Part 51: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 50Aodh Canmore, I extend my greetings to you, loyal son of Christ.
In this age where the Church feels besieged on all sides by the tides of heresy, I feel truly blessed to know that despite Scotland's oft-times unsettling domination of the corporeal world, the sons of Scotland remain faithful to the Church and God.
My predecessors were blessed by your Uncle Edward, who recaptured the Holy Land for the Church and spread the word of God. However, since he stemmed the tide of the vast Mongol Horde that your Brother then vanquished; and you yourself put an end to the heathen Moors, the world has become a scandalous place. I fear that complacency has allowed the rock of the Church to erode, people no longer long to the Church for guidance, they trust to false idols as surely as the Jews betrayed Moses as he received the Ten Commandments. Today's golden calf is heresy, the concepts of "symbology" and "atheism" and such blasphemy as the "Sacred Feminine" that goes so far as to claim Jesus Christ was mortal man and fathered children with the whore Magdalene.
So it is with glad heart that word reached me of the trap you laid for the heretics that have done the most damage with their "preaching". The death of Pontius in particular was of particular good tidings for me, but more so the knowledge that Scotland stands in defense of the faith. Surely it is a sign of God's good graces that the two mightiest Empires in the world - Scotland and Poland - are strong in their faith and support of the Church.
You have given this humble servant of God much comfort, and so I in turn hope to give comfort to you. The Spanish King Mallobo has insulted both the Church and Scotland in recent times, and I have exacted a just punishment in ex-communicating him from the Church, guaranteeing his eternal damnation for his folly and arrogance. But the purpose of the Christ-On-Earth is to deal to matters both spiritual and corporeal, and thus I offer Scotland this comfort.
Two Papal Armies have issued forth on vessels from the port of Rome to make dock near the city of Cagliari, only recently lost by Scotland to the Spanish. In the name of God we will retake Cagliari and return the people of that city to the Governance of Catholic Rulers. To the north of Cagliari sits the Spanish city of Ajaccio, which itself is divided only by a thin stretch of sea from your own home of Genoa. Would it not be remarkable to see Scotland rule in Ajaccio and Cagliari governed by an agent of the Papacy? Truly such would be a reflection of the current relationship between our "Empires", at least in the corporeal sense!
I leave you with the blessings of Christ and the heartfelt thanks of the Papacy. Truly Scotland is blessed, and truly you are blessed, Aodh Canmore.
Aodh read the note with a blank face, then sat in thought for several minutes, indicating no emotional reaction to the oddly personal letter from the Pope. To simply see the Pope was the dream of most of the faithful, to receive a letter from him a fantasy, and to receive a personal letter of thanks beyond the realms of the wildest fantasy, but for all Aodh's reaction he might as well have been reading a note on the disbursement of funds for the purchase of cabbage.
Finally he reacted, pulling out two sheets of paper and writing brief letters on both, choosing his words carefully. He checked the small oddity on his personal desk, a remarkable device created in Cairo that was quickly spreading amongst the nobility. The clock - which marked not only the hours of the day but also the minutes themselves - recorded a time of half past the hour of nine in the morning, and he made notes on the two letters based on this.
I feel truly honored that my small part in the endless charge to preserve and strength the Church has been recognized, but I did only what any good Christian should. Heresy, as you have noted yourself with great passion, is a fractious influence on not just the uneducated, but those who should know better.
It was my pleasure to serve the Church in my own small way, following as I was the example you yourself have provided all Christians in your addresses on heresy. All it would take is every good Christian to denounce heretics in their midst, and they would soon discover that True Faith cannot be overcome by their false claims.
Regarding Cagliari, I feel a somewhat un-Christian vanity in the parallels between my thoughts and your own. It is a human weakness that I must ever seek to vanquish, and through the grace of God perhaps I one day shall. My vanity stems from the fact that just this very morning I dispatched a force of men with orders to retake Cagliari, and now I learn you have done the same! I only wish I could contact them in time to call them back, or to stand their ground until they could reinforce your own men. Still, whether men of Scotland or men of the Papacy capture Cagliari, I take solace in knowing that men of God will return to Governance of that land.
God truly works in mysterious ways,
He rang a bell and a servant quickly entered, and Aodh told him to summon a messenger and a young Captain of the Genoa Garrison. The former arrived quickly and was given the message for the Pope, dispatched quickly even as Captain Lulach arrived and saluted his Prince.
