Red Sands

Rich and Famous? (17th October 1888)
17th October 1888

A couple of days later they were gathered in one of the smaller meeting rooms of the Explorers Society, along with Professor Grant and Professor Bottoms- a person of some standing within the Society. Also present was a smartly dressed man who said little, who was introduced simply as Mr. Blacke.

Bertie had been buzzing away since their return, and had even drafted a Press Release (complete with crayon drawings)which he had handed to the Society representative who had greeted them upon their return.

He had been regaling them of his impending millionaire status.

“Old Biffo MacGuffin at the Loafers Club introduced me to a splendid chap-for only twenty quid- to this cove called Manny Slobdovorovich: I think he’s Scotch or something.” he crowed. “Anyway for only another thirty quid he sorted it all out for me, and I now have EXCLUSIVE mining rights on any or all diamonds for a period of five years, from the Moon. I’m going to be vastly rich fellows. WooHoo! Quaff the Mead and ring the bells and all that! What?”

“Anyway I’ve got a certificate and everything.” he paused. “Though the ink’s started to run a bit.” He was interrupted as Professor Bottoms called the meeting to order.

“I am glad to welcome you all back safe and sound….” he started. Bertie started to doze, and was only jolted awake by the clipped tone of Mr. Blacke speaking.

“And so,” he concluded, "I must impress upon you all the importance, in terms of National Security, of maintaining a discrete silence on these matters as regards the Press and the public.

“Professor Grant’s colleague Professor Stone has been working closely with Her Majesty’s Navy on a closely related project, and it is simply NOT in the National Interest for details of these matters to leak out. I take it that I have made it absolutely clear how vital a matter this is for us, and the possible consequences if you were injudicious in this regard?”

There were murmers of assent. “Oh Rahterrr!” agreed Bertie, wondering what on earth he was talking about. “And what’s up with her?” he thought, glancing at Lady Glossop. ""She looks as though she’s swallowed a live jellyfish or something."

“Very well. Some details of the Luna matter will be leaked out, and I have no doubt you will garner some small notoriety for your part in it. The matter, will, however, be handled delicately by ourselves. As loyal subjects of the Crown, you must be sure to also play your part.”

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Farewell to Luna (14th October 1888)
14th October 1888

It was two days hard climb to get back up the canyon to their own flyer, though by this time they had mostly grown accustomed to the lighter gravity, and their ascent was somewhat easier. After another nights rest, the Professor and Marko repaired the Ether Governer, and they were ready to set off.

This time Sebastian forbade Lady Glossop from taking the helm; she was after all still somewhat injured, and in the circumstances it was probably for the best that the Professor did the honours.

He did a good job however, and with Marko operating as Trimsman they ascended from the chasm without incident, and when the Ether Governer was activated they headed off towards Earth.

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Gunfight at the Grand Chasm (11th October 1888: 2 am)
11th October 1888: 2 am

With a potential way back home now, the group did not cease in their pursuit. Their path was more direct now, and this route too had previously been marked by Tereshkovitch, this time with three horizontal scorings.

In one cavern Marko had noticed a rope or wire climbing up a wall. Gathering closer to examine it there had been a terrific explosion, and when the dust settle they were astonished to find that nobody had been hurt. Nearby they found a detached explosives plunger box, and Henry thought he heard the skittering of a Selenite moving off in the distance. Clearly Tereshkovitch and receieved warning, and was prepared.

Another cable was seen in the next cavern, but this time they gave it a wide berth and there was no effect. Pre-warned of the danger now, they manged to avoid several similar devices. It was clear to the Professor that these must have been long prepared by Tereshkovitch- possibly as some sort of precaution in case the Selenites ever rebelled.

Taking only short breaks of half an hour or so the group persisted in their pursuit, and early in the morning were rewarded by the green glow of the Chasm directly ahead. Lady Glossop motioned the others to stop, and crept ahead to look out of the end of the passage.

