Chapter 5: Silver Tongues and Steel Swords
Duke Christian VI was joined on his righteous quest by their stouthearted Hanseatic ally, still ruled by the noble Wilfried Gossler. Kleve and Hesse both declared formal states of war with the Sultanate of Morocco, but made no effort to provide troops to support Oldenburg-Saxe-Lauenburg or the Hansa. Saxe-Lauenburg declared reluctant support for their Oldenburgian duke, but Erich Askanier and the leading nobles managed to avoid direct involvement by simply providing a few extra men to the war effort.
Before the Oldenburgian army even boarded its transports, there was a surprising development in the Reich; Bernhard I von Welf, Duke of Lüneburg, had died without issue, and had named Christian VI von Oldenburg as his heir. Hearing word of this, Duke Christian VI postponed his departure in order to schedule a personal meeting with both the Lüneburgian and Saxe-Lauenburgian noble councils, so as to set the record straight with them. ("Oldenburg-Saxe-Lauenburg-Lüneburg- How's that for a mouthful, Heinrich?" Christian is reported to have quipped to von Derfflinger.)
Outskirts of Oldenburg, Duchy of Oldenburg-Saxe-Lauenburg-Lüneburg
Late December, 1404
Erich Askanier pulled his hood up over his head and rubbed his hands together to ward off the chill. Scarcely any leaves remained on the trees that lined the dirt road to Oldenburg, now looming in the distance, and the winter was slowly creeping in. It had been a ridiculously long ride from his home in Lauenburg to this backwater rathole they were now calling the capital of the ‘Duchy of Oldenburg-Saxe-Lauenburg-Lüneburg,’ and he hated to be away from his army (not to mention his claim) for so long. After getting away from direct involvement in the duke’s Crusade, though, he knew he and his associates were in no position to deny their legal duke. He traveled with the twelve noblemen appointed as the Regierungsrat, the Administrative Council that ran the day-to-day affairs of Lauenburg, and their personal guards. Unbeknownst to Duke Christian VI von Oldenburg, though, Erich had been allowed a tiebreaking vote in the council, as the nobles wanted to get a “military perspective” on the issues; in fact, his vote had defeated the resolution to join the Crusade in full capacity.
He was a bit wary of going into the house of his deposer, who also happened to be his father-in-law, since he was still legally married to Anna von Oldenburg, daughter of Christian VI, even though the great gap in their ages, and, of course, her patrimony meant that she spent very little time in Erich’s company. He had just celebrated his 50th birthday, whereas she was only 23…the deposed duke had entertained the idea of seducing or forcing himself upon his wife, in order to give birth to a son, to raise up as a potential claimant to the throne (you know, piss off Christian VI spectacularly), but dismissed the notion, knowing that would be one step too far with the Oldenburgian duke and would likely get him executed.
Erich still sometimes wondered how the hell he could’ve allowed the Count of Oldenburg, one of, if not THE most inconsequential state in the entire Reich, come to rule his country, and further, couldn’t understand HOW the old bastard had gotten Bernhard von Welf to hand over his own duchy and family legacy. At least I put up a fight, he thought, somewhat sullenly. If I hadn’t been stabbed in the back by my own nobles. He cast a sour look over at one of the two groups that had formed; one was the separatist faction that supported either Erich’s claim or another independent monarch; the other was the self-titled “Unionists,” advocating complete integration with Christian von Oldenburg’s state. They were led by his wife and Baron Joachim Hector von Fink, who claimed relation to Christian VI by some obscure marriage. It had been they who’d taken command of the troops the now-Unionists had contributed to Lauenburg’s defense, seized the castle, and thrown the gates of the city open to the Hanseatic-Oldenburgian army.
Another frustrating point was that Oldenburg hadn’t even conquered his city on their own merits; they’d let the Hanseatic Republic’s men take on the brunt of the war. He may have been able to accept his defeat, if Christian VI had won his duchy fairly.
