Part 29: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 28At Caesarea, Captain Hew walked the walls grimly, looking constantly West towards the army he knew was inevitably coming. Word had reached him yesterday of a most unlikely alliance, with England pledging what strength, influence and money it still possessed to help the Turks in their battle with Scotland.
He cursed softly, a familiar trait to the guardsmen also standing the walls. Though not as crude as his cousin Malcolm, Captain Hew had been known to turn the sternest Highlander's face red with embarrassment when he got a good head of steam going. He hated the English, a hatred passed down by his Father and Grandfather who had still remembered a time when England not only stood as a threat to Scotland, but dominated them and threatened to turn them into vassals. Now the thought that the English could play any part - no matter how small - in his own possible death drove him to distraction.
Reinforcements were allegedly on their way from Acre on the coast, but were delayed by being forced to sail past Adana. The Papal States had refused a request for military access to their lands, and that was ANOTHER thing that was irritating Captain Hew, they wanted to pass through Adana to kill heathens, for God's sake, what could be more Christian than that?
So Captain Hew spent another night walking the walls waiting for a Turkish army he knew must eventually come to challenge the less than 250 men that made up the Caesarea Garrison.
Captain Aed blinked with surprise as his scout gave his report. They'd been following the trial of the Turks through the dry hills for several hours, knowing that the Turks must have been aware of their presence for some time. Aed had expected the young Turkish General - Baydara ad-Dawlah - to be leading a large force to lay siege to Caesarea, but now his scout was reporting they numbered less than 300. They must have believed they were a match man for man with the Scottish garrison, and now that arrogance was going to be the end of them.
"They've pushed for the high ground, Captain," the scout was finishing his report,"They must be aware of our superior numbers, and seeking a position to hold us off."
"Aye," nodded Aed, dismissing the scout then stalking up to his second to order the men to prepare for the battle,"High ground or nae, Baydara will nae see the walls of Caesarea again."
At Aed's order, the Scottish archers charged up the hill, a move that would normally spell death for an attacking army. But they were archers, it didn't matter if they were tired when they reached their destination, because they merely had to stand in place and fire their arrows. He watched them moving into place, sending his Spearmen marching at a less intensive pace after them as Baydara's archers opened fire on Aed's men. The Scots returned fire with blazing arrows, designed to force back the Turks and open the space between the two sides, which would give the Spearmen space to move once they arrived.
"Focus on the javelins!" roared Aed as he moved with his men past their archers, knowing that the Turkish Javelin would be able to fight hand to hand far more effectively than the Turkish Archers. His men followed orders and rained flaming arrows down on the Turks as Aed led his men forward towards them at a quick run, and the combination of flaming death and hundreds of roaring Scots was enough to break the Turks and send them running past and through Baydara's bodyguard as the Turkish Royal screamed at them for their cowardice.
"We can still hold them back!" screamed Baydara as they ran, then turned and saw....
"No...." whispered Baydara as he watched the Scots swarm like locusts over his men. For a moment he felt a bitter pang of regret for all the things he knew now he would never experience. He wasn't even 20, and there was no doubt that his life had come to an end. His sword grip slackened and his horse - sensing his mood - grunted and shifted beneath him.... and then he tightened his grip and gritted his teeth. Anger had replaced his depression, how dare these aliens come to his land, kill his Sultan, take his cities and rape his women.
"DEATH AND HONOR!" screamed Baydara, and charged into the Scottish.
As Captain Aed watched his men mop up the last of the Turks he allowed a smile to cross his face. He'd succeeded, and now Caesarea was safe.
Caesarea was doomed.
Captain Hew stood on the walls in the deepening gloom, watching the massive force of Turks approaching. They'd arrived earlier in the day, 1500 strong and intent on recapturing Caesarea from the Scottish at any costs. He cursed Captain Aed, where was the fool? Surely he'd landed by now and pushed his men to come to Caesarea's aid.... how could he not have arrived!?!
