Time passes and the warband of Tharon starts to make a name for themselves. But they could not continue to survive only by simple jobs here and there. They had to enter to a collaboration with the lords of the Swadian Kingdoms and do something profitable for them. And they are thinking of the local lord, a man named Delinard.
September 15, 1266 CE, Uxkhal , Late at night.
Three months had passed since my last exploits with Talius and his brother, Andreamon. Things did not go as planned. The king of Swadia, was pleased to hear that a crooked captain had been put to justice, but he could not stand the fact that Talius, the head of the League of Merchants, had acted without the royal authority. And not only that, but he also stripped him from his seat of power, sending him and his family to exile. As my informants said to me, he fled to a city, far away from the kingdom of Swadia, at the Sarradin Sultanate, to live there as a simple merchant. He had some acquaintances in a big city named Bariyye, at the far corners of the Sarranids territory. I hope that this to work fine for him. And I hope that someday we may meet each other again.
As for me, I have been quite busy the last couple of months. I gained some reputation among the common folk, but I could not stay in Praven. If they hunted down Talius, such a powerful man, for violation of the law of the state, imagine what they would do with me, a simple soldier, with no renown or power and wealth. I decided to leave Praven for a while, to avoid pointless conflicts with men more powerful than me.
I headed for the inner of the Swadian kingdom. Soon, I realized that the biggest problem with the realm, was the inner fighting and the raids from bandit groups. They were strong in numbers. The land of Swadia, had a central way that connected the three most valuable of its cities, Praven, Suno and Dhirim. It was a way that most of the trade was passing through, both internal trade (between castles and cities of the kingdom of Swadia) and the external trade, between Swadia and other kingdoms.
Four villages were built on this road, Iyindah, Ruluns, Ibiran and Burglen. These villages thrived due to this economic activity. But their central location, made them targets for countless bandits. They had some garrison, but the men were never enough. As a result, there were times that the bandits were able to achieve their goals and raze the villages, stealing their goods. I saw this opportunity to make something worthwhile, a chance to make a name for myself, so I contacted the four village elders. I visited each village, asking them for the situation with the bandits and found out that the most attacks occurred at the villages of Ibiran and Burglen, because they were more away from the city of Suno. Iyindah and Ruluns, were watched and garrisoned occasionally from the troops stationed in the city.
The village elders of Ibiran and Burglen told me that the bandits were attacking them at least one time per month, and in the same day. I deduced that it was the same group, split in half, to attack both villages at the same time. The two halves were composed by fifty or sixty men each. That was the reason that the villages could hold to their attacks. If a small army of one hundred or two hundred men were upon the villages, they would be destroyed to the ground. But then the bandits would not be able to loot again and surely king Harlaus would investigate these attacks. These bandits were smart men. From the description taken, Fendrel and I figured that these men, except from thugs that were following the bandit groups, were led by deserters, men who run away from the army of Harlaus.
“What’s your plan?” asked Fendrel when we sat down, to discuss our next moves.
“These men are, or should I say were, soldiers. The circumstances led them to desertion” I replied.
“What is your point?”
“These men have a sense of honor. We have many chances to defeat them once or twice in the villages, but this won’t solve the problem. They will keep coming back, probably with more men. But if we provoke them, if we invoke their sense of honor, maybe we could persuade them to fight in an open field?”.
“It’s a risky move” said Fendrel with skepticism. “And what if they say no? And what about our men? We do not have many men, and even if the village elders gave us troops, we would get militia at best. These are not ordinary bandits. They are good quality soldiers. Even in an open battlefield, it is not certain that we will win. I admire your cunning at waging warfare, but this is different”.
“I understand your concern. But I await from time to time for the solution to arrive” I said to him, smiling.
I had the village elder of Ibiran, the village that we were staying, go to Suno asking for military assistance, as the elder of Burglen, went to Dhirim. The lord of the city of Dhirim didn’t even listen to my emissary and threatened him with imprisonment for his insolence to go there and seek help, wasting the time of his lord. An asshole if you ask me. But it was kind of expected. Royalty, as far as they have their bellies and their cups full, they don’t give a rat’s ass about what is going on with their subjects. A bitter truth. For our sake, the lord of Suno Klargus proved to be diffirent. And not only that, but at this time, he had a guest at his household, the lord of Uxkhal city, Count Delinard.
