Getting Ahead of Themselves
Last time on The Laundry, Team Bunga Tahi Ayam was sent to Ulu Yam to look for the missing Team Bunga Kemboja of Capital Laundry Services agents. Their de facto field supervisor Pn. Izani escorted them in their car while micromanaging them loudly and obnoxiously. The trail of the agents lead them to the kedai runcit of En. Sabri Mat Hassan where a pair of undead armed with automatic weapons attacked them. Later, they discovered the house of En. Saad Ibrahim, a sculptor who works with wood. One of his sculptures had been possessed by an extradimensional entity and killed Team Bunga Kemboja leader Keith Yong. It seemed like this was caused by occult pages of a book that was found all over the countryside.
The conclusion of the encounter with the possessed wooden sculpture was a blast…
- Azizah a.k.a. Jijah (Yuzi) – a Fifth Form student who is also an experienced spy from Pulau Langkawi.
- Badrul (Bazli) – a 65 year-old antiquarian from Ipoh, Perak.
- Lucy Abdullah (Farah) – a “plumber” from Tangkak, Johor.
- Rayha a.k.a Ray (Noriha) – a linguist from Batu Pahat, Johor.
- Talhah Abdullah (Rizal) – a computer hacker from Segamat, Johor.
THE ANOMALOUS TAHI BINTANG OBSERVATION
Team Bunga Tahi Ayam was recalled to the car by Pn. Izani after destroying En. Saad’s possessed sculpture, plus En. Saad’s entire kampung house in a C4-caused ball of fire, immolating the bodies of Saad and Keith Yong. They carried the wounded Rayha back to the car, her thigh injured by a shrapnel.
“You’re taking too long! Let’s go! Let’s go!” harangued Pn. Izani from the back seat of their car, still parked at the side of the lonely woodland road. She still had her cellphone on her ear. “We should be going to the Director’s house now! It’s Maghrib already!”
They all climbed into the 1996 Isuzu Trooper with Talhah in the driver’s seat. Pn. Izani ordered, “Go towards the Director’s house!”
Sunlight disappeared into darkness as the Trooper rolled deeper into the jungle road. (Everyone rolled their Sense skill. Ray succeeds.)
Ray, at the back of the car and looking up at the sky, spotted a shooting star through the jungle canopy. It seemed lower than it should. She suddenly yelled, “Berhenti!”
Talhah stopped the car abruptly with a loud screech. Pn. Izani, “HEY! Now what? You are the most troublesome team ever. What is WRONG with you? I’m your field supervisor. You’re not showing me you have what it takes to be agents of the Laundry.”
Talhah said apologetically, “I think we should drive on.”
“Yes! The Director’s road is another 5 km up the road,” said Pn. Izani. “Follow this path!”
And they resumed their travel. Suddenly the twilight sky flared up, becoming brighter than ever. It was like a meteor flew through the air among the trees. In the front seat, Badrul and Talhah caught sight of something flying. There might be a tangle of dark hair and a glint of fangs. (Both lost Sanity Points. Having to make a Drive check at -10 because he was driving faster than normal, Talhah rolled a 64 over 10.)
Talhah swerved, lost control of the car and flew off the road into the jungle. The car plunged through the brush kicking up a cloud of dirt, lalang and fern. (Talhah’s Drive check resulted in a 67/20, a definite failure. The Isuzu Trooper hit the trunk of a thick tree in a sudden outburst of violence. Each player receives 1d6 damage, but Ray gets a 5, resulting in a -2.)
Blood streamed down Rayha’s face. She was unconscious. The others were frenetically trying to administer first aid to Rayha when Talhah suggested, “Guys. I think we need to get out of this car. We’re in a crash. I saw something weird fly over the road. And our friend is already out cold.”
Lucy agreed, “Let’s pull her out.”
“What are you doing? What are you doing?” said the bewildered Pn. Izani as she pulled a large hard-cover binder–marked The Musang King Directive–out of the car with her. When they ignored her, she relented and said, “Okay, I’ll follow you.”
That’s when they realised that not far away, beyond the trees, were sources of lights.
“Let’s go approach the lights,” Lucy said, helping to carry Rayha.
“Yeah. Let’s go into the light,” Talhah said sardonically.
But who would step into the light first?
THE BLOOD-SOAKED RESEARCH ATTEMPT
The light, it turned out, came from a clearing in the woods. Talhah took point, with his handgun and his laptop backpack, leading the party. There was a small surau surrounded by several wooden houses on stilts in the clearing. They headed for the surau as it was now Maghrib prayers. Talhah said, “There’s a surau. Let’s help our friend Rayha there.”
