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The Flying Tigers!

Page history last edited by Michael 9 years, 4 months ago

back to A Bid For Power

 

November 7, 1934:   the current date. Our Heroes have been in Mombasa for 12 days total. 18 days prior (October 19th), while at Suez, we were asked to look into the strange attacks by "flying tigers."

 

The rumor, fear, uncertainty, doubt etc around the animal attacks in the interior are not yet at the scale of the Tsavo incident (back in the late 1890s). However ...it is that memory that is raising concern quickly!  The first attacks were over 3 months ago (in September), but it has only been in the last few weeks that a dozen more disappearances were made known.

 

What has really stirred things up was the death of 4 King's African Rifles troops, and the mauling of 2 others. A squad from the reserve battalion of the 3 KAR out of Nairobi was on patrol investigating sightings of a group of strange armed men in the vicinity of the eastern edges of Lake Victoria. They were apparently attacked just before dawn about 10 days ago (that is, about 28 October).

 

Bill Davis has been told by the American consulate that the attacks are more likely the work of leopards. We are off to the Rift Valley, via Nairobi. If Our Heroes depart on the 7 p.m. daily train, we can reach Nairobi on the morning of the 8th, spend the day asking more questions and obtaining expedition-ey stuff, spend the night, and then depart on the morning of the 8th for the Rift Valley.

 

November 8, 1934:  while in Nairobi, Algy, Bill and some others speak with one of the surviving KAR men about the attack. It becomes clear that no tigers are involved, and probably no flying. It's also clear that lots of other hunters are out looking for the leopards. Our Heroes arrange for a truck and five porters.

 

November 9, 1934:  after an early breakfast, Our Heroes are driven by truck north into the Rift Valley.

 

the Rift Valley (1936)

 

We disembark at a remote farm and spend the night.

 

November 10 - 11, 1934:  We travel on foot. On the second day, we find the remains of two white hunters stuck up in a tree. One of them was British, Richard Talbot; the other was apparently American (from his turquoise-and-silver bracelets and cowboy boots). They have only been dead a day or less; we bury the bodies. The tracks leaving the tree are those of barefoot humans. Three of the bearers run off; we establish our camp in the ruin of an old station, about a mile from a water hole. There is some discussion of were-leopardry, are they fake, how they can be slain, etc.; Tom Fury loads some silver buckshot for our shotguns (who has them, I wonder?).

 

 

The Pioneer Zephyr enters service.

 

November 12, 1934:  just before dawn, several were-leopards attack! They are armed with rusty, antiquated guns, magic, and terrible ripping claws! Tom Fury is somehow frozen by their magics. The fight is quick and brutal; Captain Lotta drives off the last surviving were-leopard. Sergent Ivanov is healed of his terrible wounds by the magic traditional Chinese medicines of Qua Lin; but Captain Delacy more or less heals himself -- to the horror and disgust of the party. The two remaining porters run off.

 

After dawn, the tracks of the remaining wounded were-leopard head southwest; the tracks of two of his human confederates (or something) head southeast. We spend the day healing and resting, and decide to follow the wounded were-leopard.

 

November 13 - 16, 1934:  four days of tracking the were-leopard to the south, out of the Rift Valley. On the 4th day, Our Heroes come across the railway line near Eldoret late on the 16th, catch a passing train, and spend the night in that small town.

 

the railway near Kisumu

 

"The building of the Kenya Uganda Railway from Mombasa to Kisumu must rank high in the top ten great railway building engineering achievements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Nakuru to Kisumu section being the most difficult with its innumerable steel viaducts over deep chasms and valleys and still keeping to a 2% ruling grade." 

 

November 17, 1934:  we travel by train from Eldoret to Kisumu; what with stops and transfers, this uses up much of the day. We put up in a hotel there, glad to have baths and laundry.

 

Kisumu, a port on Lake Victoria. Pop. about 4,000. A busy port, with warehouses, cranes, etc. -- even a shipyard. Tea, coffee, tropical fruit and cane sugar farming are important in the area, as is the fishing industry. There are two hotels for Europeans, a small European hospital, another hospital for Africans and other non-whites, a sort of yacht club, a swimming pool for the whites, an ice works, a couple of weekly newspapers operated by missionaries, and other municipal services (a few telephones, but no central electricity or sewage). Corrugated iron and papyrus thatch make up most of the buildings; wide verandahs are common. A lot of the population are Arabic or Indian (Gujaratis, Punjabi Muslims, Hindu Punjabis, Sikhs); there is a small Chinese community. Railway staff and policemen are Sikhs, various other Indians, and Africans. A British officer oversees the police; the senior Sikh sergeant is a veteran of the 14th Ferozepore Sikh regiment, and served in the Boxer Rebellion! The KAR has a company-sized barrack compound here, but there are often no soldiers present. There is a mosque, a Hindu temple, a Sikh temple, a couple of small Catholic churches (one is technically a cathedral), and a lot of various Protestant churches operated by missionaries. Every day, a four-engined Imperial Airways AW.15 "Atalanta" passenger plane lands at the airfield, going either north towards Cairo, or east (to Nairobi and eventually to Capetown, South Africa). Once or twice a year, the RAF puts on an appearance. There are large numbers of mosquitoes in the town, which is one of the most malaria-infected areas in Africa. In the lake hippos and crocodiles are a threat to one's health. Dystentery is also an issue, what with the lack of proper sewers and all. Convicts are employed clearing the papyrus and other shore plants, hoping to keep the mosquito population down.

