Part 17: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 16The Crusade was over, Toulouse conquered and given into the hands of the Papacy. For Scotland this was bad news, because Feradac had not reached the city in time to share in the glory of the victory and - more importantly - the favor of the Church. Feradac met a messenger representing the Pope on the road to Toulouse, who imparted to him coldly that the Pope "appreciated" Scotland's participation, and handed over an insultingly small amount of money for their efforts, less than 1100 florins. Given the size of Toulouse, the Papacy had likely gained hundreds of times that much from the sacking of the city.
"There's nae left but to return to Scotland," grunted Feradac,"We'll keep our camp here for the day, and set off tomorrow for the coast again."
That night, a messenger came to his tent and handed him an envelope marked with Alexander Canmore's seal. He broke the seal and rode the message inside with a frown, as the messenger stood patiently waiting.
Feradac, England's new King, Robert, has proven a more able and subtle leader than Symond. He has been infiltrating agents into London and York to instigate dissent, and several riots have had to be stamped out by the garrisons there. I am moving forces under the command of myself and Adam throughout the United Kingdom to deal with the unrest, but I need you to take the attention of the English away from their scheming.
You will travel to Caen and lay siege to the Fortress there, if necessary you will take the Fortress from the English, and if further necessary, you will take Rennes as well. The Pope will not be pleased, especially in light of your failure to reach Toulouse in time, but we can deal with that problem at a later date.
Prince Alexander Canmore.
Feradac sat quietly fuming for a time, thinking about the implied blame Alexander was placing on him for his failure to reach Toulouse despite it being on Alexander's orders he had been delayed. He also thought about the implications of going to war with the English when they had only recently been reconciled with the Church. Finally, he turned and grabbed a sheet of paper, then an ink and quill, and wrote quickly and steadily for several moments before folding the message into an envelope, dripping wax onto it and marking it with his seal. He turned back to the messenger who had been patiently waiting all this time.
"This message is for the eyes of King Edward only, and must reach him at the earliest possible date," he explained,"Ye will give this message priority over all others, do ye ken?"
The messenger saluted and took the message, leaving the tent as Feradac sighed. For now he'd do as instructed and ride for Caen, and hopefully by the time he reached there, King Edward would have returned a message overriding Alexander's order.
Outside the tent, the messenger calmly led his horse to the edge of the camp, greeting the guards on the perimeter, then rode into the night. Several hours later he stopped to make camp, made a small campfire, and burned the message from Feradac without opening it.
"Edward is the King of Egypt," he grunted,"Alexander is the true King of Scotland, and ye will do as ye King instructs, Feradac of Peeblesshire."
Feradac sat outside the walls of Caen Fortress, which had started as a glorified French guardtower on the coast and ended up growing a small town around it. Now the English held it, with a tiny garrison inside designed more to keep the townsfolk in line then deal with a besieging army... especially a large force initially put together to go on crusade.
No message had come from King Edward, and Feradac knew that his liege would not simply ignore the message, which meant it had never arrived for him to read. That meant that at some point along the route the message had been lost or destroyed, probably deliberately, but he would have to deal with that later. For now, he could not defy the order of Prince Alexander, who was Brother to the King himself. Feradac might have been an adopted member of the Royal Family, but he knew his place.
Right now, his place was to decimate the English Garrison of Caen, led by Captain Alfred.
Our best bet is to meet them at the gate, their thinnest point of entry," cried Captain Alfred to his assembled men, a mixture of Armored Knights and poorly armed peasants give a day's rushed training and forced into service,"If they can only come at us a few at a time, we can negate their numbers advantage and hold them out."
Once the men were assembled at the gate, Alfred turned to a smaller unit of his most trusted men, and whispered quietly to them.
"The Scottish will ride through us like we were not there," he grunted,"I will stand with the man to keep them from breaking, once the battle begins you must climb to the walls above the gates and keep control of the towers. I hope to use the peasants as a slaughterhouse, a pile of the dead that slows down the Scottish enough for our archers in the towers to bring down as many Scots as we can. Our only hope is that our own dead form a wall with theirs and they are forced to pull back to build siege equipment, by which point we may be lucky enough to have reinforcements from the East."
His men nodded grimly and moved into position, as Alfred called out encouragement to the assembled troops before the Gate to the city, the massive doors shuddering and bulging as catapult fire slammed against them.... and then the Scottish were flooding through, an ocean of death crashing against the English.
NOW!" screamed Alfred, and his Knights broke off to travel inside the Guard Tower, up narrow spiralling stone stairs that they could defend forever if need be, allowing the archers inside to rain down death upon the Scottish trapped beneath the gate.
The Knight Commander stared down at horror over both sides of the gate. On the outside of Caen, the Scottish kept on coming up the hill, a seemingly endless stream of the devils. On the inside of Caen, the English were being decimated, and even if Alfred could have blocked their blows and cut them down, there was no way he could stand against the relentless weight of the oncoming Scottish tide.... and he did not.
"HOLD THIS WALL!" screamed the Knight Commander as he saw Alfred fall beneath the Scots,"ALFRED'S PLAN STILL STANDS! WE PROTECT THE TOWER FOR OUR ARC...."
