Schuyler reminds us we can find Bif and Katerina. Wilhelm suggests we all get some more rest. Geste says we should each carry around small mirrors and Wilhelm says we need garlic. Red Cloud says we should garlic both the windows and the doors of our hotel room each night, all the seams since it appears he can become vapor. Paul and Red Cloud get all our luggage to the hotel, while the rest shop for mirrors and enough garlic for several days.
Once we are all back at the hotel resting,there is a knock at our door. It’s Bif! “I see you guys started the italian spices already, enough to make the eyes water, whew. My eyes are burning.” Schuyler “Sorry about the garlic friend.” Bif “Have you heard the news? Katarina has disappeared.” Schuyler “Aww FUCK!” Jeremy “Oh, Fuck me.” Red Cloud “How long ago?” Bif “Soon as we arrived at the station. There was a carriage waiting for her, she got in and has not been seen again. She is supposed to debut tonight.” Jeremy “Did anyone see the carriage since?” Bif “No. No trace of anything about her. It was a private coach, though. The rumor is it was an old flame who picked her up but no one really knows.” Of course, we had a vision of her in Dream Lausanna being flayed alive.
Our hotel is on the Galleria, with a famous cafe called Biffi’s. Our rooms are right above it on 3rd floor. Katerina had wired ahead for our rooms and hers. Bif “No one has been to her rooms so far as anyone knows.” Paul “This is intolerable!” Jeremy “Does anyone know who this rumored admirer may be?” Wilhelm “Someone she has tooled around with in the past, perhaps?” Bif “As far as anyone knows, no one.” Schuyler “So where did the rumor come from then?” Bif shrugs his shoulders.
Jeremy “Let’s get going on the Simulacrum then, check museums and art collectors, ask about who may have brought it back 6 years ago.” Schuyler “Right, word of mouth.” We spend the day gathering information. Jeremy heds to a seedier part of town to inquire about both the Simulacrum and Katerina’s kidnapping. Paul does the opposite, checking with city officials. Red Cloud joins Paul. Wilhelm and Schuyler hed to the museums to ask about known rare-art collectors. Generally, we notice that people seem a little depressed, not as bustling as one would have otherwise heard. No particularly bad times, most people say no specifics about it. Red Cloud says this is similar to the condition of the American West when he left. Jeremy finds that suicides are up in the last few years, again Red Cloud mentions the overall circumstances are vary similar to his homelands. Like a dark cloud hangs over the city. Paul sees the mayor, who knows people are not as happy as they once were, a sense of lethargy seems to be centered around the part of the city of La Scalla. Geste talks to the bishop of the city, who begins very animated but soon becomes tired and depressed, a mass lethargy has befallen the city. He says “the people here have not much faith in the one true God. Our lack of animation stems from a soulless devotion to appearances, not substances. We worship actors and singers in these dim days. We worship actors and singers. As attendance at mass declines, La Scalla’s increases. It is a house of Evil.” Geste “Is this a new situation, like the last few years?” “It started maybe 3 or 4 years ago and it’s getting worse. It used to be that on a given street you would see lethargy, while one street over would be full of life. But the malaise has spread since.” Geste “Who owns the opera house?” Schuyler “Is it a new owner recently”. “No. Paulo Rischanti runs it, I am not certain if he owns it or if the city owns it.” Geste “Fear not priest, the warriors of God have entered the city.” “Then burn down that building.”
Obviously, the statue piece is there in La Scalla. It was built on the site of a church of Santa Maria De LaScalla, Our lady of the Staircase. Inaugurated on 3 August 1778. As Geste goes back downstairs, many people in the pews praying and weeping. One old man is grovelling on the floor at a pillar as if searching for something. Geste questions him, and he jumps up in surprise and runs away. Falling from him and breaking on the floor is a glass jar filled with dead butterflies and moths. Simon gets a feeling as if being watched and look around. When he looks back to the floor, a chameleon is on the floor eating the insects, looking up at us. Geste reaches for it, and it scurries around the pillar. Geste rounds it, but the thing has disappeared. He also sees 3 tiny women in back, lighting candles afront a picture of Katarina, then leave the church. Simon follows them and they arrive at opera house, going in through an employees door. He leaves.