"Ye orders," Aodh said, passing the second letter to him,"I apologize for asking the impossible, Lulach, but ye must gather together a force of men and dispatch from the docks before the cry of 12, it is imperative ye leave Genoa before the morning passes. That letter contains my seal, giving ye authority over the location of ye conquest."
"Aye, my Prince," nodded Lulach, surprise in his eyes and accepting the order,"....May I ask, what is the location of my conquest?"
"Why, Cagliari of course," smiled Aodh,"We are to make her Scottish again.... Scottish no matter who stands in our way."
The War was over
King Mallobo of Spain stood staring out across Valencia, his city, his home, and tried to come to terms with the fact that it was true.... the war was over.
And so was Spain.
It had all gone wrong, and he knew now there was nobody he could blame but himself. His plans had been sound, the execution flawless.... and yet somehow Scotland had still found a way through, using the Devil's own luck. The early gain of Cagliari and the inexorable pressure being placed on Algiers had seemed great omens, and the genius of staging the war from Zaragoza under the command of the deadly Diego Manuel had seemed at first to completely negate Scotland's infamous Spy Network.
But then Manuel has seemingly betrayed the Spanish, Zaragoza had fallen; the Spanish Fleets had been sent chasing phantom fleets of Pirates and Scottish ships; Ian of Moray had killed Agosto de Leon; King Domnall had reinforced Algiers and then taken Granada, then Cordoba, killing Mallobo's heir Ferrando.
It was the speed with which the Scottish moved that had truly shocked Mallobo, what had kept the Spanish on the back-foot from the moment the Scottish regained their forward momentum. Spanish armies had marched thinking to meet the Scottish where they should have been, only to find they'd all ready conquered the cities they'd laid siege to and moved on. As the Spanish wheeled about struggling to catch up to King Domnall's armies, focused as they were on trying to demoralize the Scottish by killing their King, Dougall Macdonchie had secured the garrison at Zaragoza and then bashed his way through the seemingly impregnable walls of Toledo and killed Mallobo's next heir, Gomes.
Even then Spain could have possibly recovered and even taken the front foot, of that Mallobo had been convinced. But then word had reached him that an army consisting of farmers and peasants led by Hew Mar had killed Pasqual de Cordoba and his elite soldiers in Scotland's northern holdings. The implications of Scottish farmers being capable of slaughtering Armored Spanish Knights had dealt a horrifying blow to the Spanish morale... and then Diago Ruberto had dealt the killing stroke.
Ruberto had been laying siege to Cordoba with the bulk of Spain's remaining elite soldiers. Taking a cautious approach to ensure every variable was taken into account for when he finally attempted to break the walls, he had spent weeks preparing siege towers, battering rams, ladders, trebuchets and Bombards. When word reached him late at night that Toledo had fallen and Gomes with it, he had immediately seen the writing on the wall.
Spain was finished.
The next morning dawned in the siege camp outside Cordoba with an important, integral asset missing - the Commanders. Ruberto had held a meeting in the dead of night with his most trusted Commanders and laid out their predicament. King Mallobo's competent heirs were dead, leaving only his simplistic son Bernardo el Valiente to rule when the old man died, which he surely would sooner rather than later.
By the time the sun rose, the Spanish soldiers found their Commanders had fled the field, either taking the Sentries they encountered with them or killing those who refused to see reason. Panic spread through the ranks of the Spanish soldiers, then arguments, then fighting as larger and larger groups of men broke away from the siege and disappeared into the land they knew so well. The stream of men soon became a torrent, watched with disbelief by the Scottish from the walls of Cordoba, and before noon, the siege camp lay deserted of all but the bodies of Spaniards killed either in fighting or trampled in the mad rush to escape.
By mid-afternoon, King Domnall sat his horse in the remains of the siege camp alongside Patrick Makfulchiane, and remarked to him what Diago Ruberto had all ready realized and that King Mallobo would not come to admit for some time.
"Spain is finished, lad," King Domnall stated flatly,"Those cowards have done more than win this battle for us, they have won the War. Word will spread of this desertion, both by the deserters and others, and it will spread like wildfire throughout all of Spain. Morale will plummet, Spain's hold on its lands will weaken, and we will appear at all the right points to exert pressure."
He stared in the direction of far distant Valencia and smiled cruelly,"I have orders to write up before the sun sets, it is time to show Mallobo the cost of declaring war on Scotland."
The end began in Ajaccio.
