC attempting to exert control of survivors in the wake of the disaster.

View and download poster…

.

That’s all folks. I hope you found something that ignited a spark of inspiration or stirred something deep inside your chest.  This is all about sharing creativity and ideas.  It’s also about me throwing out hooks to try to catch the interest of people who like reading sci-fi dark fantasy novels, who like fiction with cyberpunk and Cthulhu Mythos flavours – and of course, people who enjoy RPGs.  If you’re one of those people then please take a moment to investigate my fiction writing (7 novels) and the Role-playing game: Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur.

Wishing you the best of dark dreams for 2013.

David J Rodger – Bristol, England

.

Got Kindle?

If you’re keen to try these novels in digital format then you can buy all these titles at Amazon with a choice of currencies, $ US Dollars; or £ GB Pounds, or the Euro.

See more posts like this – click

David J Rodger – DATA

.

Top 10 blog posts of 2011 from Sci-fi, Fantasy, Cyberpunk and Cthulhu Mythos Horror

I’ve been running this blog for about 18 months now and it’s already eclipsed the “old thing” I used to run since the late 1990s.  It’s a great counterpoint to the daily grind of crafting novels and RPG systems – where often there is very little to show for weeks at a time; a place where I can pin-up the sometimes weird but often wonderful things I find online, or post promotional offers on my products or scribble down thoughts and ideas.

Here’s a countdown of the top ten ranking articles as viewed by you, from sci-fi and dark fantasy, cyberpunk, and the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

10

Exploring influence of Hastur – King in Yellow – on post-apocalyptic world of Yellow Dawn through scifi & dark fantasy short stories

King in Yellow - Pale by Pleeh

Image by Pleeh

Hastur (The Unspeakable One, Him Who Is Not to be Named, Assatur, Xastur, or Kaiwan) is a fictional entity (Great Old One) of the Cthulhu Mythos.

It is possibly one of the most written about and discussed Great Old Ones within this Mythos, and conversely, one of the least understood. This fuzzy, blurred and vague state of comprehension is exacerbated by a divide between literary fans of Hastur, and the RPG community. The fact Hastur is so hard to accurately quantify is no coincidence.

Read full article…

.

09

Photography: sci-fi & dark fantasy – cosmic artefacts cthulhu mythos relics and architecture from an alien culture

Spomenik by Jan Kempenaers All Rights Reserved

Spomenik by Jan Kempenaers All Rights Reserved

So you’re cruising around the open landscape, maybe it’s a post-apocalyptic future, or maybe you’re just somewhere really remote, and then you come across a structure that doesn’t make any sense.  Your brain questions what you’re eyes are conveying.  And maybe the air grows unnaturally chilly, you sense a smell, like ozone and the build up of eletrical energy; you begin to feel uneasy, as if  perhaps, there is something intelligence and malign observing you…waiting.  Your scalp contracts, the hairs on the back of your neck tingle and you shudder involuntarily.

Read full article…

.

08

Photography: cyberpunk icon of mindless rebellion – Thug, Happy to Kill You, by Danielle Tunstall

photography-cyberpunk-icon-of-mindless-rebellion-thug-happy-to-kill-you-by-danielle-tunstall

Thug, Happy to Kill You - Click for full Image

I love this image.  Not so sure what that say’s about me or if it’s actually more to do with what Danielle Tunstall has achieved here.  Yeah, okay, it’s a nasty swear word.  It’s gratuitous. But that’s the point.  Look at this guy.  He can’t wait to pound the callused edges of his palms into the soft cartilage of your face.  He’s not going to use his knuckles.  He’s done this a hundred times before.  He doesn’t want to break his hand.  He wants to mess you up and the idea of you wailing, screaming, pleading is sending the most awesome pleasure signals to his brain.  This is the guy-on-the-street about to enter the heat of battle.

Read full article…

.

07

Sci-fi Fantasy (cross-over) Art and Music [tune!] Oopart – Hades [Original Mix]

Sleeve Art for Oopart - Hades (Original Mix)

Sleeve Art for Oopart - Hades (Original Mix)

This is a blend of music and art, and of Cyberpunk and Fantasy.

The image could easily fit into a Fantasy Fiction scene but I don’t think it would be out of place in some near-future virt, or a far flung future where technology and society had evolved to a point where civillisation is barely human, technology is like magick, and society is closer to what we’d recognise as medieval than some shiny Star Trek (not a dig) utopia.

Read full article…

.

06

The Ninth Gate: occult and tarot-like symbolism in the engravings by Aristide Torchia and Lucifer, plus wider meanings of the movie

baroness-kesslers-copy-of-the-nine-doors-to-the-kingdom-of-shadows-de-umbrarum-regis-novum-portis-burns

A copy of The Nine Doors To the Kingdom of Shadows - De Umbrarum Regis Novum Portis

The Ninth Gate is probably one of my favourite movies of all time, as is the official soundtrack.   A film by Roman Polanski, its stars Johnny Depp as the ambivalent  protagonist, Lucas Corso; and features an incredible performance by Frank Langella as the brazen, smug and sinister collector of all things diabolical – Boris Balkan – a wealthy man where money and morals are no obstacle to acquiring books that deal with the Devil.
The film is an adaptation of The Dumas Club, a book written by Arturo Pérez-Reverte.
I’m a huge fan of H.P.Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos cycle of stories which provide unnerving glimpses of a pantheon of Outer Gods and their minions, writhing obscenely within alien vortices of inarticulate sounds and invisible light, sometimes only just beyond the perceptions of ordinary folk.  The cosmic horror of the Mythos has nothing to do with this movie which limits itself to the spiritual, psychological and metaphysical menace of Evil, and all its many incarnations within the Quantisphere (the realm of Man, Spirits, Elementals and Angels & Demons).

Read full article…

.

05

Danny Boyle does Frankenstein – National Theatre – best of British Theatre broadcast LIVE to cinemas around the world – review

Danny Boyle does Frankenstein – National Theatre Benedict Cumberbatch as monster Jonny Lee Miller as Victor

Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

I saw this last night (24th March) after what felt like an age of waiting. I booked my tickets for the cinema broadcast over a month ago and even then it was almost sold out. And last night was rammed to capacity.

During the month of waiting, a friend of mine from London posted a comment to say that “It was rubbish”.

This left me a little disheartened and I went in possibly with low expectations.

But having been through the experience of last night – I can only clarion call that my friend was unbelievably wrong.

Read full article…

.

04

Movie Review: Drive (2011)

drive-2011-movie-poster-ryan-gosling-in-this-very-cool-very-slick-american-indi-film

Drive (2011) - movie review and huge film poster

Great example of American indi cinema. This is movie making like it used to be: Refn shows us how it still can be

Read full article…

.

03

2.8 hours later, Bristol May 2011 – city wide zombie chase game – videos and pics

2-8-hours-later-bristol-may-2011-part-3-infected-woman

Infected woman at rendezvous point - we were too late to save her

I’ve spent 3 hours either jogging through remote areas of Bristol or sprinting for my life. Utterly exhausting… my leg muscles are screaming at me — in between bouts of turning into jelly. Just ran a bath with half a box of Radox muscle relaxant…

So many amazing moments of sheer terror.

Sneaking in a half-crouch, crawling on my belly behind walls, stalking through woodland and parks to avoid zombies…

Read full article…

.

02

Sci-fi Art: Robot #wallpaper – Big Bot, by Benedict Campbell

big-bot-art-by-benedict-campbell-cyberpunk-science-fiction-art-robot-head-and-torso-sony-houseman-concept

Big Bot, by Benedict Campbell - click to view full size

Part of a series of images from the liquid metal, carbo-plastic, hydrogel and permacrete core of visual creators on the Internet.  Images that stir my senses and evoke plots and concepts for what I’d like to see (or fear) in the future.

Read full article…

.

01

Reasons to like Lovecraft: Mi-go (Fungi from Yuggoth)

reasons-to-like-h-p-lovecraft-mi-go-image-by-skullbeast

Mi-go investigating human - click for full size - WARNING: Graphic content

The Mi-go are highly intelligent and independent race, renowned for their worship of the Outer Gods: Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, and Shub-Niggurath.

Also known as The Fungi from Yuggoth, their first appearance in Lovecraft’s work was within the excellent and spine tingling tale The Whisperer in the Darkness, since then they’ve been brought in as “bugs” in CthulhuTech and given some decent exposition in Pagan Publishing’s sourcebook for CoC: Delta Green Eyes Only Volume One: Machinations of the Mi-Go.

Read full article…

.

That’s it folks. Hope you enjoyed much of what you found here. Please share with your friends and spread the word if you like. Traffic has already risen nearly 10,000 unique hits a month in the past few months alone  and a lot of new folks are finding me though search engines and word of mouth, and a healthy chunk of those are finding my fiction writing and Yellow Dawn RPG.

.

 

.

Got Kindle?

If you’re keen to try these novels in digital format then you can buy all these titles at Amazon with a choice of currencies, $ US Dollars; or £ GB Pounds, or the Euro.

See more posts like this – click

David J Rodger – DATA

Kingdom of Shadows – a free scenario for Yellow Dawn RPG based on Roman Polanski’s classic occult thriller – The Ninth Gate

Lucifer Rising - digital art by Jason Engle

Artwork by Jason Engle – JAEStudio.com – All Rights Reserved

This scenario has been inspired by the movie The 9th Gate. It follows an article I wrote recently in which I present my interpretations of the occult symbolism within the film and construct a (hopefully) plausible explanation for the ending. You can read that article here.

This is a scenario intended for the RPG Yellow Dawn or Call of Cthulhu but can easily be adapted to any system suited to handling the Occult and extraplanar.  To make it as “RPG system agnostic” as possible I’ve not included any constraints on travel created by the post-apocalyptic setting of Yellow Dawn; Paris, for example, is not classed as a Living City but a GM could easily conceive of it being a mega-settlement with a reasonably stable Dead Zone for the duration of the scenario.  Boris Balkan’s money makes the limitations of travel almost moot: because Balkan will pay anything to get the characters where they need to go.

Kingdom of Shadows can be played two ways. One is to follow the original story-line of the film, including the mysterious denouement at the end; this is a purely occult scenario with everything taking place within the Quantisphere.

Alternatively, the GM can insert a secondary layer on top of the original plot whereby not only does the book unlock a riddle laid down by the Prince of Darkness, but gives a shocking insight into the horrors that lurk beyond the Quantisphere: the Cthulhu Mythos. 

.

The secondary option is provided here as small sub-sections bolted onto scenes, where relevant. They’re clearly marked by the following symbol:

five pointed star pentagram with burning eye a symbol of the Cthulhu Mythos

.

.

.

The attitude to magick and the realm of the Occult

This scenario is written from the point of view that very few people are actually proficient at the dark arts.  Some people profess a great interest in the Occult but only a tiny proportion put this knowledge into practice. Very few people have the necessary courage, patience and ability to truly penetrate The Great Mystery of (human) life.  For most of these people the study of the occult is nothing more than a past-time or an obsessive compulsion that leads to sense of superiority over others “less enlightened”.  Magick, by its very metaphysical nature, is alien and unnerving.  To most people the notion of invisible, sentient forces, of demonic entities, invokes a sense of terror through half-recalled memories embedded into the collective subconscious since the dawn of Mankind.

What is the Quantisphere?

You can read about this in more detail within the primary rulebook of Yellow Dawn or in the novels God Seed or Dante’s Fool, but in summary it is the invisible boundary between our reality and the squirming, cosmic horror of the Outer Chaos: the Cthulhu Mythos.

Acknowledgements

In order to remain true to the bulk of the movie I’ve relied heavily on sections of the screenplay both for scenes of dialogue and descriptive settings.   The screenplay is by Roman Polanski, John Brownjohn and Enrique Urbizu and was based on a novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte.  I acquired the screenplay via the website: Horror Lair.

Spoiler Alert!

This scenario reveals the plot of the movie the Ninth Gate. If you’ve never seen the movie the Ninth Gate then I’d highly recommend you do so; it’s an excellent film.

.

Precis

Boris Balkan asks the characters to approach a reclusive book collector and present new insights into one of items in the collector’s possession. Tragedy quickly follows this event and the characters are drawn into an investigation that will either destroy them utterly, or lead to revelations and opportunities that could bring about enlightenment.

Players should read no further:

Don’t spoil the fun. If you’re intending to play this scenario, send the link to your GM and let them mull it over.

