“We have seen their campfires, my Lord, they have heavy horse and armour and hundreds of foot soldiers with pike and long bow. I counted an army of fifteen hundred strong.” Said Gogh.
“Fifteen hundred?” Tudur needed clarification.
“Yes, my Lord, fifteen hundred.” Gogh confirmed his count. “There are Flemish among them and word says they have travelled from Pembroke in the south.”
“That is one hell of a march, Brother!” Tudur remarked to Owain. “This is a formidable force. They will attempt to cut off any means of escape if we are attacked by Hotspur from the north.”
“How many men do we have at arms now, Tudur?” Owain inquired.
“There are one hundred and fifty here in the compound and another three hundred more in the forest.” He paused for a moment and then added. “We do have a lot of long bows and, of course, sure-footed mountain ponies, on our side.”
“Good, as although we are outnumbered by more than three to one, their horses and army are heavy with armour. If we were on a battlefield of pasture, we would be slaughtered but we are in mountainous terrain. So, I suggest we withdraw even farther away and wait for them. The mud, swamps and rock will slow them considerably. If we make them chase us, I believe they will tire and when the rough ground holds them up, we will make our attack.” Owain looked at Tudur and smiled. “We will win. Worry not.”
The runes I cast earlier in the day suggested a great confrontation and that guile and intellect would overcome the day and a great victory is predicted over adversity. It seemed to me as if the reading was referring to this imminent battle with the English. To have been able to create such a large force, Henry must have sailed his army around the coast and then marched them north, or, perhaps, he had gathered them from his garrisons in the south. It is possible that the Flemish mercenaries met them at Pembroke. The fact is, we could never know how, but all that really mattered was Henry’s army was less than four days away so we had to move quickly.
Owain gave orders for the men to prepare to ride out at dark and meet up with our major force in the forest so that by the time the English appeared, we would be organised and in wait. After the evening meal, Tudur and a group of twenty-five rode out into the night. They were to mislead the English, taking them into our waiting trap. It was a good plan but only time would tell if it would work or not.
As the cock crowed, Owain and his men mounted their horses and set off at a gallop to meet with the remainder of our force in the forest on the western slopes of Pumlumon, about twenty leagues from Aberystwyth. Tudur had orders to harass the English and lead them towards Owain’s troop. This was a good place for a battle, their heavy horses and armour would quickly get bogged down and they would be unable to organize themselves. Our bowmen would take care of the rest and as Rhodri was in charge, hopefully we would see a repeat of his last ambush where they had wiped out a force of English when they had also been outnumbered at three to one.
Tudur and Will looked over the rock and down into the valley. The sun glinted and reflected from the English armour and spear points as they marched along.
“They do not seem much organised.” Will whispered to Tudur.
“Aye, they certainly seem to be lacking basic military skills, even their formation is ought but a disorganized rabble.” Tudur scratched his chin. “Look at that!” He pointed at a small group of soldiers who had simply left the main contingent, and had squatted to the ground to start a fire to camp.
A knight on an enormous white charger galloped towards them and seemed to be shouting at them but they turned their backs on his protestations, carrying on with whatever they wanted to do. Fighting certainly seemed to be the furthest thing from their minds. The knight reined in his charger and galloped away in frustration, leaving a cloud of dust and mud behind him.
“No discipline there, my Lord.” Observed Will.
“None, indeed, Will, which is bound to be in our favour.” Tudur moved back from their vantage point into the scrub. He stood up and said. “Right, gentlemen! Let’s have some fun!”
Tudur directed his small band of men efficiently. Dispatching a few to take cover further up the pass, with their longbows at the ready. He sent two riders on fast horses to make themselves known to the front riders of the English army and told them to frustrate their path by leading them into a chase. The two set off at a gallop and on finding their vantage point, waited for the enemy to arrive.
The riders at point of the English force, rode into the clearing, ignorant of what lay ahead of them. One whistled while daydreaming, whilst the other simply glanced here and there with no real interest in much, almost nodding off in the saddle.
As Tudor’s men watched from the trees, they signalled to each other, dug spurs into their mounts and trotted into the clearing, just three hundred paces in front of the English riders. They both stood their mounts in a prominent place, where they would clearly be seen.
Suddenly, one of the English caught sight of the Welshmen, quickly taking him from his daydream, he shouted at the top of his voice. “Rebels! ….. Welsh scum!”