The Silenced Witness

Playlist: Burning Bridges - Elephant House

Bombay, India, 15th/16th October 1940

After a couple of days' more travel, the expedition had reached Bombay, and stopped at the Army HQ there to recuperate. The mentally wounded Bombay Grenadiers had recieved some treatment, and had generally thrown off their horror; though some of them would never be quite the same again.

Indrajit Joshi

Arthur Tenison

Subedar Joshi travelled to visit the families of the six men who had fallen at Ellora, and Birapeer went with him. As a pilot officer in an active service RAF squadron he had become used to this unhappy process; it was never pleasant. Gathering up some money he'd acquired along their travels, he spread it among the families, sealed in envelopes so he wouldn't have to endure their tearful gratitude when they found how much there was.

Lieutenant Tenison had travelled down from Dehli to debrief the party and compile some reports; one set for Section M and a rather abridged set for the Indian Military. These latter described the operations purely as a police action against insurrectionists, with a cache of weapons destroyed to remove them from Nationalist hands. No mention of specialists from any shadowy agency, supernatural beings, or ancient Atlantean relics whatsoever appeared in it.

Lizzie being back at College, Francoise needed to be tucked away somewhere

Francoise Duval, who had been sent another assignment, took custody of the Agneya Weapon of Flame and caught the next convoy for Gibraltar, where a plane would take her to England to deliver the relic to Clemens Park.

Assorted requisitions had been submitted for ammunition, explosives and equipment, and while those were being filled the party had a couple of days in Bombay to kill.

Anné spent some time practicing with the Indian shortbow, and though she managed to stick arrows in trees she didn't get the trees she'd aimed at.

It had been noted that the silver phurbas had a significant effect on uncanny creatures, and Marcus' reading suggested that the metal itself might be a part of this. Birapeer located a silversmith in the city, from whom he purchased a quantity of silver and a small crucible; he also left his two blades with the man to be coated in the pure metal.

Joe and Cyril worked out a process for silver-coating bullets, which worked but was quite slow; they managed to produce a small quantity of silvered ammunition in .303 and 9mm size. Birapeer also started looking into dum-dum rounds, and used a sharp knife to make some test rounds up.

Army Base, Bombay, India, Midnight, 16th October 1940

Mehandi, Priest of Ganesh

A repeated, urgent knocking at his billet's door dragged Joe Vandeleur from a deep sleep decorated with happy dreams of a Brigadier's rank tabs. As he shook the sleep from his head, he grabbed his American automatic from the bed-table and opened the door.

To his surprise, outside was an elderly native man, dressed in the saffron yellow robes of a Hindu priest and with assorted designs painted on his face. Joe couldn't place his affiliation but didn't have time to wonder as the old man started babbling at him in a mixture of Hindi and English. The fellow was distressed and upset, and clearly no physical threat, so the tanker began to listen to his words.

“The Enemy has struck! Your prisoner, the lost soul of Durga, she has been silenced! Her dark allies have stopped her mouth to keep the truth from you! Sahib, you must come!” The words continued to tumble from his urgent lips, different combinations of the same thing. A wizened hand reached to tug at Joe's pyjama sleeve, trying to urge him to follow the priest into the night immediately. Fairly comfortable that the priest himself was no threat, though utterly baffled as to what he was going on about, Joe gestured for him to wait as he dressed and collected his usual weapons, then hurried along the row of billets knocking the others awake.

Mehandi, rapidly becoming frantic, hauled them along, seeming to know exactly where he was going, towards the prison blockhouse, and as they approached it the party realized that there was far more activity around it than there should have been. Lights blazed, and military policemen were hurrying around in that urgent manner of people who know something's very wrong but have no idea what to do about it.

MP Being Official

At the door, two more steady red-caps called a halt to what appeared to be a gaggle of civilians and a native trying to enter a restricted area. Cyril and Birapeer tried to talk to them, while Marcus restrained Mehandi from simply trying to walk straight past them; then Joe loomed up in his uniform and demanded to be allowed access. Perhaps his dreams of Brigadier rank had left a residue of authority in his voice, because they were allowed in.

