Saturday, April 18th 1925, continued:
Ernst makes for the box, but Spalding stops him. She inspects the gold circle, and discovers that it is actually a series of densely packed characters of an unknown language. They look familiar to her somehow, and she goes back in her mind to her Innsmouth investigation. She was plagued with nightmares for months. These characters bring those fears back to the surface, and she is overcome with a sense of gnashing, mauling, rending, and a hunger for flesh. She is certain that the circle ought not be crossed.
Spalding also inspects the statue of the Bloated Woman at a distance. The deep bronze coloration does not scatter the light from her flashlight in the expected way, and she gets the sense that she they are not just being watched, but that the statue has noticed her in particular. Ernst snaps her out of it with an abrupt word.
Ernst, retrieving his crowbar, tries to chisel out part of the symbols in the circle. As his hammer connects to the bar the room itself seems to fold in, tipping towards the circle. An involuntary spasm, like a powerful, elongated sneeze ejects the air from his lungs. His face feels like it’s burning, and he throws himself backwards. The other party members watch in horror as the flesh on his face partially melts, like a candle, distorting his features and sealing his nose and mouth. Momentary panic sets in as he finds himself unable to breath in, but he keeps his calm. Nickels approaches to cut his mouth back open with his trench knife, but Ernst performs the operation himself, slicing neatly through where his upper lip has oozed over his lower one. Blood runs from the improvised maw, making his grotesque face ghastly as well.
Plans are briefly entertained to try and get at the box through the roof, but it is finally decided (After working out the logistics) that they will use the crowbar to thread a rope under the box, and try to drag it out of the circle. Shutting the door as much as possible in its partially disassembled state to mask the noise, Ernst and Nickels try to lift as much as possible to minimize scrapping, but it is too heavy. The box drags along the ground emitting a horrible metallic whine and scratching. As the box crossed the gold circle, Ernst sees a luminescence, like a cold glittering at the bottom of the sea viewed from the surface, play across the glass surface. The woman within is not harmed by the foul magics.
Removing the box completely from the circle, Ernst pulls up the rat’s chains and knifes them. Freeing the woman, Spalding tries to comfort her, but is unable to. The woman is hyperventilating, and is barely maintaining consciousness. It is unclear whether or not she even understands anything that is happening around her. Ernst bandages her feet as best he can
Nickels, meanwhile, is investigating the teak cabinet. Using the crowbar and his knife, he forces open the doors. Inside are a small number of volumes, mostly in chinese, 3 in western style bindings, one stored in a black lacquered case, and one very old concertina-style scroll affixed to two boards. There are also 5 small, unlabelled, sealed vials, and a jar of greenish powder. Spalding hastily stores all of these in her rucksack. Also in the cabinet are a series of needles in ascending gauges, an amulet bearing Chinese characters, a small tattoo kit with yellow and black ink, and some yellow and black silk robes. Spalding uses the robes to try and pad the delicate items in her rucksack.
Deciding they must leave with haste, due to likely alerting someone with that noise, Ernst tips the teak cabinet, and drops an alcohol incendiary on it. The flames begin to creep up the wall. Nickels picks up the woman, and all head back out towards the court. Ernst has his shotgun ready, and Spalding draws her pistol.
At the door of the Buddha shrine, Ernst steps up to the door first and sees a man standing by the court pool. He is of European descent, wears a nice western style suit, spectacles, and a full brimmed hat. He leans on a walking stick as he watches the fish in the pool. Ernst demands to know who he is. The man calmly looks up at Ernst, and says that they’ve made a lot of trouble here. He introduces himself as Mr. Stanford and calmly asks them who they are. Ernst levels his shotgun and delivers buckshot right to the man’s center of mass. Slightly staggering from the blow, the man looks down at his damaged suit. Fine grain sand seeps from the holes. He says that he wishes Ernst has not done that. Stanford catches some of the sand and blows it towards Ernst. A massive concussive force sweeps through the courtyard and smashes into Ernst, sending him flying backwards into his counterparts in the Buddha shrine. Stanford repeats his request for identification as he steps towards the door.
Making a hasty decision, Spalding grabs the dynamite, intending to blow out another exit in the back wall within the Bloated Woman shrine. Spalding preps the explosives, runs back into the secret passage, and places the charge at the back corner.
Meanwhile, Ernst tries his best to delay Stanford. Ernst introduces himself as Jack O’Brian, and that he’s here bent on revenge for the murder of Jackson Elias. ERnst asks if Stanford knows anything about that, to which he responds, “Of course”. Ernst asks if this is Ho Fong’s house. Stanford’s expression tightens, and he says he is very disappointed in Ernst. He raises a hand and begins to trace in the air. Where his finger touches, a rip seems to form, a pulsing red glow seen within. Ernst shuts the door, but the image of the red glow seems to stick in his mind, being ever before him.
