Peking, In A Safe

Report of X12 Sir Henry Hamilton KBE, 7th Marquess Bamburgh.

The luminous glow of a rare sunny day in April beyond the panes of the Great Room windows at Thistlecrock had coaxed me from my hibernaculum to experience the many-faceted joys of the first ride in spring. I bestrode a favorite stallion, Destin Magnifique, on that glorious morning, taking the greatest pleasure in witnessing the many signs of nature's renewal after winter's snowy blankets had been removed and stowed away to await another Yule.

Though the sun was brilliant in an azure sky, the breeze held tenaciously to a chill surely conjured under March's dreary clouds. I gave Destin his head as I might, encouraging us both to warmth through our exertions. In this effort to seize the day and cast off the cramps of winter's tyranny, I cast off also the restraint of time's steady march and wandered across the breadth of my estate disregarding that clerkly meter, the timepiece.

This is the simple explanation behind the unfortunate delay in my response to the urgent Star Chamber summons received by my staff. I was, of course, immediately informed of the communication upon my return from the morning's activity. I telephoned London at once to acknowledge the summons my staff had received. I then exchanged the mufti for more felicitous apparel and made my appearance in the Star Chamber port room before the hour tolled.

I was informed by Miss Honeypot that my hasty arrival yet left me quite tardy for the briefing already underway in X's office. I was ushered in to find X in close conference with X21 Sir Rudolph Singh KCMG. Sir Rudolph already having a grasp of the situation which required our attention, we were soon on our way to C and Q Sections for those basic items of survival which any field mage should carry on a mission into the unknown.

Sir Rudolph informed me in clipped sentences that we would proceed to Peking, there to take advantage of an opportunity that might garner us the key to the latest Soviet code. Our ambassador in China had secured in the morning an invitation to a gathering at the Soviet embassy that very evening. Our mundane sister office had relayed news of the opportunity on to Star Chamber as they had not the resources available to respond suitably in so limited a time frame. We had ourselves absolutely no time to lose as it had already gone half past seven in the evening in Peking.

A Star Chamber operative was already present in Peking, of course, and had been notified of our impending arrival. Whilst we had been preparing ourselves, he had secured a safe area for our port and coordinated a clairvoyant view of the site for our orientation. With the benefit of two support mages lending aid in the casting, I carefully teleported Sir Rudolph and myself to the safe house in Peking. We met our associate on our arrival. I recall that he was a descendant of halfling blood, though his name escapes me for the moment and I am uncertain of his agent identifier. While X194 comes to mind, I have little faith in the strength of this recollection.

The summary plan which we cobbled together in light of the information we had to hand had Sir Rudolph and I attending the party in response to the invitation secured by our ambassador that very morning whilst our associate would infiltrate the grounds through his own means. At the first opportunity to do so after nine o'clock local time, I would separate myself from the gathering in some quiet locale in order that I might cast a spell or two unobserved. I would first scan for guards using clairvoyance, then when all was clear I would create an opening through the embassy wall to allow our associate an unalarmed entrance to the facility. He would proceed to the code room by the shortest route, there to crack the safe in the embassy's code room and extract the code information.

We bade adieu to our associate and went to negotiate for transportation to the Soviet embassy. This was easily accomplished through the use of a small language charm and a smaller sum in cash. Sir Rudolph and I were admitted to the well-attended function with no fuss and little fanfare. We mingled amongst the guests, using them as cover while we assessed the interior of the embassy. Shortly after nine o'clock, I departed the general gathering area heading for a particular gentlemen's room which was freely accessible to the guests and yet seemed unnoticed by a preponderance of the attendees. Sir Rudolph undertook to stand watch and provide as much deterrent as he reasonably might to passersby that seemed intent on disturbing my solitude.

I had timed my entrance well for there were no other occupants of the room when I walked in. Taking advantage of the available cover, I assumed a position where I would not immediately be seen were someone to enter the room. I conjured up a clairvoyant view of the lower level where we believed the code book to be secured. I observed a secure room containing a safe and one sleeping guard, a corridor with one roaming guard, and an empty office which abutted the exterior wall. I passed a message to our associate to alert him to the presence of the sleeping guard. When the other, roaming, guard had passed by, I created an opening in the wall for our associate.

Our associate slipped quietly through the office and down the corridor, escaping the notice of the roaming guard. He passed the locked door of the code room in a trice, and soon had the safe open as it was not secured at that time. Our associate withdrew a slim black book from within the safe which he then proceeded to photograph. Unfortunately, this took some time to accomplish - enough time that the guard began to stir and then awoke.

