Adventure Earth! - The Kilamanjaro Safari

Campaign Journals

Scarab Sages

The Kilamanjaro Safari
January 1933

Dramatis Personae:
Andrew Ezekiel Crawley - Archeological grad student and speaker of many tongues

Jack Thompson - Big Game Hunter

Kurt Morison - Cowhand, animal wrangler, and trick shooter

"Diamond" Nick Bartalucci and his 'valet', "Dumptruck" Spinelli - Made men

These men were contacted by the enigmatic Colonel Yarborough and offered employment in the Adventure Earth Company during The Depression, when the need for employment, any employment, was great. The job appeared to be to simply escort the well-to-do on dream safaris and expeditions, but quickly became something else.

Scarab Sages

The Kilamanjaro Safari
Chapter 1: Preparations in New York

Once again a telegraph was delivered to me, summoning me to employment with Colonel Yarborough and his Adventure Earth Company. As the payment for the last expedition the Colonel sent us on allowed me to settle several outstanding debts, bring myself up to date on my rent, and purchase Christmas presents for my (much surprised) family, and as the University was between semesters (and the need for research assistants correspondingly low), I packed my bags and traveled to New York City by train. I spent the time on the train skimming my copy of the 1932 edition of The Planetary Guide, recently published and sent to me by my boyhood friend, Elijah Snow, detailing his adventures of the previous year. It looks to be quite the read, full of the many odd things he has claimed to have seen.

Upon reaching New York City early Thursday, January 5th, 1933, and being more affluent than in my previous trip, I hired a taxi cab to go from Grand Central Station to the Monolith Hotel, where the Main Office for the Adventure Earth Company was located. Driving through the city I saw that, even in the grip of winter (or perhaps because of it), the lines for the city’s soup kitchens were, sadly, all too well attended. I offered a silent prayer of thanks to Divine Spirit for my relatively recent employment with the Colonel. The last three winters were very difficult and, without my employment with the Adventure Earth Company, this winter would have been as bad, if not worse.

The doorman at The Monolith was significantly more courteous to me than my last trip here. Perhaps it was arriving in the taxi or the better state of my clothing than last time. Odd how such minor differences can have such a profound effect upon peoples actions. The warmth of the lobby was heartening after the icy grip of winter during my taxi ride here. I nodded at the hotel detective (who seemed to remember me and then promptly ignored me) and made my way up the grand staircase to the Promenade, where the various offices rented out by The Monolith were found. There I entered the outer office of the Adventure Earth Company.

After some short pleasantries with Pam, the receptionist, I was escorted to what I called the Greeting Room, where those of us employed by the Company assembled and waited to be introduced to whichever Client we would be working for. I had never been told what the name of the room actually was and was somewhat hesitant to ask - if it became significant, I’m certain the answer would present itself. Be that as it may, I could not call the large room with its overstuffed chairs and couches, its generous fireplace, its well stocked bar, and its multiple bookshelves simply “the meeting room”, which implied to me a rectangular room that was barely large enough to hold a large conference table and chairs.

While hanging my coat next to the door, I observed that several others were already here - in fact the entire team I had worked with on the Mayan Expedition last November. This included: Jack Thompson, the big game hunter whom had once again assumed the duties of bartender while waiting for the meeting to start; Kurt Morison, still dressed in the same scruffy and dusty cowboy clothes he had worn in November (and apparently here long enough to make extensive use of Jack’s bartending skills); and ‘Diamond’ Nick Bartalucci with his “valet”, ‘Dumptruck’ Spinelli. While I have no direct evidence that Misters Bartalucci and Spinelli were actually gangsters, quite frankly I had no doubts they were, either. While I would not normally choose to associate with such individuals, their skills had proven useful in the rescue of Miss Hedges during the Mayan Expedition.

I had just secured a short Scotch from Jack (to knock away the last of Old Man Winter’s grip on me), when Miss Amanda Decker (the Colonel’s personal assistant) entered the room from ‘the other door’. While we had never been explicitly instructed to not go through the door that led deeper into the offices of the Adventure Earth Company, none of us had chosen to investigate it either. Through that door came Miss Decker, either by herself or with whichever Client we would be working for.

Calling the meeting to order, Miss Decker brought us up to date as to events following the Mayan Expedition and conveying how pleased that Client was with our work. She went on to further explain that, as we had worked so well together then, the Colonel had decided that we would continue working together as a team. I suspect there was some subterfuge here. I suspect that we were not “just a group of new employees”, but had been originally chosen by the Colonel to be a team and our first excursion merely confirmed our ability to work together efficiently. I am curious if any of the others suspect this as well, but have not asked any of them yet.

Miss Decker then excused herself, saying that she would return momentarily with our next Client. She went through “the other door” and returned shortly, escorting a gentleman whom she introduced as Mister George Parks. Mister Parks was thin and long-limbed, with straight brown hair and glasses. He appeared to be in his 30’s and wore a nice but ill-fitting suit, showing that he was accustomed to plainer clothing. He appeared very nervous around us, rotating his hat in his hands and crumbling the brim as he did so. He had a hesitant voice and seemed unable to make sustained eye contact with any of us, including Miss Decker.

Mister Parks, once introduced to us, explained in fits and starts that he had saved for years to go on a safari in Africa. He desired to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and see the snow there. He also desired to “see animals of all sorts and maybe shoot some of them. Like, maybe, an elephant or something.” Mister Parks apparently is a fact checker/research assistant for several nationally syndicated magazines (including National Geographic and Outdoor World) and had developed a passion for seeing some of the locations he researched. It was at this point that Kurt, rather drunkenly and slurring his speech significantly, attempted to assure Mister Parks that “ev’ry ‘ting wash fine” and that “weed take goods care uv him”. This display greatly unnerved Mister Parks. Miss Decker made calmed Mister Parks, assuring him that Adventure Earth had made all of the proper arrangements and that everything would meet his needs and then quickly escorted him out of the room.

Once Miss Decker had removed Mister Parks from the room and before she returned, I turned to Kurt and explained in no uncertain terms that he was no longer allowed to drink alcohol prior to an initial meeting with our Client and took his drink away. He grunted what I chose to believe was his assent. I have learned in the past the dangers of drunken animal handlers while on expedition and was not willing to suffer the loss of employment, let alone possible life or limb due to another’s inability to stay sober while on the job. I still have no idea what the man was thinking, allowing himself to become inebriated like that.

When Miss Decker returned, she did not make any overt comment about Kurt’s behavior, but I did notice she verified that he no longer had alcohol to drink. She reviewed Mister Parks’ requests for this expedition and explained that we would be flying out in two days, on November 7th, and that Robert and Douglas (our pilots from our previous expedition) would be flying us to Nairobi, but we would be switching to a local bush pilot there for the rest of the trip. She also confirmed that there was a small Company office in Nairobi we would be able to operate out of and secure final supplies through for the expedition.

And then she finally dropped the second shoe.

After the peculiarities of our initial expedition, I had expected all of our work through the Colonel would involve similar odd requests and subterfuge. Up to this point, the entire expedition with Mister Parks was fairly straight forward and exactly the job originally advertised. I had been slightly confused at this (again, due to our previous experience) and wondering what “the catch” was for this expedition. Miss Decker finally revealed it, adding (almost as an aside) that the Colonel was asking us to also deliver an envelope to a friend of his in Paris, on our way through to Nairobi. We would be staying a day “or so” in Paris, which would give us time to deliver the envelope. The friend in question was Professor Jay Gaspar at the Sorbonne. We were told we were not allowed to open the envelope and were strictly instructed to place the envelope directly into the hands of Professor Gaspar and no others. We were also told to avoid folding, twisting, or mutilating the envelope in any way. We were assured that French Customs would not present a problem and no one else should be interested in the envelope.

I immediately doubted this, but saw no point in arguing the point with our employer. We were given the envelope, which was a plain brown, padded envelope with something heavy and lumpy in it and had the professor’s name, office number, and building written on it, as well as a photograph of the professor so that we would recognize him when we saw him. Miss Decker then concluded our meeting, directing us to tender any requests for equipment to Pam at the front desk.

As we had two days to prepare, I took possession of the brown envelope, jotted off a quick list of equipment I preferred the Company to secure here in the States, and went to make some preparations of my own. I stopped by a five-and-dime to pick up some envelopes, a handful of washers, a pair of wooden dowels cut to shorter lengths, and a pot of glue. I then returned to the train station and rode the train home with my supplies.

At home, I carefully appraised the contents of the original envelope without opening it and assembled the washers and dowel pieces to approximate the same weight and lumps if felt through a similar envelope. I then did my best to copy the writing on the front to four of the envelopes I had purchased. They were not terribly convincing compared to the original, but by themselves would do fine. I slid one each of my washer and wood approximations into one each of the envelopes and sealed them. Viola! I had four duplicate (more or less) envelopes to use as decoys.

Perhaps I was being overly suspicious, possibly even paranoid, but with the excellent post service offered here and in Europe, even during these economically hard times, having a team of experienced field men hand deliver an envelope in Paris was darned peculiar. My decoys might be excessive, but as we used to say in the University Hunting Club, “Sometimes you come back with ducks, sometimes only the decoys.” In this case, I would prefer “only the decoys” on this hunting trip.

I spent the next day arranging things locally, letting the appropriate people know that I would be away on employment and return in late January or early February. I packed mostly for the summer weather in sub-Saharan Africa, but included a small bag for our (hopefully) short stay in Paris. I carefully hid the original envelope inside my luggage, where it would not be easily found and secured the decoys in my briefcase.

Very early the following morning I was once again on a train to New York City and then took a taxi to the airport. Robert and Douglas met us at our usual embarkation point and lead us to a Short S.32 Empire flying boat. Robert explained we would be taking the flying boat to Dublin and from there the Colonel had arranged access to a Douglas Aircraft Company prototype, something called a DC-1. I was not enthused about flying a prototype aircraft into Africa, especially after Douglas told us about the stalling problem of the engines when climbing. I would later change my mind.

Once we were all loaded into the flying boat, we took off and headed east, out across the Atlantic Ocean.

Very cool!!!

That sounds SO neat. I've always wanted to try something liek this, but I can never generate enough interest. Are you using D20 Modern/Past for ths?

Well done so far. . .

Could be Call of Cthulhu (which normally takes place in the 30's) as well.

Irregardless, it is a good read so far. This is one I will likely keep reading.

Is there a previous thread with the last adventure that it mentions? ie. Adventure Earth - Mayan Expedition or something?

Scarab Sages

The Mayan Expedition has not been posted (mostly because I have not written the campaign journal for it) but was run in May. I may write up the Mayan Expedition as a seperate thread if my schedule allows and demand increases.

Chapter 2 of The Kilamanjaro Safari is being written and should post within a week. Our next session is July 23rd and will probably generate a chapter or two and may complete the story arc (depends if the DM does something tricky on us). I will post Chapter 3 no later than August 6 and Chapter 4 (assuming it is justified) by August 20. We should play again some time around then and I'll have more material by that point.

Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.


Scarab Sages

Sorry, this one is a little long. PJW

The Kilamanjaro Safari
Chapter 2: Delivery and Flight

January 7, 13:52, New York
Once we were in the air, I spent some time updating my journal with my activities of the previous three days. This occupied me the first few hours of the flight, and I wrote until it was too cold (due to the altitude and time of year) for me to continue.

After spending a few minutes restoring circulation to my fingers, I asked “Dumptruck” to hide one of my decoys upon his person without mentioning that it was, in fact, a decoy. Mister Spinelli looked over at “Diamond” Nick for permission, who granted it with a nod of his head. Dumptruck then removed his hat, placed the envelope in it, and used one of his massive hands to make the envelope conform to the curve of his hat. I distinctly heard the snapping of some of the wooden dowels as he rather effortlessly performed this action. I attempted not to flinch, but I fear I was not entirely successful. Dumptruck then replaced his hat upon his head and (after tucking up an errant envelope corner) eased back in his seat to sleep. How anyone with such a sloped forehead can properly wear a hat that big is beyond me.

After reading my initial entry, I realize I forget things by the time I write. Therefore, I have decided to update my journal more often and give the date and local time of when I am updating. (Or at least the place we last departed from, as we are currently over the Atlantic, but I am listing New York time.)

January 8, 07:19, Dublin
The rest of the daylight portion of our trip I spent reading the copy of The Planetary Guide Elijah had sent me. I am torn between believing my childhood friend’s words and suspecting he is perpetrating some elaborate hoax. Some of the things he claims to have seen or learned last year are quite fantastic.

