Trail of Nyarlathotep
Major Edwin Radcliffe
The Loyal Soldier
Pillars of Sanity
“Our sacrifice was not in vain”
Edwin believes that challenges can be met and overcome. Sacrifice is often necessary, but it is a basic truth that the efforts and dedication of good people have changed the world for the better, and can do so again.
“We can stand against the tide.”
Edwin has seen first hand that there is horror and great peril in the world, but he has proven time and again to himself and those around him that though the world is full of those who would do them harm, so too are his foes vulnerable. Victory is never certain, but neither is defeat. Any enemy can be brought low with the appropriate application of leverage and, when necessary, intense, focussed violence.
Sources of Stability
Symbol A Scrap of Steel
Edwin carries a bent scrap of steel, now spotted with rust and blackened around the edges, with a large dent in its center. It was once part of a German shell that exploded just meters from him, then fell still-smoking into his lap as he huddled in his trench. The edges were not as jagged as he expected of a piece of shrapnel, so after it cooled he put it in the pocket of his uniform jacket. A month later, he found a hole in the jacket, and a dent in the scrap. Sharing the pocket with it was the squashed head of a German bullet. He now carries it with him as a reminder that sometimes seemingly harmful things can fall harmlessly into his grasp if he keeps his wits about him, and also that sometimes it is the very most harmful things that ultimately keep him safe.
Solace Captain Michael Horgrave
Captain Horgrave served with Edwin throughout almost his entire time with Canada Corps. He is one of the few people on Earth who Edwin can feel confident knows what he has lived through. The Captain is someone with whom Edwin can talk about those days, but also someone who knows that sometimes it’s important to talk about other things, instead.
Safety The Walled Garden
In a forgotten back corner of the Radcliffe family estate lies a walled garden, now mostly overgrown. Though the garden hasn’t been tended in many decades, the field stone walls that surround it are tall and thick, and the iron gates that guard its entrances sturdy. Beneath the shelter of the huge, sprawling branches of an oak older than the city of Toronto itself sits a simple stone bench, and on that bench, in his happier moments, sits Edwin Radcliffe, alone with his thoughts.
Born the middle child of a large Toronto family in 1890, Edwin was the third son of successful businessman Neville and socialite Mary. While it was always clear that his eldest brother Albert would take over his father’s business interests, and his older brother Benjamin showed an early interest in advancing himself in politics, Edwin and his younger siblings faced the challenge of finding their place in the world. For Edwin, things finally clicked when he entered the Royal Military College of Canada in 1908.
Edwin thrived in the discipline and structure of the RMCC, and focussed his attention on military studies. The College also gave him the opportunity to turn his academic talents to less martial matters, and he accounted himself a good student of both physics and history. He graduated a Lieutenant in 1912 and took up a commission with the Royal Canadian Regiment.
With the outbreak of the Great War, Edwin volunteered for the Canada Corps, sent to Europe in 1915. He served with the Canadian 1st Division under General Arthur Currie. He distinguished himself in repeated bite-and-hold assaults against the German lines at Ypres, Mont Sorrel, the Somme, Vimy Ridge, and Hill 70. Edwin was both wounded and promoted repeatedly, making himself known to his superiors and to hospital staff throughout the Canadian rear areas. His wounds left a patchwork of scars along the right side of his face and a mild limp in his left leg which only seems to bother him when he is calm.
By the war’s end, Edwin served at the acting rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, though with the cessation of hostilities he returned to his confirmed rank of Major. He was discharged with honors when Canada Corps and the 1st Division were disbanded after the Armistice. He returned to Toronto with a chest full of ribbons, a glowing letter of recommendation from General Currie, and no idea what he intended to do with the rest of his life.
He dabbled for a while as a test pilot, flying with a club of gentlemen thrill-seekers drawn from the Toronto gentry. His family’s wealth gave him access to aeroplanes, and his dexterity and risk tolerance made him willing to experiment with the tinkering of the amateur mechanics and airplane designers of the other club members. It was a thrilling hobby, but he knew it would never be a calling. He would eventually have to move on, but without purpose or direction, he simply fell into the rut of risking life and limb to what he had to admit was little purpose. His flying days might not last, but Edwin never lost his love of feeling himself soaring in the open air.
He would be jarred from his aimlessness when he answered the door at his family estate to discover a nervous-looking ticket clerk from the Grand Trunk Railway. The young man explained that a “responsible member” of the Radcliffe family was required at Union Station in downtown Toronto immediately. The clerk refused to say more, only to insist that he be accompanied back to the station. With his father away on business and his brothers either moved out to their own homes or not due back until evening, Edwin took a car and drove himself and the clerk into Toronto.
