Monday, May 28, 2012

Chapter XVII: The Pillars of Alexander

Date: 31 October 1900
Location: River Camp
Situation: Tumarkin's Unbelievable Story Continues
See Chapter XVI posted 12 May 2012 here:

Colonel Lawford And Romanov Captain Tumarkin
31 October 1900


"Captain Tumarkin's revelation could not be hurried regarding the disaster that had befallen the Romanov Expedition in Terra Incognita. As we retraced his steps to the event location, it was obvious with every passing mile we were nearing something that might affect us as well, but what?"

"He had asked for a favour. Deduction told me our singular assistance was needed. What did he want? How serious was the need? You and I will have to wait to find out."

"It was also curious he did not inquire about our mission. That it was similar as his, to find the lost ancient City of Alexandrapour, so far did not enter our conversation. As you know we had been pursuing his people to ascertain what they were about. Did he know? My silent thoughts were interrupted when he said...."

Tumarkin: "Look below Colonel. You will see something vital for our journey. We must descend to the plain to see it more closely."

Tumarkin: "These red boulders point the way Colonel."

Lawford: "To the collapsed pillars beyond and your chimerical lost city?"

Tumarkin: "Da. Alexander's pillars and more. You have been patient waiting for my story to conclude. It was just past here our strange ensuing experiences occurred. Five days ago...."

Tumarkin: " Countess Alexandra and I were riding in this same location with the Advance Guard when she said to me."

Alexandra: "According to legend, the great Alexander marked the way to his city with five large blood stones. These red boulders surely are they."

Tumarkin: "But there are only four Countess."

Lawford: "Perhaps through more than two millennia the fifth was buried or worn away.

Tumarkin: "We thought so too but...."

Tumarkin: "A fifth was seen in the distance with pillars toppled about it."

Tumarkin: "Apparently the pillars were erected to mark the passage through that defile to the city. In two hours time we negotiated the gap and came upon...."

Tumarkin: "Another luxuriant river valley featuring more decayed classical ruins bordered by a distant escarpment. We thought we were on the right path when to my surprise...."

Tumarkin: "I observed a modern civilized camp and remarked to the Countess...."

Tumarkin: "Clearly they are modern men like us; appearing peaceful."

Alexandra: "Excellent. We shall cross and make inquiries."

Tumarkin: "Very good Countess."

Lawford: "I gather you were surprised by this wilderness encounter."

Tumarkin: "Da, but allow me to tell the story from the viewpoint of the camp leaders as I learned about it later."


Captain Tumarkin and Alexandra enter the camp.

Mr. Hitch (foreman): Sir Richard, Professor Grenville, I beg to report the appearance of approaching riders. We just now saw 'em. Romanovs if I am a judge too. Unexpected surprise. Very sorry sirs. What shall...."

Sir Richard Stirling: "That's all right Mr. Hitch. I see them. Invite them to come in."

Professor Grenville: "Shocking damned nuisance and a woman to boot. We must send them away."

Tumarkin: "Greetings. May I present Countess Alexandra Elaina Volkanskaya? I am Captain Tumarkin of the Romanov Army."

Professor Grenville: "This is a scientific expedition and there is no need for military people or your inevitable ruinous and exploitative characteristics. Get out! Depart from here!"

Tumarkin: "I beg your pardon Sir. We are the vanguard of a peaceful archaeological expedition led by the Countess and her uncle Colonel Villainovich. The latter is a day's march behind us with the rest of our party."

Stirling: "Countess. Captain. Your arrival is a total surprise; a shock you might say. Being as sundown is near, I'm sure the Professor will allow an overnight stay."

Grenville: "You may stay the night but be gone in the morning. Return from whence you came and never come back. Your lives depend on heeding my words. Do not take my considered counsel lightly."

Tumarkin: "He then rudely turned about, went to his dining fly muttering. I believe he said, 'Intolerable nuisance. Even more of them coming. Hell's teeth!'

Tumarkin: "The rest of our mounted escort arrived frightening their diggers."

Stirling: "Professor?"

Grenville: "They may stay the night. Take them on a tour. We must leave nothing out about the strange dangers abiding in this toxic land. I suppose there is some hope they will retreat afterwards, but I doubt it. This region is meant solely for careful scientific investigation. They must not find out what we know."

Tumarkin: "When the tour commenced, the Professor spoke first." 

