Part 39: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 38Dougall Macdonchie sighed into his palm, pretending it was a cough and trying desperately to look like he was anything but panicking.
He sat the throne, though he was not King, as he had for close to three weeks now, hearing petitions, issuing orders for the Governance of the city and receiving reports on the governance of other cities throughout the Empire. It was tiring, thankless work, and worst of all he didn't even get the added benefit of respect/fear that he would have as King.
All the work, none of the benefits.
He did not complain, however, he was a loyal Scotsman, and his King needed him during this dark time. Domnall Canmore had received word of his twin brother's death and gone into mourning almost immediately, leaving Dougall to govern Milan in his absence. The King was locked away in his chambers, taking only what food and drink he needed to survive as he came to terms with the loss of a man who had been a constant presence from even before he was born.
But Dougall was a soldier first and foremost, and this, this was beyond his ability to deal with.
Rainulf Arundel and Franco Didaz, diplomats from Sicily and Spain respectively, had demanded an audience with Dougall, and stood now before him making demands and accusations.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," grunted Dougall, wishing not for the last time he hadn't granted a private audience. If they'd had others watching, maybe they wouldn't have been so fired up.... or maybe they would have been worst? He hated diplomacy, he would have preferred to settle matters with the sword,"Please, talk one at a time and we ca-"
"I DEMAND SATISFACTION!" roared Rainulf,"This deliberate provocation cannot go unpunished! I dema-"
"YOU DEMAND!?!" hissed Franco,"Sicilian, your Empire crumbles under the mad rule of a sex crazed sloth! What you demand means nothing. SPAIN demands reparation for ou-"
"SILENCE!" roared a voice, and Dougall's eyes widened in shock and then relief.
The great doors to the Court once ruled over by Duke Puccio the Cunning had been thrown open, and standing between them in crumpled clothing, unshaven and tousle-haired, was the King of Scotland.
Domnall Canmore's mourning had ended.
One Week Earlier
To the North of Cagliari on the island of Sardinia, Captain Cederno was preparing a trap for the Spanish. The invaders had landed two days earlier to the West, shortly after word had reached Cagliari that Tunis had fallen to a surprise attack by the Scottish. It seemed that Scotland and Sicily were at war, and the Spanish were looking to take advantage.
But Cederno did not mean to let the Spanish take Cagliari, and so he had struck out with 100 men to draw Captain Pedro into battle. The Spanish Captain was obviously merely the advance force for a larger army, but if Cederno could goad Pedro into attacking, then he could draw him back into a trap against Captain Magianino, who was hiding in the hills with over 500 men. Together, they would obliterate the invading Spanish, and send a warning to their brethren AND the Scottish, the Sicilians would not give up their lands.
"SCOUT!" cried a voice, and Cederno marched through the lush grass past his Knights to watch as a scout approached quickly, concern on his face.
"What news?" Cederno demanded.
"The sounds of battle to the South, Captain," reported the Scout,"Near Cagliari itself. I sent up colored smoke and received no reply, I believe Captain Magianino has come under sudden attack."
"Dammit," hissed Cederno,"The Spanish have outflanked us and played me for a fool, Pedro was a diversion! MARCH! MARCH!"
To the South, Captain Magianino was in the fight of his life. He and his men had been marching through the hills to prepare for their ambush of Captain Pedro when they had crested the top of a hill and seen discovered that it was them who had been ambushed.
But not by the Spanish.
"What is this...." whispered Magianino in horror,"The Scottish... here?"
"Kill them," Aodh demanded, his voice cold and eyes flint,"This land is Scottish, it just dinnae ken it, yet."
The Cavalry charged forward downhill towards the horrified Sicilians, as Captain Magianino screamed orders that fell on deaf ears, desperately trying to clear him men from the death that was about to come crushing down on them.
As the bulk of Magianino's men were crushed, run over or struck down, a few found themselves outside of the killing zone and milled about, confused as to whether they should run or try to assist their fellow Sicilians. But then the choice was taken from them, as Scottish Pikemen marched in the wake of the cavalry and bore down on the Sicilians, while in the heat of the fighting Magianino was cut down and died bleeding into the lush, fertile earth of what had been his home all his life.
Soon to be Scottish.
Cederno's men arrived on the scene in time to witness the decimation of the last of Magianino's men, the few survivors charging through Cederno's Knights as if they weren't there, screaming in terror and thinking of nothing but escaping the demons of Scotland.
"The Scottish...." whispered Cederno in disbelief, watching as the Pikemen who had been pursuing Magianino's men grew closer,"Well Scottish, Spanish, Venetian.... it does not matter. This land is Sicilian, and I'll die to keep it so! CHARGE!"
