Adventure Earth Company

The Mountain Kings - Chapter 2
Across Alfheim and Through the Sewers

From the journal of Andrew Ezekial Crawley, 1933.

October 7, Noon, The Road, Alfheim

My watch is still not working, so I am telling time by the position of the sun. Not the first time I’ve done this, but having a properly wound watch not working for no apparent reason is quite distracting.

We have been following what appears to be an old Roman road, or at least a road built in the manner the Romans did. It is heavily weathered, patched in some places but not in others. There is also the ruins of an aqueduct paralleling the road. Foxglove is moving us along at a good pace. She seems to have a definite itinerary in her mind, but has yet to share it with us. Luckily for me, my “hike” across China earlier this year prepared me for this.

Break is over, time to continue walking.

October 7, Sundown, The Road, Alfheim

We’ve arrived at the edge of a dark forest. The aqueduct stops abruptly at it and Foxglove has warned us against entering it at night. She claims the trees are full of nightmares and if we camp here, we will avoid spending two nights in the forest. So we made camp.

The sun is close to the horizon right now and this has sparked a thought in my mind. If I have the time differential correct, when the sun sets here, it is rising in Europe and vice versa. Normally this would require us to be somewhere in the South Pacific, but clearly we are not. Where did that door in the cave actually take us?

October 8, Noon, The Road, The Dark Forest

Foxglove is moving us through the forest as fast as we can hike. She is very nervous in here and recommends we stay on the road at all times. The road is in very good condition under the trees with some red-capped mushrooms being the only thing like debris on the road. Kurt keeps claiming that he sees the mushrooms move, but I am certain he is imagining things.

Foxglove is moving us out.

October 8, Sometime after Sunset, The Road, The Dark Forest

Foxglove kept us moving past the setting of the sun. It is only because some of us are starting to stumble that we convinced her to finally stop and make a rude camp. I’m on first watch and now that we are no longer hiking, I have noticed how quiet this forest is. I cannot recall hearing any birdsong or insects noise since we entered the forest. It is eerily quiet. Except for Kurt’s snoring of course.

October 8, Sometime at Night, The Road, The Dark Forest

We were attacked on Kurt’s watch. He apparently dozed off and awoke with a weight on his chest and trouble breathing. The rest of us awoke about the same time with the same symptoms. Considering the nature of where we are, I applied some of the eye ointment to my eyes and could see a small imp sitting on my chest, apparently stealing my breath and suffocating me. The others were in the same predicament. A short fight ensued wherein Kurt’s pistol mis-fired. Foxglove threw down a handful of oats on the road and the imps and they stopped attacking us and started picking up the oats, one by one. She had us capture one and dispatch the rest. One it was tied up, Sam and Jack could finally see it (Kurt has a limestone monocle without a lens that has similar properties to the eye ointment).

Foxglove explained that the imps behavior follows certain rules and they are bound to stop and pick up any spilled grains. Further, as long as we have the one captive, no others will attack us, making us safe in the forest. She seemed rather relieved and went back to sleep. The rest of us are trying. I’m trying to not look into the trees and I see hundreds of eyes looking back at me when I do.

October 9, Sometime during the Day, The Road, The Dark Forest

The heavy overgrowth of the trees makes it difficult to tell what time it is, but we are hungry and so it feels like midday. Foxglove has allowed us to slacken our pace a bit, feeling confident that our captive keeps us safe. It seems to have worked so far.

We passed a river earlier with an intricately carved bridge over it. There was a troll, of course. Foxglove talked with the troll a bit to get it to come out from under the bridge. The troll was roughly human in shape, made of rock instead of flesh and covered with moss. He reminded me of the standing stones with teeth back in the German valley Albert was spying on.

Foxglove introduced the troll as Peat and explained that we had to pay a toll to cross the bridge. The toll was a personal item from one of us and a story from the heart related to the item. If we didn’t or we gave a bogus item, he’d take our heart. After a quick huddle, Kurt handed over his lariat and told a story about how he stopped a rampaging bull at a rodeo with it, saving the lives of some clowns. (Apparently, rodeos use clowns to distract the bulls when a rider gets thrown off. Why the circus clowns do this I cannot begin to imagine.) Peat accepted the lariat and the story and we were allowed to cross.

