In early December, Professor Woodhouse received a telephone call from Professor Peale at Miskatonic. The group had been staying at Peale’s safehouse in Arkham, planning their next move. Vincent’s reconnaissance revealed that the group’s Arkham offices were being watched by several men. Or so it seemed.
Peale informed Woodhouse that he had received a letter and package of urgent interest related to the group’s recent adventures. The letter was from Jacob Hancock, an associate of Professor Peale’s, who wanted help in locating his Uncle Henry, an archaeologist living and working in the Scottish Highlands who had gone missing. Jacob had sent along several letters that he received from his uncle that indicated that he was in some kind of serious danger. After reading the letters, the group agreed that this was just the break they needed to turn the tides on the Silver Twilight. They agreed to search for Uncle Henry and left the next morning for the Scottish Highlands.
In the package were several newspaper clippings related to Henry Hancock and three letters from uncle to nephew, with handwritten notes from nephew Jacob at the bottom of each:
Member Returns from Congo Basin
Henry M. Hancock disembarked at Southampton recently
after a two month expedition somewhere along the Congo
River ’s drainage.
The accomplished archaeologist indicated that he and Dr. Adam Chisholm had some success in locating evidence connected to an unnamed place termed by Dr. Chisholm as “a semi-mythic location”. Owing to Dr. Chisholm’s unfortunate illness their expedition was interrupted, and publication of their findings must await a fresh trip into the canyons of the Iturikendi. The partners plan a new expedition next year. Meanwhile they look for ward to the bracing air and sturdy virtues of Scotland, as they rest near Inverness.
Mr. Hancock would not comment upon a recent lurid article appearing in a London daily, The Scoop, except to castigate “whoever is responsible” for attributing feverish
dreams to his stricken friend and partner, Dr. Chisholm.
— Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society.
Excerpt from the
Dr. Chisholm: The rain forests there are absolutely trackless. It would take an army to hack their way through directly. One must approach circuitously, to the north, and then all the way round down from the top of the watershed, taking advantage of the river flow to be carried into the canyons.
The Scoop: It was in the unexplored canyons that you found a new danger, was it not, sir?
Dr. Chisholm: (visibly shuddering) Yes. The experience nearly drove me
mad. Being forced to run the gauntlet of the river-borne dingi-dingi
was utterly terrifying. The things are like motile leeches, but much
larger, the size of horses. Lord! And they are very good swimmers. One
of them can exsanguinate a man as quickly as you or I might skin a rabbit.
The Scoop: Dreadful! Yet you plan to go back there?
Dr. Chisholm: My good friend Hancock is keen on it, and I have learned to trust his judgment utterly. By next year my hands will be steady enough for anything.
— From “Terror on the
Edge of the World”,
H. M. Hancock
November 20, 1928
My greetings to you, Jacob, and fondest regards to your father. I hope to
join you this fall if They do not find me before I am able to leave Scotland.
I realize that neither you nor your father have ever believed any of the strange legends which I have related to you, but I can turn to no one else. If my life is of any value to you, please look into this matter for me. I am in desperate need of an artifact which I believe may be found in a museum at Miskatonic University, in Arkham, Massachusetts. The object is a small greyish-green stone, shaped like a five-pointed star. I had hoped to find one at the dig, but I fear that work there is not going fast enough and that They will get their supernatural aid before I find the star-stone.
Please make every effort to obtain the star-stone, but if word should reach you that something has happened to me, obtain the star-stone for yourself, for They will be on your trail soon thereafter.
N.B — My father died ten years before the date of this letter. The reference to my father is a code between Henry and myself indicating authenticity and urgency of the message. — Jacob Hancock.
H. M. Hancock
November 24, 1928
I fear that this message will be the last you get from me for some time. Unless I flee this area, the Sons of Yog-Sothoth will be upon me. Lorne discovered that Belphegor is a leader of the group and he fears that They are aware of our discoveries.
Margaret brought me a star-stone, but try to find more, for I need all I can get.
