So you wanted to strike a blow for civilization and good Queen Vic! Off you went to the depths of Darkest Africa with your cricket bat, teapot, and man-servant to lay bare the vast treasures of the Jungle. Your wit, savoir-faire, and joie-de-vivre would conquer all! Talk about your true Victorian Gentlemen! The sharpest thing they have going is their wit and a stiff upper lip!
You dreamers! Now that you're here, at the last outpost of civilization, things ain't quite the way you were led to believe. About the toughest weapon (man-made) you've got is the trusty Remington. With its' breech-loading capability you should be able to stand up to the worst that this God-Forsaken region can throw at you. It's for sure a better bet than those scruffy-looking askaris that the governor-general foisted off on you! I wouldn't be surprised if they robbed you blind before you go 20 paces inland! But don't be surprised if some of the critters you meet just laugh at such a pitiful fusilade! Remember, these are the "CAVERNS OF CALAMITY". Are you sure you want to enter? And don't forget, some of those natives are CANNIBALS Ñ and pickin's have been mighty slim lately! And that peaceful little valley you have to pass through just might hide things that do more than go "BUMP" in the night! And if that isn't enough, some of your so-called "fellow adventurers" might just have agendas of their own! He who returns first (preferably alive) with findings of note gets the lion's share of the glory at the next Royal Geographicus Society meeting. And a healthy pension to boot!
So much for the preliminaries! Let's see if we can follow our intrepid adventurers as they slog their way into the annals of history. As a further prologue, we'll note that our adventurous band included an evil Native Chieftain Yoh-Mama, the dashing Sir Richard, the oily Slave-Runner bin Sneezn, Sir Peter, and the newly arrived I.C. Nutting.
Right off the bat, things looked to bode ill for the Euros as I.C. decided to go his own way separate from Sirs P and R, who had banded together Ð at least for this portion of the journey! No sooner had he entered the bush than what should pop up on his flanks but an ornery band of looting natives. Needless to say he would be bogged down for the next 4 hours hacking his way through the underbrush and the odd native. So much for being independent Ð I'll bet next time he follows the OFs and joins forces! For now we'll leave him to his struggle and return later.
Off on the leftmost trail, the "PR" bros. went their merry way. They decided to take a "short cut" across a rickety rope bridge over a watery gorge rather than chance an encounter at a nearby native village. Not a smart move! Never let it be said that our fiendish GM let an opportunity for mayhem pass by ungrasped. In the midst of crossing the swaying bridge, what should emerge from the depths but the hideous visage of a creature long thought extinct Ð an Elasmosaur! And not having been fed for an eon or two, the rapacious beast began nibbling on the passing askaris (missing the brave Sir Richard of course. He made sure he was first across Ð must show staunch British Pluck, you know!) Of course he figured that by the time anything nasty arrived, he would be safely on the far side! The beast continued gorging himself on native tidbits until he was doubled over in reverie Ð never had he enjoyed such a repast! Thankfully he kept his munchings to the native side, otherwise Brave Sir Peter Ð bringing up the rear as usual Ð would have been dino-delite and our story would be ended!
Having survived that peril (no one of any note was lost, only 7 askari and bearers) our intrepid duo continued on in search of wealth and wonder. Their way was uneventful until stumbling upon a dark crevice in the side of the cliffs. To enter or not was the question of the day Ð best boil up a spot of tea and break open a jar of whisky to clear the head before making any hasty decisions. A local tribe of Wawatutsies was of no help whatever (except for the fact that they didn't eviscerate our heros!) as the locals would only say that the caverns were known as "fubargi". Being the natural linguist (just ask him!) Sir Richard immediately deduced the word to mean "caves of untold riches" (Strike two, Sir Dicky!) Downing another swig of "Olde Bishmull", Sir Richard convinced Sir Petey to continue on together in search of hidden rewards. Of course Sir P bought the bugle oil ....hook, line, and stinker!
Meanwhile, the evil Achmed bin Sneezn began his pusuit of the black gold, comely female-types preferred. Leaving his boats unguarded (talk about being too easy for the dastardly GM!) he struck off in the direction of the darkling rain forest ahead. He should have known that danger awaited but his mind was cluttered with dreams of hordes of slaves and the golden riches they would bring at the bazaars of Zazupitzi Town! Forging forward, Achmed was engulfed by the mouldering mass within minutes and his feelings of foreboding began to swell. Suddenly from out of nowhere appeared a crazed band of Amazons in search of males to subdue. Thoughts of dear old maman back in Zamboniville crossed quickly in Achmed's mind Ð had he but listened and followed in the family dung-cartage business! But too late, the maidens of Styx had pounced on his small band and the fight was on.