GM Information:

Boris Balkan has a passion for all things to do with the concept of the Prince of Darkness, the Devil, Satan, Lucifer, and the “black man” of certain witch-cults.

five pointed star pentagram with burning eye a symbol of the Cthulhu MythosHe has begun to grasp the existence of a realm of cosmic horror that surpasses the boundaries of the supernatural; he has tasted the squirming chaos of the Mythos, in particular, the entity known as the God With A Thousand Forms: Nyarlathotep.

# # #

.

Balkan is a dangerous individual; highly educated and successful in business and pseudo-academia (medieval occult and witch studies), he has powerful connections in shadowy places.  He was once involved in a secretive Satanic sect known as “The Order of Mercury” – this sect continues to operate but Balkan left when he realised his abilities and knowledge surpassed anything they could provide him.  Despite being close to 60 years of age he is physically capable and radiates a health and vitality that is captivating.

Balkan has discovered that Lucifer is a real entity, actually separate from the mythological concepts of Satan and the Christian fabrication known as the Devil.

five pointed star pentagram with burning eye a symbol of the Cthulhu MythosHe wonders if there is a connection between Lucifer and the entity known as Nyarlathotep.

The truth is that they are entirely separate beings rooted in vastly different realms.  Lucifer belongs to the Quantisphere: what we, as humans, perceive as our reality – including all the parallel universes and hidden dimensions compacted into the gaps between space-time.  Lucifer is a greatly misunderstood being, forming part of the complex pantheon of entities that burst into existence with the creation of the Quantisphere, associated with angelic forms and demonic entities, and with the architects of modern man and woman, the Hokan (non-human race).

five pointed star pentagram with burning eye a symbol of the Cthulhu Mythos Lucifer dared to push beyond the metaphysical boundary of the Quantisphere; it thrashed and fluttered through a weak spot to explore the Outer Chaos, to brush past the mindless forms From Beyond and plunge into a realm outside all existence. To achieve this, Lucifer crafted a device, a crystal that cast a particular light capable of illuminating certain forms and energies; things that are normally invisible within the Quantisphere but which constitute matter for the Mythos.

five pointed star pentagram with burning eye a symbol of the Cthulhu Mythos Lucifer also created a ‘window’, a permanent structure (of energy) placed where the Quantisphere is at its absolute thinnest.  This window rotates through the cosmos as it keeps pace with the ever-moving thin point, and overlooks a fixed area of the Outer Chaos – the T’zeh Fan-yagh.  It is said the window overlooks the annihilation of all things.  A vast radioactive flare of boiling energy, shinning with an alien dark-light, so brutal that even the Great Messenger Nyarlathotep dares not go because to perceive it is to perish.  It is the Heart of Absolute Darkness; the Pit of Utter Formlessness.  The window and the structure around out it is like a seating gallery, triangular in shape; one can occupy the space and look out through the window, but the trick is to avoid the temptation to place your senses onto the T’zeh Fan-yagh.  As if to highlight the point clusters of mindless, squirming, writhing horrors nuzzle at the edges of this window, feasting on the energy seeping out through the frightening thin membrane of the Quantisphere, but they never last longer than a few moments after materializing, burned away the moment some aspect of their senses takes note of what is behind them as they gorge themselves.

five pointed star pentagram with burning eye a symbol of the Cthulhu Mythos Many things happened upon Lucifer’s return.

# # #

.

.

One outcome was a book appeared within the early medieval period, purportedly written by Lucifer, documenting the profane and shocking insights it gained during this excursion.  Although described as a book, such a thing does not exist – rather it was a repository of knowledge in a non-physical form, not accessible to mortal humans without profound Occult awareness.

This “book” has a name: the Delomelanicon.

In 1666, a man called Aristide Torchia wrote a book whilst in Venice.  It was called “De Umbrarum Regis Novum Portis”, translated as “The Nine Doors To the Kingdom of Shadows” or the “Nine Gates” for short.  The Nine Gates was purported to have been based on the Delomelanicon.  Torchia gained access to the concepts contained within Lucifer’s document through collaboration with the entity.  This collaboration is an important point to note: Lucifer was directly involved in the creation of the Nine Gates, of laying down its knowledge into a format that could be comprehended by mortal men, albeit the truth was hidden within a riddle of sorts.

De Umbrarum Regis Novum Portis or The Nine Doors To the Kingdom of Shadows or the Nine Gates written by Aristide Torchia Venice 1666

De Umbrarum Regis Novum Portis or “Nine Gates”, written by Aristide Torchia in Venice 1666

Aristide Torchia was put on trial by the Inquisition and burned at the stake in 1667 along with all copies of his book.
However, three copies survived.

As the scenario begins, these copies are currently in possession of three unique individuals… all of them collectors of rare books.  These people are:

Andrew  Telfer  – Same City As Character Group.  He purchased the book in Toledo, Spain, over two decades ago after his new wife Liana  spotted it in a rare book store and went crazy for it.  For Andrew  it was just another feather in his collection, for Liana  Telfer  it gave her influence within “The Order of Mercury”, a satanic sect that grew up around the 9 Gates.  She borrows the book regularly without Andrew ‘s knowledge, taking it with her on solitary trips to the formerly decaying seat of her family name, the châteaux of Saint-Damien in the South of France (near Aigues-Morte).  The châteaux was rebuilt and lavishly restored with her husband’s money.  It is here that the Order of Mercury meet, reading from the book and giving oblation to their Dark Master.  In truth it is more of a club for highly wealthy and powerful individuals who put their success down to the worship of the forces of Darkness, an excuse for a weekend of gluttony and orgies.  Andrew Telfer has never suspected what goes on during his wife’s brief but frequent excursions; if he ever did he’d probably kill himself. This is what Boris Balkan is counting on when he tasks the characters with approaching Telfer: he wants to use repulsion as a leverage to persuade the collector to sell his copy of the Nine Gates to him.

Victor Fargas – Santiago, Spain.  He purchased the book 30 years ago.  A devoted collector of The Occult and Witchcraft, he views the works as an important historical legacy, nothing more than allegorical accounts of people through the ages struggling to understand, quantify and define the mysterious world around them.  He does not believe in The Devil although he’s in doubt there are Evil people in this world.  He’s a harmless and rather sweet old man who now lives alone, impoverished, his family estate reduced to a crumbling mansion that is virtually empty as he’s sold almost everything in recent years.  He sells parts of his rare collection infrequently to pay bills.  What he has never sold, and never will, is the vast collection of occult books he’s acquired; the very definition of his life’s achievement.  He has them lined up on a polished parquet floor in a large, echoing and otherwise empty dinning room; he dusts them every day and ensures they are maintained in the best possible condition.

Baroness Frieda Kessler  – Paris, France.  She had an encounter with the Devil as a young girl and so has been devoted to him ever since; and gone on to write many pulp titles about it.  She’s a true believer in the occult, used to attend the group orgies and sabbats held by Liana  Telfer as a ranking member of the Order; in fact, it was her copy of the 9 Gates that the Order used to read from before Liana acquired one herself.  Kessler knows of the rumours of what the Nine Gates can supposedly do but has never witnessed any such apparition in all the time she spent with Liana  and the order.  The Baroness bought her own copy of the Nine Gates in her late teens and has spent considerable time studying it; but she never had the opportunity or the thought to compare her copy with Telfer’s.  If she were to learn of the fact there are discrepancies between the copies then she would become highly interested and co-operative.  One point of interest, none of her devotion to the Devil was able to prevent the onset of a slow wasting disease that now sees her assisted by an RB3-Class robot (tethered, assists walking, bathing and putting to bed). She has also had her right arm amputated below the elbow. No reason is ever given for this.

Players’ Introduction

Characters requested to attend meeting with Boris Balkan at the imposing city office tower his corporation owns.  He occupies the upper floors in an apartment-cum-private gallery of artefacts and books about the Dark Prince.

Characters will be paid to approach Andrew  Telfer .  Balkan explains that Telfer  would be unlikely to listen to anything he has to say; Balkan wouldn’t get past the front gate.  The characters will intrigue Telfer  and get an audience.

Balkan hands them an envelope to give to Telfer  It’s US-Letter size, or UK A4 and feels like it could contain a slate of pliable hardscreen.

“Andrew  has a book that I very much want; a book that belongs in my collection.  I want Andrew  to sell it to me.  The contents of that envelope will hopefully persuade him that a sale is a wise choice.”

The book he wants is Telfer’s copy of the Nine Gates.

Balkan will pay the characters the equivalent of three days work to spend a couple of hours travelling across the city to visit Telfer .

The Envelope

If characters open the envelope against Balkan’s instructions they find it contains what they thought. A grey, semi-transparent slab of hydrogel embedded with micro-circuitry, a variety of hardscreen that is flexible. Not to be confused with softscreens which have less image definition and are merely a way of viewing material; hardscreens have crystal clear image definition and can be programmed.

The hardscreen is on standby. If activated, ornate text invites Andrew  Telfer  to place his hand (finger prints) on the screen.  The device is configured to recognise Andrew Telfer.

If the characters are persistent and hack the device they find the following:

  • A hand-written letter, digitized, from Balkan to Telfer . The letter states that the characters represent a devoted collector of books relating to a particular character of myth, legend and religion.  It states that many people misunderstand this character and perform immoral acts in its name.  Such behaviour can be an addition and ruin the lives of such people and those close to them.  The letter ends by saying, “I do not wish to cause you pain by revealing to you what your wife, Liana  has been doing.  I merely wish to satisfy my need to acquire the book, and to release her and yourself from the bond of shadows.  I would be delighted if my agents were to leave with the book in their possession but I appreciate you would no doubt require time to consider this proposition, therefore the payment is promised to you… and can be completed as and when you decide to agree.  My agents will instruct you how they can be contacted to facilitate hand-over of the book.”
  • Photos of an attractive, slender, middle-aged woman with raven hair and very dark eyes.  Several photos show her dressed in black silk robes adorned with an inverted pentagram; the context of the shots are a lavish châteaux, there are other people with her, similarly dressed.  In one of the photos she can be seen holding a very old, leather bound book, reading from it aloud and with determination.  Other photos show her in scenes of wild copulation: satanic orgies.
  • An electronic transfer for five-million credits (depending on the game system being used this could be US dollars, euros, GB pounds sterling, etc).  The transfer is a guarantee pending confirmation that the characters take possession of a book called “De Umbrarum Regis Novum Portis”.

.

Visiting Andrew  Telfer

Andrew Telfer lives in a highly exclusive location within the same city as Balkan and the characters.

He will be intrigued by whatever approach the characters give; however if they mention Balkan he will greet them with barely concealed hostility.

“Balkan is a monster.  If he puts his mind to getting something there is nothing he will not do to achieve what he wants.  The fact you are here representing him makes me extremely uncomfortable.”

Smart characters will not mention the name Boris Balkan.

Andrew Telfer will review the contents of the envelope handed to him by the characters in stunned silence;  the silence extends and deepens, his face turns bright red with anger and then pales to such an extent the man looks twenty years older than when they first met him.  Something has shaken him to the very core: as if the light and energy source at the centre of his being has been snuffed out.

Shakily, he asks the characters to leave.  If pressed, he says he will consider their proposal and will arrange to have the 9 Gates shipped to them if he decides to accept.  The characters will have to leave some kind of contact address.

Leaving Andrew  Telfer

The characters should catch sight of two figures some distance away. One is a tall, slim woman, performing the fluid moves of a martial art against a holographic target that flips and twirls in illusionary counter-strikes.  This is Liana  Telfer.  She barely pauses to glance at the characters – not interested in anything to do with her husband’s world.  The other figure is a lithe, agile-looking man, black-skinned with platinum blonde hair.  He reclines on a sun-lounger watching Liana with an expression that is hard to define: smug enjoyment, simmering lust, professional contemplation.  He notices the characters departing and gives them a long, hard, curious stare.  This is Mr Blonde and is a significant NPC throughout this scenario.

Balkan Calls

He asks the characters for a detailed account of what happened and how Telfer reacted. His voice sounds hungry for news and he seems to take extreme pleasure in any mention of Telfer’s distress, requesting vivid descriptions of every glimpse of strain.

The following day

Whatever address or method the characters provided Telfer,  a high-class corporate courier will arrive with Telfer’s copy of the Nine Gates.  The characters will need to sign for it: an action that activates the release of the five-million electronic transfer. The courier will advise the characters of this, so they better be sure they’re happy to confirm receipt.

Shortly after this business concludes, the news will carry a story that Andrew Telfer has been found dead at his home. Suspected suicide. There is very little extra information.

