(1939-12-24) The Gammadion Cross
Details for The Gammadion Cross
Summary: The intrepid adventurers make their way to a South American village to seek a ride down the river. When they arrive, they find out they aren't the only visitors in the area.
Date: 24 December 1939
Location: Somewhere along the Amazon River, Brazil.
Plot: Raiders of the Lost Serpent

From the Andes, the group makes their way by broom under cover of night to a clearing in the jungle not far from a village on the Amazon River that they know to have a port. Fortunately, Beryl has been in this area before, and knows that there is a squib who has sought to get as far from the wizarding world as possible by coming out here, to the back end of nowhere - maybe he knows where they can hire a boat. If memory serves, the man's name is Cecil, and he runs a small inn that caters to what passes for a community here.

As they break the woodline along the rutted dirt road and head towards the square of ramshackle buildings along the riverbank, they might notice that all does not appear to be well. There are a line of panel trucks parked near what could only generously be called a quay. Painted in a mixture of blue-gray, each is stenciled with a large black cross outlined in white, while on the sides of the trucks there is a spread-winged eagle clutching a wreath which surrounds what they may know in its more ancient form as the fylfot, or gammadion cross, but which has come to fame lately under its more Germanic name - the swastika.

Being a proper Black, Lucretia stays quite far away from anything Muggle-like. As such, she stops and tilts her head at the black and red caticornered symbol. "Why in heaven's name would they inscribe the fylfot off centre? My grandfather would certainly never approve." She sighs. "You said this place belongs to a…" Her nose wrinkles slightly. "A squib?"

Beryl may be the queen of the frozen, iced over expressionless face, but even she appears to be somewhat taken aback by the sight that unfolds before them… Admittedly, "taken aback" by her measure is a slight arch in one eyebrow and a tightening of her jaw.

Slowing her pace, the woman slowly sweeps the area with her gaze. "I don't know what's going on here, but everyone needs to keep as calm and casual as possible." She remarks in an undertone, directing her words to the teenagers as they draw up beside her. Sparing a glance at Lucretia, Beryl answers drily: "Try not to display your ignorance, Miss Black. That symbol is used by the Nazis. You may have heard of them. They sort of declared war on England a short time ago… and we're British subjects in a foreign land."

"The Hitlerites use that sy…" Abraxas begins to say, then nods to Beryl. He might, possibly, have been overheard a few years ago saying something about how separating lesser muggles was a sign that things were moving in the right direction. Whether he still believes that now, he keeps his comments to himself. He tries to look as casual as a random Englishman walking into the mouth of a lion might, though. He looks over his shoulder at Beryl, and says, "Where are we going?"


To the group's good fortune, the Nazis seem to be busy about other things. A number of them are stripped to the waist loading boxes onto a set of small boats. The crates are each marked with a sword surrounded by a strange bend, and inside a circle of runic writing. The inn is not far ahead, off to one side of the street, a slightly larger shack than the other shacks surrounding it, and quiet, this early in the day.

"Oh, the Muggle war. Yes. Damnable shame, that." Clearly, Lucretia isn't all that bothered by the situation involving the lives of people she'll never see and has no care to meet. She inhales, eying the lorries with even more distaste now that a Muggle presence has been confirmed. "Best if we avoid them." At least she's calm, Beryl. Perhaps her ignorance will be her saving?

"Remember what I said about acting like you belong." Beryl says calmly. The moment they appear out of place is the moment they get in trouble… unless this method fails. Then, they are rather in the proverbial soup. As cool as she may be acting, the brutal fact of the matter is that Beryl is about as relaxed as a cat up a tree with a dog underneath. Why do the Nazis have to be on the river?

"This way," she says, not pointing or indicating beyond shifting the direction of her footsteps slightly to take them along toward the Inn. As they approach the door, Beryl hazards one final glance at the Nazi presence nearby, and then returns her gaze to the less-than-desireable heap they are about to enter. "Be it ever so… functional." In they go.

If they thought it looked dreadful on the outside, the inside is far worse. Dank, dismal and smelling oddly of damp and… god only knows what other odours, the place is less than hospitable. The proprietor is seated behind a "table" of sorts. It is, in fact, a ramshackle affair constructed of fruit crates and what was apparently a door at some time. Fat, bald and wearing a linen suit that has seen better days - there Cecil sits in all his glory, chewing on the stub of an unlit cigar. He looks up from the papers before him and squints inquisitively at the odd group of new arrivals.

Cecil stands from behind his table - or maybe he just shifts his bulk upward a little bit. "Well, hang me from a tree and call me breadfruit. Lo' at this group heah. 'Tis been a fortnight since we've seen one of ye kind 'ere." His accent is rather low-rent, truth be told, and when he turns to call for the bartender it is in a thick patois of English and the local dialect that is more akin to pidgin… something.

Abraxas ducks into the inn and wrinkles his nose. People sleep in a place like this? That's what Inn would imply, wouldn't it? But he remembers the lessons to keep cool, and his recent work in the area pays dividends, so he manages to banish the face he would normally make behind one that is more blandly polite.

