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.


Fitz-Badger said...

Excellent report! It does have a cinematic serial feel to it. And sounds/looks like fun.

Michael Awdry said...

Fabulous report and good to hear that Fatima is in safe hands, now we just need to get her home.


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