The Lost Diaries - Book Two

 

Sarawak Sojourn - service in the Brooke Raj, being volume 2 of Captain Arjun Khan's diaries.

Chapter One - Pirates!!

For the expedition Captain Cavor purposed to use 'The Lady of the East', a steam-launch which was partially built in Egypt, and which he had brought along with him the holds of the 'Abang' to be completed here. It was a most handsome vessel, and had a style which resembled to me a Roman ship.

Despite the swift current and the frequent rains we made good speed, and on the third day after we departed Kuching we approached our destination.

Shortly before sunset Mr Korzeniowski, who was piloting the boat, informed Captain Cavor that some tree-trunks had fallen across the river ahead of us, and that he did not think we could avoid the obstacles. Captain Cavor then resolved to steam on and sail through the logs, considering that the 'Lady' was stern enough, and that the logs would have been rotten through at their core.

Then suddenly Mr Korzeniowski gave a loud cry as he clutched at his arm, where a long dart had pierced him. On both banks of the river now came sounds of gong and we surmised immediately that we had been ambushed by a large party of the Dayaks!

Hails of darts and arrows assailed us from both banks, and a small band of the head-hunters on a war-canoe revealed itself from behind the log barrier and made straight for us. The Gatling mounted on the prow soon dissuaded the would-be boarding party. Major Cavor ordered the ship to be turned around, but before we could make our escape one of the crew was struck by a dart and fell over the freeboard. I reached over to try to rescue the man, but found much stirring of the water at the spot where he had fallen into, as if there was much activity beneath the surface.

Then without warning a large shape broke the surface of the water and lunged towards the deck at Major Cavor, who only avoided its attack by the merest of margins. Before I could discern the shape of the attacker, it had swiftly wrapped itself around my waist and immediately had me firmly in its grip. It was only then that I realised that it was not a whole creature, but the tentacled appendage of what must be a cephalopod of enormous size!

Despite my struggling I could not break free of the deadly embrace, and although the rest of the party assailed it with their swords and pistols, the hide of the beast proved proof against such attacks. As the creature withdrew it tentacle to drag me to my watery grave, I held firmly to the rails of the boat, and just when thought I could hold on no more my belt broke and the creature had to content itself with only my jodhpur for its dinner!

As the crew dragged me to safety, I thought I felt faint from the ordeal and was about to swoon. But soon I realised that the boat was in fact lifting itself off the river and taking flight - for the canopy of the 'Lady' was in fact a hot-air balloon!

Thus air-borne, we retreated down the way we came, safe from the darts of the Dayaks and any foul river-monster.

We set down just before last light, where I attended to the wounds of a crew while Major Chard and Captain Cavor took counsel on our predicament.

.  .  .  .  .