During his desperate march through the snow and the night back toward Klow, King Ivan left a small rear guard at the small town of Orehovo. This was a wise move in the circumstances, as his force was flagging and increasingly disordered and would surely have been destroyed by a well organized rear attack. Orehovo had modest fortifications constructed by the Bordurians to protect the bridge leading to Klow, defenses that dated back to the before their campaigns against King Karel II (before 1645). With a fort and a bridge at its back (to the east), Orehovo was an ideal place to block pursuit and it was in fact the last place where Ivan could reasonably hope to do so with the men at his disposal.
Ivan’s rear guard was quite small, consisting of a squadron of huszjar light cavalry (Syldavian hussars, rather good men but there weren’t many of them), a substantial battalion of militia infantry typically used as light infantry (the steadier of the two battalions of militia marching with him) and four light cannons, their crew and impedimenta. The commander of the Syldavian detachment was the Ritter Janusz Borzoi, who was known more for his courage and efficiency than for his creativity.
|Orehovo is marked by the letter "D" on this map showing the route of King Ivan"s pursuit of the Zympathian raiders and his hasty return to Klow|
Pursuing the Syldavians were the bulk of the Bordurian troops stationed in Zympathia who weren’t already amongst the besieging forces at Klow. These troops comprised two ortas of arnaut irregular infantry, one orta of provincial conscript infantry, a strong troop of light cavalry and two very light cannon and their crews (the guns were fixed to sledges). They were commanded by the Sanjak-bey of Zympathia, Omer Isacovic, a leader who had a long career of raids and skirmishing but who was in fact a headstrong and mediocre commander.
The same night as Ivan passed through Orehovo, Isacovic sheltered his men in a tiny farming hamlet near the town and began to harry the Syldavian post with fire from his muskets and light cannons. The Syldavians had relatively little rest as they had to man sentries, build barricades and put out a couple of small fires. Isakovic had twirled his moustaches as he hatched a plan for a quick attack on the town under the cover of darkness but soon thought twice about it once Ritter Borzoi trained his handful of cannon into the dark in the direction of the skirmish fire. Surprised, Isakovic realized that he had no idea how many Syldavians were still in the town and decided to wait for the chance to survey the town in person in the morning light. In the meantime, he ordered his men to keep pressure up on the town and helped himself to the comforts of a commandeered farmhouse.
Also having profited from a hot meal and the shelter of the town, Ritter Borzoi looked out into the darkness around Orehovo, where here and there the sparks of musket fire flashed. He could see the town was essentially surrounded except for its eastern edge, along the Bejsu Reka river near its discharge into the Wladir River. A bridge spanned the Bejsu Reka, leading eastward to Klow. How many Bordurian troops were out there? Could he hold the town and the bridge? Failure to do so would mean that King Ivan's army would be ambushed or attacked on two fronts. Succeed in holding off the Bordurians for even a few days might save the King's army and lead to a promotion...