Corporal Garth Broadshaw adjusted the cuff on his dress uniform; tugging out a wrinkle here, smoothing a crinkle there. Satisfied that they were as perfect as they could be, he pulled gently at his starched collar, wincing as his fingers brushed against the chafed skin of his neck.
Sighing, he straightened up in his saddle and looked at his fellow cavalrymen. Their uniforms were resplendant, not a sign of dirt to be seen anywhere, and the coats of their mounts gleamed in the early morning sun. In his opinion, no other regiment in the Sinjorge System had such a smart uniform. Regimental pennons snapped from their raised lances, the mythical golden canary, the harbinger of imminent death, flying across a black field.
He smiled in pride at just how smart he and his fellow canaries looked. Black pith helmets with a yellow band protected their heads from small arms fire and shrapnel, as well as the odd tumble, rare in such an elite unit. Reinforced heavy yellow jackets with black piping, one-inch thick black stripes running down the sleeves and black cuff provided some protection from small calibre rounds, the reinforced spine ensuring that they would walk away from any but the most crushing of falls. Snug black trousers with yellow piping ran down into black leather mid-calf length boots. All the better to show a good calf to the ladies, he thought with a smug smile, smoothing his moustache as he remembered some of his conquests.
Taking a deep breath he looked to his front, judging the distance that they needed to cover. Almost too far. Almost. Time to ride on.
“Patrol will prepare to form line to the front;… form line to the front;… MARCH!” The mounts and their riders moved smoothly, gentle nudges and squeezes of the knee being the only command the riders needed to get their horses moving.
“Patrol will prepare to arm lances; …. arm lances; …. ARM!” Twelve yellow sleeved arms reached up and tugged the arming strings from their lances, spoon levers like those found on hand grenades pinging away through the air. Broadshaw found his mouth suddenly dry, his tongue seeming to be almost reluctant to let him give the next order.
“Patrol will prepare to advance in the walk; … advance in the walk; …. WALK!” He gave a gently click of his tongue and gently pressed his heels into the flank of his mount. Slowly the horses started to walk forward, almost ambling as they did so.
“Patrol will prepare to trot; …. prepare to trot; ….. TROT!” He dug his heels in further and his mount snorted, springing forward into the trot. He knew that just like its rider it knew what was coming, just like its rider it now wanted nothing more than to close the distance to their target.
Ahead of them a somewhat strung out mob of greenskins was marching away from them, the sounds of at least three different war songs drifting back to the cavalry. So bloody loud the stupid bastards can’t hear us. Just a few yards more.
“Patrol will prepare to charge; …. prepare to charge; …. CHARGE!” As one the lances snapped down and the horses leapt forward as their riders dug their spurs in and couched their lances into position. Unlike other units, the canaries didn’t scream and rage as they attacked, rather they preferred to charge forward with the thunder of their hooves announcing their arrival far more effectively than their voices ever could.
With less than fifty yards to go, Broadshaw saw a couple of the smaller greenskins glance over their shoulders at the noise behind them. Some immediately turned back, unable to comprehend the danger, whilst one he saw did an almost comical double take before raising an oversized revolver in their direction.
The sound of the revolver going off was much louder than Broadshaw could ever have thought possible. The muzzle flash punched forward at least six feet and the gretchin was blown off its feet, barrelling into the back of a much larger ork. At the sound of the revolver the singing stuttered to a halt and those nearest to the cavalry spun round to see what was approaching.
Too late you green-skinned buggers. Broadshaw’s lips peeled back into a feral snarl as he adjusted the angle of his lance, extending it towards one of the biggest orks he had ever seen. The stupid creature was too busy roaring out a challenge to realise that the lance was of any danger.
Just before impact Broadshaw closed his eyes. There was a sudden shock and a clap of thunder as the explosive head punched into his target. Opening his eyes he galloped past the remains of his opponent, the charge in the lance’s head having blown the ork into bloody chunks.
He extended his lance again, aiming the secondary head that had been exposed by the shattering explosion at another large greenskin. This one appeared to have its wits about it and was braced to receive his charge. Mere feet away from the ork he squeezed his knee, guiding his mount away from the ork whilst thrusting his lance directly into its roaring mouth.
His quick thinking saved his mount from the vicious swing of the ork’s chainsword, aimed at its legs in an attempt to bring them both down. Instead, there was a sharp snick and the blade-sharp lance punched through the back of the ork’s skull. Releasing his hold as quickly as he could, Broadshaw drew his chain sabre, swinging left and right as his mount barrelled through the ork ranks.
“On! On!” He kept spurring his mount forward, slashing at any target that present itself until they were clear of the greenskin unit. Glancing over his shoulder to check that he was being followed by his patrol, he led the survivors away from the orks, heads down and in a full gallop, bolter rounds whistling past them.
As he raced away from the enemy, he cast his mind back to this morning’s briefing, “Hit them once, hit them hard, get out, no mercy, no rescue.” He repeated the order as if it was a holy mantra, ignoring the screams of the men and horses that they had left behind.