Cast of Characters
|Todd||“Skinny Larry” Simons||Inventor and jazz musician|
|Tom||Oxford “Ox” Sykes||Chemist and well-to-do ne’er-do-well|
|Eric||Gerald “Gentleman Jerry” O’Shea||Former bare-knuckles boxer|
|Scott||Ritter Gunter von Stiglitz||former German POW|
The explorers gathered around Augustus Larkin’s bed, surveying the oily, sweaty man lying prone. His veins had begun bulging with black ichor, and the initial hours of heroin withdrawal had not been pleasant. And the smell - rotten meat - pervaded the room.
They decided to take Larkin to their own, more upscale lodgings, for half a week or so. That way they could rotate a watch over the addict as others pursued their own agenda - learning a little more Spanish, reading up on folklore and mythology, Pizzaro’s journeys, and the like. It was hoped that three or four days of going “cold turkey” would be a reasonable start of the weaning-off process for his Heroin addiction.
Out of curiosity, the group touched a crucifix, then the odd metal band, to Larkin’s flesh, especially his tattoo. Larkin seemed unsure of what would happen when touched by the crucifix, however it seemed to have no effect. His odor was not limited to his excrement, it seemed to exude from his breath and pores as well.
Oxford,with his background in pharmacy, disposed of Larkin’s “supply”, and stashed a vial of it in case Larkin’s symptoms became overwhelming on the road. The team was well-prepared for every conceivable danger the jungle might throw at them.
Soon the group became restless and decided to leave for their village destination, by truck. They would reach Puno in less than three days.
Two days on the road resulted in their arrival, where they spent the night and switched from truck to burro. Three local guides (notably, practicing Catholics) accompanied them, as they knew the location of the ruins (pyramid) as well as the temperament of the beasts of burden (not counting “Gentleman” Jerry). Jerry visited a large church in the town, deriving some small comfort in the familiar liturgies in this foreign country.
While investigating what Puno had to offer, perhaps a final chance to stock up, the team noticed a couple of tall, gaunt men in wide brimmed hats following them around town. Jerry attempted to catch them but they managed to escape into a crowd.
The group began their climb into the mountains and, suspecting they would be tailed by the men in the wide-brimmed hats (Cultists), Aaron hung back and found their suspicions validated. The gaunt men spoke little and ate less as they walked. Aaron beat a wide arc around them and joined the main group at camp.
The steady gain in altitude had a noticeable effect, but only Ox and Stig showed the full symptoms of altitude sickness. Ox in particular, perhaps due to his great size and preference for dry air, seemed particularly affected by the thin air. At times it was all the big man could do to stay upright on his great unsteady feet. He mentioned he has three quarters of a vial of heroin, in case anyone was suffering particularly badly from the altitude sickness. No one took him up on his offer.
The formal historical name of the cult seemed to be something like, ”Kharisiri”.
Sometime during the night one of the mules was killed, the next morning it was discovered desiccated, with an oval, bloody wound. It reminded them a bit of the poor young librarian, Trinidad Rizo. “Gentleman” Jerry treated poor Larkin in a less-than-gentlemanly fashion, keeping him shackled and manacled even during the night. Quizzical looks from the guides prompted Jesse/Jackson to inform them that Larkin was an addict, unstable, and likely to wander off during the night and possibly injure himself. Ox offered to provide Larkin with some heroin to ease his anxieties, noting that he is carrying half a vial. The group felt Larkin was better without it.
On the road, Aaron and Jerry forked off and hid, and attacked the two villagers. Jerry shot one with his handgun while Aaron tussled with the other, which had clamped a sphincter mouth, lamprey-like, to the side of Aaron’s throat.
After dispatching the two (rather than bleeding, they emitted a white fluid), they were rejoined by the larger group, and burned the dead bodies, which had notably distended stomachs, reminiscent of the poor elderly museum curator, Professor Nemesio Sanchez, who had passed from his injuries (a parasite courtesy of one de Mendosa). Adding an air of levity, Jerry donned one of the broad-brimmed hats, though the resemblance to the pale cultists ended there. Ox offered the vial, a quarter-full of heroin, to Aaron to help with the pain. Aaron declined, simultaneously realizing that Ox has been gradually using the heroin and that it should probably be disposed of.
The second night was uneventful; while completing their final leg of travel to the ruins, they espied two more of the odd villagers (Cultists), but did not attempt to catch up to them. Thus, when the group crested a rise, the vista of the ruins beneath them, the two villagers were already below them, atop the largest ruin.
Strangely they bent over and seemed (from forty yard’s distance) to vomit greasy fat into a crack in the building’s flat roof.
Aaron and Jerry fired rifles at one of them, striking him and knocking him down. “Skinny” Larry hit the other one with his own long gun. The group was startled to see the injured cultists run and jump off the structure to the rocky ground, leaking white fluid.
The group paused to consider the methods whereby they could enter the large walled area containing the ruins - by climbing down the steep bluffs, or by circling the rise to reach what appeared to be an open arch leading within. If the former was chosen, the guides would remain high on the bluff with the burros.