The Battle of Notspokenof
The Constable of Gormenghast sat astride his charger and stared into the heat haze ahead. Not since the debacle of Redhills, many wars ago, had he led the army of Gormenghast into the Tropics. Yet here he was and as before sweat ran from underneath his tricorne hat, leaching powder from his enormous wig and dripping from the end of his hooked nose. Unlike before, he now led an elite force, veterans of several wars and countless battles. Or at least it was before that damned fool Barquentine and his infernal book interfered. The Master of Ritual had delved into his dusty tomes and declared Gormenghast was on the cusp of a New Age. Every Gentleman knew that this was the Age of Reason but not Barquentine; oh no, according to the mad fool, it was now the Age of Aquarius. Not only that but a New Age required a New Army; a view supported by Chancellor Steerpike who at once instigated widespread and sweeping reforms.
The Constable watched his army march by and observed the effect of those reforms. The most obvious change was the increased size of the army; the Foote regiments had doubled in size. That was twice as many mouths to feed and more pressing, in this damned heat, more troops to water. And how had Gormenghast increased its forces? The Amalgamation that's how. The traditional five Foote regiments had been combined into three, with the men of the 4th and 5th Gormenghast joining the ranks of the 1st to 3rd Gormenghast Foote. Similarly, the two Fencible regiments had been combined into one; the 1st Fencibles. The disbanded regiments were then recruited anew from the wider realms of Greater Gormenghast. Dusky Blackamoors from the Fever Isles formed the bulk of the new 4th and 5th Gormenghast; now known as the Windward and Leeward Regiments respectively. From the opposite side of the realm came doughty warriors from the Military Borders, uniformed in the style of the Musselmen, to fill the ranks of a newly reconstituted 2nd Fencible Regiment.
The sound of a vulture, hovering overhead, roused the Constable from his reverie. Vultures! Not a good omen, though no doubt Barquentine would disagree. Even before the troops were deployed, agents of Vulgaria had been abroad sowing dissent; rumour had it that the unscrupulous Baron Bombast had resorted to bribery to win this battle. Sir Thomas Burgess had been made a very tempting offer, to join Bombast's Vulgarians, but the stout fellow had manifestly refused. The Constable thought highly of Sir Thomas, who was unrivalled in the art of manoeuvring in difficult terrain. Not that it mattered here on this desolate salt flat; the only terrain features being a small rise to his rear and a stream on his right flank. The town of Notspokenof could be espied in the distance, in the centre of the Vulgarian lines. Perfect terrain to demonstrate the superior marching ability of the Gormenghast infantry, thought the Constable. Unfortunately, Barquentine thought otherwise. Defend! That's what the cursed Book of Ritual prescribed. Only once before, in his long career, had the Constable stood on the defence and that had ended in disaster. Ominously that had also been in the Tropics.
With a heavy heart, the Constable arrayed the troops. The infantry formed in two lines with refused flanks with columns of Fencibles and Cavalry in reserve to the rear. No sooner had the battle line been formed than the thunderous sound of approaching cavalry could be heard on the right flank. The Constable's deepest fears were confirmed; Vulgaria's massed elite cavalry force was charging down onto his right flank. The Leeward Regiment took the brunt of the charge and broke under the impact. Luckily, the Constable ordered his own cavalry to the flank and stabilised the crumbling line. But now, in a feat of coordinated manoeuvres, the Vulgarian infantry assaulted the Gormenghastian infantry line. As they deployed from columns the Gormenghastian infantry unleashed a hail of lead into the vulnerable enemy line but, unfortunately, thick smoke engulfed the battlefield, severely reducing visibility and the effect was minimal. But now came the Vulgarian riposte and the Groan Light Infantry withered under the Vulgarian Lethal Volleys. The Constable bravely did his utmost to rally his beleaguered troops but a Vulgarian bayonet charge burst through the centre of his line breaking the Light Infantry.
Despite Barquentine’s protestations and insistence that they fight on, the Constable knew he was beat. With as much dignity as he could muster, which is not easy in a bedraggled sweat soaked wig, the Constable ordered his men to lay down their arms and requested that Bombast grant him the Honors of War.