From Tatters of the King
Session Report - Played Monday 18th September, 2006
Thursday January 19th 1930
The investigators have just 2 days left in Bombay to prepare fully for the long journey North to Mustang. Browne spends as much time as possible with Francesca, in between equipping for the trek across Nepal.
Friday January 20th 1930
A farewell dinner is held at the Tullis home. Francesca and Patricia do not attend, as Patricia doesn't wish to be around Withers at the moment. Mr Tullis proves a somewhat curmudgeonly, blustering man. The typical sahib, but the meal is fine.
Saturday January 21st 1930
The train to the Northern city of Benares leaves first thing in the morning. All 4 investigators board with the Reverend Gore, who offers to show them around Jabalpur if they wish to break their journey at that city.
The investigators' carriage proves to be occupied by a large Indian family, and only after the conductor has been payed some baksheesh is the problem solved. The train pulls out of Bombay and begins to head North. the investigators are sharing a 6-bed carriage with The Reverend Gore. Siva insists on more modest accommodation for himself.
Gore continues to show his great knowledge of India in conversation.
Sunday January 22nd 1930
The train continues across India. The land is flat, arid and featureless, punctuated by small poverty-stricken villages characterised by communal reservoirs called tanks, starving dogs and wild monkeys.
In the larger towns the platforms throng with passengers and well-wishers.
Monday January 23rd 1930
The Reverend Gore disembarks in Jabalpur. the investigators turn down his offer of a short stay with him due to the difficulties inherent in getting all of their supplies off the train.
The investigators are now alone and able to discuss their plans.
Tuesday January 24th 1930
The train continues across India. As the train travels North the climate gets steadily warmer
Wednesday January 25th 1930
As the train slowly edges its way through the suburbs of the city of Benares it passes a crowd standing near to the tracks. The crowd are chanting angrily and some are gesturing to the train. Siva says they are chanting 'The King Steps Down'.
Suddenly violence breaks out. Rocks are thrown at the train and one smashes a window and hits Withers on the head as he rummages for his gun. The rioters attack the train en masse just as the train grinds to a complete halt.
Withers fires at a man trying to enter the train through the broken window but misses as Umberto tries to stop him from killing anyone. In the confusion the maddened rioter enters the carriage, falling to the floor where Browne swings a foot at the man. The kick is ineffectual and the rioter sinks his teeth into Browne's ankle, driving him away and allowing the madman to leap to his feet and grab Saunders by the throat. A crack on the back of the skull from Withers' revolver finally puts him out.
Other rioters try to enter the carriage but are driven off just as the train starts to move again. Troops who were travelling at the far end of the train soon arrive to restore order. Apparently those rioters who boarded the train have now calmed down and don't seem to know what happened. Some say a man showed them 'the yellow mark' and they became enraged.
The train moves into the city centre and the investigators disembark. Their attacker is taken away by the soldiers. Siva arranges the movement of the expedition's gear from the train to the platform for the connecting train to the Nepalese border. Despite the chaos of the station Siva proves most capable and nothing more important than the odd box of spoons and trifling items of that nature are lost.
Within 2 hours the investigators are on a second, older train, heading North.
Thursday January 26th 1930
The train heads North to the border. This train is less comfortable than the Bombay service and the service is less efficient. Siva proves the difference between a pleasant journey and a tiresome one.
Friday January 27th 1930
The train arrives at the railhead at Nautanwa. The expedition's gear is removed from the train and placed in storage until a guide and bearers can be found. Yet more baksheesh is paid to ensure nothing goes missing.
Saturday January 28th 1930
In the town a boarding house frequented by Nepalese is located, and with the aid of Siva a merchant called Jigme Rinzing is found who is willing to guide the party as far North as Gori Padi where he will find then another guide for the Northern part of Nepal. Rinzing is not planning on leaving for a couple of days, however, which will make for a frustrating delay in this out of the way town.
Sunday January 29th 1930
The day is spent in final preparation for the trek. Fresh food is purchased, water-bottles are filled and Nepalese outer garb procured to ease the crossing on the border. At Rinzing's suggestion facial hair is shaved off - very few Nepalese have any - and tea is rubbed into faces to brown them.
Monday January 30th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 1
After Browne manages to negotiate around some last minute concerns about the amount of baggage the Nepalese bearers are expected to carry, the expedition sets off for the border crossing. Siva agrees to continue with the party, as a translator is required.
Deciding on subterfuge rather than a difficult detour through woods in search of a gap in the border fence, the party almost passes by the customs officers without comment, but Saunders' pale Scottish complexion raises suspicions and it looks as if the British officer drinking tea in the guard post may be called upon until Saunders produces a thick wad of rupees to persuade the customs man to look the other way.
Nepal is entered. Crossing the border the party pass through thickly wooded country and stops the night in an inn at the village of Butwal.
Tuesday January 31st 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 2
Today's trek follows a gorge lined with terraced farms and ends at Tansing, a village notable for its fine metalwork.
Wednesday February 1st 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 3
Everyone feels fit and healthy as the day begins, but by mid afternoon the tricky terrain and worsening weather makes for heavy going. It is necessary to camp outside tonight, as no village is nearby. Dreams of the King in Yellow continue to disturb the investigators' sleep.
