Sunday, May 13, 2018

Musgrave Adventure: The Missing Musgrave

One fine day - August the 4th, 1937, to be precise - Lady Evangeline Musgrave received a letter from her husband, Lord Geoffrey Musgrave.

Lady Evangeline Musgrave is a “reformed” tomboy who secretly yearns for the life of adventure she used to have with her husband, before their families put their foot down and forced her to stop adventuring and stay home to care for her daughter, Veronica. She still has some of her old skills, especially that of linguistics.

Her daughter, Veronica, never knew her mother to adventure, and grew up as a True Believer in aristocracy, the Upper Class, and Being British In General. She takes her role as the daughter of a lord seriously, though she looks down on "common people," much to her parents' disapproval. She is studying to become a nurse. While she inherited her mother’s good looks (and improved on them, to most accounts), she doesn’t believe a word of the stories her parents tell of mystical, magical artifacts.

The two were summoned by Geoffrey to visit the latest dig he was heading; he, his best friend (and idle rich) Desmond St Price, an investor named Hardy Fenton, and the German construction expert, Gerhard Stein, had uncovered what Geoffrey believed was a lost treasure, of the goddess Wurt! Hardy's two daughters were arriving by way of an airship, the Graf Zeppelin, to arrive in Frankfurt on the 10th of August, and he hoped his daughter and wife could meet them.

Josephine Fenton - Jo to all but the “stuffy grownups” - is Hardy Fenton's youngest daughter. She has the soul of an outdoorsman, and tends to trust her luck over skill. Her curiosity and stubborn nature frequently cause trouble for the siblings, but Jo sticks by her sister no matter what.

Francis Fenton, the elder sister of Josephine, is the more level-headed of the two Fenton siblings. Charismatic and smart, Francis has a very inquisitive nature. Though he has a habit of retelling war stories he’s heard… which may be a problem in Germany. Even so, he is always willing to help those in need.

Desmond St Price's daughter, and friend of Veronica, is Penelope St Price. Where Veronica is ladylike and polite, Penelope is strong, agile, and skilled with sword and gun alike. Her combination of a big mouth and insatiable curiosity frequently get the two girls in trouble.

...Though not as much trouble as Cuthbert Trillicker. Known as “Bertie” to his friends, and “that troublemaker” to nearly everyone else, young Bertie is the charge of his cousin Penelope and Uncle "Dizzy". Even though he is but the tender age of 8, he is still a formidable fighter.

And last but not least, Piper Ubend, son of Gregory Ubend, has worked for the Musgraves his entire life. Fast on his feet, and faster with a wrench, Piper can repair almost anything that moves, and quite a few things that don’t. Not only that, but Piper can drive and pilot with some of the best, though his overconfidence and big mouth can sometimes lead him astray.

The women, plus Bertie and Piper, traveled from London by plane, landing in Frankfurt. The next day, the Fenton sisters arrived, introducing themselves to the Musgraves and St Prices. Bertie, of course, plied them with many questions about their amazing trip on a floating airship.

Together, they traveled by train to the south, but when they arrived in Kößlarn [Kosslarn], Lady Musgrave found a telegram waiting for her. It warned that her husband had gone missing! Furthermore, it suggested that she return home, and let the authorities deal with it. Of course. Lady Musgrave would have none of that. She immediately checked into her hotel, where poor Penelope and Francis were put to bed - neither agreed with travel by air or train. The next morning, Lady Musgrave, Veronica, Jo, and Bertie headed to the police station (Piper remained at the hotel, to keep an ear out for any information).

Inside, Lady Musgrave insisted on meeting a Walter Böhm, the signer of the telegram. In a moment, a laconic figured strolled out, leaning on the counter. In broken English, he explained to Lady Musgrave that he was in charge of the investigation into the disappearances. He had been alerted to the vanishing of the men when a worker, employed by Herr Stein, had come to the camp and found it empty. Again, he suggested the womenfolk leave the investigation work to the authorities.

