A good cuppa Earl Grey
“I liked the things underneath me and took my pleasures downward. There seemed a certainty in degradation, a final safety. Man could rise to any height, but there was an animal level beneath which he could not fall. It was a satisfaction on which to rest.”
— T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom
February 25th, 1917
Diary of Captain Horace S. Browntrout
Stanley and I were taking tea at the edge of camp, per our usual routine when who should grace us with his presence but our superior officer, Captain Lawrence. Though he had taken up the nomadic lifestyle, shunned English “luxuries” and fancied himself an ascetic, he looked at us sipping our Earl Grey rather longingly. He remarked on how well and gently Stanley poured his tea and held his cup. I explained that I had trained him up in this and a good many other things for our film Tea Time for the Saysquack. Finally, with better manners than I, Stanley held out his cup towards Lawrence and said, “umph,” to which Lawrence stared back rather awkwardly. “Umph,” Stanley said again, holding out his cup towards Lawrence. “Why, he means to share his tea with you, old chap. Let’s get him his own. We have enough plate for it, that is, if you will take tea with us, sir…” I said. Lawrence was finally broken down by our hospitality and said with a smile, “Oh dash it all, it’s been ages since I’ve had a cup of good Earl Grey!”
I set out a folding canvass expedition chair for my commanding officer and he sat down. Then I procured and wound up my portable Victrola and put on the merriest tune I had. Lawrence was shocked at the amount of luxuries I had managed to haul out to the desert. “Did you bring framed paintings as well?” he asked with a laugh, as I pulled out my pipe and began to puff away. I looked at him thoughtfully. He looked remorsefully at Stanley and I and said he’d misjudged us and that we had both behaved admirably in our first fight. As such, there were promotions all round. I was made a Captain. Lawrence was promoted by his superiors to Major and Stanley was promoted to Sergeant-Major — the highest rank a Saysquack could attain in the army up to that point. Lawrence said he hoped that made up for his prior boorish behavior. Of course, Stanley and I “umphed” it off and agreed to let bygones be bygones.
Then, Lawrence leaned in with a grave look on his face and said that he was now going to explain the real reason we were there in the Hejaz. “Aren’t we here to assist you in blowing up trains?” I asked. No, said the Major. “I am here to assist you in blowing up unicorns!” UNICORNS! WHAT? Stanley scratched his head with wonder and I let out a puff of smoke and asked what he meant by “unicorns.” Was that a code word? He said I surely knew that civilian transport and military units alike were being slaughtered by hit and run attacks from Austro-Hungarian Einhornwaffe units — their unicorn brigades. Of course we had. Who hadn’t? That stuff was on every newsreel of every picture show one ever attended.
Well, Lawrence went on, Britain has specialist Anti-Unicorn Brigades to combat the Einhornwaffe. The Germans call our boys who fight them the Einhornjäger: The Unicorn Hunters. That was news to me. Of course it is, said Lawrence. It’s classified most secret. Also most secret is the fact that most of those brigades have gone missing and are believed to be killed or captured. There is currently one left, and it hasn’t been heard from in several weeks either.
The unicorn raids are worse than ever, and there is even talk of an airborne creature that may be able to cross the English channel and drop bombs on London. Something has to be done. However, because of the high attrition there, no further troops can be spared from the Western Front.
Therefore, High Command has decided to start several Saysquack fighting units — and one exclusively dedicated to hunting and destroying unicorns. We were sent all the way here to learn guerilla tactics from Lawrence so that we could apply them on our return to Western Europe. Furthermore, being an expert on Medieval history, Lawrence explained that he was the closest thing the army had to an expert on unicorns, and though his knowledge was scholarly, we would need every shred we could get for the fight ahead, because the Germans had every advantage over us. Lawrence then closed the conversation by stating everything we discussed on this matter was considered highly classified until further notice, and we were not to discuss it with anyone except on a need-to-know basis.
Of all the things going through my head at that moment, the first and foremost was that I had been betrayed by all those who gave me their word that the Saysquacks I recruited would never see combat. When I mentioned this to Major Lawrence he told me that in fact, Saysquack fighting units were in the fight already, and that I should brace myself for the realities that lay ahead.
O razored equine bayonette
Perched atop a mane so effete
Doth rent the armor of the heart
Sending so many boys to the death cart
O spiraled horn of death’s disguise
You cut down heroes for your prize
Our Vickers guns we trained on you
But you reared and charged as the bullets flew
Although you buck and bray and bite and kick
Our sturdy tins of spotted dick
Our camp you think your rumpus room
As we open fire and seal your doom
Oh ye heroes of the 53rd
Forward, forward at His Majesty’s word
Anything on four legs will fear our boys’ mad minute
Damn your medals we’re in to win it
The heroes of the 53rd
— Marching song of His Majesty’s 53rd Anti Unicorn Brigade
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