Gold Fever is set in the unforgiving wilderness where the Gold Rush pits the native “Tribals” against the “Adventurers” who come in search of the riches. The jungle has turned into a dangerous place, where those who wish to survive and prosper must form alliances.
Adventurers came in search of gold and glory. Tribals seek to repel them, re-take their gold, and return it to the rivers of their ancestral gods. Adventurers might also face attacks from other gold-fever-stricken Adventurers.
The Gold Fever experience is dark and tense, with innumerable dangers lurking in the forest and vast amounts of violence.
Julius Princeton was many things—a petty thief, a gambler, a con man—but he was not a missionary. As a young lad growing up in Queensland, Australia, he was largely left to his own devices by his father. Until one day, he was arrested for running a bank scam.
It might have spelled years of hard labor for him in prison had his father not moved in his favor. Calling upon the help of his friend, a Cardinal, they were able to convince the judge that Julius would be better put to use doing God’s work than rotting in prison. Putting thought to deed, he was sent to an island in Papua New Guinea, on a mission to bring Christianity to the natives there.
Julius believed in God, the Pope, and the One True Faith. He believed that the heavens had destined him for greater, loftier things. But his heart wasn’t into converting the natives of this strange land. Thus he proved a mediocre missionary, spending a year on the island with little to show in the way of converts.
One day, while traveling these new lands, he took a bath in a small river originating from the forest and he was surprised to find a shiny yellow, odd-looking stone. He bit into it, as his grandpa taught him when he was young, and to his delight, his teeth left tiny indentations on the surface. Throwing on his clothes, he continued up the stream with a pan in hand, and before long his pockets bulged with dozens of golden nuggets.
In his mind’s eye, Julius saw an enormous mining town growing at the banks of the great river. He saw ships from all over the world flocking to this camp, bearing an army of prospectors, miners, doctors, explorers, news reporters, celebrities, marines, and adventurers. He saw the mountains turning into strip mines, resembling stairways to the skies. He envisioned himself welcomed back with open arms by his family and exalted as a man who changed the world.
Julius abandoned his mission, reporting to the Cardinal saying that the natives were impossible to convert. Then he wrote his closest friends a letter of invitation with a few gold nuggets, asking them to invest in a small gold mining operation on the island. On February 17, 1929, New Canaan Gold Corporation was formed. Julius, one of his close friends Martin, and a sizeable team of locals formed an expedition that plunged into the heart of the jungle.
At first, the journey was going well, every mile they found evidence of more gold along the river banks. But as he continued into the forest, Julius felt a prickling on the back of his neck, a feeling he was being watched. Odd signs and totems showed up along rivers--nets of bone that hung like crude chandeliers, etchings in an unknown language on tree barks, human skulls arrayed on long spikes.
The locals among his group spoke in low, frightened whispers about two-legged ghosts that wander the woods in search of prey. Julius dismissed such talk and ordered them to focus on the journey.
Over the next few days, people began to disappear. They would be hiking up a forested hill, and when they got to the top the last person would be missing. Deserters, Martin concluded, and Julius agreed, they’d never find work on the island again. Yet Julius’s unconscious mind shifted uneasily each time he lay down to sleep. They had already lost a third of their men. Something was very wrong.
To see what was truly happening, he and Martin hid behind the shadow of some rocks while their remaining dozen men panned the shallows of the river. They sat motionless for hours, with only the rush of water and the buzz of insects to accompany them.
At length, one of their men straightened up to stretch his aching back. When he yawned, an arrowhead sprouted from his mouth and he fell, creating a pool of red water. Julius, Martin, and the others stare on, stunned.
Then the jungle came alive with banshee-like screams. From behind leaves and trees, war-paint covered faces emerged, hurling nets and lassoes or shooting darts from blowguns. Terrified, the men couldn’t put up a proper defense--they scattered in a panic, shouting and floundering about the water. Most were caught immediately.
Martin stood and got two shots off with his rifle, then shouted at Julius to fight. Julius, however, sat there paralyzed by the sight. Natives covered in bones and tattoos emerged like phantoms from the trees, arrows turned towards them. As a volley passed overhead, Martin shook Julius and shrieked at him to run.