At the museum, Wilhelm and Schuyler inquire about the Simulacrum from 6 years ago. He can’t think of anything like that he had heard of, but one guy says he does remember “one buyer from the opera brought back some antiques to use as stage dressing for the performances.” Schuyler “Anything in particular?” “Well, desks and fabrics for sure.” “No statue?” “No…oh ther was a torso of sorts, I believe they may now use it as a costume dummy.”
We all meet at the hotel and report our parts to the rest, garlic up the room, door and windows. As we are talking, we hear music coming from outside faintly. Sounds like a voice singing. We open window and it is certainly Katarina from somewhere not too far. Wilhelm “They are having her sing for them?” Geste “They are trying to lure us into a trap more like.” We see lights and police moving about several blocks away. Geste"Should we go and look?" Red Cloud “No, I don’t like the feel of this. With all the supernatural about we can’t even be sure it’s truly her.” We stay put and rest for the night.
Next morning we awake to go for breakfast. In the hall was a mural of Egyptian theme, a man approaching a seated woman in a household setting. During the night it was vandalized. The woman now seems to be screaming, and the man has some small animal on his shoulder. A lizard it seems. At breakfast we plan. Geste “Someone must talk with police to find out if they can possibly provide us with assistance searching LaScalla. Another group should try to hunt down the guy who runs the opera house. But who to go where. Probably 2 to the police.” Schuyler “Who would they listen to, as Italian police? Italian/American relations are pretty good, I could go.” In the morning newspaper, director of opera house says the opera will open tonight, with the understudy Maria deMatinain the lead. Regarding the voice last night, Director Sorbello says there is no substance only gossip and meer old wives tales. Props manager says “We thought our problems were over, when the costumers curse ended. Now the bad luck is on the set itself. People are getting injured and props are disappearing. No end to our troubles.” The police say they can’t help us directly, but are willing to put more cops on duty for the performance both uniformed and plain clothed amongst the viewers. The whole gang meets at the opera.
We make for the stage entrance. Paul approaches the watchman, and takes his noble aura to impress marco the doorman as an English earl to let him for a tour, insisting that he longs to meet Ms. Kavalari’s understudy. Marco says you and your servant may enter, but not these others. Jeremy, disguised as a carpenter, walks right by Marco as Paul is taking up most of the man’s attention. Marco “Carpentry? Off to the left there. Hurry your late.” Paul and his ‘assistant’ Wilhelm walk in. Geste tries to impress him with his holy presence, church connections and Christian tongue. Marco says “Father, bless me. You may enter.” Schuyler takes Red Cloud to the back of the building, seeing an open window on the second floor and an easy climb on the adjacent building. He uses climbs to a ledge and leeps across the alley to the window grabbing onto the edge to pull himself in. He drops a rope to Red Cloud who climbs up and in.
Inside we can hear the orchestra of the opera practicing. Jeremy meets with Schuyler and Red Cloud and the trio start sneaking around to the backstage area. Red Cloud “We should find someplace heading down, underground.” Paul and Wilhelm go to meet people face to face, while Simon wants to find the man in charge of this place.
The trio sees various Egyptian themed set pieces, large nose probably from the Sphinx, a Pharaoh… and pics of Katarina everywhere, roses and ribbons adorning them. People constantly running around in a rush, pushing past us without concern for us. The deeper we go the more surreal it becomes. Row of plaster limbs being dragged around on a long rope ;a huge chariot wheel covered in jewelry rolls down the corridor toward us, hitting Red Cloud and knocking him over with minor damage. Ahead we hear a rumble, and a huge pile of wooden heads erupt from a closet filling the corridor. Jeremy “It’s like something is trying to keep us away”. We hear wood scraping against plaster, but it sounds like giggling.
Geste finds Paulo, who says he is “very busy, Father. What do you want?” “When did these problems start?” “6 years ago.” “Did you yourself buy the props in Paris back then?” “No, but the props have nothing to do with this. That was the prop master.” “Has he always worked here?” “He did he doesn’t work her anymore. He hung himself 3 years ago. We haven’t been able to keep a new one, they all fall ill and suffer hallucinations, disilusion from the arts, gastonomic problems-asthma-apendactomies. Terrible things go wrong with their bodies. [More proof that it is the torso which is here at LaScalla.] But, the most recent woman to take the job, Louisa Viscanti is fine. She has been here for 4 months now. The 3 old women who have always worked in the costume department have not ever been sick either.” “They’ve always worked there?” “Sure, more than 40 years.” Geste asks to see them and he takes Geste to them.
