Part 42: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 41Roy Macgoulchane rode through the gates of Yerevan and felt his stomach roll and the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Yerevan was a large Town on the Northern border of Scotland's desert holdings, seemingly unimportant except for one thing.
It was the first line of defense between Scotland and enemies both existing and future.
As he and his men rode through the streets he peered about him at half naked children running about laughing and playing at war, while shirtless men sat in the open-walled pubs that were so familiar to the Desert Cities and Towns of Scotland. The women, sadly, were not shirtless, but moved confidently through the streets, the red hair of the Scottish mixing with the black hair and dark skin of the Egyptians, Africans and Asiatics whose blood had not yet been bred into the greater mix of the Scottish population. Yerevan was a multi-cultural town, the various races and religions all combining and somehow harmonizing under their Catholic Scottish Rulers. The reason for this was simple.
Angus The Mauler.
The young Scottish Lord ruled with an iron fist and the punishments for violating his laws were brutal and swift. It was by his command that Roy was riding to Yerevan, and it was their history that was causing Roy's stomach to flop. Three years Angus' junior, Roy had been just old enough to be caught up in the periphery of Angus' attention, and he'd bullied him mercilessly. Roy was no coward, and his Father had always taught him to stand up for himself, so he'd given as good as he could when finding himself suddenly taunted or beaten by Angus. But even as a boy he'd been a monster, sometimes reducing his tutors to tears, and Angus had almost always come out on top of their encounters. It had been the greatest relief of Roy's life when Angus had been called to govern Yerevan by Nectan Canmore, and over the years he'd heard tales of Angus' brutality without surprise. The man had faced sieges by rebel armies and bandit hordes made up of Scottish Deserters and half-breed Mongolians trying to turn themselves into a new Horde. He had won every battle and Yerevan's walls had never been breached, and the viciousness with which he destroyed his opposition and brutally slaughtered both survivors and the dead had seen his legend grow.
Now Roy had been summoned to Yerevan, and could not refuse. Angus was the highest authority in this part of the Scottish Empire now that Nectan Canmore was dead, and despite his brutal nature he was highly respected by the nobility, commoners and the Church alike.
He dismounted his horse and let a stable hand take the reins as he looked up at Yerevan's "Palace", which was in fact a converted fort that was still obviously designed for war over comfort. Swallowing down his growing concern, he marched to meet the servants waiting for him, who offered salutations and then regrets that he would not have time to refresh himself from his long journey, for Lord Angus demanded his presence immediately. So Roy entered the Fortress and allowed himself to be led to the Banquet Hall, where he found himself once more face to face with his childhood nemesis.
Angus looked twice his twenty-three years, his face was lined and his mouth curled down in a seemingly permanent frown of disapproval. He tore apart the flesh of the roasted bird in his hands with rough fingers and jagged nails, exposing crooked teeth growing yellow. His short sleeves exposed armed tanned almost black by the desert sun, except for down one arm where the skin was marked by a long pink stretch of a terrible burn and the white marks of scars criss-crossing his arms, neck and chest. His eyes narrowed as he took in Roy's appearance, and he grunted as he chewed noisily on his meal, then pushed the plate aside and lifted himself to his feet.
"Roy Macgoulchane," he grunted,"Do ye remember our first fight, lad?"
Roy ignored the use of the term lad from a man only three years his senior, remembering Angus' disdain for anything but a direct approach to anything in life.
"Aye, my Lord," he answered,"Ye thrashed me so badly I could nae walk for three days."
Angus grinned cruelly and wiped his mouth,"Aye so I did, and bugger this "My Lord" talk, ye'll call me Angus or nothing else. Do ye remember WHY I thrashed ye, lad?"
"I have nae idea," replied Roy, wondering if this was the entire reason Angus had called him here, to rehash the past,"I was practicing my sword work in the yard when ye suddenly roared a challenge at me."
"Bah," snarled Angus,"It does nae matter why the fight started.... I asked ye if ye remembered why I thrashed ye so badly after the fight started."
"Perhaps because I did nae stand and let ye throw the first blow?" asked Roy.
