Driven by the excitement of her new discovery, Marta begins a chant. Focusing on the faces of her companions she opens her third eye, enough to take in the otherworldly glow emanating from them – and it turns out almost all of them show the potential to produce the elusive “indestructible drop”, all except for Tex.
With their travel plans in place, the group attempts to pawn off some last trinkets to cover the travel costs. But after their minimal success with this approach, their last hope is the Indian railway system which allows for free travel for everyone, albeit on the carriage roofs. With the train being the most popular mode of transport an stops being long relaxation breaks along the overland journey, there are helpful markets around each station. In one of those the investigators purchase just enough rations for the trip with their last coin – a meagre handful of food that seems even less appealing when they realize that they will be travelling on top of a deliciously aromatic kitchen carriage. Despite the roughness of the journey, they arrive safely a couple days later in Amingaon in the Assam valley, where they will have to switch onto a steamer for a river crossing.
The weather becomes increasingly dramatic with dark purple skies boding menace on the Tibetan horizon. The only upside is that all the sensible locals are travelling westwards, fleeing from the looming phenomena, which allows for an undisturbed further journey for the investigators. Another days train ride brings the investigators from Gauhati to Sadiya through rich tea country. Here Barnes and Marta notice something unusual: The tea plants lining the train tracks have a vivid rich glow to them, a lot more vibrant than would be expected. Marta feels reminded of the stories of meteor strikes that have seemingly invigorated the land and vegetation around them through their radiation, but only to burn it out and kill whole landscapes in the process. On the next train station the locals are even mumbling about the out-of-control, overgrowing plant life ever since they had observed a glowing shooting star disappearing in the mountains ahead.
And on the train platform the adventurers also catch sights of a familiar face in the crowd – the moustached stranger, this time without his tell-tale cloak, who seems to make it a habit to appear near trains. But despite his taunting beckoning he disappears in the crowd before the adventurers can catch up to him. This time the penny finally drops and Yulia recognizes the man as the Cossack colonel Andrei Vitsin, a revolutionary criminal with a reputation for inhumane violence. Relying on their hunter’s instincts the group splits up to lure and outflank the villain within the city; Yet all their clever planning is for naught when next they meet the man again as he is already sitting at a chaiwala, inviting them jovially to sit with him.
He introduces himself as Count Vitsin and declares that he is not an enemy. He gives himself talkative but confused by the adventurers’ actions. Why would they work so hard only to resist the natural order? He cites the deterministic idea that the end is foretold in prophecies and admits that he and his companions were the ones to sabotage the group’s ritual and attempted to steal the scriptures. As Vitsin is chatting away he reveals that he seems to know a surprising amount about the investigators, but he also is willing to give some information about his own group. He describes the leaders of the Tokhabaya as a triumvirate: himself, Mariam Sandrine and Hine Roimata, but thanks to a rite in which they consume their predecessors brains and indestructible drop they allege to possess the wisdom of many.
While he taunts the group with their failures and even confronts them with their hand in the death of their comrades, he also has an offer, specifically for Marta and Barnaby: Without naming his price he promises them power, enough to become rulers of their home countries. Both decline, with Lord Barnes convinced he will make it to become King one day even without the Cossack’s help. Vitsin resigns and bids the group farewell, leaving an envelope.
The encounter has the group rattled and they begin debating whether they want to continue on their quest at all or if they may be fooled once again into a false ritual.
When Marta opens Vitsin’s envelope she finds the money to pay for the tea they had and ferry tickets for the group for a travel onwards to Pasighat, the last city on their journey. On the boat pier the group attempts to hire a guide among the rows of Monpa people who are fleeing the mountains. They have a hard time communicating with the locals since barely anyone speaks the language. Only sheer luck helps them out when Franz runs into Henry Wilson, a local administrator who speaks a little bit of German. He tells the group of the dark skies and atmosphere of dread that drives the mountain folk out of their homes. And when the ferryman vehemently refuses to go upriver again, Wilson brokers an agreement: For some hard currency a boatman would drive them or, lacking the necessary funds, a Monpa guide is gonna take them through the overgrowing jungles up to lake Dhanakosha.
Yulia notices that their promised guide seems weak on his feet and even occasionally coughs blood. Wilson informs the investigators that many of the locals have developed similar symptoms when they come down the mountains. This seems to be connected to the meteor that has come down somewhere close to the homeland of these native people. In fact he assumes that it would have landed around the Namchabarwa, the peak adjacent to the Valley of the White Ape.
The investigators’ journey has to continue on foot without a guide. Soon they notice red currents in the river’s water and Marta finds out the hard way that whatever it is forms unpleasant tendrils running along the current’s flow. Barnes identifies the reddish substance as an aggressive and mildly toxic fungus, but no one can explain why it might bloom quite so dynamically.
Breaking heir way into the jungle, Marta hits a fungal pod with her trusty crowbar when it suddenly releases a scarlet cloud of spores into the investigators’ faces. Covering their mouths and noses with cloth they poke around some more, when they come across the corpse of a monkey, strangled to death by the red growth and slowly and horrendously converted into a host for more of the fungus. It explodes into a dry cloud of spores, leaving the adventurers shocked and dusted. At night they watch the campfire burning the red pollen rather spectacularly. This gives them enough of a save feeling that Barnes and Franz even have to realize that for the first time in month they spend a night without nightmares.
