THUNDER AT TIGER MOUNTAIN
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Shere Khan, the sultan of the western Zirks, had made himself annoying one too many times. His desert raiders preyed upon native villages ostensibly under British protection, and with his connivance the slave trade of southern Micomica was undergoing something of a rebirth. Emboldened by French sponsorship, the wily Khan had even gone so far as to cut British telegraph wires and seize the Royal Mail!
Meanwhile, the Austrian governor von Trapp was thoroughly alarmed by reports that experimental German war machines were to reinforce their new Italian allies at Nuevo Trieste. As treaty forbade armed forces into the Novo Adriatico without Austrian permission, the German leviathans were scheduled to land at French Reunionville and advance overland. Von Trapp hastily arranged with the British at Port Cocos to strike at Shere Khan's citadel of Al-Kulkuplan, the Tiger Mountain, at the same time that the German machines were scheduled to arrive.
What the British and Austrians did not know was that a French contingent was also present at Al-Kulkuplan in support of their Zirk protege.
The allied force entered from the southeast, and deployed in this manner. On their left was the immense and heavily armed landship HMLS London, bristling with guns. On the right were the Kraag, outlandish British auxiliaries from somewhere deep in central Micomica; these ferocious warriors were largely aboard a vast flying ship, equipped with British-made bombs and borne aloft by mysterious principles known only to these peculiar natives. Those Kraag who were not in the flying ship soared and swooped through the air on finely crafted personal gliders. In the second line, the Austrian force deployed: three companies of white-coated infantry, a battery of horse-drawn guns, and three steam-powered "Iron Uhlan" armored conveyances.
Facing this force, the defenders formed up as follows: on their left the German contingent of the airship Parsifal with bombs and Lufttruppen, the steam ram Dora with a naval gun, deck gunners and plow, and two glider "kites" with bomb racks. On their left the French steam wheeler Le Fleur d'Orange, with two steam torpedoes, three cannon, and boarding pieces led a mighty array of no fewer than eight (!!) companies of Ruga-Ruga mercenaries with one French company to show the flag. Finally, back in the citadel itself Shere Khan cowered with several companies of riflemen and an immobile 6" naval gun.
The action was furious and confused, and only the highlights will be described. The London ran straight at La Fleur, which was no less eager to come to grips with her larger, though slower, adversary. The Kraag contingent bypassed the defending line altogether and ran straight for Shere Khan himself. Meanwhile the Austrian Iron Uhlans lowered their spar torpedoes and ran at the Dora, while their infantry and horse-drawn gun struggled to keep up.
The Dora's fire knocked the spar off one Austrian machine, but the other two hit home and immobilized the Dora, though not before her momentum caused her to crash into one of the much-smaller Iron Uhlans and wreck it. The cheering Austrian infantry swarmed over Dora and drove off or captured her crew and exultantly cut down the German flag.
Then they looked to their west and saw a limitless horde of Ruga-Rugas bearing down upon them. It was all over in less time than it takes to describe - only a handful of whitecoats managed to escape with their lives. The remaining German crew returned to their rescued landshp, but were unable to repair her drive.
La Fleur scored telling blows against London with steam torpedoes (one went wild but the other hit fair and started a fire), and then began exchanging fire at close range, aided by the German aerial machines. Fortunately for the British, the London's bulk allowed her to carry several fire-fighting and damage-control parties, and their heroic efforts permitted her to take this pounding and remain in the fight. Nonetheless, it was all she could do to hold her own in the fray; no chance of driving on to the citadel.
But not for naught had the fury of the Kraag been released! Desperate fire from jezail and gun had set the mighty airship afire and rendered her air-screw inoperative, but not before she had surmounted the very battlements of Al-Kulkuplan itself. Kraag spears and Zirk scimitars flashed and sparkled in the bright Micomican sun. At grievous cost, the fanatic Kraag seized the citadel, spiked the naval gun, and brought victory (of a sort) to their side.
The villainous Shere Khan, unfortunately, slipped away in the melee, and together with his French sponsors and an outraged German government, vows revenge...