A Slight Diversion

Playlist: 20,000 Feet - Saxon

Central Station, Cairo, Egypt, 20:05 30th June 1940

Keeper Note: Only Allan, Steve, Loz and Arthur this session, so Birapeer and Francoise aer a bit quiet..

With the Aten safely stashed in Anné's uncanny handbag, the party made their way back to Shepheard's hotel, quietly discussing what they were going to do next. All were in agreement that they needed to return to base, both to get assistance translating the rest of the writings and finding out where they needed to go next, and to get the first piece of the Palladion to a safe place. The discussion was over method. Nobody seemed inclined to trust aeroplanes again so soon after their recent adventure. Joe was heavily in favour of land transport, despite the distance, until someone reminded him that France was conquered and Gibraltar was an obstacle. Finally, they agreed on a ship and a telegram was despatched to RJ at SIME, along with all their papers and films for development.


Shepheard's Restaurant

The manager at Shepheard's was delighted to see them again - if he didn't remember them personally he was very good at making it appear so - and hurried to satisfy their request for four adjoining rooms with connecting doors. Birapeer muttered something about fiancé and Francoise glared at him.

Once settled in, they dressed for dinner and descended to the justly-famed restaurant, where they ate good food in a civilized environment for the first time in quite a while.

Before bed, Joe collected everyone's weapons and carefully stripped, cleaned and serviced them, then got everyone industriously loading rounds into empty magazines where needed.

Security Intelligence Middle East, Cairo, Egypt, 12:31 31st June 1940


HMS Carniverous

Lt. Col Maunsell was pleased to see them back alive, and positively beamed when they told him they had succeeded in their mission. He handed over their processed photographs, and appeared satisfied by their edited explanation of the contents of some of them. Acting on their request in the previous day's message, he had prepared travel orders to get them aboard a Navy cruiser heading for England with a returning convoy, HMS Carniverous. "She's sailing at 05:00 so order an alarm call!" he said with a grin.

When asked about the suspicious character Joe had sent him under guard, he looked a little sheepish. "Ahem," he said, "he was actually one of ours. Not one of our better agents, I'm afraid. More training required there." He stood, changing the subject. "Have a good trip, ladies and gentlemen. It's been a pleasure working with you; I hope to see you again sometime."


Interlude: Clemens Park, Surrey, July-September 1940


Deadman

Three months had passed since the agents returned to England. After returning in triumph to Clemens Park with the first piece of the Atlantean artifact, they had spent their days recuperating and studying their findings. In this of course they found themselves working once more very closely with Section M's Atlantis expert, Professor Richard Deadman.

The Professor was ecstatic at the new knowledge they had uncovered, and had worked closely with those of the agents who had picked up smatterings of the Atlantean language - which they found sharpening in their minds very rapidly for the experience. After several weeks' work, it had emerged that there were definitely five pieces of the Palladion, scattered for as yet unknown reasons, and that there was one in Africa (the Aten, of course) and another in India somewhere. Another was 'somewhere further east than India'; the whereabouts of the last two remained a mystery. With a mind to a probable trip to India, each of the party was given a crash course in at least one Indian language. With 1,500 languages in active use on the subcontinent, this was a very basic level of preparation.

Marcus had finally completed reading the blasphemous Cultes des Goules, and looked sick and shaken for some days afterwards. Birapeer had picked up the rudiments of forging documents from a sailor aboard the Carniverous, and refined this skill while the others were studying the ancient writings.


Arclight Lightning Gun

While they'd been otherwise occupied, some "dashed clever chaps" as Alec Towton put it, named Eastin and Bakhaus, had worked back from the captured Mi-Go stun weapon and produced their own version. Officially designated the Eastin-Bakhaus Arclight Electric Rifle, it was already being referred to as 'the Lightning Gun'. It was calculated to have minimal effect on human beings - probably similar stunning effects to the Mi-Go version - but the designers and Deadman agreed it was probably going to have much more of an effect on supernatural monsters and creatures. It would also very probably have a disasterous effect on electrical systems and instruments. There were two completed examples ready for use.

