"What people speak of as adventure is something nobody in his right mind would seek out, and it becomes romantic only when one is safely at home. "-- Louis L'Amour, Education of a Wandering Man
Kaeth is bobbing in his vac suit, in the water, in the fog, alone. Could be worse. Probably will be soon enough. He feels things brushing up against him occasionally - he hopes it's something big, stupid, and not carnivorous. His vac suit is currently not much use against hypothermia. He stays conscious, but he has no idea where the rest of his party is, and he knows he's in trouble physically.
The chop gets worse. Maybe he's drifted to shore. Kaeth: <thinking> "I hope it's not rocky." He slams into things, but he's so cold he's numb. Good thing when he goes through the coral reef. That is going to hurt later, if he survives. He feels himself free in the water again, no rocks, then he runs into the long, sloping beach. He tries to walk up onto the beach. He staggers that way and sees dark shadows before he falls over.
He lays there for an indeterminate amount of time. Strange sensations, flashes of light.
Back at Mustaffa's camp, tea has finished and the evening meal preparation has started. Some children come running in, jabbering in the local patois. Mustaffa: "The children say they have found some strange creature on the beach." Robert: "Cool! Let's go look." Geoff: "That might be our friend." The party goes with the kids, but there is no strange creature, just a mound covered with little crabs. Geoff tells the kids to gather the crabs up for dinner, which they do. Under the pile of seaweed and now absent crabs? A waterlogged, scraped up, but alive Vargr.
There's some mumbling when the villagers look at Kaeth, but they help haul him back to camp. The healer looks at him and shakes her head. Healer: "Hmmm, it looks like the god of the sea has taken his soul. The next six hours will determine if he lives or dies." Kaeth's wounds are treated in the local fashion, then he's wrapped in leaves and such and set in a corner. Geoff gives him water. The villagers tell Geoff "no no, he has had too much water. He must be left to dry." Geoff: "He's had too much salt water, he needs water to survive, drinking water." The healer looks less than impressed by Geoff, but doesn't try to stop him. The more urgent problem is Kaeth's serious lacerations. He's going to need to have stitches put in. Geoff: "Can you do that?" Healer: "Ah yes, I sewed up my husband many times. I'll do it." She's about to go off for her iron needle and cat gut, but Geoff gives her the "sewing" equipment from one of the med kits. She needs to be convinced that the high tech stuff will hold, but she gets to work. It's not pretty, but it'll do.
All but one of the locals who were missing returns. There is much celebrating. The conscious members of the party are honored guests at the shindig, and Mustaffa goes on about how they are "fearless and must have special names." Geoff: "Ah, it's the special name time." Mustaffa: <to Geoff> "You will be called ***." That would be Mighty Oak. Mustaffa: <to Samantha> "You will be called ^^^^^^." Running Fox. Mustaffa: <to Robert> "And you will be called *** - Fierce Rabbit." That would be Robert, all right. Mustaffa: "Come, Fierce Rabbit, sit next to me." He does. Mustaffa: "We must celebrate your defeat of the pirates. And with the fine guns you have provided us..." Geoff: 'That should put a major crimp in their next raid." Mustaffa: "Tonight you will be guests in my tent. There I live with my family. These are my two daughters." Oh boy. And it gets cold at night. Two willing daughters, and cold nights. Geoff isn't too thrilled, but he's not about to offend Mustaffa. Robert doesn't want to be unfaithful to Ariana, but he doesn't want to offend the locals. He decides to drink his way out of it, and eventually passes out. Mustaffa only has daughters, but there are many posturing bucks, wearing their finest...whatever those are. Samantha lets them posture and try to out drink each other. It never becomes a real problem.
Kaeth wakes up and discovers he's been taken hostage. By the tree people, judging from his wrappings. He looks down to see the incredible number of stitches in his person. Kaeth: <thinking> "They must have let the pilot do this." The suture job doesn't look good, but they did apparently use good suture thread. The greenish stuff oozing out of some of the wounds worries him. Isn't primitive medicine wonderful? He looks over and sees his vac suit helmet, and the rags that were attached to it. Oh.
