Session Summary #3 -- "The Book of Thoth"

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The Book of Thoth
Dead Lands Session Summary #3 (Group A): The Book of Thoth

In the aftermath of the previous adventure, Mr. Peter Linten managed to acquire an artifact known as the Eye of Ra, which allowed him to see anything on the Earth that could be seen by the sun. He used this (and his cats) extensively to monitor the activities of others, including the American antiquarian, Hiram Warcroft. At one point, Linten observed Hiram Warcroft exactly 33 and 1/3 cubits directly west of the largest pyramid of Giza, on a day holy to Thoth, the ibis-headed god of language, mathematics, wisdom, medicine, and the moon, performing some sort of ritual dedicated to Thoth just as the sun crested the top of the pyramid. Mr. Warcroft later sent a package off to America, "greasing the gears" as per his usual method of dealing with mail in third world countries, and Linten sent Salla to try to deliver a bribe to intercept the package in order to discern what might be inside. Salla's attempt met with failure, as the money was taken, but he was thrown out nonetheless.

In the basement of the Egyptian Museum of Cairo, the heroes were gathered together as Professor Hedgefield of the British Museum of London briefed them on a shrine apparently devoted to Thoth that had been found buried in silt at the bottom of a riverbed recently drained as part of a waterworks project off one of the branches of the Nile Delta, near the port town of Rosetta. The British Museum was sponsoring an expedition, and expecting the Egyptian Museum to head out. Therefore, some of the people gathered were there on behalf of the British Museum, while others represented Egyptian interests.

While Mr. Peter Linten took Salla aside to discuss matters with him, Nigel and Arcadia heard some commotion upstairs. They rushed to investigate, with the others following, and discovered a number of thugs in one of the main rooms of the museum. A skylight had been broken open, and Rashad ibn Mossad - a nemesis of Salla, and a priest of Set - had used his powers to burrow a hole through the floor to reach the secret hiding place where the Eye of Ra had been stored, at the end of a tunnel that was only large enough for a cat to reach it, and concealed inside a figurine of Bast. As the heroes entered, those with guns ready opened fire, one thug with a knife climbed a statue of Bast, and Rashad enacted a dark spell to animate the (stuffed) corpse of a giant crocodile to buy some time while he went to steal the true Eye of Ra. (One of his minions had mistakenly broken the glass of a display containing the false Eye of Ra, thus alerting the heroes downstairs.)

In the ensuing battle, Roland Girond, Nigel and Salla dealt with the thugs, while Arcadia tried to sneak around, and Mr. Linten called upon Bast to give him the form of a black panther ... whereupon he clambered up to the rafters and dashed across the room to survey the scene beyond. By this time, Rashad had retrieved the Eye, and was climbing up the ropes to the roof ... where a satchel of jars of nitro glycerin were waiting for him to dump in as a means of thwarting pursuit (and, initially, to "cover up" the theft). Salla, in a heroic maneuver of epic proportions, drew out a single knife, then threw it all the way up to slice the rope right above where Rashad was clinging! The Eye of Ra fell from his jacket, but Peter Linten, in the form of a panther, managed a leap to snatch it out from mid-air and to land safely on the other side. Rashad, meanwhile, fell right into the jaws of the still-animated giant crocodile, and met a quick and bloody end ... whereupon the crocodile promptly became still once more. Amazingly, Nigel, who had been struggling with a knife-wielding thug, managed to miss the whole supernatural exchange, thus further maintaining a firm grasp on his "Doubting Thomas" approach to life. Salla, meanwhile, retrieved his knife ... and an amulet of Set from the body of Rashad.

Linten escaped with the Eye of Ra once more, this time putting it inside a safe, and posting guards to keep watch over it directly. Then, a change of clothes later, he reemerged as the museum's guards were trying to deal with the mess. (Roland had managed to come down with the nitroglycerin without detonating it.) Linten and Salla took Arcadia to a private place - that is, the Shrine of Bast underground - with a couple of trusted servants bringing the body of Rashad. They had Arcadia summon Anubis, and then asked him to find out what he could from the deceased Rashad and let them know. Anubis agreed only if he be granted the promise of a favor, to be specified later. He told them that Rashad was a follower of Set, and that he had most likely surmised the location of the Eye of Ra by tracing a ray of magical light that would trace from the sun in the sky to the location of the orb whenever it was used, if it was used with great frequency. To burrow into the earth, he could use a power of Set, and he probably wanted the orb for its power to see from the sky, or else to pervert it to be able to unleash the fire of the sun upon his enemies.

In any case, the Eye of Ra had been saved, and Hedgefield was impressed at how quickly the museum's security had acted to deal with the threat of a break-in. The heroes went their separate ways to get some rest for the next day, when they would head out to investigate this shrine devoted to Thoth.