When we passed the demarcation between day and night I put away my book and did my best to sleep. I was awakened much later by Jack, who told me the plane was preparing to land. I had apparently slept quite some time. Jack then moved to awaken Mister Parks and the others. Mister Parks was still somewhat drowsy when we landed as he had not been able to get much sleep inside the noisy, cramped cabin of the flying boat. We landed at the airport in Dublin just as the sun was creeping over the horizon and taxied to a hangar owned by the Douglas Aircraft Company, the company name proudly painted across the side of the hangar.

January 8, 08:54, Dublin
Inside the hangar was the prototype plane Robert and Douglas had told us about. It was a twin-engine plane with strong tapered wings and all metal construction, something I had never seen before (and I have done some traveling by air). I was quite impressed with the exterior of the craft, but that paled once we were shown inside and the interior features were explained. This air craft actually sat twelve passengers and had a large lavatory, a small galley, and a soundproofed cabin with heating ducts. Soundproofing and heating ducts! Seating for twelve! This was quite the luxurious craft the Colonel was borrowing. I can only imagine the promises the Colonel must have made to Mister Douglas that we would return his aircraft in tact. Our need for a bush pilot once we arrived in British East Africa was suddenly apparent.

Once our luggage was transferred to the DC-1 and Robert and Douglas had performed their own inspection of the craft, we took off. Robert and Douglas eased the craft into the sky to avoid the reported stalling problem and alarming Mister Parks any further than was necessary. Flying in the soundproofed cabin was a treat. We were actually able to hold a conversation without the need to yell to be heard over the engines. I took some time to hide one of my decoys on the air craft, well enough to require some searching to find, but not so well hidden to be unfindable.

My companions and I are spending the rest of the flight playing cards while Mister Parks dozes in one of the seats.

January 8, 13:45, Paris
Upon arriving in Paris (and passing through Customs), we were greeted by a local employee of the Adventure Earth Company. He explained that we had a suite reserved in our names at a quality hotel and Mister Parks’ itinerary and entertainment for Saturday (the next day) was arranged and would be handled by the local office. In fact, Mister Parks’ rooms were separate from our suite, albeit on the same floor. This would allow us to “take care of anything we needed to take care of” here in Paris without disturbing Mister Parks.

We clambered aboard a caravan of three automobiles and headed to the hotel - Mister Parks in the lead car with the Company’s local representative (whose name I never quite caught), the group of us packed into the second car, and our collective luggage piled high in the third car. We left all of our weapons back on the plane (which will not be searched by Customs I am told) along with anything else we did not want to answer questions about to the French authorities.

January 9, 09:13, Paris
At the hotel we checked in and were led to our suite of rooms on the fourth floor. We each had a separate sleeping room, all of which adjoined a common lounge. Mister Parks was taken to rooms at the other end of the floor and we rarely saw him after that. Once situated in our rooms, we discussed our plans for the next day. As I was in Paris with time, I planned on going to the Musée du Louvre and see their Middle Eastern exhibits. The rest wanted to partake of Paris’ other, less reputable, attractions. As we had been told Professor Gaspar was a bit of a nightowl and was regularly in his office at the Sorbonne in the evenings, we decided to split up and meet at a restaurant for dinner before going to see the professor. I called down to the hotel lobby and asked for a Michelin Guide Rouge to be sent up to our suite. We perused it once it arrived and selected a restaurant for us to meet at. I then retired early, wanting to get additional sleep before our long day. The rest of my companions stayed up, playing poker I believe. I took the time to hide my third decoy between the mattresses of my bed. A little cheeky of me to hide it in such a simple place, but fatigue was defeating me and sleep softly called my name.

This morning I had a small breakfast of fruit and bread at the hotel restaurant. While I speak and read many languages, French is one I have not yet learned. German has stood me good stead in my archeological work and research - the Germans having produced some fine papers on ancient history. Of the group of us, only Jack speaks French and, as he was not traveling with me, I decided to tackle the problem head on. I have secured a phrase book and a map of the city through the hotel, while storing my fourth decoy in the hotel safe. I am now heading out.

January 9, 09:28, Paris
I have an excellent sense of direction and found my way to the Musée du Louvre quickly. My phrase book helped greatly and my solid German covered any cracks as there turned out to be a large percentage of Germans in the city. Apparently Germans like coming to Paris in large groups.

January 9, 17:42, Paris
Being a Saturday, there was quite the crowd at the museum and much bumping and bustling. At one point I caught a pickpocket’s fingers in the act. He turned and ran while I chose not to pursue him through the crowd, instead moving my wallet to my front left trouser pocket and placing my left hand in that same pocket. I found some of the zest of seeing the exhibits was lost due my experiences on the Mayan Expedition and my knowledge about events surrounding the finding of the Crystal Skull. I found myself looking at some of the more spectacular finds being displayed and wondering about their true sources.

After spending the day at the Louvre, I made my way back to the hotel to retrieve the real envelope before going to meet my companions. Surprisingly, Kurt was there, sitting in the hallway lobby, trying to not look suspicious in his cowboy boots and dungarees. In our rooms he related some suspicious goings on that happened to the rest of the team during the day. They apparently suspected they were being followed at one point, but after confronting the individuals in question, had no proof. Kurt was able to fade into the crowd and followed the two individuals for the rest of the afternoon. In the end they came here to the hotel and argued with the hotel clerk in French. Apparently not getting what they wanted, they went up in the elevator, but Kurt lost them while climbing the stairs. He was waiting to see if they showed up on our floor when I did. This is very odd, but not entirely unexpected to my way of thinking. Apparently I might still get some ducks with my decoys. Kurt and I then left for the restaurant.

I was surprised to discover at the restaurant that Dumptruck had met a local woman who apparently had a great deal of affection for him. As the others had no issues with this, I accepted it, not wanting to appear ungracious. Jack ordered for us and we spent close to two hours enjoying our meal and general table conversation never discussing our actual business while the young lady was present.

January 9, 22:13, Paris
As it turns out, I was wise to gather what extra sleep I could.

Once our meal was finished, we sent Evette (at least I think that is the name she gave) back to our hotel. Dumptruck gave her money to get a room there and (through Jack) explained he had some business to handle, but would meet her there in “an hour or so”. After putting her in one taxi, we took another to the university. Being somewhat suspicious, we asked the taxi driver to circle the area some before dropping us off. The cabbie gave us instructions on how to get to the university’s library (no streets actually went past it) and we headed off.

There were a number of people about on the university grounds, but after verifying none were moving to intercept us (it was dark and we were a little tense), we approached and entered the library. After getting directions from a loud and slightly obnoxious librarian returning books to the shelves, we climbed a set of stairs to an upper floor. We then tracked down the correct office room number and knocked. Receiving no reply, but seeing a light under the door, we (rather brazenly) entered Professor Gaspar’s office.

We found a small, cramped office lined with bookshelves full of books and various stone objects and relics. A quick search of the room determined that the professor had been here recently but was now gone. I examined the papers on his desk to see if there was anything indicative of where the professor might be while the others searched the shelves. Kurt discovered (quite by accident) that by moving one of the books, that entire bookshelf turned back on a hinge, exposing a corridor behind the wall.

The corridor behind the wall was much larger than the professor’s office. In fact, it was obvious (from this side) that the professor’s office was built in the mouth of the passage in order to hide the passage itself. We dragged the professor’s desk lamp into the passageway and found it to be an elaborately carved hallway nearly 30 feet wide, running perpendicular to the hallway outside of the professor’s office. At the far end we could see an immense stairway leading up to another floor. At the end of the banisters were two extremely ornate, detailed, and large statues. One was in the shape of a gryphon, the other a winged dragon. The detailing was quite impressive.

We (I, really) left a note for the professor on his desk and explored further. I climbed the steps, using my cigarette lighter as a light source in the gloom. The stairs ended at another passage that was lined with doors and had a perceptible curve to the left. Reporting nothing at the top, the rest followed. We walked down the passage as it slowly circled to the left. I believe we were circling one of the stacks, or possibly a display area for the library. Kurt’s curiosity got the better of him and he opened one of the doors.

Behind the door he found the scare of his life - or so he thought. What he actually found was one of the library storerooms containing one of the mummy displays (a lesser functionary from the 18th Dynasty, if I read the hieroglyphics correctly). In the flickering light from the lighter he thought it moved and nearly jumped out of his boots. We closed the door and told him to stop snooping (rather hypocritically, all things considered) and continued down the passage. After another ten minutes of walking, we arrived at a T-shaped intersection. We quickly realized it was the area behind Professor Gaspar’s office and we had arrived through a side passage we missed earlier. Somehow the passage both circled left AND subtly descended. It was quite odd and we were all looking around to verify we were where we thought we were when two very important things were noticed. The first was the sound of immense wings flapping. The second (and more telling) was that the stone statues of the gryphon and the dragon were gone!

Then we heard the screech.

We looked up and saw the two statues flying above us in the arched hallway, diving at us. Many choice and colorful words were said as we ducked for cover and edged towards the professor’s office. The stone creatures landed near us and the gryphon screeched at us again.

As the rest of us started backing away, trying to get back into the professor’s office, Kurt actually started walking towards the beasts. He was apparently trying to calm the beasts like they were horses or some other animal! This apparently confused the gryphon for a moment, but then it came to its senses and bit Kurt on the arm. That moment was when we all decided discretion was the better part of valor and retreated expeditiously. Once everyone was at least in the office, we pulled the moving bookcase closed and piled out in front of the office. The beasts did not pursue and we breathed sighs of relief..

We quickly left the library and flagged down a taxi. Jack directed the taxi to a hospital where we got Kurt the necessary medical treatment. Jack told the doctor that our friend had been mugged, but the attacker ran off when the rest of us arrived. This satisfied the doctor who then stitched up Kurt’s arm. After arranging payment for the treatment, we are returning to the hotel to decide what to do next.

January 9, 23:35, Paris
Much to our surprise, we discovered a visitor sitting in our common lounge. Our moment of tenseness passed as we quickly recognized Professor Gaspar. He apparently had left his office shortly before we arrived and we had missed each other by the merest minutes. He apologized for entering our suite unannounced, but he was certain he had been followed at least part of the time he traveled to the hotel. He was certain that he had lost his followers prior to arriving here, but was being cautious none the less. Jack and the others related their tale of being followed earlier in the day as well, at which point the Professor became somewhat more nervous and agitated and asked after the envelope. I apologized and asked him for some identification before handing over the envelope. He said it was entirely understandable and produced some identity papers. I looked them over and compared the man to the picture we had been given in New York. Satisfied, I handed him the original envelope. He thanked us and asked that we convey his thanks to the Colonel when we returned to New York. He then took his leave of us, sadly without opening the envelope and satisfying my curiosity. C’est la vie.

January 10, 04:23, Paris
After our tiring day and still being on New York time, we turned in for the night. Jack checked up on Mister Parks, who was apparently still out for the evening. After much too short a time asleep, I was rudely awakened by hammering on the main door to the suite. I put on a robe and left my room to find out what the noise was all about.

I was not the only one awaked, but not the first to the door. Dumptruck was there, peeking through the spy hole, a pistol in his hand. I made a mental note to ask Nick about that later, while Dumptruck turned back from the doors and announced, in his heavily Brooklyn-accented voice, that it was the police. Nick told him to hide the gun and hid his own. Kurt and Jack both hid large knives upon their person (apparently I was the only one to actually leave his weapons back on the plane), and then Dumptruck opened the door.

Three police officers in uniform burst in, saying they had evidence that Professor Gaspar was guilty of espionage and that they were going to search our rooms. We looked at each other and shrugged - we had handed off the package already and there was nothing incriminating in our rooms (on our person being a different matter of course).

The three police officers started searching our rooms and we quickly started to get the idea that they might not be real policemen. They found the decoy I had hid between the mattresses of my bed and made an issue of it, saying it was evidence. We said it was a letter and signified nothing. As they kept searching, I called down to the front desk to call for some real police. The person on the other end said there was a problem with the phones and he could not call out. It was not the voice of the night clerk whom I had talked to earlier in the evening and it dawned on me that they (whoever “they” were) had control of the front desk. At this point one of the “police” in our room called out, claiming to have found narcotics in Nick’s luggage. Nick decided he had had enough, pulled his pistol, and pistol-whipped the two men in his room unconscious with one sharp blow each. Before the third man could react, Dumptruck hit him with a powerful left hook, dropping him in one blow.

