As the boat chugs sluggishly up the river, you gaze around in wonder. It's exactly how you imagined it, ever since you read that letter...


You are a pure-bred Englishman, and... not very proud of it. Growing up in a grand manor, with enormous chambers and vast grounds, you loathed the idea of becoming a "proper gentleman": surviving solely on black tea, wearing a stiff, unyielding suit, and spending several hours a day discussing the dull intricacies of politics.

The Earl and the Countess of Coventry had five children, of which you are the second. Your father was strict, but never unfair, and he liked to stress the importance of doing one's duty. And as for your mother, she was obsessed with finding the perfect match for each of her children, a perfect match being somebody who was rich (but never richer than you), pretty (in a way that highlighted your attributes) and not a little feather-brained (all the easier to manipulate).

Under a strict regime, your brothers and sisters flourished into true Brits. Etiquette and manners, school work, and horse riding were all part of an average day at the manor. And of course, that's without mentioning the many social gatherings. Your childhood wasn't that bad, you were never neglected or abused, you just... couldn't seem to fit in. You were constantly chastised for greeting the servants- once, a maid called Edith was sacked when she'd been caught chatting with you multiple times, generally conversations which you'd started. Guilt following this then began to weigh heavily on your mind, and you began to do worse in your lessons- this didn't bother you very much though, seeing as they bored you half to death already. And you simply couldn't bear the cocktail parties, where you were forced to wear a ridiculous suit with ruffles -ruffles!- , and smile sweetly at stuck-up gentlemen, who discussed your merits and faults as if discussing cattle.

 The only thing that kept you from running away was the grounds. Seven hundred and fifty acres of secrets. At first, the land directly around the manor was very artificial, with grass measured by the gardener to make sure it was perfectly even, and unnaturally spherical rosebushes. This was your only knowledge of "nature", until one day you decided to explore a little further. Setting off into the forest bordering the garden, you soon discovered a world so unlike the one you were accustomed to, one with mushrooms and moss, badgers and berries,  magpies and, best of all, mud!  You smile, remembering the shock your mother had when a grubby child with twigs in his hair ran into the manor, unknowingly leaving a trail of dirt behind him. It was to be the first time of many...

Years slipped by, while you acquainted yourself with all the inhabitants of the forest. This wouldn't have been possible without Gabriel, the gruff gamekeeper who kept the forest free from any poachers; he also happened to have an extensive knowledge of plants and animals. Thanks to him, you could soon distinguish the goldfinch from the chiffchaff, or a Jack O'Lantern from a Chanterelle. You took to carrying a battered notebook around with you, where anything living in the forest was sketched and annotated.

All too soon, your eighteenth birthday came round. Suitable jobs and suitable partners became the main basis for discussion at the dinner table- you managed to put it off, deciding to spend a year travelling around Britain instead. During your voyages, you met several people who were as enthusiastic about the wild as you were, and they encouraged you to take it up as a profession- in other words, become a naturalist. You had never even considered this idea before, since your parents disapproved of any frivolous careers.

Something else that came up a lot that year was talk of the skeleton of Gigantopithecus, a giant ape, in India. This species, the largest ape ever seen, had supposedly been extinct for three thousand years, if their fossils were anything to go by, but if the rumours were true, then the creature couldn't have been dead for more than twenty years. Most naturalists scorned the thought, discarding it as a fanciful fairy-tale, and you did too. It was most likely just a few bones, that somebody had made full use of to hold an audience captive around a campfire.

Then, something happened a couple of weeks later to change your opinion. You'd arrived at home for a few weeks’ holiday before finding a job, when a letter arrived from your uncle Robert. Uncle Robert was a shrewd man in his fifties, and he and his wife wrote regularly from his bungalow in India, where he has become quite a successful businessman. On this occasion, he reported the discovery of the bones of a leg. It undoubtedly belonged to the Gigantopithecus. Uncle Robert happened to know the man who had discovered it, Thomas Milton, and so you were informed of this long before anyone else in England would be. It was the perfect opportunity to escape the dull life that you had resigned yourself to, and unearth the secrets of the Indian jungle. You wouldn't mind a little fame and glory, either.

A few letters later, the expedition was all arranged; Uncle Robert had kindly agreed to have you while you searched for the skeleton. You conveniently forgot to mention your plans to your parents until it was too late to prevent them. When they did eventually find out, they were furious. Your father felt that you were finding an excuse to shirk your duties as an upper class gentleman, and all your mother's hopes of a swift marriage were shattered. The discussions turned to arguments, which got more and more heated, until finally your father threatened to disinherit his "disgrace of a son", certain that that would dissuade you. You didn't budge. And your father, an extremely proud man, wouldn't back down, even though he'd never intended to actually carry out his threat.


So here you are, a disinherited son who can fit all his possessions in a briefcase, on a mission to the Indian jungle which is full of uncertainty.