The Battle by Schatten
By Owen Trott
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Dawn in some long forgotten place that exists in a long forgotten year - clanking of chain and armor, the clack of wood, and the trampling of cattle hooves on the dirt road heavily packed by generations of their ancestors, resounds throughout the early morning silence. A blast from a trumpet rolls across the countryside like thunder. A roll of the Prussian drums sounding “Call to Arms” slices through the calm. The sounds of concern grow as the peasants muster in the fields to perform their daily duties - the tending of crops and livestock. A deafening silence hangs in the air, caused by the lack of birds chirping.
The first sounds to pierce the silent roar are the whistling of arrows as their rifled fletching causes them to spin. Then within seconds of these comes the ground shaking thunder of thousands of heavy horsemen, riding vanguard five deep. Each battalion hopes to pierce a hole in the opposing line, for their infantry. Hardly the blink of an eye has passed since the ground first shook as the points of the wooden lances crash into steel shields held by the enemy. The splinters sent flying by the impact penetrate the different gaps in the armor. At these noises even the bravest of peasants, who have stayed to return the livestock to their pens, flee for their lives. Running franticly to their homes, some make it, but many more do not, and are swept away by the heavy horse vanguard.
With a charge from the woods, the infantry divisions become engaged in a melee that from afar looks like a stampede. They run toward each other screaming like madmen. Light infantry, militiamen called from their fields, with a few veterans serving as officers form the backbone of the armies. The light infantry who mostly carry clubs, and a wealthy few fails and maces, swing them wildly as though this were a bar room brawl. Disciplined heavy infantry fight in geometric patterns with their swords most evenly matched, neither gaining nor loosing an inch. The heavy infantry swing their long swords into the heater shields of the enemy, causing bone to splinter though the armor and skin has not been split.
Trained archers loose flaming arrows into the fields of wheat. The wheat, though still moist with the dew left by the early morning fog, catches fire, as though it was dry in the sudden downburst of flame. Conscripted crossbowmen try to aim quarrels toward the advancing enemy cavalry; most fail, running from the cavalry as children run from a thunderclap. Catapults crack as they hurl vases of Greek fire into the enemy lines. Trebuchets hurl thousands of pebbles into a deadly storm cloud high above the battlefield.
The few Janissaries and their Spakh masters that have come this far north butcher the arguing Russian divisions. Turkish camels, a feared form of Turkish heavy cavalry mounted on camels generating their nickname, ride hard with their scimitars swinging to the left and right relieving some of the burden of their head, in much the same fashion as a farmer cuts his wheat. The Islamic riders’ camels kick the infantry that stand in their path as their riders scythe down the Russian Strelets in the field.
The promised German regulars, Austrian Roundshiers, Prussian Hospitialiers and Templars even a few of the famed Winged Hussars, strike right through the heart of the battle and to the Janissaries leveling all Muslims that stand in their way. It is now possible to see golden crescents under green feathers striking viciously at the Malta crossed tunics of the Prussian Hospitialiers who have come to help stop the encroaching Jannissarian menace.
The terrible battle rages on until dusk when the sides have had enough for one day. The soldiers retreat from the blood soaked battlefield many crawling over taken by fatigue, exertion, and the horrendous injuries.
The fields of wheat that should have held this year’s supply of grain are flat and burning; orchards, which this morning had been bursting with fruit, are bare and charred. The streams and cattle bonds run red with the spilt blood that has turned the ground to a foul smelling swamp. One can see that here and there a good and brave soul is offering water to the wounded. The sun sets on this terrible scene of carnage as the battlefield becomes bathed in the pale white moonlight; the surviving few use what they can both scavenge and carry to dot the countryside with their flickering red campfires.