If characters dig around through media or police contacts they’ll find the facts of the incident support the notion this was suicide. Telfer had hung himself. A letter was found at the scene simply saying, “I cannot live with such betrayal.”  There is no sign of the contents of the envelope the characters delivered.

Balkan Visits

Almost like a hawk (or as if he’s had the characters observed), Balkan makes an unannounced personal visit to collect the book.  The characters should reflect on the fact this object is worth five million credits.  Balkan grins like the cat that got the cream; barely thankful and far from sad about Telfer’s demise. If pressed on the matter, Balkan remarks matter-of-factly, “Some people are not built for the truth.”  Then he leaves.

3 days later

Balkan requests another meeting with the characters at his penthouse apartment / gallery. He tells them there is something wrong with his copy of the book.  This should surprise the characters because the book looks entirely authentic; even the paper is kosher – at least several hundred years old, as is the ink and the binding.  Characters may or may not know that the book is reputed to contain a secret method to conjure the Prince of Darkness in person; the ideas should present itself to them that maybe Balkan has tried to make this happen.

Balkan gives some background about the book:

In 1666, a man called Aristide Torchia wrote a book whilst in Venice.  It was called “De Umbrarum Regis Novum Portis”, translated as “The Nine Doors To the Kingdom of Shadows” or the “Nine Gates” for short.  The Nine Gates was purported to have been based on the Delomelanicon – a much rumoured but never seen document supposedly written by Satan himself.

Aristide Torchia was put on trial by the Inquisition and burned at the stake in 1667 along with all copies of his book.

Three copies are supposed to have survived; at least that’s what everybody in the book world believes, but Balkan is certain that only ONE book survived, that only ONE book is authentic.

Balkan hands over a cash-card.  If they check the amount stored on it they’ll find it contains 50,000 credits.

“I want you to travel to Spain and France, to Santiago and Paris, to compare the other two remaining copies of the book.”

“I want you to compare every page, every engraving, even the binding. I’m certain only one of the books is authentic.  If you find it I want you to get it for me. At all costs.”

The characters may want to state that, “At all costs sounds illegal.”

If pressed, Balkan will say, “Hence the size of the fee.  It won’t be the first time you’ve done something illegal.”

Balkan will not take no for an answer. If he needs to play dirty, he will. This is a man more than willing and capable of committing murder to get what he wants.

Finally, he tells them, “Before you approach either Fargas or Kessler, I want you to go to the original owners of my copy. Before Telfer.  The Ceniza brothers in Toledo. They run a specialist book service.  Go there and find out if they know anything odd about the book they sold to Telfer.”

A Late Caller

The characters are now once again in possession of the Nine Gates.

The characters are tagged by Mr Blonde when they visited Balkan.  Mr Blonde follows them very discreetly and so identifies where they are currently based.  Whatever counter-surveillance techniques the characters employ, Mr Blonde’s abilities should be scaled to defeat them: this is a contrivance but also an essential element to allow the story to move forward.

Before the characters leave on any travels, they will receive a visitor.

Liana Telfer.

Dressed in black, her countenance of mourning is fabric deep at best; there’s a cunning smirk carving her scarlet painted lips and a smouldering energy within her impossibly dark eyes.  She is a seductress; a black widow and just as deadly as the spider.

She explains:

  • She was shocked to learn that her husband sold the Nine Gates shortly before he killed himself.  It is very much out of character because it was his favourite book and he would never normally depart with it.
  • She asks if the characters still have it, and if she can look at it.
  • Regardless of what they say, she’ll follow up with an offer.
  • “The book means a lot to me as it was so dear to Andrew.  I’d like to buy it back.  I’ll pay an extra 10% to cover your time.”
  • That would be a profit of 500,000 to the characters, plus the five million.  If characters are tempted then they should consider that “the book is not theirs to sell”, they are merely custodians of it during their investigation.  Also – they should reflect on the tangible power and influence of a man like Balkan – not somebody to be taken lightly, and not an enemy anybody should wish for.

If refused, Liana  suggests that they could stage a robbery.

If further refused Lility becomes visibly angry.  She warns the characters that they have no ideas of the powers they are dabbling with or of the forces they risk crossing if they continue to ignore her request.  She promises to be back in touch and departs.

If the characters attempt to sell the book to Liana

Then they will succeed in acquiring a large sum of money but will also become the targets of never-ending retribution by a very angry Boris Balkan.  The scenario ends here but it is unlikely the characters live long to enjoy their spoils.

Examining the Telfer  / Balkan copy

If the characters take time to study the copy of the Nine Gates in their possession they will note the following points:

  • authentic original Text (regardless of what Balkan believes)
  • Size & Density: 40 hours standard reading time (10 x 4 hour blocks)
  • + to knowledge is +6% occult (if you can roll over existing Occult Skill on 1d100).
  • Language: Latin.
  • History: anybody with an occult skill over 40% will have automatically heard of the Nine Gates and know much of the “public” history as described in the introduction to this scenario above. Otherwise an Occult skill check or a Research skill check will reveal the same information.

five pointed star pentagram with burning eye a symbol of the Cthulhu Mythos Any character with Mythos skill should be allowed to make a skill check. If they succeed then they know that this book has a dual nature. That the figure known as Lucifer punched its way out of the Quantisphere at a special “location” and experienced the Outer Chaos first hand.  The knowledge of this experience was put down into a “book”; this is what is known as the Delomelanicon, and is what the author of the Nine Gates had access to whilst in collaboration with the author.  The Nine Gates is supposed to contain two keys.  One is a hard to define concept regarding the Quantisphere, it could be interpreted as gaining access to Hell or it could be viewed as access to a burning, cleansing “fire” to strip away illusion and so see the truth.  The second key is similar but relates to the notion of confronting the greatest fear in order to be changed by the experience.

###

There are only minor scuffs and signs of aging on the black leather cover; it is in otherwise flawless condition for a book that is nearly 400 years old.  Embossed on the front cover is an inverted silver pentagram.

It contains nine engravings:

The First Gate

“Silence is Golden”

A knight rides through a fortified town. With his finger on his lips he counsels prudence or silence.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Silence Is Golden by Aristide Torchia

AT: The castle has four towers (GM info only).

The Second Gate

“Open that which is closed”
A hermit before a closed door. A lantern on the ground and two keys in his hand. Next to him, a sign that resembles the Hebrew letter Teth.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Open that which is closed by Aristide Torchia

AT: The hermit has the keys in his right hand (GM info only).

The Third Gate

“Wasted breath keeps a secret”
A traveller heads towards a bridge which spans a river. At each end a fortified door bars access.  On a cloud, a bowman aims in the direction of the road leading to the bridge.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Wasted breath keeps a secret by Lucifer

LCF: The bowman has a second arrow, this one in the quiver, pointing up (GM info only).

The Fourth Gate

“Chance is not the same for all”
A jester before a stone maze.  The entrance is closed by a door. Three dice on the ground each reveal their faces showing the numbers 1, 2 and 3.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Chance is not the same for all by Aristide Torchia

AT: The exit to the maze is bricked up (GM info only).

The Fifth Gate

“In vain”
A merchant counts his gold.  Behind him, Death holds an hourglass in one hand and a pitchfork in the other.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate In Vain by Aristide Torchia

AT: The sands in the hourglass have just begun to flow (GM info only).

The Sixth Gate

“I enrich myself with death”
A hanged man, similar to that of the Tarot, his hands behind his back, hung by one foot from the crenellation of the castle wall next to a closed tower gate. A hand clad in a gauntlet brandishes a burning sword from a loophole.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate I enrich myself with death by Aristide Torchia

AT: The man hangs from his right foot (GM info only).

The Seventh Gate

“The disciple outshines the master”
A king and a beggar play chess on a board with white squares.  The moon can be seen through the window.  Beneath this and next to a closed door, two dogs are fighting.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate The disciple outshines the master by Aristide Torchia

AT: The squares of the chess board are black (GM info only).

The Eighth Gate

“Virtue is conquered”
Before the fortified walls of a castle, a figure kneels in prayer whilst behind him stands a warrior with a mace ready to strike.   In the background is a Wheel of Fortune.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Virtue is conquered by Lucifer
LCF: The warrior has a halo around his head (GM info only).

The Ninth Gate

“I know now that the shadows come from the light”
A seven-headed dragon is being ridden by a naked woman; she sits incanting from an open book on her lap whilst gesturing towards the castle in the background.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate I know now that the shadows come from the light by Aristide Torchia

LCF: The castle is in flames **  (GM info only).

.

Any body making an Awareness check (DIFFICULT) will notice that six of the engravings are initialed A.T; the remaining three are initialed LCF.

In the Balkan / Telfer copy this breaks down into:

  1. A.T
  2. A.T
  3. LCF
  4. A.T
  5. A.T
  6. A.T
  7. A.T
  8. LCF
  9. LCF

GM NOTE: A.T stands for Aristide Torchia.  LCF refers to Lucifer.  What the characters cannot know at this point is that each of the three surviving copies of the Nine Gates is authentic, but, that they each have three variations in the engravings; or in other words, the nine original engravings by LCF are distributed between the three surviving books; three engravings in each.  Identifying and acquiring these “original engravings” by LCF will become the hub of this part of this part of the scenario.

Spain

Toledo – Ceniza Brothers

This fantastic, wonderfully medieval town is set within a heavily walled fortress-like compound, vast in scale and size, riddled with narrow lanes that were designed to be confusing to foreign invaders.

As they make their way to the Ceniza brothers shop, they must go on foot due to the impossibly narrow medieval streets of this section. Very few people to be seen. The sun is shining brightly, but there’s a strong wind blowing.

Rounding a corner, the characters head down an alleyway flanked by scaffolding swathed in protective netting and blue tarpaulins. It’s completely deserted. No sound but that of canvas billowing in the wind like a ship’s sails.

Turning another corner they reach a doorway leading to an inner courtyard.

A flight of steps in one corner of the courtyard leads down to the basement. Descending the steps leads to a door. A grimy window beside it serves to display some old books and religious prints. The sign on the door reads HERMANOS CENIZA RESTAURACION DE LIBROS. Below it: ‘On parle Francais’ and ‘English spoken’.

Pushing open the door, it creaks.

As the characters enter, a gaunt, bent-backed old man (PEDRO CENIZA) with a pair of glasses perched on the end of his big nose looks up from an old hand press. Everything about him is as gray as the cigarette ash that rains down on his clothes and the books he’s working on. He’s a chain-smoker.

PEDRO: Senor.

The characters can reply in Spanish, French or English.

As they do so they see another old man (PABLO CENIZA) surface from behind some stacks of paper. His resemblance to PEDRO – bent back, big nose, spectacles – is such that they can only be twins. PABLO wipes his inky hand on a rag before shaking the hands of the characters. PEDRO follows suit.

PEDRO and PABLO look them up and down with their keen, twinkling little eyes. Their movements are slow and serene, their expression carries a hint of mockery, and they often exchange knowing smiles. They’re so in sync that they communicate by means of glances and finish off each other’s sentences.

Any conversation is polite but doesn’t really lead to anything until the characters produce the Nine Gates.

PEDRO takes the book with tremulous hands. PABLO quickly clears away some parchments on the workbench to make room for it.

Some ash from PEDRO’s cigarette falls on the cover.

PABLO clicks his tongue and blows it off.

PABLO (reprovingly): What a habit for a bookbinder! (smiles at the characters) ‘The Nine Gates…’ A superb edition. Very rare.

PEDRO (opens it): The Telfer copy. We used to own it.

PABLO: We sold it.

PEDRO: We sold it when the opportunity presented itself. it was too…

PABLO: … too good to miss. An excellent sale.

PEDRO: An excellent buy – impeccable condition.

PABLO: Impeccable. You are the present owner?

The characters can say yes, or say they work for a client.

If they mention the name Balkan then drop in the following blip:

PABLO and PEDRO exchange another glance. The characters detect the hint of a smile that passes between them.
PEDRO: All books have a destiny of their own.
PABLO: Even a life of their own.

Regardless, the conversation moves on:

PABLO (over his glasses): I would never have believed she would part with it.

This should get a reaction from the characters.  The book belonged to Andrew Telfer.

PABLO (without looking up): Senora Telfer.

PABLO: Andrew Telfer paid for it.

PEDRO: It was the senora who made him buy it. He did not seem particularly… (glances at PABLO)

PABLO: ..interested.

PEDRO has finished examining the text. He looks at the spine.

PEDRO: A superb specimen.

.

.

