Although the memory of this terrifying trip has faded, the horror has not, and even now the thought of travel by train terrifies me. We boarded the Orient Express at 4 in the afternoon and settled in to our berths. Our capable and courteous conducteur, Emile Soucard, took our tickets and showed us to our berths. The train was crowded, and some of the team had to share their berths with strangers. In the first Calais coach, Ed shared a berth with an opera basso, Luigi Martinelli. Mac was roomed up with Jack Gatlin, a journalist. Ian found himself hobnobbing with Sir Robert Harrow. Tilly shared her berth with a fellow Brit, Elana Costanza. Shirley Bath enjoyed a berth to herself, because of a last minute cancellation. In the second Calais coach, both Professor Vaughan and I each had a private berth.
The train left Constantinople precisely at 4:30 PM. We gathered in the Saloon car for some relaxation, and to check out our fellow passengers. Ed's berth-mate, Luigi, asked to swap beds: Luigi had the top bunk, and was a very large man, so Ed readily agreed. Amidst the gossip in the car we find out that a spy may be on the train, and various affairs or other such romances abounded. Most of these stories came from the journalist, Gatlin, so I rather doubted their authenticity or accuracy. We returned to the Saloon car after dinner, and finally returned to our berths around 12:30.
The conducteur, Emile, appeared to be acting suspiciously, and tried to prevent Ian from heading towards the front of the train to look about the fourgons. The night passed without event, or so we thought. In the morning Ian found that Luigi had been stabbed to death during the night! We all realized that Ian was supposed to be sleeping in his place.
After breakfast the train crossed into Yugoslavia, and as we peered our the windows we saw wolves running along side the train. This was indeed an ill-omen, for as Ian was searching the front fourgon he was attacked by three Turks. He managed to escape with only a knife wound, and the Orient Express staff fought of the Turks.
At the next stop, Robert Harrow left the train, followed by Emile. Shirley discretely followed the pair, until they went into the men's lavatory at the station. Moments before the train left, Robert ran out from the lavatory and leapt onto the train. Shirley barely jumped on the train as it pulled off. Later on Mac learned from Jack Gatlin that he (Jack) had arranged for an interview with Robert for that evening. Jack was excited because he was certain he'd get a scoop on Harrow's latest affair. It soon became obvious that Emile was no longer on board, and so a flustered Chief de Train appointed a new conducteur to the first Calais car.
At Belgrade we saw a small white cottage on the platform of the station, which Mac and Ian identified as Baba Yaga's! At dinner the Maitre D'Hotel sat a large elderly woman at the table next to us. The old crone turned to us, revealing the face of Baba Yaga. Tilly tried to speak to her, but was thrown across the dining car. We escaped to the saloon car just in time to see Jack Gatlin leave for the lead fourgon, where his interview with Robert Harrow was to be held. Ian returned to his berth, but staring at him through the window was the face of Baba Yaga. Behind her, the white cottage ran along side the train on its giant chicken-legs. Mac went to the front of the train to find Jack, but was stopped by a Turkish guard. Ed and Mac move into the same berth for safety. By midnight the insane cottage had stopped following the train, and we all turned in for bed. We have begun to suspect that Makryat has taken the form of Robert, but because we could not find him, there was little else to do.
Early the next morning Tilly, Mac, Ed, and Shirley were attacked by strange, star shaped flesh creatures. There small lumps of skin attached themselves over my friend's mouths in an attempt to suffocate them. Fortunately all four were able to repel the attacks and destroy the creatures. We found Jack a short while later, lying in the bottom bed of his berth, moaning "They came from me" repeatedly. Rolling him over revealed six star shape sections of his skin missing! After much effort, we finally managed to waken Jack, but he did little more than babble incoherently before he started to scream in terror. We left the poor soul in the care of a doctor.
Things were becoming desperate. Makryat and his followers were aboard the train, and yet we were no closer to capturing him than when the journey began. The staff of the train was shaken by all the strange and horrifying events, and the few passengers besides us remaining in the first two cars were becoming quite nervous. Our first break of the entire trip came soon after lunch, as Elana Costanza, Tilly's berth-mate, introduced herself as a British secret service agent willing to help. Sir Rutherford in Constantinople had filled her in on what details he knew of our mission, and after listening to our tale, she deduced that Mehem Makryat was planning on assuming the identity of the Prince of Wales. In Trieste she planned to wire for more help, which should arrive in time to catch the train in Milan.
Another night passed, but we gathered together in a few berths and kept watches until the light of morning. At Trieste Elana went to the station to wire for aid. Mac also left the train, which was as surprising as it was dangerous, so Ed followed him as he rambled through the bitterly cold winds towards the north - to the caverns of the Lloigor! Ed managed to turn Mac around, and they both made it back to the train in time.
It was on this third day that my companions began to show the signs of corruption that Mehem had gleefully told them about. I won't digress into the morbid details, but my companions seemed more ill at ease than before, and a look of fear and foreboding crept into their eyes.
Several hours and several stops later the Orient Express approached Milan, where Elana assured us half a dozen well armed British secret service agents were awaiting. I had little doubt that they were, but we never found out, for the train didn't stop in Milan. Panic stricken we went to the dining car, where several members of the staff we gathered about in obvious confusion over the missed stop. As the train pulled into the countryside and began to climb up into the mountains it began to build up speed. A body flew past the dining car window, and from the front of the train we could make out a queer bluish glow. All of my friends and I headed towards the first fourgon, accompanied by three well armed train staff. We climbed onto the tender and looked down upon the locomotive. The engine itself had formed a thick, blue rubbery hide with massive tentacles waving out at the front. The entire thing gave off an eerie blue glow. Within the engine cab were four Turks, madly shoveling coal into the fire-box, and Robert Harrow, chanting madly. Those of us who had guns fired frantically at the Turks, dropping all four in a few moments, but Harrow seemed completely immune to gun fire. This was obviously Makryat, and he advanced towards us, killing one of the brave lads from the train staff who had accompanied us. The rest of us fled back across the tender and into the train.
