51: The Great Egyptian Bake Off

Crimson burn’d the star of sadness
 As behind the beams I peer’d;
All was woe that seem’d but gladness
 Ere my gaze with truth was sear’d;
Sarcophagus, mir’d with madness,
 Thro’ the fever’d flick’ring leer’d.

Now I know the fiendish fable
 That the golden glitter bore;
Now I shun the spangled sable
 That I watch’d and lov’d before;
But the horror, set and stable,
 Haunts my soul for evermore.

“Astrophobos” by HP Lovecraft, 25 November 1917


A secret sarcophagus followed by dinner with Omar Shakti!

Decision time. An unusual and unexpected spark of inspiration suddenly lights the eyes of Simon Grand:

Simon: “The sarcophagus! Gardener said he couldn’t work out how it moved! It must have gone down! Maybe there is another entrance there? Got to be worth a go, old girl?”

Trixie and Simon fly back to the RAF airfield. There they are reunited with Gupta and Natalja. Back at the hotel, Irma discovers that the Al-Hati restaurant in Shariya where Shakti wants to meet Gupta is nearby. It is a high-class establishment, well-known throughout Cairo. Trixie and the others make their way back to the hotel. It is 6pm and the planned meeting is at 8pm. Not much time to make a decision.

Sprech, Gardener and Broadmoor enter the hotel.

Broadmoor: “Oh god I need a drink!”

Sprech’s Lueger can be seen in its holster and a wild look in his eyes:

Sprech: “Your flying colleagues here saved us! Clive and Winfield went crazy and tried to kill us! Hexen! Kultisten! Sie sind wahnsinnig! Und jetzt sind sie tot! Abgeknallt!”

What Simon has already deduced begins to dawn on Gardener, too:

Gardener: “There could be a chamber where the sarcophagus was. It was fiendishly disguised. It was just like part of the wall. The secret entrance was already there!”

6.30pm. Following some fevered discussions about the sarcophagus and the rendezvous with Shakti, the investigators decide to take up Shakti’s invitation to meet Gupta Singh at the restaurant. There are great risks involved, for the invitation is without doubt a trap, but there is something irresistible that accompanies the opportunity to hear the madman’s justification for his insane plan. After all, the global spiderweb of the cult of Nyarlathotep has been thwarted and this meeting will present Omar Shakti with the chance to speak the last words of the monstrous undertaking before it is consigned to oblivion.

In preparation, the investigators cast Skin of Sedefkar and Myles, Gupta, Joe, Irma and Trixie go to the restaurant ahead of the allocated time.

At the restaurant, there are no other tables available, but Gupta takes a look at the booth where he will be meeting Shakti. Myles persuades some diners to give up their table, to go to the club. They are a reluctant French family but Myles charms them with his ready wit and smattering of French.

Otherwise, the restaurant is chiefly occupied by all-male groups of Egyptians. The sharply attired, discrete waiter, in possession of all the airs and graces of his counterparts in the likes of the Ritz, the Savoy or Claridges:

Concierge: “Monsieur, may I take your bag?”

Gupta: “No, I have something I wish to show Mr Shakti in here.”

Donelly and Irma go down to the downstairs toilets to check for any lurking cultists before Joe returns to check the kitchens. Irma stays in the toilets, intending to return at the time of the meeting.

A limousine arrives. A mildly portly man in a fez with a fancy tie and a flower arrives. He has a small case, like a musical box.

Gupta: “Hello Mr Shakti! How are you Sir? You had a lovely villa, if I may say so. How is the cult of the Black Pharaoh? And Queen Nitocris? So sorry we broke her girdle. I think you would agree we have been making a bit of a nuisance of ourselves. But please tell me: What is it you would like to discuss with me?”

Omar Shakti’s expression does not change, but he radiates a presence that exudes a derisive power, placing all within his aura to the status of transparent, superficial insignificance:

Shakti: “Good evening Mr Singh. You and I, we have two perspectives in common. We are experiencing freedom. And have experienced death. But first, let me be clear. I know your colleagues are here and what their intention is. Of course, you don’t think I would come here unprepared, Mr Singh, do you? My servants have kidnapped children at a number of secret locations around the city. Even I do not know where they are. If I do not give a signal at the appropriate time, they will be tortured and murdered in the most cruel and terrifying manner imaginable. And if their lives are of no value to you, please be aware of this. You know what I have in this box? A brush. I need to just utter some words and you will be rendered to dust. And I will use this brush, obtained from Winfield, to sweep your ashen remains under the carpet. So now we have the formalities out of the way, let us now discuss the wider issues. You and I have much in common, Mr Singh. Our cultures know some truths of the world, the deeper truths of the universe. I was a boy when I saw my first invader. A barbarian with blond hair. Alexander the Great. I was infuriated. I learnt of the Cult of the Black Pharaoh and I waited. More invaders came. Then the Franks and then the Angles came. I decided to learn the language of the enemy and rise up against the invaders.”