The first piece was stolen from the dig site last night, but They did not get the second piece. I have it well-hidden now and They will not get it from me. We do not know what They want the pieces for, but we think there are three altogether. Adam disappeared today. He stopped-by yesterday evening, but this morning Fergus says Adam checked out and left late last night. Adam has been afraid of the dark since the African episode last year. Consequently, he would not have left at night. I fear that he has run afoul of Belphegor’s people. Lorne does not know about Adam’s disappearance yet and I fear that telling him would be too much for the old man.
All of these problems started with the arrival of the French woman. I will confront her in the morning.
Make sure that you obtain a star-stone for yourself as soon as possible and keep it with you always.
Give my greetings to your father.
N.B. I do not recognize the “Sons of Yog-Sothoth” nor does “Belphegor” or
“the French woman” make any sense to me. I would investigate this myself,
were it not for my infernal gout. — Jacob Hancock.
The authenticity of the final letter is in serious doubt:
26 November 1928
My Dearest Jacob,
All of my fears have proved to be unfounded. If my letters of late have seemed to indicate trouble I hope that you will forgive me. I realize that my imagination had run wild. There never was any danger.
Adam and I are going to head back to Africa in the morning and we will be out of touch for some time, but there is no cause for alarm. We can take care of ourselves. We stumbled across an amazing find, but must re-check our previous work.
Give my greetings to the rest of the family.
With fondest regards,
Henry M. Hancock
N.B. This letter is not really from Henry. My concern for my uncle’s safety
is based on the obvious falseness of this letter, for Adam was frightened by
something they discovered in Africa and could not be persuaded to return to the
continent, let alone to their dig site.— Jacob Hancock.
The group arrived in London aboard the Atlantic liner “Ceres” and made their way to Inverness by train. Before leaving London, Sir Alistair secured some pistols and shotguns from agents of his family’s. Upon arriving in Inverness, the group spent a day doing some research on Belphegor, the “French woman” (whom they believed to be Anne Chantraine, mentioned in Karl Stanford’s letters) and the activities of the Silver Twilight in Scotland. They located two references to a person named “Anne de Chantraine”:
“There are almost no instances of witchcraft reported in the Western Highlands in the last 400 years. In March of 1620 Anne de Chantraine was arrested and charged with witchcraft in the town of Inverness. She was 17 years old, lively, intelligent, and unusually pretty.
“Anne de Chantraine was held in prison for a year before being tortured three times. All three interrogations were made after she fully confessed her evil acts. She was held in prison for another year and burned at the stake on October 18, 1622. The priest present at the execution wrote that ‘the prisoner was stupid, and did not understand what she said, though sometimes
she seemed quite right in her mind. Such an ugly wicked girl deserved to die. Her pretense of insanity did not fool me for a moment ’.”
— Excerpt from Great Witches of Britain,
Alphonse Debeers, 1912.
“In Edinburgh in 1745 Anne de Chantraine, a young girl in her late teens, was arrested on charges of witchcraft. She was released later that year upon order of a local justice, a peer.”
— Excerpt from Occult Brethren, Clive Waite Jr., 1902.
While in Inverness, they spoke with Inspector MacDougell, who was in charge of the Henry Hancock missing persons case. Upon learning that they were agents of the Hancock family, the Inspector handed over the key to Hancock’s house in Cannich. He also gave the following statement:
“Well, no, we’ve not been able to locate Mr. Hancock nor Dr. Chisholm. They fired their help at where they were digging up at Loch Mullardoch. The house is closed up. The car is on blocks. There are reports that they had a change of plan and returned to Africa, and it does look that way. Changes of plans often occur. But we admit we’ve found nary other traces so far, such as them purchasing steamship tickets or having registered at hotels. They are missing persons, but we have no leads. If your search turns up anything significant, call me immediately.”
The group hired two cars in Inverness and made the thirty-mile drive to Cannich. Clint and Rod stayed stayed behind in Inverness to continue the search for possible leads.
In Cannich, they rented rooms in the King’s Head Inn, which seemed to be the focus of most social life in Cannich. They saw several strange-looking characters there: a man named Wully MacMurdo, a brutish, taciturn man who sat sullenly at the bar, staring ahead blankly and two men named Andrew and Jamie MacQuarrie, who left soon after the group settled in. They also met a teacher on holiday named Alistair MacGillivray and an associate of Hancock’s named Dr. Andrew Kennedy, an archaeologist also known to Professor Woodhouse.
They learned that Andrew Kennedy was working with Adam Chisholm and Henry Hancock on a dig site here in Cannich, on the north shore of Loch Mullardoch. Hancock and Chisholm were led to look there by a Latin manuscript that Kennedy reluctantly shows the group relating the story of a Roman expedition to Loch Mullardoch. He also directed the group to Ian MacDonald, who knew the way to the dig site. Henry Hancock believed that the dig site contained the “Temple of Aesathog” mentioned in the translated Latin manuscript. Kennedy, Chisholm and Hancock found traces of Pictish inhabitants at the site, but found nothing definite until a few days before their disappearances. That day they unearthed two human skeletons with Roman weapons and bits of Roman armor. They also discovered skeletons of a large reptile with which they were totally unfamiliar. That night they saw a huge creature like a slimy kraken near the shore of the loch. Kennedy’s friends were troubled enough by this vision that Hancock sent a letter to his nephew in the United States, and suspended work at the site. That same night he uncrated his two elephant guns. Hancock offered one to Kennedy, who chose instead to move into the village. A few days later Hancock and Chisholm disappeared.
After breakfast, the group decided to pay a visit to Ian MacDonald’s farm at Cozae Lodge to see if he could point out the way to the dig site. After some lubrication with scotch, Mr. MacDonald pointed out the path to the dig site. he also said that he had seen a local crank named Duncan MacBain talking with “a foreign woman and a Sassenach [Englishman]” near the shore of the loch. He has often seen Duncan and the MacQuarrie brothers doing strange things near some standing stones adjacent to the loch. After another tumbler of scotch, MacDonald also claimed to be the “only living expert” on Cannich and its environs and also that he has often seen creatures in the forest or near MacBain’s house that “looked like a cross ‘tween a Chinaman and a great viper.”
The group headed off to the Hancock dig site where they found the body of Adam Chisholm buried among the rubble. They also found Roman armor and equipment and what looked to be the site of the battle between the Roman expedition and some others, perhaps Pictish warriors. At the site, they also discovered some strange, non-Roman and non-Pictish statuary a large fragment of the golden R’Lyeh Disk. They packed up the Disk and drove off to check on Henry Hancock’s nearby house.
At the house, they were ambushed by the MacQuarrie brothers, one of whom was wielding an elephant gun and blew the front door off its hinges as the party approached. The group scattered, with Madame Frifri and Little Orchid taking cover behind the car and the rest taking cover around the side of the house and out back. Vincent and the others crept in the back door and began searching the bottom floor. Just at that moment, Madame Frifri and Little Orchid saw the MacQuarrie brothers jump out of a second-story window. Madame Frifri took quick aim with her Webley revolver and squeezed off a shot, taking off the top of poor Andrew MacQuarrie’s skull. Simulateously, Little Orchid grazed Jamie with a shot just as he ran towards the car, red with rage and fired the elephant gun. The car absorbed much of the damage, but the shell continued on to graze Little Orchid’s shoulder. Both Madame and Orchid fired again, mortally wounding Jamie. Lord Alistair once-more performed a coup de grace with his sword cane.
Shaken, the group entered and searched the house, locating the corpse of Henry Hancock and a cleverly-hidden fragment of the R’Lyeh Disk. In order to avoid any complications with the authorities, they dragged the corpses into Karl Stanford’s gate box and then hid the bodies and the box on the other side in the woods near the isolated cabin.
They decided to make one last stop before retiring for the evening at Ian MacLennan’s farm house. There they were treated quite rudely by MacLennan and before leaving thought that they spied an attractive young woman peering out from behind some curtains in the house.
They then headed back to the Inn to rest and have a few well-earned drinks. Before heading off to sleep, they decided to chat with the locals. Both the innkeeper and the school teacher Alistair MacGillivray were very talkative, but always moved the conversation back to what the group was doing here in Cannich.
Meanwhile, feeling rakish, Lord Alistair began chatting up the attractive barmaid, Miss MacNair and invited her up to bring some ale up to his room. In his room, Alistair began talking to the smitten Miss MacNair and asked her if she knew Henry Hancock, whereupon she fainted straight away and was taken to her brother’s house to recuperate.