The next morning, they headed out, and arrived near Rosetta in the blazing mid-day sun, some of them fairly tuckered by the experience. They found the entrance, and parked the supply truck outside. Roland Girond came in a separate truck with the bottles of nitro glycerin. (No one wanted to ride with him.) A driver for the British Museum stayed with the truck, but this aroused the suspicions of Peter Linten, so he assigned his servant, Achmed, to watch the Brit. They entered the first chamber, which had a strange pattern on the floor of nested crescents forming a circular shape, with several etchings on it. It also had a wealth of astronomical and astrological information inscribed on the walls, of such complexity that it might take weeks, even months to read it all.

Nigel observed that the etchings on the floor seemed to follow some sort of pattern, and tried moving one of the crescents. It was discovered that they would actually roll. Linten determined that all the crescents should be lined up to point in the same direction, to mirror a crescent image that appeared on the door. (An inscription on the door also said, "To proceed, you must find Thoth, who will show you the way.") Once the crescents were lined up according to his dictates, and the circle in the center was aligned, there was a hissing noise from beneath the floor. Nigel stood in his spot on one of the crescents, while Linten leapt off, crossing the cracks between the crescents in the process. This proved to be his undoing, as an acid spray shot up, ruining his trousers thoroughly. The puzzle then reset itself, and Nigel waited until the crescents came to a stop before stepping off onto stable ground again.

Nigel came up with the notion that the crescents might be arranged to form a picture, and Linten proposed the idea of pouring motor oil into the cracks to make them more easily visible, as they were badly worn. They did this, and rearranged the crescents ... forming an image of Thoth. At this point, the door opened, providing admittance to the next area. Linten, however, took a detour to get himself some work clothes to replace his ruined trousers.

In the next chamber, the heroes were presented with another puzzle ... a 5x5 grid of pressure tiles with symbols on them, and rows of 5 pressure tiles on each side. The walls were covered in mathematical and geometric diagrams, equations and theorems. An inscription said, "To proceed, you must find the path that will take you to the other side. The others will not." Each tile had on it a directional mark and a number of indentations, from one to four. Salla inspected and discovered that some sort of acid trap was involved, as in the previous room, but that here the acid might not be quite as directed. About this time, Hiram Warcroft drove up in a jeep. Linten was very dubious about Warcroft's presence, wondering why he was there, but Warcroft had been hired as a photographer ... and started off by taking photographs of all the areas explored so far. Linten tried to figure out a way to thwart the trap, and took the tarps from the backs of the two trucks, and wet them down with as much water as he could get, then rolled them over the floor. This triggered the tiles and set off a chemical reaction, filling the room with acidic spray, but he managed to get out in time to avoid further injury.

The group struggled over some sort of solution, but at last, while the others were in the other room arguing, Roland Girond impulsively decided to try out his own theory. He visually traced a path across the tiles, presuming that the number of dots meant how many steps one should take after stepping on the particular tile, and the mark meant in which direction. He found a path that, if taken, would deposit him on the other side, whereas the others would either deposit one on the near side, or into a wall. He took a tentative step ... then another ... and at last made his way across the tiles, to the other side. He then called to the others, and it took a bit of yelling to convince them that he was already on the other side, before they came to check for themselves. Sure enough, the path he had traced was firm and devoid of traps ... and when he got to the other side, a door opened up to reveal the next chamber.

In the next chamber, they found that the walls were covered with historical data ... including an account all the way up to the time of the Crusades ... and, like the other rooms previous, it still had blank spots with room for more. At the far end was a balance, and there were nine coins, each with a different mark. According to the inscription, "Thoth presented to the other gods a puzzle. You have a balance, which you may use only three times, to determine which of nine coins is different from the others. All of the coins, save one, weigh the same. Thoth would not tell the others whether the different coin was heavier or lighter. In order to proceed, you must solve Thoth's puzzle, and put the correct coin in his hand." Roland discovered that there were several indentations around the room, suggesting secret panels of some sort, but he was unable to discern their purpose.

Warcroft and Salla worked on the logistics of the puzzle, and Roland was the first to suggest dividing the coins into three groups of three. Warcroft came up with a solution, but Salla rephrased it in a way that the others could understand, and demonstrated his method by using the coins as "props" and showing how they would proceed depending upon the results of each weigh. Once they had gone through the plan to the satisfaction of the entire group, they weighed the coins as planned, three times, and came up with a single coin that had to be the odd coin in the group. As soon as the lever had first been pulled, though ... the door had closed, sealing them in. However, when the coin was put in a slot at the depiction of Thoth's hand, the door opened up ... and also the door to the next chamber.

In the next chamber, the group found a series of blue tiles going across the floor, suggesting a river. There were three statues set in grooves capable of moving across the river- one represented a cat, the other a bird, and the last a jar of grain. An inscription said, "There was a priest who wished to cross the Nile. He had with him a boat capable of carrying only himself and one of his possessions. With him, he had a blessed cat, a blessed bird, and a jar of grain. How could he safely get all three across the river? You must solve this puzzle in order to proceed."

