O Author of all Evil, O master of Hades and the Underworld, I promise thee my soul for eternal damnation in exchange for the lives of the English Knights!
Prologue: Curse of the dying Scotsman
Castle York, Early Autumn of August 1115: The tables creaked as the sumptuous spread of fresh meat of all kinds was piled on onto silver platters by attentive servants. There was boar meat roasted over a slow fire, venison in spicy sauce, rabbit garnished with freshly plucked cherries and juicy chicken. All around the tables happy men ate and drank while noisily chatting with their dinner companions. Seated at the head of the biggest table, Lord Renjith stood up to propose a toast. He had to literally shout to make himself heard above the din. "Honourable men! Today we stand together, thankful to the Lord and His Saints for our victory over the Scots. On this glorious occasion, may I propose a toast to our brave men who fought so hard to make the Kingdom proud!!" Cheers erupted all around. The Knights were waving there hands often holding wine flagons which spilled their contents. No body seemed to mind the cacophony, the spilled food, broken plates or filthy comments. For a soldier in the Kings army, life was a short, sharp series of battles. For people whose future seemed certain only until the next battle, any occasion to celebrate was fully utilised.
While the Knights feasted in the Castle of York, a different ceremony was being acted out in the castle's courtyard. Scot prisoners of war who had refused to bow to the King were being dispatched unceremoniously. A wooden platform held a bloody butchers block where the prisoners were lead one by one to the presence of the executioner. The flickering light from an array of torches cast eerie shadows of the man who wielded the axe. Some prisoners even fainted at the sight of the man with his axe held high. Others stared at the man trying in vain to make eye contact as his face remained mostly invisible beneath a black cowl. The last of the cheers emanating from the castle coincided with the orders for the last prisoner to be pushed forward. This man was a Thegn, the only surviving of eight hundred who had faced the English Knights charge at York. And unlike others before him, this one would not die quietly. As he was led forward, them man started talking aloud in Latin. Those illiterate in Latin ignored it; but to those who understood Latin, the words sent a chill through their spines. For the Thegn was uttering words which cast a most profound curse upon the Knights. The listeners made the sign of the evil eye. The Knights would have to be very lucky to survive their next engagement in the field.
"Hear me, O Noble Prince of Darkness, The Arch Fiend, The Evil One, The Wicked One, The Tempter! Hear this offer that I make! O Author of all Evil, O master of Hades and the Underworld, I promise thee my soul for eternal damnation in exchange for the lives of the English Knights! Make it so that they fall bloodied the next time they lift their lance in anger against a foe!" No one knew if the curse went any farther. The executioner's forceful blow severed the cursing Thegn's head and ended the litany. Witnesses heaved a sigh of relief as their dreadful job was at last over.
Sir James, instruct our men that they will fight for Victory, not Lord Anand. I do not intend to sacrifice my men for that fool.
The ever helpful Vikings
Viking camp near Dublin, Late summer of 1115: Jolly 'The Talker' mottengad considered the message brought to him by the messenger seriously. He swiveled his head to look into the eyes of the bearer of the letter from Wales, a noble going by the way he dressed and talked. "All this is fine by me; I am sure that we can find enough warriors to volunteer for service under the pay of the Welsh. What I do not understand, however is why the message had been signed by Lord Anand rather than by Lord Dinus as one would have expected?"
The messenger stiffened for a moment. He bowed curtly before speaking "Lord Mottengad, the Welsh people chose to be lead by my master and the rightful king, Lord Anand Mohan." Mottengad smiled. "But tell me my man, isn't the rightful leader of the Welsh Lord Dinus? Lord Anand, for all his valour and claims on the throne, is a Norman, is he not?" The messenger hesitated before answering. His own life would be at peril if he spoke ill of Lord Anand. "Lord Anand is the choice of the Peers of the Land, Sire. I am sure that these wise men made with the best future of Wales in their minds." Mottengad chuckled at the man's discomfort. The truth was that he did not care an iota who ruled Wales. "For *I* am the Rightful King, not Anand or Dinus or Renjith! And my day will come!"