Devika Kiran Savarkar

Inside, they found it difficult to hear anything; a deafening row blotted out all attempts at conversation. Every prisoner in the cells seemed to be screaming or shouting in a wild babble of incoherence. Glancing around, they spotted a tall, greying man in the white coat of a RAMC doctor standing in the open doorway of a cell around half-way up, with a helpless expression on his face. Next to him, a pale-faced young MP was throwing up into a corner.

When they reached the cell they understood why. Inside was the remains of a human body - remains, because the whole corpse had been systematically dismantled, and spread over a large area in a regular pattern. From the skin, hair and shreds of a red sari, the party were sinkingly sure that the victim was their prisoner from Ellora, Devika Kiran Savarkar. As they gazed in horror at what she had been made into, it dawned on them that the shape her smeared remains had been made into resembled rather strongly the silhouette of the head of an elephant. Shakily, Jimmy started taking pictures.

Anné looked at the cell window and door; they showed no sign of tampering, and the window was far too small for an intruder even if it had not been barred.The MP with them confirmed that the cell had been locked when he'd checked it this morning. Birapeer went and checked the area outside the window for tracks, but in the dark was unable to find any.

Keeper Note: Apologies to Ric who wasn't actually here for his character to do this; it was collectively agreed that Marcus would have used the Voorish Sign at this point. On the plus side, failed SAN roll for 2/1d8 and 'he' rolled 1, so could have been worse!

Marcus, now quite accustomed to checking everything with his spell, flicked his fingers in the Voorish Sign; the others, likewise used to this being done, paid him no special attention. It was only when his eyes bulged and he began to gasp and sob with terror and shock that they realized he had perhaps chosen unwisely.

As they gathered around to try and discover what had happened, Joe frowned. From the corner of his eye he'd noticed that a cell door was standing open. Funny, he thought, I'm sure they were all shut when we came in... As he looked along the row, he saw another one was open, and past that, one of the MPs was quietly unlocking a third. "What are yer doin', Harry?" cried one of the other MPs.

Joe blinked in surprise - and from the three cells came a dribbling, shrieking lunatic, clawing and tearing with his hands. Then a pistol barked beside him, as Anné - who'd also noticed what was happening - reacted on instinct and put two rounds into one of them. Blood flew, but the man seemed unaware he'd been shot. Birapeer and Cyril braced themselves, waiting for the maniacs to close; then the Sikh let drive with his sawn-off shotgun at the man Anné had shot, choosing the barrel loaded with rock-salt. Whether the material had any special effect was hard to tell, but the blast sent him over backwards and he lay, moaning and quiescent, on the concrete floor.

Cyril shifted into his boxer's stance and met his man with a solid right to the face. The prisoner paused, his eye bruised, but didn't go down.

McLaggen-Poskett Weapon

Joe had taken two swift steps over to the rogue MP and struck at the back of his neck with his McLaggen-Poskett. The blow glanced slightly from the edge of the man's steel helmet; the MP staggered but remained upright. He spun on Joe, his eyes glazed and distant, and flailed at him with his keys. Joe ducked frantically as the heavy bunch of metal whipped over his head. To either side, the other two MPs piled in, trying to subdue the prisoners with rifle butts.

Cyril staggered backwards a step as the lunatic he'd punched returned the favour, giving him a handsome black eye. Next to him, Anné attempted to sieze the one attacking her, but he tore free of her hold. Birapeer swung his weapon sideways but realized the weapon's impressive spread would catch both Cyril and Anné if he used it again. Captializing on his either-handedness, he drew his pistol with his left hand as Cyril punched again and aimed carefully to wound. Unfortunately the lunatic crouched just as he fired and the bullet went through his jaw instead of his shoulder. The man dropped like a poleaxed steer.

The other MP had downed his man, and was busily handcuffing him. His comrade had joined Joe and together they subdued Harry. Joe siezed the rogue MP's keys, then began demanding the keys from the other two; they refused to co-operate and concentrated on locking the lunatic prisoners - and Harry - back into their cells. Enraged, Joe stormed out of the cell block and back to his billet.

