The Let's Play Archive

Medieval II: Total War - A Scotsman In Egypt

by Jerusalem

Part 63: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 62

Captain Allan had been late all his life.

He was born late, during a Winter storm in which his mother died. He walked and talked later than all his brothers, he was slower to learn, his body changed from a boy to a man long after his friends had entered manhood. He joined the army and was a slow learner even there, struggling with discipline, with formations and marching, rank and training.

But slowly, surely he had made his way, a stubborn, sluggish push upwards through the ranks based more on pure bloody-mindedness than any real skill or potential. He'd become a Captain in the Army, and found his place in the world at last.

But he was still late.

When General Micheil Broune had been tasked with protecting the border from the Byzantines, he'd sent out a call for all available artillery units that could be spared to be brought under his command. So Captain Allan had found himself given the "reward" of being put in command of 100 men and one aging, rickety old pair of trebuchets that had been stored at Iconium - their glory days from the height of the Mongol Wars long since past. Allan had set out full of himself at the great task he'd been given, but the entire journey so far had been a disaster. They'd been so delayed on their journey by breakdowns, dysentery and appeals for help from local farmers that they'd missed Micheil's great victory on the border.

But the army had continued on towards Nicaea, which was the personal city and playground of the Byzantium Prince Asemopoulos, and in Allan's mind, dreams of a last minute arrival that turned the tide of battle their way rang through his head. He'd been late all of his life, but he intended to see to it that he WOULD arrive on time, this time.


In Rome, two men sat in a darkened room deciding who would be the most powerful person in the world.

The two Portugese Diplomats had been instructed that the next Pope WOULD be Portugese, and they'd been left to figure out a way to make that happen. Portugal had neither thrived nor suffered under Pope Villanus, and Lutterius hadn't lived long enough to affect them one way or another. Now the small Nation had a chance to gain a friend in the highest of places, thanks to the vote of their two Cardinals for Vaasco the Missionary and the likely split the Polish Cardinals would face thanks to internal politicking amongst their own five Cardinals. All that remained was to use the diplomatic tools at their disposal to somehow convince the Holy Roman Empire to cast the votes available to their Cardinals for Vaasco the Missionary. There was just one fly in the ointment.

Joan Canmore.

"The wretched woman either knows too much or not enough," grunted Alfredo Resendes.

"She's a witch, is what she is," snapped Domingos Arruda back at his compatriot,"You heard about the frantic state the Romans and Polish were in when they left her Residence the night that Lutterius died.... they say she knew he had died.... before he had died."

"I wouldn't be so quick to make such a claim," warned Alfredo,"The Canmores have always been closely linked to the Church. Edward took Jerusalem in the Crusades; Aodh studied to join the Church in his youth; the Holy Lands were placed under Christian control thanks to the Canmores..."

"And Edmund Canmore was a prominent atheist, and Joan Canmore is his Granddaughter," retorted Domingos.

"And Aodh is a prominent believer, and Joan Canmore is his daughter!" snapped Alfredo angrily,"Which is all besides the point - you do not casually accuse a Canmore of being either heretic or witch, whether you believe in God or not they have friends in the highest of places. Let's get back to the issue at hand, how will Scotland place their vote for Pope, and how can we exploit that to our advantage so that the other Cardinals place their votes for Vaasco?"

"Scotland voted for Ungolinus over Friedrich," noted Domingos,"Vataliano's recent death means that Zbignew Puch stands for Pope now, but will she cast her vote behind her Polish allies or seek to give the honor to Ungolinus and retain the gratitude of the Papacy?"

"I believe she is smart, dangerously smart," Alfredo mused,"The obvious thing to do would be to cast Scotland's support behind Poland's Zbigniew Puch... but maybe she knows that we know that, and means to continue to support Ungolinus... but then maybe she has anticipated this as well and will actually support Zbigniew?"

"You're arguing yourself into circles," warned Domingos,"What we have to worry about is that she will make it known she means to support Vaasco and create the impression we are seeking to gain power beyond our means...."

"Which we are."

"....which we are, and thus scare the Cardinals into voting en masse for her true chosen Cardinal, Ungolinus, to prevent us from achieving our goal."

"So do WE make it publicly known we intend to support Ungolinus instead? Wouldn't that merely push support to Zbigniew? How do we convince them to split their support so that it is the votes of our Cardinals that push Vaasco over the top?"