At that moment, the train seemed to pause, as if it had stopped moving for just a heartbeat, and then resumed again. We looked out the nearest window as the Orient Express sped around a curve and saw a massive car at the end of the train: the car looked like a cathedral. Fearing the worst, we stole quietly to the back of the train and entered this strange cathedral car. Bright lights, soft music, tables lavished with mounds of food, and attendants awaiting orders lined the walls of what looked like a gothic stone cathedral. Sitting at the end of the car, in a massive marble throne sat the Jigsaw Prince: we had entered Switzerland, his domain. Despite our worse fears, the Prince seemed quite calm. He told us Selim, Mehem Makryat's father and previous leader of the Brothers of the Skin, of which the Prince was a member, had left orders in case his power hungry son should kill him. Unlike the other members of the Brotherhood who all used grafted flesh of other humans to replace their organs and limbs, and thus extend their lives, Mehem had used a much more potent spell which allowed him to assume the entire body of his victim. This was fortunate, the Prince laughed, for unknown to Mehem, Selim knew of a counter-spell, and had taught it to his loyal follower, the Jigsaw Prince. The Prince bargained that he would teach one of us this counter spell provided we helped him find the Sedefkar Simulicrum, which was aboard the train. Once we had destroyed Mehem, the Prince would leave his car, so he warned against any attempts at double crossing him.
There was little else we could do, so Mac volunteered to learn the spell. An hour later we left the Prince's car in search of Harrow/Mehem. It didn't take long, for Mehem was also searching for us, but some barrier prevented him from entering the cathedral car. Mac quickly cast the spell, and before our eyes Mehem's flesh turned into jelly and flowed onto the floor. Moments later the Jigsaw Prince barged into the car and began searching for the Simulicrum. We too began to search, but to keep the statue away from the Prince rather than honor our agreement. Who knows what deeds this insane creature would perform once he possessed the Simulicrum! It took hours, but the Prince found the Simulicrum first. Or at least he found the car in which it was hid, for the Orient Express was still moving at full speed and had passed through Switzerland much faster than expected. The Prince screamed out as he and his car vanished.
The Chief de Train himself went forward to the locomotive and brought it under control while we searched like madmen in the fourgon for the Sedefkar Simulicrum, but we could not find it! Could the Prince have taken it with him when he vanished? An hour later we pulled into Paris, many hours ahead of schedule, and as we filed out of the train, one of the passengers, a train buff, noticed an odd box welded to the bottom of the front fourgon! Mechanics from the Paris station quickly removed the box, and within was the Simulicrum! Along with the statue were four scrolls.
Even greater luck was on our side when we managed to produce the inventory check for all the statue's components which we filed with the Orient Express staff prior to entering Constantinople two weeks before.
After spending a day in Paris answering Police questions, during which time my companions became more and more nervous about how much time remained for them to perform the Ritual of Cleansing, we were allowed to leave for London with the Simulicrum and the scrolls.
We wasted no time once we arrived in London and rushed quickly to Mehem Makryat's shop, where our story began last December. We broke into the back door and searched the first floor, which revealed nothing more than the shop had not been open for quite some time. On the second floor, however, in the office we found the carpets rolled back and out of the way, exposing a wood floor engraved with strange symbols. On the desk off to the side was a note, which read
The Simulicrum must be present.
Along with the note was an old sheet of paper with a spell, using the western alphabet, but in some strange, incomprehensible language. Could this be the Ritual of Cleansing spell, which Mehem told us he would cast upon his return to London? After a brief discussion we put the Simulicrum pieces on the floor, and Ian picked up the paper and read the spell.
As soon as Ian completed reading the spell, his eyes went blank, and his skin became translucent, or perhaps it vanished altogether. We watched in horror as his features (such as we could recognize) shifted and his internal organs moved about. Soon a new face began to emerge from this maelstrom of flesh: that of Mehem Makryat!
Stunned, we could do little at first but stare as Mehem laughed and gloated over us. He had foreseen the chance that he would be killed on his return trip, so he instructed his servants to leave a spell of transference for any of us that made it back. The person reading the spell caused Mehem to be transferred, voluntarily, into his body! Poor Ian never had a chance, but we didn't have long to reflect upon this, for Mehem grabbed one of the Sedefkar scrolls and began to read it. We finally acted, but to little avail. As before, Mehem seemed immune to our attacks, while he was able to hurt those of us who tried to attack him, all the while he continued to read the scroll. Shirley Bath lost her life in the battle, and when Mehem completed reading the scroll, he gave a shout of triumph, and then stood back. We did the same, but little could we imagine what this devil had called forth.
In the center of the symbols on the floor a tall, skinless form emerged in a whirlpool of light and wind. The Skinless One had arrived! Nyarlathotep, the most active and evil of the outer gods, who assumes thousands of shapes came forth at a mere mortals bidding. We all battled with our sanity as the god evenly looked out upon us and Makryat. Ed lost the battle and ran out of the room screaming.
Mehem then began to yell at the god, demanding that it do his bidding since he possessed the Simulicrum. The thing then spoke within our minds in a voice filled with such evil and malice that I fear it will leave my conscious scarred with its presence forever.
My Gift is Sundered.
A day later we managed to have enough of the scrolls translated at the Museum of Natural History to find the spell for the Ritual of Cleansing. Late that night we cast the spell, and the ailments of my afflicted companions faded.
We had completed our quest, and some of us survived to tell about it!