Had a sudden love for Napoleonic warfare and as such decided to write a quick piece on fantasy (it’ll be pretty obvious when you read it), Empire vs Orcs, the usual business, its only short because my laptop is about to run out of battle and I wanted to finish it before it did, so its just a quick ending which I might change, anyhoo enjoy.
It was as if the battlefield was silent, despite the drums in the background, the steady tramp of marching men and the thunder of a disorganized ramble charging headlong towards them. The sergeants marched behind the ranks, steadying the men with carefully chosen words, and the officers prepared their throats for the orders that would soon be required. The handgunners stood in four ranks of twenty, their red tunics bright against the brown shoulder high grass that marked the line of Hochland infantry. A thin red line between the green of undulating scrubland and the fields of high grass. Behind, another line of reserves hid, laying in wait for the moment to strike. In front, a mass of greenskins making their way across the battlefield. The sun was obscured by grey cloud creating a dull ambient light that bathed the two opposing armies, it was a suitably average day for such a battle.
Captain James Rossendale watched from just ahead of his men. 200 metres. They were still a long way away. He scanned their army scornfully, a rabble of humungous muscular green forms wielding barbed and wicked blades and ramshackle wooden shields. Although superior to a human in singular combat, they were barely worthy of being called an army, each unit was a gathering of orcs under the command of whoever turned out to be the strongest when they met. The warboss held them together by brute strength, often once they were defeated the army would crumble into disarray, the battle would then become more of a slaughter as some units ran while others would stand and face the full fury of their enemy.
The loud crack of cannons opening fire rose above the screaming and roaring coming from across the battlefield, and the beating of drums from the regiments now forming orderly formations in the grass. He saw the streak of a cannon ball cut through ranks of orcs like a huge invisible cleaver slicing the formation apart, the gaps were once again filled with green moments later as each orc fought one another to reach the enemy first. Then came the mortars, huge stubby barrels of brass firing explosive shells high into the air. the first volley fell slightly short, exploding twenty metres from their target sending shrapnel buzzing into the air, cutting down only a few greenskins.
James brushed a hand through his excessive blonde hair, smiling to himself as he did so, he’d avoided cutting it for a few months and it was getting out of hand for one such as himself, two inches was way beyond the regulations of the regiment. He picked the long rifle from the ground and placed it into his shoulder. 100 metres, well within range. He picked out the nob of the nearest “unit”, breathed in and held it.
The butt slammed hard into his shoulder as the bullet left the rifle, flying low across the battlefield before finding its mark. He watched the large orc drop to the ground, blood spurting from a wound in his chest as he was trampled beneath the boots of his own side. He dropped the rifle from the aim and turned to walk back into the ranks of his men, he received a pat on the shoulder from a corporal who had seen the orc fall to his death. One down, a thousand to go. the ranks of red men closed up again creating a solid wall, muskets pointing vertically into the air, the bayonets rising high above as if to create a field of metal weeds.
“Weeds” He thought, “An appropriate metaphor for the men of the 23rd Hochland Handgunners, ugly and hard to iradicate.”
The cannons beside his formation were loaded with grapeshot and he saw the crew of the hellblaster begin cranking it round, its loaders now standing as far back as they could without appearing cowards as the machine began its deathly whirring.
“PRESENT!” James shouted at the top of his voice, the world went quiet once again as he focussed on his men. the first two ranks leveled their muskets. 50 metres. The hellblaster and cannons fired their final volley, hundreds of lead balls filled the air tearing and smashing through flesh and bone, whole units of orcs fell to the ground wounded beneath the brutal barrage. A loud horn sounded across the battlefields and the steady march of infantry began. Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump, every regiment of swordsmen and spearmen stepped in unison as they advanced forward, weapons baring their sharp edges for the enemy to fall upon.
“FIRE!” He screamed. White smoke consumed his vision for a moment as the front two ranks sent a wall of lead into the approaching enemy and immediately began reloading.. scores of orcs dropped to the ground wounded or dead, one was hit in the leg and attempted to continue, but his limping quickly infuriated those behind him and he was knocked unconscious and crushed by his own men, another hit in the head, fell back and tripped several of the orcs behind him, who flailed angrily in their attempt to regain their footing. The commotion quickly disappeared as more greenskins pushed their way forward to create a tide of horrible green flesh.
“Second Detail! Present.” He ordered. The movements, rehearsed hundreds of times on the parade square were now second nature. The front two ranks had already made space for the second two ranks to advance through them, at which point they reformed into four orderly lines and the muskets were lowered into the shoulder once again. 25 metres.
“SECOND DETAIL FIRE!” He bellowed, his throat now burnt with gunpowder smoke. Again the battlefield was obscured save for the screams and howls of orcs now descending upon the thin line of men. The front two ranks now went down onto a knee and grounded their bayonets, it was as if a hedge of bayonets had sprung from the ground, a deadly wall of thick spikes that used the mass of the enemy against them. The second two ranks were now reloaded and forced their muskets back into their shoulders.