Gupta: “I understand your anger but why does Nyarlathotep want this.”

Shakti: “The outer gods command Nyarlathotep and their will is chaos. Which he enacts. So we cannot comprehend his aims. I have strode this world for centuries but this is nothing compared to him. That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die.  Do not concern yourself with what may happen here. But do not presume to act against me or the brotherhood in any way whatsoever. This has been prophesied. And was indeed your doing. The bright star. The supernova: It was your fault. Your hand put these events in motion. Don’t you see? You and your colleagues have great power. Why do you want to save these people? I have been to Akhan and my master has brought me to life.”

Gupta: “But you are just a toy in the hands of Nyarlathotep. You have no free will. What is this?”

Shakti: “And you? What does that make you? I have seen beyond the veil of these hedonists and perceived a deeper truth.”

Gupta: “A deeper truth? I heard this before. It is just bullshit. But it has been nice to meet you.”

Shakti: “This evening you are free to sleep. And then you must leave for the Mediterranean.”

Gupta waves for the others to come over.

There is a brief stand-off. The investigators, Joe and Irma join Gupta and Shakti. Irma sits next to Shakti and fires his death ray at him from point blank range.

Irma: “We don’t negotiate with cultists!”

Shakti’s eyes glow red:

Shakti: “Kill him! Kill Bloomberg!”

Joe produces his death ray and aims it slowly towards Bloomberg, Gupta grapples him and tries to aim the death ray at Shakti. Shakti tries something else on Irma:

Shakti: “You fool you will lose your mind!”

Irma drops his gun and pathetically tries to bite Shakti’s hand! Gupta overpowers Joe and fires the death ray at Shakti. The blast would have obliterated any other human.

Shakti: “Argh! Kill them!”

He shouts in Arabic.

If it wasn’t so dangerous it would be farcical. Irma continues to try and bite Shakti’s hand. Guards with knives attack. Myles drops one like a sack of spuds with the death ray. Screams, food goes flying. Gupta’s meze is all across the table. So is Shakti’s soda. Irma scrambles limply in Shakti’s oven baked lamb and continues to try and bite his hand. Suddenly Irma is blasted back fourteen feet. Trixie fires her death ray at Shakti and blasts him in the chest. He’s taken three hits so far and is in pain. Myles drops another cultist. Gupta squeezes the trigger of Joe’s death ray and it strikes Shakti: He drops face down into his food. The cultists are astounded. One of them drops his knife, another runs for the door. Trixie wings him, he makes it through the door as the chauffeur runs in.

Cultist: “The master! Protect the master!”

He charges towards Shakti. Trixie guns him down.

Trixie: “Boys, I think there is a car outside for us.”

We lift Shakti and carry him out. His ankh and sceptre have turned to sand. Gupta and Trixie help carry Irma. Out on the street, a rolls Royce is waiting. The investigators take it, Gupta driving. It takes a while to get the bodies in the car and more cultists attack. Myles blasts them with his trench gun:

Myles: “Back, you fools!”

Gupta fires his Tommy gun at two more cultists charging across the street and takes out one of them in a spray of lead. The other charges towards Trixie but a blast from Myles’ trench gun eliminates him. Before taking out another one:

Myles: “Why do you chaps not listen?” he says in his perfect Arabic.

Gupta starts the car and races away avoiding two cultists who try to jump on the roller. Crowds of cultists appear from alleyways, some with rifles but they are unable to stop the investigators who race off through the crowded streets. Omar Shakti is dead. No pulse. His eyes are wide open. But his body is still protected.

Irma gradually regains consciousness, he tries to eat the seat in front of him and has to be restrained. He has lost his mind. Shakti withstood three blasts of a death ray before dying. Phenomenal.

The remainder of the Clive Expedition wants to help us.

Agatha: “We must help you! They must be stopped!”

Joe: “Can you help us get in to the underground chamber?”

Agatha: “Perhaps. It is difficult. I will help you: I will do what I have to do. I have to try? It is my purpose. If there is a city below, I can help! I can read hieroglyphs! Alas, I cannot speak Demotic. Clive knew some of this, and now I know why!”

Joe: “What are we going to do with Shakti’s body?”

Simon: “Feed it to the leeches?”

We disguise ourselves as archaeologists and head back to the site of the Clive expedition to seek entrance to the underground city. Two trucks and one car depart. It is night, but the roads are good. Irma regains his senses:

Irma: “Wh-wh-what happened?”

His temporary insanity was strange compulsive eating.

After a short drive the investigators and co. arrive at the site. The investigators look at the site before equipping themselves with miner’s helmets and “heavy machinery” and “mining tools” in large, inconspicuous bags before entering the tunnel…

Journal Wesley
Journal Wesley

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