Friday, May 11, 2012

Notebook: The Battle of Brennoc

While not truly a story, this is something I've been working on. It's something that would probably fit in the appendices of a book. Honestly, I end up writing a lot of this kind of stuff. At this point, my appendices are longer than the actual novel. This particular piece details an important event in the recent history of a novel I've been working on. While this battle is not actually ever visited in the novel, it is mentioned and is crucial in the shaping of many of my characters. So, if you're into this kind of stuff as much as I am, enjoy!

The Battle of Brennoc 
Juvony 1236

After wintering in Pellanmere, Emperor Lucius Arcturus set out with his armies, resuming his Northern conquest. He crossed into the kingdom of Salianburg, into the Duchy of Merovech, with three armies. Lucius led the main force, numbering 50,000 men, while Titus Tullius commanded the vanguard of 30,000 and Gaius Vitellus had the rearguard of 20,000.

The Duke of Merovech, Guy di Lancastre, abandoned his castle at Merovar and united his force with the king’s army encamped at Salianburg. For a week, the imperial armies remained at Merovar, pillaging the surrounding countryside while Lucius treated with those surrounding Salish counts that had not accompanied the duke south to submit to imperial power. Those that defied the Golden Throne were crucified atop the ramparts of their own castles.

Lucius split his forces: Vitellus took his battalions south to do battle with the main Salish army, while Tullius continued east towards the Duchy of Vermainz. His march was slow, made up of many short sieges of Salish castles that mostly ended with the count’s capitulation. The emperor turned northward, crossing the Alagondar River and invading Osternmark. All three imperial armies were built around the Lantaean military doctrine: a core of highly-trained pikemen, light infantry, archers, and cavalry working in tandem to dominate the battlefield. Lucius also had a cohort of the X Legion under Prefect Marius, which fought as heavy horse.

At Lichemark, the Duke Merovech ambushed Vitellus’ column, falling upon the imperial army before it could form battle ranks. Gaius Vitellus was killed and the surviving battalions withdrew from Salianburg. In the east, the Duke of Vermainz, Philippe Jordan, met Tullius and fought him to a bloody standstill at the town of Augsburg. Tullius fell back to Merovar, rallying the remnants of Vitellus’ army.

The emperor received the news of his generals’ defeats, as well as the heads of the 2,000 imperial soldiers captured at Augsburg. Enraged, he marched for the Ostian capital of Meridia, hoping to quickly conclude his conquest of Osternmark. So swift was the emperor’s march that King Richard Aquila did not have the time to muster his full strength.

Despite this, King Richard left the walls of Meridia to fight Lucius in open battle. He was eager to match the Salish’s success, and the emperor was more than willing to oblige his keenness for battle. At the Battle of Meridia, Lucius fielded the troops provided by the Salish counts that had pledged their loyalty to him. King Richard scattered the reluctant Salish levies with his knights, then ordered his infantry to engage the Lantaean pikes. The ensuing battle was a massacre when Ostian men-at-arms came to terms with the implacable pike squares of the Holy Imperial Army.

King Richard’s barons advised him to withdraw and the king abandoned the city to Lucius and his infantry to slaughter. He retreated east, gathering the remainder of his vassals to him until he reached Brennoc, whereupon he dispatched riders to his erstwhile foe, King Tancred of Eaddanwold, and to the Duke Vermainz, who remained camped at Augsburg.

In the west, Tullius, reinforced by fresh regiments from Pellanmere, pressed the Duke Merovech hard, advancing inexorably for the capital. King Francis ordered the duke to withdraw and defend the city. Tullius surrounded Salianburg and sent word for an imperial fleet to blockade the harbor. Without supplies coming in by sea, the city would fall quickly.

Invoking the treaty of the Great Alliance, signed at Valtengrad not long after the fall of Pellanmere, King Richard met with his sworn foe, King Tancred Thorgenson of Eaddanwold. The Duke Vermainz also attended and proposed that the two kings wait for word from King Karlomann of Valtengrad and King Viktor of Visangoth. But the Ostian and Eaddic kings refused to wait, believing that their combined armies would be able to defeat Lucius in open battle. However, they could not agree upon who would have the supreme command and, after the quarrel, camped separately near Brennoc.

At Meridia, Lucius consolidated his hold over Osternmark. Throughout the month of Maen, he dispatched battalions across the western half of the kingdom, demanding the Ostian counties to submit to imperial authority or face total annihilation. With the exception of Lord Eckhard von Hoch, the Baron of Durheim, who led a tenacious rebellion from the Darkenreath Forest, the Ostian nobility, isolated and estranged from their king, submitted to the Golden Throne. With his army now swollen with Ostian conscripts, the emperor marched for Brennoc, leaving a garrison of two thousand to hold the city.