Ahead of her was a wide shelf some fifty yards wide, with several tall rocks obscuring her view in various places. Behind a smaller set of rocks, Tereshkovitch was staring straight at her with his burning eyes.

“Ah my little Passion flower!” he sneered, “You come to seek me again, yes?” In his hands was something which looked rather like a blunderbus. With very few options, she decided to dash ahead for better cover.

Unfortunately she was not quite fast enough, and the Russian discharged his weapon, which shot a strange white ray directly at her, causing her to stiffen and cry out with the bitter cold which had enveloped her. As she tried to move her head downwards she saw that her limbs were festooned with long icicles: she was a sitting duck.

At the cry from Lady Glossop the others rushed into the cavern, but Tereshkovitch too yelled something and half a dozen Selenites emerged from behind the rocks with their Martini Henrys.

The Selenites were in superior cover, but the rate of fire of the groups weapons was superior, and as the Selenites attempted to reload one or more of them was inevitably hit. The cold was taking a terrible toll on the immobile Lady Glossop, and Henry again was wounded, to the point where he was barely standing.

With his strange Cold Death Ray Weapon Tereskovitch continued to be a major menace, until finally Henry managed to hit him twice in the chest with consecutive shots from his Winchester. He staggered back towards the brink.

“You Fools!” he screamed, “You have not heard the last of me!” and then he stumbled backwards, and fell with a wail.

As the last of the Selenites fell Sebastian rushed forward to the chasm, mindful that the bag of diamonds was their only way off the Moon. Some thirty feet below him was another wide shelf, but the walls and floor of this were thickly covered by a mat of the glowing ,corrosive green fungus. Up to his shoulders in this was Tereshkovitch, one arm pawing madly at the fungal carpet even as it started to burn his skin, and the other reaching upwards in a final gesture of hatred and despair.

“I vil…..” he screamed, and then he was gone. One clawed hand lay emergent for a moment, before this too sank into the slimy mat.

“Blast and Damn!” exclaimed Sebastian. “There go the bloody diamonds!”

“Not to worry matey!” said Bertie jovially. “There’s a camp over here-and the Russkie left his bag with the diamonds in it. We can be orf after a good night’s kip after all!”

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Revolution! (10th October 1888: 12 pm)
10th October 1888: 12 pm

They were led to a small circular cavern, with half dozen armed guards left to watch them. Their wrists however, were unbound.

“Those diamonds he has will do the trick for repairing the Ether Propeller Governor.” said Professor Grant. “Tereshkovitch must be pretty far gone or he’d see that those diamonds are badly flawed. Not worth a great deal for the lot, but the big one will get us back to Earth.”

“And if we can get some of these critters to lead us back out of this maze to the gorge,” he continued enthusiastically, “We’re in business. We’re home free if we can get rid of Tereshkovitch!”

“Just one minor problem first Professor” said Sebastian, " We’re prisoners and helpless. We’d probably get shot to pieces."

As he spoke he eyed curiously one of the Selenites, which seemed to have moved closer towards them. Fascinated he watched its mandible -like mouthparts, and then suddenly realised with a start that it was speaking to him -in atrociously Russian accented English.

“Kyou klar not kuman like k’Doctor?”

“Ah yes, yes Human!” responded Sebastian. “But not naughty, naughty bad Russian Human like Doctor. We … er Big Pukka good English Humans. Enemies of Bad Doctor.”

The Selenite nodded, and explained that his name was K’chuk- a “retainer of knowledge,” a specific subgroup of Selenite devoted to the pursuit of knowledge through memorization. He had therefore able to pick up much of the English language from Tereshkovitch, who speaks it occasionally, as well as Russian, and he had learned to read the various books the Russian had in his retreat.

“Retainer of knowledge eh, What?” said Bertie. “That make’s you big Bongo Bongo Wampum Chiefy eh? More important fellow, What?”

“All Selenites in Community equal” said K’chuk. “But Retainer of Knowledge special equal. Mad Doctor not notice this -he too consumed with shiny rocks and not know I understand him and you.”

