Taken from the locked journals of Sir A. Walker-Blackguard, this gripping tale of derring-do in darkest Africa brings us to the perilous conclusion of Sir Roger Ghastleigh-Bray's ill-fated expedition to explore the legend of Solomon and Sheba.
"Sorry to disturb you, Sir Roger old chap," he murmured, ever one of nature's gentlemen despite his inadequate education at some ghastly second-rate crammer, "but it rather looks as if all our bearers have run off in the night."
I was dismayed, although the natives had become increasingly restive as we penetrated into these remote lands, where no white man's foot had previously trodden (at least, not in hand-lasted brogues from a decent London shoemaker). They had taken to muttering about a mysterious valley which it was death to enter, ruled by an ageless and terrible goddess who inflicted dreadful punishments on those who offended her. Only last night, while taking my evening constitutional after the prunes and custard, I had noticed how furtively they had talked around their miserable campfire, in between their simple amusements of five card stud and perusing the stocks and shares in the London Times. Perhaps if I had been a little more suspicious about the way that they had hidden that map . . . but it was useless to cry over spilt milk.
"All gone ?" I said. "Well, that's dashed inconvenient."
"Only my faithful Umkhonto we Sizwe is left," said Quarterback.
"He's jolly - er, attached - to you, isn't he," I remarked. In truth, I always felt that there was something a little unwise in so close a friendship between the hunter and the strapping Zulu warrior. Even if, as Quarterback alleged, their blood brotherhood did require them to share a single blanket when sleeping, I could not but wonder whether it was wise to do so naked. After all, the natives look up to us, and I felt that Quarterback should have set Umkhonto an example by wearing proper pyjamas. Furthermore, one of them obviously slept badly, as I had occasionally heard moans and gasps from the direction of their tent.
"Loyal and true," said Quarterback, stoutly.
"Quite. Have you woken Tolly ?"
Young Tollemache Card-Cuttoutte was the third white member of the expedition, a vision of English young manhood with his Hyacinthine blond curls, and his peaches and cream complexion lightly bronzed by the African sun. This was his first expedition into the bush and he was as eager as a puppy to see Wild Africa in all her barbaric glory. His father, Sir Archetype Card-Cuttoutte, was an old school chum, and when he had asked me to keep an eye on the boy I thought it easiest to bring him on our expedition in search of the fabled Lost Kosher Vineyards that the Queen of Sheba had planted for the export trade with Ancient Israel. Scholars had erroneously assumed that these had been swallowed by the desert sands centuries ago, but I, translating ancient Aramaic manuscripts in the Bodleian, had discovered that they must have been located much further south, in the unexplored fastnesses of the Mountains of the Moon.
"Umkhonto is fetching him," said Quarterback, and at that moment the pair arrived, the golden English boy, scion of a line that went back before William the Conqueror, and the ebon and glistening magnificence of the six-foot-four Zulu, borne of who knew what parentage in the African bush. The warrior patted a friendly hand on the young lad's rear, an excessive familiarity, I thought, for one who was basically a servant, and one, I was pleased to see by his narrowed eyes, that even Quarterback realised wasn't on.
"I say, Uncle Roger, this a rum show, isn't it ?" breezed Tolly. "What are we going to do now?"
"Now ? Why we shall press on as ever my boy. I calculate that what we seek lies only beyond the next ridge. We can leave our things here and come back for them after reconnoitering."
And so we set off, Quarterback and his trusty blood brother leading the way. Near the top of the ridge, where the trail entered a narrow defile, Quarterback paused, frowning, to look at the ground, and muttered something in Zulu to Umkhonto.
"What is it old chap ?" I asked.
"Probably nothing. This just looks a little well worn for a goat track."
We should have heeded his suspicions, for no sooner had we entered the defile than nets descended upon us from above, and we were swiftly bound and helpless. Our captors descended from the rocks and poked us roughtly with spear butts. I looked in amazement, for though bronzed and sun-darkened they were not African in feature, and they wore linen kilts and headdresses.
"Take them to She Who Must Be Obeyed on Pain of Pain," said the one who appeared to be a leader, a muscular young brute with a mouth that hinted at sensuality and cruelty - reminded me terribly of old 'Thrasher' Wilkes, our senior prefect at school. I gasped aloud, for although strangely accented, the language was that of Ancient Egypt.
"You speak our language," said the leader, pointing at me with the gilded wooden implement, not unlike a narrow cricket bat or oar, which he bore. "Then know that you have trespassed upon the Forbidden Valley of Ass-sep-Ankh, and must bear the consequences." He gestured to one of his men, and a blow landed, knocking me out.
