Part 30: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 29Domnall Canmore was no more.
In the aftermath of the bloodbath that had been the open desert battle with the Mongols, Scotland's new King had sent word to Adam Canmore, and this time there had been no denying the order. Milan's constant sieging of Scottish lands was an insult that could be tolerated no longer, and Scottish armies had gone on the march towards the Milanese border.
The reaction from Milan was swift, as they realized the massive juggernaut that was the Scottish Empire was turning its full attention on them. Even as mighty a nation as Milan knew they could not hope to survive that, and so Cicilia Rossi, Princess of Milan was dispatched to Caen to strike a ceasefire with Morgunn the Boroundon, a young inexperienced noble that Adam had placed in charge of the invading force, his last pathetic protest over being forced onto the offensive by his orders.
Cicilia was plump and short, but her regal birth gave her an "inner" beauty that made men lust for her and certainly not her dowry. She entered the court at Caen and made an entirely proper curtsy, noting the placement of Morgunn's advisors, fellow nobles and soldiers in the crowded court. Much could be learned from where men stood or didn't stand, whether their eyes matched their words, even the way they stood.
"This bloodshed between us has become meaningless," Cicilia said with a smile after observing the usual niceties,"Let us end this warring today. I bring a formal offer of ceasefire from Duke Puccio."
"I see," grunted Morgunn,"Of course, Scotland would be happy to accept this offer."
Cicilia let a grateful smile cross her face, while inside she laughed with delight. That had been easier than she expected, an-
"With one condition," added Morgunn, causing Cicilia to frown openly before catching herself.
Morgunn snapped his finger and an advisor came forward holding a sheet of paper, which Morgunn carefully scanned. Cicilia took a quick look about the court and noted the blank faces of all present, all of them hiding any distaste or humor they found in this obvious pantomime.
"We've reviewed the cost of Milan's presence in the last several years in our lands, including the upkeep of our forces; the rebuilding of city walls and smashed buildings; the reconstruction of farms.... and the cost in the lives of our men as well. We'll accept ye offer of a ceasefire, on the condition that Milan repays these costs in full."
Cicilia frowned as the advisor handed her the sheet of paper, and she scanned through the carefully scrawled figures, detailing to the finest details expenses that could not possibly have been quantified. The figure at the bottom was.... it was outrageous!
"We cannot accept this!" she snapped angrily, diplomacy forgotten.
"Very well," muttered Morgunn, sounding bored,"If Milan's vaunted wealth cannot meet its debts, we will accept a compromise. Milan shall make itself vassal to Scotland, ye debt shall be repaid in servitude."
"Forget it!" she hissed vehemently, outraged and insulted beyond belief.... how dare these... these.... sheepfuckers! How dare they make such demands!?!"We're not interested!"
She stormed off, and the Scottish Court watched her go impassively, waiting until word had reached them that she was gone from the castle grounds.
"Now that pantomime is done with," grunted Morgunn, allowing a savage grin to cross his face,"I think it's about time we showed Milan what a real war looks like."
Maria de Parma loved Paris.
The city had once been the capital of France, until Milan tore through the once mighty Empire and took their lands, cities and people for their own. Maria had come to the city to govern it as a reward for his assistance in foiling an assassination attempt on Duke Puccio, and fallen immediately in love. The Imperial Palace held luxuries and treasures beyond any he'd ever seen, he enjoyed intellectual discourse with the philosophers who had survived the war between Milan and France and remained in the city despite its fall. Paris was the home of art, the home of music; it was truly the greatest city in the world, at least as far as Maria de Parma was concerned.
Now the Scottish were coming to take it all away from him.
Duke Puccio had initially wanted to capture the coastal cities that Scotland had won from England, and that desire had turned to obsession as Scotland continued to throw back his armies again and again. As a result, the garrisons of Milan's cities were seriously undermanned, and now the Scottish had marched in large numbers to punish Puccio's obsession.
