Cuso used his ivory story knife to smooth out a patch of sand and quickly sketch out a rough drawing of a strange looking flying creature, then looked at the faces of the children before him. Our people have always told stories of "Raven", "Fox", and "Orca", he said. Let me tell you a story you have never heard before. It is a story of "Zinger", who lives in the Gruv. Zinger is clever, and this is the story of how I first encountered him.
I, along with some others, was called into the Fairaday Agency. Lord Carnavon and Bernhard, whom I have told you of before were there, but there was also a Methodist Priest by the name of Rowan. We were hired for a most exciting journey! They wanted us to go to the Gruv! They wanted us to escort a Dr Maadhini Vishwakarma to the All Saints workhouse and help her investigate a strange disease. They offered to pay us each 8 pounds per day, which was an absolute fortune back then, more than most people saw in a year.
We immediately grabbed our stuff and met her at her hotel, then went as a group to the train station. The actual journey through the Rabbit Hole was bizarre. They inspected our documents several times. Once as we entered the fort, again as we entered the train station, again to get to the platform, and again as we took our seats! They had us strap ourselves to our seats very securely, the military steward gave us a brief lecture telling us to expect weird things. Then with a whistle and a roar the huge locomotive accelerated down the track at a frightful rate, apparently trying to get as much speed as possible before entering the wormhole itself.
I can't adequately describe the passage itself. I felt very strange. I felt as if I was being stretched, then as if I became not solid, a sort of Smoke being inhaled. That is all I recall before passing out. I woke up to hear excited voices outside the train yelling that the train had picked up some "gremlins", and automatic weapon fire hitting the thickly armored train. (which greatly excited us passengers). I managed to unstrap myself and carry my trunk outside the train before I was violently sick, sticking my head under the train and vomiting upon the railbed.
We went to the hotel that had been arranged for us. I had a few cups of tea and some aspirin in the cafe, then despite it being mid-afternoon, I excused myself and went up to my room and went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night, still feeling very strange. I took a half a dose of Laudium and more aspirin and stayed in bed until sunup. I understand the others had a low-key evening in Fort Alice. At breakfast we were joined by one of the famous saurid natives of the Gruv. (cuso sketches a quick portrait in the sand) This was a plains saurid by the name of Sh'kem "Manyome" Raas. This was an Investigator of some sort and had been hired as a native guide. We spent the whole of that day on a train to All Saints workhouse. There were a few stops prior to the workhouse, but at that time the workhouse was the end of the passenger line. They were extending the railroad past it, but had not yet reached any additional settlement sites.
I spent most of the day on the train in a fever stupor, taking little interest in the new world scrolling past the train window, with aches and pains in every joint of my body. It is amazing to me that it took me and everybody else so long to realize what was happening, especially on the whaler, I had nursed two people through looking-glass-fever before we crew of the whaler (isolated upon the sea as we were) had even heard of the malady. But it was not until we had alighted at All Saints, and it had become apparent that I had grown noticeably taller over the preceding 24 hours, that we figured out that I was transforming into the handsome elf you see before you. You kids may not realize this, but I used to be of fairly average looks for our people, which is to say that the white men considered me short and stocky. Before my Boojumization was complete I had grown to be fully 6 foot tall, which makes me very, very unusual for our people. Also, my eyes changed to this bright emerald green that allows me to see in the dark
After supper we went straight to work upon our investigation.
Every month for the last 8 months, a few dozen of the 3000 different people in All Saints had fallen ill. two or three die. The people who fell ill are always related in some way: Maybe they bunk together, or they are on the same work crew, or something like that, so they had all apparently caught the illness at the same time and place. But the groups were not related in any obvious way. The illness manifested as a mild flu, that gets steadily worse. The circumstances were weird (like much in the Gruv), and they had been totally unable to figure out why the disease only appeared once per month, and how it was spread. We and the doctor we had brought (Dr Maadhini Vishwakarma - a woman from India) were to assist the resident doctor (Dr. Rajagopalan, also a woman from India) in figuring out the mystory. If the pattern was to hold, the next outbreak of the disease would occur in 2 or 3 days from when we arrived.
That night I collected all the data I could about recurring natural phenomenon. Plotted when in the last 8 months each of the moons and other visible bodies were full, new, half. When they were visible or occluded by other celestial bodies. When the sun or various other bodies were eclipsed, or eclipsing. I figured that if the sickness struck at the same time every month, then all I needed to do was to figure out what the Gruv calendar was based upon, and find out what natural phenomenon was occuring at about that time. Alas, it did not work. As you know children, we as a people have always counted time by days, moons, and seasons. As you know, the Americans for some reason do not base their measurement of months upon Moons. Well it turns out the calendar that the British used in the Gruv was even more silly. They took their own earth clocks and adjusted them for the Gruv. And they took their own Earth Calendar and modified that a bit to more or less fit the Gruv. After an evening of hard work, I determined that there was absolutely nothing natural to the Gruv that matched a cycle remotely like the British Calendar used in the Gruv. The Gruvian month (and therefor the outbreaks) did not fit any cycle of the moons or eclipses.
I am tired now children, tomorrow I will tell you of the Winged Zinger with the Purple tentacle and the Winged Zinger chase. 500 ap
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