I swear I won’t ever do this again, I know how SUPER invested you all are in 70s Ela story. Ela Classic was written ad hoc based on random charts and whatnot, rules turned into a narrative, but I did wake up late one night and write this bit about her being forced into a battle in THE NORTH. I think I had it for more than a year waiting to fit it into the “story”.
I figured I’d post it because I’m lazy and clearly I have to stick to the pretend schedule I came up with of posting Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
Why was Ela forced into this battle?
Who is Keorl Thunderhand?
Is it still called polygamy if you have wives and husbands?
We’ll never know.
I’ve never seen a battle down south and I hope I never do, but from what I understand it’s quite an affair. Huge blocks of men lumbering around in ragged squares getting into lines. Banners and pennants and tents and guys with big hats and all kind of shit like that. I’ve heard that the reason army people get up at dawn is it takes them until lunch just to get everyone to the battlefield and ready to kill one another. There’s barely enough hours to even get on with the slaughter before it gets dark. And you can’t fight in the dark. It’s too scary.
Clearly things are a little more loose up here. People seemed to be milling about and wandering down to the front lines like it’s a county fair. Some people were already killing each other when I got up. Others were still asleep. Seems like it would have been the perfect situation to avoid the battle and just say you were there after the fact but I don’t think I can fool magic like that. Always the damn magic. So Instead of doing the smart thing and staying under cover until all the killing and dying was over, I went in search of Keorl Thunderhand, finding him in a heap with his wives and husbands.
I tossed a bucket of . . . something on him “Come on, the battle’s starting and it’s a race between which is going to freeze off first, my nips or my nose.”
Grinning, he disentangled himself from the pile and came out of his tent shrugging on a chain shirt and slapping on a helmet “That’s the problem with you southern women, too skinny. You need some blubber on your bones to stay warm.”
I rubbed my hands together and blew on them “I don’t see how you people get so big up here with the warmed up dogshit you call food.”
He laughed and led me over to the “cavalry wing” which was a bunch of dudes and horses just as disorganized and chaotic as the rest. He motioned for me to mount up on a grey and black beast that was eyeing me as dubiously as I was it. These northern horses are so small and shaggy they’re more like sheep than equines if you ask me.
“Shouldn’t I put on some armor or something first?”
He shrugged “Sure, grab that cmail and slip it on.”
I grabbed the pile of metal he gestured to and could barely lift it “Okay, never mind, point taken.”
“Yes, and a fine point it was too. Put on that helmet.”
I picked it up gingerly “Seems too big for me.”
He shrugged “Better than too small.” He surveyed the half-battle going on below as we mounted “Do you have any battle training?”
“How good a rider are you?”
“Good, that’s more important anyway. If you want to survive, and you’ve certainly made it seem like you do, there’s two things you need to do. First, stay mounted. That may seem obvious, but I need to emphasize this because footmen do most of the dying. You do not want to be anywhere near the earth in that mess. Mounted, you have two things someone on foot doesn’t – vision and mobility, and that’s what you use to stay alive. Don’t get near the middle, stay on the edges of the action where you can see what’s happening and react. React meaning ride away of course.
If you get knocked off your horse get back on immediately, don’t worry about anything else – get back in the saddle. If your horse gets killed, find another. I’ll deny ever saying this but if you have to take one from someone on your own side, do that. People tend not to expect their battle-brothers, or sisters in this case, to kill them and take their horse so you can catch them off guard. Your horse is your best armor and your best weapon. Keep it between you and the people trying to kill you. If you can, use it to crush them, if you can’t, let it take the hits for you. How do you feel about horses?”
“I love them.”
“Will that prevent you from using one to keep yourself alive?”
“No. I’ve done it before unfortunately.”
“That’s good. Horses are fine animals but they’re not worth risking your life over. I’ve seen men in the middle of battle trying to save a horse. You can imagine how well that goes. If someone wants to take time to murder your horse, that’s time they’re not using to murder you – let them use it while you find another mount. What you have to avoid is getting down in the melee with the foot soldiers. You may have heard some old veteran waxing nihilistic about the chaos and blood and horror of being in the press of combat and you may have dismissed it as bold talk – it isn’t. It is the absolute worst thing you can ever be involved with. Call it nightmarish, call it Hellish, call it whatever you want, just avoid it.
When you’re up on your horse, unless a man has a spear or a pike they’re going to have a hard time striking at you effectively. Once you’re on foot they won’t even need to bother, at your size you’ll get knocked down and trampled to death. It’s a risk for even a strong man – you got a dozen men behind you pushing you into another man who’s got a dozen men shoving him into you. You’re pinned together so that you can’t even fight unless you have a knife. Men trapped like that bite at each other like dogs. It’s no lie that in the crush of battle, you don’t even know who you’re attacking.
That’s first. The second thing is don’t take your helmet off. Not ever. It’s heavy and it makes it hard to hear and it cuts off your vision and it’s going to get so hot in there you’re going to feel like you can’t breathe. But don’t take it off, not even for a second. If your helmet gets knocked off, find it, or another, and get it back on as fast as possible. Don’t worry about anything else. If it gets knocked askew and you can’t see, don’t try to take it off and put it back on, just turn it around. If you can’t get it back right way around you’re almost better off being blind than taking it off, it’s a hard call.
There’s filthy weakling healers around that can heal you as long as you don’t get stabbed directly in the heart or in one of the main bloodlines in your thigh. You have a chance to survive most wounds long enough to get healed. What you can’t survive is getting your brains bashed in or an arrow through the skull. If you get hit in the helmet it’s going to make you dizzy, you’re going to want to pull it off – do not do this. If you lose your helmet and you can’t find another, you may be tempted to pick up a shield to protect your head. Don’t. If you can even lift it, you’re not going to be able to hold it high for long and then you’re just going to be tired. You’re better off shielding your head with your weapon or even your arm – even if you’re not wearing armor. You can live just fine with one arm, you don’t have a spare head. Not to mention you’re rich you can regrow a new arm magically.
Stay mounted, protect your head. Horse, helmet, that’s how you stay alive.”
“Got it. What about attacking the enemy?”
He laughed “I wouldn’t worry about that, you don’t look like you could break an egg.”