The Strategist

John Stanley-29 September 1364

It took three days  to dismantle the trebuchet and move it accross the river.

In the meantime, at John’s request, the siege tower, positioned opposite the lowest part of the Château walls and used intermittently and unsuccessfully, was moved to the north of the Château opposite the tallest walls.

Before moving it, the top two floors of the siege tower were covered with stout wooden walls. making it impossible for it to be used for it’s original purpose and more importantly made it impossible for those within the Château to gain access to it’s upper floors.

John returned on the fourth day. John Chandos looked at him quisically. ‘We have done what you wanted and now they are here, two thousand of them, perhaps more.’

John smiled. ‘Good but we want to draw all of them across the river. They can only use the crossing here in Auray. To the north there are swamps, to the south a deep river valley. It is why Auray exists. it is the only way across the river.’

‘They are mostly across, but are still somewhat disorganised. What do we do now?’

‘As we agreed a week ago, retreat to the south of the Château’

‘Abandonning the seige tower?’

‘Yes in the short term.’

‘But we have just spent so much time getting it in the position you wanted.’

‘I know, trust me, we want to draw every last man across the river.

‘And then?’

We have Olivier de Clisson.  He is waiting now, only waiting a signal. As soon as du Bois, du Guesclin and Auxterre have crossed the river, send a thousand of your men in the opposite direction and seal off the river crossing.

But that will bring our forces to nearly to parity on this side of the river.  We will still have to win a battle.’

‘Yes you will…and so will I.’

Somewhat reluctantly Chandos withdrew his forces south of the Château. There was then several hours delay whilst the remaining forces supporting  of du Blois crossed the river and some evidence of confusion amongst the three different groups.

Once they were all across, one thousand of Monforts men moved to the east bank of the river via de Clissons ships.  They then moved north, moving slowly, taking care not to break cover.

Chandos waited to give time for the crossing to be covered.

It wasannexercise of timing.

Before du Guesclin, du Blois and Auxerre had settled their positions their troops, whilst they were manouvering themselves into position, Chandos moved back north just past the Château.  John immediately led half of his archers into the siege tower, not to invade the Château but to survey the ground to the north.

Once they were firmly established on the tower, John waved a yellow penannt.

The archers left on the ground immediately launched wave after wave of arrows accros the whole area occupied by du Blois forces.

Almost immediately there was a response fron du Blois arbalesters using the heaviest, most accurate form of crossbow.

John waved his hand in the air. ‘It worked, we know where they are, take them out.’

With the benefit of the elevation provided John’s archers in the siege tower were able to target the arbalesters with fearsome accuracy.

Du Blois forces responded by charging forward but they were not well prepared. They made a series of uncordinated charges which John’s archers on the ground were able to destroy. The sharpshooters picking off the leaders with consummate ease. The Arquebasters retreated leaving the centre of Du Blois forces in disarray and the two wings exposed.

Chandos attacked Du Blois and Auxterre and Rober Knolles attached du Guesclin.

John looked on with satisfaction. ‘Du Gueslin will not run for the crossing he will run to the west. Our job is done up here now. ‘Morgan take half of the archers across the river. You will be expected and there will be horses waiting for you.  Your job is to make sure none of du Blois men escape across the river, the rest of you follow me.’

They all descended from the siege tower. Mogan’s men dashed down to the riverbank to where a blackhulled boat was waiting for them. John and rest of the archers mounted waiting horses and galloped  to the west.

John had personally spent the week preparing a fence along the western perimiter of the expected battlefield. It was modelled on what had given victory at Poitiers.

At Poitiers, it had been an impenetrable natural hawthorne fence which had given the English archers cover. Here John had used clumps of trees and linked between them with conventional post and rail fencing. For most of it’s length the fence was positioned behind agricultural ditches. The fencing had then been covered with tree branches so the the nature of the barrier was far from obvious. There were two gaps in the fencing oriented parallel to the north south line an disguised so that from the east they would be difficult to locate.

John, called his knights together. As we agreed, retreat to the trees we identified as a base, dismont and wait for my signal. I know it will be difficult for you but you must not come forward until I give the signal, a yellow flag on my lance.

He look time to look each of the knights directly in the eye.

They all nodded, then turned and rode to the appointed base

John now turned to the archers.’Now all we have to do is wait. When they come, do everything you can to drive them north. The fence we have created is six feet high. i do not believe and horse carrying a man in armour could jump that fence.Say low and shoot throughthe fence as we practiced

It did not take long. a stream of cavalry thumdered towards the fence, and then pulled to a halt searching for a gap. The archers picked off any who headed south. The cavalry swirled in circles searching for a way though the fence.

John sighed with satisfaction. There he was.. red hair, ugly face, long arms. John lifted a bodkin, armour piercing arrow, from his quiver, took careful aim, imagined the arrow bedding itself in du Guesclin’s neck and let the string roll of his fingers, as he he had done so many times before.

At that instant another rider crossed in front of du Guesclin. The arrow took him and not du Guesclin. He slumped in his saddle and slipped slowly to the ground.

Faced with a barrage of arrows several of the riders lowered their lances and charged the fence. it was a futile gesture. They were picked off before they got closer than twenty feet.

The riders moved to the north. The archers quickly mounted and shadowed them north.

The fence had been constructed so that it reached the edge of the northern swampy ground.

Du Guesclin and his companions were no longer moving fast. They became bogged down in the swampy ground. The archers dismounted and still covered by the fence started to eliminate du Guesclin’s men one by one. Finally Dugueslin and another six riders reached the northern limit of the fence and turned south, seeking firm ground

John lifted his lance, showing the yellow pennant and released the catches on the sheaths of his axes. He leaned forward and whispered in Helios’ ear. ‘Now, now my beauty. Now we must be brave.

He rode directly at du Guesclin ignoring the other knights riding either side of him. For the last thirty feet he dropped Helios’ reins across his neck, leaving him to continue the charge of his own volition. He whirled his axes and with satisfaction got close enough to du Guesclin to see the fear in his eyes.

Helios adjusted his charge to avoid du Gueslin’sattempt to reposition his lance and carried John close enough to swing his axe onto du Gesclin’s shoulder plate. The plate buckled, but in an instant John had passed him. He pulled Helios around preparing for a second charge, but before he could start the charge du Guesclin dismounted and quite deliberately broke first his lance and then his sword, throwing them on the grond and then lying on top of them, face down.

John rode back slowly, sheathed one of his axes and dismounted still holding the other axe. He lifted the axe above his head. Du Guesclin did not move. John willed himself to deliver the execution blow, but he could not bring himself to do it.

After several minutes du Guesclin rolled over and devivered the nearest he could get to a smile.

Take me to John Chandos, i will bring a very good ransom.

Two weeks later John handed du Guesclin over to john chandos. Du Guesclin’s handsan feet were chained together. for john the two Weeks since du Guesclin’s capture had been torture. He had wanted to kill him he believed he should kill him but he could not bring himself to do it.

Chandos eyed the chains.’ not very chivalrous John.’

‘No , but he would not know what Chivalry means.’

‘You should know that your strategy has been very successful.

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List of Characters

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