They were games in which nicknames were earned, something any military man will tell you is important. The first conferred the alternative nickname of "Moses" on Lance-Corporal Frank "Nosher" Powell. The second saw the Captain himself named "Furious Fred." All will be revealed!
And so to the first game.
Within two days of setting out from the port town of Yabhouti, Captain Pike's column drew near the Ukrazi River. A conversation with some locals of the Kumyonda tribe revealed the location of a small Ukrazi tribe village on the east bank of the river, not far ahead. Much put-upon by the more powerful Ukrazis, the Kumyondas were more than happy to spill the dirt on their hated rivals.
An hour after dawn, the smell of woodsmoke and animal dung on the westerly breeze told the soldiers they were close. Pike sniffed the wind and deployed his troops.
He attached himself to CSM Harrington's section, and led the way until the village came into sight. Having established the location, Pike ordered the Ukraziland Rifles section forward. Moving into skirmish order, they advanced warily onto the field.
It wasn't long before the sharp eyes of a lone native sentry spotted the incursion and he immediately raised the alarm.
The first warband seized their weapons and issued forth from the village to battle the intruder.
Pike waited for Cpl. Powell to make an appearance on his right, but the non-com seemed to have gone astray on one of the many game paths in the area.
Bombardier Lal Khan and his crew filled the void. They were relieved to find the ground level and relatively free of obstructions. As his crew brought the little gun into battery, Khan eyed the distant village speculatively.
Over on the left, Pike spotted movement in the bush. Birds flew up, crying in outrage at some hidden intruder. Could it be some wild animal? Within minutes Pike's speculation was answered. A Ukrazi warband ran out of the undergrowth, the speed of their advance posing a serious menace to the Ukraziland Rifles. Pike saw the askari were in a bad position to turn effective fire against the warband, so with bugle call and gestures he ordered them to withdraw from in front of his own section.
The Rifles fired a few parting shots to keep the warband's attention. The ploy worked, for the tribesmen hesitated, torn between charging either the askari or the Red Soldiers. Their front clear, the men of Barsetshire let rip with a volley.
The volley seemed less effective than Pike expected. He rubbed his jaw and glanced at Harrington, who shook his head. "I think it's the humidity, sir," the CSM said. "The men became acclimated to the coast. Here, inland and close to the river, it's a bloody sight hotter. They're distracted."
The warband had taken casualties but seemed to treat the firing with contempt. They shook their spears and shields at the slowly retiring askari and let rip with a shriek that raised the hairs on the back of Pike's neck. He looked over to the askari, and saw their reaction to be much worse. Even from a distance he could tell the war cry had rattled the native recruits.
On the right flank the natives overcame their momentary shakiness and charged shrieking into the gun crew. The askaris were so surprised they had no time to fire into the mass before they came into contact.
The fight proved short but deadly - for the natives. Bombardier Khan and his men, of stern martial race one and all, cut down three of the warriors at no loss to themselves. Baffled and hurting, the natives withdrew to lick their wounds.
Back on the right the natives merged with reinforcements and charged again, this time at the Rifles. Another short, sharp melee ensued, again with the natives coming off worse.
When they withdrew once more, they left two dead for one dead askari.
The situation became critical for the Ukrazi tribe. No matter what they tried, the steady discipline of Redcoat and Askari proved too much. Lashed by rifle fire they retreated into the stockade, where Chief BembeL'Umba took stock of the situation.
He soon realized he had little choice. With great dignity he emerged from the village and appeared before the British forces. Captain Pike took one look at the dainty pink parasol held by the Chief's retainer and realized further conflict lay far from the Chief's mind. A parlay was in the offing.
Giving a quiet order for his men to cover the party, Pike waited for the next move. An attendant placed the Chief's stool just so, and the great man sank onto it with a sigh audible from where Pike stood waiting. He walked forward and gave the man a courteous salute. In Yabhouti, he'd taken the trouble to hire a native a few phrases of Ukrazi in his spare time, and now they looked ready to bear fruit.
"Good morning, sir" he said. "Do you wish to discuss terms..?"