Binky and the Aqeda Dagger
Part 5 - Mariba
Interlude following the the incident at the water holes of Qenja Turst
All day Sunday the Christian bearers had services, prayer meetings and a day of rest. It must be said that the rest day for religious reasons caused some disquiet amongst the Muslim bearers and askaris. There was a lot of grumbling amongst them about the Christians being favoured by the white men. They did not get a day of rest on their Holy Day on Friday it was just ignored. So the grumblings continued.
The Sheikh gave up one of the cows to be slaughtered and a feast prepared. The dancing girls performed well and the Turk gave up the gin he had hidden in his stores. The Baluchis appreciated this a lot and found that two of the Turk’s Askaris were also Baluchis. The others were mainly Morvali tribesmen but with a handful of Sudanese and Abythopians as well. The Baluchis certainly appreciated being with their countrymen and got happily drunk with them! One had even been in the Bengal Native Infantry until two years ago when he had come to Morvalistan with his brothers as mercenaries in the pay of the Sultan of Zniqabar.
The others, mainly tribesmen, were a really sullen and shifty lot except one of the Sudanese who struck up a long conversation with Sgt Achmed Tokar. He wanted to join Adrian’s Askaris as he was fed up in the Turk’s service. He branded him a slave trader and spy for Madassah Hattah. He said that the Turk’s trading post had secret chambers below ground where the slaves were kept. He served in the Sudanese artillery in the recent disastrous war against the Mahdi, not only that, he had been captured by the Ansar and was allowed to live only as long as he manned guns for Emir Qiza Daloot. He managed to escape six months ago and made his way South to Morvalistan and was taken on as an askari by the Turk.
The tribal bearers just appreciated the time off and the free alcohol.
It is now Monday morning and a strange sight meets your eyes. Overnight the expedition appears to have suffered a raid. A silent raid!
The Turk and his askaris are gone, so are the Arabs rescued at the waterhole, a few of the Muslim bearers and even some the sheikh’s following. Much worse, all three horses and two donkeys loaded with supplies are gone together with boxes of ammunition and water skins. Thank goodness the machine guns and howitzer are undamaged! The Sheikh is sorting out what is left. It is clear that the trip to Mariba will need to be made without the extra manpower of the Turk’s Askaris.
A search was made of the camp area and the remaining stores. It revealed that a number of cases of rations had been damaged and they were already crawling with vermin and insects. The water skins were emptied and refilled at the water hole in case they had been tampered with.
The search also found two naked, bound and gagged askaris, both Baluchis. Further off, hanging upside down from a tree was the naked form of the almost dead Sudanese askari. He had been bound, gagged and left in the sun. The soles of his feet were sunburned and blistered. It will be days before he can walk.
It was clear that there are just enough porters, camels and donkeys left to carry supplies to get the expedition to Mariba on reduced rations. Adrian suggested that they remain here another night and resume the march before dawn in the morning. Everyone agreed. Ma’Iti wanted to track the deserters down and make an example of them. But later saw that this would cost valuable time.
The march to Mariba was made at a fast pace, the bearers stopped grumbling as more and more scouting parties of the Dafteez were seen. They kept a respectful distance until Mariba came into view.
It is well into the afternoon when the Lake is spotted ahead and the Mariba off to the north on its shore. The town is not nearly as large as you have been led to believe. This may well be accounted for by the smoking ruins along the lakeside. Even from this distance and through the haze a few buildings are visible on some high ground near the Lake. On a small island connected to the shore by a spit of land is a settlement and a steamer is approaching it.
The Union Flag still flies above the fort.
The land between you and the town appears clear but there are dust clouds that indicate marching men north and northeast.
Adrian estimated several hundred men, horses and camels in the nearest of the forces. This one may well reach the town about the same time as the the caravan. It would be a close run thing. Binky resolutely decides to press on. As he clears the low hills a horde of Dafteez on foot charge into view. Binky swiftly saw that the key to the battle was the high ground on his right and boldly occupied it in the face of a charge by screaming Dafteez. Binky reached the crest just in time for his rifles and machine guns to decimate the attack.
But all was not well elsewhere. Adrian, Gerald and Hyder deployed in a hasty firing line that came under fire from the Dafteez riflemen and artillery. With incredible bravery the Dafteez pressed home their attack. The Dafteez artillery played on the firing line without effect until a chance shot exploded near the howitzer killing or crippling the crew but leaving the gun relatively unharmed. The slackening of fire here let the Dafteez charge home.
At about this point the Dafteez artillery ceased fire. The gunners having been killed or routed by some highly accurate fire from the Morvalistan Scouts manning Fort Gingangoola.
The battle reached its climax as the Dafteez close in. A gap opened around Lucille as the Dafteez hurled their throwing spears at point blank range wounding or crippling her companions. She fired every bullet in magazine barely taking time to aim and miraculously hit and downed 5 of her attackers. To her right Adrian shot several and then engaged the Dafteez in hand to hand but their numbers told on the doughty warrior and he went down in flurry of swords and spears. The faithful Mahmoud fired into the mass of warriors above his master felling two and charging in he drove off the rest.
Binky, having dealt with the camel mounted attack and the infantry in a fierce close quarter battle, turned his Nordenfeldt on the rear of the struggling mass below. His askaris and companions lent their rifles into the fray and this proved decisive. The Dafteez assailed from the front, the hill on their left and from the town to their right gave up the attack. The survivors ignoring the fire that followed them as they walked away from the scene of carnage. That's right, they walked away. Their morale dented but not broken.
The casualties on both sides were heavy. Adrian lay badly wounded, Sergeant Achmed Tokar likewise, askaris and guards lay dead and wounded in the battle line. While in the town Not one had given ground. Lying on the field were literally hundreds of Dafteez. Strangely silent those still alive awaited awaited their fate at the hands of the victors. They fully expected to die.
At the rear of the town a barricade was torn down to admit the remnants of the caravan.
A hasty conference was held and it was decided to strike at the Dadassah Hattah's HQ at dawn the very next day.
Adrian it turned out was not dead as had been thought. With the careful attention of Hassan his wounds, though looking horrific, were shallow but painful. The Sikh gunner, likewise, had not been killed but blown over and knocked unconscious as had Sgt Achmed Tokar. The shell had clearly been poorly made. Thank goodness.
Modelling notes: The Dafteez are in fact Dervish infantry from a mix of companies. The large ones are Reboubt and because they are really too big to fit with my other figures I use them as "strong men", officers and standard bearers. The other officers come mainly from the Perry twins Sudan range while the rank and file are recruited from Warrior (who do a terrific deal), RAFM, Ral Partha, London War Room and probably others. The riflemen are Perry and Warrior with conversions from the other ranges. The flags are from Warflag.
All the buildings are basic foam core boxes decorated with beads and domes from packaging. The fort is based on the one in the Major General's site (though mine is made from foam core), as is the dhow. The huts are snack food containers (Pringles) with a card roof and "thatched" with filler. The barricades I picked up in a "Bring and Buy" at a wargame show.
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