From R'lyeh With Lovecraft
Report of X12 Sir Henry Hamilton KBE, 7th Marquess Bamburgh.
I had returned to my estate after a brief excursion to East Berlin. How easy it was on my arrival to resume the carefree nurturing of my treasured roses! Clippers once more in hand, I spent several blissful days pruning the dry twigs from wiry, leafless canes and reducing the canes themselves. I was happily ensconced amongst the Summer Silks when I was notified of a call from Star Chamber. It was distinctly odd to have two such calls within a single week.
When I arrived in London, I was ushered once more into X's office. With him were Professor Tolkein and Professor Mikiforko Kalishnikov, the defector liberated in the East Berlin affair. My account of that incident is on file, though I do not seem to have the X case number to hand at the moment. It seems that Professor Kalishnikov, a specialist in ancient archaeology, was a font of information concerning Spectre - more accurately SPECTRE (Sorcerers, Phantoms, and Evil Clerics Teamed to Rule Earth) as Professor Kalishnokov enlightened us, SMERK (from the Russian phrase "" or "Smert Koldunam" which translates into English as "Death to Wizards"), the Necronomicon, and an item known as Cthulhu's Talisman.
SPECTRE is headed up by a rotter named Blofeld (Professor Kalishnoikov confirms this spelling). Professor Kalishnikov had information that linked Blofeld to a mole within SMERK, the Soviet anti-wizard organization. Blofeld had learned that SMERK possessed a copy of the Greek text of the Necronomicon, that infamous tome penned by the Mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred. Professor Kalishnikov had somehow gotten hold of a communication from the mole to Blofeld which indicated that the Necronomicon contained reference to a rod of power which could be employed to raise ancient Cthulhu.
X and Professor Tolkein were quite perturbed by this information. X proceeded to give us some relevant background information on Star Chamber in light of the current situation. Prior to World War I, Star Chamber had fallen to become more a gentleman's club than an arm of the monarchial will. After World War I, a portion of the membership who had seen service desired to fulfil the potential of Star Chamber in a more active capacity. While the majority of Star Chamber resisted this activity, the "King's Men" began to intervene in national and international affairs with the monarch's blessing.
In 1924 the King's Men became aware that an American was seeking R'lyeh and the tomb of ancient Cthulhu. Whether the American wanted to raise R'lyeh or simply to loot the tomb was irrelevant. The King's Men wanted the expedition disrupted and any information about the location of the tomb to be destroyed. Two gentlemen were dispatched for the purpose: Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon. Carter and Carnarvon followed the American, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, to Egypt. They were able to quash the American's expedition completely, and to destroy his notes. They proceeded to cast spells of memory erasure on Lovecraft, and then upon each other, to ensure that the location of the tomb remained lost. Lovecraft returned to America empty-handed. He would live another fifteen years, gaining something of a reputation as a lunatic, eventually dying of intestinal cancer. Carter and Carnarvon, as is well known, perished in Egypt shortly after opening the tomb of Tutankhamen. The King's Men felt that the issue had not been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Specifically, with the deaths of Carter and Carnarvon in the desert, there was a lack of information as to exactly what papers belonging to Lovecraft had been destroyed. Professor Kalishnikov informed us that Lovecraft had certainly owned a copy of the Necronomicon, probably a Latin or German edition rather than the Greek text being used by SMERK.
X now desired that Sir Rudolph and I would betake ourselves to Boston in the American state of Massachusetts to acquire, through any means possible, the Lovecraft copy of the book. X felt that we should have support from the mundane side of things to help us with the espionage aspects of the case. Sir Rudolph and I found ourselves involved once more with a man we had first encountered in East Berlin when liberating Professor Kalishnikov: James Bond.
Mr. Bond, Sir Rudolph, and I agreed that I would contact the Lovecraft family to arrange an attempt to purchase the book. To this end I was given a letter of credit in the amount of two hundred thousand pounds. I sent a cable to the Lovecraft family, requesting an appointment to discuss the book. Sir Rudolph and I stopped at C and Q sections to acquire equipment, including a tough bag with bronze strands woven into the fabric which would provide terrific protection for the Necronomicon if we could lay our hands on it. Mr. Bond took flight to Boston that afternoon. Sir Rudolph and I departed for Boston the following day, not yet having received a reply to the cable.
I received a communication from Mr. Bond while our flight was still somewhere over the Atlantic. He indicated that the situation was not as placid as we had hoped, and that he would meet us at our hotel to discuss contingencies. On arrival, Mr. Bond informed us that Lovecraft's daughter would be departing in the morning for Africa on an expedition to uncover a previously unknown tomb. She was being given a farewell soirée at the Museum of Fine Art by her patron Richard Crane. Mr. Bond suggested that we leave the matter in his hands, and that he would have the book by morning.
On Mr. Bond's departure, I racked my brain for some acquaintance of mine who would be helpful in gaining an invitation to the party. I thought at once of an old university associate of mine, Edward Smithson. He had relocated to New England some years before and moved in just the sort of circles I required. I called round to Teddy at once and was elated to discover that he could indeed get us into the function.
Teddy was only too aware of Miss Lovecraft and her upcoming expedition. He was able to reveal many relevant details of Miss Lovecraft's background. Miss Joy O. Lovecraft was the only child of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. She had earned two doctorates at Harvard University, one in Archaeology and one in Arabic Languages.
Attired appropriately for the evening, Sir Rudolph and I arrived at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. The event was well attended by the local literati decked out to the nines. Waiting for our chance to meet Miss Lovecraft, Sir Rudolph and I perused some few objects which had been retrieved by some prior expedition to Egypt. We were admiring a particularly fine specimen of statuary - Horus, intact, gold and paint over ceramic, beautifully carved with many intricate details - when we were accosted by Miss Lovecraft's patron Mr. Richard Crane.
Mr. Crane seemed pleased that we were able to appreciate the significance of the Horus. I initially thought it to be New Kingdom, probably eighteenth dynasty, owing to the fineness of the detail and quality of workmanship. Mr. Crane said that they had confidently dated it to the fifth dynasty, a millennium earlier. I was astounded and asked where they had made such an incredible find. Mr. Crane was naturally evasive as to the precise location, but he did reveal that the location was named the Valley of Princes.
There was a stir in the hall as Miss Lovecraft made her entrance. She descended a wide stair, all eyes turning to her not only for her being the guest of honor but also because she looked simply stunning in a tasteful sweeping gown, probably Dior. Mr. Crane caught her attention and she came over to us. She also seemed pleased with the interest that Sir Rudolph and I showed in the statue she had brought back from Egypt. Mr. Crane excused himself to attend to the other guests.
