The Horns of the Buffalo - Part 1

  An Officer and a Gentleman:

The Continuing Colonial Exploits of 

Quartermaster Gilbert

So what`s this page really all about
(Some musings before the real fun starts)


Basically, I wanted the best of both worlds. A Serious game setting with plenty of scope for world creation.. recreating Rorke`s Drift and Colonial Natal regions both sides of the Buffalo river, into Zululand (with options to widen the game even further in the future): bring my historical know-how into play by accurately portraying the times, the style and the atmosphere of the Victorian Colonial `finesse` and gentlemanly joie de vivre. Add to this (and most importantly to me), I wanted to create a game I could play over and over again, with enough scope never to grow bored or blasé by repeated games set within this semi imaginary creation.

Added to this would be the second and all important ingredient. I knew (pretty much from the initial inception of the thing... before anything was even purchased) that I wanted this to feel like a period costume saga: which of course will need a clever bit of historical extrapolation to `pull this one off` properly. I knew from the very start that I wanted to create a period style soap, if you will: or a series of `episodes`, chronicling the ongoing adventures and exploits of our intrepid heroes, protagonists, and out and out bad guys. Actually, a perfect quote from Black Adder comes to mind: "I wanted this to be "a giant rollercoaster of a story in 400 sizzling chapters. A searing indictment of domestic servitude {and warfare} in the {nineteenth} century... with some hot gypsies thrown in."


Oh, I feel fairly confident that (a version of) Lord Blackadder will be making an appearance in my campaign at some point or other.


I have drawn heavily from films like "Zulu Dawn" (a film about the total massacre of an entire British army.. at the hands of the Zulu nation which took place on 22nd of January 1879 at the battle of Isandlwana). The classic film "Zulu" (which, I think, really should go as the second part of a two part-er alongside Zulu Dawn): then there is "The Man Who Would Be King" if you can stay awake throughout it all.. good for atmosphere though, in small chunks at a time. Then of course, the old TV series "Shaka Zulu" has some interesting snippets in it, which I have stolen mercilessly and put into my game; but overall, I knew I wanted to maintain the `essence` of Colonial Zulu gaming, rather than stick rigidly to the historical.




An explanation of what I mean could best be illustrated by using the following example.

A fantasy gamer playing Lord of the Rings, might very well simply read the books and take Tolkien`s words as cannon, as gospel and the definitive truth about Middle Earth (after all, he wrote the thing, so knows best). However, his style of writing is somewhat stale and old fashioned at times, and not always easily digestible to a modern audience.




Whereas Peter Jackson`s movie version of this classic is far easier to absorb, is a visual feast, and more than reaches the imagination and uncorks the inspiration in ways the books (for many) cannot do.

For the average gamer, can the two go side by side... no, not really! There are simply too many discrepancies between the two. Personally, am a huge lover of Tolkien`s writings, but for sheer atmosphere, if I were trying to reproduce Middle Earth in miniatures, I would probably turn to the DVD films for detail rather than rely upon the books. The books have it all, but they don`t always leap out at you or make you want to `have a go for yourself, ` and often remain too dry and fuddy-duddy in places; whereas the films are simply crammed full of oodles and oodles of detail which the avid gamer can use to recreate the adventures for him or herself, with far less effort than trying to glean information from the rather large and weighty tomes.





In other words, the films provide the right tone and atmosphere for many, and cut out having to do all that cold and extensive study, just to be able to get to the point on the table, of being able to field a couple of armies to play a few games.


For me, I was weaned on war films as a kid. One of my all time favourites, and which had a huge effect on my hobby as a whole, was "Zulu". I suppose a part of me has always longed to collect Colonial miniatures and terrain based closely on that classic masterpiece of cinematic entertainment. But it wasn’t a genre of the hobby that was easy to get into. Finding the miniatures to game in Colonial Victorian Zululand was a daunting task, certainly near impossible for me living in Ireland for the last 25 years (you have to remember, you see.. not many on line model companies will ship to Ireland, but I have NO idea why that is).


So when I recently spotted that Warlord Games were offering a rather large, magnificent, and very costly 28mm collectors set of Rorke`s Drift (The Horns of the Buffalo Deluxe Collectors Set), for me it was a no brainer... I just had to have it. I guess it’s pretty much a complete hobby in a box. About %80 of everything you would ever need to enjoy Zulu games for the rest of your life, comes in that boxed set alone.


Pulleine, Lord Chelmsford and reporter Nogs (private collection)


Yeah, you can of course flesh the collection out by adding lots of bits and pieces as time, money, and desire dictates (I should point out, the game actually comes with just about every character you need to play the film Zulu), .... but some extra personality pieces from the Zulu wars in general: like Lord Chelmsford, Nogs the cynical newspaper reporter, Pulleine and Mervill etc. Perhaps some Natal Mounted Police, a few Native Contingent, Natal Carbineers, etc etc, all are nice additions to include in your collection; but really, the box does contain a staggering amount of stuff.... not least of all, the entire terrain set up for recreating Otto Witt`s Mission Station itself and all the historically accurate defences (everything you see in the film “Zulu”).


But just how many times can you replay the battle of Rorke`s Drift without getting bored to tears: five or six times, maybe? Without the possibility of growth, this amazing collector`s set could become rather stale in time. I really like a cool quote from the November/December 2015 Warlord Games Horns of the Buffalo advert itself: “Horns of the Buffalo is for life, not just for Christmas.” What a classic line, huh? Like families buying a puppy for the festive season, what happens when Christmas is over and the initial excitement at playing with the puppy starts to wears thin? The chewed toys, the bitten through wires, the Boxing Day ham pulled onto the floor and half devoured by “Charlie” before puking it all up again on Grandma`s slippers: the endless walks as the poor thing gets bigger and bigger, yet needs more and more managing as the weeks turn into endless drudgery and suddenly, the lovely new puppy bought into the home during the festive season, doesn’t look nearly so appealing as it did that fateful day. Soon the “Puppy needs good home” sign will appear in the local shop windows, and “Charlie” will find himself out on his ear. How absolutely correct this is too for anyone undertaking a huge venture into something new in gaming. What might LOOK attractive and exciting at first, can oh so quickly wear off, as the realisation of the hard work involved in bringing it all together on the table.. starts to hit a home run!


So yeah, to get back on track, I didn’t want my Zulu Wars to turn into an unused, once loved passion, relegated to a box under the bed. I needed it to remain fresh and interesting for many, many years to come. So how to make this happen?

Well, hence, why I say I want to create a bit of a period costume drama rather than an accurate depiction of the real life events.


As another example: think of the book Treasure Ireland. Now there`s a subject I would love to recreate in miniature and turn into a mini campaign in its own right. But I wouldn`t turn to the book or one of the numerous (some excellent)  film versions to recreate this story for myself, if I were doing it. No, if I were doing Treasure Ireland, I`d turn to the “Treasure Island” series, and especially the series “Return to Treasure Ireland”. Okay, it’s a bit cheesy in places, but this series provide a wealth of material any happy gamer can simply soak up to add to and extend his game sandbox.. literally ad infinitum.


(rule number one: NEVER have a civilian woman on the battlefield, however lovely a distraction she may be... they never learn at the movies do they).



However, I also wanted to add comedy (kind of Disc World humour): yeah, some of it whimsical...i.e. a bit of tastefully done Steampunk. Some  of it would have to be intense macabre horror (a bit of HBO style “Penny Dreadful”), yet at the same time, the whole thing needed to appeal to my sensibilities of balanced integral structure... my sense of semi historical correctness... even if I do go off track now and again.


So all in all, I have high hopes these Colonial pages should be quite a ride, and hopefully will live up to my expectations. I know I will never be able to please everyone with what I do: so instead, foremost, I am aiming to do my own thing, and primarily, have a blast along the way. If I make some new friends while doing it, and a few people follow my gaming endeavours, then I will doubly have succeeded in my aims. I wish to provide recourse for other gamers (not just Colonial ones) to enjoy, be enthused by, and hopefully find some inspiration which will perhaps enhance their own games a little bit. Anyone who likes long term projects, lots of prep work, modelling, custom builds, ample terrain making, AND LOTS OF ON TABLE SKIRMISHES AND BATTLES should get something out of this. The comment count does not matter to me, and if only one or two people keep up, and make comments about things, well.. I will be very delighted for the company and to have them share my endeavours. If you DO come browse, please do comment, it always feels nice to know you are not alone in what you do. But if this is not your cup of tea. That is no matter at all. There is plenty of other stuff to enjoy elsewhere in the main pages of the blog.


Soooooo, without any further ado, its time to start the ball rolling. Terrain is being assembled; miniatures are being painted - daily, and my story scripts have been written. Actors have been employed: my leading lady is tantrum free, and my choreographer is happy. Lighting crew are standing by, and I t-h-i-n-k I am ready to begin.

so.... here we go. No further chit chat. Down to business.

and.... ACTION!!!





.. and.... Cut..... Cut.... CUT!!!!!!
Oh, and that`s another thing.


You might find amazing breathtaking displays of miniature modelling brilliance lavishly adorning these pages. Or you equally might see a lot of `old school` style simplicity and approach.
What you WILL find for sure, however, is lots and lots of MY style painting and modelling. I like old style... I like my miniatures to look like the toy soldiers I played with as a kid. No wait.... the kind of toy soldiers I might have DREAMED of owning when I was a kid.
 
Hooky

Yes I can paint to the standard of the pictures adorning Warlord Games "Black Powder" rule books and expansion manuals... at a push, if I absolutely have to. But I look at others doing this already. Wonderful stuff, very clever... but it all looks like Rudolf Steiner School progressive art to me.... copies of itself endlessly repeated.

No! I paint old school, and am proud of it. Try it sometime. It’s not as easy to recreate as it looks *wink*.


However, I do have a wonderful collection of miniatures to paint.. most of the collection still needs to be unboxed, undercoated, painted, inked, dipped, based and varnished. So you can expect some reviews and lots of “my hobby” type tips on how I do my thing, my way. Hopefully you won’t throw rotten eggs at me for my personalised style.... or lack there-of.
 

