Part 22: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 21Milan's Captain Corsello watched as his men approached Caen and smiled, all ready imagining what it would be like to run his own city. Rennes had fallen before Milan's might, even if Scotland's late Prince Alexander had exacted a larger than expected cost from Corsello's countrymen.
Their intelligence told them that most of Scotland's fighting forces on this coast had gone to lay siege to Bruges, and as Corsello had expected, the English had completely failed to hold back the Scots. Even now, Gille Petair of Ross-Shire and his men would be lying drunk in the streets in celebration of their victory, leaving Caen essentially unprotected.
"Make camp!" called Corsello,"I want latrines dug and tents up before nightfall, and get to work on building siege gear, I want us in control of Caen within the wee...."
"Captain," interrupted his second, saluting,"Our scouts are reporting the Scottish garrison is massing at Caen's gate in preparation to march out and meet us."
"Oh excellent," laughed Corsello,"They save us the trouble of fighting our way inside to kill them, get the men into formation."
The Milanese quickly lined up, exchanging jokes and bawdy comments as they prepared to kill. The Scottish were devils, everyone knew that, but had they not killed over 1000 of the monsters at Rennes? Including their own Prince Alexander? No, devils these Scottish might be, but they bled and they could die, and the men of Milanese meant to kill more.
The Gates opened and Corsello grinned as he saw the Scottish lined up in neat little formations, all to make their deaths that much more efficient.
"Hold your lines here, men," he laughed,"We know from Rennes that they don't have the patience to wait us out, let them come to us. No need for us to tire our legs when soon our arms will be exhausted from all the bladework!"
His men laughed and held their position, but so did the Scottish, and Corsello frowned.... what the hell were they doing?
"Captain," gasped Corsello's second, after receiving a quick message from a breathless scout,"The Scottish are coming!"
"What are you talking about, fool?" grunted Corsello, staring at the still waiting Scottish through the open doors,"They're just standing there."
"No, Captain!" gasped the man, pointing to the North, where the forest separated the view of the shore from everywhere but atop the walls of the city,"The Scottish ARE coming!"
Corsello turned to stare, his mouth dropping open as saw a wave of Scottish Infantry and Cavalry emerging at a quick run from the trees.
"The Scottish are coming!" cried a Milanese soldier, but he wasn't pointing towards the Scots approaching from the woods, but towards the gates of Caen. Corsello stared back and forth at the two incoming waves and felt a sickening realization deep in his stomach.
It wasn't the Scottish who would be dying today.
In Edinburgh, Adam Canmore stared with despair at the piles of documents awaiting his attention. The death of his Father had hit him hard, and he'd gone into isolation for two weeks following the funeral, during which time his administrators dealt with the day to day running of Scotland's cities in the United Kingdom. But some duties could only be performed by a member of the Royal Family, and finally he had emerged from his mourning vowing to himself to prove he was worthy of his Father's love and trust.
But there was so much to running a Kingdom!
He didn't know how Edward dealt with the much larger lands on the other edge of the world, but he found himself swamped with treaty proposals, requests for trade, requests for military and geographical intelligence, requests for money to be paid to insure construction was completed, that repairs were made on time, that diplomats and other ambassadors were entertained. He envied his younger brother Aed, still living in far distant Cairo with the advisors who had served them both in their youth as tutors. He understood that Aed had recently even had a chance to see battle, repelling an attack by the Sicilians that had proved so successful that the madmen had finally relented in their war on Scotland and retreated back into the deserts to the West. Adam himself had ridden with the army, but others had always done the fighting, the leading, the soldiering for him before he got a chance to test himself as a true man. He felt like he was a half-man, widely expected by all to be a Master at everything, but never actually tested in any field.
He checked the first report in a large pile all marked as urgent, and frowned as he read that the English were once more working in concert with Milan, allowing a large army of the latter to move through their lands towards Bruges. He stood and moved to his father's old war table, where a map of their United Kingdom and what had once been the French Coast lay. He peered at it critically, and moved some of the markers about experimentally, struggling to think 3 dimensionally as his Father had always urged. If he moved men here, would Milan move men there? And what of England? Would they sally forth from their last stronghold of Antwerp to fight alongside Milan?
In the end he frowned, returned to his desk and penned a missive for Gille Petair, ordering him to march back to Bruges the men he had only recently marched to Caen to face Milan there. He did not like to ask too much of the Nobleman, but with Feradac's death he was the most able General they had available in this part of the Empire.
"Let Gille's legend grow in the minds of the men," he said to himself,"And become a figure of dread for Milan. God knows I will never be."
Gille sat inside of Bruges cursing Milan. While technically no match for the vast power of Scotland throughout the world, locally they had the numbers advantage over the Scots based in what was now known as the United Kingdom. A force of 641 Milanese stood outside the gates, barely a third of Scotland's own forces, but these were the Elite, led by Argometto Legnano, a well regarded member of Milan's Royal Family. Gille, known for his ability to improvise on the field, knew that they would be expecting him to try and hold the walls and let Milan throw themselves against the stone. But he also knew the quality of Milan's fighters, and knew that if he gave Argometto the chance to build enough siege gear, he'd attack the walls at multiple points where only a single unit of men could defend. If that happened, there was every chance that Milan could take control of the walls, and then they could hold their ground and force the Scottish troops to charge into them.