When they arrived, the clerk directed him to a conductor standing stiffly at attention beneath the soaring Romanesque arches of the station lobby, then quickly made his excuses and disappeared. Edwin introduced himself to the conductor. The man startled at the sound of Edwin’s rank, and looked him over dubiously. Realizing he was dressed more for a country club than for any kind of serious business, he drew himself up to his full height and straightened his shoulders before repeating, more formally “Major Edwin Radcliffe, of the Royal Canadian Regiment, late of Canada Corps, 1st Division”. This seemed to satisfy the conductor, who stepped aside to gesture at a young woman seated on the bench behind him, staring fixedly straight ahead.
It took Edwin a moment to recognize his younger sister Elizabeth. He hadn’t seen her since he’d left for the Western front, but he knew that she had married an American and moved with him to Niagara Falls. They had exchanged letters for a while, then eventually stopped after he was wounded and she had seemed to have settled into her new life. She was wearing a fine dress with ribbons braided into her hair, and seemed in perfect health, except for her lack of reaction to her brother.
Now, she sat on the bench staring at nothing, her gaze never wavering as Edwin crouched down in front of her. She didn’t respond when he spoke to her, didn’t even flinch when he pinched her hand. He knelt like that in front of her, looking for some kind of reaction in her eyes as the conductor explained that she had arrived in a first class cabin on that morning’s train, and had been discovered by the crew when she failed to get up out of her seat when the train reached the station. She had been catatonic when they found her, and it wasn’t until the conductor had recognized the name of one of Toronto’s prominent families on her luggage that someone had been sent to the estate. They had found that she would stand if someone held her arm, and follow them, so they had led her into the station to the bench where she now sat until someone could be found to take charge of her.
Edwin took her by the arm, picked up her suitcase, and began to lead her back out to the car when he thought better of it and turned back around to demand answers of the conductor. The man patiently answered his questions, but he had vexingly few answers to give. It seemed she had boarded the train in Buffalo the previous evening with a man. They had both held first class tickets, and when she hadn’t looked up or responded, the conductor had simply assumed she was being perhaps overly proper, as the man accompanying her had supplied their tickets and asked they be left undisturbed. When the train arrived in Toronto, the man was nowhere to be found, though Elizabeth still sat just as she had been the night before. The conductor could provide only a vague description of the man, who had never given his name.
Distraught, Edwin drove his sister home, then paced outside the room as the family physician examined her. The man reported that he could find no sign of harm or illness. Edwin left Elizabeth in the care of their mother, then set himself to the task of discovering what had happened to her.
He took the train to Buffalo, then made his way back North to Niagara Falls. He found Elizabeth’s house easily enough, and startled her husband when he came home to find Edwin sitting in a chair in their living room. Edwin leapt on him and held his pistol to the man’s temple as he demanded to know what had happened to Elizabeth. The terrified husband swore he hadn’t seen her in nearly a year. He claimed that she had joined a group that called themselves the Order of the Third Eye, and when she disappeared he’d assumed she’d run off with the group’s leader. He said he’d told people in town that she’d gone home to tend to a relative’s illness because he didn’t want people to think she’d left him.
It didn’t take much effort to extract the names of the local members of the Order of the Third Eye from the now deflated husband, but it did him little good. One after another, terrified members of the Order swore that while Elizabeth had joined their group some eighteen months before, she had soon left, declaring that they had no “real power”. Edwin followed each new name and lead to Buffalo, then into rural New York, but never found anyone who could give him a real answer. He eventually found some members of other groups who seemed much more certain of their mastery of the supernatural, though none of them seemed to be protected by it when an enraged, heavily-armed man came storming into their homes or meeting halls.
Edwin eventually made his way to New York. There he found that while his family connections might get him on the guest list to the nicer parties, it was his finely-honed skill set that made him useful. He has hired himself out to those willing to pay. The work is often distasteful, but he has tried to walk a fine line between his morals and his material needs. In the process, he has done well for himself. His skills ensure that “the big Canadian” is highly sought-after, and afford him the luxury of turning down certain jobs, either because they are too far afield of the straight-and-narrow for him to justify to himself, or because they would interfere with the pursuit of his own, more personal projects.
Various Hermetic Orders, Spiritualist Centers, Secret Societies, and other organizations have suffered arsons and explosions in their buildings and ritual sites, as well as assaults or even disappearances of members throughout upstate New York over the last five years. Though scattered across the state, the tide has slowly ebbed closer to the City. Edwin is convinced that one of these organizations is responsible for what has happened to his sister, but he is running out of leads. He needs something fresh to get his teeth into, but there are only so many doors he can break down, and as he gets closer to the City his targets become wealthier and better connected. Something’s got to give.
His only consolation is that each time he returns home to Toronto, he sits himself down in front of Elizabeth and whispers to her what he’s done. As he has grown more desperate, and turned to increasingly audacious measures on her behalf, Edwin has found that when he leaves from telling his stories to Elizabeth, she now has just the shadow of a smile touching her lips. He is certain that if he can shine a light into this particular darkness, she may yet turn to meet his gaze and show him the glowing smile he remembers.