The Crossroads of the Aether
Colonel Nigel Pennington was sitting in the parlor of his four-story Victorian mansion outside London's West end studying maps that cover a broad range of China in the near East. The ox blood leather queen Ann style chair had shown years of studying wear from the many adventures that Col. Pennington had planned from it whilst sitting at the large rounds mahogany table that sat near the fireplace surrounded by bookshelves containing books of every known location and some unknown locations around the earth.
The large mahogany table showed rings left over from his brandy glass and address it upon the table as Col. Pennington worked through his charts and maps searching for various destinations. The clock over the mantle rang twice indicating the hour of 2 AM Thursday morning October 7, 1871. Nigel rested his brandy glass once again upon the mahogany table and sat back in the old leathery chair
"I believe I have found it at last." Nigel gazed down at the map of a small area that he had circled in the Sichuan province near the Tibetan border. His quiet yet solid outburst had aroused the sleeping figure of Sir Henry Congo, is traveling in adventure companion of many years, who had been sleeping in a very similar ox blood leather chair near the warmth of the fireplace.
"Do tell Nigel, it seems I have nodded off what is it you have discovered?" Asked Sir Henry. Together they had been researching a tale of lost treasure of Tibetan art works in gold statues that had been stolen by the Chinese almost 4 centuries earlier. The treasure had been taken from a temple in Chamda in central Tibet. The treasure known as the Temple treasure of Nyatri Tsenpo, named for the ancient Tibetan ruler, had been missing since a skirmish war between China and Tibet several centuries earlier.
"It seems Sir Henry, that there is only place left to search for supposed treasure." I have looked at all three routes the Chinese would've taken from Chamda and there is only one destination along one route with the treasure would have been safe and where the Chinese would've been able to secret that way from the trade routes."
Sir Henry sat up in his chair and leaned across the table to look within the circled area upon the map. The route indeed did seem to terminate along the central mountains and Western slope of the mountains along the Yangtze River. "Astonishing! Col. Pennington I believe you have." Sir Henry VI is antique monocle over his right eye exam and map closer. "Seems to be a nearly impenetrable pass but with some effort we should be able to access this Temple within a matter of weeks."
Nigel leaned in further to pick up his glass for a sip of fine brandy as he mulled the various paths they could take to begin their journey upriver to the lost Temple. "Yes Henry, however it seems no matter which path we take it will be a treacherous and daring adventure!"
"Then we best get some rest Nigel, if we are to begin this journey we need to move quickly or we will have to wait until spring next year and by then it may be too late." Henry stood from his chair and walked over to the brandy cabinet where he returned his own glass retrieving his great top hat from the rack near the door he bid farewell to his friend Col. Pennington. "Good night Nigel, I shall return in the morning so that we may begin preparations."
Col. Pennington stood and shook hands with his friend before opening the door to the parlor. "Very well then Henry, sleep well. Godfrey will see you out. I'll have the tea ready when you arrive." With that sir Henry followed Nigel's Butler Godfrey to the main entrance where carriage was waiting to drive him the half-mile north to his own home. Back inside the parlor Col. Pennington organizes maps and charts on the table and produced a leather satchel from the drawer of the desk near the window. He placed the leather satchel on the table and inserted all of the maps and charts in preparation for their journey.
The Colonel had left a note on the hall table for Godfrey to “Away the Longboat”, which was his way of instructing Godfrey to assemble the usual traveling manifest. Godfrey had noticed the leather pouch stuffed with charts and maps and had known already what that meant. He had the carriage loaded the night before, providing him sufficient time then to add any additional items. The Colonel had acquired several odd terms over the years, mostly from the time in his early twenties when he accidently joined a pirate crew for several years. Godfrey had discovered many years earlier that the Colonel lived primarily within only a few main areas of the house, occupying the study, the parlor, two bedrooms on the third floor and a few rooms for experiments and projects of various sorts. These were on the third floor of the east end of the house. He also frequently used a main hall for entertaining guests and reveled in their amazement at his many trophies he had acquired over the years from wild game heads, to ancient artifacts. Among his favorite displays was an Egyptian sarcophagus containing a genuine Nile Pharaoh mummy that stood upright in the corner near the liquor cabinet.
The Colonel rarely seemed to venture into the entire western half of the house which was also only sparsely furnished. Some rooms went completely empty for years. Godfrey’s quarters were in the West end of the mansion on the second floor overlooking a gloomy and eerily designed garden. Colonel Pennington had it created and maintained in this manner to suit his macabre side. Godfrey rarely looked out the window as a result. He had in fact noticed the Colonel wandering in the west part of the house looking completely lost after having missed his destination while studying a book or map and not paying attention to his directions.
Godfrey had since begun to occupy several of the rooms for himself since the Colonel seemed to neither notice nor care how his butler was taking such liberties with the property. One evening two years prior as Godfrey had several young women over to enjoy Brandy and cakes in one of the acquired rooms decorated in the fashion of a harem, the Colonel wandered in unexpectedly. Never even looking up from his book and only asking Godfrey to explain the difference between lunar moth and a celestial moth. Godfrey informed the Colonel that he had in fact never seen either one and was left to his party without even an acknowledgement of his goings on. That was the last time he had seen the Colonel West of the grand stair.
The next morning around ten, Henry arrived and let himself into the foyer as usual and awaited Godfrey to attend to his things. “Morning Godfrey, good to see the coach is ready. You are an industrious man, aren’t you?” He greeted the butler as he entered the foyer to take his hat and coat.
“Morning to you sir, Yes I had a feeling the usual trappings would be needed.” Godfrey led the way into the study where Pennington was studiously going over his list to make sure not to forget any item that might be essential to the success of the expedition.
“Morning Nigel, trust you slept well?” Henry asked.
“Splendid Henry. Just working over the calculations for the expedition. Help yourself to some breakfast.” Pennington gestured to the large walnut table along the left side of the room across from the granite fireplace. Godfrey had lain out a small buffet of boiled eggs, bangers, bacon slices, potatoes au gratin, and toast with jam to which Henry took a great delight in filling a plate before taking his position in the oversized Queen Ann chair next to the table. Henry picked at a boiled egg with his fork “So what have you come up with so far Nigel?” he asked as he ate.
“Well” replied the Colonel, “It should be about two days by train from Bangladesh to Lhasa, from there we will travel by pack animal to the border with China and manage out way to the Yangtze River where we will proceed northward to the Yao Hu, which is Chinese for Key Lake. You see, there is a lake there that supposedly sits near the site of the Nyatri Tsenpo treasure temple that is shaped somewhat like a key of sorts.” He went on to elaborate much of the details by which they would book passage by steamer to Chittagong seaport near Bangladesh which would be about a two week journey.
“Perfect” replied Henry as he finished the last bits of toast. “When do we leave then?”