The Orient Express arrived in Trieste a few minutes before the evening hour of 8. Within the long, hangar-like structure of the stazione, a cold wind blew from the north with a terrible force that shook the train, and kept the bystanders on the platform limited to a few porters and attendants. A group of five people left the train and struggled against the wind as a handful of porters hauled their collection of bags, cases, and crates into a pair of waiting taxis. The vehicles slowly crept up the hill at the city's center as the wind shrieked about them, threatening to turn the cars onto their sides. The taxis finally made their way into the relatively protected car port of a posh hotel, and the passengers quickly darted inside to escape the numbing cold, while the hotel bellboys grunted beneath the weight of their baggage.
Ian looked out upon the frozen city of Trieste from the window of his penthouse room atop the splendid Hotel de Gloria. Normally he would have checked into a much more modest room in a much less elegant hotel, but the rich-bitch dilettante, Constantine Blueston, of the Boston Blueston's, Ian reminded himself, with a rather unflattering imitation of the high-bred (or in-bred more likely) Bostonian's accent, had insisted on staying at only the best places on their journeys, and had paid the other investigators' ways to keep them near her. Not that Constantine's money hadn't come in useful, Ian grudgingly acknowledged, but the easy access to unlimited funds had caused them to become lazy and sloppy with their investigative efforts, and quite possibly caused more delays and missed clues than if the team had been forced to rely on their wits rather than Miss Blueston's wallet. As Ian gazed out his window again he thought back upon the words Professor Smith had spoken, a full month before, that led the group to Trieste: "Another fragment of the Sedefkar Simulicrum made its way to Trieste, but I don't know what became of it. Look up Johann Winckelmann at the museum there." The team had already found three fragments of that accursed statue: the left arm outside of Paris, the Torso in Milan, and the left leg in Venice, but they had also lost one of their companions near London, and he himself had almost died while trying to carry the leg down from a clock tower in Venice. They were also searching for scrolls concerning the Simulicrum, and had found one in some bizarre dream version of Lausanne, Switzerland. Ian shivered. He hadn't forgotten the strange creature he had seen at the top of the clock tower only two nights ago, nor the cruel murders in Venice, and the strange, foul stench that filled the canal waters and caused the citizens to go, apparently, mad with terror, superstition and paranoia. Whatever awaited them in Trieste, Ian hoped retrieving the next fragment of the Simulicrum would be a relatively straight forward affair, but he was wise enough not to count on it.
By morning, the winds had subsided to strong gusts, and the investigators set out for the Museo di Storia e d'Arte. Ian had decided to leave the team on their own, and take it easy in his hotel room, recovering from the fall down the clock tower stairs, and since this left the group without anyone who could speak Italian, Constantine hired a young man, Joseppi, from the hotel staff to act as a translator. Professor Vaughan had already heard of Johann Winckelmann, as all students of archaeology had, for Winckelmann was known as the father of modern archaeology. At the museum, the group asked for Winckelmann and was directed outside, to a deserted, cold and windy rock garden. At the far end of the garden was a small Greek temple, within which was the tomb for Johann Winckelmann, who had died in Trieste in 1768.
While the museum held a number of artifacts donated by the Winckelmann estate, the curator had no useful information to offer about the history of the famous archaeologist, and recommended that the investigators check the library. Soon after, Mac and Professor Vaughan had found that Winckelmann turned back from a trip to his home in Stendal, and made his way to Trieste for some unknown reason. He had told a close friend that something was amiss with his life, and the problem centered around Trieste. While in Trieste, Winckelmann was murdered by a local thief, Francesco Arcangeli, who was later arrested and executed. Winckelmann's diary had been sold to a Giovanni Termona, a local historian. Acting on a hunch, the investigators asked about the Termona family at the front desk of the library, and were informed that the Termona's were a well known and respected family of scholars.
At the Termona estate, the investigators were invited out of the wind, where they were introduced to Antoni Termona. Antoni remembered the diary, and explained that it was written in an archaic Greek dialect, which his family had never bothered to translate. He agreed to allow the team to use the diary, and perhaps provide him with a translation, as long as they returned it within a few days. Antoni suggested a local Greek scholar, Marco Montanelli, who could probably translate the strange dialect, and handed the diary to Constantine for safe keeping. Later that day, Montanelli looked over the diary, and estimated it would take several weeks to make a proper translation, but upon seeing the investigator's dismay at such a long time, he quickly added that a quick translation, capturing only the highlights of the contents, could be made in one or two days, for a large fee. Constantine paid the fee and left the diary with him.
By evening, the frigid, high winds from the north had returned to gale-force, and the team took shelter in their hotel rooms. The winds remained intense throughout the next day, as the company made their way back to the museum to once again check out the Winckelmann exhibit. Both on their way and back from the museum, the group noticed that they were being followed and watched by a tall, thin man, with bright red hair, except for a single shock of black hair, hanging down over his forehead. When the team attempted to confront the man, he quickly drove away.