OPTIONAL SEGMENT:::SUGGESTING THERE COULD BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE BOOK:
If the characters ask if it could be a forgery, or if there could be something wrong with it, then they get the following reaction:

PEDRO (suspiciously, almost indignantly) Something wrong with the book? A forgery? (turns to PABLO) You heard that, Pablo?

PABLO wags his finger reprovingly in the character’s face.

PABLO: I took you for professionals. You speak too lightly of forgeries.

PEDRO: Far too lightly.

PABLO: Forging a book is expensive. Paper of the period, the right inks…. (makes a dismissive gesture) Too expensive to be profitable.

PEDRO and PABLO assess the effect of their words on the characters.

PABLO: Of course, restorers have been known to replace missing pages with pages taken from another copy of the same edition. We have done that ourselves…

PEDRO: …when the need arose.

PABLO: It requires great skill, naturally, but yes, it can be done.

PEDRO: This book was with us for years.

PABLO: Many years.

PEDRO: We had ample opportunity to examine it thoroughly. The printing and binding are superb examples of 17th century Venetian craftsmanship.

He picks up the book and rifles the pages under the noses of the characters.

PEDRO (cont.): Finest rag paper, resistant to the passage of time! None of your modern wood pulp!

PABLO: Watermarks, identical shades, ink, type faces… If this is a forgery, or a copy with pages restored, it’s the work of a master.

PEDRO: A master.

PABLO: Did you study the engravings?

PEDRO and PABLO reopen the book and show the engravings.

PABLO: Books of this type often contain little puzzles.

PEDRO: Especially in the case of such an illustrious collaborator.

He takes a magnifying glass and holds it over one of the engravings, which shows A HERMIT WITH TWO KEYS IN HIS HAND AND A DOG AND A LANTERN BESIDE HIM.

A microscopic inscription can be detected in the bottom right corner.

The characters should look as instructed. (Unless they’re already aware of this fact)

PEDRO (cont.): Don’t you see? Only six of the engravings were signed by Aristide Torchia.

PEDRO: The other three.  This is one of them. Look.

The characters should look again.  They will see the letters LCF

PEDRO and PABLO chuckle heartily.

PEDRO: Torchia was not alone when they burned him alive.

PABLO: The man who wrote this did so in alliance with the Devil and went to the stake for it. Even Hell has its heroes, senor(s).

Nothing more can be learned from the Ceniza Brothers.

Leaving the shop – the alleyway

Walking back along the narrow alleyway with the canvas-covered scaffolding, the characters will be aware that there is not a soul in sight. The blue canvas flaps in the wind, the scaffolding creaks and groans.

As they walk on they hear a sudden rending sound.

There’s little time to react: the scaffolding has come away from its mountings. it’s starting to buckle and fall out into the street.

Characters should break into a run. If they don’t then they’re struck by 1d6 pieces of scaffolding, each delivering 3d6 Stun damage to one body location.

For those that run, behind them, collapsing like a house of cards, the mass of canvas and metal gain on them as they sprint for the end of the alley

The last of the scaffolding hits the ground only inches behind. Looking back at the tangled mass they seen it has only just failed to engulf them.

A familiar stranger on their tail

As soon as the characters depart for Santiago (or to Paris if they’ve decided to go there first), they should at some point notice a woman who strikes them as familiar.  She makes no attempt to conceal herself.  Characters will eventually recall seeing her in the foyer of the corporate skyscraper owned by Balkan.  Does she work for him?  Possibly.  Perhaps she is an employee sent to keep tabs on the characters and the valuable asset they are carrying around.  This is Angel.  She is tall, strong-boned, with deep set eyes that are a striking green in colour; she’s more interesting looking than attractive, but there’s an interesting vibe about her and far from threatening.  Her clothes are shabby, an olive green military style coat with a hood; jeans; odd socks, one bright blue, the other bright orange. She’ll talk if approached but is utterly vague about who she is and what’s she’s doing (wherever the characters have encountered her).  If they suggest something she’ll likely say, “Okay, if you that’s what you think.”  But she won’t offer an alternative explanation.

GM Notes: she is not human. She is a supernatural construct, an aspect of Lucifer that has been activated by fact people (humans) are now on course to encounter the 9th Gate.

Visiting Victor Fargas – Santiago, Spain

Note: the characters can choose to visit Baroness Kessler first, if they wish but the GM should try and steer the characters to Spain, first.  It makes sense if they’ve just been to Toledo.

Santiago, located in the upper west corner of Spain, is a remarkable location for any visit.  Surrounded by lush green hills and forest there is a hushed, tangible spirituality to the old medieval part of the city.  History oozes through the ancient stonework of every building.  Many people go there as pilgrims, Santiago marks the end of a lengthy walk that stretches hundreds of miles.

Victor lives in a once magnificent mansion house, in a secluded suburb of the more modern part of the city; about a 15 minute walk from the old quarter.  The house is screened from the quiet road by rows of tall tightly packed trees that line the high walls and rusting black iron railings of the estate.  The house itself is in a tragic state of disrepair.  The gardens are dying, choked with overgrown weeds and lack of proper care.  A small lake sits in front of the house, the water brownish and stagnant with thick green foliage spreading across the surface; bloated, over-sized toads sit around the water’s edge, regarding visitors with an unwholesome stare.

Yet despite the bleak atmosphere of decay, there is a high, sonorous and uplifting series of violin notes drifting from the place.  Victor Fargas is a player of much skill and delicate touch.

He greets any visitors with visible delight.  A frail old man, his once large frame is now stooped, the spine hunched; but his handsome features remain strong and there’s a fire in his watery blue eyes that makes him instantly likeable.  It is clear he comes from an aristocratic background, now living in dire hard times.

There is no furniture anywhere in the ground floor, apart from a chair and side table where he sits playing the violin.

Fargas is not an occultist and certainly not a Devil worshiper.  He’s a very gracious and considerate man with a passion for books: his collection being the work of an entire life time.

He will be intrigued by anything the characters have to say.  He will be more than happy to show them his book collection and to allow them to examine his copy of the Nine Gates: but he will not tolerate them trying to take the book away and he would rather die than sell it.  He speaks with great passion and knowledge, and an unshakeable sadness that his life has come to this:

“Great families are like empires.  Eventually they wither and die.”

If Fargas guesses that the characters have another copy of the Nine Gates with them he becomes incredibly excited and asks to see it.  He places his copy beside the one given to the characters by Balkan:

“This is the first time in over three hundred years these two copies have been brought together. Remarkable.”

He examines the binding, the typeface – pointing out a broken ‘S’ that is common to both versions. The only thing to tell them apart is the discolouration (burn) on the back of his copy.  The characters may spend as much time as they require at his house with the book.

Examining the Fargas Copy

Inspecting the book reveals discolouration on the lower left corner of the back cover; heat damage to the leather.  Other than that the book is flawless.

The characters should at some point realise that there are discrepancies between the nine engravings.  Three of the engravings have subtle differences; interestingly all three are initialed LCF rather than AT.  These are engravings #2, #4 and #6.

In Balkan’s copy, the engravings initialed LCF are #3, #8 and #9.

Comparing them side by side, the differences are shown here.  Characters may want to speculate on what these differences mean. GMs should allow and encourage this, however, if characters decide to use Occult skill checks then the GM can use the article I wrote about the symbolism to help furnish an answer:

The Second Gate

“Open that which is closed”
A hermit before a closed door. A lantern on the ground and two keys in his hand. Next to him, a sign that resembles the Hebrew letter Teth.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Open that which is closed by Aristide Torchia  Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Open that which is closed by Lucifer

Balkan / Telfer  (AT): The hermit has the keys in his right hand.
Fargas (LCF): The hermit has the keys in his left hand.

The Third Gate

“Wasted breath keeps a secret”
A traveller heads towards a bridge which spans a river. At each end a fortified door bars access.  On a cloud, a bowman aims in the direction of the road leading to the bridge.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Wasted breath keeps a secret by Aristide Torchia  Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Wasted breath keeps a secret by Lucifer

Fargas (AT): The bowman has one arrow, loaded and ready, pointing down.
Balkan / Telfer (LCF): The bowman has a second arrow, this one in the quiver, pointing up.

The Fourth Gate

“Chance is not the same for all”
A jester before a stone maze.  The entrance is closed by a door. Three dice on the ground each reveal their faces showing the numbers 1, 2 and 3.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Chance is not the same for all by Aristide Torchia  Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Chance is not the same for all by Lucifer

Balkan / Telfer (AT): The exit to the maze is bricked up.
Fargas (LCF): The exit to the maze is open.

The Sixth Gate

“I enrich myself with death”
A hanged man, similar to that of the Tarot, his hands behind his back, hung by one foot from the crenellation of the castle wall next to a closed tower gate. A hand clad in a gauntlet brandishes a burning sword from a loophole.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate I enrich myself with death by Aristide Torchia  Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate I enrich myself with death by Lucifer

Balkan / Telfer (AT): The man hangs from his right foot.
Fargas (LCF): The man hangs from his left foot.

The Eighth Gate

“Virtue is conquered”
Before the fortified walls of a castle, a figure kneels in prayer whilst behind him stands a warrior with a mace ready to strike.   In the background is a Wheel of Fortune.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Virtue is conquered by Aristide Torchia  Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Virtue is conquered by Lucifer

Fargas (AT): The warrior does not have a halo around his head.
Balkan / Telfer (LCF): The warrior has a halo around his head.

The Ninth Gate

“I know now that the shadows come from the light”
A seven-headed dragon is being ridden by a naked woman; she sits incanting from an open book on her lap whilst gesturing towards the castle in the background.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate I know now that the shadows come from the light by Aristide Torchia  Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate I know now that the shadows come from the light by Lucifer

Fargas (AT): The castle is in flames
Balkan / Telfer (LCF): The castle is in flames**

**Characters may wonder at the lack of discrepancy between these two engravings. Maybe there is a difference too subtle to notice?  Maybe the 9th Gate refers to a consistent conclusion?  All is explained at the end of this scenario.

Departing for the night: dark forces begin to muster against the characters

The GM should contrive to keep the characters at Fargas’ home until after dark.
If they attempt to buy Fargas’ copy of the Nine Gates he refuses all and any attempts. If the characters are thinking how they can get a hold of it, they’ll need to either steal it or kill Fargas. Both are feasible (although the GM should be aware that it is not actually necessary as events soon overlap the characters actions).

What they won’t realise yet is that Mr Blonde has followed them here.
When the character’s leave a powerful car (rental, black tinted windows, salon with sports upgrade) erupts into life nearby; headlights flare on and the vehicle charges forwards intent on running them over. It has no licence plates, no broadcast tags, no visible or electronic identifiers.

All characters in the group must beat Mr Blonde on an opposed DEX +1d20 roll. His DEX is 16.  Anybody who fails is clipped by the car and sent rolling; they also suffer 3d6 Stun damage to one location from the car and another 2d6 stun to one location from the fall.  Anybody who succeeds will take 1d6 stun damage from falls and strains unless they can make an Acrobatics skill check.  It is a very close shave.  The vehicle brakes sharply after trying to plough through them: pauses as if the driver is checking to see the damage and then screeches off.

The GM cannot allow Mr Blonde to be stopped or caught here.

Optional Extra for this scene: if the characters are vulnerable, in other words, aren’t carrying shed loads of powerful weapons; then when the car screeches to a stop have the driver door pop open, as if some further threat is about to unfold… but, at this moment, a motorcycle screams out of the darkness and skids to a stop near the opening door… apparently scaring the driver back.  The car roars off, followed by the motorcycle.

Balkan calls for an update

Getting back from Fargas place the characters will either be nursing injuries or trying to calm shaken nerves.  They get little time before their PA’s chime with an inbound call from Balkan. If, for some reason, they try to avoid taking the call – a few minutes go by before a hotel employee bangs on their room door: Mr Balkan wants to talk.

Balkan is hungry for news.  Any mention of the discovery of discrepancies between the two copies of the Nine Gates sends him into a tangible fever of hushed, mumbling enthusiasm:

  “Get that book for me, at whatever cost. Do you understand?  Do a good job here and I’ll add another zero onto the end of the fee I’m paying you.”

Balkan will not accept any kind of no for an answer.  “This is not the time to let me down,” he warns.  The characters should feel there is absolutely no way out of this.

Returning to Fargas’ Place

Early Rising: If the characters are dragging their heels and seem unlikely to visit Fargas’ house early the next day; or if the GM feels they probably need some help, then they will get an unwelcome wake-up call from the strange girl called Angel. She’s at their door, banging until somebody answers.