Pn. Izani told them she would be looking for the toilets, still carrying the comically oversized binder in her arms.
Lucy set Rayha down on the surau‘s outer veranda. Suddenly, she realised that Rayha was covered in more blood than she thought. The blood was wet and warm, but she saw that it was not Rayha’s. It was flowing from inside the surau.
They realised that no one was around even with the surau‘s lights on. What was going on in the place of worship?
They attempted to provide first aid to Rayha. Talhah tried but was unable to stop Ray’s bleeding. Badrul however (rolling a 07 on the percentile dice), was successful in quickly cleaning the wounds with water and antiseptic, and bandaging the injury. (Rayha rolls 1d6 and regains 4 hit points.)
All of a sudden, Rayha gasped loudly and sat up immediately, scaring everyone. She looked around and saw that they were at a surau! She exclaimed happily, “Alhamdulillah!”
Jijah quips, “She hasn’t solat Maghrib yet.”
While catching their breath, they took out the ancient pages from what might be a Nusantara occult book of spells that they discovered discarded in the jungle trail and from En. Saad’s house.
First parchment had an illustration of a keris, a short & wavy traditional blade weapon, among the peculiar-looking jawi script. Translating the text, Badrul discovered that it was the “Keris Dato’ Gunong“, a weapon that protetced its user from any magical assault. Also on the same page was the desciption and instructions for a “Mantera Apian Dato’ Gunong” spell which gave the spellcaster the ability to throw a ball of fire.
Second piece of paper that they found in En. Saad’s house contained a pair of spells, namely the “Panggilan Semangat Retakan” & “Usiran Semangat Retakan“. No one knew what “Semangat Retakan” was except that one spell summoned it and the other banished it.
Only Badrul and Rayha were able to decipher the text. However it would take them 10 minutes to read and understand each spell to be able to cast it. It would take longer to teach any of the others.
“Let’s go check where the blood is coming from,” said Lucy, her weapon trained on one of the many sliding doors of the surau. Everyone hesitated, En. Saad’s animated wooden sculptures still fresh in their minds.
Ultimately, they all entered the surau together. Immediately, their wards began to heat up at their chest. There was a fresh corpse by the door. More dotted the surau interior. They looked as if they had been eaten, gnawed on my teeth. One was even missing an arm.
THE UNSPEAKABLE SURAU VIOLENCE
Suddenly something staggered towards them from the minbar of the surau. The figure stumbled, blood spurting from his neck. It was the imam of the village surau, his jubah stained red. The team rushed to help the man. Then they spotted a second figure slowly revealing itself from the darkened alcove of the minbar.
It was a middle aged woman. She wore a white telekung, but it was stained by fresh blood. Although her face was pale and emaciated, the skin around her also tainted with fresh blood; blood that is not hers. Lucy, ever the plumber, fired her gun and struck the woman on her shoulder (doing only a damage of 1 with a 1d10). The mak cik zombi suddenly lunged them at great speed.
Rayha reacted fastest and took out the Hand of Glory given to her by the Quartermaster. She pulled the magnesium tab, ignited its thumb and disappeared into thin air. The mak cik zombi still charged at them. Jijah and Lucy drew their pistols and fired. Jijah’s bullet hit the wall beside the minbar while Lucy’s popped open the mak cik zombi‘s head like a balloon.
It fell dead.
The imam was dying, blood flowing out of his carotid artery. Badrul tried to stop the bleeding. The imam choked on his words, “His wife! His wife! She is – She has something in her -” and then he died.
They all looked the remains of the mak cik zombi.
“Who’s going to check?” asked Lucy.
Talhah glared at them. He advanced on the headless body, brains all over the floor behind it. (I had Talhah roll a 1d8 where 5-8 triggers something. He rolls a 6.) The corpse of the mak cik zombi farted. She farted loudly and for a long time.
Within the telekung, the mak cik zombi was wearing a black t-shirt which read, “MARI BAYAR P.T.P.T.N.”
Also hidden in the telekung is a third page from the occult book. The page listed a family of spells named “Mantera-Mantera Ketujuh.” Badrul read their titles aloud: “Merah Terpanggil“, a spell that could infected a person by some blight called the “Merah” and body dies, the Merah takes over; “Sebaik Darah“, a healing spell; “Mata Kehitaman“, some sort of an attack spell; and “Pukulan Gajah” which allowed a long distance and amplified punch of its caster. Like before, Badrul would also require about ten minutes to learn a single spell from the page.
