Gerraint found he could see better than he used to in the dark. He imagined it like the dwarf nose and the elf ears. He tried not to let the thought bother him, and turned to Manskin who stood beside him in the dark. He had come up from Bringloren with the complaint that he did not know Gerraint planned to have so much fun toying with the humans. His goblins and the few trolls they brought with them wanted in on the action. Gerraint allowed it on the condition that they be gone by dawn. He let them haunt the Roman line and keep them awake, especially at the end of the lines where the attacks would come. He knew the Romans would be half broken by the time the attack came, and Manskin just kept grinning like the cat who caught the mouse.
Numbknuckles, the dwarf chief, Ringwald and Heurst came up to report that the elves and dwarfs were ready. Gerraint already knew that Lord Birch and young Larchmont had the fee in the trees on the edge of the Vivane, ready to fly to whatever point on the line they might be needed. More effective than reserve cavalry, he thought, and suddenly doubled over from guilt. He despised putting his little ones at risk, even if they were happy to do it. Percival came over when Gerraint moaned. The little ones vanished as Percival expressed his concern.
I’m all right,” Gerraint responded. “I just don’t like the killing part.” He tried to smile. “Twelve thousand years, past and future, and I pray I never get used to it. Now I have a special task to discuss with my two-fifty.” He mounted his horse and rode to his men.
When the sun began to rise, the horsemen came out from behind the line of archers and bunched up a little on the edge of the plains. Clearly, the Romans expected an infantry charge and set themselves to defend the field. Also, clearly, they expected the Celts to be tired after charging across that long field, thus adding to their advantage. A cavalry charge appeared unexpected and the Romans did not know what to make of it.
The knights of the lance came last to the field and formed a perfect arrow head shape. They appeared an incredibly imposing sight, reflecting back the sunrise into the eyes of the Romans. Each Knight sported a symbol on the small flag at the top of their lance, on their shield and on their tunic. Every knight sported a different symbol—no two alike, and Gerraint surmised it would be the only way to tell one from another. The Knights did not wait for the horsemen to fill the space. Gerraint and Percival barely got to shout. “For Arthur!” and hear it echoed by Arthur’s men before they started at a brisk walk.
A third of the way across the field, and the knights stepped it up to a brisk trot. Two thirds of the way across, they began the charge and every lance came down in unison. The Romans did not like it one bit, disciplined or not, and the whole center of the Roman lines on both sides broke and ran. The knights and their fifteen hundred followers did not make nearly the noise at impact Gerraint expected. He looked for a thunderclap, but the sound did not overwhelm the sound of running, screaming Romans.
When the horsemen broke through, they divided well enough. The RDF set ahead of time which men would go which way, and they divided fairly evenly, taking their lances as close to the front as they could. Arthur’s men went left to support Arthur. Hoel’s men went right for Hoel. Both Arthur’s and Hoel’s foot men charged the flanks. It came late according to the plan, but Gerraint imagined they were in awe of the cavalry charge and probably did not think to move sooner. It hardly mattered. The flanks quickly fell apart, especially when the horsemen charged from their rear, and that left only one way for the Romans to run, across the field and up the rise toward the waiting bowmen.
Some of those Romans did make it to the line of archers, but they were so beaten and tired, they put up little fight, all except one man and his followers. The man had to be seven feet tall and looked broad in the shoulders besides. He swept Arthur’s and Hoel’s men aside with a sword altogether too big. It looked like he and his followers might make it to the shelter of the forest and escape, but an eight-foot ogre came bounding out of the trees. He tore the man’s sword out of his hand, along with his hand, and hit the big man on the head with his fist, crumpling the man’s helmet and the top of his skull as well. Then he knocked the man down and stomped on him until he became mush. A number of Arthur’s and Hoel’s men ran on sight of the beast, but some had the good sense to cheer and renew their efforts. At that same time, young Larchmont and his fairy troop arrived, assumed their big forms, and shot every Roman in the area, so in the end, none escaped.
Gerraint knew none of this. He held his two-fifty back from the fray and watched the knights of the lance. The Roman cavalry had not moved, like men stunned to stillness, and the knights of the lance took advantage of the moment to form four long lines. They charged the Romans, and Gerraint caught a whiff of divine wrath in their charge. The Romans fled with all speed, and did not stop at the Frankish border. Gerraint noticed the Franks brought up a small army, no doubt to watch and critique the battle, and he knew the Roman cavalry would not last long.
Gerraint turned his eyes to the camp and auxiliaries. Claudus was there in his chariot, a fine Roman affectation, but useless on the modern battlefield. He looked busy arming and rallying his auxiliaries to charge the back of Hoel’s horsemen. All those cooks and teamsters were slow to get organized, but Claudus had some Visigoths in his auxiliaries, and it began to look like Claudus might bring a credible force to bear. Claudus watched his army be destroyed. For him, it seemed an unparalleled disaster.
Gerraint turned and got his two hundred and fifty lancers ready to charge, but the knights of the lance got there first. They slammed into the auxiliaries, cracked shields, knocked men down made men run in absolute panic. They tore up tents, knocked over wagons and threw everything into such disarray and confusion it would be impossible for Claudus to mount a charge. Gerraint watched the knights pop out the other side of the camp and disappear, going back to Avalon from whence they came. Gerraint also noticed that the knights killed no one. They had not killed the Roman cavalry. They just drove the enemy into waiting Frankish hands. In fact, Gerraint doubted they killed anyone in the initial charge. They likely went through them like ghosts, the way they stood on men and tents that the men never noticed the afternoon before.
Gerraint turned to his men and said, “We must fight our own battles.” Then he turned toward the Roman camp and yelled, “For Arthur!” They charged on the echo from the men.
Two hundred and fifty men against roughly three thousand auxiliaries did not make good odds, even if the auxiliaries were not the best soldiers. Fortunately, Lancelot saw and pulled a great horn from his belt. He let out a blast which got Bohort’s attention, and he charged, Bohort and roughly three hundred men and half of the RDF on his heels.
They fought, faced plenty of resistance, but soon enough the auxiliaries surrendered in droves. It may be because many of them saw Claudus’ chariot dancing around the battlefield with Claudus shot full of arrows. Surrender was accepted. And in fact, by then, Romans were surrendering and pleading for mercy all over the field.