We quickly searched the two men for identification and found they had none at all. Strong evidence that they were not the police officers they claimed to be. Nick and Dumptruck stripped them of their coats and shirts, looking for anything. What they found were tattoos - a black circle ringed in flames, reminiscent of a solar eclipse - one tattoo on each man. It struck a memory in my mind and I quickly ran to my room for my copy of The Planetary Guide. Flipping through the pages, I found an illustration of the exact same tattoo. In the accompanying text, Elijah explained he had run across some Germans who appeared to be looking for the same thing he was. He caught one somehow and interrogated the man. The only thing he learned was that the man worked for a group or cult whose name appeared to be Schattenkreis, a German word which translated as “Shadow Circle” but could also possibly mean “Circle of Shadows”. This was very ominous.

I relayed my information to the others as well as my belief that another member of this group was down in the lobby. Dumptruck offered up that he had seen the same tattoo on Evette “in a private place” earlier in the evening. He then actually blushed. The group of us changed to regular clothes and made quick plans. Jack and I went to the lobby to secure the switchboard, Kurt started rapidly packing our bags, and Nick and Dumptruck tied up the three men in our room. Jack and I found the lobby empty, but behind the front desk we discovered the night clerk tied up and unconscious. I went to untie him and sent Jack back up stairs to have Evette taken care of and the bodies stashed in her room with the narcotics. I suspect that my words meant more to than I anticipated, due to the fact that Nick and Dumptruck needed to reload their pistols on the ride to the airport, but I chose not to enquire.

While waiting for the team to come down with our luggage (and Mister Parks), I awakened the night clerk who came to somewhat panicky. I calmed him down and asked him if he knew who did this to him. He shook his head and would not answer, fear evident in his wide eyes. I asked him if he was clear that I and my companions were not responsible. He was very agreeable to this and avowed to keep our names out of anything that happened afterwards. When I asked him about the phones he showed me to the switchboard and assisted me in making a call. He left switchboard cubby so I could have privacy, but I can see him moving around the front desk area.

January 10, 08:33, Off the Mediterranean Coast of France
My call was to the local office of the Adventure Earth Company. I explained the situation in broad strokes and asked that they have Robert and Douglas ready the plane for immediate take off. The office agreed and said they would also send the cars to get us and Mister Parks. I then hung up and walked over to the clerk. He had our registration cards and asked if I might want to take them with us if we were leaving. I thanked him, surreptitiously passing him a small bundle of Francs for his troubles. At this point the rest of my companions and a confused Mister Parks arrived in the elevator, along with our luggage.

To answer his queries, I explained that a window of opportunity to bump our permits forward had arrived and that we must leave now to take advantage of it. This being a somewhat reasonable answer (and still feeling the effects of an evening drinking in Paris), Mister Parks accepted my answer and announced he was ready to go. Shortly, our cars arrived and we made our way to the airport. We were all tense, in case the three men had friends or the real police became involved.

At the air port, Robert and Douglas were just finishing prepping the air craft. We quickly piled into our seats on the plane - Mister Parks almost immediately falling asleep again. Robert and Douglas then flew us out of France. We relaxed a little once we were in the air, but none of us could relax enough to sleep. Several hours later we flew out of France and over the international waters of the Mediterranean, the morning sun reflecting off the water far below. Finally, we are able to relax. Now I will return to the land of sleep.

Scarab Sages

We played last Saturday but did not finish the adventure - The DM _did_ have something up her sleeve! I am writing the journal now and I believe I will have to break it into two chapters (Chapters 3 and 4) as I expected. Our next session is at the end of August and should wrap up the Kilamanjaro Safari.

Type more at you then,

Scarab Sages

Kilamanjaro Safari
Chapter 3: Supplies and a Guide

January 19, 10:51, Nairobi
Nine days have passed since I last updated my journal, most of it on the DC-1. From Paris we flew to Tunis. Uncertain how the local authorities would respond to us (or even if they were looking for us), we stayed on the plane in the heat while it was refueled. From there we flew to Cairo then to Khartoum and finally here to Nairobi in British East Africa. Only two things of significance happened: we had to buy a new deck of cards in Khartoum and we all learned to never play poker when “Diamond” Nick and Dumptruck are playing at the same time. I’m fairly certain Dumptruck is a card counter, which is surprising considering his difficulty in stringing two sentences together. We are all very tired of being inside the air plane.

Robert and Douglas informed us that they have other business they were assigned to do, but would return to Nairobi in 15 days. If we were not back by then, they would wait another three days, but then had to leave to get the DC-1 back to it owners.

We were picked up by the local Adventure Earth Company representative in a Mercedes-Benz 200 "Mannheim" tourenwagen, a rather nice car. He introduced himself as Murray and welcomed us to Nairobi. A relatively short ride brought us to the local “office”. The AEC “office” in Nairobi is actually a roomy hunting lodge near the air port. The common room had tens of animal heads mounted on the walls and was full of comfortable, leather chairs and couches. Mister Parks was shown upstairs to a room to refresh himself while we worked out the details of the rest of the trip.

We explained to Murray our need for an aircraft and a local pilot, and asked if he had anyone available. Murray explained that he had an aircraft available, but the only pilot not already on a job was currently suspended from flying. When asked why the pilot was suspended, Murray hemmed and hawed, but would not directly answer the question. He suggested we ask the pilot for the details. When asked what it would take to get the pilot reinstated if we wanted to use him, Murray suggested that if we returned for the keys to the aircraft, he wouldn’t look to see who was doing the flying.

Being agreed on these details, Murray told us the pilot’s name was Klaus Schmidt and could be found either in the hangar tinkering on something or down at the Boar’s Head Pub. We have set out to track Mister Schmidt in the Mercedes.

January 19, 12:25, Nairobi
We first drove to the hangar, as it was closer. It was completely locked up and no one was inside. Typical luck. We then proceeded into town to the Boar’s Head Pub. Just inside the door was the stuffed head of the largest (and ugliest) boar I had ever seen or heard of. Jack identified it as a warthog. Kurt comment was “it’s a little small, but it’ll do”. I am not entirely certain if Kurt was being serious or not - cowboys are known for a tendency to exaggerate, but working for Colonel Yarborough is started to stretch my definitions about what is possible and what is impossible.

We told the barkeep that we were looking for Klaus Schmidt and asked if he were in the pub. The barkeep told us that Klaus was around back in a tone of voice that also implied, “and I wish he’d stop doing what he’s doing”. Intrigued, we went around to the back of the establishment and found two men arguing in German over some sort of mechanical contraption.

As I speak fluent German, I understood their words, if not actually followed their conversation. They seemed to be having an engineering dispute over the proper pressure for something. Kurt walked closer, apparently recognizing what they were doing, and offered an opinion of some sort. The men turned, suddenly noticing us, and one of them asked in very accented English if Kurt understood the making of whiskey. Kurt said he did and they poured him a sample from the contraption (it turned out to be a still made from salvaged air craft parts, possibly even cleaned before being used). Both men expectantly waited for his opinion. Kurt drank what they offered him, staggered a bit, and then (rather hoarsely) said it was drinkable. Tellingly, he did not ask for more.

I asked which of the two was Klaus Schmidt, and the man who offered Kurt the drink (who seemed familiar somehow) said he was. Klaus was wearing a whit shirt, jodhpurs, boots, a tight leather cap, and had goggles dangling around his neck. I told him we might have some work for him and asked if we could go inside to discuss it. He agreed to hear us and picked up a leather flight jacket from a nearby stack of crates on his way back into the pub.

On the way in, I asked him in German about his suspension. He responded by asking me if I had ever tried to land a “dead-sticked” air plane into a governor’s mansion. I replied by asking if anyone died. He responded, “no people died.” Can’t ask for more than that, really.

At the table I explained (continuing in German) that we worked for the Adventure Earth Company and had a client who wanted to climb Kilimanjaro, see some animals, and possible shoot them. Klaus leaned over and asked in a quiet, earnest voice, “Normal animals?”

This caused me to pause for some time. Prior to the events in Paris I would have told him ‘of course normal animals’, but I learned in Paris that there were actually other kinds of animals. After my lengthy pause, I asked him, “what other kinds of animals were there,” trying to get some information out of him about what he does for the company. Quizzically, Klaus leaned back and said he though we worked for the same company as he did. I told him we had only been with the company for two months. He accepted this and explained he had been working for the company much longer and had learned to ask such things.

As we had been speaking in German and the rest were looking confused, I took time to explain to the rest of the team why Klaus had been suspended, circumspectly omitting his question about the animals. We all agreed that he was acceptable as our pilot, seeing as no people had died. (Turns out it was the governor’s favorite dog that the air plane landed on. I would have thought it was crashing into the house that caused Klaus’ suspension, but no, it was the dog.) Klaus put on his jacket and went to pay the barkeep and that is when I remembered where I knew him from.

When I was an underclassman, several of my classmates at the university followed the air racing circuit and I learned something of it myself. Klaus had been a pilot of some note in the circuit and won some significant races. He was known on the circuit as a pilot who was willing to take chances and big risks and his career ended when he crash-landed a burning air plane and was seriously injured. All the magazines agreed that he could have escaped unhurt if he had bailed immediately, but then the burning wreck of an air craft would have landed in the middle of the spectators and many would have died.

I’m not certain how I feel about this knowledge…

January 19, 16:28, Moshi
We returned to the hunting lodge for lunch and collected Mister Parks while Klaus got the keys for the air plane. After a couple hours in the air (in a plane much inferior to the DC-1), we landed at an airstrip between the villages of Moshi and Arusha, two villages small villages near the mountain. We rented a hangar at the air strip to store the air plane and ground transportation to Moshi. I’m not certain what kind of automobile this was originally, due to the many imprecise repairs and modifications made to it, but it was slightly better than carrying our luggage and walking. Slightly.

Moshi has a British East Africa Company trading post and we stopped there to inquire about a local guide to take us up the mountain. The agent we talked to suggested a member of the Chagga tribe, as they lived on the mountain, whereas the local Maasi people were herders who lived on the plains. He further directed us to the marketplace as a likely place to find a guide and suggested we ask anyone who was selling birds or feathers.

The marketplace was a dusty place with vendors displaying their wares on blankets or in large jars. Jack, Nick, and Dumptruck took Mister Parks on a tour to see all of the local goods while Kurt and I went looking for a guide. I had wanted Jack with me as he seemed to have some experience in this, but he only speaks Berber, not Swahili, and felt he would be better minding our client than Kurt. I found I could not disagree with his reasoning and didn’t want Mister Parks with me - he was turning into a complainer.

After a quick reconnoiter, Kurt and I found a group of women who were selling birds and decided to approach them. They stopped talking to each other when we approached, but one of them stepped forward to ask us if we wanted to buy some birds. Their spokeswoman’s English was broken and heavily accented, but her Swahili was much better and so we negotiated in Swahili. I explained our need for a guide to the mountain top while we dickered over the cost of some feathers. She suggested we go talk to the maniwiyo underneath the tree, indicating a man sitting under the only tree in the marketplace. The word maniwiyo can be translated as either shaman or witch doctor and I was not entirely certain which she meant. I thanked her and paid her for the feathers as well as the information.

Kurt and I then went to talk to the maniwiyo. The blanket in front of him had a small selection of stone and wood trinkets that were covered in a layer of dust. The maniwiyo was equally covered in dust. He wore local clothing supplemented by a Western-style shirt, worn open, and a dusty bowler. Woven into his mass of hair were many talismans and charms and he wore several more talismans made from large animal claws on leather straps around his neck. (Kurt identified them as coming from one of the big cats, but he could not identify which breed.) The maniwiyo’s eyes were closed and his posture suggested he was meditating, not sleeping. I shrugged at Kurt and sat down on the ground in front of the maniwiyo’s blanket of wares and waited. While I am not an anthropologist by training, I have picked up from my previous travels on archeological digs some knowledge of how to treat local wise men. Interrupting them always led to trouble.

After a short time, he opened his eyes and smiled, apparently pleased with our manners. His Swahili was excellent as, surprisingly, was his English. We discussed our needs and why we came to him. He told us that Mister Parks “walks under a shadow” (not a concept I find entirely surprising) but we were sincere and so he would help us. He suggested we go to the Chagga village to hire porters to carry our equipment up the mountain, as the air became thin near the top of the mountain. His name is Chui Mkia (pronounced “schwee ma-kee-ah”), and he was ready to leave immediately. We collected the rest of our group and returned to the British East Africa Company trading post to purchase supplies for our climb.

January 19, 18:54, Chagga village
After securing our supplies and an ox to carry them, our group headed out on foot to the Chagga village. There had been some discussion about taking the automobile, but Chui said we would have to abandon it on the way to reach the Chagga village. While no one in their right mind would steal the wreck, there was no sense in tempting fate, so we storeded it at the trading post.

