Dateline:

Grimoire Plateau, Sciatica

As the crimson sunset cast its' last glow over the boundless plateau, the forces of a united Europe raised a cheer to victory in the quest to rescue the long-lost adventurer, Sir Peter de Gee. The campaign had been long and hard-fought, but the outcome made it worthwhile in the minds of those attendant.       But we get ahead of our story........

The Sciatican Field Force under the steady (some might have said plodding) hand of Baron Schnurrbart von Mainz (Seth M) trudged ever-forward beneath the beating waves of heat. It was but a month ago that the crowned heads of Europe had gathered by the shores of Lake Garbonzo to pledge their joint backing of a rescue force to set out in search of the dastardly villains who had kept that scion of exploration, Sir Peter, in most foul restraint.

Besides the forementioned German contingent, the Field Force held assemblages from Great Britain under the sterling (?) leadership of Colonel Crittenden Daylily (Brian P), a Belgian Force Publique led by the oily Hercule Pottboiler (Doug N), the mighty Italian Mobile Artillery Group ably pointed by Majoré Barolo Buonicelli (Bill T), and the famed French Force Aeronautique captained by the well-known Cinq-Heure Charles (Seth M redux).

Marching to the sounds of many different drums (most in definite need of tuning!), our multi-colored force sped ever forward to its' date with destiny. Unfortunately, it would turn out to be a blind date! Crossing the sun-drenched plain, the force was laid out with the Germans holding the left flank, the Belgians on the right, and the British and Italians manning the center. The French, coming on as the mailed fist, would blitz down the middle and be the terror of the trenches.

 The assault began with the Force Publique swiftly pushing forward. With little between them and Fortress Al Krim (smile when you say that!), they soon came under fire from an old muzzle-loader stolen in one of Krim's many sorties into civilization. Fortunately for them, the Sheikh (Ray K) may have stolen a gun but he forgot to swipe the owner's manual and the resulting horrid shooting gave even the entrenched arabs pause to wish for some quick lessons in siting the piece.

The two squads of Belgian continued forward unbowed until they reached a patch of thick brambles that would soon give them a surprise and a bitter lesson!

  With the action halted on the right, the center and left began their push toward destiny. Showing typical British pluck, Col. Daylily cranked up his Armored Car - and his nerve - and set off towards the redoubt. His two squads, Askaris leading - Sikhs behind, advanced alongside the smoke-belching Austin. As the main threat at this distance was already occupied by the Belgian onslaught, our British hero marched bravely ahead leading his troops from a position only slightly astern of the A/C.

Just to the Brits immediate right came the Playboy from Parma, Barolo Buonicelli and his Neopolitan nabobs. Fighting ability be damned, these boys sure looked spiffy! The Askaris in gleaming white uniforms with brushed fezzes of red and the home troops in starched khakis with bandoliers of tightly rolled blankets of blue across their chests these were surely men to be reconned with!

Not to be forgotten (at least not yet!) was the pride of the Italians, the Mobile Artillery detachment. Powered by the latest creation from Scuderia FIAT, the rifled breechloading cannon was a power not to be dismissed. It's strength could devastate Fortress Krim all by itself if brought within range. (Aye, and there's the rub - as we shall soon see!)

In company with the center, the belligerent Baron pushed his force forward with his brave Askaris fronting the Schutztruppe. Not wanting to mess up his crisply ironed jodhpurs, von Mainz led haughtily from the rear. This, while hardly Germanic, did save the Baron from having to dance like a girly-mann when a light MG opened up on the approaching native troops and they began falling like ten-pins. Twirling his magnificent namesake moustache, he merely let out a sneering guffaw and pressed his men onward - however haltingly.

Awaiting their turn to fight, the twin elements of the French contingent spent their time composing love ballads and nibbling crepes. Cinc-Heure Charles (5 o'clock Charlie to us peons) manned the tiller of the mighty airship Icarus as his crew polished the brass nameplate on his cabin door. Would that they had used their time to study wind effects on falling ordinance as we shall soon see it would have come in handy.

