Children of Fear

Session 8

The Curious Case of the Dead Woman

At the cave of the gruesome corpse pile Marta, Tex and Barnes find themselves stumbling upon a young frightened woman. She introduces herself as Hasina but otherwise struggles to make herself understood. When the investigators follow the distressed woman into the cave they are shocked to find her gnawing the flesh off one of the deceased’s bones. When all attempts to reason with the corpse-eating woman fail Barnes exploding temper causes her to flee. But the British explorer subdues her quickly and the the group heads back to the camp with their new captive. On their way back they observe an ominous dark raging cloud in the distance. And if that wouldn’t be enough, Marta thinks she hears the beckoning call of her long-dead grandmother from the wilderness.

Meanwhile the nearby village’s headman Atif Baig suggests a plan to the remaining group members at the camp site: He requires a scapegoat to dissuade the spreading idea of a superhuman giantess making the rounds. But the adventurers refuse; They do not wish to have their names dragged into this. However once he has left the group deliberates if there is a way for them to help the burdened village leader. Shen Chu uses this moment to mention that last night her deceased mother had been calling out to her from the nearby desert.

Once the groups reconvene at the camp they question Hasina. The bedraggled woman struggles to tell her rather unexpected story: She was struck and apparently killed by a man in the village. Despite all evidence she is convinced to have died when the blacksmith has attacked her and thinks herself now dead. According to her account the violent smith sought to prevent her from marrying into a another village and when the argument escalated struck out at her. When questioned about her habit of feeding on corpses she replies: “Dead eat dead” as is self-evident.
After some consideration the group comes the decision to bring the clearly traumatized Hasina to the village of her betrothed to hand her into his care. A short while later they have the native girl cleaned and dressed up and are ready to travel onwards to the “Hill Village” Hasina is indicating. Thanks to the efforts to disguise Hashima, the group travels past the desert village uninterrupted, even though the local Danyal is already readying the ritual metal sacrificing spike.

Hasina’s husband-to-be Alhi is more than relieved to have his loved one brought back to him and thanks the group emphatically for rescuing her. Yet the investigators don’t find the peace of mind to dally much longer and continue their travel along the desert’s border.
It takes them another two weeks to reach the bustling city of Khotan. The city – known for it’s competition over the silk industry with the more famous Sian – offers the opportunity for some much needed rest.

The group splits up for preparations with most of the investigators seeking out the comparatively large public library: Hans studies the maps of the Swat valley region and finds a flat empty area marked on a map. While it is not highlighted as a lake it might be the most likely location where the mythical lake Danakosha could be located. Meanwhile Lord Barnes attempts research into the Southern wildlife. They only item of interest for him is an eye-catching report about a large white ape, locally known as the Migyu. Marta is more successful and is able to even pinpoint the legendary creature to the Southern Tibetan region. It is mentioned among her research into the historically widespread animism, which had been replaced by the propagation of islam. Efforts had been made to de-occultize the region, which makes research into myths and legends difficult.

Albert however digs up some more mention of the Lord of Fear: A legend alludes to a number of jackal-headed priests in subterranean tunnels who serve the deity. Albert also once again finds remarks about the black sandstorm, which the group had witnessed from afar: Allegedly it prowls around the Taklamakan desert, suddenly appearing and swallowing travelers as if it has malicious intent. Finally a newspaper article jumps out at Albert which speaks of a village near Turfan where the inhabitants are reported to have been devoured by feral rats.
While the others are buried in their books, Tex wanders the Khotan streets, chatting with the locals. Some of them acknowledge that they have heard of Agartha in connection to funerary rights, but there seems little local knowledge since Buddhism isn’t all that common within the city. Yulia talks to some of the interregional traders but has no luck finding a guide. Shen Chu however appears to have had the most success of the group: She reappears after a couple hours presenting her haul of half a dozen purses with almost 400 silver dollars.

During their stay Hans is tempted by Tenzin to have a look in the black mirror surface of the melong. While he himself looks unchanged, behind him he does not see the market square, but instead a small desert oasis – a glimpse upon Khotan as it looked centuries ago.

After a good night’s sleep the investigators’ journey continues. Days later they cross through the Khunjerab pass and during the exhausting trek come across an accident site: Rocks have crumbled, breaking off the pass into the depth. At the bottom of the rockface the travelers spot bloodied clothes, probably a hiker killed in the fall. When observing the pile a bit closer the travelers spot movement. In a rescue attempt Marta, Hans and Tex climb down just to find a barely alive injured Indian man, clutching a document wallet to his chest. In his weakened state he introduces himself as Harit Peshin. He implores the rescuers to deliver his wallet to Mr. Strudwick, a member of the Indian Civil Service in Srinagar.

The group undertakes efforts to pull the injured man up onto the pass to get him to safety, but suddenly the rope slips from Tex’ hands and to everyone’s shock the Indian plummets to his certain demise.
The wallet left behind by the dead man contains ornate letters which appear to spell complete gibberish. So all the demoralized adventurers can do is mount their camels once again and ride towards Gilgit.