Robert's passed out, and Mustaffa's got two daughters. Geoff declines a double-header, so the older daughter gets the privilege. No specifics are necessary.
Robert wakes up. Unfortunately. He sticks his head into Geoff's area to tell him - quietly - that he's going to check on Kaeth. Kaeth's wounds wake him up. He's in a lot of pain. There's an old woman there, who lifts his head and presses a bowl of fowl-smelling liquid to his lips. Woman: "Drink this." He does, and feels better. Then she gives him a drink from a porcelain cup that definitely contains "the hair of the dog". It burns, but it's masking a bitter taste. After a few minutes, he still hurts but he doesn't care. Woman: "Your friend has passed the critical point. This ointment must be rubbed on his wounds three times a day. It will keep the flesh supple, and prevent the evil demons from taking over his wounds." Germ theory is good, even if it is cloaked in the garb of demonology.
Mustaffa comes in with an update. Mustaffa: "The boys bring news. We must move into the woods. They have spotted one of the...I don't know the word for it in your language. The small moon that moves slowly. Sometimes they rain fire and thunder upon us." They move into the woods, and then something appears that is not a moon at all, but an airship, a zeppelin.
The zeppelin appears damaged - part of the aft section seems to be losing gas, and not all the props are running. Robert's spyglass is passed around. There's a stylized trefoil on the side of the airship, in black. Samantha draws the symbol in the sand and asks Mustaffa about it. Mustaffa: "It is a Western symbol. I think it is of the Great Empire. We must flee." Geoff: "You do whatever you have to do to keep your people safe." The camp is gathered up quickly. Geoff notices the remains of their dinner in the fire. They definitely aren't vegetarians, and the rib bones left in the fire look suspiciously like, oh, human ribs. He doesn't mention anything to the others.
There's a hissing and sputtering from above. The party gathers to meet it when it comes down. It's sort of like a train wreck, only in real slow motion. Then gas leaking, and a big, short bang, a white cloud, and stuff falls from the sky. Then the crew staggers out of the gondola, avoiding the falling debris as best they can. There's a person there with a dark suit, winged collar. He takes off his peaked hat, throws it on the ground, and stomps on it. Robert: "Yup, that's the pilot." Geoff: "Yeah, you should get along just fine. You both crashed." The pilot finishes his tantrum, and several underlings rush over to brush him off (literally), and pick up his hat. There's a minor flurry of activity that results in a small table, chair, umbrella, and mini-bar being set up for the pilot or captain, or whatever. They may have crashed, but at least they're well-organized.
Kaeth: "What we need is a married couple, she should be pregnant, and then the great apes, and we'll have Tarzan." Robert: <glancing at Sam> "She might object. And I don't want to be around if she objects." Geoff takes out a flask and offers it to Robert. Geoff: "Hair of the dog..." Robert: "No!" Geoff: "Hey, it's just to steady your nerves. We need someone harmless looking to go make contact." Robert: "What?!" Geoff: "We'll cover you." Robert: "What am I supposed to say?!? Hi, our spaceship crashed, can you give us a lift?" Samantha: "I'd skip that part, personally. Why not tell him we're from...the place where the cup was from...Albion?" Robert: "Right."
