Characters in this chapter:
- Cohen Kheda:
- Jack, Marfa, Wilder, Moya:
- Martin Luther:
A camping ground with a capacity of five-hundred men was rather small and could be wiped out by a thousand horsemen instantly.
My men paced closer, and the slow pace of their horse’s clopping made my heart beat rapidly like battle drums. All the knights who with equipped with spears pointed its tip to the sky and marched slowly towards the enemy camp while pretending to be their reinforcements, ready to initiate a surprise attack.
In the setting sun, enemy guards in the watchtower were alerted by the heavy sounds of hooves and yelled harshly to the soldiers below.
It was currently their supper time, thus inside the fences was full of bustling soldier looking for their weapons, commanders, and squads they belonged to.
Most of them had bowls in in their hands. Gradually, they began to notice our clothing and swear.
The swears made the camp roar with a new round of chaos. Many who had just grabbed their weapons dropped them and reached out to their bowls again: They thought we were on the same side.
There were even a few junior officers who came to the gate with a few followers, ready to open the gate for us.
“That’s the assault formation!” The watchtower guards had finally got a clear view on us and yelled, “It’s an assault formation! Enemy! Incoming enemy!”
Since we were already extremely close, there was no point in hiding anymore.
An orange fireball flew from my teams, soaring above the knights and collided against their gate.
This was the signal to attack.
The tightly ordered formation spreaded out immediately, and their once upright spears were lowered. Orderly hoof clopping had suddenly become disordered. At the sight of the signal, the knights quickened their speed.
The enemies holding bowls once again experienced a new round of chaos. The situation whereby an enemy became reinforcements, then became an enemy again had halted their response timing. A sense of confusion was added in their eyes hindered their already slowed actions.
The first wave went on with five hundred men spread into ten rows and charged towards the destination as I watched them. They kept a length of five arms between every two in order to maximize the weapon power. The distance between each row was approximately the length of fifteen horses lined up.
The knights leaned close to their horseback to avoid incoming arrows while spurring their mounts with the heels of their feet. Their task was to rush over to the other end of the camp.
Martin Luther and I sat on our horsebacks and observed the battlefield quietly, alongside a few of our messengers and staff officers.
“What do you think about them?.” Martin Luther pointed at the first wave of horsemen and asked
“Frantic mobs.” I said bitterly, “Can’t spot any traces of extensive training.”
Though I fancied my soldiers’ first battle to wipe out the enemies beautifully, I had to be honest: because in the first rush wave, my cavalry men were unwilling to change their formation. The first row had the most discrepancies, with some of them faster, some slower, and some who tried their best to keep up with the rest.
“You are not holding back any mean comments.” Martin Luther said with a poker face, “This is your army.”
“So what? Exactly because those are my soldiers out there, I had said something like that. I’ll train them properly when it’s all over.” I talked as I watched them pour into the enemy camp.
The tiny camp was without much defense, other than thin fences and lined tents and a pile of goods on the ground.
Now, the outer fence was burnt by our mages’ fireballs with a couple of splints swaying in the air like weeds.
Thunder like hoof stomps signified the first wave of knights marching through the perimeter and thrust their spears into the scattered enemy infantry’s body without mercy. The knights were maintaining their speed in the meantime.
Speed was the life and soul of a knight.
A dozen elf mages were also riding in the rear part of the team. They began to release massive and harmful air-type spells. Before our opponents were able to pile up an effective defense, their spell which was as tiny as an air blade had already dealt huge damage.
“A whole lot better.” Martin Luther gazed at them carefully and was ready to make his first compliment. He then saw one of our men who was too late in retracting his spear from an enemy’s body and was dragged off his horseback by his own spear. The horses who had arrived later did not stop and he became a bloody pulp.
“Unnecessary casualties.” He shook his head and said, “Looks like you need to fix them ahead of time.”
I frowned and widened my eyes to get a clearer look on the battle situation.
