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Mission 25, Fear the Smiling Foe pt. 1 (Cutlass 9/19/18)


The Village of Montpelier was beginning to look like it’s old charming self following the attacks by Serbian mercenaries. The Legion de Fer, under the command of Major Jasc Bonadventure had lent their manpower to the reconstruction efforts, while Nemo McMoridin, Paul Klee, Louis Brighteyes, Tomas de Marchand, Jean LeBeouf, Rolfe d’Ambray and myself helped as we could.

Rolfe had been growing agitated - he had experienced a series of fevered dreams he interpreted as omens. Rolfe was convinced we must leave France and sail into the Far East there to patrol the coasts between far Fatimah and exotic Jawzi, there to sink the pyrates prowling on the trade ships crossing to and from Ceylon. Rolfe was drawing a stylized stick figure he insisted would be the tattoo on cheek or chest that would identify the pyrates. He raved about Divine Inspiration and gesticulated broadly while proclaiming that accepting this Divine Mission was see money fall into our hands, His expansive gestures knocked the ink-pot over and ruined his series of sketches. As Rolfe bolted off in search of more paper and fresh quills and ink the rest of us debated how best to handle d’Ambray’s obvious insanity.

Major Bonadventure revealed he had received messages from the d’Ambrays. Rolfe had written of his dreams to his family, and the family, in turn, did not wish for Rolfe to leave France. Louis Brighteyes suggested we simply knock Rolfe out and return him to his family. Paul Klee, that big, lovable bully, thought fists a fine solution, but better directed against the Infidel. Jasc opined he’d rather punch Tomas de Marchand, then, after the laughter had died down, voted to go along with Rolfe to keep him out of trouble. Nemo McMoridin declared theatrically we must “Save the tea!” and that we should make the journey. Tomas de Marchand was willing to make the voyage to relieve the monotony of reconstruction. I am the kind of man who believes in what can be seen and touched, and less so in signs and portents. I felt it wiser to return Rolfe to the care of his family, but, as I was out-voted, I would come along. Jean LeBeouf missed the voting, but also decided to join.

We set off across the ocean in my swift caravel, Star Horizon, for the mysterious Bazaar of Tbilisi. In Tbilisi, I was prepared to restock Star Horizon and begin sailing the coasts. Rolfe insisted we needed to outfit a galleass for the search. I was somewhat offended at the thought of using a lumbering oared vessel rather then my nimble lady, but Paul convinced me that the ruse would increase whatever slim chances of success we might have with this delusional mission.

A suitable Galleass was acquired for the venture, but observation of port traffic revealed that the vessel we had required a fair amount of work to pass for an Infidel ship. Anchors plated in bronze, a distinctive apricot pennant for the mast, orange-painted sails (an ambassadorial color for the Infidel), grand wooded horns, and ornately-carved gun-port facades would be needed for our ship to blend in. Saffron-colored uniforms and ostrich-plumed turbans were needed to disguise the crew. Ambassador’s papers, wedding licenses, the blue smoke of the Raja, incense, drums and finger cymbals would be useful to explain to any encountered patrols our presence.

A hoary old Spanish pyrate overheard our hushed planning. The rogue claimed he knew of the warehouse where the sails were stored and could take us there. The ancient mariner’s word proved true and we obtained the sails with little effort. The alchemical materials needed to make the blue smoke were found within the same warehouse! Rolfe paid the old salt well for the information, which caused the temperamental Paul Klee to grouse that we should have just knocked Rolfe out and returned him to his family after all.

We had just loaded the sails and smoke aboard our Galeass when Antione le Chapeau - Major Bonadventure’s second-in-command for the Legion de Fer - cried a warning from the deck. There were shouts and shots as we made our may up from the hold. From the deck we could see an odd-looking person, one who resembled a trained bear more than a man, sprinting off into the darkness. The soldiers of the Legion de Fer had scared the creature away, but Antione le Chapeau lay on the deck in a puddle of his own blood, with the death rattle already sounding in his throat. None of the legionaries understood the shouts of the lone attacker, but the timing made me muse… Perhaps our thefts at the warehouse had been observed, and the angry bear-man was the true owner of our pilfered goods?

The next day we found suitable gray cloth to wrap le Chapeau’s body in and dispatched Star Horizon to return that brave soldier to his native France for burial. Rolfe d’Ambray located and purchased the Infidel wedding incense that same day, yet Rolfe insists he stole the very goods we watched him pay for! Rolfe seemed to be sinking further into the depths of fantastique invention…

That evening the soldiers of the Legion paid tribute to their slain second-in-command. Jean LeBeouf joined the men, reading aloud from the single book - a volume of translated Infidel poetry written by a man with the unwieldy name of “Omar Khayyam” - found in le Chapeau’s effects.