 

the airport in Kisumu in 1936

 

November 18, 1934:  we begin asking questions about the were-leopards. Ivanov finds a native "dive" where the Leopard Cult may appear from time to time.

 

In the evening, Ivanov is surprised to meet two French soldiers, Capt. Pierre Levent and Sergent Lebeau. He introduces them to Captain Delacy.

 

The French officers claim that gunrunners are providing arms to ... well, they're not too clear to whom, let's say rebellious natives ... and that the trade can be stopped at Robondo Island, at the southwestern end of Lake Victoria. They provide $250 in East African Colonial Francs as expense money, along with a map marked "X"; Major Delacy agrees to look into it. "This wickedness IS happening on British territory, after all.

 

Meanwhile:  Tom Fury is attacked by a goon in some back alley in the evening; after a rough fight he escapes, but has a nasty knife wound in his stomach. The goon got away, or died of a gunshot wound, or something; Fury is understandably less than concerned about the final fate of the goon.

 

November 19 - 25, 1934:  Tom Fury is sick in bed, with a fever and infected wound. The Medical Service doctor visits him and recommends that he be sent to the hospital in Nairobi. After a few days, Qua Lin unleashes her mighty magics and traditional Chinese medicine on the infection, quickly curing Fury.

 

The next night, Fury ventures out to seek out more goons, no doubt for revenge.

 

November 26, 1934:  Our Heroes head across Lake Victoria on a borrowed steamer, bound for Robondo Island. It's about a 2 day trip.

 

November 27, 1934:  in the afternoon, we reach Rubondo Island. There is a hamlet with a dock, a few native fishing canoes, and a drying shed for preparing fish for market.

 

Rubondo Island:  area about 100 square miles; about 16 miles long. Terrain ranges from savannah to forest to papyrus swamps. All sorts of animals ranging from elephants on down; hippos and crocodiles are the most dangerous to visitors. There are five hills of volcanic origin -- four in the south, one in the north. Dry season May through August; wet season November through March. There are a couple of small fishing villages on the shore.

 

We tie up and the dock, and trudge into the midst of the hamlet; the natives seem shy of us. After a few minutes of encouragement, the village wise woman, very old and frail, steps out of a hut, and approaches the party. She seems disapproving, and shakes her staff at Tom Fury. Tom reaches out and grasps the staff above her hand; their eyes meeting. Suddenly, her eyes widen in shock and she falls down dead!

 

Villagers and Our Heroes alike are somewhat shocked by this. Fury attempts to help the old woman with his own magics -- he cuts his hand, makes a sign with his blood on her chest, and breathes the "Breath of Life" into her mouth. Astonishly, she shudders several times and then sits up. Slowly, she makes her way to her feet; her eyes are completely white with no pupils, and her face is expressionless.

 

"Heck of a job, Brownie."

 

As the old woman shambles off towards the edge of the village, the other villagers begin (ineffectually) throwing rocks, shooting arrows, and firing at least one musket at the party. Bill Davis is in fact hit by a musket-ball. Time to leave! Retreating to the steamer, Our Heroes decide to look around the island for another village or something, while Qua Lin patches up Bill. Tom Fury makes several comments along the line of, "How was I supposed to know she'd just drop down dead?"

 

Steaming to the north, after sunset we notice a procession of natives with torches climbing the slopes of the volcano on the northern end of the island. We anchor the boat near the shore, and creep up the slopes ourselves.

 

In a shallow bowl-shaped area near (but not at) the peak, the villagers have brought the writhing body of the old woman, tied firmly to a litter. The natives begin chanting and ritually dancing, etc.; we watch from a safe distance. After an hour or two, a mysterious Great White Ape figure appears from out of a bonfire, and takes the body of the old woman! After this, the ceremony ends, and the villages trudge exhausted down the volcano, back towards their huts.

 

Our Heroes enter the ritual area after all the villagers have left, and investigate a cave on one side. It proves to be a tunnel, partly natural but obviously in use by the natives for centuries; among other things, in the past it was a copper mine. The tunnel leads down, down, down; at one point it opens into an area with an altar and some stone benches.  After about an hour of finding their way through the connected tunnels and mine shaft, Our Heroes find themselves several hundred feet lower in altitude -- below the level of Lake Victoria, in fact -- as the tunnel opens out into a large interior space. There are carvings of some proto-Hyborean writing, worn narrow steps with tracks by men (barefoot and booted) and perhaps even large apes. Channels of water parallel the tunnel and lead further down. The oldest carvings and workings could be thousands of years old!

 

Reaching the edge of the tunnel, it opens out into a stygian space greater yet -- hundreds of feet across, carved in some primordial era by the waters from Lake Victoria! The light from a pink flare reveals there is "only" a moderate-sized river flowing though the center of this space leading off into the distance. Somewhere upstream, an unseen cascade or waterfall can be heard; the mica goggles can discern signs of life, also in the distance. Looking downward, the piratical light reveals two rows of large white figures. Could they be Great White Apes? More probably, statues of Great White Apes, as some of them look to be overgrown with rock and stalagmites. What vast underworld does the river flow into?

 

on to The Caverns of Ophir

 

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