Chapter Ten – Roman Might
July, AD-1218, Reign of Lord Ultrexor Xandavich.
Fields South of Vienna
Battle of the Viennan Plains
Slashing with his sword, Captain Klaudius Konovalov fought hard on the left flank of the Allied line. Rallying his men to form a new line, the Germans now fought on the offensive, trying to break out to the fields. With Captains Jerovus Talles and Selven Klinge down from their wounds, it's up to Klaudius to lead the attack, while Captain Zentan Kalidros led the mercenary contingent to support the push.
Across the plains, nearer to the city of Vienna, Kael Konovalov, Captain of the Forlorn Hope, hammered away with his greatsword. By his side, a fellow soldier protected the flank of his commander as his spear stabbed away at the lightly armoured crossbowmen of the rebel force. The Viennan reinforcements are gaining ground, but with the rebel French army approaching, the infantry-based force will be at the mercy of the legendary French Lancers.
"Men! Forward push! Now!" The burly Russian roared as he forged forward, his unit of mixed infantry following. Adapting a new fighting style, the Viennan contingent fought in units of swordsmen, spearmen and even crossbowmen. Blocking an overhead chop, Kael noted with approval as a bolt struck his opponent on the side. Glancing to the side, he could see the shooter reloading his weapon while being protected by spearmen engaged in the melee.
Roaring with every step, the edge of the left wing surged ahead of the contingent as the Loyalist units swung forward, the left column of the defending line engulfing the rebels engaging the Byzantines in a deadly embrace.
"Legionnaires, Duplex Acies!" Zentan Kalidros yelled to his nearby sergeants as the trumpeters around him blew a synchronized series of signal notes.
Catching the pre-planned formation, Klaudius pivoted his units forward until they were face to face with the Byzantines, his rear-most men being chased by the enemy.
As the rebels began to catch up with the Loyalist forces, the entire force turned, now to face the rebels head on.
After the execution of this maneuver, the allied forces had shortened the length of their line, but doubled the breadth of the formations. In the Duplex Acies, the Byzantines had arranged themselves into eighty-man units, in two lines of equal length. Spearmen covered the flanks with spears from the Landsknecht mercenaries which filled the ranks of Klaudius' reserve force.
As the Germans, turned, huge shields were put out before them, locked together in a tight shield wall. Instead of taking turns to retaliate against enemy attacks, the Germans held their ground, letting the enemy waste their attacks on the heavy shields.
A rebel soldier chopped his axe against the shield, but his weapon simply bounced off the guard. Expecting to be stabbed, he jumped back, his small shield protecting his midsection. However, the wall stood, not wavering from the press.
Wondering what his enemies are doing, the soldier never registered the shift of tempo on the earth, as soft vibrations could be felt along the line.
"Hold the formation!" Klaudius yelled as he struggled his way to the front, moving through the breadth of his followers.
Captain Zentan looked to the east, and nodded his approval.
The rebel, shaken from his thoughts, found himself slightly unbalanced. Searching for the source, he looked to the west, where their French reinforcements are still a distance. As he looked to the east, a look of pure dread was etched on his face, as the thunder grew audible for all to hear.
French Rebel General Gerald de Compare, a man of great influence. Even as the Frenchman rode towards the battlefield, his men marched in perfect order, mostly with pikes held high.
After defeating the Royal Guard with his army, Gerald noted that his army would not be enough to march on Paris, and decided to aid Byros and secure a base in Germany for the time being.
Never did he expect to see a host of Byzantines across the fields.
"Men, form up. Infantrymen in the center, heavy cavalry to the front." The general ordered.
As the infantry closed in from the flanks, the soft rumbling of hooves can be heard as Gerald's heavy lancers rode into position.
Nodding, the general need not fear from any eastern cavalry, as the French cavalry has always been the most powerful in Western and Central Europe. Armed with a long and sturdy lance, and protected by some of the thickest armour in Europe, the Lancer has no need for a shield, and is a pure offensive weapon.
"Forward, keep in line and charge on the signal."
The Nicosian cavalry slammed into the rebel troops at full gallop. Infantry were tossed high into the air and skewered by long lances protruding from the armoured mass as the Byzantine Cataphracts entered the battle. Seeing the shield wall, the cavalrymen on the sides has been wary to shift the charge to a point where they will keep a small distance from the allied infantry along the charge.
After the devastating charge by the Nicosians, a horn blasted along the lines of the allied infantry as they surged forward. Heavy shields put to the side, swords and maces replaced most of the other weapons as German forces charged into the melee.
