For round 3 at the 1999 Spring Spears tournament my 1358 Medieval French faced Neal Pamandanans Burgundian Ordonnance. Frenchman against Frenchman again. Well, only if you consider Burgundians to be true Frenchmen, that is.
François and the other commanders sat in his pavilion late at night listening to reports. After traveling south into the land of Burgundy they had encountered an army astride their route challenging their right of passage. One spy had just returned from infiltrating their camp.
It was the strangest think I ever saw, my Lord, the spy recounted. I mean, these Burgundians, theyre true Frenchmen, arent they?
As much as any Gascon or Breton is, answered François. Though they dont always support the crown as strongly as Jean and Charles would like.
But, still, theyre Frenchmen, right?
Yes, said François a little irritably. Whats your point?
Their camp sir! It was... orderly! It was nice and neat. No brawling. No drunken groups of knights. And the commanders... they was giving orders.
Its quite usual for commanders to give orders, Bertrand assured him.
But... these orders... they was being obeyed!
Now thats strange, agreed François.
You havent heard the worst of it. Theyve set themselves up in a defensive position!
François eyes furrowed. Their army camped in orderly fashion and preparing to take the defensive. Sounds like witchcraft and magery, eh Bertrand?
The Breton looked worried. Its as if these Burgundians were Frenchmen... with their very soul sucked out of them!
Well, lets give these orderly Burgundians an unpleasant surprise and say a Requiem for them afterwards. Lets attack them at night! Pin them with the main army, then throw in a flank attack. Well crush them in a French vise!
Nou would that be the hurin or the vauntie? Aoibeann asked.
François looked to Childeric for help.
Lechery or vanity, the Alsatian translated with a pained look on his face.
Bertrand actually chuckled. François frowned. Aoibeann gave a sweet smile and batted her long brown Scottish eye lashes. Ahem. Yes. Now, if we could continue, suggested François. Lets review the disposition of the field.
Describing the battlefield is always tricky in text. I will adopt the convention that left and right are always from the point of view of the French. Thus, the French left sector lies opposite the Burgundian left sector.
According to the scouts, Bertrand began, these Burgundians lay to the east along the road the army has been traveling on, behind this large steep hill in front of our camp. Lets call it the big hill for reference. The Burgundian camp is secured by a series of woods running along the central edge of their left sector. These will be called the long woods. The gap between the long woods and the big hill is about five or six companys wide. They have a palisade anchored on the long woods covering the rear left quarter of their central sector. No doubt their baggage camp will be there. There are two other steep, small hills, but they are in the right fore corner of our right sector and the rear right corner of the Burgundians right sector and dont figure to enter into the battle. Finally, there is a small woods, well refer to it as the small woods...
Very imaginative, commented François.
Bertrand glared at him as he continued, The small woods lie in between the three hills. No doubt it will be packed with Burgundian ambushers.
All right, said François, too many hills for my taste, but heres the plan: Well attack before dawn. Ill take the pavisiers and use them to cover the gap between the long woods and the big hill. Then Ill take the knights along the road and deploy on the far side of the hill. Now, dont start giving me the Look, Bertrand. They really dont have many light troops to contest us in the hills. Once over the top the knights can pursue targets of opportunity. If their knights are tied up then we can dismount and slice up those bowmen the other scouts told us about.
The Breton was frowning. I just dont like your track record in hills, boy.
François ignored him and continued on. Childeric, take your battle and attack the gap on the right between the large hill and small woods. Be sure to scout those woods first. Aoibeann, flank march to the Burgundian right sector and come in on the far side of the small woods. I hope to overwhelm that side of the field and avoid their fortifications.
With that they departed for a short nights repose followed by the unenviable task of rousing the French troops before dawn.
François sat astride Monfiche waiting to give the order for the column of mounted knights to advance in the darkness before dawn that only an overcast sky can give. As he waited a man came up to his side. Excuse me, the man said, but something really must be done about those brigans! François could barely make the man out even though he was standing just below him. He seemed to be about middling height with dark hair. Although, in this darkness, everyone seemed to be of middling height with dark hair. The man pointed off into the night. Do you see those men? Just look at the color scheme of their clothes! François assumed he was pointing towards Childerics battle which had the brigans assigned to them. It was least an hour before François would be able to see anything other than shades of grey and here this man was shouting: Just look at how those colors clash!
Theyre just brigans. Who cares how theyre dressed? François asked.
And the archers! You see those companies of archers back there? He gestured off again into the darkness. François looked where he was pointing but his vision ended at about the mans wrist. Some are dressed in a motif I can only describe as dysentery brown. The rest are reminiscent of something akin to stomach flu mauve. At least you could organize the same colors into the same companies to achieve some initial semblance of...
