He paused for a moment and glanced at the Hooton representative, who was gazing wall-eyed and tracing strange figures in the air before continuing, “Other than that, should be pretty easy. To summarize: We move up, we kick the shit out of whatever’s out there and then we reacquaint ourselves with this here camp. Sound good?”
“Pies.” (That last coming from the Hootonman)
“Let’s be about our business then. Glory to the Union and all that.”
Purpose replaced fear (for the most part) as the officers scurried back to their units. Serjeants bellowed the new orders and with a clatter and clamor the regiments moved up.
They moved through the dark grey smoke and fug of discharged powder weapons. Sounds echoed eerily through the gloom and tents loomed alarmingly. Shots from the Glorious Union line popped off here and there as startled imperial troops were flushed from hiding.
Then, as if Reason Herself had pursed her holy and plump lips, the fog blew away revealing the proud, waving banners of God’s Own Empire.
Suddenly exposed Shack scouts, our heroic and beloved friends, scurried back towards the safety of their own lines as juddering impacts rocked the no man’s land between the two opposed forces.
Both sides halted. Only the booming reports of cannons split the pregnant silence. Ragged line faced the fresh and brilliantly shining line of imperials.
Silence reigned as cannons ceased. Bated breaths held in lungs scarcely deigning to inflate for the nonce.
Then the Hootonmen charged.
Shrieks announced their wild, capering sprint as their shattered minds deemed this the opportune moment. Fifty men, formerly the town militia and police of Hooton, sprinted across that muddy field as cannons belatedly tried to bracket them. They ran in zig-zags, pirouettes, some men even skipping. Songs both real and imagined bellowed from split lips as their eerie cackling preceded them. The men of the Glorious Union stared in wide-eyed disbelief.
Captain Drowns scowled with dawning horror. Their hands were tied, their dies cast, their madmen charged. There was nothing to do but sweep down the sword and order their own charge.
Corporal Torlock Tarless was just returning to the bosom of the Shack Regiment when the charging Hooton buffeted him. He wheeled, his jaw working soundlessly as it gaped open and close. A flash from the corner of his eye raised a set of almost reverent and extravagant curses from his awestruck mouth.
Breathless he jogged up to Captain Drowns as the Glorious Union line charged forward after their erstwhile comrades. Drowns regarded him for a moment before gesturing out with his hand telling Tarless to turn right around.
Tarless glared daggers back before sucking in a great, juddering breath.
“I don’t get paid enough for this shit,” he whispered none too quietly to himself.
“You don’t get paid at all,” replied Frubert Drowns.
“Exactly my point, Captain. Exactly my point.”