The Turks had a large number of spearmen, far outnumbering Hew's own, but inside the city walls they were safe from Turkish spears. The trouble was, the Turks had brought ballistae, catapults, siege towers and ladders with them.
"Hold ye places here on the walls, lads," called Hew from the tower post rising above the stone wall,"Those pox-ridden horse-fuckers will find we dinnae abandon the walls so eas-"
"Oh shite, abandon the wall, lads!" Hew cried down to his men. They started running, catapult blast after catapult blast smashing into the wall and breaking it apart, several men knocked off of their feet and to their deaths on the ground far below. Hew cursed angrily and then roared down to his own catapult, served by two crotchety old bastards who should have long since retired... but in a siege, you took what you could get,"They've made ye a hole, lads, take a shot back at them yeself!"
The wall on the other side of the gate tower shattered and buckled as the spearmen stationed on it rushed off of it to avoid death, and Hew closed his eyes and sighed in resignation as he saw the greater bulk of the Turkish army begin to move forward against them.
"Ye bastards in the towers, fire! Burn down their goddamned siege weapons! Ye bastards on the ground, move into those holes on the wall and hold ye ground! Keep them from entering the city!"
"Aye, that's the stuff!" laughed Hew as he watched the Turkish siege weapons burn,"Now hold the bastards at the walls, damn ye! Let them die throwing themselves against out front lines! Dinnae let them into open space, take away their numbers advantage! We can do it, lads! We can hold this fucking city!"
The Turks rode directly at the two holes in the walls on either side of the city's main gate, and found Scotsmen waiting to meet them. The two sides clashed, and the Scottish fought with ferocity born of the knowledge that they had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. They either held the city, or they all died.
"Hold them! Hold them, God damn ye!" screamed Hew as the Turks kept coming, pressing forward with unrelenting pressure, pushing back the Scotsmen no matter how hard they tried to hold their places.... and then the dam broke, the Turks suddenly flooding through in massive numbers, bodily slamming the Scottish aside.
As the dawn broke over the newly recaptured Turkish city of Caesarea, far from the shattered walls and piled bodies of deadly Scotsmen, nine men stood together on the edge the dry hills that spread out across the landscape as far as the eye could see.
"What now, Captain?" asked one of the battered, bloody nine.
"Now? We're done, that's what," grunted Captain Hew, his armor gone and his sword a useless, notched mess,"We've lost Caesarea and we're trapped in the middle of Turkish territory. How the hell we made it out alive is God's own fucking mystery."
The nine had, in fact, crawled aching and battered from amongst the corpses of their fellow countrymen hours after the battle had ended, stripping out of their armor and moving through the dark away from the city. They'd met along the way and gathered together more out of habit than anything, but now their brief comradeship was over, and Captain Hew was giving them his final command.
"Captain Aed is out there somewhere, if ye want to try to find him and rejoin the army, more power to ye. For myself, I mean to disappear into these hills, live off the land for a time, then find my way back to some semblance of civilization in this Godforsaken land, find a lass, fuck some kids into her and try to forget I was ever a soldier."
The others gasped in surprise at his words, but Hew ignored them. They were too concerned for their own survival to worry about him, and even if they did survive against all odds and make it back to the Scottish, he doubted any one would bother trying to find him. He'd signed on as a soldier under King Edward and served him gladly, but would he risk death or worse for Domnall? Not bloody likely, Domnall was no Edward Canmore.
"I understand this lad is quite the monster," chuckled Duncan Broune as they watched the opposing army approach,"Or at least he was before he discovered the Scottish."
"He's nae to underestimated," warned Dougall Inchmertyn, "leader" of this army, though his two companions would dispute that. Duncan Brouce and Rory Randall were his childhood friends, the three of them all of noble blood and distant relatives of the Scottish Royal Family, whether by adoption or by blood. They had insisted on coming with him on this mission, especially when they'd learned who had given him the order.
