gone_byebye: (more doom)
Ray was no physician, not by a long shot, but you don't spend forty years in the alchemy labs of the University of Melcene without learning how to deal with traumatic impact injuries of all kinds on a very low budget and at a very low tech level. The storm had been hell on men and equipment alike, and there were several students who had been badly hurt by the Old Ones themselves, most to the point of unconsciousness. He kept himself busy with tending to their needs as best he could, since Lake was in no condition to do it. There was no sense in saving them all from the Elder Things' awakened wrath only to have the continent's mute hostility and their own injuries finish the job.

He really didn't want to think about that. The saving part. That had been-

He closed his eyes and fumbled for the lump Garion's amulet made under his furs. It had worked, somehow. On things too old to be believed, from worlds and universes so far beyond this one that no one here could even begin to imagine, the translator amulet had worked. They'd heard him, they'd answered. They'd-

"We never meant you any harm! We never knew what we found was still alive!"

They'd listened.

"I know we look like your lab animals but I swear to you we're full sapients now- it's been millions of years since you last saw daylight. Please, stop, and I swear to you we'll back off and let you go."

And after they'd listened, they'd spoken...

"What your kind have become is unknown to us. We were betrayed by that which we brought forth once, and we knew the Shoggoths then. We do not know you."

He let go of the amulet-lump and went back to work, checking two of the unconscious students' pulses. They felt erratic, but unlikely to falter much any time soon.

"No. No, you're right, you don't know us at all. You have every right to fear us, considering what's already happened."

From there he went on to slicing the remains of one particularly wrecked tent into viable slings of various sizes; they would probably have to carry several of the other men to safety, if there was any safety to be had anywhere in this blasted continent. That meant rigging seats between poles and immobilizing body parts beyond what they'd been able to manage already.

"Strong words, from one of the apes... but even so..."

The wireless rig, reported one of the still-ambulatory students, had mostly been destroyed by the storm. There was a shortwave in each airplane. They'd do their best to get one working despite the fact that most of the planes no longer had enough structural integrity to hold their fuel.

"Listen to me. Please. I'm begging you, as one scientist to another-"

Ray nodded and stepped away from the cluster of the injured. If they could raise Dyer and the rest of the expedition at all, they'd better do so quickly.

"We are listening."

"My people've been hurt. I have to see to their care. Please. Put Gedney down and go back to your city, or wherever it is you came from, and once I've done that, I'll make it up to you. I'll come down there myself and answer your questions, tell you how the world's changed, anything you want- anything at all. We won't come after you again. Just don't kill any more of our people. Please."

". . . Do that. And bring another with you when you come, to guide this one back. We will be taking him with us, to ensure that you behave as you have said you will. If you come against us in any kind of force, or fail in your promise, you will not see this young one alive again."

Ray shivered, looking out over the landscape as the wind began to howl again down from the mountains. Then, very deliberately, he slammed those memories down and out of his mind and went back to the business of summoning Professor Dyer. They didn't have much time.
gone_byebye: (Arkham)
The events of the night of January the twenty-fourth, 1931, would be graven upon the tables of Lake's memory for the remainder of his mortal days. There was nothing at first that particularly suggested this would be the case. It was true that the winds were pouring down out of the titanic mountains at a rate unlike anything he had ever seen before, and true as well that their dogs, even behind the highest and stoutest wall of snow the men could manage, were in a state of frenzy unlike anything he had ever known of them. But such matters were ordinary concerns, under the circumstances. The question at hand was one of immediate survival. There were snow walls to raise and tent cloth to weight down with the heaviest snow that could be found. Nature was about to do her worst, and under the circumstances he could well have been excused for failing to give thought to his future beyond the moment. In fact, he had but one brief glimmer of perspective as he and the brilliant young Gedney laboured valiantly to turn that terrible climate's own material- the snow- against itself. It occurred to him that the sole survivor of the Scott expedition, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, had referred to his time in Antarctica as 'the worst journey in the world'. That, too, had been in the name of science, and portended great things; perhaps-