Meanwhile, Bertie discovered some pre-chewed bubble-gum and a 5-Reichsmark banknote under a bench. Jo's investigation was a little more fruitful - she found a poster that seemed important. Showing it to Lady Musgrave, they learned that it was a warning from Hitler himself; any treasures, artifacts, or historical findings were property of the Third Reich.

Back at the hotel, Bertie taunted the poor elevator operator to tears, and managed to get to push the buttons. After a quick meeting, they decided to first go shopping (for supplies, food, and a new machete for Jo, among other things), then found a taxi and went to the base camp, with Bertie spitting out the window, naturally.

At the dig, Bertie found the supply tent, and lifted two shovels; the ladies found a calendar, with the dates crossed off until the 9th, and a strange set of runes written on it, then circled: ᚹᚢᚱᛞ. A note to Lady Evangeline clinched it - Geoffrey thought he was double-crossed by a certain captain, and was setting out with his friends and workers to finish the dig at night. Jo found tracks leading from the camp - one group of leather work shoes, and a second group of jack-booted soldiers. They followed the footprints until they found the old ruins, pictured in the original letter; the soldier's footprints split off, as if searching, while the other footprints lead to a hidden cave.

Trying to hide their own footprints, Lady Veronica carefully scratched each out with a stick... until Jo sent her into the cave, and brushed the trail with a branch, doing a much better job. Veronica shuddered at the damp cave, but followed. Inside, they discovered a natural exit at the back of the cave, and continued deeper in - though the passage turned to worked stone, with a well-made archway overhead before long. On one side of the passage, a set of runes were all but illegible, worn down by age.

They followed the passage, taking the turns indicated by the runes in the letter. Behind them, the German soldiers found the cave, and began filing inside. As the reached the end, they could hear the soldiers being ordered into the various side passages, followed by sharp screams... it seems the wrong passages were very wrong indeed.

At the end of the passage was a room, filled with natural light from above; a single plinth stood at the end of the room, with a rather plain rock perched on it. While the others looked around, Jo found a footprint, and scrape marks; it seems there may be a hidden door somewhere! Searching for a key, she looked closely at the rock on the plinth. Acting on a hunch, she tried to turn it to the right... nothing. Switching hands, she cranked it to the left, and it suddenly shifted with a clunk! A grinding sound echoed through the room, then suddenly the entire floor tilted! As Bertie and Lady Musgrave slid down, Jo quickly tossed a hook around the plinth. Veronica tried to grab her hand, but slipped past. The two women and Bertie slipped down a clay-covered slide; at the bottom, they called up that it was safe. Giving the plinth a twist, Jo leaped into the hole as the floor slammed shut.

Bertie, ignoring the clay and mud on his clothing, began digging happily in the mud, and uncovered a pocket watch - Geoffrey's pocket watch, in fact! Moving on, they found four bowls - ceremonial alters, in fact. Lady Musgrave recognized the names: Wuotan, Donar, Nerthus, and Wurt.

Nerthus is also known as Mother Earth; Bertie heaped a shovelful of mud into the bowl, and it spun downward; the offering was a success! Wuotan, otherwise known as Odin, was offered a limerick (complete with dirty words), again by Bertie, and again it was accepted. Third was Donar, aka Thor; Bertie, hearing that he was the god of oak (among other things), tossed a burning torch onto the bowl. It seemed to be accepted, and the bowl once again sunk down and was covered. Finally, for Wurt, or Wyrd, the goddess of Fate, Bertie offered a single flip of a coin - change, from when he purchased some brass knuckles. As the coin spun in the bowl, it too slowly sank down. And then, the whole bank of bowls sank down into the ground!

Behind the bowls, a diffuse glow hid what was behind... as the four stepped through... they found themselves in a walled garden, outside! Behind them, there was nothing but a blank wall. Bertie immediately stepped forward, squirming out from Veronica's grasp, and darted aroudn the tree in the center of the garden. A woman with long, dark hair and a simple robe greeted him. "Hey! Who are you?" Bertie demanded.