The two men debated long into the night, pitching and shooting down idea after idea, struggling to wrap their minds around the possible machinations and double-crosses that Joan Canmore might have ahead for them.

During the same night, Joan Canmore slept comfortably in her bed, having remembered the lesson of the Gordian Knot her Father had once told her. Sometimes the simplest solution was to slice through the knot, and so she had taken simple, direct action and left Rome's other diplomats to founder in her wake, tripping themselves up with their own imagination, fears and suspicions.

A week later, Zbigniew Puch was delighted to receive a quick majority vote in the College of Cardinals from five Polish Cardinals, three Holy Roman Empire Cardinals and one Scot. Ugolinus the Peaceful found support only within the Papacy, while the Diplomats of Portugal were humiliated when the Portugese Cardinals proved themselves still bound to the secular world by voting for a Portugese Pope, the only ones who did so.

And Alfredo and Domingos found themselves being informed in a very short, sharp letter from their Homeland that they would be receiving new postings away from Rome very soon.


It simply wasn't fair.

Prince Asemopoulos had led a charmed life over his forty two years, enjoying luxury and wanting for nothing. As son of the Emperor, he was like unto a God to the Byzantine People, and he never tired of enjoying what was his by right of birth. As a child he'd delighted in the efforts of the Court Magician and playing at war with his friends (he was always the General, and he always won) to the despair of the Royal Tutors whom he treated with disdain. Let his brother Loumbertos deal with the hassle of education, diplomacy and the taxes he so despised... he would be Emperor one day, Asemopoulos would always be a Prince, so he meant to enjoy the benefits of his station and suffer none of the responsibilities.

When their Father died at Constantinople, losing the city to the Hungarians, Loumbertos had moved the capital to Corinth and left Asemopoulos to govern Nicaea while he negotiated a peace settlement with the Hungarians. Asemopoulos had enough of a grasp to politics to understand that he'd been left so close to their former Capital in case the Hungarians tried to attack again, killing a Prince of the Empire would be bad, but not as disastrous as if the Emperor had died and Asemopoulos was left to rule as Emperor. Expecting death at any point, the all ready jaded Asemopoulos had thrown wild parties and held depraved orgies as he indulged in every earthly delight he could imagine.

When his childhood friend Valsamon Comnenus had returned to Nicaea and informed him that Loumbertos had successfully negotiated peace, Asemopoulos had at first been delighted, then depressed to think that the party was finally over... and then he'd realized it didn't have to. Why stop now? There were advisers and financial wizards who could run the city for him, why not continue his hedonistic lifestyle? It hadn't taken much convincing to get Valsamon onboard, and together the two had turned the Palace at Nicaea into the most depraved celebration of flesh seen since the days of the decline of the Ancient Roman Empire that had formed the basis of their own.

To Asemopoulos' delight, he'd discovered that Valsamon had a talent for collecting taxes, which had helped finance their depravity. Loumbertos was not overly pleased to learn of the expense, but Nicaea still bought in more for the Empire than was spent on it, and he had his own concerns with securing the borders of their Empire, and so for Asemopoulos and Valsamon, it seemed the party would never end.

And then it ended.

"Why should I have to deal with this?" moaned Asemopoulos as he was fitted into his armor.

"This is the price of the opulence and luxury in which we live, old friend," replied Valsamon as he sucked in his gut to allow his breastplate to be fitted on,"We live a life of luxury, but we are expected to stand in defense of the Empire when it is threatened."

"Well I never signed on for such a deal," whined Asemopoulos,"I live a life of luxury because of who I am, I shouldn't have to do anything!"

"Try telling that to those mad Scotsmen outside the gates," smiled Valsamon.

"Our soldiers had best earn their pay today," pouted Asemopoulos,"My blade cost me a fortune and I won't have it notched on those redheaded bastards."

And together the two friends rode to do their duty and defend Nicaea.


"Are ye ready then, men?" cried out Micheil to the gathered line of soldiers standing before the walls of Nicaea.

"AYE!" roared the Scotsmen, and Micheil forced a grin onto his face as he tried to shake off the ever growing pressure of his sense of foreboding.


"NAE!" cried the men.

"THEY SCARE ANGUS!" cried one wit, and the men laughed, and Micheil laughed with them, while the Angus in question laughed loudest of all before booting the man who'd spoken up the arse.


"NAE!" screamed the men.


