Binky and the Aqeda Dagger
Part 6 - The raid on Madassah hattah
Following the defeat of the assault on Mariba by the Wera Bin tribesmen you met with Piet Hartpetzoon and the District commissioner. A little later you were joined by the Canadian Lieutenant of the Morvalistan Scouts.
They took you to the only hotel in town for a meal and to collect any intelligence that you might need.
The fort is well provisioned and has large stocks of equipment, ammunition and stores. You may take anything that you need for the mission.
Piet Hartpetzoon has offered the use of the steamer “Zenobia” and the District Commissioner has offered to gather any sailing craft if you need them. Lt Jaques Auquai is unwilling to lend any of the survivors of his company of Scouts. He says that he only just at half strength and they represent the only real fighting force in the area.
The hotel is owned by Madame Volupta (probably not her real name) and is the largest and strongest building in town. It is reputedly more strongly built than the fort. The hotel is called the Paradise Garden Hotel. Oddly enough there is no garden! But the dancers are called the “Danseuses de Paradis” and the walls are painted as if you were in a garden.
Madame Volupta is regarded as the font of all local knowledge gleaned from customers. What surprised you most about the hotel owner is that although she is the owner of what is most certainly a bordello is that she is appears to be quite a cultured lady. Also striking is the extremely high standard of cleanliness.
The information that he has is that the Mad Mullah is not as strong as was previously thought – though he is certainly capable of destroying Mariba if he tried. The force this afternoon was only his advance guard and the main force is at least five times that size. Latest reports place them in camps about 2 days march away. Probably they will march south tomorrow. A few deserters have given the story that Madassah Hattah is waiting for the new moon in 3 nights time to pray at the mosque in his adopted HQ before he rides out to launch the attack. So the best time to upset his plans would be in two days time because he will be separated from the main army and will probably have only his bodyguard and a few acolytes around him.
His mosque is sited on some high ground that juts out into the lake. The fastest way to reach it is by steamer.
A night voyage to arrive a few hours before dawn. Binky had wanted to attack at dawn but had been persuaded by Hassan that there would be dawn prayers and all the Dafteez would be awake. The force set sail in a small flotilla of the armed steamer "Zenobia", the Dhow "Abdul" and two small fishing boats.
During the night a squall blew up separating the two smaller craft from the steamer and the dhow. However, a short search and good bit of luck reunited the flotilla but had cost a couple of hours of darkness.
Be that as it may the flotilla made good time and as the pre-dawn mist gathered around them Piet could make out enough landmarks to guide the force to the island. Piet explained that the island was connected to the lake shore by mud flats that were sometimes visible and sometimes flooded. The water level just now was such that most should be easily seen. He cautioned everyone about getting stuck in the mud if they jumped ashore and landed heavily. He also warned that they may well allow the Dafteez to reinforce or even escape.
The plan was simple. The two larger vessels would make up the main attack force with the majority of the fighting troops in the dhow and the steamer ready to give fire support. They would shell the defenders as soon as the alarm was raised and the assault would go in silently if possible though everyone realised that this was very unlikely. The two smaller craft would cut off any attempt at reinforcement from the west and would land to attack the rear of the Mosque area.
The plan went very well until a sentry spotted the steamer and fired a shot. It was his last as the wounded Adrian directed the howitzer onto the roof where he stood scoring a direct hit. This diverted attention away from the smaller craft who sailed on unmolested.
A brisk gun battle took place with the steamer and dhow crews firing as fast as they could as they ran in for the attack. The machinegun and howitzer maintained a steady fire that took a frightful toll of the sleepy defenders.
On the other side the two fishing boats came in under sporadic fire from a couple of sentries who were quickly dealt with but at the cost of revealing the boats' positions.
On the western shore movement could just be made out thought the darkness and the mist. Reinforcements?
Binky covered them with the Nordenfeldt just in case.
The main attack was proceeding well with storming parties assaulting the roof of the mosque and the wall beside it. A strong band of defenders held the roof for a time but were beaten back by shell and machinegun fire. In the courtyard a group tried to break out but were shot down by Binky's Nordenfeldt.
It was not long before Gerald had stormed the roof of the mosque capturing Madassah Hattah's Black Banner. The assault force then dropped inside the mosque and were met by a few defenders as a party of civilians fled.
Meanwhile Binky had his hands full. The shapes that burst from the dark turned into a horde of Dafteez surging across the mud flats. But just as Piet had warned they made little headway against the clinging mud and also the hail of fire put down by the Nordenfeldt.
The other small craft had landed and its crew were clearing the storehouse and barracks at the northern end of the island. The defenders put up a fair resistance but as they saw their reinforcements being shot to pieces the will to fight left them and the few survivors surrendered.
By now the way was open to the building on the high ground that was stoutly defended by some green coated guardsmen of the Mad Mullah who died to the last man. The building was empty apart from a few personal belongings that quite obviously belonged to Madassah Hattah.
But where was he? Resistance was evaporating, the defenders and the civilians were either surrendering or fleeing.
A search revealed his holy books, some parchments and the golden case in which the Aqeda Dagger should be. The silk lining still showed the indentation of the heavy blade.
Suddenly a group of civilians broke out from the cover of the gate. They were spotted by an alert Askari who pointed them out to Sergeant Achmed Tokar. He was still upset about being blown up yesterday and ordered the machine gun to fire on them. A highly effective burst of fire brought most of them down and a short bombardment by the howitzer and the machine gun finished them off.
With the searching of the buildings complete and no sign of Madassah Hattah, Binky was considering ordering the withdrawal when he saw Hayder Yussulf and his Beluchis running over to the dead civilians. He tried to call them back but was ignored. He cast glances to the western shore where he could see through the thinning mist that the Dafteez were mustering in greater strength and across the mud flats he was sure he could see the masts of several dhows. It was time to go.
He considered leaving the mercenaries when he saw them rum back towards him. Hayder was holding something aloft and doing a sort of victory dance as he ran. "The devil's found some treasure, I'll be bound," he said as he ordered his casualties embarked and the crews back to their boats. You can imagine his surprise when Hayder ran up to him and presented Binky with a curved dagger with blackened blade - the Aqeda Dagger! The "civilians" had been Madassah Hattah and his acolytes escaping in disguise. Hayder explained that he got the clue when he realised that the women were leading instead of following.
The force embarked and sailed away to Mariba. It took only a few days for the revolt to dissipate. However, the fate of Madassah Hattah was never quite confirmed as his body was left in the mud by the island. Is he dead? or will he reappear in the future?
The "Zenobia" was originally built years ago for an Indian Mutiny scenario. The bows, bridge and stern are made from balsa blocks carved to shape then the whole vessel was "plated" with card from breakfast cereal packets. Once this was dry the cladding from balsa strip was added. I broke the pieces to give a rough and ready appearance, widows were made from painted card and the funnel was a felt tip pen barrel. I did not put any paddles on the model and it looks OK without them. She now serves as a general purpose armed steamer in Morvalistan and Morvalonesia as well as on the rivers of India and anywhere else my lead soldiers go to war.
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