Boris: Could be! I never said this story would be a happy one....
Dewirix: Indeed, but history has a way of making such things useless. If I actually tried, I reckon I could have tricked my way to a white peace, but I actually set out for this result. I could have kept the Ottomans from invading Greece at all by endlessly using one galley to block the straits. But that's...that's for a gameplay AAR. :P
Range: Indeed...though the city is not lost yet!
ZOň II PART 3
The position was a good one. The Ottomans would have to cross an open plain and over clear ground before advancing up a steep slope to engage the Roman army. As the Turks had only been able to bring over twelve thousand troops – not many more than the Empire’s own army – Talena was hopeful of victory.
She was dressed in brigandine armour which had been hastily adapted to fit her, and carried a long blade sheathed at her side. She looked quite martial, even down to the helmet she wore.
From the hill overlooking the plain Talena could see the village of Farres in the distance. It was a small place, barely twenty buildings, but it was something to give the battlefield a name and a purpose.
General Romanos appeared from his tent, dressed for battle. The man had been a cavalryman by trade, and preferred to lead from the front wherever he could. Now, as his honour guard closed around him they could look down on the Turkish host before them.
The captains and nobles who led the army did not like Talena. They thought she was an unwelcome pest, bad luck, or simply an bad example. If she could fight as well as a man then what would stop other women demanding to fight? However, Romanos tolerated her so long as she stayed out of his way, and the other leaders had to be content with ignoring her.
“The Turk is deployed before us on the plain. They cannot go to our left or right because of the hills. They must come to us and be beaten. Count Pilasi, are your soldiers prepared?” Romanos asked the Italian commander of his mercenary troops.
“We are, General. I have your promise of reward should the battle be a victory?”
“A silver piece for every Turk’s head brought to me when we are victorious,” Romanos promised.
“What about the left? There’s a deep gully there which only has the light cavalry watching it?” Talena asked.
They looked at her, all of them disapproving in various levels of intensity.
Finally Romanos shook his head. “I have inspected that, and I can see no problem. We will fight, and be victorious,” he declared.
Dejected and annoyed, Talena walked away. However, she had not gone far when the Neapolitan count caught up with her.
“You act as though you have fought in wars before, Lady,” he said, half mocking.
Talena was in no mood to argue with this arrogant fool, and so shrugged. She didn’t like to recount her past...the future...to anyone, even ZoŽ. “Just hope that a mere woman such as I am is wrong,” she said and walked off.
Talena watched from the top of the hill as the battle begun. On the Imperial right were the mercenaries, in the centre the Greek infantry, and to the left, anchored on a strong hill spur, were the levies and militias. The heavy Greek cavalry formed a reserve in the centre, while the light horsemen were on the left behind the levies.
She had acquired a horse, a not very good one either, she reckoned, and peered down into the dust. Things were going well – the Turks were advancing into the teeth of the attack, and suffering heavy losses from the archers and mercenary crossbows on the hills. The Ottoman horse archers had a shorter range then their opponents, and had no room to manoeuvre, and so suffered heavily.
Suddenly there was a commotion, and a party of Turks charged at the Imperial levies, firing as they came. However the men stood their ground, confident that their hill would protect them. The cavalry, losing their momentum up the hill, were driven back.
And there it should have ended for this phase of the battle. Unfortunately, the levy troops, all locals conscripted by the Empress, charged off in pursuit. Soon a third of the Imperial army was charging onto the plain in hot pursuit of the Turkish cavalry.
Talena did not need to be an expert to know what would happen next. Strung out and disorganised, the levies pushed too far, coming under a ferocious volley of archery from three sides. Then, the Turkish cavalry lowered their spears and charged!
There was no point trying to do anything. It was too late. The heavy cavalry fell upon the green troops and smashed them apart. In seconds the Imperial left flank was gone....
The battle was far from over yet. Romanos acted coolly under pressure, reforming the reliable Greek infantry to a new angle to cover attacks and advancing his own cavalry. Leading the charge himself the Imperial forces drove off the Turkish horsemen and allowed the remains of the levies to reform.
The swirling dust made it hard for Talena to follow what happened next, so she decided to get a better view. Trotting up onto a hill high above the plain, and near the Patras road, Talena could see the main Ottoman infantry force advancing. They were suffering heavily from archery, and the Turkish cavalry was similarly being driven back.
When the Ottoman Azab infantry finally reached the hill a furious melee developed. Count Pilasi’s mercenaries moved in and attacked from the flank, and it seemed that the Turks must be defeated.
And then a trumpet called.
Talena turned; it had come from behind her, and to the left. There should be no one there at all. And then she saw them. Boiling out of the gully, the gully they had refused to properly guard, was a horde of Turkish cavalry. These were no mere archers, but Spahi, the best and most experienced of all the Sultan’s horsemen. From over the hill and down the hills poured Janissary infantry, the elites of the Ottoman army. A few of the Imperial irregular cavalry tried to face them, but a single charge dispersed them, and the Turks were on the Imperial flank.
For a moment Talena could do nothing, but then she kicked her horse into motion and rode back towards the Imperial headquarters. Alone she could do nothing against three thousand Turks, but she could warn Romanos that he was flanked.
As she pulled up, she saw Romanos issuing orders to his troops, urging them on.
“General! Look out for your left! You are turned!” she managed.
He looked at her, uncomprehendingly. But before he could speak there was a trumpet call, and the banners of the crescent moon appeared on the left, while on the plain, the Turks redoubled their efforts.
“They’ll cut us off and surround us if we don’t do something!” Talena shouted above the noise. Oddly, she was calm. She’d never commanded more than a hundred soldiers at once, but she knew all about crises.
Romanos nodded, slumping slightly. “Watch them. I will begin...to retreat.”
The battle was lost. Despite inflicting more losses, the Turks had won, and the Empire’s last army was on the run....
The Imperial defeat at Farres was a grave blow. The Ottoman General Sokulla paid heavily for the victory, which almost had become a defeat when the flanking force was delayed by bad terrain. However, having driven the Romans from Achaea, they now pursued them into the southern Peloponnesus. Two weeks later at Argos the armies met again, but this time the Ottoman triumph was complete.
Romanos’ troops were trying to reach better defensive positions, but the Ottoman cavalry and faster infantry caught up with them near Argos. Again the Imperials fought on the defensive, and again they were caught by a flank attack and defeated.
This battle dispersed the Imperial army so a few days later the survivors were forced to capitulate. A few survivors escaped and made their way to the coast...and then to Constantinople.
Soon all of Greece was under Ottoman Turk control, and the focus could change to Constantinople....