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Topic Subject: The Battle of Toledo
posted 17 May 2017 23:42 EDT (US)   
Note: This is a Medieval II: Total War story. I know this forum is mainly used for RTW threads, but as there isn't a separate one for M2TW war stories and I just had a grueling M2TW battle that I wanted to share, I'll post it here. I hope you all like it.


In the countryside of Spain, Captain Jalaf of the Moorish Sultan's army was leading his troops toward the Spanish fortress of Toledo. Despite that they had met no resistance on their long march from Lisbon, and despite that his spies and scouts assured him there was little to no resistance to be met, his apprehension only grew the nearer he got to Toledo. He would have liked to encounter some Spanish resistance, of any sort, just to break the suspense. The longer he went without encountering it, the more he wondered just where all the Spanish forces were hiding, for he knew there must be an army somewhere gathering to fight him. Spain had started this war, after all, and who starts a war without an army to fight it? What were they planning?

The war had begun a few months earlier, with Spanish and French blockades on several Moorish ports around Iberia and North Africa. Though the war had consisted mainly of naval combat thus far, Jalaf had been tasked by governor Ayyub with taking an army to march against the Christian aggressors who had broken the peace in Iberia.

"You sent for me, governor?", said Jalaf as he entered Ayyub's library in the governor's palace of Lisbon a month earlier.

"Yes, Jalaf, come in."

Ayyub was standing over a table, upon which was spread out a map of the Iberian peninsula.

"Jalaf, you will be leading an army against the Spanish Christians. Under normal circumstances I would give you a fortnight to prepare, but speed is essential right now, so I'm giving you two days. The troops here in Lisbon are already ready to march. Do you have any questions?"

Jalaf was accustomed to the governor's brusque manner, but he was surprised at how suddenly Ayyub had just thrust an army into his hands. He already knew, though, that Lisbon was the only place in southern Al-Andalus where there existed a ready military force to send on campaign on short notice, and he had suspected he might be given command, though perhaps not so unceremoniously.

"May I ask how many troops I am to command?"

"I'm planning to give you essentially the entire army present in Lisbon. You're to have seven of our spear militias, all three of the archer units, and both units of desert cavalry. We're already recruiting a modest town militia force to maintain order here; once Spain is conquered, there will be no need to defend Lisbon with more than that."

Jalaf turned it over in his head for a few moments before answering, "the force you're giving me will be enough to brush aside small-scale resistance, but it will be easily stopped by any real Spanish army".

"Provided you march soon, you're not going to meet any real Spanish army. Come to the map and look. Spain is awash in our spies. We have eyes and ears in all the cities and castles. In all our reports from those eyes and ears, there has been no word of a major force gathered anywhere in Spain. This is why it's necessary for you to march quickly. Spain is virtually defenseless right now, and I don't want to give them time to change that. You're to crush them before they can assemble a real army."

Jalaf looked at the map. Christian Spain was a belt of territory between southern and northern Al-Andalus. The Muslim heartland of Cordoba and Granada in the south was joined by Lisbon in the west and Pamplona and Zaragossa in the north, a legacy of the Moorish-Portuguese war years earlier. Christian Spain controlled only Leon, Toledo and Valencia, and separately, the French castle of Bordeaux north of the Pyrenees.

Ayyub pointed to little flags on the map and said, "there are a few small armies, barely more than raiding parties, here, here and here between the Spanish towns and castles. The towns and castles themselves are lightly defended. Most of what you'll encounter are militia. The only significant Spanish force is outside Spain, in Bordeaux. That's where the real war will be, and Faraj of Pamplona is assembling a real force to fight it. Your task is only to conquer Toledo and Valencia and convert them from castles to towns. This army I'm giving you is meant to become a garrison for those towns, mainly for Valencia, as it sits on the coast. Another force from Pamplona is going to take Leon in the north. As conquests go, this will be a quick and simple one."

So far, it seemed that Ayyub was correct in his prediction, but if that's the case, then why did Spain start the war? Were they forced to do so by France? Spain and France are allies, and it's well-known that France is the far more powerful of the two. Both kingdoms have long been at war with Al-Andalus' ally, England, which may explain why Spain's forces are concentrated in France. Still, Spain should be putting up at least a token resistance, which Jalaf had yet to encounter. It made him uneasy. No one submits to conquest without a fight. The Spanish army is somewhere, hiding in some corner of this mountainous land, gathering its strength, waiting for him. Whatever his scouts or Ayyub told him, he knew it.

