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"The Great Rabbit Hunt"

A Flintloque Short Story by Tony Harwood

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Caught in a 'situation' following Wheeling-turn's orders, the Albion Spymaster Wogan must think outside the box to come up with troops for a unit charged with extending an olive branch to the Burrovians. Little did he know exactly how far outside when the adventure later known as The Great Rabbit Hunt began...

~

Wogan was particularly brassed-off. Olde Nosey had 'asked' him to ensure this wagon got delivered to some long-eared Bunnies, when I say ‘asked’ what I actually mean is commanded, instructed, ordered, that’s what really bugged Wogan. With all the things that he had to watch over - to act as a delivery-boy was really ticking him off! Didn’t Nosey realise that there were plans involving spies and alliances to be engineered.

Wogan took a deep breath, knowing that The Duke of Wheeling-turn, once he had made up his mind, was a stubborn old bugger!

Where was Sharke when he was needed? Where was that sneaky, low-down Orc Sergeant Freddy when a dirty job was in the offing? No where to be seen – as usual.

In fact the whole camp was deserted of ‘Red Coats’ just hangers-on and seamstresses. Wait what was that? A glimpse of red. And there was Wogans saviour. A uniformed band of Orcs, otherwise know as the Army Catering Corps, all ready to deliver the wagon load of whatever to the Burrovian emissaries.

It is said that every army marches on its stomach, in most cases this is true, but in the Army of Albion it is said that this army marches in spite of what the soldiers might (or might not) have in their stomachs.

The Army Catering Corps - a rag-tag bunch of retrogrades that although uniformed were about as far away from the honourable Orc Red Coat as it is possible to get. Criminals, thieves and freaks so bad that even the Albion Commissariat could find nothing better for them to do than ‘cook’.

“Oh well – any port in a storm.” Mumbled Wogan and off he strode towards the huge catering tent that was situated in the centre of the largely deserted camp.

As Wogan pulled back the flap of the tent the stench of rotten food and acrid smoke brought tears to his eyes and for a moment he was halted in his advance as if hit by the butt of a Bakur riffle. It took all of Wogan’s strength, willpower and resolve to move forward into the tent and even more not to throw up there and then.

The catering corps were not lazy – oh no. Lazy was not the word for it. It took a great deal of effort to do as little as these soldiers did. A great deal of effort indeed. Wogan saw what he was looking for, there in the midst of the lack of activity stood a huge Orc dressed in a once white apron and armed with a ladle so big that it actually required both hands to lift it.

Wogan coughed, usually this was all that was needed for him to gain the attention of Albion soldiers. In this case it took a number of coughs, a stamping of his huge boot and even then Wogan was required to shout at the top of his voice.

“Who’s in charge here?”

An eyrie silence descended like a heavy shroud and the large Orc, who was not used to being addressed in this way, said “And who the hell wants to ****ing know?”

For a brief second even Wogan, used to dealing with a more undisciplined trooper, was taken aback. It took all of his self-control not to pull out his pistol and fire it straight at the insolent Orc.

“Wogan – special advisor to The Duke and I’m requisitioning this group for a very special mission.” said the Bog Orc, undaunted.

The statement had the effect of bringing order to the inhabitants of the tent – but not for the reason that Wogan expected, because the response was a little un-nerving!

“And who the **** is Wogan when he’s at home?” said a scruffy Goblin who appeared to the side of the first Orc.

In fact Wogan noticed his comments had caused all the Catering Corps to slowly drop what they were doing and slowly turn to face him. A cold shudder ran down his back. Here was a man that has single-handedly held back a company of Ferach Voltigeurs as well as ordering hundreds of Orcs to their death at Badjobz, here was a hero of Albion (with the medals to prove it) but in this tent Wogan realised that if Old Nosey had been able to control this rabble – then he could have marched all the way to Mordred’s throne and ruled the whole of Urop with just a hundred such soldiers.

With a gulp of steam filled air Wogan raised himself to his full height and looked the head chef straight in the eye.

“I am here at the request of The Duke of Wheeling-turn himself. With orders for you to accompany a very valuable cargo to Burrovia.”