But there was no time for perhaps, and no room for further thought. The winds had grown too terrible for thought, and there was nothing to be done but struggle. To stop moving now, even only long enough to think, was madness or death. It was not until Lake felt his eyelids nearly frozen shut that he realized the noise of the dogs, ever-present since the retrieval of the 'Elder Ones' from the cave, had grown so great as to be heard over the wind. In the next moment he caught sight of what remained of the snow wall. The dogs had breached the wall of their enclosure and were pouring out in a stream of terrible furred rage, intent on the annihilation of the samples to the last. With a great shout of his own he started forward, thinking somehow to stop them before they could reach the spare tent.

His thought died a-borning before he could take so much as a third step. For out of the white and terrible wind that cut through everything in its path there arose a great dark shape- no, two, three- "Great God!" he whispered involuntarily. The realization had come upon him in the moment that he completed his count. What he was seeing was the Old Ones themselves, no longer frozen fossils but very much alive and awake. The dreaded things of times so far before the dawning days of Man had revived; and their revival was not a good one, but one of immediate and terrible struggle for existence. The dogs, he knew, meant to tear them apart. By the look of things, not a few of his own men did too- but they should have to wait their turn, if they meant not to harm the dogs. The animals were too eager to defend their camp against those palaeogaean horrors. They surged forward everywhere that Lake could see even as he himself was frozen to the spot with cosmic awe, too simple to know that the wrongness they felt with every fiber of their being was a thing of which to be much afraid.

A particularly awful gust of wind caught Lake at unawares and sent him tumbling to the ground. By the time he propped himself up enough to breathe again, he could see that several of the tents had been torn apart by now, lost to the storm. He struggled to rise, to find some shelter, but a knife of agony seared its way up from his left ankle. Wincing, he subsided to all fours; as he did so, he became aware that greater chaos was having its way with the camp. Not only was the wind ruining every precaution they had taken, but the belling of the dog-pack now sounded horribly thinner, and desperate. As he became aware of the change something furred flew past him, thudding into the remains of a snow embankment with a sickening sound. It was the biggest lead dog, the one Stantz had had to pin down to keep it from leading an attack on the frozen Old Ones. It would not need to be restrained ever again. Neither, he knew with a gut-knotting feeling of dread, would the other dogs. For all that they were only newly awake, the Old Ones had regained much of their strength, and were winning their battle. When they were done with the dogs, Lake knew, they would turn to the men. The dissection had been such a tough bit of business that no lesser knife stood a chance of penetrating their hides. There were no guns in the camp, either, though he doubted they would have done much more good. All these thoughts flashed through his head in an instant; he closed his eyes, frantically willing the storm to kill him before these monsters could.

It was a scream of primal terror wrung from a single human throat that opened Lake's eyes at last- Gedney, perhaps- yes, yes, he could see the younger man even now, hanging in midair at the mercy of one of those barrel-shaped monsters! That was enough to spur him to his feet in spite of his ankle. At the first step his vision fairly went white with pain. Ever after he could never be entirely sure of what he saw next; but-

He confided to Pabodie later that he thought he heard Stantz shouting "Stop! STOP!", and then that the man's words changed to something weirdly high-pitched and musical, though still wild with frantic urgency even in its wordlessness. It almost seemed as if the Old Ones stopped in their tracks, perhaps to answer in kind; but there was a terrible green light between the engineer and the huge, looming things out of times long gone, and so Lake was not so sure he could trust the evidence of his senses. The inhuman musical piping went on and on, seeming to cut through every other sound, even as the blood pulsed and roared in Lake's own ears. He closed his eyes and clenched his jaw against that weird vocalizing, and a wave of blessed darkness rolled over him at last.

