Too much is made of globe trotting. If I never leave the comfortable shores of New England again, I shall be a happy man indeed. Home. I am once again home, where my heart yearns to remain, but my intellect, already stretched to its limit by the terrific horrors I have encountered, knows I must continue my journeys for now. When this is over I will definitely move to some small sea port and retire for good.
Peru wasn't really that bad, if you ignore the bad water, the bad food, the lack of sanitation, and the monsters bent on world domination. We were in Lima, deciding just what to do after our run-in at the NWI mines (and subsequent loss of our companion and cohort, Jack). It seemed obvious that going back to the mines was tantamount to suicide, and in a complete break with tradition, we went with the obvious and booked passage to San Francisco, where the mysterious shipping labels at the mining office were addressed.
Two days later we boarded the Dawn Treader, and NWI cargo ship bound for the states with a load of raw rubber and coffee. The ship was a clean freighter, and boasted 10 passenger cabins with two berths each. We settled in the first day, and that night at dinner we met the captain and our fellow passengers. Fred Dieter and Ansel Brown were NWI employees traveling on the Treader, and we quickly focused our attention on them, plying them with questions about NWI and their occupations. Both men were at ease talking about what they did for NWI, and we soon learned that Ansel was a courier, and was delivering a package from the NWI mining facility to an office in San Francisco! Lady Luck had finally came our way, and we were determined to take her out and show her a good time, lest she leave us in the lurch as she had often done before.
While the rest of us were working over Fred and Ansel, Mac and Kevin had started a conversation with a Chinese American named Jackie Wu. Clever of them, for a there was a Chinese symbol stamped on each of the shipping labels we discovered at the mining headquarters, and we had yet to learn what it meant. Later on that evening Jackie accompanied us back to our cabins (we promised him more alcohol) and volunteered to translate the glyph. It was a name, Lang-Fu, whom Jackie had heard of as a mystic who had links with the Chinese mob in San Francisco. Jackie had at one time been a hired gun for the mob, but left the country when things got out of hand and he felt his life was in danger. His uncle had recently wired him that his former gang boss had been killed, and that it was safe for Jackie to return home. Jackie was looking for employment as an private investigator, or body guard, but wanted to avoid the mob. We quickly discussed the matter among ourselves and decided we could use another hand, especially one adept at fire arms and martial arts. After filling Jackie in on the basic facts surrounding our case, Jackie agreed to join us, at least until he could find something that paid better.
It seemed obvious that we somehow needed to find what Ansel was carrying from the mine (on that topic, he remained quite silent), and so the next night, while the others we enjoying after dinner drinks, Kevin, Mac, and Jackie made their way back to the cabin Fred and Ansel shared. It took little work for Jackie to unlock the cabin door, and once inside they quickly found a grey plastic briefcase, which proved very difficult to open. After failing to pick the lock, Jackie muffled his gun in a pillow and blasted the case open. After the pillow feathers settled, our troupe found an envelope addressed from Jonathan Harris to Lang-Fu within the now ruined briefcase. Cleaning the cabin up as quickly as they could, Mac and Kevin pondered over what to do about the now destroyed briefcase, for once Ansel discovered it was missing, he would have the ship searched. Jackie was in favor of waiting for Ansel to return, killing him, and dumping his body overboard, but fortunately calmer heads prevailed. Kevin found an identical case in Fred's press, and so they simply placed Fred's case where Ansel's had been, and hoped they'd buy more time in the resultant confusion. Unfortunately on their way out, Jackie was seen leaving the cabin with the damaged briefcase by a crew member. Jackie wanted to hunt down the crewman, kill him, and toss his body overboard, but saner heads prevailed, and the three made their way back to our suite of cabins.
We all met back in my cabin and discussed what to do with the briefcase, which was incriminating in the least, and most likely dangerous to keep around. Several plans were discussed that varied in method and intent (Jackie wanted to kill a number of people and throw them overboard), but common sense prevailed and we opted to simply throw the case overboard (we let Jackie do it). We then turned our attention to the letter.