And before the startled eyes of his men, Micheil the Chivalrous charged his horse forward, his own men quickly giving chase as Dougall Inchmertyn and Duncan Forster rushed to join him. The infantry and archers stared in shock as the Cavalry rode before them straight towards the gates of Nicaea and - almost as if by divine mandate - the gates opened before them, much to the horror of the Byzantium Soldiers standing on the walls.

Micheil had discussed the risky proposal with Inchmertyn the night before. Their man inside the city - Nevin Nevell - could guarantee opening the gates, but Micheil had wanted to impress upon the men that their Generals fought with them... and upon the Byzantine soldiers the difference between the Scottish Nobility and the notorious drunkard, gambler and carouser Asemopoulos. He also hoped it would be a telling psychological blow to the Byzantines, to see the gates of their own city open up as if at the command of the Scottish General.

"FORM A WALL, MEN!" roared the Commander of the Byzantium Spearmen, standing at the head of the main road of Nicaea,"DON'T LET THEM THROUGH!"

Dougall Inchmertyn spurred his men on against the line, calling out orders as Micheil and Duncan did the same across from him. Their part in this battle was almost done and Dougall was eager to pull back and leave the Infantry and their mercenary archers to do their work. The plan called for the Generals and their Cavalry to hit the Byzantines with a shock impact, wipe out the first line of defense to the main access-way to the centre of the city, then pull back and allow the Infantry to move into their place. From there the Infantry would progress slowly forward with the archers backing them up, firing arrows overhead into the Byzantines and driving them back further and further until they were all collected together into one easily slaughtered mass.

At least, that was the plan until a Byzantine Soldier ruined it all by shoving a spear into Dougall's belly.

"What?" gasped Dougall as he felt the hot, searing pain punch through him,"What!?!"

He slice down with his blade and the soldier fell back clutching at his face, the spear pulling loose from Dougall he stared with wide eyes at the punctured hole in his armor and the blood falling out of it.

"I'm dead," gasped Dougall in growing horror, feeling the color seep out of his vision and a growing numbness spreading over him. He turned and stared at Micheil, who was slashing away at the Byzantines around him none the wiser to Dougall's predicament,"MICHEIL! I'M DEAD! I'M DEAD!"

"Wha?" grunted Micheil, turning to stare in surprise at the older Scotsman, who was now babbling the same two words over and over again, crying out that he was dead. Dougall's horse stumbled to the side and Dougall fell out of the saddle, hitting the ground a corpse as the Byzantines swarmed around him against the sudden gap in the Scottish line.


He pressed his men forward with renewed vigor, wheeling the Byzantines around so that Micheil's men ended up behind them.


But Micheil ignored his fellow General, charging his men forward further up the main road, dividing their forces and leaving the Infantry and Archers waiting for the word to attack, still outside the city gates.

In the great City Square, Asemopoulos sat sweating in his armor, which was uncomfortably tight and much too chafing. He had expected a lot of horrors from warfare, but he hadn't expected things to be so... boring? So far all they'd done was sit while the fighting was done elsewhere... not that he was in any rush to fight himself, but he'd at least expected to get to see the gory details from his vantage point.

"One of the Scottish Generals has fallen!" cried out a Scout, and the men cheered. Asemopoulos looked about confused, so that was good?

"Huzzah!" he cried out, not wanting to look like he didn't know what was going on. Unfortunately for him, he'd lifted his sword and kicked in his heels as he did it, and his Warhorse suddenly vaulted forward, Asemopoulos squawking and gripping tightly to try and keep his seat. His men cried out in surprise and followed after him as their Prince charged down the road towards the frontline of the fighting, and Valsamon shook his head in surprise, so Asemopoulos had grown a pair of balls had he? Well let him be courageous, he'd sit and let the soldiers do the work they were trained and paid for.

"Ahhh! Ahhhhh?" cried Asemopoulos, and to his surprise heard his men let out a roar behind him, mistaking his yelps for a war-cry. Looking ahead of him, Asemopoulos saw the bright blue colors of Scotland as a group of Cavalry tore through a hapless collection of Town Militia, joined by Sudanese Tribesmen who had rushed up to join their Scottish Masters at the slaughter.

"Well uhh...." gulped Asemopoulos, raising his sword,"Let's do what we do then!"

"Yes yes... that's it!" Asemopoulos called out, riding himself up against the edge of a wall behind his men and watching as they fought the Scottish,"You there... kill him with your sword! You! You fine fellow there, hit that man, stop him from living now!"