Captain Lulach had seized back control of Cagliari even as the Pope's armies marched up within sight of the walls of the city. Pushing his men to breaking limit, he'd set up a city garrison and put engineers to work repairing damage done from the battle. Representatives of the Pope's armies had come to inspect the city and offer "graciously" to take the burden of governance away from Lulach so he could concentrate on the war with Spain, but he had insisted instead that they return to Rome to do the duty God had chosen for them, protecting the Pope.
They had left with strained, formally polite words and Lulach had cursed not having a Diplomat with him who could have made the words prettier, then put them from his mind and took control of the better half of his remaining army to lead them north to Ajaccio in case the Papal Armies decided to further "help" Scotland by conquering the Spanish there. On Lulach's way he heard that the Spanish Garrison Commander had sent several hundred men to meet them in the hills, but they never arrived, instead spiriting away either into the hills or commandeering boats and disappearing into the sea. Word had arrived of Ruberto's desertion, and the Spanish soldiers in the field appeared to agree with Ruberto's own conclusion.
Spain was finished.
Captain Lulach arrived at the walls of Ajaccio with Spanish trebuchets liberated from Cagliari in tow, while inside the city, Spain's Captain Sebastian found himself with barely 100 men left, the rest having deserted long since. He gulped as he felt the shudders running through the walls as the trebuchets blasted through the thick stone and heard the screams of the Scotsmen as they charged through the breach.
All there was left to him was to die a Spaniard.
The end continued in Marrakesh.
Captain Jacome had always felt isolated from the rest of Spain in Marrakesh, in fact he'd always felt isolated from everyone. The city sat on the Westernmost Coast of the world, the last stretch of land before the endless sea.
But now he knew what isolation really felt like.
Allan of Nairnshire had sent a force of 700 men under the command of Captain Micheil west from Algiers to attack the coastal city, even as news trickled down to Marrakesh of the disastrous desertion of the army at Cordoba. His own men deserted the city seemingly overnight, leaving him with only 80 men who stood as true Spaniards.
And the gates were coming down.
"There is nothing but death for us here, Captain," Jacome's Second said as they stood in the dusty courtyard of Marrakesh and watched the wave of Scottish pouring down the main street towards them.
"Nothing but death," nodded Jacome,"Some say it is better to live in dishonor than die nobly... let them say it till their dying day, and may every night they live be cursed with nightmares for their cowardice."
He spat on the ground, and waited for death to come.
The end continued in Leon.
Bernardo el Valiente heard the news of the fall of Marrakesh and Ajaccio, and of the Scottish marching men through the desert towards far distant Timbuktu, but he was not worried. He had tracked the progress of the war with great interest, especially the fall of Ferrando and then Gomes, and waited expectantly for the word to come from Mallobo that he was new heir to the Spanish Throne. When word had not come, Bernardo had not been concerned, he could only assume that the message had been delayed or stopped by the Scottish forces in the field, but once this war was over and the Scottish gone from the Spanish heartland, he was sure his time to rule would finally come... after all, Mallobo could not live forever.
Even when word came that Dougall Macdonchie was marching on Leon with 600 men, he was not concerned. He had easily twice that in his garrison, not the elite troops that had deserted the field under Ruberto's command, but all good men, and more importantly loyal. Bernardo knew people thought he was dim or naive, but he also knew the secret they had never learned, that you built loyalty with kindness and friendship, so that they did not serve you because they had to, but because they loved you. He ruled the peasants with an iron fist, but they were not important, they served no purpose but to serve, that was their lot in life. But the soldiers? The soldiers were the true power that allowed a city to be governed, and by buying their love, he knew he had bought his own survival.
Dim? Hardly, he was a genius!
He awoke early in the morning to hear the sounds of panicked running and shouting, footfalls thundering down the corridors of the palace. He grunted and slapped his arm over at his mistress to get her out of bed and find out what was going on... but she was not in the bed. Confused, Bernardo slid out of bed and pulled on a pair of tights and a shirt, and stumbled out of his bedchamber into the palace, watching bemused as servants ran about clutching silverware and other valuables.
"What is the meaning of this?" he asked one servant, grabbing his arm as the man tried to tear past him.
"The Scottish have arrived!" cried the servant, then tore himself loose and continued running, while Bernardo snorted with amusement. So the Scottish had arrived and now the servants were moving the valuables down to the treasury it seemed... why bother? The Scottish were sure to breach the walls with their Bombards, but their 600 men could not defeat Bernardo's 1200 loyal men. He strode confidently down the halls whistling a tune, happy at last to put paid to the long simmering tension of the city.
He strode into his war room and smiled when he saw the Commander of his Bodyguard all ready fully armored, hastily reviewing a map of the city with his Military Engineer.