"Separated from the rest of his ilk he's gelded," Dougall lectured,"But given the chance to reunite with his people he could prove a real danger to Scotland."
"Aye, Duncan," laughed Rory,"Dinnae get too close, that old dog can still bite."
The "monster" in question was Khanzada Aradai the Wrathful, heir to the Mongol Empire, long since separated from the rest of the Horde following the late Prince Gawain's destruction of the Mongols in their first clash with Scotland. Dougall had received explicit instructions on what was expected of him, and put in control of a force of 1800 men. Now the first part of his instructions were complete, he'd ridden deep into the desert and found the brutal warlord Khanzada Aradai and his surviving 200 men.
Aradai sat panting with fury as he watched the approaching Skot-tish army. Since his humiliating defeat he had ridden his men deeper into the deserts so like their own homes in the East, seeking to escape attention and find a chance to rejoin the greater part of the Horde. For a long time, for all he knew Khan Chaghatai was dead and he himself was now the true leader of the Mongols, and when he'd heard that Berkei the Wrathful had laid siege to Baghdad (itself recently captured by Rebels) he'd planned to ride to join him. But now the Skot-tish had returned to plague him, and he felt the same old impotent fury that had been eating into his belly since his exile in the desert.
"Hold them at range," he growled,"Fire on them, keep your distance. We are in open desert, there is no bridge here, they can't force us into a killing corridor. Despite their numbers, we have the advantage."
If his men noted that he'd thought the same thing at their last encounter with the Skot-tish, they gave no sign. Mongol Archers fired into the air as close to 2000 Skot-tish charged down over the sand dunes towards them.
"Our archers have a longer reach than theirs," grinned Aradai fiercely,"We can hold them o-"
The trebuchet blast tore through the left side of his archers and Aradai swore angrily, watching as the others in the line turn and ran, flaming arrows bringing them down as they fled in terror. And then there was no time to concentrate on anything but killing, as the Skot-tish arrived in force.
"COME SEE HOW A TRUE MONGOL DIES!" screamed Aradai as his men found themselves facing a wall of laughing, taunting Scot-tish,"YOU CAN KILL ME! BUT THE HORDE WILL NEVER DIE!"
And then he rode crashing into the Skot-tish, lost in a red haze of fury, fury at his inevitable death, fury at Khan Chaghatai for ruining the Horde with his pathetic leadership, fury at the Skot-tish for being what he wanted the Horde to be.... and fury for the grinning, red-haired man he saw on a horse before him now, laughing with delight as he cut down Mongol's left and right. Aradai focused all his hatred and fury on this Skot-tish, and crashed his horse through the Pikemen and into the laughing man, revelling in the shock he saw in the man's face when he realized how close he was, saw him mouth the words,"He bites," before he crashed his sword down into the man's head, even as dozens of pikes plunged into the side of him and his horse, and Aradai the Wrathful was no more.
And neither was Duncan Broune.
An hour later, Dougall stood amongst the dead bodies considering his "victory". Aradai's death and the destruction of his personal Horde had been inevitable, and necessary if all was to go according to plan. But Duncan had never been meant to accompany him, and now one childhood friend was dead and the other changed perhaps forever. Rory had stared aghast at Duncan's dead body after the battle was ended, then emptied his belly and staggered away. He sat his horse now away from the stink of the dead bodies in the desert, staring out at the seemingly endless expanse lost in thought, unusual for the usually bright and cheery noble.
But Dougall had no time to be melancholy, or allow his friend to wallow in sorrow. He had fulfilled the first part of his instructions by locating and killing Aradai, but he still had much work to do. He pulled himself up onto his horse and quietly instructed his commanders to prepare the men to march.
They had to ride North, and quickly.
Domnall Canmore stood in his command tent and sucked in a deep breath, held it and then let it out, trying to relieve himself of his tension.