Wogan thought it was the word valuable that did it – however as any ‘real’ chef knew the mere mention of Burrovia could sometimes have the same effect – after all Rabbit stew with fresh carrots had an unusual effect on the red coated rabble.

It was some time later, after Wogan had seen that the group of chefs had taken control of the wagon, that he began to wonder if this was his finest moment. The cold truth was that it clearly was not – but at least he no longer had to worry about the precious cargo and could now get on with what he does best. Spymastering.

If only he knew then what he knew now…

Big Fat Leighty – the so called leader of the 1st Catering Militia (so named by Wogan in an attempt to give the Cooks some semblance of order) called his second in command to his side. A dirty Goblin by the name of Festering Martin.

“Have you seen what it is that we are guarding?” said Leighty.

In a heavy Iberian accent Festerin Martin replied. “Ah, Zee. A wagon load of fresh vegetables – some prize carrots, a box of blue Cabbages and some very fine wild turnips.”

“Is that all?” Leighty replied.

“Es” said Festering Martin, “Oh and some guns.”.

“Well be careful, we don’t want to damage the carrots.”

And so began the adventure that was later referred to as The Great Rabbit Hunt.

~

In military terms throughout Valon there are many heroic exploits, stories of true heroism and bravery,great military operations against all odds. Stories of daring do.

Then there’s The Great Rabbit Hunt!

Let us begin with some background;

If any reader has ever worked or had dealings with Cooks, Chefs and Waiters they will know that there are few classes of individual that operate in such a manner. Above board, honour and truth are just some of the words that do not apply. Big Leighty is the self proclaimed leader – not through any military training or commissions though, oh no. In the cauldron of the army kitchen, he who shouts the loudest stirs the stew. A huge cook who is just as handy gutting an Elf as he is slicing a smoked one. Brought up as the son of a docker in Londinium, Leighty found that he enjoyed the less arduous life of a cook to that of lugging crates and unloading ships. The benefit of a guaranteed three square meals a day was the clincher.

Leighty had now taken command of five ex-Cooks, the vegetable filled wagon, a small pony and her handler, a small Half Orc (or large Goblin, no-one was really sure) called Old Weasel. In addition there was also a second wagon, this time pulled by an enormous pig and filled with catering supplies. The supplies consisted of huge sacks of salt, pepper, mustard, cooking brandy, herbs, medicinal brandy, spices, quaffing brandy, fresh tomatoes and a barrel of (you guessed it) drinking brandy. As the wagons and Orcs marched north, Wogan was beginning to have doubt about the decision to commandeer this ‘rag-tag’ group.

The first couple of days passed with nothing more than a couple of cross words and a cut finger. Everyone was enjoying the freedom and novelty of cooking just for themselves, rather than the whole camp, admittedly they were having some difficulty in judging quantities and the first villagers they saw were surprised and grateful to be left a huge pot of fresh vegetable stew.

On the third day, nearly a quarter into their adventure, the problems started. Dipstick the Halfling wanted to smoke some of his stash of Jamcakey pipeweed but was unable to find it amongst this pack. He accused ‘Benny-the-Fish’ of taking it and the argument continued all day until camp was set late in the afternoon. Benny (named after the fact that he had been brought up by a south-coast fisherman) was in fact completely innocent but Dipstick refused to believe him or anyone else. The arguments continued late into the night and could be heard for some distance. The next morning, as the group were preparing to leave camp, they were confronted by a rabble of armed and evil-looking Catalonian Guerrillas who demanded that both wagons be handed over.

Luckily none of the 1st Catering Militia were seriously hurt in the ensuing fracas, however the Guerrillas were eventually successful and proceeded to take both wagons, all the stores and Olde Weasel.

Leighty was furious. For the first time in years he started the day on an empty stomach and worst still not a drop of ‘hair-of-the-dog’ Brandy.

Tempers were frayed and arguments continued until a plan was formed. The Orcs would lead an attack on the Guerrillas and take back the wagon of catering supplies. Oh and the wagon load of damned vegetables. And if they found Old Weasel too, job done.

As the sun began its decline and the hills shed deep shadows across the barren land Leighty and the 1st Catering Militia moved through the shrub and spindly trees towards a small clearing lit by a large camp fire.

