“The worst mistake one can make in a battle of tactics is to do what the enemy expected you to do.” - Liang Shi-zu, famed tactician from the Huan Confederation.
Before Reinhardt ordered his people to strike towards the Podovnian siege Engines, he had surveyed the terrain, both from high above with the artifact and Hannah’s help, and with his own eyes and feet during dark nights. When he launched the attack, he was certain that given the distance and speeds involved, the only way the Podovnians could catch up with his troops after they did what they came for was using their cavalry.
As such, he prepared some surprises in the region where they would sally from to welcome said cavalry warmly.
While the majority of his troops were out assaulting the Podovnian camp and siege engines, a detachment led by Lars stayed on guard near the forest. At a glance, they appeared as if they were simply securing the retreat route of the mercenaries. In actuality, however, Lars and his men were acting as cover for the groups of combat engineers Reinhardt borrowed from Levain when they went out while those did their work.
There was little that the combat engineers could do in a field battle anyway, so they had not been handed over to Estelle and the Caroman marshals like the rest of the volunteers.
Behind the cover that Lars and his troops provided, those engineers used their skills – and earth magic, which most of them possessed and were skilled at – to dig plenty of small pitfalls, just large enough for a horse’s leg to slip into, and cleverly cover them up. Others carefully set up stakes hidden inside mounds of earth with ropes tied to them, leading to the forest. Should someone in the forest pull the rope taut, it would create a calf-high obstacle meant to trip a galloping horse.
Reinhardt had Mischka lead the best shieldbearers in the company to face the onrushing cavalry head-on for the exact purpose of driving the enemy to the sides. He figured that sooner or later some of the enemy commanders would get smart and lead their men to hit them from the side, and thus run headlong into the traps and trip cords waiting for them.
He had not expected Michel du Riffons and his White Eagles to be the first to run into those preparations, but definitely wouldn’t complain about that stroke of luck either.
The White Eagles had circled around and tried to strike the Free Lances from their left flank only for their foremost riders to run afoul of the pitfalls. The moment the first few riders fell over, members of the combat engineers – who were predominantly dwarves – yanked the other end of the prepared trip cords from inside the forest, setting the cord taut.
Unable to change their direction or stop in a hurry, nearly half of the White Eagles found themselves becoming victims to the trip cords and pitfalls, men and horses falling on top of each other in heaps, the lives of those at the bottom most likely forfeit as they were crushed beneath their own comrades. Those further in the rear had enough time to slow down and stop their mounts, but by that time the damage had already been done.
At the same time, Erycea’s platoon detached themselves from the left flank and charged straight at the halted remnants of the White Eagles, followed closely by Elfriede’s platoon behind them. Reinhardt wanted to capture old Guillaume’s son alive if possible, which was why he sent those platoons over, as many of the people there would recognize Michel du Riffons by sight.
He was not as concerned about the boy resisting because he also told them to freely rough the brat up a bit if he gets annoying.
After all, while he valued the promise he made to the old man, he wasn’t going to risk the lives of his own people just to do it. In this case young Michel fortunately placed himself in a situation where it would be convenient for Reinhardt’s people to take him alive, so there was no reason to not at least try doing so. As for his actual eventual fate, that would very much depend on himself.
If the boy knew what’s good for him and gave up quickly he might get away with only a little roughing up, but otherwise, Ery or Friede or their people would have zero qualms about beating him up.
Tactics to deal with heavy cavalry was something Reinhardt’s people were uniquely suited to, thanks to their strong unit cohesion within the platoon level and the physical capabilities of their best shieldbearers. Few infantry forces boasted of people who could take on a direct charge from heavy cavalry in such a headlong manner, so his approach to countering them was likely something most foes would be unfamiliar with and thus would not expect.
Like always, he strived to weaponize that unfamiliarity to his own advantage, as the unfortunate Podovnian cavalry now learned the hard way. The Podovnians knew that Reinhardt had ways to counter light cavalry from their earlier tussle, but as Mischka’s people were off with Lars to the north, they had not been a known quantity to the Podovnians.
Even though the Anduilleans had to face Mischka’s platoon on many occasions, Reinhardt also knew that the terrain at the north made it practically impossible to mobilize cavalry with any efficiency, so they were similarly unaware that Mischka’s people had training in anti-cavalry tactics. That gap in knowledge was what he used to turn the tables on his enemies and make a profit while he was at it.
Even as Erycea and Elfriede dealt with young du Riffons to the left, he noticed another group of Podovnians charging in from his right only to fall into the traps waiting on that side. Reinhardt smirked at the sight and gave the order for Alycea and Nicole’s troops to go out and take as many captives as they could from the fallen cavalrymen, while at the same time signaled to Mischka and the others up front to push hard and break the enemies.
It was time to bring things to a close.