Chapter 78: Landscape Study with Lightning
We have resolved to do what we can to expunge the minions of Dalgroom
and their malign influence from London once and for all. Actually,
we've asked Braeta to do it, since she's the only one who can, while we
stand by, ready to help.
Along these lines, Salimar wants to go off an consult with KaiSen, in case Braeta fails and we have an interdimensional crisis on our hands. We drop her off back in "contemporary" Pericles, on the Jumping Jacks grounds, with arrangements for a pickup later. We then walk back into the Victorian period and have lunch.
To avoid too much notice, Braeta will try her best at midnight, on Barrow Hill. This also gives her some more time to rest up from her last exertions. We put the time into some research.
Part of the research is looking into works of the lady artist we met on Barrow Hill last time. She gave us cards for the gallery and museum where her works are now on display, and on one of these she wrote her name: Genevieve Polidori.
Going to the gallery, we find that she is moderately well-known. Katrina recognizes that she is much influenced by the Romantics and Pre-Raphaelites. As Miss Polidori herself said, she prefers legendary and mythological themes. A pamphlet gives a lot of her professional history, zero personal history, and hints that she has been trained by current masters. We see:
We can't help noticing that Hippolyta and some of the other figures resemble the artist herself. Well, models are expensive, and if you happen to be doing an Amazon queen and to be athletic yourself...
We move on to the museum, where we see:
Laurel by G. Polidori
On four separate stands we see four creatures sculptured in bronze. Each fantastic beast is four-legged with a human head. One is lying in a very formal-looking posture, its paws stretched out in front of it. The other three are all winged. One is as stiff and formal as the wingless beast. It stands on all four legs, with its wings rising straight above it. The third animal is sitting on its haunches, wings furled against its back. The last lolls on its side, its wings stretched casually behind it.
Mr. Chasan agrees that the rumored Mr. Hasad probably advised Miss Polidori on the details of the Egyptian sphinx, and possibly on the Bast statue as well.
Tom asks Mr. Chasan about Hasad's adventures in Britain. Hasad retrieved an ancient relic called "The Eye" from the British Museum. There was a lot of brou-ha-ha, an attempt at theft, and reports of occult activity. It all caused a sensation in Certain Circles in North Africa. The "Eye" was probably an udjat, a symbol depicting the eye of Horus. Oddly enough, none of this appears to have been connected with Dalgroom or us in any way.
Katrina, who is after all a journalist, goes to the local newspaper morgues and researches events at Barrow Hill. Why hasn't the gash in the hillside been repaired by now?
It turns out that repair efforts have been plagued by mishaps and bad luck. The word "cursed" gets bandied about, and even the phrase Omen of the End (tm). The worst of these was undoubtedly the discovery of a decapitated body, which not only caused a criminal investigation but revived fears that a recent serial killer with a habit of decapitation was on the move again. An Inspector Wessel was in charge and saw to it that the hole stayed untouched for a very long time. After that, there were acts of vandalism and rumors of occult groups looking for the missing head. (And, by the by, the head of Bran the Blessed, a hero of the Mabinogion, is supposed to have been buried on some hill in London, possibly Barrow Hill. Not that the newspaper goes into that.)
Katrina finds nothing new on Braithwaite's house.
She finds that the "Eye" Mr. Hasad came for was, indeed, a Horus eye, but the fragmentary reporting about the affair suggests a cover-up to her. There was, indeed, a robbery, in which a work of Miss Polidori's was stolen, but she either recovered it or cast a fresh copy (the work being a bronze statue). (The sphinxes and the Bast statue were all bronze....)
As evening approaches, we decide it would be only polite to warn people about what we'll be doing. Tom and Kate (in her male role as "Jake") take the (suitably glamoured) Gargoyle with them for a call on Mycroft Holmes. They are shown into his rooms at the Diogenes Club by a reluctant porter. Mycroft is a bit brusque, but glad enough to hear that the upcoming disturbance, whatever it might be, ought to be the last of the series.
Mycroft tells them some things: They never found the head of the Barrow Hill murder. There was no real sign of occultist activity about it, but there may have been enemies of the Society of St. George involved, digging around for it.
