Week 4, Researching the Eye
When we left our heroes last time, Chris and Sophie had encountered Holmes at the Toffington's party, in one of his semi-impenetrable disguises. There, he told them that he believed the mysterious object of our search was the "Eye of the Dalgroom." Then he had to wander off to avoid looking suspicious.
Nothing interesting happened at the party after that, so Chris and Sophie and the others came back and reported to Tom and those members of the crew who had not been invited or able to gate-crash or climb to the roof, etc.
"Eye of the Dalgroom?" says Tom, raising one hoary eyebrow. He recalls how unnaturally literary this timeline is and asks, "Is the Dalgroom a little yellow idol to the south of Katmandu?"
"I don't think so," answers Chris, "but that's a line from a song that'll be written about a century from now."
"It's also Kipling."
The next day, we split up. Chris and Sophie will go call on Holmes in his offices and learn more about the Dalgroom. Tom and Pfusand will go rummage through the newspaper morgues looking for references to "Dalgroom," after which they will try the occult book stores. Lorelei, Alag, and Daewen will check out Carlfax Abbey, an abandoned building much too similar to the "Carfax Abbey" Dracula inhabited in Bram Stoker's novel.
Chris and Sophie arrive to find Holmes in his dressing gown but still quite willing to report on his discoveries so far. He cautions that these are mere "extrapolations" and not his rock-solid deductions. Nonetheless, the facts are these:
Chris and Sophie ask for a description of the Eye and of the Dalgroom. They learn that the Eye is a huge star sapphire, with a twin that was stolen 70 years ago. The Dalgroom IS an idol, but it is not little and yellow to the south of Katmandu. Rather it is large and gold-encrusted, in the Hindu Kush. It is not a Hindu god or a deity of any other current religion in the area.
And what, Chris inquires, were the spooky crowd doing at that party? Holmes gathers that they were seeking something by occult means. Perhaps the Eye, perhaps this recently arrived power, if they are not the same thing.
Chris and Sophie thank him and take their leave. They telepath the information to the others. Tom and Pfusand, who had not got remotely near the Afgani papers yet and so had heard not a breath about the Dalgroom, drop their redundant efforts and head for an occult book shop, the name and address for which Sophie and Chris got from Holmes.
Lorelei and company, meanwhile, have approached Carlfax Abbey, gunning for vampire with garlic and stakes and silver crucifixes. (Daewen balks at the crucifix in her own case, feeling that her own magics will do better without the (to her) irrelevant symbolism.)
Approaching the Abbey doors, Lorelei samples the local vibrations. Yech. They are not familiar to her, but they are definitely obnoxious. They remind her of Vlad back under New York City, of whom it was said "it isn't really fair to call him a vampire," and of a nasty-feeling stain of magic we found in the catacombs under the city of Eastmarch. The feeling is diffused everywhere. She scrys the doors directly but gets nothing.
Lorelei gleefully telepaths the news of vampire-spoor to all the others, asking them to rendezvous with her back at our house. Meanwhile, she'll go fetch a priest. Chris objects to this "diversion." "This is Saturday," he says. "Wait just until Monday when the pantope shows up. They we can prepare properly if you're set on this." "Oh all right," she sulks, being set on it. She still wants to locate a good priest.
Pfusand and Tom, who were on their way to the bookstore, relax and continue their journey. They arrive and present themselves as a briskly professorial -- or maybe wizardly -- old codger (Tom) and his exotically foreign-looking man-servant (Pfusand). They are interested in the religion, magic, mythology, and arcana of the Hindu Kush area. They are also interested in any occult information about Carlfax Abbey, which Tom describes as having an impressive "aura."
The bookstore owner is knowledgeable and obliging. He starts with the abbey first. It was built in the 1030s, burnt in 1247, and rebuilt in 1257. He'd never heard much occult about it. (Only takes one vampire, chum.) Georges Devereaux wrote a fair bit about it and other abbeys. They most, um, intriguing one is about 20 miles outside London, and named Cadwells or Cadwalther or something like that. It's pre-Conquest, having been discredited and deconsecreated back in the 900s. Got reconstructed in the 11th century. Both it and Carlfax have been deserted about one hundred years.
About the Hindu Kush. The bookseller cites a renegade Mason, allegedly the author of a book written in the 1500s which purports to be a translation of an Alexandrine text. Then Professor Challenger has written a good deal about the area. Most of it appears in professional journals or in books put out by the bookstore at the Adventurers' Club. Tom buys the Masonic text and what scraps of Challenger the bookseller has, then proceeds to the Adventurers' Club bookstore.
There, he picks up appropriate texts on anthropology and travelogue but doesn't find any of Challenger's material. He inquires after Challenger and Quartermain. Professor Challenger, the clerk tells him, is presently in residence at the club. Excellent.
Tom goes around to the front, presents his card to porter, saves Pfusand from being whisked off to the servants' quarters ("He's a student of anthropology too." "Oh, indeed!" with a raised eyebrow,) and heads up the stairs to the lounge. As they approach the door, they hear loud male voices bellowing. Inside, they find two loud bellowing males. Both are short, very burly, and very hairy. The younger one, with black hair and beard and no forehead to speak of, is doing most of the bellowing in an aggrieved tone, to the older one, with grizzled red hair and beard.