Thursday February 2nd 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 4
After a tricky morning's travel the expedition reaches the lakeside town of Pokhara, which supports a street bazaar. while exploring the bazaar the investigators meet a trader who sold cooking utensils to another group of Europeans some months earlier. through him they trace the Italian expedition's former guide, Yangser Chumpo.
Yangser needs to be paid to talk, but when he does he shares the following information:
- There were four white men, one spoke Nepalese and Tibetan
- They were going to Drakmar, above the Monastery at Te, near the village of Kag.
- That is not a good place, as the chortens have fallen and the black ghosts inhabit the caves.
- When he realised that was their destination, Yangser Chumpo told them they must leave, and when they did not, he left them.
- He is sure the ghosts must have taken them
Friday February 3rd 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 5
The ground rises steadily as the investigators trek past several small villages until the reach a place called Rigme, where effigies of a goddess called Dhaulitya adorn the houses. This intrigues Saunders who takes many photographs and notes, the villagers in these parts recognise the investigators as westerners, but this deep into Nepal, none of them cares much.
Saturday February 4th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 6
At 5000ft above sea level the party encounters a narrow rope bridge. Nathaniel Browne, suffering from acute acrophobia, proves quite incapable of crossing it until he requests and is given opium by Jigme Rinzing. When a second such bridge is reached later, Browne gets a second dose. The others worry that Browne seems used to the evil poppy.
The day ends at the market town of Hille on the main trade route to Tibet.
Sunday February 5th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 7
By the end of the day the party are 8000ft above sea level and have reached the village of Gora Pani, Jigme Rinzing's final destination (as his home is nearby).
It is just as well that the expedition will be delayed for a day while new help is found, as altitude sickness is beginning to effect some of the party.
Monday February 6th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 8
The day is spent in Gora Pani. Jigme Rinzing locates a new guide, a Tibetan called Tsewan Pemba and hires a new group of 6 bearers, a smaller number than were hitherto being used, which requires some of the heavier items to be traded in the town for food and other necessities.
The day's rest enables everyone to recover from the altitude sickness of the previous day. From here, the Annapurna range fills the Northern horizon.
Tuesday February 7th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 9
Today the Kali Gandaki river gorge is reached, a most impressive sight. the day ends at the village of Gasa, where the women threshing grain on the flat roofs of the houses creates whirlwinds of chaff.
Wednesday February 8th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 10
A day of slow progress, featuring more rope bridges and more opium for Browne. in Tukatcha, the first ethnically Tibetan village reached, the bearers have to be replaced, but the new ones are willing to go all the way to Kag. The investigators have decided not to talk of Drakmar
Thursday February 9th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 11
Now traveling 9000ft above sea level, the expedition passes the tree line today and reaches a land of barren rock and wind-eroded caves. Red, black and white-painted chortens abound and prayer flags blow in the wind like the tatters of the king in yellow. This truly is the Himalaya.
Altitude sickness begins the threaten again, and Saunders is feeling the effects.
Friday February 10th 1930 -Trek to Drakmar - Day 12
The expedition, growing weary from its long, high trek has a short day's travel. Reaching the village of Jomoson, where the investigators see their first yaks, the expedition rests as Tsewan Pemba wishes to meet with a man here about the possible marriage of his young daughter.
While exploring the town Saunders finds that amongst the five Buddhas in the local temple is one that is quite clearly the King in Yellow. Though painted white, the statue disturbingly seems to take on a yellow tinge when looked at for more than a few seconds.
The monk in the temple say that the God in Yellow is a god of the sky.
Saturday February 11th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 13
At 10,000 feet, with the effects of altitude quite noticeable to all, the expedition follows the Kali Gandaki to the town of Kag. Kag looks like a fortress perched on a cliff, its houses built together, surrounding a central square.
In the monastery at Kag, where Pemba has arranged for the Europeans to sleep for the night, a monk gives Umberto a book which proves to be Carlo Schippone's diary (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3,Translation Part 1, Translation Part 2), which was brought here from the monastery at Te many weeks ago.
Umberto reads the diary and tells the tale of the Italian expedition - the use of sorcery to cloud the mind of Major Ricardo Delnegro - encounters with creatures called 'the Tsotowa' - the religious fervour slowly changing to fear, terror and madness - and in the end Schippone's scribbled ravings about 'Miri Nigri', 'The White Acolyte', murder, blood and monsters. It ends with the phrase 'What have I done?' scrawled over and over again.
That night, as the investigators try to sleep they hear their guide and bearers in animated discussion
Sunday February 12th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 14
The day's trek reaches the deepest river gorge on earth - 18,000 feet deep, an awesome sight. The party has to leave the river and climb to 11,000 feet. It is bitterly cold. As darkness falls the small village of Tayen is reached.
In Tayen the locals say that there was a European at the monastery up at Te. The boy who came to the village for food for the lama told of him, and brought his book down to be taken to Kag in search of someone who could read it. According to the boy, the stranger came from Drakmar, where the Guru Rimpoche slew the Ogress Balmo and stained the cliffs with her blood. The ghosts in the caves took his companions.
