A City of Secrets

Part One: Conquest

By: Scott Tylden Moseley

Tobias sighed as he surveyed the plains before him. His original plan had been to besiege the city of Madne then take it when it was weak enough. Unfortunately, somehow, the rulers of the city had discovered his plans and had stationed their army between him and his target.

The opposing army seemed much larger than his, though he assumed it was a tactical optical illusion. He had heard of things of the sort, especially in the deserts of Hir, armies tying branches and other things to the backs of their horses and mules to kick up more dust making their army appear larger than it really was. If they could do that in the deserts, why couldn't there be a way to make a standing army appear larger than it really was? Spreading the men father apart? He thought to himself, Just far enough to make a difference.

As he stood next to his horse a rider approached him. Tobias looked up to see King Anthony ride to his side. "General Tobias, we have been invited to negotiations on the plains, are you ready?" he asked.

Tobias turned and saddled his horse. Sighing heavily, he accepted his helmet from a servant on the ground. Putting it on, he grabbed the reigns of his horse and nodded to the king. "Yes your highness I am ready." He said spurring his horse forward.

Tobias followed the king to the edge of their lines where they met up with the king's body guard. The seven man party galloped forward with the king and Tobias in front. As they left their camp they could see a similar group leave their enemy's camp.

Both parties met in the middle of the plain, King Anthony directly in front of the king of Madne, King Charles. Tobias could see that no one in Charles' party seemed to be taking matters lightly. And why should they be? He thought to himself. Their city and home is under attack. I doubt I would be smiling if that was happening to me.

"What is the meaning of this?" King Charles demanded. "Our relations have been peaceful one with another, until you marched your army into our lands. What is the reason for this?" he demanded again. Tobias raised an eyebrow, which he was glad his helmet hid the majority of his facial expressions. He looked at Anthony who stood tall in his saddle and looked King Charles in his eyes.

"Our reason for coming is that of our current economic and financial state, due to our overwhelming population. Several villages have little food and few people have the means to provide for themselves and their families. We have tried to create jobs and grow food by farming and herding, but unfortunately these routes were soon exhausted. As we border the sea we could not expand that direction we were forced to choose a more suitable course. Several small towns have been built between here and our capital, though this has hardly proven effective. We did not wish to shed blood at the start. We searched for peaceful solutions, trying to increase trade with neighboring nations. You have declined our trade offers not once, but thrice and on the third time threatening out messengers with their lives and stating that if anyone of my kingdom set foot in your territory they would be slain.

"I do not stand for threats against my people and even in our weakened and almost crippled state we have managed to muster a force to oppose you in your arrogance. If you care to spare the lives of thousands we are willing to negotiate further the peace and trade between our two nations." Anthony responded.

King Charles sat up straight in his saddle and looked from Anthony to Tobias and back to Anthony with a stern face. He looked down and thought for a moment. Briefly he looked at the soldier to his left. He then looked back at Anthony. "Sir," he started "though it is correct that such threats were made, I still don't see how such a brutal reaction will be able to solve the problems you are describing. Crises involving resources cannot be solved through warfare and using more resources to fund and feed your army." He said in a matter of fact tone of voice.

Anthony grinned. "So you agree this bloodshed is unnecessary? Then you will open trade with us then?" he asked.

Charles looked at him sternly, "There will be no trade agreements." He said flatly.

Tobias looked at Anthony who turned his horse and sighed. "Then there shall be bloodshed." He said as he rode off, followed by his body guard. Tobias looked at Charles and his party and shrugged then rode away.

As he was riding he heard Charles shout after him, "We will fight at dawn!" Tobias looked back for a short moment to see them leave.

As Anthony arrived in his camp he turned and waited for Tobias. "Tobias, a quick word with you in my tent if you please?" he said

"Yes sir!" Tobias replied. As the king rode off Tobias shouted for a sergeant. As one ran to his side Tobias said, "Sergeant, call all officers to my tent, I'll be there shortly!" The sergeant saluted and ran off. Tobias rode to the king'' tent and dismounted his horse. He walked into the tent to see the king standing at his table overlooking a map equal to the one Tobias had in his tent. Tiny wooden figurines were placed on the map to represent the location and strength of their forces as well as the known forces of the enemy. Tobias knew that the figurines that represented the enemy forces were not accurate in showing their strength, but the positions were correct.

