'The Capture of La Banana'
A Flintloque Background Article by Danny O'Hara
Image from 'Barbary Wars Naval Battle 1815' by Thomas Luny*
Rectangula, Valon's largest supplier of sugar (and the rum fermented from it) and pipeweed, was important both in itself, and as the major staging-post for the galleon convoys from El Dorado...
Albion Forces in Rectangula
There was a time - before the invasion of Catalucia - when the two Elven Kingdoms were in an uneasy alliance. The Orcish Kingdom of Albion, long hostile to the Dark Elven Empire, seized their chance and successfully assaulted La Banana, provincial capital of the Island of Rectangula. While a great gain to the Orcs, it weakened Catalucia and probably brought forwards Mordred's plans of invasion...
This large island, off the coast of El Dorado, is the world's largest supplier of sugar (and the rum fermented from it) and pipeweed - quite simply, it is Halfling Heaven! Important both in itself, and as the major staging-post for the galleon convoys from El Dorado, La Banana has some of the strongest fortifications outside of Old Valon. Designed in the old-style of pre-black powder warfare, the fort of El Moron is still formidable, and the smaller forts around the city give it support. But, in typical Catalucian style, the fort has another position which overlooks it - and there were no fortifications there!
Rectangula has a mixed population of Catalucians, Halflings, and half-breeds. The population around La Banana is more sharply divided into Elf and Halfling, while the half-breeds (mullettos - due to the sometimes strange hair-styles which result from the mixed parentage) are rare. In the east of the island, around Swankyago de Rectangula, the Elfin portion is rarer, and most are Halflings or Mullettos. In their idyllic island, the Rectangulans have developed a culture which includes the grace and lilting style of Catalucia with the vibrant if brutal Halfling traditions. The typical mulletto works in a sugar or pipeweed plantation (either as a slave or employee - there is little actual difference!), lives in a palm-thatched hut, smokes his weed rolled in a cigaro, drinks uncut rum, and dances to a music of drums and guitars at every available opportunity. He probably also follows the Rectangulan caramba religion, a form of Halfling belief where everything is controlled by spirits, and before doing something dangerous or important, or on seeing something weird, the believer shouts "Caramba!". OK, so it isn't much of a religion...
While the majority of the population lives in huts and drinks/dances under the skies, the Catalucian governors and their families live in secluded palaces in La Banana and Swankyago, pretending that they are back home - and dying of fever. Catalucians have a high mortality rate in Rectangula due to the humidity, heat and strange diseases. La Banana is probably the safest area for them, but Swankyago is almost a death-sentence for Elves posted there. Prior to the Orc attack, the Governor of Rectangula was Don José de Farawé, with his palace and court in the centre of La Banana. The naval squadron based in the port there was under the command of the Duque de Lupue. Despite the importance of Rectangula to Catalucia, it had long been neglected and the garrison had dwindled to a battalion of Catalucians known as the Evacuaciones - they had all survived the fevers, but were living with some of the after-effects. To support these, units of mullettos and Halflings had been raised. The Halflings in particular equipped with the vicious machete used in plantation work.
But, as the realisation dawned on Catalucia that her tropical colonies were under threat, a series of reinforcements were sent out to bolster the garrison. They consisted of the "Arrogant" and "Catalucia" Regiments, and the "Dragones de Chocía" (named after Joccians in Catalucian service a few generations back). They started dying as soon as they arrived, but at least gave Farawé something to fight the invasion with.
When the declaration of war on Catalucia was received by the home-country, they sent a fast ship with a courier to warn the inhabitants of Rectangula - but this was intercepted by the Orcish Navy. So, as the Orc fleet advanced on La Banana with the troop transports, the Catalucian authorities there were blissfully unaware...
The Orcish Invasion Force
The Navy provided a fleet of transports and victuallers for the invasion attempt, together with a squadron of warships under Vice-Admiral Sir Gorge Pillock to escort them. The command of land forces was given to General the Earl of Arfamile, a political appointee with little real experience. His army contained the 22nd (Chundershire), 34th (Border Reavers), 56th (West Mordor) and 72nd (Joccian) Regiments of Infantry, with attached artillery and engineers. He was to be joined at La Banana by an HEVC force containing Orc colonial units and Halfling troops.
