Part 60: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 59King Domnall rode his horse slowly up before the walls of Krakow, eying the Danish Captain sitting waiting for him. The man's name was Eystein, and it had fallen to him to defend the last truly great Danish City. Domnall had ridden his men hard from Vilnius towards Krakow after splitting with Angus the Mauler - who had his own task to perform - and purposefully avoided contact from his Brother or any other Scotsman. If he was not in contact with him, he would not hear any instruction the Pope may have given to pull out of his Danish Campaign, and thus he could not be blamed for continuing it.
As Domnall's horse came to a stop directly opposite where Eystein waited alone, he eyed up the walls and the men visible on guard upon them. His intelligence had told him that Eystein's men matched his for numbers, roughly 1300 on each side. However he also knew that his Scotsmen were worth any two Danes, probably more, and he held no fear of being held back for long. Eystein knew it too, and that was why he had requested this meeting, Domnall was positive the coward was going to offer the terms of his surrender. He'd at least had the decency to ride out of the gates alone, and Domnall had returned the favor by doing the same, and now they faced each other alone.
"King Domnall," nodded Eystein respectfully,"I thank you for agreeing to this meeting."
"Rough weather is rolling in, Dane," Domnall replied curtly,"Let us make this quick. Say what ye've come to say."
"You have killed our leaders, all pure-blooded Nobles are dead, whether by your hand or their own," Eystein offered,"I hold the men together out of pure desperation here, they know that if they do not stand here, you will wipe them out. Denmark is all but gone, unless we reach agreement here today, it will no longer exist."
"I fail to see how this is a concern of mine," returned Domnall simply.
"The death of our King has had one positive result," continued Eystein, as if Domnall had not spoken,"The Church has reconciled us, and Scotland's standing is high with the Church."
Eystein fell quiet, leaving the words unspoken between them. As far as the Church was concerned, if Domnall was to kill any Danes now, it would be a Catholic killing other Catholics.
"So I offer you this, King Domnall," Eystein said at last,"You have what you wanted, you have destroyed the Danish noble-line. You have nothing to gain by destroying what is left, and everything to gain... so I ask you... no, I beg of you... leave us this land. Let us leave here, we are not a Nation anymore, let us live here until time and politics makes us what you would gain anyway, only without the bloodshed. The price in lives and blood of taking Krakow is not worth the gain you shall achieve from it, so I ask you to give us the land and keep all else you have captured, and give us peace."
"What you say makes sense," Domnall replied at last, after sitting blankfaced for a long, terrible time that saw Eystein begin to visibly sweat,"To push on now would be folly, it would gain me little at a great cost, and what type of King would do that?"
"I am relieved, King Domnall," sighed Eystein in relief, releasing his pent up tension,"I cannot tell you ho-"
"The King of Scotland, that is what type of King," Domnall continued, shutting down Eystein,"Ye small thoughts and petty hopes sicken me, Dane. Ye people grieved me sorely, and I will take my cost in the blood of Danes until there is none left to have. Peace? The only peace ye shall ken is the peace of the grave."
Domnall turned his horse around and began to walk away from the stunned Dane, but then the Captain spoke and gave him pause.
"You are a fool, Domnall Canmore," spat the Dane,"Did you think I would come and speak from a position of weakness asking so much? Our numbers within the city equal yours to the man, but more than that, we have 800 more Danes riding through the forests on your flank.... and more than that, "King" Domnall, we have arranged through the diplomatic means you so despise the assistance of Councillor Tusco the Scarred - heir to the Throne of Venice."
Domnall stopped and turned, a scowl of disbelief on his face.
"Ye expect me to believe that?" he demanded,"That ye could ride 800 men upon me unawares AND pull the crippled "Empire" of Venice into a War with the mightiest Nation in the world?"
"You yourself have cut off contact with the world outside of your army, for clear reasons," sneered Eystein,"We vastly outnumber you, Scot, and the Councillor has joined the battle because he knows we can destroy you to a man and leave none the wiser of his presence. Attack Krakow if you wish, you may kill many Danes... you may even kill me, but I guarantee you that you will find death waiting for you through that gate, and for all those around you. You'll not live to enjoy the blood you spill this day, "King".
