The column slowed to a walk as the order was shouted down the line by officers; repeated by sergeants and corporals. With no time for parade-ground niceties sabres were dragged roughly from scabbards, each hussar caring only he did not accidentally strike the man or horse alongside. A trumpet call blared, shrill notes goading Killen’s racing heart.
Each man turned his horse toward the enemy. With a jolt Killen realised they might be overwhelmed. So many horsemen faced them the French brigade would overlap their thin line to curl around behind him. Three horses to Killen’s right Lock confirmed his thoughts, “Your friend’s done us no bloody favours.”
Killen licked dry lips. He would likely find an enemy each side of him rather than simply in front. Two swords against his one; perhaps more.
“Trot - march!”
Now there was no way back. Horses plunged forward as they accelerated with riders straining for control. Sergeants and subalterns yelled at men to hold their dressing. Killen tugged his leather sword knot with the thumb and forefinger of his rein hand, pulling the strap tighter around his wrist.
“’Ware carbines!” Lock shouted a warning. How he saw the French cavalry raise their weapons when the enemy were still only a dark mass Killen had no idea. In any case, such knowledge could do the hussars no good: they were already committed.
“Gallop - march!”
The Tempest lurched forward. Killen should have anticipated the horse, for he knew very well animals learned spoken commands as easily as men. A rill of smoke spread along the French line. Musket balls buzzed past his head, but whether any man was struck he had no time to worry. The French fired early, desperate to discard now useless weapons and draw swords. Shrill trumpet notes screamed out the charge, and as sabre points dropped forward a roar went up from three hundred throats - a cry of old victories remembered.
The hussars smashed into a solid wall of French horsemen and tore it apart.
Killen hacked at the dragoon on his right. The man cried out but there was no time to turn and press home the attack. He swung his sabre back over The Tempest’s neck to parry a thrust from his left. A horse went down close by with a sickening crash, legs flailing in the snow. And another line of Frenchmen waited behind the first!
from "Leopardkill" by Jonathan Hopkins
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Product DescriptionA thrilling war novel set against the dramatic backdrop of the Peninsular War that saw a small British force pitched against Napoleon’s Grande Armee.
It is Autumn 1808. The French army is gone from Portugal...except for one man. And what he has stolen is deadly secret.
Sergeant Joshua Lock and Captain the Honourable John Killen pursue the spy deep into Spain ahead of Sir John Moore’s British army - a force now ordered to fight the French alongside native troops. But instead of helping their new allies, the Spaniards seem to have turned against them.
Their quarry still free, Killen’s discovery of Lock’s affair with a fellow officer’s wife drives the childhood friends apart as savage winter storms grip the Galician mountains. With discipline breaking down, and Spain’s armies in disarray, every man must decide for himself - who is friend and who is foe? Should the outnumbered, starving British stand and fight, or run for the sea, and home?
Whilst unbeknown to the bickering allies, Bonaparte himself is storming through Spain with but a single purpose...to destroy every ‘mangy English leopard.’
Meticulously researched to be historically and militarily accurate, this dashing novel of cavalrymen at war is written by an expert horseman.
About the Author
Jonathan Hopkins has worked in occupations as diverse as bulk tanker loader and kitchen designer, but since 2001 has fitted and repaired saddles professionally.
A lifelong horse-keeper and long term chair of an affiliated riding club close to his home in South Wales, his interest in the cavalrymen who served under the Duke of Wellington originally grew out of research into saddlery worn by troop horses, for which there are no surviving patterns.
Leopardkill is his second published novel.