Red Sands

Important Men in Important Suits
29th September 1889

Red Sands is now on hold for a while – likely till Spring 2016

“Is there anything else Appleby?” asked the Governer. “I’ve got a game of croquet in half an hour”

“Just one more item my Lord. The party from Meepsor should be arriving tomorrow. With Lady Glossop, and the envoy from Thoth.”

“Ah yes, Lady Glossop. She had no inkling I take it of her promotion to 00 status?”

“No my Lord.” replied Appleby. “The F.O. only sent the authorisation after she had set out for Mars. I imagine they thought it might be useful for us to have a more flexible agent out here; after all, we don’t have so many.”

“Have a word with Major Marsters: he’ll need to brief her tomorrow. Get her to meet Q, and so on.”

“Yes my Lord”.

“Funny”, continued the Governer, “I read though her file and thought she’s already been involved in some…. prejudicial operation with that business in Syria. I’d assumed she already had 00 status.”

“Ah no My Lord. That was, how can I put it? Improvisational? And as it got the administration out of a hole she only got her wrists slapped mildly. This will make it official.”

“Very good.” continued the Governer. “And this business with Thoth might be a bit of a windfall eh? Anyway, I need to change for my game.”

“Your flannels are laid out next door Sir”

“Top hole Appleby. What would I do without you?”

The Last Hurdle
21st September 1889

The group had been re-clothed, re-supplied and put on a barge hired from a reliable merchant house, along the canal from Meepsor to Syrtis Major. The journey would take approximately eight days.

The lands either side of the canal were fertile, and on most nights they would stop at a small village, and buy fresh produce or souvenirs.

On their third night out they stopped at Alvar, one such tiny community, and were forced to fight off a band of assassins who had apparently taken over the village. Of the original inhabitants, they could find no trace. One of the ringleaders bore a ring with a strange symbol. Rani examined it.

“They are the Ground Cleansers” she announced.

“The whom?”asked Sebastian.

“The Ground Cleansers. The Purifiers of the Soil. They hate Red Devils and wish them removed from Mars.”


14th September 1889

They spotted the cavalry patrol, but this time it was British. A dusty young Lieutnenat raised his goggles and peered curiously at the group.

“Lft. Meers, 2nd Punjab Cavalry” said the officer. “Who, the deuce, are you?” Explanations followed, followed by a surprised apology as he realised there were ladies present. The soldiers also had some awareness of the crash of the Glorious Dawn , though all aboard had been assumed dead.

Accompanied by Lft. Meers and a dozen sowars, all mounted on gashsants, the group were finally escorted, to safety, hot baths, and decent food.

“I hope we have curry” said Sebastian.

31st August 1889

The next morning they rode out, without success, to see if the High Martians had perhaps deposited Kalamir to some ground bound allies in the vicinity. It was late afternoon when they returned, and something was clearly wrong.

Marko and the civilians were sat around rubbing their heads; they all seemed rather ill. All of the martian guards were dead – poisoned it would seem. Except for Wiiso, who was missing along with several gashants and two rumeet breehr.

“Looks like Wiiso is our traitor” said Lady Glossop.

“Not much we can do about it now” said Henry. “Lucky for you Rani that you were with us. The poison seems to have killed all the martians, but only made the earth people ill”

“What about he missing rumeet breehr?” said Sebastian.

“I imagine he’s just scattered them” said Henry. “I doubt we can control more than two anyway, but we should try to find them to get any supplies we need, and to unhitch their wagon from them.”

Wings in the Night
30th August 1889

The sixteenth day of the caravan’s westward journey found it headed directly toward Meepsoor. It was now close to the steppe lands of Shastapsh, and everyone seemed a bit apprehensive. During the day, heat waves could be seen rising off the desert still miles distant.

High in the sky, Lady Glossop glimpsed a flyer of moderate size traveling high and to the south, and when she turned to inform the others she thought she saw the flickering white flash of a mirror to the east. She turned round again and both were gone. She rode across to Sebastian, who was not far from Wiiso.

“Someone is signalling off to the east, I saw a mirror. And there’s something flying in the sky!” she said excitedly. Sebastian frowned and looked dubious.

“Well nothing there now M’ Dear” he said. “Could be the heat – the desert plays odd tricks. Perhaps you should have a cold glass of lemonade and a bit of a lie down.”

Henry too had now ridden over, and saw the signs of Lady Glossop about to lose her temper.

