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Sharpe's Challenge
Sharpe's Challenge - Starring Sean Bean
The Story

Richard Sharpe and the Pindari Campaign 1817-1818
3rd Mahratta War


Entr’Acte - 1803

Chasalgaon; a miserable, god-forsaken, thorn-walled fort on the frontier of Hyderabad. Sgt.Richard Sharpe, leading a detail of six privates, and an interpreter, thirteen year old Devi Lal, arrives to collect eighty thousand rounds of prime musket cartridges.

The cartridges, originally stolen from the East India Company (EIC) armoury at Madras, have been recaptured by sepoys out of Chasalgaon, under the command of Major Crosby, a billious EIC officer, and are now bound for the armoury at Seringapatem, three days march to the south. From there they are to be issued to British troops who are readying for war against the Mahrattas, a loose confederation of princedoms opposed to British rule.

It’s immediately clear from Crosby’s dealings with Sharpe that there is little love lost between the EIC and the King’s army. Sharpe is quick to discover that seven-thousand cartridges are missing. Crosby has sold them, but claims that the lost ammunition was ruined by damp and should be listed by Sharpe as ‘spoilage.’ Devi Lal teases Sharpe, for the Major has done no more than Sharpe planned on doing himself. While the young interpreter and the rest of his men fall to scrounging some dinner, Sharpe goes off to seek some ox-wagons.

In his absence, the watch announces a troop of Company soldiers are approaching the fort. These fresh arrivals are led by Major William Dodd. He greets Crosby, orders his men to fix bayonets – “I like to offer a proper salute to a fellow Englishman” – and, before Crosby can react, instructs his men to open fire. Crosby is the first to go down.

Sharpe, drawn to the fray by the gunfire, straightaway takes a glancing musket shot across his scalp. It’s not life-threatening, but it’s enough to lay him out and cover him in blood. He drifts in and out of consciousness, unable to move or speak, as the massacre unfolds about him. Dodd’s men leave no-one alive, not even sparing Devi Lal, who is bayoneted as he bends over Sharpe, trying to revive him.

The unfortunate Major Crosby, though, is not quite dead. Desperately, he tries to crawl away from the carnage. Dodd comes across, and, as Crosby gasps for quarter, casually beheads him.

As Sharpe’s senses slip away, his blood intermingling with that of his young interpreter, he catches the name which will haunts his dreams… Major Dodd.

To Ferraghur – a sprawling palace/fortress – dark and foreboding against a crescent moon. A lavish Great Hall. On his throne, the aging raja, in company with Madhuvanthi, his favourite concubine; his son Emir and daughter Lalima, aged five and six respectively. Dodd presents the raja with Crosby’s head, which the raja tosses to his pet tiger. We drift away to the billowing smoke of an aromatic censer, and through the smoke, we dissolve to…

…LONDON, 1817. A fog shrouded morning. Lt.Col Richard Sharpe, late of the 95th Rifles, suvivor of the Chasalgaon massacre, veteran of the Penisular war, and hero of Waterloo, arrives on Battersea Fields, where a duel is about to take place to settle a dispute of ‘undivulged cause.’

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