As a note, the carvings on the bridge were of leering faces, like gargoyles on the cathedrals in France. There were post statues at either end. The end we approached had statues of two nymphs, the other side had nagas, which I recognize from my work in India. Why they are here is a mystery. I also made a rubbing of the sign on the bridge that Foxglove translated as “To pass, pay troll.”

Rest break’s over – time to march on.

October 9, Evening, The Road, The Dark Forest

We are camping inside the far edge of the forest at Foxglove’s advice. Apparently, up ahead the forest gives way to a swamp, which is more dangerous than the forest. What’s next? An un-passable chasm with a rope bridge?

I’m tired and it is making me cranky. Once my watch is over I’m going to sleep deeply.

October 11, Noon, Svartalfheim (?)

We marched through the swamp all yesterday, all through the night, and half of today to get here. We are all exhausted and currently hiding from the Svartalfar horde. I’ll get to that.

The road through the swamp was slick and had an eight-inch lip added to keep the swamp waters from flowing over it. At one point the road was shattered and we had to hop from one part to another to avoid stepping in the waters of the swamp, which Foxglove stated would be extremely dangerous to do (step in the water, not hop the rocks – I’m rambling). We made it past with the help of a guide rope we set up.

The swamp was unpleasant and damp. Near the end of yesterday, several of the others saw what appeared to be someone with a lantern in need of assistance. Further investigation led to the conclusion that it was a will o’ wisp and we should ignore it. Sadly, Sam’s mind was ensnared by the will o’ wisp and he had to be physically restrained by Kurt. After the incident back in Marche les Dammes, I think Kurt received a certain amount of satisfaction hog-tying Sam.

Foxglove pushed us to keep walking through the night. We could see many will o’ wisps out on the periphery and so pushed on. Near dawn, a white horse came out of the mist and approached the road. Kurt looked at it through his limestone monocle and then told it to move on and get some meat on its bones. It looked fine to me, so I’m not entirely certain what was going on, but I’ve learned to accept that things here are not always what they appear to be. The horse eventually walked away.

As Noon approached, we approached a wall that seemed to form the border of the swamp. There is a gate made of iron that Foxglove identified as Weyland’s Gate, which was made by Weyland to separate the realms. The wall is heavily eroded and breached in a few places, allowing the swamp to spill over to the other side.

Foxglove stated that one of us would have to open the gate as she could not touch it. I pushed on it and it swung freely at the slightest touch. Beyond was a dry rocky plain with a large, black mountain ahead. There were stone steps down from the gate to the plain, the level of the swamp being at a higher level than the plain. How this could be, I have no idea.

I stepped through the gate to the top of the steps and was hit by a cold gust of air. While the swamp was warm and humid, the rock plain is cold and dry, like an overcast winter day. I could see down the wall on this side and could see where the river crosses over to this realm. A large military camp is there along the far side of the bank. Foxglove identifies it as the enemy’s horde and is surprised to see that it is already assembled.

Then she gives us the bad news.

She cannot pass the gate due to “The Rules” and we will have to continue on without here. She gives us some cloaks that are the same color as the rocky plain, which will provide us some camouflage. She also explains to us the two ways into the keep on the mountain: brazenly through the front door or through the waste tunnel at the foot of the mountain.

Apparently the Alfar have spies in the keep, who report that people from our world are sometimes guests of the keep and we might be able to get by the guardian by at least not appearing to be foes. The waste tunnel leads to the sewers and then up into the keep itself.

I immediately voted for going through the front gate. After the tunnels under Kilimanjaro, I will prefer any other option to tunnel crawling. We discuss a bit and decide to hold off until we can see the keep and evaluate further. Foxglove left and we hunkered down on the backside of the stairs to hide from the horde. The odds of being spotted are low, but we’ll rest better knowing that they are lessened.

It feels like Kurt’s watch. Time for me to sleep.

