Monday, 26 September 2016

Tour of Darkness: the Battle of Sau Vang

The last of the Arkham Pickmans...
Two weeks ago, our unit of Marines was sitting down to a rice planting festival feast in the village of Sau Vang, in the Ah Shau Valley. They were very surprised when three of their number passed out, and quickly realised that their food was drugged. Platoon sergeant Jugula had fired off a few rounds from his tommy gun in response, only for the Marines to be attacked by hostile villagers armed with machetes and bamboo poles.

In a close fought melee, while the rest of the peasants ran screaming, the Marines resorted to machetes and point blank bursts of fire from their M16s to fend off their attackers. Medical corpsman Arnie was wounded, and there were a few other close calls, but flak jackets and M1 helmets proved useful protection.

In the midst of the fight, Jugula began to feel a little odd: he was seized by extreme pain and a burning sensation throughout his being. Smoke began coming off his skin, and his hair stood on end. As he was crouching in agony, one of his men pointed out a richly dressed woman in the window of the headman's hut, chanting, with her eyes closed and arms upraised. It was not long before multiple bursts of M16 fire put and end to her, and to Jugula's tribulations.

Shortly thereafter, the fight ended, as Billy Bob knocked out the last peasant, the rest having fled out to the fields around the village. Rat and an NPC Marine searched the headman's hut, and apart from the dead body of the woman, discovered a secret compartment in the floor, in which were concealed some ancient wooden tablets, inscribed with Chinese writing. Rat decided to keep them for himself - although Billy Bob also knows he has them.

The Marines searched the rest of the village, and it was lieutenant Cooper who came across the old temple on the outskirts of Sau Vang. Here, he discovered a baleful statue of a disturbing, monstrous, elephant-headed deity. Its eyes seemed to follow him around the temple, eventually causing him to empty his M16 into the statue. The gunfire brought Jugula running, and he did the same with his SMG. The statue looked to be made of wood, and covered in gold leaf. The Marines decided it would be prudent to burn the whole temple.

Next, the lone prisoner was interrogated. He proved to be largely uncooperative, although he claimed the attack on the Marines was staged by communist infiltrators in the village, and that they had coerced him.

Luckily for the Marines, Jugula had posted a couple of men on watch, and it was one of these that now noticed a lone Vietnamese soldier in communist fatigues and a pith helmet sneaking towards the village using a padi dike for cover. Rat climbed onto the roof of the headman's hut, and was able to snipe the soldier. This, however, caused his comrades, who were also sneaking up on the village, to open fire.

Two NPC Marines were pinned in a hut on the edge of the village, but did a good job of keeping the North Vietnamese soldiers busy, while Rat continued to pick them off one by one from his vantage point. Coop and Jugula took cover in a nearby hut, and sought to direct the fight while lying flat on the floor. Billy Bob eventually took a hand, using his M79 grenade launcher to good effect. The end result was that the surviving NVA troops fled, but none made it alive to the cover of the jungle. Sadly, PFC Pickman had been shot and killed in the course of this engagement.

Corpsman Arnie recommended that the unit end its patrol and call in a helicopter for extraction to Firebase Tripoli. Coop took his advice, but the Marines had to wait a bit for a CH46 to come and get them. Luckily no more communist troops appeared, despite the smoke from the burning temple roiling into the sky.

Another pagan temple goes up in smoke...

Back at FB Tripoli, PFC Gee was medevaced to Da Nang for treatment. Coop briefed captain Veneziano on the patrol, explaining that the Marines had been ambushed by communist sympathizers at Sau Vang, which Veneziano seems to have accepted. Sau Vang has now been noted as a suspect hamlet by intelligence.

While the Marines rested at Tripoli, Rat began the translation of the Chinese tablets, which seem to be a holy text relating to some kind of Asian deity that is said to dwell in the hills. He learned a ritual from the tablets (in game - Fear spell) but is now becoming more unhinged. The weather has also deteriorated as the spring monsoon begins, with torrential downpours punctuated by mist that reduces visibility to less than 100 metres.

The Marines also debated what to do about top sergeant 'Massive' Massie, whom they believe has tried to kill the Rat by hiding a viper in his sleeping bag and may / may not have laid a booby trap on a trail they were using. Massie is attended by a small posse of mean looking Marines called the Bad News Boys who may / may not be involved in his drug running activities. Eventually the players hit on the idea of persuading Veneziano to let them take Massie - and only Massie - with them on their next patrol, so that they could have the 'benefit of his experience.' Massie didn't seem happy about this when Veneziano agreed, but couldn't pull rank on Coop. Down two men, Coop decided to take corporal Wheeler with him this time, as Wheeler was keen for a crack at Charlie.

"Hey, that's my call sign!"
The new patrol was a recon mission along the border with Laos, to look for signs of enemy activity and perhaps engage any communists infiltrating over the frontier into South Vietnam. The terrain was dense jungle, with little sign of human habitation. Coop kept himself in the centre of the patrol, next to his radio man. Suddenly, they heard someone using their own call sign on the radio. Although there was plenty of interference, they heard the voice calling down an artillery strike on their position. Before the order could be countermanded, the Marines heard shells incoming. They scattered into the jungle to avoid the barrage. Sadly, Wheeler was not lucky, and took a direct hit, vaporizing him instantly.

Coop got on the radio to Tripoli to stop any further artillery. He managed to raise Veneziano, who was of the opinion that communications had somehow become compromised by the enemy. Until they could figure out what was going on, he ordered the patrol to keep radio silence unless absolutely essential.

The patrol camped overnight in torrential rain without incident. In the morning, they pressed on. Rat noted some monkeys following the soldiers in the treetops. He consulted Massie who said they might be hoping the Marines would drop some food. Close to noon, before the lunch stop, Coop suddenly smelled tobacco smoke. With seconds to spare, he ordered his men off the trail, just as the jungle erupted with enemy fire...


  1. I have a very bad feeling about all of this!

  2. I enjoy reading the tales of the squad. Please keep posting.