I seized my opportunity and let Miss Lovecraft know that it was I who had sent a cable requesting an appointment to discuss whether the Necronomicon might be available for purchase. She seemed not to know the work at first mention and prompted me for details. I said that it was the work of a madman, at which she took great affront. I apologised for any offense I might have given, for I certainly had intended none. She icily told me that resented the reference to her father as a madman. I gabbled out that I had been referring solely to the author of the work, the Mad Arab or Abdul Alhazred as he is commonly known. Her demeanor at once became amicable again and a bit abashed. In the awkward pause that followed, James Bond cut in neater than straight scotch to ask Miss Lovecraft to dance.
I was terribly put out at upsetting Miss Lovecraft so, knowing as I had that her father had been regarded as a lunatic. Whilst I stood there upbraiding myself over such an obvious lapse, I suddenly saw Comrade Borodenov across the room. He in turn saw me, and made his way across the room. His interest was piqued at my presence; the last he had seen me was at X04 Harold Hardwick's estate on the devastating evening of Mr. Hardwick's demise.
We did not come to a full duel of words, but did lightly fence while each attempted to discover why the other was present at such an event. I knew that Comrade Borodenov had been in Berlin the week before, and that he had been aware of the defection before it occurred. He knew that I had had some part to play at Mr. Hardwick's. I gained nothing of any importance from the former attaché and I am confident that he learned nothing from me.
While Comrade Borodenov and I tested one another's defenses, I perceived that Sir Rudolph was concentrating quite intently on some subject outside of my view, and exerting himself noticeably. I distracted Comrade Borodenov, in no doubt that Sir Rudolph would request my help did he need it. Sir Rudolph slipped away while Comrade Borodenov and I continued our verbal fencing.
Sometime later, the elfkin woman accompanying Borodenov made an appearance. She was introduced to me as Nastya Baranov, and she certainly was. Miss Baranov expressed how happy she was to be out of Moscow and in a warm climate so that she didn't have to bundle-up. Having seen her at Mr. Hardwicks's, for a moment in Berlin, and then in Boston, I firmly believe that Miss Baranov's bundling-up would involve seven veils. The former attaché and his consort bid me good evening and went off to view the museum's collection of European paintings.
I scanned the room searching for Miss Lovecraft, Sir Rudolph, Mr. Bond, and Mr. Crane. All of them were absent. I decided to acquaint myself with the contents of the Egyptian collection. On my way there, I came across Teddy Smithson standing idly. He elected to join me. The museum has a magnificent collection of Egyptian objects, the majority of which derive from archaeological excavations conducted by Dr. George A. Reisner between 1905 and 1942, on behalf of the Museum and Harvard University. I did not find any mention of Howard Phillips Lovecraft in the collection.
I believe that it was between thirty minutes and an hour after Sir Rudolph slipped away that he reached me via our two-way wrist radios. He informed me that he had the book and a problem, and that he desired my assistance in dealing with the two. I made the excuse of jet-lag to my friend Teddy and bid him good night. I went round to the car park and fetched the automobile we had rented at the airport. When I came round to the front of the museum, Sir Rudolph was standing next to a prone figure. I opened the boot and we placed the trussed man inside.
Sir Rudolph informed me, as we drove off, that the person in the boot was an assassin that had narrowly missed killing Mr. Crane. I urged Sir Rudolph to deliver the man up to the police, but he refused on the premise that he had assured Mr. Crane that he would take care of the problem. At my further urging, Sir Rudolph attempted to telephone Mr. Crane. Mr. Crane refused to take the call, citing the rigors of the evening and his subsequent need for rest. Sir Rudolph and I agreed to try interrogating the man to see what he knew.
We drove to a remote location and dragged the assassin off into the trees. Sir Rudolph told me that he knew the assassin was working for a group. I attempted to get under the assassin's skin, as it were, but he managed to work loose of his bonds, cast a spell of darkness about me, and then he struck me on the head. This blow to the head rendered me unconscious. Sir Rudolph ran the assassin down and rebound him. At this point, we decided to turn him over to the CIA.
We met agent Danielson of the CIA. Mr. Danielson told us that the CIA were aware of the man. His name is Red Grant, and he is wanted for various crimes in a few localities - notably Britain, though not America. Mr. Danielson told me that Grant had been associated to an organization called SPECTRE, and he wondered if I had heard the name before. I acknowledged that I had heard of the organization, but nothing more. We arranged for the transportation of Grant to Britain. We learned nothing further from him or about him.
Having left the CIA office, Sir Rudolph and I discussed our next step. It seems that Mr. Crane, in gratitude for Sir Rudolph having saved his life, had given two precious gifts to Sir Rudolph: the Lovecraft copy of the Necronomicon and a letter of introduction to one Mr. Mahmoud, a local of some importance in the organization of archaeological expeditions in Cairo. Mr. Crane assured us that Mr. Mahmoud would see to it that we accompanied Miss Lovecraft into the desert.
Sir Rudolph felt quite certain that we had become a known target once the assassination attempt on Mr. Crane was foiled and the Necronomicon was handed over. We therefore decided to check out of the hotel forthwith and to secure passage to Cairo without delay. The former was accomplished with alacrity and we booked passage on a transatlantic flight that very night. We considered stopping over in London for the day in order to fill in the home office and perhaps to acquire some supplies, but we decided that the matter of first importance was to fly straight through to Cairo and meet up with Miss Lovecraft. This we did.
On arrival at the Cairo airport, Sir Rudolph placed a call to Mr. Mahmoud. This gentleman was delighted to hear from us and directly sent a car round to retrieve us. There were no problems with the letter of introduction; indeed, Mr. Mahmoud made available to us Mr. Crane's bungalow. Though I suspect that our eleventh-hour flight path was not so direct as that organised some time earlier by Miss Lovecraft for her own trip to Cairo, we did manage to arrive ahead of her by several hours. We took advantage of this time to arrange for suitable desert wear, something we had not had need of in Boston. We made use of the remaining hours to rest and refresh ourselves after the discomfort of so much air travel.
Sir Rudolph and I spent some few minutes discussing the Necronomicon. The beastly thing held a good deal of information that we might not find merely useful but downright life-saving. It also held a solid reputation as a work that would drive a solidly sane man stark, raving mad. It was necessary to consider my future sanity against the value to be gained by perusing the volume. We agreed that our mission stood a much greater chance of successful completion were I to read the volume, enough so to justify the risk which reading entailed. I resolved to begin that very evening.
