M4 Gerraint: The Frankish Peace, part 2 of 4

“Larchmont!”  Gerraint called.  “Birch!”  The two fairy Lords appeared, because they had to, but they came disguised as hunters so the other men present might not flinch too badly.  “What resources do we have?”

“The usual,” Birch said.  “Not too many spooks, the soil being what it is.”  By spooks, Birch meant goblins, trolls and the like who lived underground and avoided the sun.  The granite and thick, sandy soil of Amorica did not lend itself to underground living.

“How about in the Banner, er, the Bringloren?”

“There are some.  What do you have in mind?”

Gerraint outlined his ideas and ended with, “Of course, Arthur may adjust things when he gets here, but this is the plan for now.  As for me, I am going to spend the next three days in prayer that this plan might actually work.”

It took a week to get everything set, but that was because the signal stayed in the hands of the Franks.  DeGuise got his men to the hill called Bain Rock.  When ready, he was supposed to light a smudge fire on the rock, one with lots of smoke that could be seen for miles.  That would be the signal for the Franks, and also for the British and Amorican soldiers.  But then it rained for three days and remained overcast on the fourth day.  Gerraint spent the time wondering how badly deGuise cursed the initiative of the young Lord who attacked the port.  If he tried to do an end run and surprise the Amorican army, that move ruined that option.  DeGuise, no doubt, feared that enough delay would allow Arthur to unpack and join the fray.  Gerraint wondered how badly deGuise cursed the weather over those four days.

Gerraint also wondered how much those days put deGuise’s men on edge.  They were behind enemy lines and every day increased the danger of being found.   Plus, Gerraint had some special things he activated just for the Franks.  There were bumps in the night, strange noises, lights, always in the distance, and men who ventured too far from the camp always disappeared.  DeGuise shortly stopped sending out scouts.

Meanwhile, Lancelot’s men abandoned the center without making it a show.  Gerraint had goblins with fires in the night and elves in the day, so from a distance it would look like the army still camped there.  In fact, while the northern half gathered by the lake and the old burned down fort that Arthur built, the southern half gathered just above an old, Roman style house where the occupants still spoke Latin and went daily to mass.

The battle would be on Margueritte’s farmland, a mere hundred and fifty-eight years before Margueritte got born.  In that place, the old Roman improved road came from Paris and cut through the Vivane forest on its way to the point end of the peninsula where Bohort had his residence.

Bohort came out from his capital and brought an additional five hundred horsemen, his version of the RDF, which Gerraint saw as his personal guard.  He kept them, and Lancelot’s horsemen, about fifteen hundred altogether, up the road, ready to ride to battle on the signal.  Lancelot himself had the fifteen hundred-foot soldiers north of the Roman house, about an hour’s march below the expected battle.  Lionel had the other fifteen hundred Bretons, as they called themselves, up by the lake, well hidden in the woods.  Arthur’s footmen, a final fifteen hundred, settled in behind deGuise and prepared to follow them through the woods to the battle.  Arthur himself, with Gerraint had the rest of Arthur’s men, about twelve hundred horsemen, by Arthur’s fort, on the road that came down from the port town.

The trap was set, now all they needed was clear weather.  It came, by Gerraint’s count, on the fifth day.  The sun topped the eastern horizon and there did not appear to be a cloud left in the sky.  The heavy smoke that went into the sky from Bain Rock became easily visible from the field.

The Frankish commander, a man named Charles, moved his men sooner than Gerraint expected.  He imagined the man would wait a couple of hours to be sure deGuise got in position, but he did not.  He had three thousand men on horse and two thousand on foot, which Arthur pointed out was a great investment in horse flesh for the Franks.  The time was coming when the only men who could afford to fight from horseback would be the Knights and Lords who had the means to keep riding horses.  Soon enough, armies would again be a preponderance of foot soldiers.  But these Franks were still coming out of their Hun influenced Germanic roots where tribes bred horses and some young men were raised on them.  They were only, slowly becoming a nation of farmers and Lords.