Mottengad turned his attention back to the messenger. "Inform Lord Anand that I will dispatch my long ships at once. They will ferry my warriors to the Welsh coast. Dismissed"
When the messenger had left Jolly turned to his Master of Horse, James Morgan. James Morgan had been Jolly's adjutant in England and had chosen to side with him even after Mottengad had been ousted from the English throne by Lord Renjith. "Sir James instruct our men that they will fight for Victory, not Lord Anand. I do not intend to sacrifice my men for that fool. If the Welsh win, good, we share the booty. If not, I want my men and ships back intact. Let that be understood!" James Morgan nodded. The message was crystal clear.
Lord of the Dungeon
Some dungeon in Swansea, Early Autumn of 1115: The guard had trouble recognising Lord Dinus in the dim light of the narrow cell. The erstwhile leader of all Welshmen was clad in a the tattered clothes of a prisoner, and had the looks of one afraid to look at light anymore. The sunken eyes, bare cheeks and unshaven face looked pitifully back at him from the corner of the dungeon cell. But there was no sympathy to be expected from the Guard. He was a mercenary for whom the rise and fall of Lords and their realms was a way of life. "Eat this, Lord Dinus" he said, shoving the food towards the man. Without further ado, he clanged the door shut and departed. Inside the room, Dinus stared at the food uncomprehending. What was happening to him?
This is the final nail in the English Coffin! With a thousand Vikings to help us, the English will stand no chance whatsoever!
War council in Cardigan
Cardigan Hall, Early Autumn of 1115: The man who set forth the events which led to the scene in the prison was at the moment conferring with his newly found subjects. After his defeat at Milton Keynes at the hands of the English, Lord Anand had almost given up hope. Having been informed that his own armies no longer trusted him Anand had fled to the lands of the Welsh, his only remaining refuge in the island. Life had improved considerably after his arrival in Cardigan. The Welsh leader Lord Dinus was forced to abdicate by his peers and Lord Anand was given control of all Welsh forces. Dinus remained the ruler in peoples eyes, although he had been long banished to the dungeons.
The current meeting had convened with the intention of discussing last minute details of the planned invasion of - Leicester. Sir Arthur Cripps brimmed with news. "Mi Lord, Lord Robert has just returned from Dublin. He brings with him a thousand sturdy Vikings and their Long ships!" Anand whooped in spite of himself. "This is the final nail in the English Coffin! With a thousand Vikings to help us, the English will stand no chance whatsoever! Sir Arthur, we march for Leicester as soon as the Vikings are rested." He issued several orders in succession. One by one the men left the room with an air of urgency about them. Lord Anand was pleased. For once, no one on the council of war had opposed his plans. "With such men as Sir Arthur with me it becomes a pleasure to wage campaigns!" In his exultation it did not enter his mind that the very same Sir Arthur had ordered Lord Dinus incarceration in the prison without batting an eyelid. Sir Arthur served none but his own best interests.
About 50 Miles west of Leicester, Mid Autumn of 1115: Lord Anand surveyed the burning houses all around him with satisfaction. His army had entered the county as planned and his men were already looting what they could find. The Welsh and Vikings he commanded had no love for the English and the pillaging went on relentlessly. The army was resting for a day before continuing to their target which was but 50 miles away. His Scouts reported that the English were marching back to London after their Victory at York. Anand was worried initially about meeting Lord Renjith's men before capturing Leicester itself, but seeing the upbeat mood of his troops his own morale had soared. "Soon," he told himself "the Crown of William will be mine!"
Soon, the long column of marchers started moving again. Wagons carrying men and loot groaned under the weight. The Welsh horsemen rode ahead forming a vanguard, while the prudent Vikings ensured that they stayed in the rear with their own booty. If the column were to be waylaid, they intended to make a quick escape. Two days of marching had brought them very close to Leicester town itself. The lead scouts returned with the news that there was no sign of the English Army. Anand was pleased. He would get enough time to plan and prepare his positions. "Prepare Camp! we stay here and wait for the English!"