K’chuk explained that he had no quarrel with the Captives, and was simply following orders. The Doctor , he explained, had been a benefactor to K’chuk’s community at first. He gave them improved techniques for growing fungus, which freed drones to work in the mines. This had proven to be hard and dangerous work however, and after several drones had died as a result, the rest refused to continue the work.

Tereshkovitch left and then returned with rifles, armed a group of Selenites, and seized power. The Selenites he armed are all former custodians, and he appealed to their sense of duty to the community as a whole. The mine would produce stones which Tereshkovitch would trade to the first Earthmen who came to visit to receive technological devices which would further improve the Selenites’ lot.

“I not now believe this " continued K’chuk, “I not like way Doctor do things, but no other thing to be done.”

“I think Doctor lie. He fix machine and go- not care about Selenites and come back with more men with guns.”

“Yes, yes. Bally Russkies” agreed Sebastian. “That’s what he’ll do no doubt. Not the British way at all-my, er Tribe, would never behave like that. We would be friends to the Selenites.”

“British Tribe good?” queried K’chuk.

“Oh yes absolutely” said Sebastian. Back home we’ve helped lots of er, poorer Tribes to become Richer. We’re jolly good at it." The Selenite paused and looked at him.

“I help you maybe. Doctor go off with Guards to find machine, but he be back maybe tomorrow. He leave maybe 20 Guards here. If you help overcome them I, as Retainer of Knowledge, will be able to turn others against bad Doctor. Then we friends and I help you go home.”

Having no other option, the group briefly agreed. K’chuk went back to his Guard Post, and then leveling his rifle, shot his fellow guard at point blank range.

“Eh? What’s going on?”asked the Professor, while Marko charged straight at one of the otehr surprised Guards, and with a powerful right cross punched him-and his fist punched clear through the Selenites body with a sickening crunch-the lighter gravity seemingly magnifying his strength enormously. Sebastian and Henry mobbed another, as it jabbed ineffectually back with its bayonet.

The remaining two Guards managed to get a single shot off and were then overwhelmed, the speed of the captives rush taking them completely by surprise. The group armed themselves with rifles and bayonets, and rushed on through the caverns, following K’chuk.

As they rushed through the village they faced opposition from a dozen more armed Selenites, but these were initially disorganised and half of these fell to the groups determined assault. The remaining hald dozen managed to put up a thin firing line, but the closed terrain and superior marksmanship of the Earthmen caused them too to fall, though not without causing some wounding to Henry.

“Not far now” said K’chuk. “We must hurry. They get better organised now.” And so it proved.

As they approached the Russian’s den they entered a small maze of narrow tunnels and small cavelets, which had a bottleneck effect on the groups advance. The remaining Selenites put up a stiff defence, badly wounding Henry and Marko. Finally however they recognised the wood panelled door which led into Tereshkovitch’s retreat, but this time it was empty-and the bag of diamonds had gone.

Down another corridor was another paneled room,and in this Lady Glossop sat gagged and tied to a chair. She was somewhat disheveled, and was close lipped about her experiences. There were first aid supplies however, and most of the groups weaponry and gear was found dumped in a corner. The group paused and discussed their options.

“Village safe now, we have all guns” said K’chuk. “But villager he say when shooting start messenger sent off to Doctor. He smart man-he know what happens.”

“That can’t be helped K’chuk old chap” said Sebastian. “We’re going after him anyway. He has what we need to make our ship work.”

K’chuk also explained that the groups wanderings had led them to the Selenite Village the long way round: there was in fact a more direct route, which would take them back to the gorge close to Tereshkovitch’s flyer.

Bidding their farewells and shouldering their gear, the group fled off in pursuit.

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Captured! (10th October 1888: 10.30 am)
10th October 1888: 10.30 am

Sebastian, Henry and Marko moved on cautiously, exiting once again via an exit with three marks scratched in the wall. It was clear to all that their presence had been noted, and they were somehow being stalked.