They say behind every happy man is a great woman: mine is no exception. She not only supports my interests, she also encourages me AND she readily joins in my wargames and rpgs. What more could a bloke ask for.
The Wonderful, Fantastical, Whimsical World of
Colonial Pax Limpopo.
The wonderful world of... what?!
Pax Limpopo: a magical place which could have.. but never quite got to exist in the real world. Part Flashman novel, part Monty Python, part Penny Opera, part Penny Dreadful, it is a pseudo Victorian comedy of errors and dark stage pantomime; set within the deeply disturbing and macabre.
But what's it all about?
To borrow from Eureka`s take on things for a moment:
Shaka Zulu has a long `thing` (okay now that just boasting) with "Queen Victoria and the age of the mighty Anglo-African Empire has begun. The science of steam and the clock spring have revolutionised the world. Great wealth and opportunities abound. This is a brave new era where a man of good deportment can carve out a kingdom for himself, and where a woman can ride a bicycle.
Yet these great social advances have come at a cost. Some still yearn for the strict social order of past times, while the weak, the poor, and the socially inept burn with indignation at not being allowed their share in the benefits of this golden age. And beyond the far flung boundaries of the Empire, envious foreign eyes greedily search Victoria's realm for signs of weakness. Cads and Bounders are everywhere.
Rumours are rife concerning Lucifer Hardlove's latest diabolical invention; the anarchist nannies have been causing more unrest; the Prussians are plotting and the French are pressing on with their animal experimentation. This world needs heroes. Heroes of questionable breeding in a well cut, tightly fitting uniform. Heroes with a nose for a good brandy and an eye for a fine lady's calf while she peddles her muscle-toning conveyance.
.... Heroes like Wellyn Shaftesbury of the 8th Hussars (now there's a hero)...."
Pax Limpopo follows a whimsical and sometimes farcical approach to the (so called) Gaslight and Steam-Punk genre, but I think it probably owes as much to modern themes... e.g. The League Extraordinary Gentlemen and Anime movies such as Steam Boy and Howl's Moving Castle as it does to the classics: Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the rest.
Eureka Miniatures are grizzled veterans of their trade, and have been sculpting and selling their beautiful precision scale models since 1991. Their Pax Limpopo range is somewhat younger, and first took the gaming world by storm in 1998. Though I have heard it said that the world of Pax didn't exactly take anything by storm... rather it latched onto the throats of the gaming world and simply refused to let go, borne from tenacious and stubborn pride - knowing it had regal blood coursing through its supple fibre.
But what types of miniature are you likely to find amongst the Pax Limpopo range of main characters, side-kicks, minions, and weird-lings? Quite frankly, the answer is almost too scary to contemplate.
Opening the tent flaps to Eureka's crazy macabre circus (yes, they have killer clowns too) is a bit like opening a Cadburys Chocolate Orange; only once you've crack the tough outer shell can you get to the succulent and delicious aroma explosive centre.
Now, if you like dark humour, with the slightest twist of the cynical and mentally warped (I was weaned on "Disc World" so I'm okay) then you're in for an extra treat. The names of the main characters alone will probably have you in euphoric stitches of laughter: Professor Niagara and his Ocular Viagra, Heironomous Pratt and his Audio Hat, Professor McHoots and his Circular Boots, Ophelia Phondlewell (in hip bath and Hardlove Rubber Interloper)... then we've got Lunar shape shifting aliens, newspaper cartoon like bomb wielding anarchist nannies (called Nanarchists), French and Prussian spies, French biogenically altered animal soldiers, Prussian Storm-troopers and Gyrocopter pilots, there's even a Hungarian ambassador. And if this isn't enough to send you completely over the top, you've got Pigmies of the Lost World (or is it the New World?), Dinosaurs: from dangerous Raptor packs to pantomime T-Rex.
But the best is still to come. The British cavalry don't always just ride horses, oh no, far too smelly and uncouth! They get to ride Unicycles and Penny Farthings (especially when playing the new, rather quaint, national pastime of "Pig Tickling")... there's even a weird oriental fellow on a rocket powered bicycle.
But it doesn't stop there: if you like your Steampunkian vehicular contraptions, Eureka support their Pax range with a weird, whacky, and diverse collection of mechanical steam driven and clockwork tanks, cars, and... flying things.
 There's more, but the list would go on and on.
 All in all, it's no wonder Pax Limpopo is slowly gathering quite a cult following among some of the more esoteric gamers out there (the more mature ones who don't mind looking silly and prime straight jacket material), and the more mainstream hobbyist is just starting to cotton on to what they've been missing all this time.
I mean, who wouldn't want to field a squadron or two of Heavy Steam Chargers on the wargames table, or advance menacingly in their Hardlove Steam Enhanced Impervious Suits; you can even sweep the enemy away with flashing displays of synchronised bicycle manoeuvres?
And if it all gets simply too embarrassing for words, you can always dress up as British Gorilla impersonators.......erm..... Eureka Miniatures make those as well I'm afraid.

Many years ago I was given permission from Nic Robson the owner of Eureka Miniatures to write a novel... or group of novels if I liked, which would bring this intriguing world to life, in a series of ongoing `adventure episodes` designed to create a unique imagi-nation, both for gamers to play in, and for the world in general to enjoy reading about. Letters were exchanged, signed and witnessed by both parties, and I was all set to go. But due to a number of complications (not least of which was a heavy back-log of  writing for other projects... commissions which seemed forever to keep me from working on Pax as a whole), the book(s) simply never got completed in any publically readable format.
I still have the signed written agreement Nic sent me, giving me complete rights to do what I wanted with his world, as presented in his amazingly unique collection of 28mm miniatures: and now finally in blog form, I think I am in a position to make two personal dreams come true at the same time.
Firstly, I have always wanted to play Zulu gaming in this scale, but until now, this simply couldn`t happen for me... not on the sheer scale of emersion I have envisaged in my head: and secondly, I might not have time to write the novel, as originally conceived; but I can combine Pax Limpopo into a series of short stories, background atmosphere filler, and tantalising snippets of information... nuggets of gold (if you like) to enrich the imagi-nation world I plan to game in. 
The 13th and a half Battalion of The Tooth & Nail encounter their first indigenous hostiles


(no reptiles were harmed in the making of this production)
 



 
An Introduction to

Zulu land
Lord S Gilbert: Hero of the Age, Darling of the Ladies, Favourite of the Queen (God Bless Her), Champion of the People and..... okay time to wake up.
 
 
Combine all this with my new found love of Warlord Games miniature, and I am set to have a darn jolly good time I think.

But the catalyst which made me realise I wanted to undertake this magnum opus is a complicated one, and should be explained a bit I think.
 Over the last two years, I have made many changes to my hobby, and my lifelong passion for wargames and in setting up role playing campaigns in general. I think the major catalyst for this came about when three things happened in succession, which greatly altered my outlook in a very fundamental way: on exactly how I fulfil myself within the hobby,  and about life in general as well.

The first was discovering I have a medical condition which if I am sensible about things means I should still live a long... full... rich and rewarding life (I could even make 100, yaaay me). But never again will I be able to run up the stairs (not without needing to regain my breath at the top anyway), nor can I walk miles with the dogs, or walk briskly through the town, carrying armfuls of shopping... or any number of other silly little things I have, until recently,  always taken for granted.

Secondly, I found myself desiring more and more to play Imagi-Nation games, rather than spend time playing all the time in Fantasy make belief worlds.
So what is the distinction between Imagi-Nation and Fantasy one may ask? It’s a fine line I suppose, but to me its simply this. Fantasy, I think, is when you allow your mind to indulge in the creation of make believe worlds, places and situations that never existed.... Tolkien`s Middle Earth, or one of Wizard of the Coast`s various made up Dungeons & Dragons campaign worlds: like: Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Eberron, or Greyhawk. Imagi-Nations are similar, but happens when you create imaginary situations and adventures based either loosely or firmly within the real world... whether quasi or otherwise. For example, H.P. Lovecraft`s "Cthulhu" stories, Bernard Cornwell`s "Sharp" series, or perhaps even  Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" come to mind as good examples.

In fantasy, you can choose between low fantasy (considered, by many, to be more mature and also based more within realistic parameters) or high fantasy (which is more extreme and unpredictable, like `Star Wars`).
In a similar way, Imagi-Nation gaming can be based on low or high imaginary settings. I think anyone might agree that a game set in Weird World War II which has a lot of `what if` history added into the mix.. includes werewolves, vampires, and Nazi uniformed zombies, would probably be considered high on the wild side of the fantastical; but there is another, gentler approach which the majority of mature Imagi-Nation players entertain and enjoy. Often this is set in an 18th century `Lace Wars` stetting, but not necessarily so. To make a low fantasy Imagi-Nation, one merely needs to observe certain accepted conventions; an understanding of real life history, a desire to emulate this... with a few subtle twists, and a penchant for `telling a good story` within the gentle and mature infrastructured framework of a chosen historical context.

This latter, for me, has (over this last few years) completely taken over my gaming life, and where before I might have found my mind daydreaming about elves, dwarves and hobbits: now my mind careens with thoughts of history books, TV documentaries, and audio learning... and I think how I can change history subtly, in ways that will allow me to extrapolate my ideas onto the table top, where I can bring my gaming fantasies to life in the rich tapestries of a vivid and fertile imagination. An example of the sort of thing I try to emulate would perhaps be something like “Poirot” or “Sherlock Holmes” (both of these made up fictional novels or DVD tv series, yet both set firmly within the real world).

I have lost myself.... absorbed myself so deeply in this direction of late, that I have even undertaken the stoic task of culling my lifelong collection of miniatures and games into a manageable whole.

... which brings me neatly to the third change. I suppose I woke up to myself, smelled the metaphorical metal roses... the piles of unpainted lead, the mountain of unread, unloved rule books and expansion manuals, and I felt sick inside. Sick at myself for having turned into the one thing I always said I`d never become.... someone who prefers to sit his wide ass at a computer for hours on end, daily, weekly, monthly... yearly, talking endlessly about gaming, collecting more and more and more, yet never ever actually playing with anything I owned. I was appalled at myself, as the realisation hit me like a "Christmas Carol"  epiphany. I may not have been visited by three bloody ghosts, but I sure as hell got a wakeup call when I sat and thought, long and hard, just what I had allowed myself to turn into hobby wise. I worked out just what I had in my collection, and it made me shudder with horror.
Three complete fully painted 15mm Colonial Armies and all the trimmings, four 15mm American War of Independence Armies (all unpainted), hundreds of 40mm `Lace Wars` miniatures, nearly a thousand HeroScape fantasy figures, twelve hundred Mage Knight miniatures, hundreds of Halo and Warcraft miniatures: hundreds of Dungeons and Dragons Skirmish Game miniatures, and a similar number of Star Wars miniatures; an entire Steampunk collection, The entire collection of 40mm Lord of the Rings TMG combat hex minis (I had already give away the entire range of 28mm GW LOTR miniatures... and yes, I had them all... literally thousands), then there was Tide of Iron, Game of Thrones (Battles of Westeros) of which I have everything, and Last Night on Earth plus all expansions, and Touch of Evil plus all expansions, and Super Dungeon Explore and all expansions, and ALL the modules for Advanced Squad Leader, Talisman, Legend of Andor, Mansions of Madness, Arkham Horror, Tannhouser (all of it), Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System Board Games (all of them), Zombicide, Zombicide Black Plague, Terrible Swift Sword, Badges of Honour, Little Big Horn, Battle Cry, and John Carter from Mars...... then we go on to the rules: every single manual for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, and 5th edition, and dozens of manuals for Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition,  Traveller, Rune Quest, G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. Gurps, Tunnels and Trolls, Original D&D, White Box D&D, dozens of sets of rules for WWII, Gunfights in the Wild West, Gangsters and Pulp Fiction, Zombies, and various Sci-Fi. I have Pulp Alley, In Her Majesty`s Name, Maurice, Land of the Free, and 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons, etc etc etc etc etc.... the list goes on and on and on. I`ve only mentioned the things that quickly come to me, but the list is much longer still, and I have probably missed out dozens of things.
 I know I could fill the shelves of a games store entirely, easily.
But you see, yeah.... I felt sick at myself. If I spent 20 minutes a day, for ever more of the rest of my life on this mortal coil, just trying to find time to play with everything, I wouldn`t be able to make it.... and that's not counting REAL LIFE, my wife, my kids, my home, and my other more normal pursuits. Okay, I am passionate about my gaming, always have been since the age of, oh I guess about 8 or 10. I`m over 50 now, and I have that terrible sinking feeling that I have pissed about the last 20 or so years trying desperately to make some semblance of a stab at enjoying all this little lot of... well, fundamentally, most of it just useless crap! If it were more than that, I would have played with it all and enjoyed it, right?