The eagerly awaited English were at that moment marching through the main road from York to Leicester, en route to London. Lord Renjith himself was riding with the column and they were in no hurry to reach London. The whole army was still savouring their victory at York, and nothing seemed impossible for the men, particularly the veteran Knights. It was therefore not surprising to see the entire army cheer as one when news arrived that the Welsh were encamped near Leicester and waiting to give battle. Lord Renjith took the opportunity to address his troops. His message was short and to the point "Men, let us go and get those Welsh!!" And he spurred his mount into a gallop. Leicester was less than ten miles away.
The Field of Battle
Two days hence, Lord Anand was seated with his commanders in a comfortable command tent in the Welsh camp outside Leicester. He had chosen an area with as much forest cover as he could get in those parts. The Welsh right flank was secured by a deep woods. More trees were to be found in a group somewhat to the Welsh centre. A hill reared its head prominently on their left flank. A shallow stream ran from the hill past the camp which was pitched astride the main road out of Leicester. A sunken lane cut across the open space in front of the Welsh camp. Further down the road were some villages with mud brick and palisade walls. The terrain favoured the Welsh in general; yet the men missed the rolling mountains and thick forests of the homeland and were ill at ease at the thought of facing mounted armoured opponents in the vast open spaces.
"Sir Arthur", said Anand as he pointed his hand in the direction of the hill. "I want some archers near the hill. Have them ready to advance to the crest and form up for skirmish." Turning to face the centre of the field, he addressed another of the men present. "Lord Milton, I will leave you in charge of the centre. Hide some of your men in the forest in the centre." Milton hesitated. "Sire, the scouts have not combed the forest yet. And no local guides are to be found who can guide us." Anand waved his remarks away. "Rubbish! Our men were born in forests! Trust me, they will know the place like the back of their hands once they set foot inside it." Milton was not convinced, but chose not to raise any further objections. Anand went on "We form up for defence. Spearmen in double lines anchoring the flanks axemen to bolster the front wherever needed. I want reserves of Cavalry on both flanks. And the Vikings stay out of the picture until we start charging. Not point in letting the enemy know of our allies lest he change his plans. Is that understood?" Heads nodded in assent. "Good. We will part for now and assemble here in two hours after prayers and food. Dismissed!"
If the Welsh dare approach through the road, they will taste some of the choicest sharp arrows our own archers have to offer!
Deep into the English centre was another hill with a picket fence lining its crest. A ditch lined the hills base. A forest provided security on the English Right flank. Except for these features, the battlefield was a rolling plain. Ideal terrain for charging Knights, as Lord Renjith thought when he surveyed the place. Turning to Lord Nishant who had joined him from London Renjith aired his views about the Welsh deployment. "If Anand thinks that he is on favourable terrain, he is mistaken. Look at the way the stream cuts across the field. Any quick movement of troops across the two flanks will be difficult owing to that stream. Nishant, do you notice the walled settlement near the centre of the field? It's residents have declared for us! Our foe will have a little surprise waiting for him when he marches down the road in a hurry." Renjith grinned evilly. Beside him Nishant took in what his commander had said but remained sober as ever.
Quickly Renjith got to the business at hand. "Deploy our best men in the right flank. I will lead them myself. The frydmen can support the Knights as they advance. All the sergeants and axemen will deploy in the left flank. Put some archers atop the hill and some of them in the settlement. If the Welsh dare approach through the road, they will taste some of the choicest sharp arrows our own archers have to offer!"
"Nishant my friend, I am entrusting you with the reserve of Knights. Arrange your men out of sight on the left flank. Your experience of with the men in York makes you the best man I have for this task. You shall await the call of the trumpets before venturing into the field." Nishant bowed curtly. "Our Plan" continued Renjith, "is to refuse battle in the centre and the left and seek the crush the enemy facing our right flank. The lay of the ground on our right is ideal for cavalry to manoeuvre sufficiently. Once the Knights make their kill, the infantry can wade in to finish the task". Nishant was a trifle skeptical about entrusting the progress of the battle entirely to the Knights. But the memory of his own success in York served to overcome his doubts. Moreover, he was in a hurry to get the battle over with and get away to his business and social concerns in London. "Godspeed!".