Together they splashed through the muddy water, away from the trees and the resounding war cries. Martin fell when an arrow pierced his thigh. As Julius turned to help him, Martin shrieked at him to keep running. Julius, too terrified to go into the jungle alone, tried to drag Martin to safety. Then a dart struck him in the arm and the world went silent. Julius’s muscles seized up and he fell into the muck. As his vision grayed out, the last thing he saw was an old man, festooned in bones and feathers and yellow paint, bending over to inspect him.
When he awoke, Julius found himself in a large bamboo cage. With him were Martin, who was suffering from an arrow wound on his leg, and six of their remaining workers. When he asked what happened to the rest, they merely shook their heads and didn’t answer.
Presently, the elder native came to visit. Julius desperately tried to explain, through gestures and showing him the nuggets in his pocket, that they were only searching for gold in the area. The elder nodded and smiled, seeming to understand. But he left them still in the cages.
For the next few days, the prisoners were fed with food and water as if they were guests. Then one morning, the elder returned. On his palm, he carried a yellow frog with black stripes. He mumbled a few words then reached through the cage, gesturing with his tongue for them to lick it. They refused, but as the guards pointed their spears through the bars, they saw they had no choice. After a few minutes, Julius’s vision blurred and his mind turned fuzzy. Everything sounded distant and veiled behind a gentle ringing. He began to see strange things--human-shaped flames walking through the trees
Night and day bled together. Julius could no longer tell how long they had been keeping him there, only that they kept him drugged and fed. He didn’t really know where he was or what was happening. It seemed that the cage he was in kept getting bigger and bigger. Or...was it because they were fewer?
Every day, the Shaman would come to visit, putting him under more drugs, and chanting over him in his strange language. When he next awoke, he found himself alone in the cage. Where was Martin? He had no idea, nor did he care.
Finally, the Shaman came to him and the natives opened the cage. Julius was invited to follow the leader. They arrived in the center of the village where every member of the tribe was silently looking at a fire. There, a powerfully-muscled native was turning a spit, upon which was roasting a human torso and leg.
As Julius stared at the body, he found himself not caring. He was led to a crude wooden altar, where the shaman who took a burned human head in his hands and raised it over the people. Through the haze in his mind, he realized he was staring at Martin’s burnt head. The Shaman screamed “Gooooool” and passed the head to Julius, but not before taking one of the eyes and consuming it. He gestured to Julius to take the other eye and eat it.
Julius stared at it a little, almost resisting since it was the head of his close friend, but he finally opened his mouth and consumed the ocular globe.
Before his eyes, the natives all vanished. Julius could barely look at its skulled head, its horns, long hairy arms that ended in sharp claws.
Julius realized he was looking at the face of the true god, the God of the Jungle. One that was pleased only by meat and sacrifice. Julius was instantly filled with a sense of euphoria and revelation far more powerful than the effects of the drug. All memories of his religious past slipped from his mind. The god whispered in his ear, and Julius realized that of all those that came into the forest, he had been chosen as his divine messenger.
Julius felt renewed vigor and a sense of purpose. He bowed his head and swore fealty to his new god, to serve him and bring gifts of meat and bone. When he raised his head, the god was gone, and only the elder stood beside him, smiling tenderly.
In a few weeks of living with the shaman, Julius learned the tribe’s language and customs. Soon, he was ready to go on his mission. The shaman led him to the edge of the river, drew a circle in the air, then gave him clear instructions that he was allowed to get the gold as long as he sent as many people as possible. Then, still smiling, he handed Martin’s bleached skull to Julius.
Julius accepted the skull and swiftly bashed the old man’s head in. Taking a dagger, he carved out the old man’s heart and ate it raw. He found it delicious.
He then took the shaman’s severed head and brought it before the tribe and its leaders. With only a few spoken words, he made it clear that he was their spiritual leader now. And through him, the jungle would have plenty to eat.
Putting on his old clothes, Julius returned to his mining camp, finding only a few remaining workers there, who gaped at him in awe. Many questioned what happened, but most were silenced when he revealed the bag of gold he carried.
In the coming weeks, Julius sent more letters to acquaintances, inviting them to invest in his company. He sent wires to newspapers so that adventurers from all over the world could come and get rich. The island was given the moniker, " The Promised Land", and before long, boatloads of people began to arrive.
Julius smiled to himself. His god would be most pleased.