Part 14: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 13"Cairo, she's a damn finer sight than Edinburgh in Winter, is she nae?" asked King Edward, weaving slightly on his feet and loosely clutching a mug of ale. It wasn't the alcohol that had him unsteady, he was well known for being able to hold his drink, but a mixture of sleeplessness, the relentless heat, physical exhaustion and, he had to admit, copious amounts of ale.
"Cities are cities, and no matter how fine they all have slums," chuckled Edmund, who always drank less than his brother, having learned long past that he could not match him,"But Cairo has its charms, its true, and I would nae return to a Scottish Winter if the Pope himself called me to it."
"The Pope's the one I came to talk about," growled Edward, who had travelled to Cairo at his Brother's request, Edmund telling him he had a solution to problems with both The Pope and concerns about the Turks to the North. Being a King meant you could never do anything as simple as visit your Brother though, he'd had to march with an Army, and be welcomed with great ceremony, and treated to a feast, and inspected the City and the barracks and a thousand other things beside,"Stephanus does nae take kindly to Catholics killing Catholics, and Alexander is killing a lot of English Catholics."
"In a moment Brother, first I thought ye could use some relief from the pressure of the affairs of State.... ENTER!"
Edward raised an eyebrow as two bookish looking men entered Edmund's chambers, shuffling forward with beaming faces.
"My Lord, My King," smiled the Explorers Guildmember, greeting Edmund and Edward,"The Explorer's Guild thanks ye once more for ye fine service in the pursuit of knowledge!"
"Wha....?" started Edward, but Edmund elbowed his side and dropped a sly wink.
"Of course," said Edmund with a slight incline of his head, we were pleased to capture Dublin, and hope that the Explorers' Guild will continue to enjoy our patronage."
"Thank ye again, kind Lords," smiled the Guildmember, then dropped his voice and took on a conspiratorial tone,"A token of our appreciation."
He and his companion left, and Edmund turned with a massive grin to his perplexed Brother, holding a small pouch in his hand.
"What the hell was that?" demanded Edward.
"Feredac of Peeblesshire took Dublin for Alexander, as ye know," grinned Edmund,"What ye dinnae know is that the Explorers Guild came to me insisting we take Dublin, assuring me if we dinnae do it, they would be "very disappointed" in us. To be honest I forgot all about it after having a good laugh, but once Feredac took Dublin, the Explorers' Guild was singing our praises.... and look, a "token"!"
He handed Edward the small pouch with a wink, and Edward opened it and spilled out the contents onto Edmund's desk, a small collection of florins.
"There cannae be more than 300 florins here," gasped Edward,"I let my daughter carry more when she was but a wee bairn!"
"Aye Edward, but it's a "token" of their appreciation," laughed Edmund heartily,"Dinnae spend it all at once!"
Alexander, Pope Stephanus has begun to speak publicly of the "darkness in the hearts of the Scottish Royal Family", and written communication with the Papacy warns of ex-communication if Scotland continues to kill English Catholics.
Edmund has plans to improve our relations, but in the meantime you must stay your hand against the English.... for now at least.
Your Brother, Edward Canmore.
Alexander read the note again, frowning angrily. All of Scotland, England and Ireland were in his control now, and Feredac had handpicked a Noble to lead the siege on Caernarvon in Wales where the English still held control. Once that was taken, the English would be reduced to their holdings on the French Coast, and out of "England" forever.... and now he was being instructed to leave the English in peace? After they'd dared to take York and lay siege to Edinburgh? After they'd dared to refuse his offer to make them his vassals? When at least two English armies still marched through Scottish land? Simply on a threat from the Pope?
"Father?" asked Adam, popping his head into the room,"Is something the matter?"
"Nae, son," grinned Alexander, looking up at his handsome son,"I should be asking ye that question, are ye nervous?"
"Aye," laughed Adam,"But I doubt any man has ever been anything but on such a day."
"Then come, son, and let's have ye married to that beautiful women. There is nae that could ruin my good mood this day, and nae that I will allow to do so."
He stood, crumpling the letter up roughly in his hand as he did, and as he left the room tossed it into the roaring fire, where it quickly blackened and turned to ash.
In Florence, Gille Calline the Balleol sat at a table loaded with the finest foods and wine, which was only fitting considering who the real guest of the evening was. The meal was supposed to be a diplomatic formality, the kind offered to all who visited the Papacy, but the presence of another in Florence meant that there was more to this dinner than usual.