After a short distance they noted that more of the small passages started to intersect with the tunnel they were following, entering at a height of between one and three feet, and at intervals of only ten to twenty feet. After a short distance they emerged in a a cave-cluster that was further honeycombed with the tunnels, in both walls and floor.

As they wound their way through the stands of fungi, Henry suddenly froze- he had spotted movement in the gloom ahead. He peered, and then hesitated in stunned amazement. faint clicking noises started to be heared all around them, and looking round other shadowy shapes could be glimpsed around them.

One of the shapes stepped slightly forward, revealing a hideous, six-legged alien creatures. The thing was roughly five feet long and stood about three feet tall from feet to head. It’s body was covered by a translucent, milky-white exoskeleton, and the face had two saucer-sized, multifaceted eyes and large, vertical mouths. Held in its front pair of arms was a Martini Henry rifle with fixed bayonet, and Henry could see its mouth parts move as it made a series of whines and clicking noises.

“Er, hello Old Boy. We appear to be a trifle lost” said Henry, and quietly asking the others “What do you think?”

“I count ten at least” replied Sebastian, “If they’ve all got rifles I don’t fancy the odds.”

“F…R..I…E…N…D….S old chap. Talkee English? Bantu? Swahili?” asked Henry.

“I say. I speak Latin and Greek if that’s any use old chap” said Bertie helpfully.

They placed their weapons on the floor, and half a dozen of creatures moved forward, to collect them: they also removed their other weapons. With their wrists bound behind them the three were marched off into the darkness.

The three were frogmarched on into two large spherical caverns. Placed inside them seemed to be numerous structures resembling giant beehives, made of some ceramic material. A large number of the moon creatures seemed to be busing themselves with a range of cryptic tasks, and a few were armed like their captors.

They were escorted along a series of passages to what seemed like an oak wooden door. A guard outside motioned them in, and to their surprise they they found themselves into a formal wood paneled study, complete with furniture, books and even a laboratory.

Sat on a sofa were Bertie, the Professor and Lady Glossop. A second door opened and a wild looking man walked in and seated himself at the desk. His hair and fingernails had grown quite long, and his complexion was pallid from lack of sunlight. He looked thin and sickly, but his eyes burned with the feverish energy of madness.

“You don’t know how happy I am to see you, Mr. Shaw” he announced, in English laced with a heavy Russian accent.

“Mr. Tereshkovitch I assume. Charmed I’m sure.” said Sebastian affably.

“Ah. The famous English manners.” said Tereshkovitch, acknowledging with a slight nod of the head. “I must aplogise for my appearance: as you no doubt stumbled across my ether flyer, it must be obvious that I have been stranded here for some time. I’m not exactly sure how long; the days are so hard to weasure down here.” He stopped and gestured around the room.

“Manners maketh the man, What?” guffawed Bertie, “At least that’s what old Doctor Wibberley used to say at my prep. school. Do you know…..”

“But why were you here in the first place?” asked Sebastian, cutting in. Tereshkovitch frowned.

“When I stumbled upon these caverns the first time, I was struck with the great riches here. Diamonds. Diamonds!’’ He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a black leather bag, dumping the contents onto the desk. There were about 50 diamonds, some huge.” The same thought about the Ether Governor flashed through each of their minds.

“Of course, I had to return to Earth to get further supplies.” continued Tereshkovitch. " I also found that these …Selenites were unwilling to work for me until I had some ‘muscle,’ if you will, to back me up. The rest of my crew wouldn’t cooperate, intending to ‘serve the Czar.’ I had to kill them, of course." He shrugged and gestured to the armed Selenite guards around him.

“Fascinating creatures, but their discovery alone would not make me rich, now would it?”

“You absolute Bounder, you Ruskie Dog!” exclaimed Bertie. Sebastian elbowed him and he doubled over.

“I say old chap, no need for us to be enemies.” said Sebastian smoothly. “We can help you, and you can help us. We can all come out of this happily, yes?”

