Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cthulhu Gaslight: In the Service of the Crown

Dramatis personae:
Daffyd (Dai) Iffans, retired soldier of the British Indian Army (Rifle Brigade), now part-time writer for a Socialist newspaper, with an interest in the East End
Catherine (Cat) Kincaid, journalist and daughter of a well-known scientist

The place: London
The time: April 1890



Once again at the Dravot's Head, Dai is sought out by a private detective, Mr William Marone, on behalf of Colonel John Stack. Marone comes across as a bit of a twit and provokes Cat into some gently teasing banter, but he stands his ground very nicely. The Colonel is also not the man to employ fools, considering what Dai knows about him. He's rather the type to court-martial anyone he sees as incapable.

A short trip by carriage takes them to Chelsea and a house that is just a bit too grand for a retired Colonel. Marone introduces them to Colonel Stack, who omits any niceties and small talk in favour of a short interrogation of both Dai and Cat, dispenses a few well-chosen snubs and then gets to the point.
He is in search of a certain clay pot that has been smuggled out of Afghanistan, where the Colonel was stationed for the last years. It is thought that the pot contains a very dangerous ancient weapon and it has been stolen by a traitor named Adil Fahdi Amin right under the Colonel's nose.

He himself is not in the position to search for the artefact (he has lost both legs during the war) and asks Dai to find it for him. Stack also says that if Dai creates some kind of diplomatic incident, the Crown can easily deny any knowledge of involvement, which would be rather hard if it were an active soldier or government employee. He or rather the Crown as his employer promises a reward, the amount to be freely chosen. Dai agrees, although the Colonel has managed to remind him exactly why he no longer is an active soldier. If the phrase had been coined already, Dai would call him a Colonel Blimp.
Cat is clearly intrigued by the things about Dai's military career that were mentioned during the conversation. On the way home, Dai invites her to ask him about that, but please not right now.

Since Colonel Stack had the information that the artefact may have arrived in London with a shipment to the British Museum, that's where the next morning finds Dai and Cat. With charm (Cat) and money (Dai) they make their way into the storage rooms under the Museum where indeed a shipment from Afghanistan has arrived. Also stored in the room is what looks at first glance like a Ganesha statue, but the details are wrong, so wrong that looking at the statue makes Dai nauseous.

Before they can do anything further, a man walks in on them, carrying a clay pot that fits exactly the description Colonel Stack gave. After a moment of shock all around the man turns and runs...


And that's where we stopped.

Dai has quite a few things in his past he does not usually talk about, but this story has brought a few of them out into the open. I'm sure that Cat will sooner or later take him up on his invitation and ask what exactly he did as a soldier. That conversation will be awkward, at best.

I could kick myself that I didn't take the time to ask around about the Colonel. I'm not sure at all he really has any official business with the stolen artefact. I could just say that a lifelong habit of obeying orders kicked in to make Dai accept the story, but he was too annoyed by the Colonel to do that really. Anyway, if the Colonel does have his own secret agenda and has tricked the characters, it will be a step on the way to the typical paranoid Cthulhu character.

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