Part 12: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 11Prince Edmund reluctantly closed his copy of Liber de Compositione Alchemiae and set it aside, his mind abuzz with the scientific musings contained within. The Affairs of State called, and if his duties sometimes seemed overwhelming, he often reminded himself that things were much worse for Edward, and he couldn't imagine the logistics of dealing with Alexander's war with England.
"My Lord, thank ye for ye time," smiled the first representative from the Explorers Guild, James,"We have always appreciated the patronage of ye and the King."
"Indeed," smiled Edmund,"But my time is limited, so please...."
"Oh indeed," smiled the second Guild member, Sean,"We have come because word has reached us that Prince Alexander has recently retaken York from the English?"
"Aye, it's true," nodded Edmund,"How does this bear on the Explorers Guild?"
"Well it's just that...." started James.
"Dublin is nearby," finished Sean,"Across the ocean in Ireland, Dublin holds an old Guild Hall unused for decades now. If Scotland controlled Dublin, the Guild Hall could be put into use once more."
".......and?" asked Edmund, confused.
"We'd like ye to take Dublin, my Lord," James said nervously.
"Oh, is that all," smiled Edmund,"Shall we take control of Rome on the way? Just for a giggle?"
"But we're Allied with the Holy Roman Empi...." started James, only to be silenced by Sean.
"The movement of the army in England, Wales and Ireland is the affair of Prince Alexander," Edmund continued, his eyes straying back to Liber de Compositione Alchemiae,"If he feels it is in Scotland's best interests to take Dublin, he shall."
"I do not think ye understand, my Lord," said Sean, his voice rising,"The Explorers Guild would be very happy if ye were to take Dublin. If nae, then....."
"Aye?" asked Edmund, raising an eyebrow,"What then?"
"Then," said James, leaning forward with a hard look on his bookish features,"We will be very disappointed in ye."
Edmund stared at them for a moment, surprised, then nodded and promised them he would do what he could. They seemed satisfied, and left him to his studies. Once Edmund was certain they were gone, he burst out laughing, and did not stop for quite some time. He hadn't been so genuinely amused for a very long time.
Less amused, at this current time, was Crown Prince Finguine, heir to the Empire of Scotland. He'd been left to govern Baghdad in the hope that he would grow used to the administration duties that would be his as King of Scotland, and for the most part he had done well. The City profited from taxes, and what was left over from the money sent to King Edward to help him fuel his campaigns was used to improve the city. Problems in the early months of his Governorship had been dealt with using the ruthless efficiency that had made him such an effective battlefield commander, and the threat of riots on the street was a thing of the past. But now a new concern had risen, and it was one he could not fight or deal with in any conventional sense.
The plague had struck Baghdad, and turned the city into a pariah. No diplomats came, no merchants, no spies (a small mercy) and no foreign armies (a large mercy). But they did not come because people were dying of the deadly disease, and Finguine could do nothing but contain the sick areas of the City and hope that when the disease passed, he and his family still lived.
On the mountain border with the Turks, a Turkish Spy was found inside Adana and escaped when challenged. News was sent immediately to King Edward, who received the report angrily. He'd hoped a trade deal with the Turks would keep them placated and away from his Cities, leaving him free to campaign to the West against the Moors. Now he had to revise his plans, maybe the Turks were only interested in gathering intelligence... but maybe they were preparing an invasion force. He would have to consider this carefully.
But in Scotland itself, for the first time in two decades, the peoples of Scotland had no concerns about their own security. Prince Alexander had returned, he'd brought a massive army with him, he'd killed the King of England in battle and retaken Inverness and York. Truly now was a wonderful time to be Scottish, and Captain Angus Bell was enjoying it. He'd fought in the battle for York and cursed missing the chance to bring down King Rufus, whose head even now adorned a pike on the walls of the City. Now he'd been gifted a chance to act again for Prince Alexander, who had received word that the survivors of the Battle of York were still camped to the South. A Highland Noble, Captain Angus' family had all died at the hands of the English years earlier, and he was the last of his line. He saw in Prince Alexander a chance to bring glory to his family name, and with any luck gain some recognition from the Prince that would give him a chance to buy land, find a wife of either Noble of wealthy birth who would bear him children, and keep the Bell line going.
But England's Captain Stephen stood in his way, a battle-hardened veteran in control of nearly 150 Armored Knights who had survived war against over 1000 Scots.