"So the time for battle has come at last, eh?" he chuckled,"Why was I not woken?"
"You could not be roused, my Lord," bowed the Commander,"It seems your Mistress drugged your wine."
"Hmmm?" muttered Bernardo, vaguely remembering feeling dizzy after his wine with Alicia the night before... why would she drug him? Surely if she wanted to ensure he had a good night's sleep she could have waited until he'd spent himself between her thighs.
"We have been reviewing our options, my Lord," his Engineer said, breaking his reverie," I am afraid they are few."
"Well of course they're few," Bernardo laughed,"We sit at whatever point they breach our walls and we kill them until they're piled near as high as the walls themselves.... I swear, why do you try to make things more complicated than they are?"
His Engineer and Bodyguard Commander shared a look, and then his Commander took his arm.
"My Lord, I think it best if you review the troops."
"Of course," sighed Bernardo,"But first I must be armored, where is my bodyservant?"
"Gone, my Lord," said the Engineer,"But allow us, we shall armor you."
Half an hour later, Bernardo strode resplendent in his armor into the courtyard where his mounted Bodyguard of 40 men awaited. He was aided into his seat and smiled warmly at his men, who seemed oddly tense, then turned to look at the Commander.
"Well man," he said with a smile,"Take me to the troops then!"
"My Lord," sighed his Commander, Miguel,"You do not understand. The troops have deserted Leon.... these 40 men are all that remains of the garrison. The Scottish outnumber us by over six times the number of men.... Leon will fall, my Lord, we who remain are going to die before the day ends.
And for perhaps the first time in his life, Bernardo finally saw things for how they really were.
Unfortunately for him, it would also be the last time.
Outside the walls of the city, Dougall ordered the bombards to fire and forced himself to calm himself. Events had unfolded quickly after Ruberto's desertion, and it seemed Spain's capitulation had been almost too fast for Scotland to keep up with. But now here he sat before Leon, and once it fell, all that would be left to the Spanish in their own heartland would be Mallobo at Valencia. He was sure that by the time he'd completed today's bloody business, Timbuktu would have fallen as well, and then it would be all but done.
Spain would be finished.
The gates shattered open under the assault of the bombards, and Dougall lifted his sword high, giving the command. The frontline rippled and moved forward like a giant arrowhead, and thundered their way into the Spanish city of Leon.
"Fly," Bernardo whispered, and the raven lifted into the stormy air and flapped off directly towards Valencia, the final letter to his Father tied to its leg. He forced himself calm, bitterly biting back the tears that threatened to overwhelm him, the desire to scream that this wasn't fair! His soldiers had deserted him after all the kindness he had shown him! It just wasn't fair!
He was lifted back up onto his horse and gripped tightly to the reins, pulling shut his helm.
"So it had come to this," he grunted, loud enough for the men to hear,"Perhaps I have not always been the best son, the best General, the best Governor, the best man..... but I mean to die the best way I can. I will die fighting to my last breath for Spain... will you join me?"
"If we meant to desert you, we would have with the other cowards," Miguel replied,"Let us ride to our deaths then."
"And what glory we can find in it," nodded Bernardo, and lead what pathetic remnants of men he had left against the Scottish.
"It's over," Dougall sighed as the last of the Spanish were cut down,"All over bar the shouting."
It is over, Father.
I am sorry I could not be the son you wanted me to be, I only hope my death in noble battle will make you proud. Do not surrender, Father, Spain will continue on without me, it MUST continue on without me.
I love you, Father, as you love Spain. Fight for it as I go now to fight for you.
Bernardo el Valiente.
"Stupid little shit," hissed Mallobo, crumpling the letter from his dead son and tossing it over his shoulder without a backward glance as he stomped to the balcony of his study,"Of course Spain will continue without him.... I AM Spain, as long as I live, it lives."
He gripped the stone railing of the balcony and grimaced as he felt the now familiar pain in his chest, and waited for it to pass as it always did.
He was Spain incarnate, his Father had taught him that,. the King was always Spain incarnate. But the country itself was falling apart. News had just reached him that Timbuktu had fallen, and the Scottish held Marrakesh, Granada, Cordoba, Toledo, Leon and Zaragoza.
And now King Domnall marched on Valencia.
His soldiers were deserting their posts in droves, his own Commanders and Advisors - men he had known and thought broken to his will for years, some decades - had abandoned him. There was no control or authority in the streets of Valencia, there were open riots and the City Watch were too terrified to stop the looting... or too busy taking part in it.
