Call of Cthulhu Actual Play: The Haunted Landscape of Ka'tori
Tuesday, June 15, 1920. Kingsport, Massachusetts
Evelyn Mercer, director of the Mercer Art Gallery had engaged the services of one of her occasional artists, Fredrik Tardiff, to solve a mystery in line with his experiences. Tardiff had been recovering from bouts with the supernatural - he'd returned from Greenland about a year ago after uncovering signs of the lost Hyperborean civilization. Spending the next six months pouring over the Book of Eibon he'd acquired was perhaps not the best idea for his mental well being but he had spent the past several months focused on mundane painting. Unfortunately, most of his former companions were unavailable - some having wisely retired from supernatural investigation, others taking advantage of Prohibition to pursue a life of mundane crime. He'd made the acquaintance of an antiquarian but he was apparently spending time abroad, currently in a yurt in Mongolia uncovering the history of an ancestor who had spent time living among the Khalkha. Grant Oil, Miskatonic Librarian by day and jazz player by night was available and he made a motorcycle ride to Arkham to pick him up.
Mrs. Mercer explained to Oil and Tardiff that industrialist Archibald Collins had acquired Paesaggio Sinistro di Ka'tori, "The Haunted Landscape of Ka'tori", painted by the mad Italian artist Timoteo Colasanti in 1503. Rebuffed by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and Boston's Museum of Fine Art, he had chosen to show it at the Mercer Gallery.
The painted presented an alien landscape. Tragedy had befallen many of its owners, though the painting itself has miraculously survived all of these - the Great Fire of London, the wreck of the East Indiaman Doddington, the slave revolt at the Castairs Plantation in 1860.
And now Archibald Collins had vanished. And the painting... well the room in the gallery it was in was now filled by alien plant life which seemed to almost be a continuation of the plants in the painting. The pair examined it... It was as if a jungle had been in the gallery for years. A hostile jungle, as the vines snaked around Tardiff's throat though he was able to escape with Oil's help.
Archibald's wife, Rachel, explained that her husband had been obsessed with some manuscript he'd been studying at the Miskatonic University's Orne Library. Early yesterday morning he'd picked up some documents from their room but she hadn't seen him since they went to bed Sunday night - she recalled his actions slightly waking her from her slumber in the room they'd rented in the Harbor Place Hotel but she'd gone right back to sleep.
Traveling back to the Orne Library they found Collins had been researching the Colasanti Manuscript - having had a photostat of the brief document made of it. Moreover, it seemed he'd torn out the last page of it, one they could have used...
Manuscript of Timoteo Colasanti, circa 1503. Translated from Italian.
Night after night I dreamed of the realm of Ka’tori. A world like our own, but far more ancient and hiding great secrets of power. A world known to Eibon of old Hyperborea and Cykranosh. It is real, quite real. Pope Alexander VI, once Rodrigo de Borja, did all he could to prevent me from accessing the wisdom of Eibon so I could find lost Ka’tori.
I have visited Ka’tori. Not just in my mind but in the flesh. I have used all my talents to make a painting so real that it can be used to visit Ka’tori. I have found an ancient tower of Eibon there – little more than ruins with the passage of aeons, but what I have learned from those ruins has given me power to dwarf that of the shepherd god of fat Rodrigo!
On the second page of this manuscript I have drawn the chant required to make the passage depending on the position of the sun and the moon. But be warned – the chant will work and only one as powerful as I or Eibon should make this passage.
I have used my fortune obtain the pigments detailed on the third page of this manuscript – if followed precisely any such painting will be nigh indestructible save for the solvent I have described on the fourth page.
I do not fear committing this to writing for only one who has dreamt of Ka’tori would know what to draw with the pigments. And only one as talented as I could give it the breath of life needed to bridge the ether between the worlds.
Ulnagr Tsathoggua! Covfefe Yog-Sothoth! [No translation available]
With some work, Tardiff was able to translate the code that would open a passage to Ka'tori based on the solar and lunar positions. As the original charts were based on the Julian Calendar, it seemed possible that Collins may have neglected to account for that. In such a case, Tardiff believed the portal would still be opened but it would not close properly, occasionally opening for brief moments, explaining the strange plant life.
Returning to Kingsport early in the morning of the 16th, they found the plants were thankfully dormant in the cooler night air. Tardiff made the necessary chant and the painting turned into a portal, pulling them across the light years to Ka'tori. Both felt weak by the transition, Tardiff especially so.The portal on Ka'tori took the form of a stone archway. And no sooner had they arrived but they found themselves under attack by the plants. Oil readied his Great War rifle but did not need to use it - they were rescued by an elderly man and two younger men, all armed with torches. It turned out that the elderly man went by the name of Scipio and had been a slave in the Castairs Plantation back in 1860 - and had been a ringleader in the revolt. Most of the slaves had survived and had settled here on Ka'tori where the few remaining lived with their descendants.
Scipio explained they had no desire to return to Earth but they would gladly give information to stop the white devil who had recently arrived from Earth. Collins had slain one of their number and rose up his corpse as a type of zombie.
Oil and Tardiff made their way to Eibon's ruined observatory, little more than a ruined pile of rubble. Veterans of the Great War, they were able to approach stealthily, avoiding the zombie sentry (Tardiff with help from Oil). They heard Collins arguing with himself - enraged there were no tomes to be found here - apparently Colasanti had taken them all back to Earth. They worked there way into the observatory to confront Collins who was indeed now mad. Reason not working, Tardiff attempted to grapple him before he could get off any of his vile sorcery. Unfortunately Collins drained much of the life out of Tardiff, nearly killing him. Oil shot Collins in the head with his rifle, a shot that barely penetrated his magical protection. Before Collins could recover from the headshot Oil killed him with his bayonet and gave first aid to Tardiff. They found the final page of the manuscript on Collins' person and were able to gather the necessary materials to destroy the painting. Though sickened and weak, Tardiff was able to make it back to the portal with Oil's help.
Casting the portal spell again, they traveled back to Earth, another harrowing journey which nearly killed the weakened Tardiff. They used the solvents they had gathered to destroy the painting, cutting off the connection to Ka'tori. They explained to Mrs. Mercer and Mrs. Collins that regretfully Mr. Collins had expired and there was nothing they could have done to save him.