They arrived within the walls of the small city of Oldenburg at a little after noon that same day, just behind the Lüneburg delegation. They were hurried into the entry chamber of the citadel, where they were to await His Ducal Grace’s pleasure. For nigh on half an hour, the Saxe-Lauenburgers and Lüneburgers waited, each keeping to their own, as neither state knew where exactly the other’s loyalties lie. Erich didn’t speak with them beyond the exchange of pleasantries when they arrived, instead standing and chatting with the other separatists, among them Viscount Nils von Fersen, who had, in previous years, served as a leading figure of Erich’s army. Nothing important came up; they weren’t at home, and were reluctant to discuss anything vital to Lauenburg’s governance here, even if it was, technically, the capital of what the world called Oldenburg-Saxe-Lauenburg.
Lord Commander Erich Askanier and Viscount Nils von Fersen
When Christian VI, Duke of Oldenburg-Saxe-Lauenburg-Lüneburg finally arrived, trailed by the Holsteiner Thomas Von, statesman Friedrich August Engel, and Lord Treasurer Reinhard Hinrichs, Erich almost didn’t recognize him; when he had seen the man back in 1400, at his deposal, he had been tall, broad-shouldered, with a full head of hair and piercing eyes. Now…the man before him was a shadow of his former self. The weight of tying Oldenburg and Lauenburg together had truly taken their toll on him; his posture was slightly stooped, his shoulders now slumped and rounded, and his hairline had receded in a peninsular pattern halfway behind his head. But one thing hadn’t changed, and that was his gaze, a cool, scrutinizing look which he now cast over the assembled nobles.
The unionists fell to their knees immediately, though Anna strode right over to her father and embraced him, smiling warmly. The Lüneburgers also kneeled, heads bowed respectfully to their new liege. Hesitantly, Erich and the separatists of Lauenburg followed suit. Looking over his daughter’s shoulder, Duke Christian VI watched their delayed reaction and met Erich’s contemptuous gaze.
“My beautiful Anna,” he said, pulling away and brushing a strand of mahogany hair out of her face. “It’s good to finally see you again. I am sorry I haven’t made the trip out to Lauenburg to visit you in awhile, but…recent circumstances have bound me quite firmly to Oldenburg.”
“I understand completely, father,” the young woman replied. When Erich had first been wed to her, he hadn’t quite believed his luck; despite her "backwater" upbringing, she was both beautiful and, slightly less fortunately, cunning. She had jade-colored eyes that burned with a fiery determination and long eyelashes; she had high, narrow cheekbones and straight nose, a peaches-and-cream complexion, and thick lips, and her flowing mahogany hair cascaded down just past her shoulders. Combined with her shapely, hourglass figure, she had outshone all other women in the Askanier court, and, since the fall of the Askanier dynasty, she was the only woman involved in governance.
Anna stood beside her father as he observed the assembly of nobles before him, a wry smile gracing his lips. “Rise, my friends,” he said, loudly, still smiling. He had been unable to foresee, stop, or solve the financial crisis and he lacked the ability to build and maintain a massive army, but this was his forte. Diplomacy came almost naturally to him, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t taken a few pointed steps to ensure his advantage in this meeting; he had called the Lauenburgers and Lüneburgers into his own home, to meet with him at his own convenience. Only Anna had ever been to Oldenburg in the past, so, as far as the others were concerned, they were in uncharted territory.
The nobles rose to their feet, surveying their liegelord, who did not speak for a moment. At last, he cleared his throat and said, “My most esteemed comrades…we stand at a fork in the road, both within the pages of history and in the eyes of God. As we sharpen our swords and steel our hearts, we must never forget that we are all tools in the hands of God for a singular purpose. The heathens of Morocco, through their interference in Granada, threaten to renew the Iberian campaigns of the Umayyad Caliphate and snuff out all bastions of Christendom across Europa.” Duke Christian VI took a few steps closer to the separatists, heavy ducal scepter in hand. “The Pope pleads desperately for any and all Christian lords to join the Kings of Castille in their pious quests in Africa, for even the Spaniards are not strong enough to defeat the Arabs alone. And so, we must join the fight now, in Africa,” he slammed his scepter emphatically against the floor, “before we are forced to fight them here, in the Reich.”
“Begging your pardon, Your Grace,” one of the Lüneburgers spoke up, taking a step forward. He bowed low as he introduced himself. “Count Johannes von Drachenfels, milord. As one of the seniormost nobles of the Duchy of Lüneburg, I have accepted the honor of representing my countrymen, and, of course, my new duke.”