Leighty, armed with one of his trusty meat cleavers, was directing the attack and at his command the Orcs charged into the clearing with deadly threats and vile oaths emerging from their jaws. To everyone’s surprise there was no reaction; no counter-charge, no defence at all. There sitting peacefully at the side of the fire was Old Weasel, smoking a long pipe and smiling to himself. The Guerrillas were all asleep – actually they were damned near comatose.

After tying up the Guerrillas and settling down for a mug of steaming hot Cocoa Weasel explained, “I volunteered to cook, using some of the vegetables in the Burrovian wagon and the herbs and spices in your catering supplies. I ensured that large quantities of brandy were used, but it was these unusual herbs – something that I haven’t seen since my days in Hatey that were the real cause of the drowsiness.”

Dipstick snatched back the now nearly empty pouch, screaming, “Moi pipeweed, what ‘ave you done?”

Leighty and Festering Martin poured away the last remnants of the contaminated stew and very quickly a new pot of fresh grub was bubbling away to the sounds of laughter from the Orcs and moans from the worse for wear Guerrillas.

The mis-adventure had done much to pull the group together, distant feuds and grudges were soon forgotten. Old Weasel was now a welcome part of the group and wondered if this cocktail of retrogrades might actually make it as a military unit.

For the next two days and in much better humour the group plodded north and towards the rendezvous with Burrovia. Spirits were high and the huge quantities of cooking brandy consumed helped to while away mile after mile of featureless track.

On the seventh day Leighty sighted the first rabbit mounds of Burrovia and realising that the quest was over allowed his guard to slip a little.

~

Wogan had successfully completed the task set for him by Old Nosey, The wagon load of guns had been delivered to the Burrovians and attempts were now being made to convince the long-eared bunnies to change sides. He relaxed slightly and began to think about his next adventure.

The problem was that Leighty, having delivered the wagon load of supplies to Burrovia, now had no idea what came next. Wogan had neglected to supply any details of how the hand-over of guns should be conducted or what Leighty should do afterwards.

Being a well-trained cook (well, a cook at least) Leighty did the obvious thing (obvious to him at least) and proceeded to shoot a brace of rabbits. Then another brace and then a third brace. In fact by midday Leighty and the 1st Catering Militia had shot, skinned and prepared over thirty rabbits.

Leighty unloaded the guns, left them near the largest rabbit mound and filled the wagon with dead rabbit corpses. After making and sampling a huge pot of Rabbit Stew the Militia moved back south with all wondering what was so difficult about this “Fighting Lark!”

Even before Leighty and the Cooks Militia had arrived back at camp, Wogan had been summoned by Wheeling-turn to account for the recent reports that had been delivered to him. Apparently the Burrovian Ambassador was demanding to know what ‘double-dealing’ and underhand trick had been played on the poor rabbits of Burrovia. Over thirty rabbit skins had been found near the discarded guns. The planned alliance between Albion and Burrovia was no longer an option and Old Nosey was demanding (at the top of his voice) what exactly had Wogan done?

As Wogan stumbled over his words and sheepishly looked down at his boots there was an outcry as the Cooks Militia marched back into camp. The wagon load of skinned rabbits and fresh vegetables were greeted by huge cheers and the mood of the whole camp was lifted – after all this would be a veritable feast after such a long and arduous campaign.

As the cooks prepared the meal, Old Nosey held his head in his hands and wondered out loud what he was to do with his newly formed 1st Catering Militia, that and exactly what he was going to write to the Burrovian Ambassador.

Author’s Note

The Cooks Militia offers the Flintloque gamer new gaming option. Not a fully formed regiment, not a deserter band, but a group of characters who can be used to add ‘flavour’ to any campaign. The Great Rabbit Hunt was the first of Leighty’s adventures – the first of many which I will be reporting on in future articles and themed gaming scenarios.

There are many who have commented that Rabbit stew is a speciality of the famous White Liar at Broomcoat, the current chef has a striking similarity to Festering Martin!

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Webmaster's Notes

An Orcs in the Webbe Original! "The Great Rabbit Hunt" was written exclusively for Orcs in the Webbe's 2011 Advent Calendar and was first published on Wednesday 21st December 2011.