Children of Fear

Session 12

Charnel Pleasures

With the adventurers meeting up in Delhi they have just enough time for the sightseeing – For while they do some people-watching they can’t help but feel they are indeed the ones being watched. Mulling over the recent attack by the strange undead creatures, Barnes makes the suggestion to try and capture one of their ghastly pursuers for questioning. But for the moment the investigators decide that a trip to the library will be more profitable.
Reading their way through the vast knowledge collected in the renovated city of New Delhi yields plenty of results for the researchers:
Sitvana turns out to be a mythical place, unknown to be any real geographic location. Even if it had existed in the fabled times of old, it certainly doesn’t show up on any map nowadays. Yet there are charnel grounds South of Bodh Gaya which bare similarity to the place the group searches.
With a bit of additional help from Tenzin they also discover the exact nature of the bones they will be looking for: A rather gruesome shopping list of skulls and femurs of children of specific ages and castes.
During their research the group also learns of the office of the ASI – the Archeological Society of India – in Nalanda, which would be on their way to Rajgir.
Looking up information about the Pisacha, the ominous stinking creatures, they find only few extensions of what they already know: They are noted to be legendary dwellers of charnel grounds and graveyards. While the books describe them as myths, Tenzin already seems to know about their peculiarities: eating the dead turns them into the monstrosities the group had run into. Allegedly they live in tunnels, one of which must be connected underneath Peshawar.

Checking the railway plans once again, the group determines that their next leg of the journey will be the next day’s train to Bakhtiyarpur. From there they will travel to the close-by Rajgir.
To throw off their pursuers as much as they can the group drapes themselves in local garments – dhotis and sarees for the whole group to blend in as far as that is possible. Lord Barnes even takes the sartorial opportunity to dress as Santa Clause and gift a doll to the excited Shen Chu. This gesture rings in the group’s improvised New Year’s celebration, where even in their dire circumstances they manage to find joy in each other’s company.

Barnes this time is the only one who finds himself in an uncanny nightmare; The snowy plane makes a reappearance, but his time in an unnatural radiating heat the snow begins to melt. Three hooded figures in blue cowls are spotted, holding out their arms and they seem to drain the life out of the land itself. Dying animals, cracks in the dried-out earth, and finally fissures opening up with lava flowing out until it almost touches Lord Barnes. With this vision of apocalyptic destruction Barnaby jumps awake. Even after a dreary restless night for Barnes the sun greets the group eventually.

The first day of the year 1924 is spend aboard trains – first the day ride to Bakhtiyarpur, then after some waiting time the direct connection to Nalanda. In the small town it is easy to locate the office of the ASI, where they are greeted by the secretary Daniel Mortimer. The helpful man listens to the adventurers’ request and looks up any information they might have collected about Sidvana. With the help of his colleague Dr. Harrison Neil the archeologists are able to point the group towards the burial grounds close to the Bodh Gaya. These grounds are an active place of ceremony where underground burials, cremations and the nature-aided “sky burials” take place. In actuality it turns out that there are two possible charnel grounds in close proximity: Veluvana close to the mountain ridge and the more Southern Kapilika, where the legendary Padmasambhava is said to have encountered a monstrous scorpion demon and received a mythical ritual dagger.

Moving on to Rajgir the group has no problem to find accommodations among the many pilgrims on their way to Bogh Gaya and establish a base of operation in a hostel there. It is barely a day trip to reach Veluvana where the investigators are greeted by the sight of three funerary pyres in construction. Around them dozens of graves and resting places, separated into Christian, Hindu or Buddhist. Lord Barnes additionally spots something quite disturbing: A sadhu with a face covered in white ash like the mask of Death himself, picking through the bones – the same man he has seen in a vision weeks ago in Peking. When the sadhu seems unwilling to answer any questions all the group can do is observe him collecting a skull and return to his meager possessions. After the sadhu has placed his new morbid acquisition placed upon a shrine he invites Tenzin to join him. The two exchange phrases of wisdom about the dead which seems to satisfy the wise man sufficiently to allow the investigators some questions. Yet when Hans asks him to help finding the necessary bones the sadhu is suddenly enraged by the suggestion of graverobbing and throws an unexpected fecal projectile at the explorer. He makes it quite clear that he wishes the the group to leave his charnel ground alone.
The adventurers are about to follow his command and leave when Barnes glances into the melong and where the faces of the dead stare back at him. But while he is still reeling from the shocking sight a single skull stands out to him, almost beckoning him close. Barnes follows the sign and even manages to grab the skull of a boy, but in doing so he has angered the grave keeper such that he attempts to fling literal scorpions. Only Marta’s quick interception stops the sadhu’s attack, but a short brawl ensues between her and the holy man. When he begins muttering ominous incantations it is time for the investigators to turn and run.

Only a short trek later they find themselves in the second charnel ground, this one fairly empty of mourners. Following animal tracks and the visions of the melong the investigators find their way through the grounds when Yulia discovers a promising looking bone sticking out of a mound. To everyone’s horror the other end of the bone turns out to already have a horrendous creature gnawing on it – a pisacha who immediately pounces at the disturbing investigators. A short fight ensues, bullets hitting the creature barely leaving a mark. In a moment of pause between shooting Yulia shouts at the monster to shoo it away, and things take a surprising turn when the corpse-eater indeed replies. In broken Hindustani the situaion is quickly downplayed as a misunderstanding and the pisacha disappears into the depth of the boneyard, leaving puzzled investigators behind.