Graf Johannes von Drachenfels, center
“Ah, yes, Wilhelmina spoke of you,” Christian nodded. Wilhemina was the duke’s older sister, who had been wed to Bernhard I von Welf after the death of his wife, Margaret of Saxony. She had her certain charms, but Christian was still entirely surprised that she had actually secured the Lüneburg succession on her own merit. “I do not see her among you; I presume she has chosen to stay in Lüneburg?”
“Yes, Your Grace,” Johannes replied. “The duchess thought it would be more fitting for her to remain behind to mourn the late Duke Bernhard and oversee the transition.”
“Ah, good, good,” the duke said, smiling. “Did you wish to say something?”
“Um…yes, I would, Your Grace,” Johannes said, somewhat nervously. “Well, you see, there has been a certain amount of skepticism amongst my associates, with regards to your most righteous quest.”
“Really?” Christian asked, nonchalantly tapping the scepter against the inside of his boot. “Do tell.”
The Graf von Drachenfels eyed the heavy rod nervously as he continued. “Is it…well, wise? We are but a handful of Imperial states against the might of the Arab world; what success can we hope to see?”
Christian VI clicked his tongue in a chastising manner, shaking his head as he did so. “Your lack of faith disturbs me, Johannes,” he said, letting the scepter rest on the floor at his side. “Do you think that it is mere coincidence that brought Oldenburg, Lauenburg, and Lüneburg under one banner at this, the turning of an age? Is it simple chance that, just as a holy war is being fought, a new Christian power is pieced together? No!” He slammed the iron scepter against the ground, making several of the nobles jump. “We are no longer locally-minded, unimportant, individual principalities, damned to jump at the whims of the Kaiser or the Electors, but a rising power, on par with the Palatinate of the Rhine, the Electorate of Brandenburg, and the Duchy of Bavaria. God has brought us together so that we might join hands and march into a brighter future, not only for the Reich, but all of Christendom. The Holy Father has recognized this, and has thus proclaimed that any and all efforts to subvert or undermine our efforts in the Crusade will be viewed as an affront to God, and shall thus incur the greatest displeasure of the Papacy.” With that, he looked pointedly over to Erich Askanier and the Lauenburgian separatists, mouth twitching in irritation.
“Of course, Your Grace,” Johannes said, bowing his head. “I did not mean to sound doubtful. This is just such a…well, sudden development. In the space of a few years, Your Grace has turned away from local politics, and now seeks to set sail all the way to Marrakech…”
“I would not place so many lives on the line were I not certain of the righteousness of our cause,” Christian VI declared. “But if you are so confident in your piety, then I will not force you to join this Crusade, for it is not my place to judge your sins; that is the dominion of God, and God alone. For your sake, I hope you are certain.”
With that chilling message, the duke turned on his heel and began to stride across the entry hall to the throne room. “Count Johannes, please bring your associates with you so that you may deliver your oath of fealty. Anna, if you would accompany me…”
Duke Christian VI von Oldenburg
As the Oldenburgers and Lüneburgers filed out of the room, Erich and the Lauenburgers, lacking the duke’s permission to leave, were forced to wait, once more. After a ceremony spanning over an hour and a half, Christian VI, Anna, and the Lüneburgers returned, and they learned, to Erich Askanier’s great irritation, that they would be required to stay in Oldenburg long enough to see Christian’s crusading army off, a simple duty to which the other Lauenburgers did not object.
Hoping to save up enough gold to enlist the services of a regiment of heavy cavalry, Duke Christian VI neglected to raise another regiment of infantry, what with the state’s fragile economy and all. As Hanseatic doves and messengers returned from Africa and gave the German coalition an idea of the situation from Castille’s ongoing conflict with Morocco.
The War Council of the Duchy of Oldenburg-Saxe-Lauenburg-Lüneburg met in a side chamber of the ducal citadel in Oldenburg, attempting to determine the best course of action for the Crusade. The so-called war council was really little different from the Privy Council; it consisted, naturally, of Duke Christian VI, Minzemeister Thomas Von, Lord Treasurer Reinhard Hinrichs, now-Viceroy Friedrich Engel, and Barons von Delmenhorst and Derfflinger. In addition to these men, though, there was also Count Johannes von Drachenfels, representing Lüneburg, and Viscount Nils von Fersen, representing Saxe-Lauenburg. The most diminutive member of the council was the 14-year-old Crown Prince Dietrich von Oldenburg, who sat, somewhat sullenly, beside his much older brother, the duke.