I was relaxing on the verandah with a cooling glass of ice water when Miss Lovecraft arrived, accompanied by Mr. Bond. He seemed a bit surprised to see us; Miss Lovecraft, on the other hand, was not pleased to see us. There is a great need to keep archaeological digs secret until they are being fully exploited, at which time guards will prevent the antiquities from being appropriated by the locals. Miss Lovecraft felt that our presence was unnecessary and therefore unwanted. Mr. Bond, however, persuaded her to allow us to accompany the expedition.
I must admit that I was preoccupied that afternoon with the impending perusal of the Necronomicon. I prepared for the ordeal by relaxing and clearing my mind of distressing thoughts. I began reading in the early evening and continued until I thought the strain too great for my constitution. I now realise that it is all too possible for a man to go mad from reading this detestable work. Unfortunately, I was driven by a need to know the secrets buried within that manuscript and so had to persevere.
The manuscript was primarily in Latin, a language with which I have some passing familiarity from my years in Edinburgh Academy. Certain bits of unintelligible Arabic, poorly reproduced, were evidently copied verbatim from the original. One or two lines were in Greek, a language I cannot read at all. The edition was almost certainly printed in Germany as evidenced by the Gothic characteristics of the typeface.
The next morning, Miss Lovecraft and Mr. Mahmoud brought together, seemingly out of nothingness, the necessities for our trek into the wilderness. The first leg of the journey was accomplished by barge and steamer up the river Nile. In this interlude, I continued to study the Necronomicon in the evenings.
One afternoon as Sir Rudolph and I sat to tea, I noticed Miss Lovecraft's arrival on deck. She leaned rather heavily on the rail, seeming wholly out of sorts. I approached her and requested that she join Sir Rudolph and me for a spot of tea. I thought for a moment she would refuse, but she did accept and we fell to talking about the destination of the expedition.
She was certain that the site was very old, possibly ten thousand years old. This estimate is ancient in the extreme for human sites in the view of archaeologists, predating pharaonic Egypt by seven millennia. It approaches the time when we know that the Great Wizards ruled over the Earth. This increased the probability that we were approaching R'lyeh and the tomb of dreaded Cthulhu.
At one point in the conversation, she said (sotto voce) something that caused me to feel a chill down my spine. I am certain that she quoted two lines directly from the Necronomicon:
I shall not quote further from that work, though I shall have to impart some portion of what I learned while studying it.
The relevant portions which I gleaned from the text are:
Debarking from the steamer soon after dawn on the fourth day out from Cairo, we entered upon the next leg of the journey. This was undertaken with several Land Rovers and many asses brought on the barges for the purpose. All of the gear was packed aboard the vehicles and animals. The animals and laborers were left in charge of the Egyptian hired by Mr. Mahmoud. We fortunate few drove out to the site in the Land Rovers.
The journey to camp was as comfortable as it could be under the circumstance. The site was extraordinarily remote, the route following mere animal tracks and traces through rough and rocky country. I cannot describe the feeling that overcame me when I recognised the first of the landmarks of R'lyeh from the Necronomicon. We rolled through a scrubby pass into a bowl-like valley. Here I saw the other two promontories drawn in that evil tome.
The few laborers lucky enough to have space in the trucks set to work putting up camp. Sir Rudolph and I spent the evening hiking a short distance into the valley, the Valley of Princes, to assess the local area. The land was quiet, with little of life scurrying about, though I felt no sensation of evil or dread. I spoke to Sir Rudolph about the landmarks. He wondered of I could triangulate from them to find the entrance to Cthulhu's tomb. I felt that I could, but that I could not be sure how accurate I would be.
The porters arrived the next day. Very quickly, the larger archaeological camp took shape. Several instruments for surveying the local terrain were brought out and some preliminary surveying was undertaken to orient Miss Lovecraft in the valley. Sir Rudolph and I approached after the activity had died down. Sir Rudolph asked for permission to examine the equipment, to become familiar with its function. Miss Lovecraft readily agreed as the surveyors were already poring over their results.
I have had some small acquaintance with the surveyor's theodolite in the past, an exemplary tool for the task at hand. We feigned ignorance as Miss Lovecraft introduced us to the device, and we spent some minutes sighting awkwardly on various hilltops and outcroppings until she grew bored and left us. Sir Rudolph and I sighted on the three landmarks, recorded the various distances in their chains and links, and resolved the location of the tomb entrance with a quick bit of mathematics. What had seemed a low and non-descript hill became the focus of our attention.
Sir Rudolph and I waited about the camp for some time to dissociate our surveying activities with our later roaming in the valley. With a declared intention of stretching our legs before dining, Sir Rudolph and I set off for the promontory. There were several standing stones about the crest of the hillock. Sir Rudolph pointed out to me where some bit of Arabic had been scratched into the stone. The inscription plainly read "Alhazred".
The standing stones were arranged in an irregular but recognizable circle about a flat bed of sand. Sir Rudolph and I took some simple precautionary measures before I stepped out warily onto the sand. Our caution was unnecessary in that case, for the sand was firm and unyielding. I noticed, however, slight whisperings borne upon the wind. The nearly inaudible words urged me to enter the tomb, to die, and to be damned forever. Sir Rudolph also heard these whisperings when he joined me in the circle. I cannot state for certain what language was spoken, or even if the communications were verbal at all.
Sir Rudolph and I felt assured that we had discovered the location of the tomb. We also felt that the two of us should proceed without accompaniment into the tomb to face the danger there. Unfortunately, we could not devise a method which would allow for that eventuality. From my study, we felt it imperative to minimise (if not totally avoid) any expenditure of mana in and around the tomb. We had no other information from which to project what effect the practice of magic might have on the tomb and its occupant. Under these conditions, we recognised the impossibility of clearing the entrance unnoticed.
Sir Rudolph and I descended from the hillock and went straight away to Miss Lovecraft. We explained to Miss Lovecraft that we had made a startling discovery and that we wished her to see it. We three went back to the crest of the hillock and the standing stones. There, we pointed out to her the name of the Mad Arab graven upon the stone. Miss Lovecraft was overcome for a moment with the excitement the discovery engendered. The hillock was soon aswarm with the camp laborers and the process of unearthing the tomb began.
In a side note, I asked Miss Lovecraft whether she could hear the voices upon the wind. She could not. Sir Rudolph was somewhat displeased at the question, for he felt that this was one of the safeguards of the tomb: that secrecy which shrouded the place from mundane eyes also protected mundane ears from hearing the voices. I conceded the point.
The clearing of the tomb entrance was not accomplished until the following day as the diggers had to clear away many feet of shifting sand. Miss Lovecraft was reasonably familiar with the length of time this would take and retired to her tent. Sir Rudolph and I took it in turns to stand watch over the dig while the workers were laboring, and while they slept away the hours of the night. We felt that one of us should be present for any eventuality that might arise.