Eystein spat on the ground between them, then turned and walked his horse back, Domnall left sitting wide eyed and shocked in place as cheers rose up from the Danes standing the walls. Finally, he turned his horse and walked it slowly back to where his army waited, including Hew Mar and a young Noble only recently raised into the wider Royal Family, Roy of Orkney.
"What is it to be, my King?" asked Roy eagerly as the King returned, while Hew simply sat and stared curiously, surprised by Domnall's unusual expression.
"They have played me for a fool," Domnall spat angrily,"And I have lead us into a trap. More Danes come on our flank, and the Venetians have invited destruction by riding to aid them... if we attempt to take Krakow, we likely face our own destruction."
"So there is to be nae battle?" asked Roy, the disappointment on his young face clear. The King stared at him with sad eyes for several moments, and then a huge grin broke out on his face and he turned and nodded at Hew.
"My Father always said," Hew spoke up, smiling back at the King,"If ye get yeself into a fight and find yeself taking a beating.... start hitting the bastard harder!"
"Aye, Hew," laughed Domnall,"Come then, let's show these Danes what happens when ye back a Scotsman into a corner!"
In the gathering darkness of the stormy weather, the Scots formed up as Eystein watched from the walls, feeling his stomach sink. He had meant every word he said to Domnall, and he truly believed that the King was committing suicide as surely as Bjorn had by riding against Krakow... but Eystein wanted to live to see it, and he knew that once Domnall breached the walls, he would come straight for him.
"So be it then," he grunted,"To the death."
"So be it then," Domnall grunted, raising his sword high in direction to the Bombards,"To the DEATH!"
"CHARGE NOW! DO NAE WAIT!" roared Domnall,"HEW! ROY! CAVALRY! RIDE WITH ME NOW! RIDE AND KILL THE DANES! KILL THE DANES!"
"KILL THE DANES!" roared the Infantry, bouncing with excitement as they watched their Nobles riding hard and fast ahead of them. They knew that a Canmore always fought on the frontline with their men, but now they were seeing a Canmore BECOME the frontline, as they were left behind and Domnall rode to certain death at the hands of the Danes.... determined to send as many of them to Hell before him.
In the forest to the Northeast, Captain Inge pulled his men up as they heard the distant roaring of the Scottish, the booming sound of artillery and then the screams and clash of men and horses against each other.
"Too soon!" he snapped angrily,"Canmore was supposed to retreat, retreat or hole up to try and defend himself, he's attacking too soon!"
He shouted out to his men to double their pace, and they pushed themselves harder towards Krakow, Inge hoping they would arrive in time to crush the Scottish between the walls and the garrison.
Through the walls of the City, Eystein roared as he cast about with his sword from the back of his horse as the Scottish Cavalry poured endlessly up the road towards him. All around him, his Norse War Clerics smashed with religious fervor against their Scottish foes, but the Scots shared the same intensity, chanting words that sounded more like a promise than a threat.
"KILL THE DANES! KILL THE DANES!"
"DEATH TO THE SCOTTISH!" roared Eystein, hoping to overcome the Scottish cries. His men matched the Scots man for man, and they were all good and strong men, strong fighters and unafraid. So why was it that the Scots were pushing them back? Why was it that he could hear the defiant cries of his Danes faltering?
"DEATH TO THE SCO-" he roared, and then his sword was cut out of his hand and he cried out in alarm, twisting around and seeing the face of a demon, contorted with rage.
"YE GUARANTEE MY DEATH, DANE!?!" roared King Domnall, swinging his sword and smashing it into the side of Eystein's neck and shoulder,"DEATH TO YE AND ALL YE DAMNED COUNTRYMEN!"
The Danes - held together only by fear of the Scots and the leadership of Eystein - cried out in horror as they saw their Captain cut down, and as the Norse War Clerics redoubled their efforts, driven mad with grief and rage, the infantry bogged down in the fighting amongst them turned and ran in horror from the fury of the mad Scottish demons that had come like something out of a nightmare to destroy their Empire. The sudden departure of the Infantry caused the Clerics to be pressed together by the thrust of the Scottish Cavalry, and their commander shouted out an angry curse and ordered the retreat. They were going to be cut to pieces in this corridor, they had to pull back.