For The Pope was in Florence.
Which Gille had known, of course, it was the reason he'd been sent here. His orders had come from Prince Edmund himself, a man whom Gille truly respected. He was dedicated to Scotland, and adored King Edward for the glory he had brought to the Nation. He was loyal to Prince Alexander, who had not only rescued Scotland from the English but then conquered their greatest cities. But he respected Prince Edmund, because the man could speak like a Diplomat, think like a spy, govern like a born administrator and lead men on the field.
"So tell me of Scotland's exploits, then," the Pope instructed, eating heartily,"Not of the defilement of fellow Catholics in England, but the capture of Holy Lands and conversion of heathens, the good work that King Edward once did for Christ."
"Your Holiness," smiled Gille, speaking - of course - Latin,"I could brag to you of the capture of Jerusalem in the Crusade, or offer protestations at the suggestion that we defile our faith by protecting ourselves from England, whose own King you yourself have publicly chastised for a lack of faith. Surely you have heard such and more from many diplomats in the past, from one nation or another, all spoken to suit their purpose. But I feel that such would be wasted, and so instead I will tell a more intimate tale, of the salvation of a small settlement, a tiny outpost of heathen soldiers who whored and killed and lived only for the sake of living. I will tell you of Adana, your Holiness, and how Scotland brought the light."
Elsewhere in Florence, an Englishman quivered with excitement as he read the message again.... it was more than could be hoped for, the arrogance of the demon Scottish Prince would finally be his downfall! A small force of English had been trapped outside of York and massacred by an overwhelming force of the Scottish.... in direct defiance of the word of the Pope!
"We shall bring the wrath of God-on-Earth upon the devils!" he gasped, and screamed for the innkeeper to ready his horse, he must ride for the Palace immediately!
In the Palace itself, the Pope sat spellbound as Gille continued his tale, telling of the battle of Adana, and how the people who had built up a small town around what had started as a defensive outpost had appeared in the streets as the battle raged and cried for an end to the fighting. Of how the Rebel Leader refused to surrender, and ordered his men to take the people as shields against the Scottish. He spoke eloquently of King Edward calling a halt to the fighting, and riding between the two forces to cry out to the soldiers to show sense and not betray the people who had flocked to them initially for protection. Of the Road To Damascus conversion that had occurred rather aptly on the edge of a road to led to Damascus, as Rebel Soldiers had seen the horror of their chosen life of survival at all costs, and given themselves to the mercy of Edward, who had sworn them to loyalty to God and Scotland and taken them into his own army.
All of which was a slight exaggeration of the actual battle, in which King Edward mercilessly wiped out every Rebel Soldier and forced the people of the tiny outpost to convert to Catholicism for their own good.
But Pope Stephanus was touched, as Gille knew he would be. The man had been a missionary in his youth, a travelling Priest bringing the Word and salvation of God to the heathens, and he appreciated this intimate story of a small, personal conversion over the braggart tales of Diplomats talking of the thousands that were converted by their Lords merely by being near their presence.
"The People of Adana have now embraced a life of sacrifice," Gille explained,"Working for the betterment of humanity, knowing that their reward will await them come Judgement Day if they can only outweigh the sins of their former lives. Your Holiness, I came to Florence not to argue Scotland's cause or impress you with tales of mass piety. When I was stationed in the desert and travelled amongst the Moors, I saw so many outposts, towns and cities full of people like those of Adana, and it is for the people of Adana that I come to you. I spoke of it with my Prince, and received a note of blessing from my King to undertake this course of action, because I think the people of Adana deserve credit for turning their backs on their heathen ways, and the Moors, the Turks, and more besides could learn a lesson from their conversion. So it is with a hopeful heart, your Holiness, that I come here today to offer the Papacy control over the people, homes and lands of Adana, so that they may see even clearer the blessings of Christ."
Pope Stephanus stared at Gille Calline for long moments, the Diplomat properly lowering his eyes but not turning his face away or falling prey to the desire to say more to press his case.
"I...." whispered Stephanus, a tear rolling from his eye,"Would be honored to accept this gift."
Raised voices suddenly took their attention away, and the doors to the dining hall opened to allow in a guard, who bowed deeply.
"With the greatest respect, your Holiness, a Diplomat from England has arrived in the Palace and is insisting that he must see you."
