The dame crashing through the undergrowth behind me had other ideas. She'd banged into my office like she owned the place, said her name was Alice Koopa, and she wanted help finding a book.
"City library, they got thousands of 'em." I tried to shake her off. No such luck. She wanted a special book, some mystical something that belonged to her long-lost great-uncle Thespis. He took it on a plane ride, and crashed in a Louisiana swamp called Howe's Bayou (government land, or course) years ago. Now she's found where the plane went down, she's got a friend of a friend who can guide us, and she wants help getting that book.
"Swamps? Huh! You couldn't pay me enough." Turns out she could. Hey, it's not like my customers were ringing the phone off the hook, and the landlady was getting annoying about the rent check. Yeah, I could use the dough. The bad news is, she insisted on going along. At least she's just as hot and miserable as I am.
Gary, the guy in front of me, doesn't seem to notice the heat. I guess he's used to it. Some kind of adventurer-for-hire she knew from way back, or something. He didn't come cheap, but he knows the swamp country, and he knows how to keep his mouth shut. That's handy on these jobs that cross into the gray area between legal and almost-legal. At least there aren't any cops around. Blue and gray don't mix. (slap) These mosquitoes are gonna drive me nuts!
But Big Floyd made the decisions, and nobody crossed him. Nobody. Not even when he said they were going "big game hunting." They all figured he'd flipped, until his lieutenant spilled that the "big game" was Cool Hat Lucas. Floyd had never forgiven him for ruining that bank job and sending his best triggermen up the river. He'd gotten wind of a job that would take Lucas into the bayou, and he figured that would be a good place to even up the score.
"The really nice thing about this county," he was puffing in his gravelly voice, "is that they have a proper respect for the law. And the law stops where the swamp starts. We settle up with Lucas out here, with no witnesses, it ain't murder, it ain't even a crime, it's just a nice, clean case of revenge. Then we grease a few palms, and we go home. Right, boys?"
"Right!" they chorused, and wiped their brows again.
That country had become very hot and uncomfortable. At least their red robes kept the insects off their heads. Low Priest Peterowt (known as Pieter DeGraet to non-Sect members) led three of his Initiates along a damp trail. All they had to do was find the Tome before the woman did, and bring it home, and their Sect would grow immensely in power and prestige. The Initiates would have earned their new names at last, and Peterowt might even be raised to Middle Priest. And if they should meet the woman? In the depths of the swampland, no one but Ho'Chptui would ever know if a sacrifice had been made in his honor...
Was that the sound of footsteps up ahead?
This was a sample, solitaire battle with 25-point factions on a 1x1' Jungle map. Its purpose was to test out my new "To a Pulp" rules. I used free downloadable paper figures on my own simplistic scenery. To maintain some semblance of order, each faction will obey the following rules:
"Hey, you're not gonna leave me here, are ya, boss?" No-Toes yelped. Retreating footsteps were his only answer.
The Red Scallop Sect went through their secret Mastaroff Ceremony, which made their skin almost as hard as the shell of a scallop, then headed into the swamp. They got their Low Priest and two Initiates onto the map, but the nearest area of interest was just out of their reach. The same fate met Gary and Cool Hat. Alice lagged behind, fascinated by a turtle in a mushroom patch. "I can't help it," she explained. "I'm a Koopa; the whole family has a thing for turtles and mushrooms." The men ignored her.
The leading Sect Initiate found something interesting in the path, but stepped over it so his Priest could have the honor of examining it. It was... deer droppings. What would an Initiate know, anyway? The other two Initiates took a branching path that looked interesting.
This was Gary Indiana's kind of country. When he saw something metallic, he didn't even try to look at it, but trotted up the trail toward something else. He heard footsteps, and thought he saw a flash of red in the distance. There shouldn't be anything red here.
Meanwhile, Cool Hat took a look at what Gary had ignored. "That's a piece of a Ford Tri-Motor wing," he observed. "No mistaking it."
"My uncle flew a Tri-Motor," nodded Alice over his shoulder. "We're getting close."
The Initiates on the branching path found something, but were unable to tell what it was. Peterowt and the third Initiate heard footsteps ahead. Since that was also the way to the next item of interest, they went that way. The footsteps were Big Floyd's; although Gary was closer, he made almost no noise as he crept through the vines and moss. Floyd caught sight of the red robe, made a quick decision, and squeezed off a quick shot from his faithful .38 snub-nose. He missed. Now the criminals and the Sect were aware of each other, and that the two groups weren't friendly.
