Chapter 6: To Battle
Maneuvering a division of five hundred men with horses and equipment within minutes was no small feat. With skilled precision, the group turned south and began marching back the way they came, eager for the encounter.
The scouts were continuing north toward the baggage train, and messengers came and went with a regular flow of pertinent information. A windswept field with a small stream running through its center came into view, and Talmido decided to halt the column to prepare for battle while scouts continued observing the Elamites as they made their way north along the Assyrian trail.
Lush green grass layered the field, which was spotted with blotches of red, yellow, purple, and white. The scent of lilacs struck the wind with caresses of beauty. At times, the soldiers stopped to admire the scene; however, the officers would start barking orders, and the men quickly continued the routine of building ramparts, ditches, and wooden stakes. Shortly, across the stream, a rhythmic thumping could be felt more than heard, and the men began to look up with growing interest to see the Elamites advancing as they beat their shields. Orders were given, and men scrambled to their positions. Archers moved forward, notching their bows while their cavalry moved up alongside the right flank of the heavily armed troops.
Horns of various caliber began pealing notes of instruction to the columns. The commands of Talmido bellowed out with a rhythm of frequency the men were familiar with, knowing the attack command was soon to arrive.
“Form up the center. Left flank, move into position, now! Archers, ready your arrows,” Talmido shouted out.
“Sir, should some of the men position for a flanking maneuver?” a Captain asked.
“Yes, send one hundred to circle around behind the Elamites to take out the archers and close the circle,” Talmido commanded.
“Yes, sir, right away,” the Captain replied.
Talmido weighed the Elamite position with a mind of entrapment. To finish this skirmish off quickly, he would need to pull the Elamite center into his middle and envelop their columns for a total encirclement; however, he was confident the Elamite CC would see the tactic and counter with an alternating encirclement move to render the tactic ineffective and make it potentially dangerous to the Assyrians.
So, Talmido chose to have one hundred men slip away into the forest behind the division for a flanking move while at the same time have his scouts track and kill the enemy scouts as fast as they could.
“Archers, let fly,” Talmido shouted.
The recurve bow was thought to be a Parthian invention of significant value that most every other army had stolen and copied with staggering success. The thump of porcine intestinal sinew could be heard as the archers sent a rain of arrows onto the Elamite troops, cavalry, and archers.
“Captain, let the cavalry know to begin their sweep towards the left flank,” Talmido said.
“Immediately, Commander,” the Captain acknowledged.
The opposing Elamite cavalry followed their course, anticipating the move. This was fine for Talmido, as he had expected this and had his horns blown for a frontal assault once the one hundred were in position. They were his best crack troops, hardened by years of battle and being on the campaign trail. He could trust them to follow through and attack the archers from behind. With that, the battle began with a steady-paced walk by the Elamites and Assyrians alike toward each other.
“Keep the line, men. Remember, your enemy is only human and dies just as easily as one. Close shields! Charge formation!” Talmido shouted out.
Soon, shouts traveled across the field with bellows from various horns mixed in to create a cacophony of sounds that quieted the natural world. Men steadily moved forward with determined thrusts of their feet, trampling the grass and flowers alike. The field soon came to resemble the pits of purgatory outside of Nineveh, where the convicted, dead, and diseased were thrown to replenish Moloch’s insatiable desire for sacrifice.
The cavalry began to pull the Elamite horsemen away from their division, thus effecting a slowing motion of the horses and an eventual defensive positioning of the Elamite cavalry. This was what Talmido wanted, and he ordered the Assyrian cavalry to move across the stream and engage in continued flanking movements.
The two Assyrian flanks spread out and began to move a step and a half faster than their center to implement the encirclement while beating their swords against their shields to create a rhythmic thumping of projected anger. The center columns tightened their grouping to a point where it was shield upon shield, building a wall of solid wood and bronze. Soon, the horns blew out their command for an attack, and the columns moved with a faster pace of anticipation, closing the distance between the two armies in a rapid-fire work of feet, shields, bodies, and swords.
The two armies clashed with a ring of metal and shouts of hatred centuries old. Hacking, slashing, gouging, and slicing characterized the bravery of the two groups, each determined to end any pretense of advancement.