Don`t get me wrong, I love my hobby now as much as I did when I was a kid; maybe more so in fact. But I feel I have wasted many years dabbling with FAR too many subjects, when I could and should have been enjoying myself, indulging my whims in a couple of consolidated directions.

This I have now done.
Oh there are friends of mine who try to `push` the number of my interests up... if only in their heads, to make themselves seem `less in the same boat` like a smoker being uncomfortable around a reformed smoker. “Go on, go ooon, one won’t hurt!”

But I am systematically (not even so systematically... more like: "here, please have this, and this, and this" to all my friends) giving away and selling the mass bulk of my life long collection(s) as fast as I can do it. I`d almost just `skip` and burn most of it, in one fell swoop if I could... but I know that by getting rid of things the way I am doing, I am providing pleasure to other people.

So what are you saying Steve? Have you given up gaming altogether?

Hell no!

Far from it.  I`ve just wised up a bit is all. I have (to date) gotten rid of half of my stuff and am busy getting rid of most the rest, as fast as I can....  a lot may yet go in the skip or in bin bags down at the local  dump... I don`t care anymore how much it may be worth, it’s still useless crap to me, which has sapped my energy for far too long., AND I WANT IT GONE.


Funny, I even tried giving droves of stuff away to people on line; which is when you realise how misguided you are in thinking your collections are worth a lot more than you suppose, and all I asked people to do was pay me for the postage. Not one person took me up on the offer. BUT the three times I did send entire collections to on line acquaintances, I ended up having to pay the entire postage myself (over fifty quid each time), even though the collections were worth 600 and 800 respectively. AND two of them stopped communicating after a while... dropped me dead haha. Mind you I think I`m the richer for it, one guy (Alan) has proven to be a real good friend and we still keep in close communication.. in fact I may soon be helping him a bit with his new rules set (he`s a wargames author too, and writes some darn good stuff).

No, I have simply culled my hobby to a manageable size, and I am now (and for ever more) concentrating on the few things that truly maintain my enduring interest.

Colonial (Victorian) Imagi-Nation Zululand gaming is at the top of that list of course.

I have other websites and blogs, full of gaming topics that I have written over the years which, I hope, readers will continue to enjoy and possibly find inspiring or insightful for their own games. But I will not be adding to any of them in the future.. as they are written now, will stand for ever more; as the collections I would need to continue to write in them, I no longer even own for the most part.

 My future interests lie here, and I wish to see this blog grow, and start to fill with fresh material, the `old` will have to go the way of the Dodo, to make room for the current and `living` games I will be playing from now on.

The old articles on my other sites are, sadly, part of the syndrome I mention.... too many subjects, and not nearly enough hours in any given month and year even to attempt to follow it all: and the end result has been lots of stabs at campaigns and story arcs which, there was simply no way in hell I could ever continue with any steady dedication.

This all changed when I wised up, did a Jean-Luc-Picard and said: “The Line Stops Here!”

"Zulu Wars" will feature my brand new Zulu Imagi-Nation campaign, in depth and become a living world. I imagine it to be a bit like a favourite TV show, unfolding in episodes as each new series expands and matures the story further.

Oh of course, I still love and play D&D, Zombicide, Black Plague, Memoir 44, The Great War, Chibi games (Super Dungeon Explore), HeroClix, and a few other much cherished `keeps`. But the rest.... naaa, all has to go... or already has gone.
Without a single shadow of doubt, one man is very much responsible for my decision to take this route: Bill`s site: "The Campaigns of General William Augustus Pettygree" which is probably the most remarkable on line Google Blog out there for serious and whimsical wargaming... whatever your preferred era of wargaming... is a text book for all to learn from, on how it should be done.

Bill keeps on track with just one topic, following the adventures of a fictional General through his semi historical yet partly made up imagi-world of colonial India, The Sudan, and Egypt. Bill manages to do this throughout, by utilising the most magnificent eclectic range of 28mm miniatures, and the end result is quite frankly staggering to look at, and General Pettygree`s adventure romps make for scintillating reading.

http://generalpettygree.blogspot.ie/

It is no co-incidence that I have been planning, for ages, to emulate this (but totally in my own way), yet centred firmly in my very own imagi-world version of Natal region - South Africa; and indeed, I have been patiently collecting a host of miniatures, and a veritable drool fest of terrain for all this... for some considerable time now.

Discovering "Warlord Games and Empress Miniatures" went a long way to helping me realise my dreams of Colonial table top adventures, and indeed, my collection is now a beautiful melding of Eureka Miniatures, Warlord and Empress Miniatures, with a smattering of Bob Murch`s "Pulp Figures" and some of Redoubt Enterprises models thrown into the mix.
Now I just have to paint this little lot.

Wanna come join me on the ride, I promise to share it all with you?
Aint these beautiful... an` I have them all. I`m a happy chappie for sure.
As I started to cull my old collection to a shatteringly diminished size, I effectively made room for my shiny brand new collection.... and yes, I am oh so proud of it all. It’s not yet on the grand... vast... scale of Bill`s blog collection, but I am well on my way. I imagine Bill took years collecting his rare and exotic range of  models, and now that I am finally free from the hobby clutter of my over stretched mind, I`m sure mine too, will slowly grow to reflect my passion for this subject.
 
 
An Extract From My Epic,
Growing Colonial Saga....
.... Lord Mayweather meticulously brushed the bread crumbs off his waxed moustache, placed his tea cup carefully on the table, and picked up the morning newspaper.
"Nanarchists on Wild Rampage!" he read aloud.
"Yesterday anarchist nannies ran amok through Hyde Park, defacing and vandalising monuments, most notably that of His Eminence, The Royal Consul, King Shaka Zulu. It is reported that Her Majesty Queen Victoria (God bless her) is not amused by this grave insult to her beloved companion. Sir Wellyn Shaftesbury has been recalled from Egypt to take charge of the investigations."  Mayweather growled.
No doubt the Prussians were behind it all. Or the French! Or those damn creatures that were brought back from the latest Luna excursions... what were they called?... shape-changers? Too many enemies all jealous of the vast strides that the Empire was making under the wise and noble reign of Victoria and... erm... that strange Shaka fella.
Thank God there were still people like Sir Wellyn Shaftesbury, the Queen's own hero. Mayweather first met Shaftesbury at a rally, where the great man spent six or seven hours modestly recounting his adventures, including the famous story of how he had rescued the Queen after her private airbaloon crashed over Africa. Britain (and Africa, of course), needed more men like him, thought Mayweather. He barely noticed the maid placing a large covered dish on the table, until a pungent odour filled his nostrils and he looked up.
"What's this?" he snapped.
The maid curtseyed. "Please sir, it's crap."
"What?"
"Crap, sir. Corned raptor, straight from Colonel Sander`s raptor farms. It's very good, I'm told. Much tastier than chicken."
"Oh... Yes." said Mayweather. "Enterprising chap that Sanders. Bringing dinosaurs all the way from Africa to farm here. Bit hard on the sheep dogs though, I understand."
"If that is all you require sir, may I please be excused? My fiance is calling for me this morning to take me to the penny-farthing races."
"Yes of course" replied Mayweather, still staring suspiciously at the brown meat in front of him.
"Your fiancé, he's a cavalry officer isn't he? In the Scots Dragoons?"
"The Black Tires? Yes sir, the best penny-farthing unit in the whole army" she replied proudly, "Robert, that's my fiance's name sir, says that a penny-farthing can outmanoeuvre a unicycle any day in the Pig Tickling races."
Mayweather smiled. "Well don't tell that to the light cavalry! They're very attached to their unicycles, ever since they won the Cup last year. Off you go."
The maid curtseyed again and scampered out. Mayweather sighed. He sometimes wished he was a young man again in the army. Of course, it was all quite different now from when he was young - now the army had all sorts of modern inventions and weaponry, like the Hardlove Steam-Driven Impervious Suit, and the Electro-Galvanic Lightening Discharge Gun. Not to mention landships, submersibles and gyrocopters. All invented by that indefatigable genius Eden Hardlove.
Too bad his Siamese-twin brother defected to Prussia.
A knocking at the front door disturbed his reverie. "Damn, where was the maid? Dressing no doubt." And it was his butler's day off. He shuffled down the hallway and opened the door.
A figure dressed in a British cavalry uniform leapt smartly to attention.
"Begging your pardon sir, I've come to collect Maude."
"You must be Robert." said Mayweather.
White teeth gleamed in a coal-black face as the soldier smiled. "She's mentioned me then, sir?"
`Fine looking officer, ` thought Mayweather. `These are the sort of men that will take the Pax Limpopo Empire to the ends of the earth. And the stars as well....`
 Pig Tickling!!! mmhmm,  yes its also a game.


Pax Limpopo

 An exert from "That Other Place"

 
by Stephen A Gilbert.

...Once upon a time there was Pax Limpopo. This was a myriad collection of lands, similar, but not quite like the Empire we have all been told about at school during our history lessons. This Empire is never mentioned on the documentary channels on television; and nor is it the same Empire we can sometimes find within the pages of books purchased at musky smelling antique shops. No this is that other place which sometimes can be found within the fragile realms of nostalgia; often discovered within the innocent minds of children, and is occasionally kept alive due to the fantastical creations of Dickensian style authors.
This is an Empire which never was... not in the true sense of historical chronology... though it could have existed, and without having to stretch the imagination too far at all. Though this intriguing little inner world does exist within the emotions and inspirations of those special few individuals who feel drawn to the past, and who sometimes think they would have been better suited, perhaps, living in another more splendid and magnificent Victorian-esque age.
Have you ever been inside a Museum or strolled through an Art Gallery and seen the paintings of England during the Great Freeze of 1739-40? They say that in London, the Thames actually froze over during those two long winters; and families took their children ice skating on the river and ate roasted chestnuts upon the banks beneath the clock face of Big Ben.
Well now, imagine a world where one day, winter came along as usual... then simply refused to go away again at the normal appointed and expected time. That's exactly what happened one day within the realm of Pax, and the place was never quite the same again... not for quite some considerable time. Some called it a mini ice age, though personally, I think the capricious Gods just wanted to see what would happen if they did it.
The small Britannic island realm became encased within a picturesque landscape.... like one of those glass globes you can buy in the shops, which if you shake gently, creates a snow storm raining down upon a quaint miniaturised Yuletide cameo. Well, old Jack Frost certainly didn't need much shaking to produce snow during these freezing times.... proving that the old adage "it's too cold to snow" really is just an old wives tale. But anyway, for the most part the people of Pax quickly got used to the change.
All this is actually how Pax Limpopo got its name in the first place. Apparently, Pax means "peace" in Latin, and "Paxus Rexus Idiom Regina" had been the family motto of the Royal Peerage for generations. When Her Majesty, Princess Victoria Angelica Constance of the House Tumultuous was just a small child, she had taken a rather pleasant holiday to one of her colonial provinces in Africa, and had spent such a lovely time sun bathing and drinking homemade lemonade upon the banks of the Limpopo River, that years later (when the Great Freeze metaphorically placed Britain... um... I mean Pax... in a giant ice box) the Princess had insisted the Army be dispatched to Kipling's Land to bring the Limpopo back to London to fill the Thames.
Advisors to Her Royal Majesty at the time failed to point out to the young and somewhat innocent Princess, that the sun which normally heated the mighty river would no longer be able to influence the water's temperature once they gathered it up in buckets. However, vast fleets of ships did indeed draw millions of gallons of the Limpopo across the ocean, where bore holes were drilled into the Thames ice, and the now somewhat chilled African waters were poured into the frozen river with steadfast dedication to Her Majesty's royal edict.
The Princess was so delighted by her own cleverness; she became obsessed with the notion of re-naming the entire land after her insightful endeavours... and so Rule Britannia became punk, and Pax Limpopo was born, and a New Age of Reason sprang into the world... Halleluiah.
As the years passed, Pax Limpopo grew accustomed to the Long Winter, and within half a decade the people almost forgot the world had ever been any other way. You have to remember that this was an age when the lower middle and the working class masses could barely comprehend what the rest of the world was even like. Plate images within books sometimes displayed giraffes, rhinoceros, raptors, elephants and tigers, and so forth, but these all looked like creatures from a child's worst nightmares... and hardly resembled the real thing at all. But to the people, this was a grim reminder to them just how fortunate they all were to be a part of the Paxish Empire, safely wrapped in the warm cocoon of Her Majesty's most royal charge.
Stories within newspapers such as The Strand, and The Worker's Gazette in big easy to read letters informed their readers in simple terms about foreign affairs and terrible wars on various distant continents; which for the most part terrified the people so much, they hardly ever got the inkling to pack their suit cases and go further afield than Blackpool or Margate on their annual Wakes Week Holidays to the seaside. Of course, people did sometimes travel abroad; deported convicts, prospectors, soldiers, and missionaries sent to convert the Godless heathens in the ways of the true Blessed Way. Naturally the richer types travelled the sky and sea lanes all the time, but communication between the masters and the workers was poor at the best of times, so news of the real world seldom jumped the cultural class barrier.
Princess Victoria grew from a child into a beautiful and cultured young lady... just the type the people liked to adore and worship and by the age of sixteen, she was versed in the refined ways of country and state. She had dozens of potential suitors flocking round her like bees to the honey jar, and the Palace was a buzzing hive of parties, frolics, and a never ending bunch of balls.....
Now, it should be pointed out that this is only one rumour how Pax Limpopo originally came by its name. There are many other tall stories... all equally as improbable as this one, and if you have a more logical explanation; simply jot it down on the long list of possibilities, go to bed with a pill, and when you wake up in the morning it will all feel much better.
This really is all in way of an introduction chapter: a basic start to this new page. I shall add a whole new bit (part 2, part 3, etc) a part at a time, each month from now on.

