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Vestibules

Page history last edited by Kevin McHale 2 years, 2 months ago

back to The Moravian Mystery or the Index

 


Thursday, 11 May 1933

 

     Our Heroes continue their mission to gather information about the occurrences at a Moravian factory located in a secluded forested area near the hamlet of Žarošice.

     There did not seem to be any patrols. Small transport airplanes flew in between 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 a.m and a truck arrived daily carrying men wearing military uniforms.

Výzkumné Zařízení Žarošice

 

     Most of Our Heroes crept up to the bunker and entered through one of the vacant pillboxes; Davis remained outside on guard and followed us in.

     A series of sealed doors, sinks, noxious chemical sprays, fire suppression nozzles and drains indicated the Czechoslovakian military's determination to protect the bunker from explosions and chemical attacks. Or, to protect the Moravian forests from the contents of the bunker.

     Fortunately the bunker and outer defenses had not been completed, and Our Heroes were able to creep into the bunker's interior (after a bit of lock-picking and sleight-of-hand, and an unexpected shower of caustic disinfectant). A lot of military stores (rifles, flares, smoke grenades, survival rations) had been stored in a haphazard manner; the bunker was still incomplete.

     We came into a maintenance trench, under a 20' high ceiling in a large hangar/garage on the entrance level - about 50 yards wide and 100 yards long. A few teams of workers were busy here; there was much noise from machinery and ventilation equipment.

     We peeked at a collection of strange aircraft (including a sort of helicopter or autogyro, the Zaschka), prototypical armored vehicles, artillery pieces, and other Super Science in the hangar. Davis, DeLacy and Nora Cullin took some photographs.

 

I think Nora was one of the photographers. - Michael

 

one of the experimental aircraft -- this one propelled by some sort of rockets or jets

 

     Some offices, stairs and elevators were around the sides of the hangar.

     We snuck past the offices (and heard someone saying, "Tento projekt nebude dokončen včas" ('The project will not be finished on time") into a telephone. What specific project this referred to was unclear.

     As we crept into a stairwell leading down, Nora Cullin and Qua Lin Worthington both felt ill; in fact, Qua Lin fainted! We woke her with some smelling salts, and carefully descended the stairs.

     Our Heroes came to the first sublevel, and looked through the doors -- that level had 12' ceilings, and was divided into many bays with light manufacturing equipment. Bright lights shone down on lathes, presses, drills, cutting tools, workbenches, etc., while men in coveralls operated the machinery, pushed carts about, and consulted blueprints. We continued further down ...

     The second sublevel had meeting rooms, rooms with file cabinets, chalk boards, drafting tables, and other "white collar" work spaces. Not many people were working here; we moved along the perimeter hallway and found an unlocked, unguarded room labeled Generálního štábu čs. armády. We recognized the phrase as referring to the Czechoslovakian army staff.

     Inside the room was a table-sized topographic model of Czechoslovakia, many maps rolled up on the walls, cabinets (locked and unlocked), telephones with labels, a teletype machine clicking away every few minutes.

     Nora studied the topographic map, which showed the research station, and several other places, as blue markings on the map -- the others were:

 

  • Petrovice, in the Sudetenland

  • near or in three cities: Bratislava, Kosice, and Ostrava.

 

     Miss May tried to unlock some Significant Looking Cabinets, unsuccessfully, only to have Bill Davis stroll over and tap them open ("These ones have a trick, see ... "). Inside were books of codes and cipher systems, instruction manuals, and sealed sets of orders for various contingencies. Miss May and Bill Davis took photographs of the teletype printout and some cryptographic material.

     The ringing of a telephone startled us all; Nora Cullin listened in on the party-line call:  "Tell Dr. Rathburg his flight is here."

     With various papers tucked away, Our Heroes returned to the stairs and descended further.

     At the third sublevel, we found ourselves 80 feet below the surface. Here were dormitories for guards, workers, technicians and scientists; also showers, a cafeteria, and other accommodations. The level had the aroma of an unventilated locker room. We continue downwards.

     The fourth sublevel had open office space, with clerks and typists, telephonists and the telephone exchange; it was busy, and we proceeded without entering.

     The fifth sublevel was not yet in use. However, it looked like it would be used for medical purposes.

     The door of the sixth sublevel had a skull and crossbones stenciled on it; a sign in Czech read "Vstup zakázán!". A quick peek through the door showed wide hallways and the acrid hot oil odor and harsh lights of an electronics laboratory area, and a variety of odd noises. We decided to skip the sixth sublevel for the moment.

     The final, seventh sublevel, had a well and water purification system, a bomb shelter, fuel tanks, one or more diesel generators, banks of high-capacity batteries (such as found in submarines), and enormous numbers of pipes and valves.

