Saturday, September 10, 2022

Pulp Cthulhu - The Two Headed Serpent (Bolivia Part #4)


Oz the All Knowing (Mystic / Entertainer) 
Zeke Broda (Grease Monkey / Mechanic)
Ivy Guinness (Outsider / Nurse) 
Nigel Thorne, VC, DSC (Thrill Seeker / Explorer)
Dr. Jayaprakash Singh, PhD, P.Eng (Scholar / Engineer)

March 18th - 23rd, 1933 

As the team ponders the preponderance of snakes, Nigel re-joins them after securing the truck. And they are likewise joined by the tardy Dr. Singh, their erstwhile companion on the flight down to South America. Several attempts are made to get past the snakes. Including Oz trying mass hypnotism, burning with a jerrycan of gas, and wild plans of laying a bed of tarpaulins across the snakes and simply walking over them. None of these are successful, so the team rigs up torches and uses them to force the snakes back and clear a path. This is successful, and the team finds the snakes thin out once they are around the bend in the tunnel. Further decent brings them to  an arched opening. It is plain on the near side, but is carved on the opposite side in the from of a pair of snakes whose heads meet at the top of the arch and point into the room beyond. Everyone notes the fist size green gems that form the snake's, but Ivy is the one who discovers the eyes start to glow is anyone breaks the plane of the entrance into the chamber.  In the large chamber beyond is a spiral structure which mirrors the corkscrew shape of the temple itself. At the top however there is a seat or throne on which a humanoid figure sits. Warry of the snake arch, Nigel and Zeke take pieces of canvas tarpaulin and cover the heads  before the party enters the chamber. Both are lucky to escape a blast of green light emanating from the eyes as they do so. 

Entering the chamber, the team crosses to the structure. It and the vaulted chamber are devoid of decoration. Nigel uses his binoculars to get a closer glimpse of the figure on the elevated throne, and finds it is a dried and desiccated serpent person clade in a scarlet and gold robe. Thinking this is the mummy they have been sent to recover, the team starts to climb. But as they get about halfway there, the structure begins to shake and crumble beneath their feet. From the dust and rubble emerges a great snake, four feet across and 100 feet long. It twists its head around and drives its open maw onto Zeke, swallowing him whole.  Desperate to save their companion, the others open fire on the snake. But their bullets and blades do little damage against it's thick scales. At least until Ivy notes a scale free spot just behind it's jaw, and directs the fire of the other three to this vulnerable spot. Meanwhile, inside the beast, Zeke lashes out with dynamite and manchette until  the combined effort of those inside and out slay the foul thing and Zeke is vomited forth from the dying beasts belly. Ivy proceeds to patch up both Zeke and Nigel, who was himself battered by the snakes tail during the battle. 

With the dust now settled, the team notes the throne remains above them, supported by a pillar. Nigel climbs the pillar to get a closer look at the figure on the throne. He reaches out to touch the figure, at which point it crumbles into dust and seems to disappear into the throne. Pulling himself up atop the throne, Nigel finds a hole in the seat, which leads down the middle of the pillar and into a small chamber below. Rigging up ropes to aid the climb and decent, the team heads deeper into the bowels of the earth. Taking the lead, Dr. Singh emerges into a small chamber, design-wise almost identical to the throne room above, albeit on a much smaller scale. Peeling paint on the walls show images of a female serpent person wearing a gold and jeweled crown with a snake motif, and holding a scepter formed of a snake with a giant pearl in it's mouth. She is  surrounded by prostrate worshippers. The rest of the walls are covered with images and writing, which Oz identifies as Naacal. But he is unable to translate any of it.

This small chamber leads into another, larger but decorated the same. But here in the centre is a plinth atop which reclines a female serpent person, fresh scales glistening in their flashlight beams. There is also a large stone chest at the head of the plinth. First checking for booby traps, the team moves into the chamber. Taking a cargo net salvaged from the battlefield, four of them quickly cover the serpent person with it while Nigel stands by the tie it up with rope if necessary. But the figure, though faintly breathing, does not stir. The team now turns to the chest. Carefully opening the air-tight container, they find inside a barbed whip, several sets of crimson and gold robes, a scroll, and two wooden boxes. One box is larger and squared, the other long and narrow. Opening the boxes, the find in the long one the scepter illustrated in the wall paintings. The other, however, is empty except for a velvet cushion that seems to have once held the crown. 

Oz takes the scroll and unrolls it and is unsurprised to find it is written in Naacal. As the others labor, he reads the scroll and learn it is a history of the Second Serpent Person Empire and the lost continent of Mu. It tells the history of Mu and describe the rise of the usurper race of humanity. Opinions about humanity among the serpent people are divided. One faction of serpent people saw the future of their race in coexistence with humans and went so far as to mix their genetic material with humanity. They constructed a temple, over a dead volcano and drew upon its arcane power to fuel their engines of transformation. The rest of the serpent people saw the human race as a scourge and something to be eradicated, fearing that interbreeding would contaminate the pure serpent person bloodline. The resulting conflict led to the growth of extremist factions and a civil war. The scroll also describe an assault on the Citadel in Mu by an alien race. This attack somehow resulted in the shattering of reality, separating Mu from the rest of Earth. Many of the serpent people were left unable to return home to Mu, destined to walk in the world of men. The final passages speak of the Chosen One: a serpent person whose destiny is to unite the serpent people and lead them home to glorious Mu.

By now, the rest of the team has hauled the serpent person and the items up and out of the chamber, and they now proceed back up the temple corridor to the outside air. But they halt at the top to look for trouble. And sure enough, they spot hiding the the brush a trio of Bolivian soldiers, one of who appears to the the captain who attacked them on their arrival in the jungle. Taking advantage of their cover inside the tunnel,  Nigel turns his rifle on the captain and cuts him down, causing the other two soldier to flee into the bush. But then a rifle shot rings out from the left where their truck is hidden. Swinging  around, they see more soldiers lead by the lieutenant. He is treated by Oz and Zeke the same as the captain, and once more the other flee. 

Their mission now seemingly complete, the team wastes no time getting back to the plane and loading their finds aboard. Nigel then revs the engines and they are soon airborne, winging their way north for the long journey back to New York City and Caduceus headquarters ...

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