Beryl notes the expression on Abraxas' face and says rather flatly. "These kinds of people don't typically take kindly to outsiders turning their noses up at their lifestyle." In other words… mind your manners, even if it is a festering hole.

Now comes the bright, ingratiating smile as Beryl gracefully moves toward the man: "And far longer since I laid my eyes on you. Too long, in fact. Don't tell me you've forgotten." She says, tugging the glove from her pristine, lily-white hand so that she can extend it toward the proprietor. "The siren call of the river drew me back." Leaning in a little closer, she lowers her voice, adding: "I see I'm not the only one who heard it, though." Referring to the Germans outside.

"Too roight." Cecil says, shaking hands and then pulling out an enormous polka-dotted handkerchief to rub his face and bald pate, back to his neck. He motions for the group to sit down. "Krauts've been here fer two days. Lookin' tae go down da rivah. Dunno what they're aftah. Might want to be careful. Onna yer lot dissapeared less'n a month ago round those parts, if yer headin' that way. But whaddaya wan'? None of you high and mighty types look for Cecil unless ya need sommat. I doubt yew come out ta this lill garden spot less ya aftah som'n."

Abraxas has managed to school his face into aristocratic indifference. When they are bidden to sit, he simply nods and takes a seat on a fruit crate serving as a chair, putting his bag down at his feet.

The auburn beauty keeps her composure right through the handshake. In truth, she's more concerned with the news of their friends from Germany - not that she belies any emotion beyond a twitch in her expression and a small nod: "I appreciate the tip. And that is precisely why I came to you, old friend. I can depend on you to be straight with me."

Also taking a seat - such as it is - Beryl motions to the children: "Cecil, meet my young friends, Lucretia, Hattie and Abraxas." No last names given. "And, perceptive as always, you are right. We are after something. A bit of an adventure to broaden their horizons. But…er, let's just say we've run across a bit of an enigma, a mystery and possibly a call for help. As you say, someone dissappeared out there… perhaps this same person. We won't know unless we follow the lead. To do that, we need a boat." Pausing, Beryl tilts her head and smiles graciously: "Naturally, we would make it worth your while."

Cecil is no fool. His porcine eyes look at the girls, and then Abraxas, "That'uns a Malfoy. How'd you start workin' with such toffs, Crabbe? Last visit, ye were with the wee beasties, no a babysitter." He settles his bulk into the groaning chair beneath him and continues to mop his face, flapping it as if to wave away the question. Business awaits. "Boats? A propah boat? Blimey, you don't want much. Normally this place is full of 'em, but those other blokes've taken 'em all. Only one left, and it's not much of a propah boat of any sort. Nothin' so luxurious as this lot might be used to. And they'll snatch it up if'n ye try to meet it at the dock."

Abraxas's brows raise. Hard to avoid when you're recognized by family a few thousand miles from home. But he still works on giving no sign of his feelings. His fist clenches against his rough twill trousers, and he manages a rather small, chill smile. He's got a lot of work to do on looking convincing, but he tries.

And then the negotiating starts…

A bit more bargaining sorts out Cecil, and a bit of Malfoy gold tucked into his stained linen suit gives them the general direction where he will have the boat meet them - about a kilometer outside of the little settlement, on the banks of the Amazon. They'll have to slip past the docks at night to get downriver without being seen. So, after a meal of roasted… meat (best not to ask where it came from) and some of the weak local brew (don't ask where that came from either, and don't look too close at the glass), they head out the back door of the little inn, across a footpath, and into the jungle. Fortunately, there's a worn path to the spot where they're going.

Beryl enjoys the juxtaposition of refined niceties at home, and the pure grunge of roughing it when she's on the go in places like this. It's all so thoroughly unpleasant - but, that's what makes for good stories to chat about over cocktails later on at a party. This is the life.

Before their trek to the river had even begun, Beryl admonished her charges once again to be alert, keep calm… and for Merlin's sake, just act ignorant and lost if they are unfortunate enough to be caught. She doesn't know what to expect from their German counterparts, and she's not happy about them sticking their metaphorical ore into the Amazon. What a pity she can't smoke while they move along. The cravings are strong with this one.

Abraxas has done what he can to keep the little gee-gaws on his pack from jangling as they move into the dusk-darkened jungle. A disturbing variety of animals make whatever their sounds are - yelping, crying out, growling - in the growing dark, as those things nocturnal begin to come to life. The footpath leads them away from the village, meandering in a path laid out by livestock towards the river.

Hattie is a diligent traveler in that she will dart forward to take her little samples as long as there is light to do so— never more than three arm-spans from the others. At one point she is heard to half-exclaim in alarm as a howler monkey attempts to urinate on them from above; the species is known do that, much to the chagrin of intruders.

