This little adventure has gained us more in gold and iron than the mines of Normandy could have produced in years. It is but natural that we seek what is due - due to a brave people, due to the strongest kingdom, due to the real son of William the Conqueror!
A large crowd had gathered to listen to the Duke. Which was not surprising, thought Duke Morhill, for such was the popularity of Duke Anand ever since his victory over the Earl of Kent in Gamrie. The Duke had called an assembly of all loyal subjects in his courtyard in Tinchebrai, the very place where his spies had unsuccessfully tried to assassinate the Earl a long time ago. Morhill had been summoned for the meeting together with the other loyal commander, Duke Peristold. Neither he nor Peristold had any inkling of what Duke Anand was planning with such a meeting. Peristold was silent prompting Morhill decided to follow his example. The two men decided to wait it out. Suddenly, a cheer went up from the assemblage. Duke Anand was going to speak.
"O' Brave People of Tinchebrai! I wish to speak to you!" The crowd cheered again, and Anand went on with renewed confidence. "The flag of William now flies over Tinchebrai, Gamrie, and all of Normandy! No people dares oppose us - be itthe Scots, the English or the Vikings". Duke Peristold was beginning to have a bad feeling about this. Something in Anand's manner told him that they were in for trouble. But nothing was clear yet. Not yet.
"Earl Sarath's head is in a jar in the keep, a souvenir brought home by the brave Sons of Normandy. This little adventure has gained us more in gold and iron than the mines could have produced in years. It is but natural that we seek what is due - due to a brave people, due to the strongest Kingdom, due to the real son of William the conqueror!"
The crowd was yelling and shouting madly. Anand continued with a flourish "The men of Normandy will march - against the Germans! We will bring civilization and peace to those barbarians. Their 'Chief' will taste the might of Norman fury!". Morhill was excited. At last he would have a chance to prove his valour. But Peristold was in shock. March against the Germans? Nothing was known about them, about their so called 'Chief' or their people. The Duke was playing with fire.
But the people seemed not to care, for the voiced their wholehearted approval of the Duke's plans. Hats, broomsticks, cudgels - anything that could be thrown was going up in the air and the crowd was literally dancing. The effect was so violent to behold, so dramatic and unpredictable that Duke Anand was unnerved for a moment. Smiling, he muttered to his bodyguard under his breath: "Kill that speech writer". The speech writer only loyalty was to money, and Anand was not taking any chances.
Listen, dear friend. It is up to us - just the two of us - to meet the Normans and decide the future of Germania. I dare not be absent from the battle tomorrow lest we fail and let the Normans have a free run all the way to Berlin
The 'Chief' of All Germans
In a Gothic fort near the border, Prince Manoj Wilhelm II otherwise the 'Chief' of Germans was having a quiet conversation with his loyal friend, Master Gobind 'Big' Basmall. There could not be a more contrasting duo in the whole of Germania. Manoj was thin, of small frame and was a copious talker. Gobind, on the other hand, towered over his friend. He talked only when necessary and more often that not it would be about falconry. Falconry was unheard of in Germania but Gobind had picked it during one of his travels and been an ardent admirer ever since. "A flying falcon is the most beautiful object in this world; and I'd choose my falcon over the Royal Courtiers any day!" he used to say. Manoj would laugh at this; much as he liked his friend, he firmly believed that "leading an army is the best of pleasures in the world"
The immediate topic of conversation however was not falconry. Gobind 'The Big' Basmall was trying as best as he could to persuade Manoj to stay home. News had come of the Norman invasion while they were in Berlin. Manoj had called up his veterans and levies, and set forth immediately. Gobind had joined the host en route at the request of his friend. The 'Chief' had not been feeling well from the beginning of their march, his wiry frame wracked by fever and bouts of shaking. It had cost Manoj all his strength to make it thus far; leading an army to battle on the morrow would be suicidal. Yet, the small Chief had insisted on staying late into the night making and altering plans for the battle.
"Listen, dear friend" said Manoj "it is up to us - just the two of us - to meet the Normans and decide the future of Germania. I dare not be absent from the battle tomorrow lest we fail and let the Normans have a free run all the way to Berlin". There was a reason why only two Generals were present for command. The Royal court and it's notorious politicians had opined against sending any more Royal Bodies to the battle. Despite his title Manoj Wilhelm was almost penniless when compared to most of the members of the Court and could rely only on his friends to be of any assistance in the event of any emergencies.