October 12, Noon, Svartalfheim (?)

We’ve crossed much of the plain and can now see the keep on the mountain. It is impressive. It looks like a giant spire of crystal that seems to have grown out of the mountain. There is something very large at the front gate that moves and must be the gate guardian. Lower on the mountain, on the far side, is the only patch of ice on the entire mountain. It is noticeably large. We are discussing which way to go.

Damn. We’ve chosen to investigate the ice patch to see if the tunnel entrance is there.

October 12, Mid-afternoon, Svartalfheim (?)

The tunnel entrance is at the top of the ice patch and covered with a wooden grate. A rotted wooden grate that is easy to get past. We’ve decided to head in this way.

I hate tunnels.


The tunnels are carved from the rock. We’ve passed three gates and found a stretch covered in mathematical and chemical formulas and architectural drawings. I’m photographing some and copying down some that seem relative.

[Several pages of formulas covering various disciplines: physics, chemistry, architecture, biology]

Even Later

Found an ancient guy (Bos) who claims to be dead, despite the fact we were having a conversation. He also claimed to be the architect of the fortress and the tunnels. He has a dead mouse named Hob as a pet. The mouse is actually dead and dried up. He guided us to a major tunnel junction and explained what was at the end of each tunnel, but would go no further. The tunnels are (from left to right):

1. Oubliette – where Bos hanged himself and died?

2. “His” chamber – no explanation

3. Guest privy

4. Guards privy

5. Kitchen

6. Courtyard

7. Baths (hot springs)

Tunnels checked:

6 – ends in domed room with grates 30 feet off the floor

3 – underside of privies – attacked by giant (horse-sized) spider

2 – blocked by rock-fall – might be a sewer dam

1 – tunnel splits (L) leads to trapped grate, trap on other side® roof grate to torture chamber and arguing guards

7 – solid door opens on hot springs. Investigating further.

(Note: More happened after this, but we did not stop at a place where Andrew could update his journal. So the last of this game session will appear at the beginning of next session’s journal entry.)

The Mountain Kings - Chapter 1
Cairo to Belgium

From the journal of Andrew Ezekial Crawley, 1933.

September 28, 1933, 22:37, Cairo

Having resolved the mystery around the Tomb of the Lost Pharaoh, we returned to the AEC offices in Cairo via automobile. Much to our surprise, Miss Amanda Decker was there to meet us. She explained that due to a team being lost in the Himalayas, all AEC employees were immediately assigned to training in rock climbing. Until this was accomplished, all expeditions were placed on hold. Our team was being routed to Belgium, except Nick and Dumptruck, who were both being sent to Sicily.

This was most unwelcome news on several fronts. I had hoped to return to the States and spend more time with Tsai Su. Additionally, splitting up our team seemed most ominous.

Miss Decker informed us that we would be spending about a week in the Ardennes Mountains with Albert Meinrad, a famous Alpinist and friend of the Colonel. We were then told that we are slated to leave in a Sikorsky S-38 flying boat at 6:00 AM tomorrow morning. Oh, and would we please deliver a letter from the Colonel to Mister Meinrad? Now I am back on familiar footing with AEC.

I have spent the last few hours sending a telegram to Tsai Su in the States informing her of my delayed return and asking her if she knew Albert Meinrad. I then remained at the telegraph office, playing chess with the office manager, hoping for a response from Tsai Su. At 10:00 PM I was forced to admit that there would be no return telegraph this evening and returned to the AEC house.

Sadly, Kurt has already fallen asleep in the adjacent room and his snoring is prodigious. I fear I will not get much sleep this evening.

September 29, 1933, 05:51, Cairo

Sadly, I was correct. Luckily Egyptian coffee is strong.

October 1, 1933, 14:38, Marche-les-Dames, Belgium

The flying boat landed on the River Meuse and pulled up to a dock, where a tall ruddy-faced older man with grey-blonde hair was waiting with two cars. We unloaded all of our gear before he moved forward and addressed us, identifying himself as Albert Meinrad. I explained I had a letter for him, but I needed to see some identification proving his identity. He seemed nonplussed for a moment before searching his pockets for his wallet. Sam had already picked his pocket by this point and was holding up Albert’s driver’s license, which listed his name as Albert Léopold Clément Marie Meinrad.