It was at this moment that one of his scouts rode back up to the army. "My lord! Toledo is just ahead, just over the horizon!"

"Still defenseless?"

"I made contact with our spy. According to him, there's only a single unit of Almughavars defending the fortress. Apart from that, yes, it's defenseless."

Jalaf nodded and sent him back, wondering what was really going on here.

A day later, the army formed up outside of Toledo and laid siege. Jalaf ordered two rams to be constructed, just in case one burned, and then set in for a quick storming of the fortress. The sooner the better, as he didn't want to get caught out in the open like this by some surprise Spanish attack.

Unfortunately for Jalaf, that's exactly what happened. That night in camp, he was awoken by his guards, who reported that the same scout was back with an urgent report.

"My lord! A major Spanish force is marching on us even as we speak. They appear to have been marching through the nights and concealing themselves during the day."

"What does this army consist of?"

"It's difficult to determine the exact numbers, but it's about even in size to our army, and almost entirely knights. Three units of dismounted feudal knights and at least four of mounted ones. They're only an hour's march away."

This was what Jalaf had feared. His army was sufficiently equipped and trained to defeat peasants and militia, but knights were another matter entirely. They would be massacred if they didn't get away now. He raised the alarm and ordered the army to break camp and retreat from Toledo immediately.

They didn't get far, only to the other side of Toledo, before the Spanish overtook them that same day. Jalaf resigned himself to a fight to the death, and chose his ground. Fortunately, Spain is a mountainous country and its land often favors defenders. Jalaf found the highest hill in the area and marched his men to the top, and then spoke to them.

"Men of the Sultan's army! We are going to fight today. I will not deceive you with promises of victory. The cream of Spanish chivalry is marching against us here. Even if we win, the majority of us are likely to perish today. But if we accept this and throw away thoughts of life, home and family, and devote ourselves solely to the task of fighting the enemy before us, there is nothing we cannot achieve. A man who clings to life in the back of his mind will surely die, but a man who has accepted death can go beyond the abilities of normal men. Those of us who die today will attain martyrdom in the sight of Allah, for we will have died in the cause of Islam. And so I say to you, soldiers, steel yourselves for martyrdom! Fight hard and to the bitter end!"

The men cheered and Jalaf lined them up for battle on the slope of the hill. He could already see the Spanish army nearly to the bottom of the hill. He counted three units of dismounted feudal knights, four units of mounted knights including one of the Knights of Santiago, and one squadron of Jinete light cavalry. He quickly formulated his battle plan, and explained it to the officers.

"I am going to take our light cavalry down the hill and harass the Spanish knights from the flank. With luck, we may be able to draw one or more units away from the main force. They won't be able to catch us, slowed as they are by all their armor, but the more we can keep away from our infantry, the better. Failing that, our javelins can at least fell a significant number of the foe. The archers are to stand in front of the spearmen to avoid friendly fire until the Spanish cavalry charge, and then the spearmen are to move to the front. The enemy are knights, but knights on horses. Our spears and our high ground should even the odds for us. It's the dismounted knights who will be the real problem. Though we outnumber their footmen at least two to one, their armor and training far exceed ours and it will take everything we have to stop them, if we can at all. The archers should concentrate fire on the dismounted knights, as they're the biggest threat. Once the melee begins, however, then temporarily break off arrow fire. Only when our spearmen's lines break, which they will, should the archers resume firing, and again, focus on the dismounted knights."

Jalaf then rode down the mountain with all the cavalry, and rode up to the left flank of the Spanish. It so happened that the enemy nearest him were the Knights of Santiago, probably the most fearsome knights Spain could field. The Moorish desert cavalry began peppering them with javelins.

As he expected, the enemy chose to withstand it and not bother chasing him off, for they couldn't possibly catch him and would only make things worse for themselves by trying. Still, his javelins tore the enemy apart.

Meanwhile, the Moorish archers were pouring a rain of arrows on the Spanish foot knights. Arrows are less powerful than javelins and less likely to punch through a knight's armor, but under such a storm, a number of Spanish knights did fall, though not as many as Jalaf would have liked.

It didn't take long under these conditions for the Spanish to decide it was time to simply charge. The entire Spanish cavalry force shot up the hill. The Moorish archers moved back and the spearmen forward to meet them. Fortunately, the dismounted knights lagged slightly behind, and it was on them that Jalaf now focused his javelins. Though the mounted knights managed to kill some of the Moorish spearmen, he was surprised how well they seemed to be withstanding it. It was going much worse for the Spanish, and would until the dismounted knights reached the lines.