As we walked up the lowest slopes of the mountain, the grasslands gave way to a small rain forest. This had the benefit of taking the sun off of us, but the disadvantage of raising the humidity considerably, with minimal effect to our comfort (as Mister Parks regularly reminded us). We arrived at the Chagga village at dusk and it was good to have Chui with us - we would not have found the village on our own, it blended with the forest that well.

The Chagga came out to see us en masse and were quite curious about us and our clothing - reaching out to touch us with their fingers. Mister Parks reacted poorly to the Chagga touching him and his clothes, but Jack and I kept him relatively calm.

The reaction of the Chagga to Chui was most curious. While they obviously knew him, there was much whispered conversation about him in both Swahili and the Chagga language (which I do not speak at this time) and for some reason they kept trying to look at the back of Chui’s head. It is the strangest thing. Being distracted by Mister Parks, I only caught some of the whispered words, words like Irimu (which I do not know), shetani (a kind of demon), maniwiyo (either shaman or witch doctor), and koikoi (something like ‘evil spirits’). I was not certain if they were describing Chui or his activities, but I am fairly confident that it was mostly just local superstitions.

We offered cigarettes to several of the Chagga, which they eagerly accepted. When the chief arrived, Jack offered him a quality cigar, which seemed to make them instantly the best of friends, and he seemed to be telling Jack his life story. Shame that he was speaking Chagga and none of us understood a word he said. We explained to the chief our need for porters and he agreed to supply them, but first there would be a feast for the tribe’s guests and then we would negotiate a price. I hope no one has to get married.

It will be about two hours before the feast is ready and we have been given huts to stay in. I am fairly certain I saw the owners of the huts vacating just before we were shown to them. Mister Parks has been going on about how everything smells bad and I finally calmed him down by reminding him that these are the people who will help us get to the top of the mountain and he should concentrate on that. He did and now has a happy-dreamy look on his face as he contemplates the mountain. I am starting to have serious concerns about Mister Parks’ sanity.

January 19, 22:48, Chagga village
The feast was tasty, made up of pork and local vegetables with a semi-alcoholic drink that Kurt was immediately fond of (no surprise there). Once Mister Parks drank some, he became less tense and ate the food contently. The blessings of a quiet drunk. The entertainment was a series of local ghost stories about the mountain and happenings on it. I was not really paying attention to the stories and so do not remember all of the details, but here are the points I do remember:

- The god Ruwa lives on mountain so as to guard his cattle (the stars in the sky apparently).
- Men have often climbed the mountain to get the silver that appears to lie on the ground at the top, but they only come back with water. I would have thought this would have only happened once before they realized it was the snow, but it apparently happened several times.
- Once a man went to the spirit world by falling into a pool in the main crater.
- There was a story of a god who created the world here at the mountain and then went to rest in Olduvai Gorge. I’ll have to pass that on to Doctor Peterson in Anthropology - he may find it interesting. I did not catch if this was the same god as Ruwa or a different god entirely.
- There was the testimonial from a man who had personally fought evil spirits on mountain and is convinced they guarded a great treasure.
- There was a story of King Menelik of Abyssinia who disappeared on the mountain, supposedly on return trip from visiting his father. Interesting if they mean Menelik I, Solomon’s son, but not so interesting if they mean Menelik II.
- An Irimu (a local spirit from the context) once tried to marry a local king’s daughter, but was thwarted by local man who saw the Irimu change form and exposed this by showing everyone a mouth on the back of the Irimu’s head. The Irimu ran away never to be seen again. I think this explains why the Chagga were trying to see the back of Chui’s head. They seemed to be giving him significant stares when he wasn’t looking. At least he seemed not to notice them.
- There was a story of the Wakonyingo, the little people who live at the peak of the mountain, where men fear to tread. This seemed to be a fairly standard story of spirit people, fairly similar to the stories I’ve heard in India and the Yucatan. I didn’t catch all of it as some very tasty yams arrived on my plate at that time.
- There were several stories of pygmies stealing cattle from the Maasi and fruit and other things from the Chagga. Again, very similar to stories told in Europe and elsewhere.

Once the feasting and the story-telling were complete, the chief started negotiations for the porters. After several offers and counter offers, we agreed on paying two bottles of scotch (Johnny Walker Red Label) to the king and several packs of cigarettes for each porter hired. In return, we would have 15 porters who would carry no more than 20 pounds of equipment each. I thought 20 pounds was light, but Jack confirmed that it was reasonable for a mountain expedition. With all parties satisfied, we concluded the negotiations.

In the morning we will start our way up Kilimanjaro. Right now I will put out the candle and sleep, Mister Parks and Kurt being well ahead of me in this respect. And Kurt snores.


Great read, Patrick! I'm totally captivated. Can't wait for more. Are all of the characters described PCs? I gather Mister Parks is an NPC, but I wonder about the rest.

Scarab Sages

Steve Greer wrote:

Great read, Patrick! I'm totally captivated. Can't wait for more. Are all of the characters described PCs? I gather Mister Parks is an NPC, but I wonder about the rest.

Thank you for the feedback, Steve! Chapter 4 is scheduled to be posted by the 20th, but will probably be up sooner than that.

'Dumptruck' Spinelli is an NPC follower of 'Diamond' Nick Bartalucci and he introduces Dumptruck as his "val-et" (pronouncing it as two syllables). By valet he means knee-breaker and gunsel as Dumptruck carries a Thompson SMG in a violin case most of the time. 'Diamond' Nick is a PC, as are Kurt Morison (the cowboy), Jack Thompson (the Big Game Hunter), and Klaus Schmidt (the pilot). Klaus' player missed the first session (Chapters 1 and 2), and joined in this last session (Chapter 3 and the being written Chapter 4). The rest are NPC's. There is stuff happening with the other characters, but not all of it happens when my character, Andrew, is around, so unfortunately it only gets passing mention.

Sometimes this is a good thing. ;)

Very cool. Although they seem to have taken the animated gargoyles in stride. I think I'd have been freaking out and asking "What the hell was that all about?". But maybe the heroes have seen things like that before.

ASEO out

Scarab Sages

ASEO wrote:

Very cool. Although they seem to have taken the animated gargoyles in stride. I think I'd have been freaking out and asking "What the hell was that all about?". But maybe the heroes have seen things like that before.

ASEO out


We did freak/panic a bit, and your right, it probably should have been reflected in the text, even with several hours passing in between. If/when I go back to update it, I will interject more color to that effect (my DM's asked for a copy for her campaign archive). You should see more of it in the next Chapter - it's where the really wierd stuff started happening. Heh!

Scarab Sages

The Kilamanjaro Safari
Chapter 4: Climbing Kilimanjaro

January 20, 11:30, On Kilimanjaro
We woke up with the sun this morning, which, after the feast and negotiations last night, seemed to arrive here unseemingly early. Our gear was parceled out amongst the porters, who spent a great deal of time making sure they were all carrying equal loads while smoking their cigarettes like volcanoes.

Chui assembled us all and performed four blessing rituals. The first blessing ritual was upon the expedition gear, so that it would not be lost or stolen, and was in the form of words (in a language I am unfamiliar with) said over all of the bundles. The second ritual was upon ourselves and Mister Parks, so that none of us would get ill and die, and was in the form of words said to each of us and a leaf of some sort we had to eat (an unexpectedly minty taste). Then Chui laid out a blanket and asked us to set all of our weapons on it so he could bless them.

It had never occurred to me exactly how many weapons I and my companions actually carry on our person. Once we were done placing our weapons on the blanket, it looked like a miniature arms market. I placed the fewest number of weapons on the blanket in the form of my shotgun and automatic pistol. The rest included Jack’s enormous rifle (at least seven feet in length), Dumptruck’s submachine gun, a large number of pistols of various makes and calibers, an equal number of knives (including Kurt’s Bowie knife), and two sets of brass knuckles (from Nick and Dumptruck, naturally). Nick opined that just showing all of our weapons guaranteed that none of our supplies would get stolen by anyone.

I could not tell if Chui was surprised at the display, but he spent several minutes attaching thin, yellowish, leather straps with blue feathers to each weapon and then saying a few words. He told us this would bless the weapons and make them effective against spirits. Nice, but I cannot imagine it being useful.

The final blessing was upon the entire expedition, so that it would be successful. This consisted of Chui walking around everyone several times with a bundle of burning herbs that gave off a pleasant odor.

After the blessings were given, the porters picked up the bundles, we shouldered our gear, and the expedition started hiking up the mountain. Chui lead us through the rain forest for several hours, telling us to go “po-le, po-le”, which translates to “slowly, slowly”. We spotted some hyenas during the morning hike and I pointed them out to Mister Parks. He looked, but seemed unimpressed by them.

We’ve stopped for a while to rest, catch our breath, and eat. I’ve been on expeditions in Central America before and as far as rain forests go, this one isn’t too bad - no swampy muck in the shoes and the humidity is almost bearable. Shame the air feels a little thin. I guess no more cigarettes for me today.

January 20, 16:38, Madara Camp
We hiked another 5 hours or so and finally reached Madara camp - a (roughly) flat clearing in the trees. Along the way we spotted a herd of Thompson’s gazelles and later a leopard, all dutifully pointed out to Mister Parks. Mister Parks was more interested in the gazelles and the leopard than he had been over the hyenas and so we watched them for a few minutes before continuing our hike.

We all (with the exception of the porters, who live up here) started to experience some of the symptoms of altitude sickness (a headache and lack of appetite) and Chui suggested we spend a day at this camp adjusting to the air. Mister Parks was insistent that we push on, but calmer heads prevailed and we finally convinced him that waiting would be better.

We have set up camp and are cooking dinner. Chui suggests we keep a watch during the night and I’ve drawn second watch. I think I will need a month of slumber when we return to the States in order to catch up on my sleep.

January 20, 21:48, Madara Camp
We were all awakened by a tremendous howling noise in the jungle. Neither Jack nor Kurt could identify it. Chui said it was made by mzuka (ma-zoo-kah), or ghosts. He could not tell how close or how many there were. I asked him how he normally deals with mzuka and he told me he doesn’t - he normally avoids them. After several tense minutes the noise died off. It was almost my watch anyway, so I sent everyone else to back to bed.

The porters are very nervous. Can’t say I really blame them. That noise made the hair on my neck stand on end. Staying awake for my watch will not be a problem after being awakened by such a noise.

January 20, 22:34, Madara Camp
The noises have returned, much closer and more of them. I nearly shot Chui when he walked up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. He says the mzuka come seeking us and we will not be able to avoid them.

I’ve woken everyone else up and we’ve prepped our weapons. The porters are huddled nearby, chattering to themselves and are obviously terrified. I am not feeling very calm myself. Now we’ll see if Chui’s blessings on our weapons mean anything.

Good God, I can see them! They’re on us!

January 20, 23:03, Madara Camp
That was the most terrifying eternity of my entire life. It is only now that it’s all over and my hands have stopped shaking that I realize how short that eternity really was.

The mzuka were glowing clumps of mist that floated towards us, spreading fear in front of them. The fear washed over us like a wave of water that hasn’t quite frozen yet, causing several of the porters to break and run. We were made of sterner stuff. With some measure of resoluteness, our group met the sickly glow of the mzukas with gunfire, not knowing what, if any, effect our guns would have. Somehow, Chui’s charms on our weapons allowed us to shoot the mists and defeat three of them in short order. Their misty, formless forms sank to the moist earth and dissipated, their shrieking howls trailing off into nothingness.

The fourth mzuka closed on us and engulfed Dumptruck, gibbering strange things into his ears. (How it was able to gibber at him and still shriek like the dead I don’t know.) Dumptruck’s face went blank and he tried to get Nick to leave with him, back down the mountain. Clearly, he was under the unholy influence of the mzuka.

We paused on shooting the fourth one, not wanting to shoot Dumptruck (suspecting it would only anger him). Kurt unfathomably dropped his rifle, pulled his Bowie knife, and tried to attack the mzuka. Rather than slicing at it he stabbed and stabbed Dumptruck in the chest. The mzuka gibbered more into Dumptruck’s ear and as Dumptruck turned to face Kurt, his face slowly transforming into a mask of anger and hatred, his knuckles tightening on his Thompson submachine gun.

