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The Search for Kurtzenyammer

(A Darkest Africa Adventure)

8 Jan, 1899

It was going to be a dank and musty day on the savanna if the mornings' mist was any indication of things to come. The air hung heavily from our lungs as we moved amongst the sleeping bodies of the porters and askaris. What new adventures lie ahead to titillate our readers imaginations - only time and days' end would tell. Thus it was that your faithful scribe, Phileas Phlogue, began this new day fresh and full of wonderment. The stories to unfold would be many and varied, joyous and tragic, of both the guilty and the innocent.

Our first indication of the events to unfold was an excited murmur amongst the awakening porters of the distant drums announcement of the disappearance of Kurtzenyammer - the "Company's" lead agent on the frontier. He hadn't been seen for weeks and none from the Company had received any word from his appointed runners. Worse yet, no ivory had been seen from his area for months. A general call has gone out to all expeditions to aid in the search for this most exalted of men! (At last a story worth reportage in our glorious journal.)

After a hearty repast of wildebeest, plantain, and pombé (the local brew), our party set out to search for those in search of the lost legend. Little did we realize just how crowded a jungle can be! Before 1 hours' time had passed who were we to meet but that guerrilous grandee - Herr Helmut Hoofenmouten, German attaché to the Zazupitzi court. His party was in search of not only Kurtzy, but also the exalted ruler of the Island of Zazupitz, Sheikh ibn Haddi. Word had been circulated at the royal court that His Royal Effluence, the Sheikh, was in danger of possibly being mistaken for some common slave-merchant whilst on the royal hunt. Herr Hoofie was out to try and prevent such a devastating happenstance, lest the German High Command be left without a good friend and (more importantly) a good port in the region.

Much to Herr H's misfortune, who should he run into first but the love-starved, twitchy, and trigger-happy Poppen Freshlee. Having gone way too long without the love of a good woman (any woman for that matter!), the Honorable P. Freshlee opened fire on the first thing that moved under his sights. Thus ensued our first shootout on the banks of the Watyaduing River! (Not, unfortunately our last!) Opening up with a devastating volley that knobbled several askari and the odd native dwelling, the honorable Poppen proceeded to mow down all those to his front including several enraged natives that took offence at his loopholing lunacy. In self defense, the Hoofenmouten host returned the favor by loosing a glorious if not so effective attack. Smoke rapidly filled the air making our task of discerning the casualties from a safe distance somewhat difficult, but remaining true to our task we noted the gruesome results. Falling under the fusillade of lead from both sides were the majority of both bands of askaris as well as the redoubtable Hoofenmouten. Thought badly wounded, Msr Freshlee survived the first blast only to fall in the second round of gunfire. Happily he went quickly, as the locals whose huts were riddled with stray shots from Freshlee's force would not have been merciful. Thus were two of Europe's lesser lights snuffed out before their time and the social register will be a bit less unseemly for their loss. The remnants of Freshlee's band proceeded to the banks of the river where, stealing a canoe, they were not to be heard from again (though the local hippo population seemed to be smiling as we passed by and a lone fez was seen to be floating down-stream)!

Proceeding along the western bank of the river we approached another native enclave with the sound of yet more gunfire in our ears. Taking cover so as not to impinge on the issue at hand, we were astounded to see the Royal hunting party from Zazupitz being taken under fire from the opposite bank of the river. Pulling our glass from its' case, we scanned the bank opposite in search of the attackers. Lo and behold, who should we see but that staunchest bastion of missionary zeal, Carl Saltpeterson, the crazed anti-slavery zealot in full fury at what he thought were a band Zazupitzi slave-traders! Totally ignoring the royal standard flying in the breeze, he opened fire and gunned down two-thirds of the Sheikh's honor guard before even noticing the gilt-robed form of His Royal Exuberance! Then, in a mad fit of zeal, he must have succumbed to his baser instincts. Screaming that old saw "Dead men tell no tales" and, a bit more sotto voce, "Brotherly love hath no bounds" he continued his onslaught till the last of the Royal party had shuffled off this mortal coil! Unbeknownst to his Royal Shiekhness, his supposedly faithful toady, Mustafa Camool had plotted for his downfall and had falsely warned Saltpeterson of the likelihood of slavers operating in that very area in the guise of a Royal party! Having done the dirty deed (albeit unwittingly - and somewhat witlessly) old Salty made his way off into the wilds of the jungle to be heard from soon again I am sure.

As this was happening on the left bank (so gauche!), over on the far bank events were occurring at a somewhat slower pace.

The erstwhile Sir John Spekenezy was doing his best to beat the bushes for his old nemesis, Burtonovich. Seems Sir John didn't take too kindly to those "anonymous" reports circulating back home that it was the big "B" that made all the significant discoveries along the Wassamatta and not Sir J. And to top it off, the Royal Metaphsical Society (Speky's sponsors) had named Burtonovich the "Man of the Month" and not Sir John himself! Such cheek! There was nought to be done but find the cad and teach him a lesson. This would happen soon, and we will return to this story when it plays out.

Next in our wanderings on the far shore we came upon the ever-toothy, Smiley Pozeyfelt - hunter extraordinaire. His party was wandering the plains in search of new trophies to mount on the walls of the lodge back home in the New World. To date, he had bagged several rhino, the odd wildebeest or two, and only nicked a couple of friendly Wanguana by accident. Upon further examination, old Smiley looked to have eyeglasses the depth of beer bottles and though sincere enough, he couldn't see much further than the end of his trusty Winchester. Remind me to give his shooting party a w-i-d-e berth as we press on! When we returned to civilization at last, we heard that he had had an extremely successful hunt, bagging several elephant, gorilla, crocodile, hippo, and nary a native in the lot!

