The Crimson Robe - Chapter VII. Decision
Do you know the Wandering Towers?
Those who approach at fading hours?
They bring everyone to flee,
To defeat a thousand they only need three!
The poison bring,
Let the arrows sing!
And if the arrow missed,
They will have you squished.
Albish children’s song, The Wandering Towers
Uttermost South of the World, Realm of Turmag, 2022. Part of the Infinity
»How are you?«
Carmadhin heard Nevyn’Iral’s voice through the helmet surprisingly well. He had forgotten how it was to wear such a heavy protection for his head and a platted armor.
He did not do it because he felt saver in them, but he would blend better into the mass of soldiers while his armor gave him a certain degree of authority. He took the reins of his horse with his platted fingers. »Still good.«
The Vaydja laughed quietly. »You could sit straighter. A Ben’arôi should always have a good overlook over his troops.«
»But I am no strategist and my days of the sword are over. Have you had not agreed not to use me in battle?«
»For that reason you shall remain in the background and just be there for the troops. They need a supervisor and Minyelaírë has not returned yet.«
Carmadhin would have rather taken out his scribbling pad and began to draw. He turned his head and took up all the surroundings to bring them unto paper after the battle was fought. It would have appeared too strange if one of the commanders would have taken out parchment and pen and started drawing.
Nevyn’Iral wore a heavy plated, quite similar looking armor to the one Carmadhin wore. The rest of the albish host went without such heavy protection and rather put their cards onto their speed and ability to move in combat. Their advantages lay in the reach of their bows and the agility of their troops. More than a reinforced leather hauberk, arm and leg protectors, almost no one wore. To that a helmet and a light shield.
The army moved constantly northward in a light tempo, away from the crater. The cloud of dust behind them was being enforced with bushes the last soldiers carried on the tails of their horses. The enemy should know that they were coming.
»I wonder how the barbarians will meet us«, said Nevyn’Iral and did not sound by that as if he would be worried about the final end of the battle.
Carmadhin perceived the smell of the earth, the sweat of the horses and the sweetly flowers of the plains. War and Grace. The Vaydja had explained to him, what he had thought of and what specifically Carmadhin had to do: To sit on his horse, not to enter the combat and fire on the will for victory of the soldiers with his mere presence. No taking action, no giving orders.
The other Ben’arôi were instructed and did not need further orders. »What do we do, if the barbarians do not act as you and the strategists of the Imperishables wish to foresee it? Would the troops around me not expect me to give them orders?«
»It will happen as I have foretold.«
»Have you already fought often enough against these second-born to know exactly their strategies?« Carmadhin smiled beneath his helmet. »I am stunned by awe!«
»Do with what you have been tasked«, Nevyn’Iral repeated his words unfriendly. »Enjoy the recognition among our people and the honour and spare me of your comments.«
»Not I will be admired, but the Vaydja will be.«
»And yet you feel partly the worship that is given to us and find rejoice in it.«
Nevyn’Iral let his horse take up on speed. »Remain by the plan and remember what I said to you, as long as you are in this armor«, he repeated himself once again as farewell and turned his mount around, rode for the end of the army.
By the Infames, let me survive this battle! Carmadhin was calmed to a certain degree as he had gotten the privilege of ten warriors of the Gold-Steel Company as his own bodyguards. But he knew of old experiences that in such a great battle there always occurred something that even the smartest genius could not have foreseen. Especially that they rode against an enemy into the field against which they have not have fought for a very long time. An eternity. Carmadhin knew only very few Alben who actually had been part of greater hosts. For most of these soldiers it will be the first time.
He wondered about Nevyn’Iral and how he could be so certain about the success of his plan.
Again he looked around.
About him had gathered eight-thousand Alben warriors on horses, parted into similar big divisions, archers and sword-fighters, to that a few Alben who carried long spears. The putting together of these Alben appeared to be a coincidence but followed actually a certain plan.
The main body of the host was enforced through four thousand additional warriors, while the back-up was counted up to again eight-thousand Alben.
They had chosen a narrow valley in which the albish riders could not really perform any manoeuvres. That the number of the losses would only increase through that, Nevyn’Iral had denied.
Carmadhin looked forward.