As you can see, it is a separate page entirely, and will in no way interrupt or get in the way of our more normal, regular posts. 
I hope you enjoy it.


Please Note:
Please be aware that this page is not like a normal main page article. If you have managed to get this far and not fallen asleep from tedium, and are ready for more. DO PLEASE check back here from time to time, as I shall be adding a lot more material to part 1 over the coming weeks  (but        anything new wont show up as new because it will simply be me adding material to an already existing page).

After a month I will make Page 2, and the whole process will begin again there, and so on and so forth each month as I start a fresh page... page 3, and page 4, etc).

erm.... I hope that's all clear :-)
 

Phhhssssst!!! My Lord? Reports have just come in that Zombies are attacking Pulleine.. at Isandlwana!

Zombies? Don`t be stupid man, this is Zulu film, not a damned horror flick!"
 
*hic* "Yes, Zulus... sorry, Sir, a little too much claret  for lunch I think."
*Hic*
 
Lord Chelmsford critically surveys the camp.. where IS that blasted Quartermaster Gilbert.


-------------

Sir Wellyn Shaftsbury & the Hardlove Brainifyer:


                                     Act 1


The Hardlove Brainifyer:
 
Wellyn Shaftesbury stands almost to attention in the pristine gloss polished reception room where shadows dread to lurk amongst the shine and fine vaneer. A veritable army of servants are lingering (no doubt), poised with mop and broom, feather duster… spick and span; ready to do battle with any hateful dust or dowdy speck filled corner. Yet, in truth, no grime would dare display an inkling towards such mutiny, nor with intrepid distain impose so rudely upon the order created by the cleaning staff of No. 1 Ruttingham Palace… and within these hallowed halls, nothing unclean would intrude upon the offend eye of any Royal personage.

When I say that Wellyn stands almost to attention, I do not mean to imply he displays a mean or rebellious disposition; rather… his `spirit` remains aloft, like a builder`s scaffold around a frame of some endangered and infirm construct. Willpower alone keeps Wellyn standing upright, but his brain would have him sit… or lie…… or fall; so better to comfort to his present disposition.

Yet the half full brandy glass in his hand remains as steady as a trapeze artist’s pole – despite the alcohol soaked spirit which swims foggily (for it`s life) to remain focused and alert; and the only sign of Wellyn`s inebriated senses is the slight slouch in his composure, and the almost indiscernible swaying of his torso, like a tree bending… slow motion in the breeze.

But when a butler steps forward, respectfully, to retrieve the culprit and offending receptacle from the honoured guest; Wellyn Shaftesbury mistakes the offer as an invitation to re-charge his glass and politely mumbles his ascent through the thick recesses of his prolific sculpted moustache.

Wellyn Shaftesbury: tall and proud, partly blind in one eye, prone to flatulence and burping after every meal (a sign of respect in many countries, they say). A retired Major General, a tired psudo narcoleptic… frayed and frazzled from too many years of provocative clashes with dissident Nanarchists, sundry enemies of the British Empire… natives, and the dratted Pygmies of the Lost World. Well! at least that`s how he appears to many. He is, naturally, also a spy and a master of disguises!

He stands now, confused and slightly unsure of himself; and this manifests in the unwise course of action and unsafe haven he currently entertains… found at the bottom of his cups.

The question that keeps cropping up in his mind, like an unwelcome belch in a lady’s boudoir, is “why”…. why has Her Majesty summoned him to the Palace in the middle of the night?

Outside, the winter rains pour down it`s precipitous contents upon a watery multitude like a legion of tearful maidens; and Jack Frost sits poised to transmute the insubstantial volume into a gossamer blanket… a rink of ghostly hue, to hinder… slip and slide… foiling the meanderings of gentle folk as they go about their immutable destinies, and the humdrum routine of daily life.

Inside Her Majesty’s reception chamber, the coal flames flickering from the decorative inglenook are a sure sign of the Queen`s dominance...  a reminder that the fires of industry still burn brightly within the mighty Empire, and with a passionate heat.

Suddenly, a crystal tear forms upon the annealed brandy glass held firmly within Wellyn`s left hand. Refracted light from the overhead gaslight chandelier hits it with shadowless efficiency, and for a moment, this miniature furnace flashes like an orbicular sun… a sign from above, a reminder for the retired Major General that where Her Majesty governs - there is still order and structure in the world.

All at once his resolve is fastened, and his spirit is re-kindled by the passion of his conviction. The demon drink is chased away, and his clouded mind becomes a firm vessel for his more worthy thoughts.

It is precisely at this moment that the vast doors at the end of the long reception hall swing open, and an impressive image of silk and satin floats into the room like a mighty galleon at full sail.

Major General Wellyn Shaftesbury uncoils like a stiff spring… to his full five foot eleven inches, and clicks his spurs together in smart salute to her most Royal Majesty.

Somewhere, a young trumpeter, no doubt eager for promotional prospects, raises his musical instrument to his lips and sounds a fanfare blast which would have woken the dead, had any shades been present. But the trooper (seeing the chill and withering look of disdain on the Queen`s scarlet visage) suddenly lets the golden brass implement fall from his mouth… leaving an echoing cadence of notes to float away through the myriad of Palace corridors and halls.

“We are NOT amused”

Her Majesty sounds her objection like a judge’s verdict, and the foolish young trooper is ushered out of her presence by his colleagues… whilest his head still remains firmly attached to his shoulders.

“Your Majesty” the Major General bows low so that a few of the topmost strands of his greying hair sweeps the (all ready) polished floor.

“Ah, my dear General” the Queen extends a hand for him to brush with his soldierly lips. “So good of you to come… and at such short notice.” Wellyn wonders momentarily what happens to a subject who refuses a summons issued by the ruler of an empire; but the rhetorical thought vanishes from his mind a few seconds later, and is replaced by a generous smile of affection for his beloved Vickie.

"Have you been waiting long?” The Royal Queen enquires, thoughtfully.

Wellyn allows his eyes to wander to the huge steam clock hanging from the wall, and nonchalantly notices the long hour hand has completed a full circle since his arrival at the Palace.

“Not long at all your Grace” the retired Major General replies smoothly, with an equally generous lie.

“You are probably wondering why I called you here at such an uncharitable hour.”

Wellyn waits in patient silence, allowing the polite smile to play further across his lips. Reaching behind him, he manages (smoothly and discretely) to secrete the remainder of his brandy into a large exotic looking pot plant.

“Well, um anyway… the short of it is, the Prussians are up to something again, and I want to know what it is.”

The Queen pauses and looks sourly into the Major General`s face, then continues:
 
“My informants, erm... inform me that Professor Hardlove has been spied working round the clock in his infernal workshops… and that the recipients of this latest invention are the devilish outlawed House of Battenberg, no less.”

Wellyn Shaftesbury coughs in a non committal manner and interjects: “But Your Majesty, after the unfortunate incident with the Kreigshosen Clockwork War Pants, surely  Hardlove wouldn’t dare be so blatantly obvious in his defiance against Your Highness?”

“Well, that`s what I want you to find out General.” The Queen sniffs, peevishly.

“But I`m retired.” The slightest trace of a whine is audible. 

“Then I suggest you un-retire yourself… and do it promptly, there`s a good fellow.”

“But…...”

“No buts… no time for it”

Wellyn simply lets a long sigh escape from behind his moustache.

“Yes, Your Majesty.” He mutters resignedly.

And thus, the matter is sealed… stamped… and finite, by the Queen`s will in the matter.. not to mention the fear of a stamped foot churlishly floored from an over-vexed girl. You don`t want to be in the immediate vicinity of the Sovereign Lady when her heavy heel comes down… 

… and Major General Wellyn Shaftesbury is powerless to do anything other than comply with her whimsical desires.

The following few seconds of silence is a clear indication that his audience with the young Queen, brief though it was, is now over; and bowing respectfully in the manner of  gentlemanly virtue, Wellyn retires from the chamber, and traces his way along the passages towards the outer courtyard where his horseless carriage awaits. The Palace guard escort Wellyn off the premises in a flanking chaperone.

Once outside, under the flickering gas street lamps, but out of easy earshot, the newly re-instated Major General utters a passionate exclamation accompanied by two small words… to noone in particular:

“Oh bugger it.”

Then he steps boldly aboard his vehicle!


***          ***          ***          )o(          ***          ***          ***


The clockwork carriage whirls along the narrow cobbled streets, like an alabaster dynamo. Intricate cogs and wheels buzz and spin, propelling the elegant device along the road in defiance and seeming mockery of nature`s law.

Other even more outlandish modes of transport pass the Major General by, moving in the opposite direction. Ordinarily, Wellyn would be taking great interest in the latest scientifically advanced inventions of fellow dignitaries as they rode the roads of Olde London Towne. But now, Wellyn is lost in thought, and ponders the portent of all that has recently transpired in the Palace.