Sir Rudolph was on watch when the workers struck the stone of the tomb entrance. Word soon came into camp that the entrance was clear. Miss Lovecraft, Mr. Bond, and I joined Sir Rudolph at the dig. The door to the tomb was a horizontal slab fitted into a stone frame. When this was lifted away, a chill wind escaped from the tomb. A stone stairway was revealed, leading down into darkness.
Miss Lovecraft, Mr. Bond, Sir Rudolph, and I agreed that we should be the only persons to proceed into the tomb. Some electric torches were produced and we moved down the stairway. I did not count the steps, but I believe we had descended about forty feet from the surface when we came to a large chamber. The dimensions were, in my estimate, twenty feet wide, thirty feet long, and just about ten feet high. A row of four pillars stood on each side of the lengthwise centreline. At the far end, two statues of Horus, each eight feet tall, flanked an open doorway.
We four proceeded into the chamber. There were hieroglyphics of a previously unknown design graven on every surface of the chamber and its pillars. Miss Lovecraft eagerly began making some rubbings of these images. Sir Rudolph and I explored up to but not between the two Horuses. We discovered, behind the furthest pillar on the left, a stone device. This resembled nothing so much as a child's spinning top, though nearly at rest. It lay on its side, rolling along a circular channel it had ground into the stone floor over uncounted time. It made one revolution about the circle in slightly over three minutes.
Some few minutes were consumed attempting to analyse the remarkable device. Sir Rudolph wondered if it were something we had set off upon entering the tomb, perhaps a timer to wake the sleeping Horuses. I felt it unrelated to the Horuses, as I felt that an attempt to pass the Horuses would be the trigger to wake them.
Sir Rudolph and I decided that we should proceed further into the tomb while it would be wisest for Miss Lovecraft and Mr. Bond to retreat to the entrance. While the Horuses were probably the stone guardians to restrain the mundanes, the following guardians were there to prevent the magicals. We asked Mr. Bond to watch over Miss Lovecraft and to take whatever steps were necessary to protect her. Mr. Bond agreed.
Sir Rudolph and I approached the two Horuses. As the book had indicated that the guardians could be bypassed, we decided to try to rush past. Sir Rudolph is an outstandingly quick individual, so he was given first place to try to rush past the statues. I was to follow, if possible. Sir Rudolph passed the statues at an amazing speed which I could not hope to match. The two statues reacted as he passed. Not soon enough to touch Sir Rudolph, but in plenty of time to bar my progress.
I retreated before the now animate stone figures. Though they had swiped dexterously enough at Sir Rudolph, they were not particularly agile. This allowed me the time to conjure a quick displacement spell which placed me behind the Horuses, at the doorway which they had been guarding. This casting left me dazed and disoriented for a moment, an inevitable consequence that simply must be endured. As I righted myself, I beheld a stairway through the portal before me. Sir Rudolph stood on a stair perhaps four feet below me.
I glanced back at Mr. Bond, now facing the two Horuses alone with Miss Lovecraft behind him. He removed a cigar from his pocket, lit it, and threw it on the floor before the Horuses. As great billows of smoke arose from the smoldering cigar, I heard Mr. Bond say "Well, gentlemen, shall we begin?"
I turned and joined Sir Rudolph on the stair, not envying Mr. Bond the encounter. The stairway was utterly like the first we had descended, plain stone without a hint of hieroglyphics, and similar in length. We should then have descended approximately eighty feet below the tomb entrance. The sound of combat pursued us down the stair.
The chamber we found at the foot of the stair was not a duplicate of the chamber above. It was rather larger, perhaps half again the distance in breadth and width. There were no pillars. The floor of the chamber was entirely covered with a vast assortment of bones. There was an open portal in the centre of the opposite wall. We could see no sign of any creature or person within the chamber.
Sir Rudolph entered the chamber. At once the bones began to scuttle and scrape across the chamber floor. In a mere moment, entire skeletons had been formed up and then faced Sir Rudolph, many with daggers in their hands. Sir Rudolph retreated to the stairway, receiving several nasty blows from the weapons of the unholy horde.
Sir Rudolph, a devout follower of Vishnu, called upon his deity for protection from the ravening horde. The skeletons' advance halted at the foot of the stair. Sir Rudolph then drew himself up in great dignity, and holding forth the symbol of Vishnu before him, he advanced on the osseous throng with great resolution. Invoking the power of Vishnu with fervent prayer, Sir Rudolph strode into the chamber. Beset only by the onslaught of his voice and the power of his faith, the skeletons were blasted into non-existence before his unyielding visage. A dozen at a time went down before him until the entire chamber was clear of the unnatural brutes.
In the stillness which followed the last crumbling of the animated skeletal remains, the sound of combat above was audible once again. Closer still came the sound of footsteps descending the stair. Miss Lovecraft soon entered the chamber. Though Sir Rudolph and I would have preferred to have Miss Lovecraft safe outside the tomb, there was nothing to be done but allow her to accompany us to the guardian of stars.
The third stair varied not a whit from the previous two. We moved down the stair perhaps a bit recklessly, but with appropriate caution as we approached the next chamber. This next space was much smaller than the previous two, perhaps twenty feet by twenty feet in width and breadth. The ceiling, floor, side walls, and near wall were the same sort of stone as we had seen in the chambers above. The far wall, with a sealed door in the centre, was entirely of bronze. The other feature of the chamber was an obsidian obelisk roughly four feet in height.
Close examination of the obelisk revealed that the head of the obelisk was hollow, with several holes drilled into the central cavity. It was all too obviously a shadow lantern, one which I feared would project the correct alignment of stars for the rising of R'lyeh and the revival of dread Cthulhu. I was not, unfortunately, able to predict to my satisfaction what the pattern would appear to be were a light to be inserted into the central hollow of the obelisk.
Sir Rudolph took up inspection of the bronze door. The featureless metal slab had no hinges, no knob, and no latch. The door did not move when Sir Rudolph pushed upon it. The nature of the material prevented the use of magic to open the portal. Sir Rudolph quickly concluded that a direct assault on the portal would not result in a positive outcome.
Miss Lovecraft noticed upon the bronze wall several impressions resembling stars and the moon. Upon inspection, I determined that the pattern was not the alignment of stars indicated by the pages of the Necronomicon. We decided that the only course of action open to us was to put a light into the central hollow of the obelisk.
At this point, though aware of the stricture against the use of magic within the tomb, we decided to utilise one or two spells. It was therefore necessary to admit to Miss Lovecraft our ability to use magic. She seemed not perturbed at all, but rather curious as to whether we thought ourselves powerful enough to confront Cthulhu. We admitted that such was not the case, but that we did have enough power to confront lesser dangers.
