Saturday, May 23, 2009

Chapter 12 - The French Arrive

The French heard about Zimdar by eavesdropping on the telegraph cables like the rest of the European powers. Their Navy was immediately interested in establishing a coaling station for their vessels on Zimdar. When word of the fantastical discoveries started coming in, the expedition was expanded to include a scientific team.

The expedition is led by Captain Armand d'Hubert commanding the cruiser Surcouf. The senior military officer is one Gabriel Feraud, commanding the marine and armed sailor contingent. These two hate each other, a situation arising from a series of duels that their grandfathers and fathers fought during the Napoleonic era. Capt d'Hubert takes a rational approach to the organization of the expedition and keeps his berth on the Surcouf while he billets Feraud on the troopship Herimone, besides the Herimone sails like a drunken sailor with gout and there is every possibility that Feraud will have a massive case of seasickness. The Herimone is carrying the Marines and small arms for the sailors as well as two Gatling Guns purchased before leaving. The French Marines are using this as a field trial for the Gatling Guns. The Herimone is also carrying the mechanical parts (boilers, propellers, nuts and bolts, etc) for the construction of two small river steam launches in addition to the one complete river launch it is carrying on its aft deck.

Just before sailing from France the Chief Scientist for the expedition was badly injured when set upon by thieves. How fortuitous it is that a replacement was found almost on the expedition's doorstep. Dr Emile Sinisterre is a strange and dark little man that tends to have a sneer permanently painted on his face. He also tends to mumble to himself. He is not liked by anyone, but due to schedule he is selected to join the party.

Finally the expedition sets out and after making landfall on Zimdar, they spend a few weeks searching the coast line for a likely spot for their coaling station. One of the desires is to be near a mouth of a river so they can use their launches to explore further inland. They finally find just the place, set up camp and begin working to build a permanent station. Their settlement is indeed near the mouth of a large river and that has a large marsh off to the southwest. The marsh is the home of millions of amphibian animals including frogs. After several days eating the delicacies offered by the marsh and some rudimentary cooking, they gladly christen their settlement "Jambes d' Grenouille".

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