Professor Von Hardlove`s workshops would not be hard to find… even his most secret laboratory lairs. It was always possible to buy information from lowly minions. The promise of hard cash was a decisive incentive in these seedy matters; and the spy network of Her Royal Highness was second to none in the affairs of military espionage and nefarious foreign dealings.

Besides, men like Von Hardlove made enemies thick and fast…. it was the nature of  greedy, narrow minded and small despots to double cross and swindle their way to the top. Bribing lesser-lings to reveal master plots and plans was a profitable business in this game.

But if Her Highness required him once again to take up his former position as an agent for Foreign Military Affairs… this could only mean one thing; the Queen expected this to lead to war. What did she know? What did she guess at that she wasn`t telling him?

This whole affair was very obviously much deeper than it at first appeared.


Act 2


It is an hour later, and still the rain lashes down upon the cobbled streets, and a fine mist rises from the ground like hot steam from a stray dog`s urine. The hired horseless carriage sits soaking wet in the garage, and everything is quiet and still within the private abode of one newly re-appointed and foremost officer of the Queen`s most impeccable and gallant military gentlemen of the realm.

Wellyn Shaftesbury allows the ruggedly suave composure, which usually sits under his boot-polish dyed raven locks, to melt from his face; replacing it with the rather shrewd, effortless composure of a mentally bifurcating buffoon… or in plain Paxian, a bit of an amiable cad.

Wellyn doesn`t like being put upon, and he feels like he has just been utterly out-foxed by Her Royal Highness. With his well honed survival instincts on full alert, the Major General wonders whether the Queen has perhaps pegged him as a charlatan and a coward… admittedly a dash handsome one, mind you.  Maybe this is her revenge for all the years of (mis-appropriated) favours he had acquired (some might even say swindled) from people, all in the good name of Queen Vick.

A man is apt to make many enemies when he climbs over so many lesser personage`s shoulders to reach the top rung of the ladder, but Wellyn has always been careful to cover his tracks where ever possible. When you are the Queen`s `adorable pet` it is usually best to cover every conceivable angle. After all, the higher one rises, the further one has to fall should anything potentiallythough unlikely ever go wrong.


After a while, worrying about shadows, back-stabbers, and metaphorically armed assassins issuing law suits like dipping ichor blades, Wellyn calms down enough to glean an insight into the truth of the matter. No! This wasn`t someone trying to pull him down by toadying to the Queen behind his back. There wasn`t anyone sitting in the wings waiting to chop him down to size the second he fell to their clamouring guillotine grasp. This was merely Her Highness having one of her capricious moments. She wanted her most gallant gentleman (ho, ho) back in the stirrups, and was no doubt intending to send him gallivanting half way around the world, chasing as many trumped up charges of National Security as she deemed necessary… simply so that once again she could see her romantic favourite wearing those tight leather Hussar trousers with the dashing red stripe stitched alluringly down the side of each leg.

All this sits well in Wellyn`s thoughts. He understands equations like this. Besides, it is inconceivable to his vain and shallow mind, that anyone would find him anything other than the very model of a modern Major General.

Dash and penash attach themselves to Wellyn like a well conceived second skin. A man in vogue, and utterly with the times; Shaftesbury is adored by women, emulated by men, and chastised by his Nanny… but that`s another story, best served cold in another slice of this embroiled pie of life.

Suffice to say. Wellyn Shaftesbury is most certainly a Man for All Seasons.

As Wellyn Shaftesbury sits within his luxury apartment flat, knocking back the fine claret and smoking a long hand rolled cigar, there is a furtive knock at the window.

A pair of furtive eyes and an unshaven male head is peering through the glass pane with a “is it safe or should I run” look etched plainly across a rough sculptured, Romanesque face.

A gangly… furtive looking individual with a tattered bowler hat (a much prized possession – shamelessly stolen from the wardrobe of Thomas Coke, the 2nd Earl of Leicester in 1850) starts to climb in the window.

Wellyn, un-alarmed and unperturbed in the least, merely slurs: “Why don`t you use the door like everybody else”.

This half rhetorical statement is met by a lyrical chime of words, sounding like a stream bubbling over washed pebbles: “Ah now, Mr Shaftesbury, sir, you know how much I hate using doors when der`s a perfectly good window open and yielding, so to speak.

“Come in Seamus”.

“Err…. I`m all ready am, sir”. The scruffy fellow drops furtively onto Wellyn`s apartment floor.

“Seamus by name, Shameless by nature, hey, mi old Irish Wolf Hound you”. Wellyn`s slurring has now turned into a half abrasive drunken tone.


“Ah, well, see… if yer gonna be like dat Mr Shaftesbury, sir, I`m tinking as maybe I`d better come back in the morning, when yer not quite so much in yer cups, so to speak”.

Seamus begins to climb back out the window.

Wellyn waves a hand in a placatory manner towards the roguish Munster man. “For God’s sake Shameless, shut up and sit down … pour yourself a drink if you want one man, and then tell me what you`ve got for me, for heaven`s sake… and stop dripping water all over the carpet?”

Seamus O` Toole: furtive as a ferret… master thief extraordinaire, full time gambler (prone to losing) part time vagrant, part time spy, dandy with the ladies (when he bothers to take a bath), and former road gang convict. Found and rescued by Shaftesbury, then set to work as his personal eyes and ears in various nefarious deeds and lesser crimes. Formerly a Cork/Kerry borderman from a tiny backwater town of Bally Vourney. Middle child in a sibling hatch of 14 children, Seamus ran away from his home and his country…. left his honour on the mantelpiece alongside an insulting note to his heavy handed father, had fled the pigs, the potato blight, the famine, the Anglo Irish Landlords… and had crossed the seas into `Blighty` with nothing more than the shirt upon his back and the quick wits he carried with him in his flexible brackish brain.

When describing Seamus, a single word will usually suffice… furtive. If the word furtive doesn`t crop up in any sentence containing this rough, roguish miscreant; indeed, you must be talking about some other person all together.

Climbing back into the room, Seamus furtively pours himself a large measure of whisky from an opened bottle of Bourbon sitting behind the rest of the alcoholic concoctions, and drinks deeply from the highball glass. The Irishman’s hand shakes slightly with an uncontrollable life of its own, and his eyes dart furtively about the room, seeking out unknown shadows and hidden dangers at every twist and turn. This is normal for Seamus… a born coward and preserver of life – namely his own. But Wellyn knows the man well enough to sense something is bothering him even more than usual, because he is acting extremely neurotically and even more nervously than usual.

“You`re acting like a lover with a guilty conscience tonight, what`s the matter with you man”? Wallyn enquires, smoulderingly.

Seamus licks his lips, and furtively places his back to the wall, then looks furtively out the window and into the shadows below. When he is satisfied there is noone prowling about, he seems to relax slightly… but not much.

“Well?  Impatiently, Wellyn raps his fingers on the side of his comfy arm chair.

Wellyn knows it must be something to do with the job he had set Seamus to perform just after he had concluded his conversation at the Palace. The Major General had sent an on-side Bow Street Runner to root out O` Toole from his usual watering hole down by the riverside, to hand him a letter containing a set of hurriedly written instructions. This letter included orders to seek the present whereabouts of Hauftmann Lulatsch, and Hauftmann Schraat; known part time accomplices of Professor Lucifer Von Hardlove. Wellyn knew that if these two were anywhere in London at the moment, Seamus` bloodhound nose would seek them out.

Welyn`s logic was, that if these incompetent swines could be located and questioned, the actual whereabouts of Hardlove might soon be forthcoming – with a bit of gentle persuasion. This would save Wellyn a trip to Hertfordshire and the Spectral Aviation Services... or the SAS as they liked to be known. If he could locate Hardlove himself, without the aid of the Ghost Squadrons, his reputation would gain a new glossy feather in his proverbial cap.

“Well, Seamus”? Wellyn is sobering up quickly now his instinctive survival traits are kicking into full fighting mode.

Seamus licks his lips: “Well, you see sir, tis like dis. I did exactly what you asked, the second I got that there letter you had yer runner find me with. So Seamus, my lad, I  says to mi self.. where are ya likely to find dose two Prussian windbags at dis time in d morning? And then I remembered they had a liking for d tracks.”

“Tracks”? Wellyn interjects.

“Not the gee-gees sir, and not the raptors, oh no. These two birds have a liking fer the dogs, so they do. So twasn`t too much of a shake of the old lamb`s tail to locate the more nocturnal betting den`s in operation at d moment, on the more shadier side of town. Sure enough, I found the pair of them there, boozing and carousing the live long night through.”


Seamus takes another big swig of his drink, then continues.

“And that`s when I noticed the two of them had muscle with them, sir. And not the ordinary commonal garden, thick headed bruiser types, oh no. These were more in line with the `hello sonny, how would you like to take a nice long walk off an exceedingly short pier ` type, if yer follow mi meaning, sir.

Ah but, by then, twas too late. The bouncers had spotted my interest in the Prussian pair… and dat’s when I decided to play follow mi leader through the streets and alleys, until I finally felt sure I`d given them d slip.”

Wellyn sat bolt upright in his seat: “Good God Seamus, you didn`t lead them here did you”? The Major General automatically reaches for a pistol he keeps hidden in a drawer beside the desk.

“By the grace of Gad, no sir. I`m almost positive I gave the fellows de` slip.”

Wellyn gives Seamus one long searching look before sighing and reaching for a few choice belongings, which he stuffs in his (all ready made up) emergency bag, kept ready... discretely... and within easy reach.

“Aaawwww yer not giving up yer nice lovely pad on my account are yer”? Seamus looks generally distressed.

“Hmmmm, rents due anyway.” Wellyn looks wistfully at his recently acquired Webster`s Catalogue collection of drinks, plus portable clockwork cabinet and built in shaker-maker. But when he sees the dint he has made in the contents of several of the (still to pay for) bottles, he decides returning it as `unused` might not be such a bright idea.

“Yer`ll be wanting to use the front door then”. Seamus conceals a smile behind a small cough.

"Hmmmm, is it a long way down that drainpipe”? Wellyn enquires, looking out the window at the alleyway below.


******


Outside: in the rain… heavily cloaked and observing from the deepest darkest shadows, eyes are watching the odd couple (plus a small suitcase) puff and pant their way down a rickety old drainpipe at the side of a large building; “Mrs Miggills Luxury Bath & Boarding House” according to the sign located at the front of the premises. A rather large, Prussian chest swells with even more bloated pride than usual. “Aahh, now vee haf sem”. a smug voiced shadow whispers to his smaller bloated companion.
******          ******        )o(        ******         ******


Act 3

It doesn`t take Wellyn and his furtive Irish companion long to clamber out of the first floor window of “Mrs Miggills Luxury Bath& Boarding House”, scramble puffing and panting down the creaky old drainpipe… then land with a “splosh” in a deep puddle in the alley at the bottom of their semi-precarious descent.


“Oh Bugger it” The Major General declares.

“What`s the matter, sir? Did ye forget something back in the room”?

Wellyn pats his thighs and feels up and down his legs with both hands: “Daaagh! I hope I didn`t get splash marks on these pants; they`d be devilish awkward to clean at this short notice.”

While the upset officer checks himself over to ensure his `Dash` factor is still in place. O` Toole looks furtively up and down the alleyway to make sure their exit from the building has not been noticed by any nocturnal passers by. Content that they have not been detected, the Irish rogue looks round furtively to see whether his friend… who is still muttering to himself… is ready?

“Where to now, boss”?