Charles brought his men up the road and spread them out to charge.  The horses thundered, right up to the edge of the forest, but they found campfires burning, tents set in order, all the signs of a military camp except men or weapons.  Arrows came from the woods, shot with deadly accuracy, but only one or two hundred.  Charles quickly backed his horsemen out of range.

“Bring up the footmen,” he yelled, and he sent them into the forest, knowing horses were no advantage among the trees.  Then Charles and his sub commanders conferred about what to do.  Some probably wanted to go ahead and invade down the Roman road as planned, but Charles likely felt concerned about leaving the bulk of the Amorican army at his back.  No doubt, many said wait until deGuise arrived, and in typical German manner, like the Saxons and Angles in Britain, the argument went on for some time.

Gerraint, of course, knew none of this.  All he could do was speculate, worry and pray.  They never had a plan where everyone got so spread out and where a timely arrival felt so crucial.  Even with the smoke fire to start the action, it would be hard to get so many men coming from so many directions, coordinated.

“We need some radios,” Gerraint mumbled.

“This will work.”  Percival leaned over Arthur’s horse to reassure Gerraint.

The look on Arthur’s face said, “Maybe.”

They found Lionel and his footmen moving into place.  Arthur and his men also moved up to be ready to charge, but they had to wait for Bohort to be in position to charge from the other angle.  Their twelve hundred horse against three thousand would not end up pretty.

“Lancelot will be there,” Percival said.  “He is probably already there if I know Lancelot.”

Gerraint nodded, but he became worried about the woods.  The elves and fairy Lords whose arrow fire drew half of the Frankish foot soldiers into the woods worked well enough, but then they were supposed to get out of the way and let Arthur’s men deal with the rest.  Fifteen hundred was probably not enough against deGuise’s thousand horsemen and the thousand footmen in their path.  the other half of the Frankish foot soldiers stayed in the fake British camp and kept low in case there were more arrows from the trees.

What Gerraint did not know was his little ones overstepped their orders, not that he got surprised.  A great mist—a thick fog came up in the woods and confused the Franks on foot as well as deGuise and his men who were leading their horses through the trees, coming from the other direction.  They dared not ride in the fog, and the horses by then were just as spooked as the riders by the noises and lights around them, and occasional animal roars that did not really sound quiet like animals.

When the line of horsemen and footmen met in the fog, there were several incidents and several killed before they figured it out.  DeGuise knew they had to get out of the fog and into the open.  He turned the footmen and they began to hurry.  That was a good thing, because, Arthur’s men were keeping back about twenty or thirty feet from the shrinking line of fog.

The instant the Franks began to come from the woods, Lancelot charged from one direction and Lionel charged from the other.  Some Franks tried to stay behind the trees, but they were easily taken by Arthur’s men coming through the woods.  Plenty of Franks died that day, but the most, by far, surrendered, including deGuise.  They no longer had the nerve.

One enterprising young Lord under deGuise managed to gather a hundred horsemen and rode off to help the Frankish cavalry who were being pummeled.  It didn’t help.

As soon as Lancelot’s men crossed the road, Bohort decided he could not wait for the Franks to get organized and up on horseback.  He charged, but since his men were in a line and strung out down the road through the forest, he was slow to impact the Franks.  Arthur, on the other hand, looked only once at Gerraint.  Percival lowered his lance and the men behind them followed suit.  Then Percival and Gerraint shouted, “For Arthur!”

The men responded with a deafening shout, “For Arthur!” and they charged, led by three old men, Arthur at sixty-one, Gerraint at sixty, and Percival, the youngster, at fifty-eight.  Their troops poured from the northwest and hit the Franks when many of the Franks were still on their feet.  They made a crushing blow that busted open the Frankish ranks and made a hole straight through to the other side.  And then, Bohort got at them from the southwest.  His strike, not quite as telling, but by the time he bogged down as the Franks got to horseback, Arthur had turned and came in this time from the southeast.

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