“Get dressed,” she tells one of the characters, “Fargas is in danger.”

She doe not elaborate.  She waits for the characters outside on a motorcycle (the same one from the previous night – if they also encountered that) and either gives one character a lift there; or leads the way.

Arriving at Fargas’ house there is a tangible atmosphere of brooding; something is not right. A faint trail of smoke drifts up from a chimney, unusual for so early in the morning perhaps. Apart from that everything is still and quiet.

There is no response at the door. The characters will have to find a way in.

IF ANGEL IS WITH THEM: she steps back from the door, looks up to examine the rotting wooden vine trellis and stonework, and hauls herself up remarkably quickly.

LOOKING IN THE SMALL LAKE: the characters will make a grisly discovery.  Fargas floats near the surface, eyes staring glassily up towards the sky.  He has been beaten around the head and drowned.

IF CHARACTERS CONSIDER LEAVING BEFORE GETTING INTO THE HOUSE TO RETRIEVE THE NINE GATES: Angel will appear on the scene to ensure a swift entry.

Inside Fargas’ House

There are signs of a struggle.  The book collection is there – although the occult section has been disturbed and the Nine Gates is missing.  A smell of burning comes from the fire – not the pleasant aroma of burning logs or coal.  In the fire grate is the stinking remains of Fargas’ copy of the Nine Gates… only the charred spine and inner 1/3rd of the pages remain.  The book has essentially been destroyed.  But if characters think to check, they’ll discover that all of the pages containing engravings have been torn out (probably before the book itself was tossed onto the fire).

GM NOTE: the characters may think this was the handiwork of the unseen car driver, but it is actually Balkan who did this. He is shadowing the characters movements.  An invisible player behind the scenes.

IF THE CHARACTERS HAVE ALREADY BEEN TO VISIT BARONESS KESSLER : then skip to the section called, “Balkan Calls to Close”.

Contacting Balkan

The characters next destination (if they’ve not already been there) is Paris, to visit Baroness Kessler .  If they try to contact Balkan they end up speaking to a PA who reluctantly agrees to put them on hold.  They’re on hold for quite some time.  Eventually Balkan comes through, very brusque, only interested in suggesting that their work in Santiago is finished now and that they should move on.  He seems utterly un-phased at the mention of Fargas murder or the destruction of the book.  Characters may become aware of the fact that Balkan’s voice sounds echoey, as if he is in a large space – they then hear the sound of a public address system (in Spanish), suggesting he is in a train station or airport.  Balkan ends the call with very few words.  He is not interested in delay.

FRANCE

First Night in Paris – Mr Blonde Appears

Mr Blonde is on their tail.
If any character is carrying Balkan’s copy of the Nine Gates they will be the target of the coming attack; otherwise, if the book is stashed somewhere safe then choose a random character.

The characters will notice Mr Blonde at some point in the early evening, not long before it gets dark. He’s not trying to conceal himself; on the contrary, he’s making it clear he wants to be seen. He’s stalking the characters on the opposite side of the street, glowering at them; he is very effective at intimidation.  There is something exceptionally dangerous about him. The characters should (hopefully) feel uneasy.

If they drop into a cafe or bar, Mr Blonde will visibly lurk outside – for a while, but then worryingly disappear from sight.

If they try to charge across the road to grab him, or even attack, a large, very expensive vehicle… with glossy chrome body work and black tinted windows screeches towards them… effectively blocking their path, allowing Mr Blonde time to duck into the passenger side before tearing off again.  The car is driven by Liana  Telfer  but it should be unlikely the characters will know this.

If any characters do make it across the road to engage with Mr Blonde, he proves highly capable at martial arts and retraining techniques (skill 80%). He will deliver a barrage of stun attacks and then make a quick, unflustered escape. His point has been made.

Mr Blonde Strikes

Later that night, maybe only a few minutes later or a few hours (GM’s call), as the characters are heading back to their lodgings, they are attacked.  Ideally this should happen on one of the cobbled embankments of the river Seine, where the main street is several metres above… bordered by a bulky stone balustrade and accessed by steep stone steps.  In other words, this area is poorly lit and perfect for an ambush.  If any of the characters are tank-like fighters, then they should be taken down with brutal but non-lethal force; one option could be a sleep-dart from a high-velocity gas-powered rifle, or some other device. Such characters would feel a sting, or hear a distant cough, etc, and then collapse.

Mr Blonde them approaches on foot.  Swift, unflinching and silent.  He never speaks.  Any character carrying the book is targeted, otherwise this is random violence.  Blonde blocks any attacks, disarms lethal weapons, delivers stunning blows and grabs the bag.

As soon as it looks like he might actually succeed, characters should witness Angel arriving on the scene. She seems to glide down from the darkness as if descending from some loft point above; it’s as if she floats, but no sooner have the characters seen this than it must seem like it was a trick of the light.  If Mr Blonde is good at martial arts and grappling, Angel is infinity better.  She blocks and batters Mr Blonde enough to ensure he drops whatever he’s managed to grab from the characters and runs off at speed, to be met by the expensive, glossy chrome vehicle… jumping in, they accelerate away and out of sight.

A new companion?

If the characters suggest Angel joins them, she smiles enigmatically and replies, “Okay, if you insist.”

Angel does not answer anything about herself, other than to agree with any of the characters suppositions.  She is a silent partner, and somehow comforting to have around.

Angel will accompany the characters to whatever place they choose to use for lodgings.  She will suggest that if people are trying to grab the book from them, it might be best to hide it somewhere in their room. Once the characters are settled in, Angel vanishes.  She does not book a room.

GM Note: in the movie, The Ninth Gate, the main character Corso stashes the copy of the Nine Gates behind the mini-bar in his room.  The characters can hide the book wherever they want.

Visiting Baroness Kessler  – Paris, France

The Baroness lives (and works) from the 3rd floor of a lavish Parisian building, dating back to the time of Napoleon. It is a part of a large sweeping terrace that overlooks the river Seine.

An appointment is required to meet with her.  Any mention of the Nine Gates grabs her immediate interest; to the point where even if they discuss wanting to compare her copy with another she is so overwhelmed by enthusiasm that she doesn’t quite grasp the meaning of this… just yet.

Access to the building is via a large front door, open to anybody.  Three flights of a grand sweeping marble staircase leads to the landing outside the plush  entrance to her office / apartment suite.  A security system watches the door.

Beyond the door is a small reception room and the lair of the frightening personal assistant, an imposing, tall, broad-shouldered Germanic woman with steel wool for hair and hostile grey eyes.  She inspects the characters with disdain: they are not the sort of people the Baroness would normally consort with.  However, if they have an appointment they are allowed through.

The rest of the floor level is staggering.  Vast in size, a maze of rooms (no passageways), all one after the other, connected by tall finely polished wooden doors.

The Baroness greets the characters in her private study; an adjoining set of double doors stand open revealing an incredible private library and a large highly polished wooden table capable of seating at least 30 people.

She is a short, unusual looking woman, with angular features set into a blocky face, now in her early sixties; expensive make-up softens the lines.  She is dressed in a pastel coloured suit with silk neck scarf and plenty of lavish jewellery.  Afflicted by a wasting disease, she is now confined to a wheelchair but this has not affected her facial expressions or her commanding presence.  Physically frail, she is still a very strong individual.  She greets the characters extending a left hand; her right arm has been amputated below the elbow.

On her desk is an array of books and papers. An elegant fountain pen lies on top of some handwritten notes.

BARONESS: My latest work: ‘The Devil: History and Myth’ – a kind of biography. It will be published early next year. (laughs): I saw him one day. I was fifteen years old, and I saw him as plain as I see you now: cutaway, top hat, cane. Very elegant, very handsome. It was love at first sight.

The characters will have to state they want to compare her copy with another.

When they mention the Nine Gates:

BARONESS: The Nine Gates? An interesting work. Everyone’s been asking about it lately. The book demands a certain amount of faith. I know [it] extremely well. I studied it for years. My knowledge of this book is profound. I wrote a biography of its author. Aristide Torchia. A courageous man. He died for the sake of this very book in 1667. He had spent many years in Prague, a centre of the occult. While there he studied the black arts and acquired a copy of the dread ‘Delomelanicon’. This is his adaptation of that work, which was written by Lucifer himself. After they burned him at the stake, a secret society was founded to perpetuate its memory and preserve its secrets: the Order of Mercury.

BARONESS: the Order is a kind of witches’ coven. For centuries they have met to read from this book and worship the Prince of Darkness. Today they’ve degenerated into a social club for bored millionaires. I myself belonged to the Order many years ago, but time is too precious at my age. I told them to go to the Devil. (She titers at her own little joke). They still meet every year. They used to read from my copy but I took mine back when Liana Telfer  acquired the one in Toledo. Fargas is an unbeliever – he has always refused to participate, so naturally they use the Telfer  copy. Not that it has ever worked. (pause) They never do, to be honest.

BARONESS: Andrew  Telfer  knew nothing of these activities until that creature Liana  married him for money. She used his credits to buy the book and renovate her château. An old and aristocratic family, the Saint-Damiens but penniless. They have dabbled in witchcraft for hundreds of years.

Even if the characters do not tell her about Telfer ‘s suicide, she picks up on the fact that something is amiss.

- Which copy do they have?

- Who exactly are you working for?

She will rapidly deduce that, “Only Boris Balkan can be behind this.  That man knows no boundaries.”

Offended at some sort of inferred duplicity (of her own reasoning) she demands angrily that the characters leave: immediately. “Tell Balkan to come and examine it himself – if he dares.”

They do not get a chance to look at the Nine Gates.  If they cause trouble the bulky figure of the Personal Assistant appears to escort them out.  If they cause serious trouble – then see the section, “Disabling the Characters & A Horrible Awakening”.

Baroness Kessler  has a change of heart

Back at their hotel or lodgings, the characters may be planning on how to get their hands on the Nine Gates. Regardless of what approach they take, the Baroness will make contact with an apology.  If possible, she asks the characters to send only one of their group to come up to her library where she will gladly discuss the matter of the Nine Gates further: the reason, she states truthfully, is that she is uncomfortable with groups of people these days. It makes her feel vulnerable. However, she cannot shake free of the intense intrigue she has regarding what Balkan might be up to – and what he may have discovered about the Nine Gates.

Characters should sense a deeply competitive nature to this: Balkan and the baroness are opponents in some mystical game of one-upmanship.

Now more communicative she brings the character(s) into her library to show them her copy of the Nine Gates.

She gives them permission to make a thorough investigation of her book.  She is fascinated that there could be discrepancies between the engravings.

“If that is true it would not be a revelation, it would be a miracle.”

The following facts should be revealed:

  • [*] Liana  acquired the Nine Gates in a very specialist dealer in rare books, the Ceniza brothers in Toledo, Spain. The fact it is from them means that Telfer  / Balkan copy can be nothing but authentic, unless it is a remarkable fake – something that the Ceniza brothers would have the skills to accomplish but unlikely to have the motivation.
  • [*] Boris Balkan is possibly the greatest Occultist and expert on the Devil, besides herself. He is also a blackmailer.  The Baroness does not go into details but this defines her dislike of him.
  • [*] The Nine Gates is stuffed with the Baroness’s handwritten slips.  One of them reads: “I will recognize your servants, my brethren, by the sign that adorns some part of their body, a scar or mark of your making…”
  • [*] Also in amongst the notes is an old-fashioned post-card: a picture of medieval ruins. On the reverse it states the ruins are Château de Puivert, in France.  It is addressed to Baroness Kessler  and is signed Boris Balkan.  A hand-written statement says simply: “Sorry, I saw it first!”  Characters who succeed in an IDEA check recall that they’ve seen this image before.  It was a large framed print on the wall of Balkan’s vast collection, holding pride of place, lit from behind.

five pointed star pentagram with burning eye a symbol of the Cthulhu Mythos[*] The Baroness did some digging and has discovered that Balkan has apparently scored a major coup at a private auction; picking up the Crystal of Dalzan, rumoured to be a flake hacked off a much larger piece that resides in the heart of Hell, and apparently emits an exotic light that allowed Lucifer to probe the outer darkness – the area beyond the metaphysical plane that is supposedly even off-limits to angels and demons.   GM Note: those with a Mythos skill should be allowed to deduce that she is referring to the Outer Chaos, the cosmic horror of what lies beyond the Quantisphere.  Lucifer went beyond the Quantisphere.

