Mission 8B 8/26/2020 “Adopted Son”
Maître Bräu Bullingdon,
My Lord, There is no new news on the disposition of the Pyrate’s Trust at this time, and we have yet to encounter the heretic, Scofield, yet recent developments should prove of interest to our associates with the Bullingdon Cartel.
We continued our search for the Mughals of the Indus. Former leader of the Pyrate’s Trust, Jack Jansen, had contracted Lord Berge du Destin to open trade with the Mughals and locate the reprehensible heretic, Lawrence Scofield, author of the blasphemous “Divine Awe,” and believed to be hiding under the alias of “Professor Klaw.” Scofield was rumored to have developed a smokeless gunpowder - an innovation with some true benefits.
The Vatican Enforcer, Fillipo Bruneschelli, who was spreading the Good Book among the heathens of Africa and the Indus, travelled with us aboard the caravel, “Loyal Bernard.” Finally, a company of musketeers was under the command of Lord du Destin, while the Wildemoons shared command over a company of light cavalry.
Loyal Bernard had left us at the headwaters of the Nile. Between the Kagera and Benue rivers we fought and defeated the Amber Horde. From the fell of the air and the garb of the bandits we knew we were near arid lands, Lord du Destin ordered all the men to carry extra water. It wouldn’t last… We followed the edge of the desert lands to the Chindwin river at the north end of Burma’s domain, struck out east across a brief out-thrust of forest (and resupplied from the plentiful game) past the Sittang river until we reached the ocean. Lord du Destin and the Wildemoons drilled their men as often as possible, and, by this point in the journey both companies were surely battle hard. The cavalry sat in their saddles like elite fighters.
We traveled north along the coastline, enjoying the cool sea breezes and abundant vegetation. The closest thing to trouble we ran into was a pack of wolves, but the beasts were sleeping in the afternoon sun, so we simply shot them where they lay and moved on.
When we again reached the southern edge of the desert we had skirted we realized we’d have to travel through the badlands. Despite Lord du Destin’s precautions, water ran scarce. To the west and north, dust. To the east, ocean. We were reduced to trying to purify brine pools, or collect moisture from the night air in tent flaps. Reginald Willoughby had to discipline one unruly horseman who nearly polluted our stores, and at least one soldier simply vanished one night. I suspect the blighted Captain Nathaniel Mayweather or his slave-boy was involved in the disappearance.
Food was near scarce when we encountered the buffalo. The soldiers were thrilled to replenish our stocks of meat. They didn’t take into account buffalo are more than huge, maned cows. En-masse the herd moved like a force of nature. Again, it was Willoughby who kept the troops from disaster.
There was vegetation for the herd to graze - long grasses, reeds and such - which was harvested and woven into light canoes. To the east we could see land on the horizon, and we chose to row across what seemed a large bay, rather than continue across the desert. This led to the musketeers being highly entertained… Rather than a canoe, Mayweather chose to weave a small coracle for himself and his slave. The troops, in their long outrigger canoes, justly ridiculed the pompous Mayweather for “Riding in his own hat.” All wore head coverings in the style of the desert bandits except the Mayweather, who stuck to his ridiculous and impractical bowler. Mayweather declared he was “always glad to entertain, my good friend.”
Across the bay we came across a small village. The village had no name, but was alongside the Yarkand river. The village was some subgroup of the Mughal empire, so it seemed we were finally making progress with the search. We followed the Yarkand north to it’s source-springs. Here a large tribe lived. The Chippewa - “Chicken People” - were friendly farmers who sought petition to the Mughals. The Chippewa lived in the lands between the Mughals and the Ottoman Empire and sought protection from the Turks. The Chippewa, besides being peaceful and friendly - those willing to share food are never short of friends - had fine cloth of cotton and flax, and their hemp would produce a sail finer than any in Europe. We all felt this one tribe was worth setting up a trade route, but, given the storms around Africa, how best to go about it? Lord du Destin felt the best route would run through the Ottoman, while the Nameless Man argued the Mughals would be better middle-men. I agreed with the Nameless Man. The Turks were aware of us - and Brunechelli’s Bibles - and had no interest in meeting with people of true faith.
The Chippewa were receptive to learning the Word of God if one of our band could defeat the tribe’s Champion in ritual combat. Mayweather volunteered, placed his silly chapeau on his slave’s head and proceeded to trounce the Chippewa champion with throws he’d learned in Burma. The champion was more good natured than most warriors. He laughed over his defeat and humbly asked he he might try on Mayweather’s hat. Of course the selfish braggart refused. To Mayweather’s credit, he did say to Bruneschelli his heart had re-opened to the Love of the Spirit and he re-dedicated himself to spreading the Word. Bruneschelli laughed and welcomed the help in lightening his burden, for the Bible is a weighty tome and he had hundreds.
