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Chapter 78: Landscape Study with Lightning

New Blood Logs:

Tom Noon's Tale


In Chaos

Voyages of the Nones



Mother Goose Chase

Ancient Oz


Adventures of the Munch

Lanthil & Beyond

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:

Herakles and Hippolyta by G. Polidori

This sculpture portrays Herakles and Hippolyta locked in combat. He stands upright, his feet planted firmly in a wide stance. She is stretched taught like a bow, one leg extended behind her. Her left hand grasps his right wrist as she strains to stave off a blow from his terrible fist. The fingers of her right hand are buried in the heavy sinews of his neck. His left hand is in the small of her back, pulling her to him. His heavy muscles stand out in sharp definition as he strains with effort. Though covered in soft womanly curves the muscles of her long limbs, broad shoulders, and arching back strain and stand out nearly as clearly. Both grimace with the effort of their frozen embrace.

The Execution of Lady Jane by G. Polidori

"The Execution of Lady Jane" is a painting which shows a young lady, richly appointed, kneeling before the a chopping block. Behind her stand the huge executioner, a dour looking priest, and several other dark officials. She is blind-folded and so you can see only a bit of her face. The grim little smile on her lips, the arch of her back and the curve of her out-spread arms show the courage and determinism with which she flings herself to her fate. Through her grace and confidence, and the way that her colors glow, she puts the grim colorless men that loom over her to shame. She is the center, and they merely accessories.

Vivienne and Merlin by G. Polidori

The painting shows "Vivienne and Merlin" in a cave of glittering crystals. The black of their velvet gowns seems almost to give off an aura of shadow, separating them from the splendour that surrounds them.

Merlin sits upon a rock, his weary head in his hands, and his long white hair and beard flowing down across his knees. His fingers are thin and bony, his skin bloodless, in fact all the color seems drained out of him. His robes are a flat, dull black, and he is white and grey.

Vivienne stands, her back to him, her hands cupping some glowing treasure, perhaps a crystal ball, a jewel or lamp. Whatever it is, it shines and sparkles in a rainbow of colors. Her robes, like his, are black, but a glistening black velvet that scatters the light. Her long black hair is, if anything, even glossier as it tumbles to her thighs. Her creamy skin blushes with rose and her blue eyes sparkle. Her lips are full and slightly pouty. Wide-eyed she stares hungrily, transfixed by the thing in her hands.

Green vines and shoots twine at her feet. At his are chips of stone, white like bites of sun-bleached bone.

Three Queens by G. Polidori

A painting of the three queens who took Arthur to Avalon. They stand over him in a shady glen, looking down with great sadness. Each is dressed all in black, the hoods of their cloaks drawn up. The tall one in the center is willowy thin with skin white as milk and hair as black as night. To her right, the second is nearly as tall, but far more robust and broad-shouldered. Her flame red hair is gathered in a thick loose braid, her skin is weathered golden by the sun. To the left, the third is tiny and delicate. Her complexion would seem pale if not for the contrast of the raven-tressed queen beside her. As it is, the gold of her hair is reflected in her luminous skin.

Each wears a golden crown that echoes her own colouration: white gold with rubies for the first, red Irish gold with amethysts for the second and yellow gold with sapphires for the third.

Arthur's mailed body is obscured by the knight who kneels before him, gently loosening the sword from his grip. Rich red blood stains the blue and purple of his garb. The look upon his face is the sleepy contentment of one who has labored long and hard and now at last may rest, a rest not yet granted to the knight whose face is filled with sadness and exhaustion. In the background a long thin boat waits among the rushes.

Mermaids by G. Polidori

This sculpture shows a mermaid sitting on a rock, combing her long hair. She has a wild look in her eye and her smile reveals sharp pointy teeth that give her ethereal beauty a dangerous touch. Her shoulders are broad and her back wide and muscular. Just below her waist, her body broadens to form something that looks like a cross between scaly human hips and the extended hood of a cobra. Her long tail is as much serpentine as fish-like. It coils sinuously around the rock before broadening into fins. She is wearing nothing but the long cascading waves of her hair.

