There can be few things finer in life than watching your nemesis burn, thought von Stroheim. He struck a match and lit his pipe, taking a few long puffs before turning to his loyal Feldwebel Krieg.
“You have set fire to all the exits Krieg?” He enquired.
“Jawohl Oberst” replied Krieg. “And there are Jägers covering each side of the building”.
The man was obviously out of breath having run all round the former King George Boarding House pumping flame into every door and window. Count von Stroheim stepped back and indicated that Krieg could stand at ease.
So I can finally strike Sir Allan Quatermain off my list, he thought. All I need now is to catch up with his bothersome niece and then onto Curr. He reflexively reached over and gripped the prosthesis where his left arm had once been. I will settle accounts with you Curr, soon enough he thought. This short trip to Mombasa was proving to be quite rewarding.
At that moment an explosion ripped the face off the building. The two Jägers standing closest to it were immolated instantly. Though Krieg and von Stroheim were far enough back to withstand the blast they were peppered by bits of glass and wood causing them both numerous superficial cuts. The blast also blew out most of the fire.
Count von Stroheim laughed, unnerving his Feldwebel. “A fitting end for you Quatermain!” He shouted.
A moment later there was a loud crack from the house and a Jäger to von Stroheim’s left collapsed, a red mist appearing where his head should have been. The Revivifier on the Jäger’s chest began its chorus of chirps and thuds, but even that piece of arcane technology could not bring back a man with no head. A second later another Jäger collapsed headless.
“Mein Oberst!” bawled Krieg and pushed him flat as a third crack came from the house. Count von Stroheim felt no pain so he started to try and crawl towards an irrigation ditch a few yards to his right. However, he didn’t seem to be making much progress. Then he noticed that his prosthetic left arm was lying about two meters away. That verdammt Quatermain had shot his arm off!
He felt large hands seize him by the back of his trousers and his right shoulder. Krieg hauled his master like a log and threw him into the ditch following him a moment later. In that time two more Jägers went down. One headless the other shot clean through his Revivifier and his chest.
Jägers from the other sides of the building were now returning fire, but they had no idea where in the building their enemy lay. The Count knew when he had lost the advantage. It was obvious that the old dog had some dynamite in the building and had taken the enormous risk of trying to blow his way out. Maybe Africa did look after the man as his legend claimed.
He didn’t risk a backward glance over the edge of the ditch, but with Krieg’s assistance he made his way out of sight and back to his reserve platoon. There to board his armoured steam wagon and head back to the port.
If he had looked the sight would have dismayed him. Sir Allan Quatermain strode from the wreckage, his clothes still smouldering, and calmly loading and firing, mopped up the remaining six Jägers, ignoring their increasingly desperate fire. One did manage to revivify, but was instantly downed again, a shot from both barrels of the smoking Rigby cutting him in half.
Quatermain then strolled down to a hut a hundred yards from the wrecked building, kicking von Stroheim’s metal arm aside as he did so, and dictated a short message to the terrified telegraph operator.
++HUN ON THE RUN + STOP + HEADING FOR PORT + STOP + PREPARE THE MORNING STAR FOR IMMEDIATE ENGAGEMENT + STOP + I AM ALRIGHT + STOP + GOOD HUNTING HELEN + BE THERE SOON – AQ + STOP++
All he had to do now was find a horse…