When Lake opened his eyes again, it was inside the remains of the sub-expedition's lone remaining tent. The others, he was told, had been wrecked beyond repair. All their dogs were dead, and much of their equipment wrecked, but the men themselves were for the most part better off. There were injuries, some very terrible, but no deaths- save, perhaps, one. It seemed that whatever it was that turned the Old Ones from their intended course had not been entirely successful. Gedney was missing. As for Stantz, he was too busy struggling to raise Dyer on the wireless and shouting at the rig's failures in languages Lake had never before heard spoken aloud outside a Classics department to say anything at all one way or the other.
gone_byebye: (Arkham)
Given how much fuss Stantz had put up about coming on the Antarctic expedition in the first place, it came as something of a surprise, once they set foot on Antarctic soil, to find that the man was genuinely helpful. His insistence on seeing to the health and well-being of not only the expedition's machinery but all fifty-five of the sledge dogs was an unlooked-for blessing; Dyer had half expected, given Pabodie's reports, to have to order the engineer's every action personally. It seemed that once there was no other choice, he set about his business with a will. The aeroplanes benefitted greatly by it, that was certain. More surprising, to Dyer and Pabodie both, was the fact that not a one of the expedition's dogs seemed to be without its moments of attention and care from him. Dyer had meant to leave the animals in the hands of several of the students, but given how well they responded to Stantz's attention and presence, he saw no reason not to change his plans and make their care his duty as much as the care of the expedition's equipment.

He was greatly sorry to see the man leave with Lake and the rest of the sub-expedition into the heretofore untouched, unexplored regions. Still, he had to admit that that had been the reason behind bringing Stantz along in the first place: to ensure that in just such an occasion, there would be someone in both the main party and the smaller who could take care of vital logistical matters and free the rest of the group for scientific pursuits.

January 22, 1931
10:30 PM

"Moulton's plane forced down on plateau in foothills, but nobody hurt and Stantz already working on repair. Shall transfer essentials to other three for return or further moves if necessary, but no more heavy plane travel needed just now. Mountains surpass anything in imagination. Am going up scouting in Carroll's plane, with all weight out. You can't imagine anything like this. Highest peaks must go over thirty-five thousand feet..."

January 23, 1931
4:00 PM

"We've struck a cave..."

8:00 PM

"Fowler makes discovery of highest importance in sandstone and limestone fragments from blasts. Several distinct triangular striated prints like those in Archaean slate, proving that source survived from over six hundred million years ago to Comanchian times without more than moderate morphological changes and decrease in average size. Comanchian prints apparently more primitive or decadent, if anything, than older ones. Emphasize importance of discovery in press. Will mean to biology what Einstein has meant to mathematics and physics..."

10:15 PM

"-all greatly damaged but one, which gives almost seven-foot wing spread. Arrangement reminds one of certain monsters of primal myth, especially fabled Elder Things in Necronomicon-"

"You know," said Stantz, without looking up from pinning the sledge-team's lead dog to the ground, "the last time anything to do with the Necronomicon intersected with an unhappy dog, it was Wilbur Whateley. Remember him? The kid who dissolved after the library mastiff tore out his throat?"

"Nonsense, Stantz. It's only a resemblance. Besides, these are just fossils," said Lake, and resumed his broadcast back to Dyer and the rest of the expedition.

11:15 PM

"Complete specimens have such uncanny resemblance to certain creatures of primal myth that suggestion of ancient existence outside antarctic becomes inevitable. Dyer and Pabodie have read Necronomicon and seen Clark Ashton Smith's nightmare paintings based on text, and will understand when I speak of Elder Things supposed to have created all earth life as jest or mistake. Students have always thought conception formed from morbid imaginative treatment of very ancient tropical radiata. Also like prehistoric folklore things Wilmarth has spoken of - Cthulhu cult appendages, etc.

"Vast field of study opened. Deposits probably of late Cretaceous or early Eocene period, judging from associated specimens. Massive stalagmites deposited above them. Hard work hewing out, but toughness prevented damage. State of preservation miraculous, evidently owing to limestone action. No more found so far, but will resume search later. Job now to get fourteen huge specimens to camp without dogs, which bark furiously and can't be trusted near them. Even Stantz can't quiet the dogs, but Stantz reluctant even to try. Says the dogs have better sense than any of us. With nine men - three left to guard the dogs - we ought to manage the three sledges fairly well, though wind is bad. Must establish plane communication with McMurdo Sound and begin shipping material. But I've got to dissect one of these things before we take any rest. Wish I had a real laboratory here. Dyer better kick himself for having tried to stop my westward trip. First the world's greatest mountains, and then this. If this last isn't the high spot of the expedition, I don't know what is. We're made scientifically. Congrats, Pabodie, on the drill that opened up the cave. Now will Arkham please repeat description?"

January 24, 1931
4:30 AM

"Stantz and several of the other men have built the wall around the dog pen as high as they can get it. The winds rising in the mountains are beginning to be too much of a hazard. We'll resume communications tomorrow at ten- for now, all hands are working on building the rest of the shelters. Lake out."

As Lake set the microphone aside and strode out into the howling Antarctic gale, it occurred to him that they were really going to have to do something about the dogs come morning. He could hear them barking at the specimens even over the rising wind.
gone_byebye: (reach)
Dear Romana,

I have no idea if this letter's ever going to reach you. I sincerely hope I can just hand it to you, because the alternatives are all on the seriously nasty side. This isn't the kind of universe I ever want to think about your TARDIS accidentally sliding sideways into, and the possibility of you getting pulled in here by something on purpose is just too distressing to contemplate. Suzi Darley was bad enough and I barely know her. You really, really, really don't want to be here.

The expedition Frank Pabodie dragooned me into is well within striking range of the Antarctic continent by now. We should be crossing the Antarctic Circle sometime today, in fact. Under ordinary circumstances I'd be kind of impressed, especially since we're making our way through a bunch of field ice and all, but all I'm really feeling is this big old lump of dread in my stomach that won't go away. Antarctica isn't the relatively pristine place here that it is in a lot of other worlds. If I remember right- and I honestly can't say if I do or not, because it's literally been close to seventy years since I last read the story in question- there were cities here over a hundred and fifty million years ago, and some of the inhabitants might still be in hibernation somewhere under all the ice. If we're very, very, very lucky, all that's going to happen is that we'll find some of their artifacts in the course of drilling.

I wish I could say I felt that lucky.

I wish I remembered more of that story. I wish I was nearly anywhere but here.

Anyway, this being 1930, we're bundled up in the finest cold-weather gear money can currently buy. I've been wearing my watch cap as often as I can, despite it being summer in the southern hemisphere. I had to leave my theatrical makeup and hair dye behind in Arkham- they would've caused way too many questions- and Pabodie's exactly the kind of guy to notice that my hair's not all shot through with grey any more. As it stands he thinks the sea air's doing me good because it looks like it's taking the lines out of my face. What I wouldn't give for some latex and rubber cement! If we get through this alive and not gibbering somehow, I plan on retiring from the University as soon as we submit our final reports. Laszlo suggested I consider taking up with Tesla- the man's mostly retired now himself, but you never know...

I should go. Captain Douglas just sent word that we're about to cross the Circle and we'd better all come on deck for the appropriate ceremonies. Sailors' superstition, I know, but at least anthropologically interesting superstition. And it's not like I can really talk, given that I've knitted at least three versions of the Elder Sign into every single piece of clothing I've produced since I got stuck on board this stupid ship. Nobody's noticed yet, or if they have, they haven't said anything. We'll see what happens.

More tomorrow, if all goes well.



[translated, as all Ray's letters to Romana are, from the Sumerian]
gone_byebye: (are you crazy? is that your problem?)
"I'm not going, Pabodie," Ray said firmly. "The University can mount a perfectly good expedition to Antarctica without me."

"On the contrary," said Pabodie, just as firmly. "You're already a part of this expedition. All the work you put in on the drill-"

"Your invention, Frank," Ray pointed out. "It's got your name all over it, not mine."

"And on the fuel warmers for the aeroplanes-"

"Again, your invention. All I did was pass the screwdrivers."