Accepting the driver’s license as proof of his identity, I gave him the letter and had Sam return Albert’s wallet. Albert read the letter, seemingly amused at its contents. He asked after “little Amanda” and I told him Miss Decker was doing well. Apparently Albert knew Miss Decker when she was much younger.

We loaded our luggage into the two Duesenbergs Albert had arranged. He drove the lead car with most of the team while I drove the luggage in the second car. Albert drives quickly.

Albert led the procession east to Marche-les-Dames, a small village east of Namur where he checked us into a small hotel. While he was talking to the proprietor, Jack overheard the proprietor refer to Albert as “Your Grace”. I’m not up on my European nobility, so I cannot hazard a guess as to his actual title, but clearly Albert is a member of the Belgium nobility. This is starting to seem more like one of the Colonel’s “odd jobs” rather than a simple training exercise.

We’ve taken residence in our rooms, where I’m writing this. We have until 6:00 PM to meet with Albert in the Lion’s Cup, a tavern (possibly “the” tavern) here in the village. I plan on looking around the village some before joining Albert. It has occurred to me that we entered Belgium without going through any customs inspection. If we are going to get into any trouble, I’d like to know more about where we are. Maybe there will be a Michelin’s Guide I can peruse if not purchase. I hope they take Egyptian pistoles.

October 1, 1933, 20:11, Marche-les-Dames, Belgium

I’m honestly surprised we are not all in jail. Sam and Kurt were up to something, with Sam pretending to be dead and Kurt believing him. Until we got Sam to the doctor/veterinarian’s office. Sam scared everyone and then angered everyone, all in the same action.

I found the local telegraph office and sent an update telegraph to Tsai Su. Still no response. Ah, well.

At the Lion’s Cup, some drunken locals got belligerent and a full on tavern brawl started, centered on Jack, Kurt, and Sam. Albert was entertained and I won 50 pistoles from him, betting that Jack would be standing at the end of the fight. Albert got us immediately released, and the police were very respectful towards him. How important is Albert locally? When I brought the question up at dinner, he would not go into detail and I was not willing to push. The beer was good.

October 2, 1933, 06:57, Marche-les-Dames, Belgium

Albert has just handed out climbing helmets and gear and we are packing clothing and some supplemental gear. Having done this before, I finished quickly and am writing this while waiting for the others to finish. Our plan seems to be to head “eastwards”, gaining experience by doing. I’m not certain how this will qualify as training.

October 5, 06:25, Ardennes Mountains, Belgium

Last night I think we learned why we are actually here. Albert has moved us steadily eastwards, towards the border with Germany. Due to the Berlin Blitz, none of the team is particularly eager to enter Germany illegally (with the possible exception of Sam, who was not in Berlin with us).

Late last night we made a cold camp. Sam and I stayed at camp while Albert, Jack, and Kurt climbed in the dark to the summit of the hill. Albert had them wait below the actual summit while he climbed up and looked over the other side. Kurt and Jack eventually followed him, much to Albert’s exasperation. The valley beyond was Germany and some men were unloading a crate into a clearing (or so I was told later). After writing something down in a notebook, the three returned to the camp and Albert promptly went to sleep.

Once we were certain Albert was asleep, Jack conferred what they had seen. I wanted to see for myself – partly out of curiosity, partly because I was beginning to suspect this was another mission for the Colonel and not a training session. I put on some eye balm that Kurt got from a local woman (he did not go into details other than to say it was supposed to help with seeing). I’ve heard of similar things used by the natives of Central America, but it did not seem to have any appreciable effect.

Jack and I climbed to the spot where Albert was peering over into Germany. To minimize any noise of our climbing, I climbed slowly and carefully. Jack turned into a mountain lion, a thing he learned to do at the end of the Kilimanjaro Safari from the shaman, Chui. It still unnerves me to look over and see a ferocious-looking big cat moving along within arms reach.