     We returned up the stairs to the sixth sublevel. As we passed though the door, once again, Nora Cullin and Qua Lin Worthington experienced terrible headaches. These seemed to be the same sensation as when standing beneath the lich's garments in Hyboria.

     Some of the strange noises were of an animal nature - growls, snarls and the like. They, and the source of the splitting headaches, seemed to be at the far end of the level. Strong odors of hot machinery and animal droppings were also emanated from the far end. Some of the outside walls, especially at the far end, were carved from rock, instead of cast in concrete; and in fact at the far end a grille blocked access to what might have been a natural cavern.

      Victoria May was able to channel energies through her tattoos, and wiped away the pain; the tattoos glowed brightly, and glowing wings waved. They had the appearance of the wings of a stylized Russian phoenix; through the mica goggles worn by DeLacy, the wings were especially glorious.

     DeLacy could also see small sparks flying around Qua Lin's bracelet; Nora's anklet showed as a black band; and a pearl-white glow came from the lich's belt.

     Led by Bill Davis, DeLacy and the three ladies crept past the empty offices of some scientists; ominous lamps were set in the walls every eight yards. White and Willoughby waited in the stairwell for the moment.

     Bill Davis suddenly heard the sound of an elevator arriving, and motioned for DeLacy and the women to hide in one of the offices. He heard a sheep scream briefly; he himself took cover behind a piece of electrical machinery that threw off crackling discharges of electrical energy.

     The elevator door opened, and three men emerged -- two in white intern coats, and one in coveralls. They were pushing a gurney, with something covered by a white sheet; white vapors drifted out from under the sheet. The three men took the cart towards the far end of the level.

     Once the men with the gurney had gone out of sight, Willoughby and White came out of the stairwell to join the rest of Our Heroes. DeLacy was able to see (using the mica goggles) a tall bluish-purple plume coming out of a machine at the end of the hall -- the plume was not visible to the naked eye.

     As we crept further forward, we could briefly hear some Czechs arguing about the equipment; a high-pitched whine, rather like a theremin, rose up, and the lights flickered momentarily. A renewed set of animal snarls were heard from down the hall; the air had grown thick.

     A door was encountered on the "outer" side, with two padlocks fastening it shut. A short distance later, an open freight elevator was standing at this level.

     Across from the elevator was a barred cell or pen, holding five rather large (Short Face) bears. The bars of the cell were a very shiny metal, connected by electrical cables to a nearby machine. Nearby was another pen, full of very frightened sheep.

      The bears were particularly large; their eyes shone with preternatural, predatory intelligence. For some reason, Nora (and only Nora) could hear the bears talking -- in the Stygian language in fact! The rest of us only heard the usual ursine growls, grunts and snarls. The first comment was regarding Qua Lin Worthington; the bears thought she would be especially tasty. Their names were Samael, Ishmael, Araziel, Fizrella, and Semiyazza. Their ursine conversation turned to plans for escape, and a scheme to disable the equipment powering the bars of their cell.

     In fact, one of the bears cast a spell, which the cell equipment was able to counteract or cancel .

     Clive White heard the squealing of wheels, probably another gurney approaching; we dashed over to the freight elevator, hoping to hide. Victoria May's tattoos somehow kept her from entering the elevator; and Qua Lin Worthington keeled over again.

     After we were able to step forth again, the bears realized they could speak with Nora Cullin. Again, the rest of Our Heroes heard only growls and other bear sounds. They offered to "make it quick", and told her about her daughter in France, and that her husband "sleeps with the fishes". Nora’s answers in English were, "I have no children" and "which husband?"

     Another set of the bunker staff -- 3 guards or soldiers -- came out of the stairwell. One had a long probe, one carrying two covered buckets, and the last with a flashlight. They fortunately went around another way, not past where we were hiding by the open elevator; they were grumbling about the work they had to do.

     A moment later we heard an inhuman shriek, and the lights flickered and died; the machine powering the bears' cell bars also flickered out. White quickly began fiddling with the elevator controls, to no effect.

     Klaxons began to sound, doors were slamming open or closed, people were shouting and screaming. A trio of scientists ran along the hall, and stopped when they saw Our Heroes. Unfortunately, they had stopped in front of the bears' cell; a bear's paw reached between the now-unpowered bars, and dragged a scientist through the narrow gap to a grisly death. The bear's fur, and the scientist, sizzled and smoked as they touched the bars, but the bear was not deterred.

     The other two scientists saw this, yelled "Schody!" and ran off.

     White got the elevator to rise a couple of feet before it, too, was cut off from the power supply and jerked to a halt. The klaxons wail diminished slowly, also.