"ASEMOPOULOS!" screamed a voice, and Asemopoulos twisted his head around in fright as he saw an armored man pushing his horse through the throng, hate filled eyes glaring through his helm,"ASEMOPOULOS! FACE ME!"

"Oh God what does he want!?!" squealed Asemopoulos as Micheil pushed towards him. The Scottish General was irate, forcing all of his rage and grief over Dougall's death into a focused hate of Asemopoulos. He tore free from the crashing together of horses, men and swords and shot straight towards the Byzantium Prince, who sat on his horse frozen in terror.

"DIEEEE!" screamed Micheil, swinging his sword.... and then a Byzantine soldier forced his horse between the two Generals, screaming out to his Prince to run. Micheil slashed the man down in a moment, but it was enough for Asemopoulos, who broke his terror and spurred his horse on, straight into the thick of the fighting but clear of the mad Scotsman.

"PROTECT THE PRINCE!" came the cry from his own men, and a flood of Byzantium Spearmen rushed down to shore up the defense of Asemopoulos' Cavalry.

"ASEMOPOULOS!" screamed Micheil, charging into the thick of the fighting to try and get at the Byzantium Prince, who had somehow managed to come through the other side unmolested.

"MICHEIL FOR GOD'S SAKE!" screamed Duncan, who had called on the Infantry and Archers to enter the city and then ridden his own men to try and keep Micheil alive,"THIS IS NAE THE PLAN!"

"GET THE GENERALS!" roared a Byzantine Soldier, and Micheil found himself surrounded, thrashing out with his sword against the enemies surrounding him in a rage, the sense of foreboding that had been pressing down on him forgotten in his determination to kill Asemopoulos... but then the swords and spears of the Byzantine soldiers began to find their mark, and as he cut at them angrily, he began to notice flashes of black between the press of their armor, began to see an eternally grinning face peeking at him as he fought, and the sense of foreboding returned fully as he found himself staring face to face with Death and finally realized something.

Death couldn't blink, it had no eyes.

Surrounded, pushed too far ahead of the main force of their army and losing heart to see their General die, the Scottish began to be slaughtered by the dozen, and Duncan Forster found himself amongst the steadily declining numbers of Scotsmen.

"It's not fair," he muttered as he lashed out and took down a Byzantine Spearman,"I was supposed to rule Cairo."

Years ago, he'd been assured of the hand of the fair Lady Muriel Canmore, and enjoyed a high life similar to (but not to the same extremes) as Asemopoulos in Cairo. But she'd chosen her own cousin Aed instead of him, and the two had quickly taken complete control of the Desert Holdings of the Scottish Empire, sending Duncan north to the former lands of the Turks where he still enjoyed a good life, but nothing as enticing and exciting as the fleshpots of Cairo. The whores were fatter and hairier, the wine thicker and more cloying, the climate... well the climate had been just as harsh as Cairo.

But he'd never expected his life to end here, in Nicaea, due to the sudden insanity of a man he'd thought had more sense. Another Scotsman was cut down beside Duncan and he shoved his sword into the breach, piercing the throat of the Byzantine, then felt a blade sink into his side and gritted his teeth, slashing back only to take another blade in his other side.


And then Duncan Forster was cut down, leaving the Scottish leaderless.


"Precious Daughter," smiled Pope Alferius,"It warms my heart to see you."

"And mine to see ye," smiled Joan Canmore,"I brought ye a sample of a rather fine wine shipped from my Father's vinyard near Milan, I hope ye will enjoy it."

"Ahhh, precious daughter," smiled Alferius,"You know better than that by now, surely? I cannot enjoy such things while my mind must remain fixed on the task at hand, finishing the work that Vilanus started."

Joan smiled, they went through this every time they met for their weekly private audience, the new Pope was an Ascetic, denying himself luxury of any sort, enjoying a simple life despite the sheer power he wielded.

"Before we start our discussions for the day," Alferius smiled as he seated himself behind the simple wooden desk,"I had an issue I wished to discuss with you."

Joan smiled as she took her own seat, even as internally she rolled her eyes at what was sure to be another warning about the dangers of heresy, and the failure of Scotland's leaders to deal with the heretics in the far flung corners of Scotland's vast Empire. It was an ongoing issue for the Pope, who had been raised to Cardinal by Vilanus because of his own hatred of heresy, which he believed was the biggest risk facing the Catholic Church. But for once, Joan found herself surprised by the new Pope.