They both agreed to help us at our struggle, providing military support. They arrived next day at the afternoon, with 50 men each, some men from the garrison of Suno and the escort of Count Delinard. The truth is that because of the recent wars, garrisons had been reduced a lot, making it harder to guard all the cities and villages at the same time, giving foot for the bandits to plunder and raze. We had exactly 135 men, with my men and the village soldiers. The scouts that had been dispatched reported a force of 200 men at least. The odds were not in our favor. I had to make my plan work.
Meeting Delinard and Klargus
I talked to Klargus and Delinard.
“Well, I believe that an open field of our choosing, would be better” I suggested.
“What are you saying, boy?” said Klargus. “In an open field we would be massacred”.
“As well as in the village. If we were to fortify the village to make a stand I wouldn’t argue, but we simply don’t have the time. Their numerical advantage would be enormous, and the chances of us being flanked in the village, are great. But if we manage to lure them, in a battlefield that we decide, then we will be much more prepared”.
The two lords thought about it. They remained silent for a second.
“Lad’s right” said Delinard at the end. “A little risky, if you ask me but it can be done”. Klargus nodded in agreement.
“So, lad” Delinard said. “What’s the plan?”.
“Approach them and lure them. They were soldiers, right? Your soldiers”.
The generals both nodded.
“We can still address to their honor. Running like a rabbit is not the most honorable thing to do. If we manage to angry them, we can persuade them to meet us at the battlefield. Meanwhile, I have already my men to prepare the landscape to our advantage. It will be a trap. An expected one but non the less a trap. A small leverage for our side”.
Klargus moved his head in disapproval.
“Too risky for my taste. And we do not know you, nor your capabilities as a soldier, let alone as a commander. But if Delinard agree, I will follow”.
Delinard had stood up, facing the horizon, thinking about my plan. After a short while, he turned to me.
“It’s your funeral, son. But if we lose, it will be your head rolling from the executioner’s axe”.
To the Lion’s Den
As the one proposed this solution, I was the one to go and meet the bandits, at a high risk of me getting killed. I tied a white flag to my spear, and walked into the deep forest. I was walking for a couple of hours. Then, I heard steps in the forest.
“Before, you try to kill me, I want to talk” I said, showing the white flag. A dozen men appeared around me, with a dozen bows aiming at my body, ready to make holes on it.
I met with the leader, who used to be a commander at Delinard’s army. I explained to him the unacceptable raids to his own homeland, that was ripping apart this land. But as expected… he laughed.
“Listen here, boy” said to me, with a dead serious look on his face. “This land, which is not where you come from, has betrayed us, exiled us, made us into this life. Do you think we like living out here, in the woods? To have no home to go, no woman or child that remember us? Do you think we chose this? No! They made us. And if we need to set ablaze a phew villages to get something to survive, then so be it”.
“And this lifestyle hasn’t really changed you, has it? You are still running like a rabbit, instead of fighting like a man”.
“Watch your tongue, little man. Push it a little more and you will lose it”.
“Come and prove your worth, you poor, old bastard. We will be expecting you”.
And with courageous steps I left his tent, hoping no one would murder me.
“I think that went as expected” I thought to myself. “I almost got myself killed so… it was pretty good”.
The battle took place about fifteen miles to the west of the village of Ibiran. A narrow plain, with grass and wood at its sides. The best location for us to give our stand I consulted Delinard and Klargus and we decided that the best approach, due to their numerical advantage, was a stealth approach. The heavy armored men-at-arms would create a solid frontline, only to lure the bandits.
When the clash would happen, I, my men and some light infantry and bowmen given to me by the two generals, would attack from the side. Pretty simple and effective tactic. In my opinion at least. I also had some traps made from the villagers. Wooden spikes nailed into the ground and covered with dirt. The unsuspicious bandits, as they would charge into our lines, the would lose the ground under their feet. Then our men using wooden planks, they would cross the chasm and attack the enemy lines.
We arrived at the battlefield early in the morning. The sun hadn’t yet rise behind the mountains. We all took our positions. The generals and I made sure that everything had been followed to the letter. We were gambling not only our heads, especially my own, but also the generals’ heads. And the waiting started. For every soldier or general, this is the worst part of a battle. The agony, the waiting, the uncertainty.