"Ye're taking a gamble, my King," muttered Fearghus Campbell, and Domnall forced himself not to jump. He would never be used to the way the man could just appear as if at will in his supposedly closely guarded tent, but he could at least mask his reaction... though he doubted he was fooling Fearghus. He turned to the grey-haired old spy, who was again eying him critically, the only person in the Kingdom who would do so openly. It was strange, when Domnall had just been one of Prince Edmund's sons, his few encounters with Fearghus had shown that the man perfectly masked his own feelings. Not for the first time, Domnall wondered why Fearghus was allowing him to see what the other man was thinking... on the surface at least.
"A necessary one," he replied,"I must risk disaster now to ensure my reign is not plagued by those who think my power is anything but complete."
"And ye hope to force the men to love ye," noted Fearghus smoothly,"To see ye as another Edward Canmore.... but Domnall, ye are nae Edward Canmore."
Domnall threw back his head and laughed heartily at Fearghus' choice of words, a genuine and happy laugh that caused a reaction in Fearghus Campbell that few had ever seen - surprise. Still chuckling, Domnall turned and exited his command tent, leaving Fearghus to ponder his King's strange behavior... and then smile.
The men watched as Domnall rode his horse past the lines, inspecting the men as they stood prepared for what must come. Their King had instructed them several weeks earlier that they were pulling back from their new holding in Turkey to have a final reckoning with an old enemy. News of Baghdad's fall has recently reached them and most expected that Domnall meant to recapture the city that had once been Scottish and then gifted to the Papacy. Instead, they'd discovered that the surviving Mongol Horde had been located in the central desert between Baghdad and Acre, and that Domnall meant to clash with them.
Such thought was madness, the Mongol Horde was a ranged cavalry-based army that moved in huge numbers and attacked from a distance. Scotland's victories over them had been engineered by Prince Gawain and then King Edward Canmore's use of the land to bring the Mongols to them on a battlefield of their choosing. Now Domnall proposed to take a force of roughly 1400 Scots and meet a force of Mongols that was at best the same size as them in the open desert... in the Mongol's own preferred choice of battlefield. Already this campaign was secretly being called Domnall's folly, and in many of the coastal cities bets were being taken on how many Scottish men would die for Domnall to realize it, would Domnall lose his own life in fact in learning the lesson?
In the distance the Horde could be seen approaching, a rising dust cloud in the far desert horizon. There had been no question that the Mongols would come for them, they would be eager to avenge their previous losses against the Scottish, especially in this open desert setting. The gathered men turned and looked at each other uneasily as Domnall continued to ride up and down the lines, saying nothing. Would he at least not have a word to say for the men who were about to die for his madness?
Khan Chaghatai and Orda the Merciless grinned at each other as they rode together towards the waiting Skot-tish. Finally they had a chance to strike a blow against the hated Skot-tish, and their scouts reported that they were led by their new Warlord, Domnall Khan who was also Kanmor Khan, according to the conflicting reports of their intelligence. The strange way these Skot-tish assigned names was just one of the many infuriating things about them.
"Will you lead the main force, Chaghatai?" asked Orda, casting his intense gaze onto his Khan. The man was a simpering fool and an embarrassment to the Horde, but in the Horde's current state Orda had no desire to challenge the man's leadership or have him killed and risk a crippling battle with Berkei or even Aradai over who would take the mantle of leadership. So perhaps he could embarrass the fool into leading the charge against the Skot-tish and do them all a favor by dying?
"I will indeed," grinned Chaghatai,"I've longed for this day, Orda, a chance to show these Skot-tish how a true Mongol fights war, not like those other idiots who threw away their men with foolish vanity."
Orda held his tongue and simply smiled, signalling silently to his own men to pull back their forces and let Chaghatai's take the vanguard.
"Oh this will be wonderful," grinned Chaghatai,"I only hope that this Domnall Khan lives long enough to see Berkei bring his 700 up on their flank and wipe all the Skot-tish out to a man."
Domnall rode his horse to the direct centre of his men and looked them over.
