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Episode Two: The Princess of Thoth



Former Royal Engineers sergeants Cutter, McPherson, and

Ballantine are initiated into the Explorers Society by wealthy
adventuress Emily Farnsworth. On their first mission in the
Libyan Desert, they are caught in a firefight between Bedouin
raiders and the legionnaires of Fort Oubli. But what is the
malady which afflicts the Fort? And what could they learn
from the mysterious glyphs they have discovered?
Quick! To the stables! Emily yelled.
Opening the doors, they were knocked back when they flew open. Two
horses afflicted with same malady charged out into the courtyard.
Following close behind was a deranged sergeant. The group fled up
the ramp towards the wall, while the horses charged at the raiders.
Emily could hear their terrified jabbering. Shots rang out as they
fired on the horses and the sergeant while fleeing the courtyard.
Cutter peered over the wall to see them leave, ducking back as
several wild shots hit the wall nearby.
Emily looked at the dead horses and peered into the stables. Six
camels lay huddled in the corner. They didnt seem to be deranged,
but the dry troughs told the explorers that they hadnt drank for a
Come on. She said, Lets go.
Dont you think we should take the wounded Bedouins with us?
Ballantine asked. Two of the raiders lay on the ground moaning as
they nursed deep cuts and broken bones.
Even though they tried to kill us? Cutter argued.
Ballantines right. Emily replied, We cant just leave them here,
and we have spare camels. And if they come back, returning their
wounded could be our only way of getting back alive.

A New Mission
After another week of burning desert travel and two weeks at sea,
the party once again found themselves in the Explorers Society
headquarters in London. Professor Bottoms was examining the glyphs
from the scroll case with clear interest.
So, what are they? Cutter asked, Egyptian Hieroglyphs?
Im not sure. I have seen the markings before in Egypt, but Ive
also seen them on Martian artefacts in the British Museum. My
daughter also tells me shes seen the markings on pottery in Syrtis
So, whats the plan? Emily asked.
I suggest that you take these glyphs to Esmeralda. Professor
Bottoms replied, Shell be able to follow the leads more easily on
Mars. And be sure to give her an account of what happened in the
I did hold on to those journals. Ballantine remarked, So, how do
we get to Mars then?
Theres an ether flyer leaving in three days; The HMS Glorious Dawn.
I can arrange for passage on that. The Society will take care of
your expenses, but Ill leave it to you to find a cover story.

What do you think well need? Ballantine asked Emily as the group
walked down the street to their rooms.
My parents were in the wine trade. I inherited their business when
they died. It has both funded my travels and served as a cover when
needed. She replied.
I think Cutter should have thought of that. McPherson chuckled.
Cutter pretended to yawn. I should see you all tomorrow. He said,
walking away.
Surely youd be joining us for dinner at the Royale? Ballantine
I want to get a shave first. Cutter mumbled, trying to consider
another excuse.
Whats wrong? Emily asked, but he had already left.
Cutter said he wanted to become a treasure hunter when he left the
army. Ballantine explained. Unfortunately, he was never able to
fund his expeditions.
And he, well, got involved with the wrong people. McPherson added,
Why do you think he was in prison when you first met him?

Confidence scams, smuggling, even blackmail. Ballantine listed,

Im surprised he didnt hang. He made a few enemies.
Ill sort this out. She said, leaving the pair.

And then there were two. Ballantine remarked as he watched her

leave after Cutter.
What do you see in Miss Farnsworth? McPherson asked him, When you
said you wanted to settle down with a lady I wasnt expecting youd
be with her.
Emily doesnt seem the type of person who settles down. But when
she spoke of adventures I thought Cutter would like her as a patron.

Elsewhere, Cutter was walking towards a pub.

Cutter! Emilys voice called. He turned.
They told you about me, didnt they? He said.
Youve known these people for longer than I have. Im sure that
McPherson didnt mean any ill with his words.
He does it all the time. I just wanted to contemplate it. Im little
more than a thief. Does the Explorers Society really want me?
If you want to find treasure, the Societys the best place to do
so. Now, why dont you join us? Put the past behind you. After all,
you wouldnt want to abandon your friends, would you? Youre like
Three Musketeers.
She extended her hand.
Were always together. He replied as he shook it.