The letter claimed that the courier, Ansel, was carrying the last shipment of Blue John from the mines, and that the mining operation itself would now be shut down. More disturbing was Harris' reference to our recent visit, and how we stumbled onto the lunar base of their "friend's from Yoggoth!" Harris also mentioned that poor Jack Diamond, our fallen comrade, was in fact alive, but that he had given him to those creatures from Yoggoth, and that Jack was now quite insane. It was a bitter blow to realize that we had left a friend to such a horrible fate, and each of us fought with our conscious that night to some extent. We did realize, however that discovering the letter was a true blessing, for Harris was obviously warning Lang-Fu about us, and if he had received it, we would have walked blindly into trap.
There was a great to-do the next morning as Fred reported that his briefcase was missing (apparently neither he nor Ansel had realized a switch had been made). This, combined with Jackie's attempts to get into the ship's cargo hold, where the delivery of Blue John was held, brought the captain to our quarters with some pointed questions about Jackie's odd behavior, and if he had anything to do with the missing briefcase. Kim Lovell, our resourceful psychologist quickly intervened, and explained that Jackie was her patient, and was a kleptomaniac. She had been working with Jackie for many years, but obviously he was suffering from a relapse. Kim then proceeded to confuse the issue with ten minutes of psycho babble that left the captain's eyes glazed over in stupefaction. It looked like we were in the clear until the crew member who saw Jackie with the briefcase arrived along with another who had seen Jackie toss the thing overboard. When confronted with this damning evidence, Kim beamed proudly "See, I told you he was a kleptomaniac!" Overwhelmed by such incontrovertible logic, the captain retreated to the bridge, having obtained Kim's promise to keep Jackie under control.
We kept a low profile on board the ship for the next several days, and with great relief arrived in San Francisco on Monday morning, May 17th. Our group then split up: with Miranda, Jackie, Mac and Kevin heading strait to the address on the shipping labels, and Kim, Karen and myself waiting behind to follow the courier Ansel. The address led to a warehouse nearby, and rather than wait for the rest of us, Jackie decided that there must be Blue John within, so he sauntered into the front office and clobbered the man working the desk, who complied by dropping unconscious to the floor. Unfortunately (why does this word always crop up when Jackie does something?) the rest of the warehouse was locked up behind a heavy gate and fencing, and the burly workmen noticed the crumpled form of their coworker on the floor, with Jackie trying to open the gate. Picking up large boards, pipes, chains and other handy weapons, the group of workers quickly ran toward the office, as Jackie bolted out the front door and hid behind a stack of crates across the street with the others.
A few minutes later the courier arrived, went into the warehouse, and left as the rest of us pulled up in our taxis. There seemed little point in hanging around the warehouse where we were likely to be pummeled to death by a band of angry longshoremen, so we decided to grab lunch and regroup. Jackie led us to his uncle Ben's place, where we were greeted warmly, and offered a meal. While there, Jackie asked his uncle a number of questions about Lang-Fu, and were given the location of his temple. Ben seemed to know more about Lang-Fu than he was willing to tell, but Jackie also discovered that Lang-Fu led bizarre ceremonies at a deserted beach up the coast. We decided that a trip to Lang-Fu's temple was in order.
The temple itself shared a building with various warehouses and other businesses near the docks, and indeed had but a single door in an alley as its facade. Within was a long hallway ending in another door, framed in gilded woodwork decorated with Chinese symbols. Jackie pointed out that not all of the symbols were Chinese, though neither he nor anyone else in our group knew what they were. Beyond this second door was a small ornate room that smelled of incense. At the far end of the room was a pedestal upon which sat a golden statue of the Buddha, flanked by two smoldering braziers of iron. A man dressed in robes stood near the statue watching us. We politely asked about the church, and the man replied with a peculiar accent saying he did not speak English, and that we should leave. Jackie then asked the man in Chinese about joining the church, and was told that they were not accepting followers at the time so we should leave. We left and stood around outside deciding what to do next.
A large loading van pulled up as we stood there, and two Chinese men shambled out of the truck with a package and went into the temple. A few minutes later the men reappeared and drove off. For some reason, I thought that it might be important to follow the van, so as it drove off, I jumped onto the back of the van and tried to hang on, but with limited success. Well, no success really, other than I wasn't injured when I fell off a few seconds later. Several of my companions jumped into the car to follow as well, but after stopping to avoid running over me, and getting hung up in the warehouse district traffic, they quickly lost the van, and so returned to the others waiting at the temple.
