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Missed Classic: Daughter of Serpents – Death on the Nile

Written
by Vetinari

Alexandria is on the Nile, so the title is technically correct.

Last
time we were going to visit Bimbashi Cameron at the police station to
check on our leads about the case which brought us here in Egypt.
Cameron gives off the vibe of being a very strict and severe man, a
classic by-the-book policeman.

This is the one and only pleasantry which he exchanges with me.

In
an As
You Know
moment, Cameron explains the backstory which brought me
here, i.e. the fact that a friend of mine was sold shares in a
worthless company, and that I have managed to find out that the man
behind the fraud is one Constantine Elytis, who runs the Elytis
Import Export Company here in Alexandria.

Unfortunately,
Cameron says that Elytis died over a year ago, and his widow Ariadne
has taken over the business. She can’t be legally touched because she
can plead ignorance of the dealings of her late husband and she is
also covered by the
Capitulations.
These are legal privileges and immunities granted to foreign citizens
by the Ottomans to encourage trade; they are still in effect after
WWI (even if now Egypt is a British protectorate). In practice the
police cannot arrest a Greek subject if there isn’t a representative
of their consulate present. So, tough luck.

Sure, let’s dispense some extra-judicial justice.

Cameron
says that a lot of unusually fine papyrus manuscripts have turned up
on the black market. This may mean that a new archeological site has
been discovered by the criminal underworld, and the authorities are
worried. So he proposes that I impersonate a buyer of manuscripts to
lay a trap for these criminals and, since he suspects that Mrs. Elytis
herself is the source of these papyri, we can kill two birds with one
stone.

I
can either agree with this plan, or refuse and go rogue. Since I
think that collaborating with the local police will be the most
proficuous course of action, I agree. Cameron says that in order to
contact Mrs Elytis, I can choose to meet her either at her office or
in her café “The Gardens of Paradise”. I think that the café
will be a more inconspicuous locale, so I choose that.

I
make a note to try and see, after finishing the game, if there are
alternate paths when you choose not to help Cameron with his
investigations, or if you meet Ariadne Elytis at her office instead
of the café. This will be in addition to trying to beat the game
with my other two alternate characters.

In
any case, Cameron concurs with my suggestion, but informs me that,
due to the rampant corruption in the police force and in the various
consulates, we cannot divulge our plan to anyone. Therefore, I have
to setup a further meeting with Mrs Elytis at the Savoy Hotel bar,
where she will want to see the colour of my money. Cameron says that
he will provide me with the funds to make the purchase through a
banker’s draft from
Cook’s,
but Sven has other ideas.

Weird flex there, Sven.

Cameron
rebuffs me and says that we need to use Cook’s because we cannot be
seen together in order not to arouse suspicion. He will instruct the
clerks to inform him of my draft request, and the fact that I will
order the letter of credit for a certain time will tip him off that
the meeting with Ariadne at the bar will be at that particular
moment. In this way he can swoop in and arrest the widow, while also
having invited a representative from the Greek consulate for
cocktails at the Savoy Hotel bar at the same time, in order to cover
the legal quibbles over the Capitulations.

The café is helpfully signposted on the map.

I
decide to start off this plan immediately, so I go to the “Gardens
of Paradise” where I pose as an ordinary vacationer.

The music changes between the various locations.

Sven
has the distinct impression that this café is a place for tourists,
not a seedy criminal hangout. I order some coffee and sweets and wait
around to see if anything happens.

I think that’s a sfouf, but I could be mistaken.

It
doesn’t take long until the helpful proprietress comes to my table to
inquire how everything is going, and I am more than glad to strike up
a conversation with her.

Sven tries to pull off a James Bond here.

It
takes Ariadne close to no prompt by my side to suggest that I should
take home some interesting souvenir of Egypt (if you catch her drift)
and that she will let me know if she finds something interesting by
leaving a message at my hotel reception. Then she excuses herself and
leaves.

After
finishing my coffee, I return to the Savoy and, since I have to wait
until something happens and there is unfortunately no option to pass
the time by sightseeing, I decide to rest in my room.

Sven doesn’t know anything about Egyptology.

When
I come down to the lobby, the ever-helpful Emil informs me that
someone has left a message for me there.

Not shady at all, no sirree.

I
go to the bar and wait for Ariadne to show up.

The bar clock helpfully provides another means to pass the time.

Mrs
Elytis shows up, as per our appointment, at eleven sharp.

The speech balloons for Ariadne seem a little off.

She
tells me an obviously made-up story about a coptic community member
here in Alexandria who is in deep debt and is selling off ancient
relics from his family. In particular, she offers me a cased scroll
for the extortionate price of 5000 egyptian dollars, which is however
(or at least that’s what she says) much less than its true value. I
accept the exchange and she says she will be here at 6 pm with the
manuscript.

Thomas Cook’s was first and foremost a travel agency, and it shows.

I
go to Cook’s office to request a banker’s draft, telling them to
bring it to the hotel lobby just before 6 pm, in order to alert
Cameron of the time of the exchange. Then I wait for the meeting.

Ariadne
has the artifact with her, and asks me to show the letter of credit.
She then proceeds to unwrap a little bit of the golden case in which
the papyrus is held, but she is cut short by Cameron who appears
behind her and declares her under arrest. She is initially
nonplussed, but regains her composure very soon as she spars verbally
with the Bimbashi.

Whoa, sick burn!

Cameron
says to take her over to the police station, while he retrieves the
letter of credit from me and arranges to have the artifact brought to
the museum, to be examined by a certain Professor Stone. He asks me
if I want to come along with him to the museum and I accept.