At the other side, Kael Konovalov and his elite guard fought on, glad for the lessening of the press from the devastating charge. Swinging his heavy sword, the Russian had no trouble cutting through the mass of leather-armoured enemy troops.
Zentan moved his troops in quick order. Keeping the Duplex Acies, he brought his Byzantine formation around to face the oncoming French forces. Already, the Nicosian cavalry are turning back to secure the flanks of the formation as the remaining rebels are being mopped up in rapid fashion.
However, there remains one problem, and it could be a grave one indeed.
In the recent times of warfare against both the rebel warlords as well as the Holy Roman Empire, the French Heavy Cavalry has proven itself to be a formidable fighting force. On the plains of France, thoroughbred warhorses are mounted by nobles whom trained hard to be knights of their kingdom.
Now, with the Nicosian cavalry concentrating on the German Rebels, the French Lancers under Gerald de Compare's finest Guard took the front of the formation, lances raised towards the heavens as they advanced onto the battlefield.
"Infantry, double pace! Crossbowmen form up in the center! Trumpeter, sound the charge!"
A deep note was blown from the man next to him. At the cavalry lines, a lancer rode ahead and signaled with a piece of red cloth, and the wedge was formed.
4,000 heavy lancers, of France's best garrison, rode forth on the first row. On the flanks and forming up the second row, another 8,500 lancers, making up nearly the entire heavy cavalry force in Southern France, now rode forth towards the confusion.
Another note was blown, with more confidence, as the first line expanded, to a line four horses deep and a thousand wide, with such precision that marked their disciplinary experience in Spain.
A cavalier from the Nicosian brigade saw them coming, but his force is caught up in the sweep, relieving the infantry, that no sizable force would be able to counter the charge.
The cavalier looked on, as the lance caught him by the shoulder, and the last thing he felt was the crush of horseshoes when he hit the ground…
"No! The French have entered the fray!"
Zentan roared as he saw the cataphracts fall under the charge. He heard of the battle prowess of the French Cavalry, but never did he expect to experience the horror of their power in a real battle. Passing tactical command to his second-in-command, the captain forged a way back to the treeline, where Captain Jurosis of the Nicosian reinforcements and General Alexandros are commanding the fight.
"Enemy lancers, they have broken through, even now our infantry are getting killed by the dozens!"
Standing up with such ferocity, Alexandros walked to the edge of the forest and saw the battle with his own eyes.
Byzantine cavalry being cut down by the French, who have the advantage of direction and surprise, and French spearman marching in soon. The main power of the Byzantine Empire will soon be reduced to naught if nothing is done quickly.
"My horse, here! Captain Jurosis, its time for your cavalry to pull back, let our infantry knock those lancers off, I'll sweep across the right flank and face those cavalry head on, Bodyguard! For Constantinople!"
A cheer rose as the General rode out of the forest, with a personal guard of eighty heavy cataphracts. Captain Manfred readied his own company, when a hand reached out to him.
The wounded captain hobbled up to his friend. From his current state, Selven could not even run, much less swing his sword in a fight.
"Rest, we'll handle these rebel scum."
"No Manfred, I know that these French are killing our cavalry in a ratio which would turn the tide. Ride, but with this with you."
Selven handed a banner to his friend. Manfred looked at it, and recognized it in an instant.
Selven's flag. A flag which Senna Lythios herself sewn for the Captain upon his request. A flag which has flown with the soldier from Nicaea to Vienna.
Nodding, Manfred reared his horse to summon his company, but took a different route.
He rode ahead of his column to the back of the forest, where many wounded lay. Riding hard, he rose the banner as a strong note was blown from his horn. An Eastern note, which every mercenary of Cyprus heard before every assignment.
"Ride! For our country, for our allies! For honour! Ride for your brothers! For your Captain! For Byzantium!"
He passed by a field of men, where a mass seemed to flow towards the tethered horses. Mounting their warhorses, the force of Selven's Dragoons rode forth, joining Manfred's cavalry at the rear of the column.
He passed by the wounded, where many heard and saw the summons. Picking themselves up, those whose wounds are properly dressed fetched their horses, and joined the German.
Riding past the outpost, Manfred brought his column around, and rode towards the west, where his general is fighting hard against the still-charging French.
The second line has joined in the charge, trampling down the heavier cataphracts and lancing those infantry in their way. Tough as they were, the Byzantium shield infantry could not withstand a double charge by the heaviest cavalry in Western Europe. Tossed like the rebels before them, when the Nicosian charged, the tired infantry held on, trying to keep the line in order.
