Friday, August 5, 2016

They Find Barlow

Colonel Burnaby dashes ahead of the point company of Sikhs to investigate the visitors at the Oasis of El-Dubie.

In our last episode, the British patrol column arrived in front of the Oasis of El-Dubie and spied a European officer in red tunic, seemingly a prisoner of the mysterious Red Arab and his two bodyguards. Colonel Freddy Burnaby, ever impetuous, ran ahead of the advance company of Sikhs to get a closer look.

"Bloody Hell!" exclaimed Burnaby, "is that you Barlow?"

Barlow said nothing, merely nodding his head to affirm the question. He looked at the Red Arab as if to seek permission to speak. (Indeed, it was Barlow and he was most certainly alive. The Dice Gods had seen to it that he had survived the battle somehow).

The mysterious Red Arab stepped in between Burnaby and Barlow and the two Dervish guards noticeably tightened their grip on Colonel Barlow's arms.

Colonel Burnaby and the Sikhs find Colonel Barlow
"Stand Down Freddy!" shouted the Red Arab in perfect English.

"Who in blazes are you," asked Burnaby, "and what is an Englishman doing out here in this God foresaken place?"

"I rescued your Colonel Barlow from the battle and dragged him into the village for his own safety." replied the Red Arab.

"Faversham, Harry Faversham at your service."

Burnaby squinted his eyes to get a closer look at the mysterious Red Arab, who spoke perfect English, and claimed to be a noted British officer in Her Majesty's Army. The Red Arab pulled back his scarf so that Burnaby could get a better look at his face, but still nothing registered with him.

"your Colonel Barlow was trampled by a camel in the melee and fell to the ground, unconscious, beneath a Gatling Gun," explained Faversham. " My associates over there (pointing to the two Dervish) found Colonel Barlow and carried him back to the village. In all the swirling dust and excitement nobody - not British or Dervish - seemed to notice or even care."

The Sikhs surround the mysterious Arab in the red scarf.

Meanwhile, Captain Nolan of the Bombay Sikhs motioned to his men to surround the Red Arab and his entourage. At the same time, the troop of Camel Corps rode past the village to keep an eye on the horizon for Dervish activity.

The Camel Corps scouts ride beyond the Oasis to secure the perimeter. The infantry follows up from behind and heads to the Oasis

The Camel Corps and 21st Lancers secure the perimeter while the infantry forms up in square.

The infantry quickly set to the task of chopping down Mimosa bushes to form a zeriba around the perimeter of the Oasis, incorporating the village as part of the defensive barrier. Once completed, the troop of 21st Lancers retired from beyond the zeriba and took up positions inside the completed square. The Camel Corps scouts remained on duty outside the square.

A zeriba is quickly constructed from thorny Mimosa bushes.

The 21st Lancers fall back from the perimeter and deploy inside the square.

A look inside the square.
"Who the Devil are you Faversham and how did you get here, with Colonel Barlow no less," inquired Burnaby.

"I'm one of Major Kitchener's scouts," replied Faversham. "I've gone native some time ago, a year or more I believe. A little bit of dirt on the face, a sun tan, some robes and a talent for picking up languages allow me to pass for one of the Dervish. My associates and I move freely about the desert. We watched your squares approach the Oasis during the battle and managed to stay out of sight while we watched Colonel Barlow's brigade get anihilated by the Dervish. After the battle was over and the Derivish had left the field, we poked around the ground to see if there were any survivors. That's when we found your Colonel Barlow."

"It's all true" rasped Barlow, " I don't have much of my voice right now after taking a camel's hoof in the throat, but I'm indebted to Faversham for saving my life."

"Freddy, I suggest that you make camp here for the evening and return to Dongola in the morning. The Dervish have been watching your patrol column all day and they probably have a mind to attack and slit all of your throats during the night." explained Faversham.

