Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chapter XXI Alexandra and The Cave

EXPEDITION TO ALEXANDRAPOUR

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Dates: 12-14 November and 31 December 1900
Location: Alexandrapour and Dongolo
Situation: Last Days At Alexandrapour
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See Chapter XX posted 4 August 2012 here:
http://generalpettygree.blogspot.com/2012/08/chapter-xx-alexandrapour-found.html
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ACT 1
CAMP ALEXANDRAPOUR

Three days ago whilst searching for members of the vanished Romanov Expedition, we heard terrifying screams from a woman. Abandoning the just discovered ruins of Alexandrapour, we raced in the direction of the frightened voice. Only moments passed when we observed a hideous creature of an unknown species apparently intent upon retrieving an abandoned red-haired beauty tied to sacrificial posts.

There was no time to lose. We charged in her direction snap firing our carbines. This caused the animal to reluctantly withdraw into a nearby cave allowing us to save the woman. The lady whom we rescued was none other than the Romanov Countess Alexandra Elaina Volkanskaya. This is her story.

Lawford: "Within the relative safety of reconfigured and now fortified Camp Alexandrapour...."

Lawford: "The Countess began her story under the dining fly."

Lawford: "Captain Tumarkin and myself with Nazim standing by were about to learn a story so extraordinary as to defy belief - except here - in mysterious and dangerous Terra Incognita. Alexandra's composure seemed nearly restored, her wounds were healing well and that countenance of confidence and indefatigable resolution which I knew so well appeared unshaken. Remarkable actually. The time had arrived to relate what she could."

Alexandra: "I cannot explain what happened to our people except to say we were overwhelmed several hours before sunrise. Everyone but camp guards were asleep when four men burst into my tent. Before I could do a thing, they forcibly applied a rough and odorous cloth to my face. Vapors caused me to quickly lose consciousness."

"Oblivion however, did not occur before I heard shouts from my countrymen, gunshots, thuds, orders bellowed by my Uncle Colonel Villanovich and the sensation of being hurriedly carried away on someones shoulder. Silence then overcame me almost immediately. This is all I know about the shocking fate of my expedition. Apparently I was and am the sole survivor."

Alexandra: "Of my captivity I can only say I was taken underground, carefully bathed, fed and dressed in a short white garment. The number of days that transpired I could not count. No one spoke with me until a person in apparent authority came into my dark chamber to return me to the surface and sunlight above. There I was bound unto sacrificial posts as guards waived hideous weapons in the air."

Alexandra: "The silence of my captors finally broke when the leader, a woman, spoke to me in broken Gallian."

Leader: "Permittez-moi de vous présenter... myself. I am Urvashi, Priestess and guardian of Alexandrapour. Your people dared to come here to discover our secrets, wealth and defile our gods. Terra Incognita stopped three previous expeditions. Yours, the fourth, will now be the latest to enter eternity."

Tumarkin: "She speaks of Ryder's 1879 Expedition, Sutherland's in 1892, Grenville's a fortnight ago and now the Romanovs.

Alexandra: "Da."

Alexandra: "As she continued speaking a guard returned to the cave opening from which we had exited. Remaining there, he lit a torch. Then the men began chanting."

Guards: "Bar-manu...Bar-manu...BARMANU...BARMANU!"

Urvashi: "They summon the god Barmanu for you. Though engorged on your people, his slumber ends soon. He will come for you, the last of you thieves and defilers."

Guards: "Bar-manu...Bar-manu...BARMANU...BARMANU!"

Alexandra: "I closed my eyes and started praying."

Alexandra: "When I reopened them, everyone was gone. The only sounds I heard were from fleeing birds and loudly droning insects."

Alexandra: Struggling and pulling against my bindings had no effect except to tear the flesh on my wrists."

Alexandra: "Utterly alone I resumed praying to God - sincerely asking for the forgiveness of all my sins."

Alexandra: "Later the sound of rocks being pushed about came from the cave. This was followed by a sickening odor wafting its way to me. Then suddenly a hideous and hairy upright creature appeared. Barmanu. Terrified I resumed pulling at the ropes around my wrists with all my strength and resolve. It was useless to resist. All I had left was to scream. Aaaaa---HHHHH---hh---HHHHHHH!"

Lawford: "It was fortunate you screamed and kept at it. We had been searching for survivors within the ruins of Alexandrapour. We did not know it was you at the time. Regardless we rushed to assist and found it was you!"