East of the Chippewa village the mountains rose, insurmountable. Instead we journeyed south and followed the Yarkand south towards the delta. Here we discovered envoys from the Uyghers. They were an Infidel people who lived as a client state of the Mughals. The Infidels reacted violently when Bruneschelli tried to open discourse with them and we had to fight the delegation. I heard Lord du Destin single-handedly subdued most of the Infidels. I believe it. The Lord had taken to chewing a local leaf obtained from the Chippewa. In moderation the herb reduced the need for sleep. In the quantity Lord du Destin consumed, agitation or agression could result. I had been knocked out in the initial Infidel sneak attack, and, to my annoyance, it was the intervention of Mayweather that prevented the cowardly foe from cutting my head off. I mislike Mayweather and rue owing a debt to the cursed fop.
Following the fray Bruneschelli forced Bibles on the defeated foe and mildly suggested that reflection and prayer would bring God around to their side in all things.
We had followed the river south of the insurmountable mountains only to find impassable coastal cliffs. We tried constructing a boat to travel across the sound. Paxton Wildemoon supervised creating the hull, the Nameless Man stitched the sails from Chippewa hemp cloths. I failed to impress rowers or sailors from the sparse local population and had to hope our soldiers had learned enough aboard Loyal Bernard to be less than useless. Our boat was loaded and ready to sail when Captain Mayweather loudly christened it “Lady Catherine Strikes Back.” With the fates tempted, Mayweather’s curse manifested. The boat’s hull promptly sprung leaks, rolled, and sank. Willoughby led the evacuation and showed many a man how to swim, one armed, while carrying supplies in the other.
Lord du Destin joked we could use Willoughby’s techniques to swim the sound with our cannons. The bedraggled men laughed at his seeming good humor, but, later that night du Destin could be seen pacing, chewing his leaves and kicking trees in frustration.
We would have to follow the coast north and east and hope there would be an area of lowlands between cliff and mountain. At first it seemed we were lucky - a tribe of allies of the Mughals nestled in the foothills. They told us to travel south down the cliffs. We argued the cliffs were impassable, they pointed out the goat paths. Their unsophisticated minds couldn’t comprehend the difference between a farmer or herder traversing narrow paths versus a fully loaded military company with small arms and light falconettes.
We tried the lands east of the village. Lowlands and twisting canyons formed a broken desert. Our stores of water were nearly exhausted by the time Lord du Destin ordered us to turn back. Willoughby led hunting parties that found elk and camel, but the ground was so treacherous it wasn’t possible to retrieve the shot meat. Lord du Destin’s efforts to calculate fair rations were stymied by Mayweather’s arrogant insistence that rules”don’t apply to the Captain.” The fool brazenly ordered the guards assigned to the water casks away anytime he wished to drink. This affected the orderly discipline of the musketeers, and both musketeer and cavalry began to show the effects of too little water and light rations of meat. Paxton Wildemoon tried a method of distilling the briny ground water. His method failed, and left him doubled over, vomiting for days. Paul Wildemoon was forced to carry his twin through the badlands.
Things might have turned truly disastrous had not the Nameless Man rousted and shot a flock of birds. He sliced one’s head off, drank the blood from it’s body, and, with a red grin, invited everyone to “share a swallow.” While far from optimal, it did keep everyone alive.
We backtracked to the Yarkand river and followed it south of the Uyghur village where we found Gondishapur, an Infidel University. The scholars here were less violent than most Infidels. They welcomed Bruneschelli into debate and accepted his proffered Bibles. We were offered food, shelter, and even the opportunity for study! Paul Wildemoon learned secrets of alchemy in an attempt to improve his still-ill brother’s methods of distillation. Mayweather learned how to count.
During our time at the Gondishapur we planned, again, to construct a vessel to navigate the sound. There just wasn’t enough quality wood available for a hull, and we lacked enough of the local currency to buy or charter a fishing boat. I suspect if the scholars had been as hostile as the Uyghurs, Lord du Destin would have ordered our troops to take what we needed. Instead, we chose to leave Gondishapur in peace.