"Let him in," muttered the Pope, clearly agitated,"I shall see what is so important as to interrupt this fine moment."
The English Diplomat entered almost immediately, clutching papers to his chest and sweating profusely, his hair carefully messed to appear unkempt, to create the impression of great haste.
"Your Holiness," he gasped, then spotted Gille and actually growled, impressing the Scottish Diplomat with the depth of this theatre,"I am not surprised to see THIS devil here.... I come bearing news of a grave injustice and an unpardonable insult to the Church. The Scottish have attacked and killed an army of English attempting only to travel to Bruges on the French Coast, where our aggrieved people have been forced to flee."
He practically thrust the message into Pope Stephanus' hands, and the Christ-On-Earth read the contents with a steadily growing frown, matched by a steadily growing smile on the English Diplomat's face directed at Gille.
"I cannot believe this treachery," hissed the Pope.
"Yes, your Holiness," gasped the English Diplomat,"Truly the Scots have go...."
"The English ride an army past York in a clear attempt to draw out the Scots and take advantage of the protection I offered them!?!?!" roared the Pope, shooting to his feet,"The English think that they can use the office of Pope as a military tactic! THE ENGLISH THINK THEY CAN FOOL GOD!??!"
"You.... your Holiness," gasped the Diplomat,"No! No! I...."
"I REMOVE THE PROTECTION OF THE CHURCH FROM ENGLAND!" roared Pope Stephanus, his face red with fury ,"YOUR KING IS EXCOMMUNICATED! LET THE SCOTTISH TAKE YOUR LANDS, AT LEAST THEN THE ENGLISH WILL BE RULED BY GOOD, CATHOLIC MEN! TAKE THIS CUR AWAY!"
The Diplomat was dragged screaming away by the guards, while Gille was careful to maintain only a regretful expression on his face.
"The.... rigors of this office..." panted the Pope, hands clutching to the table for support,"So many seek to.... use the Church for their own ends.... I thought tonight I could enjoy at least one dinner with a true member of the Faith, but even that was ruined.... I must retire for the night, forgive me, Gille Calline, may God Bless you and your King, God spoke well to my predecessor and speaks now to me, truly Scotland is the only real supporter of the Church."
Several days later, Prince Adam lay in bed with his Mistress, the opened message bearing the seal of the Pope lying on his desk, forgotten. His Father had roared with laughter when he read it, and Adam himself had been so delighted he'd immediately come to see her, she always made good things better.
In Baghdad, the plague was over, no new cases had been announced in weeks, and the people of the City were giving thanks to God for living through the horrors. None considered it a coincidence that the Pope's recent proclamation of Scotland's great piety had coincided with the end of the plague, and the wiser of the city also noted that now the Turks to the North would have to come through Adana should they ever recklessly consider an invasion of Scottish territory. Coming through Adana would raise the wrath of the Pope, and risk a Crusade, and not even the Turks were that mad.
Unfortunately it had come too late for Crown Prince Finguine.
He'd died the previous day, one of the last victims of the plague, and he had survived longer than most other patients. For a day the Doctors had even thought he might do the unthinkable and recover, but it was not to be. His adopted son, Comgell, now ruled Baghdad in his stead, and to his great surprise had been named the new Heir to the throne. He could not understand why, and short of the proclamation declaring it, King Edward had given him absolutely no indication as to why Comgell was better suited as the future King of Scotland than Alexander's son, Adam.
But Prince Comgell did not question such things, and never had. Finguine had adopted him because of the man's fanatical loyalty to him on the field, and because he had shown promise not just as a commander of men, but someone who understood that sometimes harsh choices needed to be made on the field to gain victory. For the coming campaign against the Moors, both King Edward and Prince Edmund felt that these qualities - which had been Prince Finguine's as well - would make Comgell a good choice for King if Edward died and it would not be, at that point, in the best interests of the Empire for their sons to take the throne.
But King Edward and Prince Edmund meant to see to it that an eligible Canmore WOULD be fit to sit the throne soon, and both agreed that Edmund's sons were their best chance to accomplish this. Scotland's nobles were already desperately trying to gain the favor of Edward's daughter, Afraig, in the hopes of marrying their sons into the Canmore Clan, but Edmund's two oldest sons had finally come into their manhood, and now the two men who had once gotten drunk and sailed on a dare to the other edge of the world were preparing to take their own sons to War with them.
For their parts, Nectan and Domnall couldn't wait.