Vox Populi Forum
The madman Rolfe d’Ambray had led us a third of the way around the world in pursuit of a nightmare. Following an attack by the war canoes of the Cheddar People our weary Galleass had arrived in the Oriental Port of Luxor. We had been approached by a patrol. Hanging the Ceremonial Gun-ports we had obtained failed to slow their approach, so we tried lighting some of our stolen Wedding Incense. The Patrol swept by, shouted congratulations, and waved us along. Some minor celebration was underway as we moored, and local gymnast put on a show of agility and dexterity that we all realized as one that what we called “Oriental Pummeling” was laughable compared to the contortions of these exotic peoples. While Rolfe visited the local dens of iniquity seeking information, the rest of us assessed damages incurred during our altercation with the savage “Cheddar People.” Jasc Bonadventure and Paul Klee checked the port vessels, searching for fellow Frenchmen to exchange news and perhaps dispatch messages home. Jasc returned, Paul Klee chose to return to France. A sailor named Mathys Violete returned with Jasc. Like Jasc, Nemo McMoridin, Louis Brighteyes and Tomas de Marchand, Violete wore the distinctive green sash of the famed Vert Valliant. Le Beouf and I shared a rueful grin as the soldiers indulged in reminiscence, leaving Le Beouf and I to supervise our boat.
Rolfe returned with rumors relating to the “Stick Figure Pyrates,” he said. He was struck how the majority of the port slaves were from some race of man unfamiliar to us. How this related to the question of Infidel pyrates was beyond me, but ROlfe was satisfied, and had us cast off and aim south and west for the Fortress at the Tigris. The Fortress garrison was, by nature, paranoid and distrustful of unscheduled ships, and even our plundered Saffron Uniforms were met with a jaundiced eye. Still, at least this once we were fated to enter the walls. Rolfe spoke with their Pansad-Bashi (“Head of Five Hundreds.”) and discovered the odd slaves were of a tribe called “Sloth People,” and were the prized slaves of these Eastern Infidels as they possessed a placid temperament.
Satisfied we set south and West, resupplied our stores of fruit from a small, uncharted island, the made for the Port of Aden to the south. As out incense worked so well as an entrance ploy in the last port, we again lit the cloying stuff, and arrived ashore reeking of jasmine and rose oil. The fashion of Aden ran towards heavy steel-tipped boots, and we decided avoiding spurning would be a wise move if things ran towards violence. Rolfe’s continuing queries into the odd Sloth People turned up a fellow madman. An outsider with the tusks of the walrus in his head-dress claimed he defeated a Djinn (come to steal away his sister) to obtain the Sloth slaves. The dream-driven Rolfe considered this superstitious tale vital information.
Rolfe next turned our bow back to the north-east from whence we came. His instincts screamed the there must be a hidden cove and another fortress we had missed with our detour to the island, and, for once, Rolfe’s intuition was correct - for, sure enough the Fortress of the Euphrates lies near the Tigris! We approached as celebrants, and our Dervishes, spun away, laughing, into the fortress gates. The Dervishes obviously betrayed our mission, for the fortress cannon soon roared and belched. The shot were aimed high, and tore through our Orange Ambassadorial Sails, shredding them. WE rowed for shelter, convened and decided to take the Fortress from land. Rowers, sailors and some solders against a cannon-armed fortress? The battle, briefer than it should be, was wild and bloody, but we were fortunate Euphrates was a much smaller fortress than Tigris! Mathys Violete fell to shrapnel, But a quick double feint, led by Jasc Bonadventure and Louis Brighteyes broke the morale of the fortress troops. Louis accepted the surrender of the Yuz-Bashi.
Nemo drilled our sailors and rowers, I worked with our compliment of soldiers, while Jean drafted a writ of Privateer, and a petition to the Court of France for an official authorization, while Tomas de Marchand organized a resupply from the fortress stores. We set asea with a seasoned, battle ready crew and abundant stores. We also learned of a Safavid cannon factory to the south-west….
One should assume that a factory that makes weapons also has people to use them. The raid was even wilder than that against the Euphrates. Nemo fell, shot, while leading two small flanking forces. Jean raged among the defenders of the factory, but was barely able to hold his own. Tomas moved to cover for Nemo, and also fell, bleeding. Rolfe’s deceptive mind set off some of our Blue Smoke and used the ceremonial Drums aboard to confuse the defenders into thinking we were a larger force. We charged in. Mathys’ hilt punched through foes, Louis grappled his way past the lines, but it was Jasc who put down their leader with three heroic sword blows. Our objective was obtained, Our galleass was now over-gunned, and, following our second successful battle the crew has become orderly and obedient. Even better, the men have bonded, and the air of camaraderie is palpable.