Sir Rudolph prepared by enchanting a circle to provide us protection from evil within the chamber, the limits of the protective circle being drawn with holy water. He laid the circle in such a way as to block the bronze door. When he had completed the invocation, I called up a light within the central cavity of the obelisk. The rays shone forth through the starry holes and struck the bronze wall. Our eyes turned expectantly towards the bronze door, which remained utterly motionless.
We noticed then that the stars projected from the obelisk did not strike the wall at the locations of the starry impressions we had noticed earlier. It occurred to me that perhaps the obelisk was too close or not close enough to make the stars line up, but that notion proved entirely incorrect. Sir Rudolph and I were confounded, but Miss Lovecraft was prompted to recollection. She suddenly saw sense in some past directive that "the stars can be moved".
Sir Rudolph asked her then if she had read the Necronomicon. She confessed that she had, some time before. I admitted that I had also perused that awful tome. She wondered which copy I had read since I was unsuccessful in acquiring the Lovecraft copy when I was in Boston. Sir Rudolph told her that Mr. Crane had given the Lovecraft copy to us in gratitude for saving his life.
Miss Lovecraft reacted as though stung by that statement. She stated that Mr. Crane had not the right to pass on to us the property of the museum. She had donated the book to the museum so that it would be protected by the museum's alarms and guards. Sir Rudolph then wondered if we had perhaps been set up by Mr. Crane, for he certainly could have arranged a sham assassination attempt. We decided to investigate this at a later date.
In accordance with Miss Lovecraft's recollection, we attempted to move the stars on the bronze wall. Miss Lovecraft was unable to affect them, but Sir Rudolph and I pushed them about quite easily. We arranged them in the pattern shown by the rays of light streaming from the obelisk. When we aligned the last star with the a ray of light, The bronze door in the centre of the wall swung back from the wall to reveal a dark chamber.
Sir Rudolph advanced with his torch and peered into the dark inner chamber. The walls, floor, and ceiling were entirely of bronze, completely unembellished with any sort of decoration. In the centre of the chamber, an unadorned bronze sarcophagus sat atop a bronze support. I noticed on the floor of the chamber another stone top, such as we had seen in the initial chamber of the tomb. The device was orbiting in its circular trough extraordinarily slowly. I knew that Sir Rudolph's torch was powered by a conjuration of persistent light. I asked that he shine this light directly on the stone top. The effect was slight but detectable. The light of the beam dimmed and the stone rolled more quickly.
Sir Rudolph handed me the torch, which I set aside. We employed only the torch Miss Lovecraft had brought for the remainder of our efforts. Sir Rudolph went into the inner chamber. Despite his strength, and he is a strong man, he was not able to remove the lid of the sarcophagus alone. He asked for our assistance. We set Miss Lovecraft's torch on the stone floor, aimed into the bronze chamber. We then went in to aid Sir Rudolph.
With Miss Lovecraft and me lifting from one end and Sir Rudolph at the other, we were able to lift the lid and shift it diagonally across the sarcophagus. Sir Rudolph was just able to make out figure of the mummy within from the light of the torch reflected of the walls of the tomb. In each hand, it bore an object. In the left, a simple rod, but in the right, a crook that matched the drawing of Cthulhu's Talisman. For safety, Miss Lovecraft and I re-entered the circle of protection in the outer chamber.
Sir Rudolph waited until Miss Lovecraft and I were safely within the circle. He then carefully drew the crook from the mummy's grip. Instantly, a ghostly humanoid shape formed between Sir Rudolph and the door. Sir Rudolph pitched the talisman through the shape and into the outer chamber. He then invoked the power of Vishnu against the shadowy shape.
While Sir Rudolph attempted to best the undead foe, I began to try to destroy the talisman. I may as well have let a small child attempt to break it for all the effect my efforts had upon the talisman. I cast a strength spell upon myself in a vain attempt to increase my chance of damaging the item. After Sir Rudolph had banished the spectral shape from the tomb, he and I committed our joint efforts to the task of bending the talisman. We even tried to use the lid of the sarcophagus and leverage to bend it. It all availed us nought.
Sir Rudolph then removed the other rod from the mummy's grip. Nothing untoward followed that action. We admitted defeat and decided to reseal the tomb. We replaced the lid of the sarcophagus to seal the mummy within it. We went into the outer chamber and moved all the stars away from the projecting rays. When the first star was moved, the bronze door crashed shut with a jarring clang.
I had the idea in my head that Professor Tolkein had at some point indicated that he knew of a way to destroy the talisman. I volunteered to return to Britain and inquire of the method from Professor Tolkein. I would then return to Egypt and we could then enact the destruction of the talisman. Sir Rudolph and Miss Lovecraft agreed with this course of action, though Sir Rudolph suggested that I perform the teleport casting outside the tomb. Even so small a spell as the strength spell had apparently sent the stone top in the tomb's inner chamber nearly spinning.
We reached the top room of the tomb after climbing two stairways to discover Mr. Bond and a pile of rubble. He seemed quite cheered by the action he'd encountered. I departed the tomb, leaving Miss Lovecraft and Sir Rudolph with Mr. Bond. Once clear of the tomb, I descended the far side of the hillock from the camp. When I attempted to teleport, I was restrained by the presence of the talisman, completely unable to cast myself through space with it upon my person. I sought out Sir Rudolph and gave the talisman into his care.
Now free of the restraining item, I took my position outside the tomb and attempted a teleport spell once more. On this second occasion I was successful and found myself in the port room at Star Chamber. I asked if Professor Tolkein were present and received a positive reply. I found him in his cramped and cluttered office chatting up some colleague with his epic fantasy story.
I told Professor Tolkein that we had managed to get our hands on the talisman, but that we had no idea how to destroy it. He chuckled and said that he expected the rite would have to be performed at a Faery circle in order to have enough power to even attempt it. He thought that it would take no more than six to a dozen wizards near such a source to attempt the destruction spell.
I spent several minutes jotting down notes for this report and leaving what others I had brought with me against the eventuality that some calamity might befall Sir Rudolph and me prior to our return to England. In that event, I desired that any agents taking up our task would have such information available to them as I could put into coherent form in a deucedly short time. I then returned to the hillock outside of camp, in the wilderness some days south of Cairo. I informed Sir Rudolph, Mr. Bond, and Miss Lovecraft that we had no option available to us but to carry the talisman home to Britain. Sir Rudolph worried aloud that had we been duped by Mr. Crane, the voyage home would be a daunting adventure in itself.