Gary was looking for something, and he found something, all right -- a log, hung from two vines, came swinging straight at him! He easily dodged it. Cool Hat and Alice had continued on their path, headed for a tall, steep-sided hill that looked interesting.
"You'll go first, all right -- I don't want you looking up my skirt!" snapped Alice. The detective shrugged; he doubted that that skirt was worth looking up. It was a tough climb, but not impossible. At the top of the hill, he found more evidence of a plane crash -- a propeller blade. Meanwhile, Gary was trying to rejoin his employers, but taking a path that kept the red-robed interlopers in sight.
Both Peterowt and an Initiate tried to examine the interesting things they'd found, without success. The other two Initiates, hearing Big Floyd's gunshot, drew their ceremonial daggers and ran forward. One ran headfirst into Floyd, who had charged into action. Brownie, close behind him, got into a fight with the other red-robe.
Big Floyd drew his pig-sticker knife and swung at the Initiate he'd charged. He missed, but the red-robe had to duck back to avoid the blow. Brownie found himself too close for tommy-gun action, so he threw a punch at his opponent and missed completely. The Initiate replied with a feeble swipe of his dagger, but Brownie was no close-action man; he jumped back, just to be safe.
"No need for you to climb up here, my dear," Cool Hat called mockingly. "There's only one other place here that might be interesting, and I can check it out myself."
"I'll be there soon enough," she muttered. Her hair was in total disarray from the humidity, and her new hat was just about ruined.
Gary, meanwhile, had heard shots and the sounds of fighting, and he knew his duty: to wade into it so his employers wouldn't have to. He rushed down the path toward the fleeting sights of red robes, and almost ran headfirst into Low Priest Peterowt, who had just decided that whatever he was looking at, wasn't worth the trouble. Peterowt stood to find himself facing a rough-looking adventurer with a whip in his hand!
The Initiate facing Big Floyd fell back to dodge the knife that Floyd swung at him, and almost tripped over his dead friend. Gary Indiana snapped his whip and neatly entangled Peterowt's hands even as he tried to draw his ceremonial knife. No one else was in position to fight.
Big Floyd faces off against three Cultist Initiates: one fleeing, one fighting, one dead from snake bite.
"There!" she shouted. The vine-covered wreck was just a few feet away, nearly hidden by thick tree trunks. The book would be inside!
Meanwhile, Gary found himself in hot water, which was unusual for a swamp, but not at all unusual for Gary Indiana. The Low Priest was unable to do him any harm, but one of the Initiates ran up and stabbed him in the back, wounding him. Big Floyd did much worse with his own knife, carving up another Initiate and leaving him for the alligators. Floyd's associates couldn't get a clear shot with their guns, so they just watched for an opportunity. Floyd, who had done all the work so far, was wondering what the heck he was paying them for.
"Why don't you tell those thugs exactly where we are, you stupid dame!" Cool Hat snarled. "Shut your mouth before I shut it for you!" The last thing he wanted was to draw attention to their whereabouts, since there was some kind of brawl happening down below. She looked hurt, but whatever she was about to say, she had the smarts to not say it.
Down below, it was a free-for-all; no one knew exactly who he was fighting, or why. Brownie squeezed off a shot at Gary and missed; Big Floyd snapped a shot at the last Initiate and also missed. No-Toes' eye was better, and his gunshot took out the last Initiate. "Funny how a red robe hides the bloodstains," Floyd thought. Peterowt, finding himself surrounded, took a cut at Brownie and missed. Gary drew his pistol and also fired at Brownie, with similar results. That was one lucky triggerman!
"Call it off, boys," Floyd growled. "We got off with a full hide, we iced two of those red-robes, and we can always settle up with Cool Hat another day. Let's get out of this stinking jungle and find us some civilization."
Low Priest Peterowt wasn't quite sure how he would explain this debacle to his High Priest. Not only had he failed to retrieve the Tome of Economicon 101, but all three of his Initiates were dead. This would not look good on his résumé.
"So, for the fourth time, what's so special about this book?" Cool Hat asked.
"If you don't know, I'm not going to tell you," Alice snapped.
Something else that might have changed things is if, instead of a 15-point Explorer, I'd given the Detective faction a 5-point character so everybody would have 25 points. But life is seldom fair.
Things that I seem to have proven: