Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Battle of Littletown (on the Prairie)

Barquentine Master of Ritual was mad. Some rightly say he was insane mad. Actually, he was hopping mad. To be fair this was inevitable as he only had one leg. In fact he was angry mad. And the reason Barquentine was mad? That damn fool the Constable, that's why. The Master of Ritual was convinced that the campaign in 'the Tropics' would have been a success if the Constable had followed the proper rituals. The war would be over and Barquentine would be safely back in the familiar and comforting surroundings of Gormenghast castle. Instead 'the Tropics' were lost and here they were on the vast plains in the realm of St Elmo.

The Constable was worried; the terrain clearly favoured the, largely cavalry based, Elmovians and their scouts had been spotted in the distance, yet they appeared to be making no attempt to attack. Barquentine couldn't give a stuff; as long as that damn fool Constable followed the rituals all would be well
Despite his reservations, the Constable resolved to advance. The plain was largely featureless, except for a small abandoned town sat amongst woods and marshes and it was upon this unremarkable little town that the Constable set his sights. He may not encounter the enemy but at least he might find a bed for the night. If left to his own devices the Constable would anchor his left flank on the woods and attack with his infantry, through the marshes, towards the town. His horse and guns would cover his left rear, whilst his infantry attacked. He was also fortunate to have the services of 2 groups of Musselmen, wild irregulars from the borders. These he would place at the junction of his infantry and cavalry to scour the woods on his left. 'A damn fine plan', he mused, but what would that septegenarian idiot Barquentine think of his fine plan.

Barquentine, in fact, didn't think anything of the plan. If truth be told, he wasn't even aware that there was a plan. No, to Barquentine life was not to be planned. Why would anyone need to make plans? Surely everything was already laid down in his precious Book of Ritual, or rather in one of the many volumes of his dusty, mildewed tomes. Barquentine's immediate problem was to find the right paragraph, on the correct page, in the proper chapter of the appropriate volume. This was accomplished by cross referencing a complex and tortuous matrix that only the Master of Ritual could understand. After hours of study, accompanied by much muttering, Barquentine had the answer; the army would form in 3 lines with the Guards in front. What though of the horse and guns? In actual fact 'the Book' made no mention of horse or guns. As far as Barquentine was concerned they were a complete irrelevance.

This suited the Constable who arrayed his infantry in 3 lines of 3 regiments each. The first line consisted of the elite troops of Gormenghast, from left to right, the 1st Gormenghast, the Gormenghast Light Infantry and the Gormenghast Guards. The second and third lines mainly consisted of conscripts; raw recruits brought in to fill the ranks after the disasterous Tropics campaign. The second, third and fourth Gormenghast formed the second line, whilst the fifth Gormenghast and the first and second Fencibles brought up the rear.

His forces deployed the Constable sounded the advance and the infantry slowly sloshed through the wet and marshy ground. Soon the town came into view and, to the Constable's satisfaction, it was defended. Two regiments of Elmovian infantry supported by three batteries formed up in front of the town, whilst a third regiment formed a garrison. And what infantry! Pike and antiquated handguns! The Constable smiled to himself at the thought of what his lethal volleys would do to such old fashioned troops. But where were the Elmovian cavalry? No matter the Constable would forge ahead regardless.

The Gormenghast infantry marched forward, pausing only to reform on the far side of the marshes. Soon they were exchanging volleys with the enemy infantry. The Guards and Light Infantry wreaked havoc amongst their opposing numbers, destroying 2 batteries in the process. However, the first Gormenghast, on the left, were badly mangled by the canister fire from an opposing gun battery. Nevertheless, the Guards and Light Infantry, charging their bayonets, surged forward and swept all before them. The Elmovians then staged a desperate counterattack by the last remaining infantry regiment in their line. Supported by their last gun battery they broke the 1st Gormenghast but were in turn broken by the supporting troops of the Gormenghastian second line.

This left only the small Elmovian garrison to defend the town but the Gormenghast infantry needed time to reform after their successful attack. Hence, the Constable sent forward the Musselmen, through the woods, to harrasss the garrison. 

It was at this point, just when the Constable was at his most smug and self-satisfied, that a messenger arrived from his cavalry. The Elmovian cavalry had been spotted, bearing down upon the Constable's left flank. Six regiments of Elite cavalry, led by the Maison du Roi, faced the three regiments of Gormenghast. Could the outnumbered Gormenghastians hold out long enough for their infantry to take the town? 

Night was approaching and the Constable was now fighting on 2 fronts. Miraculously, the Gormenghast cavalry did manage to beat off the first Elmovian attack, although they were seriously weakened in the process and the guns were lost. The Elmovians, sensing victory, mounted a second furious attack  that broke the Gormenghast Dragonos but the line held. Meanwhile, the Gormenghast infantry, led by the Guards, had broken into the town, routing the garrison, and as night fell Gormenghast were in possession of the town.

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