THE WESTMINSTER HERALD
15th March 1881
Amidst a riot of celebration, Lord Stanley Fairfax today set out upon a great & noble expedition in the service of the learned men of England and Her Majesty Victoria the Queen; in pursuit of detailing the bounds of Her Majesty’s Empire, Lord Stanley has embarked unto the southern reaches of Africa in the lands south of the River Congo, and has been vigorously supported in his endeavour by numerous gentlemen of means & fine character; and in particular the Royal Society has supplied him with some 2,000 guineas on assurance of being made gift of certain hides of the beasts which live in this region of the world; as the reader who has advanced beyond their front door will know, for the last week half of London has been abuzz with every wild rumour & speculation of the hostile tribesmen & moslems in rule over these wastes, of the savage & rapacious creatures that roam untamed & at will devouring the pitiful townfolk (who continue a sorry & primitive living and are daily afflicted by many pestilences); and the lower classes are seen to entertain many foolish superstitions of the witches & spirits of Africa, which drivel is justly scorned by their betters & most by such esteemed gentlemen as whom accompany Lord Stanley –
Inventory of the Expedition of Lord Stanley Fairfax to Her Majesty’s Territories in Southern Africa, for Instruction of Workmen, Fruit & Vegetable Merchants, Purveyors of Arms & Other Required Persons
Porcelain dishes (x25), & bowls, cups, saucers, & teapots
Brandy (x80 bottles)
Hand fans (x50)
Gin (x30 bottles)
Works of Seneca
Quinine (2 gal.)
Port (x120 bottles)
Record of the First Journey into the Great Uncharted Countries of the Dark Continent
Account by Lord Stanley Fairfax
Apr. 3: Arrived by sea on eastern coast of Africa, gave rousing speech to porters & reminded them of dangers ahead despite best efforts of myself & other gentlemen & scientists
Apr. 7: Man taken by lion
Apr. 9: Shot elephant & secured tusks for Royal Society
Apr. 10: Man taken by hyena
Apr. 12: Gin carriage destroyed by elephants
Apr. 14: Man taken by civet
Apr. 18: All premade desserts apparently eaten by snakes, nothing cooks could do
Apr. 19: Starvation setting in, only cooks coping well
Apr. 23: All salted cod abandoned after fish knives lost. Morale very low.
Apr. 28: Lectured men on fellowship with reading from Seneca
Apr. 35. Traded remaining five porters to natives for fruit & plaintains
Apr. 42. Road washed out by flash flood, waiting on high ground until weather improves
Jun. 2. Man taken by oriole
A wispy column of smoke rose lazily into the hot, muggy air; rose from the a cigar held fast beneath the monumentous ginger moustache of Lord Stanley Indigo Fairfax (@bugcat) as he idly scratched his sideburns and gazed over a wide, sluggish stream of brown water making its way slowly over the path. Despite the tragic loss of the premade desserts, he had lost little weight and bulged in strange places from beneath a tight white shirt.
A single carriage rested behind him, safe on higher ground, piled ramshackle with bottles and the shards of unfortunate teacups. Sorting through the mess with grimy, calloused hands was a well-muscled woman with a plaited ponytail of long grey hair, grinning to herself and showing the gaps of missing teeth. The head, and now only, cook, it is up to her to create as best she can a four-course meal largely from apricots, and she enjoys a challenge.
Beside her on a beaten-up wooden stool is a slender, clean-shaven man sipping at a glass of port: a white-powdered toupee sits atop his wrinkled forehead. He is trying to concentrate on the book in front of him, a dense work on African songbirds; but all he can think about is whether he should offer his help or if he would only be in the way. He pushes up a pair of small, round glasses: as a naturalist, he assures himself, this is his job.
Down the hill, a broad figure with jet-black skin is testing the depth of the water: he plunges a branch down into it, feeling for the bottom, searching for a fording point. He is topless, but has acquiesced to a pair of trousers, which hang sodden around his legs in innumerable tears. Placing the branch carefully onto the bank, he reaches into a woven satchel and brings out a handful of snuff; snorting it deeply, he doubles over in a fit of coughing. To glance at his appearance, you may not have guessed that he had spent a number of years working for the British in Mozambique and was a fluent, even persuasive speaker; yet this is why he was hired as the expedition’s guide.
A short distance behind him, a diminutive blonde youth watches on, pretending to busy himself with idle work: the personal secretary to Lord Stanley, it is his place to fetch drinks and take away empty bottles; to trim the Lord’s moustache, to rub medicinal oils onto the back of his sunburnt neck… but he smiles (packing and unpacking a case of stuffed olives) with the pleasure of a tourist in exotic climes, in which all is so new and foreign, and to him both the land and guide are equally bizarre.
Under the shade of a tree, two women are taking respite from the heat. The first lies on a blanket spread on the grass; hands behind her head, her brown eyes gaze up at the leaves above as she recounts an old story in a lilting French accent, one of many meandering tales of her childhood in Algeria. A career archeologist, she had abandoned her excavations in Egypt when the British consulate had suggested this much more… novel prospect. Despite her hopes of grand, ancient cities emerging over the grassy horizon remaining unfulfilled, there seemed no reason to lose hope.
The listener, though barely past her twentieth birthday, had heard this story countless times before in her service as the Frenchwoman’s assistant. The heat had brought on a swarm of freckles covering her face; she picked absent-mindedly at a mop of frizzy red hair, forced against its will into a bun. She let her mind roam away, thinking of her favourite novels with their dashing heroes and daring adventures, or the cunning detectives and devious criminals… she’d been so starved of books to devour that only she had, in fact, read Lord Stanley’s Works of Seneca.
The final member of the party was pacing restlessly: he was full of energy, cracking his knuckles and running his fingers through his hair. Taking the rolled cigarette from his mouth, he quickly tossed it into the wind and lit another from his top pocket, whistling an old Confederate tune. A wealthy Texan with big money in the sugar trade, he’d bought himself on to the trip of a lifetime – and now they were stuck on some lousy hill until the river dried up. Still, to think what might lie on the other side…!
Pick a character (except Stanley): first come, first served; and name yourselves. When everyone’s assigned, I’ll explain the rules and distribute the roles. We will start at the next morning in-game, at the start of the day phase.