     DeLacy pulled the "pepper pot pistol" from his jacket and shot the bears -- but there was no discernible effect. Bill Davis used the "ray gun" but missed the bears. The bears had begun tearing at the walls and the brackets holding the bars of their cell in place.

     White picked up the still-unconscious Qua Lin Worthington and rushed to the nearest stairwell -- unfortunately a mass of white, sticky "cotton candy" foam spilled out of the door and caused him trouble moving.

     Only a few emergency lights, and our electric torches, provided any illumination. The sound of running feet -- not all ours -- and ursine exertion echoed in the concrete and stone halls. A pair of glowing red eyes, twelve feet above the floor, were visible in the cross-passage -- a golem?

     A bear called out to Nora, calling her "Goldilocks", and beckoned her closer with a paw through the bars. Nora cleanly sliced off the paw with her orichalcum sword -- the bear let out an ear-splitting yowl, and Victoria May could see the bear's true form:  a winged demon! DeLacy carefully scooped up the paw, avoiding the razor-sharp claws.

     The bears were enraged; one of them cast a fireball spell, which seriously burnt Bill Davis, DeLacy, and Nora Cullin. A further spell failed to affect Victoria May. Bill Davis fired his "ray gun" again, and killed (dispelled) the bear-shaman; we all began running away from the golem.

     A half-dozen Czech guards and workers ran down the hallway, yelling "Použít nouzový tunel!" -- Mrs. Cullin translated that as "Use the emergency tunnel!" By the time we got to the far end of the hall, we could see strange shapes gathering in front of us, and we ducked into one of the laboratories.

     A Czech technician, and a guard or soldier, followed us into the lab, and began barricading the door; they then dashed over to some Super Science equipment, and began adjusting dials and pulling switches. Fortunately, this room somehow had its own power supply, and an enormous pair of van de Graaff generators quickly sprang into life. After a loud pop and a Irwin Allen-ish spray of sparks, a scene appeared in the gap between the generators -- some of Our Heroes recognized it as the Adriatic Sea near the coast of Corfu. The soldier rolled around on the floor trying to extinguish the green flames that seemed to envelop him.

     The gunfire in the halls outside had died out, and an insistent scratching and scraping at the door made a quick escape seem important.

     Those of Our Heroes with code books and cameras wrapped them in sheets of rubber, and prepared to land in the sea. The golem crashed through the door, but as it approached the van de Graaff generators it decomposed in to a pile of dirt and wire!

     The technician leaped through the shimmering portal; we followed in a hurry, but did remember to carry the soldier with us. The scene between the generators flickered and became fainter as each person passed through.

 

Thursday, 27 October 1921

    

     Landing in cold seawater was a shock, especially for those of us with burns! It did at least clean off some of the "cotton candy" and melted clothing. We were in 20 feet of water, about 20 yards from a beach. As we struggled ashore, DeLacy, Davis, Mrs. Cullin and Qua Lin Worthington recognized the location as being where they had arrived from Hyboria -- but possibly not in the same universe.

     After catching our breath, we walked over the cottage that Clive White had rented; it was unoccupied, but with an entirely different set of furnishings and decoration. There was no telephone set installed; fortunately, the cottage seemed to be vacant after the summer season (or perhaps because of the war ... ). Our Heroes spent some time on first aid, hygiene, and healing spells. Despite these efforts, the soldier succumbed to his burns from the apparatus

 

The cottage was located on the west coast of Corfu near the village of Sinarades -- about 9 kilometers by road from the capital city of Corfu.

 

     The Czech technician, Bernhard Dalabor, (28, graduate of the Bansko technical academy at the University of Bratislava) told Nora that he didn't create the laboratory, he just studied the creatures that sometimes could be captured through it. He knew nothing about the specifics of the portal system; only that it had been intended to be some sort of power generation experiment

     Clive White found a Greek newspaper, dated October 27, 1921. It was clearly recently-printed, and had been delivered that day. Front page news included details of a war between Greece and the Ottoman Empire; the French and British were allies of the Greeks. This was clearly a different universe than the one we came from.

     Other information gleaned from the newspaper:

  • Several provinces in western China were under the control of the "Empress of China" (keep in mind that the news reports had probably been translated a couple of times before appearing in the Greek-language News of Corfu).
  • Britain had completely withdrawn from Ireland.
  • There was no evidence that the United Kingdom had ever controlled Corfu (historically, 1815 to 1864); even the British-build hospital was absent, and there were no cricket fields.
  • Corfu had been bombed or shelled by the Ottoman Empire during the current war.