As though Sir Rudolph's words had been their signal to begin, we suddenly heard the distinct chop-chop-chop sound of approaching helicopters. "Russian," said Mr. Bond. Eight helicopters bearing searchlights then topped over the surrounding hills and encircled the camp. The four of us began to run for the nearest of the Land Rovers. As the helicopters came to a hover after swooping in quite low to the camp, many black-clad special operations lads began spilling out of the helicopters and sliding down lines to the camp.
Mr. Bond udertook the task of driving while Miss Lovecraft occupied the seat next to him as she was the most familiar with the surrounding area and so could direct Mr. Bond most helpfully. Sir Rudolph and I took up station in the rear seats. We decided that although the shortest route out of the camp would be the direct route toward the Nile, we would instead proceed into the desert where we should be much harder to locate and capture. Bond was an amazing hand at the wheel, driving hell-bent through a chaotic swirl of people and machinery without the assistance of the headlights. Passing back through the camp, we came across a ninth helicopter on the ground, bearing no searchlight, and from which emerged Comrade Borodenov accompanied by several guards. His presence raised several questions which we were not, unfortunately, in a position to pursue at that time. When we skirted the base of the hillock with the tomb, we noted a squad of the black-clad special operations men amongst the standing stones on the crest.
Our departure from the camp, brazen as it was, did not go unnoticed by the invaders. Two of the helicopters came in pursuit of our vehicle as we drove madly off into the night. Neither of them fired upon us, but their intent, we felt, was clearly to prevent our departure. This necessitated a close approach to our vehicle and allowed me to reach one of them with a conjured bolt of lightning. The craft went down immediately, exploding at impact with the valley floor. "Shocking," said Mr. Bond. The other aircraft had ventured into the range of Sir Rudolph's powers. He utilised what is normally a quite passive conjuring to blind the pilot with a burst of bright light. The pilot reacted quickly and, in my opinion, correctly as he simply soared off into the night. "Bright idea," said Mr. Bond.
Mr. Bond continued to guide our vehicle into the night without the aid of headlights. I employed a minor ocular charm to enhance his night vision and to ensure the safety of all the passengers. In the following hours, I dozed as I might amidst the hard jouncing of the Land Rover as we passed across the untracked, rough terrain. Though the night was not restful, we had successfully eluded our pursuers in the dark hours. Dawn found us on the bank of the heart's blood of Egypt, the Nile River.
We had taken a southerly route throughout the night. This left us upstream not only of Cairo but of the point at which we had disembarked for the camp only three days prior. We agreed that the river was still our best chance to pass to Cairo for we should be hidden by the great variety of traffic which uses the river each day. In light of this, Mr. Bond hired a felucca, a traditional sailing vessel of the region, to transport us all to Cairo.
The four of us kept out of sight by day, stretching our legs on deck only in the cover of darkness. Miss Lovecraft, Sir Rudolph, and I took the opportunity of examining Cthulhu's Talisman whilst we were confined to the cabin during the daylight hours. Miss Lovecraft found that although the object seemed a stylised version of royal sceptres crafted in the Middle Kingdom period, she was confident that the Talisman was much older. Miss Lovecraft spent some time poring over the rubbings she had managed to produce in the first chamber of the tomb. She was able to locate two hieroglyphs, or perhaps simple pictorial representations, which showed objects resembling the Talisman. This excited her greatly as she felt certain that the tomb could be no later than the third dynasty and might even pre-date the first dynasty - founded three millenia before Christ.
The passage down the river was not without tension, all of us facing the possibility of discovery with some amount of trepidation. At all times that we were not actively inspecting the Talisman and the rod, I kept the former on my person and Sir Rudolph kept hold of the latter. I was prepared at any moment to submerge myself beneath the felucca, keeping the Talisman safe until the danger passed. It was with a sense of relief that we arrived in Cairo on the first Saturday of March.
Sir Rudolph and I agreed that we should not let a magical relic of the reputed power of the Talisman be placed in the hands of a mundane, even so talented a man as Mr. Bond had proved himself to be. Along with Mr. Bond, we decided that it would be best if he were to proceed on to Britain alone, carrying the rod to Star Chamber. In the meanwhile, Miss Lovecraft, Sir Rudolph, and I would carry the Talisman west across North Africa to Tangier where we should then enter Europe across the Straits of Gibraltar and then make our own way to Britain.
We placed our plans into action the next day, Mr. Bond taking the rod and setting off for the airport. Miss Lovecraft, Sir Rudolph, and I secured a large sedan with sturdy-looking tyres for the trip west. A catalog of tales heard in my service in Normandy came alive for me as we pushed west through Alexandria, El Alamein, Sidi Barrani, Tobruk, Benghazi, and Tripoli. The Greys had served under Generals Archibald Wavell, Claude Auchinleck, and Bernard Montgomery in the North African campaigns prior to my joining them in north-west Europe. Miss Lovecraft, Sir Rudolph, and I, however, proceeded without the thunder of guns and the heavy grind of armor, passing quietly and without significant incident to our destination of Tangier. The total distance traveled was something over two-and-one-half thousand miles and required six days to complete.
We took rooms in what passes for a posh hotel in the city and inquired into transportation over to Spain. A ferry could readily be boarded in the morning for the crossing to Algeciras near Gibraltar. Sir Rudolph and I repaired to a shared room, leaving Miss Lovecraft in the single. Sir Rudolph informed me that he had agreed to destroy the Necronomincon as a requisite for accepting the tome from Mr. Crane, rather than to allow its continued existence. He assured me that he had no alternative, and so I assisted him in burning the volume in our room. As the last bits smoldered into ashes, we heard a horrible scream from somewhere below us in the hotel.
Sir Rudolph and I dashed to the lobby. There we found two or three persons standing by the body of Mr. Mahmoud, the expedition organiser late of Alexandria. Mr. Mahmoud lay face-downwards on the floor with a knife hilt protruding from his back. A phone receiver hanging by its cord dangled near Mahmoud's feet. I took up the receiver and, speaking in Arabic, demanded of the party on the other end of the call "Who is there?" That person, a man from the voice though not a voice I recalled, responded in English "Who is there?" I asked once again, though in English for the second attempt, "Who is there?" At this the call was terminated by the other party. I immediately dialed the operator and asked where the last call from this phone had been directed. The operator was able to give me that number, a destination in Boston in the United States.
Sir Rudolph had taken charge of the situation to the extent of making sure that the bystanders did not touch the body. I took the opportunity presented to examine the hilt of the knife before the police arrived. It appeared to be some sort of cloisonné or other enamel work fashioned with the sigil of SMERK on either side of the haft. I discontinued my examination as the police entered the lobby. Though we later rued the decision, we did not attempt to acquire the knife owing to the number of witnesses present.