At the peak I was able to spy down into Germany. Using a pair of binoculars, I spotted the group of men, their truck, and the rather large crate they had unloaded. They were in the next valley in a clearing with some standing stones. I wish I could contact Professor Dinsdale and ask him about the stones – he is the European Mythology specialist, not I.

There were Brownshirts standing in a protective ring around the sight, the swastikas on their armbands prominently displayed. Inside that ring were men in black uniforms and men in civilian clothing. The men in civilian clothing and a few of the men in the black uniforms seemed to have a field of sparkles around them, which was odd. When I looked without the binoculars I could still see the sparkles around the men as well as around some of the standing stones. Looking at the stones with the sparkles, they now seemed to have faces with teeth. I looked over to Jack to ask him if he saw anything unusual and he had sparkles around him. Perhaps the eye balm just needed some time to sink in.

We observed the goings on for a while. It consisted mostly of some form of negotiations or argument between the civilians and the men in black uniforms. Eventually the men in black uniforms and the Brownshirts left and the civilians went into the ruins of an old cottage, leaving the crate in the open. Very odd.

Jack and I returned to the camp and informed Kurt and Sam of what we saw. We then set watches and I finally got to sleep. I put Kurt on a different watch than myself so I could sleep without his snoring interfering. It worked well.

October 5, 21:17, Ardennes Mountains, Belgium

A bad day. Albert lost his grip and fell, nearly pulling the rest of us down as well. As it was, he fell into a narrow wooded valley and the tree branches broke his fall, along with his leg, some ribs, and his arm, plus giving him a concussion. Jack used what healing arts he had learned from Chui to stabilize him and we made braces out of tree branches.

Then it started to rain.

Kurt and Jack scouted out the valley quickly while I fashioned a lean-to to keep as much of the rain off Albert as possible. There was not much cover in the valley, but there was a cave at one end. We made an impromptu gurney and carried Albert as carefully as we could to the cave. The small creek that ran through the valley entered the cave and quickly descended to the right. To the left and back was a second cave that was much higher than the water and dry, so we made camp there. There were the remains of an old campfire and the cave seemed to have some ventilation, so we made a fire to keep Albert warm and avoid having him go into shock.

With that done, Jack and I explored the cave a bit and found what appeared to be an old pagan shrine. There were some offerings still there, ranging from some late Roman coins to jars and bottles dating through the 1700s. Nothing seemed to be younger than a century. We decided to avoid buying any trouble and left the shrine alone. The walls were also covered in crude paintings, showing the hunt for a white stag. I took some pictures to show to Dinsdale back in Boston. Possibly even Elijah. In fact, probably Elijah first.

I’m on first watch with Sam now and the night is passing slowly. It is still raining outside, but the creek has not risen appreciably, which is lucky for us. Albert seems to be breathing as well as can be expected and is sleeping, which is a small blessing of its own. However, back when Jack and Kurt were scouting the valley, Albert had been mumbling in a state of delirium. One of the things he said was, “can’t die. Who would become king?”

Is Albert the King of Belgium? Is he a crown prince? Does he think he is a crown prince? I don’t know and right now I really wish I did. If he is royalty, where are his bodyguards? Is that why we are here? Damn the Colonel and his secrecy.

Nothing more to write tonight. Tomorrow we will try to carry Albert to a village with a telegraph and get him proper medical treatment. If worse comes to worse, we can use the Jade Frog on him.

October 6, 02:15, Apple Cottage, Alfheim

My watch stopped several hours ago, the sun is high in the sky, and I am not certain where we actually are. My journal heading is solely based on what the locals have told us.

During Kurt’s watch and while I was asleep, three men and a woman entered the cave from out of the rain. The woman approached our group, stating that we were in danger and we had to leave immediately. Jack woke me up at this point. It isn’t pleasant to wake up with hooded strangers kicking out your fire and stating you must leave your warm refuge.

After the fire was out and while Jack was briefing me, the woman went over to the shrine, which was now in shadows, and started making some peculiar gestures. She then stepped through the wall.