 

     Our Heroes had a long discussion about multiple universes, Hugh Everett's "many worlds" theory, and the implications of our trip to the past. DeLacy, Bill Davis, Nora Cullin and Qua Lin struggled to explain to Victoria May, Clive White and Fred Worthington about the existence of multiple worlds and timelines.

     On a more practical level, we took stock of our supplies and funds -- most of our paper money would be suspected as counterfeit, or as entire fantasy. DeLacy stored the bear claw (rapidly becoming just frighteningly sharp claws) in the ice box.

     White walked into the village, unofficially exchanged some coins for Greek drachma notes (there was no silver or gold coinage in circulation; the official rate of exchange was 80 drachma per pound sterling, or 22 drachma per US dollar), unsuccessfully sought any foreign newspapers, and bought some food, tea and clothing for us.

 

wages in Greece, 1920

occupation

drachma per day

carpenter

18 to 25

painter

20 to 25

blacksmith

15 to 20

printer

17 to 25

tailor

25

miner

5 to 10

Our Heroes could each live frugally on 10 drachma a day, or a bit more respectably on 20 drachma per day.

 

some prices on Corfu, 1921

item

cost, dr

cheap rain coat, black or blue

65

Greek fisherman's best wool 2-piece suit for church, in light, medium or dark shades, stripes, checks or solid colors -- black, gray and brown mostly

65

Greek minor clerk's best wool suit, 3 piece

90

corduroy 2-piece hunting or hiking suit, brown or olive

155

denim workman's pants, blue, black or striped

10

cotton chambray workman's shirt, blue or gray

10

workman's cheap vest, solid colors

10

nice cotton men's shirt, to go with suits

18

cheap workman's flat fabric cap

10

cheap men's wool felt hat

20

Greek fisherman's wife nice dress

35

Greek fisherman's wife nice hat

18

Greek minor clerk's wife nice dress

55

Greek minor clerk's wife nice hat

25

 
  • A workman's outfit (denim pants, two chambray shirts, a cheap vest, and a cheap cap) costs 50 drachma, or about 12 shillings.

  • A fisherman in his best with 2 chambray shirts, his best suit, and a cheap hat costs 105 drachma to outfit, or about £1 6s.

  • The outfit of a sort of tourist-y hiking gentleman wearing corduroy (with 2 nice cotton shirts) would cost 211 drachma, or £2 12s.

  • Dressing as the clerk of the village post office, or other lower-middle class type, would cost also cost 211 drachma (including a rain coat and 2 nice cotton shirts). 

  • The nicest ladies' outfit (dress and hat, anyway) would cost 80 drachma, the equivalent of £1.

 

     Belts, socks, suspenders, etc. are inexpensive (at least on Corfu), and of course we may be able to salvage most of that from our Czech adventure outfits. "Two shirts" is a minimum for travel ... 

     Qua Lin, Nora Cullin, DeLacy and Davis, at least, needed new clothes; with some food, soap, etc. White probably spent at least 600 drachma.

     From the post office White sent a telegram to his family's solicitors in London, asking for "money to be wired" without gaining the attention of his family. Telegram cost from Greece to London:  5-1/2 pence per word, plus 6 pence; minimum cost is for ten words. Only the name of the destination country was transmitted for free in international telegrams.

 

27 word telegram, as received in London.

Sending this from Corfu would 52 Greek drachma in 1921, or two days salary for a carpenter.

 

     Foreign postal money orders (which is what this would be) sent from Britain had a daily limit of £40. There may have also been Greek restrictions on currency transfers, etc. above that amount; disbursements would certainly only be in Greek paper currency.

     Asking your solicitor to send money from an arbitrary, unexpected place (and time!) would usually require an agreed-upon code or method of identification; being twelve years out-of-place might have made that difficult.

     Victoria May offered to produce some documents, if the correct materials and some examples could be obtained.

 

Friday, 28 October 1921

    

      When Clive White visited the post office hoping to obtain funds, he instead met two Greek policemen (the entire force of the village) who took him to their station. Apparently his family had complained about the "cruel hoax" of impersonating their deceased son, and had asked the Foreign Office to intervene. The policemen released him with a warning -- and of course no funds.

     Victoria had created some new identity papers for Our Heroes.

 

What sort of identity papers?

 

Nansen passports weren't issued historically before July of 1922.

Or did she alter our existing papers?

What we were presumably carrying:

Willoughby, May:  British diplomatic passports

White, Worthington, DeLacy:  regular British passports

Davis, Cullin:  American passports, which were NOT book-style until after 1926.

American passports are probably the easiest to fake, but there's still a lot of printing to arrange.

