Cthulhu 100

Case 011 - The Masterwork Of Nicholas Forby

August 1894

It was during the oppressively hot summer of 1895 that Lord Christopher Chumly received a telegram from Mrs. Gertrude Forby, the wife of Harold Forby, an old school chum. Forby was apparently suffering from a relapse of the ‘brain fever’ that he had suffered from as a child after having discovered the suicide of his father Aleister Forby. The telegram asked Chumly if he would head over to the Forby House on the outskirts of South Mimms and so accompanied by Bob Shire, Edith Wakefield and Yumi he headed off immediately to the Forby residence.

The Forby House was in forty acres of rolling grounds, situated unfavourably in a low lying valley, and shielded from the prevailing, arid, west wind by a high bank planted with laurels and yew hedge rows. A carriageway led to the house along an exposed ridge, descending in one final sweep around an ornamental lake, and a formal rose garden, sheltered by the high yew hedges. In the centre of rose garden stood the statue ‘Icarus’. Behind the house the land sloped upward, its sweep interrupted only by the low slung shape of a mausoleum.

At Forby House, the investigators were greeted by the butler, Bates. After a brief introduction, Mrs. Gertrude Forby ushered them upstairs to their rooms so that they could change and wash after their journey, however, Chumly refused to share a room with Bob and so Bob was alternatively given lodging with the Forby groundskeeper Old Fred. Mrs. Forby took the opportunity to explain that Harry was on the verge of a renewed bout of the brain fever he suffered as a child and that he must be shielded from any shocks. She also expressed her warm appreciation for their attendance.

Tea was served in the library, with Harry, Gertrude and Gertrude’s brother James Smedley in attendance. On meeting, Harry immediately launched into old school anecdotes involving himself and Chumly, whilst Gertrude handed round bread and butter and weak tea. Harry explained that as an invalid he was restricted to a bland diet, and added, with a laugh that did not quite conceal the mean-spirited nature of his demands that he did not see why he should suffer alone and so required the entire household to eat the same.
Harry’s eyes were bright with fever and his cheeks were flushed. His conversation was rambling and not always rational. Harry wanted only to talk about the family treasure and directed the attention of the investigators to a portrait of his grandfather, Nicholas Forby, above the fireplace holding an emerald the size of a pheasant’s egg. During the conversation Smedley mentioned the ghost of the green man that haunted the house, at this the conversation fell into a dead silence, Harry shivering and Gertrude glared at her brother, whilst Bates, in discreet attendance, coughed.
After Gertrude had brought the conversation back to the family treasure, Harry stated his belief that his grandfather had hid the emerald somewhere in the grounds, citing the portrait as his most conclusive proof. He begged the investigators for aid in finding it, before complaining of a severe headache and being helped back to bed by Gertrude and Bates.

After the meal, Smedley took the investigators out on a quick tour of the house and its grounds, where they took in the unusual sculptures and designs created by Nicholas Forby. Shortly after the tour, Smedley excused himself informing them that he had business in London to conduct that would see him away for a couple of days.

In the evening, the investigators decided to see what they could find in the library regarding the hidden treasure and they came across the folios of Nicholas Forby, which because there were three of them it was decided that Bob, Chumly and Edith would each take one to read that night, to see if there was anything in them that would help. Yumi also discovered a clue that had been scratched into the frame of the painting that read ‘An Iron Dog with eyes of fire shoots sparks into Apollo’s bower.’

