Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Search for Fatima bint Daud

After his reconnaissance CSM Harrington was approached by G'kobani, a friendly local, who had news of the slavers operating in the area. After conferring with him Harrington briefed his men, Cpl. Lewis and the guides Andile and Khuselwa. The previous day G'kobani had seen a young woman scrambling over the ruins in a hurry but had no idea where she went afterwards. Harrington decides to search the ruins, while directing the others to conduct a sweep through the scrub by the river.

Lewis and Andile approach the area of scrub. Something's in there - but what?
Lewis falls foul of a peril.
Lewis pushed forward, sweeping the brush aside with the point of his bayonet. A sudden loud and angry buzzing filled the air - he'd disturbed a nest of biting insects! With a shouted oath Lewis hit the deck, swatting for all he was worth.

A life in ruins...

The other side of the stream, Harrington scrambled cautiously over the ruins of a small building in his search for clues, but came up dry.

Reverend Tyler, I presume?
In the scrub, the insects vanished as quickly as they'd appeared. Lewis looked up then reached for his rifle as a tall, gaunt figure emerged from the bushes. He relaxed when he saw the figure was a man in formal European clothing of a clerical nature. A battered stovepipe hat sat atop his head. The stranger helped him to his feet. "I say, are you all right?"

The man had a firm voice, one used to declaiming from a pulpit, but it was marred by a nervous quaver. Lewis brushed dirt from his uniform and smiled to reassure the man. "Reverend Tyler, I presume?"

"Yes! Yes, that's me!" Tyler shook Lewis' hand with enthusiasm. "Oh thank Heaven! I thought it was all up with me when those brutish slave-traders took myself and that young woman. With her connivance we managed to escape two days ago, but were separated in the rush to evade the scoundrels." He gestured to the thick scrub about them. "I've hidden here ever since.

"We've come to rescue you both, sir. My sergeant's looking for the lass now. Would you know where she may be?"

Tyler scratched the beginnings of an impressive beard in thought. "I'm not sure. A few hours' ago I did see a young lad, a local shepherd or goatherd or some such the other side of the stream. He may know."

"We'll look for him, vicar." Lewis took the man by the arm with a firm but consoling grip. "Now, let's see you to safety..."

Meanwhile, beyond the stream, the slave-traders were also looking for the fugitives.

Now, I know there's something in there...
Matoub and Jenana approached the millet field with caution. They'd seen someone run into the crops - but was it one of the escapees?

Matoub, being the senior of the two, made Jenana enter the millet field first. A scream of pain announced trouble for his follower. Matoub followed quickly, to see a Cape cobra slither off between the stalks in high dudgeon. "Praise be to Allah, that was lucky!" Matoub said, stepping over the twitching form of the unfortunate Jenana. Movement in the crop caught his eye. Thrusting the muzzle of his musket forward Matoub glared at the disturbance. "Show yourself!"

A moment passed before a nervous young lad emerged, shaking like a leaf, his hands raised. "Don't shoot, b'wana! Don't shoot!"

Matoub grabbed the boy by the scruff of his neck. "I will not kill you, if you tell me of the woman and man who came here recently..." He broke off as firing came from behind him. "What the..?

Three of Matoub's followers had spotted a red-coated figure moving amidst the ruins. The scarlet uniform of the Great White Queen spelled trouble for slavers everywhere and by instinct they let fly - to pitiful effect.

Harrington had found a clue in the shape of a gold bangle of distinctive Arabesque design. The sudden fusillade broke in on his speculation about the wearer and her whereabouts. Dodging the flying lead, Harrington took cover behind the corner of a mud walled house. Drawing a bead on his assailants with his Martini-Henry, he fired - and dropped his man.

Harrington was not alone in firing upon the slavers. G'kobani had his own score to settle...

...to good effect.
Attracted by the firing, the Wazir himself entered the scene to find his followers dropping like flies. Lewis saw Reverend Tyler to safety under Andile's care then joined G'Kobani in firing upon the slavers. Another follower dropped to the Martini-Henry.

Leading his followers, the Wazir decided to take care of the red-coated assassin of his men. Sweeping around the edge of the millet field they headed for the houses.

In the meantime Harrington had climbed the heights to survey the battlefield. It had been a scramble and he'd slipped a few times, but now he had a commanding position - which he used to good effect by shooting Matoub where he stood in the millet field. The young goatherd took the opportunity to escape.