"I remember you now Faversham, said Burnaby, "some would call you a coward, but I can see that it was all a ruse. I had no idea that you were one of Kitchener's lads."

"I'd take it kindly if you not speak of me to anyone," said Faversham.

"I understand" replied Burnaby. " Well then, we will turn the colonel over to Doctor McCoy for his good care and get on with the building of a zeriba. We are indebted to you Faversham -- if there is ever anything that I can do for you..."

Faversham reached into his robes and pulled out a small envelope, handing it to Freddy Burnaby.

" I believe that the Surreys are posed back at Dongala aren't they? There is a Lieutenant Trench in the Surreys and I'd appreciate it if you would give him this envelope. Tell him it's a gift from his old friend Harry."

"Certainly will Faversham, certainly will," said Burnaby.

Little time for a quick reunion as the British must prepare defenses for the evening's camp at the Oasis.
 Captain Nolan was already climbing up onto the roof of one of the mud huts to get a better view. Burnaby was getting ready to follow him and he looked up to see that Nolan was a bit agitated and waving his hands to get attention.

Burnaby looked back to say something to Faversham, but he and his two Dervish had simply vanished.

" Where in the deuce did they go?" wondered Burnaby.

Colonel Burnaby (with binoculars) and Captain Nolan (Sikh infantry) go up on the roof of one of the mud huts to watch for any Dervish that might be nearby.
 Burnaby scampered up onto the roof and slipped his binoculars out of its case. He looked to the south, where Nolan was pointing. There, he espied a small group of camelmen and horse, probably Dervish scouts.
There's trouble ahead...
He then looked in the other direction and could see a larger group of Dervish horse cutting between the Oasis and the trail back to Dongala. It looked like things were going to get pretty hot by morning, if not sooner.

...and trouble behind!

Come back and visit the blog again to find out what happened to the patrol column as they made camp at the Oasis of El-Dubie.


  1. One question: has Faversham returned all the white feathers yet?

    1. I believe that he is just getting started. I'm sure that we shall cross paths with him again. 😃

  2. I would like to describe how excellent this series is without resorting to profanity, but sadly I cannot.

  3. Arghhhh! Despite prior hints, did not see that coming! Excellent!

  4. Colonel Barlow survived due to a miraculous string of die rolls on a common everyday D6. (1) Odd-even to determine if his body was ever found; (2) odd-even to determine if he was found dead or alive; and (3) odd-even to decide if his condition was ok or at death's door. The Dice Gods were clearly in Colonel Barlow's corner several days ago.

    Regardless of how the dice rolled, I would still have some basis for constructing an interesting story.

    My first choice for the Red Arab was of course another Harry - Flashman to be specific. However, I decided that Flashman might have been too old to be galavanting around the Sudan desert in 1884-1885. Flashman was born in 1822 so he would have been 62-63 years old. It is conceivable that he might have shown up in the desert, but not so likely.

    Then I recalled the hero of the movie and book in The Four Feathers and rather liked the idea of some sub rosa Englishman travelling around the perimeter of Major-General Pettygree's world. Faversham's need to return white feathers back to various officers meant that his character could be used again and again - perfect for our purposes.

    Kitchener was about 34-35 years old at the time of the Gordon Relief Expedition and had considerable experience in the desert, having helped survey Palestine in 1874. He was actually commanding a regiment of Egyptian cavalry at the time of the Nile River Column, but I borrowed the idea of having him work in intelligence from the movie "Khartoum".

    It is all fantasy, but I find it helpful to base the fantasy on some loose facts to make the whole thing plausible.

  5. Fantastic, love the set up and I really do like the naval contingent.


  6. Adventure, danger, unknowns, courage, dire straits, random chance, fate, color/colour, atmosphere, ideal terrain and character development. Well done Jim. Tally Ho!, Bill P.

  7. Ah, the spectacle of Empire. Inspirational stuff and a superb narrative Sir.

  8. Super stuff, like the story line with Faversham