Sofia & Beyond: Repossession
February 8 - 13

From: Interallied Police Report
Location: Svilengrad Bulgaria
Date: February 10, 1923
Subject: Orient Express Murders enroute from Sofia to Constantinople

On the evening of Friday, February 9, 1923, a group of Turkish terrorists boarded the Orient Express in Sofia, took control of the locomotive to prevent the train from making its scheduled stops, and proceeded to murder a number of passengers and staff on board. The Turks were forced to flee when the engine's fuel supply was exhausted, and the train came to a stop outside the city of Svilengrad. The victims included two Americans, Doctor Marabou and Madame Zelda, and five members of the train's staff: Hercule Bimini, conducteur, Frederic Gedin, controleur, Michel Tombroff, engineer, Ludo Dima, brake-man, and Hans Becker, fire-man. The terrorists are still at large.

The police, of course, know nothing. Not that I blame them, for we had no proof of our dreadful claims, save the mutilated bodies of our fallen companions, which were all too easily explained by more mundane, less insane accounts than those we provided. Of Fenalik, we have nothing: his body little more than a scattering of dust, and his coffin tossed overboard at some unknown point during the previous evening's hellish journey. If you must know, we (and the one hundred and twenty four other survivors on board the Orient Express) are suffering from delusions brought upon by the shock of the murders of our friends. Shock? Yes, I suppose that is true, but it was brought upon by the corrupt, corpse-like form of our adversary, Count Fenalik. I find it hard to believe that the horror only started five nights ago!

The trouble began soon after we left the detestable events in Belgrade. I had been browsing through an out-of-date copy of a Turkish paper from Sofia when I ran across a picture of a farmer holding the head of a statue, which he had apparently found buried in his field. The local authorities thought the artifact might be Byzantium, but my companions immediately identified it as the head of the Sedefkar Simulacrum: the final missing piece of that repellent statue. Sometime in the evening a Turkish madman stole aboard the Orient Express and attacked Mac, carving out his left eye! The man yelled something then leapt from the train into the darkness -- it would have been nice if Mac could have remembered what the man yelled, but I suppose it's a bit tough to pay much attention to a lunatic's shouting when you're screaming your lungs inside-out because someone has just gouged out your eye. Doctor Marabou treated Mac, who was already suffering from some sort of mental shock after our encounter in Orszac, and doped him out on opium while the conducteur, Ian, and I left the train (it had been stopped moments later), and searched the area for the attacker. Ian found a gelatinous blob nearby, which turned out to be a human eye, but not Mac's! Later on that evening Mac regained consciousness, and told us of visions he began to see from his empty eye-socket.

In Sofia the next morning Mac was treated at a hospital, and released in fair condition, although he must have been in severe pain. Later on in the day we discussed which of us would travel to the local university, where the head was taken for further research. We originally planned for Dr. Marabou to remain at the hotel and keep an eye on Mac and the statue, but Mac became angry at this idea, and stormed out into the street, stalking off towards the university. Professor Vaughan remained behind to guard the statue parts while the rest of us chased after Mac, flagged down a taxi, and went on to find the head of the Simulacrum.

At the college of anthropology and archaeology we met with the head of the department, Professor Chedenko, who consented to show us the head, hoping we could shed some light on its origin. Within the lab, however, we beheld a repugnant sight: three bodies lay strewn about the room, one without a head, its blood spurting out from a freshly severed artery, spraying the room with the sticky crimson goo that once pulsed through the veins of the unfortunate soul that now lay dead at our feet. One of the victims was still alive, although barely, and groaned in agony, as Professor Chedenko fainted from the horrific sight. Mac once again began to have visionary flashes from his missing eye: he was running along the river, then into a large cathedral like cavern. We quickly searched the room, but found no sign of the head, and when Chedenko came to, he confirmed that it must have been stolen by whoever killed his assistants.

We left the scene of the grisly murders, and purchased lamps and ropes in anticipation of a search through the caverns that haunted Mac's visions. After toiling along the river bank for two hours Mac was affected by another scene from his missing eye: many men in dark robes inside a large cavern were being ripped into shreds. A moment later and we discovered the entrance to a large system of caverns. Within we found the mangled corpses of men in black robes, and although the bodies appeared to be freshly killed, closer examination revealed each to be patchwork of body parts: mismatched arms and legs, some fresh and others rotting and cadaverous. Deeper within the cave we discovered a peculiar structure of stalactites and stalagmites that appeared to form the jaws of some gargantuan creature, and we had to pass between the teeth to enter the largest chamber we had encountered thus far. In the center of this chamber was a pile of skulls and heads, with the older, time-beached white skulls at the base, and the fresher, decomposing heads closer to the top. Ian climbed to the top of the heap, where he found a small shrine with a velvet pillow. We had obviously arrived too late, and whoever murdered the people whose bodies filled these caverns must have taken the head. We found several unnatural tracks, which Ian managed to track to a small crack leading up to daylight. Confused, puzzled, and defeated we returned to our hotel rooms, where we decided to head on to Constantinople, hoping that whoever had the head might follow us to regain the other parts of the Simulacrum.