Alexandra: "Though behind me I did not hear you. Even that first carbine shot went unnoticed. All my senses were concentrated on the brutish thing coming for me."

Alexandra: "Then you and your men, thank God, were around me firing without stop into the cave where the thing vanished. You saved me. I am greatly indebted."

Tumarkin: "I was elated Countess to find and rescue you from death."

Lawford: "We noted the beast was tall, bipedal, had prehensile thumbs and though brutish in appearance, it resembled a grotesquely robust and hairy man."

Nazim: "Our lancers know its name as Barmanu. They say others of it's kind inhabit remote and mostly uninhabited mountainous regions near our homeland. Apparently we have met one here. One who is worshiped as a pagan god."

Alexandra: "Hello, who is this?"

Lawford: "We were astounded to observe two men whom I soon came to know as Sir Richard Stirling and Mogambo. They were being directed to our dining fly."

Alexandra: "Sir Richard. I thought you were dead."

Stirling: "Not likely Countess. Mogambo and I left camp to hunt fresh meat for your Uncle's men. We were gone for days, lost our way a bit to avoid some large carnivores and only now have returned. I am surprised to find only you and this new group of explorers occupying the camp. What happened?"

Lawford: "After introductions I invited Stirling under the dining fly to explain the whole story. All he could say was...."

Stirling: "Forgive me Countess but you will remember I strongly advised abandonment of your expedition with an immediate return to Dongolo. I pray you all will take my advice after everything that has happened - this time."

Lawford: "Sir Richard, the decision has already been made. Tomorrow we return to the cave entrance, descend into its depths and discover what secrets may be there. My orders require me to ascertain the importance of Alexandrapour. If we can do that in one day or a few days, we will depart afterwards. Until then, we remain. Alexandra is descending with me. Will you accompany us?"

Stirling: "Aye. Naturally."

Alexandra: "Certainement. I seek another rendezvous with Urvashi."


ACT 2
BRITANNIAN CONSULATE
DONGOLO, MAFRICA

31 December 1900 {Forty-nine days later}

Left to right: Bureaucrat Mr. Wyatt, Agent Colonel Boyle, Chargé d’affaires, Brigadier (ret.) Graham Day and Mr. Jitters {the butler}.

Day: "Mr. Jitters informs me Colonel Lawford's batman, Nazim, has arrived this hour from Terra Incognita. He desires to speak with me. Join me will you?"

Soldier: "I reported your request to the Chargé d’affaires. You may go in now."

Nazim: "Husoors. Thank you. The Colonel Lawford ordered me to report to the highest ranking government representative to say the lost ancient City of Alexandrapour was discovered...."

Wyatt: "Amazing. Never thought it could be done."

Boyle: "He remained behind then to explore?"

Nazim: "Yes Colonel Sahib. I bring Colonel Lawford's journal which he ordered me to present to you. All our experiences are in it."

Mr. Wyatt: "Place his papers on the desk."

Nazim: "These are the first. More...."

Day: "Trooper. We will read the journal later. Oblige us will you with the story in your words?"

Nazim: "Very good Barra Sahib. I will begin at the end when the Colonel ordered me to leave Camp Alexandrapour. It was November 14th."

Lawford: "Nazim, my good man. The path we have trod together must now temporarily diverge. Today I shall descend into the cave. Perhaps we will discover the significance of Alexandrapour there. However, I want you to take my journal back to Dongolo handing it to the highest ranking politico in residence - tonight under cover of darkness."

Nazim: "Why S'hab!"

Lawford: "Four previous expeditions have been wiped out. Due to their size, they were all easily discernable by Terra Incognita people and animals bent on their destruction. When our expedition starts it's return march, we will be in similar jeopardy. Frankly I think it improbable we will successfully return to Dongolo."

"However, one man, you, using your considerable skills can escape this wretched place undetected. You may be the only one to return to civilization so the world can learn about this strange land. It must learn of it."

Nazim: "Many hours remained before my departure. I walked about the outer works and observed a curious phenomenon. "

Nazim: "A fog blew in from the northeast."

Nazim: "It covered the land - lightly at first and then...."

Nazim: "More densely."

Nazim: "The camp was enveloped for about three hours when wind...."

Nazim: "Suddenly cleared it away. Within the next hour...."

Nazim: "Our detachment arrived at the cave."

Nazim: "Sir Richard Stirling, Colonel Lawford and Alexandra planned to descend into it."