Still, the infantry needed help, and so Jalaf charged his cavalry at the Spanish left flank where the weakened Knights of Santiago were fighting. One charge was all it took before they began to rout. The Moorish light cavalry chased them down the hill and killed all of them.

At this point the dismounted knights reached the melee. Now things began to turn against the Moorish army, as Jalaf knew they would. The center of the line had it the worst, as the Spanish had concentrated their force there. The Moorish army was in danger of being cut in half. He gestured at the archers to begin firing in the center. The line was so thin there that more arrows would hit the enemy than his own men anyway.

Jalaf had eliminated the Jinetes and was running down some more fleeing knights when the Moorish lines finally began to break. Some of the spearmen, who evidently hadn't accepted the inevitability of death, began to flee. Jalaf wasn't surprised. It's one thing to preach to men about accepting death, one thing even to say you accept it, but when it stares you in the face, most will flee from the sight. He was proud of his men for even standing as long as they had under this onslaught.

Nevertheless, the battle was now in crisis. The few spearmen remaining were now in flight and only the archers and cavalry still stood. But not all was lost. Almost all of the Spanish mounted knights had been eliminated. There were a grand total of three Spaniards still on horses on the battlefield, aside from those who had successfully fled. The three units of dismounted knights, somewhat reduced but still strong, were still the main problem. But they were slow, and couldn't catch up to either Jalaf's cavalrymen or the archers. The cavalry had no javelins left, but the archers still had many arrows, and could fire them freely now that they had no fear of hitting the backs of their comrades.

One of the Moorish spear militias, now down to about 12 men, stopped routing and turned around now that they were far away from most enemy soldiers. The men still appeared uncertain, but Jalaf rode up to them and pointed them to the three remaining mounted knights, not far away. He ordered them to charge, telling them they stood a good chance, a dozen spearmen against three cavalrymen, knights or not.

The spearmen charged and killed two of the mounted knights before the third fled. Jalaf's light cavalry chased him down and finished him. Unfortunately, one of the units of dismounted knights took notice of the spearmen, charged and butchered them almost to a man; the remainder fled, and there were no more Moorish spear infantry on the field.

At this point, the Spanish Almughavars from Toledo arrived on the field. They were only one unit, but that was enough to be a problem now that Jalaf's army was so depleted. They ran up and began throwing javelins at the archers, who were still trying to keep the knights at bay. The archers began to fire back at the Almughavars, but Jalaf yelled across the field at them to keep firing at the knights, ignore the others. He then led a cavalry charge against the Almughavars.

It didn't go as he hoped. The Almughavars were tougher, better-armed and better-armored than he thought, and although the charge hurt them badly, they stood their ground and began overwhelming his cavalry. By the time Jalaf managed to extricate the cavalry from the fight, at least 20 of his men were dead. Added to casualties the cavalry had already suffered, his own cavalry unit was now down to 13 and the other was only 18.

He then decided to ignore the Almughavars, because at that moment, one of the groups of Spanish knights had finally had enough and began to flee the storm of arrows. Jalaf led his remaining cavalry to finish them off before they could change their minds. Though he didn't feel particularly honorable riding down men who were running for their lives, he felt a sense of justice for his hundreds of fallen soldiers as he cut down those who had killed them. Besides, it was necessary to prevent these men from coming back and becoming a threat again later.

There now remained two units of dismounted Spanish knights. Because of the way the battlefield had scattered in the earlier rout, the two units were far apart and so were the units of Jalaf's archers, which had to stay ahead of both the knights and Almughavars. Jalaf ordered the archers to coordinate their fire on one unit that all three could reach. They did so, to devastating effect. Taking fire from three different directions, the second unit of knights began to flee.

Jalaf meant to chase them down, but then the Almughavars were charging at his cavalry. He pulled away and ordered the nearest archer unit to fire on the Almughavars (the other two were too far away). After a withering hail of arrows, the Almughavars began to flee. Jalaf ordered the archers to cease fire and then ran the Almughavars down.

After that, he looked for the knights and found they were nowhere in sight. An archer yelled that they were retreating down the other side of the hill. Not routing, but retreating in an organized manner. As they were too far for the archers to reach, Jalaf ordered the archers to a lower hill from which they would be able to fire on the knights as they passed. Jalaf led his exhausted horses down past the archers and waited for the archers to begin one last storm on the knights.

Surprisingly, when the knights saw what the archers were doing, they turned back around and charged at the archers! Of course, they couldn't hope to catch them, as the knights were heavily armored and exhausted from the long fight whereas the archers could still move quickly. Nevertheless, it did succeed in breaking the archers' coordination as they were forced to retreat in different directions.