The valley through which they rode made a turn to the right and became even more narrow. To both sides crawled up hills with tough looking cliffs that would provide enemy archers with an excellent cover.
I hope, Nevyn’Iral knows what he does, otherwise we will all ride into a trap that better could not be thought of.
A loud horn-signal sounded up: The scouting party had discovered the enemy!
Carmadhin let his company fall into a quick gallop to get as soon as possible towards the front-line. The reinforcements knew what they had to do and fell back. They would not enter now the battle. Eight-thousand warriors that would painfully be missing when it would come to a clash.
As they turned around the corner, the host of the second-born awaited them already at the narrowest point of the valley. There was no possibility to evade them. Hardly two-thousand steps parted the enemies.
By the Infames!
Surprisingly was, that the Second-born had come with heavy cavalry! The lances protruded clearly longer into the sky than those of the Alben, their warriors wore thick and bright shinning armor and metallic arm and leg protection and even their horses were armoured.
Of that was never a word spoken during the council! Carmadhin heard it still in his ears that the second-born were rotten fighters and could not hold against the Alben.
Maybe our strategists have underestimated the fact that we are indeed fighting upon plains. It lay clearly on the hand that a host would act differently in this kind of lay of the land instead of fighting in the woods or in the mountains.
Carmadhin estimated the number of the mortals to roughly eight-thousand. They will crush into us and ride us down if we are not carefully!
The enemy cavalry formed a massive block of about five-hundred men in the breadth, behind that were waiting sixteen further rows. Right behind them was the infantry placed like a heavy door at the exit or the valley: Melee fighters, archers and in between the lighter cavalry.
Again about ten-thousand! With that had the second-born the advantage of higher numbers as the albish reinforcements could not enter directly into the battle due to the narrow passages.
Carmadhin breathed controlled in and out beneath his helmet. With that they have done exactly what Nevyn’Iral thought they would not: Acted differently than it was foreseen. Uneasiness caught up with him. He felt put back into a time that he had tried to forget.
Even before the rest of the own troops had come forth from behind the turn, did the horns of the mortals sound up and the heavy cavalry came into movement, shortening the distance towards the Alben.
The Alben took in the formations that they had been instructed with: Always a lancer next to an archer, from one side of the valley to the other. But anyone who could think only a bit, must have had understood that such an open line was not the best defence against a wall of steel. Behind that the archers took their positions and held themselves ready to send the first volley to the mortals.
Carmadhin perceived that the infantry of the Second-born remained far away from the reach of the albish bows. To fall into the rift that the cavalry would strike, they were not able on such a distance. The mortals put hence all their strength into their cavalry.
The drumming of the hooves came closer like thunder. The Second-born raised the speed with which they sought to assault the Alben. Soon they were in the reach of the longbows.
And he could only think of the verses he just remembered:
Where blades strike up to the bright golden sun,
And banner fly in the faint north-wind,
Will the coward flee and hide from death
And the murder has no end …
No one could have foreseen this! Arvhiû starred towards the heavy cavalry of the mortals. Over such units did the Alben have no knowledge, but he did not doubt that his best trained and most promising students could shoot the enemies out of the saddle.
He turned towards one of the Ben’arôi. »Let our soldier use the arrows with the common, long three-edge-tip. That should be enough to penetrate their armor!« His orders were given till the archers on the front-line.
We have chosen the wrong tactic. Arvhiû did not even began to imagine something different; a thin line would help nothing against the powerful thrust of a corpus of iron and armoured horses. He saw the intention of the enemy right before him. They do the only right thing: They attack me and my division to wipe out the archers. After that they will let their infantry and lighter cavalry do the rest.
He turned his look towards Carmadhin who sat in the saddle of his horse. He would come to see it hopefully as well? As the visor of the poet was closed, he could not see what their leader was observing at the moment. Nevyn’Iral was on the other end of the host and would not be able to give orders to this part of the army.
Arvhiû felt no fear. He knew exactly what it would mean if a heavy armoured cavalry would crush into a lightly equipped division. A hammer that is swung upon a chunk of sandstone.
He took his three steps long bow that had a asymmetric form, which enabled him to use it, even though he was sitting on his horse. With his tongue he licked over the feathers of the arrow-shaft. »Fly and bring death in my name«, he mumbled and gave the archers the sign to ready themselves.