Joe was very unimpressed with this, and wasn't keen to take one on, but he organized time on Clemens Park's shooting range and set up some practice. The weapons were fairly easy to use, very similar to a rifle except for no recoil, and a very limited number of shots per charged power pack. They were also a little delicate, as was made apparent when Jimmy got a little overenthusiastic with his and let off too many shots too quickly. The weapon overheated and refused to function again until it had cooled down a few minutes later. Despite this, Jimmy accepted one and Anné the other. Sighing, Joe took Jimmy in hand and gave him some basic training in the use of a regular rifle, which the photographer had never used.

As well as working with Deadman on the translation of the Black Stone and the writings on the Aten itself, the party were employed in the process of training the next generation of field agents for Section M – serious-minded academics, traumatized soldiers, wild-eyed occultists; but all having that same look in the eyes, the look of those who have seen things beyond the World we Know and acknowledged their existence. Many of these were a little awed by the achievements of the agents, and very willing to learn from them.


Dum Dum Airport, near Calcutta, India, 09:02 15th September 1940


Douglas DC3

Many weeks travel had brought the agents by circuitous routes to Calcutta, whence they were to travel on to Dehli where a contact of Viscount Towton's was to help them in the search for the next piece of the Palladion. The agents were booked on the twice-weekly (Wednesday or Saturday) flight to Delhi and beyond. Once all of their paperwork had been checked and their luggage loaded, the passengers were escorted from the terminal building to their plane, a Douglas DC3. The investigators appeared to be the only ones flying today, apart from the flight crew and steward.

The interior of the plane was comfortably furnished, with large, armchair-like seats, a cocktail cabinet, a sofa, and a selection of books and magazines for the passengers to peruse. The steward, Hendrik, fussed amiably about his guests, fetching them drinks and canapés as they awaited departure.

The flight took to the air precisely on time, with the plane climbing steadily as it headed westwards. After a brief stop at Allahabad, Francoise started looking out of the window more often, frowning, and Joe noticed that, despite clear skies at their last destination, the weather had suddenly worsened. A blanket of dense, glowing white fog gradually surrounded the aeroplane. Hendrik the steward was reassurring, pointing out that all of the flight crew were very experienced in these matters and that it was only a short hop to Cawnpore, the next stop en route to Delhi.

At this point, Anné exclaimed and pointed out of the window. Her sharp eyes had spotted a red glow emanating from a point near the port wingtip. Birapeer comfirmed there was a similar phenomenon on the other side.

Joe walked up the plane and tapped on the door, before opening it and looking inside. "Everything all right?" he asked. It was quite clear that all was not well. Jan Kledermyer the pilot and co-pilot Gerrit Voight were having a hushed but earnest discussion, with the co-pilot frequently making sharp, angry gestures at the instrument panels. Joe glanced at them, and though no pilot himself was pretty sure that the way the needles on the various gauges were swinging wildly from one extreme to the other was not normal.


Guided into the Mountains

"Yes, sir, we are experiencing some difficulties," answered Kledermyer. "Can you descend, head for a safe landing?" asked Joe. "We've tried that," answered Voight tensely. "But our friends object." He gestured to where a glowing red ball of light was hovering just ahead of the plane's nose. "If we try and alter course, they do this;" he nudged the controls to starboard, and the ball closed in, tendrils of red lightning crackling threateningly between it and the plane. When he returned to the original course, the ball backed off, cruising peacefully along. Joe left the cockpit.

Hendrik was requesting the passengers to strap in when he returned, explaining that there was a possibility of turbulence. Joe sat next to Birapeer. "I don't think they know what they're doing up there," he commented. "Feel like a hijack?" When he'd finished explaining, Birapeer shook his head. "We're being herded," he said, "doesn't matter who's flying. Let's wait and see where we end up." Joe ordered another gin and tonic and sat back, while Jimmy took some photographs of the strange guides.

Over the next hour, the plane gathered atltitude steadily, and the cabin became colder. Hendrik bustled round, breaking out blankets and serving hot food and coffee. Joe, Cyril and Birapeer made sure weapons were near at hand in case anything unexpected happened, but firmly discouraged Jimmy from preparing the Arclight rifle, pointing out that delicate electrical systems were keeping them in the air.

After what felt like hours the fog slowly began to clear. Two things became immediately obvious to those looking out of the windows: it was now night-time when it should really only have been mid-afternoon at the latest, and that the plane was most definitely nowhere near Delhi, as it was flying over a seemingly endless array of vast mountains and almost featureless plains.