Tereshkovitch giggled. He reached into a canister on his desk and grabbed a handful of gray fungus, shoving it hungrily into his mouth, “Oh, you’ll learn to adapt. It’s not that bad, really, and it’s all there is to eat.” Laughing softly, he continued, “You’ll have plenty of time to adapt, too. You see, you’ve given me a ticket back to Earth. I knew someday someone would come this way again, and I would be able to escape. I can’t have you running and telling tales now can I?”

Lady Glossop sat up, a pleading look in her eyes- and started to speak to Tereshkovitch in fluent Russian. When she had finished, he paused and scratched his chin.

“Wery well Lady Glossop, wery well. You have convinced me” he smiled. “I am sure you will make a most diverting travelling companion for my amusement.” He clapped his hands, and two of the Guards stepped forward and lifted Lady Glossop, carrying her outside the second door

“You absolute Hound, Tereshkovitch!” shouted Sebastian, “I’ll see that you pay for this!”

“Tut, tut Captain Shaw” laughed Tereshkovitch. "My guards are out searching for your ether flyer now. Once they find it, I’ll be on my way with my new….friend.

“The Selenites of course believe that I’ll return with more technological treasures for them; they are quite gullible. I shall leave you to puzzle out a way to make my excuses for me, eh?”

He scooped the diamonds back into his bag and shoved them into a pocket. “Au revoir, gentlemen.” Tereshkovitch then issued some clicking commands, and the guards led the group away.

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The Blue Globe (10th October 1888)
10th October 1888

The tunnel stretched for about 300 yards, and then entered a chamber about 50 feet in width. The chamber was circular, with a columned arcade around the sides. Under the arcade the ceiling was about 20 feet high, but in the center the shaft went up at least 100 feet. The walls were carved with a strange, almost hypnotic rippling pattern, and were shot with flecks of reflective material, perhaps mica.

Hanging from the ceiling by a long cord that was perhaps made of silk or some rubbery material was a a glassy globe approximately 2 feet in diameter. It was filled with a blue liquid that had white bubbles and froth moving about slowly inside. Slowly dripping from the bottom of the orb were drops of water (which seemed to be from condensation) which landed in a small basin in the center of the room. The basin was about 5 feet wide, and four feet deep. It looked about half full.

“What d’you think Professor?” asked Sebastian.

“I’m not sure” said Professor Grant. “But whoever made this chamber seems to have gone to some degree of care and attention. Possibly it has some communal significance?”

“Best not bag the blighter anyway, What?” said Bertie. “Might control all the bally air inside the blasted Moon for all we know.”

“If I take your meaning correctly Professor” interjected Henry,“You’re implying that there are, or were once, inhabitants capable of building this chamber if I’m correct?”

“That would seem an obvious conclusion” answered the Professor. “At the very least I should take a few measurements and we should get a few pictures of the place.”

The Professor was as good in his word, and the next ten minutes or so were spent as he paced about with his notebook, while Lady Glossop set up the camera, and the others occupied themselves with measuring the dimensions of the chamber.

Finally the Professor snapped his notebook shut, and then paused and looked around in some puzzlement.

“I say. Where the deuce has Lady Glossop disappeared to?” he enquired.

“Blarsted females. Just like bobbies: never around when you need ’em, what!” chipped in Bertie helpfully.

Henry looked round quickly: Lady Glossop’s pack was on the floor where she had presumably deposited it, and the camera was partially set up. Otherwise, there was no indication of what had happened. Motioning the others to gather their gear and follow, he started back down the corridor into the main cavern. As he cast about for some signs he noticed something gleaming-a button; presumably off Lady Glossop’s blouse. Possibly she had managed to drop it as a sign?

The group headed slowly through the cavern, the attention focused on the grounds looking for any further sign. So it was that they failed to notice the grazing bulk of another of the huge Lunar Caterpillers, this time even larger than the last.

