Crossing the Mountains

Playlist: Over the Hills and Far Away - Nightwish

Kyung Ri Monastery, Tibet, 09:02 16th September 1940

Tsering Lama

The next morning, Tsering Lama joined them for breakfast and explained his proposal for them. Calling them 'the people of the Garuda' - something no-one questioned - he explained that his calling would have had no effect on those not 'pure of heart'. This caused a few exchanged glances.

Another monastery in this part of Tibet - wherever that was! - was the home of a sect of monks called the Chankopa; the Wolf Brothers. These monks had fallen from the ways of the Light and into dark ways. Unlike most trapas, these monks wore habits and hats of blue. At this point, the agents began to pay closer attention.

The Blue Hat monks had formed an arrangement with the Nazis of Nachtwölfe, drawn to the evil they felt growing. The Germans sent an expedition to the Veiled Monastery, led by one Ernst Schäfer, which returned to Berlin with a copy of The Book of the Machine. This alarmed Tsering Lama, who had thought he possessed the only remaining intact copy.

Nachtwölfe Insignia

Schäfer’s party also helped to set up a radio antenna at the monastery, which Tsering Lama was convinced the monks were using to aid their brethren in Berlin with not only translating The Book of the Machine, but also advising on other dangerous enterprises. His informants in Shigatse had reported that two more Germans, both with the image of a strange wolf’s paw on their clothing, had very recently been seen entering the Chankopa’s valley. It was their presence that prompted Tsering Lama to take drastic action and bring the investigators to him.

The situation was critical, the old man explained: translation of the book could give evil men the clues they needed to plunge the world into death and madness, as his own world once was. In fact, he feared that he may have delayed interfering for far too long. The future was balanced on a knife edge.

His proposal was a simple one: that the investigators should travel (with his assistance) to the Veiled Monastery and destroy the radio antenna in order to remove a vital source of occult information from the Nazis. In return for their assistance, he would send them back to India with a translation of The Book of the Machine and details of two important artefacts that must not be allowed to fall into German hands.

The party went into a huddle and discussed this at length. Some trusted the old man, and some didn't; some wanted to leave this alone and make Tsering Lama release the plane. Finally - after a secret ballot - the decision was taken to accept the mission and travel to the Veiled Monastery. However, the Lama's suggestion that destroying the antenna was enough to stop the monks and Nazis working together was rejected, and the military members of the group began laying plans to assault the monastary.

Before the agreement was made, Birapeer pressured the Lama to reveal the locations of the two artifacts ahead of their departure, and eventually he did so.

An expedition was prepared, comprising the agents, some of the local drokpa nomads, Tsering Lama's assistant Dawa Rabten and - surprisingly - the three KLM aircrew, who proved at least basically competent with the spare firearms the agents provided them. As they prepared to leave, Tsering Lama handed each of the agents, each of the aircrew and Dawa Rabten a round, unnervingly eye-like bead strung onto a strip of leather thong. The bead, known as a luk mik dzi, was made of agate and is carried by Tibetans as a protective charm when travelling. He assured them they would need these to speed their journey.

Silver Phurba; not as some people have said, Furby...

He also asked which of the agents was proficient with bladed weapons; to those who said yes, he handed a long-handled silver weapon, a phurba or ritual knife. He explained that many of the Blue Hats were accomplished ngagspas (sorcerers) and not all of the threats they faced were likely to be made of flesh and bone; while this knife could only do minimal damage to mortals, it was very dangerous to unworldly creatures and ghosts.


Each member of the expedition was provided with the garments of a drokpa nomad; a chuba (with an incredibly long, woven red belt), woollen breeches, knee-high Tibetan boots, gloves, and a fur hat. Female investigators were offered a sleeveless, floor-length robe to go over their breeches, along with a highly coloured, striped apron (pangden). The clothing was warm and far better suited to the conditions that the investigators’ own clothes, which had been selected for India!

Birapeer made sure to make his ritual obeisances before embarking on this quest; he had a strong feeling that spirits of darkness lurked along his path in the days to come.

Then they mounted their yaks and rode off towards their first objective, Lake Manasarovar, from which Tsering Lama had said he could speed their way to the Hidden Valley.

Tibetan Mountains, 13:36, 18th September 1940

The first day's travel was uneventful, and at the end of it the expedition made camp. The drokpas proved to be good travelling companions, friendly and helpful, often singing as they worked. Most provisions had some portion or another of the yak in them, but generally they were pretty edible.

The next day, a little after noon, the party encountered a group of pilgrims; devout Buddhists from India, some of whom spoke Hindi and one of whom not only spoke Punjabi but greeted Birapeer as 'holy Sikh', which went down well. Though equipped for travel in the mountains, the pilgrims had limited food supplies, and welcomed the drokpa's offer of a meal gratefully. Several of the party spent an enjoyable time talking to them about their beliefs. The monks regarded the guns of the travellers with sad expressions, and inisted that weapons and violence would only impede their progress to true enlightenment and nirvana. They seemed unaware that most of the world was sliding into war.

It turned out that the pilgrims were also travelling to Lake Manasarovar, which they called a holy place, and they readily agreed to travel with the party.

Tibetan Mountains, 00:02, 19th September 1940

Preta, Hungry Ghost

All was quiet in the camp, and Birapeer, Jimmy and a drokpa named Gurmed were on watch. The fire was burning low, when a sound attracted their attention. Gradually coming into view, just outside the ring of tents, were four strange figures. Almost human in appearance, they had a huge, distended belly, a long, thin, needle-like neck, and a tiny, puckered mouth. A miserable, moaning sigh came from them, and Birapeer could clearly see the rocks behind through their forms.