The guard noticed the open safe straight off and reacted. I placed a restraint upon him at the first sign of his reaction and I was able to quell him before he could alert his roaming partner. Our associate was not, apparently, familiar with the workings of such a restraint for he there and then began to prance before the stock-still guard in the most childish of japing manners and thus exposed his face quite openly to the gaze of that individual. I was helpless to inhibit our associate from this action as I needed to conserve my resources in order to allow him egress from the facility.

Our associate placed the code book back in the safe in what was then become a useless gesture as all pretense of secrecy was now eliminated. Terminating the guard would only itself rouse the very suspicions evoked by his report of the presence of our associate; there was nothing to be gained by the act, should I have attempted it myself, beyond the anonymity of our associate, who did not himself take precautions to secure that anonymity. I did perform the necessary incantation to grant our associate an exit as we had agreed.

I calculated that my binding of the guard would hold for another quarter of an hour, and that Sir Rudolph and I should take our leave of the embassy before that time elapsed. I emerged from the gentlemen's room only to discover Sir Rudolph in conversation with Comrade Borodenov, a former attaché with the Soviet consulate in Britain with whom Sir Rudolph and I were familiar. There are reports on file detailing the exact nature of our past interactions with Comrade Borodenov, though I seem not to have the X case numbers for these reports at hand.

Comrade Borodenov had seemed quite exercised when first I laid eyes on him, but he became positively enraged on sighting me. He pulled a pistol from within his coat, which I suppose he intended to use to inflict harm upon Sir Rudolph and me, but Sir Rudolph reacted instantaneously, or so it seemed, and the pistol flew from Comrade Borodenov's hand. Within the enemy compound as we were, and armed insufficiently to confront the armed guards arrayed about us, Sir Rudolph and I quickly withdrew from the embassy. Sir Rudolph was able to utilise a small evocation of the darkness about us to effectively cover our escape from the small army behind us.

Just as we quitted the embassy grounds, we were confronted by a female apparition in black pulling at the poles of a lacquered black rickshaw. With an alacrity suited to the occasion, Sir Rudolph and I ensconced ourselves upon the padded seat of the carriage whereupon we rode down the street by the courtesy of the two feet of our unknown benefactress. There remained some small semblance of pursuit which proved to be ineffectual.

We were brought to a charming restaurant bearing the name Buddha's Blacksmith. The décor and cuisine were notable in their deficiencies, but one could not carp under the circumstances. Our benefactress removed the silk veiling her rather exquisite features and introduced herself as Sandy Tong, then welcomed us to her humble establishment. We accepted her hospitality politely and followed her as she led us to a table.

There was a gentleman already seated at the table who rose at our approach. He was two or three inches over six feet tall, a bit gaunt, with hair that had turned an iron gray and time-worn wrinkles that lent an aspect of great age to his face. Upon his right hand he wore an intriguing golden ring, severally decorated with long leaves of gold about an eye-catching gem stone. The gentleman introduced himself as Radagast. He insisted that our meeting had been foretold in a prophecy, that he had come to China specifically to meet us, and that he had arranged for Sandy Tong to fetch us from the embassy in accordance with this same prophecy.

Radagast told us that this prophecy had been set down centuries before. He balked at revealing the entire content to Sir Rudolph and me, but he did provide some sketchy details. The prophecy, apparently, ran to some length, thus allowing Radagast to fathom the necessity of the rickshaw and the name of the restaurant where we were to meet. It further stated that this was only the first of four meetings that would occur between Radagast, Sir Rudolph, and me. In this first meeting, we were only to talk. At the second, Radagast would flee. At the third, he would take our lives. At the fourth, we would take his. This is, of course, merely his interpretation of the prophecy and I cannot attest to the validity of his reading nor to the quality of the original rendering.

Radagast did inquire of us for our names, which the prophecy evidently did not reveal to him. I believe he said that "If we're going to kill each other, we should at least be on a first name basis." I recall my reply to have been "I rarely introduce myself to the men I kill." Sir Rudolph and I then withdrew from the restaurant in order that we might return to Star Chamber to report on the results of our mission to Peking.

This account is complete and true within the limits of my ability to make it so. I aver that all events have taken place as I have recounted them and that the people named acted as I have indicated.

Submitted the 22nd day of April, 1966.

X12 Sir Henry Hamilton KBE, 7th Marquess Bamburgh