"Our plan is to concentrate our attack at any one point. We are woefully short of manpower to even think of an all out attack". Manoj had more reasons for committing to such a plan. They were encamped in Laurien - a place known for its rolling plains and green hillocks, ideal for a mobile army such as the Normans. The battlefield was mostly open with a clump of densely packed trees standing alone to the German left. Two smooth hills dominated the German centre and right. The Norman portion of the place was plain devoid of any significant obstacles. The Normans would be moving at the gallop from the first instance, and the last thing Manoj wanted was to have his troops being enveloped from all sides. They would do much better to defend the centre and strike in any one flank.
"Our heavy infantry can deploy in the centre, on the hills as well as below them. Give them some cover - use those mercenaries and our own crossbowmen for this" Manoj had paid through his nose to hire the mercenaries. They came from some of the finest schools of archery in the Alps and claimed that they could outperform any archers whom Manoj chose to compete them against. He had taken this with a pinch of salt but fervently hoped that his money hadn't been wasted entirely.
"The woods are dense enough to stop the enemy, yet we need horsemen there. Deploy some of the horse archers there. The punch will be delivered by our Knights and heavy horse". Manoj was not the best cavalier in Germania but he did not doubt the skills of those whom he commanded. "The nobles", by which he meant the Knightly class, "have requested to be put in the front today lest their less qualified brethren", which were the heavy cavalry, "win the day and steal the honours". Manoj did not subscribe to such views, but needed his Knights. He promised that they would get to lead the first charge, whenever it happened.
But Gobind was not so sure. He voiced his most doubts. "But chief, the Normans outnumber us in horse. And surely their men are no less valorous than ours?"
Manoj nodded "Well, I must concede that the Normans are tough fighters. But," Manoj wiped his brow for he was suddenly sweating again. "...the Normans cannot afford to disperse their Knights all along the battlefield for risk of being spread out too thin. This gives us a fighting chance. We will attempt to force a flank. If the flank of our choosing is heavily manned we will attempt to strike the opposite flank while delaying the advance in the original flank."
Gobind thought for a while. Concerns still lingered in his mind. What if the Knights chose to attack along all fronts? What if the Enemy chose to attack with his foot rather than his mounted? But Manoj had had enough planning for the day. His head throbbed, and not from wine. Quickly he summarised. "We will deploy most of our horse on the right; the foot shall hold the centre and left flanks; hopefully the advantage of higher ground will give us an edge in defence. We attack along the right, while denying the enemy the chance to attack along all other avenues". Gobind was quiet. He hoped for the best. "May the Spirits of flight bless us!!"
The meeting having ended, the two men stood up to leave. Wishing his friend good night, Gobind took leave. Manoj opened the door himself and saw his friend out. "Sleep with ease, falconer! Germany will remain ours!"
Of Radical Leaders and their Plans
In a spacious tent just outside the township of Laurien Duke Anand was having a council of war. Present were the inevitable Dukes Morhill and Peristold, both staunch allies. As was the custom Anand had a plan ready and requested the men's company to inform them. "Dear Fellows! You are about to witness the best battle of your lives - for I have made a radical plan for the day which will clear our path through all foes". His tone made Peristold cringe. Duke Anand was up to something.
"Duke Morhill, use your best Knights and force the centre. Cover your advance with the skirmishers. Duke Peristold, deploy your Knights in the left. Turn the enemy's flank while covering your path with skirmish archers. And I will command the right, waiting for you to advance deep into the enemy before charging his left"
Peristold thought that the duke had missed out something. He braved a question. "Mi Lord where do we deploy our spearmen?"
Duke Anand shook his head. His expression reminded Morhill of one of his old tutors who would shake his head while faced an unintelligent question from any of his pupils. Anand explained impatiently "I have sent them back, dear man. We don't need any spearmen to trash those lousy Germans!" Morhill was stunned. True, he was biased in favour of the foot soldier. But even to the most cavalierly General this new plan did not make sense. What would they do if an Knightly charge failed to make any impact? Who would hold the ground? But the questions remained unanswered. The Duke and Morhill were leaving the tent already, leaving a gaping Peristold behind.
...Our men charged, aiming to reach the Normans in time. But try as these men of noble birth did, they were not fast enough. Their quarry fled, running away in a disorderly retreat. Our Knights cursed, reined in their horses and pretended that they were only showing off some superior manoeuvres
June 1, in the year of the Lord 1110
The sun was well on its way to the heaven when the two armies started gathering in the plains. The Normans filled the field from end to end, while the Germans crowded around the defensive terrain and their two leaders. The German deployment had gone well.'Chief' Manoj was putting up a brave front. The cavaliers were sneaking looks to their sides to see how the General was doing. Their General steady on his horse looking as calm as he ever did.