However, I was disappointed.
Our former meeting had decided on ensuing panic and chaos to the enemies in the first wave of impact, before initiating lethal assaults by the following troops from the sides.
For this, we had assigned all mages and the strongest soldiers to the first wave of cavalries, as well as providing them with enough hooks to tear down the tents.
First, there was the weaponry problem. At a higher speed, the spear was easy to stab into a body yet difficult to retract. One needed to have skillful hands and a rich combat experience.
One could also retract the spear that was inserted at the right depth, or stab into the right point to make the job easier. An example was to pierce the chest and lift the spear to spin the body off.
As a result, some of the men were forced to pull back their weapons because they were unskilled in estimating the right depth, which was an ineffective way to disable an enemy. Most of them only had twisted muscles or dislocated joints because of the lack of strength in their stabs.
On top of that, there were soldiers who were dragged off by their own hooks which were meant to destroy the enemy’s tents! Thankfully, the enemies were still in a mess which led to their fate of being stomped to death by the incoming horses. Otherwise, I could not expect those rookies to win this battle. Crap!
The leading knights rushed into the camp center with a trail of dead enemies. Though, from my point of view they acted as if they were the ones being chased, their formation messy and behavior unprofessional.
If the plan had not been sketched out by experienced staff officers or had the remaining enemies not been cleaned up by the superior elf warlocks, or I had not confused our enemies with the former planned tactical arrangements, or if the enemies were not outnumbered, or if it were not an assault combat… I couldn’t think any further.
“Signal the troops, side attack!” I ordered.
“But sir! Our first squad is still in battle, if we send out the side troops we’ll end up harming our own!” A staff officer yelled. There were currently hundreds of men fighting in the camp.
“I SAID ASSAULT!”
I slapped him to make my point clear. I did not have time to explain that if we were to continue this meaningless fight, not only would the ones who fell off their horses die, the enemies would have time to come up with an effective counter strike.
Three more fireballs were launched into the sky, and the side knights rushed out.
This squad was led by Wilder and Marfa. With previous caution, their formation looked much cleaner than before.
If the first wave was like a black tornado, the second was like a flock of black grasshoppers.
Me and Martin Luther had instructed them to stay in form and clear the midway enemies and destroy all remaining tents. Those who excelled in riding would also have the chance to pull the unlucky guys back on their horse.
Of course, not all the unlucky fellows were able to survive from their own hooves.
The first wave of horses had rode to the other end of the camp and were redirected under the commands of their angry commanders orders to rush back once more.
The enemy camp was filled with dreadful yellings. The setting sunlight reflected on the blades of the weapons that showed traces of death.
Five hundred infantry soldiers were slaughtered by a thousand cavalries. Most of them were dead except for a few lucky bastards who were still groaning.
“Clear the battlefield!” I walked into the camp side by side with Martin Luther.
“What do you want to do?” Martin Luther asked lowly.
“We can’t go on like this!” I said, “We lost it.”
Post battle meeting.
All officers gathered by me and Martin Luther listened to Grandpa’s summary.
“Let’s sum up today’s battle, boys.” Martin Luther blew their face off, “You’ve lost!”
“But we’ve got our tactical goal.” One of them argued in a low voice.
“True, you have.” Martin Luther said, “But how many have we lost?”
“I have the exact numbers.” Wilder read the report in his hands out loud, “A hundred and twenty-three dead, sixty-four severely wounded, light wounds not counted. Loss of horses rounds up to a hundred.”
“You have your goals! Our enemy was merely an infantry troops of five hundred! FIVE HUNDRED!” I yelled, “We had a thousand cavalries and mages! And it’s an assault! This is a huge loss and you can still call it a victory?!”
“Who are those people that are now dead? Soldiers? NO! They are our brothers who fight together with us! They are the future of our army! You tell the dead what your goal is! TELL THEM! TELL THEM YOU WON! SAY IT TO OUR DEAD BROTHERS. SAY IT TO THEIR DEAD BODIES!”