Seamus has learned by now that the magnificently versatile Major General rarely goes anywhere, or does anything, without an arsenal of ideas and back up plans firmly lodged in his wheel and cog churning head.

Once Wellyn has taken a few steps out of the gloomy alley, walks under a gas lit streetlamp and checks his be-smudged and muddy lower britches; he is reasonably satisfied the marks will wash out.

“Looks okay from here, sir” O Toole remarks, looking across the street towards the riverside walk, and their obvious route.

“Hmmm, yes…… We were lucky   It wont stain, I don`t think”. Wellyn scrutinizes himself one last time.

Finally he allows his mind to wander to their current predicament. Wellyn muses to himself: `So, Hauftmann Lulatsch, and Hauftmann Schraat have some company do they… and pretty classy muscle at that, it would seem by all accounts, judging from Seamus` story.

… and when they cottoned on to the fact that Seamus had pegged their number, they led him a merry chase, right through the streets; hmmmm, very bold, very daring.`

Wellyn allows his eyes to rest on his old Irish bloodhound for a second. The thought occurs to him that had the pursuers caught the Irishman, Seamus might now be wearing a concrete overcoat at the bottom of the Thames.

He keeps this thought out of his face, and lights a cigarette, with hardly a trace of nervousness or shaking hand.

`So what have those two Prussian rogues gotten themselves into this time, I wonder?`

Wellyn sucks on his filterless Woolbrine.

“Come on Seamus, we`d better head for the nearest Constabulary building”. Wellyn quickens his pace and pulls his elegant though sadly insufficient jacket closer around his shoulders.

Wellyn`s mind works overtime: `If Hauftmann Lulatsch and Schraat are working for Hardlove… actually  within the inner city of London itself, and if they have hired muscle protecting their interests (or does the muscle have its own vested interest in this pair of bunko artist… hmmm), the likelihood is that Professor Lucifer Hardlove… or Von Hardlove as he likes to be known of late…. is in league with Prince Vlaad: the only man fiendish enough to concoct such a devilish plan right under the nose of the Queen…and  assuming Her Majesty’s current information concerning Lucifer`s involvement with the outlawed Battenberg family is correct; then when all things are considered and carefully weighted…. the more probable it becomes that Wellyn`s worst fears have good cause to surface.`

Wellyn pulls deeply on his cigarette before allowing his mind to focus and finalize on the conclusion of his thoughts.

`So, our old friend Vlaad the Impersonator is lurking somewhere in London’s deepest and seediest shadows…. Oh bugger it`.

Vlaad: an outlawed bastard son of the Royal Battenberg line. Buys himself a cheap Princedom in some backwater of the Transvestual Mountains. Manages to get himself bitten in the neck by an infectious carnivorous bat, which gives him a blood infection and send`s him completely insane… and in a wave of delusional grandeur, suddenly believe himself destined to become the star of stage and dance.

In a macabre parody of good taste, caught up on a false wave of shallow emotion brought on by the bright neon lights of show business; the mad Prince moves to London, leases a large warehouse on the waterfronts of the East End, and begins to put on terrible, seditious plays and pantomimes from his new Playhouse on the banks of Holly Dock.


When “The Merry Lovers of Princess - sounds a bit like Vick-tor-i-er, “Edward the Turd”, and “Three Orgies, and a Funeral” are aired (to mention  just a few of the satirical parodies from Vlaad`s billing)… the crowds` attendance heralds an unprecedented showbiz success, the likes of which has never before happened in British entertainment history.

Wellyn stifles a smile, suddenly remembering a few lines from the script of a particularly scandalous play:


A Newly Wedded & Bedded Princess Queen on her Wedding Night.

“I say, Walter”

“Yes, my love”

“What we just did…. um… was that what the common people call screwing?”
“Yes, my love”
(Queen pauses, and ponders for a second before continuing).
“Well, they must stop it, at once…. It`s far too good for the likes of them”.

All this had happened a few years ago, and of course, at the time, the young blushing and then `innocent` Princess (ho ho) found herself with no choice but to put a stop to all that nonsense… before every commoner, peer, and noble of the realm saw the morale damaging shows of Prince Vlaad… in which he often used to make personal appearances, and do highly life like impersonations of various important personalities within the Royal Household.

Naturally, when popularity strikes the gifted, or those who are fated, or the downright unlucky; there is usually a more shady element involved.

Well…. there was a more shadowy element to Vlaad by the time Wellyn Shaftesbury had finished framing him… and with enough convincing evidence to bring about an immediate charge of High Treason to both Crown and State.


When The Princesses Own Guard marched to Holly Dock and discovered a full case of Professor Lucifer Hardlove`s Kreigshosen Clockwork War pants complete with Prussian insignia in the cellars under the Play House, Vlaad was discredited, and had been forced to flee the country to escape the executioner’s block.

Yet, somehow, the Prince had discovered Wellyn was behind the set up, and for some reason…. the Transvestual Prince has never quite forgiven Wellyn for his part in the act. People can be so odd!

In fact, one of Wellyn Shaftesbury`s pet unsolved mystery cases has always been: “How the bloody hell did that Mad Posturing Catamite find out that I had a hand in his downfall?”

So, Wellyn`s plan is fairly straight forward.

Head for the nearest Police Station… flash his credentials… don a new disguise… set Seamus to walk the streets as a decoy look alike … and meanwhile, bugger off safely in the opposite direction when noone was looking.

As plans go, this was not one of his better constructions. But time being an issue, Wellyn found he was being forced to ad-lib on his feet. When one is being pursued by a mad man who is equally likely to come at you dressed as a large bat as he is to impersonate a servant of the Royal household; one has to put some considerable distance between oneself and the enemy.

…. Kipling`s Land should be far enough. Wellyn concludes. He can explain his reasoning to the Queen at some later date. But for now his personal safety is, as always, the paramount concern.


****
Several hours later:

The first light of a new day starts to trickle through the grey blanket of night, like a whispered promise of things to come.

Away in the distance on the eastern horizon, the God of Artists paints a few preliminary sketches, in which he uses colours from a pallet of gold; various hues of purple, blues and a deep sombre violet.


Overhead, a few early bird seagulls herald in the dawn with a discordant cadence of calls and cries, and the scent of the Thames sits heavy in the lungs of venturous boatmen, preparing for their early morning graft; stepping lively upon bobbing barge and floating craft, all with caligrophied signs depicting various waterborne trade and sundry commerce.

A pallid morning; bereft of emotion; dour and lank. Heaven`s precipitations having washed away the brighter colours and left a listless slate of stillness and sour seaweed air.

Two odd looking men… one small, one large… smelling of last night’s fish and chips, sit on an old crooked bench and watch Wellyn Shaftsbury obliquely as he leans over a railing on the far riverward side of the harbour.

The small one turns to the other and says: “Dumcoff! I knew vee should haf bought a flask of somethink hot to dvink . Vuy must you always not listen to me Lulatsch?”

“Because, Schraat…vee did not know Shaftesbury vas going to stand outside in se vain all night long and do nothink other that pissh over the valls at the seagullz”.

Lulatsch… the tall one… exclaims in annoyance.

"But he haz been standing there for hourz. Vat iz he doing?”

Schraat whines.

“Besides, Vuy must ve alvays speak in Engleeesh; it`s not even as though ve`re any gooot ut it?”

Lulatsch sighs resignedly, and as though he is talking to a small child, he explains:


“Because, Schraat… ve`d be very poor spiez if vee talked in our native Prussian tongue, idiot”.

This seems to satisfy the curious and disgruntled Schraat for a while, and they sit in silence for a while, watching the figure of Wellyn Shaftsbury as he leans over the metal water guard and looks out over the wide river.

After a while, Schraat sniffs peevishly, and says: “Well, I don`t even think it looks much like him.”

Vell, who do you think it is then…. General Kitchener?”

“He`s not the vight shape, for vone thing.” Schraat continues.

Lulatsch screws up his eyes for a long moment and stares through his cracked monocle at the man they have been ordered to tail. Certainly, their quarry is wearing a military uniform…. that of a cavalry hussar. The boots are polished, the sword pommel glints in its shiny scabbard, the figure is sporting a long greased moustache, which he keeps bending back into shape with his fingers.

Admittedly, the man seems to have a bit of a slovenly stoop to the shoulders, and keeps looking over his shoulder in a furtive sort of way… and his uniform is sort of reminiscent of a pantomime costume.

But no! Impossible. They followed this man out of the Baker Street Constabulary Barracks (just as that old woman with the overly large knockers was leaving by the side gate) and had followed him here… and he hadn`t left their sight… not even once!

After a few more agonizing minutes of silence, Schraat clears his throat and asks:

“You don`t suppose it`s possible ve could huf been following the vong man, do you?”

The sudden look of utter disgust of Lulatsch`s face would have made quite a comical picture… especially if Jack the Stripper had been there to paint it.


****          ****           ****


Act 4

Several hours earlier, in the wee hours of the morning:

Seamus O` Toole walked away from Barker Street, dressed in a rather shabby costume vaguely resembling a military officer’s uniform… no doubt left in the store room of the Constabulary by some recently arrested drunken Hotel Porter, who had probably spent the night in a cell while he dried out from his over-indulgence, and had forgotten to pick his clothes up on the way out (?). He strode away at a brisk pace and made his way by a somewhat meandering course to a dockside somewhere near Poodle’s Gate, where he proceeded to load and smoke his pipe - several times. He threw handfuls of small stones into the river to keep himself from freezing to death in the chill, foggy night air; and whittled away the hours by drinking occasionally from a small, but newly filled hip flask which had accidentally fallen into his pocket as he exited Wellyn`s apartment window. The highlight of his nocturnal adventures was the occasional high rise `piddle` over the side of the dock and into the murky depth of the Thames below. For some reason, Seamus found this amusing.

Meanwhile, Wellyn Shaftesbury… who had dipped into the same store room within the Constabulary building, had produced an old Washer Women`s dress and apron, stuffed wrapped up toilet paper into the bra cups; placed an old mop head over his actual lush and curly locks, then applied liberal quantities of lipstick and make up to his unshaven face* … he walked away in the opposite direction and vanished into the foggy night.

* Why a washer Women`s outfit was sitting in the store room is a complete mystery. As for the lipstick and make up…. well, it`s a well known fact that Bobbies like to look good when they patrol the streets, especially at night.

After signing autographs for several of the police men present at the station, Wellyn had made his way, in due course, down to the docks where he set to work looking for the fledgling Grey Star Line Shipping Office, and still posing as a Washer Woman, he/she had secured a luxurious cabin aboard “The Blue Beyond” for one Major General Wellyn Shaftsbury. The old woman had insisted on taking a look at the quarters aboard the air ship for herself, and furthermore, she was quite affronted at the notion of having to pay a deposit upfront and refused to part with a single farthing.

n a squeaky high pitch voice, she had chastised the salesman at the office with a bombardment of insults:

“Listen Sonny: I`m securing this ticket on behalf of one of the most important and noble gentleman this country has ever had the honour to own in it`s service; if this isn`t enough to satisfy you of my….um…his… credentials, then what may I ask, counts for anything at all in this dreadfully negative day and age?”

Somewhat overwhelmed, at a loss for words, and not knowing quite what else to do, the ticket salesman had issued Wellyn with a first class ticket to Angel Port in the Far Eastern Provinces of Kipling`s Land.