“Well I fancy a ride out of all this dust anyway” he said. “There’s no harm in checking Lady Glossop’s story anyway – we could ride out and join the caravan later this evening.”

They explained this to Wiiso who shrugged, but he too seemed to share Sebastian’s skepticism.

Henry, Sebastian, Bertie, Rani, Esmeralda and Lady Glossop rode out to the east, with Henry, Sebastian and Rani forming a wide line to the front. Rani seemed to have picked up English very quickly, and they could now communicate with her, after a fashion.

It was in the middle of the afternoon when Rani picked up sign s of two gashant riders. Following these back they found a small campfire, and signs that the two had waited here for a while, very recently. They had been gone about seven hours.

“Just after I saw the mirror” said Lady Glossop triumphantly.

“No use following, they have too much of a start” said Henry.

“And heading into Shastspsh” said Rani. They headed back, catching up with the caravan as it made camp.

In addition to the camp guards, Sebastian and the others had got into the habit of keeping their own watch. Just after midnight, Lady Glossop was perched on a rock at the south of the camp, idly watching the two guards stationed outside the tent of the diplomat, Kalamir.

Out of the night a group of figures swooped down out of the night sky, and with a slice of long halberds carried apparently in the feet of the flyers, the two guards were cut down. The corner of her eyes caught similar scenes being enacted about the camp. She raised her musket and fired, having the satisfaction of seeing one of the figures crash to the ground.

Moments later she wished she hadn’t drawn attention to herself. She received a hard buffet to her back, and she crashed forward, the taste of blood in her mouth. She remained still, feigning death: it didn’t seem that hard at the moment.

From the corner of her eye she saw more shapes flying past her position into the camp, and musket fire as one of the other guards raised the alarm. She could here Wiiso bellowing orders inside one the tents for the guards inside to fully arm themselves.

A full melee was now developing as others awakened or rushed out.

Feeling sh was now safe she rolled over and injected one of her last remaining doseds of Dr. Chokers healin serum into her viens. As she did so sho noticed tow of the flyers staggering off into the east, Kalamir being borne between them. She cried a warning and a shot from within the camp dropped one of the kidnappers, but the other managed to remain aloft, and soon he was assisted by another. Kalamir was gone.

The camp was now more or less secure: more guards were dead, s was the Steward, Mr. Heckle from the Glorious Dawn , after putting up a brave fight. Off the original crew, only the Captain, Engineer, 1st Officer and two crew remained.

“What now?” said Henry.

“The mission goes on” said Lady Glossop, who ha searched Kalamir’s tent and retrieved his messages to Syrtis Major. “I’ll take charge of these: if Thoth wants to make overtures to Syrtis Major, then we must follow it through. Clearly, Shastapsh wants to stop us.”

“But who are these?” said Sebastian, looking at one of the dead figures. It was clearly a martian, but smaller and somehow more bestial. Moreover it had large gliding membranes or wings beneath its arms. Rani spat, kicking one of them.

""The beastmen" she said. “The High Martians; They dwell in their kraags, far off to the west. It is new indeed for even Shaspapsh scum to ally with such as these.” With her knife she leaned over and cut the throat of one that seemed to be still breathing.

24th August 1889

The ruumet breehr seeemd skittish. Wiiso seemed worried and warned Lady Glossop to inform her companions to be on the alert for more steppe tigers. She rode over to Henry and passed on the word.

Marko was a terrible rider, and was travelling in one of the howdahs: Lay Glossop and the others were mounted on gashants however, with which they were now getting familiar.

Around mid-morning, Kalamir dismounted from his beast and walked a while to stretch his legs, just prior to the midday break. As the ruumet breehr stood about, a herd of eegaar
broke out from cover near the front of the caravan.

The ruumet breehr paniced, rearing up, and fleeing straight ahead, their wagons in tow. The riders tried desperately to clam the beasts down, but not before one driver had fallen off and was trampled, along with one of the guards. Marko too had been dislodged, but fortunately had managed to roll clear.

The gashant riders scattered and then tried to head off the lumbering beasts, hauling their terrified passengers. Eventually they were brought under control.

Henry frowned, and circle the area: he wasn’t exactly sure, but he might have heard a shot prior to the stampede. Which meant either that they were being shadowed, or they had a traitor among them..

Death in the Night
19th August 1889

Once again they made camp. The caravan comprised four ruumet breehr with wagons, and an escort of ten gashant riders commanded by an officer called Wiiso. All of the crash survivors accompanied the caravan, disposed among the howdahs and various wagons.