If we traveled back upriver and north of the Chippewa lands would we be able to travel through surmountable mountains? Perhaps. It meant crossing another stretch of desert. WIlloughby worked with Wildemoon, and, together they found a way to distill the scattered, brackish pools. The cooler inland air made it easier to harvest dew from tent flaps. Willoughby also put extra guards on the guards of the water, killed the first man who tried to steal water as an example, and we all made it quite clear to Mayweather that a Captain on a ship might be able to flout the rules - but this was land, and here he was just another body. Another soldier vanished without a trace. The Nameless Man suggested murder, but correctly noted we needed to press forward.
By then Paul Wildemoon not only knew the capabilities of his cavalry, but the endurance of Lord du Destin’s musketeers, while the Nameless Man learned to identify the safe ground in the treacherous, shifting canyons. Between the efforts of Wildemoon, Willoughby, Lord Du Destin and the Nameless Man we not only crossed the desert, we were able to chart a path and establish sites for caches.
On the far side of the desert we realized we had entered Ottoman lands. We were near the Sakarya River and a major city. The Ottoman are not exactly friendly, and the city might have held as many as thirty companies of men. Lord du Destin noted the river could be used to transport Chippewa cloth to the north coast of Africa without having to sail eternal storms.
Since it seemed we were moving farther away from Mughal lands, we returned to the Chippewa village. Our path through the desert and supply caches proved solid. The return was dull and dry but not dangerous. The Chippewa were pleased to hear of Lord du Destin’s proposed route, but still anxious to come under the protection of the Mughals. I kept quiet my own concerns that our mapped route to the north could be discovered and exploited by the Turks.
We had run short of options, so, again, traveled south of the Uyghur lands to, once more, attempt to build a gunboat to cross the sound. Lord du Destin designed a viable hull, while the Nameless Man refined his rough sails into true lanteens. Wildemoon figured out methods to properly mount our small cannon, but
paid a price for his innovations. He had agree to wed a local woman in order to obtain the needed materials. I suppose the bride was comely enough for her people, and hoped our soldiers didn’t share the superstitions of most sailors regarding women on vessels. The musketeers and horsemen were more thrilled to share the bounty of the wedding feast.
Captain Mayweather christened our gunboat “Lady Catherine Strikes Back.” No one reminded Mayweather “Lady Catherine Strikes Back” had already sank in this very sound. The re-use of the name seemed to throw off the fickle fates. For once one of Mayweather’s ships survived a journey.
Paul Wildemoon, on the other hand, almost didn’t survive. Upon landing, while establishing camp, Wildemoon was attacked by an angered bear. Only the strong steel of his caballero chest plate saved him from the animal’s teeth.
A few days walk east and we came across our first Mughal city. The Taj Mahal lay between the White and Blue forks of the Jade River. The Taj Mahal was a shining temple complex, and held the tombs of the wife and children of the Mughal Emperor. We learned the Emperor had never remarried and had outlived his heir. We also discovered the Taj Mahal was a religious site and took no part in the governance of the Empire. WE could find the Emperor at either Port Khitan, Tung or Kir. The search continued.
South, down the White Jade we came across Vikramashila, a Bhuddist university. The monks were unable to direct us towards where the Emperor might be, but Lord du Destin had acquired a passion for “book learning,” and asked the monks if we might tarry a time and study. They agreed. My own attempts to learn the languages of the area were less than successful, but Lord du Destin learned much of the navigator’s arts, while Mayweather, with the logic of the insane, asked the conclave of monks and scholars to teach him the brawler’s arts.
Eventually we continued down river. Civilization follows waterways, so it was more than likely that the river’s delta would hold one of the ports we sought.
At the fork where the White Jade met the Blue Jade we cam across a barge laden with precious green jade. Again, displaying the calm head that made him just a questionable asset, Mayweather suggested we take the barge and it’s cargo as prizes. I felt attacking the merchants of a land we were trying to open trade relations with to be a mistake, but, perhaps to alleviate the boredom of the soldiers, Lord du Destin agreed. I watched Willoughby lead the vanguard across the rails and cut down the first Mughal sailor. I saw Lord du Destin swing from mast to mast to disorder the defenders. I witnessed the Nameless Man’s sword reach right around the barge Captain’s bodyguard and pierce his heart.
Mayweather’s madness must have been contagious, for next Lord du Destin ordered the barge upstream, secured the jade then headed west, overland, away from the river towards the coast. Lord du Destin is far more more fortunate than Mayweather. Rather than lead us into disaster, the Lord discovered a military arsenal. The Commanders of the camp were greedy men. A little exchange of jade later and we added a company of artillerists to our numbers. Lord du Destin noted I had a way with discipline and told the gunners I was their new major. I named them the “Tormentor’s Rain” and drilled them with an iron hand.