"Tobias, come in, we must talk strategy." Anthony said as Tobias entered. Tobias walked up to the table and observed the information shown there. "By the looks of it we are outnumbered by a fair amount. What can we do?" Anthony asked.

Tobias took his helmet off and looked closely at the map. "Well sir, really there is no high ground here. It is a plain from these woods to our back on past the city. The woods give us both advantages and disadvantages. They could mask troop movement; however any movement through them would be extremely slow." He explained pointing at the map.

Anthony thought for a moment. He then inhaled sharply as he had an idea. "How badly would cavalry movement be slowed in the woods?" he asked.

Tobias thought for a moment. "Well obviously the would move faster than infantry, but they would become more disorganized in their march." He replied.

"No matter, they will have sufficient time to reorganize themselves before they charge the enemies flank." He said with a slight grin.

Tobias looked at him confused, "Sir?"

"Yes, yes." Anthony replied pointing to the map, "Our cavalry will slide behind our lines and reorganize here." He said pointing to a spot on the map to their army's right. "From there they will charge in a wedge formation all the way down the enemy line, turning their flank and crippling their army." Anthony finished resolutely.

Tobias studied the map. It seemed reasonable enough. Only one thing bothered him though. "Sir, what of their cavalry? They are likely to open the attack by a cavalry charge masked by archer support, or, at least, if I were them that's how I would start." He said still surveying the map.

Anthony tapped his finger on the table pensively. "How many pike men do we have?" He asked.

"Not enough to line them up in front of all our men to stop a charge like what they may send our way. Though with archer support…" He trailed off then looked at the king. "Sir, if we can find a way to stop their charge before it reaches our lines but keep them in range of our archers, we should be able to break up their advance." Tobias said pointing at the map excitedly.

Anthony thought for a second. "Ok, How do you propose we do that?" he asked.

Tobias sighed. "I don't know, but I'll think about it and report back to you. As of now I need to get to my tent and relay this information to my officers who are waiting for their orders. I will have my idea before dinner tonight."

Anthony thought it over, and then nodded. "Very well." He said. Tobias threw a salute which Anthony returned, and then Tobias left.

As he exited the tent he nearly ran into a sergeant. "Oh!" the sergeant exclaimed in surprise and saluted. "There you are sir! All officers are awaiting you in your tent as ordered sir!" He said.

"Thank you! Let's go!" Tobias replied. As they walked down the rows of tents the sergeant stopped suddenly. Muttering to himself he rubbed his eye. Tobias stopped and looked at him. "What happened?" Tobias asked.

"It is nothing sir, just some dust in my eye." The sergeant replied as he continued to rub his eye.

A thin smile spread across Tobias' lips. "Sergeant, you are a genius!" he said.

"I'm sorry sir?" the sergeant asked, still trying to see.

"I will explain shortly, come with me!" Tobias said running toward his tent.

As he and the sergeant arrived everyone looked up from their suggestions of tactics. Tobias was smiling and the sergeant was still trying to clean out his eye, though he seemed to have fixed the worst part of the problem. "Gentlemen," Tobias began, "We have tactical orders that come from His Majesty himself, as well as other approved plans." He said walking to the table. "To start, Rhodes, you are to take our cavalry behind our lines, through the cover of these woods and reform here." He said pointing to the spot he and the king had agreed on earlier.

Rhodes nodded, though he seemed hesitant. An infantry officer on Rhodes' right raised his hand.

"Yes Stafford?" Tobias asked.

"Sir, I am confused. How is removing our cavalry from the fight going to help? Also, what are we supposed to do about their cavalry?" he asked.

"Both are excellent questions, which I shall explain momentarily. First, Rhodes, once you have arrived here and are organized you will lead the cavalry in a wedge shaped charge all the way down the battlefield, reorganize and charge again. Your primary target is any cavalry, but don't get hung up, keep the charge moving. Is that understood?" Tobias asked.

