William Westland and the Unholy Ziggurat

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William Westland and the Unholy Ziggurat

Postby Srf » Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:18 pm

Boende, Motappaland - May 3, 1964

If it were possible to smoke a cigarette ironically, Pascal Jauvert would be doing just that. The swarthy half-Quiberonnais, half-Motappan man blew hazy blue smoke into the air with an exaggerated sigh and gazed over the view of Boende. From his elevated position atop the Hotel Cratoise, Motappaland's only 5* establishment, he could see the leafy private villas of the exclusive Gurumba neighborhood quickly giving way to the sprawling anthill-slums of Menge-Menge and Ngoranga. The very sight of them disgusted Pascal, and he silently shamed his white father for marrying a child of the slums. Scoffing, he took another drag on his cigarette.

"Something bothering you?" Pascal turned to the speaker; a white, fair haired man in casual linen slacks and shirt with a leather satchel slung across his side. Pascal shook his head, immediately defensive.

"Only that you are late Brannigan, you Anglo asshole. I'm surprised you are able to even show your face around here without being strung up".

"Oh, the Mbenga business?" The other man replied, seemingly nonplussed by Pascal's hostility. "Come now, Pascal, I'm not stupid. I didn't drive here straight from the front, I flew in from Sesfontein. May I sit down?"

Pascal indicated to the empty chair opposite him, lighting a fresh cigarette. Brannigan sat down and opened his satchel, withdrew a manila folder and handed it over to Pascal. Pascal flipped it open and pulled out the contents: a set of aerial photos.

"Brannigan, these are just photos of the jungle. What am I missing?"

"There", said Brannigan, pointing to the mid-right of the top photograph. "It's a Ziggurat, one of the largest I've seen. One of our Kingfishers caught this upcountry, about 100 miles east of Kalima."

Pascal looked up. "Kalima. Mufasa territory".

"Indeed. These temples have traditionally been found in northwest Sandirius. The Praetonians found millions of dollars' worth of artifacts in them during the 1890's. All cleared out now, back in Haversham. But this is the first I've ever heard of located in the Motappan jungle. And it's enormous. The larger ones always have a higher value of loot. We are thinking of sending a small team to chart the Ziggurat and collect the artifacts. The spoils will be shared equa-"

Pascal held up his hand. "Do you know what the Mufasas do to intruders, Brannigan? They skin them and eat their flesh. They castrate them and wear their genitals as magic charms. Faces as war masks. They are all high on wild mushrooms. And now they have Sharfic guns. It would be a suicide mission to travel to this temple".

Brannigan smiled softly, having already anticipated the questioning. "It's no problem, Pascal. It's already in motion. We fly into Kalima disguised as aid workers to get past the Sharfic garrison there. I lead the mission and bring a squad of Mbengans for security. Your role, with your local knowledge, is to facilitate for us. Your mother was from upcountry, wasn't she?"

Pascal flushed and took another angry drag. "So I get you across the jungle - assuming you survive the long trek, the snakes, the parasites, the disease. The temple will no doubt be booby-trapped, or structurally unsafe. It's a waste of time to even try, Brannigan".

"Yes, we need one more person. An archaeologist - an expert in southwest Crataean history. I'm going to approach him tomorrow. Do we have a deal?"

"You are insane, Brannigan".

"I'll pay you one million Oryontic Dollars".

Pascal blinked, and pulled another ironic drag of his cigarette.

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Re: William Westland and the Unholy Ziggurat

Postby Srf » Wed May 16, 2018 8:18 pm

Jacksonville, North Point - May 6, 1964

A sharp tapping of wood on laminate jolted the rearmost inhabitants of the lecture hall back into life, scrambling for notes as their professor drew an imaginary circle around southern Crataea on an enormous world map with his pointer. to the right of the map a projector showed a much younger version of the same man, grinning widely in a pair of short shorts and pith hat, standing in front of a low-built mud structure in the desert.

"Now this Kyradenge burial chamber was found here" he began, indicating a vague triangular region of central Sandirius. "Why is this strange?"

A youthful hand shot up. "You mentioned last week that the Kyradenge are not native to those regions, and they are traditionally found further south".

The professor nodded. "True, but there's more to it than that. Anyone?"

Another hand popped up. "This is more a question. You assigned us a paper on Kyradenge architecture last week, and in Glorie's book on the Kyradenge he explicitly mentions they don't use burial chambers. I only remember the quote because Glorie said they were the only central Mbeyo-Denge tribe to not use them".

The professor clapped his hands together. "Fantastic work. And yet - here we are". He began clicking through the slides. "As you can see - the inside is full of Kyradenge masks, gourds, jewellery... It's undeniable that the tenant was a Kyradenge - the only one to ever be buried in a chamber. And just to confuse you a little more; this chamber is structurally different to the burial chambers used by the other Mbeyo-Denge tribes. A true anomaly".

The last photo clicked through the projector and the professor turned back to the students. "I think that's all for today. This is our last meeting for the semester, so enjoy the rest of your classes and I'll hopefully be seeing you next year".

With a murmured collective "thank you" the students began filing out of the class, revealing Mr. Brannigan, dressed in a neat white blazer. He raised his hand in an imitation of the students. "Excuse me, is that my dear old friend William Westland?"

Westland, who had started gathering his things, looked up. He grinned as recognition swept across his face. "Danny boy!"

Brannigan was already skipping down the steps toward Westland, and they met with a grasping bear hug and a lot of back slapping.

"So you did make it out of San Lorenzo then?" William asked, breaking the hug.

Brannigan grimaced. "Barely, but I did pay for it". He held up his left hand, which was missing the pinkie finger. "Bloody Veridians were pretty hacked off when they caught me. How did you get out?"

"On a North Point ship" Westland replied, turning around to stuff papers into his briefcase. "Not that I was saved for long. I was back shooting Veridians in the jungle within a year. Anyway, what brings you here?"

Brannigan paused. "I'd like to offer you a job, actually. How would you feel about joining me in Motappaland?"

"Interesting..." Westland turned back to face Brannigan. "The thing is, Brannigan, I assume you're talking about that Mbenga business. Not really something I'm interested in, selling my service to a man like Coleman..."

"Ah, no no no no" Brannigan interrupted, waving his hand dismissively. "It's good, old fashioned archaeological work, William. Just like the old days, what you were doing before you got chained behind a University desk. There's been a Ziggurat found up north. Untouched. Filled with who knows what... Treasures. Jewels. Cultural marvels."

"Up north in Simba territory?"

"We will have security. It's simple enough, we go in, collect the treasure and split the difference. Everything bound by contract".

"Danny boy, I can't say I'm not interested" Westland replied. "But as I said, I don't much care for all this Mbenga business and I know there's a link. I think I shall have to respectfully decline. But I have some fantastic doctorate students who would jump at the opportunity to -"

"No, William" Brannigan said, as two burly men strolled into the room from the back of the hall. "It simply must be you. You are the best, and for this mission the best is all that will do. I'm sorry it couldn't be more amicable."

The men approached William, who immediately assumed a defensive stance. There was a brief moment of quiet before the first threw out his fist toward William's face. He nimbly dodged the blow, retaliating with a swift uppercut into the man's jaw, and was rewarded with a satisfying crack. Before he could celebrate the second man had grabbed him from behind and pressed a chemical-soaked rag against his mouth. Within seconds the fight drained from William's body and he fell limply into a deep sleep.

Brannigan took a second to look at the professor. "Get him into the car".

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