Luckily, he had offered a goodly sum as enticement to an itinerant group of Baluchs to join him on this mission. Their fame for ferocity was well-earned. Though heavily outnumbered, the matchlockmen stood fast around their benefactor and kept him from any harm. Before the melee was ended several Amazons had fallen as had some Baluchs, but the spirit never left them and finally the slavers held the day. Driving off the female warriors, they had captured a small group and were quick to make them secure. Before the slavers could reload their muskets tho, a horde of evil-looking natives emerged from the darkness behind. Ever quick with the meaningless smile, Achmed stretched out his hand in a gesture of good-will. To his surprise, the foul-smelling chieftain returned the favor all the while drooling over the lassoed lasses within Achmed's party.
Seems the good chief, Hausa-yur-mama, was on his way to beating up on some nearby pygmys but was stifled by the fact that nobody was home! To salvage something from the ill-fated foray, he figured that by acting friendly he just might be able to make off with the tied-up tootsies when no one was looking! And hopefully without any bloodshed Ð especially on his part. So this motley crue Ð err crew set out for further plunder, a barely-working temporary alliance in place. Within a heartbeat or two they stumbled upon what looked like a rotted fallen tree. Upon closer examination, however, this tree proved to be carved of stone and led to a descending stairway within.The smell of evil wafted up this well and gave our allies cause to think twice before entering. But downward they advanced, throwing caution to the wind. Their numbers now doubled they feared nothing and no one. (What Fools these yahoos be!)
Meanwhile back at the wadi, dear old IC having at last run off the native scaven-gers, things began to look up for the new kid on the donga. Marching the be-draggled remnants of his party forward, our semi-hero happened upon a small cave entrance in the side of a hill. Being new to the wilds of darkest Africa, he eagerly scouted out the immediate area inside the cave mouth. Much to his delight, a fresh clean breeze met his nose Ð it must be a tunnel, and a rather short one at that! Not knowing enough to be afraid, he hastened his group forward and set off to find the far end and whatever may lie ahead.
Before they could succumb to fear, the intrepid band emerged into the light and were struck dumb by the sheer beauty of the lush landscape unfolding before them (perhaps just a bit too lush, eh?) As they struck forth, things around them seemed a tad strange but no one could put a finger on just what it was. Then from above they heard a shriek that turned their blood to ice! High overhead, just within sight, soared two shapes which had no right to be there Ð Pteradactyls! These proto-flyers should have died out eons ago, but there they were; circling over IC and his mates.
In a flash they swooped down to take vengeance on those who dared disturb their habitat! Grabbing a porter by the neck one of the beasts flew high only to release his hapless victim to his fate. The companion flyer attacked several askaris with only minor effect and was struck a fatal blow by IC's Remington for his efforts. When the second dactyl returned it too was given a mortal send-off by the musketry from below.
Shaken by the encounter, our neophyte adventurer now realized he had stumbled into the "Valley That Time Forgot"! Turning back towards the tunnel from which they had just come, Nutting stared in disbelief at a solid wall of stone Ð the cave was no longer there! They would have to search out another exit from this prehistoric vale or die in the quest!
Striking out briskly, IC bravely in the lead, this now shaky band searched hither and yon for signs of habitation and exit. Gathering unknown flora by the pack-loads, Nutting was beginning to fear the worst when, turning a bend in the lightly-beaten track, what should appear but a small gathering of beehive type huts with a warm fire and a bubbling pot in its' midst.
As he approached, a small group of time-worn natives emerged from the huts jabbering exitedly. Oh, if only he had Burtonovich with him now! Doing his best to appear calm and reserved, Nutting strode forth to speak (or more accurately, gesture) with a haggled old crone that appeared to be the leader of this sorry lot. Not looking too closely at the shrunken head which surmounted the shaman's staff, IC made signs of peace and request for aid Ð or swinging a dead cat by its ears Ð whichever way you looked at it! Thank-fully, the wizened old hag took a liking to our benighted hero and offered them sustenance in the form of some evil-tasting goo from the large pot which boiled away in the center of the village.
Best not to look too closely at what was roiling away in that pot! The next morning, feeling like the Gordon Highlanders had staged maneuvers in his mouth, Nutting awoke to find the village empty but with a crudely drawn map tacked to the entrance of his hut. Was it a ploy to draw them away from their village into a trap or was it truly a guide to escape from this lost world? We'll find out when next we meet as this is the extent of his journey so far! (Looking ahead, good old IC never returned ... ed.)
Back to the realm of the erstwhile Sirs P & R. Having finally slept off the effects of Darjeeling tea and Irish Whisky, our heroes struck off into the darkness of the cave before them. For some uncomprehensible reason, however, before setting forth they sent their porters and a few askaris back to the mission station with the booty they had so far collected, hopefully hedging their bets for success. Of course they now had only the food and ammunition which they themselves could carry, but what the hell Ñ They're British!