As it rushed towards them Sebastian saw it only out the corner of his eye, and managed to fire off a couple of ineffectual shots as the thing reared up in front of him, crashing down with its huge bulk. Off to the side Marco and Henry poured gunfire into its side, managing to wound it severely, but the thing was just too stupid to flee.

Barely evading the thing Sebastian rolled away and scrambled to his feet, and the creature turned its attention to Marco, his shotgun now empty. Pulling out his machete the blade caught between the creature’s mandibles, and it snapped the metal like balsa wood. Marco jammed the blade fragment towards the thing’s huge eye, and then jumped back.

Finally a shot from Sebastian penetrated one of its eyes, and then sank deep into the creature’s head. With a terrific crash, it fell to the ground, and the cave was then silent.

“Er, where the Deuce has the Professor gone?” asked Bertie. They looked round. He had been standing near the right hand cave wall, and checking further they found his dropped revolver, and nearby a small oval shaped passage, near ground level, and perhaps only three feet in diameter. Checking nearby they noticed several similar passages.

After a brief discussion Bertie lit a torch, and a rope was tied round his ankle. Revolver in hand, he scrambled down the low tunnel in pursuit, the glow of the torch still visible even as he disappeared out of sight due to the curvature of the walls.

“Everything alright Bertie Old Man?” called Henry. There was no response. Hauling in the rope as quickly as they could they noted that it had been cut. Bertie too had vanished.

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Predator and Prey (9th October 1888)
9th October 1888

Just before 4 am, it was Sebastian who stood the final watch. He was awoken out of his semi slumber by what seemed to be a crashing noise beyond the tall fungal thicket they had set their camp against: they had found that some of the older and tougher fungal material burned reasonably well, and so they had started to build small fires when they camped, which gave the Ruhmkorff’s Apparatus a rest and cheered them up a little at least.

He just had time to shout out a warning before the source of the noise crawled from the far side of the thicket ahead of him, a mere seven or eight yards away. The thing somewhat resembled a giant caterpillar from what he could see, and its appearence was alarming.

A grayish-brown in colour and nearly three feet in diameter, it’s body appeared composed of multiple segments, ending in a large, dangerous looking head. The monstrous ace, currently directed toward Sebastian, had two bulbous, black eyes and a wide, gaping maw with a powerful pair of wicked looking mandibles.

“Hmmm… Discretion and all that….” though Sebastian in a flash, and yelling for everyone to awaken he put some clear distance between it and him, by rushing back into the main body of the camp.

It was Henry who opened his eyes first, and he caught a flash of multiple legs, and clicking mandibles rushing past him at high speed as the thing lumbered after Sebastian. Rolling away he scrambled to his feet several feet away, unarmed and bootless.

Others were scrambling up and fumbling for their weapons. Bertie grabbed a Winchester and scored a few hits to little effect. The thing reared up and crashed down its bulk smashing Lady Glossop sideways, but Bertie managed to jump backwards.

Henry’s rifle was somewhere beneath the beast’s bulk, and the pistol and carbine bullets of the firer’s seemed to have little effect. Once again however, Marko’s shotgun managed to blow a large hole in its side, and a foul smelling ichor started to pour out-much of it over their camp belongings. Henry had grabbed someone’s revolver from a nearby bedroll and he too was pumping bullet after bullet at the thing.

It raked his arm with one of its mandibles- but fortunately it was unable to catch a grip, as the arm would undoubtedly have been severed. Although badly wounded, the thing was too stupid to have any notion of tactics or retreat: probably something it had never had to do in its entire life.

Finally it did fall, it’s body crashing down with a terrific convulsion, and foul liquids poring from the large shotgun wounds in its side. While some members tried to retrieve their gear from the foul smelling mess, others had their wounds seen to by Henry.

Due to the stench they decided to vacate the camp early anyway, vowing to breakfast and wash what equipment they could as soon as they discovered another cave with a significant amount of water in it.