A flaming stone fired from the Scottish Catapult smashed into the guard tower, partially collapsing it and killing the archers inside.
"Bugger the plan!" screamed one of the Knights,"Leg it, lads!"
"Don't let them reach Castle Caen and close the portcullis!" roared Feradac as he watched the English abandoning the walls,"Cavalry, after them!"
The Cavalry thundered down the streets of the small town after the fleeing English, who charged inside the walls of Castle Caen ahead of the horse, but not far enough ahead to close the portcullis and seal them out.
Once inside the castle walls, the result was never in question.... though Feradac couldn't help but think the result hadn't been in question since Alexander had given the order. Once the English had been amongst the mightiest in the world, now they were a threat only in Alexander's mind.
Prince Alexander was mad!
"Will he not be satisfied!?!" growled Robert, King of England, as he paced about his dining hall. It was empty, and he was speaking to himself, and the two were not uncommon in Rennes nowadays. His was the blood of William the Conqueror, but the glory days of the former King were long behind England. He was ruling a Nation without a country, their holdings reduced to former French strongholds along what had once been the French coast. His Brother Rufus had sought to emulate their Father by conquering, and had thought Scotland's cities would be easy targets, abandoned as they were by the Scottish nobility in their mad jaunt in Egypt. But Alexander Canmore had returned and killed Rufus, and under Symond they'd been thrown out of the land of their ancestors, suffering the greatest humiliation the English had ever known.
Then Symond had died, and the weight of leadership had fallen onto his shoulders, and he'd thought for a small while that maybe the reconciliation from the Church would protect them. He'd thought that maybe Alexander would be happy with humiliating them, but now it seemed the mad Scottish Prince would not be happy until England was wiped off the face of the planet.
"Will no one take this weight from my shoulders!" cried Robert, whose dark moods of late had resulted in his empty halls. None wanted to be near him in case he turned his fury on them,"Will no one take away this responsbili-"
"Okay," chuckled a voice behind him as he felt his body lock up, every muscle feeling stretched to the limit. He would have fallen backwards, but hands he could not feel kept him up.
"---" he croaked.
"Oh that's just a paralytic," chuckled the voice as he saw - but did not felt - his body being lifted and turned towards the window,"It'll wear off in about a day and ye'll feel perfectly fine.... well... in normal circumstances ye would anyway."
Then King Robert of England was thrown bodily out the window, to the ground over a hundred feet below.
He was known now as King Edward The Killer, and it seemed an appropriate enough title for him, as he sat his horse in the desert amongst the corpses of some of his own men.... but many more of the Sicilians.
"I am starting to feel this Moorish Campaign is cursed never to begin," grunted Domnall as he rode to his Uncle's side. The lad was gaining confidence by the day, and seemed more keen to make suggestions towards their strategy. Often his ideas were dismissed, but Edmund always went out of his way to explain why, and every so often, the lad came up with an exceptional good idea.
"It is certainly being put aside again for the moment," spoke Edmund, who had quietly been watching the Scottish bodies being separated from the Sicilians for a proper funeral treatment,"We must deal with these Sicilians decisively now, take their coastal city from them and then force a peace deal upon them."
"One thing ye've never explained to me, Father," noted Domnall,"Why are we so focused on the Moors? Their lands are mostly coastal sitting on vast stretches of desert, would it nae make more sense to move against the Turks? Their lands would connect our trade routes across the world and make Scotland rich beyond our wildest dreams."
"Clever lad," smiled Edward,"But don't think merely in terms of financial gain, Scotland is all ready the richest Nation in the world. Think strategically of war, what do the Moorish Coastal Cities provide Scotland?"
Domnall thought for moment, then smiled,"A staging point for invasion of the Continent."
"Good lad," chuckled Edmund,"Now take the thought a step further, dinnae think strategically of war, but financial gain."
Domnall frowned, confused, but thought on it, looking at the problem from as many angles as he could until finally it dawned on him,"The impression of war?"
King Edward threw back his head and laughed.
"Aye, a clever lad and a good lad and a General yet! All ready Milan has come to us seeking to open greater diplomatic ties," he gestured to the ocean in the far distace,"If those across the sea know that within a few days sailing lies cities full of Scottish garrisons armed to the teeth, they will suddenly become VERY compliant in terms of diplomacy, trade and alliance."
"Also," noted Edmund,"Desert it may be, but once we take the Moors, Scotland will control half the world. We will truly be the mightiest Empire in the World."
Domnall laughed, truly there was nothing to could stop Scotland now.
In London, Prince Alexander gaped at the message in his hands, and stared up in horror at the messenger.
"This is nae joke?"
The messenger shook his head fearfully, and Alexander roared in frustration and swept aside his table as he leapt to his feet.
"Send word to Adam in Edinburgh, tell him to raise what force he can while still keeping control of the city and meet me in York. I will do the same."
The messenger nodded and rushed away as Alexander cursed. First that damned madman the Pope thought to tell Scotland what to do, and now.... this? He would raise an army as quickly as he could, but he could not bring all his men with the recent rioting problems in London, and he knew Adam suffered a similar quandary. They would do their best, but he did not think they would make it to York in time.
For the Vikings had come to test their mettle against the Scots.