Reluctantly, Robert steps out of the treeline, his hands up. He has the attention of the underlings, who immediately aim weapons at him. One of them goes over to the man in charge. "Ah, sir?" Pilot: "Oh, what is it now?!" Underling: "Sir, sir!" The man stands up, turns around, and his monocle pops out. Pilot: <to Robert> "You there, come here. <to his men> Put those down." Robert approaches. Pilot: "You look like a gentleman to me. Count Franz Von Hollenstein." And then he waits. Servant: "The Count Von Hollenstein?" Robert: "Ah! I'm honored to meet you. My name is Robert, Robert Shelzie. And I'm from Albion." The count raises an eyebrow. Franz: "Perfidious Albion. Owing to the situation between our two nations, I must ask you to surrender your firearm. You are my prisoner." Suddenly he's got guns aimed on him again. The party watches as Robert starts to remove his full flap holster. Geoff fires at the camp, but not at a person. Robert screams in pain, grabs his head, and dives for the ground. Servant: "Your excellency! The natives are apparently armed!" Franz: "Heinrich, get the machinengarer." Heinrich: "Yes, sir." Robert: "Ah, it's all right, I think. My friends are over there." He points. Franz: "The natives are bloodthirsty here. It would be an embarrassment if my prisoner were to be killed. We have a surprise for them." The servants are taking something out of a box. Franz: <to Robert> "Please, sit down. Champagne?" First they draw guns on him, now they offer him drinks? How civilized! Franz: "You may fire." The water cooled machinegun, firing at the horrifying rate of 660 rounds per minute. One hundred rounds are fired where Robert pointed, which is not where the group was, or is.
Franz: "That should have broken their spirit. More of the tinned pheasant?" Robert: "Thank you." Franz: "So how did you come to be here?" Robert: "My...ship crashed." Franz: "A fellow flyer, eh? Tell me about your zeppelin?" Robert: "Not as large as yours, more of a scout size." Franz: "Ah. Unfortunately, the Zed 21 experienced some difficulty. A lightning strike. And we won't be able to effect repairs here, since the boiler blew. Our plan is to continue along the coast until we can locate a ship that will take us across the Golden Sea, to the South." Robert, having stumbled into this situation, attempts to get Franz to talk about himself and the local situation as much as he can. Franz doesn't get too much into the war, it's apparently a "disagreement", shots exchanged, embassies expelled. It's over who gets to claim and settle which parts of the Hinterlands. Some one brought their ship in, and then the others brought a bigger ship in, and then bigger ships, and now guns are being made. The zeps use steam boilers, and helium rather than hydrogen (thank God!). Robert tells Franz that his ship crashed at sea, and he washed ashore with other survivors and very few belongings. Franz: Well sir, as we are in hostile, cannibal country, I suggest that we forget the hostilities 3,000 miles away, and work together." Robert: "I agree." Hands are shaken, Robert's gun is returned. Franz: "More champagne?" Robert: "Thank you." Franz: "If there are any others of your party that have been washed ashore, once my servants have gathered up our belongings we can look for your friends, perhaps further down shore." Robert: "Actually, some of my fellow travellers are nearby, and I should let them know." Franz: "Of course, we should find them. And please, no formalities - it's Franz."
Robert steps to the edge of the camp and calls to the others. Robert: "Sam! Sam, it's okay!" Kaeth: <to Samantha> "Can you undo the top button?" Samantha ignores him. Robert: "Count Von Hollenstein has guaranteed our safety. Or at least to not shoot us." Samantha comes out of the woodline. Franz stands and looks that way and the monocle comes out again. Franz: "Madame. Madame, are you all right? <to his men> What are you leering at, you louts?" they look down. You must forgive them, they are not used to seeing... limbs." Oh, it's Samantha's trousers that are causing the scandal! Robert: "Count Von Hollenstein, this is Lady Samantha Telford." Franz: "An honor, madame. You will of course, accept my protection?" Samantha: "Of course." Robert: "Ma'am, were you able to find any of your staff?" Kaeth: <thinking> "Staff? We're staff?!?" Samantha: "Only what we have here." She waves Geoff and the injured Vargr forward. Franz snaps his fingers and a camp chair is brought up for Samantha under a large umbrella, as the servants go about making the camp even more posh, and setting up for dinner. And one of the servants apparently is very handy with a needle and thread, and has whipped up a skirt for the lady to put on, so her limbs don't show, poor dear; they'll make up a few dresses next. She changes in one of the tents.