The other arm of French might, Le Grand Mal Jean, was busily tweaking the knobs and switches inside the cockpit of his experimental steam-walker. Its' heavy MG would come in mighty handy for clearing the parapets of Fortress Al Krim (smile when you say that!) when the time came for a final assault. Once again tho, unbeknownst to our heroic party, fate would come down solidly on the side of evil. While he was paying close attention to the armament side of his chariot, Jean somehow neglected to seal up the intakes to the motive generator for the walkers' legs. This would be much to his detriment during the impending assault!

Back over on the right, the Belgians were now slogging their way through some thick ground cover when what should they encounter but two burnoose-clad crazies lying either side of a gigantic petard! Before the Askaris could react, the nutzos (placed there by their leader, Ibn Haddi [Charlie P] ) set off their charge. When the smoke cleared, besides a fairly large depression in the center of the brambles, there were a lot fewer members of the vaunted Force Publique standing upright! Amazingly enough, also still breathing was one of the bombers, but the less said of his fate the better. Suffice it to say that it "twernt pretty".

While the Belgians' first squad picked up the pieces, so to speak, the second squad moved forward and took up a firing position. For the rest of the assault they could be seen pouring a heavy, telling fire into the assembled throng gathered above them on the fortress ramparts. The carnage on this flank was pretty complete when events would take an amazing turn!

Back in the center, the Brits were marching forward in all their dashing glory when they began to be whittled down by the fire from the muzzle-loader and a supporting cast of riflemen on either side of it. Hoping to give some cover fire to its' mates, the Armored Car began grinding ahead only to begin sputtering and jerking as if it had seen a French mechanic. Once again the desert sands had played havoc with technology! While advancing somewhat haltingly, at least the A/C could toss out some lead in the fortress' direction. Thus protected, the Sikhs and the Askari brethren pushed ahead.

Step for step with the British came the Italians. Tossing aside their chianti and bread, the pride of Tuscany came forth firing their rifles in support of their allies. Taking personal command, Buonicelli led his contingent from their midst (mustn't get too bold now, must we!) Turning to his rear the Majoré motioned for his heavy gun to come hither....

Alas, here too was the fickle finger of fate to point thumbs down! Remember, the tractor pulling the field piece was the flower of FIAT technology but nowhere in sight was there a mechanic to "Fix It Again, Tony!" Time and again Lt. Gorgonzola turned the engine over only to have it die when he let out the clutch. During the entire campaign, the might of the Italian Motorized Artillery would move but twice! Never would it even make it into firing range of Fortress Al Krim (smile when you say that!). Next time (there'll be a next time?) remember to bring a mobile motor pool too!

Now was the time for our French fellows to spring their attack! With twin Citroen engines chugging away, the glistening glory of the Icarus glided forth among the billowing clouds. Brass atwinkle, wood beams polished within an inch of their life, and shrouds taught the mighty engine of war (really just an old wind bag!) approached its' target below.

Charlés looked through his Nordené bombsite (a closely guarded state secret) lining up on the cannon underneath and let go the first of his fusilades. A near miss! Away the second barrage. Oooops, another "near"! (Now we know why it was kept such a secret.) So much for French precision bombing! All Charley accomplished was adding a few more dents to the desert landscape.

This, however, was only part of our aircrews problems. While peering through his bombsite, Charles totally missed seeing the band of riflemen taking aim at his posterior. Round after round ripped into the wicker gondola and halved the roster of the intrepid Icarus. Considering caution to be the better part of valor, the graceful airship did a beauteous about-face and puttered off towards camp and a most delightful '92 Lafitte! So much for Gallic airpower.

Off on the far left, our High Commander was still watching his poor native troops take the brunt of a well-aimed machine gun emplaced on the fortress walls directly on their line of advance. At least it was well-aimed when fired by Achmed bin Sneezin (Ben P). Unfortunately for the Arab side, da sheikh usually let his pet monkey, J Fred Omar, do the shooting! And needless to say, J Fred couldn't hit the broad side of a tent let alone an underfed German Askari! In time, the monkey's uncle tied him down and took to the MG himself and really did a number on the poor natives. And again, Herr Mainz did naught but twill his 'stache!

