A Flintloque Short Story by Gavin Syme.
Private Titus Grime and the Orcs of the 60th fight the Ferach in this story direct from Alternative Armies' own Gavin Syme.
With a distant thump and a billow of grey the cannonball approached the thin woods and the slope behind them, its force expended in the effort of crossing more than a thousand yards in the clear morning air. It burst through the green leaves and branches, splintering a dew covered trunk and then vanishing from view into the invisible clearing beyond.
The cheers of the Elf gunners mingled with the sound of thousands of Elven feet marching in perfect order in the distinctive blue tunic columns that had won the tyrant Mordred and his Ferach Imperial Armèe the largest Empire that Valon had ever known…only a few lands like Catalucia held out, and few enemies like the accursed Albion scum in their stubbornness. They never knew when they were beaten; they never knew when to kneel to the inevitable.
The iron cannonball whipped out of the trees, shuddering the boughs, and ploughed into the grass with a slewing arc that threw turf and soil in a shallow wave in its wake. Skidding, the black metal sphere slowed and juddered to a halt, its furiously fast flight fouled by the damp muddy ground that trapped and enveloped more than half its mass. It lay with thin tendrils of smoke rising, a mere foot step from the rank of red coated Orcs that stood silently waiting behind the cover of the trees.
On a straight frontage of just over two hundred and fifty yards the Orcs of the 60th Foot waited for the ‘ball to open’ and their dance with the Ferach to begin. Private Tifus Grime in his faded red coat and dull white cross belts, complete with dimpled powder burns from previous musket flashes, rolled his eyes down to the ball at his feet. His head did not move, held in place by a thick leather strap around his filthy neck, but his red eyes gazed in horror at the eighteen-pound heavy roundeshotte that had come so close. This would be a close fought thing indeed; for as the Orcish saying went;
“If you jigs wif the deville then you ‘as to wait fur da noytes to stop”.
To the Private’s right and left the rest of the eight hundred strong battalion was engaged in many different thoughts, some images of taverns and thick set Orc girls and others the slim graceful and fleeting Elf Voltiguers that were ahead; most though knew the fear of cannons and the iron death that they lashed out. Tifus Grime’s tongue licked slowly at his brisling bottom lip, working round the sharp tusks that reach up almost to his nostrils. It had been close and closer still was to come, and a roundshotte like the one at his feet could blast twenty soldiers into bloody skittles in a ballet of limbs, he had seen it before at Korunna and other foul fields of battle.
His mouth was dry, tongue swollen and red, but it would be like blackened ash once the murder rhythm of musket loading, priming and firing began.
Sensing the unease caused by the stray impact the 60th’s Colonel brought his large white horse to a position in front of the battalion and proceeded to ride slowly down the line passing each company in turn so that all eight hundred of his troops could see his calm countenance. From the first company, that of the Grenadiers, big Orcs with broken teeth and jagged hatchets and bayonets at their waists who would lead the battalion into action, he went on. Then to the Line companies, some experienced, some having never seen a shot fired in anger and many little more than murdering drunken rascals that had taken the Kyng’s shilling and found themselves here in a hell worse than the cobbles of Londinium.
Lastly the Light company or ‘Light Blobs’ who were the best shots and, if rumour be believed, the finest poachers, they would run ahead of the battalion as the mass of the soldiers paced regularly forward. Behind the two ranks of Orcs in perfect centre of the line was the colour party, the proud, who carried the twin colours or flags of the regiment surrounded by sergeants with wicked bladed paltroons. These two huge silken banners, one for Albion and one for the regiment, were the heart of the regiment and the 60th’s own had saved them literally before when the Wylde Magicke it was infused with crackled and caused charging Hussars to falter and run.
The Colonel rode back to the centre of the battalion’s front and bawled at his troops;
“Right you scoundrels time to earn your keep. The Duke has left a hole big enough for the Velite Grenadiers themselves to march through in our lines to front. I assume from the din that the Crappies have started for us, time to let Bessie give ‘em a kiss eh’!”
Many laughed and grunted their approval but not Private Grime. Private Tifus Grime could not see the battle but he could hear it muffled and deceptively distant. It was coming closer, closer and deadlier, he could hear the retort of single muskets now and smoke rose from beyond the gentle upward slope and trees. A deeper noise of battle, constant but unclear, threatened death to them all.
The Colonel raised his bicorne high toward the sky and pointed it toward the trees, he shouted;
“The 60th will advance!”
As one, the line of Orcs stepped forward and began to climb the gentle slope, their leather shod feet trampling grass and sparse flowers alike. Though the trees looked solid they were in fact many yards apart and the companies of Orcs kept regular pace as they breached the edge of the cluster of trees and went on through.
They marched in line into a vision of Dantodo’s Inferno as they crested the hill, leaving the trees behind, the air was filled with the constant crackle of musketry and roaring volleys, punched with cannon and howitzer shotte and shelle and red ruin bodies all ahead. Two entire armies were in the valley and were making bloody wrecks of each other.