But this time the English did not hold against the superior numbers of the Scottish, because Angus had reckoned on what held them together - their Captain. He directed his men directly against Captain Stephen, the sheer weight of his men forcing them through and allowing them to strike him down, and with the death of their leader, the surviving English ran, disappearing into the hills and abandoning the Army.
Captain Angus reported back to York, where his victory in what could best be described as a minor skirmish was widely hailed, much to his embarrassment. He wanted recognition, of course, but they'd killed only around sixty men, and they themselves had a hundred times that number in their ranks. But Prince Alexander lauded him as a true Scottish Noble, and taking him aside at a victory feast he told him that he had been watching the young Captain, seeing in him great potential. The attack on the English Knights had been designed to test his worth in commanding on the field, and he was satisfied with what he had seen.
"I shall give ye command of 1300 men, my lad," Prince Alexander told him merrily, holding a cup of ale in his hand as he walked Angus through the Great Hall away from the raucous banquet hall,"And send ye to lay siege to Nottingham. I have plans that require my presence in York, but I do nae wish the English to grow comfortable with my presence. Ye'll lay siege to Nottingham, aye, and ye'll take the blasted City, and we'll teach the English the price of seeking control of Scottish land!"
All of which Angus listened to with a head muffled by ale, and all of which he agreed eagerly to, though even in his drunken state he knew that a siege of Nottingham in the middle of Winter was pure madness suggested only because of the Prince's merry state. Surely Prince Alexander would have changed his mind on the morrow, but would remember Angus' willingness and reward him..
Prince Alexander did not change his mind on the morrow.
Angus sat his horse, a perk of his new position as an adopted member of the Royal Family. He'd been hastily adopted in before leaving York, and was still somewhat breathless from the sudden events of the last few weeks. He'd gone from a landless son of an extinct noble family to a Captain in Prince Alexander's army to a General of his men to a member of the Royal Family. It had been a heady rise, and he kept reminding himself that it was all worth it, even if it meant he and 1300 men were shivering in a snowstorm in the dark outside Nottingham, with an unknown number of English soldiers reported to be somewhere on the road behind them.
"It's bloody cold, even for a Scotsman!" he hissed to himself, then raised his voice,"It's cold men, shall we warm our blood!?!"
There were a few scattered cheers from his men, but most were too cold to do anything but watch and wait for the order to attack. Angus realized now wasn't the time for the noble speeches sung of by minstrels, but for action.
"Let's at them, then!" he roared, and then because he could not resist, added the call that Prince Alexander had cried after the death of King Rufus,"Scotland for the Scottish!"
"SCOTLAND FOR THE SCOTTISH!" roared his men, surprising Angus, who sat blinking momentarily before giving the order for the ladders to make for the walls, and the ram to make for the Gate.
The Knights holding the walls shivered in their armor, asking themselves not for the last time that night why the hell the Scottish couldn't go to war at a more civilized time of year... and then they were fighting for their lives as Scotsman came up their ladders and over the walls, swinging their claymores and roaring like demons out of the snow.
On the ground, the ram had done its work and the Scots poured into the city, met by a Cavalry charge from the English General, Francis, who was cursing Captain Toby for not reaching the city with the reinforcements before the mad Scots broke their way in.
Francis swung about him with his sword, his arm stiff and slow to react in the cold, while the demon Scottish seemed not to feel it.... God's Blood! Many of them were wearing kilts! From his horse he had a good view over the Scots attacking the city, and they seemed without number, a curse upon Nottingham. But then he spied something odd, the Scots that had overrun the walls seemed to be being attacked from behind themselves, and he could see a red banner on the cavalry riding towards the broken gate.... Captain Toby had arrived!
"You're for it now, you Scottish curs!" he roared, slashing clumsily at a Scotsman who deftly stepped aside and grabbed his arm, hauling him from the horse. His mount reacted angrily to the sudden loss of its master, and kicked out roughly, knocking aside the Scotsman who hauled Francis down. The General staggered to his feet and screamed,"TO MY SIDE, TOBY! YOUR GENERAL NEEDS YOU!"
"Will I do!?!" laughed a voice, and a member of Angus' Cavalry bodyguard rode into General Francis, riding him down where he stood.
"NO!" screamed Captain Toby, kicking his horse to a faster speed, leaving the rest of his men behind as he charged forward through the gates to avenge his General.... and rode directly into the pikes of a unit of Scottish Pike Militia who had seen him coming.