The Hasad affair was indeed about an eye of Horus, and unrelated to the Eye of Dalgroom, apparently. Miss Polidori did not recover the stolen statue, but re-cast it. (She comes from a "flamboyant family," and is a relative of the Dr. Polidori who was a friend of the Shelleys, the poet and the lady who wrote "Frankenstein.")
The Braithwaite house is now owned by one Martin Cotter, nephew and heir of the late Mr. Braithwaite, but he hasn't really done anything with it; it's all being handled by his solicitor. We might want to speak to an Officer Hansen or his family.
Tom thanks Mycroft and, after a brief telepathic consultation, offers to repay him with a fuller report of our own adventures at Braithwaite's some months ago. He warns Mycroft that it will sound fantastical, then plows ahead.
Mycroft seems unperturbed. (His sister is the inventor of the Time Machine, after all.) He thanks Tom for the information and confides that Hansen was involved with removing the bodies from Braithwaite's house, and made "extravagant claims" about what he saw and heard and felt while doing so. Mycroft offers to arrange for a "lack of interference" for us tonight.
Back at our house, Robbie warns the psych ward in the basement. They're grateful in a jaundiced way.
We then ask Braeta if she feels rested up. Well, no, but she doesn't want to put it off any longer, lest it start getting worse again. Can we lend her any psychic support in any way? What she does isn't really "psychic," she tells us. Well, then, could the other nephilim help? She accepts the help of Greywolf and Desmond; we leave Obedan to Cook's ministrations.
Once midnight is near, the three nephilim set off for Barrow Hill in Regent's Park, with Dafnord, who stays in touch with the rest of us by telepathy net. The rest of us repair to Braithwaite's house, armed, armored, and, where necessary, glamoured.
Robbie repeats his earlier trick and pops out a couple of remote eyes, which he steers down the chimney. Inside, the geometrical distortions are as bad as ever, but he manages to send the eyes down to the basement door, where he perches them on a step. (The cat notes that the whole area looks "soft" in terms of dimensional integrity.) We can now get stereoscopic images from them via telepathy. Whee. We telepathy to Dafnord that we're ready.
Dafnord reports that Braeta, having "set up" once, wants to do it over again. Eventually, she's ready. Standing on top of Barrow Hill, she raises her arms to the sky and, instantly, the weather starts changing. Even blocks away, we can feel a storm brewing.
Braeta acquires an aura. Greywolf's appearance "flickers" and is overlaid by another image of him, with long hair, in deerskin robes, with a staff and other shamanistic features. He lifts his staff (or walking stick in the other version) and nods to Braeta. A deeper darkness covers the hilltop; the two are only dimly visible through it.
Looking around in the gloom, Dafnord sighs. Mycroft's done his best, but we're not unmarked. There are three people staring at the hilltop. One, out in the open, is Miss Polidori. There's a young man unsuccessfully trying to hide in some bushes -- Ah! It's our old friend Jonathan Goodhue of the Society of St. George. And a third figure is doing an even better job of hiding; Dafnord can't get any details about them.
The ground rumbles. At Braithwaite's, the cat has been watching the little flitters that only cats see, which concentrate around dimensional "soft spots." Now, they're building up and starting to swirl around the house. Down in the cellar, Robbie's eyes behold ripples in the water, and soon a skeletal hand emerges, groping, reaching for the base of the stairs.
Back at Barrow Hill, Braeta is starting to give off small lightning bolts, reaching several dozen yards into the sky. Miss Polidori tries to sketch for a bit, then gives up and stares, mesmerized.
Back in the basement, we watch, horrified, as a the mummified hand grabs the stair. Tom now recalls that, as we retreated from our battle with demons in this basement, the last thing that happened was that Cantrel threw Braithwaite's corpse down the stairs. This may not have been a great idea. It looks like Braithwaite is back.
At Barrow Hill, the gash in the ground is starting to "heal." Dafnord notes Miss Polidori staring in surprise at the base of the hill. Following her gaze, he sees Desmond surrounded by a strange aura, a sort of parabolic zone or cup of golden light, with him at the base. Twists of blue light are coming off him, up into the air.
