the rogue elephant

After burying the dead Askari the expedition loaded up all of the supplies and marched off.  They have been following the trail until it went onto some hard ground and so it became more indistinct. 

And then it rained.  A flash storm hit the expedition in the late afternoon.  It soaked almost everything but worst of all it washed away the trail. The storm wet the ground so much that there has been no dust trails to follow.  They kept going on the same bearing for two days until Piet returned from a hunting trip with a runaway slave who said he had escaped the slavers.  Piet himself doubts his story pointing out that he does not have any marks of shackles or coffles on him.  However, he pointed the expedition to some low hills where a faint dust or smoke cloud hung on the horizon. 

Binky decided that since there were no other clues or trails he might as well go there.  At worst it would be some hostile natives.  At best it would be the slavers camp.  Now with some purpose the column moved faster and morale rose as the memory of the cold and wet storm disappeared in the heat.  The dust or smoke ahead slowly dissipated but since it had held steady all day and Binky was confident that it came from a camp or village even though it had disappeared. 

Now they are marching on a bearing towards the low hills.  As they breast a low hill behind some rocks you can see a village by a water hole on the low land beyond.  The village looks abandoned.  But the runaway says that the people here helped him a day or two ago.  Where are they? 

Suddenly from behind the herd of wildebeestes charged an enraged rhino.  A couple of shots only enraged it further and those nearest ran for their lives dropping a rocket tube in their hurry.

They reached a low rise and as the rhino slowed a few turned and fired.  The volley appeared to have no effect until Jolie blazed away the entire magazine of her Winchester carbine.  The bullets were too light to cause any real damage but the noise caused the rhino to suddenly veer off to the left and disappear into the thickets.

No sooner had the rhino disappeared and the party cleared the bushes they came under fire from some concealed Ruga Ruga bandits.  Their first volley felled three of the askaris all with grievous wounds.  Dervel did not hesitate, "CHARGE!"  Gerald's blue jacketed askaris let out a great war cry and leapt forward.  First to arrive was Sergeant Tufake closely followed by Dervel himself.  The first rush killed one and crippled another bandit.  Tufake, himself, accounted for two of the bandits and none escaped.











Meanwhile down by the village Binky was greeted by a somewhat suspicious youth.  And his very formidable mother.

Binky had ordered that the party approach slowly so they can attempt to spot any villagers hidden in the huts.  As Binky gets close to the palisade the chief Wairz Midaddi, the young son of the chief, with his mother, Olfir Miboi, (the old chief's no1 wife) approach the party escorted as his station demands by some warriors.  He is gauging the partyís reaction and has warriors concealed behind the fence just in case.  After the customary exchange of gifts and compliments he invites Binky and his followers to dine with him.  During the meal he explains that his father, the old chief is dead and his body has been burnt along with others, hence the smoke seen yesterday.  He has heard of the Great White Queen and the invincible Binky, the Slayer of Thousands and is suitably impressed.

He tells his story:

It was only four days ago that a great host of Arab traders came to the village and my father, as is our custom, welcomed them and they were shown great hospitality.  These Arabs had no slaves with them and gave my father a great many gifts of beads, knives, mirrors, bright coloured cloth and strange sweet tasting foods.  They were, however, laden with ivory and trade goods for they said they were going to the City of Falcons to trade.  My father told them that the City of Falcons was a fable that was told by travellers and he cautioned the Sheikh that no one who entered the Burnt Lands has ever returned.  After a night of hospitality they left soon after sunrise.

The next night, the old rogue elephant, White Scar as he is known charged through the village killing and destroying as he went.  A few fell to his slashing tusks, even though one has a broken tip.  Another warrior was trampled and two, he picked up in his trunk and threw into the pond. We tried to fend White Scar off with fire and spears but he charged right through the vegetable fields.   

While we were doing this charging in behind White Scar came the demons.  Terrible white demons of the night.  They glowed like fire.  They howled in the tongue of devils.  They attacked with weapons sharper than a lionís teeth.  They fought with the strength on Bolgani the Giant Gorilla.  And they took many young women and men.  Spears thrown at them had no effect at all.  None of the Demons were killed, but then, can humans kill demons? 

He paused to hand over a gauntlet made of leather and steel.  The metal plates are shaped like lizard scales and look just like an animalís claws.  It is quite obvious to Binky and his companions that it is of Arab manufacture.  Binky did try to convince him (his mother really) of that.

My father the chief was last seen fighting three demons and his body was found amongst the slain in the morning.   His main concern is that the elephant will return or that the lions and hyenas will raid the village looking for the bodies.  And so the celebrations go on through the night and the fires, music and dancing keep the animals at bay.

He then asked Binky to hunt down the elephant and in return will provide a couple of guides. He also promised his best two trackers who will take Binky as far as the Burnt Lands.  He cannot say much about the Burnt Lands except that they lie in the direction that the Arabs took. 

He offers to help in the elephant hunt.  Though he has few fit warriors left.

After the hangovers were cleared from the heads.  Oh, was the Pembe (native beer) powerful!  So while Gerald, Dervel and Henry Jones organised the column for camping another night here, Binky, Ramsden, Piet led the hunting party out into the wilderness.   They beat their way through the scrub and dead trees until they drove White Scar out into the open.

Once he was in the open, the old tusker turned and drove a hippo from cover out towards the askaris at the rear of the hunting party.  A volley of shots missed but the hippo was frightened off.  White Scar, now nearly exhausted turned to charge.  A well aimed shot from Piet felled him as he turned.

The whole party went back to the village for another night of feasting on dishes of crocodile, fish, ostrich and goat meat (the cows are wealth), grilled and stewed green bananas, rice, maize, manioc, onions and other vegetables.  And, beer of course and elephant meat.

Some notes:

The young king quite tipsy told the following tales as summarised by Gerald:

The Hyena Trail?  Of course, this is the name given to the secret slave trail from the interior to the Portuguese controlled sea coast to the south.  Its location is only rumoured but lies to the south of British Morvalistan and, allegedly, runs through German Morvalistan.  However, the source of the slaves is rumoured to be across the Burnt Lands from which no traveller returns.

Beyond the Burn Lands lies the fabled Land of Gold wherein lies the lost city Zimba Zim Zalawi built by the ancient golden skinned race known as the Xali Xat Xanu who worship bird gods.  The tales tell of a great city of gold whose name Mor Mar Mofaar (City of the Falcons?) is only ever whispered.  Some Arab traders have, it is said, met with these strange people and traded slaves for gold, jewels and intricate filigree silverware. The tombs of the kings of that land are said to be found in a secret valley (where else?) guarded by demons (of course).  But nobody has ever returned, they say, and so who has told these tales? 

The Burnt Lands are a waterless area.  In the time of the Ancestors (anything from about 50 years ago right back to the dinosaurs) the tribe of men angered the gods by killing all the animals that they could find and covered the land in stone huts and kraals.  The gods visited many trials and tribulations upon them and still they would not give the land back to the way of the gods.  And so the gods became angrier and angrier.  Finally the men killed the great white elephant and gods set the very earth on fire a fire so hot that the sand, the stones and the rocks bubbled and ran like a river.  The men, their huts and all their possessions disappeared into a lake of fire. 

In fact the whole surface of the land is probably covered in a layer of lava from an ancient volcano.

All that is legend and mostly dismissed by any rational person.  The legends have recently been called into question by the finds made along the Omigolosh River by Prof. Incontinente. His finds and Binkyís own experience with the lands of the White Queen and her Egyptian ruins demonstrate that the facts in this land are often just as strange as the legends. 

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