Not being as squeamish (or possibly used to shooting at things grappling his friends) Nick took a careful shot and hit the mzuka with his charmed pistol. The mzuka’s mists sank to the wet ground and the horrible shrieking died off, taking the waves of fear with it. Dumptruck’s face went limp and then he blinked hard several times, regaining control over himself. He looked down at the wound on his chest and complained to Nick that Kurt stabbed him. Chui stepped forward, placed a leaf on the wound, and poured something from a small gourd on it. The leaf dissolved into Dumptruck’s flesh, healing the wound, but leaving a small, leaf-shaped scar.

Chui feels that nothing else will bother us this night and suggests we all go back to sleep. “Luckily” for me I still have several hours of watch before I can sleep. Perhaps my heart will be beating less rapidly by then, but I doubt I will get any more sleep tonight.

January 21, 17:15, Madara Camp
The rest of the night passed quietly. Ironically, once Dumptruck took his turn on watch, I fell directly to sleep, despite my predictions to the contrary. We spent today making short walks and getting used to the thinner air. Mister Parks wandered off on his own (against strict instructions otherwise). When he returned, he told me he found something he wanted to show me.

I was suspicious after everything that had happened so far, but went with him to see his “big find”. He led me to the foot of a cliff, hidden back in the trees, and showed me a small cave entrance. I had him stand back and used my shotgun to move some obscuring bushes so I could see into the cave. The cave roof was low, about five feet in height, and went back into the cliff. Embedded in the ground in the entrance were a number of short spears with animal heads impaled on them. One of the heads looked suspiciously like a small human skull.

I let the bushes slide back into place and advised Mister Parks that we would be returning to camp immediately to inform the others as to what we found. Mister Parks wanted to go into the cave and explore, until I told him about the skulls on the spears, including the human skull. That dampened his desire to explore further (thankfully) and he agreed we should warn everyone else.

Back at camp, Mister Parks and I gathered everyone else and explained what Mister Parks had found. Chui said that it was the home of the pygmies who lived on the mountain. He went on to say he normally avoided them, “just like the mzuka”. As one mind, our entire group decided to stay away from the cave and do our best to not draw any attention to ourselves.

January 22, 12:08, on Kilimanjaro
This morning, all of us but Kurt were acclimated and ready to climb. Chui gave Kurt a swig of something from a gourd and told him that it would help. We needed to get moving, so we left Kurt with some of the porters to either catch up when he felt better or wait for us to return if he did not.

With two of the porters running away last night, each of us had to take on some additional weight in gear. The total weight has dropped as we consume food and water, but we are still challenged by the combination of extra weight and high altitude.

We’ve marched for four hours, making our way up out of the rain forest. As the plants thinned out, we made our way into the arid alpine desert that makes up the middle reaches of Kilimanjaro. Rocks have started to figure prominently in the terrain and we are taking a short break to eat and rest. We are all too happy to stop climbing and set down our packs to rest. Dumptruck is fading fast on us and Chui has given him a swig of whatever is in that gourd.

Jack is looking around with his rifle scope and has spotted Kurt and the porters with him, making their way up the mountain. They are about an hour behind us and seem to be gaining.

We cannot wait any further - it is time to move on.

January 22, 18:27, Kibo Camp
Eventually, we made it to Kibo camp. Several of us are feeling ill (including myself) and we have decided to spend tomorrow acclimating. Chui has told us to rest and not move around much until our bodies are somewhat used to the very thin air. He has also shared whatever concoction he keeps in that gourd. It has a strong taste of spices mixed with some sort of bitter liquid. I have no idea if it actually helps or just distracts your body with its horrible taste. I definitely do not want to taste that vile brew again.

Kibo Camp is in an area between the two peaks of Kilimanjaro. The ground is rocky and the wind is constant. Kurt is close and should catch up with us before the sun sets. I am exhausted but cannot fall asleep. Luckily, Mister Parks is also worn down by the situation and is not likely to wander away. He keeps staring at Uhuru Peak with a faraway look in his eyes. It is rather disturbing.

January 24, 15:57, Uhuru Peak
After resting for a day, doing nothing but trying to stay warm, we were somewhat better off. We struck camp early and, after Chui gave us all an additional swig of that nasty tonic, we headed out on our final push up the mountain.

There is more scree on the top of the mountain and at one point Mister Parks fell and slid a couple hundred feet down the slope of the mountain. I had to climb down and bring him back up. He received only scrapes and bruises from the whole ordeal and insisted the expedition continue on to the peak. We looked at each other and shrugged - he is the client after all.

After a total of five and a half hours of climbing, we reached Gilman’s Point. We could finally see the ice fields of Kilimanjaro from up close. In the distance we could see hundreds of miles of Africa. It was a most remarkable sight and we would have stayed longer, but the biting wind would not allow it. After Mister Parks took a few pictures with his camera and everyone had a quick bite to eat, we headed onward.

We spent the next three hours circling Kibo Crater (and its fumes) and walking through the glaciers. Mister Parks tried to make some snowballs to throw, but the snow was much too dry. A shame really, I think I might have enjoyed throwing one or two snowballs at him and possibly Kurt. I think Nick and Dumptruck would have taken it too seriously, with unfortunate results.

Now we are at the top of Uhuru Peak and have a spectacular view of Africa. From here we can plan the rest of the trip while Mister Parks takes more pictures and communes with whatever muse lead him up here. Despite Mister Parks’ continuous complaining and occasional creepy moments, I am glad to have had this opportunity. I have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and seen the Serengeti Plains from on high. It is awe inspiring. I find myself wishing that I had brought a camera as well. Next time I will.

Now it is time for Jack and I to plan the safari portion of this trip, using Africa itself as our map.

January 24, 23:39, Uhuru Peak
On the way back down from the summit, Mister Parks said he was starting to feel poorly again and wanted to make camp in Kibo Crater for the night. I was not looking forward to climbing back down the mountain in the dark and the crater would provide some protection from the wind, so I was not opposed.

After some discussion among the group, we scouted out a usable campsite just below the rim of the crater and made camp. An unexpected benefit from being in the crater is that it is actually warmer due to the (greatly reduced) volcanic activity.

Chui suggested we keep double watches for the night. Having learned to take his advice, we did so. Jack and I had second watch and it turned out to be a good thing two of us were on watch. At some point in our watch, I feel asleep. I am appalled that I succumbed to sleep when I was on duty. I do not know when it happened, but after a time I was awakened by Jack, who reported that he had spotted Mister Parks sneaking out of camp, heading deeper into the crater. I am thankful to Jack for not commenting upon my failure to stay alert while on watch. I wonder if Chui knew this would happen when he suggested double watches.

We awakened the rest of our group and set out to find our wayward client. Jack followed Mister Parks’ tracks through the crater until we reached a large, faintly steaming, pool of water. Beside the pool we discovered Mister Parks’ shoes and socks, neatly stacked at the water’s edge.

We circled the pool to verify he had not climbed out of the water anywhere else and found that he hadn’t. Feeling that it was my fault Mister Parks had been able to leave, I volunteered to go into the water to find him.

We tested the water and found it to be the same temperature as a very warm bath. I removed my shoes and outer clothes and stepped into the water. The bottom slopped down steeply, but not so steeply I could not walk out a pace. With the others shining their flashlights into the water so I could see, I dove down, sadly expecting to find the drowned body of our client.

What I found instead was that the pool narrowed significantly at the bottom and became a tunnel of sorts. I returned to the surface for air and to report what I had found. I then dove down, determined to find Mister Parks or his body.

The underwater tunnel continued down a short ways and then turned back up, forming a u-shape. I followed it up, feeling my need to breathe grow strong but not so strong that I had to turn back. Seconds later, my head broke the surface of the water in a subterranean chamber, and I took in a deep breath of the moist air to feed my starved lungs.

The walls of the chamber I found myself in were rounded and the chamber had a domed ceiling, possibly formed by a lava bubble. There were four passageways leading out of the room, one at each of the cardinal directions, each with a thin pillar in front of it. Against the walls between the passageways were stone benches, each of these having a one foot square alcove carved into the rock above it. There was a low masonry wall surrounding the pool I surfaced in, maybe a foot high. I could clearly see all of this as sconces on each wall held lit torches.

I quietly climbed out of the water and looked for signs of Mister Parks’ passage. There was a thin layer of slime on the floor and I could see where Mister Parks had walked from the disturbances in the slime. He apparently was the one to light the torches as his wet tracks went over to a neatly stacked pile of torches and then to each sconce. He had also taken several steps out each passage and I could not tell which he had ultimately chosen. I needed Jack’s tracking skills to find Mister Parks.

I slid back into the water and, after several deep breaths, dove back underwater and through the tunnel again. When I reached the surface again, my companions were visibly relieved to see me alive. I then related all I had seen.

All have agreed that we should investigate further as a group, including Chui. My companions are disrobing and wrapping their weapons against the water. The bullets for my pistol should hold up fine, but I will have to leave my shotgun behind. I am updating my journal while I wait and will leave it here as well. I hope to retrieve it once we find out what Mister Parks has led us into.

Next time the locals start telling stories, I’m going to listen!

Scarab Sages

Chapter 4 brings us up-to-date. Unfortunately, due to the GM being in a wedding, we will not play again until August 27th. :(

Therefore, search out Chapter 5 in this forum, appearing on or before September 5th!

Until then, stay tuned!

Scarab Sages


We completed the Kilimanjaro Safari this past Saturday and it was quite the test of our mental endurance. I will have Chapter 5 written and posted by Monday evening, September 5th.

Type more at you then,

Scarab Sages

My apologies, Chapter 5 is almost ready. Work was busy making a project deadline last week and I have a guest in town.

I have finished writing it, but need to give it a polishing once over before posting it (typos can be soooooo embarassing). I will post it later today, as work permits.

Thank you for your time.


Patrick Walsh wrote:

My apologies, Chapter 5 is almost ready. Work was busy making a project deadline last week and I have a guest in town.

I have finished writing it, but need to give it a polishing once over before posting it (typos can be soooooo embarassing). I will post it later today, as work permits.

Thank you for your time.

Dude! You're such a tease. ;)

Need more "Safari." This post has been fresh and interesting, and I think this must be very fun to play.

Also, these posts have inspired me to devise a campaign of my own, set in 1934. Did you use D20 Modern/Past for this, Gurps, or what? Mine will be D20, but I've found the "Past" suppliment to be very unhelpful.

Any ideas for resources? Thanks.

Scarab Sages

The Kilamanjaro Safari
Chapter 5: Through the Mountain

January 28, 14:30, On Chagga Village
It has been four long days since I’ve had the luxury of writing in my journal and much has happened during that time, little of it good. I am a peaceful man by nature, but the stresses of our trek under the mountain took their toll on all of us and I am ashamed to admit to participating in, (nay, instigating) a slaughter. But I get ahead of myself. I shall attempt to remember events as they happened and write them down.

January 25, Early Morning Hours, Kibo Crater (from memory)
Having made our preparations as quickly as we could, we dove down into the pool Mister Parks lead us to, playing Alice to his White Rabbit. We could have moved sooner, but the others insisted on wrapping up their clothes and other gear. I chose speed and simplicity, my underclothes (which would be protection enough underground), my gunbelt (holding my .45 automatic and two extra clips of ammunition), and a pair of veldtschoons (hunting shoes made of untanned hides, the name is in Dutch and comes from the Boers in South Africa). Later, I would repeatedly regret not finding some way to bring my journal safely with me through the water.

Resurfacing in the underground chamber, we found the room as I left it, the torches still burning. As the others climbed out of the water and put their outer clothes back on (and looking particularly bad with the cloth clinging to them due to their wet underclothes), I explored the chamber a little further.

I found nothing of consequence in the chamber, but made some discoveries about the tunnels leading away. The north tunnel had the smell of freshly dug earth. A moist breeze issued from the west tunnel and I could faintly hear the sound of running water. The south tunnel gave off a warm and faintly sulfurous smell. Finally, the east tunnel was the source of a breeze that seemed to refresh the air.

While I was checking the tunnels, Kurt took a closer look at the pillars standing in front of each tunnel. He found that each pillar had a glyph carved on it and called my attention to them. I recognized the glyphs as alchemical symbols of some antiquity from some of my more obscure readings. The alchemical elemental symbols on each pillar seemed to match the indicators coming from the tunnels, such that the north pillar had the glyph for Earth, the west pillar the glyph for Water, the south pillar the glyph for Fire, and the east pillar the glyph for Air.

After a short consultation, we decided to explore the north tunnel first - believing that the smell of freshly dug earth implied someone freshly digging. This turned out to be an erroneous assumption.