Rhodes nodded, "Yes sir." He replied

"Good." Tobias continued, "Now, to answer your previous questions, Stafford. Yes we are indeed expecting a cavalry charge, and we are prepared to meet them. Here is what we will do. We will line up our pike men along the front of our lines, behind them will be all our archers. As their cavalry charges, our trebuchets will launch sacks of sand that have been slit to allow the sand to fall free of the bags. This is going to create a giant dust cloud between our armies. As the trebuchets are sending those bags, our archers will be sending constant volleys of arrows, rendering the plains between us a killing field. However their cavalry will already be too involved to retreat. Our archers will inflict up to forty-five percent casualties on them before they even manage to get through that cloud." He said looking around at all of his officers, who were listening intently. "By then, Rhodes, you must be at least organizing yourself, if not ready to charge." Tobias looked at Rhodes who, he could tell, was doing some calculations in his head. Rhodes nodded, Tobias continued. "Our archers and pike men will hold off what cavalry make it through until you and your men can charge, effectively, eliminating the majority of the enemy heavy troops. Is that clear?" he asked. All the officers nodded in agreement.

"Good, now the rest of the battle will be decided as it happens. Plans made too ridged tend to snap. We will take it bit by bit." Tobias said. Everyone muttered in agreement. "Excellent. Gentlemen, ready your men we need to be ready to move on the king's word." Tobias finished. Everyone saluted, and then left his tent, leaving Tobias alone.

As he studied the map he took a deep breath. There was way too much that could go wrong with this plan. He hated to admit it but he was worried. The king, though at times had excellent ideas, more often than necessary got himself into places that he couldn't get out of. Tobias really hoped this was not one of those times, as there were many lives at stake here. He took another deep breath and looked at the map again. From the information there he could see that really this was their only option, unless they were to retreat completely, which he knew he could not do. He mentally prepared himself for the coming battle. Many brave men would fall the following day. He knew that, he just hoped it was worth something. Taking another deep breath he stood tall and put his helmet under his arm. He wasn't sure if there was a god or if there were many of them. The monks preached so many different things he had decided as a young boy just not to worry about it. Now he prayed that there was someone watching and listening and that they would help save them the next morning. He silently finished his prayer then stepped out into the evening to explain his new plan to the king.

The next morning Tobias sat atop his horse overlooking the battlefield in front of him. His men were all organized as he had planned the night before. He watched as the trebuchet crews loaded the slings with sandbags then proceeded to cut large slits in the bags. Once everything was in order on the front, Tobias turned to look at Rhodes. As their eyes met Tobias nodded. Rhodes nodded in return then turned his horse, followed by his sergeants. The sound of galloping horses and clanking armor filled the air as their cavalry entered the woods. Slowly the noise settled as the cavalry moved on. King Anthony rode over to Tobias' side.

"How are the preparations?" Anthony asked.

"They are all going according to plan, sire. Now all we have to do is hope they act as we have planned." Tobias said nodding to their enemy.

"Indeed." Anthony said. As he spoke suddenly they enemy lines broke apart to reveal a massive cavalry charge. "Oh." Anthony said looking at Tobias. "I will let you take charge, general." Anthony said to Tobias.

Tobias nodded and spurred his horse forward a bit. "Hold steady men!" he shouted as he noticed the soldiers at the front were becoming a bit uneasy. He rode to the side of the far left trebuchet where they captain was. After returning a salute Tobias said "On my mark, captain." The captain saluted, turned and started barking orders to his subordinates. Tobias turned to watch the charge coming across the field. Gaging where they would be in range was difficult as the trebuchets were not using solid ammunition. He knew the sand would disperse and the bag would suddenly stop in midair once empty. There was also the range of the archers he had to calculate as well. He studied the field as well as the charge. Finally the enemy cavalry arrived at a point he knew at least his archers could reach effectively. He waved his hand to the captain who in turn shouted for his men to launch the first round.

The counter wait dropped quickly sending the leather sling whipping around sending three bags of sand sailing high overhead. The other three trebuchets followed suit. Twelve bags of sand sailed overhead; each trickling sand through the slits carved in them. The effect was exactly what he wanted. A tan cloud of sand hovered over the field, obscuring the vision of both sides. Tobias was happy that at least this much had gone right. Tobias nodded to the archer captain who began to shout orders as well. The first volley of arrows was away, the shafts dark against the morning sun.

Before the arrows reached their targets the sound of a charge stopped dead in its tracks were clearly audible. Horses neighed and whinnied and their riders shouted both trying to get their animal to move and trying to clean their eyes from the grit that had been thrown at them. A few riders made it through the cloud but not many. Soon the wave of arrows began to meet their targets. Screams of pain could be heard from the cloud of sand.