This puzzle took the group hardly any time at all, as Warcroft - with some input from others - discerned that the trick was that the bird could not be left with the grain, and the cat could not be left with the bird on any side where the man was not located. So, they moved the figures across (and back, as necessary) the "Nile", until all were on the other side, in seven moves. The door opened, revealing yet another chamber, in the middle of which was what appeared to be a giant statue of a snake-like being with four arms. Warcroft set up his camera and took a picture ... whereupon the creature's eye snapped open, glaring at him balefully. Linten promptly rushed into the room ... whereupon the creature attacked him visciously.

What followed was a ferocious battle, as Salla used his holy symbols to try to hold the creature at bay, while Roland and Linten attempted to attack it in close combat. Roland fell to the onslaught, and Linten retreated ... then changed into the form of a lion. Arcadia, meanwhile, took on the form of an avatar of Anubis. Nigel managed to avoid seeing the transformation of two of his comrades, but when he came in and saw a serpent-like creature, a jackal-headed being, and a lion that charged in from nowhere, he had a great deal of trouble reconciling just what was going on. Nonetheless, he fired off a few shots at the snake-creature, joining the fray. At last, Salla defeated it by skewering it through the heart, whereupon it collapsed and turned to dust. The lion at this point was unconscious, but Arcadia drew upon her powers in the form of Anubis, and healed some of his wounds, and restored him to consciousness.

An inscription on the wall of this room read, "You may choose only one path: Health of the Body, Wealth of the World, or Knowledge For Its Own Sake." Arcadia, still in the avatar form, started walking toward the Knowledge entrance, and Linten, still in the form of a lion, bolted off as well. The lion made to bowl Arcadia over while passing, but she had taken a spear from the serpent guardian, and used it to bludgeon the lion within an inch of consciousness. However, Nigel, calling out for everyone to stop, and generally being ignored, took shots at Arcadia, striking her in the tail end. Warcroft used his "Shadow Walk" ability to teleport into the chamber, but as soon as the lion and Arcadia rushed in, they triggered a floor tile, causing doors to the other two rooms to start to close. Inside the "Knowledge" chamber was a pool of glowing water, with three goblets in front of it.

Meanwhile, Roland rushed into the room of "Health". As soon as he did so, the door to the Knowledge room started closing. He managed to snatch up a vial-ful of water from a fountain in there, then rushed out under the closing door. He took a sample of it, and found that his wounds were miraculously healed ... though it took the whole contents of the vial to do this. So, he rushed back in, grabbed two samples this time, and hurried out, hastily hiding one of the vials on his person ... and he managed to get out right before the door slammed the rest of the distance shut.

In the Knowledge room, the lion raced up to the pool, tried to hold a goblet in its paws, and ended up dropping it into the pool. The lion, uncertain what to do, paced around, then resumed trying, with similar failures. Warcroft picked up a goblet and filled it with liquid from the pool, then started uttering prayers to Thoth to ask for forgiveness, and to avoid the curse. Meanwhile, Arcadia studied sections of the walls. The lion, in lion-speak, said all sorts of foul things about Arcadia, but she understood it. He indicated a loose tile on the floor, and together they opened it, revealing a figurine of Sekhmet inside ... which Arcadia promptly snatched up. About this time, Warcroft realized he was running out of time, and made a dash for the door, trying to pour the liquid from the goblet into his canteen as he went. The others grabbed at his ankles from under the door to pull him through, causing him to spill both canteen and goblet in the process, as he had his hands rather full. What was worse, Hedgefield had called in to warn them that the dam had broken, and the riverbed was flooding!

At the last possible moment, the lion dug around in the hole, found a talisman with the image of Thoth on it, then dashed for the closing door. While skidding on the floor with the talisman in his mouth, he changed forms into a small housecat, so he would be small enough to slide under the door. However, this was done with the amulet in his mouth, causing it to become painfully wedged there, since he was no longer lion-sized. Despite the attempts of Salla and Roland to prop the door open (buying them a little more time, at least) the door slammed shut finally. Salla had managed to grab the cat (and amulet) out of the way, but Arcadia was still trapped inside. Lacking further time, everyone made a mad dash for the exit, and got into their respective vehicles to race off. As the water flooded into the riverbed and then into the shrine, it hit the nitroglycerin, causing it to explode, providing a dramatic backdrop to the fleeing explorers ... but they managed to escape in relative safety.

So ... is the last that we'll see of Arcadia and Anubis? Will Mr. Linten be able to talk again? Just what was the point of those puzzles, anyway? To find out this and more, don't miss a single exciting episode of Deadlands: 1936!

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