The Commanders of the arsenal also rented us a large barge, which we took into the bay. WIldemoon argued it would be faster to sail south along the coast than return to the White Jade and continue downstream.
On the bobbing waves we encountered a ship unlike anything we had seen before. The massive vessel made a three deck galleon look like a caravel, and the crew were some race of Man none of us had seen before. They were dark as the Mughals and delicately boned, but their eyes were malformed. Wildemoon encouraged an attack.
Wildemoon led the assault, and was almost immediately felled by a falling spar. The debris missed him, but hit me. Later I heard of how fierce the fighting was. The crew of the massive ship might have looked small and delicate, but they were strong and fierce. The sizable Lord du Destin was lifted and tossed into the sea! The unknown sailors also poisoned their blades. Wildemoon came closest to death - only a lucky swing by Mayweather deflected the dagger in time to allow Wildemoon to take the captain’s head.
We had no way of knowing how many more of these ships roamed these waters, so we turned prow of barge and prize vessel back to the military arsenal. The camp commanders were surprised and impressed we’d captured a “junk.” The vessel came from a land called “Korea,” and the Mughals had been at constant war with the Koreans for decades.
East, back to the White Jade and downstream we went. At the river’s mouth lay the Port of Tung, and in residence was the Mughal Emperor, Khan Jahangir, called “The Centennial.” The reason for the honorific was clear, for we had arrived on the Emperor’s one hundred and first birthday! “No wonder he buried his kids!” the awed Lord du Destin opined.
For the Emperor’s birthday, a week long tournament was being held. He who impressed the Emperor most would be designated the Heir of the Empire. The tournament was open to any and all, so, of course we all - except the Nameless Man - entered the contest.
The rules were odd. A contestant could try any method imaginable to amuse and impress the Emperor, but no contestant could try a method used by any other. If the Emperor was amused, one could wait one’s next turn and try again. If one failed, they were removed from the competition. The need for innovation and ingenuity caused many to drop out. Willoughby created a draft to ease the Emperor’s pains. Lord du Destin outshone Willoughby by curing the Emperor’s gout. I knew Mayweather fancied himself a master horseman, so I stole his opportunity by leaping astride a magnificent stallion. Mayweather worked out his frustration by boxing against the King’s champion. WIldemoon drew up plans for European hulled ships such as the Mughals had never seen. The contest continued on. There were demonstrations of swordplay, music, mercantile haggling, accountancy, juggling, swimming and hundreds of other entrants, but, in the end, Lord du Destin stood alone. His final challenge was to argue before the Emperor and his advisers exactly why he, above all other men, should be made the Emperor’s heir. Here, besides his demonstrated skills, and beyond the virtue of him leading us to Tung to begin with, his status as a Nobleman of France secured his win. It seems incomprehensible, but, against all expectations, Lord Berge du Destin of France was christened “Bahadur Shah, Heir to Khan Jahangir, Emperor of the Mughals!”
Following the ceremony of adoption, Reginald Willoughby noted that he would take his share of the profits and use them to buy the Title of a French noble who had squandered his family fortunes.
We now had the blessings of the Emperor and his protection in all Mughal Lands. We visited Xinjiang, the shining city that was the source of Mughal Jade, which lay between the Blue Jade and Karakash Rivers. We traveled to Port Khitan and Kir where the Emperor took great delight in showing off his “son.” We voyaged from border to border across the Mughal lands, sailed the bays and oceans, visited the whalers of the Mughals and visited that Kazahks - a vassal state of the Empire that made renowned and rare perfumes. With “Heir Shah” by our side we were able to procure Chippewa textiles, Mughal Jade, and oil and Kazahk perfumes.
And here, Maître Bräu Bullingdon, is the crux of the matter. The Bullingdon Cartel, through me, now holds direct access to the court of a large, rich and mighty Empire, and I now know secret routes known only to a few Europeans. While we never did hear so much as a whisper about the whereabouts of Scofield, Bruneschelli was able to distribute his Bibles across the breadth of the Mughal lands. Whatever influence Scofield had in Indus has been blunted. With Jansen no longer involved in the Pyrate’s Trust, and with the joy he will surely have in his share of the profits from this venture, I think it safe to say the Pyrate’s Trust has been almost fully neutralized. Jade in quantity, barrels of oil and blubber, rare perfumes and the finest sailcloth are all ours for distribution. The opportunity for trade and profit cannot be understated.
Alastor du Sang