Lady Bell-Hudson’s return
In the month leading to the faithful events which will conclude this session, Lady Bell-Hudson spent a whole lot of time laying the groundwork for an EITC representation in Alwar. Helped by the Queen and the unwavering support of Minister Narayan, she charmed her way across the stratified social scene in the remote kingdom. She manage to insert most Britons somewhere within the commercial fabric of the city. This worked so well that by the end of June 1868, the Britons were occupying key posts across businesses and were back into a postion of monetary abundance.
Lady Bell-Hudson tried to navigate the bureaucracy at the palace, but managed to become accepted as de facto emissary of the EITC in Alwar. That is, until a link to the EITC could be made.
Alwar’s new army
In parallel, Devasheesh got busy elaborating technical improvement for the Jita-da under the patronage of the Queen. These efforts bore little fruits in the end and the airship remained underpowered as far as propulsion goes.
He was most successful, however, in getting the Queen to grant a military rank of captain of the guard. From this position, they expanded the guard from 100 to 200 riflemen. Regular drills were devised and a marksmanship course established. By June 1868, the Alwar guard was a competent defensive force. The Queen spend a lot of gold for this expansion, but no one from the treasury complained.
The pilgrimage to Tavoo-Gumbad
The Queen Marathi-Shiva finally set out for the ancient temple of Tavoo-Gumbad. The temple had been abandoned since the days of the last Queen, some 400 years ago. Devasheesh identified its location as near the territory of the Dratis that he had observed from the air in the recent past. Little substance on the nature of the Drati was discovered from the folk in the city. However, the most persistent myth seemed to be that the Dratis were guardians of the temple, and that the Queen is safe under their watchful eyes.
A small contingent of 20 rifles, 10 advisors and servants, Lady Bell-Hudson and her husband, the Queen and Sojiro, her guardian angel, set out into the hills for a 3 days’ journey. Sojiro and the Queen were riding atop a beautiful white elephant, while the others were riding on mules, camels or carts.
A series of unfortunate events
Sojiro took upon himself to steer the elephant. By the end of day two, he had mastered the basics and was enjoying himself weilding such a large beast. Unfortunately, he failed to notice a weakness on the hillside road and sent the elephant rolling down the slope. Both himself and the Queen were thrown to the ground. Sojiro got seriously hurt in the fall while the Queen had her femur fractured when the elephant rolled over her.
In a loud crash, the elephant rammed into trees some 20m below. The elephant wrangler made things worst and caused the animal to enter a stampede. In the flight, the elephant knocked Lady Bell-Hudson. The panicked beast had to be taken down by rifle fire, but not before it sent the whole of the pilgrim caravan in all directions.
From their vantage point on the Jita-da, Devasheesh decided to pass the controls to Gubdan and rapell to the ground to provide first-aid. It took an hour or so to get the caravan back on track, minus the elephant. They decided to camp in place such that the temple could be reached early on the following day. The Jita-da got damaged upon landing and needed a few hours to repair some structural wiring.
The ancient temple
The ancient temple was largely overran by vegetation. A large number of wild monkeys were giving attitude to the pilgrims as they set out camp. Lady Bell-Hudson had a dream on the previous night which lead her into the temple itself, ahead of all others. There, she found on the ground a fresh mango. A blue bird was looking down on her. She offered the mango to the bird, but it flew away. She saw it as a sign and ate the fruit. In the distance, a lightning bold hit the hills. She felt the electricity through her feet, something had changed.
Later, the Queen entered the temple and began to meditate. The temple turned out to be an incredibly powerful ceremonial site (+8 to the ritual Siddih path). She sank in a deep trance and found herself traveling freely of her physical body. She flew over land, observed Delhi from high above. There was a number of airships on the grounds of the Red Fort. She pushed further to the Himalayas where she knew that the Russians were staging their invasion.
There was an airship base in a deep valley, near two lakes. She descended into the military base. Although she could see, she couldn’t hear. She saw a number of inebriated officers pouring over a map of British India. She couldn’t make the meaning of the figurines on the map, but noted their positions.
After returning from her trance. The weather had turned to a wind storm. She describe in utmost details the map. Gene figured out from the description that the Russians were besieging Calcutta at the moment and appeared to be stalled. They also occupied thinly most of British India. She noted that the logistics on the map seemed to be precarious.
Sojiro was resting on the edge of the temple, staring into the darkening night. He had suffered life-endangering wounds the day before, but was now capable to rest and appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the area.
What Sojiro failed to notice were the two huge lumbering shapes sneaking in the dark. They struck like lightning and the young samurai escaped with as much luck as skills on his feet. He drew his sabre and called for help. “Dratiiiiiis!”, he exclaimed. The beast ran past him to head for larger pieces of meat such as the camels and the mules.
Queen Marathi-Shiva sank into a hasty trance, seeking and finding the approaching beast in hope to possess one of them and foil the raid.