Once stowed safely within the private berth, Wellyn had proceeded to strip out of the borrowed disguise, and adorned himself in his favourite number one dress uniform, which had been secreted neatly in a corner of the trusty old travel bag he had carried with him out of his apartment flat.

Checking himself in the large boudoir mirror, he looked momentarily horrified when he noticed his bedraggled and somewhat dishevelled appearance. 


He washed… took a sharp razor and proceeded to scrape the evening shadow off his chin. Afterwards, he splashed expensive (free – complements of the ship) aftershave all over his face, perused the dinner menu… and almost as an afterthought, sent word for the ship’s Purser to purchase for him a wardrobe of suitable wearing apparel and foot wear from his favourite Safari clothes shop: “Man With D&A”.

Several hours later about the same time it started to dawn on Lulatsch and Schraat that they had been trailing the wrong man; Wellyn felt the first rumblings of the steam engines kicked into life, and he knew the crew of “The Blue Beyond” were stoking the fires… which would heat the boilers… which would turn the propellers… which would soon be propelling the craft gracefully through the air.

Wellyn emerged from his cabin, fully kitted out in a dashing and enormously expensive top hat, tie and tails (a bill for said items was folded neatly and placed discretely within a breast pocket), and proceeded in a leisurely way towards the dining room to indulge in morning refreshments… and perhaps a small tipple to start the day rolling with a smile.

Word that Sir Wellyn Shaftsbury was aboard the vessel had all ready reached the ears of many of the social elite, and a number of these passengers were fortunate enough to be honoured by his presence in the Refreshments Lounge; where he recounted several of his past adventures and personal anecdotes to an overjoyed audience. In times to come, gentlemen would boast how they had dined with Wellyn Shaftsbury. Woman would account to other swooning females how he had bowed low and kissed the backs of their hands with his soft brandy scented lips. Boys would grow to become men who were driven and enthused to do great deeds; inspired by words of wisdom imparted to them by the cleverest man in all the Pax Limpopo Empire.


****

Several hours later, as the sun is rising in the early morning sky:

Professor Lucifer Von Hardlove sits strapped into the seat of his mechanical steam driven chair… and sulks.

He hates leaving England, especially the East End of London where his greatest and most loyal servants and secret laboratory warehouses are situated; and he particularly loathes returning to his draughty old castle home in the Drakonfels. His ally, General Blakis White, is an obnoxious megalomaniac who seems bent on ruling this tiny State in the Badlands, and is overbearingly ambitious in pursuing his ends. However, despite the tiresome prospect of soon having to deal with Blakis`s maniac obsessions, Lucifer knows the importance of having such a dangerously useful tool on his side.

Besides, living anywhere other than Prussia is a certified bonus, even if that country`s government does fund the money for many of his more nefarious military experiments and inventions.

Never the less, Lucifer detests returning to his home. To him, the people of Drakon  are a dour, colourless, un-intellectual breed; slow witted and slow paced. The place itself always seems to rain which plays merry hells with Lucifer`s rheumatoid arthritis; and the strong winds which blow down from the snow capped mountains seems to drive the piercing chill into every nook and cranny of the land.

However, his work in London is done, and to sojourn needlessly any longer would be to invite trouble and danger to himself. It`s not exactly as though a man with a missing right arm, possessing no lower torso what so ever below the groin, and strapped into an unpredictable moving chair could blend in easily with the crowd. The word “Darlek” comes to mind; but that’s an invention Professor Von Hardlove hasn`t quite perfected, and so the word isn`t in general circulation – yet.

The Professor reaches down with his left arm… detaches a small shovel from the fixture on the side of the chair… swivels in his seat… reaches slightly lower to a small coal hatch in the base of the contraption… digs deep, and comes up with a tiny shovel bucket full of Poliash fuel… which he loads into the small furnace at the back of the chair. When this awkward operation is successfully performed, he flicks his machine chair into gear, and lurches forward on his spring loaded wooden wheels... hissing and spitting steam as he goes. A Drakonfels servant opens the cabin door for his master, and The Professor trundles off along the corridor towards the large bulkhead door at the end of the companion way. Another servant opens the portal which leads to the First Class Upper Passenger Deck, and Professor Hardlove manoeuvres his chair out into the bracing fresh air, ten hundred feet somewhere above the British coastline. “The Blue Beyond” really is a magnificent piece of technology, and the Professor makes a mental note to steal the plans one day, and build a fleet of these devices to add to his growing arsenal of War Machines and Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The mechanical chair coughs and splutters for a few moments, and jerks like a crazy horse as a large piece of coal ignites and dissipates a blast of energy to the furnace engine. But The Professor is used to the chair`s little ways and merely endures the discomfort until the engine settles down again.

The Drakenfels servants, seeing their master is fine and in complete control of the situation, close the outer companionway door and retire into their cabins, leaving the chair bound invalid alone to his customary self imposed solitude and personal space.

The First Class Upper Deck of “The Blue Beyond” is almost entirely deserted: which in this instance is fairly fortunate, because the skittering, temperamental machine skids careering about the windswept deck as it`s driver tries to regain control of the erratic steering brought about by the sudden unexpected burst of steam driven power.

When the chair finally alights at the deck rail, it nearly but not quite bumps into the one single passenger who is at the time also standing on the passenger area of the First Class Upper Deck!

A tall, rakishly good looking man with striking features… dark curly locks of hair…wearing a spotless… dashingly spiffing suit of clothes… turns round slowly and stares straight into the eyes of Professor Lucifer Von Hardlove.

The brandy glass held daintily between the middle and index fingers of this handsome gentleman`s left hand, twitches involuntarily, and the cut crystal glass slips from his grasp and falls shattering to the ground with a light tinkling noise.

The wind muffles the breaking glass like a ship`s horn sounding off in a bank of thick pea soup fog… and no one in the cabins adjoining the deck even hears a sound.

But the Professor is still struggling with the controls of his chair, and recognition doesn`t seem to register in his pre-occupied brain for a precious few seconds. Looking down at the gears and pulleys in front of him, he continues to wrestle with the strange vehicle for a few more moments….. before he suddenly freezes… like a child playing `musical statues` when the gramophone stops playing! Slowly he lifts his balding head and stares unbelievingly into the flustered face of Major General Sir Wellyn Shaftsbury... his single most detested enemy.

Time seems to stand still and the distance between the two of them becomes like a million miles of void expanse filled with thick porridge and clotted cream; which is to say, Lucifer and Wellyn`s limbs seem to be acting as though they are surrounded by an impending layer of immobility, and neither of them seems capable of springing into responsive action… and for another half a second laboured time ticks by in slow motion - bordering on tedium.

Von Hardlove`s long Fu Manchu style moustache twitches with revulsion. His face turns slowly red, and the pressure building inside him could have boiled a small kettle - and warmed the cups too.

Shaking with barely suppressed fury, Lucifer finally manages to spurt out a word:  

“You”

Time snaps! Slow motion catches up with its rear end, and several things suddenly happen all at once.

A door at the far end of the deck companion way bursts open and an excited child, free of his mother`s clutches for a few precious seconds, rushes happily onto the Passenger Viewing Area to get his first impressive glimpse of the world witnessed at an altitude of one thousand feet.

Simultaneously, from the near side portal, one of Von Hardlove`s bulky Drakenfels bruisers opens the door, carrying a silver tray and a glass of Schnapps…. while the helmsman of the “The Blue Beyond” chooses precisely this moment to sound the immense sky horn and lets off some of the ship`s excess steam.


Most of Wellyn`s words are lost among the cacophony of sound, and only: “Oh Bugger It” and “ What the f*@~#” is decipherable; and only by an astute person able to have read his lips could have made anything out…. had one even been present to do so.

The Drakenfels servant spots the danger in an instant, but fails to notice the big heavy looking mooring chain in front of his feet, and even as he reaches inside his pocket for a small Luger pistol he has secreted within, he trips clumsily over the iron ring and crumples ungainly to the deck… cracking his head and knocking himself senseless in the process.

Wellyn is suddenly propelled into motion and reaches hurriedly inside his jacket for a weapon, but Lucifer Von Hardlove responds slightly more quickly and places his hand upon a button situated among the knobs on the chair`s control panel. Presumably this will activate some fiendishly devilish device, designed to prod, squeeze or generally decapitate the Major General…. But just as the mad Professor is about to initiate his plan to snuff the life force from his foe, the small child darts to the deck rail directly between the two combatants. Lucifer freezes, unsure how to proceed for a second. 

Vile and dangerous as he is; even this traitor to the Crown will stop one step short of deliberately hurting a child.

“Mummy, mummy, come look at the view.” The boy calls over to his parent, who is even now entering the passenger area. When she sees the scene unfolding in front of her, she offers up a little scream of anguish.

“Johnny! Johnny come back here at once.” Her voice shakes slightly as her eyes dart hastily from Lucifer in his chair, to Wellyn looking resplendent in his suit.

“But Mother, I can see the whole world from here.”

"Be that as it may, Johnny. Come here NOW!” There is always something in the tone of voice of The Guild of Parents when they are being deadly serious; and Johnny must be sensing this now, because he turns away from his position looking over the side of the ship, and moves over to his Mum.

“Awwwww Mum, why ca…….” but that`s as far as he gets, because the woman bundles her precious son up into her arms with a single fluid motion; driven on by the extreme stamina borne from maternal and feminine instinct which has now kicked in with a vengeance. She scuttles back out of the door through which little Johnny had entered… child in her grasp… and they both vanish from this story as suddenly as they had arrived!

But when the commotion sound and action have played out… The Professor still has his hand poised over the button on his machine… and Wellyn has whipped out an elegant weapon and is standing face to face with the Professor… with a duelling pistol pointed squarely at Lucifer`s head.

“Aaaaah very good Mr. Shaftesbury, I see you, too, are armed.” Professor Von Hardlove has regained his composure now, and seems inclined to banter with his victim… for a while at least. This will buy him a few moments until more henchmen arrive; and perhaps because all notorious villains simply can not help enjoying the sounds of their own voices when they sense the end is very near.


“Wouldn`t like to disappoint you, Lucifer.” Wellyn also buys for time, and tries really hard not to show his legs feel like jelly and his heart is pounding loudly in his chest… he recalls something he learned long ago about looking a dangerous animal right in the eye, and not showing it you are afraid… survival instincts… like an Impervious suit`s armour, surfacing to protect Wellyn from harm.

The Professor chuckles sarcastically. “Oh you always disappoint me, Shaftesbury. Why? Because basically you are facing a superior intellect, and your posturing and posing is, to me, like so much Swiss cheese.”

“Swiss cheese?” Wellyn fails to comprehend.

“Yes! Full of holes, and leaves a bad smell in the air.” The Professor wrinkles his nose with exaggerated bad acting.

“Ahh, I see. As eloquently spoken as ever, Herr Professor.” Wellyn continues, buying for time, thinking ten to the dozen on his feet, and wishing he had six legs and could evacuate the scene as fast as his bowls felt capable of doing.

oh bugger, I`m going to die here, if I don`t think fast.` his mind races with a hundred half imagined terrible deaths. But he keeps his voice level, and pulls the mad invalid`s attention away from pressing that wicked looking skull`s head lever resting underneath his gnarled and crooked fingers. He barely dares to wonder what might happen if that button is pressed.

“How did you find me, anyway. My man must have led your boys in completely the wrong direction... and away from me?”