But what's this? A map, concealed by a small cairn of stones. A map with Arabic writing, which had a distinctive feminine hand...

It showed the houses below. Could it be Fatima bint Daud was hiding there? Harrington descended the slope at a run, coming dangerously close to tumbling. On reaching the ground near the steam engine he saw the Wazir heading toward him with blood in his eye. "You shall pay for your intrusion, English dog!"

"I don't think so, old chap," Harrington replied.

They exchanged shots...

The Wazir missed by a country mile, but Harrington winged his man. Cursing, the Wazir drew his sword and charged...

Only to be met by a swinging rifle butt - something British infantry have been notorious for using since the 1630's. Game over for the Wazir.

Enraged, his remaining followers tried to intervene - but Cpl. Lewis came up to lend Harrington a hand.

Now it really was game over - for the slavers.

* * * *

Harrington walked over to the house near the ruins. Knocking on the wall by the curtained doorway, he mustered his store of Arabic and called softly into the interior. "Miss Daud? I'm Sergeant Harrington, British army. Are you in there?" He repeated the words in English then French.

A small gasp was followed by stirring and the scrape of furniture being moved. The curtain was pushed aside and a young woman emerged blinking into the light. Her pretty face split into a grin of delight when she saw the scarlet uniform. "You really are British!" she said in fluent French. "Jolly good show!" she added in broken English.

Harrington smiled at her open pleasure. "We're here to take you home, Miss Daud..."

The End for Now.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Gentleman Ranker, Out on a Spree.

CSM Harrington stood atop Tyler Knoll, his hands resting on his rifle as he gazed down at the men preparing camp below. He noted with approval the sentries were out and alert as their comrades pitched tents and took care of the native wounded. There were a good many of the poor devils thanks to the musketry from the British line during the day's action, but the rudimentary care they received at the hands of their Barsetshire foe-men was better than nothing. Shadows lengthened across the ground as the sun sank in the west; the sudden African dusk would descend soon and then, just as quickly, it would be night. The air atop the height, already cooler than the plain, would grow chilly within the hour. I'll see that the sentry up here has a coat, he thought.

Captain Pike climbed the slope, binoculars bobbing on his chest, to stand beside him. He took his pith helmet off to wipe his brow and nodded to Harrington. "All well, Albert?"

"Well enough, Fred." Up here away from the men and the needs of discipline they could call each other by their first names with all the respect comrades have for each other after many a shared trial of combat.

"Good, but we have a bit of a problem." Pike unfolded a sheet of paper. "The last heliograph signal from Fahtah says the daughter of Mustapha ibn Daud, the Al-qadi, is still missing. Her name's Fatima, Fatima bint Daud."

"Are we to look for her?"

"That's the idea. Aside from being the right thing to do, it'll go a long way towards making friends with the locals." He folded the paper away and turned to face north. "Tomorrow, I'd like you to take one of the men and two guides north for half a day. The guides say the slavers who took the lass went that way." He pointed toward a pale streak filling the northern horizon. "There, toward those hills. Here, borrow these..."

He passed Harrington the binoculars. Harrington adjusted the focus and peered through them. Dun-coloured crags leaped into being, the heights shimmering in the heat haze, and he sucked his teeth. "Those broken hills, sir? What do we know of them?"

"Not much. The guides reckon there's some kind of settlement up there, but how big or who lives there they can't say. It's on the edge of what they know. The place might make a good staging post for the slavers. If so, Miss Daud might be there."

Might? Two mights too many! Harrington passed the binoculars back but didn't voice his opinion. Even after attaining his present rank, years in the army had conditioned him not to complain about doubts and uncertainties. "What am I to do if she should be there, sir?"

"Bring her away, Fred - if it's possible to do so. You might keep an eye out for Reverend Tyler, too." He gestured down the slope to where the missionary's simple mud-walled house stood next to the millet field. "The poor devil's certainly not at home. If you should find the slavers in too great a strength, assess their numbers and report back. I'll follow up with the lads during the day, leaving about an hour after you, so you'll have us to fall back upon if the need arises."

"Yes, sir. When should we leave?"

Pike rubbed his jaw. "Early, at dawn, I think. Tell the man you choose to accompany you, and I'll notify the guides. Do you have someone in mind?"