The Duke of Wheeling-Turn, just visible far off to the left, had indeed left a huge gap in the line ahead of the 60th Regiment and, while battalions engaged the enemy with skirmishers and volley to their fronts, an Elven column was making good time advancing to their drums toward the hole. The Orcs marched a regular pace until they were a mere thirty yards behind and to the right of the closest allied battalion, it was a testament to their training and drill that their lined ranks remained in perfect form.
Now was the dreaded time of waiting, stray musket balls impacted with the ranks and the odd Orc fell dead from wounds, but the battalion stood silent their Flintloques shouldered.. Most of the crack enemy light troops, the Voltiguers, were busy with the skirmishers of the Joccian Highlanders to the right; few bothered the 60th. There was no doubt that the nearing column had not seen the sudden appearance of the new Orc battalion but it was commonly accepted that victory had accustomed the Ferach to think the column invincible.
Indeed the young Elves in the front of the 23eme Regt de Ligne column laughed and jeered as the momentum of the column pushed them bodily forward. How could two thin lines of Infantry stop this battering ram of conquest? Other more experienced Elves in the column’s front tried to fall back, but they, like the young, were carried forward by the drums and pushing bodies. The Officers of the 23eme shouted encouragement and waved their drawn swords.
The irresistible mass of the column was now only one hundred yards away directly ahead of the Orcs, but they stood silent, the roar of the Elves increased. A few more Orcs fell dead as the head of the column fired their muskets at ninety yards, long range, and the Elves could not pause to reload their muskets. The Orcs silently shuffled together to close the small openings in their line. Now the column was fifty yards away and in a tumult of noise as they cheered their impending easy defeat of these silent Orcs.
Officers in blue screamed at their Elves to close up and keep the momentum of the column, to smash through the thin line like a hammer blow. So close now, that the thin features and pointed ears of the Elf Colonel on his fine horse could plainly been seen; shining green eyes.
“Present and Fyre!”
With the single order from the 60th’s Colonel the entire Orc battalion seemed to the Elves to take a 45 degree turn to the right, as one eight hundred muskets or Bessies, were raised to red shoulders. The black powder charge of these muskets was perfect, having been carefully loaded in safely and not a single Bessie misfired. A mere twenty seconds later another massed volley blasted out; in less than half a minute sixteen hundred lead balls tore into the Elves. The musket is not an accurate weapon but a column is a big target at only fifty yards..
The head of the column simply ceased to exist, the Officers, the drummers and the mounted Colonel with some eighty other Elves were shredded and blown away in a red haze as the lead hail cut them down. The column seemed to stagger before leaning forward and then bobbing up and down as each file of troopers stepped up and over the mangled dead. They continued to advance to screams of pain rather than drums.
“Fire by Companies!”
At this order a rolling fire began from the light company down the line of the battalion to the grenadiers and then again and again. At any moment a company was firing as the others loaded. This was the excellence of the Army of Albion and no troops on Valon could endure this almost mechanical execution. The column was shuddered over and over as another thousand musket balls tore into it. It took little more than two minutes.
“Cease Fire, fix bayonets!”
Smoke obscured the remnants of the 23eme but this did not matter, the sound of hundreds of wickedly long triangular iron blades being fixed to hot musket barrels put an end to the mauled Elves; they broke and ran.
A cheer went up as the smoke drifted directly away from the 60th Regiment, it obscured their view of the fleeing Elves and the ground ahead for a good distance; but the cheer was echoed along the whole front of the army as the Ferach retreated. The destruction of the 23eme and the appearance of more battalions from the hill put the Elves to flight.
The corpses of the dead column lay, some at as near as twenty yards and some at more than ninety distant, and the glint of gold and silver could be seen in the ripped pockets and packs of the Elf soldiers. This was too much for many of the Orc troopers to bear, their pay being small and subject to frequent cut and interruption; the booty of the battlefield was by tradition their reward.
Ranks broke and the Orcs ran amongst the dead, using knifes, bayonets and often teeth and bare hands to strip the wealth and even food from the corpses. Fights broke out but sergeants quickly pummelled the greedy.
Private Tifus Grime, his face filthy from smoke and with black powder smearing his mouth from bitten cartridges, secured a few golden coins and a length of good Finkelstein sausage and was happy. He had survived.
The Colonel despaired, the enemy might yet be dangerous, he knew his soldiers could fight and fight well but their love of wenches, grog and fisticuffs might yet be the defeat of the army. But they had won and given the Ferach another bloody nose, he decided to let them have their few minutes of plunder and reward for their efforts..
Victory for this day at least...
This excellent story was first printed as the introduction to Slaughterloo (2nd Edition). It was first published on Orcs in the Webbe on the 8th December 2007 as part the 2007 Advent Calendar.
It was absent for several years due to a prior regeneration of the website not transferring everything over correctly, the wrong has now been righted and it returned on the 8th November 2014 as part of Orcs in the Webbe's ongoing Flintloque Archive Project.