Talhah found the Mak Cik Zombi‘s purse and identity card. She was Pn. Maimunah Selamat. In her purse is a photo. The photo showed her along with her beaming husband and two smiling children. Her husband, it turned out, was En. Sabri.
Ray and Badrul spent the next ten minutes learning spells from the loose page.
From outside the surau, they heard the loud, nagging voice of Pn. Izani, “What is all this? Why is there blood everywhere?” They headed outdoors with the new occult page hidden to meet their field supervisor who still held on to the Musang King Directive binder. They spotted a trail of more dead bodies northwards. The team felt obliged to follow the macabre path. She whined, “No! Let’s go back to the car. I’m going to go there and call for help. I need protection. Come with me.”
Talhah tried to persuade Pn. Izani to follow them on their investigation (but failed his Persuade roll, even with a +20 bonus.) She balked, saying, “”I’m not going with you. I’ll wait at the car.”
The team left without her, making her more afraid surrounded by nothing but dead bodies and blood. Talhah used the opportunity to get her to follow them (with a +30 bonus to Persuade, but rolling a 94 out of 65.)
She yelled, “I don’t want to die with you people,” she said and ran southwards back towards the main road clutching her precious binder.
Talhah stood there alone for a moment, then yelled back at the now-disappeared Pn. Izani, “OK! Fine!”
THE ALTERCATION AT THE ANTEDILUVIAN ABODE
It was about 8.30 pm. The house’s front sliding door was smashed outwards, safety grill broken and there was a trail of blood that led out from it. The house was small, looked like an ubiquitous three-bedroom, two-bathroom kampung bungalow.
They headed up the path through the underbrush between tall trees and arrive at a clearing. There sat a single-story bungalow house, perhaps a decade old and surrounded by flower pots. There was a tarred path that led east, presumably to the main road.
When they were trying to decide who would take the point in entering, they realised that there were only four of them. “Wait, where’s Ray?” On cue, Rayha popped into existence when her HOG flame finally gave out.
They peered through the smashed entryway, weapons ready. The living room was empty. It has a sofa set, a flatscreen TV on the wall, a bookcase and a fabric curtain hung from an opening separated it from the rest of the house. The trail of blood began in the middle of the living room.
“We’re less of an investigative team now,” quipped Talhah, “and more of a zombie-hunting team. So who goes first?”
“Ray’s back, right? So, Ray, can you go in first?”
“Bismillahirahmanirahim,” Ray loudly said while smiling.
The living room was like any normal living room, with a television, a bookcase and a sofa set. There were framed beautiful khat calligraphy on the wall. Each was adorned by Sabri’s signature at the bottom. On the bookcase, there were framed certificates of appreciation from schools and companies. Apparently local organisations and institutes paid En. Sabri for his skills in creating khat for them as decorations and gift.
On a shelf there was a picture of En. Sabri and the sculptor En. Saad outdoors holding up a freshly-caught fish. They were friends! Beside the picture was a small box. Within it was an ancient keris. From its shape it was definitely the Keris Dato’ Gunong. Lucy grabbed it immediately.
Talhah lead the way through the curtains into the dining room. They felt their wards heating up, triggered by the presence of strong magic.
That was when they saw it.
En. Sabri was seated at the dining room with a smile on his face, pouring them tea. “You’ve arrived!” he exclaimed gleefully. Lucy said cautiously, “You’ve been expecting us?”
“Yes! I’ve been expecting you! Come! Come! Come! Careful, the tea’s a bit hot.” There were also some karipap and cucur udang served on the table. “Thank you for coming! Thank you for coming! How do you like my keris?” He gestured at the blade Lucy had at her belt.
“I think it’s lovely,” said Lucy. Badrul tried to assess En. Sabri whether he was all right, but he seemed just fine talking to them in a cheerful manner.
“I found the keris in an old abandoned house very high up Gunung Jerai.”
“Oooh,” Lucy said. “So you found it and took it home?”
“Yes! Yes!” he happily said. “Have a seat!”
Talhah stepped forward to arrest En. Sabri. “En. Sabri, we found your wife earlier at the surau. What do you know about what happened to her?”
“Well, you know, I needed to know whether all these spells work, so I had to test them. You cannot make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”
“Oooh,” said everyone.
“But the biggest experiment is yet to come. I still need help. I need you help. We still need a few more bodies!”