Tobias looked down to the captain of the trebuchets who had come to tell him that they were ready for another volley. Tobias nodded and the captain spun on his heel. The four trebuchets rocked as the counter weights dropped. More dust and grit was thrown into the air. Following the new sand bags was yet another volley of arrows. Tobias turned to the trebuchet captain. "You may launch when ready!" Tobias told him. The captain nodded then walked back to his trebuchet. Tobias rode to the front lines where the archers stood placing arrows to their bows. The captain saluted as Tobias arrived. "Captain, you are going to need to pick up the pace! I don't care if you use all the arrows these men have! We can find them swords later on! Get more arrows on the field!" Tobias told him. The captain nodded and turned shouting for another volley. As Tobias returned to his position between the trebuchets and the swordsmen he saw something out of the ordinary. As a sandbag flew overhead only a little bit of sand fell from it. The bag slammed full of sand with all force into a rider and horse dropping them both with a crunch. Tobias took his helmet off and rubbed his forehead. Well, that didn't help much. He thought to himself.

He was however pleased at the effectiveness that his archers were having. The cloud of sand did indeed do what it was supposed to. Now all that had to happen was Rhodes arriving and finishing off what he could. His archers had done their job well. He was extremely impressed.

As the dust cleared he could see the damage his archers had done. Instead of forty five percent casualties they had inflicted nearly fifty five percent. The field was now strewn with dead horses and men. Those cavalry who did make it through the killing fields charged Tobias' front lines. The pike men at the front stood ready to meet them. "Hold the line!" Tobias shouted before the first horsemen made it to the line.

The sound of battle and screams of pain rang through the air. The pike men were holding well but they seemed a little weak. Come on… hold! Tobias thought. Just then heard something he had been waiting for.

Rhodes and his cavalry galloped in at full speed from Tobias' right. They formed the wedge like Rhodes had ordered. They cleaned up the remaining cavalry and passed on to the left. "Yes! Thank you, Rhodes! Excellently done!" Tobias shouted as he stood in his stirrups. As Rhodes passed he nodded to Tobias who returned the nod with a huge smile.

As the last of the cavalry passed Tobias saw the plains. Hundreds of foot soldiers marched across the plains towards them. Tobias quickly surveyed the area. The first few ranks of advancing soldiers were light skirmishers. The others behind it were all heavier infantry, armored and well-armed. Tobias looked at his ranks of soldiers before deciding that they were well enough organized to fight. As the enemy advanced Tobias could see that his army really was outnumbered. It now was a contest to see the strength of their will and tactics. Tobias sat up straight in his saddle. It was time to be a bit more serious. As the army drew ever nearer he looked at his and took a deep breath. "Steady boys!" he shouted. This is where the fun begins. He thought to himself drawing his sword. Riding toward the front of his army he continued to watch the enemy army to make sure nothing changed. His men seemed to stiffen and become more resolute as he rode up. They trust me. I cannot break that trust. He thought to himself.

Just as he was about to issue an order the enemy army stopped. He shut his mouth to observe. The enemy army had halted and was just waiting there in the middle of the field. Tobias watched briefly before assessing the situation. Raising his sword he shouted, "Shields!" A clatter or armor and weaponry filled the air. This move saved many soldiers as the following thing that happened was the opposing side had their archers raise their bows and launch their missiles into the air. The whizzing and thudding of the wooden shafts echoed throughout his lines. A few screams of pain could be heard as some shafts met their marks through the armor and the shields.

When the hail of shafts had ended he decided it was time to return the favor. He nodded to the archer captain who nodded back, turned and started barking orders. Soon their archers were ready and aimed. Tobias looked at the captain who looked at him. Tobias looked from the enemy and back to the captain. He suddenly had an idea. He spurred his horse forward to the captain and dismounted. "Captain, we don't have much time but I want an order given to your men. I want the first row to launch their arrows on the first order and then I want another order given so the second row will launch. Is that clear?" Tobias asked. The captain nodded. "Good! On your mark, captain!" Tobias said as he remounted and rode away. The captain began to relay the orders given to him previously. Within the minute the first row of shafts had been loosed. The first volley did exactly what Tobias planned. The enemy infantry had put up their shields to protect themselves. As they sat and waited to make sure the first volley was done the captain ordered the second volley. Tobias grinned to himself as his plan worked perfectly. The enemy had been lulled into a false sense of security. As they lowered their shields they were met with a hail of shafts that had been more effective than their first volley had been. The casualties on their side rose even more.