In response to Birapeer's demands, an MP went to the block stores and came back, not with the requested lanterns, but nice modern electric torches. With these, Birapeer and Jimmy searched the area outside the window. After a while, they stumbled on two footprints heading towards the window. They were in a bipedal pattern, like a man's would be, but they were not shaped like a man's. Slightly larger than human, they looked more like the prints of an elephant... Jimmy took careful photographs, and then they scuffed the prints out and went back.

The face of Chaugnar Faugn

Inside, the still-shaky Marcus was gently questioning Mehandi the priest about what he had seen. When he'd made the Voorish Sign, Marcus had received a strong vision connected with the corpse he was viewing. Unfortunately, that had also brought him inescapably face-to-face with the true cruelty and corruption of the ritual torture and murder that had been committed here. He'd seen a human face, an Indian man with a distinctive birthmark, floating across the scene. Behind that was a vision of a building – the Taj Mahal. Behind that a blurry, hideous monstrosity of vaguely elephantine shape but with bat-like fans where the ears should be and a skull-like face loomed over everything. His mind was still reeling with the terror of that shadowy visage.

Keeper Note: Another point where we unbubbled Marcus, because the only way to recognize this name was a successful Cthulhu Mythos roll. Aimo rolled it for him, but sadly blew it big time. Allan tried to squeak his 01 skill and unbelievably made the roll!

At this point, Tenison and Joshi arrived, and the Intelligence officer directed the party to transfer the conversation to a quieter location - Joe's billet (larger, as he was an officer) seemed a good choice. The group headed over there, and large theraputic glasses of whisky provided to all those who seemed in need. Then Marcus described his vision again, and Joe pressed the old priest for more detail of what it meant. The man was dreadfully unwilling to name the creature, using phrases like "The Enemy" and "Lord of Statues" but finally, in a terrified whisper, uttered the name "Chaugnar Faugn".

Bihari Ambedkar

The party glanced around at each other, but the name meant nothing to any of them; although Joe faintly recalled reading somewhere about a hideous Indian god that waited for some kind of White Desciple, and the phrase "The Horror from the Hills". Birapeer tried to calm the priest's worries. "We," he glanced around the group, "are involved in fighting evil - the evil beyond what men know. To do this, your God needs to tell us more." Mehandi shrugged. "I simply had a dream telling me to find you and take you to where the Enemy has gained his foothold," he said. "This man - this face - he is your clue, I think." Tenison clicked his fingers. He grabbed a local paper and flipped through it. "Is this him?" he asked, showing Marcus a grainy photograph. Marcus squinted. "Yes, I think it is," he said. "Who is he?" Tenison grunted. "A local businessman of some importance, and an up-and-coming big noise politically - a right-winger, extreme Hindu. No known Nationalist connections but I wouldn't be surprised."

The conference was interrupted by another knock on the door. Two more MPs entered, delivering a summons from the Base Commanding Officer for everyone there to report to his office. "Now?" asked Joe. "Now," said the MP firmly, "and the Old Man's in a right mood so I wouldn't hang about."

Major Dominic Simmons

Captain Benson

Twenty minutes later, the same people were packed into the CO's office, and Major Dominic Simmons was glowering around their faces, tapping a pen on his desk. Before he could get far, Lieutenant Tenison spoke up, announcing that he was classifying this meeting Top Secret - which put it as much under Intelligence control as military. Simmons was very much not impressed by that, but rather surprisingly, the other local officer in the room, introduced as Captain Benson of the MPs, supported Tenison. A second look at Benson showed a touch of that look in and back of the eyes, the "seen too much" look that each of the agents themselves had, the look that Section M recruited for. Benson, it seemed, had looked beneath the mundane himself at some point.