"I think we got him, lads!" laughed the Pike Commander, and his men cheered in delight.... their blood was up, the cold couldn't touch them in their battle fervor, and best of all the English were dying in droves!
The surviving cavalry of both General Francis and Captain Toby joined up, staring aghast as the surviving English militia was torn to shreds by the Scottish Infantry.
"Ride to the fortress!" snapped one,"If we can get inside we can hold them out till reinforcements can arrive from London!"
"They'll hold Nottingham proper," spat back another,"They'll starve us out and our reinforcements will have to lay siege to them!"
"We'll never retake the city from down in this position, and we'll die out in that storm if we try to ride to London, it's the fortress or death!"
They rode like their lives were on the line... and they were.
They rode like there were demons behind them... and if you'd asked, they would have said there were.
They reached the open portcullis of Nottingham Castle, but the "demons" arrived with them, the English and Scottish Cavalry clashing as Angus led his men against the survivors of Francis and Toby. Fighting for their lives, the English fought with a fury that the Scottish could respect, and as man and horse fell screaming into the bloody snow, Angus suddenly felt the cold once more, the first he'd noticed it since the battle begun and his blood had seemed to boil with battle-lust.
"Why.... why is it so cold....?" he asked, as his face turned pale and his men cried out in dismay around him.
"So.... cold...." he whispered, and fell from his horse, his blood joining that of the other dead, whether English or Scottish.
The Noble Bell Family was no more.
The Scottish roared in fury at the death of their General and pushed in against the hard-pressed English Cavalry, cutting them down, showing no mercy. It was a scene repeated throughout the city, in the streets and on the walls, as the English militia that had come to the aid of Nottingham died there. The Scots gave no quarter, even when the surviving English broke and ran in mindless terror, falling from the walls or under the hooves of the Scottish Cavalry. Some outside the city were in such terror that they actually climbed the walls to escape their Scottish pursuers, only to find more waiting for them atop the walls.
And the Scots killed, and killed, and killed. The cold could not slow their arms, but finally sheer exhaustion did, as every last English soldier was killed, and the city of Nottingham claimed in the name of Scotland!
In York, Prince Alexander smiled as the person he'd summoned to his office entered. Still only a boy, but tall already, and showing such promise... soon he would be a man.
"Adam," smiled Alexander,"Please, take a seat, be comfortable."
"Father," nodded Adam properly, taking a seat and sitting still, waiting for his Father to speak. He had been raised to respect his Father, as Malcolm had raised Alexander. But unlike his own Father, Alexander had been careful to foster a close relationship with his eldest, lest he find history repeating the lessons of Malcolm, Edward and Edmund. He was so proud of the lad, and made sure he knew it. Despite having a healthy interest in women like all men, Alexander's curse was an inability to perform his duties in the bedroom, with few exceptions. One of those exceptions has resulted in Adam, and Alexander considered him a true blessing.
"I have called ye here to conduct a brief lesson in both command, and the duties of a General and a Prince," explained Alexander,"Ye've heard of the victory at Nottingham?"
"Aye Father," nodded Adam,"I was saddened to hear Angus had died."
"Aye," agreed Alexander,"The lad showed promise, and we need able Generals in Scotland. So many of our best Commanders remain in the Desert with King Edward, and I'd hoped to make a new Finguine of him... but enough of tragedy, let us talk of victory."
"Over the English?" asked Adam, and Alexander grinned in spite of himself. Oh the boy was quick, he would make a fine Prince, and maybe one day.....
"Aye, the English," he said, and drew out a large map, standing to spread it on the table,"None but my closest Generals have seen this map and heard what I am about to tell ye, lad, but ye must learn the ways of battle strategy, and ye'll nae get a chance to study firsthand the tactics for such a large contemporary battle again for many years, God willing."
Adam stood and eyed the map critically, and then gasped as he realized what he was seeing.
"Aye, son," laughed Alexander,"It's what ye think it is. Within a month ye'll have reached ye manhood, and I shall leave ye to govern York in my absence, while I bloody the nose of the English more than they've ever felt before."
With a wide grin crossing his face and excitement in his eyes, Adam listened as Alexander explained his plans for the battle, why he would be doing what he did, what he would be hoping to avoid, and how he would deal with it if worst-case scenarios occurred. He took it all in, and despite his best intentions to avoid taking childish delight at a time when he was on the cusp of manhood and his Father was treating him with the respect due a full grown man... he could not help but exult in the scenarios being laid out to him.
His Father was going to take London from the English!