[Turn Seven Begins]
Lieutenant Frye of the Légion étrangère very nearly took too long to decide what to do next. The wet heat of the jungle sapped his concentration, making the shouts of the Natives blur into a single, continuous holler. Or was that those damnably annoying screeching monkeys...?
The White Shields to his right were already renewing their attack, shooting their deadly blowguns at their most-hated enemies, their tall black-skinned brothers acting as Native Bearers in Frye's troop.
To Frye's amazement they missed; and in reply, the two Tirailleurs Sénégalais soldiers acting as NCOs to the Bearers -- Seejee and Sawjaw -- fired their rifles at l'indigènes, also missing. Yet the White Shields refused to give up and blew their darts again, downing one of the Bearers. Seejee and Sawjaw just as quickly reloaded, yet missed again.
Lt Frye caused his Infanterie de Marine to pivot to face the White Shields, and to fire when in position. All shots missed! Still the stout short warriors held their ground, and this time fired their missiles at Frye. To his relief they missed as well, though he felt the wind of their passage. He could tell that they had just about played their full hand, at least for the moment.
Lt Frye shouted to Cane, the senior trooper of B legionnaire squad, ordering him to advance as quickly as possible towards those dangerous White Shields. Cane rapped out his own commands in Italian-accented French, and after their advance, took it on his own initiative to shoot at the Pygmies. Yet again, all shots missed! This unit of indigènes seemed to have a magical protection.
The Black Shields who had tangled with 'A' legionnaire squad, and had come away the worse, also advanced, despite their natural caution.
Lt Frye, meanwhile, ordered Seejee and Sawjaw to get their men out of the line of fire of the White Shields and seek some protection in the bush.
The leaderless Black Shields, who had until now been skulking around their decrepit religious shrine, suddenly found their courage and burst forth, rushing at les Marines.
Lt Frye, seeing this new threat, pivoted his men to face them.
Over on the French far left flank, caporal Chien of the Tirailleurs Sénégalais advanced his men around the blocking legionnaires of 'A' squad.
Seeing the disordered Black Shields ahead, he advanced again, trying to get within good solid rifle shot range.
Behind him, the 'A' legionnaires changed formation to an Open one, to better navigate the dense jungle.
The Black Shields, seeing the determined set of the Tirailleurs faces, wisely sought shelter behind the thick vegetation.
However their effort was too little, too late. Cpl Chien led his men forward to a position from which they could easily see l'indigènes, and fired into their flank, causing one Pygmy to fall.
Chien could tell they were shaken by his bold move, but they did not run. Coming up behind him, the legionnaires of 'A' squad, led by Sergent Cur, also fired at the Pygmies, but this time with no effect.
Lt Frye had the merest moment to congratulate his accurate reading of the situation before he had no time to think at all, as the leaderless Black Shields from the shrine charged his Native Bearers. Even without a Brown Shield to direct them, their racial hatred of the tall blacks was enough to cause them to attack.
The Black Shields had a fairly far distant stretch of clear jungle to traverse to reach their enemy, and to Lt Frye's immense relief Seejee and Sawjaw led, or were led by, their men in a hasty retreat away from the oncoming Pygmies. Their movement took them out of easy reach of the charging Natives.
The Black Shields appeared to waver for just a moment, unsure of what to do.
His relief instantly faded, as the onrushing mob smoothly changed direction to crash full force into his Marines! A hoarse last-second cry steadied his men's nerves, yet they had not even the time to meet the charge with rifles blazing. Instead one of his men apparently fainted from the tension!
Behind him Frye heard Cane and the 'B' legionnaires charge the White Shields to the right. The Natives received the charge fearlessly enough, although it appeared one of them may have fainted too!
Frye's Marines held an advantage over their short adversaries: the Pygmies had no leader to spur them on. In one short, violent, bloody encounter, the French cut down their enemies, trampling them underfoot. Lt Frye breathed a sigh of relief at his quick win.
The legionnaires hoped for the same outcome, only in this instance they were the unit without leadership. Trooper Cane was a good soldier, but he had no formal training as a sergent. Only their collective experience could save them. As they swarmed over the Pygmies, two jumped out of the tall grass and brought down a legionnaire. The next moment it seemed as though the tall whites would win with ease, but the Brown Shield leader attempted to steal the victory. His efforts were not enough, though, and the Pygmies melted away into the brush, broken and defeated.
In the sudden quiet that always seemed to follow the fiercest fights, Lt Frye took stock of his situation. As the 'A' legionnaires finished mopping up their mêlée, trooper Cane turned to him with a slow shake of his head. His meaning was clear: Sgt Coyote was dead, the poison was too much for him at last. Of the other trooper, the news was better: he was already struggling to his feet, shaking off the grazing wound he had received.
The fainting Marine, Poulet, was also standing again, flushing crimson under the jibes and derision of his fellows. His stammered, "C'était la chaleur," ("It was the heat") went ignored.
The Native Bearer -- Frye realized he didn't know the man's name, yet felt no real concern over the fact -- had been killed by the blowguns. There remained barely enough men left to complete the razing of the shrine, should they even reach it. Fortunately Seejee and Sawjaw had their men under control.
Frye surveyed what he could see of his enemy: the leaderless Black Shields who had charged so brazenly out from the shrine were no more. One or two had crept off to join with some of the other Pygmies milling about, but they were no long effective as a fighting force. Most of the other Pygmies seemed to both disappear and reappear in equal measure; it was impossible to keep track of which units were hemorrhaging men and which were not. Yet the remaining Black Shields to the left and the White Shields to the right appeared steady and ready to renew the fight.
Lt Frye could only hope he appeared as ready as they did. With a little luck he would see these two units of Pygmies off and be able to advance unopposed to his objective.
[Turn Seven Ends]