Tuesday, 30 September 1925
“Landfall tomorrow,” says Francis.
“Good,” says Freddie, standing somewhat stiffly near a porthole. “You know old man, I’ve been thinking. My whole life, I’ve had this damned bad luck. And I’ve been wondering…maybe it’s because I’ve kept trying to shirk away from, you know, dealing with things. Maybe…maybe there are things a man just has to do, you know. Maybe I’m on the damned uncomfortable adventure because…there’s something I’m supposed to take care of. Don’t you agree, old man?”
He never notices Francis had already left.
[FP surprised the hell out of me by changing his drive to Duty. We speculated that maybe the other Blakelys weren’t such horrid reprobates, which led me to finally ask what the story of Freddie’s dead parents was. Turns out that FP had misread me—I don’t mess with PC backgrounds unless invited—and had wanted me to use it as a hook.
Not long after I hit upon an idea that finally explains why M was so interested in Freddie, but that doesn’t come in until Episode XV.]
Monday, 1 October 1925
The River of Stars finally staggers into Melbourne harbor. Francis and Captain Hardekker immediately tell the story of the derelict freighter, leaving out all the supernatural details. There is a quick inquest, but between the two of them, they manage to deflect any further interest in the ship.
The main leads they have are to the Randolph Shipping Company, located…somewhere, in Australia. Jimmy asks Duggars, his Australian shipmate about where to look. “Are they in Eastern or Western Australia?” asks Duggars.
“Um…where’s Port Hedland?”
“West. Not much up there, mostly mineral extraction.”
“Is there anything we could…help fix? Any trouble?” asks Francis.
“Plenty of trouble. Go out to the outback, pull a Ned Kelly.”
“He’s like a whatdyecallem, an outlaw.”
“You’re probably best off heading to Sydney, if you want to do research, and then take a steamer to the west. Unless you can find some daft cove to fly you there.”
Monday, October 5 1925
Sydney proves to be a bustling colonial city. Francis, Jimmy and Freddie spread out to research whatever they can find about any local cult activity.
Francis heads down to the Territorial Police. “People go missing all the time,” says the corporal on duty. “Did’ye know that Australia has five of the most poisonous snakes in the world? I like when you Yanks come down under. D’ye like baseball, Mr. O’Donnell? Can’t figure that out at all—too many arcane rules. Not like cricket—that’s straightforward. In any case, I’d advise you to go down the University, talk to a Dr. David Dodge.”
“Oh, and if you do go out in the bush, watch out for the drop bears. Very vicious.”
“Yeah, they’re awful crafty. Drop out of trees if you’re not wary. Drop bears. G’day.”
Jimmy drops in on a French restaurant, where he meets Guy Forgeron, who has travelled ahead of them.
“Bon jour, Guy.”
“Ça va, Jimmy!”
“Hey, good! Have a nice trip? Get a lot of rest? I mean you look…you look…you look like hell, man.”
They have a light lunch. It starts at one o’clock and they are mostly done with the third bottle of wine by three o’clock. Francis joins them in time for brandy. Guy has brought a box of stuff from Francis’ apartment in Montmartre, including the last record his wife Isabelle recorded. He tells him that he picked them up right before he took his family to Réunion.
“So what are you hunting now, François? I heard you took care of Gavigan. You just let me know, okay? You took care of me when I needed it, man. I’m with you to the end.”
Tuesday, 6 October 1925
“I’m sorry, we can’t let you look at the stacks, Mr. Wright,” says the pretty young librarian at the University. “But…you said you’re an archaeologist?”
“Indeed I am.”
“I’ve never met one so…dashing.”
[Flattery use by JP.]
Jimmy spends most of the day at the library, occasionally being served tea by the librarian. He discovers that the Randolph Shipping company is near a part of the Great Sandy Desert where there are rumors…tenuous rumors, but frequently repeated…of a great, ancient city buried in the sands.
A city that predates the inhabitation of Australia by thousands of years.
He also finds out that the legends say the city was built by the gods, and destroyed by the wind.
Guy and Francis hit the University of Sydney, where they eventually track down Dr. Dodge, a strapping ginger-haired man in his 30s. He definitely seems like a field archaeologist.
“Occult activities?” says Dodge, after the preliminaries. “Like that Margaret Murray lady, with her witch cult? Oh, modern-day cults. I thought those were pretty rare.”
“They seem to be making a comeback. Especially the suicidal ones.”
“Well, Dr. O’Donnell, there’s one I know about, the Cult of the Sand Bat. Aboriginal cult, worships something they call the Father of All Bats. Lives in the darkness, hates the light, that sort of thing. I’ve been hearing rumors that they seem to be more active than they have in a long time. A colleague—mentor, really—of mine is more interested in this sort of thing. Professor Anthony Cowles. I could see if you could come by for dinner.”
Freddie hits the Australia Museum. He learns a lot about native animals, and native artefacts. One exhibit intrigues him—a painting of a bat with a strange, three-lobed eye. He remembers, from one of Charleston’s books he read on the ship, that Nyarlat-hotep is rumored to have such a form.
[Cthulhu Mythos use by FP.]
In the National Art Museum, he finds a painting of people hitting a bleeding man with clubs. The docent explains that it shows a ritual of a bat worshipping cult.
Professor Cowles lives in a suburban bungalow—an energetic, bushy-bearded man in middle-age. His rather attractive daughter Ewa greets them at the door. They have a pleasant dinner, and then brandy and smokes. Somewhat surprisingly, Ewa stays to drink with them.
“So, David tells me you’re interested in the cult of the Sand-Bat. They’re quite curious, actually. You see, all of the Koori cultures in Australia worship the Rainbow Serpent—its got a great deal of linguistic and cultural significance. But the Sand-Bat cult rejects the Rainbow Serpent in favor of their god.”
He holds out a small, battered leatherbound book. “This is a diary of a colleague of mine, MacWhirr. Went out prospecting in the Great Sandy Desert. Let me read you some excerpts…”
Mar. 23—We have discovered what appears to be remnants of an ancient city, rising from the shifting sands! I believe I have secured several good photographs of this amazing find, though the heat has ruined all but six of my photographic plates. By the pitting of the stone, the blocks and pillars appear to be more than 10,000 years old! Incredible!
Mar. 24—Four camels killed in the attack last night. I saw at least two abos, and more must have been skulking out there. I’m sure I hit one. That ends this trip—we’ll have to head back to Cuncudgerie and report this incident.
More than men were out there last night. I saw shapes much bigger than men during the attack. My evidence is the body of Old Sam
the camel, punctured and scraped is the best way I can described the remains, just like poor Jock. Since the attack lasted only a couple of minutes, it’s hard for me to believe that anything human could have done so much damage so quickly. But then what was it?
“MacWhirr was a geologist, and a good one,” says Dodge. “I believe his story. And all this happened in the northwest—the same place antiquities have begun to be shipped out of.”
“It would be terrible if Australia lost them,” says Francis levelly.
“Indeed. They belong here, and too the Kooris, really. I suppose it might pay to go up that way. There’s an industrialist in the area, an American chap—Noah Cross is his name.”
“I think it would pay to have an academic with us, to act as a guide,” says Francis.
“I can’t go myself,” says Professor Cowles, “as I have to look after Ewa. But David should be free to head up your way.”
Wednesday, 7 October 1925
The next day, they catch a mail steamer bound for Western Australia. Dodge is indeed happy to travel with them—he eagerly looks forward to exploring the ruins in the desert.
Of course, so is Miss Ewa Cowles, who is just as eager to head off for adventure and has easily given her father the slip.