But as long as he lived, Spain would live.
"I will not die," he hissed, face turning red as he called once more on the fury, spite and bile that that had sustained him for so long. Some called for the squashing of emotions to make impartial decisions, but Mallobo believed in the purity of rage. Anger gave him clarity, he made connections that eluded others, more importantly he put people off balance because they could not predict him. It had been the key to his success as King, to why he'd lifted Spain into a world power.
Only to see it all fall apart when his rage had turned him on Scotland.
Pain wracked at his chest but he ignored it, burying the pain under his rage as he built it and let invective spill from between his clenched teeth, screaming out his fury at the Scottish; at the incompetence of his Generals; the cowardice of his soldiers; the ineptitude of his son. And all the time that he vented his rage, he sought that clarity that only rage could bring him.... and then it came.
"As long as I live, Spain lives," he hissed, and twisted about to stare wildly at his over-sized study,"So the Scottish will try to kill me to kill Spain.... King Domnall marches on Valencia, but he will want me dead before he arrives.... Scotland is all ready here."
He smashed aside a table and desk, then tore open a cupboard, eyes wild with hate and understanding. He knew now, HE KNEW!
"SCOTLAND IS ALL READY HERE!" he screamed, and tore down a tapestry, revealing dusty cobwebbed walls. He twisted and pulled another one down, then another and another, screaming over and over again that he knew, he knew Scotland was here all ready, SCOTLAND WAS HERE!
And finally only one tapestry remained.
It was larger than all the others, his favorite, telling the story of his greatest triumph defending Zaragoza from an army of Milan in his youth. Duke Puccio had bloodied his nose against Mallobo and retreated, never to threaten them again, and it had been the making of Mallobo, who at the time had been but one of many potential heirs to the throne. How as he stood staring at it, he wondered if that was a slight bulge he saw in the tapestry, if maybe the uniformity of the dust at the tapestries base was TOO uniform, as if it had been laid down.
"I see you...." he hissed, spittle frothing from between clenched teeth,"I know you're here, Scotland, I KNOW! I KN-"
He gasped as his anger was finally overwhelmed by pain, and he gripped at his chest loosely as he collapsed to his knees halfway to the tapestry. The pain was incredible, more than he'd ever felt in his life, and his arms and legs seemed to have lost all feeling, his mind almost overwhelmed by the agony.
"I know!" he insisted, practically crawling towards the tapestry, his right hand clenching at the stone floor, the left trailing limply behind, his legs loosely shifting about behind him,"I KNOW YOU'RE THERE! I KN.... I K.... I.... i...."
Finally, King Mallobo said no more, his body crashing into place in a dead weight, his hand twitching one more time and then finally pausing. He lay that way for several minutes, unmoving, not breathing.
The tapestry twitched lightly, and then Farquar Makfulchiane stepped out and gently toed Mallobo's corpse, turning it over and revealing a face contorted by rage.
"Well that was interesting," the Assassin muttered,"I dinnae feel I can really take credit for this one."
The end had come in Valencia. King Mallobo was dead, and with him, Spain.
King Domnall rode through the gates of Valencia at the head of an army of 1000 Scottish soldiers, and stared about him at the gathered masses. The people of Valencia were bruised, battered and frightened from an orgy of looting, rioting, arson, rape and murder after Mallobo's men had abandoned the city and all authority. Now they stood waiting to see what Scotland had in store for them, their minds filled with the stories they had heard of the demon Scots.
"Your Majesty," said one man, one of those who had fought his way to a position of leadership over the last week of lawless anarchy,"What are your plans for us? We are Spanish, we are your enemies."
Domnall smiled, and to the surprise of the people of Valencia, it was not an unkind smile.
"Spanish? Nae lad, there is nae Spain anymore," he spoke clearly, so all could hear,"There is only Scotland."
Nevin of Shetland sat under an apple tree inside the grounds of the palace at Genoa, shining the green apple in his hand and enjoying the sun on his face.
"Welcome home... "Domingo"," said a voice, and Nevin smiled up at Aodh Canmore, the Scottish Prince arriving right on time. Nevin had not announced his return, he wouldn't be much of a Spy if he had, but he had made certain to be somewhere where Aodh would see him, and as expected the Scottish Spymaster had been quick to reacquaint himself with his most important "adviser" and close friend.
"Manuel was a fascinating man with a fascinating history," Nevin acknowledged,"He told me and my "associate" all about it after we applied the proper encouragement... he was eager to tell us everything he could."
