The Cairo Confidential

April 29, 2011

Von Kentucky – Explorer
Ambrosius Ezzi – Ethnologist
Higgins Cloppington – Geologist
Jean-Paul LeBeau – Zoologist
Leski Osmonov – Botonist
Jose Miguel Harpua – Missionary
Dr. Roger Smalley – Doctor
Kit Sharp – Journalist

Sometime in the middle of the 19th century, this diverse collection of men (and a woman) gathered in a makeshift brandy shack in the shadow of the Giza pyramids near Cairo, Egypt.  They were there either as members of new expeditions heading up the Nile River or hoping to join such an expedition.  The brandy flowed freely that night, until finally Von Kentucky said what was on everybody’s mind:

“Shit. I’m tired of the desert already.”

Everybody grumbled in agreement.

“What the hell are we doing here?  I figure the best way to discover where the source of the Nile IS is to discover where it IS NOT!”

There was a mixture of nodding, applause, and “hear hear”.  Then Leski said:

“They say southern Africa is a bountiful garden of breezy veldt, wet forests, and misty mountains dissected by gentle rivers!”

After some discussion and drawing of straws, the Cairo Confidential was formed.  They would pool their resources, each set out for different ports along the east and west coasts of the southern half of Africa, and follow the rivers inland.  Then, combining their discoveries and the profits gained from publishing these discoveries, they would form the ultimate expedition to finally discover the…

Source of the Nile.

(A high resolution version of the above map can be downloaded here.)

See all Cairo Confidential posts.

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You call out a challenge to the Bat leader in a bastardized dialect. The native warriors frantically look for you in all directions, but the echo of your voice deceives them.

You swing down from the canopy on vines, stealthily in the shadows around the camp.  Silently you touch down in the middle of the camp.  Only the leader saw you coming and he chuckles.  The two body guards flee into the jungle as if they’d seen a ghost.  With your sickly pale skin and wild pink eyes that have barely seen sleep for the past week, you look like a ghost indeed.

The leader tosses his bow aside and charges you with a war cry and bone hatchet poised.  Which maneuver do you attempt?

Grab the wrist of his hatchet arm and chop it with your machete.
…or…
Duck and launch.
…or…
Kick him in the crotch.

All are welcome to participate in this adventure.  Just indicate in the comments which course of action you’d like to see followed.  Optionally, you can provide a semi-relevant movie quote and a bonus will be granted to the character’s rolls.  Check out the previous posts about Revenge in the Dark Jungle.

Visit “jungle ruins” these days and you’ll likely stroll along nicely manicured lawns and gaze upon rebuilt stone structures.  What an experience it must have been for 19th century explorers to stumble upon actual jungle-COVERED ruins.  Compare:

Chichen Itza, 2011

Chichen Itza, 1839

Unfortunately, there aren’t many images like this, showing how these ruins appeared when first seen by Westerners.  Fortunately, there are the works of Frederick Catherwood, creator of the above lithograph of Chichen Itza.  I’ve included some of my favorites in the slideshow below, but visit the CASA FREDERICK CATHERWOOD site for a more complete collection.

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I just linked to Trey’s blog last week, but he’s on a jungle roll.  Check out this map he posted today.

And…I’ll take this opportunity to link this image from the Chris Wahl Illustration Blog:

You devise a diversion involving those curious monkeys seen earlier and dummy version of yourself built out of log, vine, and foliage.  You set the trap a distance away from the camp and wait the monkeys to trip it.

(Successful Luck saving roll)

The monkeys set off the trap and it operates properly.   Several monkeys are impaled by sharpened sticks and fill the jungle with screeching cries.  Then, the log dummy is released from the canopy, its legs and arms of foliage flailing as it falls with a thud on the jungle floor.

(Successful Luck saving roll, Level 1)

The diversion works, but only partially.  The leader dispatches three warriors to investigate the area where your dummy fell to the jungle floor.    There are still two warriors guarding the leader, plus the sentry archer.