"AFTER THEM, LADS!" roared Domnall, mad with bloodlust,"WIPE THEM OUT! WIPE THEM OUT TO THE MAN!"
Captain Inge stood in the hills looking over Krakow, staring in astonishment at the City and the Scottish army now completely inside the walls, tearing through the Danes as if they were made from paper.
"Captain, we need to march now before it is too late!" gasped Inge's second,"If we hit them from behind now, we still have a chan-"
"No, no," replied Inge, shaking his head,"My orders were clear, we wait for the signal."
Inside the central courtyard, a shaking Dane grabbed at his bow with trembling hands, trying desperately to cock an arrow to it. He had been ordered to give the signal for Inge to attack at Eystein's order, but with Eystein dead he had no idea if it was now too late. The oil-soaked rags wrapped around the arrow kept slipping it out of the bow and dropping on the ground, and the sweating Dane kept finding himself distracted by not only the Scottish Cavalry tearing through his fellow soldiers, but the Scottish Infantry now marching almost casually up behind them, hundreds of them, armed to the teeth and fresh for battle.
Finally the Dane managed to cock the arrow and light it on fire, but then it misfired out of his hands and into the ground and he threw up his arms in despair, drew his sword and rushed to join his brothers in their final stand.
To the Southwest of Krakow, Councillor Tusco the Scarred sat his horse with his small bodyguard of men, clenching his teeth angrily as word came back to him of the disastrous progress of the battle.
"Where the hell is Inge?" he snapped angrily,"This is all going wrong!"
"CAPTAIN!" cried Inge's Second, far distant from where their ally sat, waiting for Inge's own signal,"We must ride now, the Scots are slaughtering our brothers!"
Inge simply stood, staring over the city, seeing the Danish banners falling under a sea of glinting armor and blue Scottish banners.
"CAPTAIN!" cried Inge's Second again, and then wrinkled his nose and looked down at Inge's feet, cursing in disgust as he saw urine running out through the gaps in his Captain's armor. The man was no longer waiting for a signal, he was frozen in place in fear.
And in Krakow, the Danes made their final stand.
King Domnall sat panting on his horse, his armor coated in blood and his body cut in multiple places. He had thrown himself with reckless abandon at the Danes, attacking without thought of his own survival, tearing through his enemies without covering his back, expecting to die but not caring, wanting only to bring down the Danes he held responsible for the death of his Father.
But now the battle was over, the Danes lay dead and despite all his wounds, he still lived. He turned and looked back, the rush of battle fading to be replaced with the aches of living... and the awe at the sight of his enemies corpses laid out like a carpet across the streets of Krakow.
"That is.. that is battle?" asked Roy of Orkney, similarly coated in blood, his eyes wide as he rode up beside the King, joined soon after by Hew who was surprisingly unscathed, despite having been in the thick of the battle with them.
"That was an abomination," grunted Domnall, coughing roughly and feeling his back twinge uncomfortably,"And it is nae over yet.... Eystein said there was another army marching on our flank."
"Nae longer, my King," spoke up a lightly clothed scout, panting and sweating roughly from having rushed through the streets to bring his message,"A force of 800 Danes was seen arriving in the foothills near Krakow roughly an hour ago, they've since been seen to disperse and break up in separate directions."
"Cowards," spat Domnall angrily,"So much for Eystein's guarantee, the only death he accurately foresaw today was his own."
"Angus will be reaching Halych about now," mused Hew as the news of the cowardice of the other Danish army reached the rest of the Scots and they began cheering in delight,"It's getting dark, but he will nae wait for light.... before midnight the Danish Empire will have ceased to exist... it's over."
"It's just beginning," grunted Domnall angrily, slapping an Army Doctor away irritably as he came to tend the King's wounds,"Councillor Tusco of Venice thought to take advantage of this situation... and signed his death warrant by doing so. Get me papers and ink, Hew, I have orders to send to Aodh... I have a little surprise in store for our Venetian friend."
"You mean to kill him, my King?" asked Roy, wide eyed.
"Kill him? Nae, lad," chuckled Domnall, his eyes narrowing cruelly,"I mean to make the poor bastard a King."