Wednesday, April 29th 1925, continued:
Nickels, who has come along with Brady, tries to appraise Spaldings piece of the mysterious metal. He attempts a variety of tests on the metal and finds it has strange properties: It it magnetic, but non conductive, light for its volume, and iridesces in unknown colors.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party goes down to the bar and fills in Brady on their developments. They debate the merits of going to America to lay low for a while.
Nickels begins strength tests on the metal, and finds it completely unbendable cold, but just barely shapeable when as hot as Nickels can get with his welder. Nickels devises a number of improvised devices for his tests, wrecking some of his tools in the process.
Thursday, April 30th 1925:
Viljoen-Ballard goes to the Shanghai University to test the mysterious vials from Fong’s teak cabinet. The resident chemists help him determine that it is a rare botanic extract known as the Essence of Thoughtful Resignation. Introduced into the bloodstream, it can render the afflicted blind. It was often used in ancient times on mystics and soothsayers who disappointed their Emperors. This single one ounce vial holds enough to blind 20 men (and there are 4 more vials stored with the gear). Viljoen-Ballard is informed that it is not technically illegal to possess, but would be to use. He promises to destroy it (though certainly doesn’t intend to follow through).
Meanwhile, Spalding skims the copy of True Magick, and debates reading the whole thing. Returning, Viljoen-Ballard recommends burning it and says that God has brought them together intentionally to be holy warriors. Spalding decides to read it anyway.
Eastwick, likewise, decides to read through ‘Tales of the Priest Kwan’.
Elsewhere, Ernst inquires about hiring a pleasure yacht and crew. He wants to scout out Gray Dragon Island surreptitiously. He finds a suitable renter and crew.
Nickels goes out to replace his tools, and also buys some sea charts. He discovers that the Chinese don’t seem to mark Gray Dragon Island on their maps, though the British and Japanese do. When marked, the island appears little more than a shoal. Hypothesizing on the nature of the metal he’s been analyzing, he scopes out shops for meteorite rock, but finds none.
Friday, May 1st 1925:
The party, in their rented steam yacht, departs for Gray Dragon Island. It is approximately 12 hours travel time to the vicinity. Ernst is excited by fishing, and collects bets to see who will catch biggest fish. They chum the waters and try to catch some. To throw off the crew, Ernst spins a tale that he has heard of good fishing near Gray Dragon island. Viljoen-Ballard catches the largest fish, but only by a little. They have an excellent fish fry.
They arrange to fish in the island vicinity. Spalding adds to the deception by making it look like they are bird watching as they observe the island itself. The island is more than a shoal… it’s a major cone of an old volcano miles across. The sides rise sharply from the water, with sparse vegetation present. Up on the rim of the cone, movement of human-like figures can be seen. One section of the cone has collapsed into the water, and the party decides to sail past it tomorrow morning to get a look at the inside of the cone.
Ernst, Spalding, Eastwick, and Nickels drink. Viljoen-Ballard resolves to stay sober and awake all night to keep watch. Ernst, drunk, sees things in the water. He tries to draw attention to it, but Eastwick is the only other one to see it. Whatever it is appears to be humps in the water. A serpent-like thing swimming? A massing of manatees? The sky is overcast, and In the blackness it’s hard to tell. Ernst tells the captain to put on some steam and leave.
Once suitable distance has been put between the yacht and the thing(s) in the sea, Ernst and Spalding wax eloquent on how to kill a sorcerer. The usual methods seem incapable, and nothing solid is agreed upon. Spalding retires to her cabin to read ‘True Magick’. She begins to hear a low tapping on the bottom of boat… like the searching fingertips of a marine demon, reaching up to the hull from unfathomable depths. She returns to the deck to make it known, but the tapping is gone when others investigate. Nickels addresses his questions in an empirical sense, and shrugs it off.
Viljoen-Ballard carefully checks the wake all night. In the still of the small hours he hears a sudden, far off, dry crack that echoes across the waves. No cause is discernable. He quickly goes to the bridge and directs the ship south. Perhaps it is just his imagination, but he hears splinterings falling throughout the night.
Saturday, May 2nd 1925:
His watch ended, Viljoen-Ballard goes to bed. Ernst and Spalding make bacon, fish, and eggs. They drink strong black coffee to compliment it.
Keeping up the fishing facade, they direct the crew to sail back along the other side of the island to observe the interior of the eroded major cone. Inside, a lagoon has formed around a smaller cone island. Smoke rolls from thermal vents along its sides, and a hidden lookout post is spotted within a clump of otherwise sparse trees. Movement is still seen along the rim of the major cone.
They press on, setting up another fishing contest, which Nickels wins. Spalding keeps reading her book.
The yacht returns to Shanghai.