“Opportunities and chances aren’t things you wait for. Opportunities and chances are things you create with your own two hands, as only then would you be able to make the most out of them.” - Gregorian Aurelius Secundus, famed general and later Second Emperor of the Elmaiya Empire.
“Sound the horns! We charge!” yelled out Marshal Publius Cornelius of Caroma the moment he saw the outermost walls of Levain collapse on the besiegers, sending many of them directly to their deaths.
He had been briefed of the plan just the previous night by Chairwoman Estelle, who in turn received the information from Bernd and Miriel within the city. The plan that the old half-elven woman proposed was one that would probably be considered insane or incredibly wasteful… if not for the specific circumstances of Levain itself as a city.
As it was, Levain was still in the midst of rebuilding from the damages the city had taken early on in the civil war, with its population depleted to less than half of its heyday. As such, there was no incentive to recover the ruins between the sixth and seventh layers of walls, which used to be the slums and lower-class district of the city.
Similarly, there were minimal incentives to repair and maintain the seventh layer of wall, as everything that mattered at all was encompassed within the sixth wall’s coverage. The wall languished unused and fell into further disrepair over the past decade and a half already, so instead of committing chunks of the city’s already-tight budget into repairing it, Miriel chose to turn it into a deathtrap.
A deathtrap that had likely already swallowed thousands of lives the moment it was triggered, as there would be horrific casualties for the enemy troops who were atop the walls when it collapsed. Even those who were in the ruins were little better off, as they would be temporarily isolated from their allies outside where the wall used to be, with the defenders sallying out from the city’s gates to eradicate them before they could be rescued.
While the enemies near the city were occupied with attempting to rescue their allies and facing the sudden sally by the defenders, Publius would use the troops he led – in cooperation with the troops Estelle had with her and their auxiliaries – to keep the Podovnian army from interfering. The enemies would be distracted by the sudden development around the city, so it was the most opportune moment to attack them.
Of course, his wasn’t the only attack that would happen at that time, as the mercenaries had also promised to take out any “targets of opportunity” that presented itself during the distraction.
Publius had chosen to lead the cavalry contingent – nearly ten thousand strong between his own and the Levainian cavalry that agreed to follow his leadership – of the army personally, while his wife the Lady Marshal would work together with the Levainian general to direct the infantry. Fortunately, unlike his son, Publius himself was a skilled horseman, even if he was far from the best fighter regardless of being on horseback or not.
Under his command, the riders nudged their horses in unison as they rushed out from the army’s rear towards the left flank, where they had more room to move freely. He took a quick look to the side and spotted his daughter riding in the lead of her detachment of two hundred riders, and shook his head to set aside the worry he had for her as a father. At the moment he couldn’t afford to be a father, as it was a Marshal that was needed.
Neither of his children deigned to be kept away from the battle, as they had earned their current rank and positions the hard way. Even as Astra rode alongside her father and the rest of the cavalry to battle, Scipius led his own troops under his mother’s command as part of the main force that similarly surged forward to meet the Podovnians.
On their right, the Levainian troops marched in unison with Caroma’s finest, the two armies having formed a tacit understanding after fighting side by side for the past weeks. The auxiliaries marched to their rear, spread wide with bows in hand. Their role would be to provide ranged support to the ongoing battle, aiming deep into the enemy formation to avoid friendly fire.
Due to the distraction from the collapsing wall, the Podovnian army was late to react, and their right flank was still in the midst of turning to face the incoming cavalry charge by the time the latter arrived. The cavalry had not forced their way into the enemy formation. Such was a task better suited for heavy cavalry, while the force under Publius’ command were all light cavalry.
Instead, they rode parallel to the right flank of the Podovnian army – far enough away that a spear thrust would fail to reach them – and hurled javelins into the enemy formation as they rode by. Thousands of javelins darkened the sky in a way no arrow rain could manage, the larger and heavier projectiles piercing through even armor with great force as they brought part of the momentum of the galloping horse in them.
The rain of javelins alone almost collapsed the Podovnian right flank, and even as the cavalry rode past the Podovnian army, its lead elements starting to turn around for another run in the distance, the infantry that followed behind them had clashed against the Podovnian front lines.
One reason Publius dared to have only his Caroman infantry to hold the left flank of their army was because he had confidence that he could break the cohesion of the enemy’s right flank through his cavalry raid. His gambit proved prescient, as the reeling Podovnian right flank quickly crumbled against the Caroman elites that attacked them viciously under his lady wife’s command.
That in turn forced the Podovnian commander to commit his reserves to shore up the crumbling right flank of his army, which lightened the pressure that the well-trained but less experienced Levain troops had to deal with. Combined with the constant rain of arrows from the auxiliaries, that was enough to put the Podovnian army on the backfoot.
And that was before Publius led his riders back towards the battle for a second strike.