Dust churned up by the hooves of the horses, mules and oxen hung low in the plain as the armies lined up for battle. The sun was already cresting the heavens and shadows were growing steadily shorter. A thick fog had prevented the fighters from assembling until it was almost noon. Irked by time lost to fog, Renjith drove his men relentlessly to fall into place as he wanted them to. After almost an hour of cursing, shouting and shoving the English army was beginning to fall into place. In contrast the Welsh quitely formed up and waited in ominous silence. Even the usually cheerful Lord Anand was not smiling. His high spirits still prevailed, but his humour had deserted him as battle hour approached.
With a practiced precision, the English Knights were forming up in three impressive looking wedges in the English right. In his haste to get the battle underway, Renjith allowed his subordinates to manage the centre and flanks while he himself rode forth in his black charger, his lance held high. His own bodyguards followed suit, the Anglo Norman pennant they carried waving in the air. The Welsh had their first glimpse of the Knights through the lifting dust. Hundreds of mail clad horsemen appeared in the distance and raced through the open space. As the advance gathered momentum, Renjith himself pulled on his reins and pulled up to observe the events for a distance. He had become aware of the rapidly opening flanks of the Knights. The nearest foot were far away and Renjith halted to order them forward.
The Welsh watched the turn of events with growing trepidation. The horsemen were trotting at the moment, but they were sure that as they closed their horses would begin to canter and then finally gallop. Standing in the way of the oncoming onslaught were mere six hundred unarmored spearmen aided by as many unarmored archers. Brave as these men were, they would be indeed hard put to hold their ground in face of a determined cavalry charge. Anand swallowed as the first pangs of fear began to gnaw at him. He had once commanded Knights as fierce as the once he was now facing; he knew the deadly power each of those riders with their lances packed. There had to be a distraction! Almost near panic, his eyes wandered around the field. And they fell upon the lone unit of skirmish archers waiting calmly for their orders at the base of the hill. The eyes glinted. If he could get the skirmishers to ascend the hill, their arrows might give him a chance. With an urgency which showed, Anand had his trumpeter sound the order. The skirmishers looked up, hefted their weapons and started to jog up the gentle slope of the hill. This is was rough terrain, home country for these rugged men.
The Knights were in home terrain too. The rolling plain, the dust clouds, the reflection of Sun on their lances - these were things which told the cavalier that he was in the field ready to fight. Within a few minutes the three formations were rounding the hill, just as the last of the Welsh skirmishers jogged into place on the crest. If the Knights notices, they did not react. A man atop a charger rarely took notice of tunic clad men armed with short swords and short bows. Such nobodies were either ridden down or ignored. The riders focused instead on the spearmen wheeling to their front, the archers taking aim. They spurred their horses, and the final gallop began....
....and the Welsh trumpets sounded. Twenty of them in resonance lest the noise not carry. The battlefield suddenly erupted as the "nobodies" atop the hill let out a ragged chorus of yells and charged down. Simultaneously, Welsh horsemen who had appeared out of nowhere were charging the flank of the second wedge. Renjith's blood froze as he watched his own tactics of bringing up reserves at the last moment being used against him. There wasn't much time for ruminating. The spectacle he watched drew all his attention.
There was only mindless fear as I struggled to push the dead rider over and take his place. The horse carried me to a coward's safety
The skirmishers had let go of their bows and had drawn their swords. Running squarely into the flanks of the first wedge, they ignored the mail clad riders and plunged their weapons deep into the necks of the mounts. The gallop had not yet developed and the more valorous of the assailants clung to the harnesses and sought to pierce the uncovered necks of the horsemen. "A swarm of bees had descended upon us, stinging with deadly effect. My mount went down under me and I was flung to the hard ground. As I lay dazed and paining one of the enemy charged me with his raised sword dripping blood and gore. My lance was useless and my long sword was unwieldy on the ground. Luckily for me he tried not to thrust but to cut; my mail took the blow and I grabbed hold of his arm. The struggle went on until Sir Stafford from my group cut the man in two with his long sword. My joy was not to last though. Sir Stafford almost immediately keeled over, a dagger in his neck. I did not wait to see if the man was alive but blindly flailed my hands for the reins of the nearest horse. The owner was dead in his saddle. There was only mindless fear as I struggled to push the dead rider over and take his place. The horse carried me to a coward's safety." The narrator paused to stifle a sob. " Oh Lord, were it but a nightmare!" The tale was told by a shaken veteran after several years and several drinks. Most survivors of that day remained silent about the carnage until death, their pride wounded beyond repair.