Once this had been agreed, Tenison then explained carefully to the Major in simple terms what appeared to have happened. He stressed that this was not a normal Security matter; it was the sort of thing that had to be kept under wraps so as not to "panic the Natives or the Men". From the terminology Tenison chose – and Joshi’s body language – it was becoming clear what kind of officer Major Simmons was. Tenison recommended very strongly that Intelligence be tasked with clearing this one up. The agents exchanged glances; it looked rather as if the favour owed for Tenison and Joshi's help with the recovery of the piece of the Palladion was about to come due.

Simmons wasn't keen at first, but as it dawned on him that he could hand this whole inexplicable mess to Intelligence to deal with, he became more agreeable. He grudgingly agreed to Tenison's suggestion that a cover story of "Something Bad in the Food" be presented as cause for Harry the MP's and the prisoners' behaviour. Benson stepped out of the office for a moment to despatch an MP to collect Dr Meredith and the two MPs involved and isolate them from the rest of the base.

Tenison then proposed that a covert investigation of Abedkar's house in Bombay city be made immediately. Simmons huffed and muttered. It was clear he didn't think much of Ambedkar; but: “You’d better come up with more concrete evidence than someone had a daydream about him while looking at a gutted bibbi” he growled pointedly. "No uniforms, no ID, and no rescues if you get caught." He waved the whole thing away, signalling the end of the meeting, and the party made themselves scarce.


As they equipped, Birapeer was muttering, "This is not good," to himself. To be seperated from his spiritual kirpan was a breach of his faith in the first place; to go into battle without it was unthinkable. Joe understood something of how he felt. "We'll all go and fetch them on the way," he said.

The Indian silversmith Bannerjee was a little worried to be woken at past midnight, but quite happy to return Birapeer's kirpan; fortunately, he'd started the electroplating process on the tulwar first.

Keeper Note: Marcus and Jimmy were left behind for this bit - good job too - so it was just Anné, Joe, Birapeer and Cyril.

House of Bihari Ambedkar, Bombay, India, 01:30, 17th October 1940

Ambedkar’s house was located in a very well-to-do area of Bombay, in extensive gardens, so it seemed that once onto the property the party’s actions shouldn’t attract external attention as long as they didn’t go mental.

There were a variety of windows and entrances, a back porch and a tiled front terrace with heavy, carved wooden doors leading in. All the windows had drawn shades; two upstairs on the right at the back were lit. Cyril looked up. "There's a phone line," he observed. This was not unknown but not common even for the wealthy in Bombay. Joe gave Anné a leg up the pole, expecting the line to drop as she cut it. When she shinned back down, however, the cable was still up; she'd cut the correct wires without severing the whole line.

Everyone was in dark, nondescript clothes, and the trip across the gardens was accomplished with little difficulty. The party spread out, Cyril going to the left and Birapeer to the right; Joe and Anné went to the back. They'd concluded that the windows and balcony doors on the upper floor should be easier to open, and so they climbed up and prepared to enter the upper floor. Cyril managed to fall off the first time, but the others picked him up and boosted him onto the balcony.

The original plan was to pick the hopefully simple native locks and get in quietly, but in practice this turned out to be beyond them; Gregory Snickers had been their cracksman, and he was dead. Only Cyril managed to open his and get in silently. Eventually, the others gave it up and smashed their way in.

Cyril found himself in a curved-walled toilet room, and started to work his way towards the far door. Joe and Anné made their way into the servants' areas at the back of the house, and headed forwards towards where the light was. Birapeer, however, had stumbled straight into the thick of things. He'd smashed the glass door to the balcony attached to the master bedroom, and stepped into the lighted room to discover a scene from Hell.

