Chapter 77: A Walk in the Park
We left our heroes recovering from a battle with Dalgroom's minions, but
nagged by a remaining trace of their presence -- a line of dimensional
disturbance running from Barrow Hill, in Regent's Park, to the
Braithwaite house where the whole mess presumably started. This was
first discovered by Greywolf, then verified using the Map of Here.
We ask Mr. Chassan to take a late-morning stroll in the park with us, to inspect. He comes, accompanied by most of us, expect Katrina, the cat, and the nephilim. He has no trouble at all feeling the ickiness resident at Barrow Hill.
What the rest of us see is a pleasant morning in the park. True, there is some construction work or somesuch going on at Barrow Hill. But the longer we look, the less this all seems right.
For one thing, the construction work is filling in the hole left when demons erupted out of the hill to intercept a falling Cantrel. That was months ago, local time. And they still haven't managed to fill in a simple hole?
Also, when we first investigated the situation, it was two absent members, Chris and Sophie, who did so. Sophie used the cover activity of making sketches of the local scene. Chris accompanied her, strumming a guitar, to make it all look like a nice, mundane little outing.
Well, now, there's a fellow over on that bench, trying to tune a mandolin or some such stringed instrument, and a lady making sketches a few yards off. Like the area was subtly urging people to replay events on or about that time of catastrophe. When it doesn't just repel them. (For we notice that there aren't as many people here as you'd expect.)
Daphne notes some trees in root-bundles, awaiting planting. They don't look in great shape. She tries to examine their life-forces, but fails. Salimar succeeds, though, and determines that something more than dehydration is afflicting them, though she can't tell what.
Tom sends a clairvoyant viewpoint into the hill. It passes down the hole, through some dirt, and into some rough stonework, presumably the chamber at the heart of the original barrow. Then -- pop -- the viewpoint gets snuffed. Tom probably got off lucky.
Salimar tries. Her viewpoint gets peeled off into some zone of gray mist. She withdraws it, not wanting to attract attention.
We decide to bring in the nephilim. They're not on our usual telepathy net -- contacting them is rough. So Robbie reaches out for Braeta's personal computers. This is not as convenient as it would be in a setting with a public comm network, but by using some simplified signaling that would get him fined in our home era, he raises her palm top. Eventually, he gets back, "Robbie, is that you?" in plain ASCII. He asks her to come out and take a look. She agrees.
While we wait for her, Salimar does a retrocognition, watching the eruption of the demons out of the hill and their capture of Cantrel. She notes the way both demons and Cantrel appeared to be sucked back into the hill.
Robbie saunters over to the lady artist. She's a large woman, whose figure will soon be in fashion when hourglasses are "in." But she holds her sketch pad too close for Robbie to see it. Normally. With a little glamour-cover from Tom, Robbie pops an eyeball out of his head and spies on her.
She's working very busily on a sketch of the hill. But demonic faces and falling figures keep showing up in the clouds she draws, causing her to scribble over the sketch, flip a page, and start over. She also draws in a monument, in some versions, which is no longer there. Memory, or something else?
She gives up on the hill and tries to sketch the hole. It comes out looking much more cave-like, with vague figures in the shadows. She shakes her head.
Next, she tries to sketch the fellow with the mandolin. It's a very evocative image, but it makes him look heart-broken, while in reality he just looks a shade melancholy, or maybe that's just how his face is.
Robbie now walks over and starts up a conversation with her, asking if he might see the sketches (as if he hadn't). He learns she's primarily a sculptor, and a professional one with works on exhibit at a gallery and a museum here in London. She gives him cards for the two institutions. They discuss the heart-broken image of the un-heart-broken man, and she admits to being something of a romantic, painting according to her feelings and intuitions. She likes mythical and legendary subjects (Several of us being choosing our best sides.) and the exhibit at the museum is of sphinxes. An Egyptian gentleman advised her. One Abdul Hasad. He was hoping to recover a valuable artifact for his country, and has since returned.
On hearing this over the telepathy net, Tom steps aside and asks Mr. Chasan if he's heard of Mr. Hasad. Oh, yes. Hasad got the English to return his artifact to a museum in Alexandria. Nothing to do with Chasan's quest directly, apparently, but the example encourages him. Even though things got violent...
Meanwhile, Robbie's conversation with the artist is suddenly cut off. She stares into the distance and starts to sketch like fury. Following her gaze, we see Braeta and Greywolf approaching, arm in arm, trying to look normal and failing. They look larger than life, as usual, and twice as vital.
Robbie and Salimar fill Braeta in on the events and effects at Barrow Hill. Tom remarks that she'd probably make the artist's day by just smiling straight at her for a few seconds. Braeta obliges and the artist's pencil smokes as it flies over the paper.
Feeling around the texture of the world here, Braeta agrees that something here needs to be fixed. Maybe tonight, without witnesses. It resembles the problem at Southwick House, of course, but there is some additional influence, something that the basic problem is tangled up with. (Perhaps the inherent magic/whatever that was in Barrow Hill before the Eye of Dalgroom showed up in London?)
Well, the basic problem started at Braithwaite's house. Taking a couple of cabs, we travel a few blocks and get out there. The place looks deserted. Like Barrow Hill, it hasn't been attended to as much as you'd expect in the time allotted. Braeta and Chassan both get the whim-whams. Makes you glad to be mundane.
Salimar extends her multi-dimensional clairvoyance into the house and takes a look at the local hyperspace--
--and gurgles, and has a really hard time holding onto her solidity. We've occasionally referred to Salimar as our own friendly extra-dimensional, amorphous horror. Well, what she just saw really was an extradimensional horror, and it wasn't "friendly," and it was just as indescribable as Lovecraft always said it was.
None of the other clairvoyants want to try anything after that, and we're not keen on physically entering. Not before we have to. So Robbie sends an eye down a chimney.
He sends the images to Braeta's palm-top. It's an effort. Braeta and Gannar look over the situation and note that Robbie's transmission protocols now resemble the old-fashioned ones patterned after organic nerve impulses, used in 21st-century cybernetics. Robbie's not please.
The eye pops out of a fireplace into something like a fun-house room. Imagery is distorted. None of the corners are square. Navigating the eye is hard, since gravity is off plumb. Steering out into a hall, he finds more of the same. Telepathically, Tom guides Robbie down a flight of stairs, to a door that ought to lead to the basement.
The door's been ripped off its hinges, and there's an arrow in it. One of ours, from our last visit. The geometrical distortions are getting worse and worse. Peering down into the erstwhile basement, the eye sees a surface of mud or water. Tom says that he supposes this is near the center of the "rip" in reality. Robbie tries sending his eye in for a better look, but it suddenly vanishes.
Braeta says this is different (as well as much worse) than either Barrow Hill or Southwick House. Southwick House was just getting trouble. There was an otherness at Barrow Hill that was getting corrupted. But there is something ... terrible going on here.
We decide to go home. Salimar wants to nip back to the home continuum and call KaiSen.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.