“Statthalter Gossler indicates that the Moroccan army is fully engaged against the King of Castille,” Viceroy Engel said, pointing out the areas around Fez and Rabat. “His army has landed at Mellila and has laid siege to the local fortress. Smaller Castillian forces are reported to be besieging Tangiers and Ceuta. The northern part of Morocco is a hot zone right now.”
“What about the south?” Christian asked, examining the map around the black dots marking Safi, Ifni, and Sus.
“No information from there, Your Grace,” Engel replied. “But it is such a remote region that the Moroccan regents are not likely to want to squander any more troops than necessary down there when there is fighting to be done in the more populous north. Beyond some garrisons and citizen soldiers, I wouldn’t expect much resistance in that area.”
“And Granada?” the duke pressed, pointing at the last remaining Iberian emirate.
“Dubious,” Emelrich von Derfflinger said. “Some reports say they have only a handful of real soldiers left after Castille swept through and stripped them of Gibraltar and Almeria, but others claim they have two, maybe three thousand soldiers, not including castle garrisons.”
“I don’t want to chance being sunk by the Moroccan fleet going too far south,” Christian VI mused, eyeing the Portuguese coastline. “I’d say that Castille and the Hansa have Morocco well in hand for now, so we should land in northern Castille and march south until we reach Granada. We’ll scatter their army, take their city, and plunder their treasury. That should sufficiently fund our later war effort in Morocco.”
“We’ll scatter the Muslims before us like sheep before the wolf!” Joachim von Delmenhorst declared, slamming his fist down on the table.
“I would suggest a degree of caution, Your Grace,” Engel warned. “No matter what the priests may say, the Arabs are a learned and strong people. Their leaders will certainly be sharp, and their soldiers will most definitely be devoted.”
“With God on our side, we shall prevail,” Heinrich von Derfflinger said confidently.
Left to Right: Freiherr Joachim von Delmenhorst, Lord Treasurer Reinhard Hinrichs, and Duke Christian VI von Oldenburg
“And what about Morocco?” Crown Prince Dietrich asked, slumped in his chair with his face supported by his hand, propped up on the armrest. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t have cared enough to ask, but Christian had decided it was time for his little brother to learn the art of war. ‘Baptize him in the blood of his foes,’ the duke had said. Dietrich the Lucky sincerely hoped the phrase was strictly metaphorical. He figured that if he was going to be dragged along on this quest, he might as well know what the plan would be.
Christian VI observed the map once more, pondering the question. With northern Morocco now swarming with Arab, Castillian, and Hanseatic soldiers, there was little opportunity for personal gain, except at a great cost- that is, either loss of life or the humiliation of being subordinated by the King of Castille on account of his title. The south, though…it was further away, but it was an undefended territory, ripe for the picking if the right opportunist came along. “We’ll land at either Ifni or Safi, depending on how the war develops while we are in Granada,” he said, tracing those areas of the Moroccan coast. “We’ll besiege the local fortresses, take control of whatever we can in southern Morocco, then move north to see what further assistance we might provide to Hanseatic or Castillian forces.”
That meant generally avoiding the worst of the combat; Christian VI’s unspoken strategy was to essentially let Castille deal with the Moroccan army. While this might not be the most honorable path, it still served a purpose; by depriving Morocco of the supplies, income, and manpower of the southern provinces, the Duchy of Oldenburg-Saxe-Lauenburg-Lüneburg would still be providing a benefit to the overall outcome of the Crusade. Besides, what use would it be to the Crusade if the Oldenburgers just died in the desert chasing Arab cavalry, or providing fodder to be flung at prepared defenses at the behest of a Spanish monarch?
The farewell at the small port town of Wilhelmshaven was a solemn event; what remained of the ducal family in Oldenburg was assembled there, along with members of the Derfflinger and Delmenhorst families and the noble councils of Lüneburg and Saxe-Lauenburg. Anna stoically bade her father and uncle (though he was younger than she), expecting, like many of those there, that this war would be the death of Christian VI. After delivering a speech to the assembled aristocrats in which he pledged to return covered in glory, the duke gathered his troops and loaded them onto the crowded accommodations of the Graf Anthon Günther and the Christian VI.