We had earlier agreed to dine with Miss Lovecraft in the hotel restaurant. We had just time to wash up and meet her there after the incident with Mr. Mahmoud. Sir Rudolph and I steered the conversation to Miss Lovecraft's knowledge of Richard Crane. She had met him in Cairo while she was a graduate student working on an expedition in Egypt. Mr. Crane had only taken up residence in Boston as a result of meeting Miss Lovecraft. He had become close to her in a patronly way and had certainly met her father, though she did not know if they had had any conversations about archaeology. After dinner, we retired to our rooms.
We arose early on Saturday morning to ensure that we caught the first available ferry across to Spain. On arrival in Algeciras, we took a taxi to La Linea across the border from Gibraltar. The crossing was uneventful. Miss Lovecraft and Sir Rudolph went to secure rooms in a hotel whilst I arranged to meet with the local station head. I was able to communicate a status report to home office and to arrange for transport to London the following day.
When I arrived at the hotel, I found that Sir Rudolph had secured three rooms for us. The desk clerk handed over my key without any message from Sir Rudolph. I ascended to my room. We had three rooms, all on the same side of the corridor. I had the leftmost room with Miss Lovecraft to my right and Sir Rudolph on the farther side of Miss Lovecraft. The room was tidy and seemed comfortable. I summoned an unseen servant and prepared to relax prior to our departure. I had, therefore, only been in the room for a matter of a minute or three when I heard Sir Rudolph call out to me from Miss Lovecraft's room, "Would you like a spot of tea, Harry?" Knowing as I do that Sir Rudolph would never presume to be so familiar with others present, I deduced that Sir Rudolph was attempting to alert me to the presence of some danger in that room.
I drew my pistol and conjured away the wall between my room and that of Miss Lovecraft. There before me sat Miss Lovecraft bound to a chair. Sir Rudolph stood stiffly to my left, grasping his left arm just above the elbow. To my right a bit stood Red Grant, the assassin we'd encountered in America, holding a pistol. He fired a round at me, though there was no percussive report nor flash, and I could see that he did not have a silencer on the muzzle of the pistol. I returned fire but did not strike Grant, unfortunately. Grant went for the window; I fired again, this time striking the target true. Grant staggered, but still made his escape out the window.
Sir Rudolph reacted in an instant, leaping out the window in chase before I could reach the window myself. How Grant survived the fall I have no idea, but survive it he did. He fled on foot from Sir Rudolph, something I'd not expect him to have been able to accomplish - most especially as he'd just been shot. Sir Rudolph, as is well known, is a deucedly fast individual.
Miss Lovecraft was quite understandably distraught. Her discourse describing the events that had occurred in the room was rather disconnected and fragmentary. She told me that Red Grant had forced his way into the room and secured her to the chair at gunpoint. She lost conciousness, but could not tell me how or why. When she roused once again, Sir Rudolph was in the room and conversing with Grant. I gather that Grant intended to murder both Sir Rudolph and me to further the interests of SMERK. He meant to relieve us of the rod and to leave our bodies behind. Sir Rudolph informed Grant that we had given the rod to Mr. Bond and that it was safely on its way back to England. Grant declared that he thought this to be a bluff, but Sir Rudolph had insisted with great sincerity. I had arrived in my own room during the conversation and Sir Rudolph had been directed by Grant to call me into Miss Lovecraft's room.
Though Grant had not taken liberties with Miss Lovecraft, she was obviously suffering emotionally from the attack. I assured Miss Lovecraft that, although we had failed to capture Red Grant, we were alerted to his presence and we would now be able to take steps to guard against him. With this and other arguments, I was able to allay her very justifiable fears. She took comfort in my assurances and was able to pass the night quite peacefully.
On the morrow we took flight with British Airways to London. There were no impediments to our transit and we soon enough found ourselves on the ground in England. Sir Rudolph and I insisted that Miss Lovecraft accompany us directly to Star Chamber as we were certain that her presence there would be greatly desired. The three of us were shortly within Star Chamber and meeting with X. Miss Lovecraft was taken off to have her recent memories removed. Most unfortunate that, but undeniably required under the circumstances.
Professor Tolkein joined us in X's office. He had, through his research, worked out the required rituals for bringing about the destruction of Cthulhu's Talisman. X and Professor Tolkein discussed the number of wizards it would be best to have on hand, and the availability of wizards to fulfill those roles that would be necessary for the various castings. I cheerfully accepted an invitation to join the rituals though many of the required spells would be beyond my ken.
Professor Tolkein informed X that we would also require the use of a large and powerful Faery circle, preferably close to London so that mundane transportation could be used to move the wizards to the circle. Teleportation is very convenient, but it has much a high percentage of failure than even helicopters, which are comparatively error free. When Professor Tolkein noted that the circle in Hyde Park could not possibly be used owing to the number of mundane witnesses present, I recalled that the Chatham circle was quite large and might be useful. Professor Tolkein concurred and so the stage for the ritual was selected.
X arranged for several helicopters to transfer the requisite magi from Star Chamber to Chatham. We utilised the heliport at Chatham's Royal Dockyard for the arrivals, proceeding to the Faery circle using Navy transportation. Twelve wizards, with me included in the count, were assembled at the circle within two hours. X75 Kenneth Davies began to prepare the ground for the coming procedure.
Sir Rudolph gave voice to an idea that had been troubling him. He thought that by working magic against this Talisman, we could in reality be pumping Mana into it and by extension, into the wizard whose Talisman it was. As we had brought a significant number of powerful wizards together at a substantial source of magical energy, might it be possible that we could even revive that wizard from his present state?
Sir Rudolph continued his argument with the consideration of how little opposition he and I had faced in accomplishing the recovery of the Talisman. Everything had been achieved far too easily for his peace of mind. Sir Rudolph wondered if some nefarious organization might be responsible for removing obstacles from our path, and whether that organization might be SMERK.
"Not so," said Comrade Borodenov. He stepped forward out of invisibility to be revealed to all present. Comrade Borodenov claimed that SPECTRE, not SMERK, was the accountable organization. He stated further that it was one of our own agents who was guilty of carrying out the plot against us. He baldly stated that Richard Crane was in reality none other than George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of the Town and County of Carnarvon.
Though we were staggered at this declaration, X remained composed. He inquired of Comrade Borodenov what sort of proofs he might have for this rather frail and dubious claim. Comrade Borodenov admitted an association with SMERK, an organisation opposed to magic use owing to its inherently elitist class structure which naturally opposes the proletarian ideals he so easily professes. He divulged that SMERK had known for some time of Crane's actual identity, and had been watching Crane to discover his true purpose.