“Move the line to the right! Move the line! Left flank push!” Talmido yelled to no avail.
The din of men, horses, and armor neutralized any ability to effectively communicate; however, with practiced precision, the encirclement continued to Talmido’s satisfaction.
“Pull the line in tighter. Order the one hundred to advance immediately,” Tamido shouted to his aide-de-camp.
“Yes, sir, as requested.” At that, the aide-de-camp heeled his horse and rushed off to inform the Captain of the one hundred.
“Sound the horns for a partial fall back. Move at my command,” Talmido shouted to his Captains as he looked around, making sure he was heard above the din of battle.
The one hundred had gathered at the rear of the Elamite company, and once the aide-de-camp gave them Talmido’s order, they advanced with a rush toward the Elamite archers, cutting down any rearguard deployment of the enemy with swift thrusts to their chests or faces. The archers had no chance as the one hundred fell upon them with grim delight and mowed them down to the man. At this, a cry went up, and the Elamite center collapsed with confusion and mayhem while the Assyrian cavalry circled outside of the columns, cleaning up any fleeing men. This went on for the next hour as Talmido’s troops pulled the Elamite line into their feinted retreat and battled with the last remnants of the Elamite units. Talmido continued to use his unique abilities to affect their deaths in ever-more-expedited ways.
With sweat running down his face, Talmido stood leaning on his sword, panting for breath. He looked around at the carnage with a smile of satisfaction on his face. His aide-de-camp came running up to him.
“Sir, the one hundred engaged the enemy and were successful,” he said as he looked around at the dead and the dying. “Ah...I guess you know that by now, though,” he said with a smile and a wink.
“Yup, pretty clear now. We are still alive and standing.” Talmido chuckled and pointed, “Let the Captains know to start the cleanup and reclamation detail immediately. I do not want to lose any time. We must march on towards group B.”
“Yes, sir,” the aide-de-camp replied and saluted as he turned to deliver the message.
By the end of the engagement, the sun had lowered into the western sky, indicating Shamash’s ride out of Anu’s presence and Nannar’s rise to cast blazing lights of denunciation against man and creation. Talmido was happy with the final results—fifty-seven dead, twenty-nine wounded, and a complete victory over the enemy. Parties had been sent out to round up all enemy survivors for slavery or execution, and to prevent any warning being made to the Elamite army situated four days’ ride to the north. Messengers were dispatched to the SM to alert him of the situation and the outcome, along with the additional orders to wait for company A to position for the attack on the caravan the next day.
Talmido walked among the men chatting quietly and, from time to time, recounting their heroics while complementing them on their bravery.
“It was a good fight, men. I noticed you fought bravely. You there, what is your name?” Talmido asked.
“Nasirpal, sir,” he replied.
“That is a good name. Your mother named you well. Let us toast to everyone’s bravery and dedication today,” Talmido said as he raised his flask to take a long drink of wine while the men sitting around the campfire toasted, as well.
Afterward, he met with his subordinates to outline the travel plans for the next day. Finally, late into the night, he laid down for a few exhausted hours of sleep.
It was with this fortitude and strength of will that Talmido earned respect and love from the men under his command. They knew of his concern for their well-being and his just equability. Gradually, the bonds of honor, respect, courage, and self-sacrifice wound its way into the very fabric of the company’s conscience, pulling the men together into a tight fighting machine with Talmido at its very core.
The next day, the men stirred with the blaring of horns and shouts of their Captains. They grumbled and complained to no one in particular as they shook away the mists of sleep and the potential of death’s grip on their minds’ pain from the previous day.
The division ate breakfast, then gathered up its tools of the trade. After stripping and burying the dead, it moved north toward the Elamite caravan. The way was uneventful, as no one had reached the Elamite army to alert it of the division’s demise. Only swarms of flies and the sun’s rays helped the men on their way, tormenting them with gleeful spite.