As we trudged further upstream, we heard the baleful cry of a steamboat whistle. Approaching our flank we spied the "Kenya Kontessa" pushing upstream with none other than Dr. Denton Dewlytle at the bow. The good doctor is well known in these parts for his somewhat dubious claims to be able to converse with all sorts of native flora and fauna! Many's the time he has been spied in deep discourse with the odd baobab or gemsbok. Just who is the more erudite has sometimes been in question! Nonetheless, Dr. D continues in his search for a missing link between man and the devilish dracaena. Before we could signal our halloos, the little steamer had passed us by taking Dewlytle off on another foray into the deepest wilds. Good hunting, Doctor!

At the next settlement on our journey, we found Sir Richard Burtonovich taking some tea as a respite from a rather hair-raising trek. Evidently Sir Ricky had stumbled upon an unknown tribe of pygmies that didn't take kindly to strangers. Poor Sir B's party had been jumped by the Ankylbyters and suffered multiple losses due to poisoned arrows as well as being pin-cushioned by midget spearmen. It took all of Sir Richard's well-documented skill to extricate his askari from the clutches of these deadly dwarves and our poor be-knighted adventurer was simply to pooped to push on! After a short interview with this world-renowned explorer, we casually mentioned our earlier contact with the redoubtable Spekenezy and Sir John's burning desire to meet up with Sir Richard. Dropping his tea in our lap, Sir Richard, eyes bulging and sweat dripping, sprang out of our tent like a man possessed and was last seen high-tailing it in the opposite direction from the last known position of the Spekenezy safari. Wonder if we'll hear more of this bastion of British bravado as we push on.

After dressing in fresh kit, we trudged forward once again in the direction of the Kurtzenyammer station. 'Til now, none had seen hide nor hair of the missing trader and we were determined to track him down. Our next meeting was with one of Africa's darker minions, the evil gun-runner Maxim Gatling. His porters were heavily burdened with dozens upon dozens of elephant tusks "found" by Gatling. Knowing of the less than upright reputation of MG we had no doubt that the ivory had been "liberated" from some less fortunate soul but being out-numbered and outgunned, we refrained from posing too many pointed questions. I did remark, however, on the large amount of exotic herbs (some doubtless illegal) and fetishes (definitely not aboveboard) he had amongst his belongings. "Picked those up from a wandering tribe of wanguana" was his reply. "More likely to be payment for a shipment of contraband muskets", I thought, but didn't dare to speak. Deciding caution to be the better part of valor we let Maxim and his marauders march on as we headed toward the trading post. Later, word was passed to us that the Ankylbyter tribe had gone on a frenzied foray against their nearby fellows, the Nebyters, and had done much damage due to their newly acquired trade muskets. Little wonder how they came to have these!

Finally, we approached the end of our quest - or so we hoped. Ahead lay the abode of the mysterious Kurtzenyammer. As we drew closer, we could see that the buildings were in shambles and the entire post looked deserted. Entering the compound itself, we could make out where piles of ivory had lain for many a moon (so much for wondering where Gatling "discovered" his bounty). The mission building had been vacant for months by the look of it and no native was to be seen within hailing distance. Obviously Kurtzy had been away for a long time. Even more disturbing were the skulls mounted on the posts around the palisade. That story might be worth a book in itself!

Deciding to rest here for a short while, we were met by a passing band of natives who passed on the final episode in the Burtonovich-Spekenezy saga. After weeks of pounding the bush, Sir John finally tracked down Sir Richard as he was indulging in a bit of steenbok sirloin and a pint of pombé. Sir J was enraged by the foul fabrications that Burty had foisted off on the Executive Committee of the RMS and that caused them to reduce the Spekenezy Safari stipend to such a level as to require Sir John to only carry ten cases of whiskey instead of the normal twenty! How uncivilized! The nerve of the bounder to force Spekenezy into such hardship! In an unbridled fit of pique, Sir John parted Sir Richard's coif with his Remington and dispatched the cad to the Stygian shores, from which I'm sure he will not return (then again, who knows)!

As we set off again after our pause at the outpost, we were more determined than ever to find our lost legend. Nothing would stop our quest for an end to this story - and thus it was that we were to come upon one last party in the endless veldt. None other than that Gallic Gadabout, Sir Peter de Gee, hero of our last missive. Ever the energetic explorer, Sir Peter had set out at once upon hearing of Kurtzenyammers' gone missing. With his usual panache, he had spent the last three weeks discovering multitudes of unknown botanical wonders and the odd glorious new species of insect when right in front of him who should appear but our tardy trader, Kurtzy. Seems K had run out of Savanna Stogies and had trekked out to find some at the nearest Waganda-Mart. Unfortunately for him, the nearest outpost was hundreds of miles away across Masai country and not wanting to see if the rumors of their cannibalism were true, he took the long way around via Abbysinnia. Now that he had returned, though miffed at losing his last load of ivory to Gatling, he vowed to rebuild his station and restate his claim to being the best barterer in the bush. Looking somewhat bedraggled and beaten, no one could mistake the cool intensity in his eyes. We shall return to this man's saga more than once, I am sure.

Your obedient scribe,
P. Phlogue, esq.

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