The last flames hissed into submission as the driftwood remains of the bridge swept into the current. Corporal Trent Tillage, who had laid the charges on the support struts, surveyed the devastation with glee. He looked up across the field of battle into the rheumy eyes of his opponent. Brigadier Sir Digby Grumblebottom’s shoulders sagged. Trent knew that as one of the most famed military tacticians in history he hated to lose even a single game of “Battle-axe Berserker”. Defeat lined his face as he watched the debris of the last available route to Trent’s island citadel wash over the edge of the board and into the bucket that Trent had placed to protect the threadbare Persian carpet. Its frayed edging and faded colours reminisced long forgotten glory days. Just like its owner, Trent thought, a forgotten hero in desperate need of a good airing. Trent’s triumphant moment was marred by guilt over his certain victory over the dwarf, who had been his best friend for almost 300 years.
Sir Digby reached for the numbered dodecahedron and slowly rolled it across the area marked ‘the plains of the Iron Buffalo’. It came to rest showing the number eight. Trent leaned over the board and gave it a swift nudge.
“Oh well done Sir. A ten. You can draw a mobile-unit card. Let me read it for you Sir.” He drew a card from one of the piles which rested in the five glades of ‘the forest of the dryads’ without giving his employer a chance to speak. He scanned it swiftly. It read ‘Your Field Marshall has a bout of gippo guts, miss a turn’. He looked into Sir Digby’s face, wrinkled and gnarled as a tree trunk. The handlebar moustache drooped in disappointment. Time to lie “Oh good one Sir, it says ‘you have invented a turtle pontoon. This card may be used at any time.’ Smashing timing to get this card, Sir.”
“Capital, dear boy. Capital.”
The dwarf scratched around the unused units in the game box, lifted out the pontoon piece and moored it in the site of the erstwhile ‘bridge of Goblins’ teeth’ where his troops had already been carefully ranged, ready for the final assault.
“I’ve got you now, Corporal. Well done though, you almost had me on the ropes there.” The twinkle was back in his eyes.
“Yes Sir Digby. So close. I surrender the game to you. Perhaps I’ll have better luck next time.” Trent switched off the river pump and scooped water over some of the still burning game pieces, scattered around the board. He’d rebuild them ready for the next battle.
“So, dear boy, what’s the score now?”
“That’d be 7 to me and 2,549 to you.” Trent was blessed with an eidetic memory.
“Are you sure?” The Brigadier’s bulbous nose wrinkled and his eyebrows came to rest on the top of his spectacles, “you do remember we agreed to disallow that game in 1928 when I was coming down with a cold.”
“Yes Sir Digby. I have removed it from the tally. I have won seven excluding that one.”
A brass clang sounded from the bell in the passage.
“Good grief. Visitors? We haven’t had visitors in…in…”
“A little over six years Sir, and that was a brownie selling biscuits.”
“Oh yes, of course. Ghastly creatures, brownies. They do have an astounding knack for baking though…Well, make haste boy. Don’t make our visitor wait.”
“Of course Sir. Excuse me Sir.”
“Hold on Corporal.” Trent turned back. “How do I look?” Trent had pressed the dress uniform this morning, as he did every morning. He’d polished the brass buttons and the leather boots until they gleamed as he had, proudly, every day since he had been appointed as Sir Digby’s batman in the army. Every day for 283 years.
“You look splendid Sir.”