We entered the temple again, and saw the small room as we left it, complete with the robed figure staring at us. Jackie began to ask the man questions, which appeared to agitate him, and as Jackie and Kevin walked towards him, the man drew a long curved knife and attacked. We were surprised, but Jackie reacted instantly, blocking the knife stroke, and then pulling his own knife and slitting the man's throat. The rest of us were stunned, although we could hardly blame Jackie for defending himself. Still, it would have been nice to ask the man some questions, which he may have answered with the threat of pain. We searched the body and found a small note scribbled on a piece of paper which simply read:
Pearl Beach May 20th - dusk
A steep flight of wooden steps led down to a pale yellow light. A faint sound of splashing waves echoed up from the darkness beyond. We slowly descended the steps to a narrow shelf of rock that sloped down and around to the left, and to a doorway on the right, from whence the sickly pallid light glowed. Creeping up to the doorway Jackie and Miranda peered in and saw two men working at a press of some sort. The men looked up and cried out as they saw Miranda and Jackie. Quickly they drew knives and approached. Just as quickly Miranda and Jackie drew their guns and fired. The fight was over before it had begun, and we all crowded into the small room to explore. An unopened box from the NWI mine in Peru sat unopened on the table (obviously the Blue John!) along with a piece of paper with Chinese writing, and a grey plastic briefcase. A slab of some strange incense like material was in the press itself. In the briefcase was more incense, a parchment with Spanish writing. On the wall above the table was a list of addresses in different cities around the world (written in Chinese). Each address had been checked off except for one in Mexico City. Scanning the list, Jackie found an address in San Francisco, and recorded it.
A large safe huddled in the far corner of the room, and some tools and construction supplies (flares or something) in another. The safe looked promising, but we were unable to get past the combination lock. As we pondered our situation, we heard the sound of many flapping feat running up the ledge outside the doorway. Looking out Jackie and I saw six half humanoid, half frog like figures loping up towards us. Jackie pulled out his shotgun, and I my pistol and we opened fire. The roar of Jackie's shotgun filled the underground chamber and deafened us as the first two creatures dropped to the ground in a puddle of growing goo. I fired at another of the creatures but may have missed, as it continued to advance on us with the other three. Jackie reloaded as I continued to fire ineffectually, and just as the beasts came at me, Jackie unloaded both barrels again, nearly sawing the two lead creatures in half, and wounding the two behind them, who abruptly turned around and ran back into the darkness.
We now worked quickly, concerned that more of those creatures would return, and took as much stuff from the room as we could carry. Once outside we drove back to Ben's place, where we went over our loot. Jackie said the piece of paper from the work table contained an "enchant incense" spell, and Kim said the parchment in the briefcase appeared to contain another pair of spells: summon and bind dhole. We also lamented leaving the safe behind unopened when Ben came in, looked over our pile of stuff, and asked what we were doing with dynamite. Dynamite! What we thought were flares were really sticks of explosives. We quickly returned to the temple and after looking about, crept inside. The man's body was still in the small room, and the trapdoor was still flung open. Peering down the ledge remained unchanged, and a light still shone out from the safe-room. Kevin and I stole down the stairs and into the room, and as I stood guard, Kevin rigged the dynamite up on the door of the safe. Kevin lit the fuse and we raced back up the stairs, just as we heard the sound of flapping feet on stone.
Back in the room above, we ran to the door just as the blast shook the building and sprayed the room with rock fragments and dust. After the dust settled we approached the trapdoor and listened: all was quite, and looking down, all was dark. Taking out our flashlights, Kevin and I returned to the room below, which was now partially blocked by fallen rocks. Part of the safe door had been blown away, revealing various bits and pieces of paperwork. I gathered up those that weren't burned to a crisp or reduced to excelsior, as Kevin set another charge to try and blast of the rest of the safe door. Once again we ran up the stairs and made it outside before the blast went off (Kevin used a longer fuse this time). Part of the building sank down a foot or so with the sound of creaking and breaking glass. We carefully made our way back into the damaged building, parts of which may have been on fire, but the trapdoor was now completely blocked off: we'd have to leave the contents of the safe buried. We left the building and returned to Ben's place to sift through the papers we took from the safe.
