The Explorers Guild

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Excerpt from THE EXPLORERS GUILD by Kevin Costner and Jon Baird, with illustrations by Rick Ross. Copyright © 2015 by Kevin Costner, Jon Baird and Rick Ross. Reprinted by arrangement with Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Text of The Explorers Guild

  • 15

    AUGUST, 1917. Balmy days, as you may recall, for the Ceylon Com-pany and the Anglo-Indian Arms. The 6th (Poona) Rifles have landed at Fao and chased the Sultan up through his crumbling forts on the Tigris, howling behind him like the loosed inmates of Bedlam. The Ottoman 38th, put to school under General Nixon, lies strewn now across the sands in ones and twos. Their commander has presented himself alone and barefoot at the gates of the capital, and will shoot himself there before the

    week is out.The Company, in fine, is having a good run so far in Mesopotamia. And as the Near-East sun salaams to the tents and pavilions of her Indian guests, as the sentries chal-lenge a young rider on the Basra Road, we find Lieutenant-General Sir John Nixon, our red-phized John Bull, commander of the Company armies in the the-ater, behaving precisely as he would at this hour at his club in Madras. Which is to say, he has got himself staggering tight.

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    AUGUST, 19117. Balmy days, as yyyyoooou mmayy rreecalll, for the Ceyyyylllonn CCCoommm--pany and tthhe Annnggglo-Indian AArmss. The 6th (Poona) Rifflleees have landdeeedd aaatt Fao and chased the Sultan up through his crumbling forts on the TTTiiigggrrriiisss,, howling behind him likkee the loosed iinnnmmates of Bedlam. The Ottooommmmaaannn 38th, put to school undder Geneeeerrrral Nixon, lies streewwn nnow acrosss thee ssaaannnddddsss in ones and twossss. TTTheir commander has presented himmmsseellfff aalloonnee aaannnddd bbarrreeefoot at the gates of the capppital, aaannnddd wwwill sshhoooot himmmmmmssself therrreee bbbeeefffooorrreee ttthhhee

    week is oouuuutttt.The Coommmpppaanyy, inn ffiinne,, iiiiss havvviinggg aaa gggoooooddd rrruuuunnnn so far iinnn MMMeesopotamiia. AAAnnnnddd aass ttthhheee NNNeeeaarrr--East sunn sallllaamss tttooo the tenntsss aannnddd pppaaavvviiillliiioooonnnnsss of herrr Indian guests, aaas ttthhheee ssseeennntttrrriiieeess cccchhhhhaallll---lengge aa younggg rrrriiiider oon the BBBassrrraaa RRRoooaaaddd,, wwwweeee find Lieutenannttt-General SSSiirrr JJJooohhhnnn NNNNiiiixxoonnn,,, our red-phized JJoohn Bullllll,, cccoooommmmmmaannndddddeeeerrrrr of the Company armiesss iinnn tthhhheeeee tttthhhhheee--ater, behaving preciselyyy aaasss hhhee wwwwwooooouuuuulllldddddd at this hour at his cccllluuubbb iiinnnn MMMMMaaaaddddrrrrraaaaassssssssss.... WWhhiiiccchhh iss ttoo ssaaayy,, hhheeee hhhhaassss gggggooooottttt hhhhiiiiiimmmmmmmsssssseeeeelllllffffff ssttaaggggggeeerrriinnnggg tttiiiggghhhtt..

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  • 16

    The Explorers Guild

    Sir John sifts through old in-telligence reports, German propa-ganda fliers and bawdy prints from France, alternately scowling over one or another or holding them to the light . . .which is strictly for show, you understand. Reading is out of the question for a man with this much liquor on board. Anyway, he has left his reading glasses at can-tonments in India.Seated beside General Nixon is

    his second, a Major-General Sir Charles Townshend, K.C.B., still known in 1917 as the hero of Chi-tral Fort. Like Nixon, Sir Charles

    is regaling himself with Kabul whiskey, an unholy brand of arrack or palm wine browned with tobacco juice. Unlike Nixon, Sir Charles is making no other pretense of effort.It is easyit is temptingto see nothing out of the way here. Just two

    officers of the Company, taking their ease in the approved manner, as lit-tle excited as two bachelor baronets (which they are) whiling the evening at some country shooting lodge (which youre aware this is not).But stay a moment. You may

    find the quiet a bit too perfect, and not just in the commanders tent: silence, you will observe, overhangs the camp like a pall. And now youll see Sir John is shifting in his seat, gnawing a section of his lip, his face flushed not just with drink but with a strain of effort, as though he were struggling to subdue his thoughts.