"Lewis, sir. He's a crack-shot, and sensible."

Pike chuckled. "In that order? Very well, he's yours. Now, go down and eat then turn in. You'll have a busy day tomorrow..."  

* * * *
Their trek through the brush and scrub went about as well as Harrington expected. The local native tribe had suffered a serious defeat the previous day and had vanished to lick their wounds, leaving the savanna to the abundant African wildlife. Even the slavers had made themselves scarce, although his two guides found traces of them here and there.

As the little party progressed through the day, so the hills ahead grew higher. Harrington looked at them from time to time with professional appraisal, and he concluded they looked like a nasty place to fight in. God help us if the slavers have taken the prisoners into that little lot...

As noon passed at last they came to a stream, which the guides swore ran by the settlement. Harrington stood atop a small rise and scanned the area ahead. Some rough scrub, the stream, a large pool, and beyond some ruins, a millet field, and what appears to be a steam engine alongside those mud houses. A mechanical thresher or mill, out here? Interesting! Something to tell Fred about when he comes up.

Harrington thought over the options then made up his mind and turned to the others. "All right, lads, here's what we're going to do..."

And so here's the set-up for the next game, for which I'll use Pulp Alley rules. The white poker chips are the locations for plot points. The entire length of the stream, the pool, the millet field, the ruins and the hills are perilous areas. A game report will follow tomorrow.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Rover Eight 1922..?

I've recently finished the first draft manuscript for a murder-mystery set in England in 1923. While writing it I thought it would be fun to have some 28mm figures representing two of the characters, and a model of the car they drive, the 1922 Rover Eight. Yes, I do have Pulp Alley games in mind!

The figures are no problem: Copplestone Castings have just the ones. 


 Here they are superbly painted on Carmen's Fun Painty Time blog.

What I can't seem to find is a model of the 1922 Rover Eight in 1/56 scale...  

It was such a popular car of the time I'd be surprised if someone doesn't make it in model form, but my Google search has come up dry. If anyone could point me in the direction of either a kit or a die-cast version of the car, I'd be obliged.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Heading to the Hills - 6

And now for the final stages of the hill construction. I filled in a few blemishes which still persisted in showing through the paint, and added patches of sand to break up the smoothness of the top surfaces.

This was followed by a wash of brown craft paint, which I allowed to dry thoroughly before moving on to wet brushing in light tan followed by magnolia.

I restricted the magnolia highlights to the upper half of the pieces. Having darker tones at the bottom segueing into lighter shades at the top gives a greater impression of height to an object.

CSM Harrington and Cpl. Lewis find something interesting to shoot at.
The hills can be used in any time period and for Pulp, VSF and SF gaming. These are the terrain pieces I wanted done before moving on to the next Darkest Africa game. The Barsetshire Lads have had enough time off; now they face the challenge of traversing the rugged hills before reaching the lake country to the north of G'Wundaland. Will they succeed? Who will try to stop them? Stay tuned to find out...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Heading to the Hills - 5

I got a modicum more work done on the hills. The paint worked well, so much so I don't think it needs another coat. One problem that did arise was due to the presence of a number of shallow cuts on the top surfaces of the foam, leftovers from the manufacturing process. I thought a coat of paint would conceal these, but instead it only enhanced them. A coat of diluted glue scattered with sand fixed the problem.

On to the next stage then, creating the groundwork on the talus slope.

I used diluted Aileen's glue scattered with sand to get the effect of small stones/gravel/chippings that had fallen from the cliff faces. The larger 'stones' are coffee grounds glued in place next once the first had dried. I placed these on the lower parts of the slopes where heavier stones would roll naturally. The glue should hold the stuff in place, but I'll give it a wash of paint to seal it all down.

I'm now thinking in terms of giving the lot a good wash with a diluted darker shade of brown then picking out different earthen colours by dry-brushing. We'll see what works.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Heading to the Hills - 4

The brutish construction work on the hills is complete. I'd originally intended for the slopes up to the plateaux to be suggestive of points of access rather than pieces figures can stand on. After a bit of thought I decided to go with functional slopes after all as they'd add to the effect during gaming. The bases are corrugated card as I can't find a source of thin MDF/Masonite around here. Once I do get hold of some I'll fix the hills to it, but until then card will have to do.