Suddenly noise erupted from the other side of the field. The entire Norman army was moving forth, a sea of men and horses heading forth towards the Germans in steel tipped waves. The Germans were quick to respond. The flag bearers waved the Standards and the advance began. Lead by the Hungarian Skirmish cavalry, the Knights in wedge and the heavy cavalry began the race for covering as much ground as possible in the right flank.
The Hungarians raced across the field yelling their high pitched war cries. They might not pack a punch, but the Hungarians sure knew how to intimidate the enemy. And intimidate they did. The Norman Knights galloping against them in the same flank slowed to a trot, and came to a standstill altogether. Soon the cavaliers were facing off each other warily.
Oder Van Hesse "Der Kapitan" of the German heavy cavalry, turned in his saddle and watched his commander raise a hand to advance. Van Hesse spurred his horse forward and ascended the hill. To his right, the German Knights - whom he respected for their skills, but detested for their practice of deeming all other horsemen as inferior - were already going past the hill, and were wheeling in wedge, trying to face another unit of Norman Knights who were advancing. As he watched in surprise, the Normans ignored the German Knights and rode right past them. The Wedge was now to their flank and they did not seem to heed...
...but Duke Peristold did. And just in time. Peristold had called for water from his page and was enjoying the relief from the heat for a moment. His thirst quenched, Peristold turned his attention back to the frontline. A casual glance brought to his notice what Van Hesse had seen - some of the Norman Knights were advancing oblivious of the Germans arriving in their flank and preparing to charge. Peristold almost jumped from his horse; such was his shock. "Mon Dieu!! Alastair, blow the horn!" This was to his Squire, Alastair Williamson. The young man scrambled to obey dropping his sword in the process. He sounded the retreat as loud as he could while waving his free hand at the Knights. But the Germans were already picking up speed and closing in...
...and the Germans charged.
Van Hesse later retold what happened. "It must have been Peristold who ordered the retreat. Neither Duke Anand nor Morhill could have reached the Knights in time. Any how our men charged, aiming to reach the Normans in time. But try as these men of noble birth did, they were not fast enough. Their quarry fled, running away in a disorderly retreat. Our Knights cursed, reined in their horses and pretended that they were only showing off some superior manoeuvres".
The German charge was not totally fruitless however. Apparently unnerved by the close call, Duke Anand halted the Norman advance in that flank altogether. All along the German right the Norman Milites were fast retreating, leaving the skirmishers on foot to form the frontline. To the German left, some of the Knights under Anand took one good look at the menacing crossbows in the hands of the mercenaries atop the hill and hastily checked their progress. Duke Anand too saw the bowmen; he recalled his men. The mercenaries could wait.
With most Knights having moved back from the frontline the skirmishers stood alone...
...a fact which was noted by the German Knights. Manoj Wilhelm waved casually at the Knights - clear the skirmish screen. Lord Uber Lothar noted the signal, comprehended what his commander wanted and lead his second charge of the day. The rather fanciful description of his earlier charge by Van Hesse did not do him justice - Lord Lothar was fully aware of the fact that his men were taking a chance. But nothing was chancy about dealing with men on foot especially those armed but with puny bows. He ordered his men to strike.
Van Hesse recounted the second charge, or rather advance, with disdain. "Those hapless skirmishers were done for from the very moment the Knights withdrew. On two feet they were easy meat for Lord Lothar's men. I wonder how many of them got a chance to run. They were just ridden down by merciless men who were trying to save face after a botched charge"
But the reality was much more terrible. Frantic cries of the archers as they were cut down echoed back to the Norman ranks, striking at the very hearts of the Knights. Anger brimmed and spilled right across the field. The first to respond was Duke Anand. "Morhill!!!" Such was his fury that the shout was heard right across the field. "Hit them! Advance man!!"
Morhill was only too happy to respond. He was at the head of a group of knights, and they were formed up in wedge. What more could a Norman ask for? Here was a chance to prove himself. Pointing his lance at the German skirmishers standing in between the two hills, he gave the order to charge.
I thought that Lord Lothar had taken too big of a chance by charging the Knights in the flank. That was until I saw Lord Morhill charged our men. His mad ride made Old Lothar look the epitome of cautiousness. Nobility, how art thou so vain ?!
"I thought that Lord Lothar taking too much of a chance to by charging the Knights in the flank. That was until Lord Morhill charged our men. His mad ride made Old Lothar look the epitome of cautiousness. O' Nobility, art thou so vain ?!" Van Hesse was not exaggerating; Lord Morhill's charge did not reach anywhere near the German archers who had taken flight at first sight of the approaching horses. The charge hit thin air, and Morhill struggled to get his men back in order. But he was not done. Not yet, by William! Duke Anand saw Morhill halt, and fumed. Letting go of any caution he had, the Duke had his men sound the pipes and bugles. The Germans would taste the steel of his revenge yet!