"And it won us the war with Spain," agreed Aodh, settling down beside Nevin under the apple tree,"At least, far faster than we would have."
"I am nae a torturer, my Prince," Nevin spoke after a companionable silence,"Which may sound odd considering where I have just returned from, but I did what I did because of extraordinary circumstances... I would nae ever wish to do and see the things I did in that basement in Zaragoza... we reduced a frighteningly competent Spy into a blubbering wreck who would have licked knife blades if we'd ordered him to. I can mask my emotions and quash my humanity when the need arises, but I dinnae have the taste for this messy business, I'm nae Farquar Makfulchiane."
"Nae," smiled Aodh,"Ye're Nevin of Shetland, and I'd nae have it any other way. I shudder to think of what ye'd be capable of if ye had Farquar's mindset, or he ye talent for Spycraft."
They sat again for awhile in companionable silence, and then finally Nevin spoke up with what Aodh had known he would inevitably ask.
"The Heretics, my Prince, ye play a dangerous game when the Pope is one of the pieces on the board," he warned,"I dinnae ken what ye plan is, or even if ye have one, but I do ken ye dinnae follow the man blindly as the Christ-On-Earth, ye actions in taking Cagliari out from under him proves that... what are ye up to?"
"I did nae think ye'd ever be the one to ask me that," chuckled Aodh, but Nevin did not share in his mirth. Aodh sighed, then nodded his head,"I cannae tell ye what I plan, Nevin, this game I play is for the largest stakes of all, and if I fail it may nae cost me just my life, it may cost Scotland the Empire. If this fails, I will see to it that I am the only one to pay for it, not Domnall, not Aed, not ye, not even warty old Adam in Toulouse."
Nevin stared at his Prince and his Spymaster for a long time, and Aodh stared back, and for perhaps the first time since they'd met on the long dusty road from Antioch to Cairo, Nevin found he could not read Aodh Canmore.
"It will be as ye wish then, my Prince," he said at last, and took a bite out of his apple, settling back against the trunk of the tree. Aodh smiled at him, sensing his disappointment and, more importantly, that the Spy was actually upset that Aodh did not trust him. He could not tell him his plans, but maybe he could assuage his bruised ego in another way.
"I do think, however," he noted nonchalantly," That perhaps it is time I told ye about the special mission Domnall gave me after we destroyed the Sicilians."
Nevin did not move, but Aodh knew he had his complete and total attention. The Prince smiled, and began to tell his friend about one of the most personal aspects of his life, something before then only ever spoken off with his brother.
It was a boy!
The Canmore Clan had grown huge with the number of marriages and adoptions that had swelled its ranks, but the constant influx of new men had been either by adoption or marriage, with new sons born with the names of their Fathers and not the name Canmore.
But now a male Canmore had been born, a boy who could be expected to be groomed for leadership. Despite Edmund Canmore's best efforts to educate and remove the old fears of superstitions, there were still many who would see the lack of a male Canmore to continue the line as some kind of divine condemnation of Scotland's King. Men who deserved to lead or to rule would be passed over in favor of someone with the name Canmore simply because of that name. Finally, even Edmund had not been immune to the oldest reason for a desire of male children. Fathers wanted to give sons everything they themselves had worked for, when King Edward had been willing to pass on the throne to the most talented of his General's (first Comgell, then Gawain), it had been Edmund who had seen to it that his son Domnall succeeded his Uncle.
The birth of the newest male Canmore was a great surprise to many despite the wedded status of his parents, in fact maybe because of it. Knowing who his parents were, many had considered there would be no heir, male or otherwise. When she had fallen pregnant, many had feared that child could be stunted, or an idiot, or die before she could give birth. Certainly they had expected complications, but her pregnancy had gone smoothly, the birth had only been as difficult as any other woman's birth-giving would be, and the child seemed healthy and as responsive as any other.
More than that, the boy's father had discovered something else as unexpected as the birth of an heir... he'd discovered he loved his wife, truly loved her. It was a baffling discovery for him to make and it changed his entire worldview, but then, birth often had that effect on new Fathers.
Kirk Canmore's Father stood over the bed where the infant slept soundly, making light breathing noises that he thought would break his heart. He felt he finally understood his own Father now, how a man could suddenly forget all about himself and think only of sacrificing everything for his son.
"Happy, darling?" asked his wife as she joined him to stare down at their unexpected child.
"More than I ever dreamt," he replied, and placed his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close to him.
Adam and Mor Canmore stood that way for quite some time.