Although war had been declared in May, 1404, the forces of Oldenburg didn’t actually reach the general region of hostilities until the next January. They were well received by the local nobles, who were obviously expecting the Germans to head to Morocco to die in place of their own levied militias.
The Ducal Army of Christian VI von Oldenburg arrived on the outskirts of the province of Granada in April of 1404, bearing not only the banners of Oldenburg-Saxe-Lauenburg-Lüneburg but also those displaying the cross. Not wanting to be caught unawares, Christian sent a few lightly-armored horsemen to locate the Granadan army and get an idea of their strength. They returned two days later with news; the Granadan army, consisting of around 2,000 archers, was under the command of Emir Muhammad VII Nasrid, camping around the city of Granada, apparently unsuspecting of the approaching Oldenburgian army. Encouraged, Christian VI marched onward, hoping to take the Granadan army in a rapid assault before they could mount an effective resistance.
Granada, Emirate of Granada
April 7, 1405
“Meinen Herzog!” a voice called from behind Christian. The duke turned away from his gathering army to see who was shouting, and found one of his scouts riding towards him, his horse drenched in sweat and lathering as both it and its rider heaved for breath. “The heathens have broken camp and are marching to meet us before we can reach the city.”
“Damn,” Christian whispered. So much for an easy victory. “Go get some rest; we’ll need every man for the coming battle.
“Thank you, Your Grace,” the scout said, relieved.
Joachim von Delmenhorst clapped the duke on the shoulder and looked out over the distance. Already, they could discern the distant mass of soldiers on the march, banners raised as they climbed past the hills. “Gott ist mit uns, meinen Herzog,” he said, confidently. “We’ll emerge from this battle, drenched in blood and glory, and when we storm that city, the wealth of the Nasrid dynasty is ours.”
Duke Christian took a steadying breath. “Aye.” Both men were already garbed for battle; the duke wore a suit of solid steel plate armor beneath a surcoat that bore the Oldenburg coat of arms, and his horse would be padded in red-and-yellow painted boiled leather over a full set of barding. Joachim wore similar attire, but his surcoat bore the Delmenhorst coat of arms, a red castle in front of a blue river on a field of yellow, and his destrier would be clad in properly painted caparison as well, but it would lack the steel barding that the duke’s horse would have. Since the conquest of Lauenburg, Joachim and Christian had become close friends, with the baron often siding with the duke in disputes with the landed nobility, and it sometimes seemed as though Joachim’s confidence was all that kept Christian from having second thoughts about his path.
Joachim glanced at his unsteady liegelord and laughed. “This is your first taste of open battle, isn’t it, milord?”
Christian nodded; he’d participated in the siege of Lauenburg, but no blood had actually been shed or spilled by him or his army in that war. “What about you?”
“No, I was actually down in the southern part of the Reich in 1386,” Joachim replied, rolling his head around on his neck to make the joints pop. “I was friendly with a man from the Lucerne Canton, named Petermann von Gundoldingen, and he persuaded me to join him in a battle. I agreed, figuring it’d be some small conflict with another Swiss canton or maybe one of the southern Imperial states. Turns out it was against Duke Leopold III of Austria, himself, and we were outnumbered a good 3 to 1.”
“Sempach?” Christian asked, surprised.
“Aye. That was a crazy battle; one minute we were just marching, the next we run into the Austrians, people were dying everywhere…and then it was over. Peter was dead, but so were Leopold III and a huge portion of the Austrian army. Somehow, the Swiss won, though I truly don’t know how.”
The duke rolled his eyes; that meant the nobleman still didn’t have any actual experience with command, and that did nothing to put him at ease.
Duke Christian VI stoically awaits the coming battle
Half an hour later, the Oldenburgian army marched to engage the Granadan host, marching across a flat plain that, further south, grew into foothills and small mountains. They lost sight of the Granadan army, and they did not charge, allowing the Germans to reach the end of the plain, ending below a series of hills that formed a ridge going half a mile in either direction.