Grenville: "Do you deduce anything singularly odd of a vegetative kind?"

Tumarkin: "No. I can't say I do."

Grenville: "I did not expect you could. Cast your eyes aloft then. Do you observe two remarkable ferns? Unusual are they not? Note their striking size and the peculiar pattern within the blades themselves. Last, perceive closely the structure of the trunk or stem."

Alexandra: "Rather vegetable in appearance without a covering associated with trees."

Tumarkin: "No bark. It is a giant vegetable plant soaring twenty feet! Is it edible?"

Grenville: "Is there any illumination within your doubtless insignificant knowledge of botany? It is not a vegetable. I confirm to you Sir, this kind of plant has not been seen for thousands if not millions of years. Indeed, there are other ancient, singular and dangerous oddities that should; must give you pause. I aim to encourage your retreat in the morning by revealing them."

Tumarkin: "An intemperate man to say the least but he sparked my imagination."

Lawford: "Yes. I am again reminded of inexplicable animal life perhaps of ancient origin that has appeared...."

Tumarkin: "To both our parties Colonel. But almost the most curious was yet to be revealed by Sir Richard. He took the Countess on a private sortie to inspect...."

Alexandra: "More pillars of Alexander. We beheld a pair a few hours ago to the south --- near a river."

Stirling: "There are four here. Your two make six."

Alexandra: "I believe they are markers along a long disappeared road to...."

Stirling: "A vanished city you hope to find?"

Stirling: "Alexandrapour. We know the legend."

Alexandra: "Then why are you here! Have you found it?"

Stirling: "Have you not noticed some of the terrors of this land? If you penetrate more deeply into the interior, as we have, there is evidence of singular if exhilarating dangers greater than anything our minds can imagine. You and your people may never be heard from again if you continue. The Ryder Expedition of 79 disappeared as did Sutherland's in 92."

Alexandra: "Da, da we know they never returned; lost forever somewhere ahead. Or were these Western lies to dissuade new expeditions? We thought with a larger contingent such mysterious dangers could be thwarted. A day's march behind me are nearly two dozen well-armed infantrymen supported by two of the newest automatic-firing guns. Nothing can withstand us. Nothing!"

Stirling: "Formidable surely. --- However, allow me to mention our latest startling discovery."

Stirling: "Several days ago, Mr. Hitch and I gathered some of the natives for a hunt to restock our larder. Game had been plentiful up escarpment on the plateau."

Stirling: "We thought we'd try our luck there again."

Stirling: "We ascended ignoring a prodigious serpent wriggling about in the top of a nearby tree."

Hitch: "Good hunting Sir Richard! Bring back a plump game bird will you?"

Stirling: "Mogambo and the gun bearer Hastooch were told to keep a sharp watch and to be as silent as possible."

Stirling: "We cautiously headed for the familiar northeasterly bend in the plateau. We expected no game to be this close to the camps, but I was ready in case something was near."

Stirling: "We hoped for antelope, bear, mountain goats or plump game birds for Mr. Hitch. Any of these would be inland some distance but...."

Stirling: "This was no plump game bird!"

Stirling: "Instead I encountered a different kind fowl. It was a bloody hideous creature. Suddenly awakened, its leathery wings spread and its head turned toward me. A cold and solitary reptilian eye measured me up and down. I supposed it was thinking how best to attack. When I raised my express to fire...."

Stirling: "It's great wings flapped once and it quietly dove out of sight below the escarpment rim. In moments it reappeared farther away. A rapid descent had allowed it to gain momentum and when sufficient velocity was obtained, it soared upwards and beyond the distant tree line out of sight."

Stirling: "Countess, there was no sound. It's flight was silent; the kind predator birds use to hunt with stealth. One moment all is well and in the next second, prey is clasped and taken to dizzying heights locked in an embrace of death. One would be lucky if the unrelenting razor-sharp and deeply penetrating talons caused bleeding to death before being dropped to be killed or eaten alive."

Lawford: "What in blazes was it? A bird that could carry a man into the sky."

Tumarkin: "Professor Grenville was sure it was an extinct flying reptile; a pterosaur. Sir Richard estimated the wingspan at six metres. It was not a plump game bird of that he was certain. Grenville also mentioned uncreditable reports coming from the American Southwest where Red Indians claim some fly there still. Thunderbirds they call them."