Around noon they entered a cavern which appeared at first glance to have pieces of broken crockery set along a portion of one wall. As they explored further they found examples of what appeared to be a variety of square ceramic “boxes” lining the walls, most of which had been smashed. Some of these had been moved slightly away from the walls, and near these were piles of spent Martini Henry cartridges scattered among the smashed porcelain.

As the explored they were quickly motioned down by Henry, who quietly said “Shhh.” Peering into darkness he had seen long vast shapes-more than one of them he thought-moving through the stands of tall fungus in the centre of the cavern, and illuminated by the strange purple blue crystals.

“I don’t fancy meeting more than one of those beasts. And it appears that our Russian friends might have had a little difficulty here.” he cautioned. As quickly and as quietly as they could, they circled the perimeter wall, until they found the reassuring sign of the three scratched marks.

Some hours later they found a cavern which seemed safe to rest in. This one had several smaller pools which might provide drinking water, and the clusters of fungi seemed suitably sparse and not so likely to hide the giant caterpiller creatures. Significantly this one had many more corridors leading out of the cavern than any they had encountered previously, and one of these was rather different in nature to any others they had encountered.

Unlike the other crevice like passages the tunnel entrance was set higher in the wall-at about two feet. The walls were perfectly smooth nd the passage proceeded in an exact straight line. To the party’s eyesit seemed to have been obviously machined or otherwise deliberately tunneled somehow. Closer inspection of the walls revealed scratch marks that seemed to be consistent with some sort of toothed cutting device.

They determined to explore it first thing the next morning, and making their fire just below the passageway, made camp for the night.

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Indigenous Wildlife (8th October 1888)
8th October 1888

As the group moved on the pattern of globular caverns, linked by rocky fissues repeated itself time and time again. The trail they were following turned always toward the right, and was constantly and gently spiralling downwards.

It was in one such cavern that they encountered the camp. It wasn’t much, just a pile of discarded food tins, and the ancient remains of a fire. This evidenced further proof that they were indeed on the trail of Tereshkovitch and his men.

In the gloom of the caverns they also spotted further evidence of Lunar life, fortunately this time not quite so aggressive. These giant “Lunar Moths” had a wingspan of some two feet, and a greyish-white fuzzy hide. Their wings glowed in the dark with strange, luminous patterns. As they observed the creatures seemed to feed on the lunar fungus, and were quite harmless, though they did seem attracted to the light cast by their Ruhmkorff’s Apparatus, and fluttered around Marko as he walked. As he shooed them away they scattered, but after a while their inquisitiveness would return, and they would continue to pester the party until they moved out of their feeding grounds.

Late in the afternoon they entered a large cavern (over 1000 yards in diameter) which was shaped like a flattened sphere. A pool of water roughly 200 yards across lays at it’s center, which was fed by a very slow dripping from the ceiling, in addition to multiple streamlets. At it’s center, on the ceiling above the pool (which was perhaps 250 yards up), a profusion of strange blue and lavender crystals hung from the ceiling. These crystals emitted a quiet, barely audible hum and glowed softly, illuminating the entire chamber.

The crystals were not easily accessible however, and it did not seem worth risking valuable bullets trying to bring one down, which would in all probability shatter them anyway. Taking a short break they moved on.

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Tunnel Worms (7th October 1888: 11 am)
7th October 1888: 11 am

The tunnel was two or three yards wide, and very gently sloped downwards. It seemed to be some sort of natural fissure, and a slight trickle of water rand both down the walls, and along the length of the passageway, in some locations pooling into slight depressions. In a few small puddles and grotto’s along the walls of the passageway, they were finally able to replenish their water supply.

As they moved onwards other passages joined, and others split off, but they were always guided by the series of three linear marks which had been scratched or chiseled into the stone.

After an hour or so the group finally emerged into a cavern. The cavern was very large, being some several hundred yards across, but what was most unusual was its spherical shape-almost as though a huge bubble had been blown inside the living rock. The sphere was not perfect however, as section s of the wall or ceiling had at some point broken away, and the effect was further obscured by formations of stalactites and stalagmites sprouting from the upper and lower surfaces of the caverns. Water too had played its role, and there were shallow channels carved in several places, and groups of shallow pools along the floor of the cavern. Mushrooms also grew in profusion here, and some of the specimens were huge- several times the height of a man.