 

          Most likely she either altered the characters existing passports,

or created a Provisional Certificate of Palestinian Nationality for anyone whose papers were lost or damaged.

 

     Nora Cullin interrogated the scientist/technician about the portal from the research bunker, and about the bunker in general. Fortunately, the chap spoke German, which Mrs. Cullin was fluent in.

 

information from the Czech staff

     There were settings intended to guide where the transport gates opened. Two Ukrainian scientists originally built the device from blueprints they carried with them when they fled the Bolsheviks. Apparently, the designs had been provided by the Academy of Sciences (BAN) in St. Petersburg. They only knew how to construct the apparatus. The portal was an accident -- they were really trying to create a new power source.

     This particular scientist who came with Our Heroes (Bernhard Dalabor) studied the creatures that came through the gate, but was not familiar with the science of the gate itself (“I’m a biologist…”). He had worked there for 6 months, and learned about the existence of multiple universes on the job.

     The soldier, Jarek Evžon, had worked at the site for only 2 weeks.

     The purpose of "Research Facility Žarošice" was to aid Czechoslovakia and perform military research; it was part of the Oddělení Speciálních Studií -- "Department of Special Studies".

     The bear spirits were brought through the portal:  the scientists used random settings, set a grappling hook baited with meat, tossed it through the gate and caged what took the bait. He studied what they caught, and believed that the “bears” had no innards. They would eat but had no digestive system, only spitting out the bones. 

     Dr. Rozdalowitz, a physicist, was the Director of the research station.

     Dr. Rothberg was working on another experiment -- high velocity rifles, but also knew how to use "strange rocks" to create the containment system which held the bears.

 

     Our Heroes purchased ferry tickets (14 shillings total) for an overnight trip to Patras on the mainland; from there, we would travel by rail to catch the Orient Express at Lamia. We left the two Czechs in possession of the cottage, with a few spare drachma.

     We noticed the wrecks of some gunboats nearby, and the ferry crew were carefully following a route swept free of mines.

     A Greek newspaper available on the ferry told of more recent events -- such as an attack in mid-September by Kurdish terrorists on the peace talks in Syria.

 

Saturday, 29 October 1921

    

      We disembarked from the ferry boat at Patras around dawn, and took second class tickets (the best available, costing the group £2 total -- or we could have gone by third class for £1 total) on a slow, awkward train. The Greek rail system brought us to Athens mid-afternoon; presumably some of our gemstones could be converted to cash at something like a decent rate (in Greek drachma notes, though). It was just in time:  the second-class tickets aboard the Orient Express, to Venice, cost us £6 each including meals. We had two or three hours to conduct business in Athens.

      Before sunset we boarded the Orient Express at Larissa station. The conductor collected our passports and identification, to present at the various national borders. Newspapers from France and Britain were aboard, only five or six days old. Apparently the war between Greece and the Ottoman Empire was going well for Greece -- the train rolled easily through Macedonia.

 

dashed blue line shows ferry; green line shows Greek train to Athens; red line is the Orient Express

 

Monday, 31 October 1921

 

     We disembarked at Mestre station in Venice, considerably rested.

     By now we had spend about £12 on food, consumables, clothing, telegram fee, ferry travel and Greek rail tickets before boarding the Orient Express; and finally £42 for second-class tickets to Venice. The outlay of £54 had come from:

 

  • £14:  value of twenty gold rubles from Willoughby's gear

  • £40:  Bill Davis and Nora Cullin had various gold coins and gemstones. 

 

Don't sell too much ... we don't want to carry wads of Greek drachma notes out of the country.

 

     The local newspapers had banner headlines about two bodies found in alleys drained of blood -- the bodies, not the alleys. We immediately suspected the corpulent, cannibalistic Bacari Thuthmetra, and began watching the same palazzo he'd been living in during 1933. Our luggage was left in the baggage room of the station. We purchased boiler-suits (30 lira each) and rubber galoshes (23 lira). Total 371 lira; there are 88 lira per pound sterling in 1921, thus £4 4s total.

 

"Si, signore, we hear the tides will be very high tonight, can't be too careful."

 

Tuesday, 1 November 1921 - Ognissanti (All Saints' Day)

 

     After midnight, Thuthmetra and two minions returned to the palazzo. He seemed less bulky, in fact, although just as tall. Through the mica goggles, DeLacy saw the wizard as a snake, and his two minions as something worse!

 

Palazzo Thuthmetra, as seen from the canal.

Notice the entrance to the sotoportego (covered alley) on the left side.

 

     We quietly borrowed a small boat, and poled along the canal to the palazzo's decrepit water-gate. The gate was easily jimmied open, and we glided into the dock on the ground floor. Inside, the ancient marble floors were stained by high tides; a staircase rose around the lead cistern set into the floor. Indistinct but ominous noises could be heard on the first floor above ... we quietly moved up their stairs.