Sprawled on the floor of the bedroom was a middle-aged Indian man, dismantled in the same way as Devika Kiran Savarkar had been - though enough of his head remained to identify him. Standing over him, spreading the gruesome remains out into a now all-too-familiar shape was a figure out of nightmare. Seven feet tall, and night-black, it combined the features of human and elephant and demon. Tattered, fan-like ears framed the head, which bore multiple, interwoven crystalline trunks ending in a suckered disc. It was reminiscent enough of Marcus' description of his vision that Birapeer felt certain it was connected to this Chaugnar Faugn. As a native of India, the hideous warping of his folklore was truly horrifying to him, and his legs shook as he mastered his fear. He hefted his shotgun, the orders to remain as quiet as possible evaoprating like ice in a furnace in the face of this terror. As he did so, the thing - which had turned to the noise as he smashed his way in - stamped across the room with terrifying speed. Birapeer squeezed both triggers on pure reflex, but there was no way he could miss. With a shattering boom, the weapon blasted one barrel of rock-salt and one of buckshot straight into the thing's body mass. The next thing Birapeer knew was a thousand pinpricks of pain as ricocheting fragments of both blasted straight back into his face and chest, inflicting a myriad small cuts though fortunately nothing serious. The monster appeared entirely unaffected.

Birapeer knew when he was outclassed. Without even turning, he hurled himself backwards with a cry of "ਇਸ ਨੂੰ ਫੜੋ!" ("Fuck that!") His body missed the window frame and plunged off the balcony to the ground fifteen feet below as a huge black claw slashed the air just behind him.

Silver Phurba

Hearing the shots and his shout, the others hurried towards the sounds. Anne and Joe came into the attached dressing-room from the rear end and stopped short in horror. The monster hurtled towards them, faster than a man could run, and Anné calmly squeezed a silver-dipped bullet off straight into its' face. As the bullet glanced harmlessly off, the monster crashed through the wall framing the doorway and siezed her, taloned claws gripping her tight. Joe, seeing that bullets were no use here, drew his phurba and slashed, failing to connect. Anné tore loose of the grapple and backed frantically away, finding herself in an enclosed bathroom with only an 18-inch square window. She was trapped.

The monster smashed through into the shower, breaching water pipes and sending fountains of water gushing in all directions. Anné flailed at it with her own phurba, but was unable to connect. Joe stepped up beside her and stabbed with his blade. Both blades were shining with a pale, wholesome silver light, he noticed, and the creature was wedged into the wall in such a way that it couldn't dodge sideways from the strike - it leaped backwards instead. It struck Joe that it was exceptionally keen to avoid the Tibetan Lama's silver knives. Then he grabbed a grenade from his belt with a yell of "Grenade!", meaning to throw it past the thing to blast it from behind. From behind him, he heard Anné smash the small window and start to squirm out; he couldn't blame her. She wasn't much of a knife fighter.

Hefting the grenade, he waited a few seconds to allow Cyril to get a safe distance away - but this was his undoing. The thing sprang forwards again, faster than he'd have believed possible, and siezed him in its' powerful talons. As it began to crush him towards itself, he desperately brought the phurba up to rest between their bodies, silver point towards the monster, and its hug drove the point into itself. For the first time it made a noise - a sound like an enraged elephant, but twisted somehow. Its' trunk snaked forward and the flat disc on the end, dripping with slime and lined with teeth, smacked into Joe's chest. The soldier screamed as it tore through his shirt and fastened itself to his flesh. A dreadful feeling of suction ensued, and he began to become faint and light-headed as it drained his living blood.

Behind it, he saw Cyril bravely emerge from the shattered hallway and slash at the monster with his phurba, without any noticable effect. Below, outside, he could hear Anné shrieking unhinged curses on the name Chaugnar Faugn. Somehow, the knowledge that he wasn't totally abandoned brought him renewed strength, and with a mighty effort he pushed away from the beast, breaking its' hold. The trunk remained attached, however, feeding obscenely from his flesh. With a cry of revulsion, he slashed downwards with the blazing phurba, shearing straight through the trunks in a single blow. The severed end thrashed, showering Joe in - he realized with horror - his own blood, and the thing stiffened completely as if turned to stone. Slowly, ponderously, the thing toppled over backward, just grazing Cyril who was too surprised to get out of the way, and hit the floor with a reverberating crash - to all appearances just a horrendous statue. Gasping and weak, Joe tore the trunk from his chest and hurled it away.

And down below, Birapeer, who had walked around the house from the side and up to the heavy front doors...

Session Date: 1st October 2018