Tobias saw the sergeants on the opposing sides motioning to move forward. He smirked to himself as he knew that this rendered those men who were marching unprotected. Tobias nodded to the archer captain again, who nodded back.

Another hail of shafts dropped more soldiers to the ground. That's when what Tobias was waiting for happened. The enemy force began their charge. The plains seemed to echo the thudding of feet as they ran across it. Tobias readied himself. The ranks of archers retreated through the ranks of foot soldiers behind them. The space they left was filled by the first ranks of the soldiers. They all braced themselves for the incoming charge.

The clash that resulted from the charge was very loud. Armor hit armor, shield hit shield. Screams of pain and battle cries could be heard everywhere. Tobias quickly could see that his foot men were not going to be able to hold against this massive assault. He rode over to a trebuchet that was ready to send its load, a small ball of twigs and branches covered in pitch. There was a soldier standing next to it with a torch. Upon his arrival Tobias grabbed the torch from him and tossed it onto the ball, which ignited. He then motioned to the crew to fire. The counter weight fell toward the ground sending the sling full of its flaming cargo into the air. As the pitch covered ball of kindling sailed overhead it streaked the sky with fire and smoke. He knew it wasn't going to be effective in the killing of enemy soldiers but it was a bright signal. Tobias watched it for a moment then nodded to himself.

As he rode back to the fight he could see Rhodes returning with the cavalry. Once he got to the front he dismounted and entered the fight. He knew Rhodes had orders to now just continue his charges so he committed himself entirely to the fray. "Forward men!" He shouted. There was a surge of soldiers as they all rushed to enter the fight. Tobias took a step further and parried a sword strike then kicked the attacking soldier in the stomach. As the soldier doubled over Tobias brought the pommel of his sword onto his back. With the soldier on the ground Tobias stabbed the man through his back. Standing, he spun to deflect a spear thrust. Quickly he grabbed the spear below its head and yanked. The spear came free of the soldier's hand. Before the spearman could draw his dagger Tobias had already stabbed him with his sword. As the spearmen fell to the ground Tobias spun the spear in his hand and threw it with pinpoint accuracy drilling it through the armored chest plate of another enemy soldier.

Recovering from the throw he was nearly caught by a downward slash from a sword. He jumped back with a yelp. Standing in front of him was who he assumed was the enemy general by the robes he wore over his armor. He was a very large man and Tobias could see that he was strong. Tobias' opponent had a sword and shield. That's what I forgot. Tobias thought to himself quickly looking at his empty left arm. His opponent went into an aggressive fighting stance. Tobias looked around quickly for options but he had run out of time. His opponent attacked with an upward strike, which Tobias barely dodged. Taking a step back he readied himself to fight. As the enemy general attacked again Tobias simply smacked his sword out of the way and spun trying to catch his enemy by surprise. It didn't work. The general was ready for something like this and promptly hit Tobias in his shoulder with his shield. Tobias stumbled but maintained his balance.

Tobias recovered quickly and looked around for something to help even the odds. The only thing he could find on that section of the battlefield was a broken spear. He quickly scrambled for it and picked up the end that still had the metal tip. As he spun around to face his attacker his shield slammed into Tobias' chest, sending him sprawling. In his flight Tobias felt his sword sail off in one direction and the spear in another. He hit the ground with such force that it knocked the wind out of him. His opponent walked slowly yet threateningly to him. As Tobias gasped for air he looked around to see where his weapons had gone. His sword was maybe five steps or so away from him, but his spear was just barely out of hands reach. Still gasping for breath he struggled to reach the broken spear. As his enemy approached he stepped on the shaft of the spear so Tobias couldn't pick it up.