Journey to Mars
Three days later, Emily and the Sergeants were boarding the HMS
Glorious Dawn. The captain greeted them warmly as the steward took
their luggage to the cabins. As the time to launch came around, Emily
and her partners were feeling uneasy. While most of them travelled
at sea, this was a new experience. They felt the flyer moving
forwards, and then upwards. Soon they could see the city of London
disappear beneath the clouds, followed by the countryside.
Eventually, they could see the stars as the flyer left the planets
atmosphere and was propelling through the ether of space.

That evening, Emily wandered through the lounge. The sergeants were
gathered around a card table with several books, joined by the other
passengers taking turns to recite phrases.
What are you up to? She asked.
Well be travelling through space for 74 days. Ballantine replied,
You suggested we try learning the Martian languages.
Well, by the time you get to Mars youll want to be fluent in
Koline, the trade language.
Well, we have some good teachers. Cutter added, Two of our fellow
passengers are administrators from the Colonial Office. Weve also
got some businessmen who deal in Liftwood and Bhutan spice, Martian

Weeks passed until the great red planet was in sight. Emily viewed
it from the porthole of her cabin.
I was always told that India was jewel of Queen Victorias crown.
Ballantine said as they admired the view. But now I could say that
Mars is the crown and the sceptre.
Emily prepared to reply when a sudden jolt rocked the ship. They
both ran to the corridor. The steward was directing them all to the
Whats happening? Cutter asked.
Pirates are attacking. The engine room has taken a direct hit. The
steward replied, trying to keep composure. We want everybody
gathered together.
And were just going to surrender? McPherson queried.
Im sure they will be reasonable and will demand a ransom.
Were outnumbered. Emily stated as a tremendous clang echoed
throughout the ship when the pirate vessel collided with the liner.

A large band of armed men filled the room, led by an imposing,

sharply dressed figure.
Ladies and gentlemen, this vessel is now the property of Captain
Ipswich. He proclaimed. If you would all like to remain calm,
nobody will get hurt.
Everybody nodded in understanding. The captain turned to one of his
men. Find the dispatches! He barked, Thats what we came for!
Everybody remained still as the pirates removed their valuables.
Jewellery, watches, wallets, and other personal effects were
snatched away. One of them reached into Emilys pockets to find an
envelope containing the glyphs. McPherson prepared to step forwards,
only for Emily to grab his arm.
Dont get yourself killed just yet. She whispered.

Id like to commend everyone for their wise choice. Captain Ipswich

said as the other pirates returned to their own craft. Well signal
for help on your behalf once we depart.
He cackled as he left.

The passengers could hear the clanging and clattering as the pirate
vessel disengaged from the Glorious Dawn. They promptly felt a sudden
rush as the ship began to descend towards the planet. Everyone
screamed as they tried to hold on to something. It felt like ship
was going to fall to pieces at any moment. A steady, extremely
troubling vibration surged beneath the deck, accompanied by the
tortured groan of beams and supports warping and snapping. With an
enormous clatter of splintering wood, the ship ran into the ground.

Some time passed as Emily came to her senses. Her limbs ached as she
stood up, but miraculously, nothing was broken. The sergeants also
seemed relatively unharmed. The ships captain was nursing a broken
leg, while several of the crew members and passengers were dead or
wounded. Those who werent refused to leave the shade provided by
the wreckage.

Wed better get moving. Emily told her companions.

Are you insane? The captain remarked, The pirate said hed signal
for help.
I dont believe him. Emily replied, Do you have a rough idea of
where we are?
My best guess is the Nepenthes-Thoth Steppe. If youre thinking you
can get to the Shastapsh-Thoth Canal, youre welcome to try, but
were at least 300 miles from either city state.
Or, we could ask for directions. Cutter interrupted.
A large party of riders was approaching the wreckage. They were
humanoids with a golden brown complexion, ranging from five-footten to six-foot-two in height. Their mounts were horse-sized, beaked
reptiles with sharp clawed feet. The leader of the band dismounted
and looked over the survivors. A closer look revealed that his hands
had three fingers and opposing thumbs, while his sandaled feet had
three toes.

