LEINIGEN & THE LAMBETH TREASURE
A Twitter adventure told in portions of 140 characters or less.
Part Twenty-Two: An Army of Darkness Gathers!
From the mouth of the cave, Vespa and I, flanked by gun-toting YMCE goons, traversed a few short and rough-hewn passages into the rock.
The tunnels reminded me of those I had found under Lambeth, what seemed like weeks before, if lined with dripping stone instead of brick.
Moss, mud and other unmentionables clabbered under our skittering, slithering boots. Strange Highland insects scuttled from us as we walked.
Torches, similar to those in the Lambeth Labyrinth, lit our flickering path. Shackled as well as mute, weary and appalled, we stumbled on.
I missed the dread majesty of our destination – as the tunnel opened in a sort of awful mouth, I turned to a guard to voice an unpleasantry.
Psychological warfare, see. Cuffed up and hemmed in as I was, I resolved to undermine my captors’ position by use of witticism or wisecrack.
It works – even in frenzied political or philosophical debate, even with such as Mr Stanley Baldwin, recourse to creative abuse bears fruit.
A chap has not lived, I find, until he has called the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain a big girl’s blouse.
Did that at Oxford; the Union. Carried the motion, and not just thanks to some bad port. So, in my new scrape, I turned to trusted tactics.
Fortunately, perhaps, I had stumbled but a few words into an intricate questioning of the nearest YMCE man’s paternity when Vespa gasped!
The light in the passage shifted, prey to an electronic glare from without. I turned. We stood on the very brink of an underground kingdom!
We were, I was later to deduce with aid of map and compass, inside one of those volcanic plugs for which Scotland is such an excellent plot.
You know: Arthur’s Seat and the like. This plug, which I later found to be named Tavis Knoyle, was very like that Edinburgh urban pimple.
Only hollow. As in, entirely. Mined, perhaps, though I wasn’t and am still not sure what one would ever mine in the Highlands, except mud.
Such musings occupy my mind now, of course. Then, they did not have chance to intrude, for the scene before me occupied all my thoughts.
In the chasmous void – and you have to admit, chasmous should really be a word – swarmed and teemed nothing less than a subterranean city.
The walls of the hollowed-out Tavis Knoyle rang with shouts, clangs, grindings and other industrial sounds. Hordes of YMCE men surged about.
They were accompanied, I could see, by what had to be YMCE women. Extraordinary creatures in thick spectacles and high-collared blouses.
Blondes, brunettes, redheads… all with hair tied back in sinister plain scrunchies, each toting bible and gun-metal thermos. I shuddered.
It was like looking upon an army of organised, productive ants. Aggressive ants, like the fire-eating blighters I once battled in the Congo.
Like ants, the YMCE men and women (as I decided to call them, YWCE not having quite the acronymical ring) expressed a loathsome purpose.
In the depths of Tavis Knoyle, as sparks arced from welding machinery and pulleys heaved metal parts about, I saw an army preparing for war.
Interrupting my dreadful reverie after a convenient pause, as they had proved was their convenient wont, my guards prodded me downwards...
Vespa and I stumbled down a narrow staircase that had been cut into the wall of the volcanic plug. A flimsy rope-rail guarded a sheer drop.
As we descended, the sound of the YMCE battalions below rose. Tavis Knoyle bustled like, well, an anthill. Preparations were being made.
YMCE men welded tanks and guns and jeeps; their women – God, were they breeding? – knitted jumpers and sewed ominous long canvas bags.
Our staircase passed chambers, cut into the living rock. An infirmary; a canteen. And yes, oh, Lord, yes: a crèche. YMCE babies bounced.
On the floor of the volcano, our guards forced a path. YMCE men and women turned as we went, curiosity flitting briefly across blank faces.
Brainwashed! By thunder, this was no ordinary army of ants. As when certain tropical parasites make themselves at home, these were zombies!
Mere walking shells, their brains scooped out like the lair in which they wriggled! What such an army could achieve did not bear scrutiny...
Fortunately, I was not given time to apply myself to the question at hand. As we reached the middle of the volcano’s floor, a siren sounded.
It was not unlike the whistle or hooter employed in unfortunate northern towns to summon ‘folk’ t’ ‘mill’. I believe. It was shrill, anyway.
The YMCE Army stilled, then snapped to attention with a shocking and heavy-booted ‘clomp’! Vespa and I stood still. The lights flicked out!
An arc lamp flicked on, illuminating the sheer cliffs of the volcano above us, on the opposite side of the cavern from which we had entered.
The beam of light illuminated a balcony, hewn from the rock and strewn with red, white and black YMCE flags, bearing their runic symbol.
Slowly, from the darkness at the back of the balcony, Moon appeared. Holman-Hunt too, and Simon the YMCE kapo. Raising his arms, Moon spoke…