"Because ye kicked my in the balls, lad!" roared Angus, grabbing Roy by the shoulders and causing him to flinch. But then Angus threw his head back and laughed, stale breath washing over Roy's face,"And that's why I called ye here, because I need someone to press out with the army to take the war to the Rebels.... and ye're the only noble in a hundred miles with the balls to take a direct approach and win at any cost!"
Less than a week later, Roy Macgoulchane was riding at the head of am army of 600 men, passing through the mountains and coming to Trebizond on the shore of The Black Sea. Within the city were 500 Anatolian Rebels, remnants of the former Turkish Empire, who had believed that the mountains surrounding the Southern, Northern and Eastern approaches and the Black Sea to the West secured them from attack.
The Anatolians were not part of the rebel bands that had been haranguing the Deserts around Yerevan, but Angus wanted the city under Scottish Command. He'd explained in his gruff fashion that the Northern Border would not be secured until the Anatolians were gone, and also made it clear in no uncertain terms that the attack on Trebizond would be Roy's test to prove him worthy of the "honor" that Angus had bestowed on him - to be the Field Commander of the Scottish Armies in the North.
Angus' own reasons for wanting such a position to exist had been surprisingly pragmatic. At 23, he'd already been cut and sliced open in enough ways to kill 100 men, and he had no illusions regarding his mortality. While Aodh Canmore led the pampered Court Nobles of Cairo against the Moors and Sicilians and Domnall Canmore mourned the passing of his brother Nectan, Angus believed that he was the only remaining General in Egypt that could make properly lead the armies, and he meant to be sure that if he died there was someone else to replace him.
"Behold Trebizond, land of milk and honey," Roy grunted,"Or is that land of sand and salty water?"
"My Lord?" asked his Knight Commander.
"Dinnae concern yeself," sighed Roy,"Have the catapults brought up to fire directly on their gates, they will nae hold... this glorified collection of huts was nae designed to stand up to a direct assault. Have the men get into formation and I'll offer them what inspira-"
"My Lord," interrupted his Knight Commander respectfully but forcefully,"If I may make a suggestion, dinnae bother with a speech. Lord Angus is famous for his inspirational voice ahead of battle, and while I mean nae disrespect to ye, anything ye have to say will only serve to remind the men ye are nae him."
"The whole point of me being here is because I'm nae Angus," he hissed through gritted teeth, then sighed,"Fine, do ye have any other suggestions?"
"Aye, my Lord," nodded the Knight-Commander,"The men are veterans, and they all ken how to fight. I suggest ye orders consist purely of,"At them, lads." Lord Angus will be more impressed with actions than words.... prove yeself on the battlefield by killing Rebels, nae by making fancy speeches."
Roy frowned, it went against everything his tutors had taught him. As a member of the Nobility, the men relied on him to inspire them and convince them of the divine mandate to kill in the name of God and Scotland.... but the Knight-Commander was a veteran, and those same tutors had also told him to make use of the tools at your disposal.
"Send up those catapults," Roy said at last,"I will consider ye words."
Inside Trebizond itself, the leader of the Anatolians - Captain Mavros - pulled himself up onto his horse in the central courtyard and stared around at the other horsemen and the assembled archers. They had lived a peaceful life here, not allowing the fall of the Turkish Empire to affect their own lives. Trebizond was not a beautiful city, and the Black Sea was not a picturesque seaside setting, but it was their home, and they had built solid lives here.
"The Scottish mean to take our lands, rape our women and wipe us from history, men," growled Mavros,"Our numbers are equal, and they must fight through our walls.... DO NOT LET THEM THROUGH! KILL THEM AT THE WALLS AND HOLD THIS LAND FOR YOURSELVES AND YOUR CHILDREN!"
His men roared their defiance, and then outside the catapults of the Scottish fired on the walls.
"TO THE WALLS!" ordered Mavros,"WHEN THEY COME THROUGH THE GATES, WE WILL HOLD THEM AND YOU WILL KILL THEM WITH ARROWS FROM ABOVE! FOR FREEDOM!"
"FREEDOM!" roared the Anatolians, and charged.
Roy watched as the catapults fired and smashed again and again against the surprisingly hardy walls, and then smiled in satisfaction as they smashed open. He rode ahead a few feet, and turned to face the men, who eyed him with grim faces. His Knight-Commander eyed him expectantly, waiting to see what he would say.