After traveling a short ways north, we came to a four-way intersection. With no indicators, I fell back on a small bit of wisdom of use when dealing with ancient Egyptian mazes - always take the left-hand path. So we took the westerly tunnel. It gradually curved south and came to another intersection. I suspected that another left turn would take us back to our starting point. We followed the left-hand tunnel (now heading east) in order to verify my hypothesis and found ourselves back at the pool room. At this point I suspected that there was a corridor that circles the pool room at a uniform distance with spoke tunnels at the cardinal points - we would later confirm this.

We returned to the north tunnel and eventually came to a circular room our torches were just able to illuminate. Without actually entering the room, we inspected it. The floor was of earth, not rock like the rest of the complex, and there was an oddly dressed female statue standing on the opposite wall. In a wide band on the wall at head height and circling the room were three bands of writing. The top band was Egyptian hieroglyphic, the middle band an old version of Hebrew, and the lowest band was in Arabic. As I could read all three, I could see that they shared the same text, which was a seemingly random sampling of earth-related verses from the Old Testament, the Koran, and the Egyptian Book of Gates.

Chui and I carefully entered the room and made our way closer to the unusually dressed statue. On the way, we noticed that the center five feet of the floor seemed to be slightly sunken and we chose to avoid stepping on it.

Once I was able to see the statue better, I realized why the statue’s dress seemed odd - it was a mixture of ancient styles. Portions of the statues clothing were symbolic of a variety of ancient earth goddesses from across the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean regions. This was an excellent example of a syncretized earth goddess, pulling from many ancient religions. She was holding a golden offering plate in front of her. In the bottom of the plate was the same alchemical glyph for Earth as Kurt discovered on the pillar in the pool room. After a short conversation, we decided to explore the other tunnels first, before trying to trigger anything here.

We worked our way around the circuit counter-clockwise, verifying that the spoke tunnels were connected by the outer ring tunnel. We also found rooms similar to the earth goddess’ room at the end of each spoke tunnel. The western room had a waterfall and a short stream across its stone floor that lead to a clear pool. The syncretized goddess statue was drawn from various ancient water goddesses and held a golden bowl instead of a plate. The southern room had deep crevices in the floor that seemed to lead to lava. Instead of a syncretized goddess statue, there was a syncretized statue of a fire god holding a golden bowl. The eastern room had small openings around the walls that admitted a breeze. The syncretized statue here was of a god, holding a golden plate. In all three rooms there was a five foot section in the center that was depressed by an inch and contained a glyph matching the room's element.

After thinking on it, we decided to try and trigger the air room. We sent Nick and Dumptruck to watch the pool room to make certain Mister Parks did not elude us by retreating back through the pool. In the air room, I stepped into the center five foot depression in the floor (but not on the glyph in the exact center) with no effect. Next I approached the statue and blew on the air glyph on the plate. This produced a measurable reaction - the tunnel leading to this room started to collapse. The others fled back down the tunnel except for Chui, who stepped into the room with me. The tunnel collapsed, cutting us off from the rest, but the center depression made a scraping noise. Not at my most cautious, I stepped directly on the air glyph and the floor of the depression dropped out from under me. At the same time, I had the impression of eyes opening in a roiling spot of air, but I fell before I could look closer. I caught edge of the exposed pit and then dropped down ten feet onto some spiral stairs, ending up at the bottom of the stairs and in a lower chamber. Chui followed me down with more dignity, as did what Chui referred to as “angry air”.

The lower chamber I found myself in was larger than the room above and it walls were covered in murals showing scenes of destruction by tornadoes and wind storms. The source of all this destruction was a four winged angel at one end of the mural. The “angry air” started throwing balls of air at me, buffeting me with minimal effect. There were two passages out (one north and one south) and Chui and I, not wanting to wait for the “angry air” to get any ideas from the murals, took the passage heading north.

While the passage continued in a northerly route, I could tell it was slowly curving to the west. When we came to an intersection (continuing ahead or turning left) I guessed that the route to our left was another loop and chose to continue on our original path. It did not take me long to discover that I had guessed incorrectly.

The tunnel Chui and I followed eventually curved to the west and opened into another chamber. The murals on these walls showed destruction by the forces of earth (earthquakes and such), but one portion showed what must have been the Hand of God descending from the heavens and shaping mountains into existence. The artwork was extraordinary and for the thousandth time I wished I had a camera of some sort.

Assuming that the stairs in this room would lead me back up to the chamber of the earth goddess and its uncollapsed tunnel, Chui and I backtracked and took the left-hand path, heading southwest. The “angry air” made its presence known again as I traveled southwest. This time, instead of ineffectually “throwing” air at me, it started removing the breathable air from around me, making it very difficult to breathe. Not being able to hit the thing with my pistol and Chui being unable to help, I pushed on, hoping to out distance my attacker. I discovered a room somehow full of a sandstorm that did not spill out into the tunnel. Not knowing anything about this room or its dangers, I backtracked once again. This seemed to placate the “angry air”, and it stopped stealing my breath.

After catching my breath (almost literally), Chui and I headed back to room with the earth mural. There we met up with Klaus and Kurt, who were entering the room from a passageway across the chamber. Kurt informed me that the way from the earth room above is now collapsed as a result of their experimentation. In hindsight, I took this message amazingly well.

The group of us discussed the situation and headed west to what Kurt and Klaus report as a water mural room. Part way there, we passed a side passage heading southeast. Kurt told me the room that tunnel lead to was full of boiling mud. At the water mural room, we connected up with Jack, who was contemplating a stick of dynamite and a lit match. As a result of the attention focusing power of a stick of dynamite and a lit match, I did not pay much attention to the murals in this room. Jack told us that the tunnel to the water room above is now collapsed. That makes three of the four tunnels above now blocked.

With a growing sense of urgency, the entire group of us headed south and continued on the circuit hallway. At the intermediate intersection we decide to investigate the anticipated side room. We discovered it was full of fog. Suspecting that the tunnel continued on the other side of this room (and taking into account that fog did not seem as destructive as the sandstorm or boiling mud found elsewhere), we decided to chance our way across this room.

Not knowing what to expect nor wanting to get lost, we agreed on following the wall around the interior of the room. For reasons that escape all rational thought, Kurt went left after the rest of us went right. We found a narrow passageway on the other side, Kurt found (and woke) the rooms guardian. I do not know what form the guardian had (the room was full of fog after all), but we could hear it hitting Kurt. Repeatedly. Taking the expedient of initiating a simple game of “Marco Polo”, we guided Kurt to us and out of the room. He was somewhat bruised up, but nothing was broken (with the possible exception of his ability to reason, but I suspect that was not sturdily built even before this expedition started).

The narrow passage on the other side lead deeper and narrowed further. By the time we reached the central chamber, we were moving single-file and sideways. The central chamber was carved into the rock into the shape of a (very large) Star of David. There was a sarcophagus in the center of the room and we could see duplicate statues of the syncretized gods and goddess from the level above. Ominously, the lid to the sarcophagus was removed and leaning against the base.

Inside the sarcophagus was a mummy in an excellent state of preservation. Closer inspection gave evidence that the mummy had been disturbed - its hands moved or manipulated and the body possibly rolled or pushed aside. The inside of the lid was covered in writing in four languages. Three of the languages were known to me and I could read them: Egyptian Hieroglyphic, ancient Hebrew, and archaic Arabic. The fourth language was completely unknown to me.

Now I am, in all modesty, a linguistic expert of some skill and talent. I am familiar enough with the written forms of most ancient languages such that, even though I might not be able to read a particular sample, I can at least identify the source culture of any writings found in the Middle East, the Mediterranean basin, the Indian subcontinent, and much of Central and South America. Further, I am familiar enough with the characters of the prominent Far Eastern cultures to be able to tell them apart and identify them.

And yet, the fourth language on the sarcophagus lid was completely unknown to me.

The other three texts read identically and identified the mummy as Emperor Menelik of Abyssinia, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. They also indicated that Menelik had been buried with three great treasures of his father: the Ring of the Djinn, the Seal of Solomon, and the Key of Solomon. Undoubtedly the fourth text declared the same things, making this lid a Rosetta Stone for this previously unknown ancient language. Repeatedly while examining the lid I reached for my trusty journal to copy down the inscriptions, only to remember in growing frustration that it was safely back at the camp and completely beyond my reach.

I read out the inscriptions to my companions and, after a quick but thorough search, we determined that the treasures listed were missing, undoubtedly taken by the treacherous Mister Parks. We were now most keen to catch up with Mister Parks.

My companions searched the remainder of this chamber while I continued my investigation of the sarcophagus. They found signs that Mister Parks had been here, but could not determine how he had left. Lacking any other inspiration or clues, we decided to return to a hypothesis I had been following in the air room above, before things started going so horribly wrong. We placed some water in the bowl of the water goddess, some dusty grit onto the earth goddess’ plate, stuck the burning end of a torch into the fire gods bowl, and blew onto the plate of the air god.

I am not certain what I was expecting, but we certainly got a result. The central platform that the sarcophagus rested on suddenly moved aside, revealing a wide, deep pit that had a staircase spiraling around and down the walls. This appearing to be the only way out, we followed the stairs down into the mountain.

We spent seceral hours climbing down long flights of narrow stairs and walking the occasional connecting tunnel. We then reached a maze like series of passages, rooms, and traps for which we were completely under-prepared for. We spent hours trying to find our way with nothing to sketch a map with nor anything to drink or eat. Fatigue, hunger, and thirst became our traveling companions as we wandered the maze. And yet, the most maddening aspect of the whole thing was that there was no trace of Mister Parks. No footprints, moved items, or even a body to indicate he had every traveled this way. If it had not been for our curiously ever burning torches, we would have been lost in the utter darkness of the mountain’s interior. I fear we would have gone mad if that eventuality had presented itself.

Hours later, near the end of our ordeal (although we did not know that at the time), we found a cavern with a waterfall in it and were able to finally slake our thirst. Due to the terrible thirst caused by our continual exertions, this water seemed to be the sweetest thing we had ever tasted. We paused to rest and discussed the fact that Nick and Dumptruck were still at the top of the mountain with no clue as to our fate. We hoped that they would not collapse the last tunnel leading to the crypt and be lost in this maze without us.

After drinking our fill, we pressed on for a few hours more before we found a cavern large enough that our torches did not light the furthest reaches. There was a one foot deep and one foot tall groove carved into the wall at chest height, all the way around the cavern and we could see the lip of a large pit that was the center of the room. We investigated the groove first and found it to be full of skulls, stacked one on top of another, some animal, but most recognizably human. Taking into account the size of the room, we estimated the number of skulls to reach into the thousands.

We examined the great pit in the center of the room and estimated its diameter at 40 feet. While we could not see the bottom of the pit, there was a column of rock that rose from the center of it to slightly higher than the floor. On it was an altar that was clearly blood-stained from the countless sacrifices that had clearly happened here over the long count of years. We could only guess how the sacrifices and sacrificer reached the altar as there was no bridge connecting it to the edge of the pit. A removable bridge of some sort seemed likely, but none was in evidence.

On the far side of the cavern from our entrance we found two things: another exit and a skull which stood out from all the others. The skull was a human one, but it had been covered with a layer of gold. Two huge gems had been installed in the eye sockets and sharp obsidian teeth had been affixed to the jaws in place of the original teeth. The area of the groove immediately around this skull was clear of debris and other skulls, obviously making it an item of importance. I had Kurt carefully wrap the skull up in the oiled cloth he had originally used to keep his clothes dry. We would turn it over to the Colonel for later study.

Leaving the sacrifice chamber, we noticed that this portion of the labyrinth of corridors seemed to have the occasional foot traffic. In one place we found a door to a supply room. While there was various bric-a-brac around the room, what immediately claimed our attention were the baskets of stored food. There were tubers of various types and some smoked jerky. Ravenous from our exertions and lack of food, we fell upon the simple fare like wolves at a banquet. Once our immediate hunger was sated, we used some remaining cloth to pack additional food, not knowing how much longer our trip would last or where we would be once we reached the surface again.

Setting out again with our (stolen) provisions, we found the size of the passageways shrinking, becoming narrower and shorter. At one of a seemingly endless series of intersections, we noticed that a breeze and the smell of fresh air was emanating down one particular tunnel. We followed the breeze with quickened pace, even as the tunnel narrowed further. Navigating around a bend in the corridor I finally saw daylight up ahead! I relayed this back to the rest of our band and we moved forward with a single mind.

The tunnel ended with a short drop into a tiny cave, the mouth of which was the source of the sunlight. Buried point-up in the floor were numerous short spears, each with a head impaled upon it, most were animals but a few were the skulls of small humans. This was the inside of the pygmy cave Mister Parks had discovered on our climb up the mountain. At this point I remember being so glad we had not run across any pygmies in the tunnels.

