Last flight out of Ladakh: Chapter 8 - Back in Time
They had been part of a bigger expedition, a German army troop under direct orders from SS chief Heinrich Himmler himself, a group that was moving towards Tibet during early summer months of June-July. But then order had been wired from the SS headquarters and their party of four soldiers and one science officer, to be commanded by the second lieutenant Gustav had been formed. As fantastical as the idea to meet early-Aryans in the valleys of Himalayas that were rumored to be the mythical Shangri-la sounded, the proposition that a smaller population of Aryans lived somewhere in a small village kingdom somewhere in the Ladakh ranges of Himalayas was too. Quickly a smaller party was formed and they were rushed off southward towards Ladakh. Their mission was clear, to establish the presence of early Aryans by scientific methods of bodily measurements, physical features comparison, male potency tests and so on. Director Himmler would have it no other way. Science officer Rosso accompanied them much to his disgruntlement. They were to establish direct contact with the headquarters and report back in a period of two months. It was the end of July when the groups separated. The main group rushed off towards Lhasa, and the smaller one towards Ladakh.
In three weeks they reached Leh, the capital of the kingdom of Ladakh. Here they secured more supplies, refurbished few equipment parts which they could acquire and hired a local lad by the name Stanzin as their guide. He seemed to be quite a resourceful and energetic person, and almost took cooking duties from them for their next few weeks. The ladakh was still very unexplored region then and they had to rely on old British survey maps which were wrong most of the time. Or due to landslides some routes that existed previously had been cutoff the next year. Still the weather was good and they kept finding pockets of settlement all along the Zanskar river and its channels to buy more supplies. It was the first week of September when they reached Dha – Hanu, the twin village settlements that were spoken of by the local ladakis as being inhabited by strange looking men from the north, which neither resembled the Pathans, Uigers or the Mongols. They were a breed apart in their behavior as well. The Ladakhis didn't seeing them in their towns when they came for trade, nor were they a pleasing lot to talk to. Stanzin still insisted that he had made acquaintance with someone called Alkhan who would was one of the leaders in the village. His claim did not fall flat when six hours after leaving the German party outside the village; he managed to get Alkhan and one of the village chief to meet them. After much negotiations and payments they were made to agree to the scientific testing the team wanted to do. Their orders were clear; in no way they were to engage in any non-peaceful means. Resorting to arms was kept as the last option.
They had been camping outside Dha-Hanu for six days and this was their last day when something curious caught Gustav’s eye. He saw a group of five men, accompanying a women, all over six-and a half feet tall entering the village. Their clothes were well off than most of the villagers and they bore old British rifles, something they had seen for the first time in Ladakh region. Upon inquiry from Alkhan initially he hesitated but then told that she was the daughter of their previous village chief, and was married to the king of their tribe. And where did this king live? In a village built deep inside the Zanskar valley atop a steep cliff and much prosperous than their own. This was something that immediately made Gustav extend their plans. The idea of meeting an Aryan king, who might be of a royal bloodline linking him to earlier in Germany, sounded too good to give up. After making a secret payment to Alkhan they managed to get the location of the village drawn on the British survey maps. It was some sixty kilometers from their current location, easily reachable in three days.
They were on the foothills of the cliff within three days, but getting into the village was a different matter altogether. From below they could see a massive mud-brick structure, quite possibly a fort for the king, and houses that dotted the periphery of the cliff, hinting that the village would be quite populated. That meant trade centre and a chance to stock up more supplies. It was strange though that none of the Ladakhis or even Stanzin for that matter knew of the village before. Gustav ordered his men to guard their gear while he went along with Stanzin to try and get permission to enter the village and possibly meet the King.
They followed a trail that led up towards the backside of the cliff. After climbing for close to an hour they met the first guards. Two tall men dressed in traditional dress stopped them. Stanzin spoke in Ladakhi of their details and after discussing among themselves for few minutes the guards let them pass. The next set of guards met them at the foot of a rock face that seemed to be looming some hundred meters tall, with pairs of rope ladders falling down from the top. Upon telling their purpose of visiting the village, one of the guards went up the ropes and over the cliff face and returned after twenty minutes.
‘They are not welcoming us’ Stanzin said. ‘And they have asked us to return back from where we came and dare not speak of this village to anyone.’ Gustav was not surprised. He expected this to happen. But he also had some tricks up his sleeve. He withdrew a small wooden box the size of a pencil box from his shoulder bag, opened it for a quick second to check its content and handed it to messenger guard.
‘Tell him to take this to the village elder and ask to present it to the king, as a token from the German ruler’ he instructed Stanzin who repeated the order in Ladakhi to the guard.
Another thirty minutes later, the messenger guard returned. This time there was another person with him that appeared of a much older and higher level. He spoke to them in Ladakhi and by his tone itself Gustav knew they can go up now. Stanzin confirmed this.