General Alexandros and his cavalry arrived, with numbers greater than the French, and eased the push for a bit, before the lancers on the flanks charged into his column.
Cursing, the General knocked off a lancer who missed him with a lance, only to be cut on his other arm by a passing Frenchman. Throwing his shield in front of him, Alexandros managed to block a thrust aimed for his chest as he slashed, severing the arm from the lancer.
The lines are breaking… He knew, and hard as it was, the General knew that they have to hold. The main infantry force is not far ahead, five minutes at most, before a counterattack could be mounted. He also knew, that the main infantry force of the enemy is not far either, for all he knew, a pike could knock him off his mount at any instant.
"Pull back, we're sitting ducks here!"
Managing to turn his horse around, Alexandros took up the rear as his men forcibly cut a way out of the melee, intent to break into the north, where the German infantry under Kael Konovalov managed to hold off the lancers with massed spearmen.
As he broke free, blood running from many wounds, Alexandros saw a second cavalry force heading towards them.
However, he saw that it's not the French. He recognized the outfit they wore, and saw the direction their heading, with lances lowered, and for those at the flanks, javelins poised to strike.
"Charge!" Manfred's force slammed into the reeling French, whom have turned to pursue Alexandros' unit. Selven's Dragoons threw their javelins and spears into the nearest lancers, the sheer force of the weapon knocking them off their horses.
Meanwhile, the French charge has been stopped, only to be replaced by a mass of pikes as the French pikemen moved in, formation tight and neat, forcing the Allied infantry back with every step.
Running to the front, Zentan drew his sword as he rallied a force of Guard swordsmen.
"Men! We have to move in close so their polearms would be useless! Follow me!"
Running out of the formation, Zentan chopped away the nearest pikes and ran straight into the first pikeman, his sword piercing the Frenchman's chest with such force, that the blade struck the man behind the corpse, piercing the enemy in the lung. Pulling his weapon free, Zentan blocked a flurry of spear and dagger strikes as his men poured forth, engaging the enemy in melee.
Going into the offensive again, Zentan barely feel the punch that spun him around and stop his charge. Stumbling backwards, the Byzantine saw a shaft protruding from his shoulder, and looked around to see his men similarly hit by crossbow bolts. Looking back to the front, several Frenchmen were his by their own bolts, but the second line was prepared for this event.
Zentan knew that they were trained to accept this tactic, as no pike could be thrust so quickly into his ribs, and pulled out before he has a chance to cry out in pain. Zentan fell, feeling his blood flow from the wound. Its not serious, he thought, the pike used on him has a thin but sharp point, and was meant to wound, more than kill.
Of course, he thought, the killing would come when the pikemen trampled over the wounded, letting those behind finish them off.
But his surprise was complete, when a number of hands grabbed him and pulled him back, away from the pikes, back into a new shield wall formed by Holy Roman soldiers.
"Tough tactics, good thing we managed to pull quite a few in."
Klaudius muttered as he felt a bolt clang off the shield that he was supporting. Looking at the wounded Zentan, the Russian knew that it was him who would take command of the tactical battlefield.
"Get those reinforcements forward! A hundred thousand will finish the job! Its only how many more we would lose before its done! Go!" He yelled at the group of runners assigned to him by the mercenaries, and they immediately dispersed.
The Russian has a smile, with a hundred thousand, numbers would overwhelm even the French lancers, even though they have killed over an estimated ratio of 9:1 from the first charge.
Gerald de Compare frowned.
His lancers did a perfect job, sweeping the Byzantines away from the field, and letting the pikemen move in close. However, a new force of cavalry disrupted his formations, the flankers were sent in, only to be flanked, by a second and more deadly force of Byzantine cavalry.
Even now, his infantry are wavering under the press of this new 'army', or a mass of infantry running for the battle in his eyes, as numbers he'd seen only in France came to push his battered men back to the hill.
"Gather the lancers, we'll ride towards Constantinople."
"Sir, what about the infantry? Do I give them a signal to follow?"
"No! Let them fight, and prove their worth as a rearguard to me. Perhaps we'll see them again, in the not too distant future."
Turning, the French General gathered the remains of his cavalry, and together with his bodyguard, rode towards the coast, where some ships are waiting with Luskovic's men…
You have won this day, Romans. This may be Alesia, but know that Gregovia is never far from happening again…