FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 1934: Early in the day, the Investigators made ready to leave Kolluli. James “Tick Tock” Cohan spoke some more with MUHOHO, who advised him not to place too much faith in Luke. She said that he might be liberated from evil influences, but ultimately it might not be possible. When pressed, she suggested that Luke might be helped by the same practices she’d taught to James.
She and James spoke about GEORGE AYERS, the archaeologist and former cultist, whom the party seek, near the site of his last dig, in Dallol, Ethiopia. She said that Ayers had been remorseful over the death of the people he hired for his dig. They died when a volcano erupted at Dallol. She revealed that she was part of a group of “guardians,” who had triggered the volcano using ritual magic. They’d hoped to imprison whatever Ayers and BARTOLO ACUÑA had been seeking to excavate.
Taking pity on Ayers, as they found him in the desert, the guardians taught him ascetic practices to silence mouths growing on his body. She told James that he might find Ayers in The Dream Scourged Halls, a set of strange rock formations deep in the desert. She showed him where this area was, but warned him that he might be endangering Ayers if he approached. An evil spirit known as the Agony on the Wind might be seeking Ayers, as might its agents.
The Investigators and their companions departed by camelback for the settlement of Dallol. After several grueling hours in the Danakil Desert, the group stopped to rest. Chantelle Perreault found that the heat and sweat had opened a small wound on her body. The party’s guides set up camp, and everyone rested. Chantelle and Luke Davis took turns keeping watch.
During Chantelle’s shift, a STRANGE FIGURE appeared from out of the desert. It seemed to skip through space in a stuttering way. It resembled the robed figure that Luke had glimpsed from the locomotive, when traveling from Mersa Fatma to Kolluli. It was wrapped in rust colored robes, so that Chantelle could not glimpse its face. It approached and removed the covering from the lower part of its face, revealing an impossibly wide mouth. It moved in toward Chantelle.
The rest of the party awoke, and a fight ensued. Dorothy Howard looked for LAZARE, the young guide with whom she’d bonded. She found that he was in motion, leaping onto the strange figure and attacking it with the knife he’d shown off earlier. Several shots were fired, while some of the Investigators’ group fled in terror. Chantelle was able to shoot and spectacularly kill the injured figure. Most of the men who fled were recovered from the desert. One went missing. Lazare showed look how to better point his gun while Dorothy looked on.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 24: Lazare was able to scout out a remarkably expedient short cut through the desert, shaving days off the groups’ travel time. They found themselves near the Dallol settlement, where a group of Afar had taken up residence. Most other Afar the Investigators had encountered avoid this group, as their sedentary lifestyle is viewed as aberrant. They are also feared for their celebration of The Agony On The Wind. It may be related to The Liar From Beyond, the entity the Investigators been seeking in hopes of explaining the 1924 Los Angeles massacre. One of the men the Investigators hired showed them a bite scar. He said he inflicted it on himself, while dreaming under the influence of The Agony on the Wind.
There was a debate as to the group’s next steps. Their taciturn older guide OGHAI suggested that they resupply at Dallol settlement, while Lazare believed they should avoid the place and seek out the dig site directly. He insisted he could find water and food for the group in the desert. Knowing that they would have to pass near the settlement no matter what destination they chose, the Investigators chose to stop at the settlement. They decided to send a small group in to trade, including Oghai, James, and a couple of other men, including YONAS, the nervous demolitions specialist.
Oghai suggested that James follow at a slight distance, but it soon became clear that no one in the settlement was alert to their approach. The area was eerily quiet, with a few people wandering silently about, as if in a trance. One was a teenaged girl, who James saw mutilate herself with a piece of glass. An older woman came and took the glass away and began cutting herself. The girl finger painted with her blood one of the salt block buildings next to her. James also passed a very young boy who was curled up sleeping with a dog. The boy was muttering in his sleep about the New Moon.