Once again Sergeant Major General thanked the Lord for Kirk Bill’s unfailing sense of direction. Together they navigated the city’s strange and unfamiliar streets, so strange and so unfamiliar that Sergeant Major General could think of no adequate words to describe them, thus saving the author the trouble of conducting extensive historical research.
Finally the reached the door they were looking for, described to them by the sea captain, painted sky-blue, though to be frank it didn’t really look sky-blue in the dark of nght. Fortunately it was also marked with a large orange circle, struck through with black, which made it somewhat easier to recognise. Kirk Bill knocked firmly.
The door was opened by a man of indeterminate age, dressed in robes and turban, who was in possession of a spectacular beard that made Sergeant Major General’s own whiskers droop in envy.
“Gentlemen,” he said, gravely, “you have been expected.”
“Good God!” Sergeant Major General ejaculated. “How the devil did you know we were coming?”
The pandit declined to answer this question, instead gesturing the two men to step into his home. He handed them each a cup of tea and they all sat down, on chairs or cushions or something, it really doesn’t matter and it’s not like you have a picture to compare this description to or anything, is it?
“You bear the mark of the tiger,” he stated. Sergeant Major General’s eyes bugged. “I say, Bill,” he said in a conspiratorial whisper, “this fellow’s good!”
“Do you know how the curse can be lifted?” Kirk Bill asked, leaning forward.
“You must travel to the Temple of the Tiger,” the pandit said, “and beg the High Priestess for clemency.”
Sergeant Major General nearly spat out his tea. “Clemency?!” he cried. “For what must I ask pardon?”
“It is not my place to know the wishes of the Gods,” said the pandit, “more tea?”
“And where can we find the temple?” asked Kirk Bill, quite sensibly.
The pandit fixed him with a serious gaze. “Like thoughts inside a dream, you must follow the yellow desert stream to the Shangri-La beneath the summer moon.”
“Eh?” said Sergeant Major General.
“He means Kashmir,” said Kirk Bill, somewhat irritably. “Could you be a bit more specific?”
The pandit took a sip of tea. “Let me take you there,” he said.
“I say, that’s awfully good of you,” said Sergeant Major General, “when shall we leave?”
“We must leave tonight,” said the pandit.
“So soon?” said Sergeant Major General in some dismay, who had hoped for a bath, a soft bed and some toast and kippers for breakfast.
The pandit fixed him with a gaze so intense it was almost a laser beam, except that lasers hadn’t been invented yet and Sergeant Major General would thus have had no way of knowing the pandit’s gaze in any way resembled a laser beam. Suffice to say, it was a speaking look.
“How well do you value your heart?” the pandit asked.
Sergeant Major General sighed. “Off we go then,” he said. “But, I say, we’ll have to ferret out some horses and whatnot first, won’t we?”
“All arrangements have been made. You have only to follow me,” said the pandit.
“This fellow’s incredible!” Sergeant Major General whispered. “Do you think he does fortunes?”
They followed the pandit out the back door, into another laneway, where there were three horses laden with saddlebags waiting for them. “Horses!” said Sergeant Major General in delight. “I love horses! I don’t suppose there are any kippers in those saddle bags?”
Kirk Bill leapt into the saddle & seized the reins of the largest horse, which appeared to be a spirited black stallion. It neighed thrillingly. (Kirk Bill was the tallest of the three men and the most heroic so it was only fair that he get the best horse). “Come, let’s away, my friends, let us gallop along the straits of fear – to the temple of the TIGER!”
TO BE CONTINUED