“FIRE” James cried above the heavy thumping of drums and feet and orcs. The greenskins were now visible through the smoke and just metres away, the front ranks attempted to parry the bayonets of the front rank in a desperate attempt to avoid being skewered but the momentum of their fellow orcs pushed them onto the waiting steel before them, that or they were swiftly dispatched by those behind in cold blooded precision. Then all was white once again as the rear ranks fired over their friends and into the wall of green that was unmissable at this range. The volley was devastating, forty balls of lead spewed from point blank range, orcs fell by the dozen, their huge bodies crashing down to become eventually become food or fertilizer.
But this was where the orcs made their mark, despite the best efforts of his men in places they hacked their way through the front two ranks and then began the desperate fight of survival. muskets were used as clubs and spears to fight against the thrashing forms of orcs now cleaving with massive jagged blades. A man was sliced clean in two by an especially large orc as he attempted to stab with a bayonet, the orc leapt over the corpse and embedded his weapon in the back of another red jacketed soldier.
They were being butchered now as the fury of those orcs that were still alive was wrought on his men. Several had banded together in groups, usually around a sergeant or corporal, these groups stabbed and clubbed at the orcs that were in their midst, and worked in teams to bring them down, but slowly they were losing out. James dropped his rifle and drew his sword and pistol, he fired a shot into the nearest orc who fell haphazardly onto a man who scrambled free before being kicked heavily in the face by another orc and knocked out cold. The orc then swung at james with a nasty cleaver, he ducked under the first blow and brought his curved sword up into the orcs stomach sliding it in all the way up to the hilt, allowing the blood to gush down his hand and over his sleeve, which was stained a dark glossy shade of red. He withdrew the blade and watched the surprised face of the dispatched orc as his organs dropped gorily to the floor. It clawed helplessly at its innards as it dropped to the floor, attempting futilely to force them back in.
The colours fluttered above the melee which was more just a ranging mass of single combats and groups of men attempting to band together against the larger orcs. The colours party parried and stabbed with spears and bayonets at the orcs who tried the grab the pretty flag that represented the honour of the regiment. They didn’t know why they wanted it, nor why their leaders praised them for retrieving them, only that it was theirs to take. That was unless like so many others they were cut down in the process.
He turned to see another greenskin charging towards him. It wore a thick breast plate and held a massive axe in both hands, despite its size it seemed to move quickly, covering the distance between them in mere seconds. James dodged to the right as the axe came crashing down, smashing horribly into the corpse of a dead handgunner, spraying blood across the two combatants. He whipped the sword across as he moved, slicing a chunk from the orc’s thigh. He roared in response and drew the axe back with renewed ferocity, wildly swinging it at the tiny man that weaved under each swing. It was infuriating. James lunged and caught the orc between the front and read plates, several inches of blade penetrated its side causing it to leap backwards, blood ran freely from the wound as the blade withdrew. The orc screamed and dropped its unwieldy weapon, leaping upon the man in a blind rage. James tried to dodge but he was caught in the strong grip of his enemy.
He hit the floor hard, the massive greenskin now knelt above him snarling, its horrible breath was rotten and fowl, and its yellow teeth sharp and serrated. He punched as hard as he could but to no avail, it seemed just to irritate the orc. The orc raised a fist, ready to deliver a killing blow.
‘PRESENT” He heard a short distance away. The orc looked up for a second, bemused. The men that were still alive dropped to the floor, they seemed to be putting themselves at the mercy of the orcs. “Stupid humans” it thought, what would turn out to be its last thought.
The crack of muskets was much louder this side of the barrel as lead cascaded across the melee knocking orcs clean off their feet. The orc above James was hit in the head which exploded in a shower of brain matter, skull fragments and blood. The limp form crashed to the side leaving him covered in glossy liquid. He looked around to see what was left of his unit running for the safety of the now advancing reserves There were around twenty survivors, merely a quarter of what he had started the battle with, but they would be replaced, and the campaign would continue regardless, such was the way of the empire.
From the smoke of musket fire he saw the line of redcoats advancing in line, each footstep was deliberate the timed such that they made a loud thud on every footfall. Those orcs that had not been dispatched by the first volley now retreated from the wall of steel, they looked dejected, like a child who’s favourite toy had been taken away from them. Vile creatures he thought. As the heavy powder smoke began to clear he saw the units of state troops that were now thinned but still standing firm like bastions against a storm they’d weathered the orc attack, by advancing they had forced more enemy into the killing zone of the handgunners, who although they had been decimated in turn, took several times their number of orcs with them. They were, as one would say, a necessary loss.
He got to his feet and went to look for his rifle, the thin line of gunners advanced through him, their officer offering him a nod of approval before continuing on his mop up operation. His men recovering the friendly wounded, and putting the enemy out of their misery. The enemy were broken for now, though much of the battlefield was obscured there were no sounds of clanging metal no screaming of raging combats, just the cries of dying men and the beating of steady drums. James sheathed his sword and pistol and picked up his rifle which lay sticking out from beneath the corpse of an orc. He threw it onto his back and wondered towards the colours of his regiment that he saw fluttering in the breeze nearby, the yellow and red was sharp against the frayed outlines of men that stood around it, like weeds they stood waiting as the bright sun broke through the grey cloud and white smoke, the Empire was victorious this day, but still the campaign would continue.