Soon would Carmadhin have to give orders to shoot otherwise would Arvhiû division loose a lot of Alben. And that before the actual battle had begun.
Carmadhin saw, that the four-thousand men strong light cavalry loosened itself suddenly from its position and rode with a sharp tempo over the plains. Quickly they reached the heavy cavalry and raised their bows.
They cover their own soldiers!
The Ben’arôi then now finally gave order to send the arrows upon the flight as the projectiles of the Second-born found targets in the first and second row of the frontline of the Alben. The bows of the mortals were not as efficient as the ones of the Alben but they were still deadly. To the same time raised the heavy cavalry their long shields over their heads in order to gain protection from the rain of arrows from the Alben.
That does not work! Carmadhin saw already how the cavalry rushed through the main body of their army and to strike the final hit upon them; All thought of manoeuvres would be in vain after that. They aim for our archers!
Before him fell soldiers into the dust, horses screeched up and hit the ground.
… when finity grasps out to take you,
And you feel it near by your heart,
So show it, warrior that you hate it
And that you fear nothing. Not even the worst
The own archers had answered the volley but caused a lot of less damage. The mortal armours held their wearers protected. Only a very few of the cavalry fell out of their saddles.
The light cavalry held suddenly their horses, send a wave of arrows to them and turned quickly around to get out of the reach. They had accomplished their task.
Again had the Alben quite a lot of hurt and dead soldiers to note, but the warriors held their formation.
Carmadhin stood up in his saddle: Five-hundred steps and the heavy cavalry would have reached them.
Arvhiû shouted orders, to prevent that the uneasiness would spread and some of his soldiers would turn to flee.
He could feel the tension which had reached his troops. Still had Carmadhin not changed the senseless tactic and formation. The armoured riders would break through their lines at the location, where Arvhiû and his archers stood. Everyone saw them coming closer, against which there seemed to be no solution.
I will loose half of my soldiers. At least! It angered him the most that the Second-born were able to withstand his arrows. The armor itself would have been penetrated by the projectiles, but the broad shields took away too much power to cause real wounds and death. It seemed to him as if the mortals had known about the strength and effectiveness of the bows of the Alben and had evolved with heavy cavalry a counter tactic.
His senses warned Arvhiû.
In time he let his horse take a step to the side, before two arrows missed him quite close.
I show you how to do it. He saw that one of the men did not hold his shield in the manner that it would offer perfect protection. A small gap had opened.
Arvhiû took up his longbow, placed an arrow upon the string and send the feathered death after a short aim through the air.
The arrow rushed forth against the man, passed by closely the edge of the shield and screwed through the shoulder plate into his flesh. Due to the pain, the rider had to lower his shield - and Arvhiû send him quick as a lightning another arrow through the visor that had appeared behind the shield.
The enemy fell backwards from his horse and got out of sight.
One less that will be harming me and my soldiers. »Careful!«, he called out and killed during that two enemy archers that were still on their retreat. »Do not cease! Send arrow for arrow against them! Only if you kill them, you will live!«
Arvhiû looked again to Carmadhin who appeared to have frozen to a statue. What, by all Infames is going on with him? How can he sit on his horse and follow my certain end?
… Warrior, draw your sword! Raise the shield!
Fight, win the battle of battles,
Laugh at death, who comes, loud and wild.
So they will remember your deeds
And never forget your face, your picture!
Carmadhin could not longer just observe and stand around as decoration. Arvhiû’s looks that he had indeed noticed spoke of indictment and expectation. I am a commander and so I will act. I do not give anything on Nevyn’Iral’s threats!
He ordered to break up the frontline and take in the formation of a half-circle. »All lancers to the front! Dismount and stand shoulder on shoulder«, he called to the signalist who gave his orders with the sound of a horn. »No gap must be seen!«
To the flank he send the riding melee fighters, fortified them with archers. With parting the valuable archers into groups, the Second-born would be unable to defeat them with a single strike. The horses, whose masters had fallen through arrows he let be driven forward against the cavalry in order to cause confusion and to lessen the power of the clash. In the best case would the beasts would break the formation open.