      The villains were in the dining room, and in fact we heard Thuthmetra yell to the kitchen staff, in Latin, "Affer mihi fercula prima!" ("Bring me the antipasti!").

     As the door to the dining room opened, we saw Thuthmetra in full white tie and tails, sitting at the head of the table. Extravagant silver table service decorated the spotless linen -- spotless except at the end occupied by the sorcerer-lizard. His clothes, and the tablecloth, were splashed with fresh blood. A large silver platter of meats had just been laid in front of him; the contents of the platter bore witness to his anthropophagous appetites.

 

"R.J., I'm not sure we can show that."

"Well, put out some big drumsticks, or something, and thank goodness this is in black and white."

 

     As soon as he saw Our Heroes, he leaped to his feet and bolted towards the pantry door. His cloaked minions turned and swept towards us, growing strangely larger as they approached.

     One of the minions succeeded in wrapping its cloak-like body around DeLacy; it was intensely cold in the demon's embrace! Bill Davis zapped the other cloak-demon with his "ray gun", and heard moans from both of the minions, and from DeLacy! Davis was quickly enfolded by the second cloak-demon.

     DeLacy slashed the cloak-demon holding him, but the damage was also done to himself and Bill Davis.

     Nora Cullin opened a door from the gallery to the pantry, in time to attack Thuthmetra with her own sword -- again the damage was shared between the minions and our friends in their grasp. DeLacy screamed and was dropped unconscious to the floor. Clive White blasted with his wand -- this time Bill Davis was dropped in a swoon.

      Desperately, Victoria May attempted to use a Dispel upon one of the minions; she made a strange contorting gesture and one of the cloak-demons vanished!

     Willoughby grabbed a coat rack to fend off the cloak-demons.

 

"Well, at the time, a coat-rack seemed to be something they might be afraid of."

 

     Miss Worthington hit one with her sword, but (as before) she also took damage. Thuthmetra hissed and lunged at Nora Cullin, but missed her; she attacked in return and ran him through! He staggered, but Qua Lin Worthington also received some damage from the blow, and collapsed.

     One of the cloak-demons attempted to grapple Victoria May, but it seemed to collapse in upon itself and vanish (a fumble!).

     At this point, Bacari Thuthmetra fell to the ground -- and immediately transformed into a gigantic Constrictor Cobra, ready to attack! Mrs. Cullin tried to dodge, but the terrible serpent-wizard lashed its coils about her, and threw her through the door, knocking down Clive White and Victoria May. He then slithered into the kitchen, possibly intent on devouring the chef.

     Major DeLacy regained consciousness in the dining room, and performed some first aid on Bill Davis.

     Thuthmetra came sliding out of the kitchen, with a chef-sized lump in his mid-section; he headed for the stairs. Willoughby pinned the serpent-wizard to the wall with the coat rack; it hissed and lashed about with its coils, terribly angry. Victoria May shot the serpent, and Clive White landed a blast from his wand. Frustrated, the serpent spat venom, which hit Nora Cullin; Victoria May continued to unload her pistol into the un-natural beast.

     The serpent managed to escape from Willouby's coat-rack, and sent him flying across the floor; it then sprayed more venom, to no real effect. Nora Cullin stepped up and sliced through its body with her sword; Thuthmetra immediately burst into blood and bits of meat, spraying the walls, floor and ceiling -- and most of Our Heroes -- with gore. Clive White had tried to discharge his wand at the same time, but was knocked over the gallery railing. He managed to catch himself, and save his wand from falling also.

     We washed off the majority of the gore, helped our stunned and injured friends to their feet, and began searching the building. On the top floor were bedrooms, and some pocket change and minor jewelry.

     There were also various of Thuthmetra's identity papers.

     Descending to the dungeon we rescued four teenage victims (two of them Romani, who took off immediately); there was evidence of many more victims. Three sealed canopic jars didn't quite tempt us to open or break them. A small chest, covered in gold leaf, held a couple of pounds of gold and silver coins (plus a few Stygian coins, possibly tarnished silver).

 

currency found in Thuthmetra's palazzo

gold coins

silver and other coins

16

20 franc, Swiss

31

Maria Teresa thaler, Austrian

19

5 ruble, Imperial Russian

9

shilling (pre-1920), British

6

20 kronor, Swedish

16

5 franc ecu, French

17

$20 "double eagle" St. Gaudens, American

13

5 lira, Italian

8

20 franc "Napoleon", French

31

20 kuruş, Ottoman (usually known as piastre)

24

20 franc "rooster", French

7

Stygian coins (Silver, square-ish, with winged snakes & books (tomes), 9gm)

Total value of the non-Stygian coinage is roughly £74 10s

 

     Instead of the one portal which Willoughby and White remembererd, there were three in the basement. Nora Cullin was able to activate them briefly, to investigate any possible use.