Professor
Stone starts examining the case and says that it is not clear if it
is fake or not, since gold leaf does not tarnish.

I would say that’s pretty unlikely.

There
really is a scroll inside the case, however, and the professor thinks
that by checking and translating it we can arrive at some conclusions
on the veracity of the container.

That case/sarcophagus is really pretty, by the way.

The
scroll is in Greek, and titled “Biblion Kayrukeion” or “Book of
the Serpent Staff”. It promises to reveal powerful magic to the
reader, and describes the voyages of a certain Neneferkaptah, who had
a vision from Thoth
who led him to a city of serpents in the midst of the Sea of Coptos.

There,
inside a series of boxes, of iron, then bronze, then wood, then
ebony, then ivory, then silver and finally of gold, all guarded by an
endless serpent, he found a book that Thoth wrote, called “The book
which governs the return of the stars”. Hmmm. That’s not creepy at
all.

Translating scrolls is hard work, but does it really make you sweat?

The
scroll is written in a very obscure language and difficult to
decipher, but Stone says that it seems that Neneferkaptah studied the
wisdom of the ancient city, killed the serpent who guarded the book
and used one of the spells in it to imprison the denizens of that
place. Cameron asks why it was called the “city of serpents”, and
Stone says that it is because its inhabitants were serpents.

This
prompts the Bimbashi to recount what happened when the SS Dacia
docked, i.e. what was shown in the introduction sequence for the
game. The eyewitnesses said that the attacker turned into a snake,
but the coroner who performed the autopsy said that the scaly skin,
slit pupiled eyes and needle teeth were just skin diseases and birth
defects.

Do these seem like a skin disease and some birth defects? That’s a f***ing reptilian, man.

Stone
then proceeds to tell about three magic spells that are recounted in
the book: one of summoning, one of binding and one of divination;
this last one was performed by scratching the eye of the recipient
with a golden needle. This reminds Cameron of one of his police
officers who was found feverish and delirious, repeating that “she
scratched my eye with a golden needle and gave me second sight”,
and soon afterwards he died. When they carried out the autopsy, there
was a scratch in the corner of one of his eyes.

Before
he can elaborate further, he receives a phone call and has to go to a
crime scene elsewhere. Stone goes on to translate the next part of
the scroll which seems to be a prophecy for the end of the world,
“when the stars are right” and when the true name of Thoth would
be invoked by the spell of summoning. Then suddenly the lights start
flickering, and this happens:

W…

T…

F?!?

A
manifestation of Thoth appears from a pylon gateway in the main hall.
He commands Stone to give him the manuscript since “its time
approaches but its message is not for you”. Stone hurries to comply
with his requests, kneeling at his feet.

Yeah, rock on, ancient Egyptian god buddy!

Then
he says that he is a teacher and a messenger, and to those that seek
he brings wisdom and knowledge. Since I have sought knowledge, that
will be his gift to me.

Thanks, really, but do you mind if I take a rain check on that?

Next
thing I know I am in the catacombs of Kom
Es Chagaufa
, where a tourist guide asks me if I am all right,
because I was standing there when he came in and for ten minutes I
had not moved, as if I was frozen still.

That’s what we all would like to know, Sven.

I
make my way back to the hotel, where I immediately notice that there
is something amiss. Emil tells me to go sit down at the bar while he
makes arrangements, and soon after a police officer comes to escort
me down to the police station.

Ominous.

Fortunately,
it would seem that Bimbashi Cameron is just very apprehensive for my
well-being. He asks me where I was, and I answer that earlier today I
was at the catacombs, while I remember only that yesterday night I
was at the museum with Professor Stone.

Whaaat?

Cameron
elaborates that I have been missing for three months and I must be
suffering from amnesia. He brings me up to date with the events of
the night I was at the museum.

He
had been called to investigate the body of the customs agent of the
Elytis, Yusuf Al Raschid, who was found dead in the cellar of their
warehouse. By the time he managed to get back to the museum, the
professor was dead (apparently of a heart attack), while me and the
scroll were both nowhere to be found.

Cameron
thought that Ariadne had paid someone to kill Al Raschid and recover
the scroll, but before he could interrogate her further, she had
escaped custody by bribing the guards. He further assumes that the
people responsible for the murder had kidnapped me but they couldn’t
face killing me in cold blood, so after some time had passed they cut
me loose in the catacombs after hitting me on the head, which caused
my memory loss.

Cameron
says that there are however some loose ends in this story. For
example, Ariadne didn’t have the keys for the cellar door in the
warehouse, only Al Raschid did. Also, the door from the cellar had
been forced open
from the inside,
which didn’t gel with the reconstruction that the killers broke down
the door to drag their victim down to the basement.
If the
door was opened by Al Rashid, there would have been no need to force
it, and even if Al Raschid locked the door after he and the killers
went inside, he was found tied to a chair with the keys still hanging
from his belt, so no need to force it open afterwards, they could
have just used the keys.

Since
he still hasn’t managed to make heads nor tails of it, he thinks that
a fresh pair of eyes might be needed to shed light on this whole
situation.

I don’t know, maybe that could have been useful, like, three months ago?

Well,
since this post has been running on the longish side for a while,
let’s stop it here and we will continue the investigation next time.

Session
Time:
2 hours 30 minutes
Total
Time:
3 hours 00 minutes

Note
Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points:
There’s a set
of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read
it
here
before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any
way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or
spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please…try not to
spoil any part of the game for me…unless I really obviously need
the help…or I specifically request assistance. In this instance,
I’ve not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

#Missed #Classic #Daughter #Serpents #Death #Nile

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