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    ThThThThThThThThThe e e e e e e e e e ExExExExExExExplplplplplplplplplororororororororererererers s s s s s s GuGuGuGuGuGuililililililddddd

    SSSiirr JJoohhhnn sssssiiffttss tttthhhhrrrooouuuggggghhhhhhh oolllllddddd iiiiinnnnn---tteelllllliiigggeeennncccee rreepppooorrtttsss,, GGeerrrmmmmaaannnn ppprrrooppppaaa--ggaaannddda ffflieerrss aaannnddd bbbaaawwwddyyy pprriiinnttttssss ffffrrrroooommm FFraannce, alteernaatteeelllyyy ssscccoowwwlliiinnnggg oovvvveeeerrr oooonnneeee or another or holdinnnggg ttthhheeemmm ttoo ttthhhhheeee light . . .which is strictlyy for ssshhhooww,, yyou understand. Readinngg is ouuuttt oofff thhe question for a man wiith thhhiiiss much lliquor on board. Anyyywwwaayyy, hhheee hassss left hhiis reeading glassess att caannn-tonments inn IInndia.Seeaattteeed bbeesidddee General Nixon iiiiiss

    his ssseeecccond,, a MMajor-Generall Sir Charrlles Townshend, K.C.B., still known in 1917 as the hero of Chi-tral Fort. Like Nixon, Sir Charles

    iiiss rrreeeeggaaalllliiinnnggg hhhiiimmseeeellff wwiiithh KKKabull wwhiskkeey, an unholyy brand oof arrack or ppaalllllmmmm wwwiinnneeee bbbrroooowwnneeedd wwwiiitthhh ttobbaacccccccco juuuice. Unlike Nixon, SSSSir Charles iis mmmmaaakkkiiinnnggg nnnoo oootthhheerr pppretenseeee oof efffforrrt.IIIttt iiisss eeassyyyiiitt is temptingtooo seeeee nnoothiinng oout of the way here. Just twwooo

    ooffffffiiiccceeerrrsss ooofff ttthhheeee CCComppaany, ttaaking their eeeeaaasseee iiinnn ttthhhee aaapppprroovveed mmaaannnnneer, aaaaas lit-ttttlllee eeexxxcciiitteeddd aaas twoo bacheellor bbbaronets ((((wwhhhiiiccchhh tthhheeyy are) whilingg tthhe evenning aattt sssoooommmmeeee cccooountryy shhoooooting llloddggeee (((((wwwwhhhiiiicchhhh yyyourrre aaawware thhhiiiisss is noottt)).BBuutt sssttttaaaayyy a mooommmennntt. You maayy

    fffffiiinnnndddddd ttthhhheee qqqquuuuiiiieeeetttt aaaa bbbbiitt ttoooo pppeeeerrrffeect, aannd nnnooooottt jjjjuuusstt iiinn ttthhheee ccooommmmmaandddeerrs tentt: ssssiiiilllleeennnnnccceee,,, yyyyoooouuu wwwiiilllllll obbbbsssseeerrrvvveee, oooovvveeerrhhhanngs tttthhhheeee cccaaammmmmppp lllliiikkkkee aaaa pppppaaalllll.. AAAnnndd nnow yyyoouull sssseeeeeeeee SSSSSSiiiirrr JJJoooohhhnnnn iiiisss ssshhhiiifffttttiinnggg iinn hhiisss sssseeaatt,,, gggggggnnnnnnaaaawwwwwiiinnnnnnngggg aaaa sseecctttiioonnnn ooofff hhhiisss lliippp,, hhiisss faaacccee ffffflllllluuuuuuussssssssshhhhhhhhheeeeeeeddddddd nnnnnnoooottttt jjjjuusstt wwwwiiiittthh ddddrrriiinnnkkk bbbuuttt wwwwiiitthh aaaaaa sssssssttttttrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnnn ooooooofffff eeeefffffffffooooorrrrttttt,,, aaaass tthhhoouugggggghhhh hhheee wwwweeerrree sssssssstttttttrrrrrrrrruuuuuuugggggggggggggggggglllllllliiiiiinnnnnnnggggg ttttooooo sssssuuuubbbdddduuuuueeee hhhhiisss tthhhhooouuggghhhhtttttssss...