And Morhill furiously obliged his commander yet again. Rushing headlong along a narrow strip of land, flanked on two sides by rolling hills, watched by open mouthed German spearmen and crossbow archers on the hillsides, Morhill's men threw all regards of safety to wind and thundered in chase of the skirmish archers who were fleeing...
...and fleeing afar, melting into a mass of men which suddenly seemed bigger, and stronger. Morhill's men were having the shock of their lives. Gone were the puny bows; gone were the unarmoured peasants. A forest of spear points had sprung up as if from now where, the edges bristling with long reaching steel tipped poles emerging through a wall of oak shields. The men were already in disarray from the long chase, many could not even catch up in time to help the frontline when they engaged. Then, before any conscious decision could be taken, the horses reached and ran smack into the waiting Germans.
The first Knight to hit the enemy was The Honourable Roger Danworth. He was violently de horsed, and pinned against the rider behind him. Caught between spear points and a mass of pressing men and horses behind him, the noble man was instantly dispatched to the heaven reserved for Knights. Morhill himself fared somewhat better. His mount was killed, but he managed to find one without a rider and fight on. But the forest of Germans was pushing. Pushing hard with their steel tipped long spears. The Knights gave ground, were pushed back, became an unruly mob of milling men and horses. The foe was still strong and alive with very few dead. The charge had been truly and effectively broken.
Morhill gave the frantic word "Retreat!"...
...and a tease echoed from the hill. "Not so fast, Mes Amis!" Morhill's blood curdled at the sight. Six hundred crossbows were aimed at them from the hill. And he felt, rather than saw the vicious grin on the faces of the German Archers who held the bows...
Twang!!! A single sound rang out. Six hundred bolts pierced the air and raced for the mass of horse and men. They hit with deadly accuracy, felling horse and man alike. Barely a third of the Knights struggled back, among them a terrorized Morhill. The Charge was now in full fledged rout, each man concerned only for his own survival. "So what if we used up all the bolts? " asked a beaming archer later. "Those Knights will for ever hate the sight of a crossbow!"
Looking back, I can say that I would have laughed on another occasion. But not then. Not with a chance of a life time awaiting me, not with the Normans charging me. On that day, I just went wild with an urge to Kill.
The Chief and his Braves
Morhill's charge was but one of the deciding events of that day. By the time Morhill was tackling the spearmen, the Normans were offering battle on all sides of the battlefield. Something which Van Hesse would remember for ever occurred on the German right. He described the events of that fateful day in a letter to his friend "Morhill was not in my mind at all; I was far too concerned with the enemy approaching my men to even notice what he was doing. Chief Manoj had pulled back Old Lothar's men to reform, which left us to fend off the Normans. Here was a chance I dreamed for, to prove to the Knights that we 'kids' could fight our battles too. My mind was in uproar. Would we be able to perform what was required? Here was the moment of truth, and I was joyous and afraid at the same time."
The Normans were gathering under Peristold's direction for another charge. Those who had retreated earlier had reformed and approached. The German line consisted only of their heavy cavalry and Hungarian skirmish cavalry, neither of whom the Normans Milites had any respect for. Here was an easy target, and all the Knights wanted a piece of the Kill. The two nearest groups of Knights went for the prize. They raced each other to reach the heavy cavalry..
Van Hesse continued "We were already formed up in wedge. The Chief had insisted that we do so the moment we started coming down the hill, God Bless Him! I checked my lance, shield and the horses reigns. Hundreds of hours spent practicing with Herr Mannerheim (my regards to the master!) came of use. I became calm and ordered my men to advance. Suddenly, and without any indications, the Normans charged us."
Manoj Wilhelm was the first to catch sight of the galloping foe after Van Hesse. Van Hesse was advancing right ahead. They had to charge now! Frantically, Manoj looked around for his flag bearer. The fool! He had planted the standard on the ground, and was relieving himself at a distance. There was no time to lose. The 'Chief' braved a chance of falling down and stood up atop his horse. Snatching his standard from the ground, he began to wave and yell at the top of his voice...