The Royal Navy acted with extreme professionalism and delivered the expedition to La Banana without incident. However, the colonials had not arrived. Despite this, the Orcs decided to proceed with their plan - to land at Cocklemar to the east of La Banana, then bring troops up onto the peninsula on which stood El Moron castle. The harbour had been deemed too dangerous to attempt a direct assault, but once the castle had been taken it would be a different matter. As they were only facing Dark Elves, the Orcs saw little problem in this.
The defenders of La Banana had watched, languidly, as the Orcish fleet sailed towards them. But, thinking that this was someone else's problem, they did nothing about it. Then the fleet turned in to Cocklemar Bay, and landed troops! The Dark Elves mustered some militia cavalry squads (the famous Lanceros de Ratas - Halflings and mullettos on giant rats) to contest the landing. Cocklemar had already fallen - the small garrison quickly blown away by the Royal Navy ships - and the Orcs were organising themselves to take the next village (Guonaréa). The rat-mounted Halflings made a chaotic charge, but were shot to bits by disciplined Orcish musketry. Guonaréa was taken, and the Orcish force advanced on El Moron. However, the Orcs thought that the castle was just a large coastal battery, with no real landward defences - here they were caught unawares. There was a 40' deep, 40' wide ditch at the base of the landward bastions, and a murderous fire raked the Orcs and Ratmen as they approached. Falling back in disarray, they regrouped in a clump of trees on the hillock level with the castle (known as El Carbuncle). Artillery was quickly brought up to form a battery here, and the Orcish engineers began preparations for siege actions.
While this was going on, Pillock led a naval reconaissance of the harbour mouth and seaward defences of El Moron. One ship sunk and another seriously damaged proved to him that El Moron was too strong to try and bombard from the sea, and the Catalucian Navy could hold the narrow harbour entry as long as they were not outflanked. The Catalucians also realised that their naval forces were not strong enough to break out of the harbour.
As the Orcish artillery and engineers carried out their preparations around El Moron, the Catalucians disembarked personnel and guns from the ships to bolster the defences. The castle itself was placed under the control of the implacable Don Fidel de Castrol, and extra guns were brought across the harbour in small-craft, with naval gunners, to reinforce the army artillery. A nocturnal assault on El Carbuncle was also launched from La Banana, using a mulletto company under Frodo Blanco (who later became a famous revolutionary against the Catalucians!). Armed with machetes, the mullettos surged into the Orc encampment with a cry of "Caramba!" - startled, the Orcs and Ratmen scrambled to gather their weapons. There were many deaths in the dark and confusion, before the troops rallied and drove off their assailants - most of the mullettos died, but Frodo and a few companions escaped back to El Banana. The Albion force kept better watch after this!
Despite such incidents, the main cause of casualties in the Albion forces was disease. A nasty fever swept through the ranks - laying low many a brave Orc, and even the hardy Ratmen succumbed in droves. The garrison of El Moron carried on in its' brave defence, and despite heavy losses from the Albion artillery, managed to keep up counter-battery fire. During the first two weeks, Don Castrol even launched some assaults on the Albion lines - in one, his troops managed to set the Albion "Grand Battery" alight - setting off much of the powder and destroying or damaging several guns and howitzers. However, the Orcs repaired most of the damage (though it gave the Catalucians some breathing space, and allowed them to make repairs to the defences). After this, the Orcish engineers set their minds to breaching the walls, with the brutish tenacity of their race...
The main problem was that El Moron was set on solid rock, and the battery positions (and approach lines) were having to be laboriously built from timber, rocks and sand-bags. But, though not as skilled as Dwarfs, Orcs are accomplished miners - and a tunnel under the wall and ditch had been started. Elf miners probably couldn't have carried it out, but an Orc - and especially an Orc with a grudge - can literally chew his way through solid rock. The tunnel proceded slowly, and meanwhile the approach lines were crept closer to the walls, and the batteries pounded the walls. As long as the fever didn't kill them all first, the castle would fall.