The older redhead is Challenger, who asks Tom to pardon them for a moment. Tom retreats but leaves a Second Sight viewpoint in the air. "If the authorities won't do something about it, WE should!" Black is fuming. Black turns out to be named "Holly." (He was the narrator of "She" by H. Rider Haggard.) He takes his leave shortly.
Tom makes sympathetic inquiries of Challenger and discovers Holly is unhappy because his quarters were broken into and some artifacts damaged. Holly, Tom learns, has done most of his exploring in Africa.
Tom professes a great interest in the anthropology of the Hindu Kush and Challenger is quite willing to sell him a copy of his works on the area, provided he still has one. He thinks he does. He's also open to the possibility of giving Tom an interview or so if there aren't any copies of the papers. Tom bows out and puts a tracer on him.
On the way out, he meets Holly on the way in and deposits another tracer. Through this, he hears, "Devil take it, Challenger, now they've stolen my charts out of the chartroom!" You don't really need Second Sight to hear this, though, given the volume.
Tom returns and expresses sympathy and a peculiar abhorrence for theft. (Very peculiar, if you consider the number of heists he's been on.) He offers the services of his nephew (meaning Chris), who's "good at finding things." Holly is very reluctant to bring outsiders into the Club's private problems, but is warm and friendly (as contrasted to Challenger, who is rather pompous) and accepts the card.
Tom bows out again and uses his clairvoyance to follow the two down to the chartroom, where Challenger starts making some Holmes-style observations and deductions. Natural enough, considering they both appear in the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.
Meanwhile, Lorelei has decided to Roman Catholic rather than Church of England and has located a priest. She tells him she would like to buy some holy water on behalf of her "hypochondriac uncle" (Tom). Uncle is eccentric enough to want it by the quart. This floors the priest, who only has a few small vials of the stuff. She says Uncle has a container that was blessed for him by their parish priest back in Canada, if the priest would be willing to consecrate some more fresh on the spot. Oh, make more! Of course! No problem. Lorelei leaves, after making a generous donation to the poor box.
Tom has a problem, however, because he feels the holy water would lose some of its bouquet if put in a vessel lyingly alleged to be blessed. Having overheard this on the telepathy net, he hurries home from the Adventurers' Club to at least bless a vessel himself and make the story as true as possible. "And where were you going to get this vessel?" he telepaths to Lorelei as he goes. "Oh, steal it somewhere." "Lied about AND stolen! Oh great!"
Using one of our own Scotch decanters, which Daewen obligingly glamours to look less like a Scotch decanter, Tom does his best to bless the decanter. The kibitzing in his head doesn't help. "But you're not a priest!" protests Cantrel. "My denomination doesn't have a division into clergy and laity," says Tom, this sounding so much better than "I don't believe in them." "What IS your denomination?" inquired Chris. "Look, do you mind? I'm busy."
Tom drops off the net, remembers his near-death experiences, and says a prayer. He hands the decanter to Lorelei and comes back on the net. "So what IS your religion?" Chris wants to know. "Inherentist." "Oh no! You're not THAT Tom Noon, are you? You've got to be on Helene in a few years!" "Huh?" "Oops. Nothing. I've said too much. Never mind." And Chris goes off the net.
Lorelei has returned by now, with the decanter, Chris, and Sophie. The priest listens with sympathetic incomprehension to their story about Uncle's dreams of vampires, then duly produces a quart or so of holy water with all the Latin flourishes. They leave, putting more money in the poor box.
Tom doesn't quite dare speak to Chris all day Sunday, except to send him to see Holly. Chris and Sophie go to the Adventurers' Club, only to find it is male-only. Sophie discreetly goes "shopping" and Chris meets with Holly, who is friendly and polite but private as ever and gives him a gentle brush-off. He says his friend Challenger is working on it. "Well," says Chris, "we have some experience with things like this and perhaps we can succeed if Challenger fails." This idea seems to amuse Holly hugely. Chris asks if there's any pattern to the thefts, and Holly answers that they all seem to be happening to HIM. Chris tell him not so, that many other Adventurers, and many occultists too, have been robber recently. This intrigues Holly. He asks who, but Chris, sticking tightly to the image of gentleman-amateur, says he can't divulge that information, particularly if he isn't working for Holly. Holly still doesn't wish to engage him.
Meanwhile, Daewen asks Tom if he's ever checked that home-made dimensional sensor she brought. He hasn't. Checking it, he finds it has picked up activity. Ahem! They keep a close eye on it after that, and it goes off again late in the afternoon. Someone is manipulating space-time a few blocks away.
Unfortunately, the sensor does not give bearing, only distance. Tome supplies the bearing with a quick Finding and Chris, fresh back from interviewing Holly, sends a viewpoint out along it. He sees some stately buildings surrounding a park with trees. Most of the people look youngish. Just about the time he finds a sign reading "London University College," the connection goes away.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.