Spalding comes running back into the room, and Nickels sets down the woman and tries to partially close the Buddha passageway. There is a great explosion which sends a shockwave and detritus forcefully down the passage, blowing open the secret door which smashes into Nickels arm, breaking it. Ernst and Spalding are blown back and pelted with bits of wood and stone, but are otherwise unharmed. The blast deafens all present. Ears ringing, they run for the new hole, Nickels grabbing the woman as best he can.
Unknowingly, Spalding has blasted the wall near which Eastwick and Viljoen-Ballard are parked. The walls explodes against the ambulance, ripping the side apart, shifting it a few feet, and almost tipping the car over. Eastwick in the driver’s seat is hit with the brunt of the force, and is blown into Viljoen-Ballards lap, though his leg remains partially wrapped around the steering column. Both are pelted with detritus that cuts deep and lodges in their flesh.
Fleeing through the smoke in the Bloated Woman Shrine, Ernst, Spalding, and Nickels find the statue completely unharmed, though seemingly now filled with a radiating malice. All flee through the newly created breach in the wall and pile into the ambulance. Viljoen-Ballard pulls Eastwick aside and starts the car, then yielding the driver’s seat to Ernst who struggles with the controls, but manages to put distance between the party and the mansion with haste. Viljoen-Ballard triages the party. He patches up Eastwick, then injects the woman with morphine to calm her as he treats her wounds. He also splints Nickels’ broken arm. Ernst takes a roundabout path back towards the hotel and finds a street cart storage area where he can obscure the ambulance from prying eyes. Spalding does not notice any tails. Viljoen-Ballard bandages Ernst’s face. They hoof it back to the hotel as quickly as possible.
Dr. Meyers is woken up, and he is distressed at what’s happening. He recommends getting the injured to a hospital immediately, but is put off that idea. Everyone packs up their things quickly in preparations to move again. Keeping watch and attempting to get some rest, they tensely wait til morning. Spalding takes the opportunity to look closer (and subsequently properly pack) the contents of the teak cabinet.
Sunday, April 19th 1925
Clouds blot out the morning light, and it appears that this will be an imposing day. Gusts of wind buffet the windows.
Viljoen-Ballard administers an amphetamine to the woman, who wakes, but quickly progresses towards her panic once again, searching frantically about the strange environ with her eyes. Eastwick, himself bandaged and barely able to move, calms her down, indicating that they are friends, and they are here to help her. In time he manages to talk her down sufficiently to converse, but it’s obvious to him that she is deeply scarred, and will require professional attention for an extended period of time if she is ever going to live anything like a normal life again. They confirm that she is Choi Mei-Ling, that that was indeed Ho Fong’s house, and the man they stabbed and smothered was most likely Ho Fong. Asked about Jack Brady, Mei-Ling gives away nothing. She says that Ho Fong wanted information from her to find someone, but that she did not give it to him. SHe will not give it to the party, either, indicating that it is simply too dangerous. What actions she and the party take are insignificant to what whoever she is protecting are doing, and they need to be given time at all costs. “Only what they are doing is important”, she repeats, and refuses to contact them.
Spalding tells her that the party and her friends are about the same purpose, and that they can help. To prove it, Ernst produces the Eye. Choi is greatly excited, and incredulous that they have it. She says that they must go at once. Ernst arranges to borrow a car from the hotel, and they load all of their belongings up. Meyers is left behind, with $1000 in currency and instructions to head to Hong Kong. The party will contact him later. He is happy to oblige.
Taking a circuitous route, crossing their own trail a number of times and looking out for spies, they finally arrive at a modest house on the outskirts of the city. Knocking at the gate, an old man, obviously just woken, answers the door. Mei-Ling pays respects, and Eastwick catches that this man is Mu Hsien, one of the scholars that the party has been unable to locate. Hsien is wary, but Ernst shows him the Eye and all are quickly ushered in.
The party is told to wait in the courtyard while Mu carries Mei-Ling enter a door. There is a shallow pool in the court, and the wind creates a constant overlapping ripple that the party finds soothing. They wait, and before too long the door opens again. Mu returns, along with a massive man, tall and powerful with a weathered face and greying hair about the temples. His eyes are sharp, but seem to be far away. His squared visage seems to be constantly scrutinizing, or perhaps wincing. He might be mistaken for late middle age, but it seems more like he is on the younger side of that bracket, having had life deliver hard knocks over and over again.
“I’m Jack Brady. I hear you’ve been looking for me.”
See “Jack ‘Brass’ Brady”