That night as the inhabitants of the household went to sleep, the three began their reading. The earliest volumes were filled with the sketches and plans as the writings and discussions of Nicholas’ philosophy – a passionate blend of atheistic cynicism and fatalism. A mystery malady plagued him as his ceilings became more successful. He complained of ‘painful and desperate’ fits of lethargy, alternating with periods in which he worked in a frenzy, as if possessed. At length, the fits became so bad – almost bringing him to madness – that he was forced to leave off work and retire to the country.
The second set of volumes were also filled with sketches and notes. Nicholas, his wife Alice, and manservant Bains lived quietly at Forby House. Nicholas partly recovered his health. A friend, the artist Christopher Lehmann, was a fequent visitor. Nicholas transferred his ceiling alloy technique to bronze, and created many statues using a casting pit at the back of the house. Nicholas’ health deteriorated again, and he lost the use of his legs. The servant Bains became ‘indispensable’. Nicholas called him ‘my limbs’, and insisted that Bains be included in a portrait of him that Christopher painted. Nicholas sketched the frame he made for the portrait. His philosophy darkened in the face of his persistent pain and disability. It was during these years that Nicholas found a secret passage in the house and used it to spy on his household. The final part of the middle volumes had long ago been cut from them and was missing.
The final set of books picked up some six months after the middle set. Nicholas recorded that he had just recovered from an illness that brought him close to ‘death or madness’ and paid tribute to Bains for having ‘rescued me from the pit of Hell by his constancy and readiness of action in my time of need’. The couple’s only child, Aleister, was born shortly after the diary had recommenced. The statue ‘Icarus’ was now on the front lawn and the casting pit had been filled in. In his last years, Nicholas turned his attention to creating the mausoleum. The books were filled with increasingly grotesque and irreligious sketches. He became obsessed with pain and death. Work on the mausoleum occupied him until he weakened and he could not leave his bed. The final pages of the book were covered in sketches of works he did not live to create.
On the last night of his life, Nicholas had written the following words:

I am tired of life, yet life will not quit me. The hot passions of my youth seem so past, so distant, as if the deeds of another man.
Christopher, I long to see you again. I must have death.

Written beneath this in a heavy, clumsy, irregular hand that differed entirely from that of Nicholas Forby’s own was the following: ‘Did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?’

It was noticed that there had been no mention of Christopher Lehmann in the final books until the very final entry. Some event – unrecorded – had apparently sundered the friendship.

In the early hours of the morning, Bob was woken by the sound of Old Fred leaving the house. Intrigued he decided to follow, seeing Old Fred along with the family’s two dogs, a red setter and a brindle bull dog, heading south in the grounds. Suddenly, the dogs got a hold of Bob’s scent and turned around, barking, charged at him. At which point, Bob started shooting at the dogs, killing one of them as it headed closer. The noise of the gunshots woke most of the household, except for Chumly, and Yumi came rushing downstairs in time to help Bob as he fired his final shots into the other dog, which was quickly dispatched by Yumi. They all then heard a terrible screaming sound coming from the house, which Edith found to be Harry, having been alarmed by the sounds of gunfire.
Old Fred was dismayed that Bob had killed the dogs, and Bob due to embarrassment decided to sleep in his carriage for the remainder of their stay at Forby House. It was noticed that Forby’s son George had come downstairs and was quite eagerly examining the carcass of one of the dogs before being led away back to his room by Bates.

The following morning, the investigators pooled together their findings from Nicholas Forby’s journals and were informed that Gertrude had sent Old Fred into the village to fetch Dr. Hubert Jeffries to come to see to Harry.
Chumly, Edith and Yumi decided to search the upstairs of the house, where they eventually came upon the secret passage that led into the library. In they library they also found the Diaries of Aleister Forby and the records of his wife, Rhoda Forby. Edith stayed in the library reading Rhoda’s records whilst the others decided to check out the mausoleum.

After eventually picking the lock, the investigators made their way into the mausoleum where they discovered that the central sarcophagus was occupied with the remains of Nicholas Forby and one of the other spaces was occupied with the remains of Aleister. Upon examining the body of Nicholas, they discovered flecks of a greenish substance around the neck and shoulders.