Maria had organized his few men as best he could, arranging the bulk of them onto the thick walls of the great city and the rest stations through the narrow streets of the city itself. He would negate their numbers advantage as best he could, hoping that he could pick off their numbers as they approached the wall, and the men could hold off those scaling the walls long enough to equalize their forces. The walls would inevitable fall, but then the Scottish would be forced up the narrow Parisian streets that they did not know well, and Maria's men could fight them on an equal footing. If all things went well, there was a chance that Milan might still hold the city.
A messenger ran up beside Maria on his horse, hauling in lungfuls of air and wiping his perspiring brow to compose himself so he could deliver his message.
"Catapults, m'lord," gasped the messenger,"The Scottish mean to shatter the walls from a distance!"
Maria threw back his head and laughed. Destroy the massive stone walls of Paris? The Scottish were truly mad!
It seemed the Scottish weren't so mad after all.
At Angers, Captain Cormac ran at a quick march with 800 other infantry-men towards the shattered remains of the city gates. Angers was a heavily fortified Milanese fortress built into an easily defended giant hillside, with thick ringed walls on multiple layers acting as buffers against an invading force. To enter the city, the gates needed to be broken down, which the Scottish had done. But Cormac's men still had the Milanese garrison of 500+ men to deal with, and then two more sets of heavy stone walls to pass beyond after that. They were without cavalry, and Cormac had ordered the catapults to hold back now the gate had been smashed open, knowing that they would need them to get through the next line of defense.
But first Cormac's 500 had to deal with Argometto Legnano's 800, mostly infantry themselves but also including Argometto's personal mounted bodyguard. The Milanese had the benefit of massive stone walls to hide behind and a thin entry point that the Scottish would have to bottleneck in, creating a killing corridor for the Milanese. It was madness for the Scottish to think they could push through the Milanese.
It seemed the Scottish weren't so mad after all.
"Paris...." gasped Maria de Parma, falling from his horse. He died face down on the streets of the city he loved, amongst the blood and bodies of his countrymen, trampled underfoot by the unstoppable force that was the Scottish. The Scottish had sent their message to Duke Puccio the Cunning in the form of the black smoke rising over Angers and Paris. Milan had sought to conquer Scotland, and now they had wakened the sleeping giant.
Domnall 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.
It had been weeks now since Fearghus Campbell has watched Domnall prepare to lead the Scottish against the Mongols, watched him whip them men into a frenzy and make them truly his own. But he remembered it like it was yesterday, he doubted he would ever forget the bloodbath that had turned golden sands red and proved the end of Domnall Canmore. He often found himself turning memories of that day over in his head, as he did now:
The tension has returned to the Scottish, but now it was a nervous excitement as opposed to the earlier rising dread. The Mongols were growing closer, Fearghus recognizing instantly the banner of Khan Chaghatai, the vainglorious, strutting peacock that was "ruler" of the Mongol Horde. It seemed the idiot had been convinced to ride in the vanguard, and if Edward Canmore had been here he would have ordered his archers to open fire on the Mongol Khan.
But Domnall was not Edward Canmore, as he himself had proclaimed to such great effect to the men only a few minutes earlier. He sat his horse and waited, as if happy to let the Mongols charge directly into them. Fearghus' keen eyes watched as Chaghatai pushed his men out directly towards Domnall's banner, his mounted archers obviously eager to get into range of the Scottish General and pepper him with arrows.... and still Domnall sat still and did nothing, merely waiting.... waiting.......
"Now lad!" whispered Fearghus, hoping Domnall's own sense of timing was on.
"NOW LADS!" roared Domnall only a moment later,"FIRE!"
The Khan's eyes raised in surprise at the peculiar booming noise and the flash of light from the Skot-tish flank, and then the world had turned into a blur and the wind was knocked from him as he smashed into the sand and lay dazed amongst screaming men and horses, felled by some dread magic of the Skot-tish from across the length of the battlefield.