Hattie's encounter with the monkey elicits a hint of a subdued chuckle. "Watch your heads. Forgot that part." Beryl says, dryly.
The lady-guide then side-steps something decidedly unpleasant - a gift - left by livestock on the footpath to the river. Wrinkling her refined little nose, she pauses long enough to do a half-turn and remark in a wry whisper: "Also - you might want to watch your feet."

All kidding aside, Beryl's sharp eyes pierce the darkness, and her ears are alert for any animal noises that may threaten the lives of her charges. She has a dry sense of humour, and can often appear to not take anything seriously; but, she is dead in earnest about keeping these teenagers safe. Who wouldn't, with the Malfoy clan waiting for their safe return?

The walk isn't that long - half a mile or so puts them out of earshot, and as they round a bend and break onto the mud that surrounds the river. A small paddle-wheel river craft is stopped just a little ways out. It's looking like wet boots are in the immediate future. A barrel-chested man in a battered captain's hat stands at the bow. The ship has seen better days, and the paint and decoration has faded and chipped, but the name has been repainted in black - the Amazon Prince.

Hattie emulates Beryl as much as possible to avoid the perils of the jungle as much as possible. She sucks in her cheek, "Our chariot, I suppose," she says primly, of the dubious aquatic conveyance. "Butterfly people, butterfly people, butterfly people," she reminds herself sotto voce.

"Oh, come now, Hattie. This is an adventure. Never knowing when you're going to have to swim just adds to it." Abraxas says, with a chuckle as he pauses to look at their… boat? He exhales through his teeth and then says, "And by the way, if say anything about leeches, I will never speak to you again." Looking at Beryl for permission he starts out towards the boat.

For a small span of time, Beryl pauses and stares out into the glistening water at the boat they are meant to take into the deeper forest. Her expression is hard to read. In fact, her features are quite frozen - rather like a fine marble statue. Normally, she might make a remark about how she isn't paid enough for this sort of thing… but, the fact is, she can't complain this go-round.

"Look on the bright side," Beryl finally breaks her silence, leading the way to the river bank, "That old tub has survived more turmoil in its day than most of us have. It's still running for a reason. I rather imagine that reason might be the man at the helm." This last part is spoken in undertone, more for her own benefit than the children.

Looking up and down the river bank to ensure she sees no potential Germans, Beryl draws a deep breath and gestures toward the water before slowly wading into it. One can't be too careful. Has she warned the kids about piranhas? Probably not a good time…

Approaching the halted vessel, Beryl cautiously calls out: "Ahoy, Amazon Prince. Permission to come aboard."

Hattie isn't going to tell anyone anything about the leeches and blood flukes of the Amazon. No, she doesn't have to. She's going to pull them off the legs of her fellow travelers and save them in little glass phials. But later, later. She gamely squelches through the mud along the bank, casting her eyes behind her into the dark gloom of the jungle, and its moving, ravenous shadows.

"Get the lead out." Comes a reply from the Prince, in a very American sort of way. A boarding ladder comes rolling down into the chest deep water, to allow everyone to clamber up. A rough hewed man in a battered captain's cap waits with another who has the more squat features of a native.

Abraxas climbs up, landing over the rail in a squish of his expensive boots. "Thank you, Captain." he says, politely.

"Get the lead out—? Oh, is he an American?" Hattie obediently scrambles out of the snake infested waters, and beams brightly. Her boots are always muddy, and her notice of Abraxas' in a similar state lead to a positively decadent grin, but no comment whatever. "How can I be helpful?"

Beryl arches one eyebrow and gives the "gentleman" a decidedly cool look. Hospitality, he wasn't hired for. Alright then - they will play it that way.

Once Hattie, Abraxas and Lucretia have boarded the vessel, the auburn-haired woman follows in their proverbial wake. Seemingly frail and petite, she may be. However, she manages to heave herself up and onto the ship with a little effort. She can scarcely be blamed for glancing down at the greasy grime smeared over her leather gloves with a small twist of her lips.

"Undoubtedly, the gentleman will tell you the best thing you can do is stay out from under foot," Beryl answers for the captain. Perhaps a bit presumptuous on her part, but he seems the gruff and uncouth type who would say just exactly such a thing.

The "gentleman" in question just gives a lopsided smile, "Yeah, stay outta the way, that'd be for the best. But there's a good view from up here. Ishmael, why don't you get the wheels spinnin' and lets get out of here. We've got to get down the river before the sun comes up, or the Krauts are going to want to stow away."

"Ishmael?" Beryl echoes - mildly amused. How original, she thinks to herself; however, she leaves this remark unspoken. Instead, she finds herself a halfway decent seat to perch herself on top of and gets "comfortable.
"You've got our deepest appreciation, captain." Beryl says in her smoothest, silvery voice. "And, you have my word that we'll show our appreciation for your discretion and speed in a more meaningful way." Of course, what the lady implies is money. She can only hope that complications won't annoy the captain enough to hike the bill later on down the line.

The metal cigarette case flicks open in Beryl's hand, and she withdraws a dark Kretek. This should be an interesting trip.

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