Back asea, we find ourselves hailed by the French galleon, “Lion’s Pounce,” the personal vessel of Admiral L’eonce! Lion’s Pounce took Nemo McMoridin and Thomas de Marchand aboard, while Alain Gignot and Mal de Merd-a-din joined our crew. News of home and conditions abroad were exchanged, and Merd-a-din bore official writs from France authorizing us to Privateer under the authority of His Royal Majesty Maxime I. The Admiral, himself, threw a salute to his compatriots from the Vert Valliant (Alain and Mal among them), and our ships set out their separate ways.
We ventured north, into pyrate waters, where we encountered the damnable war canoes of the Cheddar People. The insane savages closed in, their canoe to small and nimble for our yawing hulk to bring cannon to bear. Soon they surrounded our entire vessel, and, again, we were forced to split forces, each man being assigned a certain section of rail. The Cheddar People used their axes as pitons, biting the blades deep into wood and scaling the hull of our vessel. They swarmed over the rails in multiple locations, and swung wildly, aiming to damage our ship as much as our bodies. Only Mal was able keep his assigned area from closing to melee. Jean narrowly dodge shattered spar while attempting to stop the invaders trying to chop our masts. Alain tried to use our drums to confuse the foe. He was unaware that the savages used their own drums to similar effect. Both Rolfe and Louis were struck by injured men falling from the masts and almost knocked overboard. My diversions failed and I found myself pressed back, while Jasc was grabbed and almost dragged overboard!
Merd-a-din, his section still clear, took the drums from Alain, beating out a strange, alien rhythm that somehow distracted the savages long enough for Jasc to fight free, I was trying to group my men into an ordered response, while Alain narrowly avoided an arrow! By a fluke, the same arrow found its way into the back of Rolfe d’Ambray. Mathys sprung forth, and pulled Rolfe away from the savages swarming his section. Fortunately, both were clear of the explosion when the power barrel Mathys ignited detonated. Louis’ orations to glory and loyalty inspired his men, and their section of deck was secured.
Mal's men included the grumblers among the crew, and those poxy swabs foolishly chose to aid the attacking savages. I have since learned that Merd-a-din is usually a man of few words, but the stream of invective issued then could be heard clear across the battle! His loyal troops redoubled their efforts and savage and mutineer alike soon found themselves bobbing in the water. His section was secured. I grabbed the drums and tried to imitate the same heavy beat Merd-a-din had employed. Again, the disconcerting sound caused hesitation amongst our attackers. Louis used the distraction to push his foemen from the decks while Alain’s soldiers almost faltered from the mistaken belief that the unfamiliar rhythm was, in fact, the savages own war drums.
The gunpowder Mathys had ignited had set the aft deck aflame, leaving Alain and I cut off from the rest of the vessel. Louis Brighteyes ran down the rail, taking over for Mathys, and the foreparts of the boat were free from assault. My men were convinced the ship was lost, and I had to rally them to continue fighting, while Alain dodged musket balls fired from the war canoe. Alain managed to land grenades in the last remaining canoes, blowing the savage’s transport to splinters. With that deed as example, I was able to restore my men to fighting spirit. Alain’s cries for gallantry Raised the men’s spirits to near-fervency! The final assailants were dispatched, and the fire soon extinguished.
We ventured on, reaching the port of Baghdad. With our ship scorched and battered, we used the saffron uniforms as our ploy and gained entrance into the city. Here it was found that Rolfe’s mad tusked friend wasn’t, perhaps, so mad after all, for the Walrus Tribe, hairy barbarians who shave their heads, save for a vertical crest, was known here as the middlemen to the slavers. Their lands are thought to be near the infamous Chutes de Escarpment.
And so, we set south, passing Jawzi, where abundant fishing meant we had no need to go ashore for supplies to the south end of this Infidel continent, where we discovered the lands of the Sloth People, themselves. We ignored them, but continued west, south, then east, navigating the tip of the continent seeking raiding parties of the Walrus Tribe. Unsuccessful, we turned back and followed the coastline back towards Jawzi, stopping at the city of Oman.