After a skilful piece of flying on the part of the two pilots, the red orbs guideed the plane down into a wide, fertile valley, where a river could be seen glistening in the moonlight. The landing, in amongst grassy, well-tended fields, was remarkably smooth. Once the plane was safely on the ground, the red orbs departed, speeding up into the night sky before disappearing over the mountains in the direction the plane had just come from.

Keeper Note: The legendary bird creatures known as the garuda are important in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. To the Hindus, Garuda is a god, with a golden, human body, the white head of an eagle (or vulture), and huge, scarlet wings. He acts as Vishnu’s mount (vahana) and is also known as Taraswin, “the swift one”. To Buddhists, the garuda (kyung in Tibetan) are gigantic bird people, a mixture of both animal and divine essences with a complex, hierarchical society who can change their size and form at will. One of the Four Dignities (which represent the points of the compass and a variety of other noble aspects), they were originally worshipped as gods by the Bönpo..

When the tired, bewildered and headachey investigators and crew disembarked, they find a single old man dressed in the style of a Buddhist trapa waiting for them. The strange, bent figure greeted them by sticking out his tongue. Marcus, seeing his companions' startled expressions, explained in an undertone that this was a common greeting, aiming to show that the person is neither a devil (who would have a green tongue, even when wearing a human guise) nor a follower of Bön (who allegedly have black tongues from constantly muttering dire magical incantations).


Tsering Lama

The trapa then uttered the more modern salutation of “Tashi delek!”, after which he introduced himself as Tsering Lama inreasonably good English. He welcomed “the people of the Garuda” to his humble home and asked the travellers to follow him to his residence, where he would provide food and shelter for the rest of the night.

Cyril checked the night sky while Tsering Lama led them to his hillside home and noticed that the constellations were most definitely not where they should have been for either this latitude or this time of the year. When asked, Tsering Lama simply replied, “All will be well come morning”.

Tsering Lama led the investigators and flight crew across the valley floor to a set of stairs carved into the face of the mountain. In the flickering light of the torch he carried, there appeared to be what looked like windows and doorways cut into the rocks, and strange, shadowy tunnels peeled off from the steps into the darkness as they made their way up through the hillside.

Anné was staggering, her large frame and southern French origins leaving her unprepared for the altitude.


In the home of Tsering Lama

The steps opened onto a narrow terrace where more shadowy openings could be seen, but the old man continued onwards, taking them into another stairway that led ever higher. The climb was exhausting due to the effects of the sudden increase in altitude on the visitors, though the aviators were more used to it. One terraced level followed another but, after what seemed like an eternity, the group finally emerged into a small plaza at the crest of the hill. The views over the valley in the moonlight were hauntingly beautiful, but distinctly unsettling for those Cyril in light of the problem with the sky above them.

On one side of the plaza were the remains of a large building, into which Tsering Lama quietly disappeared into, beckoning the investigators to follow. Inside, after a few more minutes’ walk, they found themselves in an intact chamber whose walls were richly painted with images of people and mythical creatures, including garuda, all partially obscured by the flickering shadows cast by the light of the yak-dung fire.

The old man motioned for the investigators to sit on the rugs and cushions that were scattered about the chamber before disappearing out of a second door. When he returned, he is accompanied by a small youth (barely more than a child), dressed in the native chuba, a long-sleeved sheepskin coat, tied at the waist with a sash and worn off one shoulder. Both men were carrying steaming trays of food and drink.

The momos (steamed dumplings), thugpa (noodle soup with vegetables) and tsampa bread were all perfectly edible, but the bö cha (yak butter tea) was another matter altogether. Some were able to politely drink it; others couldn't face the churned mixture of butter, tea leaves, soda, salt, milk, and hot water.

After the bö cha, Tsering Lama offere them another curious tea, called “solomano”, which he carefully poured into their tea bowls, explaining that it would help them with their headaches and dizziness. Anné gulped it gratefully, and sure enough began to feel better. After they had eaten and taken on the various teas, Tsering Lama encouraged them to sleep, kindly but firmly fending off any questions they might have until they were properly rested.

Given I made such a sleep-deprived mess of the next morning and the lama's request, and that half the players missed it, I'll go through that again, briefly, next session!
Session Date: 7th August 2018