“Most curious” said the Professor, “Possibly these were originally actually gaseous bubbles in the molten rock once. That might also explain the cracks, which could be fault lines which emerged as the system cooled down over the years”. Here he paused and with a small hand pick from his luggage, chipped off several samples of rock from various points of the wall.

Once again there were exits from the cavern, and one of these was again marked. Flowing this they hit several more caverns during the day- all of the same general bubble like shape, which seemed to add credence to the Professor’s theory. Their diameters did vary somewhat however, with the largest being perhaps 1000 yards across, and some were drier or wetter, depending on the volume of water tricking in from the surrounding passages.

It was after six, as far as they could estimate it, when they picked their way across a mid sized cavern, looking for a likely spot to make camp. Walking slightly ahead of the others (but still within range of the Professor’s Ruhmkorff Apparatus) he suddenly heard a chittering sound from somewhere in the darkness ahead of them.

“Hold on there’s…..”he turned and started to shout, before he was swamped by a horde of small flying shapes. As he dropped Molly and snatched at the things the cloud of shapes swirled onwards, also engulfing the Professor and Lady Glossop.

“Bats! Bats in my hair!” she screamed, and shrieked as the things flew at her an tore at her skin and cloths.

Not knowing what to do, Bertie stepped back and drawing his swordstick, skewered one of the things. Sebastian fired ineffectually with the Winchester he had borrowed from the professor’s armoury, but fortunately Marko was armed with the right weapon for the job.

There was a loud bang as he fired one barrel of the shotgun he was carrying, which tore a large hole in the cloud of creatures. A second retort from the other barrel did the same, and the remainder of the creatures shrieked off into the darkness, probably badly alarmed by the sound and smell of the weapon.

Several of the group within the cloud had suffered extensive cuts and tears, and their clothing was in a very sorry state indeed. More of their precious medical supplies were used.

Henry examined the corpse of one of the creatures, and in a vague way it was indeed bat like, especially with regard to the wings.

It’s claws however did not trail behind, and were something more akin to an eagles talons. Nor did they present the friendly ‘flying fox’ visage of the mammalian bat. Instead of large ears and eyes there were mere flaps of skin approximating to the eye locations, and there were a pair of knobbled skin areas on the head which the professor surmised were probably sensory organs of some sort. Their teeth were very sharp.

After they had recovered, they moved across the cavern until they found the exit with the three markings, before finally making camp for the night.

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A New Mystery Presented (7th October 1888)
7th October 1888

The climb down to the wreck was without incident. The examination however provided only further mysteries.

An investigation uncovered no bodies, but there were other factors which were very curious.First, many portions of the flyer had been hauled away, such as the furnishings and almost all of the electrical and mechanical equipment. The guts of most non removable mechanical systems had also been ripped out.

“Look at this” called Bertie from alongside the wreckage. Around one side of the vessel were several empty crates stamped with the name “Martini Henry”—each of the six crates once held rifles. Professor Grant was puzzled.

“Why would Tereshkovitch want 30 odd rifles? " he puzzzled. “He can’t have had more than half a dozen men in his crew.”

Where Tereshkovitch was now remained a mystery, but a broad descending section of the rock face below the ledge had been cleared of glow fungus, and led to a further platform a hundred or so feet below. Further caverns could be seen stretching off from it. Lowering Henry down he cast about for signs, and eventually determined that someone had scratched three linear marks aside one of the exits.

“I think they went this way” he pointed.

“A bit odd don’t ye’ think” commented Bertie. “What?”

“What do you mean?” growled Sebastian, who frankly had a low opinion of Bertie (and almost everybody else).

“Well I meant to say Old Chap.” responded Bertie. “There are plenty of cave entrances up here, What? Why didn’t they leave using one of those?”

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