Try to silently eliminate the sentry first.
…or…
Call out the leader for a duel.
…or…
Swing on a vine through the camp, chopping heads.

All are welcome to participate in this adventure.  Just indicate in the comments which course of action you’d like to see followed.  Optionally, you can provide a semi-relevant movie quote and a bonus will be granted to the character’s rolls.  Check out the previous posts about Revenge in the Dark Jungle.

Stragglers
Sometimes called Lost Soldiers, these poor fellows were left behind in the jungle during the Wizard Wars of long ago.  Perhaps they were prisoners of war, left for dead with injuries and no provisions, deserters, or conscientious objectors.  Maybe their commanders never released them of their duties, and they’ve stayed at their post for centuries.  Whatever the case may be, the jungle has welcomed and recruited them as her own soldiers…damning them to bound duty for all of their remaining un-life.  Stragglers may be found patrolling the jungle with blank expression or fiercely defending their post with suicidal determination.  They often set traps and seldom attack unless as an ambush, but they will fight to the death if cornered.  Their final breath is always one of great relief.

Some Stragglers have a taste for human flesh, which they blithely call “monkey meat”.  Others lead a more docile existence, tending gardens of purple potatoes and other jungle vegetables.  They often communicate in delusional gibberish and non sequitur.  For example:
• “It is with much embarrassment that I am still alive.”
• (With an arrow protruding from chest.) “That is not an arrow. We just imagine the arrows because we fear them.”
• “Come on! Kill me! I’m here! Come on! Do it now! Kill me!”
• “They’re all gone, sir…I’m the last one, sir.”
• (Extending own arm.) “When I’m dead, you can eat this.”

The Ancient Orangutan is an immortal and knows practically everything.  He can speak all languages but prefers to stay quiet.   Anything he does say is always deep and thoughtful, but he occasionally tells a subtle joke laden with knowledge, followed by a wide toothy grin.

The Wandering Monk roams the jungle in search of Stragglers.  He grants their wish for death and then gives them a proper burial.  He carries a saung-gauk harp, the music of which pacifies Stragglers.  The monk never says a word, but communicates with others through the parrot that always sits on his shoulder.  The parrot can speak any language.

You grab hold of a slack vine and chop a nearby taut vine with your machete.  There is a groaning of tree limbs and, like a pulley system, the vine in your grip begins to tighten and then rise up into the jungle canopy, taking you with it.  There in the canopy you see bizarre plants and animals.  Strange varieties of monkeys, having never seen a beast such as you, curiously approach with wide eyes and poking sticks.  You growl and scare them away.

It’s been months since you’ve seen the sun, so you climb high enough in the canopy to absorb some unfiltered rays as you climb, swing, and jump your way to above the camp of the Bat war party.  The brightness of the sun stings your eyes, but it also invigorates you and aids in healing your wounds.

They are on high alert, having heard your earlier warning.  But they aren’t looking up.  Examining the six warriors, you notice that one of them wears the necklace of blue beads that you had given to your slain wife.  He seems to be the leader, the largest of build and wielding a black bow and bone hatchet.  The rest of the warriors carry shields and spears.

(Successful Luck saving roll)

You are lucky to spot a sentry with a bow, perched half way up a tree trunk directly below you.

Try to eliminate the sentry first.
…or…
Create a diversion, in hopes of isolating the leader.
…or…
Swing on a vine through the camp, chopping heads.

All are welcome to participate in this adventure.  Just indicate in the comments which course of action you’d like to see followed.  Optionally, you can provide a semi-relevant movie quote and a bonus will be granted to the character’s rolls.  Check out the previous posts about Revenge in the Dark Jungle.

The Enigma Treehouse remains an enigma.  For unknown reasons, an eccentric wizard general stayed in the jungle to study after the Wizard Wars.  He built his home and lab high atop the canopy and entertained no visitors…except one.  The woman now known as The Witch was just a wayward jungle native, her clan destroyed by the war.  The wizard took her in as an apprentice.

