From a Time Before
The Expedition to Malo-Moko Island
© 2015 by Richard Messer
The wet cloth was pulled from the buck’s face as the broad, dark brown face of Sir Albert Wednesday grinned hugely down at him.
“Welcome back to the land of the living, old chap,” the simian chuckled.
Baxter winced as he tried to sit up and take stock of his surroundings. They were in a Baker tent, the broad awning held up by poles to open the front to light and ventilation. There were two cots on opposite sides of the tent, two camp chairs and a small table between them with a hissing lamp set on it. He had been lying on one of the cots.
He gingerly felt between his antlers, sucking in his breath at the tenderness there. “I’ve got to stop making it a habit of cracking my skull.”
The simian chuckled as he soaked the cloth once more in a bowl on the table and set in on the deer’s head. “You had no choice, young fellow. A part of the ceiling broke loose and nailed you between the antlers. Actually, it seemed to be some form of plastering that covered the walls as well as the ceiling.”
The buck held the cloth in place while thinking over what the English ape had said. “A plastering?”
Sir Albert nodded as he reached into his jacket draped across the back of his chair. He pulled out a silver flask. Unscrewing the cap he handed it to the young American. Baxter hesitated at first before taking the flask and a quick sip. The brandy within burned his mouth and throat, bringing on a coughing fit before the warmth settled in his stomach. Mellowness spread across his body such that he took another sip, then handed the flask back. The chimpanzee took a long swig before recapping.
“We lost a good portion of the glyphs on the wall when that earth tremor struck. However, your young Mr. Anderson has managed to recompose the glyphs into a horizontal format running from left to right, as in English. I believe his supposition of those markings indicating the start and end of a sentence may be the lead we’re looking for.”
Baxter thought on that for a moment before looking to the chimpanzee. “Any idea what the plastering could be?”
“Appears to be a lime-based plaster,” said Sir Albert. “But we’re not sure how it was stuck to what was found under it. However, that discovery will pique your interest!”
The buck frowned, and that brought a wince. Damn these head knocks! “What did you find, bricks?”
The English archaeologist sat back in the camp chair, which brought a groan from the furniture.
“Not hardly, James. Some white material that feels cool and slick to the touch. Like porcelain, only with a smoother surface.” The simian scratched at the back of his bowed head before looking up. “And that’s about as close of a description as I can come up with. And there are no seams anywhere in what had been uncovered. I’m having the lads try to remove the rest of the plastering in the morning.” He paused before taking out his flask for another sip. Baxter refused another drink.
The simian nodded as the brandy slid down his throat. “Another mystery that is to be added to the bag. Something we’ll deal with later. But right now you need your rest, as do the rest of us. For tomorrow we’ll be busy clearing the detritus from those rooms and see what else is hiding there.”
The young American buck nodded himself. “We’ll need to let the directors at the university know of this discovery.”
Baxter looked at the set expression on Sir Albert’s face. “What?”
“What I’m saying, old boy, is that this information cannot be released to the outside world.”
The buck cocked his slightly, confused. “Why not?”
The British simian nodded. “German military intelligence, James. While the Versailles treaty doesn’t allow such a group to exist ‘legally’, the Nazi party has somehow secreted it into a dark corner of the OKW.”
The young buck bowed his head. The OKW was something he heard once or twice before. He looked up at the English chimpanzee. “What is that?”
“’Oberkommando der Wehrmacht’.”
Baxter worked the German words through his mind, trying to come up with an English translation. “Supreme Command of the Armed Forces?”
Now it was Sir Albert’s turn to look surprised. “You know German?”
Baxter nodded with a smile. “My mother’s parents came from over there before the Great War. My grandfather was Alsatian; grandmother was born in Lorraine. Both were roe deer. I grew up speaking German and French as much as English.”
The simian archaeologist bobbed his head in understanding as he pulled his pipe from a jacket pocket. “A very useful skill to have in these troubled times. Which is why I say that this cannot get out past this island.”
“And I’ll ask again: Why not?” The young whitetail was getting a little testy over not being able to share this discovery.
It was a couple of minutes while the British ape got his pipe going before he would answer.
“You have heard of Reichfuhrer Heinrich Himmler?”
“The head of the SS? Of course I’ve heard of that mutt. Hasn’t everybody?”
That brought a chuckle to the simian. “Well, my dear fellow, that ‘mutt’, as you call him, has created a special research bureau in the SS known as ‘Ahenerbe’.”
A cold finger ran up the buck’s spine. “Had heard about them through academic gossip. Aren’t they some special group that’s been known to travel the world looking for certain objects and things?”
Taking the pipe from thick lips Sir Albert blew a streamer of fragrant smoke towards the tent roof. “Oh, you mean like the Spear of Destiny, the Ark of the Covenant, evidence that the Aryan race came from a place called Ultima Thule to the far north of Europe? Or how about seeking their relationship to the inhabitants of Tibet whose ancestors supposed to have come from the stars to Earth?”
Amazement was stamped on the whitetail’s face. “You’re joking, right? Space creatures that have visited Earth? All Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon stuff, right? Go on, Sir Albert, drop the other shoe.”
The English ape puffed his pipe a moment before answering. “Alright then, I’ll drop that shoe, but not on your head. Have you heard of the Thule-Gesellschaft?”
The buck shook his head. Seemed the pain had gone away. “The Thule Society?”
“It was an occult organization created at the end of the Great War whose sole purpose was to trace any evidence that the people of Germany were direct descendants of this Aryan race the Nazi’s are pushing. If you recall your Greco-Roman studies from the university, Thule, or Ultima Thule, was supposed to be the capital of an enlightened civilization called Hyperborea, far to the north of Europe where everybody lived an idyllic life. And they had an unknown source of power that allowed the Thuleans to create their world into a shining monument of progress.”