Carmadhin’s thoughts began to spin, he gave order after order. »The lancers have to withstand the attack. Let them drive the end of their weapon deep into the ground and put the foot against it. I want to see that cavalry in a forest of spears, come what will!«
He led his horse further to the front, while the soldiers fell into an hectic dance in order to take the altered formation. »The archers shall let fly! Bring me that mortal pest to stand!«
Over his words was to be heard the thunder of the hooves of the cavalry: They took deadly aim and became unstoppable.
Two hundred steps.
The enemy cavalry got under cross-fire through the changed formation of the Alben. Through the altered angle more and more arrow tips found now a target, let especially horses fall to the ground. Due to the narrow rows, that together with the broad shields had first meant protection, the forth coming beasts stumbled now over dead or wounded horses.
Excellent! The enemy line became broader - and in exactly in there stormed the group of wild horses and dragged the mortals even further from one another. The armoured warriors became better targets.
»Ben’arôi!« said one of his bodyguard and pointed to the end of the valley. »They are coming!«
The light cavalry had taken up the attack again.
»They fear that the losses of the first wave will be too great«, mumbled Carmadhin. »They are coming after their brethren to secure their victory.«
On every horse sat two enemies - parts of the infantry had been taken with them to bring the troops quicker to the front. Two thousand remained back to secure the retreat.
That will be close. Carmadhin thought over what he could do against the fast coming new troops. If he would concentrate the volleys on the new enemies, he would not be able to fell the heavily armoured riders and their attack would have devastating consequences for the albish army.
There appeared on the left hills finally the reinforcements with Nevyn’Iral on the tip of the host. They have had as agreed been riding around the valley and had worked their way up over hard ground to fall into the mortals’ flank.
The heavy cavalry got through Nevyn’Iral’s archers under targeting from a third side - but it stopped them not!
»Withstand!«, called Carmadhin out to prepare the lancers on the forth-coming clash. »Withstand or die!«
There did the leader of the cavalry the only right thing: Fifty steps before the albish army he let his riders turn towards the left flank that was not protected by lancers.
The second-born rode beneath the rocks of the hills.
He makes it harder for Nevyn’Iral’s archers to hit the riders!
The disaster had arrived: The armed and riding second-born broke with lowered lances into the lines of the Alben like a ram against a wooden door!
Metal clanged and broke, cracking the breaking lances sounded up as well as the wooden shafts of the spears, the neighing of horses mixed with the screams of the hit ones to an unbelievable noise.
The music of war.
»Aim for the …« Arvhiû’s rejoicing voice broke up.
A few moments ago had his longbow archers finally succeeded as the mortal troops suddenly took a sharp turn - there where he stood!
Fifty steps meant nothing by such speed. Before he could have given orders to retreat to the hardly protected archers and to run into safety from the lances, the Second-Born clashed already right into them.
»Shortbows! Shortbows!« Arvhiû himself threw away his valuable longbow and took the smaller variant, while he let his horse walk backwards and he send arrow for arrow against the enemies. But the power of his weapon was not great enough to penetrate the heavy armor, only on neck and shoulders they could hit through the metal. And still he send four foes into the dirt.
The murdering pressure that the mortals brought upon the Alben reached Arvhiû and he was pushed around on his horse suddenly like a piece of wood in the floods of a rushing river. He could not control the direction and hence tried further on to send his arrows. As through reflex he had taken up his legs towards his body. Would he had not done so, they would have most certainly been squished between the bodies of the horses, probably broken.
The heavy cavalry could not be stopped in the meanwhile. They wanted revenge for their fallen ones and the albish archers should pay this price.
Deeper and deeper they screwed themselves into the left flank, had thrown their broken lances either away or swung them like clubs. Swords were drawn. The hits were precise and send many Alben into the finity.
»Move! You have to …« As Arvhiû was about to let another arrow, there appeared a rider before him. His polished silver armour reflected the light that it hurt in the eyes. In his right he held a shield, in his left the remains of a broken lance with which he hit after Arvhiû.
The Alb rescued himself with a quick jump and landed with his feet upon a rider less horse that saddle was drowned in blood. He was sliding upon the red wetness and lost his balance, rowed with his arms and wanted to set his foot unto another animal to protect himself from falling - there hit him the splintered lance out of full ride against the right side of his face.
From now on passed the time slower.