At some point, the wizard seems to have disappeared from the jungle and the treehouse has sat abandoned since, but The Witch remains and continues to grow in power.  She is very old, but sorcery has maintained her youth and beauty.  She wishes to seduce Ceptaar and guide him to become ruler of the jungle…for her own benefit, of course.  Her screeching violin has a strange power of attraction.

Zougklapteryx, Master of Spies, is a jungle rooster, but was once the Wizard of Enigma Treehouse. The Witch transformed him into a noble fowl.  He wanders the jungle as a spy of The Witch.  In fact, he has recruited nearly every chicken in the jungle as spies.  Each native village has several roosters working for him.  Those who refuse are killed in rigged cockfighting matches.  Zougklapteryx has razors attached to his talons.  If someone were to intensely study the pattern of his corn-pecking movements, they would discover an encoded message: “She must be stopped”.

Over the hills and far away, check out ckutalik’s story of DMing a D&D adventure for his Vietnam vet father.  Great stuff.  This says it all:

“He pored over the equipment tables, grilling me on the properties of this or that item. It took him about five seconds to grasp the killing power of the standard molotov-like flask of oil. He bought 20. Groking the need to travel light and mean he skimped on armor and the excess weapons so common in our summer camp D&D experience. He bought dogs instead.”

This seems a good opportunity for me to mention the My Vietnam Experience blog.  An excellent collection of stories and photos from those who served.  A favorite of mine is this one about crashing a scout chopper into the jungle.

“Out of the bird now and glancing around, scared, I saw that we were in some sort of dark tunnel coursing through the dense jungle, formed by the creek, the steep sides thickly lined with huge bamboo stalks and covered over at the top by the arms of giant trees. I had my Gunner take his M-60 and slosh up to the nearest bend, and the Observer to go the other way. I figured the gooks would have to use the creek as a highway if they were to get to us — a fear that I’d previously decided would never happen. I tried my 2-way emergency hand-held to no avail as the sweet noise of unseen helicopters were swarming somewhere above us, shooting rockets and stuff that killed any attempt to send or receive. The old joke that Scouts marked their position by their burning Loach didn’t hold water here, and I was glad. I weakly shot some pen flares that my shaking fingers had extracted from my survival vest, but they couldn’t penetrate the foliage above. But I had my .38 cal., which I swung menacingly at the shadows. Yee ha. I then proceeded to shoot up the place with a half clip of 35mm.”

You enter the territory of the Giant Daddy Longlegs.  The flashing lights of the will-o-the-wisp cast thin shadows at the edge of your visions…the shadows of the many Longlegs.  You know they are out there, excited by the scent of your bloody wounds, but they are deathly patient and won’t reveal themselves until you’ve entered their trap.

You, of course, are vigilant of the danger and aware of their strengths and weaknesses.  Finally, the Longlegs cannot resist the smell of your sweet blood any longer…

You let the Longlegs grab and pin you like a birdcage, but as the spherical body descends to prick you with its poison (the most deadly poison in the jungle, it is said), you attempt to free your arm from its grip…

(Successful Strength saving roll)

You unsheathe your machete and chop its body open like a ripe watermelon.  You roll away as it screeches and twitches in ear-splitting agony.

With reluctant fear, the other Longlegs let the Spider-Chopper pass through their territory.  Once through, you search for the Bat marauders.

(Successful Luck saving roll)

You have found their trail, and determine they are within earshot.  You scream:

“I am the Monkey-Impaler!  Mud-Sleeper!  Water-Rider!  Cat-Flyer!  Cliff-Tickler!  Spider-Chopper!

“NOW I WILL BECOME THE BAT KILLER!”

Judging from the fresh sign, you determine there are six warriors in the Bat war party.  Choose:

Walk right into their camp and kick some ass.
or
Climb up into the canopy and silently ambush them from above.

All are welcome to participate in this adventure.  Just indicate in the comments which course of action you’d like to see followed.  Optionally, you can provide a semi-relevant movie quote and a bonus will be granted to the character’s rolls.  Check out the previous posts about Revenge in the Dark Jungle.