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Horror on the Orient Express - episode 12

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 8 months ago

When Mr Rothchild despatched the young lawyer Fitzherbert to assist his old friend Reverend Fellowes, he also employed a freelance adventurer and archaeologist of some note – Mr Harry Trucker – in the hope that this man could assist Fellowes in determining the origins of the Sedfkar Simulacrum.


On the train to Belgrade Mr Fitzherbert introduced the Reverend Fellowes to Mr Trucker. Dr Fellowes told his two new companions a little of his tale, but was reluctant to appear a raving lunatic so held back on revealing the most unlikely aspects. He was relieved when a sommelier appeared and interrupted Fitzherbert’s questions by offering the party a complementary snifter of port. The drink was fine and even the sommelier appeared impressed by its taste and nose as he poured and sampled it.


Reverend Fellowes took his port with a smile and finally appeared to be relaxing when he suddenly gave a start. He had overheard the waiter explaining to gentlemen at an adjoining table that the complementary port was a gift that a mysterious stranger had said was for the three Englishmen. The reverend quickly spat his port out and called for a glass of water, explaining to his surprised companions that someone had tried to poison him on the journey from Lausanne and he suspected another attempt upon his life. Mr Fitzherbert and Mr Trucker acknowledged the vicar’s fears with smiles, and continued to drink their port. Indeed they offered the bottle around the rest of the carriage after proclaiming its excellence.


Meanwhile, back in Trieste a mysterious bottle of port was also gifted to three men seated in a rather dingy bar. They drank it without qualm and without much appreciation for its taste, but instead with a simple thirst for alcohol.


Later that night the gentlemen upon the train were woken with a start. A knock at their door by the conductor was followed by a shout that they had reached their station. Mr Fitzherbert looked at his watch in confusion, it said the time was 3.14am, but the train was not scheduled to arrive in Belgrade until 9am. He opened the door and tried to explain this to the conductor, but was told that the tickets they held only took them to Zagreb, where the train was ready to depart. A look out the window showed that the gentlemen’s luggage had been piled onto the platform. A man stood next to the luggage and, puzzlingly, he held a skull in one hand. He smiled at the gentlemen and recited a poem which the Reverend Fellowes recognised as “The Revenger’s Tragedy” by Cyril Tourneur. No amount of arguing could convince the conductor that tickets to Belgrade had been purchased and that the gentlemen should be allowed to remain on the train. As they argued with the conductor, the skull carrying stranger called out to the gentlemen and said that he would tell them about the Simulacrum.


In a state of undress and confusion the gentlemen shuffled reluctantly from the train. On the platform they were surprised to see Slovdan, Ricardo and a third man that they did not recognise. The two groups greeted each other cautiously and introductions were made. The man with Slovdan and Ricardo was introduced as Django, a Romany taxi driver who had witnessed the brutal deaths of Marcel and Zlatan. Reverend Fellowes reacted to news of his friends’ deaths with great sorrow.


At first none of the gentlemen could quite fathom how Slovdan, Ricardo and Django had come to be in Zagreb. Slovdan was convinced that he and his friends had been drugged and kidnapped from their beds in Trieste, but then Reverend Fellowes speculated that they were in a dream world of some kind. He explained his experiences with a dream world in Lausanne. The skull-bearing poet, mysterious noises and the sight of a strangely lifelike statue appeared to confirm that the gentlemen were not in the real Zagreb.


The six gentlemen explored the streets of this dreaming Zagreb and found a number of strange and incoherent pages from a diary strewn throughout the town. In places these referred to the writer’s sense that his limbs were being separated and fought over by mysterious gods. The gentlemen wondered if the author, in some way, was the Sedfkar Simulacrum itself.


The travellers came across other strange things in their dreaming. A severed hand grasping at fruit hanging on a tree, a fish flapping wetly upon the paving, a stone sucking upon spilt milk. They also came across strange people; a woman who warned them that someone waited for them upon a bridge; a medieval princess; and children with white, unseeing eyes.


Eventually they found the man with the skull. He invited those who sought knowledge to look into the skull. Ricardo and Dr Fellowes did so and were transfixed by black beams that shot from the skull’s eyes. Reverend Fellowes snapped out of the spell quickly, but not before he had caught a glimpse of the black truth of the universe. He sought comfort in the crucifix that hung around his neck, but found comfort lacking. Ricardo continued to look into the skull and his glimpse of darkness was longer and even more unsettling. Eventually Mr Trucker stepped forward and shot the skull with a shotgun he had concealed beneath his jacket. The skull shattered into a thousand pieces and the spell was broken. Ricardo slumped to the floor in distress while the stranger began threatening vengeance upon his companions.


The travellers fled the stranger’s wrath. They headed back to the railway station, but found streets had moved. Onwards they ran, the sound of a train whistle drawing them down new and strange paths. Django was first to arrive at the station and he saw that the train was about to draw away. He leapt aboard and tried to stop it leaving. But there was nothing he could do. The train left dreaming Zagreb with only him aboard. The others arrived at the station in time to see it go. Then they heard a laugh and awoke to find themselves back in their beds.


Django spent a little longer in the dream-world. He travelled on the train for some time but was disturbed to find that it returned to Zagreb. Events seemed to be repeating themselves. On arrival in Zagreb he did not try to find the man with the skull, but instead broke into a house and climbed into a bed. When he woke, he was relieved to find himself back in Trieste with Ricardo and Slovdan.


Arriving in Belgrade at last, Harry, Ronald and Reverend Fellowes found themselves besieged by urchins who swarmed around the train hoping to earn a few pennies by carrying their bags. They were assisted in retrieving their bags and finding accommodation by an elegant English-speaking local named Peter. After thanking the young man profusely, the gentlemen settled into their digs at the Excelsior. Exhausted by their night’s dreaming they had a quiet day, the only action of note being that Dr Fellowes made an appointment to speak to the curator of the local museum the following day.


In dreaming Zagreb, Dr Fellowes had discussed travel arrangements with Ricardo. Ricardo therefore booked tickets on the overnight train to Belgrade for himself, Slovdan and Django – while Reverend Fellowes and his companions awaited their arrival at the Excelsior.


That night, each of the companions awoke at 3.14am. Those on the train to Belgrade were shaken to note that when they awoke the train was pulling into the station at Zagreb. They lay awake in fear until the train had left again.


The next day the six companions were reunited. After a hot breakfast, they decided to spend their time awaiting the appointment with the curator by exploring the city. They visited a bazaar and purchased knick knacks and gee jaws. Django, Ricardo and Slovdan visited a Romany fortune-teller. She told them that iron would keep them safe from a danger that stalked them; that three opposed them; that a friend will be an enemy; and to beware one with three faces.


Unsure what to make of these strange fortunes, the gentlemen rejoined their fellows and walked further into the bazaar. There the travellers came upon a man selling a strange but familiar looking porcelain arm…

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