Because them horses don't climb tress, you idiot! Now git yerself into the forest reel quiet or I'll flog yer stinking back!
The fog was still thick on the ground when the English Knights picked their way through the hard packed sand, stone and trodden grass of the battlefield. It was not sunrise yet and the Knights hoped to reach their destination before the sun rose and revealed their intention to the Normans. Leading the column was none other than Young Robert Farnham himself, he had earlier volunteered to execute the plan which Duke Renjith had proposed. The plan itself was simple - the English and the Normans had lined up for battle for the past three days without effect as both sides refused to take the first step. On all three occasions the English had lined up near their camp as had the Normans near their. It had almost become a habit. But today, Duke Renjith intended to take the Battle to the Normans. He decided to use the unusually thick fog that morning to good effect by sending his Knights ahead to advance along the flanks as far as they could without rousing the enemy. Young Farnham was on the English right; On the far side of the battlefield, another column of troops similarly made their way along the English left flank. "If everything goes according to my plan", Duke Renjith had said, "the Normans will find their men almost between the two claws of our army". Soon, Farnham gave the signal to halt. They were well in place.
The fog was still thick on the ground when the Norman spearmen picked their way through the hard packed sand, stone and trodden grass of the battlefield. It was not sunrise yet and they hoped to reach their destination before the sun rose and revealed their intention to the English. Duke Anand "The Swearer" Mohan had send them ahead to present as an unpleasant surprise to the English later. Thick woods loomed in the Norman left flank, and Duke Anand wanted to make the best use of it. The idea had grown in him in the past three days when they had waited for the English to give battle. forest was "Be silent, ye fools!" said Captain Williamson in a hoarse whisper "We don't want any o' those damned English Knights to catch us before we get to the forest!" The group continued to walk in silence. But after a while, sergeant Penhalm piped up "but Cap'n, we have Knights too. Why didn't miLords come in our place then?" Williamson almost shouted back his answer "Because them horses don't climb tress, you idiot! Now git yerself into the forest reel quiet or I'll flog yer stinking back!" That ended the dialogue. Those who still had any doubts kept it to themselves. The party was soon lost to sight inside the woods.
But one, and that was she, whom I in heart did shrine: And made account that pretious pearle, and iewel rich was mine.
When The Fog Lifted
The fog lazily lifted from over the hills and vales revealing orderly masses of men and horse beneath. From his prominent position above a rise near the English Camp, Duke Renjith watched the scene with rising emotions. His thoughts were mixed. One part of him sensed victory and a possibility to win the English Crown forever without any disputes; a more conservative part of him warned against battling the crafty Normans without seeking help from any allies. "Curse those Bloody Vikings!" Renjith had fervently hoped that the Vikings would honour their word and send him much needed troops and money, but nothing had happened. The crafty Norsemen were waiting to see the destruction of one side before the moved in to kill the survivor. "No chance! Harold might have let it happen, but there will never be another Hastings again!"
The Duke forced his thoughts away and looked around. A quick scan of the field ensured that that his troops were well in place. To his left, on the same rise, stood the trusty foot sergeants. Hardy fighters all of them, reflected Renjith. "I needn't worry about any of *those* developing a cold feet". Further to the left, in the plains stood the Welsh. Their very sight brought out a shiver "If only they would put half the vigour into their fighting as into their drinking!" But beggars could not be choosers, and the English countryside was so thoroughly depleted of young men. So the Welsh it was to be. To Renjith's right, on the rise again, stood more Welsh. Yet more stood in the plains.
One sight gave him comfort; Right to his front waiting in ambush in a depression on the ground hidden from view from across the field were his own Fyrd. These were axe armed and could be trusted to hold their own in most circumstances. Renjith had sent all those he could spare with the Knights who were deployed in both wings ahead of the rest. The Knights would deliver the punch that would win or lose the battle for him. He recited a prayer for the himself and his troops. "May the Lord of all men help us!"
A long march away from Duke Renjith's position, out of his direct sight behind a hill, waved the Royal Pennant of Normandy. Standing in its shadow was the Solitary Duke Anand, otherwise known as 'the Swearer'. The shadows made by the flag seemed to have been absorbed by the Duke also, such was the expression he wore. As the ruler of Normandy after William the Legacy of the Conqueror had drawn Anand into the quagmire of English politics and the inevitable fight for the throne. He doubted if there would ever be another chance for him and the Normans whom he ruled to repeat William's feat. But there was hope yet. The Normans were highly motivated and in a state of supreme readiness. Their supply lines ran unhindered all the way to Normandy and the ground was favourable. After all was not the Norman army in a truly defensive position? One end of the Norman side of the battlefield was walled in , and almost half of their frontage was covered by a flowing stream. And yes, back in Tinchebrai lived the most beautiful and learned of Norman maidens, eagerly awaiting Duke Anand's charming company...
Encouraged by such warm thoughts, the clouds of despair lifted from Anand's face. He signaled to his Knights: "Advance!"