"I remember the sight of the Chief Manoj - the small man that he was, standing atop his horse with a standard on a pole taller than himself, throwing protocol and etiquette to wind by standing on his horse and waving the flag! Looking back, I can say that I would have laughed on another occasion. But not then. Not with a chance of a life time awaiting me, not with the Normans charging me. On that day, I just went wild with an urge to Kill"
The Germans met their chargers at the gallop with a crunch that shook the ground. The fight was not a fight at all. Well armed, highly motivated, superbly led, and in a deadly formation, the Germans broke the Norman lines as if they were twigs. Piling grave injury upon insult, the 'commoners' ripped and tore at the Norman Milites. The Knights gave way, lost their will, and routed. Oder Van Hesse, commoner, cavalier and loyal soldier of Manoj Wilhelm II proved to the world that he and his men could fight. Fight to Kill.
The Hungarians Strike back
While Van Hesse wrought havoc among his foes, a game of chase was in full swing in the German left. Duke Anand had seen a possible point to break through and was keen to exploit it. The perceived gap was in between a forest and a hill crawling with archers. And directly to their front was Hungarian Skirmish cavalry, a swift and cunning target. But none of this mattered; Anand had seen Morhill in flight and heard his cries of distress. Besides he still hoped for a breakthrough and trusted his Knights to win him the day. The thoughts quickly precipitated into action. More Milites began to advance at the Duke's orders.
The Hungarians watched all this warily. When it appeared that the Normans would catch them, they fled. They swiftly headed for the cover of the forest, and disappeared behind the woods. As the Knights saw it, the archers were alone in the hill...
...and the Milites charged. The swarm of German bowmen in their path fled in terror. They too ran way past and quickly disappeared from sight. Duke Anand grinned evilly - in the direct path of his men stood Master Gobind, protected by but a handful of Bodyguards. He did not need to order. The Milites shared the same passions as their leader and promptly went after Gobind...
...who was smiling, his hand raised in a mock salute. Something flickered in their minds, but the Knights did not bother to stop. They rode on...
...and Gobind dropped his hand. Two things happened with lightning speed. The Hungarians appeared out of nowhere, the skirmish archers came back and aimed their bows, the mercenaries on the hill smartly wheeled, let loose their bolts and Charged downhill all in one instant!!!
It was hard to say who were more surprised the Mercenaries or the Knights. The leader of the mercenaries could not believe himself when he found the courage to charge the Knights, the Knights almost dropped dead when their both flanks were suddenly swarmed by the enemy. The fight was not a fight at all; caught between men thirsting for revenge and money, the flower of Norman chivalry perished in agony. Not a single Knight rode back to report the fate that had befallen them.
Duke Anand stood ashen faced. The Germans were everywhere. His own men were running in all directions. Morhill was not to be seen anywhere. Peristold was already asking his men to retire. the Duke rode off without a word. His squire was quick to follow. No retreat was sounded. None was necessary. All those who mattered were dead or had fled long ago.
Morhill kept singing even when being dragged to his horse. He was toasting to Roland the Poet. "Said Roland of old: Be always Bold; Said Roland of old: Never fight for Gold; Said Roland of old...
Said Van Hesse later: "The Chief was in no shape to express his joy. He almost keeled over when we presented arms after the victory. But he is one hell of a cavalier - after two drinks the man was on his feet and actively stayed on them for the rest of the day"
Prince Manoj Wilhelm II 'The Chief' returned to Berlin; more battles awaited him and he knew it. But for now the courts of Berlin and the dreaded keeping of army expenses awaited. Manoj accepted this with a sigh. Good things in life always came at a price.
Master Gobind returned to his secluded hut in the alps. New birds had been introduced into his aviary and he eagerly looked forward to flying them.
Duke Anand returned to Tinchebrai. He found his solace in the letters to his admirers in the town. The Duke might have been defeated, but the sweet things still thought that he was the most valorous in the world. Thank Lord for small mercies...
It was surprising how quickly Lord Lothar and Oder Van Hesse became friends after the battle. Van Hesse respected the man's wisdom and experience. Lothar admired the young man for his skills and bravery. He later told a laughing Van Hesse over a drink "Don't worry m'boy. We'll make a Knight out of you yet"
And Duke Morhill? His squire found him roaring drunk in a tavern miles away days later. He was singing at the top of the voice and had to be forced to leave the place. Morhill kept singing even when being dragged to his horse. "Morhill kept singing even when being dragged to his horse. He was toasting to Roland the Poet. "Said Roland of old: Be always Bold; Said Roland of old: Never fight for Gold; Said Roland of old..."
Yet another enjoyable battle using the highly playable Medieval Warfare rules. The Norman plans of gaining control of German land were shelved for a long time to come. Their defeat at the hands of the Germans encouraged the English and the Scots to rise in rebellion against the Normans while far away in cold lands, a Viking King watched the turn of events with keen interest. But that is a tale for another day...