As they reached Gustav had a good look around. There were lot of stone block houses, and it appeared that they were made in patterns with lanes going through them. In the background, at the end of the cliff loomed the fort like castle. Made entirely of stone bricks it was thoroughly whitewashed and painted in bright red and blue stripes on its higher levels. But what draw his immediate attention was a small Gompa in the center of the village. Painted in dark red, its spires seemed to be covered and tipped in gold. As soon as he could move his eyes from it, he saw a small party moving from the castle towards him. He and Stanzin, accompanied by the elder guard started moving towards them.
He met the king an hour later, in the palace in a small room that was richly decorated with silks on the floor and frescoes on the walls. Looking at them he could guess that the king followed both animist as well as Buddhist beliefs. Close to six feet eight inches, the king stood taller than he was but spoke softly. He had been quite taken aback by the craftsmanship of the watch Gustav had presented him, and was keen to know what such a person as him doing here was. With Stanzin acting as their translator, Gustav told him of their great heritage and his great mission, to find common ancestry and to prove that he and the king belonged to one great race, the Aryans and it was their destiny to be superior to other races. The king seemed to like this view and shook his head when Gustav praised him of his fine village in such a remote location. After their conversation was done, Gustav sent back Stanzin to bring the remaining party to the village and get them settled. He also got the permission for the scientific testing.
The next two days went in tests. In the meantime Gustav scouted around the area and made notes about the village. He was allowed to go everywhere except the Gompa. That he was told was private to only royal family, and he can only enter accompanied by the king. But he was unable to reach the king in those two days. Finally when he was able to meet the king, his request was denied saying that the Gompa is not allowed for visitors for different faith and that only royal bloodline can enter it, it has been like this since always. No one except the royal family and priest - that was the final statement.
Gustav knew he would have to sneak inside the Gompa in the dead of the night, but he didn’t knew that the unfortunate events that would follow. On the third day they had to start making their way back to Leh, so as establish contact with the SS headquarters. Gustav told his party to move out of the village, down the cliff while he had some pleasantries to discuss with the king and would return late by night. Waiting in one of the empty huts at the back side of the village, Gustav waited for the village to sleep. Even few hours before midnight there was pin drop silence. Gustav knew that only the cliff entrance was being manned by the guards and that there was no patrol in the village. Still he took precautions to enter the Gompa after scaling the back wall. This was also due to the reason that in all certainty the front gate that was more than ten feet tall would be guarded. Five minutes and he was in. The moonlight streamed through the heavy Juniper’s bushes and made shadowy patterns in the snow. He sneaked up to the front to find a guard on the inside of the gate, snoring. He thought of entering in the Gompa through the front gate as he could see that it was only bolted from outside, but then decided against it in case the door made a noise while opening. He circled around the complex and found a window that though being shut from the inside opened up after forcing from the outside, and he climbed in. The floor was wooden and made a slight creaking sound as he jumped inside. He tiptoed but then got too much caught up seeing the sight inside. There was a small chamber, much smaller than usual monasteries, but the walls were fresco-ed beautifully. What stood in the center was a statue of Buddha. Around three meters in height, it was not the statue that caught his attention, but something else. Between the eyes of Buddha, on the forehead shone a purple Amethyst crystal, the size of a hen’s egg. In the darkness of the chamber, with a stream of moonlight trickling on it through a hidden shaft in the roof, it was magical. Gustav immediately knew that to return back with something like, which could possibly be a fortune would secure him promotions beyond his years, and quite possibly places him a powerful position. Who knows this might be something that those occultists may find to be a source of transcendental power. He double checked to find no one inside the complex and then climbed up the statue to reach for the Amethyst. He stared at it for a full two minutes and then withdrew his pocket knife thinking to use it to dislodge it from the statue. The moment he touched it, it dazzled as if reacting to the touch and fell down in his hand. Then with a huge crack sound the statue cracked in the middle and split in two. Immediately following the ground started to rumble and he heard a deep groan, as if it came from the very ground beneath. Pocketing the Amethyst, he quickly jumped from the statue, out of the window to hear the sound going louder, it was as if some beast had woken from slumber. The gate had shaken and was broken. He stepped out to see the entire village standing outside, although in a very strange state. They were all monsters, all more specifically with huge incisors, red glaring eyes and sharp clinking nails a bloodsucking monstrosity that had plagued the world – Vampires.
Suddenly with a flap of giant wings, landed a flying behemoth. With wingspans of tens of feet, the ground cracked as he stood up. It was the king, now transformed into a flying human-bat monster. The whole settlement had somehow turned into vampires and he was responsible. It was all connected to what he had done minutes ago. Gustav knew within an instant that this was the end of him. Only seconds were left. With that his reflexes kicked in as self-preservation was disregarded. He pulled a grenade from his vest and un-clipped it, letting the Amethyst fall down.
“Nooo….!!!” Cried the Vampire King.
As soon as the Amethyst touched the ground it shone brightly and immediately temperatures rose up, the entire ground was on fire, so cruel that the skin of the very bones simmered as fumes in an instant. Next instant the bones crackled, and nothing was spared. Vampires, humans, Germans all gone in an instant, evaporated.