Tobias looked past his adversary's helmet into his eyes. Tobias could only see one emotion; hate. As the man continued to put pressure on the shaft of the spear, Tobias felt it snap. Acting quickly he grabbed the free part and jabbed the metal head between the space in his opponents leg armor. The general screamed in pain and turned away. As he limped away Tobias stood and ran to his sword. Tobias stood at full height with his sword in his hand and took a deep breath. His adversary pulled the spear out of his leg and tossed it aside staring at Tobias with more anger than before. Tobias readied himself for another round of combat as Rhodes' cavalry returned for a third time. Quickly Tobias looked around to survey the carnage. Though he could only see a little he could see that his army was winning though badly damaged.

He didn't have much time to think of new orders or tactics as the enemy general hurled himself at Tobias with all his might. Tobias' first response was to duck, which was exactly what his opponent had been waiting for. Tobias caught a shield in his chest, again sending him sprawling across the ground. Lifting himself off the ground was difficult as he thought for sure his leg was broken this time. Still Tobias stood, tall and resolute. Staggering to take a step forward he raised his sword to his opponent, showing him that Tobias wasn't done. The general rushed forward in rage, determined to finish this fight. Tobias was smarter and didn't let his emotions control him. If his emotions had been in control of him, he would have been on the ground screaming in pain. As his enemy rushed forward, Tobias dropped to one knee attacking in a wide sweep. Tobias' sword had gone lower than the shield protected his foes knees. He could feel the steal make contact with his armor and continue through. Tobias took a step back from the pain and force from hitting him, but his opponent screamed in pain. He had not been expecting an attack like that from his severely wounded foe.

Tobias stood up as his opponent fell to the ground, blood dripping from the gash in his armor slightly above the knees. Tobias limped over to where his now crippled foe lay on the ground. He looked down at the man, with a look of disdain, but said nothing. They stared at each other for a time before finally the other general inhaled deeply and spoke.

"Kill me!" he demanded. Tobias said nothing, he only looked at him. "Kill me!" he demanded again. Tobias still said nothing, the sounds of battle echoing all around him. The general grimaced as he reached for his leg. Blood covered his hand as he tried to see the damage. He knew the wound was too deep and too severe to survive. He looked back at Tobias who still only stared at him. "Kill me now! If you don't I will bleed to death! I am going to die either way; you may as well take some glory from it!" Tobias looked into his eyes. He could almost see it. Almost, but only almost was the hate in his eyes turning to worry. Tobias stood his ground and said nothing. "Please." The general said, his demand turning into a plea.

Then Tobias could see it. The look in his fallen opponent's eye had turned completely to worry, pain and a plea for mercy. Tobias hesitated for a moment then nodded. He secured his grasp on his weapon and knelt to his foe's side. He put the tip of his sword in a pot between his armor and drove it through the general's stomach.

The general grunted in pain, and as he lay back down they locked eyes again and he whispered, "Thank you." Tobias nodded and watched as the man coughed up blood for a moment then exhaled for the last time.

With extreme pain Tobias stood. His leg made a clicking sound as he stood which sent shooting pain through him. Indeed his leg was broken. He could barely stay standing from the pain. Using his sword to weakly steady himself, he looked around the battlefield. His men had won. All remnants of the opposing army had either been captured or had fled. He looked around for King Anthony. He could be seen not too far off, his armor covered in blood, both his and from fallen foes. Rhodes sat on his horse as the cavalry rounded up some of the prisoners. Tobias looked at him and Rhodes nodded contently, yet respectfully. Tobias returned the nod and started barking orders again. Soldiers began to run this way and that, helping the wounded, taking weapons from the prisoners, and doing other tasks. King Anthony rode over to him leading Tobias' horse over with him. Tobias looked at him. Anthony reached down to help Tobias on his horse.

Grimacing in pain Tobias steadied himself on his horse. He continued to survey the scene. Thousands of soldiers lay strewn across the battlefield. Blood colored the once lush green grass red. As he continued to survey the scene in front of him, his gaze, again, fell on King Anthony. The King gave him a smile, and brought his horse close to Tobias'. "It is good to find you well on such a dreadful day." He said to Tobias, who nodded in response. Anthony rested his hand on Tobias' shoulder. "You did well, brother. Father would be proud!" he said. Tobias swallowed and looked at Anthony who only smiled. "Come!" Anthony said, "The walls of Madne await us!"

With that Anthony rode off to continue the aid some of the soldiers. Tobias watched him for a moment, before turning his horse around to tend to similar matters.