Battle of Cedewain

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A mixed army of human and fleaudian forces win a decisive victory over a traditional feudal levy.

Who:

Arth Byddin (King Arthur) vs. the English Crown (King Edward I)

Where:

Near Cedewain, northern Cymru

When:

4 of March 1282

Why:

In order to appease his internal conflicts with the Welsh Marcher Lords, Edward I launched a second campaign to conquer Cymru.

Forces in presence:
English Cymraeg
1600 men-at-arms 2000 Cymraeg irregulars
500 archers 300 Cymraeg longbowmen
300 Flemish ogre mercenaries 500 magical fleaudian contingents
200 Irish hobelar mercenaries 150 knights of the Arth Byddin
200 feudal knights
50 royal guards
10 mages
Outcome:

Despite being soundly outnumbered, two consecutive charges from the Cymraeg knights led by Arthur start a massive rout of the English army. Decisive Arthurian victory.

Consequences:

Failure of the second invasion of Cymru, Edward must drop his ambitions over the Cymraeg Crown. Important reform of the English army.


The conflict

King Edward I of England never hid his ambitions over Cymru (Wales), but when the legendary King Arthur comes back to life in 1260, things get seriously more complicated for the English Crown. The fabled hero is told that the ‘Saxons’ have invaded almost all of Britannia since the time of Camelot, and takes the current Anglo-Norman rulers for his former enemies. The Welsh Marcher Lords, powerful English barons owning lands in Cymru, are quickly expulsed from the territory and cause serious trouble to Edward and his father, Henry III.


After a bloody English civil war between the crown and baronial forces (including the Welsh Marcher Lords), things settle down for Edward. But the moderate policies of the King, which clash against the recommendations of the Church, give an excuse to the Welsh Marcher Lords to pressure Edward into sending an expedition to conquer Cymru once and for all. Instead of risking another civil war against his feudal lords, Edward accepts to launch an attack and uses it as a pretext to raise a large army from the lands of his troublesome vassals. War is coming.


The campaign

Edward assembles his muster at Chester but, despite sending various hobelar scouts deep in Arthurian territory, doesn’t manage to gather meaningful information on the whereabouts of his enemies. Crossing the border is particularly difficult for the English forces: Cymraeg longbowmen make them earn every mile with blood, sweat and tears through a combination of guerrilla warfare and burnt-crops tactic. Scouts sent by Edward rarely come back alive, which forces the army to advance more carefully, without any real knowledge of what lays ahead. The English column is often ambushed in the woods, the camp’s supply wagons are regularly attacked by night and the moral of the English warriors withers the deeper the venture into Cymru territory.


Edward’s forces still manage to take a few strongholds in the north-east of Cymru and march on Dolwdyddelan where they besiege the castle. The English artillery and a few mages quickly breach the castle’s walls, which leads to the immediate surrender of the place by Cai Hir, Arthur’s brother and one of the Knights of the Round Table. True to character, Edward massacres the people in the castle and beheads the castellan. Then, he decides to repair the place and spend the winter where he can rest his men safely.


But things do not pan out as expected during the winter. Unnatural winds prevent any real or constant re-supplying and sordid stories of murder and disappearance spread amongst the troops who start saying that the castle is haunted and the campaign cursed. Before he is truly ready, Edward is forced to leave Dolwdyddelan Castle for Shrewsbury where he can re-supply his men properly.


King Arthur loosely coordinated the Cymraeg actions in the campaign so far; he was planning a quest for the Holy Grail in the south, and did not seriously think Edward was strong enough to be dangerous. He had left the defence to some unhappy castellans who did not like to see him leave the country for a trivial adventure. But his brother’s cruel death deeply affected him. He then views Edward as a real enemy he has to face and get rid of as soon as possible. He comes back north and sets a net of spies around Dolwdyddelan Castle to monitor exactly when and where Edward would go. The time the longbowmen bought allowed him to assemble an important army of his own, and he is now ready to follow his enemy from a distance. On his land, he is in perfect control of when and where a battle can take place.


In the morning of the 4th of March, the English camp is awoken by large explosive boulders launched by fleaudian mages from the top of a nearby hill. Edward’s army assembles in all haste while suffering regular bombardments of the magical artillery.


Forces and deployment

The bulk of the English force is made of feudal levies–men who fight by duty (instead of money). Depending on the size of his estate, a knight may be required to bring with him other warriors from his household, mostly men-at-arms or archers. These troops have the benefit of being bound to serve their lord when he calls, but only for a certain number of days per year. After this period, they can refuse to continue (making long campaigns difficult to follow through). But Edward is also an excellent war strategist who sees the benefit of mixed troops on the battlefield. He brought with him Irish hobelars to scout the land (although this ended up having a mixed success) and prey on the Cymraeg longbowmen. He also hired a large contingent of Flemish ogres (new commercial allies of England) to add a serious punch to his melee.


The Arthurian forces are mainly composed of Cymraeg irregulars; peasants and freemen with little equipment and poor training. But when it comes to protecting their homeland, especially when led by Arthur himself, these troops can prove to be very resilient. Since the arrival of the legendary king, the Cymraeg strategy relies on a core of heavy cavalry which, strangely enough, is trained and equipped in Anglo-Norman fashion and led by the much famed Knights of the Round Table. These are in turn backed by a solid magical support and the famous Cymraeg longbowmen who are renowned to be deadly with their close-range shooting.