Arvhiû heard the breaking of the wood that splintered into thousand small parts through the impact. His head flew to the side and was surrounded by the small fragments that penetrated his flesh. Needle sting for needle sting he felt on his skin and the pain became harder the deeper they advanced.
By the Infames! His whole body followed the movement of his head and turned as well. Arvhiû mind became the observer. While he sank to the back he could perceive everything as clear as glass, heard the sounds of the battle, even the stinging of swords beneath skin or metal, the breaking of bones, the snapping of leather, the moaning of the fallen ones. Every detail he could see and could not do anything. His spirit and body appeared to be separated.
What happens here?
Then he saw the uncountable wooden splinters. They became bigger and bigger before his eyes, flew seemingly slowly towards him, aimed right for his eyes.
As much as Arvhiû tried to raise arms to protect his face - they just hung useless by his side. No!
»The lancers to the front! Right flank: Shoot with burning arrows!«, shouted Carmadhin beneath his helmet and rode forward. He would have liked to open the visor, through the thin openings came not enough air and the heat began to build up.
»Bring them to stand and slaughter them!«
What the other troops of the Second-born did he had no eyes for. First he had to drive out the heavy cavalry from his host before they would penetrate them completely like a stinger.
As if taken by madness rode Carmadhin towards the left flank. He heard the admiring shouts of the soldiers as he entered the battle with his own drawn sword.
»For the Imperishables!«
His mind was like in trance, his old life as warrior had taken control over his actions.
He smelled the blood, saw the enemies ahead and let his horse make a jump, crushed into the middle of the mortal cavalry. He led his sword left and right that send half a dozen men beneath the thundering hooves.
Burning arrows of his own archers were missing him closely. The smoke and the flames brought the horses of the second-born to fear away. They got scared, evaded each others and brought confusion into the group of enemies.
Exactly that should have happened! »Fight! Down with the mortal kind!« Carmadhin continued to strike about him. Enemy blood found its way through the visor and blinded him for a short while.
As he could see again, the heavy cavalry had gotten in complete confusion and tried to retreat. We have driven them away! A laughter came through his mouth. Now they ride straight into their reinforcement and cause further havoc!
And so it came: The lines of the mortals could not evade one another, while the albish volleys came down from above and from the intact right flank. They hit each other in the middle, any order of the host had been destroyed.
»Ben’arôi! At the end of the valley Nevyn’Iral’s riders are cutting down the remaining soldiers!«, a breathless messenger told him. His armor was adorned with cuts and blood.
Carmadhin’s arm and shoulder felt immediately tired and numb after the constant hitting. »Give the right flank order to pursue the Second-Born. We grind them between us!«
»A part of the foes could get away!«, he perceived the angered shout.
He turned his mount and looked to the north-west.
About a thousand heavily armoured riders had driven themselves a way through their flank and took flight from the battle. They just turned into cover behind the hills.
»Shall we follow them?«
Carmadhin shook his head. »No. We have to secure our victory over the main host. Our left flank is too weakened to stand in battle against them. After the battle there will be enough time to send troops after them.« He turned towards the on-going fight where the Second-born had gotten surrounded.
Against the old tactic to offer the enemy a possibility to flee so that he would not fight with the desperation of survival only to defeat him at a later point of time, did the Alben close any gap around the entrapped men. The mortals were within the circled and stood no chance.
It is decided. Carmadhin pushed his sword back into the sheath and remained with the securing troops. He felt the exhaustion.
He had done in this moment of the Infinity enough to earn honour. And I have to be the one who has to write about it.
By the approaching evening was the battle over. The Alben took no prisoners.
Nevyn’Iral and Carmadhin rode over the dead bodies of their foes. Where ever they appeared, their names were shouted.
»You have done a very good job. Another stone had been placed into the mosaic of destiny that will describe our victory«, said Nevyn’Iral. »The thousand that have escaped our grasp we will get still.«
»It was a brilliant job, I have done!« I have to draw all this!
Nevyn’Iral offered him his hand. »You have my respect and my admiration. Of that be sure as long as I breathe.«
Carmadhin took his hand and shook it. He felt great and like a god. He enjoyed the admiring shouts from the soldiers and the sweet taste of triumph on which he took his part. And wanted to be a part of!
»My lords!« A wounded archer appeared in front of them. »Come quick! It is about Arvhiû!«