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

This statuette is of a small tree or shrub, perhaps a laurel. It has a lovely symmetrical shape to it. There is something just a bit odd about it... Hmmm... The trunk is not nearly as uniform in diameter as is common with trees. It swells out here about half way up then narrows again, only to swell once more just below the two largest branches, branches that reach upward almost like beseeching arms.

Upon closer examination, the curves of the trunk are reminiscent of the hips, waist and breasts of a woman's figure... and the lower trunk--it narrows as if at knees and then ankles just before the spreading roots like feet upon the ground. And the heavy cluster of leaves, just above the shoulders of the two upraised branches, it's like a head with hair streaming.

Closer and closer examination suggests more and more of the features of a woman's body in the heart of the laurel.

Cats by G. Polidori

A tall cat-headed woman stands majestically aloof, clad in a diaphanous robe. She is wearing a heavy necklace and long drop earrings leafed in gold. Curled around her feet is a large lean leopard, its head held just as proudly high.

Scathach by G. Polidori

The painting "Scathach" shows a Celtic man and woman locked in battle in a verdant landscape. Both are large and brawny. Scathach stands over her foe, who has fallen back under the force of her last blow. One arm stretches back behind him for support and he holds his sword out across his body to protect him from her next attack.

Scathach stands tall, her sword held high. She is wearing a checkered woolen tunic, its sleeves rolled up, revealing massive arms, the line of their taut muscles clearly visible under her womanly softness. Her bronzed skin glistens in the morning sun. A wild smiles of exultation lights up her entire face. Her opponent's nervous and admiring smile suggests that this is one of her students, rather than an enemy in earnest. Perhaps it is even the great Cu Chulainn.

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.

Sphinxes: Assyrian by G. Polidori

This sculpture is of an Assyrian or possibly Sumerian sphinx. He stands squarely upright with his wings rising straight above him. He has the body of a lion, the wings of a stylized bird and the bearded head of a man. His hair and beard are long and fall in precise, evenly spaced ringlets. On his head he wears a tall headdress, a cylindrical hat ornately decorated so as to suggest a crown. His eyes stare far out into the distance. His serene and confident gaze seems to promise wisdom, and to threaten justice.

Sphinxes: Egyptian by G. Polidori

This sculpture is of an Egyptian sphinx. He sits proudly with his forepaws out directly before him. His body is that of a lion, and his head that of a man. The head is small for the body and wears an Egyptian head-piece. His features are those of an African native. His thick lips bear the slightest whisper of a self-assured smile and his eyes crinkle as if at some private joke. With those two exceptions everything about him is stiff with formality.

Sphinxes: Greek by G. Polidori

This sculpture is of a classical Greek sphinx sitting on her haunches. She has the body of a lioness, the wings of an eagle and the face of a woman. Her head is cocked just slightly to one side, her brow raised and her eyes wide. Her whole face seems to demand something, an answer perhaps. Her eyes and something about her mouth, which is perhaps too full of teeth as she smiles, or about the sharpness of those teeth, promises danger, very great danger. Her leonine claws are unsheathed, and pressed firmly into the ground as if she is kneading it impatiently.

Sphinxes: Modern by G. Polidori

This sculpture may be of a fantastic creature, but it is done in an extremely realistic and detailed style. The fur and feathers are meticulously sculpted, and the beast herself seems on the verge of moving. The sphinx is lying on her side on a large cushion, or perhaps the top of a small hillock, with her wings stretched out languorously behind her. Her body is muscular, lean and lithe, like a leopard, but with a difference. She has small furry, but very human-shaped breasts high on her chest. Below them are a second smaller pair and below those a final pair with only a hint of human shape.

Her head is very human, although her face shows signs of her animal nature. Her mouth seems over-full with teeth suggesting the muzzle of a great hunting cat, and her eyes are round and slanted. The curve at the ends of her wide, thin-lipped smile make her look fierce and hungry. Her eyes are inquiring and challenging. Somehow there is more tension and promise of movement in them than in all the rest of her reclining figure.

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.

Updated: 7-Oct-06
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.

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