Scouts came and went with regularity, reporting on any enemy movement (of which none was observed), once regular communication was established with the SM. The division halted at dusk, built a camp, and planned for the battle to come. It would be early in the morning of the next day when the group attacked the caravan, killed all of its army personnel, and captured all of the slaves. After defeating the convoy, the men would split up the equipment and gather into groups of no more than five men to journey south by various routes to confuse and discourage any Elamite pursuit.
Before dawn, Talmido rose, washed, and ate, neither smiling nor acknowledging his men. His head hung low, deep in thought, contemplating on only the gods knew what. A crease ran across his brow, wrinkling his forehead and making him look older with the seeming wisdom of age. The men whispered in hushed words of concern, casting fleeting glances his way to ascertain if he was sick. Talmido rose and looked around the mess tent.
“The time has come for those Elamite dogs to pay for our brothers’ lives by the thrusting our blades into the hearts of their sons and daughters. Why should Assyrian mothers be the only ones to weep? Does not Ishtar provide justice for the weak? Rise up, my brothers, and remember your friends, your families, and your honor. Share with me a toast to the gods of our men, and may we be victorious today, and may Ashur shelter us from Zaltus’ machinations.”
The men stood and held up their goblets while looking intently at Talmido and toasted to their fallen comrades. Quickly, Talmido and the men left the mess tent and began barking the orders for each platoon to prepare and assemble for war. Scouts arrived, providing situational awareness on the caravan and division B’s position. All, it seemed, was in place.
The units, with muffled sandals and hooves, began to quietly move through the forest toward the east and the unsuspecting caravan. The sun had not come up yet. It was deathly quiet, with neither insect nor bird providing any acoustic cover; hence, any rustle or snap could be heard for hundreds of cubits, so each man was instructed to remain silent under penalty of death. These men were professionals, and while no threat was ever made or implied, they all knew the possible outcomes—either the enemy would kill the man they hear, or Talmido would kill that man for giving the division’s position away.
Once word had come in that division B was stationed around the caravan, Talmido gave the word for the horns to be blown and the attack to begin.
Pandemonium broke out in the Elamite baggage train camp with disheveled men grabbing for their swords while staggering around, trying to determine from which direction their enemies would come. The baggage train had been surrounded, and the attack was all-encompassing, with the glittering bronze armor and snarling white teeth of the Assyrian soldiers driving the eternity of death’s embrace through their enemies’ hearts or bellies, whichever became more exposed.
The screaming of women rang out into the night air, shattering the peace of the early morning as they ran or were dragged away into the forest, as the grunts of the dying and the weeping of the wounded added an orchestral balance of rhythmic sorrow that was all too familiar to Talmido and his men. It had not registered entirely until the battle was over and the sun shone with all its glory on the camp’s destruction. Fires burned where torches had been thrown into tents to flush out their occupants. Bodies laid where they had been beheaded or disemboweled, with arms and legs stretched out in bizarre arrays of demise.
Thankfully, it was all over within a couple of hours. All enemy army personnel were either killed or captured, and the slaves were corralled into tight columns of humanity. The quartermaster began his work of dividing up the spoils according to rank and reward for outstanding fieldwork.
“It is good to see you, Sergeant Major. I am glad that Ashur showed favor toward you and kept you alive for another day of fighting,” Talmido commented.
“Thank you, Commander. Yes, it would seem that way,” replied Si-tatious.
“How many dead and injured?”
“Eighty-one dead and ninety-three injured, sir.”
“Bury the dead, and bind up the injured. We need to move out of here tonight before the Elamite east-flank division finds out what happened and sends for reinforcements.”
That night, the company was divided into four groups, each taking one-quarter of the spoils and moving out in various zigzagging patterns to shake off the prying eyes of the Elamite scouts. Each team made it back to the Assyrian camp the following evening and rejoined their company to hearty slaps on the back and full grins of devious satisfaction. The heist had worked, and they had exacted some Assyrian revenge on their Elamite counterparts. This was their purpose. This was their life. This was their reality.
Talmido joined his men later that night for beer and roasted goat to cheers of jubilation and words of gratitude. Each man had just become wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. It was on that day the company indeed became Talmido’s for his to do as he wished. The men were his to command and lead, and Talmido knew this to his great satisfaction.