With the Teutons taking it on the chin, it was again time for the flower of France to blossom in the form of Le Grand Mal Jean and his walker of wonder. With a belch of smoke and the grinding of gears, from out of a tangle of palms came the giant metal man. As the sight of the behemoth brought the gunfire to a halt, it plodded forward towards the forbidden fortress. Up the side of a small mesa it rocked with nary a notice of the dust cloud forming in its' wake. Then just as suddenly as it had begun, the mighty giant stopped with a wheeze! The dust cloud surrounded the steamer and choked the fires and gummed up the gears. Here too, the desert would have its' last laugh. For with no motive power to move, our big bumpkin would also be without power to fire his medium MG, which now lie pointed directly to earth! Oh well, so much for science!

Thus the battle turned into a good old-fashioned fire fight with rifles flogging the bejesus out of both sides. The Belgians on the right had decimated then halved, then quartered the power of the twin sheikhs, bin Haddi and al Krim (who's smilin' now, sheikhy boy!) and the Italians with their British allies had done much the same to the Krim-boys in front of them. On the left, with the Askaris pretty much toasted by now, the Germans actually began to fire off their Mausers in anger and were having much the better of the exchange.

Since the might of the Italian Mobile Artillery was still in the rear trying desparately to get the damn engine to turn over, the glory of the French Airfleet was sailing off to a late supper, and the Gallic Colossus was spurting gouts of oil all over the desert, Col Daylily puckered up his shorts and tried one last time to get his Armored Austin to start up. Halleloo, it actually worked! Puttering ahead, a toothy smile on his lips, our doughty Brit pushed on to be the first at the fortress gate. (Totally hacking off von Mainz who desperately wanted that honor for himself - and had sacrificed most of his Askaris to that end!)

Inside the fortress life was not going too swimmingly. With his followers being dropped like leaflets in the desert wind, the once mighty Sheikh Al Krim (please, smile when you say that!) began planning his hasty departure. Making sure the entrance to his hidden escape tunnel was left ajar, the shaky sheikh checked his defenses one last time.

Placing the final denouement of our plucky Sir Peter in the care of his trusted (?) right-hand man ibn Haddi, and the final stand at the gates to bin Sneezing and J Fred, the once fearsome "Savage of the Sands" Sheikh Al Krim (don't laugh when you say that!) beat feet towards the safety of his tunnel never knowing the treachery he would leave behind him!

Seeing his boss hike up his robes and hustle his bustle to the rear, J Fred and his keeper bin Sneezin decided that life in a prison camp didn't sound too enticing and they sucked it up and played follow the burnoose in the general direction of Al Krim (stop giggling when you say that!) and his tunnel to Tunis.

Having been handed Sir Petey on a plate, ibn Haddi grabbed his captive and began reaching for the friendly skies pushing the trussed up explorer before him like a shield! Seems old Haddi had been waiting for the first opportunity he could find of heisting old Sir P and bookin' it in the direction of the nearest Euro he could see! Not wanting to take the chance of ticking off Al Krim and facing any attendant oud music, the timid Tuareg was just biding his time. And his time was now! As the mighty Austin A/C crashed through the gates, ibn Haddi couldn't hide his joy as he offered his bedraggled charge to the triumphant tide.

Our      Hero

Bent (even in a few directions man wasn't meant to bend!) but unbroken, our beleaguered hero was lifted up for all to see and carried through the fort on the shoulders of first one contingent and then the next until all the allied forces had the chance to shoulder the great man they had come to rescue! Once more Sir Peter breathed free. Once again he would tread the sands of Africa unbound (at least until the next time he bumbles his way into captivity). Once and forever he would be - Brave Sir Peter, international man of mystery!

 

Humbly submitted by your scribe, Phineas Phlogue, Esq.

Foggy DeLenz (Brian Porter), Photog