A few more bodies for what?
The entire west wall and part of the roof exploded outwards, showering them with a chaotic miasma of debris. Something had ripped it out. Outside was a colossal bipedal form with a large central torso with arms and legs.
There were two things that struck the team. One: the creature was physically made out of dozens and dozens of human bodies stuck together to form its shape. Each constituent corpse had sickly glowing green eyes and mouths. Two: Each of the human body was laughing hysterically and, it went without saying, maniacally too.
(Everyone rolled Sanity. Talhah and Jijah failed. They both lose 1d12 Sanity Points. Talhah loses 5 Sanity Points. Jijah loses 9 and receives a minor temporary insanity: homicidal mania! As long as the gigantic creature is present she becomes extremely aggressive and insane with bloodlust.)
Ray was so bad-ass that before the others could act, she walked up to the creature’s foot and slapped one of the human bodies that made up its leg with all her might. The once-human stopped laughing. The green glows from its eyes and mouth died down. It had become an unmoving corpse stuck to the leg of the unholy beast that was about to kill them all. The creature pulled its leg back in surprise.
Jijah, in her homicidal blood-lust, drew her gun and fired easily hitting the huge entity. (A damage roll of 1d10 results in 6 hit points depleted.) Bullets hit two of the constituent corpses. The two stopped laughing. Their eyes and mouths ceased to glow, emitting green gases from their bullet wounds as they died a second time.
Lucy ran forward and stabbed a leg-body with Keris Dato’ Gunong, but it pulled its leg up and she missed.
Talhah turned to Sabri and asked, “How do you kill this thing?”
Sabri was elated, looking at the towering creature. “Why would I want to kill it? Behold, he who is the Charnel House. The first of many to come and they will reward me greatly!”
Badrul closed his eyes and cast out with his arms. The spell whipped out and some of the bodies on the torso flew away. They realised that they were bodies of Team Bunga Kemboja.
Ray concentrated to cast Pukulan Gajah. (She got a Critical Hit then rolled 1d10 damage twice) The creature’s head, 20 meters away exploded into their constituent corpses.
Still running amok and homicidal, the little Jijah drew and fired her handgun viciously at the beast, but only hitting an ear of one of the bodies. A disembodied ear fell in front of the team.
It was then, Lucy flung her keris at it. Upon implanting itself in the flesh of one of the component corpses, the keris began to glow blue. The blue glow supplanted the green and spread throughout the nearest laughing corpses. The blue glow throughout the creature became brighter. It seemed to tremble in agony.
Then the entire gestalt creature exploded into its constituent corpses. Dead bodies, no longer glowing, were raining down all over the ruined house of En. Sabri. Sabri’s mind appeared to have went bye-bye. He stared into the distance and stuttered, “My… my… my…”
They looked around and discovered a Toyota Unser behind En. Sabri’s house. They tied up En. Sabri and drove out towards the main road, informing Pn Izani via the Laundry’s secure WhatsApp group that they were en route to pick her up.
ARE YOU DONE?!? IF YOU’RE DONE THEN LET’S GO TO THE DIRECTOR’S HOUSE!!!
She had typed her text in all caps.
THE DIRECTOR’S HOUSE DECEPTION
As Talhah drove them to where Pn. Izani was waiting by the roadside, Badrul called for Laundry clean-up support from the main office to help clean up the carnage at the kampung. They tied up En. Sabri at the ruins of his house for the Laundry plumbers to come pick him up.
Soon, they arrived at the boss’s house. It was a two-story bungalow perched on the side of hill surrounded by jungle. It did not look like a typical kampung bungalow. It had large windows, curtained, especially on the second floor where there is a wide balcony with a garden.
Pn Izani led the way with her ridiculously thick binder of documents.
They entered and discovered that the interior looked chic and modern, complete with a fireplace, a cozy den and an kitchen island with a marble top. Pn Izani asked them, “You’ve never met the director before, right?” Then she gestured up the spiral staircase that led to the top floor.
Lucy took point up the stairs. The upper floor is a combination of a bedroom and study. It has a tall ceiling and two of its four walls were glass. The sliding door was fully open to the humid evening sky and the wind was blowing in the curtains.
Jijah had come down from her amok state and was thirsty. She took some cold water from the Director’s fridge to drink to the others’ horror. Then she went up the stairs. Talhah, Badrul, Rayha and finally Pn. Izani followed after.
It was eerily silent. The Director of Capital Laundry Services (Malaysia) was nowhere to be seen.