Chains of Command
Perhaps it was the food they had for breakfast perhaps it was the wet and foggy English climate. The Norman Knights heard their Lord Commanders order, but refused to move. The Knights looked at the General in surprise and looked away. Bereft of orders the squires likewise waited, lances ready to be handed to their masters at short notice. The horses shook their heads and used their tails their to ward off the flies and nonchalantly awaited the spur. Anand held his temper and decided to try again. His requests were once again met with insolent looks and silence. The Duke knew how stubborn his men could be. He ground his teeth and began to count to thousand.
Unlike his opponent, the English Commander was in no mood to tolerate any insolence on that morning. "Let us show them what the English are made of!" "Dear Farnham! Pray you move your troops forward!" Renjith orders were curt and to the point. Anxious to engage the foe, the English troops obeyed every order he issued as soon as it reached them. First to move were the Knights on the English right. Lead by Robert Farnham, son of Old Duke Farnham 'The Bold', the Knights assumed wedge and aimed their horses straight for the Norman horse. The body of troops rode forward past the forest without any concern. No lookouts had been posted in the flanks, no scouts had been sent ahead to clear the woods. The English had almost reached the Normans.
...who still waited forcing Duke Anand to break his count. He swallowed his pride and trotted to the Knights. Steadying himself he addressed the men "Brave Lords, is it not time that you advance your steeds?" The Honourable George Mason, Captain of Knights, looked up from the conversation he was having with this squire. He seemed mildly amused that the Lord Commander should personally ride forth to them over such a trivial matter. "With your Pardon, Sire" said the Captain with a curt bow "Mi Lord frets too much about the enemy. Those horses cannot make a mile in a hour" he pointed at the English studs "My chestnut here will catch them before they can say 'The King is a Fool'. Won't you, Toby?" The last was directed at the giant horse which the Captain was riding. Duke Anand went red "You fool!! To hell with what your goddamn toby thinks! It is I..." His words were drowned in a thunderclap which sounded uncomfortably close. Both Duke and Captain turned, only to see lances leveled and approaching them fast. The English held those lances menacingly and their steeds were certainly making more than a mile per an hour. Both Anand and George Mason ordered a Charge...
They were too late.
The Normans tried to spur their horses forward urgently. But denied of space to run up, the countercharge just failed to materialize. The Normans took the charge almost standing still.
Men! Men! Fear not my lads. This is *our* battle and it remains to be won. What loss is a puny horse or two? The best of our tricks is yet to come, trust me! Hold, all ye spearmen! Archers, give them some cover!
The Normans were thrown back by the impact of hundreds of horses and men ramming home. Lances tore holes through the ranks many snapping at impact. Bereft of momentum, the Normans were pushed back, and chopped down even as the broken lances gave way to hurriedly drawn swords and maces. The sight of Norman dead and fallen shook their comrades and off went the others fleeing for their precious lives. The Honourable George Mason did not live to tell the tale. He fell at first impact, his chestnut going right down with him.
Duke Anand had managed to run clear of the onslaught and now looked around in despair. To his horror, more English Knights were following up enthused by the successful charge of their brethren. The new, un blooded English horsemen were moving very close to the forest in an attempt to circle and go behind the Norman lines. In response Anand's eyes fell on the woods. Frantically he drew his sword and waved. Hope those men inside understood that he wanted them to charge NOW!
They did. After a lifetime in the field spent standing charges and being chased by horsemen the spearmen appreciated the need to exploit exposed flanks of the enemy mounted. This was one chance every foot slogger loved. Here were the noble bodies with their flanks open so temptingly. The ambush party yelled and shouted their way out. Any reluctance to charge had been replaced by a lust to kill at the sight of their own men being slaughtered scant yards away. The men lowered their spears and hit the English Knights squarely in the flank.
The English took the charge standing.
The Spearmen pushed with all their strength.
The cavalry broke and fled. Young Robert Farnham was in command and valiantly attempted to rally his men. But the spear points had brought too many down and were wreaking more havoc among those who had opted to stand and fight. All pleas fell on deaf ears and the cavaliers fled from their assailants barely avoiding their jubilant comrades.
The ambush breathed fire into the Norman blood. Their Knights went active, wheeling and cantering at the Commanders orders trying to outflank those enemy who were now trapped on three sides. It took some precious minutes for the jubilant English Cavalry to realize the fix they were in. By then, it was too late. Executing a perfect wheel, Norman horsemen closed the fourth side of the trap and hit them squarely in the rear. The fight which ensued was not a fight, but a massacre. When the dust settled and the cries of men being cut down ended, four hundred English nobles lay dead on the field.
The sight of two full units made up of the flower of English Chivalry was equally hard on the British ranks and Duke Renjith. Troop morale plummeted palpably. The rankers who were moments ago cheering the charge now stood silent and brooding. Renjith rode forth and tried to calm his men. "Men! Men! Fear not my lads. This is *our* battle and it remains to be won. What loss is a puny horse or two? The best of our tricks is yet to come, trust me! Hold, all ye spearmen! Archers, give them some cover!"