The following night in Tbilisi turned into a wide-ranging celebration of strange Infidel festival. Or, perhaps it was of some news of victory, (perhaps the Fatimah scored another victory again the honor-less Serbs), as most of the Infidel military in the town joined in the party? Our party decided to make our way into the town and see if we could obtain any more of the materials for our ploys under cover of celebration. Major Bonadventure seemed to decline and declared that he was to take a long evening swim for pleasure and health. Little did we know that he swam out to the far sides of several ships and spent a long evening scaling hulls, removing gun-port facades and taking them to our awaiting Galleass. Louis Brighteyes managed to tinker with the taps in the local drink-houses. The taps no longer closed completely and the locals proved more than willing to keep drinking rather than let wine go to waste! Louis watched the drinkers carefully and managed to identify an Infidel ambassador. Moreover, Louis managed to pilfer the ambassador’s writs of identification! Nemo McMoridin spoke most movingly of the need to appreciate the finer things in life when they became available. Nemo’s oration inspired the European sailors to greater heights of drink; useful for keeping the docks empty while soldiers of the Legion, acting on Nemo’s instructions, stole the bronze anchors right from an Infidel vessel! Jean LeBeouf and Tomas de Marchand tried making friendly conversation with Infidel soldiers. Jean had brought with him the book of Khyyam’s poetry. He was able to become friendly with a young Infidel officer who brought Jean back to his barracks to retrieve a copy of the work in it’s original language. Jean took the opportunity to misappropriate as many ostrich-plumed turbans as he could. Tomas stayed behind, learning as much of the Infidel tongue as he could from the other officers. Paul Klee spent his night on the dance floor. He learned several odd, alien dances, and, in turn, taught the celebrating Infidel soldiers a high-kicking Russian dance. The soldiers worked up quite a sweat in the hot summer’s eve, and many a uniform lay airing on a windowsill later that night - easy pickings for Paul. I found myself smitten with the dusky, dark beauty of the Infidel women, so unlike the pale allure of the French flower, and determined to combine pleasure with my business. With free-flowing coins and easy charm I attracted the notice of the diaphanously-clad “belly-dancers,” and spent a lovely evening being taught the peculiar way in which they move their hips. It was an enlightening and enjoyable experience. Exhausting, as well, and, in the early morning hours, I almost forgot to swipe the ladies’ drums and finger cymbals.

Our “patron,” Rolfe spent his night telling inflated stories of his prowess in Montpelier to soldiers who seemed to merely humor him. Perhaps they listened because Rolfe described slaying Serbs? “The enemy of my enemy is my friend… Especially when he’s providing the drinks!” While ostensibly the leader of the expedition, Rolfe was the only one who failed to obtain any of the objects needed for our mission and neglected to learn any useful information about the Fatimah, such as language, before we set off for an uneventful crossing to Darfur in the Safavid, a cross-roads where Oriental wealth was controlled by an Infidel government. By the time we reached Darfur, I was more convinced than ever Rolfe d’Ambray was delusional at best, an inveterate liar at worst, and felt I had lost my own Cunning mind for joining the adventure! I considered turning back to the temptations of Tbilisi, but demurred. I suspect Louis, Nemo, and Paul also felt less capable in themselves for coming along on this voyage. Tomas certainly did, for by the time we reached Darfur his grumbling was non-stop.

From Darfur we set to sea and crossed out of the charted trade lanes into pirate waters to begin our fool’s errand. Yet rather than the galleasses of the Infidels or the massive junks of the Orientals were were prepared to deceive, we, instead, encountered a fleet of war canoes manned by half-naked, bronzed savages with disconcerting green eyes. The warriors of those we later learned were the “Cheddar People” maneuvered their craft deftly and were able to completely surround out ungainly galleass. From all sides they swarmed up our hull to assault our decks. Our party was forced to split, with each man defending a single section of rail from the attacking savages. Tomas decided igniting a keg of gunpowder on the deck was a suitable defense. The explosion blew a large number of screaming savages clear of the deck, but the battle continued. Jasc was trying to use the sounds of drums and trumpets to confuse the savages, but found himself bowled over by Tomas (fleeing his own explosive trap) and almost knocked unconscious. Paul Klee shouted across the deck that we weren’t the only ones with gunpowder, for the savages below were attempting to place what seemed to be crudely-made charges along out hull. With smoke thick along the decks, the battle lost any semblance of order, and Jean LeBeouf found himself overwhelmed, and being dragged towards the rail by the savages! Fortunately for Jean, Nemo McMoridin’s shouted appeals to glory and loyalty inspired the men Jean led. He was rescued, and even managed to dupe the savages into turning to face Nemo’s men! Together they held their area of deck, and Nemo’s intimidating lunges pushed the savage warriors overboard before they cut their section of railing free of the invader’s grapples. I was charged with holding the bow, and, unable to see what was happening aft, was still able to keep order among my men. The bow was quickly swept clean of boarders and cut clean. Rolfe d’Ambray was of worth in this battle. His silver tongue, so gifted as to make men act against their own better nature, inspired those under his command to glory. The inspired soldiers and sailors never even allowed their antagonists to reach the rail! Paul strode the rail cutting lines and trying to inspire crew members into following his lead. Alas, amidst Paul’s exhortations, one savage warrior clambered over the rail and dropped him to the deck with the warrior’s axe in his shoulder! Louis Brighteyes managed to fool his attackers into splitting numbers to cover against non-existent attackers looming out of the smoke, and was able to quickly clear his section. Then Tomas rallied his segment of crew, inspiring them to finish repelling the savages before he lept below-decks and urged the rowers to pull as if their lives depended on it. It did, of course, and so our galleass lumbered forth, pulling away from the war canoes of the Cheddar People, which found themselves unprepared to give chase with so many of their warriors aswim. Jasc Bonadventure was astern, watching for pursuit. Jasc discovered the hard way that the savages had some kind of firearm along with their primitive bombs. A bullet tore into Jasc’s belly, and it is fortunate he tumbled backwards onto the deck rather than pitch forward into the ocean.

And so, with Paul Klee and Jasc Bonadventure below-decks having their wounds bound and treated, I find myself again wondering why I agreed to follow a deluded fool on a misguided chase after a raving nightmare. I look forward to a day in the not so distant future where we convince Rolfe d’Ambray to abandon his fool’s errand and return us to civilized lands. I yearn to leave this lumbering cow of a boat and place my boots back on the deck of my swift and lithe Star Horizon. I believe I have the patience to give this venture another couple of weeks to conclude…


   Hugo Marque Lamarr

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