The Battle Begins
We caught the first sight of the enemy, half an hour later. A band of heavy armored warriors. Upon seeing them Klargus raised his sword, ordering his troops to attack. Our frontline rushed at the enemy. The bandits, seeing the attack, they rushed too. But we did a trick. As I said, we had some spikes made. When the troops reached the spikes position they stopped and took a defensive position. The bandits without knowing our trapped charged and fell right into our trap. Bodies ripped wide open, skulls crushed upon the tips of the wood. Many were eliminated.
“Now!” shouted Delinard and the men picked the wooden planks to pass the chasm. And the battle started. Meanwhile, I was watching from the woods, waiting for the right time to strike. After some time, our troops started an organized retreat. While luring the enemy towards us. With perfect timing, I order the archers to shoot and I led the men towards the center of the battle. The bandits managed to resist our attack, like they were expecting a move like that. But I managed to flank them, forcing them to fight at both fronts. Although something seemed off. The bandits were not desperate. Although they were losing this fight. Suddenly, I heard it. Horses were approaching. Fast. I looked at Fendrel.
Delinard to the Rescue
“Brace yourselves!” he shouted to the men. It was too late.
The cavalry charge was devastating and created chaos amidst the soldiers’ ranks. Fendrel fell unconscious on the ground, Oliver took a blow to his arm, Merek a spear to his throat… I was hit by a horse and thrown away several meters away. My body was full of cuts and bruises and my head was pounding. Little later I realized I was bleeding just above my eye. I looked around. Klargus, with a sword covered in blood, was barking orders at my unit, trying to keep them together. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I grabbed a piece of metal on the ground and turned to stab the one who I was thinking to be my enemy, but as I turned, I saw Delinard.
“Are you alright lad?” he shouted at me, trying to overcome the noise of the battle.
I nodded. Then I cut a piece of my cloth and bandaged the wound, that prevented me from seeing.
“What’s your status?” I asked Delinard.
“My men are holding with Klargus in command. Half of the bandits are dead or injured”.
“Alright then… Let’s end these motherfuckers” I answered and pulled out my sword.
The rest of the battle was brutal. Too much blood. The ground was soaked from it. Not only that, the sky began to rain. By the time the battle was over, we were looking like beasts from hell, all covered in blood and mud. Many injured, gasping for air, begging for help. A lot of men were throwing up, as this was their first battle. Delinard – as every good general – was beside them, trying to comfort them.
“Let it go, son. It is the fear leaving you. Let it go”.
I was sitting with Oliver, beside Fendrel who was still unconscious, but still breathing. Although Oliver is kind of a mad man, he was dead serious, thinking without saying everything. That is the price to pay for the good in this world. Sacrifice is necessary for goodness to prevail.
“You are a good man, with your heart in the right place and a fine soldier. I definitely could use someone with your skill set in my service, and in the service of the empire”.
We buried the dead in the morning. By noon, the bandit chief and his underdogs had surrendered their weapons to us. We returned to the village victorious. But we paid this victory at a great cost. At least thirty men were dead, with other being injured or maimed. No one cheered for us. But I could see the gratitude in the face of the villagers. We did a good thing with helping them. At the end of the day, as everyone departed to his destination, Delinard approached me.
I looked at Fendrel and Oliver. Fendrel had recovered from yesterday’s battle, but he was using a spear to be able to walk. He nodded with agreement. Oliver raised his shoulders.
“We go where you go captain” he said.
“Well, my lord I cannot see why not”.
The Count of Uxkhal, Delinard, had us stationed at special rooms at their barracks. We were supposed to be mercenaries, not levies of the Swadian Kingdom. I had the right to raise my own men, with the limit of one hundred and fifty, on the condition to feed and equip them. Of course, I was going to take a commission from the king to help me with mine and my men’s needs. This is a new beginning for me. As I was telling to Fendrel, this was very unexpected to me. Four to five months had already passed and my life had been turned upside down. I was wondering what else was about to happen. For now, Uxkhal has been proven a beautiful city, especially by night. The silence helps me think, in moments like now that I write down my notes, my kind of diary. Till next time…