 

  • the leftmost:  dark and dry, with the sibilant sounds of several snakes. No thank you!

  • the rightmost:  in some stark snowy mountains, above the tree line. About 40 degrees F; we weren't equipped for that.

  • the middle: an ancient ruin, in fact recognizable to some as Ephesus. Perhaps not the best place to go during a war with the Ottoman Empire.

 

     We decided that none of these locations was appealing, and would take our chances in Venice.

     From all of the fine silver service in the dining room, White selected a particularly fine 18th Century tea service to carry off -- after carefully looking inside.

 

Thuthmetra's silver service

  • 4x 4 candle candleabras

  • 2x 8" by 10" picture frames

  • 1x comb

  • 4x platters - apprx 18" by 32"

  • 1x tea service - 6 cup pot, creamer, sugar, 6 cups and saucers, 8 small spoons

  • 12x chargers

  • 2x salt & pepper sets

  • 1x soup ladle

  • 12 sets silverware (each with roughly 10 pieces... some more, some less. For ex: Forks: salad, main, fish, dessert; Spoons: soup, dessert, coffee; Knives: butter, meat, fish)

  • 2x meat carving sets: silver handles only

  • 1x 2 gallon punch bowl

 

     Heading towards the exit, we met two members of the Italian Polizia di Stato ... while we had cleaned up and disposed of our boiler suits, there was blood running down the marble stairs and pooling in the cistern -- very ominous no doubt. The remaining two teenagers vouched for us, and our general air of "it's late and we can bribe you and leave, or beat you down and leave" made the policemen accept the bribe we offered.  

     We took ourselves to a Venetian hotel catering to tourists - 14 lire per night, meals included (thus another £1 2s spent total). We forked over the 98 lire, took hot baths ("Those English, taking baths after midnight!"), and slept soundly (though with perhaps some bad dreams).

 

The best Venetian hotels cost about 160 lire (roughly £2) per person per night. 

 

Wednesday, 2 November 1921

 

     Our Heroes took full advantage of the hotel services included in the tariff -- breakfast, laundry, barbering, etc. Tickets were purchased for second-class passage to Paris on the Simplon-Orient Express:  £10 per person, thus using up most of the coinage found in Thuthmetra's basement.

     DeLacy took himself to a plaza or rooftop, and tried using his ability to gain power -- from pigeons. The experiment worked, with feathers flying everywhere!

     At 12:40 p.m. we boarded the train, and tried to catch up on our sleep. The train passed through Milan after 4 p.m., and pulled into the Lausanne station in Switzerland about 11 p.m.

 

Thursday, 3 November 1921

 

     The Simplon-Orient Express arrived at the Gare d'Lyon in Paris at 6:30 a.m.

     For the moment, we checked into the hotel nearest the station -- an inexpensive traveler's rest in the XIIe arrondissement, on the north bank of the river Seine.

 

There's a restaurant on the ground floor.

Note that some menu items are not available after noon, due to shortages and government restrictions.

 

 

T E R M I N U S     L Y O N

19 BOULEVARD

DIDEROT.

 

Telephone:

DIDEROT 24-03

 

 

L. BRANCON,

Proprietor

 

  • SECOND CLASS HOTEL.

  • Opposite Paris-Lyon Station.


Latest modern comfort.


  • Running hot and cold water.

  • Single rooms, 8 francs per night; double rooms, 14 francs.

  • Single with bath, 12 francs; double with bath, 18 francs.

  • Breakfast, 1.50 francs; luncheon, 5.50 francs; light luncheon, 4 francs; dinner, 6 francs; light dinner, 5 francs.

 

Advertisement in Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide.

 

     We took three doubles and a single, all 3rd floor rooms with baths:  66 francs per night, or (at the 1921 exchange rate of 51 francs per pound) £1 6s per night for the lot of us. White and Willoughby shared one room, Davis and DeLacy another; Mrs. Cullin and Qua Lin in a third, and Victoria May in a room of her own.

     The rooms, beds, hallways, baths, and elevator are small, but clean.

 

Third floor plan of the Hotel Terminus.

Rooms 30. 32, 35, 38, and 39 are doubles; 40 is extra-large.

All of the third floor rooms have a bath.

 

     DeLacy called the telephone number he had for Lady Celtaigh, and left a message. The person that answered the phone seemed rather cautious.