"Thank ye, Father," whispered Domnall gratefully, closing his eyes with relief. Edmund Canmore's engineers and alchemists had come to him several months before his death to tell him of their work with a mysterious substance called "gunpowder" and their belief they could turn it into a long range weapon of war like the trebuchet, but as mobile as an infantry unit. Edmund had kept the weapon's creation under wraps while it was developed further, and now it had been revealed for the first time on the battlefield and used to magnificent effect, crashing into the charging bodyguard of the Mongol Khan and decimating it.
"Bu... but I'm the son of Genghis Khan," gasped Chaghatai as he struggled to move his unresponding limbs, the last words he would ever say.
One could not help but think that if Genghis Khan was still alive, he would have been relieved.
"NOW LADS! CHARGE!" roared Domnall,"SHOW THEM WHAT MAKES SCOTLAND GREAT!"
His men charged forward with a roar into the faltered Mongol vanguard, the archers trying desperately to pull back to open fire on the heavily armored, slower moving Scottish infantry.
Orda - Khan now in all but name - watched as Chaghatai's men were slaughtered by the Scottish, and then surprised his men by roaring with laughter. He turned and cast a challenging look at his men, who lowered their eyes immediately, and that made him laugh more.
"You wonder why I laugh as our men are slaughtered by the Skot-tish?" he asked,"THAT is why!"
He pointed into the South, where a rising dust cloud could be seen rumbling closer. Orda laughed again, ordering his men to move forward so they met between the Skot-tish and the dustcloud. Berkei had arrived just in time, and now he and the other deadly Warlord could mop up after Chaghatai's mess and destroy the Skot-tish.
The charged forward, ignoring Chaghatai's dead and dying Mongols as they moved into position. Already, Orda could see Berkei's trebuchets towering up through the dust, and he relished the idea of sending flaming balls of fire directly into the Skot-tish.
As Chaghatai's Mongols were broken down into small pockets of resistance against Domnall's men, the greater bulk of the Scottish force turned to face Orda's Mongols moving up on their left flank. Domnall had brought surprisingly few archers, who fired flaming arrows at the gathering Horde, and Orda ordered his own considerable archers to rain death down on his enemies.
Behind him, he could hear the thunder of Berkei's forces approaching, and he felt exhilaration coursing through his veins. This novice Domnall was little better than Chaghatai, once the surprise of his strange new weapon had been revealed, he had nothing else to offer to suggest the Skot-tish could defeat the Mongols in a battle of equal forces in open desert warfare. The thunder of Berkei's men was almost overshadowing the clash of Skot-tish and Orda's Mongols now, and he turned with a grin to watch the breathtaking sight of the unstoppable charge of the Mongol Horde.
And his mouth dropped open in horror.
"For Duncan Broune," grunted Rory Randall, his hard eyes unrecognizable from the carefree glint that had been in them before this "adventure" had started.
"Aye," nodded Dougall Inchmertyn, who had ridden his men north to intercept Berkei's army, losing a full third of his army in the decimation of Berkei army, which at 900 strong had been only half the size of Dougall's. The Mongol Warlord had fought ferociously and come close to driving back Dougall's forces multiple times, but in the end the Scottish had prevailed, and then ridden hard north once more to come up on the Mongols. To Dougall's surprise and delight, Orda's forces had been exactly where he'd been told they would be, having remarkably deliberately placed themselves between Dougall's men and Domnall's. Now the Mongols would be unable to use their preferred method of open, ranged desert warfare and would have to close and engage with the Scottish.
And that was a war the Mongols could not win.
Orda roared with fury as he realized the trap he'd been caught in, and his eyes narrowed as he saw Domnall's banner, the Kanmor Khan riding his men through those Mongol Archers that had managed to keep their distance and fire on the Skot-tish infantry.
"THE KANMOR KHAN! THE DOMNALL KHAN!" screamed Orda, pointing towards the man,"FORGET ALL ELSE BUT HIM! RIDE! RIDE AND KILL HIM IF YOU ARE MEN! I WILL NOT LET HIM ENJOY THE FRUITS OF VICTORY!"