Theyre only the archers, François assured him. Nobody could care less about them...
And I havent even begun to comment on the peasant levy. Some of their leggings dont even attempt to coordinate with their tunics...
François had had just about enough of this. Theyre just the God-forsaken peasant levy. The less seen they are the better it is in the first place! Who the hell cares what they look like?!
The man drew himself to full height, which François marginally improving night vision guessed to be about five foot six, topped off with dark brown hair on a face that François considered not unpleasant looking and carrying a short beard and mustache. I care, the man said with great indignation.
And who are you?
I am... But his answer was cut short when two men wearing white surcoats hurried up towards them, sweeping up on both sides of the man and grabbing him by his arms. Hah! Got you! said one.
Excuse me, said François, addressing one of the white surcoats, but who is this man?
Hes the royal exterior decorator my lord, said the surcoat. The other surcoat looked around as if to make sure that no one else was listening, then sidled up to François. Before he could say anything François held up his hand and said, Wait, dont tell me. You suspect hes gone quite mad.
The first surcoat looked at him in surprise. Why, yes! How did you know that?
Well... a commander must know these sorts of things, François ad-libbed. The surcoats looked at him in wonder. And he probably looks nothing at all like the royal burnisher or the royal insignia painter, is that correct?
Thats right, the other surcoat replied quizzically. But why do you ask?
Just making sure, François replied. He certainly seems to have good vision, I must say.
The first surcoat rolled his eyes. The royal exterior decorator sees things that no other man can see, he explained.
Well, I expect its time to take him back to his padded tent now, isnt it?
Why... yes my lord, the first surcoat confirmed in an awed voice beginning to be tinged with just the slightest amount of fear. The surcoats started escorting the royal exterior decorator back to camp. How did he know about the padded tent? whispered the other surcoat. The first just shrugged his shoulders as the berating voice of the royal exterior decorator complaining: You call that hideous color white? Just look at how it contrasts awfully with the mud on your boots! Thats a warm shade of mud and youre wearing a cool shade of white! Didnt your mother teach you the first thing about colors?... faded into the distance.
François looked at Bertrand who said, King Jean did keep a lot of strange people at court. I guess some of them are still around.
Before François could reply, the sound of hooves heralded the arrival of a messenger. The far side of the hill has been scouted Lord Fargniers and has been found to be clear, the messenger reported after riding up next to them.
Excellent. Well, we can get this column of knights going now and... François sensed rather than actually saw the Look. What? squawked François at Bertrand. You cant deny the importance of scouting your forward position, can you?
Yes, boy, but there were never going to be any ambushers on the far side of that hill.
Its in the center of the battlefield, boy. Use your sense. Its inconceivable that ambushers would be in the center of a battle!
Well, I conceiv...
Listen to me, boy! There are never, and I repeat, never going to be ambushers in the central sector of a battlefield.
François foolishly pressed on. But I distinctly remember reading accounts of battles where...
Old wives tales! Senseless drivel written by those who were never there and dont know any better! Are you going to question my experience, boy?
Good! Now, lets not have any more of this ridiculous talk about ambushers in the middle of the battle. So, are we going to just sit here after getting up so early or are we going to deliver that wake-up call to the Burgundians, boy?
Chagrined, François gave the signal to advance and the column moved out along the road into the darkness beyond.
As the knights of the left battle moved along the road, those of the center battle under Childeric made their way cautiously forward as brigans and skirmishers advanced quickly to scout the small woods. Three companies of Bretons closely supported by crossbowmen entered the woods. They were soon met by Burgundian hand-gunners, but these were not numerous. The javelinmen attacked, protected by their shields and with crossbow bolts speeding past them into the ranks of the hand-gunners. The Burgundians dissolved, one company disordered beyond rallying and the other retreating deeper into the woods. But the joy of the French was short lived as rank after rank of Burgundian bowmen, some stiffened by pikemen in their front ranks, exited the Burgundian camped, marched forward and began hunting skirmishers. Those that had scouted the big hill now took heavy losses, the survivors beating a hasty retreat out of range. Those in the small woods where subjected to a murderous fire but miraculously all their companies were able to maintain their cohesion. They may be having fun now, remarked one Breton leader grimly, but just wait until Lord des Vosges men have at them. The other skirmishers looked down the battlefield and saw the knights in his battle dismounting and starting towards the Burgundians with a glint in their eye.
