Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Swami

He groaned a little as he rolled over to receive his visitors. He had lost weight. Once a rosy-cheeked and hale man, here - in the hospital bed without his turban and jewel, without the monkey and audience, of which he was in such easy and total command - Ramanuja presented a pallid and weary visage. Nevertheless, he looked many times better than he had upon his last meeting with the erstwhile investigators. Most of all, Cati appreciated the fact that he was free of the tubes and ghastly equipment.

As he recognized the trio, his eyebrows lifted and his limp mouth pulled into a little smile. "Hello!" he cheered (as cheerily as one might expect). "Our saviors have come to visit! Kindly sit and rest. We were just listening to the birds sing." Outside the cracked window, a pair of pigeons cooed sweetly to one another.

His eyes were slightly red, and his lips were dry and cracked. Looking to the window, he pushed himself up in bed. His list of woes was short, as described by Doctor Cherry: minor lacerations on the eyes, mouth, ears, and at various joints; a few bruises; severe dehydradation. "He'll should be fine by now," he had explained, "really. He's been chit-chatting with the police all afternoon."

The swami did not look fine. Without pulling his gaze away from the pigeons, pushed his lips out, as if puckering for a kiss, and reached for the glass of water on his nightstand. "We think that you, sir," he said deliberately and seriously to Thelonius, "do very well as you are, testing Maya rather than seeing through it." It seemed that even now he couldn't resist making such comments. But his tone of voice was wholly different from his grandiose stage character, and his words rang with all the more sincerity for it. Maya, then - the illusionary world of experience per Eastern religion - what of it? (The line between religion and the occult blurred often enough that Thel had cultivated an acquaintance with a fair number of 'strictly religious' practices in his time, from Jainas to snake-handlers. Maya was one of these concepts.)

Ramanuja replaced his glass, and pulled his blanket up to his shoulders, binding himself. "And, you, madam, have risen to the occasion most admirably. We know, for you saw what sorry is'tate we were in." He nodded sullenly towards Cati. "As have you, sir" - it was Henri's turn - "for we think that you have the most questions of all. Is that not what you all have come for?"

"The men who killed Margaret are unknown to us. Margaret was our pupil, we were her swami. We were very close, but it is not as some have suspected. I am very sorry for the Whitcombe family." Wrapped in his blanket, he looked like no monk or mystic. If he were only to put on a button down shirt and a normal pair of trousers, he could disappear right into the city crowds. He turned his face towards the window again. After a moment the swami said, "You will be wanting to ask better questions this time."

(Thel passed an occult check.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Hyperboreans - in the New York Public Library

Hyperborea. A region beyond the North Wind, or the place where Boreas blew. The legend is associated with that of Apollo. For 19 years he returned to this land, each time at the moment when the stars had completed another revolution in the sky and had returned to their original positions. Each night between the vernal equinox and the rising of the Pleiades he could be heard singing appropriate hymns and accompanying himself on the lyre.

After Apollo had massacred the Cyclopes, who had manufactured the thunderbolt used by Zeus to kill Apollo's son, Asclepius, Apollo hid the arrow he had reserved for revenge in the great round temple dedicated to him which had been built in the center of the principal Hyporean city. Some said that this arrow, which was enormous, had flown there of its own accord before forming the constellation of Sagittarius in the sky. A Hyperborean named Abasis traveled throughout the entire world borne by this arrow; he did not need to eat as this wondrous arrow provided all the nourishment which he needed.

Legend relates back to the founders of the Hyperborean race a certain number of practices connected with the cult of Apollo. Leto was supposedly born in this land and then returned to Delos to bear her own children. The sacred objects pertaining to Apollo which were venerated at Delos were said to have come from the Hyperborean land. On this subject we defer to Herodotus who wrote that these sacred objects had been entrusted by the Hyperboreans to their neighbours the Scythians who travelled towards the west until they reached the shores of the Adriatic, and then journeyed to the south, passing from town to town. They travelled to Dodona and then to Carystos in Euboea, and eventually reached Delos via Tenos.

Their country was represented – particularly after the Classical period – as an ideal one with a mild climate, inhabited by people with happy temperaments – a Utopian land. There, apparently, the sun produced two crops each year; the inhabitants had civilized customs and lived in the fields and sacred groves to great ages. When the old people considered that they had had a good life they threw themselves joyously into the sea from a high cliff with the heads garlanded with flowers and found a happy end in the waves. The Hyperboreans had a knowledge of magic; they were said to be able to travel in the air and find hidden treasure. Pythagoras was said to be an incarnation of Hyperborean Apollo.

From: "Hyperboreans" in The Dictionary of Classical Mythology by Pablo Grivale. Translated by T.B. Hopkins-Nunsmouth. 1919.

(As of the evening of the 25th, Thelonius and Henri have access to this piece.