Unfortunately, we were absolutely correct for the first time since I started on this expedition.

The unspeakable horror began at dinner. Zelda had the feeling that someone was watching her, glaring at her with an overpowering malice. Splitting into two groups, we decided to search the train for the head of the Sedefkar Simulacrum. Looking back on that night, this may have been the most foolish thing we had ever done, or perhaps ever will.

Ian, Mac, Zelda and I searched the first baggage car, which proved unfruitful, for almost all of the luggage compartments were locked and beyond reach. Our search was soon interrupted by a conducteur, who informed us there had been an accident with a member of our party. Some incredible creature attacked Professor Vaughan, Doctor Marabou and Miss Shaw. To be precise, the creature removed the head from our good doctor! The other group joined us, and although we were still reeling from the loss of our comrade, we continued the search, but this time with the help of our conducteur, Andre'. Soon after we resumed the search, a man entered the car and threw a knife at Ian, then collapsed onto the floor. When he revived, he had no recollection of leaving his compartment. Andre' escorted him to the rear baggage car and locked him up. Meanwhile we moved our search into the first fourgon, where our own luggage was stored. As we hunted amongst the baggage, a fetid smell crept over the car, which Miss Shaw noted was the exact odor the group had smelled prior to Dr. Marabou losing her head. Zelda foolishly moved into the hallway to investigate, as some evil, fiendish, degenerate humanoid reached down from the ceiling, upon which it was perched like a monstrous spider, and sliced open her throat.

The creature leapt down from the ceiling and turned towards us, as it hissed at us with its odorous breath. The rear door of the fourgon opened as Andre' entered, and the morbid creature before us turned towards him and snarled. Fortunately the staff had already armed themselves with shotguns, and the good conducteur fired twice upon the leprous form, as it turned into a diffuse gaseous cloud and slipped out of the car.

Behind Andre' were two other passengers: Franklin Meyers, who had guessed on the nature of what was happening on the train, and Shirly Bath, a private investigator whom the Chief de' Train just found and hired to solve the mystery of the murder of Doctor Marabou. Franklin appeared to be heading to Constantinople to take care of his own personal "business", some necromantic dealings of his own, but he had several sobering thoughts to offer on our current situation. After hearing a brief description of our quest, Franklin suggested that whatever was attacking us had been following since the team picked up its first piece of the Simulacrum, in Paris. He postulated that the creature waited for us to collect the pieces of the statue, but got the head for itself, and now planned to kill us and take the rest of the Simulacrum. We quickly looked over our notes, and realized that we were being followed by Count Fenalik, some deviant being from the French Revolution that had once owned the Sedefkar Simulacrum, and had apparently not died after all this time. Even more shocking was Franklin's guess that Fenalik must be some sort of undead creature, perhaps a vampire, and that our only protection might be that mentioned in popular fiction. We had little else to go on, so we armed ourselves with garlic from the dining car, and began to search for a large, coffin like crate with Andre', while two of the Orient Express' staff stood watch over our baggage.

We found the vile monster's coffin! As we decided what to do with it, the foul stench of death filled the car, and a snarling and hissing sound came from the hallway. Fenalik had arrived, but did not come any closer (perhaps the garlic held it at bay?) so we opened the sliding exterior door of the car and pushed the coffin overboard. Fenalik shrieked and vanished. We quickly ran to the front fourgon, where we found the dismembered bodies of the two staff members left to guard our luggage. The remaining parts of the Simulacrum were missing!

We were in trouble, and knew it. We had no idea where Fenalik or the statue were - he may have even leapt from the train with it. Andre' suggested a complete search of the train with the aid of the police at our next stop, which was but a few minutes away. When the train sped past the stop, we realized where Fenalik had gone. Climbing over the tender, Andre', Ian, Mac, Professor Vaughan, Miss Shaw, and I approached the locomotive. Peering down at the engineer's platform we saw the bodies of the engineer, brake-man, and fireman, as well as the different parts of the Simulacrum, and Fenalik himself, whose corrupt limbs and maggoty skin were lit as if aflame by the roaring blaze within the engine's firebox. We pushed our attack, and Fenalik retaliated. Nothing we did seem to harm him, although the garlic had a debilitating effect upon him, which may have saved us. By some stroke of luck or genius, I'm not sure which, I picked up the leg of the statue and began to beat him with it. Amazingly the creature screamed in pain as I struck it. My comrades joined in the attack with limbs from the statue, and soon Fenalik crumbled to dust, which blew away in the wind. The remaining staff managed to bring the train to a stop near Svilengrad, where the police boarded and began their investigation.

It is now three days later, and the police have released their official report, and we are allowed to proceed to Constantinople, where we hope to destroy the malignant Sedefkar Simulacrum. I can't imagine how things could get worse, but Franklin, who has offered his help once he has finished with his business, assures me that it very easily can.

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