“Hold!” Duke Christian VI ordered, raising his hand. The command was repeated by a handful of mounted officers across the lines. He, his brother and heir Dietrich, Joachim, and a small group of armored, mounted sergeants that served as the Ducal Bodyguard were at the head of the army, as was befitting for a duchy on its first crusade.
“There,” Dietrich said, pointing up at the ridge. The Granadan rose had appeared at the top of the hill, and a mass of archers had formed up atop the high ground. “Oh, shit.” Mediocre as he was at tactics and strategy, Dietrich knew the danger of archers on the high ground.
Christian, however, could tell that the whole Granadan force hadn’t formed up yet, and didn’t wish to face the Granadan army at its greatest strength by waiting, and didn’t want to allow them time to strengthen their army and position by withdrawing from battle. “Bring the archers forward!” he roared, and the command was passed to the captain in command of the 500-odd archers presently in the Oldenburgian ranks. The archers, armed mostly with bows and arrows intended more for hunting than combat, formed up in a single line in front of the army, nocked their arrows, and awaited their command. "Fire!”
Most of the arrows in the first volley fell short of their mark, embedding in the hillside, or overshot beyond the hill. As the order was given for another volley, the Granadans got their bows up and began raining arrows down onto the Oldenburgian army. “Shields up!” Christian roared, hunching down and throwing his wooden shield over his head. There was the faint buzz of arrows soaring overhead, followed shortly after by the thuds of arrows striking wood and flesh and the resultant screams. Four of the Muslim arrows embedded themselves in Christian’s shield, and two more deflected off his thigh plate. As the Oldenburgian archers fired off their second volley, Christian straightened and called over to Joachim, “Take your men and storm the ridge; we need the high ground!”
The baron nodded and gave the order for his entire regiment to make the charge. The archers loosened their ranks enough for them to pass through and continued to lay fire on the Granadan bowmen with minimal effectiveness. He went at the head of his force, riding with two of his own bodyguards; the infantry started at a steady trot, but picked up the pace when they reached the base of the hill, so as to reach the top before the Muslims could countercharge downhill. The casualty rate steadily rose as the Granadans fixed their fire on the German infantry, leaving a trail of dead and wounded men going up the hill.
Oldenburgian archers return fire
Joachim and his men finally fell upon the Granadans, only to find that they had left just a handful of men to act as a screen and the rest of the unit, roughly 500 men, was withdrawing down the hill. The Oldenburgers cut down each of the two dozen archers who remained on the ridge and regrouped to take a breather. Christian VI ordered the rest of his army to take the ridge, but before he and his archers could scale the hill, Joachim had rallied his regiment and continued the pursuit of the Granadans, who had turned back to fire a few volleys back at the Crusaders. By the time the other half of the Oldenburgian army reached the ridge, Joachim’s regiment was disappearing from sight over another hill. “Shit,” Christian swore, squinting in the distance. Half of his army was now completely isolated from the other half. He hadn’t even told Joachim to do anything more than take the ridge…
The duke turned to young Dietrich and said, “Brother, you have command of the archers. Hold this ridge; I’m going to take the rest of the infantry and join up with that idiot Joachim before he gets killed. Hold your position to the best of your capabilities, but you don’t have to be a martyr; retreat if you have to.”
The young prince swallowed and said, “Aye. Be careful, Christian.”
Leaving behind one of his bodyguards to defend his heir, Christian gave the order for the infantry to follow and made his way down the hill at a steady pace. Just as they reached the bottom, though, the duke spotted an unsettling sight: Oldenburgian levies, fleeing piecemeal over the hill, with a pair of mounted men among them. Not far behind, they were pursued by the Muslims, who had drawn their swords and turned back on the German regiment, but now they seemed to have regrouped…and brought some friends. As they came down the southern hill, two separate groups suddenly appeared on the western and eastern hills of the small “valley” and began to pour down upon the Crusaders.
Joachim and one of his guards were among the first to reach Christian’s army, just as the Granadans appeared to the east and west. “It was a trap!” he gasped, straightening up; he’d lost his shield and lance, and now held only his sword. “They were waiting for us over the hill.”
Christian VI already saw that, as indicated by his response: “You goddamned moron! You never split your army that far apart!”
