Chapter 5: Friendship
(1181 BC Earth Time)
As the years and campaigns wore on, Talmido was developing a depth of understanding and compassion for his fellow soldiers as they fought the indefatigable Parthians, Babylonians, Medes, Hittites, and Elamites, incurring many victories and losses. This process invoked a sense of brotherhood within the rank and file, thus creating bonds of brotherly love that could only be experienced by warriors. Talmido had saved his companions so many times, to their amazement and gratitude, that they now provided a protective barrier around him, not allowing anything to threaten their savior. Eventually, Talmido was noticed by his superiors as possessing valuable leadership qualities. Subsequently, they promoted him to company commander (CC), giving him responsibility for one thousand men and their families, slaves, and possessions.
It was at this juncture, while Assyria was focusing its campaigns against Elam, that Talmido was planning an attack on an Elamite caravan. He was contemplating the possibility of attacking the rear baggage train as it moved north along a specified valley to catch up with the main convoy when his Sergeant Major (SM) pointed out an obvious threat to the company.
“Sir, if I may, the mountains on each side of the valley provide excellent height and cover advantage for the enemy. It may be prudent for us to perhaps split our company up into two divisions, one following the west outside range while the other marches east following the outside range. This approach will not alert the convoy nor allow us to be surprised in the event there are flanking groups protecting the caravan,” the SM remarked.
“I agree. Let’s split into two groups. I’ll take group A and you head up group B. A will go west and B will proceed east. We will converge on the convoy once we are positioned properly on either side. Agreed? Additionally, we will separate here, at this point.” Talmido pointed to a calfskin map draped over a table.
“Yes, sir, of course. As requested,” the SM said, saluting sharply and turning to leave the Command Tent.
The next morning, the company prepared for the ride ahead of them to catch the Elamite baggage train. The horses were hardened war animals accustomed to the life of death and destruction. They knew a battle was to come and stamped their hooves and snorted their impatience as the men readied their equipment and weapons.
“Mount up, men. It is time for us to ride north. It will be a fast-paced march so make sure you have everything strapped down tight. Make sure you have your canteen tied near to your head, so you do not need to stop to try and find it to take a drink. I do not want any of you passing out because of dehydration or heat stress. Got it?” Talmido commanded.
One Captain yelled out, “You there, get that damn canteen put in the proper place. Didn’t you hear the Commander?”
“Yes, sir. Right away,” the soldier replied.
The men started hustling to obey, checking each other’s pack and weapons. Quickly mounting up, the Company marched north toward the Elamite caravan. Three hours passed, and scouts began to appear with news of the whereabouts of the convoy. Talmido halted the procession of men to convene an officer’s brief.
Talmido explained the company would split into two, with himself heading up Division A and the SM leading Division B. Both divisions were to converge on the caravan at the same time, one from the southwest and the other from the northeast, to engulf the procession. One officer brought up the possibility of the convoy turning south in an attempt to flee back down the valley.
“Good point. We will position fifty men here to wait for any fleeing enemies. They should capture them for ransom. Do not, and I repeat, do not put them to the sword,” the SM said as he pointed at a spot on the calfskin map.
“Have the scouts determined if there are any Elamite companies stationed along the valley’s mountains?” Talmido asked.
“Yes. There are two, one on each side halfway up the valley, hidden among the trees and rocks,” answered the SM.
“And what is being planned to deal with them? We don’t need one thousand heavily armed men assisting the caravan once they know we are upon them,” stated Talmido.
After looking around, the SM pointed again to the map. “It is suggested that we send the fifty men at the southern part of the valley up through it to flush the companies out and draw them away from the caravan as we attack. Perhaps the Company of Two Lions will wait for the fleeing troops and fall upon the pursuing Elamite divisions?”
“Good. Send a messenger to them, and request support for the southern flank,” Talmido commanded.
“Yes, sir. Right away,” the SM replied, and with that, he barked orders to the officers in charge, and the men scrambled to their respective troops, preparing for the oncoming battles.
Messengers began dispatching, and the company waited for a reply from the Commander of the Two Lions. The next morning, the message came in, stating that all was ready and to proceed with the assault.
“It is time for us to forge ahead. Keep alert, stay true to our mission and fight with courage,” Talmido stated. Saluting the officers, he began walking towards his horse. Swinging his leg up and over the back of his steed, Talmido seated himself, taking in the scene of orderly chaos ensuing before him.
Each troop of fifty men was forming up into their assigned ranks, patiently waiting for the order to march.
Nodding towards the SM, Talmido said, “May Enki protect you and the men. Be careful out there. Keep a close eye out for enemy scouts.”
“Yes, sir. And if I may suggest, you be careful, as well. The men you command are my friends,” the SM replied with light joviality.
Talmido and the SM laughed and began moving north/west and north/east, respectively. Scouts proceeded in front of each division, providing information on the terrain and the whereabouts of the enemy. The two divisions kept a wide berth around the “hidden” Elamite troops, moving swiftly north toward the end of the valley. Even though the day was bright and cloudless, the trees and hills hid the dust being thrown up by the horses and obscured the sounds of traveling men.
Steadily, the two Assyrian divisions advanced parallel to the valley, moving north. Unbeknownst to the Assyrian western unit, two men running just outside the Assyrian field of view were shadowing them. Quietly, one man slipped away, circling back south around the division, cutting across its trail, moving east toward the Elamite soldiers scattered among the tree-lined foothills of the mountain range. Eventually, the scout arrived, reporting to his Division Commander the troop movement of the western Assyrian division. The Commander immediately dispatched two messengers, one to the eastern Elamite division that flanked the baggage train and one to the Elamite general seventy leagues to the north of their position. With a swift communiqué, the Division Commander ordered his troops to mount up. Within minutes, the division was on the move, heading west and then north, eventually following the Assyrian division’s trail.
As a division of heavily armed soldiers moves, a Commander worth his salt will deploy flanking scouts to track any movement coming from the division’s front, rear, and sides. Talmido did just that, preparing for contingency feints or counter movements to offset any direct attack, and also to confuse enemy scouts or messengers.
It was late in the afternoon, and the division moved through the forest, skirting a small meadow with sun-dappled lilacs, imperial fritillaries, and lilies waving in the soft breeze of a fresh-scented spring day. Racing across a field, throwing up clumps of soil behind his horse’s rear flanks and bending over its neck while heeling the beast, was an excited scout. Talmido could not ignore him, so he pulled his mount up short, thus halting the column of men and animals alike. The scout skidding to a halt barely an arm’s length away from colliding into Talmido while his horse snorted its alarm at the potential disaster. The scout jumped off, saluted, and promptly started reporting.
“Sir, the enemy has been spotted moving south of your position with a division of men. They are following your movement north. Two messengers were seen leaving their position—one moving east and another moving north!” he exclaimed with excited shortness of breath while looking around at the gathered officers and men.
“Major, turn the division south. It seems we need to address this provocation before reinforcements arrive. Send a messenger to division B with an outline of our position. Have them continue with the attack on the baggage train. We will rendezvous east of the mountains once we finish up with the Elamite division here,” stated Talmido.
Division A turned towards the threatening Elamite division with decisive action. The time to press the advantage had arrived. With professional efficiency, the men melted into the forest with the sun at their back and the enemy closing in from the front.