Nazim: "Whilst Captain Tumarkin, several dismounted lancers and soldiers guarded the debarkation point. The cave was quiet. Yet a section of lancers continuously kept their carbines aimed at the opening."

Nazim: "Sir Richard entered first followed by Colonel Lawford and Countess Alexandra; weapons at the ready."

Nazim: "One sowar accompanied them into the darkness too."

Nazim: "The guard then settled down for just less than two hours to await their return when a great rumbling shook the earth."

Nazim: "A dust cloud immediately burst from the cave."

Nazim: "Upon investigation we found the cave passageway hopelessly blocked. The earthquake collapsed the walls inside. Though we called out, not one human sound escaped to our ears. Hours of toil ensued to open a way in to no effect."

"I left that night, alone, for Dongolo as ordered."

Nazim: "Colonel Lawford, Sir Richard Stirling, Countess Alexandra and one sowar were hopelessly entombed and probably killed."


CLOSING REMARKS

1) Fog effects were created by a fog machine rented from a theatrical rental business in Milwaukee. Amazing stuff.

2) The cave entrance was made by Chuck L. from tree bark chips sold by craft stores.

3) Tentage and the Consulate building came from Miniature Building Authority.

4) Vegetation came from large pet supply store aquarium departments and from Michael's craft stores.

5) Pulp Figure's "Wierd Menance" PWM 10 is the singular source for the sacrificial posts and more. See: http://www.pulpfigures.com/cat.php?range=Wierd%20Menace&catalog=PWM&custID=653051031305155441

6) Is this the end? Comments welcome below.
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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chapter XX: Alexandrapour Found

EXPEDITION TO ALEXANDRAPOUR

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Date: 7-9 November 1900
Location: Lake Alexandrapour
Situation: Finding Alexandrapour And....
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See Chapter XIX posted 14 July 2012 here:
http://generalpettygree.blogspot.com/2012/07/chapter-xix-battle-beside-lake.html
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ACT 1
Lost Ancient Lost City Of Alexandrapour

The utter disappearance of the entire Romanov Expedition was a depressing shock. All personnel, weapons and animals vanished without a trace from their Lake Alexandrapour camp. Tentage and personal baggage remained strangely left behind reminiscent of a static museum exhibit. There was no accounting for it.

Terra Incognita had consumed four scientific parties; Ryder's and Sutherland's respectively in 1879 and 1892 and in recent days Grenville's and the Romanov's. Only my command, the fifth to explore these perilous and intoxicating lands remained. Not one of us now believed odds favoured our return to civilization without Romanov firepower added to ours.

Some counselled immediate retreat. Historically a wilderness retreat enlivens a foe's morale to such a height that he is emboldened with excitement and aggressive pursuit to bring down a fleeing and weakened animal similar to us. Losses to a retreating body such as ours could be severe.

Yet our mission to discover the importance attached to Alexandrapour, if indeed there was one, was prime; unchanged. There was also the duty to deduce what happened to the Romanovs and if possible, rescue survivors. Not trying would be a disgrace. We pressed on.

One survivor I hoped for with more than platonic interest was Countess Alexandra. Through the months of travel from Fort Grant to this lakeside camp I have not mentioned our shared past in St. Petersburg or the assistance she rendered in my escape from captivity two years ago. You will perhaps recall my haunting vision of her capture, wounds and abandonment severely disturbing my sleep the day before departing Fort Grant on this mission. Was it a mere nightmare or premonition?

Lawford: "Pragmatism, duty, honour and a singular private interest caused my order to occupy the Romanov camp. We commenced palm tree breastworks and would send reconnaissance parties in all directions. Captain Tumarkin joined me on the first of these to ascertain the fate of his countrymen and rescue any that might be alive."

Lawford: "Our first patrol split in two riding toward the edge of the jungle."

Lawford: "Our left-hand group penetrated the jungle edge and...."

Lawford: "Found another remarkable bloodstone marking the way to Alexandrapour. A prodigious ophidion was avoided."

Lawford: "They dismounted with readied weapons to scout the river bank."

Lawford: "Structures were observed in the near distance."

Lawford: "Crumbled walls, toppling columns and more were seen."

Lawford: "An unconcerned hippopotamus swam near the opposite bank. We knew it could become intemperate and cross if slightly provoked."

Lawford: "Meanwhile my right-hand group pierced the jungle...."

Lawford: "To the same stream."

Lawford: "Tumarkin's sole escort, Mikhail, had ridden ahead seeking a ford. He returned saying...."

Mikhail: "A very large animal is walking through the trees toward the river."

Tumarkin: "Astounding! Goat herders report these roaming the taiga north of Lake Baikal. Proving their existence in that forested, mountainous and remote region has been impossible. Now I see one of these extraordinary woolly creatures before my very eyes."

Mikhail: "He turns away Sir crashing through the trees and undergrowth."

Lawford: "Magnificent. Look! He struts off in haste shaking his enormous head. The exceptionally long curved tusks are truly formidable."

Lawford: "We dismounted to carefully observe the distant bank and beyond. Foliage limited our line of sight to a few yards. Knowing the other patrol was to our left, we turned in their direction to rendezvous."

Lawford: "We met at what appeared to be a convenient place to cross the stream."

Lawford: "We were able to cross in spite of impedimenta and the hippo. A lancer fired to scare it off rather than senselessly slaughter or maim it.

Lawford: "Inland from the stream more structures were discovered."

Lawford: "Through curiously spectacular trees one appeared to be massive."

Lawford: "It resembled a temple we had seen before."

Lawford: "Naturally our curiosity was aroused as we walked cautiously toward it."

Lawford: "One of the men discovered an overturned stone slab with the inscription Alexander The Great written in ancient Greek. Who had placed it there and when?"

Lawford: "Three stone statues nearby accelerated our interest."

Tumarkin: "See! A Macedonian officer points resolutely toward a general. It must be Alexander The Great. Surely we have reached his city, Alexandrapour."

Lawford: "Quite."

Tumarkin: "Regretfully our celebration is ruined by despair of finding none of my countrymen or Countess Alexandra alive. We've not even found disjecta membra if torn apart by great animals. Perhaps we started in the wrong direction to find them. Nothing could be worse."


ACT 2
Terrified Screams

Distant Voice: "AaHHhh! ПОМОЩЬ! (HELP)"

Lawford: "That's torn it. Everyone face left. Quick. LISTEN!"

More Terrified: "Aaaaa---HHHHH---hh---HHHHHHH!" 

Lawford: "We ran in the direction of the screams with our weapons ready for anything. Anything that is, from the milder world beyond Terra Incognita. After several minutes we came into a clearing and saw...."

Lawford: "The source of the shrieks coming from a white female tied to sacrificial posts. Her head moved violently from side to side casting long red hair about her slender shoulders. A brutish creature gesticulated from a cave opening not far away." 

Lawford: Red hair! This could only mean we had found Countess Alexandra alive! One of the lancers surged ahead, knelt, levelled his carbine and snap fired. The beast yelped in pain and hesitated. We immediately raced forward as fast as we could run. There was only one chance to save her!"

Lawford: "She did not notice our arrival. Her entire being concentrated on the grisly creature exiting the cave as her screams continued. All that mattered was rescue. Would we be in time or would the monster charge, rip off her bindings and descend with her into the hellish subterranean depths of the cave? There was not a moment to lose!"

Alexandra: "Aahhh--HHHH--HHHHH--HHHHHH!"

Lawford: "Fortunately the wounded creature balked at our arrival. It vanished into the cave. We did not know the extent of it's wound."

Lawford: "Firing continued unabated encouraging its departure."

Lawford: "Fire discipline went to pot but Alexandra was saved. My Alexandra."


CLOSING REMARKS

1) Chapter XX was to have been the last installment of Expedition To Alexandrapour. However, it is impossible to finish in twenty serial segments. Thus, one or two bonus chapters will appear soon to obtain the conclusion.

2) Chuck L. and Todd B. supplied most of the jungle terrain features making the vegetation encompassing Alexandrapour so spectacular. Chuck scratch-built all of the prehistoric-looking trees. Most other items came from the retail store Michaels or various aquarium departments in large pet stores. John B. loaned the remarkably realistic woolly mammoth he bought at Michaels. The table covering comes from The Terrain Guy.

3) Col. Lawford found a similar classical structure previously here: http://generalpettygree.blogspot.com/2012/03/chapter-xii-astounding-sights.html
and here:
http://generalpettygree.blogspot.com/2012/03/chapter-xiii-primordial-dread.html

4) Return for the story of Alexandra's capture in her own words plus more adventure, breathtaking vistas, incredible danger and suspense within the wild uncharted region of Terra Incognita.

4) Comments welcome if, you please, below.
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