On the following day, the winds were once again relatively calm, and the group anxiously awaited word from Montanelli, who was to call them when he had finished the crude translation of the diary. Several times that day, the team noticed the thin red headed man watching them, but were unable to approach him. Shortly after noon, a package arrived at the hotel from Montanelli, containing the diary and the promised translation. The investigators quickly poured over the notes, and found out several amazing facts:
Winckelmann had found a medallion, which he traced to a horrid colony of creatures that contacted him each night in his dreams, and instructed him to bring the medallion to them in their caverns near Trieste.
In Trieste, Winckelmann met Arcangeli, who apparently knew of the beasts, and the location of their caverns, but later, Winckelmann realized he could not trust Arcangeli, who wanted to steal the amulet and deliver it to the creatures himself.
Winckelmann hid the medallion somewhere in Trieste, and waited for the unlikely time when Arcangeli might be distracted, and Winckelmann could retrieve the medallion unnoticed, and deliver it to the entities.
The investigators once again went to the library, to find information on nearby caverns. As they left the cab, they noticed a group of well-dressed Turks watching them from one car, while the red-headed man watched the team from another. Puzzled, the company entered the library, and began their research, which quickly yielded results: the Caverns at Postumia, which were only 50 miles north of Trieste. Outside the library, the wind was again picking up, and as they watched, the Turks hauled off the red headed man, shoved him into their car, and drove away, while another Turk watched them from across the street. Unnerved, the team returned to their hotel, where they found the high winds had blown down the power lines, and dinner was being served by candlelight.
Ian, who was feeling much better after three days of rest, joined his companions for dinner, which became an ordeal of supernatural events. Their table began to rise, and then dropped heavily to the floor. Constantine screamed as she saw maggots crawling out from the chicken she was eating, and felt others squirming in her mouth, but nobody else could see the maggots, and the vision soon passed. Miranda's wine glass filled by itself with a thick red liquid, the overflowed into a pool of blood on the table. The glass overturned by itself, and the blood was revealed to be simply wine. Mac picked up a knife, and found it burning cold, freezing to his skin so he couldn't drop it. The knife rose into the air, drawing Mac with it, and made repeated stabbing motions, then dropped to the floor. The other guests stared at the investigators with disdain. Near the kitchen door, the team spotted a pale figure staring at them, when Miranda got up to approach him, the figure passed through the kitchen doors; however the staff in the kitchen insisted that no one had entered.
Unsettled, the group returned to their rooms, but the bizarre events were only beginning, as candles were suddenly snuffed out, or extinguished candles burst into flames, doors swung open, a fire in a fireplace began to burn with an eerie blue glow, as the temperature in the room grew colder and colder, and objects were flung about, until the investigators themselves were thrown out of their rooms, and into the hallway. After hearing the commotion in the halls, Constantine joined her companions, but declared that no strange events had occurred in her room, where the companions regrouped to discuss what was going on. Suddenly, a ponderous knock sounded at the door, which swung open to reveal a small man with a pale face and black garments. The investigators recognize him as Johann Winckelmann, although his face was somewhat cadaverous, and the door could clearly be seen through his body! The ghost began to speak, and finding that Ian spoke Italian, he told of the creatures in the caverns, and how they collected magical artifacts. Winckelmann wanted the investigators to return the medallion he found to these creatures, so that his spirit could rest. The ghost then motioned for the team to follow him.
Outside, the company struggled against the howling wind, as the ghost led them down the hill to a boarded up villa. Winckelmann passed through the locked door, but it took Mac and Ian a few minutes to force the lock. In the darkness, the ghost led the team down a flight of stairs, and pointed at a spot in the floor. Digging down, Ian and Mac discovered a stone floor, at which point the ghost indicated they should life the stone. Beneath the stone was a mass of rotten leather, and when Mac reached down to pick up the leather, it fell apart to reveal a gold medallion. Mac acted peculiar after touching the medallion, and refused to let anyone else touch it. He also seemed unaffected by the biting cold, and when the team left the shelter of the villa to the screaming wind, Mac seemed unaffected by it as well. Of the ghost, the investigators could find no sign.
In the morning, the team returned to the museum to find any additional information about the medallion. However, once they left their taxi, a pathetic figure ran towards them and indicated, as best he could without hands or a tongue, that the investigators should not enter the museum. Suddenly, the investigators noticed two groups of people approaching them: a group of Turks, including a short, fat man with red hair and a black shock over his forehead, and a group of locals: both groups had drawn guns. The team quickly dove back into their taxi, dragging along the maimed man who had warned them, as gunfire erupted around them. Driving away, the team decided to return Winckelmann's diary to Antoni Termona, but after hearing this plan, the maimed man once again became upset, and indicated that this was a very bad idea. The group then decided to head straight for the caverns at Postumia, after letting the stranger out in a run down section of town, where he vanished into the maze of alleys.