Gurmed drew in a sharp breath. "Preta!" he muttered, following it up with a sentence neither of the others could understand; he mimed biting and shook his head, which they took to mean don't let it bite you rather than don't bite one.

Jimmy called to them in several languages, which didn't achieve anything, while Birapeer hurled a burning brand from the fire towards them to illuminate them better. They veered sharply around where it had landed and continued towards the camp. Gurmed shouted loudly, raising the alarm, while Jimmy picked up the Arclite rifle and powered it up; this, he thought, was what he had taken it for. As they closed, he snapped a picture.

One of the ghosts made a bee-line for where two of the drokpas had been gambling, and seized some dropped coins of small value. With almost ecstatic relish, it stuffed them into its' mouth and tried to swallow them - but its tiny throat prevented it doing so, and it coughed them back up with a wail of misery. Several of the drokpas and all the KLM flight crew recoiled in shock, and Jan Kledermeyer, the pilot, fled back into his tent in terror.

Keeper Note: The phrase 'Couldn't hit a yak with a Sten Gun' may become a catch phrase one day.

Gurmed's shouts had roused the camp, and Joe rolled out of his tent, Thompson in hand, and sent a tight, controlled burst at the nearest ghost. Half the bullets went straight through without effect, but the rest did not. With a sigh - almost of relief - the hideous appariton sank down and dissolved into mist. Cyril, encouraged by this, blazed away with his Sten Gun, unleashing the entire 32-round clip; not only utterly failing to shoot a Preta but failing to hit any of their mounts on the other side of the camp.

The nearest one closed on Birapeer and lashed out with teeth and claws, failing to catch the Sikh as he evaded the strike. A blinding bolt of lightning missed him even more narrowly as Jimmy fired the Arclite without any great accuracy. On the other side of the fire, Francoise jabbed with the silver phurba but, untrained in knife-fighting, failed to connect.

The Preta that had dodged Birapeer's original burning brand, late to the party, began to enter the camp between the tents, to be met with a 10-round burst from Joe's Thompson and a successful blast from the Arclite rifle - the latter seeming to cause it more pain. Dropping his empty submachinegun, Cyril whipped out his own phurba and lashed out, again unsuccessfully as the creature jinked. It swayed back and bit a chunk out of his left arm, leaving a dripping wound with unnaturally dark edges. Jimmy cried out as a claw tagged him despite his best effort to dodge. Then Birapeer, his kirpan drawn, slashed across the distended belly of the undead he was fighting. The blade seemed to glow silver as it passed through the translucent flesh, and the Preta screamed as it exploded into mist and vanished.

Lake Manasarovar, Tibetan Mountains, 16:20, 21st September 1940

Two days later, the party arrived at the Victorious Lake.

Lake Manasarovar

The lake was surrounded by barren yellow steppe and several small gompas (religious houses or monasteries) and chörtens (stupas); the edges of the lake itself were littered with carefully stacked, carved and painted mani (prayer) stones (often topped with yak horns). In the distance, Mt. Kailash can be seen rearing into the heavens above the clear blue waters.

There were people following the kora clockwise around the lake, and pilgrims swimming in the icy waters in order to wash away their sins. No-one paid particular attention to what appeared to be just another group of pilgrims bundled up warmly against the cold. With many blessings and hopes for their enlightenment, the pigrim group seperated and set off around the lake, beginning their own kora.

That evening, over a particularly tasty stew of yak meat, potatoes, and rice (known as shemdre), washed down with plenty of chang (Tibetan barley beer), Dawa Rabten explained how they would reach Shigatse before the sun rose. Once it was fully dark, they would enter the water. The luk mik dzi they were wearing would let Tsering Lama know that they were ready for him to open the gateway to Shigatse as soon as they set foot in the lake; the beads would also protect them from drowning as they submerged themselves beneath the water’s surface. They would then emerge from another, smaller lake he named as Drölma-tso (Tara’s Lake) close to the Veiled Monastery, ready to carry out their sabotage mission. Once that mission was complete, they would be able to return the same way.

A barrage of questions erupted, which the Dawa fielded as best he could. Then they settled in to wait for midnight, which they had been told was the correct time for this transition.

Lake Manasarovar, Tibetan Mountains, 00:02, 22nd September 1940

Finally ready, the adventurers prepared themselves - in several cases, readying weapons - and stepped to the lake's edge. Hearts raced as they waded slowly deeper into the lake, and despite Dawa Rabten's assurances, deep breaths were grabbed as the frigid water closed over their heads. To their relief, when they finally were unable or unwilling to hold their breath any longer, they found that they could breathe normally.

Not exactly their view, but gives an idea

They could, however, see nothing in the inky blackness of the magical mere. A second or so after disappearing beneath the surface (although it felt much longer to them), they experienced a sudden twisting, spinning sensation and found themselves walking back out of the water, their equipment and themselves perfectly dry and unharmed. The sudden disorientation added to the terrors of apparently intentionally drowning themselves, was too much for Jimmy and Cyril and they lost their supper into the water.

Wherever they might have started, the investigators were most definitely no longer there. Instead of standing on a broad, exposed lakeshore, they were surrounded by mountains, and the lights and fires of Shigatse and Tashilhunpo could be seen twinkling dimly in the distance...

Session Date: 14th August 2018