That night, as we poured through the papers we found one that seemed pertinent, for it was a letter from our old friend Baron Hauptman, probably to Lang-Fu. The letter was fairly recent (dated May 6), and congratulated Lang-Fu on a job well done in preparing for the "Day of the Beast". Hauptman mentioned how they would be aided by the Rhon-Paku, and that Lang-Fu should join Hauptman at Giza, along with Harris, to lead Edward through the ceremony that will herald the "Day of the Beast". Hauptman, in his gloating and ranting, also let slip something about a barrier spell - Naach Tith - that may serve as a way to prevent this catastrophic event. Hauptman also set the date for this event: the Solstice, which we assumed to be June 21st - just over a month away!
The next morning, after reading in the paper about a mob related murder and bombing in the wharf district with some interest, we scouted about the city looking for any information on the Rhon-Paku or Naach Tith. We came up empty on the latter topic, but found a wealth of information on the former. Rhon-Paku is a new religion that sprung up around the world within the last decade. Its membership consists mostly of disillusioned young people who are attracted by the religion's basic tenant of brotherly (and sisterly) love. The temples are independently administered and pay homage only to Rhon-Paku, a mysterious holy man who lives in a remote village of northern India. Each temple is headed by a local follower who receives the Revelations of Rhon-Paku through the mail.
Jackie pointed out the address of the local temple in San Francisco was the same as on the list from Lang-Fu's temple. A visit was obviously in order. The Rhon-Paku temple was a clean, simple building in a nondescript part of town. Kim posed as a want-to-be follower, and was greeted with great enthusiasm by the lead follower. She was quickly allowed into the fellowship, and was told that the orders numbers were growing as they awaited the announcement of a special Holy Day that was coming soon. The more Kim spoke to the Rhon-Paku followers, the more she felt that they were oblivious to the part they would have to play in the "Day of the Beast."
We left the temple at the end of the day with a lot to think about, but little to show for our efforts.
The next day we spent casing out Pearl Beach, where we assumed Lang-Fu would hold a ceremony on the night of the 20th (the next evening). We found a place to hide the car, and another spot closer to the beach itself to hide ourselves. We then returned to Ben's place for some well deserved rest.
Early in the afternoon of the 20th we made our way to Pearl Beach, hid the car, and then positioned ourselves to wait for Lang-Fu. As dusk fell, two large vans pulled onto the beach, and a large number of black-clad men shuffled out and began to setup bon fires on the beach. A short while later a large black limousine pulled up and several men got out, including a wizened old man dressed in an elaborate robe: Lang-Fu. Several of the men then pulled a struggling, bound figure from the trunk of the car. The new arrivals proceeded to the beach where the ceremony began. The captive was uncovered and we looked on in horror as we realized that she was but a small girl. We drew our weapons and crept closer as the chanting grew to a frenzied pace, punctuated by Lang-Fu's shrieking. The chanting stopped as several dark forms rose from the water and walked onto the beach. As we looked out to sea, we could see the heads of many more creatures (the same sort that attacked us beneath the temple). The men then formed a circle around Lang-Fu and the girl, and he began to chant again, but this time in some arcane, ancient language. As his chanting became shrieking, he thrust a dagger into the chest of the little girl and shouted a single word: "Hydra". An immense bubbling and frothing of water developed just offshore as an enormous creature, much like the green statue we found at Lang-Fu's temple, rose up from the depths and strode onto land. The thing picked up Lang-Fu and they appeared to converse for a few moments, before the thing, with Lang-Fu still in one of its scaly hands, returned back to the water.
We were so shocked that we had taken no action to save the girl, or even stop Lang-Fu, although we were vastly outnumbered by well armed foes. We waited for the remaining men to disband and leave, and then we too slunk back to Ben's house for the night.
The next morning we bough train tickets to Boston, and returned home. The trip took several days, but Miranda had contacted her friend Professor Armitage at Miskatonic University before we left, and he began the preliminary research Naach Tith's barrier spell before we arrived. Armitage had little luck finding anything more than vague references to that spell, and in fact stated that he doubted that we could find a copy of it on this world. That phrase jumped out like a klaxon ringing in the still of the night. No, not on this world dear Armitage, but no doubt in the Great Library of Celaeno!