Thursday, December 30, 2010

31. Death in the Jungle: Turn 13

[Turn Thirteen Begins]

The Natives seemed to sense Lieutenant Frye's frustration, and were set back on their heels because of it.  The Frenchmen were closer to their tainted shrine than they themselves were, yet both refused to give up.  The seemingly immortal brown-shield leader hooted a command, and Lt Frye watched in amazement as the few remaining Pygmies squared their shoulders and advanced threateningly near to the cattle pen just behind the totem.

"Je suis venu trop loin pour abandonner maintenant," - "I've come too far to quit now," - thought Frye.  First things first:  he turned and barked an order to Seejee and Sawjaw, the tirailleurs leading the Native Bearers.  The soldiers acknowledged him and urged their nervous charges off to the side of the clearing, out of the way of immediate danger.

Next Frye called an order to Cane, the senior trooper of 'B' légionnaires squad.  Cane nodded, advanced his men toward the petits hommes, and formed them into a firing line.  Smoke billowed from the ends of their rifles as they fired on his command.  Cane squinted to see the results, muttering in disapproval as he realized their shots had missed.

His muttering changed to a low cry as the fierce cannibals tried to blow their dart guns at his men before realizing they were out of range, and rushing forward instead, closing the distance between them rapidly.

Cane urgently uttered a second command, and his vision was once again obscured by the acrid smoke from eight guns.  This time his diligence was rewarded by seeing two l'indigènes fall.  To his amazement, the brown-shielded leader was unable to command his men forward; instead, they half-heartedly shot their blowguns at the légionnaires before falling back in good order.  Cane was just as amazed that their shots missed.  He could do no more for now.  He and his men stood fast and waited.

There was a heartbeat of a pause.  The jungle was still and quiet. 

Lt Frye motioned an instruction to Caporal Cabot and l'Infanterie des Marines he was leading.  There was a lengthy pause as the inexperienced caporal remembered the correct commands needed to carry out the orders he had received.  Then he formed the marines into open order before advancing his men around to the right of the shrine -- Frye wanted him to get behind the Natives.

Farther back in the French portion of the jungle, the Tirailleurs Sénégalais continued to advance under the command of Caporal Chien, ending their movement in open order as well.

Just as Lt Frye got his men where he wanted them, the vicious cannibalistic Pygmies let out a blood-chilling war cry and charged légionnaires squad 'B.'  "Recevoir la charge!" Frye shouted.  Cane ordered his men to brace themselves, but he thought he saw trooper Pes step behind his mates at the last moment -- had a second run-in with the murderous miniature men unmanned him?

The tiny dark-skinned fanatics crashed into the taller white-skinned Frenchmen with screams and curses, shields thudding into rifle butts, and poison-laced spearheads stabbing unmercifully at unprotected legs.

Though there were hardly any of the left, yet still they refused to quit.  After the initial rush, the heavier weight and longer reach of the légionnaires began to tell on the Pygmies, until the brown-shielded seemingly immortal leader reached deep for one last super-human effort to defeat the invaders and defend his horrid shrine.

He cut, he slashed, he danced out of reach only to dart back in again...but to no avail.  First one, then five! of his brave but terrible men fell to the bayonets and rifles clubbing at them, before he, too, finally succumbed!

With an ear-piercing shriek the remaining pygmées fled, their spirit broken, their morale shaken to its core.  Their fearless leader, the one whom no White could kill, had at last fallen.  Was he truly dead?

Cane wiped a sweat-soaked sleeve across his sweat-soaked forehead.  A quick glance told him his line was intact; his men had held.  What's more, trooper Pes came skulking back to rejoin his squad, shamefaced and pale.  Cane would have to have words with him later:  cowardice was not allowed in La Légion.

Somehow or other, several of l'indigènes were able to return to what remained of their unit -- including, to Frye's absolute bafflement, the brown-shielded leader!  "Incroyable!" he breathed.  "Peut-être qu'il est un fantôme."

Sergent Cur of 'A' légionnaires had finally regained his wits enough to take command from trooper Lupo, but under Lupo's urgings he allowed his men to retire further still.  He was almost out of earshot of le Lieutenant.

Lastly, Frye was pleased to see that, even though the unkillable brown-shield leader had survived and returned, he was unable to prevent his men from retreating, too.

Apparently, no matter how worthy the adversary, all great generals must contend with short-sighted grunts.  Frye grimaced in mutual disgust and admiration.

[Turn Thirteen Ends]

1 comment: