The investigators are hired by Saho Hirrus, an respected auxiliary officer attached to Legio III Cyrenaica (the 3rd Legion), stationed in Egypt. He’s a native born Egyptian and a 2nd generation Roman citizen, a good soldier and loyal to the empire. A few years ago, Hirrus married Ritho, a beautiful woman from a poor rural tribe. He owns a spacious house in Alexandria and, although he and his wife have no children, they enjoy a good life. However, the actions of his wife’s sister have put his entire career and good name at risk.
A few days ago, Ritho’s younger sister, an even more beautiful girl name Pet-Amen, ran off with her lover. Hirrus needs her found and returned to his household before the girl does anything even more reckless. He was in negotiations to wed her to a fellow officer, a superior officer who will be visiting his home next month. If this man, Nonus Junius Crispin, arrives and finds the girl missing, Hirrus’ reputation will suffer greatly. Junius, although a generous man, is both powerful and known for being easily offended.
He tells the investigators to bring the girl home by any means necessary, giving them written permission to do so legally. He says she was sent to school, with a slave as an escort, to improve her Latin before meeting Junius Crispin. She did not return, and the escort was found beaten unconscious.
Hirrus cannot search for the girl himself, as he is busy with his official duties. So much so that after hiring the investigators he departs Alexandria with his troops for an extended patrol of the countryside. He tells them to speak directly to his wife Ritho, who has been instructed to help them.
Keeper’s Note – Pet-Amen attends school under a shady archway beside a public square in Alexandria. There she, along with several other students, meets with their instructor for a day of classes. This was a very common arrangement during this period.
Lead I, The Escort—This large, black skinned Egyptian slave named Ramenka knows nothing. He wants to help, as he is deeply embarrassed, but his skull has been badly bruised and he can scarcely move about. He is lucky to be alive. Ramenka says that the girl had just finished with her tutor and he was bringing her home when four men grabbed him. He didn’t get a good look at them, as a sack was put over his head and then everything went black. He will say that just before the attack, the girl called out “Now”, and ran away from his side. Ramenka is certain she signaled the attack. He is completely honest and knows nothing else.
Lead II, The Sister, Ritho—Saho Hirrus’ wife is very upset by her sister’s actions and cooperates fully. She gives the name of her sister’s former lover, a freedman mason named Pisem. She says she knew about the liaison, but felt nothing would come of it. She said Pet-Amen then asked her to have the man dismissed from the household, saying he had offended her. So she had Pisem fired, and then, three days later, her sister vanished. She suspects the incident was a ruse to get Pisem released from service so he could plan their escape. She says that Pet-Amen does not wish to be married to a man she does not know, but Ritho explain that this was the way it was done. She knows her husband would not pick a bad man to marry her sister to, so she trusts that this will be a good match. She says her sister dishonors them and wants her back.
Investigators making a successful Insight roll sense there is something more going on, some information that she is not sharing. Ritho seems nervous and ashamed but explains this away as her being blind to her sister’s actions and the position she has put them in. She also expresses a fear that if her sister is no longer a maiden when recovered it will ruin any chances of the marriage to the man her husband selected. While there is something more she is nervous about Ritho won’t speak of it at this time.
Lead III, Pisem the Mason—The name is easy to track down, a skilled tradesman hard at work for another household. He knows nothing about the whereabouts of Pet-Amen or the attack on her guard. When questioned he seems nervous and glances about as if looking to see if they are being watched. Investigators making an Insight roll realize Pisem is afraid and embarrassed, obviously hiding something. If pressed, he explains that Pet-Amen asked him to help her run away, to meet up with a cousin who’s recently arrived in Alexandria. He said he refused her and broke off the relationship. He claims Pet-Amen said her uncle was Heri-Baset, a notorious magi and madman, who leads a flock of Zealots living out in the deep deserts. Pisem will say no more of this, making a sign over his heart to ward off evil. He tells them to go speak to Ritho if they want to know more, but warns them that those sharing the blood of Heri-Baset are little more than liars, murders, and madmen cursed by the gods.
Lead IV, Asking Ritho about Heri-Baset—If confronted with the name Heri-Baset, Ritho gasps, asking where the investigators heard that name and ordering her slaves out of the room. She begs the investigators to help her, and her fool of a sister, but begs them not to tell her husband any of what she is about to share. She will give them as much of her jewelry as she can to purchase their help if need be.
Ritho explains that her uncle is a madman, a vile demon of a man who worships a dark god. She says that he is not only their uncle, but their father, a mark of deep shame. She says that their religion was one of the ancient Black Pharaohs, and that royal blood could not be diluted. Members of their family married siblings, cousins, and parents to maintain the pure bloodline of the Black Pharaoh. She says this is why she will not give her husband, who is a good man, children, for any offspring she produces would be an abomination (she firmly believes this, but has no evidence this is true).
Ritho says that Pet-Amen knows nothing about this, as she was only a small child when the Roman soldiers raided their village. Ritho and Pet-Amen were taken as slaves. Ritho earned her freedom, purchased that of her sister, and then married Saho Hirrus. She never speaks of her past. She is very afraid that Pet-Amen may be in the hands of her uncle, and that she is meant to be his bride. What terrifies her most is that she saw Heri-Beset die. The Romans crucified him, and when he would not stop chanting to his god, they set fire to him.
The Assignment—Ritho says that if Heri-Best has Pet-Amen, he will seek to marry her, but must obtain the blessings of the Black Pharaoh himself. She says that this is a dark god her people worshipped. The nearest temple of the Black Pharaoh is at the Oasis of Ket-Septi, a much shunned place four days southwest from Alexandria. In six days, the moon will be absent from the night sky, allowing Heri-Best to summon the Black Pharaoh himself. If this happens, and the match is approved, the dark god will perform the ceremony himself.
Stay Tuned to Shoggoth.net for Part Two—The Oasis of Ket-Septi, and the conclusion of The Runaway.
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