Despite his predicament, Wellyn finds his curiosity is peeked… and the fact he is holding a pistol pointed at The Professor encourages him considerably…

… `did I actually load the bloody thing this morning?`  

This new thought surfaces… as welcome as a Mother in Law knocking on the bedroom door a few seconds before sitting down to `Tiffin.`

“aaaah Shaftesbury, you under estimate me and my resources.” Lucifer is enjoying his importance.


“When your man left the Police Constabulary dressed in that ridiculous facsimile of yourself, I had Hauftmann Lulatsch and Hauftmann Schraat follow him to make sure he could do no further mischief.

I had my personal servants watch for you at the Constabulary. Hmmmm but no one left the building except a few mascara painted Police Officers and a local Washer Woman. So I figured you must have used underground passages my men did not know about.”

Wellyn smiles inwardly to himself at the thought that his devilishly clever disguise had worked so well.

“So, in truth, we lost you for a while, but I knew if we were patient, we would discover you again sometime soon. My spies are everywhere… everywhere.”

The Professor leans back slightly in his chair: “But who would have believed that our meeting again would be so soon.” He allows a nasty smile to play across his lips.

“It was most unfortunate that… Seamus… I think you call him… discovered my dealings with those two idiots, Lulatsch and Schraat, just as I was about to conclude my dealings in London’s seedy underbelly.”

“What were you doing there anyway?” Wellyn enquires, his curiosity peeked again.

Aaaaah, Can you imagine the chaos, the confusion I can cause if I control all of the gambling hot spots along the East End of London…. imagine the anarchy I might cause if I have the hardcore criminal elite in my pocket.”

The Professor chuckles evilly, almost to himself as he runs over his plots and plans.  If he had two hands, he would no doubt be rubbing them together in glee.

“All ready, I have some of my machines… my weapons, and my armoured suits deposited and hidden away safely in the bowls of my newly purchased property acquisitions.”

Wellyn retorts:“But the Crime Lords wouldn’t stand for an outsider muscling in on their patch… not by the likes of you at any rate” Disgust at such a heinous plot against the people of London is evident in Wellyn’s voice.

“Aaaah, but you’d be amazed what you can get people to do….with the right persuasion, of course. My new Mind Altering Machine... the Mind Boggling, Steam-Driven Brainifyer... can make anyone I hook up to the device do e-x-a-c-t-l-y what I want them to. It`s a bit like turning strawberries to puree, hahaha.”

“You`ll never get away with this, Lucifer!” Wellyn is shocked by the boldness of the wicked plan.

“What better way to create a power base… here in the very streets of London… and right under the very nose of your beloved Princess Angelica… may the devils rot her and take her soul.”

“Vlaad will stop you…. he`s not after world domination, he just wants a stage to air his twisted perversions to the public.” Despite his natural cowardice, Wellyn is quite incensed by the depth of Lucifer`s evil machinations.


“Aaaaah so you have made the connection between myself and Prince Vlaad. Good, very good. You surprise me Mr. Shaftesbury, I thought you dull, but perhaps you do have a spark of insight after all…. Yes, Vlaad. He has many uses… most of them to my advantage. His ability to blend into the deepest night. The mad gleam in his eyes… terrifies most people you know. His mastermind perfection for detail…. and his rich abundance of money… can you imagine how enjoyable it was breaking his mind to my will once I used the Brainifyer on him a few times.


I think you will find that Prince Vlaad is now as malleable to my will as a new born puppy. What a perfect King Pin he will make here in the city – when I am not directly controlling things myself, of course.”

Suddenly it all becomes blindingly clear to Wellyn. Seamus` account of Lulatsch and Schraat, and the hired muscle they seemed to have working for them and protecting them. Of course, the two buffoons had been captured by Von Hardlove, and their minds what there was of them have now become completely mushed by Hardlove`s contraption. They might not have a lot in the way of little grey cells… but their knowledge of the underworld and their list of contacts, naturally, makes them invaluable to Von Hardlove`s devious schemes.

“Good God, man, you`ll topple the world over the precipice and into Hell itself. You must be MAD.Wellyn`s face is full of barely contained horror and revulsion.

“But, Mr. Shaftesbury.” The Professor continues in a low voice. “I am mad.”

The Drakenfels servant who had earlier knocked himself cold, starts to wake up… with a low groan.

About the same time, footsteps and loud voices can be heard ascending from the flight deck below. Obviously the woman who had earlier saved her little Johnny from a fate worse than death, has raised the alarm, and now ship`s marines were coming to deal with the matter personally.

The Professor takes his eyes off Wellyn for the briefest of seconds and looks towards the incumbent servant and at the companion way door. But it is the cue Wellyn is waiting for. Propelling himself athletically onto the deck railing, he vaults onto and over the other side, and lands on…….. nothing! Wellyn has misjudged the jump, and where he thinks he is landing on a ship`s life boat, there is in fact only open sky, and suddenly he is falling… falling. Out and away from the ship and gathering momentum… fast!

A thin wail breaks from his mouth, and then turns into an unmanly scream of sheer and utter terror.

Behind him, a voice cries on the wind: “Another time Shaftesburyyyyyyyyyyyy.”

Clutching at a loose rope dangling from the side of the hull, Wellyn momentarily slows his descent… and nearly manages to stop. But the rope is attached to a pile of life jackets and other cloth wrapped contraptions, and the rope gives, and suddenly Wellyn and a pile of sundry items are falling… down… down… and The Blue Beyond is gone… and Wellyn is racing towards the ground at a frightening rate of knots.

Wellyn desperately clutches and clambers at the life jackets and various parcels which have fallen away with him. He makes a futile attempt at securing purchase on something solid and stable, and scrambled on top of a loose pile of falling debris.

The freezing, biting wind that howls about his face…. tears the wrappings from one tied parcel, and the cloth whips away and is gone; leaving Wellyn staring uncomprehendingly at a strange bundle of white silk and fine wires.
 
A name tag on the side of a strap says: “Safety Umbrella.” Without thinking clearly why, Wellyn pulls a wire where a sign in big letters says; “Pull Here To Open.”

Suddenly, the ground stops shooting towards Wellyn, and he finds himself floating in the sky, and descending towards the ground at a much gentler and all together more leisurely pace. Way above in the sky The Blue Beyond has vanished among the clouds, doubtless continuing on its way to its numerous passenger stops. Below… the ground is approaching fast.

Comprehension dawns on Wellyn like the morning Sun illuminating the ground in its orbicular course; and vaguely he recalls reading in The Strand that the more deluxe of the Royale Air Ships were soon to be equipped with Eden Hardlove`s new improved Sky Floating Life Jackets.

Taking a firm grip on the Umbrella handles, Wellyn prepares to meet the ground. But the jolt is fairly gentle, and the Major General alights with barely a hair out of place. Fine silk and various wires drop to the ground all around him; but the bulk of the Safety Umbrella covers him like a boudoir blanket.

Sudden enthusiasm gives boost to his thoughts, and he knows he must reach the Princess quickly if he is to thwart Lucifer Hardlove`s evil schemes. Wellyn is also keen to reap the rewards of his heroism and to bask in the adulation of his latest exploits.


`Oh, how the people will love me for this. ` Wellyn praises himself.

He looks around to glean some insight as to his whereabouts. He has landed on a grassy knoll to the side of a well maintained Macadam road.

As luck would have it, there is an old rusty sign at the side of the road with two directions engraved upon it.

One direction says: “Cromer 14 Miles”. The other says: “Bolt 5 miles.”

Wellyn smiles broadly to himself as familiarity of his surroundings fills his consciousness. As fortune would have it, this is the happy hunting ground of his youth… many years ago when he was merely a junior officer in the Hunworth Dragoons.

“What a fine turn of events.” He says to himself as he rubs his hands together in glee, and trudges off along the road.

 








12 comments:

  1. Bloody hell, Steve, you've really pulled out all the stops here, haven't you? What a superb start. I'll get back to you later as I'm going to have to read this a few times just to absorb all of your writings. You've set the bar VERY high!

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  2. Thank you so much Bryan. I`m in my element with this sort of thing. I`m as passionate about this type of gaming as you would be if you were writing about Vampirella. So I am able to put in a lot of love and detail.

    This is just the intro, so the main (good) stuff is still to come, over the coming months.

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  3. During the Hundred Day War of 1815, when The Duke of Wellington heard from messengers (while attending a Ballroom Dress Party) that Napoleon had crossed the river with all his army, during the raging torrential rains of June... and made piecemeal of the British and The Prussians by dividing the allied forces in two (putting himself between), wellington was noted to have said: "by God that man (Napoleon) does honour to the name of War."

    Similarly, Stevie, you have set a new standard and raised the bar of wargame blog space, and lifted it to a whole `nother level.

    I`m so impressed, and proud to be a part of this. Bravo my dear friend.

    T xx

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  4. Bring it on Steve ol' son, this is fantastic!! I love Zulu, a film I think every SINGLE person in the world should see. I watched it with my son a couple of years back almost like a rite of passage.... Now son you are a man....hahaha. I've been ssssooooooo tempted to start it up, especially when Warlord released that set but I had just finished a massive Napoleonic British army and the thought of all those redcoats straight after painting that up made me shudder... However maybe time to revisit, I certainly fancy painting up an Impi or two..... Or four...... Love it.

    I will definitely be hanging out in this part of the cupboard!

    **nerdy highfive**

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    1. Sadly I had written loads more to this comment about how much I love your writing style but blogger has buggered it up! Sorry

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    2. wooot!!!! Hey Andy lovely to see you here on "Da Page" well, it just made sense really. Tar` has loads she wants to talk about and needed her own page,.. especially concerning Clix and stuff, and I really wanna talk about Colonial gaming (what you say about right of passage, was like that for me too with my daughters... hell I`ve turned them both into real tomboys when it comes to mucking in with this sort of thing, quite embarrassing really: while their girl friends all watch "when Harry Met Sally" or what ever its called, there's my two wading knee deep in guts watching "Bridge Too far" or what not lol).

      Keep watching the space, I may persuade you to paint those British yet... doesn't all have to be redcoats *wink* you got the light camel core (in grey), standard khaki Brits (they changed to Khaki in 1879... same year as Roarkes Drift. 24th Regiment of Foot was one of the last to be issued with Khaki and not Red)), Naval/Marines (black), 17th Lancers (dashing light blue), Natal Police (Blue/Black), Irregular Cavalry (Buff/Brown), Natal Native Contingent (odd-potch natives in various attire), as WELL as redcoats hehe.

      As for the other page... ECW and Zombies combined, just had to be done mate lol.

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    3. Damn Steve you've made it even harder to resist!?!

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  5. {{Sadly I had written loads more to this comment about how much I love your writing style but blogger has buggered it up! Sorry}}


    Happens to me aaaaaaaallll the time :))

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  6. Blimey, Steve. I initially clicked on this link as I thought I'd best look at it, having looked at the other pages. However, having read the whole page, I shall definitely be returning. This is definitely my cup of tea (or possibly Camp coffee).
    As my character, Major John Harrington would say "Not to worry, we'll be back home in time for tea and medals!"

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  7. yeah he should be adding more to this page soon. I know because he`s got me assembling and painting 4Ground terrain models like crazy this week, in prep for it.

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  8. Major John Harrington, what-ho, old bean? Sounds like a jolly decent fellow. *sniffs and tweaks moustache* Do I know him, who`s his father, what regiment`s he in?

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