Theyre Steppe Martians on gashants. Explained one of the other

passengers, a Bhutan spice dealer.
What is your purpose here? The leader asked in Koline.
Were trying to reach Syrtis Major. Emily told them. Her Koline
was occasionally halting, but she could maintain it long enough to
be coherent.
The nearest city state is Thoth. If you reach the canal, you can
follow it there. The canals seven days away. But be careful. Riders
from Shastapsh are on patrol, and they dont take kindly to red
He gestured to another Martian, who furnished her and the sergeants
with canteens and bundles containing biscuits and some kind of meat.
If youre leaving us, youd better take these. The captain added.
One of the more mobile deck hands had managed to haul out a small
cabinet from the wreckage. Inside were six revolvers, a small box

of bullets, and ten knives. The four companions each tucked a

revolver and a knife into their belts and began to leave.

Setting out, the party was greeted by the sight of an arid Martian
desert. Jackets had been removed and hats were being used as fans.
Days passed, and the hot sun bore down on them. Nobody spoke as they
traversed the sands, finding shade under rocks. After a week of
arduous trekking, they found themselves atop a rugged hill, glimpsing
one of the mighty canals. From her viewpoint, Emily could see a
cavalry force attacking a Martian caravan. Looking through
binoculars, she counted five Martians armed with halberds or muskets
hiding behind a makeshift barricade, taking cover from the riders.
A small group of riders broke away from the main group and rode
towards the hill. Cutter drew his revolver and fired the first shot.
One rider dropped from his mount. Emily, McPherson, and Ballantine
followed suit. The other riders heard the shots and began to pull
Theyre Shastapsh Regulars. Emily said as she noticed the insignias
on their cuirasses. I dont know who the others are though.

Lets find out. Ballantine replied. He holstered his revolver and

approached the caravan with his hands raised. The five guards emerged
and surrounded him. They looked slightly different to the Steppe
Martians encountered the previous week, with pale ochre skin and
fine dark hair. Two figures emerged from one of the tents. The first
was a beautiful Martian woman, wearing fine clothes and jewellery.
The second was a robed male, shorter than the others.
What are Earthmen doing in this place? He asked indignantly.
Werelost. Ballantine replied, surprised that the Martian spoke
Our flyer crashed in the Nepenthes-Thoth Steppe one week ago. Emily
reported as she and the others approached. Were trying to find the
My name is Kalamir. The Martian said, I am a representative of
Princess Aramaranda of Thoth.
He gestured to the Martian lady.
My name is Emily Farnsworth. These are my companions, Archibald
Cutter, Victor McPherson, and Douglas Ballantine. They were formally
sergeants in the Royal Engineers.
Kalamir translated the introduction. The princess spoke in an
unfamiliar language, but Emily could sense a confrontational tone.

Her highness









How far is it? Cutter asked.

Are you questioning the princess? Kalamir retorted in anger.
Hes asking you. McPherson replied, Something tells me that
introduction was lost in translation.
Wed be delighted to escort you. Emily replied, this time speaking
in Koline. Kalamir reeled back in surprise. The princess nodded.
There is a royal barge moored at a canal town. Thats 20 miles from
here. The interpreter said.

Shastapsh Attacks
What do you know about Shastapsh? Cutter asked Ballantine as they
travelled with the caravan, I thought the British occupied the
They did, back in 1887. Ballantine replied, One of the Colonial
Office administrators on the flight here told me that they revolted.
Later, I overheard that they suspect the hostile Oenotrian Empire
and the Germans of supporting the uprising.
What about the princess? How does she figure into this? McPherson
Shastapsh is in a position to the city-state of Moeris Lacus.
Kalamir interrupted. Thats a British protectorate. But they need
to get help. If they abduct the princess, they can coerce the citystate of Thoth into forging an alliance with them.
And speaking of the devil Emily remarked. A large force of
Shastapsh Regulars was approaching. They brought reinforcements.

The riders surrounded the caravan once again. Kalamir waved his arms
and them while shouting in Koline. They approached. He gestured for
Emily and the sergeants to stop.
Drop your weapons! He said, Commander Neesh is accepting our
A Martian officer barked orders to five of his men. They pointed
their weapons at the sergeants. Each rider carried a long sword and
two flintlock pistols.
They want you to go back to the hill where you joined us! Kalamir
yelled as he and the princess were led away. You should take them
Why would they want to do that? Emily pondered aloud as she was
herded along the path they had taken.

What fate do the Martians have planned for the Sergeants?

And will they be able to reach Thoth without the Princess?
Find out next time in The Doomed Caravan

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