Pause for darkness to descend where - you - are.
When darkness falls, rejoin us by our evening campfire.
Extinguish all lights. Only afterwards pray continue.

"My dear reader, Captain Tumarkin's account excited the greatest curiosity in me. His astounding tale was impossible to believe. Yet he spoke with such conviction that I found myself giving it credence. Indeed, more than once I looked skyward in case one of the wretched fowls happened to be circling overhead. Yearning for more, I begged him to continue his extraordinary story. He resumed describing a conversation between the Professor and Alexandra around an evening campfire."

Alexandra: "Thank you for your hospitality Professor though I am insulted and cross about your exceedingly rude initial welcome."

Grenville: "I beg your forbearance. You must believe me Countess but your arrival is only the beginning of woes. Either horrible death awaits those who press on or your interference will ruin pristine contact within an uncontaminated and singularly unique environment. This remarkable land is an extraordinary treasure. It must be pro'.... --- Eh? --- What's this?"

Tumarkin: "A shaft of moonlight broke through the overcast night sky revealing a docile creature brought before us captured by Yuri and Josep."

Grenville: "I am aghast. Your invincible ignorance has brought destruction upon us. You've probably just killed us all."

Alexandra: "But Professor the creature appears gentle and submissive."

Grenville: "It is but an infant. She is not dangerous in and of herself. Our natives know and fear something more as should you. Listen to the startled men in the excavator camp will you. Can you hear their shouts?"

Mogambo: "Kwaney tannah mumbah Mokele-mbembe."

Hastooch: "We are surely dead men! Quiet you hyena."

Mogambo: "Douse the fire! The god Mokele-mbembe comes. Listen."

Genville: "Great Scott. Let it go. Hurry."

Alexandra: "I hear something."

Tumarkin: "Without answering the badly shaken Grenville then walked away quoting portions of Chapter 40 in The Hebrew Book of Job. His tempo was slow and sullen. He appeared resigned and defeated as he recited...."

Scroll very slowly dear readers, if you please.

"And The Lord God said to Job, Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox. Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly. His bones are as strong as pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron."

"He moveth his tail like a cedar."

"Surely the mountains bring him forth food,
where all the beasts of the field play."

"He lieth under the shady trees,
in the covert of the reed, and fens."


1. Mr. Hitch and his excavators are thankfully on loan from the colorful collection of Randy F.

2. Mamma sauropod was transported in from Chuck L.'s considerable and impressive zoological collection.

3. Michael's (USA retail store) provided prehistoric trees and flying creatures.

4. Modern cryptobiologists have been in search of the unusual life forms featured in this chapter. Sauropods are thought (hoped) to exist deep in the jungle of The Congo or Cameroon. The flying creatures so legend and perhaps grossly mistaken observers say may still fly in the southwestern USA; one recently in Illinois. Odd. can't be true - what?

5. In support of sauropods in #4, you will singularly be illuminated by:
I strongly urge you to take a look. Intriguing. Fun too.

6. In the 1970s I became aware of an animal named Mokele-mbembe. A couple of paragraphs in a local newspaper mentioned it having a large body, long tail and
long neck not unlike a brontosaurus. (Paleontology does not use the word
brontosaurus anymore in an effort to better classify it.)

7. In 1985 Disney Studios produced a motion picture about it by the name of BABY
The Secret of the Lost Legend.
It was adapted from tribal reports and expeditions searching for a large unknown creature inhabiting rivers and lakes deep within dense jungle in The Congo. Indigenous natives named it Mokele-mbembe. It is not as large as a Jurassic Park sauropod by the way but large enough.

8. Other reports:
This link is briefly preceded by a piece on the 2011 Japanese Tsunami.

9. Or this BBC text report from December, 2011:

10. Return in a fortnight to learn what happened next. Meanwhile, find your express rifle, have it ready or RUN!

11. Comments welcome below, if you please Sirs.


tradgardmastare said...

Utterly splendid sir!

tradgardmastare said...

Utterly splendid sir!

Ross Mac said...

Superb. Very well done indeed!

Michael Awdry said...

Just wonderful! Another really enjoyable instalment.

Michael Mathews said...

The plot thickens. And is going to real complicated real soon I'd wager.

Volleyfire! said...

It will require more than an express rifle I fear!!