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The Relief of Ermine Pasta

(A Darkest Africa Adventure)

25 July, 1899
Zazupitz City

As their faithful beaters cleared the way ahead, Sir Peter and his stalwart companions, Major Desmond "D" Sastor and Lt. "Curly" Broccoli paused for a snort of "Old Ch'umly". Surveying their surroundings, the three adventurers pondered the task ahead -- commissioned by the Manchester Monthly Muckraker to cross the dark continent in search of the beleaguered Ermine Pasta, ex-guv'ner of the Equilateral Province of the Egypt(and rumored to have some lutefisk marinade in his veins despite the jaunty way he wore his fez), now besieged by multitudes of hostile tribesmen in his jungle stronghold. How great were the odds? Would any of them see Old Blighty again? Would the "honorable" Rubert Mulduck, publisher of the Muckraker pay up if the expedition was successful? All this and more swirled in their thoughts as they sipped and supped. Unfortunately for them, in their reverie they failed to notice the gentle swaying of the vegetation all around them. The wind? A beast? 'Fraid not! Hidden in the bush on both sides of the unsuspecting expedition were hordes of Flockawee warriors just waiting the chance to spring their trap.

While the train of askaris pushed past the trap, old eagle-eyed Sir Peter made his usual near-sighted attempt at scouring the underbrush for the untoward and lo and behold saw -- ferns! Once again Sir Pete had bumbled his way into misadventure. As our redoubtable hero pushed on blindly, his slightly more adept comrades scanned the rain forest for signs of evil. Almost as one, our military moguls yelped in surprise as they spotted dozens of pairs of eyes crouched in the bush - on both sides of the trail - just waiting to spring to the attack. Thankfully for our hero, his co-adventurers had formed up their troops in back to back lines and were somewhat prepared to fend off any attack. Sir Pete though, in his haste to push on, had left a gap between his force and those of his fellows. This would lead to some tense moments in the fight to come.

Meanwhile deeper in the jungle the object of our hero's quest, the rotund Pasta had secured the services of the fabled Drippu Dip, sometime slaver and mercenary-du-jour, and his deadly band of Baluchi matchlockmen. With the addition of this formidable force to his hand-picked band of locals, the estimable E. P. felt ready to stand off any assaults the local chieftains might try.

Early in his regime, Ermine Pasta had foreseen the need to have strongholds scattered about the province. Thus he knew that this "tembe" was all but impregnable. With numerous rooms connected by narrow doors - only one man could pass at a time - he knew that defense would be in his favor. Stone walls and metal roofs negated the danger of fire. And if all else failed, as a final resort, each tembe contained a "bolt hole" that would lead him to the safety of the jungle. Unless he happened to come up in the midst of a bunch of screaming hostiles! That was the only rub, Pasta didn't know in which direction the tunnel led. Oh well, he couldn't help that now - best to trust in old Drippy and his tulwar-wielding fanatics.

And so, the background being set, we can proceed with the events as they transpired that 23 rd of July in the year of Our Lord 1999 in deepest Lancaster. (Or as best as they can be remembered by your faithful scribe - any deviance from reality is purely in the interest of a ripping good yarn!) On the trail, our twin militarians were quickly involved in a fight for their lives as multitudes of screaming tribesmen issued from the dense underbrush. Luckily for them the askaris had kept their wits about them and held their first fire until the wretched natives were at point blank range. When the smoke cleared, the native hordes were thinned to half their strength before even coming to grips with their targets. And in a man-to-man fight, a spear - no matter how bravely wielded - is no match for a breechloading rifle!

Hearing the set-to behind him, Sir Peter calmly ordered his troops to the rear (from which position he bravely urged his askaris on). With the odds now becoming heavily weighted against them, the native masses began to hear the drumbeats in the air and one by one began melting into the forest from which they came. As the fracar waxed and waned, only 3 askaris were to be cut down by the evil hordes and but one sergeant lightly wounded. Thus bloodied but unbowed, our trekkers turned once again to the task before them. Would they be in time? The sounds of gunfire filtered through the jungle ahead and didn't foster confidence!

Back at the tembe, Drippu Dip had deployed his Baluchis around the rear perimeter expecting an attack from the nearby rain forest. Here the jungle came to within 20 feet of the surrounding wall making it a prime candidate for a hidden force. And hidden they were, but not for long! Before you could smell Jacque Robison, flights of arrows spewed forth from the undergrowth. Thankfully, Drippy had his Baluchs with their shields at the ready! Ascertaining the general direction of the fusillade, Drippy ordered a volley of musketry into the jungle. While the results of the fire were unknown, the Baluchis had no time to worry about any success as hundreds of tribesmen spewed forth from the forest primeval. Being the skilled mercenaries they were, the Indians quickly loaded their muskets and brought forth another volley into the natives before they were quickly engaged.

Though a goodly number of warriors went down to the musket fire, their sheer numbers allowed them to gain the top of the tembe's surrounding wall. Fighting like tigers, the Baluchs were not to give ground easily. Swinging their tulwars like berserks, the musketeers slowly fell back to the rear wall of the fortress and formed the infamous "Baluchi Crescent"! With Drippy to their rear, the Muslim madmen began a furious bloodfest. Though four of their number went down, the toll of tribesmen was fourfold and made enough of a gap for our heroic band to withdraw along the side wall of the tembe.

Back around the front of the fort, the somewhat edgy Pasta formed his men up behind some temporary barricades to protect the open front gate. He then proceeded to take up a position inside the center room of the fortress with his trusty aide, Bombay Rhum, to protect him. (Seems like he and Sir Peter are two of a kind!) This was perhaps his worst decision yet since with his force and Drippu's being separated as they were, the natives were able to force their way to the roof of the tembe and thence into the inner courtyard.

Luckily for EP, there was a boiling pot of "pombe" (a local brew) situated in the inner court and this became the main feature of interest to the first batch of tribesmen to drop in. This short break was all the Pasta needed to start heading for the bolthole. Leaving Bombay to fill the doorways, Ermine began crawling to safety - he hoped. While our unhero was slithering down the tunnel, his stranded askaris managed to close the gate of the fortress, trapping a large body of warriors inside and out of their way. Thus they were able to assist Drippy and his remaining Baluchs in the final set-to with the native horde outside the compound. Once again, truth and justice (!) prevailed as the native warriors, their numbers growing smaller by the minute, dissolved into the jungle to try again sometime soon.

As the last of the natives was being chased into the bush (those inside the courtyard busied themselves by emptying the pombe pot and were later tossed into the local hoosegow), the head of our relief column broke out of the jungle into the tembe clearing to witness the denouement of the engagement. Late as usual, but just in time for the celebratory party! As our troops began the festivities, we could hear the strange sounds of Norwegian-tinged Turkish emanating from the distant jungle through which we had just passed. Our man Pasta had emerged from the tunnel not 50 feet from the point at which our foray began!

The final bill for the expedition was 11 men lost, only one a gentleman of account. The family of the late Lt. Chard K. Broccoli (known to his comrades as "Curly") may rest secure in the knowledge that he fought and died honorably with thoughts of his Queen and Country on his lips til the end.

And so ends another chapter in the trials, travels, and travails of our bewhiskered boffin, the redoubtable Sir Peter de Gee. No doubt the story will benefit much embellishment upon repeated telling!

Yours ever diligently,

Philias T. Phlogue

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