###

Examining Baroness Kessler ‘s Copy

As they settle down to the task at hand, the Baroness will return to the desk in her study; the personal secretary will be heard stepping in to excuse herself for a late / early lunch. The Baroness wheels herself out of the study after her, rapid fire conversation in French about meetings scheduled for later in the week. Things become quiet.

The characters should now know what they are looking for. They’ll quickly discover the engravings that have discrepancies and marked LCF.  These are engravings #1, #5 and #7.

In Balkan’s copy, the engravings initialed LCF are #3, #8 and #9.

In Fargas’ copy, the engravings initialed LCF are #2, #4 and #6.

Here are the three engravings that differ:

The First Gate

“Silence is Golden”

A knight rides through a fortified town. With his finger on his lips he counsels prudence or silence.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Silence Is Golden by Aristide Torchia

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate Silence Is Golden by Lucifer

Balkan/Telfer, & Fargas (AT): The castle has four towers.
Kessler (LCF): The castle has three towers.

The Fifth Gate

“In vain”
A merchant counts his gold.  Behind him, Death holds an hourglass in one hand and a pitchfork in the other.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate In Vain by Aristide Torchia  Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate In Vain by Lucifer

Balkan/Telfer, & Fargas (AT): The sands in the hourglass have just begun to flow.
Kessler (LCF): The sands in the hourglass have stopped flowing.

The Seventh Gate

“The disciple outshines the master”
A king and a beggar play chess on a board with white squares.  The moon can be seen through the window.  Beneath this and next to a closed door, two dogs are fighting.

Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate The disciple outshines the master by Aristide Torchia  Woodcut Engraving from The Ninth Gate The disciple outshines the master by Lucifer

Balkan/Telfer, & Fargas (AT): The squares of the chess board are black.
Kessler (LCF): The squares of the chess board are white.

Disabling the Characters & A Horrible Awakening

As soon as the characters have the information they’ve been seeking: confirmation of which engravings are LCF, something needs to happen that renders them unconscious.

SOME OPTIONS:

  1. If there is only one character here, as the Baroness requested, then they will be totally unaware of the figure that comes sneaking into the library behind them. One hefty blow to the back of the head knocks them out.
  2. If there are too many characters or if the player has seen the movie and is suggesting precautions to preclude such a sneak attack, then up the ante by having the unseen protagonist release a silent and powerful soporific gas into the library.

Inventive GMs can come up with any other method but it should be non-lethal and quick.

When the character(s) awake they’ll firstly be aware of the intense smell of burning and see thick smoke curling from beneath the doors (now closed) connecting the library to the Baroness’s study. The Nine Gates is gone.

Going through into the study they are met by a blazing inferno; the study has been set alight. The Baroness is slumped in her wheelchair, tongue distended and eyeballs bulging… she’s been strangled by the silk scarf around her neck.  Everything around her is on fire – and the flames are spreading rapidly. The character(s) should spot a copy of the Nine Gates lying on her desk… in flames.  If somebody grabs it they’ll suffer 1st degree burns to the hand used but the won’t be able to save the book; just extract a badly damaged object with most of the pages charred halfway towards the spine.  Flicking through the smouldering stinking remains, anybody will quickly discover that all of the engravings have been torn out.

GM NOTE: This is the handiwork of Balkan yet again.

Balkan Calls to Close

If the characters have already visited Victor Fargas in Santiago, then Balkan now has all of the engravings from both copies of the Nine Gates not owned by him.  All that remains is for the characters to return his copy to him.  As soon as characters have regrouped following the death of the Baroness, Boris Balkan will telephone and state that it looks like their work is done, all that remains for them to do is “to deliver my copy of the Nine Gates to me. I’m staying at the Dorint Hotel.  You can deliver it to reception there.”

Characters may be taken aback to realise that Balkan is there in Paris with them.

They will be further horrified when they discover that Balkan’s copy of the Nine Gates is now gone.

The GM will need to get creative over how to justify this, but here are several options:

  • If the book was hidden in a character’s hotel room; Liana Telfer  convinces the hotel reception that she is the wife or partner of the character and is given access to the room: allowing her to find the book and walk out with it.  If this happens then the hotel concierge can provide a description of the woman, allowing characters to identity Liana Telfer . The hotel can put out feelers with other hotels and quickly identify the fact that Liana Telfer  is staying at Suite 606 in the Hotel Crillon.
  • If the book was placed in the hotel safe: Liana Telfer  again convinces hotel reception to give her access.
  • If the book is being carried by character(s) at all times, then something more dramatic occurs.  Mr Blonde carries out a brutal and effective attack on them. Close range stun weapons and martial arts to render the characters incapacitated. He then flees with the book.  Characters may be able to deduce that is with Liana Telfer , that they’re likely to be staying at a wealthy hotel  – reducing the scope of any search.  Contacting the major hotels in Paris quickly reveals Liana Telfer  is checked into Suite 606 at the Hotel Crillon.

.

Telling Balkan the Bad News

If characters inform Balkan of what has happened he takes the news very calmly. His response is equally calm but also utterly menacing:

“Get my book. I do not need to inform you of the lengths at which I am willing to go to get what I want.  Get that book back or you’ll suffer the consequences.”

If the characters are really struggling here, Balkan will remind them that Liana  has a Chateau at Saint-Damien, near Aigues-Mortes.  She has probably re-acquired the book because there is due to be a meeting of the Order of Mercury tonight.

Hotel Crillon – Suite 606

Very plush interior, very high-class guests; once the characters go through whatever permutations of plots and approaches to take, they’ll get to suite 606 and find the doors bursting open.  A maid bustles out pushing a trolley.  The suite has recently been vacated and she is clearing up.  Liana Telfer  and Mr Blonde are gone.

Next stop – Chateaux Saint-Damien

The GM should contrive to have the characters arrive as the sun is setting.  Also try to ensure the characters are not bristling with weapons: the remainder of this scenario is far more enjoyable if they’re having to rely on their wits rather than bullets.

The village of Saint-Damien is a small, quiet place where decay is eating at every surface of stone and wood.  Investigators may have to ask around to discover the Chateau is beyond the outskirts of the town, up a small, easy-to-miss road that winds up into densely wooded hills.

There is a gatehouse with a heavy-set man leaning against it, smoking a cigarette and watching who goes past.

There is no overt security in place.

The forest road hugs the edges of the estate, a low stone wall drops down some 3 metres to the border of the gardens. From there, intruders can proceed unhindered and concealed by trees to view the châteaux itself.

The Chateau is vast, a substantial 17th century mansion it creates a staggering sense of wealth and power.

There is a long, straight, gravelled driveway leading from the gatehouse; it is lined by flambeaux that flood the area with dream-like golden light, including the wide open forecourt in which some twenty or so expensive-looking vehicles are parked.

As the characters observe they should witness a limo coming down the driveway and pulling up at the foot of the steps; the occupants, a smartly dressed elderly couple, are being greeted by a tuxedoed butler while their suitcases are removed from the trunk and carried in after them by a manservant.

If characters check, they can see no CCTV, no overt security. They should surmise this is possibly more to do with maintaining privacy around the event.

At some point the characters should reach a position where they are able to observe the side of the châteaux.  A row of very tall elegant windows gives them a view of the upper reaches of the châteaux’s great hall, with its balustraded minstrel gallery and lofty, vaulted ceiling. If the characters climb on a stone bench they can gain a better look.

Inside, overlooked by an array of ancestral portraits, some fifty guests are inaudibly conversing in groups. Men and women alike are attired in long black robes resembling monks’ habits, and all have silver inverted-pentacles suspended from their necks on silver chains. Their cowls are thrown back to reveal the heads and faces beneath. A motley assortment of people, most of them middle or late middle-aged, one or two of oriental origin. No sign of Liana , Mr Blonde or the Nine Gates.

Return of Angel

At this point, as the characters are gaining a sense of the place, they’ll become aware of a sound behind them – somebody stepping through the dense foliage to join them.  The first thing they notice is the eerie green luminescence in her irises… which pulse slowly, brightening as if radiating electrical energy and then diminishing to a normal human state.  It only happens for a few moments but it is captivating and should prevent characters reacting violently towards her.

Angel simply says, “I was wondering when you would show up.”  Then she points upwards to the right, “Liana is up there.”

Looking up, several of the second-floor windows are illuminated, and one of them has some creeper-covered trelliswork running up to its balcony.

Angel doesn’t hesitate but leaps high, landing on the trelliswork as if made of feathers and begins to make easy work of climbing.  She pauses long enough to indicate the characters should follow.

Clambering over onto the balcony, the will be able to peer through the French windows.

They see a bedroom decorated in a very feminine style all frills, flounces, and elegant  furniture. Two expensive suitcases are on the floor near the dainty four-poster. A third, with discarded clothes beside it, is lying open on the bed itself. It is obvious these are what she was using in Paris.

Liana  is there and has stripped to her panties. The characters and Angel can watch as she slips them off, goes to a wardrobe, and takes out a black robe and silver pentacle like the ones seen downstairs. Pulling the robe over her head, she smooths it down, dons the pentacle, and inspects herself in a mirror in the corner of the room.

Angel takes advantage of Liana ‘s preoccupation to try the French windows. They won’t budge. She turns to the characters, shrugs, and then raises her foot and kicks the glass in. She does this without warning and before the characters can attempt to stop her.

Liana  spins around with a terrified cry and stands there transfixed. Angel reaches inside, turns the knob, opens the French windows and steps into the room. The characters should follow.

If they demand to know where the Nine Gates is, Liana  replies that the book belongs to her!

If any character attempts to attack or grab Liana , the GM should introduce Mr Blonde immediately.

If they attempt to check the suitcases, Liana steps forward to stop them but Angel moves into her path creating a tense stand-off.  The characters can empty the suitcase: they will find the copy of the Nine Gates. At this moment, the GM should introduce Mr Blonde.

Mr Blonde’s Welcome

The platinum-haired figure strides into the room like a flood of aggression.  He doesn’t speak.  He carries a handgun and uses it the instant anybody tries to react or cause problems: however, ideally, both he and Liana  want to avoid a blood-bath up here in view of the windows, and where screams or shouts might be heard by guests.  If characters do attempt anything bold, force them to make a COOL check against a serious Intimidation score.  If the characters are bristling with weapons then the GM will need to up the ante: either Mr Blonde arrives with an even bigger gun or SMG, or, reluctantly, adjust the mood of the setting by introducing a squad of armed heavies.  Either way, the end result should be a situation where the characters and Angel find themselves captive**.

**If, somehow, the characters are able to turn tables and capture Mr Blonde and Liana, and the Nine Gates, skip to “an alternative twist” below.

Liana grabs the Nine Gates before any damage can be done to it.

She says to Mr Blonde, “Lock them in the music gallery.  We can deal with them later.”

Incarceration and a twist

The characters and Angel are quickly disarmed, ushered out of the room at gunpoint and told to walk down a plush passageway a short distance, before told to take a smaller less formal corridor that leads to a wide stone staircase (leading down). However, before the characters are able to take this staircase – Mr Blonde tells them in monosyllabic commands to go through a solid-looking wooden door.  The GM should apply the full force of Intimidation rules here: characters succumbing to Intimidation Threat Score are obliged to follow all commands for up to 20 minutes before having a chance of regaining their composure or being able to consider retaliatory action.  The doorway leads into a wide but narrow room, bare of furniture and showing signs of once being a recording studio of some kind – a rich man’s play thing – or perhaps a performance room.  There is a long, squat window running the length of the room: it overlooks another much larger room beyond, they can see a glimpse of great vaulted ceiling.  Once inside, Mr Blonde slams the door shut and locks it after them; he does not enter.

Inspecting their impromptu cell, they discover the room is sound-proofed; however, the murmur of conversation and rustle of fifty people in robes can be heard hissing through speakers set in the walls.  The room is rigged up to observe, perhaps?  The long squat window overlooks the great hall and the now fully assembled crowd below.  Banging on the window proofs fruitless.  The glass is thickened, reinforced and has a tint that suggests it may be reflective or mirrored on the other side, rendering them invisible.  A stack of old microphones, once used by musicians or performers – or whoever – provide a glimmer of hope but turn out to be disconnected from any power source and there is no amplification system.

It seems all the characters can do is remain there and watch.

Something seems to be happening below. The lights in the great hall become dim.

All of the guests now have their hoods pulled up to shroud their faces in dense pools of shadow; the silver pentacles dangling from their necks glint and glitter in the fluttering flame-light of the burning black candles clutched in their hands.

An Alternative Twist

If the characters have turned tables and captured Mr Blonde and Liana, and the Nine Gates, then before much else can happen Boris Balkan arrives on scene.