The baron may have had a weak defense, but he was saved from that by the sudden onslaught of the Muslim army. The officers had turned to face the oncoming enemies and braced the ranks, but in several cases, the Granadans were upon them before they formed up entirely. The soldiers from Joachim’s regiment were isolated and cut down in short order before that section of the Muslim force, which appeared to be the main force, came crashing down on Christian’s position. No cavalry, thank God, but zealous and hardy Granadan infantry, armed with everything from scimitars and shortswords to spears and axes. Christian drew his sword as a spear-armed Muslim charged him, angling for a gap in his horse’s barding, but the duke was able to slash off the spearhead with a single swing of his blade, and then plunged the blade into the base of the man’s skull as he staggered forward, off balance. Another Granadan, this one armed with a war axe, grabbed a hold of Christian’s arm and tried to drag him off his horse, but all he got for his efforts was a steel blade to the skull.
Realizing his position was hopeless, Christian shouted, “Make for the ridge! Regroup and retreat!” Joachim and the Ducal Guard spread the command, and a small corps of men formed up around the duke, allowing him to lead a successful breakout heading northward up the hill. A small detachment of Muslims had attacked Crown Prince Dietrich’s position on the ridge, but it looked like they could hold it off. He could see his younger brother and the guard engaged against a handful of Muslim warriors, supported by a few of his own archers. As the Oldenburgian infantry broke free, though, Dietrich fell from his horse, and soon after, so did the guard.
“No!” Christian roared, urging his horse forward as the group of archers that had been fighting alongside Dietrich broke and ran; their Muslim adversaries turned their attention to those that they’d defeated. As he reached the ridgeline, though, his path was blocked by a pair of scimitar-wielding Granadan soldiers with quivers attached to their backs. Swearing, Christian deflected a scimitar strike with his shield and lashed back, gashing open the Granadan’s throat. As he took a jab at the second, Joachim galloped past, angling straight for the group of Muslims that had taken down the Crown Prince, obviously hoping to redeem himself for his initial failure.
“Gah!” The Granadan archer had gotten through the duke’s defenses and put the full strength of his sword arm into the gap in his Gothic-style plate armor at his elbow, where there was only chainmail. It didn’t even break the armor, but it numbed his arm so that his blade fell from his grasp. Swearing, Duke Christian loosed his foot from the stirrup and swung the pointed, steel boot out at the footman’s face, planting it directly in his eye. As the Granadan fell to the ground, clutching his eye socket, Christian looked up to see Joachim and his guard charging the Muslims, several of whom had braced themselves and were now set with short spears.
It was over in a matter of seconds; the guard’s horse took a spear to its neck, and the younger man went down hard and was trapped beneath the dying animal. Joachim’s horse started to shy away at the last second, allowing three Muslims to jab their spears at him and knock him from his saddle. Gasping, the baron pushed himself to his knees and swung his sword wildly to keep the Granadans at bay, to no avail; he managed to gash one soldier’s light armor and bite into his stomach with the sword, but was quickly felled by the other two men.
It would’ve been suicide to try and save his younger brother, as was made evident by Joachim’s fall. Overall, Christian wasn’t horribly crippled by the realization; while he would miss his brother, it was a good chance to allow the von Oldenburg line to continue directly through his own bloodline. But that wasn’t something to consider in the midst of a battle. “Order a general retreat!” he shouted at his bodyguards, who had just caught back up to him. “We’ll regroup at our old camp!” With that, the Oldenburgian duke turned and fled, unarmed, with his soldiers down the ridge; the infantry had been decimated, but the archer force from the ridge remained relatively intact.
As the Oldenburgers broke and ran, the Granadans retook the ridge and let loose a mighty cheer as a handful of elaborately-armored men rode to the front to look down on their fleeing enemies. “Should we pursue?” Crown Prince Yusuf Nasrid asked. "We could wipe them out in a heartbeat, and let the Christians know that the Crusader spirit is dead."
“No,” Emir Muhammad VII replied, waving his hand as he turned back to see a handful of infantrymen dragging a prisoner between them. “We have what we need.”
Dietrich von Oldenburg tried to spit defiantly at the emir, but instead, coughed up a globule of blood and fell backward into the arms of his captors.
Granadan Emir Muhammad VII returns to Granada; pictured here with his famed Pokey-Stick, used to silence opposition by jabbing them in the face, ribs, or whatever happened to be within reach.