Franz: "Tell me, how on earth did you end up here?" Samantha: "Our ship crashed, then sunk." Franz: ""I see. You'll pardon my ... but I find it odd to find a lady this far into the hinterlands." Robert: "My navigational instruments were damaged. " Franz: "Would it be too forward to inquire what brought you out here, your ladyship? But where are my manners! Would you like some champagne, or lemonade perhaps?" Samantha: "Lemonade, thank you." Franz: "May I say that meeting such a handsome woman as yourself makes me regret the situation between our countries." Robert looks very embarrassed. Robert: "I'm sorry ma'am, his skills as an interrogator were too much for me." Geoff steps up and offers his hand to the Count. Geoff: "Geoffrey Thompson." Franz: <taking his hand> "You have the look of a military man, if I'm not mistaken." Geoff: "Yes." Franz: <looking at Kaeth> "But one of your people is injured." Geoff: "One of us did what they could for him, but..." Robert looks down and scuffs the sand again. Another well-dressed man appears in the camp. Franz: "This is one of my travelling companions, Dr. Jurgen." The doctor is also wearing a high winged collar. Dr. Jurgen: "Ah, yes, yes. Um hm, um hm. I think we can do something about your friend." He opens up a leather bag and takes out a glass syringe. Geoff: "What are you going to do?" Dr. Jurgen: "This man has been injured." Geoff: "That's pretty obvious. So what are you going to give him?" Dr. Jurgen: "Something for the pain, something to prevent infection, and something to boost his body's healing processes." Sounds like he knows what he's doing. Geoff: "Do you trust him to give you that?" Kaeth looks at the instruments and the man, and deems Dr. Jurgen to be at least competent. Kaeth: "You are the expedition physician?" Dr. Jurgen: "I am a companion of Count Von Hollenstein." Kaeth: "Looking for adventure?" Dr. Jurgen: "One tires of the complaints of the nobility. With apologies, Franz, I did not mean to you." Franz dismisses it with a casual wave. Kaeth: "I'm an aidsman." Dr. Jurgen: "Ah." Kaeth has his Regen ready, just in case, but he lets the doctor do his thing. Dr. Jurgen: "Perhaps a large muscle?" The others avert their gaze, Dr. Jurgen cleans the area and injects Kaeth very competently. Kaeth starts to feel better almost immediately. Kaeth: "Your own mixture?" Dr. Jurgen: "Various things I have picked up on my trips." Franz: <to Geoff> "Crashed into the sea, eh? Nothing to salvage?" Geoff: "Not really." Franz: "I was hoping for an intact boiler. Oh well, we could be in worse shape. Now at least we have more people." Geoff: "I think I can round up some native help, if you're willing to pay them." Franz: "Ah yes. I have coin." Geoff: "I don't know if they'll accept that, but if you have trade goods that might work." Franz: "I think we can provide that." He takes Geoff over to a large crate and opens it up. The crate contains serviceable knives, beads, mirrors, and other assorted small goods. Franz: "You've made contact with the natives, then?" Geoff: "Fortunately for us, we arrived as they were being attacked by slavers, and we helped them out." Franz: "Yes, that is the horror of this land. Slavers and cannibals. Luckily we are well-armed and should not have any difficulties." Geoff: "Yes, I noticed you're travelling with quite an impressive amount of fire power. Expecting trouble?" Franz: "Well, what with the unpleasantness..." Samantha: "Unpleasantness? what unpleasantness?" Franz: "Have you been out here for some time?" Samantha: "Yes." Franz: "So you don't know about the Von Cronenberg incident?" Samantha: "No.... Perhaps you can tell us about it after dinner." Franz: "Of course." Geoff: "How many natives do you think you'll need?" Franz: "Oh, fifty should do." Geoff: "Fifty? I don't know if there were fifty in the party we encountered, but I'll see if they can maybe round up some more."