A couple of days of trekking through the jungle, avoiding the deadly dust, brings the group to a small stream from the mountains that marks their spot to leave the Dihang River they’ve been following. They reach the small village of Damroh, but to their horror, they find it fully overgrown, foliage and a dusting of spores covering every inch of the abandoned village. Huts, possessions and people crumbling to dust before their eyes. Plant life seems to have rapidly engulfed everything, leaving people trapped and even impaled before the fungus got to them.
Franz hears the sound of pained sobbing in the distance and while the distressed Marta attempts to stop him, he escapes her grip and wanders off to investigate. He finds a group of locals, one dead and taken over by the fungus, the others victim to the horrifying growth, but barely clinging on to life. They almost don’t have the strength left in their fungally corroded bodies to beg Franz for the mercy of death. Solemnly the Prussian grants their wish, his gun gives them a quick end to their suffering.
Leaving the village behind, the investigators get on with the last steep climb before they finally reach the plateau overlooking Danakosha Lake. At this unexpectedly peaceful and untouched place they find time to catch their breath and even find a little Gompa and an old monk. The old abbot, Sonam Dhargey, welcomes the travellers to the sacred lake and leads them into the small shrine. The place is packed with dozens of pilgrims seeking refugee, who find protection through the lake’s waters that have been blessed by the Buddha. Sonam wastes no time and lets the newcomers know that he had visions of their arrival and while he doesn’t know of the details of their quest he is willing to help them. Yet just as they are explaining their situation, a sudden noise raises everyone’s attention: One of the refugees clutches his throat, gasping for air before he violently collapses on the shrine’s floor, dead. While Marta still rushes to his aid, Franz already declares loudly what he has immediately recognized: The man has been poisoned! And he is not the first victim in the congregation.
Marta remembers a myth of a strange ritual: The Dugma witches of the Mitok region to the north are known for their occult belief that those who poison a worthy man can inherit his good kharma. And while this is a most dreadful crime, the group cannot lose any more time on this right now.
They receive the sacred cow’s nectars from the abbot and with the help of young monk Tomkin they are rowed over the lake to the dome-shaped small Island called Citta – the Heart of the World.
Slowly they ascent the rocky island to a small plateau where the moment of truth has come. Lord Barnes, ever vigilant takes watch and circles the island, but all he finds is Tomkin, praying for the success of the ritual. The monk hands Barnes a stack of ritual bowls. Meanwhile the others have started the juniper and fir fires of cleansing. Once they have prepared the ritual space they partake in the foul tasting five nectars, with some of the tired adventurers having trouble to swallow the mixture of bovine body fluids. Marta takes the lead, chanting the sacred words, but when the incantations begin, nature around the island attempts to revolt against the group of summoners; Crashing rockslides, violent purple storms and a fiery hail pelt down all around and only the sanctity of the small island protects the group from the forces that try to stop them.
When finally the moment of truth arrives, Yulia volunteers under tears to be the willing sacrifice, putting her trust in the prophecy that this an end the unnatural suffering that has befallen the continent. And so Marta continues chanting as she guts and beheads the Russian friend. The sight is enough to make Tex waver in the ringing of the ceremonial bell for just a moment. When Marta tosses the friend’s head aside a small red-and-white sphere hovers over the blood-spurting open neck of the dead sacrifice. But the novelist has barely time enough to wonder about it when a screeching swarm of vultures barrage down from the skies, violently ripping apart and devouring the body of the sacrificed woman until mere bones are left. When they disappear as sudden as they had arrived, Marta reaches out and inhales the indestructible drop and feels the Goddess’ power spreading through her.
With such awesome and incomprehensible mystical power surging through her, Marta instinctively knows she is able to close the gate of Agartha. And when she wills the mystical gate to shut, the group can see the sky clearing and watch the clouds of disease and rot retreat away before their very eyes. When a perfectly normal torrential downpour begins to wash away all signs of the ritual as well as the tainting corruption of the lands, the remaining investigators finally have time to breathe freely in the knowledge their journey has come to an end.
Only moments later the four find themselves once again face to face with the Lords of Shambala. They congratulate the heroic group and extend an invitation for all of them to stay in this heaven permanently or for as long as they wish.
Marta Fang is moved by the epic story she has experienced and thinks it important enough that people have to hear about it. So she rests up in the heavenly realm just until her wounds are healed and then returns to the mortal realm, spending the subsequent years publishing the group’s adventures in the form of a questionable romance novel.
Lord Barnaby B. Barnes has been fully overwhelmed by the ritual, driving him finally insane. He is determined that someone has to pay for the losses and the hardship they had to endure. And so he declines all godly offers and dedicates himself to his new task on earth: Hunting down Colonel Vitsin whatever the costs.
Franz Wilhelm decides to stay in Shambala. The travels and adventures have proven too much for him to bear, the killing, death and despair along the road have taken their toll and so the once proud member of the Silver Lodge feels himself unable to return to his life among the living. He seeks nothing more but peace and quiet contemplation.
Tex Wilderman recovers for a while among the Lords, but ultimately returns back home to his farm. He leads the life of a make-believe daredevil for many more years, seeking fortune, glory and fame on the silver screen. But his mind keeps coming back to the bizarre experiences and he continues to study the occult, always ready to one day go on an adventure once more.
Yulia Kareva finds herself alone, standing in front of a large wooden wheel. Having seen the pain one can cause even in pursuit of good, she feels she can in no life bring more peace than she has achieved so far. And when a celestial voice offers her the choice of the enlightened she chooses the release from the endless cycle of rebirth.