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  • A Passage to Shambhala

    Youll see that even the mild eyes of Sir Charles apprehend the view outside with something like dread. For the road to Baghdad is long, gentle reader, and the signs are ev-

    erywhere tonight that Nixon and Townshend are headed the wrong way on it.There is an Ottoman division, for one, whispered coming south from

    the Dardanelles at speed. Two thousand fighting Turkmen sprung from their trenches at Gallipoli, with a vanguard reported already at Al-Shar, just a days march north of Nixons position. Berlin, too, has issued a rather lurid account of the Hindu-Christian crusade under way on the Ti-gris, and the German propaganda seems to have run the width of Araby. Jihadis from as far away as Palestine and the Caspian coast are arriving at Al-Shar with the Kaisers broadsheets in hand. And it is said there are Jangalis from the Persian Plateau, Kurds from the Zagros foothills, Tatars from the Caucasus and all manner of loose elements from the Empty Quarter poking in to see what the racket is.

    It may be that Lord Pomeroy, Director of the Ceylon Company, Viceroy and Governor-General of India, has reached too deep into the desert this time. He may find, and quickly, that he has ventured too small a

    force, or stretched their lines of supply too far. Certainly this is the prevailing opinion at Mus-allam, where the young men on picket can already hear the drums of Mohammedan armies, borne into camp on the wind. . . .

    17

    A A A A A PaPaPaPaPaPaPaPassssssssssagagagagagagage e e e e e tototototo S S S S S S Shahahahahahahambmbmbmbmbhahahahahahalalalalalala

    YYYYYYYoooooouuuuullllllll sssseeeeeee tttthhhhhaatt eeeevvvveeeennnn tthhheee mmmiiilllddd eeeyyeeess ooofff SSSiirrr CCChhhaaarrrllleeesss aaapppppprreeehhhhheeeennnnndddddd tttttthhhhhhheeeeee vvvvvviiiieeeeeewwww oooouuuuttttsssssiiiidddddeeee wwwiitthhh sssooommmeeetthhhiinnnggg llikkke dddrrreadd. FFFFFFFoooorrrrr tttthhhee roaaddd to Baghdad is long, ggeentle readerrrr, anddd tthhhhheeee sssiiggggnnssss aaaaarrrrreee eeeeeevvvvvvv---

    eeerrrrryyyywwwwhhhheeerrreee tttooonight tthhat Nixon and Townshend are headeddd thheee wwwrrrooonnnggg wwwwwwaaaaaayyyyy ooonnnn iiiittt.TTTThhhheeerrreee is an Ottommmman dddiviissiion, for one, whispered coming souutthhh fffffrrrrrooooommmmmm

    tttthhee DDDDaaarrrddaneellles at speed. TTTTTTTwwwwo thousanndd fighhtting TTurkkmmeen ssspppprruuuunnngg ffffrroommmm ttthhheir trenches at Gallipoli, with a vanguard reported alreaddy at Al-SSShhhaaarr,, just a days march north of Nixons position. Berlin, too, has issuueeeddd aa rathher lurid account of the Hindu-Christian crusade under waaayyyy ooon thhee TTTiii-gris, and tthe German propaganda seems to have run the width offf AAAArrraaabbbyyy. Jihaadis from as far aawaaayy as Palessttttiiinnne and the Caspian coast areee aaarrrrrriivvviiinnggg at AAAAl-Shar withh tt