Geoff goes off to talk with Mustaffa about the job offer. Geoff comes in as they are butchering more meat - and it's definitely not the four-legged kind. Geoff: "I've had an offer of work for you, but it's contingent on the employer not finding out about your diet." Mustaffa: <smiling> "One thing about the slavers - they're good eating." Geoff: "Can you put together fifty men?" Mustaffa: "What's in it for them?" Geoff: "Knives, other goods." Geoff shows them his not so good knife, and tells them the knives are metal, although not as good as this. They play with it. Mustaffa: "You say you need fifty men?" Geoff: "Fifty people for fifteen days." Mustaffa: "I can send for more workers. We've got meat to bring along as well." Geoff: "No, if they find out about your diet, the deal's off, like I said before. We'll take care of providing meat." Mustaffa: "All right. Tomorrow afternoon, when the sun is highest in the sky, I will have my people here. Fifty porters." Geoff agrees and leaves.
Geoff returns to the Count's camp and tells Heinrich that "Listen, as the Count said, when you trade here you trade with either slavers or cannibals. Don't ask. They are slavers or cannibals, so just don't ask." Geoff tells him about the deal. Heinrich agrees, but "they're shifty, sir. They'll turn on you. I suggest you keep your pistol close at hand. We may have to shoot a few of them to keep the others at bay." Geoff: "If you have a problem with any of them, you come to me. It's a waste of ammo to shoot the native bearers, just pick them up and give them a good shake." Heinrich looks up at Geoff and decides that being picked up and shaken by him would probably do the job.
Franz and Dr. Jurgen sort through the boxes of samples they've been assembling on their expedition. Robert, while the count and doctor are looking at plants, goes over to talk to Samantha. Robert: "I tried to stick to the story of where we were from, but the whole conflict thing caught me off guard." Samantha: "We'll deal with it." Robert: "I knew you would." Heinrich: "Excuse me, Lady Telford. The count thought you might be a bit chilly, and sent over one of his furlined polices." It will set the dress off nicely. Samantha: "Thank you." Heinrich: "The Count's tent is at your disposal if you would like to freshen up before dinner?" Samantha: "That would be wonderful."
While Samantha takes her bath, the count invites the men to a before dinner aperitif, got to do something while the female primps. Franz: "Ah, Mr. Thompson. Mister just doesn't suit you. You don't strike me as the cavalry sort. Grenadier, perhaps?" Geoff: "I've done that. I was in the Marines, but on loan to a Scout unit." Von Hollenstein: "I myself was never able to reach an accommodation with the sea. I admit to some trepidation at travelling over the ocean. However, I am pleased to be in the company of a military man. Are any others of your party military?" Geoff: "Kaeth was in the military, but as a medic." Von Hollenstein: "Good. I'm afraid my other companions, while competent in their fields, do have that sort of training. What rank were you?" Geoff: "Major." Geoff takes his rifle out to check it. Franz: "I do not know this make of weapon. May I?" Geoff: "Sure." Franz takes the rifle and looks it over with the ease of someone who's used to guns. Franz: "Ah yes, this is one of those new automatic guns." Geoff: "Yes." Franz: "Are you not concerned with the reliability?" Geoff: "I've not had a problem with this one. I think that's a design issue." Franz: "Yes, and it's so light. Is this Bakelite? Or cellulose?" Geoff: "I don't know, I'm not an armsman." Franz: "It's both primitive and advanced at the same time. It appears ruthless, but it feels too light for me to be comfortable with it."
Inside the tent, Samantha sees Daguerreotypes of a female and two small children on the count's dressing table. Hmm, so the count is married, it seems. Samantha emerges, in her dress, to see the count bonding with Geoff. The count stands when Samantha comes out, as do the other men. Everyone is seated, and the crew has downed a lovely roast beast. The chef is very attentive, and wants to make sure all is well. It is.
Samantha gets the tent and the cot. The others set up around the fire. They have gas mantle lanterns set up further out from the fire, so there's an illuminated kz pointed away from the camp. They set up the machineguns (two water-cooled, 7 or 8mm, belt-fed). They have rifles and pistols along too, so the party is very well armed. Kaeth strips and cleans his handgun, and is happy to accept a long arm to replace the lost MP5. It's a cross between an SMLE and a Mauser. He'll sight it next morning. They also have a field gun. Geoff suggests he aim the small cannon at the jungle, once it's loaded with grape.
The party should sleep well tonight.