Captain Monbiot placed his witch-hazel helmet on his head, and adjusted the hemp straps on his wicker breastplate. His battleaxe Gaia, fashioned from old aluminium cans, felt reassuringly heavy in his hands. He turned it over, admiring, as was his ritual before combat, the runes inscribed upon it: PREDATOR; COLD-BLOODED DAEMON; DISCIPLE OF ORION. And DR PEPPER – he sighed; it rather spoiled the effect, but recycling was important.
Around him in the pre-dawn gloom was the activity of a war-band preparing for battle, the mix of nervous energy and furious calm – although the usual back-and-forth with a sharper edge to it than usual, as though the men knew that this time was different. He strode over to where his squire stood, holding the great spear Mint Sauce ready. It was time to mount up.
He stuck a foot in the stirrup and swung himself over Thundertrunk’s back. The straight-tusked European elephant whinnied gently, acknowledging his presence, and he ran his fingers over the scar in her neck, received in the battle against the Cane Toads during the Australian campaign. A glorious battle, he thought, but another lost one. The southern continent had fallen. No more giant marsupial tapirs or 10-foot-tall kangaroos. Just endless damned toads, croaking their defiance. The toads, and… them.
It had been the same in Alaska and Oregon. His beloved nine-foot-long sabre-toothed salmon, all gone. Just raccoons now. And them.
But this was the last battle, the last stand. The Rewilders stood against the ultimate enemy. His battalions of beavers and wolves and great, hulking bears, led by his mighty elephant, had marched to Snowdonia, a final throw of the dice. They stood before him. There was no avoiding it now. “They haunt my dreams. I hate them,” he whispered to Thundertrunk, and she shivered in answer.
The first glimmers of the sun appeared on the horizon, glinting off the buck teeth of the otters, the cold jet eyes of the mackerel, the great line of the Rewilding Army extending for what seemed like miles either side of him. So many, but not enough, he knew. Not enough.
On the denuded hills in front of him, at last, he saw them. Thousands of them; millions. The woollen scum. Merinos, Scottish Blackfaces; he saw a gang of Wiltshire rams, blood on their curled horns. The white plague of woolly maggots had swept across the landscape, eating everything green before it: shrubs, trees. They ate the world, and left a barren wasteland behind them. They made a desert, and called it Britain’s natural wilderness and a National Trust landmark.
The time had come; he could delay no longer. Thundertrunk snorted impatiently. Mint Sauce quivered in his hand, hungry for the taste of sheep-flesh. He raised Gaia aloft, and called out. “Lamb shanks for dinner, boys!” he roared, trying to express a confidence he didn’t feel, and dug his heels into the elephant’s flanks. The charge began.
“Baaa,” came the reply, chilling and final, as he rode to his doom. “Baaa.”
• Author’s note: while little is known of the last days of the Rewilders, Captain Monbiot’s manifesto Feral, in which he called for a final war against the Sheep enemy and the return of Britain to the elephant and beaver, has been discovered. What is described above is a fictionalised account, but is as historically accurate as the author was able to make it, while also completely making up every single word, obviously.