Unfortunately, Conan will not be at my next noder gathering. My Home Owners Association forbids granting asylum to either Kings of Aquilonia or freelancing Cimerians, but he's always here in spirit. Everyone else is welcome though, so make your plans now!
It being the proper time of year for adventure and ribald tales of heroism, I decided to invite a number of my associates to join me in an ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It would be a leisurely three day affair with plenty of time for gossip and drink. The invitation was distributed at my club and I was pleased at the responses. I made the proper preparations for porters, larder and entertainment and left the details in the hands of my valet.
My guests began arriving in Cairo by rail and sea. Lady Pennywise was first, and she accompanied me in overseeing the last of our logistical preparations. We were shortly joined by Reginald Burkans, an American chap, but a good enough sort and handy with the cards. Two more times I was called to the port to receive guests, Matthias Grunder, A colonial from the Indies and Beauregard Flatten an ex-communicated welsh miner and artist. Later in the evening the swarthy party of Scotts I had invited came sauntering into the hotel as if the sky itself had called them to Africa for our entertainment. Duke Ellington and his compatriots Seamus Maxwell and Ryan McComb, all three highlanders of great repute for their gastronomic and inebriant escapades.
While I was unawares we were joined by Master Bobby Froden a traveling student and while a man of new money, I was assured that he would be a good chap. We were also then joined by Lord Perrywinkle and his consort Lady Frompton. It was then that I received a cable from my good friend The Earl of Glandugen, Perceval McCorden who was escorting an old school chap of mine, Master Johann Drugen and the heiress of adventure Mrs. Lacey Golden another American of great repute for her bold humour. They had become delayed by unseasonable weather in the Mediterranean and would be tardy in rendezvous. McCorden suggested that we press on and they would redouble their efforts to join us before we boarded a boat in Bur Sudan.
We had a leisurely trip down the Nile and stopped for a dinner at an Inn in Aswan before pressing on for the coast. Everyone agreed that the meal was fabulous and the chatter of the Queen’s English filled the dinner room of the quaint old building. We decided to press on for Bur Sudan that evening in the hopes that we could be prepared to gather our forces with all due prudence. We serendipitously met up with an adventuring member of society who joined our party that evening and proved to have some former knowledge of the area. Maxamillian Powers was well known to many of us by reputation only. A man who favored the back countries of the barbarian colonies on the fringe of the empire, he proved to be a well mannered companion, but prone to excessive drink.
It was during this hurried trip through the Eastern Sudanese Mountains that our first disaster was narrowly avoided. Lord Perrywinkle and Lady Frompton along with their porters became disorientated and separated from the main group as clouds covered the illuminating moon. We feared they would be lost to the elements and savage natives that frequent that area. We were fortunate that they joined us later in the night, regaling us with a tale of their pack animals running of into a deep ravine being pursued by naught but sounds of the night and the eerie warnings of their native guides. It was some time before they could gather the spooked animals and make their way back towards the main path. Late in the night we entered Bur Sudan and made camp near the docks to await our ship and friends.
We arose early and broke fast in a small but well provisioned tavern. Several of us, believing we may not see a civilized meal for some time, eat with such abandon as to make a normal man ill. Around the noon bell, our ship docked from the north and our friends were aboard. We made our hellos and spent some time gossiping about society members not present before setting out for our next port of Muqdisho, were we would again set out by land.
On landfall at Moqdisho we split up to aquire local porters and pack animals and almost immediately became separated in the twisting streets of the old city. Lord Perrywinkle and Lady Frompton, fearing a repeat of their earlier escapade and claiming a need to travel back to the Empire, set back for Bur Sudan with our blessing and a promise to visit again, under more civilized circumstances.
It was some time before we again regrouped and set off for the interior. We stopped for tea and exploration in an area of grand and painted rocks. Several of the more brave among us clambered like infant monkeys among the colorful and rugged formations, posing for the cheers of the others atop seemingly grandiose cliffs and making grand fools of ourselves.
It was then that the second disaster befell us and nearly cost us Lady Pennywise. She had become separated, either by design or by accident. The nature of her separation is difficult to determine as she would not speak of the incident save to say that she was glad we eventually found her and that she was feared we had set out for the foothills of Kilimanjaro without her. Indeed we nearly had if not for the prudent observation of Mrs. Golden. The rumour persists among our porters that she was spirited away by one of their primitive gods for being foolish enough to walk about unattended. I believe that is simply their way of swelling their numbers, and hence their fee, by way of inflating the superstitious inclinations of women. Regardless, Lady Pennywise was recovered whole, if not apologetic and frazzled, and we set out for the foothills of the great African Mount.
We made camp in the shadow of the mountain and sent our porters out to hunt. They returned with an enormous amount of local game, apparently believing us “Ghost Skins” to be gluttons who required a large larder of meat to continue in comfort. Not wanting to disappoint their silly notions we consumed everything, including a prodigious amount of spirits acquired by Matthias Grunder while in Muqdisho. We made a ribald spectacle of ourselves and must have frightened the porters with our spectacle of gastronomy and inebriation. What they must have thought of us I do not know, but they were clearly disturbed as they vanished into the night, abandoning our luggage and equipment.
Despairing that she would never see home and likely believing that she may befall the same fate that she had earlier yet without rescue, Lady Pennywise set out with Beauregard Flatten before the sun rose. As the camp rose late in the evening we made a small breakfast from the remains of our stores. We reviewed the state of our equipment and McCorden and his crew decided it best to return as swiftly as possible to Bur Sudan and civilization. I was sad to see them go, as their motivation was our last hope to continue the adventure set before us.
With their departure went all hope of gaining the summit. A few of us made small talk around the camp for some hours, before collecting the necessities from the disarray of our abandoned equipment and making our way back to Muqdishu by ourselves. Once in Muqdishu we dispersed, with a promise that one day we would return, and this time, we would capture the mount. I was optimistic that we would again make the attempt and pleased that despite the setbacks a grand adventure was had by all.
- Sir Clarence Horsebottom's photos
- From the collection Duke Ellington
- The tinplate photographs of Reginald Burkans
- The ribald pictures taken by Johann Drugen