Meets the 3 elder women he saw at cathedral and a young woman, Louise Viscanti. She talks to Geste “Yes Padre, what can I do for you?” “Investigating the rash of illnesses which have not befallen you.” “I am very proud of that, over 20 people have suffered here.” “Do you have an explanationf or that?” “No, I was not here whan all that happened. You can ask the old women though.” Through Paulo’s translation to Italian, they say it was the devil’s work and do not know why they have never fallen ill. Geste “Do you recall having a torso of a statue?” “No, we only work with 6 wooden statues. There used to be one stone dummy but it was taken to props.” “Where is that?” “Downstairs. There was always something weird about it. We are glad its gone, always made us feel uneasy. Something about it was not right. Not only that, every costume you made for anyone with it always fit perfectly. Workmen came up and took it away.” “Do you go to church regularly?” “We were just at church today praying for the safe return of Senora Kavalera.” Simon thanks them for their cooperation, then asks Paulo to see the props." “There are thousands of props, I have no idea where it would be.” “Where are the props in general?” “If it is in storage it would be on one of the lower floor, the old crypts for the church. If it is to be used for the production it would be backstage somewhere.” Geste asks to be alllowed to search for it, and gets the ok so long as he creates no disturbance considering the coming performance and troubles concerning Katerina.
He walks downstairs and makes his way toward the stairs down via backstage. He hears a noise above him and sees a sandbag plummeting upon him. It strikes him for 10. He sees no one above. The rope cut but at ground level. He reaches the steps.
Paul and Wilhelm see the understudy. She seems very sincere, both excited to be on stage but nervous as well as this will be her largest crowd. Also very worried about Katarina though she never really met her, has \always adored her voice. Heard her a few years ago. She is more the backup than direct understudy. The whole show rests on her shoulders and getting more and more nervous. Paul talks nice to her to try calming her down. “Have you been with this opera for a while?” “Over 2 years.” He brings up the troubles and asks what out of the ordinary things she may have noticed. “No, no. Not accidents. The whole place is just depressing. I have heard of LaScalla’s greatness her whole life but now that I am here it is just the depression is too much to bare sometimes and I’m not the only one. Not normal to have 4 or 5 suicides of cast and crew over a couple years. I myself have felt almost bad enough.” “Anyone of important note?” “No, but all were very artistic. Their minds attuned to their surroundings more than most in an artistic sense.” She knows nothing specific about prop disappearances. Paul gives standard goodbye pleasantries and makes his leave. Goes to find propmaster.
[Everytime someone asks about the propmaster, no one has seen him for a couple hours]
Red Cloud reiterates going to lower levels and they make their way down, getting to stairs ahead of Geste. [A few early arrivals milling in lobby and reception area smoking and chatting.Getting close to showtime. Ticket takers and ushers getting into place.] Red Cloud leads the way down the stairs.Some people down there as well, but not as many as upstairs. See some fake blood coming out from under the door. A door opens and a line of Ethiopian soldier-dressed actors, made to look wounded, walk out nd past us.
As Geste walks down the stairs a few minutes behind us, someone pushes the huge couple hundred pund prop nose down the stairs at him. Geste with his great might stops it cold, now holding it up. A prop spear thrusts through a gap between nose and wall, hitting Geste for 8. It stabs again as Geste triis to brace himself better in the stairwell but misses. Geste pushes with his awesome strengh and rolls the nose upward with an AP. Paul and Wilhelm reach the top of the steps, and see a strong man on that side of the nose stabbing around it with a spear. “You, man, what are you about there?” The villain turns as it is rolled back toward him, but he grabs the railings and pushes back using the leverage. Wilhelm sees a propsword laying nearby(card). He charges down the stairs and crits the strongman, for 8! Strongman pulls a pistol, losing his leverage. Geste heaves with all his strength and rolls the massive nose atop the villain pinning him underneath. Geste “Tell us what you know. Why are you trying to kill me?” “You’re all doomed, the brothers of the skin will finish you!” He dies.
