Week 18, Chasing Musgrove
ERRATUM: The telegram we got from Holmes did not come from the Continent, but from Baker Street. It did not say, "Am two days ahead of you," but rather "M. two days ahead of you." M. for "Musgrove." Some of you may have received the uncorrected version.
For that matter, most of the references to "Ethiopia" should have read "Abyssinia," but since the GM and the players can't seem to sort out the proper 19th-century name, it will probably go on being "Ethiopia."
We left our heroes still planning to organize an expedition with Goodhue and Holly and chase after Major Musgrove, whom we believe has the Eye of Dalgroom. As one of the preliminary steps, we decide to make one last consultation with Holmes, paying him off at the same time.
Chris and Sophie are, as usual, the emissaries to Baker Street. They arrive early enough to disturb Holmes and Watson at breakfast. Watson soon bustles out on doctoring business. Holmes tells Chris and Sophie that the good doctor was wrong (or not necessarily right) about Musgrove having visited Holly last night; Musgrove is now on the Orient Express, headed for Turkey, thence probably to Ethiopia [or Abyssinia or whatever]. He is traveling under the name of "Masters." [If this were a "Doctor Who?" game, we'd be very upset. Perhaps we should be anyway.]
Chris asks what we owe him. "MAINLY, an explanation," Holmes replies. Plus a few sovereigns which he reckons up casually. Chris pays him twice that, plus a retainer for when we come back. He then asks Holmes what would be the fastest way to get to Ethiopia. Holmes answers that this depends on circumstance and timing. The Orient Express is pretty fast, if you can catch it. Otherwise, take rail and ferry to Rome, then take a steam ship. The Rome route would be best for us if we could leave today, he thinks. Musgrove would probably enter Ethiopia through the Italian territories in the north. The port of entry is the town of Massawa.
Informed telepathically, Pfusand goes to check out the train schedules and finds that the Orient Express is not making another run for some time. Of course, we could always intercept Musgrove's train with the pantope; if need be, we could board it two days ago, when Musgrove did.
After some discussion, we formulate this plan: Several of us will go to Rome today by ferry and rail, with Holly and Goodhue, so we need not reveal the pantope to them, and also to distract anyone who might be watching for travel by pantope. The rest of us will board the pantope Monday. Some of them will then board Musgrove's Oriental Express. The others will meet the Rome party.
The Rome party consists of Lorelei, Pfusand, Tom, and, if we can get them, Holly and Goodhue. Alag, Cantrel, and Daewen will take the pantope to intercept the Oriental Express. Chris and Sophie will go with them, then go on to meet the Rome party.
It is now 8:00 Sunday morning. The trail to the Bristol-Calais ferry leaves at 2:30. After some hasty packing, Tom and Pfusand go to the Adventurers' Club to see if they can recruit Holly. They find the guards redoubled and pass Quartermain, Challenger, Yussif, and Job on their way in to Holly. Holly is still a-bed, attended by Dr. Watson.
Tom invites Holly on the Musgrove chase, since Holly's property is involved and Tom knows him for a man of action. Watson objects that Holly is still suffering shock. Tom points out that we have medical expertise in our party, and Watson admits that Holly shouldn't suffer too much as long as he has it quiet and warm. But Watson has just sedated him, and the poor fellow couldn't possibly catch the 2:30 to Bristol now. Before he dozes off, Holly gives us some advice:
Musgrove will probably try to re-trace Holly's last journey into Ethiopia, using his stolen journals. Holly, in his recent spare time, has been trying to re-create this journal from memory; he commits it to Tom's care, since it contains the secret of the cleft through the Eritrean cliffs. From Massawa, we should take a native guide north to the rock formation described in the book. We are warned against "the Machti's followers in the south of Sudan" and the expansionist and anti-European Abyssinia emperor. Once more, Tom asks Holly if he is sure his mysterious "shard" is safe. "Unless the bank has been robbed..." Then he falls asleep. Thank you all to pieces, Dr. Watson.
Dr. Watson does suggest that, if public notice of the robbery would be too inflammatory, or if the robber subtly substituted a fake shard for the real one, it might go unnoticed. Tom promises to check this out as best we may.
Equipped with another written note of permission, much more legible this time, Tom and Pfusand go to the police to get let into Holly's apartment, so they can fetch the necessary papers.
Notified telepathically, Chris and Sophie send a wire to Holmes asking about secret bank robberies. Then they go upstairs to pack. Here, they discover something novel: a green vase containing fluttery white flowers. On close inspection, the "flowers" turn out to be white butterflies growing from long green stems. It is accompanied by a note, describing the long-stemmed butterflies as "in appreciation of the gift of the footstool." Chris and Sophie, you may recall, conjured a stool of carved toads in Tom's bedroom.
Sophie is repulsed by living ectoplasm, as Tom knows full well. But on close inspection, Chris discovers the flowers are not only ectoplastic, but inanimate. The butterflies just flap in the slightest breeze. Eventually, Sophie decides she rather likes the idea.
Meanwhile, Lorelei rouses Jonathan Goodhue and explains the situation briefly. Goodhue is eager, even anxious, to leave the house because he feels sure it will get "twisted" in a day or two. We take this warning seriously and make arrangements for everybody to get out, even those who must come back Monday to catch the pantope. We give the servants the next couple of days off.
Chris and Sophie, meanwhile, are nattering with Tom telepathically over what to do with the plant; they can't just leave it lying around; it's anachronistic. Jonathan wanders in and stares at them curiously. (They hastily cast an invisibility over the flowers.) Then he goes and stares at Tom. The three of them decide to destroy the flowers; if Sophie likes them, Tom is willing to conjure more. The dispelling also attracts Goodhue's attention. Clearly, the fellow has some kind of psychic sensibilities.
Jonathan, Lorelei, Pfusand, and Tom all leave soon, taking a cab to the train station. On the way, Tom asks Jonathan about "twisted places" and determines that Carlfax Abbey, Barrow Hill, and (now) Braithwaite's house fall into this category. There's also one north-east of us he can't identify.
Tom then decides to be as frank as he can with Jonathan and tells him that we are pursuing Musgrove because we believe him to have the Eye of Dalgroom; he probably took it from Braithwaite, leaving Braithwaite to cope with demons as best he could. We want to "neutralize" the Eye. Jonathan understands and is still willing to help.
Tom tells him we have "mental techniques" which he seems to notice. Jonathan is relieved to have an explanation for the funny feelings he's been getting around us. He says he's always been sensitive and now seems to be more so. (He also seems to be somewhat shattered of nerve. No wonder.)
Tom goes on to distinguish (in his own mind and Jonathan's even if nowhere else) between our "mental techniques" and truly occult practices. Jonathan decides our psychic skills are a trained version of his own natural talent, and perhaps this explains why he was sensitive to occult events but never truly talented in the field. Tom endorses the hypothesis and suggests that our skills may be more reliable, while Jonathan's gift may be of broader application.
Meanwhile, Chris and Sophie inform Holmes of their travel plans (in part), then go to a good hotel with Cantrel, Alag, and Daewen. They pause to hide a stunner in Regents' Park in case it should be psychically traced. We are on the move.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.