As dawns first light brushed away the darkness upon the battlefield the combatants heard the cry of The-keek o days a guid day fer tae fecht! as Aoibeanns battle rode onto the field line abreast from the right. They were met by an equal number of Burgundian knights and they fell to battle. The superior elan of the French soon made itself felt as a unit of Burgundians fell beneath their hooves, but Aoibeann had failed to properly secure her left flank, concentrating all her skirmishers on the right. This allowed the now forgotten company of Burgundian hand-gunners to exit the small woods and fall upon the flanks of some French knights as they were being assaulted and subsequently broken by their Burgundian opponents. Bertrand will lat at me fer that! Aoibeann rued, but the right flank enjoyed a similar advantage as the skirmishers flanked the Burgundians placing them in imminent peril. It would only be a matter of time before the Burgundians broke before the onslaught of the French.
In the central battle, Childeric was contemplating the subject of tactical missions. Currently he had decided that the tactical mission of some brigans that had stopped short of the small woods was to avoid becoming Burgundian bow bait. Wasting precious initiative, he organized them into column and marched them double-time out of bowshot. That accomplished, he fell to organizing the charge of his dismounted knights against the Burgundian bows. The command was already quite disorganized as most of the units had started advancing towards them out of formation. Not that Childeric minded too much. Once they reached the bows the slaughter would begin. Then he heard cries of Knights! knights! Aoibeanns flank attack had tied up most of the Burgundian knights, but a single free company now charged upon the field down towards the dismounted French. Displaying the great coolness and clear thinking under pressure that he was known for [and that a 6 on your pip dice can give you], Childeric calmly ordered two companies into deep formation to absorb the charge of the Burgundians, then ordered his company up in support to lengthen the lines such that they overlapped the knights when they soon charged in. Moments later it was over as the Burgundian charge was absorbed, then crushed by the overwhelming numbers of the French. Hah, what is there to fear from these Burgundian knights? laughed one cocky Frenchman. Lets go slice up those bows now! and they started down the field eagerly for the Burgundian bowmen.
A lightly armed Breton looked cautiously at the forest in front of him. So, youre sure that nobodys in there? he asked his compatriot standing by his side.
Positive. The C-in-C guaranteed it, assured the other. Said something like its inconceivable that the Burgundians have any more units that we havent accounted for.
Well, all right. But it gives me the spooks. I just wish we had a few more friends around to back us up. Why did Lord Fargniers detail only one company for extreme flank guard duty?
Dont worry. Theres nothing but quail and partridges in there. Go on, dont be such a sissy.
Well... if you say so.
As the Breton touched a foot inside the domain of the woods, the leaves on branches around him exploded into green mist as the concentrated fire of ten thousand Burgundian hand-gunner sprayed bullets all around them. Well, it was actually somewhat less than ten thousand, but our Breton friends did not elect to stay for an accurate head count. Instead, they chose to perform an immediate about face closely followed by a 1000 yard sprint. The sum total of the pavisiers flank guard thus disposed of, the woods emitted a half dozen companies of hand-gunners and bladesmen who fell impetuously onto the pavisiers. A frater who had accompanied the French spearmen started saying Last Rites while the pavisiers began the thankless task of attempting to delay their inevitable dismemberment.
Excuse me! Coming through, coming through!
Have you seen which way my company went?
Are you attacking this company? Theres another over there? Thanks very much.
Can we pass through? Oh, already fighting to your front? Sorry.
Hey! Its priority to the right! No, not that right, your other right!
Could you have the courtesy to not retreat seeing as how we are standing back to back? Thanks oh so very much.
In the utter confusion and bedlam surrounding François, he realized that the attack his knights were executing was not going to increase Bertrands opinion regarding his capabilities in hills. The knights had all dismounted in column, and then pretty much been let loose to attack the closest Burgundian company. The result had been a complete traffic jam. Many Burgundians had deployed to meet the French at the bottom of the hill while most of the French were still in the hills, and the result was not pretty. Knights from different companies had literally been fighting back to shoulder, but so far utter disaster had been avoided. The French might even eventually push back the Burgundians enough to have enough maneuvering room to operate effectively, at which point the flower of French chivalry should be able to win the day. Still, he expected a tongue-lashing from Bertrand when it was all over. I hate hills, François growled as he bent once more to the task of directing traffic.
Message for you sir! A page boy handed a piece of paper to him.
François read it: When are pavisiers like the laundry? it read. What the... François started, looked back at the boy.
Ha, ha, ha! laughed the old man. When they are left hung out to dry!
François crushed the paper in his gauntlets. What is the meaning of this, old man!?
Well, it means the broken feeling that will soon sweep over your command will have been caused by your failure to take to heart the importance of mutual support. And you had done so well last battle to correct that failure in your first.
We may lose that skirmish, old man, but the French will win the day yet!
That may be, but alas, we shall never know.
And why not?
It is time for, what do they call it? A do-over.
Then the old man waved his hands and the scene before François faded from consciousness.