"Lads..... I have a problem!" cried Domnall, and the sudden breaking of his silence after so long riding back and forth before them immediately caught all of their attention. Satisfied that all eyes were on him, Domnall pushed ahead with his planned words, feeling them coming more smoothly and comfortably than he could have possibly hoped,"My problem is that I'm nae Edward Canmore!"
"I was named King after the death of my Uncle, and that night I looked in the mirror and I said to myself,"Ach, Domnall, ye're nae Edward Canmore."
His men listened, perplexed.
"I took Yerevan, my first victory in a battle I personally led! I revelled in my victory, until I heard some soldiers discussing the battle and muttering that there was any number of things I could have done better.... but what could ye expect.... I'm nae Edward Canmore!"
Some of the soldiers exchanged concerned glances.
"Trouble by such thoughts, I returned to Mosul to plan my next campaign and slept in my Uncle's old bedchamber. When I awoke, an elderly servant who once served the late King stood staring at me confused.... do ye ken what he said, lads?"
"Ye're.... nae Edward Canmore?" asked the men hesitantly and out of synch, but still together as Domnall has hoped. He smiled.
"AYE! YE'RE NAE EDWARD CANMORE!" laughed Domnall,"So I did what any good Scotsman would do in such a situation.... I got pissed!"
The men laughed despite themselves, and were relieved to see Domnall seemed to share their humor.
"Oh it was glorious, lads," chuckled Domnall,"I found a group of old veterans that I'd once travelled with as part of my Uncle and Father's aborted Moorish Campaign. We sat and drank together in the castle, and drank and drank and talked of times past and battles fought. And then I stepped outside to relieve myself, and heard one of the veterans tell another that he was impressed with how much I'd drunk. Do ye ken what the other replied, lads?"
"YE'RE NAE EDWARD CANMORE!" laughed the men, and Domnall laughed with them.
"Aye, and that was the final straw! So I said my goodbyes, and I returned to my bedchambers, and ordered a woman be sent up to me to cheer my bad mood. A comely lass answered the call, small but well rounded, and willing and able to please in any number of ways.
There were wolf-whistles and cheers from the men.
"Aye, and I gave as good as I got, and when all was said and done, I asked the lass if she'd enjoyed herself. She said she had, and like all men must, I asked if I was the best she'd had? Do ye ken what she replied, lads?"
"YE'RE NAE EDWARD CANMORE!" roared the men and Domnall together, huge smiles on their faces, their bodies shaking with laughter, tears of mirth running down their faces.
"Aye lads!" he cried as the laughter started to subside, making sure his voice cut over the joking and excited babble coming from his soldiers, their earlier tension now completely gone,"And it was then I realized it was true, I'm nae Edward Canmore. I am Domnall Canmore, son of Edmund, nephew of Edward!"
He turned and pointed at the approaching Horde, growing closer and closer now though still not close enough for the battle to begin,"Those bastards there ken I'm nae Edward Canmore, so they're coming to fight, because they think they can beat me! But I have news for them, lads, and maybe news for ye too. Maybe I'm nae Edward Canmore, and maybe the fact I'm Domnall Canmore does nae mean anything yet.... but I'll tell you what does. I'm a Scotsman, lads! I'm the King of the hardest drinking, toughest fighting, meanest, strongest and most stubborn race of men that ever lived on God's earth! I'm a Scotsman, I'm leading 1400 Scotsmen in battle, and those bow-legged, oily haired bastards coming here have no idea of the hell that awaits them on this battlefield! Let's show the world that it wasn't Edward Canmore that made Scotland great, it was Scotland that made Edward Canmore great!"
Fearghus Campbell watched as the assembled Scottish army roared with approval, completely caught up in the spell that Domnall had weaved.
"Ye'd make ye Father proud," Fearghus smiled,"Good luck to ye, lad, ye're going to need it."
Because Fearghus alone knew the full extent of Domnall's plan, and if it did not work exactly as the King had planned, another Canmore would soon be sitting the Scottish throne.