Text excerpted from "Hyperboreans" in The Dictionary of Classical Mythology by Pierre Grimal. Translated by A.R. Maxwell-Hyslop. Blackwell Publishing, 1996. Adapted by da solomon.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Police Business

The gunshots could scarcely have been surprising to the trio of erstwhile investigators, but nevertheless the resounding cracks of four distinct reports sent a shudder into each of their spines.

In a moment one of the police officers jogged from the front door. "You two" – he was pointing at Thelonius and Henri – "stay where you are!" He went directly to number 19, from which the song had been playing, and banged on the door with his fist. A final lyric flowed from the house to the outside world – I'm glad that you're sorry now . . . – and the door opened. Without wasting a second, the officer proclaimed that it was a matter of police business, and pushed his way inside.

In his moment of panic, the gunman had made the fatal mistake of firing at the officers. Though his shot had gone wild, the policemen had responded as one would expect and shot him down. It was a matter of minutes before the ambulance and two squad cars arrived, and all three, Thelonius, Cati, and Henri, were sequestered under separate streetlights. From their vantages on the curbsides, they watched groups of blue and white clad men rush into the house, and a few more minutes passed before two ambulance drivers carted Ramanuja and then another person into the ambulance. Ramanuja was clearly alive, lolling his shoulders about on the stretcher, but the other man – probably Gerloch – was likely dead now.

Shortly Delaney arrived on the scene and, after spending some time in Gerloch's home, set to personally taking statements from the dressmaker, the photographer, and the dilettante. Each one recounted a short version of the events in number 17 from his or her perspective and was summarily given a ride home. Seeing little use in interrogating a rabbit, Delaney saw fit to leave Peterchen in Henri's possession, and did not press any member of the trio too hard. Indeed, before opening his notebook to begin his official interview of Thelonius, he put his hand on the photographer's shoulder and said, "My bet's that when we do the work on that gun, we're going to find out that this is the fella who killed Margaret Whitcombe. Jones, I think that Indian monk owes the bunch of you his life."

III. 24 April, 1924
Henri awoke to the sound of the telephone ringing. Before he could muster the lucidity to fully open his eyes, his legs began the automatic process of taking him into the parlor to the phone. The world around him was still the same dim orange color as the inside of his eyelids when he pressed the receiver to his ear.

"Good morning, Mr. DuMonde. How are you feeling?" It was Delaney, and with a jolt Henri was taken back to the townhouse and to the blur of questions and police procedure that had taken place afterward. With these images in his mind, he opened his eyes fully and found that his own home looked strange to him, as though he had abandoned it long ago and was only now returning to it after an absence of years. Delaney congratulated Henri, and warned him: "No one's to say this is all wrapped up, so I don't want you types poking your noses into anymore trouble – and I already explained this to the young lady and Jones. That said," he continued, "I'm passing on a message from Mister Ramanuja. He'd like to thank you personally. Not for a few days, though – the docs're keeping him an eye on him. You might bring some flowers to him on the twenty-ninth, if you're that kind of guy. But my advice is to keep to the modest clothing business."

(For my purposes, please recount your character's statements to the police here. If you want to give the police anything, or tell them about any of your findings in particular, make it known here.

The next day is the 24th, and everybody receives a phone call from Delaney like the one above. He will be understandably very busy and unable to make time to answer queries, though he will leave his phone number with each of the characters, and a meeting could easily be set up with him for some later time.

Though the larger picture is still not entirely clear and Gerloch has been murdered, it is heartening to the investigators that they have had a hand in rescuing Ramanuja (and Peterchen, too). Sanity awards follow:
Thelonius: +4 sanity
Henri: +3 sanity
Cati: +2 sanity
Additional sanity awards will be made for both continuities shortly in the ooc blog.

This is also the end of the act. Skill awards follow:
Thelonius: +6 listen; + 5 German; +10! psychology; +3 spot hidden
Henri: +3 credit rating; +9 fast talk; +2 listen; +2 persuade; +1 sneak
Cati: +9 history; +6 listen; +8 locksmith; +6 spot hidden

I have, of course, been keeping track of your characters' skills, sanity, hit points, and everything. If you'd like to check your records against mine or just get an updated character sheet, let me know in an email.

At this point, we will have a short time skip. I had thought to conduct the whole thing as a gloss, but that seemed to me to be depriving you all of opportunities to investigate and conspire. So, during the skip, characters may contact one another, meet to discuss clues, or investigate things further through other routes. I suggest that phone contact between characters either be glossed over or composed via email, and that other actions – library research, building a rabbit hutch on one's veranda, dropping a line to an old friend in the department of Folklore at Columbia University, enrolling in a German course, or delivering a vial of ectoplasm to Spider – be initiated in your own blogs. Please feel free to ask me anything over email.

When you are ready to meet Ramanuja at St. Lawrence on the twenty-ninth, make a post to that effect in your own blog. When everyone has done so, we will pick up from there.)