Sir Rudolph asked Comrade Borodenov how he had managed to locate us both in Chatham and in Egypt. Comrade Borodenov stated that he had merely used a scanner to track the homing device he'd planted in Sir Rudolph's cane. He said that he could not have used magical means of tracing us as he is not himself a mage; his recent invisibility had been produced from a magic amulet he had on his person and that this device could be used by any person at all.
X decided that the apprehension of Richard Crane / Lord Carnarvon could await another hour, that the matter at hand was far more urgent and must be attended to without delay. Comrade Borodenov agreed whole-heartedly that the destruction of Cthulhu's Talisman was greatly to be desired. He asked if he might be allowed to remain while the deed was done. X allowed him this request.
I was given the honor of casting the first spell in the array of spells that would need to be cast. This first was a simple identification charm which would reveal the nature of the target item by itself, but which would also serve to give the later spells purchase against the Talisman owing to the link to its true nature. The incantation was pronounced in short order and the effect called forth. The Talisman crumbled to sand.
That the nature of the target item was simply illusion over mundane substance struck me a terrible blow. I had had the original item in my hand, it had prevented my teleportation from the desert. This, then, was not the original item. I racked my brain for an occasion when I might have lost it. It occurred to me that Miss Lovecraft might have switched the Talisman with a replacement whilst we were on the felucca sailing down the Nile. I had to discard this notion, however, for I knew Miss Lovecraft was no mage and therefore had not had time for the creation of a likeness to replace the Talisman at that point.
The next possible occasion would have been in Gibraltar when my guard was down while I comforted Miss Lovecraft. This would have required the cooperation of Miss Lovecraft, but not any magical ability on her part. She would have had time to communicate with a confederate were that her plan. If Red Grant were her confederate, then it was possible that either Miss Lovecraft or Grant had possession of the Talisman. Indeed, with Miss Lovecraft having come to England where her memories were removed, our suspicions fell to Red Grant.
X asked Sir Rudolph and I how we intended to track down the Talisman before it could be used for the hideous purpose of raising dread Cthulhu. The discussion that followed was rapid with many contributions from the attendant magi. It was proposed that an extraorinarily powerful casting could be created using the present company and the power of the Faery circle to locate the object. This would simply be another use of the power we had concentrated here for the purpose of destroying the Talisman in the first place.
Sir Rudolph pointed out that even with this power at our disposal, we were unlikely to be successful in locating the Talisman as it certainly showed a contrariness to being affected by magic, proved by its resistance to teleportation. I suggested using the darts which Red Grant had fired at us in Gibraltar in order to locate the dart pistol which had fired them. Should Grant still be carrying it, we could run him down in short order.
Sir Rudolph was the obvious choice to cast the incantation as he was familiar with Grant, had an affinity with the darts having been shot with one, and he knew the spell. He stepped forward to coordinate the other magi in the joint casting. Though this sort of working requires more time to complete, the extended area over which the effects may be used are so greatly expanded that Sir Rudolph could have located that pistol as far away as Istanbul or perhaps even Boston. The limits of the casting were not tested in this case: Sir Rudolph was certain that the pistol was in Hyde Park.
Professor Tolkein urged us to haste for the great Faery circle in Hyde Park would lend tremendous power to any casting. Should the Talisman be brought to use there, the world would be in dire straits indeed. X commanded the assembled magi to once again coordinate their efforts to place Sir Rudolph and I in the park immediately. With the combined ability of the magi, Sir Rudolph and I would face drastically reduced risk in teleportation and, of course, no drain on our own resources for the working. We appeared in a screened location not far from the Faery circle.
While surveying the scene prior to breaking cover, Sir Rudolph and I discovered Red Grant kneeling beside an oak tree with a rifle at the ready. Visible in the depression before him were Richard Crane (Lord Carnarvon) and Miss Lovecraft. As I was uncertain of Red Grant's intentions but all too aware of his cold-bloodedness, I opted to remove Grant from the tableau. I advanced upon him with all the stealth my training and experience could lend me. Grant was entirely unaware of my presence until the point of my knife found his heart.
Having removed Grant, I took up his rifle for my own purpose. Below me in a slight hollow stood Crane and Miss Lovecraft. Though I spotted the Talisman in Miss Lovecraft's hand, I felt that Crane was the more dangerous of the pair. Taking careful aim, I attempted to put a bullet through his brain pan. It is inconceivable to me that an assassin of Red Grant's capabilities could have so maladjusted a rifle sight as to have a six-inch variance between the cross-hairs and the point of impact on a shot of just over seventy-five yards, yet so it proved in this instance. The projectile struck Crane high on the rear of his left shoulder. Though staggered, he did not fall.
Crane reacted by casting a short spell. Though there was far too much distance between us for me to distinguish the exact nature of it, I suspected that he had cast some sort of a protection spell against the very thing that caused his pain: bullets. I dropped the rifle. As I prepared to transport myself past Crane's defensive barrier, I beheld Sir Rudolph dashing across the field toward Crane, covering the ground at an astonishing speed. I appeared just as Sir Rudolph dealt Crane a tremendous blow that separated him from his senses and knocked him to the turf.
I turned to face Miss Lovecraft. She was almost unrecognisable behind the expression of revulsion and hatred which twisted her features in that moment. Raising the Talisman, she rasped out that "R'lyeh will rise." I stabbed her with a blade I had to hand, fearing that the person I had known was no more within that frail frame. She laughed as though that wound were inconsequential. At that moment, as he had done when facing the skeletal army in the tomb, Sir Rudolph raised his arms to bear aloft the symbol of Vishnu and invoked the power of his god against the power of the undead. Whatever spirit moved within Miss Lovecraft at that time was banished in an instant. Miss Lovecraft collapsed to the ground.
I stepped to Miss Lovecraft's side and staunched the flow of blood from the wound I had so recently dealt to her body. Sir Rudolph and I were shortly joined by the company we had left behind in Chatham. X and Professor Tolkein were delighted with the recovery of the true Talisman. Though once again invited to aid in the destruction of the evil device, I demurred as the toll of the recent fighting left me a bit roiled in spirit; any such casting would have been ill-advised in the circumstances with so many able-bodied magi in place to effect the work.
Though many loose ends of this case remained to be tied up in the following days, the investigatory work will be carried out by other hands than mine and their reports will bring much brighter and better light to bear on the subject. Miss Lovecraft did survive the event, and will return to America without recollection of the many and varied adventures we shared. Whence Richard Crane I know not, and perhaps that is for the best.
Submitted the 17th day of March, 1964.
X12 Sir Henry Hamilton KBE, 7th Marquess Bamburgh