But, in addition to the problems of the rocky ground, the El Moron/El Carbuncle position had no water sources (the castle had its' own well-system), and so more troops had to be deployed in carrying water up from below, and then yet more were required to protect them from the occassional ambush by machete-wielding Halflings. Covering the various tasks with the depleted force proved harder and harder.
With the approaches finally at the base of the glacis (and under musket fire as well as cannister), the siege works halted until the mine was finished. Once this was done, an Orcish officer went forward under a white-flag to offer Don Castrol another chance to surrender the position with honour. But, considering that the Orcs would still have to assault the walls, this brave officer merely sucked on his habitual cigar and replied "No surrender, señor", before walking back to his headquarters. The die was cast - the Orcs must prove their mettle and take El Moron!
The Assault on El Moron
With a resounding boom, the powder-filled mine below the cliff-top bastion exploded! But, when the dust settled, the bastion was still there! True, the stonework was cracked and the artillery situated there looked to be damaged, but it was still a bloody great wall for the Orcs to climb...
Silence reigned over the fort and siege lines as the assembled Orc attackers looked despairingly at their goal...Then a voice bawled out from behind them, a tone unmistakably that of an Orc Sergeant-Major; "What are you lot lookin' at! Get up an' assault them walls, like what the gentleman hoffiza tole you!" The green and red mob surged forward, in a yelling sea of xenophobic indignation. With cries of "Get the pointy-eared little &%@s!!", "Albion!", and the occassional "Oh, Mother!", they charged - and almost fell into a chasm as the bastion finally creaked, groaned and fell! Over the top lurched and scrambled the frenzied Orcs and Ratmen, and into the castle.
Don Castrol came out at the head of his battered and sickly Catalucian troops - cigar clenched in mouth, and a finely-balanced sabre in his hand. "Victory or death!" he shouted, before a Bog-Orc sapper with a shovel stoved his head in... After that the garrison surrendered, and the Orcs held a drunken party in the castle.
It was obvious that El Moron commanded the city of La Banana, and the harbour below, but Don Farawé decided to make another stand (this tendancy to hold impossible positions is a common Dark Elf fault). He ordered the fleet to fire on the castle, and the artillery and troops guarding the walls and bastions of the city to hold fast.
The Orcs set up artillery to face the harbour and city, and quickly forced the naval squadron to retreat, before blowing holes in the city walls. The walls were only lightly defended - and the heart had gone out of the defence, so when the last of the big guns were silenced, Farawé surrendered La Banana to Arfamile.
The Orcs quickly looted La Banana, got extremely drunk (and had much of the loot stolen back by local Halflings), then realised that they would have trouble holding this position, as they were rapidly dwindling in numbers (due to disease and wounds). His Monstrosity's Government extracted a hefty ransom for the return of La Banana, then evacuated the fever-ridden garrison and fleet to the Windy Isles. Thus ended the official Albion involvement with La Banana. though Rectangula itself later erupted into rebellion, and there was some Orcish activity at that time. But that, as they say, is another story.
The above Flintloque background was originally published on Danny O'Hara's excellent Flintloque website, Weird Wars, back in the late Nineties.
The article was first published on Orcs in the Webbe on the 15th November 2007. It was absent for several years due to a prior regeneration of the website not transferring everything over correctly. That wrong has now been righted and it returned in it's original form on the 8th December 2023 as the eighth entry in that year's Advent Calendar and, of course, as part of Orcs in the Webbe's ongoing Fliintloque Archive Project.
Danny passed away a few years ago now and I miss both him and his fantastic contributions to the world of Valon.
Any comments in maroon in the article above have been added by me either to provide additional information or clarity. I may also have made small changes to grammar and layout but have not marked these.
* Note that the image has been used without permission and will be removed if requested by the copyright holder.