"We'll nae sit caged in this city," he grunted to himself, then turned to his commanders,"Order the men to assemble at the Gate, we will sally forth and meet the Milanese head to head. Their troops are amongst the most disciplined fighters in the world, but we'll see how brave they are when 1500 screaming Scotsmen are charging them."
"Crazy bastards," grunted Argometto, raising his sword high,"They mean to frighten us, men, are you frightened of these pig-ignorant bastards?"
"No!" cried his men enthusiastically, though they were actually not entirely too keen to stand and face 1500 screaming Scotsmen charging towards them.
"Then stand your ground, remember your training and KILL!"
The two sides met with a roaring clash of flesh on flesh and armor on armor, and then the sound of sword meeting sword overwhelmed all else as the Scottish pressed forward against the Milanese and the Milanese stood their ground.
"Ha!" laughed Argometto,"Is this it? This is what makes Scotland "devils"? They run and yell? Where is the hellfire? Where is the brimstone, where is..."
"My Lord!" gasped Argometto's second, pointing to the sky,"FIRE!"
Argometto looked up and felt his mouth go dry as the very hellfire and brimstone he had been mocking made its appearance.
"By God," gasped Argometto, staring in horror at men and horses burning only a few yards from him,"....hellfire?"
"Catapult fire!" screamed his second as more flaming artillery smashed into their men. He turned to Argometto and grimaced when he saw the Nobleman was staring transfixed at the burning men, then turned back to the soldiers and saw they were beginning to stumble out of formation,"Hold your positions! Cavalry I want you to move around and destroy that catap-"
A flaming rock smashed directly into him, obliterating him in a second as Argometto's horse reared up and screeched, almost tossing the shocked General from his horse.
"Now ye bastards!" cried Gille, seeing the moment was right,"PUSH FORWARD!"
"Hol.... hold your pla..." gasped Argometto, trying to clear the image of burning men from his mind,"Hold your place and....."
Argometto's mind snapped off and instinct took over, even as a black haze of shock washed over him, his body was turning his horse and pushing it away from the Scotsmen. The Milanese struggling amongst their own dead and burning to survive saw him run and all discipline and spirit went out of them. They turned and ran, many dying as the Scotsmen slashed them down from behind, or they clashed and tripped over their own men - both living and dead - in their desperate attempt to survive. Those that made it clear ran as hard as they could for the forests as the Scots laughed and taunted them for their cowardice.
"Hunt down as many as ye can!" roared Gille,"We'll hammer home to these bastards the price of going to war with Scotland, even if we have to kill all of them!"
King Edward rode up over the sands and grinned as he spied Edessa in the distance. Word had reached him yesterday that Prince Comgell's adopted son Matad Macconel had captured the former rebel stronghold, which had also once been a Turkish city. City was a strong word, it was more like a fort where people had once lived amongst the soldiers, but now there was only room for soldiers.
"Edessa," grunted Edmund, riding up beside his Brother,"What a...."
"Shithole?" suggested Edward, and smiled when Edmund burst out laughing,"Aye Edmund, it's a shithole, but that shithole may well spell the end of the Mongol Horde...... or bring an end to the mad adventures of two Scottish Princes who got drunk one night and stole the Scottish fleet from their Father."
Edmund's smile faded, but Edward's remained broad,"Come, Brother, let's ride down to that shithole and make ready for a war the likes of which this world may never see again."
Gille Petair disrobed with a grunt, physically exhausted but feeling a happy sense of accomplishment. Bruges remained Scotland's, and Milan had been quiet since Gille had decimated Argometto's army and humiliated the Milan Noble on the field. England made a lot of noise and displayed their army outside the walls of Antwerp, but everyone knew the once mighty Empire was now a spent force of no real threat to anyone.
For the first time in a long time, Gille was beginning to think he might make it through these turbulent times alive, and had started thinking about his eventual retirement, when his military service was done he could purchase some land near Ross-Shire and move his family there. The quiet life was an appealing idea, and-
Gille Petair of Ross-Shire collapsed into his bed and jerked once, then twice, before going still. A figure slid out of the shadows and quickly rolled him under the sheets and posed Gille so he seemed to be sleeping, then pulled the small dart out of his neck and ducked it into a hidden pocket. Grinning silently to himself, the Milanese Assassin slipped first out of the chambers, then out of Bruges.
Gille's retirement had come early.
Inside Caen, Captain Malcolm was shaken awake by a frightened looking servant. He sat up blearily and wiped his eyes, noting that the dawn was not yet risen.
"What's going on?" he grunted, angry at being woken so early.
"The Milanese army has returned!" gasped the servant, and Malcolm realized that he could hear men running, and commands being shouted,"The Garrison is assembling now!"
"How many, dammit?" he snapped, rolling out of bed and slapping away the servant's hands when he tried to help him into his armor,"Has that coward Argometto found a few more madmen willing to die for him?"
"Over a thousand, perhaps two!" gasped the servant, and Malcolm paused.
"I dinnae know, Captain," moaned the servant,"But they stretch nearly the length of the city! And they have catapults like at Rennes!"
Malcolm cursed as he buckled the last of his armor on and stormed out of his chambers. So Milan had come back in force, had they? Well, the garrison might be depleted from Gille's rescue of Bruges, but he would be damned if he'd let them take HIS city. He'd fight to the very last man if necessary.
He had to admit to himself, that was a very real possibility.