The punishment meted out by the Welsh light cavalry was no less deadly if less shameful. The wedges disintegrated in an instant and the Welsh horsemen rode on all the way past the foot skirmishers such was the momentum they had gathered. Lord Anand felt hope dawn again as the badly mauled English fled the scene. The first wave was over.
When it rained arrows
The entire English army stood paralysed on the spot. What had begun as an easy battle was on the brink of becoming a rout. Renjith hastened to allay their fears. if the rest his men stood their ground they still had a fighting chance. A victory was needed if the morale was to rise again and there was only one way to obtain it at the moment. Grabbing his personal standard himself, Renjith waved it in a signal for the remaining wedge to move. "Chhaaaaaaarrrgggge!"
Angered beyond words at the fate of their fellow men the men of the unmolested wedge needed no orders to act. Wheeling swiftly, they unleashed their fury on the hapless unit of foot skirmishers who were reforming after their dazzling victory moments ago. The charge developed and reached its target swiftly. Recently victorious or not , the skirmishers stood no chance against the lances. They routed instantly and trampled across the ranks of the skirmish horse standing to their rear. When the lances made contact they pierced both man and animal and all but wiped out the two Welsh units. Hardly any rider had spent both lances and the wedge remained intact. The blood thirsty knights looked for another target and found the spearmen for whom they had started in the first place. Without waiting for orders, they wheeled and charged.
At an angle to the charge, six hundred Welsh archers notched their metal tipped arrows and drew the bowstrings hard.
The charge never reached home. The lead man took an arrow in his eye, tumbled and fell from his saddle only to be pierced by his successors lance and dropped. Some knights found themselves on the ground amongst trampling hooves which knew no friend or foe. The more fortunate were wounded but fell clear of the madly scattering horses. When the furore subsided a mere handful of chivalrous knights limped home.
With the action over the West side of the battle field had become a bloody no mans land. Lord Anand knew that no more charges would be attempted against his left flank. The Welsh right came alive. It was time to take the battle to the English ranks. Spearmen marched forward and the heavy cavalry trotted behind. Archers advanced and gained speed when they hit the road. The settlement was within arrow range. English skirmishers trying to delay the marchers found themselves in a difficult position. Their own arrow fire was no match for the better equipped archery of the Welsh. The first swarm of skirmishers held out as best as they could. then ran swiftly for their lives. The English skirmish screen stood torn.
The Gathering Storm
Lord Renjith sat hunched on his mount. The sweat drenched his face but he was beyond caring. The best of his Knights were dead or fleeing. With great effort the grizzled veteran of many battles forced himself to think again. "Lord Nishant! My Reserves!" With the cloud lifting from his heart Renjith summoned the trumpeters. "Sound the alarm."
The echoes of the trumpets had barely died down when several things happened in quick succession. First, the Welsh reached the settlement. Awaiting them was a group of resourceful veteran archers holed up inside. The captain of the Welsh archers fell dead in the first volley to be fired from the settlement. Further arrows brought their advance to a halt. Soon they were retracing their steps in a swift but orderly retreat.
Second, Lord Anand heard the trumpets. His first reaction was to check the advance of the spearmen. He cursed the moment he had opted to place his spare cavalry *behind* the infantry. But there any use in blaming himself now. A way had to be found to bring them into action before the rest of the Knights marched in. For Anand did not need to scout to predict that the Trumpet call had been to summon Knights. His only question was: Where?