Or rather a door where there once had been wall. I’m not certain how she did that. Two of the men carefully picked up our make-shift gurney and carried Albert through the new door. We followed and exited an adjoining cave into a pleasant meadow with a noonday sun. I checked my watch and discovered it showed 2:15 AM and had stopped.

We walked across the meadow and through an apple orchard, eventually arriving at an ancient cathedral. Unusually, rather than depicting saints in the stained glass windows, there were depictions of various pagan things. Sam was very captivated by the window showing unclad women dancing in a circle. Of the entire cathedral, only the windows seemed untouched by age. The stone was very worn and nearly crumbling in places.

We were lead around and through the great front doors. The interior gave the impression of being abandoned for a very long time. Where the altar should have been were two trees that had been shaped to grow together into a rough throne. A man with blonde hair was sitting on it and he greeted us.

His name (so he told us) is Aubrey, and he is the King of Alfheim (I know I’ve heard that name before, but I can’t quite remember in what context), known as Avalon (which I recognize) or the Isle of Apples (which I’ve never heard of before). His people, the Alfar – the people of the light, are at war with the Svartafar (who I’m guessing are something like the people of the dark or some such), who have made alliances with evil men from our world, bringing a “man of iron” across and tipping the balance of the war. If the Svartafar win in this world, the consequences in our world will be very dire. Aubrey wants us to destroy the man of iron, bring him its heart, and make sure the Svartafar cannot bring any more across. In exchange, he will heal Albert to full health and send us back.

With the black mark on our records left by Mister Parks abandoning us on Kilimanjaro, we cannot really afford to lose another client, even to an accident (and I am really seeing this “rock climbing training” as one of the Colonel’s missions in a different guise). We agree with little debate. Aubrey has Foxglove (the woman from the cave) show us to a cottage in the apple orchard where we can finish resting and where Albert will stay while we defeat the iron golem. Apparently, we will be walking for several days to get to the man of iron.

I wish I knew more about European mythology beyond the basic King Arthur story; it would help me evaluate all of this better. During our audience with Aubrey, he told me that I “have been touched.” I was fatigued and did not ask “touched by what” and now I am concerned what it would cost me to find out. I wonder if he was talking about my birthmark.

I very much wish I had Dinsdale with me or even a relevant volume of the Planetary Guide. There is something subtle going on here that I am missing. I am very tired and must sleep now. Tomorrow (or later this week) we must find a “man of iron” and destroy it.

The Mountain Kings - Dramatis Personae

Main Characters

Andrew Ezekial Crawley – red hair, blue eyes, average height, Andrew is a graduate student who is just shy of his Ph.D. due to the Great Crash and the loss of his family’s fortune. Despite this, he has worked on many archaeological digs over the past three years and has more field experience than several of the professors he works odd jobs for.

Jack Thompson – tall, short blonde hair, safari clothes and boots, Jack is a Big Game Hunter and ex-French Foreign Legionnaire. He excels at tracking and his quarry rarely escapes, man or beast.

Kurt Morison – brown hair, tall and lanky, Kurt is the quintessential cowboy, from his beat up hat all the way down to his well worn pair of boots. He is quick with a gun and able to ride any beast that can support his weight.

Sam Haine – a young stage magician with a bit of the real thing up his sleeve.

Supporting Cast

Colonel Yarborough – Owner of the Adventure Earth Company, the Colonel is apparently well-connected and has extensive resources at his command. His company provides safaris and excursions to exotic parts of the globe for the wealthy, usually with a twist or a side-job for his employees. He is rarely seen by the employees of his company, usually only on their first day with the company.

Amanda Decker – A young, shapely, blonde woman, she is Colonel Yarborough’s personal assistant, and employee’s main point of contact. She also introduces the clients to the team that will be arranging whatever excursion the client is paying for.

Pamela – Secretary at the New York Office of Adventure Earth Company

The Chrysler Building – location of the New York Office of Adventure Earth Company

The Client

None – sort of. You’ll see.


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