An hour later, Aodh rode his horse past the bodies of dead Sicilians whose blood was soaking into a land no longer theirs. A scout cried out warning, and the army moved back into formation as a small force of Spanish marched to the battlefield.
"Captain Pedro, I presume?" asked Aodh from his horse as the Spanish Captain approached, forced to look up at the Scottish Prince which only reinforced the weakness of his position.
"You would be Aodh Canmore, then," replied Pedro, removing his helm and looking about at the large numbers of Sicilian dead,"It seems I owe you thanks, our intelligence did not report such large numbers of Sicilians, they were leading me into a trap."
"Saving you was paramount to my desires, of course," Aodh noted deadpan, and Pedro frowned, unable to read the man. Was he being sarcastic? Caustic? Or did he simply not care?
"I also thank you on Spain's behalf," smiled Pedro,"You have proven a great ally to Spain, we meant to take Cagliari by force and you have made that unnecessary. The city is emptied of defence, we need simply ride through the Gates and claim it."
Aodh stared calmly at the man, then offered a smile that chilled Pedro's blood.
"I will be leading my men into Cagliari within the day," he said,"Our path takes us straight forward, and currently you are standing in the way.... I suggest you move."
"We demand Cagliari back!" snapped Rainulf angrily,"And Tunis! This unprovoked act of war against Sicily is int-"
"Shut up," snapped Domnall, and Rainulf quieted immediately. It was one thing when Dougall Macdonchie asked for silence, it was another when the King of Scotland demanded it.
Domnall sat his throne, brooding quietly as Dougall stood at his side. He had heard the tale of Aodh's gathered army of Nobles, their destruction of the Moors, the attack on Sicily's desert coastal cities, the capture of Cagliari and humiliation of Spain's Captain Pedro. Despite the sudden influx of information, Domnall had born it all without a change of expression, and now he sat thinking as Rainulf and Franco stood waiting.
"Franco, our Alliance with Spain is designed for many things.... but conquering for each other is nae one of them. Ye Captain Pedro landed in Sardinia with less than 200 men against Cederno's 600, my Brother landed in Sardinia with 900 and crushed Cederno's men. Cagliari is his by right of conquest, and his humiliation of Pedro was a result of the man's insulting claim to that city. Take my apologies to Spain, but ye'll nae be given a city just because ye were there first."
"But.... your Majesty...." gaped Franco,"We-"
"Go, Franco," growled Domnall, glaring at the Diplomat,"Spain and Scotland are still allies, so go before I change my mind."
The Spaniard stared at the King's bloodshot eyes and saw he had gained all he could, and nodding his head he turned and walked away, exiting the Court and leaving Domnall and Dougall with Rainulf.
"I congratulate you on your handling of the Spaniard, your Majesty," smiled the Sicilian,"But there remains the matter of your Brother's unfounded war against Sicily. Surely between us we can co-"
"Sicilian, ye nation is at war with Scotland and ye come making demands," growled Domnall,"Ye think that I would side with ye against my own Brother? Ye think that I would hear ye wails of "unprovoked war" when it was Sicily that declared war on Scotland in my youth? My twin Brother is dead, but when he lived he faced down ye armies and scared them away with words.... and ye think I would shy away from war with ye? Get out of my sight, Sicilian, the next time I see one of ye kind, I'll be shoving a sword through his belly."
The Sicilian squawked in outrage, but when Dougall took a step forward from Domnall's side, he turned and fled from the court. Dougall smiled, then turned and frowned as he saw Domnall with his head buried in his hands.
"Majesty?" he asked.
"Aodh has taken Nobles under his command and led them to war; Hungary is allied to Sicily and our own alliance will be strained by this War," he sighed,"Aodh has done all this under his own volition, without seeking official sanction, and he may have used my mourning for Nectan to accomplish this..... I need to meet with my Brother and have a very long talk."
Dougall nodded, and Domnall stared up at him.
"Dougall, at Toulouse to the West, Papero Galliano holds a garrison of 600 men. He is Sicily's finest General in these lands, with their lazy bastard of a King wasting lives against the Venetians to the East. I want ye to ride against Toulouse and take it for Scotland."
"Aye, Majesty," saluted Dougall, and moved to leave, but Domnall stopped him.
"Dougall, send a message to my cousin Adam. His Father rode in a Crusade against Toulouse, though it was merely a way of riding to Edinburgh's aid unknown at a time when the English threatened. I doubt Adam has the same strength of will as his Father, but we will give him a chance to prove his manhood, such as it is."
Dougall nodded and walked away, leaving Domnall Canmore to sit in his throne, fresh from mourning the death of his twin and now thrust into a new war by his younger Brother.