The answer was manifest soon enough. The Welsh spearmen watched the Sergeants and the fyrd who had advanced in the East flank part way and form up leaving a wide space in between. There was only one reason. The Knights were coming, and they were coming in line. A few hundred yards behind the lead spearmen, the Vikings glanced at each other with a questioning look. Trooping in right now were the famed Knights of Lord Nishant. Trouble. They silently decided to stay. For the time being.
Who ever had the bright idea of sending us here?!!! F***** the scouts! I will never ever trust a cavalier again!
Leading the unit which was the focus of all the attention was Lord Nishant himself. His men had got news of the fate which had befallen their brethren. The cavaliers seemed to be - afraid! Nishant took off his helm so as to give his men a full view of his face. He was not nervous and wanted his men to see as much.
The third significant event occurred out of sight of all except the participants themselves. Inside the woods right near the action eight hundred men armed with axes and spears were cursing copiously as they found themselves inside a rich tangled thicket inside the woods. Vines, vipers and creepers of all sorts blocked their paths in the tangled and dense foliage. "Who ever had the bright idea of sending us here?!!! F***** the scouts! I will never ever trust a cavalier again!" They could hear the noises of the battle developing outside. They cursed even more and staggered through the undergrowth.
The best speech of his career
Lord Anand hurried towards the bridge and his right flank. His ambush troops were not to be see past the expected hour, his archers had beaten a hasty retreat and the horsemen were finding it hard to do anything useful in their position behind the foot. "Ask the men to turn around!" He shouted pointing at his cavalry. "Wheel! Ride around the forest while we still have time!" He saw Lord Nishant form up his men in charging distance. There was no time to be lost. If the Spearmen buckled under the charge, they would crash into the cavalry with disastrous consequences. "You sloths! Hurry for your lives!!!"
Lord Nishant viewed his men with a satisfied look. Renjith had ordered him to form them up in line in face of the archers present, a decision he agreed with. Solemnly he raised his sword and faced his me to address them "Brave sons of England! The hour of valour is upon us! Ride forth with your lances held level; seek the enemy and bring him the gift of blood and death. Fear not brave men; it matters not if we fall in the field. The enemy shall be slain, our brethren will be avenged! Ride forth!"
With a dejected look on their faces the Knights reluctantly stirred their horses. They wheeled their mounts and stopped dead after going a few paces. To Nishant's surprise, one young Knight started sobbing!!! The Lord of the realm could not believe his eyes. He rode his mount to the front of the unit and shouted with all his might "Chaaaarge!!!" The order which would have normally evoked a cheer followed by the sound accelerating hooves was met with silence interspersed with the sniffles of the tearful young scion. Such action would have drawn derision on another day, but today was different. The unit wheeled, and started to move *back* as Nishant watched with his jaws almost touching his chest."
For an instance there was silence. Cowardice? Fear? From the *Knights*?!! Horror of Horrors!!! Nishant recovered just in time. His face had turned beet red. Without ado he galloped to the young Knight. A single thrust of the sword brought the young man down. As he tried to get up Nishant bent down in his saddle and severed his head in a curving arc of the sword. No words were spoken. With the severed head in one hand and his dripping sword in another, the Lord Commander lead the charge. Shaken to their souls all Knights followed with vigour. The charge was at last on course.
Neither Lord Renjith nor Lord Anand could make sense of was delaying the English Knights. For a brief moment the Welsh chief had a hope that the Knights might not charge. His spearmen had locked shields and were preparing to withstand the charge. Which came with a final swiftness. From a distance, Anand saw the six hundred men take the impact and reel back. The Knights had put the pressure on high. Those manning the front row of spears died without a fight lanced through their thin tunics. Their spears were mostly parried or forced aside to point harmlessly at the sky. Those standing behind were more lucky. They watched the horsemen in proximity every detail chillingly clear. An instant later they too fell taking some Knights with them. The wooden poles cracked and splintered with loud reports which could be heard far away. Metal arced though the air as the Knights unsheathed their long swords and the defenders dropped their spears and vainly tried to block the blows with their own swords. Merely blocking did not help. The sheer force broke the smaller blade and cut down its hapless owner. The Knights literally cleared their shamed names in a bath of blood. No quarter was given; not a single spearman walked out of the carnage.
