TOMB HUNTER Email: [email protected] TOMB HUNTER The Adventures of Larra Court Episode 1 Larra’s African Adventure Chapter 2 The Safari Central Africa: November, 1930 Larra Court strode purposefully into view. She was a tall, striking woman possessed of great physical presence. She stood about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed about 130 pounds. Her weight was distributed beautifully on what could only be described as a body that Aphrodite would have been proud to call her own. Her face contained a subtle hint of her oriental ancestry and was an almost perfect oval, with high cheekbones and blazing violet eyes. A perfect aquiline nose and a gorgeous bow-shaped mouth finished off a stunningly beautiful face. Her thick, copper tinted, dark hair was contained in a three-foot braid that hung down her back. No wonder the porters in her safari often referred to her as “Bwana” Larra rather than the feminine “Bibi.” Others secretly called her simba due to her lion-like majesty. Her male garb in the form of beige trousers and jacket, brown leather boots, and a broad brimmed “White Hunter’s” hat further accentuated the fact that it was she who was in control. A few of the porters had learned to their consternation that she was not to be taken lightly when she gave an order; a fact reinforced by the Browning .45 semi-automatic pistol hanging off her left hip, the butt turned toward the front for quick drawing. Larra was not in a particularly good mood. Her expedition had been fighting its way through increasingly dense rainforest for several days now. At times it had taken her expedition an entire day to move only one or two miles. Somewhere near here her guide had told her that there was a well-marked trail that would take her quickly in the direction that she wished to go. The only problem was that the well-marked trail was impossible to find. Larra was beginning to suspect more and more that her so-called guide was more interested in leading her all over Central Africa in order to increase his pay rather than to lead her to the place that she wanted. She was searching for the fabled Mountains of the Moon, but now she seemed to be lost. Larra was sure that her party was beginning to move in circles, but the denseness of the rainforest and the fact that she had broken her compass prevented her from determining exactly where she was going. It was entirely possible that she would have to turn back. She pulled out an oilskin packet and opened it carefully. Before her was an ancient Chinese map. It was a rather crude chart, lacking any geographical details, but it was covered in Mandarin characters. These were the key to her search as they gave enough information about the map to make it a useful document. So far it had turned out to be quite accurate. She had been able to deduce that the great mountain spoken of in the map was Mount Kenya, and the great lake was Lake Victoria. A number of other facts described in the map had also turned out to be genuine. She knew she was on the right track. The route to the lost city of Jiu Yue. It had to be close at hand. If she found it, she would prove herself to the world. Stoically, she trudged up the heavily forested slope. Ahead of her four members of her safari slashed away the vegetation so that the rest of the expedition could pass. Sweat dripped down her beautiful face. Her entire body was bathed in perspiration and she was extremely uncomfortable. Beneath her damp blouse her Victorian style corset chafed at her skin. “Who would have invented such an undergarment?” she wondered? Probably some man, because whoever had designed the corset, it was certain that he or she was no friend of womankind. What kind of Hell would be appropriate for the inventor of such a torturous device? She often wished that she could take it off and throw it away, but that would not be very ladylike, and her perfect but heavy breasts required some sort of support. Just ahead of her a clearing seemed to be opening up. That was certainly unusual. She stooped and looked around, then shouted a command in Swahili. “We stop here today.” Immediately her gunbearers and porters put down their loads and began to set up camp. The only other woman in the expedition, her black maidservant came running forward awaiting her instructions. Larra ignored her for the moment. “Strange,” she thought, “that a clearing should appear in the midst of so dense a forest.” It might give her a chance to observe the movement of the sun and give her some idea as to whether or not she was moving in the right direction. She was about to call up her guide when an object near the center of the clearing caught her eye. She moved toward it for a better look. “Interesting,” she thought. It appeared to be a large monolithic stone object rising out of the ground. Although a natural formation, some fluke of nature had shaped it like a phallus. “Perhaps,” she mused, “This is what I have been looking for.” She realized the joke in her musings instantly and smiled. “The artifact,” she corrected herself mentally, “not the giant phallus.” Could it be that by dumb luck she had stumbled upon the object of her search? She was now within six feet of the stone phallus, which, rising from a rugged stone base, towered over her head to a good ten feet in height. The lower portion of the stone appeared to have been crudely shaped by human hands into something resembling an altar. A chill went down Larra’s spine. The altar was clearly bloodstained. Apparently some sort of sacrifice had been made here, and judging by the extent of the stains it had been going on for a long time. “At last!” Larra thought. She felt like screaming, but knew that it was important that she retain her dignity. The members of her expedition expected it. Still, she could not help smiling broadly. She thought back to the ridicule that had been heaped upon her by the snobbish British community in Kampala. She had been openly laughed at when she announced her intention of leading an expedition into the interior of Africa to discover a fabled lost city. A city, apparently, that only she had heard of. “Ridiculous!” snorted Lord Braemar, the senior British official at the colonial office in Kampala. “A lost city in the jungles of Africa? Nonsense! You’ll find dysentery, malaria, and savages my dear, but no lost city.” As for Larra’s intention to lead the expedition herself, Lord Braemar had been even more blunt. “These blacks won’t take orders from a woman, my dear. Especially one as young and attractive as you. You won’t make it halfway there before they desert you and leave you stranded. At least have the common sense to hire an experienced guide to make sure that your boys are kept in line.” By guide Larra knew that Lord Braemar was referring to one of the numerous White hunters that seemed to frequent the bars and nightclubs of Kampala. Larra had met several of them and had not been captivated by their condescending attitude toward women. And now, two months later, here she was, having followed an ancient Chinese map for hundreds of miles into central Africa. Right where the map indicated the presence of a curious object, she had by perseverance and good fortune found what she was looking for. This was no local creation of illiterate African villagers; this was a major archeological find. By this time her porters and gun bearers had also noticed the stone formation. Their reaction was entirely different from Larra’s. She was elated, but they were terrified. Her guide ran up to her. “Missy Larra,” he pleaded, “We must get away from here. This be very bad place. Not safe for you, not safe for me!” Larra turned to her guide. “I am not worried, Tipu,” she said, smiling. “This is what I came for.” “No Missy,” he implored. “We must leave. Must leave fast. Must leave now!” Her porters took in the dialogue between her guide and Larra. Several of them were already edging back toward the edge of the clearing, toward the path that had brought them there. Larra frowned. This was getting serious, if the porters ran off she would be stuck with all her gear, but with no way to transport it. “Alfred!” she shouted to her head porter. “Come here!” But Alfred was already at the beginning of the trail that the party had slashed on its way through the rainforest. Suddenly, he took to his heels, and the rest of the porters fled with him. “God dammit,” Larra shouted, “Come back here!” She whirled about. “Tipu, stop them,” she implored. But her faithful guide was already well on his way down the path, her maidservant dashing after him, punctuating her departure with shrill, frightened screams. Larra found herself alone in the dark, silent forest.