Children of Fear

Session 7

Down the rabid hole

To the group’s disappointment the guide Mi Hu refuses to lead a trek into the wintery mountains. He warns of the dangers and specifically the potentially hostile Tibetans. It turns out in 1905 a British Cpt. Younghusband had strongarmed the Dalai Lama into letting British troops pass through Tibet which left the inhabitants rightfully disgruntled and wary of the Brits. Taking his advice to heart the investigators consider going West to search for Padmasambhava’s ritual bowls instead. Luckily Mi Hu happily sells them a handful of camels for the journey. And so after some heartfelt goodbyes they part ways with their guide. As a last piece of advice Mi Hu warns the investigators of a ‘Black Whirlwind’ that reportedly swallows unsuspecting travelers in the Takla Makan desert.

The night before their departure is once again plagued by unnerving dreams: Albert sees himself observing a prowling black bear from above in the mountains. His dream leads him into a cave where he finds an ornate spiraling staircase. Meanwhile Yu’s dream has her standing on a snowy plateau under a dazzling pale sun. When she dreams herself entering a cave she suddenly encounters Albert, prompting both to wake up.

The two meet in the nightly hallway to share their perturbing experience. During the next morning Tenzin interprets the nightly visions as a possible sign from the Lords of Shambhala. Since the group is sharing their dreams, Hans and Tex divulge that they have received shadowy warnings of a ‘Rat King’ terrorizing Turfan. This is enough to discourage the group from taking a route through that city.

One day after trekking along the mountain roads for almost three weeks the caravan comes across a creature in the road – an Asiatic black bear chomping away at some poor prey. With some preparations the heroic martial men of the group open fire on the innocent animal. A sudden instance of roadside violence later Tex has a look at the bear’s last meal. It turns out to be the unearthed body of a deceased and buried man. With a bit of searching around the group discovers a nearby cave which seems to be the disturbed burial place. Tex takes the lead to climb into the cave where he is greeted by the nauseating stench of rotten flesh. The more adventurous group members poke their heads into the ominous cave only to discover a gruesome sight: A pile of bodies, brutally torn apart. No traces of animals can be found, other than unidentified bite marks on the cadavers. Soil stains on the shrouds the dead are wearing leads the group to assume they have been disinterred recently, possibly by some madman.

On their way climbing down the investigators suddenly hear the sound of drumming in the distance. They send Yulia to scout ahead and investigate the noise. Between fields and animal pens she discovers a tiny village with a small congregation around a central fire. Horns and drums accompany the movement of a central figure – a man performing a ritualistic dance. The performance comes to a crescendo when a heavyset villager drags a goat into the circle. In front of the watching onlookers he milks the goat into a drinking horn before swiftly cutting its neck and bleeding it into a second vessel. When he beheads the dead animal and hands the still blood-dripping horned head to the dancer, things seem to escalate: The dancer drinks of the blood and milk before dropping to the ground, ear to the earth, listening. When he proclaims something to the crowd in a foreign language there seems to be general disappointment and unrest. After the man collapses, exhausted from his ritual, Yulia reports back to the group. Marta recognizes the dancer as a Danyal, a provincial witch doctor figure.

During an uneasy night’s rest near the savage village the group is woken up by the unnerved Martha. She has been spooked by a shuffling creature making its way into the corpse cave and quickly corrals some of the group to investigate. The hunting party manages to make their way once more to the cave which the seasoned Tex enters alone. He discovers the smell of soil and a freshly deposited body. No sign of the malefactor or creature responsible.

Back at the campfire the remaining group members are unexpectedly visited by a stranger – the burly goat murderer approaches and introduces himself as Atif Baig, the village headman. He invites the travelers into the village and peacefully sits and shares tea with them when they decline. After some introductions he shares his worries: His village suffers under a terrible curse which the Danyal had tried to question the spirits about. Desecrated burial grounds and a disappearing resident have led the villagers to believe that the legendary Yathini has been reborn. Baig describes her as a cannibal giantess from myth who hungers for human flesh. Seeing the possible connection to their shadowy quest the investigators decide to join Baig in his village.