"There are disturbing rumors in the City that the beautiful but unmarried Joan Canmore has taken a lover," Alferius spoke gravely,"That she has engaged in.... unseemly activities.... and does not believe in the sanctity of marriage."

To her credit, Joan recovered instantaneously, greeting the disturbing news with a laugh.

"Holy Father, forgive me," she smiled,"I am but a woman in a man's world, doing my best not only for my own Nation and my Father, but for the good of the Church itself. My Father taught me well the arts of diplomacy, and he gave me good warning of the perils I would face, not least of all jealousy and the power of rumor. There are some diplomats in this City who feel their own positions are threatened by what they view as a raise in my fortunes, linking it to a fall in their own. These people see me as a threat, and their reaction to a threat is to lash out with what weapons are at their disposal. So they spread rumor, and call me vile names, and claim I take lovers and indulge in depravity. They are rumors, and nothing else, and they would be best suited in spending the time they take in creating and spreading them in working for the betterment of their nations."

The Pope smiled, clearly mollified, and soon the two were back to discussing the rampant and immediate "danger" of heresy.... while Joan paid only half a mind to the now familiar subject, while she wondered about her very real "secret lover" and who the idiot had been speaking to... the fool could ruin everything.


The Scottish were being pushed back towards the gate of the city, though oddly enough there was not a Scotsman amongst them. The Armenian Archers that had been hired on as mercenaries to enjoy the sacking of the Byzantine Empire now found themselves fighting desperately to save a failing Scottish assault.

As the Armenians - forced to forget their bows for the moment and fight with blades - were pushed back, the Mercenary Captains called out to each other, asking where the Scottish were... and coming to the same conclusion.

The Scottish were dead.

"WHAT THE HELL ARE WE FIGHTING FOR?" howled one Captain,"We're mercenaries, we fight for money, not for a country!"

"If we turn now, they'll slaughter us as we run!" warned another.

"Only if you can't run faster than me," replied a third, and that kicked it off, as the Armenians turned and rushed for the open gate.

"HAHA! LOOK!" squealed Asemopoulos in delight,"They're running away! After them! Kill them!"

The Byzantine Prince started to spur his own horse forward, and then from amongst the horses of the Alan Light Cavalry that had found themselves trapped in the fighting emerged the last of three Scottish Infantryman, wheezing with pain as he lifted his sword and struck with what might was left to him into the Prince's side, his blade cleaving through Asemopoulos' armor and deep into his side.

"EEEEE!" squealed Asemopoulos in pain and disbelief, falling backwards from his horse. His breath was knocked from his body and he kicked like an upturned turtle, trying desperately to get to his feet as the bone-weary Scotsman towered over him,"IT'S NOT FAAAAAAIIIIRRRRR!"

"Life is nae," grunted the Scotsman wearily, placing his sword against the Prince's throat and shoving it forward,"Get used to it.

As the Armenians fled through the gates of Nicaea and out of the city, and as the furious Byzantines fell on those who remained - as well as the three surviving Scotsmen who were quickly cut down, Valsamon Comnenus was riding his men against what he believed to be the flank of the Scottish Army.

Unaware that his childhood friend and Prince was dead, Valsamon had ridden his men through the side streets of the city to come at the Scottish from the side and relieve the tension on the frontline. He was shocked as he twisted the corner to find not a long line of Scotsmen snaking through the main gate and into the heart of the city, but paving stones covered with blood and the bodies of Scotsmen, and a few of the surviving Alan Light Cavalry men sitting on their horses watching in despair as their comrades were slaughtered, while Armenian archers disappeared through the gate, obviously routing.

"My God, Asemopoulos you old bastard, I didn't think you had it in you," grinned Valsamos,"Come on men, let's get them!"

Valsamos' Heavy Cavalry tore through the lightly armored Alan Light Cavalry, while those up the main road were either cut down or crushed under the weight of the Byzantines bearing down on them. Valsamon struck his blade down on a Cavalry Man's chest and grinned as he saw his men bring down the last of them, and he lifted his sword high.

"Shall we show these Scotsmen why our Empire has lasted all these centuries, my friends?" he cried,"Let's rout them from the field!"

The men cheered and they charged through the gate out of Nicaea, Valsamon letting out an unexpected laugh when he saw a catapult brought up by the Scottish burning as its operators tried frantically to put it out. The Armenians were fleeing past them and ignoring their cries to stand their ground, and Valsamon decided to show the Scots why the Armenians' course of action was the wisest, and drove his men directly into the shocked Scottish, cutting them down by the burning remains of their artillery.