Meanwhile, Edith was making progress with the records kept by Rhoda Forby. The majority of the records were just the day-to-day running of the household, but she discovered that Rhoda evinced a very uncommon tenderness towards the young Dr. Jeffries who had visited many times, particularly when Aleister was laid low with his headaches. She also discovered that it was Harry that had discovered his father’s suicide. Among Aleister’s possessions Rhoda had found a document that she sealed and gave to the man that she claimed to trust more than any other in the world. Harry had been made ill from the heat of the funeral and had been crying about a ‘green man’ that was trying to get into the house. Finally Rhoda had planted the rose garden in memory of her husband.

A telegram was sent to Penelope Hancock in London to help the investigators about the clue that had been scratched into the frame of the painting, Penelope informed them that an Iron Dog could refer to the object that holds logs in the fireplace and that Apollo’s symbol was the laurel tree. This information led the investigators to believe that the treasure could well have been hidden inside Icarus. The telegram led the investigators to check a secret priest hole that was located in the library behind the fireplace. Inside they found the missing pages from Nicholas’ diaries, which gave them the exact directions to find the treasure, confirming their suspicions that the treasure was located inside Icarus.

Chumly had set himself to work on reading the Diaries of Aleister Forby.

That night, Yumi decided to keep watch in the carriage house and was rewarded with the sight of a strange manlike creature heading towards the back door of the house. The creature looked to be covered with vegetation and, after waking Bob headed out to confront the creature. A combat ensued and Chumly hearing it headed downstairs when there was the sound of an explosion as Yumi threw a smoke bomb at the creature. The sound also woke Harold who began screaming again, which promptly woke the rest of the household.
After a brief scuffle, Yumi defeated the creature, which was revealed to be Smedley in a monster costume. Meanwhile Edith, using her chloroform, had put Harold back to sleep and then headed back downstairs to see to the wounds to both Yumi and Smedley. It was decided that Bob and Chumly would take Smedley to see Dr. Jeffries and that the rest of the household would try to get back to sleep.

At Jeffries’ house, the doctor saw to Smedley and was talking to Chumly when Bob decided to abandon him there and headed back to the house, leaving Chumly to spend the night at the doctor’s house.

The following morning, Yumi and Edith informed Gertrude that they were certain of where the treasure was and that after Jeffries had returned to the house with Chumly to see to to Harold, it was decided that the family and servants would watch as Bob, Chumly and Yumi proceeded to search and then try to break the statue open in order to find the treasure.

Suddenly as Icarus was struck with a pick axe he came to life, Edith felt an overriding urge to run and protect George, Harold’s son, as Bob felt an overriding urge to psychotically attack Icarus with the pickaxe. Meanwhile Harold went into a catatonic state in the invalid chair and Bates with Gertrude fled back to the house taking Harold with them. Meanwhile, Old Fred was sent to go fetch the investigators’ weapons from their carriage.
It was clear that not only was Icarus trying to get to Harold as he swept attacks to the side, first hitting Chumly in the groin and sending him straight down onto the floor, but also inside Icarus was the skeleton of Christopher Lehmann. Yumi and Bob were trying to slow Icarus down, but were not having much effect and eventually the statue crashed through the front doors. Edith had taken George and hidden in the secret passageway as Old Fred was returning to the back of the house with the investigators’ weapons.
In the hallway, Icarus took Bob down and continued his pursuit of Harold who was being frantically wheeled away by Gertrude, the cook and the maid. Bates and Old Fred made a stand with revolvers against Icarus as Yumi joined them, but Bates was killed and Old Fred’s arm was destroyed. Meanwhile, Yumi’s armour protected her leg as Icarus hit that and she began blasting away at the statue with Chumly’s shotgun, eventually dislodging the emerald. She thought that maybe the emerald was powering Icarus and so blew into pieces with the shotgun, but it was not. Finally she managed to take Icarus down and Harold had been saved and the mystery had been solved.
Unfortunately even though his life had been saved, Harold had been sent indefinitely insane and Dr. Jeffries had to have him committed.

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