Orda's core group of most loyal men reacted without hesitation, ignoring the grasping, slashing Skot-tish about them and thundering their horses through towards Domnall, who seemed blissfully unaware of their approach. As Orda killed every Skot-tish that came near him, he kept a gleeful eye on his men as they smashed into the flank of Domnall's bodyguard, pushing their way towards the Kanmor Khan himself in the thick of the fighting. Some Skot-tish realized too late what was happened, but they could not break away to defend their Khan, or risk certain death from the frenzied, fighting Mongols.
And Fearghus Campbell had watched also from a safe distance, standing by the King's command tent and watching as the Mongols surrounded his monarch and slashed and struck at him.
He watched the death of Domnall Canmore.
And he watched the birth of King Domnall, true heir of Edward Canmore.
Domnall tore through the knot of Mongols that had surrounded him, screaming in fury and hacking with his sword in a rage. One Mongol fell, then another, then another and another. His armor was coated in blood, his eyes wild with rage, and the Mongols fell before him as if they were made from paper. His men followed, screaming Domnall's name as they cut down those Mongols that Domnall did not get.... and then Domnall was clear, and turning he fixed his gaze on Orda and his men trapped between the two Scottish armies, and he raised his sword and pointed it straight at Orda's heart.
And Orda broke.
The last great Mongol Warlord, Khan in all but name, felt his blood turn to ice and his heart falter in his chest. Dropping his weapon, he charged his horse through the Scottish and spurred his crazed mount as fast as he could away from the monster, the demon, the devil that was the Domnall Khan. His men broke immediately upon seeing their Warlord flee, and Domnall let loose a blood curdling roar and set after them, his own men following as fast as they could as they sought to turn the golden sands red with the blood of the Mongol Horde.
Finally Domnall came to a rest, and came back to himself. The battle had been a red haze for him since he'd torn his way free of the encircling Horde and gone on his rampage, but now he was himself again, and he stared around at the seemingly endless desert, the empty view of the sands broken up by the corpses lying from where he sat his horse all the way back to the Scottish camp. He realized his men were chanting, and it took him a moment to realize it was his name they were chanting, staring at him with adoration in their eyes as they stared at a man who was not Edward Canmore, but WAS their King.
Domnall Canmore was no more, he had entered this battle a nervous man given reign over the mightiest Empire in the world without ever earning it. He had come out of it a worthy, respected and adored King.
His great gamble had paid off.
Khan Orda the Merciless had finally achieved his dream and become Khan of the Mongol Horde.
All 27 of them.
How had it come to this? Under Genghis Khan they'd swarmed unstoppable over the East, and ridden through towards Edessa drawn by the strange green fertile lands. But then Genghis had died, Chaghatai had become their new Khan more by political expediency than by merit, and then everything had fallen apart when they'd encountered the Skot-tish.
Now, 27 men were left and, most frustrating of all, his grip on power was not complete. His men had seen him run in terror from Domnall Khan, and he'd had to beat several challengers to his power into the ground, but not killed them because he couldn't afford to lose even a single man.
They rode through the dry hills to the Northwest of the rebel city of Baghdad. Many Mongols had died trying to break through the walls of that mighty city, and Orda blamed it in part for enabling the Skot-tish to wipe them out. But he would not have his revenge on Baghdad any time soon, at the moment all he wanted to do was travel back East to their ancient lands and slowly work on rebuilding the Horde into a formidable force once more. Then HE would lead them back against the Skot-tish and gain his rev-
He stared in horror at the familiar and hated banners of the Skot-tish on the hills before them, the familiar blue "kilts" of the Skot-tish's fiercest warriors, the Hye-Landas.
"No," he whispered in horror, as he finally realized that it was over,"No!"
"Yes," hissed Captain Steaphan from his position on the hill several hundred feet away,"Thank ye, God, for giving me this honor."
Steaphan turned and looked at his men, all of them veterans of the original battles with the Mongols, and the legendary battle under the control of Prince Gawain on Mongol Bridge over Blood River.
"For Gawain!" cried Steaphan.
"FOR GAWAIN!" cried his men, and then they charged on the Mongol "Horde".