"HAHA!" laughed Valsamon to the man at his side as the Catapult operators suddenly scrambled clear and rushed away,"See how they run man, they are cowards!"

"AYE!" laughed the soldier,"They-"

He never got to finish that sentence, unless Valsamon had been inclined to consider his screaming cries of agony as he burnt to death a final statement.

Valsamon was not so inclined.

"Dammit!" he hissed as he twisted in his saddle and spotted the Bombards reloading, and - more disturbingly - their angry Scottish Commander roaring at the Armenian mercenaries who actually appeared to be listening to him and following his commands, getting back into formation.

"Back into the city!" he roared, and spurred his horse back through the gate of Nicaea and past the heaped corpses of Scottish, Armenian, Sudanese and Byzantium alike, passing the body of his Prince and three Scottish Noblemen without knowing it.

"Right then, what's all this bollocks with running away?" demanded the Bombard Commander - Captain Dougall - of the Armenians who stood shamefacedly before him outside the city.

"Well all the Scottish were dead and we thought...." started one Armenian, then trailed of.

"Do I look dead to ye, laddie?" demanded Dougall,"Nae, I'm living, and while I'm alive and a man I'll fight on for Scotland. Ye? Well, maybe ye're living, but are ye a man? Ye run away? And what then? Live out the rest of ye pathetic days like a mewling woman? Nae, get back in there, man and show those Byzantium bastards that ye are a real man!"

"But we're archers, not infantry!" cried another Armenian Captain.

"Then use ye damned bows, ye idiot!" snapped Dougall,"And dinnae let the bastards get close enough to ye that ye have to draw ye blades! We'll be backing ye up, ye just get us close enough to set up our Bombards, and we'll show them the fate of those who think they can fight Scotland."

Slowly, hesitantly the Armenians returned through the gates of Nicaea, staring about uneasily in the eerie calm and silence. There were no Byzantines to be seen, apart from those lying dead on the ground alongside the fallen Scottish. One by one they entered and looked around, bows and arrows at the ready as they waited for what seemed an inevitable ambush... and finally they heard the sound of marching.

"Something's wrong," grunted one of the Mercenary Captains,"The marching is out of step, undisciplined."

"Here they come!" cried another, as around the corner of the city appeared what looked like over a hundred Byzantines. The Armenians nocked their bows and looked about each other before nodding and firing the flaming projectiles into the air, arcing them into the approaching soldiers who... began screaming and crying and then broke into a panicked run.

"They're peasants!" gasped a Captain,"They're nothing but peasants pressed into battle!"

The peasants ran screaming towards the Armenians, but not to fight, they were simply charging in panic to escape the flaming death raining down on them.

"Forget the bows, boys," grinned one Archer,"Let's draw blades and put the poor bastards to the sword."

It was remarkable how easily confidence could be restored by the wholesale slaughter of terrified, unwilling participants in a battle.

But as the peasants were slaughtered, Valsamon was learning from the survivors of the crush where the Armenians had been turned back that Asemopoulos was dead. Valsamon's first reaction was shock, and then fury as he heard the screams of the peasants from far down the body-choked streets of the city.


He charged his horse, and the collection of Byzantine soldiers huddled together turned and stared at each other, questioning whether they wanted to risk returning to a fray they had only just survived.

For Valsamon, however, there was no such hesitation.

"YOU KILLED ASEMOPOULOS!" he screamed as he rode alone through the startled Armenians, slashing out with his sword as his horse kicked and bit at those who tried to stop its forward progress,"YOU KILLED ASEMOPOULOS!"

"NO I DIDN'T!" screamed an Armenian back in horror, throwing up his own sword to block Valsamon's attack,"IT WAS THE SCOTS!"

"RARRRGH!" screamed Valsamon.

"ARHHHHH!" squealed back the Armenian, and slapped Valsamon's sword aside and drove the blade into the Byzantine General's side, pitching him off of his saddle and dragging his horse down with him, as the Scottish Catapult operators who had joined the Armenians with their own small daggers darted in to finish him off.

"Ahhh shit, Valsamon's dead!" moaned the leader of the Byzantine soldiers who had been leading those brave enough to rejoin the fight down the road towards the Armenians and Scottish,"Come on then, boys, let's finish this."

They joined battle with the Armenians.