He is intrigued by Angel, “Have I seen you somewhere before?”.

Angel replies mystifyingly, “They think I work for you so maybe you have.”  

Balkan dismisses her, then he grins at the captors smugly and at Liana ‘s fury as he asks the characters to hand over his book.  If the characters refuse to hand it over, things will turn very ugly very fast.  Balkan utilises every power (occult) at his command to ensure the Nine Gates is returned to him.

Balkan takes the Nine Gates and departs without explanation. Characters may feel a strange sense of loss, parting with the book – as if they are giving up an incredible life-changing opportunity.  Go to “The Chase”.

The ceremony and an interruption

Characters may have a few moments to wonder about the missing engravings torn from the Fargas and Baroness Kessler copies of the Nine Gates.  They were not amongst the belongings of Liana Telfer ; the characters should start to consider that Balkan may have acquired them.  Was Balkan the person responsible for the murders?

At the far end of the huge room is a dais draped in black with some shallow steps leading up to it. On the wall above the dais hangs an inverted silver crucifix; on the dais itself, which is flanked by a pair of outsize black candles in three-foot silver candlesticks, Liana stands facing the hall from behind a silver lectern on which reposes The Nine Gates. Arrayed in the body of the hall are the 50 guests, now cowled, each holding a lighted black candle. The flickering candle flames bathe the whole scene in tremulous chiaroscuro.

Liana  and the guests are taking it in turns, like priest and congregation, to intone passages from the Latin text of The Nine Gates.

All at once, the double doors at the rear of the hall swing open with a crash and Balkan’s deep bass voice punctures the air on a derisive note.

BALKAN: Mumbo-jumbo-mumbo-jumbo-mumbo-jumbo …

The guests stop chanting, and fifty cowled heads turn to look for the source of this unseemly interruption. Up on the dais, Liana  freezes.

BALKAN: Mumbo-jumbo-mumbo-jumbo-mumbo-jumbo…

Looking over-life-size in his dark and elegant double-breasted suit, he strides toward the dais. Any guests who fail to get out of his way in time are brusquely elbowed aside. Liana  watches him, transfixed, as he climbs the steps and turns to face the bemused guests.

Mr Blonde rushes in to intercept. Balkan just looks at him – LOOKS right into him and Mr Blonde staggers and collapses into a twitching pile. It’s unclear if he’s dead or just out of action.

Balkan returns his attention to the guests who are staring at Mr Blonde.

BALKAN:  Look around you – yes, all of you. What do you see?

The guests involuntarily turn to look at each other.

BALKAN:  I’ll tell you: a bunch of buffoons in fancy dress. What are you expecting, an apparition? I’m the only apparition you’ll see tonight. You really think the Prince of Darkness would deign to manifest himself to the likes of you? He never has and he never will – never!

Balkan closes The Nine Gates with a snap and holds it up.

BALKAN: You read from his book, yes, but you have no conception of its true power. I alone have grasped its secret. I alone have fathomed the Master’s grand design. I alone am worthy to enjoy the fruits of that discovery: absolute power to determine my own destiny.

Liana finds her voice at last.

LIANA : You’re insane, Boris (puts out her hand): Give it back at once.

Balkan rounds on her.

BALKAN: As for you, Liana de Saint-Damien, you’re even guiltier than the rest of this pathetic rabble. You have at least some idea of what this book can do in the right hands, yet you lend yourself to these farcical proceedings, these orgies of ageing flesh conducted in the Master’s name. You’re a charlatan!

Liana  tries to grab the book, but Balkan holds it above his head.

Liana claws his cheeks in desperation. Balkan clasps his face, dropping the book.

Liana makes a dive for it, but Balkan pounces on her. They roll over in a clinch, struggling fiercely.

Balkan grabs Liana by the throat. She tries to break his grip, but he redoubles it. Halfway down the dais steps with Balkan on top of her, she fights for breath. Her suffocated, agonized face is turned toward the hall.

The guests shrink back in horror, some of them dropping their candles. Hysterical screams rend the air.

The characters can only watch all of this with either fascination or horror.

Mr Blonde comes to life but seems disoriented and weakened. Hampered by his robe, he makes for dais as fast as he can, scattering frightened guests in the process. He takes hold of Balkan’s shoulders and tries to haul him off Liana.

Balkan, still throttling her, turns to look. He glares at Mr Blonde through his heavy hornrims, his features contorted with rage and stupefaction. Then, removing one hand from Liana’s throat, he deals Mr Blonde a backhanded blow that sends him reeling far further then any normal blow should.

Liana seizes a chance to break free. She crawls away and almost regains her fact, but Balkan is too quick for her: grabbing her pentacle chain from behind, he proceeds to garrote her with it.

Liana, now on her knees, scrabbles unavailingly at the chain that is biting into her neck. Her face turns purple, her tongue begins to protrude.

Mr Blonde staggers and reels and finally collapses to the floor.

Balkan completes his grisly work: Liana’s purple face is all too reminiscent of Baroness Kessler’s. With a final tug at the chain, he plants one foot in the small of Liana’s back and sends her limp body sprawling across the floor of the hall.

Screams and cries of horror go up from the guests, who have recoiled still further.

Balkan straightens up, a somewhat dishevelled but still imposing figure despite the scratches on his cheeks. Even his hornrims are still in place. He leans forward, eyes narrowed in a mock menacing way, and stamps his foot.

BALKAN (in a voice like thunder): Boooh!

With more hysterical screams and cries of dismay, the guests turn tall and flee the hall like a herd of panic-stricken cattle, jostling each other in their eagerness to get out the door.

Calmly, without so much as a glance at Liana’s corpse, Balkan smooths his hair down, picks up The Nine Gates, and strides majestically after them.

Angel turns away and walks to the door that is locking them in the room.  She slides her hand over the lock and a click is audible as the mechanism snaps open.  If any of the characters challenge her, question her, or even if they just follow her in silence she looks back at them from over her shoulder and says, “Some things are meant to happen. That was one of them.

IF THE CHARACTERS ARE ANGRY ABOUT THIS:

Angel says, “He just murdered someone with a roomful of witnesses. That lets you off the hook for the other killings. You should be grateful.”

The Departure of Boris Balkan

If characters rush down to intercept Balkan they’ll arrive just in time to see him driving off.  If the characters are not so bothered and are remaining in the châteaux then the GM should have one of them spot Balkan from a window, see him getting into the vehicle and driving off at speed.

What do the characters want to do now?

If they ask Angel if she knows where he’s gone, she replies:

” What do you care? Your job is done. This is as far as you need to go.”

But if they press the matter she smiles, enigmatically,

“And I thought your curiosity might get the better of you.”

She tells the characters that Balkan is heading to the location of the 9th Gate. She tells them where it is, Château de Puivert in the Quercob region of France, about 160 miles west of the current location.

Château de Puivert

The characters will be able to acquire Liana Telfer’s vehicle.  Many others are gone or in the process of accelerating away down the drive as the guests flee; many of them still in their black robes.

The journey to Château de Puivert will take them along a major motorway for much of the way before they need to turn off, heading inland away from the coastline.  They drive along a country road bordered by rolling fields wreathed in gray mist.  Then across a viaduct that spans a valley hundreds of metres below. The hazy blue shapes of mountains can be glimpsed in the distance.

The GM should contrive to delay the journey a somewhat to ensure they arrive at their destination as the sun is starting the final phase of its descent.

The landscape becomes bleaker and more mountainous. Switchbacks are visible ahead.

Then coming round one bend, visible in the distance, crisply silhouetted against the afterglow, is a castle.

It’s the one of which the characters saw as a back-lighted photograph on Balkan’s wall, and in the postcard to Baroness Kessler.

Getting closer, they see that the vehicle used by Balkan is now parked up beside an archway that was once the castle gate.

Leaving their vehicle and surveying the building they will notice a glimmer of light is issuing from the arrow slits in one of the turrets.

Castle Courtyard

To reach the turret the characters will need to cross the deserted courtyard, which is littered with fallen masonry to a dilapidated flight of stone steps which rises to the battlements; they then need to walk along them to the tower.

Angel does not come with them.

“I cannot enter,” she says without any explanation.

The battlements are dangerously unstable.  Every character must roll score 20 or higher on 1d20+DEX or suffer a fall of 7 metres.  3d6 Stun to one body location.

A moldering old door connects the tower to the battlements. If they stop and listen a man’s voice is faintly audible.

Going through the door

NOTE: The following section is written from the point of view of the characters stepping through the door and observing.  They can observe the entire scene without interrupting if they so choose.  However, the moment they try to intervene – or start to descend the stone steps on the far side, Balkan will react swiftly by waving a hand at the same time uttering a snarling command: all of the characters feel as if their limbs have been turned to stone.  They cannot speak, move or do anything but watch and listen… the GM should then relate the rest of the scene as if they are observers only.

[]

Stepping through the door the characters are looking down into the interior of the turret, which forms a cylindrical chamber. They’re on a small landing from which a steep flight of unprotected stone steps curves down and around the inner wall to the floor of the chamber. The floor, littered with debris including worm-eaten beams that have fallen from the ceiling far above, consists of massive, age-old planks.

A large circle has been chalked in the middle of the floor, and within it a square divided into nine boxes numbered 1-9. Each box contains some unrelated object: a rusty knife, a piece of cord, a stone, a gold ring, a serpentine bracelet, a glass vial, a small pile of earth, a quill pen, an hourglass.

The chamber is illuminated by half a dozen fuel-burning lamps located around the circle but outside it. Also near the circle is a camper’s collapsible table with various objects on it: a black briefcase, The Nine Gates, a magnifying glass, a vacuum flask and mug. On the floor beside the table are a large jerrican and an open suitcase with more books spilling out of it.

The voice the characters may have heard from outside is now unmistakable; it is that of Balkan, but a Balkan unlike any the characters will have seen before: no jacket or necktie, shirt sleeves rolled up, vest half unbuttoned, strands of gray hair falling over his scratched and sweating face, cheeks flushed, eyes ablaze with excitement.

He’s kneeling in front of the numbered boxes and gabbling to himself in an expressionless monotone:

BALKAN: … eight doors come before the Serpent that guards the word, Teth, Enea, Novem, Oded, the number nine, which holds the final secret, the mystery of mysteries. The Serpent is the beast that always sleeps with one eye open and is reflected in the Mirror of Knowledge. (giggles triumphantly) Eight engravings plus one, or one plus eight, which coincides with the number that St. John of Patmos attributed to the Beast: 666…

Feverishly, Balkan proceeds to scrawl some numerals on the floor with a piece of chalk, muttering as he does so.

BALKAN: Six plus six plus six equals eighteen. One and eight. (even more triumphantly): One plus eight equals nine!

Balkan rises with chalk dust all over the knees of his pants. He goes to his briefcase and takes out a sheaf of torn engravings.

At this point, if the characters have not been spotted yet, they will be now and held fast by a brief gesture and snarl from Balkan.

Balkan regards them with disdain.

“What impertinence! Coming here.  Thinking you could savour any kind of conclusion.  You bungled it, damn you! You failed me all along the line! Thanks to your lack of initiative, I was compelled to do my own dirty work. And I did it! I got these myself! See, here they are! (brandishes the engravings, speaks with mounting vehemence) Nine engravings or nine doors, and only an initiate can open them. Each door has two keys, each engraving discloses a number, a secret element and keyword to be interpreted in the light of reason and the Cabbala, the one true philosophy!”

He returns to the circle, kneels down again, and deals out the engravings like playing cards, one to a box, leaving three boxes empty.

“You don’t understand what’s going on here. You have before you the mystery of which men have dreamed throughout the centuries. Thousands have died an agonizing death in hopes of just a glimpse of what you’re about to see! And don’t be foolish enough to think this book actually conjures the Prince of Darkness.  He has never appeared to anyone, never! He’s a spirit – the spirit of pure evil. He manifests himself through his servants, of whom I’m proud to be one!”

five pointed star pentagram with burning eye a symbol of the Cthulhu Mythos Balkan reaches into his trouser pocket and extracts something wrapped in a piece of silken silvery cloth.  Unfolding the fabric he reveals a jagged chunk of what looks like black glass.  The atmosphere in the chamber changes dramatically; the air becomes charged and everyone senses through their subconscious that something deeply unnatural and alien is taking place.   The glass exudes a strange deep blue glow, as if it’s hollow and being held up against the light – even though this isn’t the case.  The air above the engravings begins to boil and flex.  Golden translucent shapes begin to seep from the surface of the engravings, forming in the seething air: angular lines connected by curves.   Balkan’s eyes glitter with childish delight, the lenses of his hornrims reflecting the fluttering flames of the fuel-burning lanterns.