Their now much reduced party stumbled about in the dark for much too long before someone remembered to light a torch! When they looked to their front, they wished they hadn't lit that puppy because what they saw sent chills down their collective spines! Scattered all about them were skeletal remains and native bodies in multitudinous degrees of decomposition! Slime oozed from the walls and the temperature, real or imagined, had dropped about 30 degrees. And there was that ominous, grating sound which seemed to come from the rock wall just before them!
Ere anyone could move, the wall seemed to send forth a portion of itself. Instantly a creature took form. Sporting one huge eye that seemed to encompass its' entire head and an evil-looking tendril with a hideous red lens at its' tip, this spawn of the rocks was wielding one kick-ass sharp halbard. (Didn't think stone could hold that sharp an edge, did you!) With a mighty swing, the critter (Ptahh, by name) passed his weapon across the face of the crowd before him.
Unfortunately he (in the guise of the fiendish GM who rolled dice like he usually does) came a cropper with his attack. Again and again this rock-creature passed his halbard back and forth and just as often missed dreadfully. Seeing just how nasty this feller could be, Sir P/R (since they seem joined at the hip for this adventure, we'll just refer to 'em as one) stepped back, out of pole-arm range, and started pouring fusilade after fusilade into this beast. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, all that was left before them was a pile of stone chips and shale.
Counting heads after the battle, their party was now two mouths smaller Ð at least the food will last a tad longer! Deeper they ventured into the caverns until they came upon what looked like a well! Instead of giving it a wide berth as they should have, our inquisitive duo ambled up and looked in to see what they could see. And what they saw gave them pause. In a mighty splash of ice-cold water what emerged from the well was another of the devils' minions, this time in the form of an ax-wielding flying fish! This Gluboid from Gommorah came at our hapless heros with his poleaxe swingin'.
Thankfully, experience had taught them at least to be prepared for the implausible let alone impossible! As soon as the Bass from Beyond appeared, the askaris unloaded their muskets into the beast and, as if in one continuous motion, the Hell-Haddock returned to its' watery domain. Other than perhaps needing fresh knickers, our "vandering vagabonds" were unskathed. And so they continued apace, dealing with the odd giant worm or two as they delved deeper and deeper into these "Caverns of Calamity" (the correct translation of "fubargi"!).
Turning a final corner, Sir Richard ordered two of his most trusted askaris forward to search the path ahead. Cries of joy could be heard from the now-dark corridor. Untold riches Ð jewels, ivory, chests of gold and silver lie before the startled natives. But now their cries of joy turned to fear as they saw behind them not one, but two hell-beings. Cries for help came pouring down the tunnel to Sir R & P's ears. Would they reach the hapless musketmen in time?Once again we will see as this portion of their quest stopped here!Tune in next time (Saga 4B) to see if they get out alive! Will they survive "Rich as Croesus" or "Poor as a Church Mouse"? Ya'll just have to wait and see with us all.
Before we leave, we mustn't forget our less-than-heroic consortium of Evil Slave Master bin Sneezn and his unlikely compatriot Evil Chieftain "Yoh-mamah". When we left them, they had entered the stairway to the nether reaches and when the stairway eventually yielded to rough-hewn rock, they realized that they had entered the realm of the unknown. All around them they could feel the touch of death. The very ceiling seemed to press down upon them as the delved further into the caverns. They too would fall prey to the "Ptahh from Perdition" but it too would be just a lame as its' brother boulder-buddy. (The GM actually rolled a "yahtzee in 1s" during one attack!)
Other than raising a bit of a lather, the slavers got away fairly lightly Ð knicked and knobbled but not dead. Continuing their bashing about, our anti-heros stumbled into a portion of Sir P and Rs cohort and promptly proceeded to kill anyone they couldn't cow into capture! Deciding that caution be the better part of valor (and since when do pond-sucking slavers worry about valor!) our native-nasty combo pushed for the nearest exit. Unfortunately, they didn't quite get away critter-free!
As Achmed and his buddies, real and fake, spotted the light at the end of the tunnel, they would hear the sound of a thousand mill-stones grinding. Running as swiftly as their captives would allow, just as they emerged from the darkness our treacherous twosome finally saw the source of the grinding sounds. Two many-tentacled stone cylinders with glowing eyes were hot on their heels! As if that wasn't bad enough, the damn things were tool-users as evinced by the humongous spears being brandished back and forth amongst the squirming tendrils! Surely this must be a fight to the death as, magically, the cave mouth behind them disappeared with an earth-shaking roar! What will become of Achmed? Will he survive to enslave his pseudo-pals when they return to the ships? Will "Yoh-Mama" turn the tables and rob his Arab sidekick blind the first chance he gets? Or better yet, turn him into cannibal-chow? Tune in later to see the final outcome as this is where our adventure temporarily ended!
Onward to Part 2 of This Travesty!
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