The older archaeologist paused to tamp his pipe with a thick fingertip and relight it. When he had clouds of smoke swirling about his dark head the simian continued.
“Several sources say that this civilization was anywhere from upper Norway all the way to Spitzbergen Island up near the North Pole, and all the way westward to Iceland and Greenland. But for most scholars it was a tall tale without proof of its existence.” Then Sir Albert looked directly at his American colleague while pointing the bit of his pipe at him like a gun.
“But the Germans believed in this story. And remember, the National Socialist party was founded as a sort of pseudo-religious movement. Hitler, Goering, Himmler, and others like them became members of the Thule Society during the early Twenties as a means of founding an operation upon which to build their power base. In the beginning the society organized the German Worker’s Party as a means of rebuilding the country. Hitler and his ilk hijacked it for their own nefarious purposes.”
James Baxter blinked as his mind tried to take in all of this information.
“You mean that Nazism is based on a put-together religious ideal of Germany trying to find its roots?”
Sir Albert nodded. “In a nutshell. But another reason for Himmler’s forming the Ahenerbe was to find something called Vril.”
The simian nodded again as he blew another streamer of smoke. “Within the Thule Society is an inner group that calls itself the Vril Society. It’s composed of twelve femme mediums of note, led by one Marie Orsic. She’s supposed to be in telepathic communications with some alien civilization far out in space somewhere. This circle of mediums was gathered to help in channeling these messages to her. Supposedly these messages were to contain information about this Vril and how to harness it. And it’s also one of the reasons that Hitler gave Himmler carte blanche in sending those research teams across the globe to find whatever that could be found to give Der Fufrer the means to make Germany a power to be reckoned with.”
It was quiet in the tent for a few minutes as the young buck archaeologist digested what had been revealed to him. Outside, the voices of his students grew fainter as they began to retire to their own tents. The sound of insects had settled down to a low drone as night birds began calling to one another. Without thinking he held out his hand to the chimpanzee. There was hesitation before the ape dipped his large hand into his jacket for the flask. He was surprised to watch the young American take a deep draft of the brandy without a wince. Baxter handed it back with a sidelong glance.
”How do you know all this, anyway?”
Reaching around the chair to another pocket of his field jacket Sir Albert Wednesday pulled out a slim wallet of brown leather. He opened it enough to take a glance inside before presenting it to Baxter. The buck could see a small photograph of the middle-aged chimpanzee in a suit pasted to an engraved card bearing the seal and logo of the Howard Carter Society of London, England. It was when the ape flipped the wallet around in his hand to reveal something that brought a wide-eyed look of shock to the American. On the backside of the inner flap was a different identification card that was much more official in appearance and bore governmental weight. The photo was of Sir Albert Wednesday in a white naval uniform, and the card announced the bearer to be a Lieutenant Commander in His Majesty’s Royal Navy Intelligence service.
“I had served in the Naval Reserves long before being accepted into the Howard Carter Society. It seems someone in Whitehall had been keeping an eye on me long after I had hung up my uniform so I can play in the sand. My degree in archaeology was useful in both applications: Being able to delve into my life’s dream of digging up the past on one hand, while using archaeology as a cover for the military on the other. And I believe Whitehall was responsible for speaking with the Acceptance Board in getting me in.”
“So you’re saying that you got your degree in archaeology, served in the navy, got out to work in the field, then entered this society through naval recommendation?” asked Baxter in a hushed voice.
That large black head nodded. “Understand this, my family has always had at least one male every generation wearing a naval uniform. And they were always an officer. I’m just the first to enter a field outside of engineering. And I find that intelligence work eases the tedium of digging for artifacts in foreign lands.” The simian took a deep breath before squaring his shoulders and leveling his gaze at the other. “You are a smart fellow, James Baxter. You have a level head on your shoulders, speak other languages that would be useful, and you can organize an expedition based on very little information provided by other sources. The Society can use someone like you. When I get back to London I’ll personally put in your name as a possible candidate to the organization. Would you accept the nomination if it was made?”
Baxter looked surprised. A member of the Howard Carter Society? He had heard of this international group from whispers and side talk in the halls of Miskotonic University. They were the pinnacle of the archaeological field, and only those who are worthy based on their papers and/or discoveries earned them the right of being accepted into such an august body. There were others whose endeavors coincided along with archaeology. Furs and feathers working hand in hand on sites and digs helping in discoveries and finds for the benefit of the world, as well as museums and universities funding these operations. A sense of elation coursed through the buck’s body, such that he forgot all about the lump between his antlers. He stood and held out a hand. The simian did likewise, and the handshake was firm and friendly.
Sir Albert smiled. “You won’t regret it. Now it’s time for us to turn in, for tomorrow is going to be a great day for us and this expedition. Good night, lad.”
And the English archaeologist was gone. The buck followed up to the opening of the tent and watched the broad back of the ape disappear into his own tent. A member of the Howard Carter Society! By God, that would be the leg-up he needed back at Arkham. Won’t his family be proud, and the directors jealous!
Shaking his head in disbelief, James Baxter allowed a chuckle under his breath as he settled onto his cot and pulled his work boots off. The thought of going to London, England to accept the invitation of being a full-blown member of that prestigious group caused him to give a sharp bark of laughter. And he didn’t care if anyone heard as he wrapped the blanket around himself, turned off the lamp on the table, and settled into slumber.