It was the middle of Juvony when Northern scouts spied the banners of the emperor’s vanguard approaching Brennoc. The two kings chose the flat plain immediately south of the town, where they hoped to use their knights to the fullest. The Ostian forces deployed on the left, made up of feudal levies, mercenaries, and the loyalist counts’ dismounted men-at-arms, while King Richard kept his heavy horse in reserve. The Eaddic army, numbering almost 40,000, fielding the most men for the Northern allies, was positioned in the center. These were the assembled forces of the Eaddic lords, yeomen and serfs as well as professional armsmen and serjeants. King Tancred also kept his knights in reserve. The Duke Vermainz held the right flank, his troops comprising hardened Salish armsmen and dependable pike-armed militia. Unlike the two kings, he dismounted most of his heavy cavalry and positioned them to bolster his lines.

The emperor deployed his pike squares in a long, shallow line, long enough to wrap around the Northern flanks. The Legionary cohort was positioned on the imperial left while his Ostian and Salish conscripts were held on the right. His light infantry, cavalry, and Lothmartian auxilia he kept in reserve. Tiberius Domitius commanded the emperor’s right flank and Quintus Antonius commanded the left, while Emperor Lucius held the center. The Lantaeans’ shallow deployment proved a tempting target for the Northern commanders.

The battle began with skirmishing between the Northern and imperial archers, where the Eaddic yeomen, armed with longbows, gained the advantage. The Lantaean crossbow companies withdrew and King Tancred ordered his infantry to advance.

Lucius did not order his battalions forward to meet the Eaddic foot, but gave orders for Domitius and Antonius to attack. Seeing the imperial right and left’s advance, both the Duke Vermainz and King Richard ordered their infantry to the attack. The clash of arms began at the center where Eaddic men-at-arms came to terms with the imperials’ pikes. While the Lantaean lines were shallow, their squares were thickly packed formations ten wide and ten deep, and their famed Lantaean discipline let them withstand the fierce Northern offensive.

As the Eaddic dead began to pile up, the Salish and the Ostians faced similar results on the left and right flanks. The Northern infantry had neither the arms nor the skill to match the imperial pikemen. Though the Duke Vermainz saw the wisdom in ordering a tactical retreat, King Richard was too stubborn to withdraw. The resulting chaos of the uneven battle lines allowed Antonius to seize the initiative and advance his flank further than Domitius. However, the Salish rallied beneath the duke’s banner and the Lantaean push stalled. On the imperial right flank, Richard’s infantry crumbled under the implacable advance of the Lantaean pikes and the death of Count Gottfried Adler, the commander of the Ostian infantry, resulted in a mass rout.

Lucius immediately exploited the Ostian flank, throwing his scimitar-armed light cavalry against the fleeing Northerners. The bloody slaughter of the Ostian foot shook the morale of the Eaddic infantry still entangled with the imperial center. Lord Cerdic, the Eaddic king’s own nephew, tried to rally his faltering command, but a pike took his horse and he was killed while trapped beneath his own steed. Lucius ordered the center to take the offensive and for a brief moment, while the pike squares reformed for attack maneuvers, there was a weakness in the impenetrable imperial battle line. Responding, Tancred personally led his knights in a full charge down the center, hoping to both crush the Lantaean center and rally his failing infantry.

On the Lantaean left, Prefect Marius brought the Legionary cohort, mounted on their gigantic black destriers, around the Salish flank. The Duke of Vermainz, his own knights dismounted and caught up in the melee, could not respond. The black-armored legionnaires smashed into the Salish lines and the Duke of Vermainz, one of the empire’s most implacable foes, was captured.

The Eaddic charge struck the imperial center like a blast of thunder and the Lantaean pikemen faltered, struggling to reform. Tancred, blood-mad, urged his knights forward, seeing the emperor’s own banners and hoping to capture the Phoenix itself. But Lucius sprung his trap. The pikes on the left and right flanks redeployed, enfolding the Eaddic cavalry completely. Surrounded by the relentless steel points of the Lantaean pikes, Tancred’s assault came to a halt. Against the trapped Northmen, Lucius hurled his Lothmartian auxilia, armed as knights like the Eaddic men they fought. In the clash, Tancred was killed. The emperor’s victory was complete.

Richard, seeing the battle lost, ordered his knights against Domitius and the imperial cavalry, buying himself and his bodyguard a chance to escape. The king of Osternmark escaped the disaster at Brennoc, fleeing northwards and crossing the Aegard River into Valtengrad.

Brennoc, the pinnacle of success of Lantaea’s Northern campaign, signified the closest the Northern Realms came to defeat. When the news of the battle reached King Francis in Salianburg, he seriously considered submitting to the Golden Throne. Only the iron will of the Duke Merovech prevented him from sending the message; the king was detained by his orders and kept in the Tower Solar for his “safety.” But with Salianburg besieged, Osternmark pacified, and Eaddanwold king-less, the North seemed lost, if not for the miraculous Northern victory at Hofstadt.

But that is another tale.

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