     We did a lot of reading of current newspapers. After learning of Clive White' demise in an explosion in Syria (while in a battle with the Ottoman Empire) in September, and DeLacy's death during the Second Battle of Arras (1918), we decided to not investigate our 1921 fates. As far as we knew:

 

  • Victoria May would be planning her wedding.

  • Bill Davis was in China.

  • Qua Lin Worthington would be a girl in Hong Kong.

  • Nora Cullin would be attending high school in New York.

  • Fred Willoughby was (based on his "historical" past) probably serving with the London Scottish (his regiment had been active in Mesopotamia during the Great War), probably with the rank of Captain by now. Of course, he might be dead, injured, or serving in the Army elsewhere, or working for the Government in some other capacity.

 

     That evening there was a knock on the door of DeLacy's hotel room; two eight-foot-tall gray-faced redcaps (? - thick greyish skinned humanoids) grabbed him and hauled him away in his pajamas. They escorted him out of the hotel and sat him down in the back of a pastry delivery truck. During a short drive they asked him how he knew about "The Lady". The truck stopped underneath a bridge, where DeLacy was bundled out, and through a door into the sewers.

     In the sewers, he was interrogated by an elvish woman; he learned that Lady Celtaigh did not recognize his name. The sidhe cast spells which convinced them that DeLacy was not lying.

     They told him that the sidhe would never work with the French or British governments. He was kept there overnight.

 

Friday, 4 November 1921

 

     Around sunrise, a short greenish toned man wearing a red beret brought a tray to DeLacy, with breakfast (coffee and a croissant). DeLacy asked to send a note to the hotel, so the rest of Our Heroes wouldn't be worried.

 

DeLacy's note

Not to worry, I'm with friends from under the hill -- A.D.

Hugh can provide the correct text, I am sure.

 

     After a bit more conversation with the sidhe, they provided the name of a contact:  Jeremy Leeming at "l'ambassade britannique". 

 

While there's no way for us to know yet, this may be some alternate-history version of Professor Frederick Lem, linguist and possible expert on mystic portals and other worlds.

 

     DeLacy was then released and returned to the hotel. The rest of Our Heroes had begun to feel concerned about him, when he stepped into the lobby, barefoot and bedraggled. Clive White escorted him upstairs to clean up.

     Our Heroes exchanged various gems, odd coins and bills, and Thuthmetra's tea service for proper currency. Bill Davis knew of a shop which specialized in purchases of items with ... unusual provenance. This put us in funds, at least for now.

     We quickly noticed that the Stygian coins kept coming back into our possession.

 

While carrying Stygian coins, a character has +10 to the dice roll for all d100 rolls. They keep coming back to us individually.

 

Thuthmetra's tea service

     This 18th Century silverware was worth about £300, and apparently came from a minor Medici palace. Bill Davis sold it for 10,000 francs (nearly £200).

 

     Nora Cullin, Victoria May and Qua Lin Worthington immediately set off to obtain wardrobes that didn't come under the fashion heading of "fisherman's wife from a minor Greek island."

 

Per Ken,"Bill had between $5,000 & $10,000 in London bulky high value cut gems, plus a few gold and silver coins."

That's very roughly 75,000 - 150,000 French francs at 1921 values (though Bill should only convert what we need.

Per Sheri, "Nora also has some gems that can be exchanged as needed."

Our Heroes can resume their middle-class or upper-middle-class lifestyles for quite a while.

If we each spend 5000 francs on upper-middle-class wardrobe,

we can still easily manage 6 months (at the lower value range for Bill's gemstones) at second-class hotels, with some rail travel thrown in.

 

     They noticed that Paris had a wartime appearance -- there were military guards at some public locations, heavily-armed military police, armored cars clattering about, anti-aircraft guns, sandbags around some government buildings, barrage balloons floating in the sky, and Algerian immigrants were being rounded up and placed in "protective custody". The effects of rationing and shortages made Paris not quite as gay as it could have been.

     Another note:  in France between 1914 and 1918, six in ten men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-eight died or were permanently maimed. Presumably doubling the length of the war has reduced the male population even further.

     In the afternoon we had a discussion which touched on the Law of Conservation of Noras, a theory that might apply to Nora Cullin (but not Algnernon DeLacy or Qua Lin Worthington).

 

Postscript

 

     White now had slightly webbed hands and feet, which gave him better climbing and swimming skills, but the skin on his extremities would remain pale and untanned.

 

Soundtrack for 1921

 

 

Onwards to Two Moons Under Armenia

Comments (1)

Michael said

at 12:35 am on Dec 27, 2016

Whew, all up to the end!

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