Tuesday, 18 December 2012

An old soldiers introduction to the trouble in nDunaland

The Prologue

I watched the veteran of sixty years at war, sitting in front of me, tear open the paper packet I’d handed him to get at the tobacco inside.  Pulling out the leaf he broke it up with yellowed cracked fingers and pressed it into a simple clay pipe, taking a taper from the fire he strove to bring fire to the bowl.  On the third or fourth attempt he managed to draw life from the imported leaf sending a single spark, a fire fairy, dancing up to the beams that spanned the low ceiling of the living room in the dark little cottage.  This was William Mackie, hero of the campaigns in Gran Prix, Byzarbia, nDunaland and more, a salt of the earth soldier who through the untimely and unfortunate deaths of those around him ultimately found himself as commander of the small garrison at Anjurabad during the rebellion.  His fortlet had been one of the few that had survived unscathed partly due to good soldiering but mainly because Mackie had simply refused to get involved when countless native armies arrived to turn him and his handful of men out.  
 ‘Why should I be bothered with you...’ he famously shouted at one confused tribal horde ‘...when there’s horses to be mucked out and my belly needs filling.’ 
After several hours of being ignored the rabble simply dissolved into the night.
Similar stoicism now meant that old Bill ignored me until he had sucked the breath from perhaps half of the pipes first filling.  ‘So...’ he began, ‘...you want to know about nDunaland, the sun and the storms, the diamonds and the death?’  He paused, the gummy grin betraying both his enthusiasm for the subject in question and his pride at the obviously rehearsed opening line.  I nodded my agreement but he hadn’t seen me.  The old man was taking a drink from a translucent horn beaker his foggy eye turned away from me and his good one looking at events over forty years distant.
‘What you have to remember, young man, is that nDunaland was nothing like you’ve been told it was before we arrived.  The land was a happy one, hot and dusty in the dry season and lush and green when the rains came. Cracked dry earth could turn into a raging river in a few hours.  People had lived there for thousands of years before we came with our muskets and our ships to ‘civilise’ them.  We were the savages, the unbelievers, to them, although they were more than happy to trade with us and doubtless make their fortunes on items they thought trivial and which we thought were treasures.  The tribal trinkets, dried fruit and that bloody awful dried meat that tasted like a baboons arse were sent north in wagons and loaded into ships so that wet behind the ears ‘children’ could sit in their rented rooms in Tel-i-Tubi or some other Byzarbian souk and fool themselves that they had travelled, had lived, just by buying a few of the goods available to give them a taste of ‘the dark’ as they called it.  Those were the good days in nDunaland the days when we played cricket in parched streets between little grass huts, every man was your friend and all white men were your brothers, aye closer I was in those early years to every man I served with than to any of my own kin, and I have plenty of them!  But the diamonds changed all that, in a few short hot months what had been a chance discovery by a man called Curry and his friend turned into a hole in the earth that you could lose a parade ground in.  When the stones were first found it was a celeidh for everyone, we all got rich, black, white, old, young even us soldiers...it was peace time you see and we had little else to do. But money like that draws the wrong people, companies and corporations whose every effort was put into driving down the costs to them and driving up the costs to everyone else. That damned hole grew so quickly that people died fighting over which square foot was theirs and more died when unshored sides fell on top of them.  At one point ninety nine out of every hundred diamonds arriving in Grenouisse or across the seas in Silverfernia came from that one ugly scar in the ground.  In two years the rich zirconia merchants of Prunkland had been made destitute such was the volume and availability of our rocks.’
Old Bill stopped for another slurp from his beaker, his pipe, untended, had gone out and curled a thin, ever dissipating line of smoke across the room.  He had now become quite animated, so much so that I feared for the health of a man of his advanced years, fortunately he seemed to calm a little and leaning forward almost conspiritorially he continued in a harsh whisper.
‘Money, you see brings the greedy and the greedy bring companies, armies and government.  The men that came seemed determined to have war and by god they were going to get it!’ 

The Inquisitorial Guard of Darien.  One of the many Regts. drawn into the trouble in nDunaland.  Seen here in Byzarbia, probably around the time of the siege of Tel-i-Tubi.

(Copyright Note:  Many of the names and places mentioned on this blog are the intellectual property of members of the WD3  wargames forum.  nDunaland is my creation and is placed on the periphery of a fictional C18th world created by Henry Hyde no challenge to Henrys IP is intended in doing this)