Sounds of argument seized.
“I can’t blame you too much. We’ve merely built an army. There will be problems sooner or later. You have worked hard in wars. I’ve got eyes and I saw it!” I eased my voice seeing their lowered heads, “But at the same time, I saw your carelessness in battle and slack after it. You commanders are the role models of the soldiers, if this is how you deal with a battle then what can I expect from a soldier?”
“It’s our fault!” The commanders were not too stupid after all, and they said, “Please punish us!”
“I’m not in a hurry to do that. I hope you are ready for more battles.” I shook my head and said, “Juniors officers now, with your men, clean up the battlefield and rally the troops. You are dismissed. Senior officers stay back, we have another meeting.”
“Our scouts have the latest info that the enemy’s main forces have approached the border. They’ve suffered a lost thanks to our alien friends. Their numbers now rounded up to around a thousand and half. If we count in the ones at the portal, they are a little more than two thousand. They are about a day’s ride from us.” After the junior officers left, Martin Luther briefed us. Everyone was listening carefully to his slightly hoarse yet majestic voice.
Then, Wilder continued with the state of our side, “We currently have a thousand and four hundred knights left, as well as some other units.”
“This is all that we have left, take a look.” I said, “What should we do next? Speak up.”
Thus, on the empty space there was a map, and the commanders and officers discussed by the flickering torch with tense arguments every now and then.
“It’s almost impossible to win if we confront them directly.” Martin Luther said with an absolute tone, “We’ll lose, period.”
My men acted downcast. I encouraged them, “Relax, at least we now know we cannot fight them face-to-face. This is our weak point. However, we still have our strong suit! I’ll let you all analyze our situation by yourselves for now.”
Wilder spoke up first, “Our soldiers are not properly trained for knight skills, this is one of our disadvantages.”
“They are knowledgeable at military tactics and strategies.” Moya said, “And with high morale, as well as superior weapons. These are all the advantages we have over the enemies.”
Moya and Wilder were slowly growing.
“What about the enemies? What do they have? What do they not have?” I reminded.
“Their marching speed tells us that they are a group of experienced knights! Powerful, and…” Martin Luther was lecturing us about the enemy’s advantages.
He had a precise vision, accurate understanding and evidence, which were things that only with time and practice could one accomplish. We were utterly convinced.
“Their disadvantages are that they are fatigued and have been under pursuit. They must have suffered a certain loss.” A squad leader told us about his ideas in a lowered voice, “How about we confront their weaknesses with our strengths!”
“Indeed.” I judged, “We all know that’s what we are going to do, but what about the details in our plan?”
Another officer leaned towards the map and said, “We could always create favorable conditions and make them less cautious of us.”
The suggestion won everyone’s approval. The other officers also came up with all sorts of plans. Some of them were quite exemplary. Then, we were ready for war.
“Good.” I signaled everybody to stop discussing as I noticed the darkness outside. Grandpa Luther smiled at me.
“Since we have agreed on the plan, let’s do this.”
Then everything was arranged. Martin Luther and I watched as the soldiers were led out by their commanders.
“I thought you were gonna scold them.” Martin Luther said lightly.
“I think I’ll wait it out.” I saluted back to the soldiers who passed by, “It’s my fault that they were not prepared, as well as my responsibility for the under-trained warriors. They were not a single bit wrong except for some attitude issues.”
“So that’s why you merely taught them about proper attitude?” He also acknowledged other soldiers’ salutes.
“Nevertheless, I need to keep their morale high.” I said, “Too much scolding ain’t good for any of them.”
Martin Luther look at me with admiration, “For the past few days, I have seen a good, as well as wise leader in action. Your people and soldiers are lucky to have you.”
“Lucky? I wish they are. Tomorrow’s battle at night will be a dreadful one.” I gazed at the sky and said so.
In the darkest of nights, stars twinkled.