# # #

.

He rises, walks quickly over to the little table, and opens The Nine Gates. Turning over several pages, he tears out an engraving. His voice betrays rising excitement, his face assumes a look of insane fervour.

“Three copies, but only nine of their twenty-seven engravings hold the key, and I have them all! (tears out two more engravings in quick succession) I have only to complete the sequence. Then the Serpent will enter the seal of Saturn, and I – I shall enter the Ninth Gate!”

Balkan returns to the circle, kneels down once more and neatly positions the three engravings in the empty boxes.

five pointed star pentagram with burning eye a symbol of the Cthulhu MythosHe holds the Crystal of Dalzan out and his fervour is momentarily diminished.  He frowns, thinking aloud. “One is missing.  The final gate remains hidden beyond sight.  Yes… yes, I must use the first key before I can use the second.”

# # #

.

Balkan rises, goes to the table, and pours himself a drink from the vacuum flask. He gargles with it, swallows, and shakes himself like a wet dog. Whatever the flask contained, it seems to have invigorated him.

Seizing the jerrican, he removes the cap and dribbles fuel around the circle, then picks up one of the fuel-burning lamps and hurls it at the floor. The lamp smashes and ignites the fuel instantly, he’s ringed with fire.

He draws himself up and stands erect in the centre of the circle with flames dancing all around him.

“I give you my allegiance, Master. I surrender myself unto you body and soul. Let me fear neither noose, nor sword, nor poison. Let me walk unscathed among lepers and the plague-ridden. Erase me from the Book of Life and inscribe me in the black Book of Death. Let it be so! Let it be so now!”

His voice is fervent and there is a wild-eyed, demented look on his face.

Talking ecstatically, Balkan says,

“Yes, master, yes! Oh, thank you, thank you! I can feel the power flowing through me like an electric current, rendering me capable of any achievement, mental or physical! I could float on air, walk on water.”

He stoops and dabbles his hands in the ring of fire.  Looking at the rigid characters he says:

“See? I plunge my hands in fire and feel no heat.”

He picks up the jerrican and inverts it over his head, dousing himself in the contents, then hurls it aside.

Balkan calls out names in a mounting frenzy,

“Admay, Eloy, Agla, Zatel, Gebal, Elimi, Ashtoreth, Moloch, Shamash, Dagon…”

With a whoosh, he himself catches fire. Flames play over his ecstatic figure.

BALKAN: It’s miraculous! I feel nothing, nothing at all!

He emits another triumphant laugh that soars up the scale until it becomes a high-pitched scream of agony. He starts to caper around, slapping at his clothes, his face, his hair.

As Balkan drops to the ground and begins rolling around in a frenzy, the characters feel the paralysis of their limbs fading.

They cannot save Balkan, but they can put him out of his misery. They can certainly reclaim the engravings because, eerily, none of them burn except one… the image of the female riding the monster.

five pointed star pentagram with burning eye a symbol of the Cthulhu MythosThe Crystal of Dalzan has tumbled from Balkan’s hand. It now lies amongst the flames causing them to flux and churn in strange, unsettling patterns. If they pick it up it is cool to the touch.

# # #

.

.

Nothing else happens until they return to the vehicle.

There, on the windshield of Balkan’s vehicle is a folded sheet of paper.

In neat handwriting it says:

HERMANOS CENIZA – RESTAURACION DE LIBROS

Toledo

PS: The 9th Engraving was a forgery

The characters should recall the twins that Liana Telfer bought her copy of the Nine Gates from.

Optional Twist to this scene

The notion of travelling all the way back to Toledo might be prohibitive to the scenario reaching a conclusion, especially in the world of Yellow Dawn where long distance travel can be difficult, and very expensive. If the GM wishes, they can replace this sheet of paper with the genuine 9th Gate engraving by LCF.  The one in the Balkan/ Telfer copy was a forgery inserted by the Ceniza brothers.

The Ceniza Brothers – Toledo

As they round the corner and head down the deserted alleyway they saw earlier in the scenario they see no scaffolding, just sandblasted walls and freshly painted window frames and grilles.

Crossing the courtyard to the steps that led down to the Cenizas’ workshop, the characters will stop short and stare. The old door ‘HERMANOS CENIZA – RESTAURACION DE LIBROS’ has been taken off its hinges and propped on its side against the basement wall. The display window is just a gaping hole: the window frame has been ripped out, exposing the masonry surrounding it. The whirr of a power tool can be heard.

Descending the steps the characters can survey the interior.  The hand press has disappeared and the floor is littered with debris. Pale rectangular patches on the grey walls indicate where counters and cabinets have been ripped out.

Two Spanish workmen are busy detaching an old cabinet from the wall with an electric screwdriver.

1ST WORKMAN:  Oiga!

The workmen stop and wait for the characters to explain what they want; however, their English is very poor and they seem irritated by the interruption to their work.

Once the characters are able to convey they’re looking for the previous owners…

2ND WORKMAN: Ah… They dead, many years.

The characters may express puzzlement; may try and state they were here not long ago and spoke to the Ceniza brothers.

The 2nd Workman looks at his colleague, shrugs and chuckles as if to convey that the characters are crazy, like most foreigners.

1ST WORKMAN: Disculpe (excuse me, in Spanish).

He indicates that the characters are in the way.  The workmen return to unscrewing the old cabinet.  They manhandle the cabinet away from the wall and tilt it forward prior to laying it face down on the floor.

As they do so, a dusty piece of paper slides off the top of the cabinet and seesaws to the floor like a falling leaf.

If the characters pick it up they will see it’s the Ninth Engraving: THE WOMAN RIDING A SEVEN-HEADED DRAGON WITH A CASTLE ABLAZE IN THE BACKGROUND.

The woman’s face bears a strong resemblance to that of Angel.

What options now exist for the characters?

Return to the Château de Puivert.

Any characters approaching the location whilst in possession of all 9 LCF engravings will notice the sky changing dramatically as they get close.  It darkens, even if there are no clouds in the sky; the colours of the sky warp as if projecting light from a rainbow coloured kaleidoscope.   The atmosphere becomes unnaturally still as if every living thing – even the coarse shrubs on this bleak mountain terrain – are holding their breath.

They will notice that any vehicles they left behind are still there and there is the faintest trace of smoke.  However, where the archway was once an empty aperture it now contains a solid-looking gate.

It is only as they are twenty metres or so away that the gate opens, slowly and purposefully – nothing is visible beyond except a blinding golden light. It pours from the aperture, a dazzling radiance that illuminates the landscape around the characters.  Who dares go through?  Who dares to experience the Ninth Gate?

Consequences:

This can be entirely down to the GMs discretion or you can use the idea I’ve presented below.  Do they go the realm of Lucifer?  If Hell is a fabrication of the Catholic church – what does that make the Prince of Darkness?  What about duality – the primary symbolism woven throughout the Nine Gates engravings?  For me, placing this scenario firmly within the realm of Yellow Dawn – any character who steps through the “gate” will discover the delusion of their flesh, will see the boundaries of physical, material reality, and will have the essence of the Hokan (mystical, non-human race) rise up within them, to consume them, to become them.  Is it death or liberation?  Is it the end or Enlightenment?  Again, GMs should feel free to weave in their own views here.  For me, either the characters go through some dramatic transformation – allowing them to return to normal reality as Hokan “in human guise” or the characters go on in a new higher form, beyond the hands of the players.  If the latter, then I would certainly reward the players for their bravery and sacrifice, such as given massive bonuses when they come to roll-up a new character.

.

five pointed star pentagram with burning eye a symbol of the Cthulhu Mythos Lay out the nine LCF engravings within proximity of the Crystal of Dalzan.

This can happen anywhere.  It doesn’t need to take place at Château de Puivert.  The engravings can be laid out in any sequence.  Once the process is begun it cannot be stopped.  The “invisible” light of the crystal picks out and activates the magickal constructs woven into the engravings.  This piece of Crystal is what Lucifer – a Hokan – held in his hand as he plunged into the true Darkness of the Outer Chaos, he travelled beyond the Void.  The light from the Crystal helped him “see”.  When he returned, he used the same light to weave the lines of this auto-completing operation together.

The illuminated symbols are translucent gold; they’re lines forming angular shapes connected by curves. When all nine are revealed, they begin to glide together; fusing to form a large triangular window.  Beyond the window is a darkness that is more chilling than any night-terror the characters may have had as children; there is a primal fear to be experienced here, the “wrongness” of what is beyond this window washes over everybody in waves.  Anxiety and despair should become acute.  In Yellow Dawn everyone should make an Anxiety check or lose (1d6/ 5d6 COOL); there is a strong chance that people will flee at this point.  (Call of Cthulhu players can swap the Anxiety check for a SAN roll).

Worse, the physical nature of the immediate surroundings (the space framing the window) begins to stutter and flex in abrupt rapid bursts.  There’s a sense that reality is straining to hold the weight of this thing in place, that some immense strain is being placed upon the very fabric of what humans perceive as existence.

Things that should not be seen by mortal minds begin to drift into view – greasy flanks of diseased flesh, bubbling up with gelatinous eyes and randomly forming mouths; these sickening  orifices are lipless, encrusted in a sulphurous rind from an eternity drifting through the blackness of the Outer Cosmos without feeding.  With trembling, cancerous tentacles swirling about them, they latch onto the edges of the triangular frame and bring those grotesque mouths to bear on the membrane that stops them actually passing through; those insane eyes swell and multiply as the monstrous things gorge themselves on some…energy.  Anxiety Check or loose (1d6/1d20 COOL).

Yet even as they feast, their form begins to blister and suppurate as boils rapidly form and burst, leaving trails of fluid and flecks of rancid flesh that freeze and then vaporise in the heat of some unseen source.

Something…beyond the immediate sight of the window.

Do the characters dare to look?

If they step forward they will see there is a ledge of golden translucent stone-like material set into the base of the triangular window; the ledge has the impression of being a seating area, providing an uninterrupted view of what lies beyond. This is true.  If anybody climbs down onto the ledge they will feel as though they are sitting surrounded by Outer Space.  But this is no ordinary volume of the cosmos.  This the Heart of Absolute Darkness; the Pit of Utter Formlessness.  In the periphery there are great swirls of cosmic gasses and beautiful conglomerations of colour and form; but these are galaxies in their death-throes, being burned-up and destroyed by the foul, potent and corruptive energy of the ‘flare’ that seethes in the centre of all things – the energy from which is destroying everything caught within its blaze.

Any character stepping down onto the ledge must make a COOL check (DIFFICULT) or be unable to resist the compulsion to look.

Any character who does look will experience every nerve fibre throb with a fiery sensation; this rapidly expands into a hellish burn as their flesh and their very soul is boiled away – not consumed, not absorbed or stolen, just vaporised into nothing.

Why?

Why did Lucifer create this window when there was so much else he witnessed on his plunge through the vistas of the Great Mythos?

The answer… ah, well there’s a mystery for the characters to solve.

Crystal of Dalzan

A jagged chunk of what looks like black glass, can easily fit into the palm of an adult hand.  The glass exudes a strange deep blue glow, as if it’s hollow and being held up against the light – even though this isn’t the case.  It will reveal anything normally considered “invisible” to the Hokan (complex energies that are beyond the sensory range of Hokan), equally so, anything invisible to humans is made visible.

.

Occult horror detective thriller novel set in near future sci-fi cyberpunk - Dantes Fool by British author David J Rodger

See more posts like this – click

David J Rodger – DATA

.

WiP: reworking the map of the land, points of interest and encounters

Busy, busy, busy, progress with the overhaul of Yellow Dawn continues apace. Currently redeveloping the “mapping the land”, “points of interest” and “travelling encounters” and pleased by how much extra stuff I’m bringing in. Some of this I’ll be posting online to download for free, as it represents an upgrade for existing users of YD2.1. Although spending my morning coffee break fleshing out a scenario idea based on The Ninth Gate. Mythos style. :o)

The Ninth Gate Lucas Corso examines the authenticity of the The Nine Doors To the Kingdom of Shadows De Umbrarum Regis Novum Portis

Lucas Corso checks authenticity of The Nine Doors To the Kingdom of Shadows

You might also like this:

  • The Ninth Gate: occult and tarot-like symbolism in the engravings by Aristide Torchia and Lucifer, plus wider meanings of the movie – click 
See more posts like this – click

David J Rodger – DATA