Pn. Izani turned on the lights and they saw a headless body sitting in the big chair on the office table. It was a woman’s body. It was just sitting there in a baju kurung with a gaping hole where the neck should be.
Talhah quipped with half-hearted humour, “Okay, let’s just put the document on the table and leave.” Then they realised that they were all petrified, paralysed where they stood.
Pn. Izani appeared to be the only one who could move. She slowly walked to the front and said, “Thank you for bringing me here. I couldn’t do it alone because the house’s wards will not let me pass because they would know who I really am and what my intentions are.”
She opened her binder and drew a keris hidden within. The keris was not wavy. It looked sharp and made of silver. She slowly crept up to the table and pointed the blade at the headless body.
Lucy stuggled to move and touched the keris she had at her belt. Suddenly, she was free.
Pn. Izani raised her keris with the pointy end pointed downwards, about to stab the headless body. Her voice turned unbelieveably sinister when she muttered, “Black Chamber will take Malaysia once again.” Lucy threw Keris Dato’ Gunong at the assassin. (95 out of 65) The blade missed, but it made Pn. Izani turn towards her. “You’re still alive? You can move?” She eyed the gun at Lucy’s belt and lunged at the plumber with her silver keris in an attempt to stab her.
Lucy drew her gun and shot her supervisor, and hitting her (with a damage of 9) on her thigh.
That was when something dropped from the shadows in the ceiling. It was an unholy mass of hair and flesh and blood. Something bit into Pn. Izani’s neck. Blood spurted out like a fountain. The thing was unyielding, fastened onto her flesh long enough for the life to finally drain out of the supervisor’s body.
Pn. Izani was dead.
“You’re the new ones aren’t you,” said the tangled mass of hair and flesh. It floated upwards. The team saw that it was a head of a woman with long black hair. Below the head, tied together by some dark magic were a pair of lungs and a stomach and intestines. The head positioned herself above the sitting body, then lowered its organs in through the gaping neck orifice, making a series of unpleasant wet noises. Finally, the head landed on the shoulders and the hole disappeared.
It was apparent that the woman before them, the penanggal, was Director Lela Abdullah. She smiled at the agents and told them, “You have proven yourselves to be wonderful agents.”
Everyone looked at the Director and at each other in horror.
The Director said, “I think you will all go far in the Laundry.”
- I have a 90 minute audio recording of the session which I used to write this actual play write-up.
- Because of the fact above, even the dialogues are more or less as spoken at the table during play.
- How did Black Chamber infiltrate the Laundry (Malaysia)?
- Who were the two undead with firearms who ambushed them two episodes ago? They sure were not made by En. Sabri.
Bahasa Melayu – English Glossary
- Alhamdulillah – “Praise be to God”
- ayam – chicken
- Bahasa Melayu – Malay Language
- bayar – pay
- berhenti – stop
- bintang – star
- Bismillahirahmannirahim – “In the name of God, most gracious, most merciful”
- bunga – flower
- bunga kemboja – frangipani
- bunga tahi ayam – lantana camara (big sage flower)
- darah – blood
- Dato’ – a Malay title or honorific
- encik (En.) – mister
- gajah – elephant
- gunong – an archaic form of “gunung” – mountain
- Jawi – traditional Arabic script adapted for Bahasa Melayu
- jubah – robes
- kampung – village
- kedai runcit – grocery store
- kehitaman – blackness
- keris – kris
- ketujuh – seventh, from the base word “tujuh” which means seven
- khat – jawi calligraphy
- lalang – imperata cylindrica
- mak cik – auntie
- Maghrib – Muslim ritual prayer between total sunset and total darkness
- mantera – mantra
- mari – come
- mata – eye
- minbar – pulpit of the surau
- musang – civet
- Musang King – a popular cultivar of durian
- panggilan – summoning, from the base word “panggil” – call
- Pengarah – Director
- P.T.P.T.N – Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional (National Higher Education Fund Corporation)
- puan (Pn.) – madam
- pukulan – strike, hit
- retakan – cracks or fissures, from the base word “retak”
- sebaik – as good as
- semangat – spirit
- solat – Muslim ritual prayer
- surau – a small masjid/mosque.
- tahi – excrement
- tahi ayam – chicken shit
- tahi bintang – meteor, literally “star shit”
- telekung – Muslim prayerwear for women
- terpanggil – called
- usiran – banishment, from the base word “usir” – chase away
- zombi – zombie, obviously