And then they broke and left battle with the Armenians.

"WHERE ARE YOU GOING!?!" demanded the Byzantine Captain - Donald - watching in disbelief as his men ran.

"Bugger this for a laugh!" cried back one of his men, and Donald cursed and chased after them as the Scottish screamed at the Armenians not to give chase, but reform and approach cautiously.

"Right, ye stupid bastards!" shouted Dougall as he reformed the Armenians,"Now, we don't ken how many of them are left, but if ye play this smart, there is nae reason for any more of us to die. Wait for them to come to us, fire ye arrows and break them, as we ken they will now."

The Armenians grinned amongst themselves, their confidence returned after seeing the Byzantines break multiple times against them now. They moved into formation and waited, and Dougall's prediction came true. Slowly, small collections of Byzantine soldiers left the central city square and moved over the slope of the road into view, and at once the Armenians fired flaming arrows into them, sending the survivors running in terror and causing the Armenians to cheer and laugh amongst themselves.

Slowly but surely the Armenians and the Scottish worked their way up the slope, the Scottish under Dougall's command pushing the heavy Bombards towards the top of the rise. Periodically, Byzantines would appear over the edge and be sent scurrying by the Armenians arrows, and Dougall allowed himself to think that maybe this disaster would end well for them after all... which is, of course, when the worst happened.

"We're out of arrows," said one of the Armenian Captains.

"Okay," sighed Dougall,"Tell your men to draw swords but maintain formation then, we'l-"

"You don't understand, man," grunted the Captain,"We're out of arrows, we're not going any further."

"Are ye mad, victory is just over that slope!" growled Dougall in disbelief.

"An unknown number of Byzantine soldiers is waiting over that slope," replied the Captain,"Men trained as Infantry, which my men are not. We're archers, and our efforts to use swords today have seen many of our kin die. We will NOT go any further."

"Ye'll go further if I have to boot ye arse over that hill!" snapped Dougall angrily, but the Captain just shook his head and turned, walking back down the slope, joined by first a few of his fellow archers, and then more and more until all were heading down the street and out of the City.

"Nae," whispered Dougall in disbelief, finding himself standing on the edge of victory and suddenly having the great bulk of his remaining "army" taken from him.

"What do we do, Captain?" asked one of his men nervously,"We dinnae ken how many are over the rise, do we go on?"

"We go on," growled Dougall angrily,"We've come too far to turn back now, and I'll nae turn tail and run."

It was the brave thing to do.... it was also the last thing that Dougall ever did.

And so the last of the Scottish died, while the Armenians heard the cheers of the Byzantines and hastened their exit from Nicaea, passing the bodies of the dead without a backward glance. They would speak no more of this disaster, and there would be none to expose their cowardice, because there was no one left alive to tell.

Their exit was watched from the empty guard tower on the Eastern wall of the City by Nevin Nevell, who shook his head in despair to see the disaster unfolding before him. Perhaps most galling of all was that the battle had been a disaster for both sides, and as over 300 Armenian Archers fled the field of battle, barely 30 Byzantines remained in the City Centre, exhausted but alive, knowing that one more wave of attack would have ended them.

And then Nevin turned his head and looked out over the Eastern Field of Nicaea, and felt his mouth drop open as the last thing he had expected happened.

Late - as he always had been his entire life - and with three quarters of his men lost to desertion, Captain Allan had arrived.


"Has there been word from Micheil at Nicaea yet?" asked Aodh Canmore as he put aside the last of the notes he and Eoin had been poring over.

"Nae," replied Eoin, leaning back and stretching,"Nevin Nevell is a good man, he'll get word to me the moment word can be gotten."

"Emperor Loumbertos has nae love for his brother, but honor will dictate he seek revenge," Aodh noted,"It would be unfair to ask Micheil to lead a force so soon against Corinth, but there are few with the battlefield experience he has that can arrive there quickly. Perhaps we should seek negotiation with the Hungarians on military access to their lands, and send The Maule-"

Aodh broke off as a hesitant knock came at his door and a harried looking messenger poked his head through.

"What is it, lad?" he asked, irritated at being interrupted.

"The Hungarians, my Prince," gasped the messenger, and Aodh and Eoin exchanged raised eyebrows, they had just been speaking of them.

"What of them, lad?" demanded Eoin,"The Prince is a busy man, out with it."

"Forgive me, sir, please," panted the messenger, bowing low,"But the news... the Hungarians... the Hungarians have marched on Rome!"