Instigator of the battle, Arthur has more time to prepare than his rival. Using the cover of the night, he hides his longbowmen in two wooded area for the morning battle. He then makes a formation where the soft but deadly fairy troops are set atop of the hill to gain a height advantage and he protects their flanks with the irregulars. He keeps his knights behind the hill, out of the enemies’ sight to gain an additional surprise effect. Rushed by their surprise awakening, the English army is loosely deployed in the confusion of the morning attack and absolutely not ready to battle.


The battle

1. The constant bombardment of his troops forces Edward to take the initiative. But the exposed magical creatures at the centre seem to easy a target to be true. Edward senses a trap and, instead of launching his knights, decides to send the Flemish ogres first. Sure enough, when the ogres cross the field, they become an easy target for the longbowmen hidden in the first wood. A lucky arrow kills the mercenary captain and, panicked, his lieutenant splits the troops in two: one part keeps marching forward while the other switches direction to rush at the Cymraeg archers. But, as the ogres nearly reach the enemy, another wave of arrows is shot at them by the longbowmen hidden in the second wood. Weakened and reduce to a little more than 100 warriors, the remaining ogres are easily contained by the irregulars’ right wing.


2. With the melee raging nearby, the Arthurian fleaudians fall back behind the hill, out of their enemies’ sight. Edward takes this for a retreat and immediately sends his infantry at double-pace to reinforce the ogres. But what he took for cowardice was in fact a tactical switch; quickly the three contingents of Arthurian knights appear on the battlefield. Surprised by this new enemy, the English men-at-arms instinctively slow down their movement. Then, the unit on the left raises its banners to announce it is led by the much famed Sir Perceval, son of Pellinore. Slowly, the unit on the right raises its banners too, announcing the legendary Sir Lancelot du Lac. Edward’s infantry is now at a complete stop, visibly impressed by the heroes of the Round Table they will soon have to face. Finally, the middle unit raises its banners as well, showing the army is indeed led by King Arthur himself. In fact, the first horseman in the unit draws his sword to reveal his identity. Proudly wielding Excalibur, the legendary king announces he will lead the charge into the enemy.


3. The Arthurian knights take a wedge formation and start cantering down the gentle slope. Terrified, the men-at-arms understand they are about to withstand one of the most terrible charge in Christendom. They place themselves in a defensive position, trying to brace for the impact as best as they can. After having crossed half the distance, the knights switch at full gallop with their lance down. The centre of the English line facing Arthur himself, the men start to panic and rout. The left and right cavalry units ram into the infantry with a terrible force while the king’s unit manage to pass through the line and cut down the fleeing Englishmen. After a quick but intense slaughter, Arthur turns around to charge in the back of the unit fighting Perceval.


4. Quickly, Edward sees in this manoeuvre an opportunity to charge directly in Arhtur’s rear. He orders a full assault from his heavy cavalry, but it is blocked by the stream of routing men-at-arms running downhill. In total confusion, the charge is aborted and the Arthurian knights can fall back to the top of the hill where they are healed and reinvigorated by the fleaudian magic.


5. After a short refreshing stop, the Arthurian knights decisively race back down to face the English cavalry who now outnumbers them 2:1. Edward sees in slaying the Cymraeg leader his last hope of winning the day and decides to launch his knights. At full gallop, the two forces crash into each other with a frightening violence. But the superior skills of the Arthurian knights (enhanced by potent magic) slowly and surely start to show. The Anglo-Norman will to fight fades and Edward himself is trapped by Sir Lionel and Sir Gawain of the Round Table. Only trough the sacrifice of his close friend, William de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, is Edward able to keep his life. The English king sounds a difficult general retreat in which many English noblemen lose their life. Edward’s brother, Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster, is badly wounded but manages to escape with his life.

The aftermath

The news of the English defeat quickly spreads through England and Cymru. It greatly contributes to King Arthur’s reputation of invulnerability and definitely ends Edward’s claim over Cymraeg lands.


King Arthur, well aware of his power, uses it to instil maximum fear in his enemy’s heart. After his victory, he decides to care a bit more about the defences of his kingdom and to build numerous castles in the North. He stops his quest for the Holy Grail, at least for a moment, and concentrates his forces to reinforce and reunify his country.


Edward loses the power to easily raise major armies without being questioned by his parliament. Additionally, many of the English aristocracy perished in the cavalry clash and the resulting retreat, causing much political turmoil for years. Meagre consolation for Edward: many of these where members of the Welsh Marcher Lords houses, which prevents the troublesome barons to take a significant part in the internal affairs for a few years.


But the real consequences of the defeat are deeper than this. Edward is profoundly affected by this crushing rout and spends many long nights reflecting on it. Impressed by the power of the Cymraeg archers, he finally decides to ban all sports on Sundays with the exception of archery at the butts in order to create a massive pool of English longbowmen. He also creates the office of Lord High Magician, first held by Roger Bacon who founded the Ordo Magicum in 1301.