Moving slowly and carefully through the forest of spears, we made our single-file way to the mouth of the cave. I was first out, quickly followed by Kurt. For a brief, brief moment we stood in the glory of the setting sun. Then we realized that the two of us had just exited the cave of the pygmies right in front of a very surprised pygmy hunting party returning with their kill, a Thompson’s gazelle.

Suddenly all the frustration and exhaustion and anger at what seemed to be the curse of Mister Parks boiled up inside me and something snapped. I do not know how, but I suddenly found my gun in my hand and pointed at the lead pygmy warrior. Before I could pull the trigger or put the gun away, Kurt quick drew his pistol and fired, killing one of the pygmy warriors. And then my gun was firing and we both started shooting down the pygmies. One of the pygmies to survive our initial rounds of fire gave out an undulating war cry and leapt at me, only to be blown back out of the air by Jack’s long rifle. Our faint hope that the few remaining members of the hunting party would turn and run was dashed as the trees seemed to shake of their own accord and dozens of pygmies armed with blowguns poured into the clearing.

I do not clearly remember the following combat. I remember firing and firing and firing my pistol until I had to reload to continue firing. I remember clouds of darts that seemed to bounce off our clothing. I remember having an epiphany as to the meaning of “Irimu”. It means lycanthrope, particularly referring to a kind of were-jaguar, the same kind Chui turned into and before diving into the pygmies and shredding them with his claws.

Eventually, the shooting stopped.

We were surrounded by dead pygmies. Chui stood amongst their corpses, breathing heavy from the fighting and staring at us. I could tell from his look that he was wondering if he would be the next to die by our guns. I put away my automatic and said, “Enough.” To Chui I said, “You are our ally and friend, and we do not kill friends.” He nodded his head in acknowledgment and the group of us silently walked away from the slaughter of the pygmies.

January 26-28, Chagga Village (from memory)
We spent the next day hiking down the mountain from the Madara campsite to the Chagga village. We spoke little. Chui explained that the amulets he had given us were what protected us from the pygmy darts. When we arrived at the village, the Chagga were surprised to see us and our condition. Chui told them we had been separated from the others and came down the mountain through secret paths. He also told them that the pygmies would not bother them again as we had fought a great battle with the pygmies and had killed them. This impressed the Chagga and they made us welcome. But I noticed they were wary of us from that point on. I chose to drink their alcoholic beverage and tried not to think about it much.

Late in the morning today, the 28th, the rest of our expedition returned to the Chagga village. Nick and Dumptruck had waited for us in the pool room until the morning and then returned to our camp for more supplies. When we had not returned by Noon, Nick assumed we had found another way out and returned down the mountain with the porters. He was much relieved to find that his hunch was correct and that we were all still alive. I collected my belongings from the porters, dressed properly, and then wrote down everything as I remembered it while Nick and Dumptruck rested and everyone else prepared for the return to Moshi.

January 30, 17:36, Moshi
Two days ago I sent a terse telegraph to the AEC offices in New York. I gave the bare facts that Mister Parks had abandoned us on the mountain and that we were not able to find him again. The reply finally arrived today. It was equally as terse, “Come home.” We will leave for Nairobi in the morning and wait there for Robert and Douglas to arrive and take us home to the United States.

I have spend the last two days thinking on what happened on and under the mountain and what kinds of things Colonel Yarborough’s company really seems to do. Klaus has some interesting stories to tell about the time he has spent working for the Colonel and I am more inclined to believe his stories now. I have also been leafing through the copy of the Planetary Guide Elijah sent me and have come up with a plan of action. The things that I know have happened here and the things I suspect have happened here are too important to disappear. In Nairobi, I will put my plan in action.

February 3, 09:45, Nairobi
Robert and James have returned and are ready to take us back to New York. I have spent the last three days executing my plan. Under the guise of “investigating some nearby ruins” I have secretly made a copy of my journal of this expedition. I sealed it in an envelope addressed to Elijah and then placed that envelope inside another, along with a letter of instructions to a trustworthy friend of mine in Cairo. I then placed this sealed package in the local mail bag to Cairo, bribing a man so I could place it there myself. It left Nairobi early yesterday morning and I received a telegraph from my friend this morning at breakfast. It gave the code phrase indicating that package had been received and the inner envelope containing the copy of my diary was in the mail to Elijah.

I do not know how our relationship with the Colonel will change once he reads our reports on the whole thing, but I feel better knowing that no matter what happens to me, my friend Elijah Snow will know the truth and be free to act upon it.

Scarab Sages

Chris Wissel - WerePlatypus wrote:

Need more "Safari." This post has been fresh and interesting, and I think this must be very fun to play.

Also, these posts have inspired me to devise a campaign of my own, set in 1934. Did you use D20 Modern/Past for this, Gurps, or what? Mine will be D20, but I've found the "Past" suppliment to be very unhelpful.

Any ideas for resources? Thanks.

Ok, the big secret is that we were playing using the Hero System. That being said, I believe this entire adventure could also have been done successfully using a modified version of D20 Modern. You will have to make some tweaks of the classes to fit a Pulp Era style adventure, but other than that it should all work. I have not seen the D20 Past book yet, so I cannot speak to it.

As to resources, GURPS Places of Mystery, GURPS Warehouse 23, the Monster Manual (most monsters have a historical basis), an atlas from the appropriate time period (which can be found in a used bookstore or thrift shop), and extensive use of the internet. I don't know what other resources the DM was using, I suspect the GURPS books were included (our group tends to use them for ideas but not for play as we think the system has a major flaw), but I know she uses an atlas from the 30's as she's shown us where we are in it. It helps her get all the correct place names for the time period.

When I was filling out my notes from the game to create Andrew's Journal, I would use the internet to find things for flavor, like the model of car the party picked up in Nairobi. I found Wikipedia and Google to be great starting points to get general information (or just the correct spelling) and then refined my searches from there.

The game was great fun to play through and all of the things described in it actually happened in play. Any inacuracies are entirely due to gaps in my notes or bad memory on my part.

Historical note: as pointed out by the DM, the DC-1 tended to stall when climbing. This was because the carburators had been installed BACKWARDS. They eventually figured this out and the DC-2's (the production models) ran perfectly. The only thing changed was the date it first flew in order to fit it into our timeline.

Scarab Sages

I've had a chance to look through D20 Past and the section on Pulp Adventures does appear a little skimpy. After discussing it with friends who have read the whole thing, I think the Pulp section needed a paragraph that explicitly stated "And the following things from the previous time periods also apply:" and then named the names. If I had been shopping a store for Pulp-genre assistance, I would have just skimmed the Pulp section of the book, found it lacking, and put it back on the shelf, not knowing that the rest of the stuff was supposed to be used as well.

That said, I do like the Scientist and Gangster classes and the invention naming table is a hoot. I see they've renamed the Leadership feat Minion for this book and I think I like that better - it is more descriptive of what the feat does, not necessarily what it reflects.

I also thought of another two resources you could use, although they are out of print. The Indiana Jones RPG from West End Games would be an ideal resource for a pulp-era game as is Justice, Inc. game/supplement put out by Hero Games in the 80s. It includes a timeline of events for the entire 1930's which allows you to parallel real world events in your game, making the backdrop that much more realistic.

Scarab Sages

Our group played again on September 17th and, instead of an all new adventure, we had an "after-adventure" adventure on our character's trip back to New York. My plan to write it up quickly was delayed by Hurricane Rita and 4 days of no power. I plan to have it posted late Sunday, October 9.

My thanks to everyone who has been reading and especially to those offering comments.


P.S. - Chris Wissel, did you make out OK in Galveston? Where did they evac you to? PJW

Patrick Walsh wrote:

Our group played again on September 17th and, instead of an all new adventure, we had an "after-adventure" adventure on our character's trip back to New York. My plan to write it up quickly was delayed by Hurricane Rita and 4 days of no power. I plan to have it posted late Sunday, October 9.

My thanks to everyone who has been reading and especially to those offering comments.


P.S. - Chris Wissel, did you make out OK in Galveston? PJW

Yes I did, sir. Thanks!

We left on the Wednesday morning, just beating the traffic jam from hell by about two hours (it still took 7.5 hours to get to Austin, though).

We were lucky, really. We came back last Tuesday, with only one window broken in the back. . . no other damage.

I hope you didn't get stuck in any traffic if you had decided to evacuate. It's too bad it took so long for you to get your power back. I didn't realize North Houtson was having problems with that.

Anyway, keep up your posts. I'm really loving this adventure of yours and as a result, I've been inspired to spend more time working things out in D20 Modern than I have in D&D lately. I had no idea it could be so cool.

Take care and stay cold(you are right about the Air Conditioning - the lows over the weekend acutally broke down into the 70s. I hadn't seen 79 degrees in two months).

Scarab Sages

We avoided the traffic jams by the expedient of staying put. We are in Spring and are the evac point for my wife's parents, who live in Clear Lake. They left Clear Lake Wednesday night at 10:00 PM and arrived here at 4:00 AM - 6 hours to make what is normally a 45 minute drive.

Glad to hear that ya'll made it through with minimal problems.

More Adventure Earth! soon.


Scarab Sages

The final chapter of the Kilimanjaro Safari is written, but needs a final proofing before I post it. Sorry for the delay - needed to earn points with my wife. I will post the chapter tomorrow evening (before 9:00 PM, Central).


Scarab Sages

The Kilamanjaro Safari
Chapter 6: Surprise Package in Brazil

February 3, 12:45, Nairobi
After arriving in the DC-1, Robert and Douglas explained over lunch the path we would travel to get back to New York City. Robert and Douglas will fly us in the DC-1 across the middle of Africa, skirting first the northern edges of the jungles and then the southern edges of the Sahara, until we reached Dakar in French West Africa. There we will hitch a ride on an Aéropostale mail run to Natal, Brazil. In Natal, we will pick up a Sikorsky S38 flying boat and Klaus will fly that to Miami, Florida, and then back to New York City.

Our somewhat convoluted return is being driven by two things: the DC-1 prototype needs to be returned to the Douglas Corporation soon and the Colonel needs us to meet and escort a friend of his from Natal to Miami. Professor Aurelio Maurer will be in a hotel where we are to meet him. We were given a picture of the professor and, more tellingly, a pass phrase to identify ourselves.

There are several things about this “side job” that are suspicious. Even Kurt realized that the only reason a pass phrase to identify us would be necessary is if someone else was attempting to intercept the professor. The need for our group to protect and escort Professor Maurer indicates that this someone else will be hostile and likely to use more than harsh words on the professor to get what ever they want.

Additionally, I’ve met Professor Maurer before, in a conference at the university where he spoke on South American cultures. Professor Maurer specializes in research on the Inca and has been working in the Peruvian Andes recently. Meeting him on the opposite coast of South America indicates Professor Maurer is taking a round-about path to get to New York City. This tells me he knows he is being followed.

The group of us discussed the matter further and made some plans as to how we would handle this assignment. Assuming Professor Maurer is actually at the hotel, this should not be too difficult.

February 6, 11:37, Dakar, French West Africa
After three days of zigzagging across Africa, we finally arrived in Dakar. Robert and Douglas introduced us to Jean Mermoz and Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the pilots for Aéropostale. Jean and Antoine set a time record last month for shortest time on the route from Dakar to Natal in the plane we will be flying in. Due to our additional weight, this flight will not be as quick, but neither will it be slow.

Riding in the DC-1 has spoiled me. After the pressurized and heated passenger compartment on that aircraft, sitting in the cargo hold on crates leaves much to be desired. Plus, there isn’t enough light to see our cards properly. At least I will have time to practice my French with the pilots once it gets dark and I can no longer read.

February 6, 9:43, Natal, Brazil
We arrived in Natal earlier this morning. I immediately sent Klaus to find the flying boat that is supposed to be waiting for us in the harbor - Nick and Dumptruck went with him, taking our luggage to stash on the flying boat and to make sure nothing happens to the boat or Klaus. The rest of us caught a taxi and (after some minor communication difficulties) rode to the hotel.

At the front desk, we inquired about Professor Maurer as a guest of the hotel. The desk clerk confirmed that Professor Maurer was still a guest, but a call to his room produced no answer. I left a message at the front desk for Professor Maurer, indirectly referencing our code phrase.

We have now taken up comfortable chairs in the lobby and are drinking coffee while awaiting Professor Maurer’s appearance. If he does not appear by Noon, we will update our note and adjourn to the hotel’s restaurant.