At Postumia the investigators purchased electric torches, then bought tickets for the tour of the caverns. The tour was composed of a small train ride that lead them for two miles into the caverns, and a trail that lead from the end of the train ride deeper into the caverns and back again. Electric lights illuminated the caverns along the railway and trail. Their guide, Carlo, pointed out the highlights as the train took the team, whom were the only people visiting the caves, into the depths of the earth. At the end of the line, Carlo told them to follow the path in a loop farther in, and then back to the meeting point with the train. Above all, Carlo cautioned them, stay on the path. As soon as the investigators made their way around a bend in the path, desperately seeking some sort of a sign for the entrance of the creature's cavern, mentioned by Winckelmann, the lights went out. Behind them, the company could hear the calls and shouts of a large group of people, armed with electric torches, and heading their way. Quickly the investigators plunged further into the caverns, using a single torch, in the hopes that they wouldn't be seen by their pursuers. Finding a narrow crack in the rocks, the team hid while a group of armed men walked by. A few minutes later, the company watched as another group of men, without the aid of any lights, follow the first group. After they strangers had passed, the investigators moved down the caverns in the opposite direction, and continued their search. Soon, the sound of gunfire echoed in the caverns, and became louder as the combatants came nearer.
The investigators were again forced to hide - this time behind a set of stalactites and stalagmites that resembled teeth set in a huge maw, waiting to swallow them. Behind the teeth, the team found a small hole, leading to the largest chamber in the caverns they had yet seen. In the midst of the cavern was an enormous lake, along the edges of which were ever narrowing beaches. As they entered the chamber, a loud
voice spoke directly into their brains:
As the voice rang in their ears, the investigators struggled with feelings of despair and depression. After they gained control of their emotions (and bladders) the team noticed that along the near shore of the lake many objects lay encrusted with thin limestone deposits. Medallions, swords, knives, even scrolls were piled up all around, perhaps left as offerings to the creatures who dwelt here, and Winckelmann's statement that they collect magical artifacts echoed in their heads. The team began to search frantically for a fragment of the Sedefkar Simulicrum. As they searched, the voice once again thundered in their minds:
Ripples began to form in the black water of the lake, and still the investigators searched on. Within a quarter of an hour, they stumbled across a leg encased in limestone: the top of which had been stained with rust, making it appear as if it had been freshly severed. It was the right leg of the Simulicrum! Frantically Mac and Ian beat at the encasing limestone, and freed the leg. At the same time, two things happened: the shouts and gunfire now erupted again, but this time from the entrance of their chamber, and a large, monstrous form rose from the waters and approached the investigators, as the demand once again boomed in their brains.
The other investigators turned towards Mac, and begged him throw the medallion towards the hideous beast, but found that he was reluctant to do so. Finally, he told them that these creatures were lloigor, evil and powerful, and that giving them the medallion was no doubt a " bad thing".
With no other options, the team ran back towards the chamber's entrance, although the way was blocked with the two factions of fighting men. As they drew near the hole, they heard other noises from ahead: the snarling of some angry beast, and the screams of men. At the entrance were half a dozen men, some shot, some torn apart like rag dolls. The lloigor reached out towards them, but the investigators leapt through the hole, and back into the caverns. Quickly they ran along the train tracks, towards the entrance, leaving the sounds of guns, snarling, and screaming behind them.
They left the tracks near the caverns' entrance, and two figures from ahead stood and began to fire at the team, pinning them behind the rocks. Ian returned fire, but was shot in the shoulder, so Mac, using Ian's gun, made a miraculous shot and hit one of their opponents, dropping him like a side of beef. Suddenly the sound of snarling came from ahead, and as the team watched, a figure pulled the remaining guard down, screaming. Cautiously the group advanced towards the entrance, where they found the shredded remains of a man.
Once outside, the team ran to their taxi, the driver of which was fortunately instructed (and paid) to wait. Back in Trieste, the team gathered their belongings from the hotel, and made their way to the station, where they awaited the Orient Express, due to arrive in an hour. Too paranoid to enter any of the shops, cafés, or office that made up the station, the investigators huddled together in the cold wind (except for Mac, for whom the wind and the cold had no affect). A pulsating, throbbing sound began to form around them, and they realized that something strange was happening with Mac's medallion. Mac set the medallion down on the platform, and the investigators stepped away from it. The throbbing became intense, as a whirlwind of sound, air, and electricity burst forth from the medallion. Alas, Constantine was caught in the maelstrom, and her body was quite literally atomized, leaving her gore filled Gucci shoes behind. And as soon as it began, the whirlwind vanished, leaving the medallion sitting harmlessly on the platform. Cautiously, Mac picked it up, and the group stepped away from Constantine's shoes, waiting for the train.
In a café overlooking the station platform, Tilly had watched the harried group of travelers (there could be no mistaking them for anything but that) gather on the train platform and, for some reason she could not fathom, huddle against the wind rather than take refuge inside for the full hour before the next train was scheduled to arrive.
Tilly then heard, or more like felt, the strange throbbing from outside, then watched as the group backed away in a semi-circle from something on the ground. To her wonder, there was a flash, and one of the group had vanished, and then to Tilly's utter amazement, the rest of the group gathered together, as if nothing had happened, and continued to wait on the platform! Tilly had recently come from Athens, and had stopped in Trieste that morning on a lark, but quickly growing bored in the windy city, she decided to catch the night train for Venice. Not now. Her business instincts told her that following the group out on the platform would be the best opportunity to come her way yet.