"Nonsense, Stantz, you should've had your name on the patents right alongside mine. What about the quickstarters? Why, you gave me the idea for the copper coil ice melting scheme."

"And not a day goes by that I don't regret planting that thought in your head," Ray muttered. "If only because you keep trying to thank me for it."

Pabodie threw up his hands. "Stantz, you can't spend your whole life here! A man of your talent deserves to make a mark on the world before he retires. You'll be sixty soon. This is your chance!"

Ray eyed the other engineer sourly. You have no idea, he thought, but what he said instead was, "All things considered, I have to say that I'm pretty sure Antarctica is more likely to make its mark on me. I'm not going."

"We need you on this expedition, Stantz," Pabodie said.

"I don't see why. You're going."

"I can't be everywhere at once," Pabodie said. "Dyer or Lake's likely to want to split off a sub-expedition if we make any really interesting finds. Doesn't the group deserve someone who knows the equipment in each party?"

"Splitting up to look for the unknown is a fast route to everybody getting killed," Ray pointed out. "Trust me. They're more likely to stay alive if everyone hangs together. I'm not going."


"Look, Frank, I know I helped you with all of those inventions of yours. If you want me to contribute more to the expedition, fine. I'll help you with last-minute design work. I'll do whatever logistical support you want. I'll learn to knit and make all of you extra hats, socks, gloves, balaclavas- whatever. But I'm. Not. Going."

September 2nd, 1930

"Well, crap," said Ray to himself as he leaned on the rail of the brig Arkham and watched the Massachusetts shoreline receding in the distance. "Guess I'd better go find my yarn after all."
gone_byebye: (Arkham)
There are moments when even those without so much as a single psychically active cell remaining in their bodies can know things, and this was one of them. As Ray shivered a little at the sight of poor Gedney's body, its neck frozen stiffly at an unnatural angle, it became abundantly clear: something, he didn't know what, had happened here that was enough to end his obligation to the Old Ones. He gestured to Danforth quickly to pull the tarpaulin back over the corpse. Danforth didn't look right at all- not that anybody could be expected to under the circumstances, but Danforth had the look of a frog about to be pithed. The less he had to deal with, the better; he was only along because he was the only pilot of the three of them, and refused (quite sensibly) to be left all alone with the plane. "Well," Ray said carefully, "unless I'm... really mistaken, it was an accident, at least? I mean, it doesn't look like anything was deliberately-"

"Shut up, Stantz," said Dyer. The old professor's nerves were wound as tight as guitar strings, a side-effect of long listening for the bizarre musical piping mentioned in Lake's report. "We need, I think, to- what was that?"

"What was what?" Ray asked, looking up swiftly; but then he heard it too. Not the fabulous note of any buried blasphemy of elder earth from whose supernal toughness an age-denied polar sun had evoked a monstrous response, but a thing too mockingly normal to belong in this subterranean, frozen hell. It was nothing more and nothing less than the perfect, ordinary, everyday raucous squawking of a penguin.

The muffled sound floated from subglacial recesses nearly opposite to the corridor through which they had arrived. Either it led in some way to the surface and the outer world, or some fate too dreadful to believe had led the birds to the subterranean depths in times past; and either way, it was mutually agreed that they had to track it to its source through that world of age-long, uniform lifelessness. The Old Ones seemed unlikely to be of any assistance now. To judge by the art in the caverns above they were too careful, too deliberate, to have abandoned the body without some sign unless there were a very great reason to have done so.

As they picked their way towards what the map and compass seemed to indicate was the basement of a large pyramidal structure, a bulky white shape loomed up ahead of them. Danforth swore and flicked on the second electrical torch. The white, waddling thing was fully six feet high, and for a moment its incalculable appearance clutched at all three men with an unreasoned, primitive dread. Then it turned and sidled off to the left, joining two others of its kind, and all became clear: penguins, the lot of them. Man-sized, and albino and eyeless as many an ancient cave species had come to be, but penguins nonetheless.

Ray lay one arm against the tunnel wall before banging his head on his sleeve. This place was getting to him.
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