Near the centre of the battlefield, another charge was developing. The forest walkers emerged at length from their hiding and charged headlong into the Sergeants, who happened to be the first enemy they could reach. Taken by surprise, the foot sergeants fought a brave but losing battle against the flood of spears which had emerged from the forest. About the time Nishant vanquished his target, the sergeants broke and routed.
The sight of The Knights rearing above their dead brethren sent a shock wave through the Welsh army. The Knights were wheeling wildly and to the immediate on lookers it seemed that they were the next target of these ruthless killers. Such mortal fear was reason enough to panic. First to take flight were the archers who had retreated earlier. Next to them, axemen dropped their weapons and ran for the bridge. A stampede was soon underway as the desperate troops sought to put the stream between themselves and the vengeful Knights. Riding to the bridge Anand was nearly unhorsed in the rush. His words and actions did not help to stop the tide, far less reverse it. The right flank was in turmoil.
The only parties to make an orderly retreat were the Vikings. When the native Welsh commanders desperately tried to rally their men the Vikings turned about and silently marched out. Their share of booty was not far away. If they could make good their escape now, they might save at least some of it.
Across the forest the Welsh horsemen stood dismayed at the sight of their compatriots fleeing with terror. They wavered but for the influence of their captain, one Heini Gruffudd. Heini had been taught not to ever abandon his men. He stood firmly by this principle. Desperately he looked around for a way to break the English line. And he spotted the settlement and its guardians. While he was brave, Heini was also headstrong. Hardly thinking about the nature of his target, he charged.
The veteran archers inside the settlement let fly their arrows contemptuously. Here were some fools trying to charge a walled in village, guarded by archers. Pity.
Gruffudd fell first and in his wake the charge scattered. The sudden death of the leader broke the cavaliers morale. They scattered.
While chaos reigned all around him, Nishant took the spare lances handed to him by a breathless page and ordered his men to turn around. A command all of them obeyed like tourney horses, their impetuous nature forgotten. Nishant was not interested in pursuing the troops escaping across the bridge. He instead pointed his lance in the direction of the ambushing Welsh spearmen to their north who were ardently pursuing, their backs to the Knights. "Chaaaarge!"
Lord Renjith let out a sigh of relief. His heart had almost stopped when the spearmen burst through the forest to charge his sergeants. But now things were back in control, and his men performing well. He looked ahead. The Welsh army was obviously in retreat. Motioning his arm in a wide, all embracing arc, he ordered his entire army ahead. The heralds shouted out orders "The King orders!!! Slaughter them all!!"
Far away, Anand heard the rumble of voices as the English army swarmed ahead. His eyes were misting. First the Normans, now the Welsh. Here stood the son of William with nowhere to go. The blood of those who had trusted in him was all around. "Heaven save me!"
The pursuit raged late into the night as the English foot soldiers searched the country side and cut down the retreating enemy. When the chase ended miles inside the Welsh border, only six hundred of the six thousand Welsh who had embarked on the adventure remained alive. The thousand Vikings did not fare any better. Their early departure took them as far as Swansea unmolested. But their the Welsh finally got their revenge. Deprived of their long ships and ambushed in unfriendly terrain, the Vikings perished en masse.
A few months later an embassy of Welshmen sought audience with King Renjith. They sought peace with England in return for a "humble gift' for the King. A smiling Renjith accepted the severe heads of Lord Anand and Lord Dinus from Sir Arthur Cripps in return for peace. There would be no more contenders for the throne.
Lord Nishant returned to his "business interests" as he called them in London. He had other reasons to be present in London. The Lady he dined with eagerly awaited as ever.
Sir Arthur Cripps became the de-facto ruler of Wales. He lived on to a ripe old age and died peacefully in his sleep. Life had been very good to the old master of intrigues.