February 6, 11:58, Natal, Brazil
Professor Maurer has not appeared (but Klaus has), so we are moving into the hotel restaurant for lunch. There is another group of people who took up residence in the lobby after our arrival and have preceded us into restaurant. They are probably fellow travelers, but due to the circumstances of this job, we have been keeping them under discrete surveillance. I am going to update our message to Professor Maurer and then we will have lunch.

February 6, 13:26, Natal, Brazil
At the end of an adequate lunch (we suspect the lunch staff is not as high a quality as the dinner staff), one of the bellhops came looking for us. He had a message from Professor Maurer for us. The hastily written note said Professor Maurer knew he was being followed and could not meet us in the lobby, but he failed to propose an alternate location to meet.

Quickly wrapping up our desserts and settling the bill, we returned to the front desk and asked to leave a new message for Professor Maurer, only to learn that Professor Maurer has just checked out and returned to his room to collect his luggage. We asked the desk clerk to call up to the room. After doing so the clerk said Professor Maurer hurriedly replied that he could not talk and quickly hung up the phone. Realizing the professor was in immanent danger and needing the room number, I discreetly slid the desk clerk some money in exchange for the room number. He equally discreetly pocketed the money and slid back a piece of paper with the room number (Room 306) on it. I sent Kurt to find the back exit and guard it in case Professor Maurer tried to leave that way, had Klaus watch the stairs for the same reason, and Jack and I took the elevator up to Professor Maurer’s room.

When we located Professor Maurer’s room, the door was ajar (of course). Not certain who might still be in the room, Jack and I drew our pistols and carefully entered the room. (I learned my lesson in Paris and now regularly carry my automatic pistol when doing work for Colonel Yarborough. It is clearly the prudent thing to do, but would shock my parents so.)

The door led to a two room suite. The first room was a sitting room with chairs, a coffee table, and a desk. The room was empty of people and Professor Maurer’s luggage was nowhere in sight. We cautiously moved into the second room, pistols at the ready. We found it to be the bedroom and empty as well. We looked around, seeing nothing out of place, until we heard a noise from the bathroom.

Guns pointing forward, we silently crept into the bathroom. We did not see anyone, but noticed the closed shower curtain moving slightly. Using pantomime to communicate our intentions with each other, Jack and I moved up to the shower curtain. I ripped the curtain aside and the man hidden behind it spasmodically tried to finish climbing out the window over the tub. Unfortunately for him, his foot slipped on the soap dish and he fell all the way back into the shower, landing on his back, facing Jack and his pistol.

Jack tied the gunsel up while I leaned out the open window to see if I could spot our quarry. No such luck. Back inside, Jack and I questioned the gunsel. We learned that the gunsel was a local, hired for this job by a foreigner with money. Realizing that the gunsel had minimal information, we KO’d him and left him for the police.

Jack and I reholstered our pistols and then headed back down to the lobby, where we met back up with Klaus. Klaus had not seen anyone come down the stairs or the elevator after we went up. I asked the desk clerk to call police, that there was a tied up man with a gun in Professor Maurer’s room who may have been a kidnapper. The clerk agreed to do that and, for a few dollars more, agreed to leave us out of the story.

The three of us then went looking for Kurt, only to discover he was missing. Asking the hotel staff if they had seen which way Kurt had gone, we eventually learned that he had (apparently) asked for a taxi, not taken it, walked around the corner of the hotel, come running back, jumped in the taxi, and taken off in a hurry.

Our best guess is that he saw Professor Maurer or someone taking Professor Maurer and went in pursuit. Having limited options, we are returning to the Aéropostale office by taxi to check for messages there and to wait for Kurt (or possibly even Professor Maurer) to contact us.

February 6, 15:33, Natal, Brazil
Waiting at the Aéropostale office turned out to be a mixed bag. There was a note and a letter there, both for Colonel Yarborough. We bribed the clerk into letting us see the note. It was from Professor Maurer, apologizing for abruptly leaving the hotel. Unfortunately, he still did not leave us a way to contact or find him. After our experiences with Mister Parks, my enthusiasm for dealing with difficult clients of Colonel Yarborough was now reaching an all time low.

We asked the clerk about the letter for the Colonel. He refused to let us see it and he and Klaus started to exchange words. (Personal note: German and French nationals do not get along very well - avoid letting Klaus talk to French nationals unless I want a fight to break out.) Attempting to use the argument as a distraction, I walked around the counter and started using the telephone. This was the last straw for the clerk. He took the letter and locked himself in the back office, staring through the window at us all in a huff.

I called the New York City office of the Adventure Earth Company and discussed the situation with Miss Decker. She advised leaving the letter alone and to avoid staying in Natal too long. We agreed that we would continue to search for Professor Maurer for another 48 hours and then return, with or without him.

Before the Aéropostale clerk decided to call the police, Kurt arrived in a taxi. He explained he had seen Professor Maurer being taken off in a car and had followed them in the taxi. After following them for a while, he lost the car in the docks area, but he was confident it was because they entered a nearby building.

This being our best lead, we filled the taxi and headed off to the docks. Along the way, we stopped at a telegraph office and sent a message to Nick and Dumptruck on the flying boat, apprising them of the situation and warning them to stay alert.

After a relatively short taxi ride, we have ended up in a bad part of the warehouse district. Kurt has identified the only building in our search area that shows any sign of occupancy. He left the cab and has moved closer to investigate while Jack, Klaus, and I wait in the cab. The taxi driver is nervous and wants to leave.

A guard has rounded the corner of the warehouse at the far end of the street and spotted Kurt. Klaus has stepped out of the cab to back Kurt up. I am doing the same.

February 6, 16:43, Natal, Brazil
After Klaus exited the car, I followed. The guard was yelling at Kurt to back away from the building (in German of all things). To distract the guard and muddy the waters, Klaus and I started yelling back at him in German while Kurt pretended to be a drunk (an easy thing for him to do). The guard moved cautiously came down the street towards us, his right hand resting on a holstered pistol at his hip. Klaus and I distracted the guard enough that Kurt was able to throw his bowie knife, surprising the guard and taking him down in one blow.

I moved forward to verify the guard was out cold and kicked the gun from his hand. Then I took cover behind a refuse barrel beside the warehouse while Kurt retrieved his bowie knife. At just this moment, two more guards rounded the same corner, calling for their companion. We all hid, using what little cover was available, to let them get closer.

When they closed, Kurt threw his bowie knife again and buried it in one of the approaching guards’ gun hand, causing him to drop his gun. Klaus shot the other guard, also hitting the guard in his gun hand and causing his weapon to drop as well. Pressing the advantage, Kurt rushed the guards and dropped one of them like he was hog-tying a steer. Klaus dropped the second guard with his .45 automatic. Jack used the taxi’s tire iron to clobber a final guard trying to sneak up on us from behind.

In the pause after the fight, Kurt said he saw some men inside through a scratch in one of the painted-over windows before the first guard appeared, but he was not certain Professor Maurer was in there. My confidence in the cowpoke was not terribly high and our options became limited when the taxi driver sped off in his car. Before we could discuss our next course of action, two men in suits stepped out the warehouse’s side door, brandishing pistols. Jack had the drop on them and pummeled one unconscious with his crow bar while Klaus and I shot the other. At this point I was hoping we had the right place and were not attacking innocent men.

We entered the warehouse, a standard affair with boxes stacked high. The boxes blocked off the view to the back of the warehouse, but immediately to the right was the warehouse office. At one time the office manager could see out of his office and watch the goings on in the warehouse through a single, large window, but the window had been painted over, providing us with perfect cover. We could hear noises from inside and Klaus moved to cover the door into the office while Jack set aside the crow bar to ready his rifle. When we were ready, Klaus tried to throw open the door into the office. It was locked.

Now hearing orders being given inside the office in German, I picked up the crow bar and took out the painted window with baseball swing. Revealed inside by the cascading shards of glass was the professor, tied to a pipe and looking worked over like the loser of a boxing match, and five men in suits armed with Luger pistols. “Attack!” their leader shouted in German while brandishing a handled, metal box.

After a very short and extremely violent gunfight, they were dead and only Kurt was injured on our side (shot to the head, a non-critical wound for him I think). We freed Professor Maurer and provided both he and Kurt with enough medical assistance to stabilize them. Klaus quickly checked the warehouse and found the kidnapper’s car while Jack and I checked the kidnappers. Their pockets were empty, but we pulled off their shirts on a hunch. All of them bore the eclipsed-sun tattoo of the Schatterkries.

While we wanted to get Kurt real medical attention, we did not feel it was safe to do so in Natal. We used the kidnapper’s car to move Professor Maurer and Kurt to the flying boat (floating in a better part of the harbor), taking the locked metal box with us. At the flying boat, we discovered that three men had attacked Nick and Dumptruck, trying to secure the boat. My warning telegram arrived before the ersatz air pirates and Dumptruck let his submachine gun do all of the talking.

Making a quick plan of action, Jack took the three bodies in the kidnapper’s car and dumped them and the car back at the warehouse. He then used the automobile’s gas can to torch the building, eliminating any direct evidence of our involvement, and then returned to the air boat on foot.

While waiting on his return, we used the first-rate medical kit on the air boat to provide additional medical assistance to Kurt and Professor Maurer. Professor Maurer revived admirably, proving his injuries looked worse than they were, and we had a moment to talk. The professor recognized my face from the conference at the university. When I gave my name, his face lit up! He recognized my name from newspaper stories about our little expedition to British Honduras, what I referred to as The Mayan Expedition. In fact it was that which prompted him to contact Colonel Yarborough about the artifact he had found in Peru.

Reaching for the metal box, he dialed in the combination to the lock and opened the lid. Moving aside the packing, he pulled out a medium sized, felt-wrapped item that was apparently heavy. Professor Maurer pulled aside the felt and held forth a human skull made entirely of crystal quartz. I was speechless.

I do not consider The Mayan Expedition to be the finest moment of my archeological career. While we were there when our client found the first crystal skull, we also know how the skull got there. And now Professor Maurer presents a second skull.

Professor Maurer explained how he had been searching for years for a lost Incan city, high in the Andes. On his last expedition, he was met in a clearing by a local village wise man, who lead the expedition up a hidden trail, straight to the ruins of the hidden city the professor had been looking for. There he was presented with this crystal skull and told that “the time had come for it to be found again”. The only question that immediately came to mind was to ask if anyone from the Adventure Earth Company had been on his expedition.

Before he could answer, Jack returned and said we should fly out immediately, before the police thought to stop all air flights out of the city. We could hear the growing wail of sirens in the distance and see thick smoke from the burning warehouse rising across the bay. Klaus powered up the engines and we flew out low over the bay. Due to the noise of the engines, it was impossible to hold any further conversations and we settled in for the flight.

February 8, 10:54, Miami
We flew from Natal to Sao Louis to Macapa in Brazil. Then we flew to Georgetown, Guiana; Falmouth, Antigua; Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; and finally to Miami, Florida, USA. In Miami, Professor Maurer was met by employees of the Adventure Earth Company and went to join the next expedition the Colonel is sending to the Mayan city. I chose not to explain the full story of the finding of the first crystal skull to Professor Maurer - I’m not certain he would believe me, having found a crystal skull of his own, and we were sworn to secrecy on the subject by the Colonel.

We finally checked Kurt into a private hospital for treatment and got Kurt some proper medical attention. The rest of us are spending the day in Miami resting and recuperating. Tomorrow we will fly to New York by way of Wilmington, North Carolina, and make our reports on the Kilimanjaro Safari on the 10th. It is hard to believe it is still winter here after spending the last month in latitudes where summer rules. I must see if I still have my coat in my luggage.

This looks like so much fun. Is the adventure arc officially over at this point?

Chris Wissel - WerePlatypus wrote:
This looks like so much fun. Is the adventure arc officially over at this point?

There is more. :) We play again on October 29.

On a side note, HERO games just put out Pulp Hero, a genre book for their system, but it is filled with so much information that is not system specific it would be a good resourse for anyone running pulp-era games in any system.

My wife is the GM, so I have some idea of the sources she uses. She has been trying to keep the stories/objects/etc. as real world as possible, so mythical objects and places may appear. Among the gaming resources used: Gurps Mythic Places, Gurps Warehouse 23, Indianna Jones Artifacts, Fantastic Treasures I & II, Pulp Hero. She also has an extensive collection of mythology books to inspire her. I get to work out the nuts and bolts of the game mechanics, but she is doing all the creative work. It is the first campaign she has ever run and she is doing a bang-up job!

(playing Jack Thompson)

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