I cut the bases to leave plenty of wriggle room for me to fix the talus slopes in place. Once I'd got these how I liked them I trimmed the card down to reduce the footprint for each hill. It's a bright if cool afternoon today, so I took advantage of it to slap the first coat of paint on the pieces.

The paint I used is a rather thin watery variety of latex satin paint. As a household paint it's definitely under par, but it works just fine for getting into the cracks and crevices. I'll leave the hills to dry thoroughly overnight before the next coat goes on tomorrow. After that I'll work on ways to vary the colours and shading to get an effect something like the rocky terrain of Wadi Rumm, Jordan, although not quite as severe weathering.

This spectacular landscape was where Lawrence of Arabia campaigned, and the historical location was used by David Lean to film the movie. Now, I have the movie out on library loan at the moment, and I am also reading a great deal about the campaigns in the Middle East in the Great War and the years up to 1924. There's a lot of potential for gaming the period, and these hills will suit the terrain. It's too tempting for words...

More photos of the work in progress to follow.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Heading to the Hills - 3

Time for another go at the hills, with the beginnings of the talus slopes at the foot of the cliffs.

The first stage is to hot-glue a row of triangular pieces of corrugated card to form the general shape of the slope. Apart from the odd wince when I accidentally touched molten glue spots, this stage passed without damage to life and limb. 

The next stage is to glue strips of paper onto the triangles. I aim to glue two layers overall using Aileen's tacky glue to get resilience without too much weight. It's a bit time-consuming. Aileen's is a type of PVA but it lacks something of its water-solubility. Given my druthers I would prefer PVA for this job as it soaks into paper that much better.

Next up will be the painting stage. I intend to make a watery mix of ordinary household latex beige paint and daub it all over the pieces to try and fill as many gaps, cracks and divots as possible. It will also stiffen the paper as well. It's inevitable that some bubbles will stop the paint from sticking in the deeper parts, so the job will require two or three goes-around before the pieces are entirely covered. Luckily the weather here in NW Ohio is lovely right now, so the painting can be done outdoors where it'll also dry quicker.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Heading to the Hills - 2

A bit more progress on the new hills today...

I'm making them in the form of stepped hills with the type of heavy stratification found in some part of Earth...

...and, for Victorian SF games, Mars!

The photo below shows the kind of look I'm going for. The ramps on these two pieces probably won't take a figure, but they're really intended to give the impression the upper surface is accessible. Hot glue worked just fine for fixing these in place, so it went quicker and easier than expected.

The next stage is to make the layers of stratification. One way is to use a Stanley knife, but I got good results with a stiff wire brush. Top - knife, bottom - brush.

I'm toying with the idea of gluing pieces of thin corrugated card on the tops of the uppermost levels to represent eroded layers of rock. It'll break up the uniformly flat surfaces without being too much of a hindrance to standing figures on. Another feature will be the talus slope at the foot of the cliffs. Obviously I don't want to make these pieces with too large a footprint, but I feel representing this debris will make the whole look better. I've got a couple of ideas in mind, and will experiment to see which works best.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Heading to the Hills - 1

I see it's been a while since I last posted here. Work, weather, gardening and politics tend to interfere with the best-laid plans. Eventually one fine afternoon comes along when I can turn my attention to a project I've had in mind for a while - hills. Specifically hills for Darkest Africa gaming.

A few weeks ago I came across three nice pieces of pink foam at our local Habitat for Humanity store. They're a useful size to make a number of hills out of, and I marked them out with a Sharpie to get an idea of how large the hills could be and which shape would suit.

A few minutes' work with a carving knife bought from a local charity shop later... 
For the sake of domestic harmony it's best to do this outside where the mess won't matter. Needless to say I didn't inform my wife I was going to cut these. She hasn't trusted me with sharp and/or pointed objects since I cut a chunk out of my thumb a few weeks ago. Mind you, that happened while washing-up. Men, take note - Washing-up is dangerous! Don't do it! ;)

I had a number of off-cuts from this part of the process which will be put to use in the next stage. I'll glue them to the blank faces of the hill sides to give a more irregular appearance. A combination of hot glue to hold them in place and Aileen's tacky glue for strength will see these stuck firm enough to work with while the Aileen's is drying.
What I am aiming at is something not a million miles away from the wonderful result displayed by Rob Hawkins on his blog.


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