The Scythians knew their business. They made a line several men thick and swept from left to right across the face of the defenders, firing arrow after arrow at anything and everything. When they reached the far end of the wall the town erected, having ridden outside the trenches and pikes set out against cavalry, the Scythians turned away to circle around and get in line for another go. Roman, Celtic and Elf archers all returned fire when they could, but they mostly had to keep their heads down because the Scythians were very good at this tactic.
The Dacians and the Roxolani on the ends became the first to attack. The other outsiders followed them and then several thousand Scythians joined them in the center while their fellow Scythians continued to send wave after wave of arrows over their heads and into the Roman and Celtic lines.
The Romans built well, as always. The enemy could not bring their horses up through the pikes and ditches to impact the fight. They had to dismount and charge on foot, a great disadvantage for horsemen forced to charge uphill. The Romans in particular had the height and the skill, training and equipment to hold the line at all costs. The fighting became intense in several places, but it did not last long.
When the Scythians started to withdraw, the Celts could not contain themselves. They followed the retreating enemy with a charge of their own, so the Celtic Auxiliary units, which contained most of the Celtic horsemen, felt obliged to back them up. Then the Roman cavalry wanted some of that action. Then several cohorts of the legion followed, and the orderly retreat of the Scythians turned into a route.
When the Scythians reached their hill, they thought to turn and drive the Celts and Romans back, but they found a surprise waiting for them. Thousands of Goths and Slavs had come up in the early morning, just itching for a fight. The rout of the Scythians turned into a slaughter, and the Scythian line busted in two, with some fleeing to the Lazyges and others fleeing to the Roxolani.
“Bring them back,” the Princess said. She stood on the battlement beside Darius, Cecil and the others. “We don’t have the men to hold the center. We are spread too thin to hold the town.”
“Alesander.” Darius shouted. “Sound the recall.” Alesander did that, and trumpets blared out across the field in the late morning. Cecil agreed and signaled his men to sound the drums. The Romans returned in order, and the Celts in disorder, but they returned, and the Goths and Slavs followed them at a safe distance.
The Princess went away. Greta returned and gave Darius a great big kiss. Then she asked for his help down from the battlements. He asked, “Where are we going?”
“To introduce you to Olaf and Venislav. Then you need to figure out how to fit a bunch of berserker Goths and barbaric Slavs into the line of defense.”
“Thanks a lot,” Darius said, but Greta already turned to the next thought.
“Redbeard.” She spoke in her normal voice, at normal volume, but she knew the dwarf, a half mile away, would hear her. “Get your men back here.” The dwarfs were searching for surviving Scythians in order to finish the job, an act of mercy, they said.
The afternoon started quiet enough. Darius, Alesander, Hadrianus, Olaf, Venislav and Cecil, a most odd command group, discussed a serious strike on the Roxolani wing where the large number of diverse tribes might make it hard for them to work together in a coordinated defense.
“We are pretty diverse,” Hadrianus pointed out.
“But we work together with you Romans pretty good,” Venislav nudged the Goth. “Do you think my friend Olaf?”
“I like the idea of a quick attack, but I am not sure about pulling back again,” Olaf said, ignoring Venislav.
“Like a sortie from a city wall,” Darius explained.
“A feint,” Alesander said further. “The object is to draw them into the hollow where two thousand archers are waiting. The elves and fairies rarely miss, and we use our strengths and turn their numbers and many tribes stumbling over each other against them.”
The sound of laughter interrupted the meeting. Greta, Mavis, Berry and Briana were sitting in chairs not far away. Venislav stepped up to Alesander and named them.
“Mother Greta, her elf maid, the beauty of the land and your woman?”
Alesander nodded. “Just as soon as her father gives his blessing,” he said.
Cecil frowned. “I’m still thinking about it.”
Olaf got it and let out a loud guffaw. He slapped Cecil on the back and guffawed again. “I think maybe we do this feint. My father taught me to never trust the Romans, but this time we fight on the same side, eh, Venislav.”
“From what I see, I think fighting on the same side is better than fighting on the against side.”
Naturally, things did not exactly go as planned. To prevent incidents of what Greta called friendly fire, Darius assigned the Romans, Celts, Goths and Slavs four different points in the enemy camp so they attacked four different tribes. When the recall got sounded, the Romans were disciplined, and the Goths and Celts responded well enough, especially the Celts who were mostly auxiliary troops, but the Slavs took their time. Their enemy tribe collapsed and ran right into a fifth tribe, and it looked for a bit like the Slavs might end up routing the whole enemy field, but the Roxolani stood firm, and when the Slavs rode back as fast as they could, they had a host of people chasing them, and the Slavs appeared to be laughing and whooping and having a great time.
The Slavs rode right through several large groups of men who were already pinned down in the archery area. By luck and hastily shouted orders, only three Slavs got hit, and none fatally. When the big group of men that were chasing them arrived, they took the men already there for the enemy and as hoped, Mithrites killed Mithrites. The archers simply had to keep them penned in. To be sure, it did not take long for the enemy to figure it out and hastily retreat from the hollow, but by then, the enemy dead outnumbered the allies by three to one, at least according to the fairies that flew over the enemy camps.
Everyone shouted for joy until Bogus put a damper on the celebration. “We need to do that every time, since they outnumber us three to one.” The numbering was actually closer to two to one, but the point got made and the men sobered.
All this while, Greta and her friends watched the Scythians move warily back up on the center hill across the valley. The Ladies Oreona and Goldenrod got chairs and joined the group and they were invaluable in describing what happened on that far hill; Goldenrod in particular with her fairy eyes. There were arguments down in the Lazyges and Dacian camp. The Roxolani, Capri and Costoboci still licked their wounds and were in no condition to mount an offensive. And the Scythian burned their dead. Greta concluded.
“It’s about two o’clock. Plenty of sunlight left, but I doubt there will be another attack today.”
“We do seem to have put them off their intentions,” Father said as he walked up and kindly acknowledged all the women, human and non-human alike. “Bragi and Drakka have already sent the local men home for the night, to come back to position before dawn.”
“Fair enough,” Lady Oreona said. “Our enemies were decidedly unsuccessful today. With any luck, some of the tribes may rethink this whole enterprise in the night and begin to pull back by morning.”
“Once the sun sets, I am sure Ulladon and her people can handle the night watch just fine,” Briana said.
“The Romans can take the afternoon well enough,” Mavis agreed.
“Wait a minute. What is that?” Berry saw something and pointed.
“I was wondering myself,” Goldenrod said.
A flash of light, and Rhiannon arrived, and Karina and Padme in her arms arrived with the goddess. Padme shrieked and giggled and clapped her hands at disappearing from one place and instantly reappearing somewhere else. Karina looked a bit disoriented, but Rhiannon spoke.
“Sarmatians. Their horses and men are armored and they have big lances meant to crack the Roman phalanx. Another ten thousand, as you say.”
“Fudge,” Greta said, and she really said fudge. “And we’ve come such a long way already.”
The SunRunner shows himself, and some Wolv… Until Monday, Happy Reading.