The boy has not come down for many weeks. the villagers of Tayen think that ghosts, or even Balmo herself, have taken the monks too.
Monday February 13th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 15
This morning Tsewan Pemba comes to Withers and says he and his men will go no further. Ghosts and demons lie ahead, and no sane man would walk into that. The bearers are paid off, and they leave.
Siva now approaches the investigators and says that he is too frightened to go any further, and he begs his friends not to go themselves. Siva reveals he has children, and he won't leave them without a father.
He agrees instead to stay at Tayen and guard the expedition's supplies. he has found a local who wishes to go to the monastery and ask the monks to help his sick son. this man will lead the investigators up there tomorrow if they really must go. Since Saunders still feels ill from mountain sickness the enforced day of rest is a blessing in disguise.
Tuesday February 14th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 16
This proves to be the hardest day's travel so far. Saunders is suffering and the terrain is treacherous. the investigators rope themselves together, which saves Umberto's life at one point. Meanwhile their guide, who is at least a decade older than any of them, bounds ahead like a mountain goat.
Eventually the Monastery at Te comes into view. A boulder-strewn plain lies between the ridge and the building itself. As the investigators crest the ridge, they spot a figure moving in a doorway. Before they can react a shot rings out and their guide, a hundred yards ahead, falls to the ground.
The investigators dive behind boulders for cover as the gunman walks out of the monastery, carbine in hand, and moves forward towards the guide lying on the ground. Faint noise and movement reveal that he is still alive but not likely to remain so unless prompt action is taken. Nathaniel Browne has no weapon and Andrew Saunders' shotgun is useless as the figure is a good 200 yards away. To everyone's surprise, Umberto unwraps a rifle of his own, but, wishing to incapacitate rather than kill and doubting his ability to do so at so long a range, he attempts to close with the unknown assailant while remaining under cover.
Withers is a rather better marksman, and his weapon is military grade, but it's still a tricky shot and his first shot goes awry, startling the shadowed figure who had no inkling of any other armed persons in the vicinity. The gunman moves forward working the gun's action and, having reduced the range, fires another shot in the direction of Withers, but the bullet ricochets off the boulder Withers is hiding behind.
Meanwhile Withers carefully aims his rifle. The Captain fires a second, perfect, shot and the gunman falls, a red mist spraying from his head.
The investigators hurry to the two fallen figures. The guide is alive, though badly hurt, but Withers is able to stem the bleeding. The gunman proves to be Carlo Schippone, bearded and apparently suffering the after-effects of frostbite - Withers' shot was instantly fatal.
Withers stays alone outside with the injured guide while the others check out the monastery complex to seek help, or at least to look for something from which to make a stretcher. They find the bodies of the three monks and their servant boy, evidently shot dead at least a month ago by Schippone, and in an unpleasant state.
Outside, Withers catches a glimpse of something moving amongst the rocks on a high ridge. He is glad when the others return and the injured man can be carried into the more defensible surroundings of the monastery. The monastery complex is large enough for the investigators to camp indoors without the smell of the corpses being a problem.
Now the problem of what to do with the injured man is raised. He can't be carried back to Tayen, and nor can he be abandoned here. Its just been decided that someone needs to go back for help when Siva stumbles out of the darkness. Wracked with guilt at abandoning his friends and employers, he has followed them after all.
The investigators, although worried about the possibility of danger to Siva being left alone in the monastery, have very few options and ask Siva if he will stay here with the injured man and wait for them for at least 5 days. Siva is glad to be of service - this way he is helping them but does not need to go to Drakmar. Withers, who is especially concerned after reasoning that the movement he saw high up in the mountains this evening couldn't possibly have been Siva, searches out a defensible room for Siva to remain in.
An uneasy night is spent at Te.
Wednesday February 15th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 17
In the morning the investigators leave Siva with Schippone's carbine and enough food to last a week, then head up towards Drakmar.
There is still a lot of climbing to do, and the going is hard in the cold mountain air. The night is spent camped in the open in one of the loneliest, most desolate spots on the planet. That night everyone's recurring dreams reach terrifying, portentous climaxes. Nathaniel Browne wakes up screaming.
The investigators all reveal that they have dreamed horrible dreams of the King in Yellow, but none shares the details with his fellows just yet - Browne especially seems emphatic that whatever is happening simply 'must' be stopped. The rest of the night is all but sleepless.
Thursday February 16th 1930 - Trek to Drakmar - Day 18
In early afternoon the final ridge is crested and before the investigators lies the astonishing sight of the cliffs of Drakmar. A plain scattered with fallen chortens lies between them and a great expense of red-stained cliffs. The cliffs are riddled with dozens of apparently man-made caves.
This is Quarrie and Anzalone's final destination, the places where legend says that the Guru Rimpoche slew the ogress Balmo. Nathaniel Browne believes that he can hear, almost below the threshold of human hearing, a deep slow rhythmic thumping, something like a gigantic heartbeat.
Continue to Session 15.
Link to come...