"Okay," he whispered to himself, then lifted his sword high and roared,"At them, lads!"
The men grinned and roared out, raising their own swords and then.... did nothing.
"Wha..." started Roy in confusion, and then watched in surprise as the Knights and Swordsmen parted and allowed their archers to move forward and lower themselves to brace and prepare to fire. Turning, Roy noted that Anatolians could be seen through the smashed gates approaching the walls, and then flaming arrows were arcing through the air and over the walls to land on the Rebels.
"CAVALRY!" roared a voice, and horsemen charged past Roy who stared in wonder as the men operated efficiently and structurally as an army.... all without a word from him.
The Mounted Knights charged through the gates and smashed into the Anatolians, and the Rebels found that while their numbers were roughly equal, there was more to holding back an Army of Scots than standing in their way at the walls of their town. Scottish infantry burst through and around their own Mounted Knights and flooded up the narrow stairwells inside the walls, bursting through to the top and cutting through the unprepared archers as they nocked their arrows to fire on the Scottish horse below.
"FIGHT ON FOR FREEDOM!" cried Mavros as he rode his own men against the Scottish,"WE CAN HOLD THEM! THIS IS OUR LAND! THIS IS OUR HOME! THIS IS-"
"SCOTLAND!" cried out a Scotsman, and the cry was taken up by the others. Soon they were chanting it like a mantra, their voices thundering out Mavros' cries,"SCOTLAND! SCOTLAND! SCOTLAND! SCOTLAND!"
"Aye, Scotland," whispered Roy as he rode his own men into the fray, and Mavros cried out in despair as he was struck down from his horse and trodden beneath the feet of the new masters of Trebizond.
The Anatolians who survived the destruction and slaughter wrought by the Scottish turned and ran in panic, looking to the comfort of the town even though they were only penning themselves in for further bloodshed. Roy roared for his men to follow and rode after the Rebels, and the Scottish roared and followed him. That was how they would remember the battle, when the last of the Anatolians had been slaughtered for daring to defend their land and they cried out in celebration and sacked the city. But Roy knew that they would have charged after the Anatolians regardless of anything he said. He had learned the first great rule of warfare - part of leadership was being in the right place at the right time.
He returned to Yerevan in triumph, having "lead" the Scottish to victory and gained more land for the Empire. This time when he was summoned to Angus' banquet hall, it was to share a meal with him, where Angus interrogated him mercilessly about the battle, extracting details Roy hadn't even realized he'd known.
Finally, the scarred and brutal General seemed satisfied, and raised his ale to his new Field Commander.
"Ye were the right choice, lad," he grunted,"Men like ye and me will be needed in the time to come."
"What do ye mean?" asked Roy, and Angus grinned slyly as he leaned forward across the table.
"The war with the Sicilians will nae last long. Aodh's Nobles are hardly hardy fighters, but the Canmore Prince has proven a surprisingly competent General, and the Sicilian's oaf of a King is leading his Empire into a steep decline. Aye, I received word that Domnall Canmore has ended his mourning and he too will soon be back to war, he's a true Canmore that one, like his Uncle Edward. With the Moors gone and the Sicilians beaten back, and alliances with Spain and Hungary in place... Domnall will be looking to expand our borders here to the North."
"The Russians?" asked Roy.
"I would nae be surprised," agreed Angus,"First the Russians, then the Polish. They're both hard bastards, but they've nae fought Scotsmen before. Mark my words, Sicily will call for ceasefire and then Domnall will sail back to the Desert and we'll march into the cold, forbidding wasteland of the Russians.... and then my fine new Field Commander, we'll have a real war like Scotland has nae seen since Edward cut off Subutai's head at Emperor's Bridge."
Roy nodded, and hid his horror at what Angus was suggesting. A war with Russia would mean marching thousands of men into the vast frozen wastelands of Russia against men who - legend told - could survive on nothing but the biting, burning alcohol they brewed themselves. What was worse, the glint in Angus' eye suggested he was looking forward to the notion, and for the first time Roy realized that Angus the Mauler was more than a brutal, iron-fisted General.
He was completely insane.