The trio come across a dead body in the sublevels, dumped in a room. Looks like a worker, stabbed then cut a large flay of skin from him. Very quiet down here. People being seated, opera getting closer to starting. We move nose and find a police officer. Tell him we found 2 dead bodies, one stabbed, one crushed by a giant prop. The stabbed man is the propmaster. Jeremy “Someone is impersonating him maybe?” He has not been dead long.
We take our seats in the crowd, immediately in front of orchestra. At 8 sharp, conductor begins the melody of Katarina’s impromptu recital on the train and the opera begins with a great Egyptian set. The tortured aria of Aida begins, then suddenly the whole operahouse hums with the resonance of the song. Someone else also singing, unmistakably the voice of Katarina! Simon gets up and walks around outer walkways searching. Sees a tall elderly man with a scarred neck singing in her voice off to the side by a pillar! [There is an old legend in the opera that if you sing the main opera along with the main star your greatest wish will come true.] Simon does not recognize him. Next to his empty seat, 4 well dressed middle aged men and an old woman sit, she as if in a trance drooling and slack jawed. She has scars on her neck as well. Simon approaches the old man and grabs him, asks “How are you singing with the voice of Katarina?” Just then, the aria ends and scene changes, bringing out armor on a dummy. The dummy is the Simulacrum torso. Immediately, the 4 men leap up and try to pull Simon off the old man, making a nice scuffle of it with Simon. He resists all 4 of their grapples, and they run for the stage. Wilhelm, like a flash, moves double speed (card) and gets past the stagehands to backstage before they can even stop him. Statue being taken off stage now. Jeremy makes for the entryway backstage, but bluffs his way past (card+10). The 4 men trying the same, are being resisted by the stagehands there. They let Jeremy pass, Red Cloud following behind in the confusion. The old woman snaps to, and rushes in a rage, screaming bloody murder in an old croaky voice, to the old man attacking him viciously. Schuyler starts to make his way to Simon. The 4 men rush back to the singing man and they flee. Schuyler checks on the old lady. Paul, partway there, tries to hed them off. 2 turn with knives, to meet Simon and Paul who are coming from 2 diff directions. Simon charges one like a locomotive, pushing him onto the wall behind him. Paul makes a feint on his and gets past the other w/o an AoO. They chase the other 2 and old man, who have ran out main entrance. They hear a scream ahead, and find the other 2 men laying in the snow dead throats torn open. The old man is gone. They look around and hear a rush above, they dodge the fallen body of the old man, throat gashed open and 2 fang marks. Fennelik has killed them for going after his Simulacrum. The old lady, talking with Schuyler, says she is Katarina. “What did they do to you?” "A man came to her as an admirer providing transport to hotel, but kidnapped with hood over her head. She fainted in the struggle. When she came to was tied down on an altar in midst of a ceremony. A man there performing it with a lizard on his shoulder. Next she knew he had put a knife to her throat, started to cut and she passes out. When she came to a horrible pain was in her throat and her old voice was gone, replaced by the old man’s voice. She was made old physically as well. The singer was that man who did this to her. We have no way to counteract the spell. We feel horrible for failing her. Backstage we get the Simulacrum. Red Cloud and Jeremy throw a blanket over it and get out the back door with it. Wilhelm meets the others to inform them. Wilhelm and Simon consults some references Wilhelm always carries as well as the scroll, and find reference to a spell about trading organs. So old man traded larynx. Wilhelm disects the old man’s larynx out. We do not know any specifics about the spell itself, or what condition it must be in but it’s worth a try. The spell should be in one of the other Simulacrum scrolls. There is also a spell to change a person’s appearance which could recover her age. We put the larynx in snowpack.
We regroup at the hotel and rest. Next day, we meet with Bif who has lost sanity over his feeling of failing her. He swears to keep her protected and the larynx on ice until we contact them. There is still some hope for her! The 2 Paul and Simon passes up got away. Police track them to a hideout, finding several dead pieces ripped to pieces. Geste visits the bishop again and tells him the troubles should be ending. Paul does same with authorities. Our train is delayed til almost nightfall. Behind as we leave fireworks going off, people having great time. We have lifted the curse!