Several of the group also had their captured gashants,. including Sebastian who had christened his “Nessie”.

At night the drivers slept in the wagons near their charges, while the remainder of the group set up a circle of tents around a campfire.

It was in the very early hours of the morning that Henry’s Kenya trained senses became aware of something not quite right, and he rolled a wake. There was a strong, musky scent and a muffled tearing. Grabbing his pistol he shook Sebastian, and then there was a low growl and a faint cry close to them. In the darkness he could discern a moving bulk.

Lifting the flap red light seeped in from the fire, and illuminated a large bulk looming over the convulsing form of Mr. Smith. Warm, stickiness splashed on his cheek. Feral eyes peered straight at him.

Henry shouted and fired his LeMat point blank, and Sebastian stood up and yelled, slashing with his sabre.

As the camp slowly came awake, Henry and Sebastian fought a desperate battle around the ruined tent, which was now little more than a lean to with a roof. Mr. Robards had managed to crawl to safety, and the beast. seemingly hampered by the cramped confines had not managed to yet seriously harm either Henry or Sebastian with its lethal claws or teeth.

The creature had something of the appearance of an evil looking cross between feline and wolf, and yet was near the size of a horse. From outside the tent, bullets started to pump into the flank of the thing. Eventually, and with a terrible roar, it collapsed to the ground.

After the chaos had calmed down they examined the camp. Two guards had been silently and terribly killed: Smith had been the third victim.

“It’s a steppe tiger” said Robards shaking. “I’ve seen pictures of them, but never the real thing. Once is enough, I think. Poor Smith.”

A Royal Summons
12th August 1889

“Well things seem to be going our way for once” said Sebastian, as they returned from their audience with the Prince.

The Prince had announced (via his interpreter, Kalamir), his intention to send an envoy to the British at Syrtis Makor. He would supply a caravan and guards to escort Kalamir and the group across the Nepenthes -Thoth Steppe to Meepsor, from whence they could move along the canal to Syrtis Major. The trip would take an esimated 40 days, and would cross desert. The British were a little concerned by this, but Rani assured Lady Glossop, that unlike “you children”, this would not likely pose a challenge for the Martians.

The caravan was due to depart in two dys.

10th August 1889

Thoth reminded Sebastian somewhat of Indian Palaces he had seen; probably more so because they had entered what was seemingly a private and exclusive canal branch leading into the grounds of the Royal Palace.

Here the were beset by flunkies, and as the Princes was whisked off they were shown to a house in pleasant gardens which was to be their temporary residence. One of their servants spoke broken English, and she explained that they were now guests of the Prince, and would be sent for in due course.

Baths and clean clothing were a pleasant change after their trials. The clothing was martian of course. While Lady Glossop and Esmeralda admired the selection of martian female finery, Sebastian complained that he now looked like something out of a Pirate romance: still – it was better than the rags they had been wearing.

Rani scorned the canal martian finery, taking only a few simple kilts and tunics to replace worn items of her own raiment, including a few brightly coloured scarves. She seemed to sniff slightly at the martian servants.

20th July 1889

As they rode along on their captured gashants, Lady Glossop eyed Rani curiously. She had learned that Rani belonged to one of the great steppe tribes which roamed large areas of the Nepenthes – Thoth Steppe. Their previous analogy to Red Indians was perhaps not quite right she thought – more like one of the Turcoman or Asiatic steppe tribes of the East. Even so she gathered that Rani was something of an oddity – a sort of Lone Wolf on some quest she found difficulty – or perhaps reluctance – in explaining.

She was also gathering some clarity on the differences between martians. Rani was a Steppe (or Hill) Martian – a sort of less civilised alternative to the Canal Martians such as the Princess and her Guards. The Canal Martians lived in City States like Thoth and the cultivated areas around their canals, while the Steppe Martian tribes lived a nomadic existence across their ranges in the outback. Physiologically she didn’t see that much difference – possibly the Canal Martians were an inch or two taller – but culturally they were clearly very different. She got the impression that Rani considered the canal martians ‘soft’.

They had beat off another attack by a patrol of Shastapsh cavalry: clearly they were hunting for the princess, and knew she was in the area. Lady Glossop considered the implications of this – perhaps this enmity might work to the advantage of the British.

Just before dark they arrived at a small village, and here were arrayed a larger entourage, as well as a grand looking barge. Boarding this they hoped that for a time at least, their troubles were at an end.


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