Panic was an instant recipe for disaster and the Duke did not want panic to break. Renjith's little speech had an effect. Many men sighed, some dropped back and fell out of ranks. Anything more serious was averted.
As the Sun paled for the English it was beginning to shine brighter for the Normans. The Killing fury of his men had reached out to Anand and enveloped his mind. He eyes searched the enemy line up for gaps. Not finding any, his mind sought to create one. Gripped by a frenzy the Commander of Normans ordered his heavy infantry to cross the river and head for the hedges. "It is time, men! It is time to win the Bloody battle!" The heavy foot could not believe their ears when the order was shouted across to them. Cross the water? Was the Duke mad? But Blue Blood was not to be disobeyed, and the men shrugged, hefted their spears and shields and began to wade across the river. Among the thousands of eyes who watched their progress, two pairs deserve mention: canny old Burnsadle, Lord Captain of English Knights deployed on the English right and Duke Peristold, the Norman commander in charge of Infantry. Both of them saw the same thing - the hedges protected the front of the troops, but not their flanks.
Water dripping from their wet chain mail and leather tunics, the Norman foot soldiers dragged their heavy spears and shields ashore. Officers were shouting to regain order, but eight hundred wet, cold and irritated men take more than a few minutes to muster and fall into position. The hedges now loomed to their front, and the soldiers stooped to reorganize.
Slowly almost silently Lord Burnsadle rode his horse forward. He touched the leader of his Knights on his shoulder and pointed at the men wading across the water. No orders were needed and the Knights immediately trotted forth.
Duke Peristold was the first Norman to catch sight of the movement. He was at first unsure of the enemy's intentions. But as their trot developed into a canter and blew into a full gallop, the intentions of the Burnsdale's Knights became horrifyingly clear. But it was too late. Shouts to wheel echoed across the water, but were lost in the tumult. Some of the men instinctively tried to turn, but were too late. The English wedge crashed into the spearmen and chopped them apart like an axe falling on dead oak wood. Unlike the oak, the splinters bled and cried out in mortal terror. Most tried to run and were cut down. Those who controlled their urge to run and headed for the water had better luck. All said, more than seven hundred fell and the survivors fled to the countryside. Norman army shuddered and many men began to retreat in spite of orders to hold.
The Sun had rose again for the English.
The Tide Turns
The turn of events on the Norman right were ignored by the Norman Knights. The plight of the foot soldiers did not bother the cavaliers and they plowed on with their advance. Urging them forward Anand sought to gain more space for his men to advance. He had seen the English line waver a few moments back and wanted to make the most of it. That some of his troops were already retreating or that his orders were being ignored by many did not seem to effect Anand.
"Forward! Hit those cowards! Make them feel the might of Norman steel!" Valiant words came freely for Anand. In his eyes images merged and split. He was seeing his subordinate Lord Rajesh lead the charge at one moment, the next he saw the vales of Tinchebrai and the sight of golden hair locks in the prairies. Steel of lances seemed to mirror the silvery waterfalls of the vales Normandy. Letter from his beloved floated before his eyes. Suddenly the images were and he was dead sober.
The English were charging yet again. Hooves pounded the ground yet again. Lances ripped armour and flesh open yet again.Men cried out yet again. The Normans fled in terror yet again. The fleeing horses punched into Lord Rajesh valiant friend of Duke Anand. With a silent yell dying at his lips, Rajesh was fell by a sword and was crushed beneath the chargers. Anand himself barely escaped and was forced to fall back. As the entire English Army surged forth, he looked around for men to give orders to. But words caught in his throat, and most of what came out was meaningless babble. "Men! Looters!" he shouted. Some troops looked at their Commander in Chief in surprise. "Form Wedge!" This at some skirmishers who winced looked around for another source of authority and finding none, ran. The army was effectively out of Duke Anand's control. Most units were retreating. The Normans had lost the day.
On the far side of the battlefield, Duke Renjith sighed and made the gesture of the cross. They had won, and he smiled broadly to cheering soldiers. Only he knew how close they had come to biting the dust. The Duke's mouth itched. "Wine!" He shouted at his page "Get me some goddamned wine. All this fighting business has made me thirsty!"
Though the Normans had been dealt a severe blow they managed to regroup and reform. But they had lost their initiative. The spearhead of their campaign had been broken. Now it remained upon Duke Anand to fall back and make their next moves carefully. Alliances became important all of a sudden; couriers were running in all directions from the Norman camp. Will help reach in time?
The English regrouped and set right off after the Normans. A few skirmishes took place, and all the while battle threatened. Duke Renjith was as keen to join battle as Anand was to avoid it. The English troops were spirited after the victory and he wanted to make the best of it. On and on, the chase continued.