The woman merely smiled. Bertie, seeing the cards in her hands, asked what they were for. "Oh... I can do a few tricks, I suppose."

Bertie, of course, was eager to see. The first trick - the woman tossed a card into the air, and it turned into a butterfly! Bertie... was unimpressed. He asked for a different trick. With a laugh, the woman asked for Bertie to pick a card. He pulled one - the Ace of Spades, she guessed, correctly. Scoffing, he pulled another. "Ace of Spades." Correct, again; confused, Bertie checked the card already in his hand. Huh. Tossing the other aces over his shoulder, he pulled a third card. Also an ace of spades! Finally impressed, Bertie asked about other games. "Oh... you will see, my child."

Meanwhile, the ladies looked a little further. On the other side of the garden, a cage held... the menfolk! Geoffrey, Desmond, Hardy, and Stein! However, the bars on their cages were too strong to bend, and there didn't seem to be any locks to pick. They turned to the woman, as three men came through the wall...

One was a man in a black leather outfit, complete with flowing cape and snazzy cap, and SS label on his sleeves. Beside him was the man on the poster - Captain Böhm! The third man was a very confused looking soldier. The woman clapped her hands, and between them, a chessboard grew - well, technically a Draughts board. On one side, the three Nazis. On the other, the four adventurers. Lady Musgrave stepped forward, tossing a knife at the SS officer - a hit! Jo followed up with an ax, another hit! The SS officer was looking pretty bad from the start. Bertie, too, tried firing a stone from his slingshot, but fired wide.

The SS agent fired and missed; the captain stepped forward, firing and missing; the soldier charged forward as well, firing at Evangeline, but the bullet glanced off her corset. He charged, his bayonet forward, but Evangeline dodged to the side, and coolly pulled her derringer. One shot later, and the soldier fell to the ground, a smoking hole in his chest. Jo slashed at the captain with her machete, but missed.

Jo, meanwhile, was joined by Bertie, charging the captain; he fired at Jo, but the bullet only grazed her arm. Bertie struck out with his knife, leaving a gash in his leg; Jo stepped back, took aim with her throwing ax, and sank the blade right between his eyes.

The SS officer fired wildly, missing Evangeline. Striding forward, she held out her derringer and fired. With a gasp, the SS officer fell to his knees...

The sound of applause sounded behind them; as they turned, the Draughts board vanished, as did the bodies of the Nazis. Behind her, the iron cages bent and twisted, becoming no more than simple bushes. Lady Fate (for, obviously, that was who she was) thanked the four for their help, and accepted the abashed apologies from the men. "The artifacts I protect are not meant for mortal men. But, what I have, I will share. For one, if ever you need assistance... call on me."

With a gesture, a door opened in the wall. Bertie, remembering the coin he offered, asked if, perhaps, he could have it back? With a wink, Lady Fate tossed him a coin. Not the single reichsmark coin he had tossed in, but a much larger coin... made of gold!

Heading out the door, the eight stepped into early morning light. Behind them, the four workers Stein brought stepped out, confused - they had stepped into the light behind the altar, and stepped out having lost four days!

Spotting a lone German officer guarding a car, Bertie dashed over, and immediately began making fun of him. Shaken by the sight of a British child waving a bloody knife and shouting, the guard nearly swallowed his cigarette. When eleven more figures stepped out, holding throwing axes, knives, guns, and other weapons... he quickly agreed to give them a ride to town.

On the flight back to London (with the Fentons, who cordially accepted the offer to stay for a while), the families caught up; Geoffrey, finding himself in the garden, first attempted to gather the items Lady Fate was guarding, and in trade found himself captured. However, it was the captain and the SS officer who posed the greatest threat. While Geoffrey merely wanted to collect the items for a museum, the Nazis, it seems, were under the impression the items were, in fact, weapons.

What further adventures await our adventuresome companions? Only time will tell!