At Braithwaite's, Corrian the Gargoyle looks up at the gables and notes a figure in an attic window, perched on the sill. It looks rather gargoyle-like itself, with monkey-like face and bat-wings, and it's meeting Corrian's gaze. Tom recalls seeing it before, briefly, in a clairvoyant inspection of the attic. It vanished out of a net we cast around it. It's back, too. It leaps on Corrian, from three floors up.
This is a mistake. All of us, in telepathic synchrony, open fire with bullets, sonic stunners, blaster fire, and thermite arrows. However, the only thing that seems to really hurt it, or even really touch it, is the chrismed arrow shot by Daphne.
Corrian had leapt to meet the attack. He avoids friendly fire and jigs up as the devil-gargoyle drops. Daphne hits it again. It falls to the ground. Well, into the ground, partly. And we now note that the sidewalk around here is sagging. The cat sees a gathering storm of flitters. Robbie blasts the fallen gargoyle, which disappears (though possibly not because of blaster fire), leaving a scorch mark on the pavement.
Braithewaite's corpse is now halfway out of the mud and starting to crawl up the stairs. Our Gargoyle bravely flits up to the attic and checks in the windows, but there are no more unpleasantries. Markel inflates his dragon to full size, mounts, and lofts on it. He sees that our blaster fire has started a blaze on the roof over the attic, and that the whole roof of the house is starting to sag.
At Barrow Hill, lightning strikes. The hole in the hill is filled in. Braeta starts relaxing. But Desmond is still in a phantom cup of orange light, at the base of a spire of blue light, getting uncomfortably bright to look at.
Braithwaite's house is now definitely collapsing, taking some of the sidewalk with it. We all retreat to the other side of the street.
Desmond's cup or bowl now shows a ring of Celtic symbols around it. The spike of blue fire snaps in. And it's all gone -- bowl, spire, and ... Desmond.
Braithewaite's house is falling in on itself. The cat sees a tornado of dimensional strains. Markel and his dragon fight a downdraft. We hear Braithwaite's corpse scream "NOOOOooooo!!" Robbie yelps as he feels his eyes being torn out --
And it's all gone. Robbie realizes he wasn't losing the eyes in his head, just the remotes (which he can make more of). Braithwaite's house is reduced to a cellar hole with not nearly enough rubble in it. A gas main lights the scene with an eerie blue flame until the rising tide from the water mains put it out. Mrs. Wetherbee is leaning out of a window behind us, screaming.
Tom reaches out with all his extra-senses for Desmond. He feels him nearby, but fading. In the faint brush of mental contact, he feels Desmond is not afraid, but awestruck.
Robbie, meanwhile, has plugged the gas main with jellied water. (That will puzzle the people on the other end of the bells we hear clanging in the distance.) Mrs. Wetherbee has fainted (maybe from seeing the dragon) and slipped out of her window, but Kate catches her with TK and shoves her back in.
Now, where's Mr. Chasan got to this time? Ah, Markel spots him from the air, hiding under a park bench. The cat saunters over and asks if he needs help. Mr. Chasan is far beyond being startled by a talking cat. He just says, "Shhh..." "But it went away." "Yes, but for how long?"
That is, indeed, the question. We can feel some residual softness and a familiar psychic ickiness around, but we hope they'll fade. We re-group and head home, taking a route away from the approaching bells of the fire trucks.
Dafnord, back at Barrow Hill, intercepts Jonathan Goodhue and invites him over to our place. Somewhat chagrined, Goodhue still accepts. Greywolf and Braeta come down off the hill. Dafnord offers her his arm. After a while, she asks, "Where's Desmond?" "Disappeared," Dafnord says. "What!?" says Greywolf. Goodhue describes the events to them, down to the phantom cauldron and its runes.
We arrive back at the house a little behind Markel, who blithely lands his dragon in the back yard. Well, it's about 1:00 AM, but it has been a noisy night. Tom runs through the house, to intercept and re-glamour the dragon, but finds Cook, in her night-dress, already staring thunderstruck out the kitchen window into the back yard. Hm. Maybe he can induce her to think it's all a dream?...
Robbie, meanwhile, points out that the only possible way for us to retrieve Desmond is with the pantope. True. Pausing only to ask how things are going downstairs -- ("Shush. Go away. We're busy.") -- we pile into the pantope and disconnect.
And, since we're now outside of the timeflow and all tired, we go to sleep.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.