He awoke slowly, lifting his eyes from their heavy slumber. The blurry, fuzzy world tried to refocus around him. He tried to speak and found an odd taste in his mouth. He correctly identified the taste of cloth. He tried to move but found his arms and legs stretched to their limits and his naked back was pressed against a table made of cold stone. The realisation of the cold pulled him the rest of the way out of his grogginess with a start.
He was in a dark room lit dimly by smoking torches. The flickering shadows played across carvings in the pillars that were supporting the roof of the chamber. He could just make out the stain-glass windows high on the walls. Was this St. Paul’s Cathedral? He realized he was completely naked and began to look frantically around. He saw a robed figure with a veiled face, dark eyes and long silky hair. The figure smiled, oddly beautiful, warm, a drastic mismatch to the malignancy in her gaze. “Dear Doctor Rutherford, I am sorry to find you in this predicament but I’m afraid you were getting too close to discovering the truth.”
He struggled to speak and she placed a finger on her lips while drawing her other finger along his slender, naked body. Goose flesh appeared on his body from her cool touch.
“You see, dear doctor, you were getting to close to realizing a very dark secret that I’m afraid I’ve been keeping from you.” He started struggling even more and she smiled. “No, no. This isn’t about your excavation or your findings, though, I am afraid the excavation has been halted and your findings confiscated. Don’t worry. I wont be publishing them under mine, or any other, name. You see, that’s the secret I’ve been keeping from you….“
His eyes grew wide in terror as her eyes became golden gems with dark slits, her tongue forked and a green sort of scale started forming around and framing her face. “You see, we’re almost ready to return. We can’t have you warning people, now can we?”
The doctor’s tense body slumped as she walked closer to him. She bent down to his ear and he felt the tickle of the forked tongue dancing around his ear lobe. You see, I can guarantee that your death won’t be vain…. Yes, Doctor Rutherford. You are going to die tonight. But… think of this as not a death. No. Think of this as a personal experiment to see if the Lands of the Dead actually exist.”
She looked at the doctor and smiled. She raised her hands towards the sky. A long, wavy dagger glinted in the reflected torchlight. He noted to himself that it was an Egyptian sacrificial dagger. One that had been recently stolen from the museum. Others around her started chanting in a language he recognized as ancient Egyptian and black candles were now aglow around him. He noticed the table he was on had grooves etched in near his wrists and neck. He could only imagine the etching from the waist down.
As the chanting grew louder, she quickly sliced open one of the doctor’s wrists. He felt a wave of pain shoot through him. Poison? He felt a sharp slice on his right thigh. He struggled to stay awake and fight the encroaching darkness. He felt another slice, this time on his left thigh. He felt his blood draining and he was becoming light-headed. Before he lost consciousness forever, he just managed to make out the dagger descending once again, disappearing from view.
A short time later a hansom cab pulled away from the door of a brownstone, its newest passenger – a short, muscular man – just woken from sleep. “What’s so damned important that you couldn’t wait until morning? I was enjoying myself.”
“Yes, well… both your alcohol and your whores will be there when you get back. What Mary would say if she were still alive, I’ve no idea…. Rutherford’s disappeared. He might be dead already.”
“And so I’m to begin my task am I? Very well, if I can’t carouse, I might as well fight. Who am I looking for?”
The tall thin man, leaned back into the shadows of the cab. He always seemed to be more at home in the shadows, the shorter man thought. Or maybe it was just any time his real identity was hidden. He handed the shorter man a leather valise. “All the information is in there. If I might make a suggestion. Try the American last. You know how intractable our cousins can be without prodding. And John?”
“Do be careful. Keep your revolver with you at all times. I’d be lost without you.”
(The valise contains the names of the players’ characters. Why are your characters of such interest to the man in the cab? What special talents have made you important? And most of all, what matter is so urgent to cause this sudden flurry of activity?)