When I came to, I found myself naked, and bound hand and foot to a curious wooden frame, slightly curved so that my buttocks were displayed in the most embarrassing fashion. My companions had been likewise served, and the discomfort was slightly mollified by the fact that the splendid little cheeks of young Tolly, like two gilded peaches just flushed with the first rosy hint of ripeness, were bobbing in front of me. Each frame was being carried by four sturdy fellows up the steps of a magnificent marble building, similar in design to the temple at Karnak. We were brought, bound and humiliated, into a magnificent hall, splendid with golden ornamentation, lit by flickering torches. At the far end stood a raised basalt dais with a magnificent throne, apparently carved from a single piece of jade, in the form of the cobra goddess of Upper Egypt. And seated upon the throne was a woman.
And what a woman ! Under the double crown of Egypt her hair was long and dark, but her skin was white as an Englishwoman's and seemed to glow with an inner light, like an alabaster lamp. She bore the crook and flail, symbols of rule and punishment, in her slim hands. I know not what colour her eyes were, for they were too terrible to meet, their radiance matched only by her silver breastplate. At her feet lay - I choked back an amazed epithet and met Quarterback's eyes.
"Isn't that a Bengal tiger ?" I murmured.
"Yes, and a mighty fine one," agreed Quarterback.
Those compelling eyes fixed themselves on me as if to read my soul.
"You are the scholar," she said, "the one who speaks our tongue. Know then, that I am Darlasha, She Who Must Be Obeyed on Pain of Pain, immortal queen and priestess of this land. Why have you tressp . . ."
Her sentence was never completed, for at that moment young Tolly raised his hanging head.
"Ai !" exclaimed Darlasha. "My beloved Kallipyges, dearest of switches ! After all the centuries, you have been reborn !" And she threw herself from the throne, and began to rain kisses and caresses on the helpless boy.
"I say, madam," I interjected as steelily as is possible in such an undignified position, "unhand that young man. We are Englishmen, representatives of the Great White Queen over the Water, and if you know what's best for you you'll release us all at once." Young Tolly had never shown any unmanly interest in women, but as I stood in loco parentis, I could hardly stand by and let the lad be molested that way.
Darlasha turned her fiery gaze upon me.
"I am the only Great Queen here," she said. "Your manner is unseemly, and I see you must learn what it means to defy me. Captain Horus !"
The leader of our captors bowed low before her.
"Instruct this learned man in the learning of Ass-sep-Ankh," she said. "Place his footsteps upon the Road of Pain and Delight."
A nasty smile lit the Captain's face, making him look even more like 'Thrasher' Wilkes. He took the gilded wooden bat of his office and approached me. At a nod the bearers placed me face down, the whole assemblage held a little off the floor by short wooden legs. Bound and helpless, I could only lie there as Horus rubbed the flat side of the wood over my raised and quivering buttocks. A curious pang went through me, followed by a very much more considerable one as he brought the dashed thing down on my waiting rear. A sharp sting melted into considerable heat just as the next blow landed. Methodically he brought the golden paddle down over every inch of my bottom. Before very long I was twisting and bucking in the bonds that held me. The Captain was clearly an expert at this, and every blow landed to good effect. I had not been beaten since school (except for that one incident in Shanghai, which I'd rather not talk about) and had forgotten just how effective it can be. It felt as if every inch of skin had been removed from my scalding backside, and I fear I may even have gasped out once or twice, although mostly I managed to keep silent.
"Enough," cried Darlasha, much to my relief, for the brute had been concentrating on that tender area where the buttocks meet the thigh for the last few.
"Ha, he is tough, this one," grunted the sweating Captain.
"The stoicism and invincible stupidity that built an Empire," muttered Darlasha. She nodded, and those muscular hands that had just inflicted such fiery retribution began to massage my red-hot behind. To my grave embarrassment, this provoked the most extreme erotic reaction in me, and I grew very hard.
"Pain and delight," said the thrilling voice of Darlasha. "So do we awaken the sleeping soul - so will we awaken my dear Kallipyges, until he remembers his past life with me. I, the Undying One, who made Solomon himself whine and beg me for mercy, will do this."
"Lady," said Captain Horus, as his ministrations brought forth a groan of pleasure from my lips, "never have I requested anything of you, for to serve you is my honour. Yet, if it please you, let this one be given to me. It would please me greatly to instruct him further."
"He is yours, my gallant captain," purred Darlasha. Fear and delight mingled in my breast, as I realised that I was now the helpless plaything of a man who took pleasure in spanking!
Will Sir Roger find fulfilment at the hands of Captain Horus ?
Is Tolly really the reincarnated lover of the immortal Darlasha ?
What has happened to Quarterback and Umkhonto ?