Though some were now at angles from which arrow fire would be less effective, Jalaf ordered the archers to open fire anyway wherever they stood, and both units of knights finally began to rout one by one. Jalaf's cavalry rode them down, and the battle finally came to an end.

Jalaf surveyed the battlefield. At least a thousand corpses were strewn up and down the main hill and its surroundings. He could still see the original lines where so many Spaniards and Moors had died before the Moorish rout had scattered the battle. He looked around at his men and found a mixture of reactions; elation in some at having survived and even won, numbness and exhaustion in others who probably didn't care anymore. When the count was completed, the routers returned and the injured saved, his army had lost roughly two thirds of its men. He had less than a hundred spearmen left, out of the several hundred he had started out with. The only section of his army that hadn't suffered significant casualties was the archers, who had made the victory possible.

He wasn't sure how much of a victory it really was though. After a day's rest, he learned that the Spanish had reinforced the fortress of Toledo with three fresh units, two of crossbowmen and one of town militia. He would be lucky to take Toledo now and luckier to hold it, and there would be no march on Valencia until reinforcements came. Jalaf set out to begin the siege again, and hoped there would be no more surprises.

[This message has been edited by Kawada Shogo (edited 05-17-2017 @ 11:57 PM).]

posted 19 May 2017 08:20 EDT (US)     1 / 6  
An intriguing battle, well told.

Good use of the archers as well. And of course the age-old wisdom of hunting down fleeing men to prevent them from finding their balls and becoming a pain in the ass later, as your spearmen had proven can occur.

Feel free to post any type of tale here, from any source. This forum might be found under RTWH, but its name is the important part: the Bardic Circle. Bards gather and tell tales. So do we.

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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
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posted 14 June 2017 16:38 EDT (US)     2 / 6  
Thanks, glad you liked it. I'm not much of a writer, but I hope to get better at it with practice. I can describe battle events, but I can't really write characters. Perhaps i'll improve by posting more stories here periodically. It would be good to counter all the spam threads that have been taking over here lately anyway (is it possible to delete those, by the way?).
And of course the age-old wisdom of hunting down fleeing men to prevent them from finding their balls and becoming a pain in the ass later, as your spearmen had proven can occur.
Yep. I don't know if you play M2TW, but your generals can have ratings of chivalry or dread. Chivalry is better in governors while dread is better in generals. Hunting down fleeing enemies increases dread/lowers chivalry. Once I had a general with high chivalry, and I refused to hunt down routing enemies in a battle because I didn't want to lower his rating and make him a worse governor. It ended up being a real pain. The enemy soldiers kept reforming and coming back, which was especially irritating when they were archers. I ended up losing way more troops than I would otherwise have lost because I didn't hunt down and finish off retreating foes. I decided then that I wouldn't follow that policy anymore, it's too much trouble. Always chase them down and finish them.
posted 16 June 2017 13:12 EDT (US)     3 / 6  
Respect dictates the way battle will resolve.

Respect must be earned. Chivalrous generals earn massive respect.

But the opposing force must be smart enough to recognize this and pay the respect. Most are too stupid to realize this, and thus offer no respect.

When earning respect fails, I always find fear to be a reasonable substitute. Even the incredibly stupid can learn fear.

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
posted 16 June 2017 13:17 EDT (US)     4 / 6  
As for writing, practice does improve skills. Try to imagine the scene you wish to tell, then simply describe it.

This link has some really good advice. Some of it is even mine.

I tend to develop my characters through action, since that speaks louder than words. It also makes writing dialog easier- my characters do not talk so much, but when they do, it is important.

This is why I am so silent. I keep quiet and let people wonder if I am a fool then open my mouth at an inopportune moment and remove all doubt.

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
posted 16 June 2017 17:16 EDT (US)     5 / 6  
Thanks for the link. Lots of great material there. I'll be sure to study it carefully. Also, feel free to make constructive criticisms of my stories as I post them, if you see fit.

I've made several attempts so far, mostly in the Shattered Spear Inn, some of which I think were pretty good and others which I felt weren't so good (but were nonetheless useful as practice, as well as keeping the site alive). I definitely intend to make more. I'm actually starting another RTW campaign now, so perhaps soon i'll have a good battle that will inspire a story.
posted 20 June 2017 10:43 EDT (US)     6 / 6  
I have read your work, and feel it is quite good, and steadily improving.

Keep that up.

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
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