Carlton Smiles-Pomley III got back on his horse, Ovaltine, for the third time. Bruised, bloodied and burdened by history, he was not in the mood for an inspection, but, as his forefathers had done umpteen times before, he knew his men expected their leader to ‘check the helmets’, as this tradition had become known amongst the free folk. Falling off his horse for the fourth time, Carlton decided enough was enough, and walked her the rest of the way to the parade ground.
The town of Hatton, nestled in a secluded corner of the county of Anglesee, was a relatively comfortable settlement in the vastness that was the continent of Compendiumnia. Although much of this land had long felt ignored by Sigmar and his new warriors, the people of Hatton had always been faithful to their God King, and were proud of their long held traditions. Carlton too held these traditions close to his heart. He could trace his lineage all the way back to the Age of Myth, some said even before then, back when the world was smaller, and lives simpler.
The legend of the Smiles-Pomleys was, sadly, one of madness and treachery. The story told of a mad captain, fuelled by jealousy and hate, who, hungry for power and obsessed with headgear, had stolen a strange and powerful artefact – the hat of wizardry. It was this garment, many said, that had turned a meek and impotent man into a glowering, but stupid, monster. That man was named Carlton Smiles-Pomley, the first of his name.
Whatever the truth, over millennia the story took hold, not only on those who shared that name, but also on those who they commanded. Such was the power of the legend, that magic and all its mysterious mumbo jumbo was forbidden within Hatton and its environs. Never would a wizard dare to enter those town walls, nor would they be welcomed to fight alongside the noble free peoples.
Having said that, even without the age old fear of the wizard, many of noble birth chose not to fight alongside Carlton. Not only was his horsemanship challenging at best, but he had a terrible digestive syndrome, causing flatulence that not only created a nasal disturbance to his peers, but was also so loud, that many of his orders were misheard. Numerous were the times when a call of “Archers!Loose Front and Centre !” had been misinterpreted as “Marchers! Goose! Grunt and Censor!!”. This famously came to a head during the Rout of Waywatcher Hill when the order “Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance” was reportedly misheard as “Send three and four pence, we’re going to a dance”. And so, able to make excuses, the noble elite quietly tended to their shrubberies, whilst the men went forth to war, nosegays at the ready.
Arrayed resplendent in the yellow and purple of House Smiles-Pomley, the Freeguild Regiment stood proudly for their liege lord’s inspection. Recently returned from battling the dread Tomb Kings at the Battle of Legacious Hill, the stout men wore their plumage with the pride only a man in a doublet and jerkin could understand. Their armour, not as ostentatious as their Brettonian neighbours, was more practical than emblematic, but could still withstand the choppa of an Orc.
But there would be no Orc to fight where they were going. Nay, the Greenskins that they would be facing were now named Orruk. Recently they had faced this new horror, when they were beaten by a brutish clan of Ironjaws, far larger than even the Black Orcs that roamed the land of Compendiumnia. Even Tomb Kings were becoming scarce, and no one had seen a knight of Breton for years.
Carlton’s thoughts wandered to other changes he had witnessed during his time in charge. The Town square, now a roundabout. The ale house “The Four Corners” rebranded as “The Round Table”. Even his State Troops, notoriously difficult to teach new tricks, had renamed themselves as “Freeguild Guard”. Carlton had even been forced by the townsfolk to burn his Huey Lewis and the News vinyl collection.
But these were all details that paled into insignificance against the job in hand. The South Coast was under attack and a vast battle was expected. Carlton addressed his men.
“We march to war! Not to battle the Beastmen, but the Brayherd! Not to smite the Dwarf, but the Duardin! Not to kill the Goblin, but the Grot! No longer can we rely on the tight formations of old! No longer can we expect to march safely past the line of sight of a nearby enemy and move out of their charge arc! The enemy has learnt to turn its head! We face a new challenge!”
“But we are men!” he continued. “We shall square up to these new horrors! We shall angle our attacks, and corner the enemy! We shall not be rounded by these usurpers!
"What's he sayin’?” asked Greg, a Spearmen of much repute. “No idea” replied his brother in arms, Stan, “Summit about ‘shapes?”. “Oh well”, said Greg, “Come on, let’s have a quick drink before we set off. My round.”