Our clouds of incense again served to convince that we were revelers, and so, we travelled ashore for Rolfe to ask his questions. The majority of the island seemed to be huge, smelly, sweaty beasts of men, and, as Rolfe inquired, the rest of us concluded that, should trouble arise, no-one would be wrestling.
Rolfe was unable to find a location for the Walrus Tribe, but we were told of the Pig People. The Pigs People were described as filth, cannibalistic and recreant, so foul that only the Walrus Tribe might befriend them. Find the Pigs, perhaps find the Walrus. The Pigs lived to the south, “near the Tigers.” We once more ventured south, again using the wedding ploy of incense to gain entrance to the Fortress of Salween. Here, our leader gained further vital information in the form of another insane dream. Rolfe dreamt of sailing past icebergs, and the unlikely image of horsemen chasing him, theirs hooves thundering with solidity across treacherous, slippery ice.
Freshly inspired, the manic dreamer had us quit this continent, and cross the ocean to Ceylon. Rather than visit that esteemed City, we resupplied off the sea, set south of the Chutes d’Escarpment, then set for uncharted waters to the west. Wonder of wonders, rather that Rolfe’s hallucinations leading us to a far-off death, we discovered the shores of a continent hitherto unknown to the Olde World!
We disembarked in a north-facing cove and penetrated the forests to the south. Here we discovered the tigers - not another savage tribe, but the fabled huge cat! The deadly animal struck without warning, blurring silently from the undergrowth, battering Rolfe d’Ambray to the dirt. If it wasn’t for the stout breastplate Rolfe wore, that would have been his end. The predator’s teeth were unable to penetrate the steel. Rolfe’s steel dirk, on the other hand, slid right into the beast’s eye socket and brain. The tiger’s meat and skin provided a valuable and prized cargo.
The Pig People were supposed to live near the tigers, and, within another day we located one of their odious villages. The Pig People were nowhere near as fierce as we’d been led to believe. Stunted, they seemed more like lackies of pyrates, than pyrates. They were cannibals, yet not of the flesh of their foes, but on that of their own children! Some of the younger adults of the tribe had bright green eyes - disconcerting in their bronzed, reddish skin - which lent them a demonic aspect. The Pig People attribute this to the Djinn, who abandoned their tribe to serve the Walrus, who had tattooed themselves with the Djinn’s symbol. Merd-a-din started at this tale, and engaged in a hushed recount of a voyage he had undertaken to a New World years before. There, green eyes were spread among the savages by the notorious Marco da Vincy, and informed us, with a level look at Jasc Bonadventure, Marco da Vincy had recently become the only man to escape from the Bastille and courts of the Assize. I coughed at this. It now seemed likely that Da Vincy was posing as the Djinn.
The Pig People directed us further south, to a land they called “Savage Rock.” This Roche Sauvage was where the Walrus Tribe were to be found.
My recollection of events at this point grows hazy. From atop the rock we descended into a narrow gorge, where the first wave of Walrus warriors engaged us in a slipshod brawling fray. The treacherous terrain hampered out normal use of sword and musket, and forced us to duel using irregular tactics, the short bone axes and clubs of the Walrus people, on the other hand, were fearsome in close quarters, and could easily shatter bone in an unfortunate. This first skirmish saw five of our number fall to clubs, versus four of theirs to sword and shot. WE moved into the quagmire of lilies where more men died. Louis Brighteyes actually managed to duel a Walrus champion, stilling him and his men long enough for our force to deploy within the area before his better valor allowed him to rejoin us. Jasc inspired the men to attack with passion, and this band of Walrus fell defeated.
We moved south to a river delta. Merd-a-din found himself face to face with an enemy champion. He dodged, then put the man down with a right-left combination of swift punches. There, my memories end.
I do not know who carried me back through the forest, or the current fate of my companions. I certainly did not expect to find myself convalescing aboard the Lion’s Pounce. What would the Admiral of France be doing down here, on the bunion of the world, seemingly helping a madman chase a fever dream? I confess to some relief at being out of the affair, but curious as to how the events will resolve.
Hugo Marque Lamarr
Some "Behind the scenes" info the Ref may take into account (or not) -- Mike Myke Mique (posted: 10/6/2018)
Marco DaVinci -- red (posted: 10/6/2018)
East/West? KNIGHTS in Epilog -- Mike Myke Mique (posted: 10/6/2018)