Captain Allan stood within the Eastern Gate of the city, eyes wide as Nevin Nevell explained the situation to him. The trebuchet that they had struggled so valiantly to bring to the battle lay abandoned on the slope of the hill behind him and his men, too tall to travel through the gate in any case.

"Man for man ye match them," Nevin said, casting an eye over the Scottish soldiers,"You seem tired from ye travel, but believe me they are more exhausted from the exertions of battle. If ye push forward now, ye can overwhelm them."

"Better late than nae, eh lads?" grinned Allan, smiling at his men who returned unsure smiles,"Let's save the day!"

The Byzantines who rushed in one last exhausted wave to defend Nicaea were cut down by the relatively fresher Scots, but Allan found that moving his men from one knot of Byzantines to another was exhausting. As his surviving men clashed with the three Byzantines standing in the centre of the square, he saw his Second - Donald - stumble and the Byzantine prepare to stab him, and shouted out warning.


"Wha... what?" gaped the Byzantine soldier, pulling up short and staring at Allan,"Are you talking to me?"

All of the soldiers froze in place, confusion on their faces as they all turned to look at Allan.

"What? Nae man," replied Allan, confused,"My man there ye were about to stab is called Donald."

"HA!" laughed the Byzantine,"MY name is Donald too!"

"By Saint Andrew," chuckled Allan, surprised,"What are the odds of that, then!?!"

"Oh I don't know," chuckled the Byzantine Donald,"BUT THEY'RE ABOUT TO GET LES-OH!"

What Donald had intended to be an incredibly dramatic moment fell flat on its face as Donald did just the same, slipping on a slick paving stone and crashing over in front of his Scottish namesake, leaving all the gathered soldiers in a state of shock for a moment before attacking each other again.

The Scottish made quick work of the Byzantines, and then Allan pointed out two more hiding behind the abandoned catapults in the centre of the square. They charged in and cut the terrified men down as quickly as possible, and then they stood panting roughly in the preternatural stillness of the now bloody city... and realized it was over, they had won.

"We did it! We did it!" screamed Donald,"WE WON!"

And that's when he exploded.

"Don... Donald?" grunted Allan in surprise, and turned his head towards the mouth of the City Square, where three Bombard soldiers who had run when they saw the Allan's men coming had taken control of Dougall's Bombards and opened fire on Allan, obliterating Donald.

"Oh shit," gasped Captain Allan,"Oh shit oh shit oh shit!"

"RELOAD!" screamed the Byzantine soldier.

"OH SHIT!" screamed Allan.

"THEY'RE GOING TO BLOW US UP!" screamed one of Allan's men,"DO SOMETHING!"

"..... GET'EM!" screamed Allan, and charged forward, followed by his men, all of them screaming and roaring as they charged the Byzantines who were frantically reloading their stolen Bombards. All ready they were loading up the cannonballs, and Allan knew they weren't going to get there in time, and as he watched the Byzantines duck away from the Bombards and before his entire world turned yellow, he knew that it was the story of his life all over again.

He was going to be too late.


Captain Bulscu wiped the spit from his face and smiled.

"Oh, I am going to enjoy this," the Hungarian Captain grinned, and thrust his dagger into the belly of the man who had spat in his face. He had killed many people all ready this bloody night, but this one was special.

It wasn't every day you killed a Pope.

Alferius gasped as the blade entered his belly, and Bulscu stepped back and grinned down at the blood seeping from the Holy Father's belly.

"Just a man, after all," he smiled, watching with delight as the Pope staggered backwards and crashed to the floor, clutching his belly and howling in pain,"It's almost disappointing."

Outside fires still burned in the city and bodies still lined the streets. The Hungarians had attacked as if from nowhere, hundreds of men emerging to line up before the walls, bombards smashing through the city gates, baying Hungarians flooding through the city streets and slaughtering all in their path. The Papal Garrison had put up a valiant fight, but there training and religious fervor had been no match for the battle-tested Hungarians. None of the soldiers serving in Rome had fought in a war for years, in some cases decades, and the Hungarians had made short work of them. Bulscu had led them, though it was his Second - Denes - who had brought them into the city. Bulscu had been living in Rome for close to a year now, learning much about the City's defenses even as Hungarian Diplomats had made efforts to repair the rift between the Church and Hungary.

And now, the greatest City on Earth - the home of the Catholic Church - was in the command of the Hungarians.

"What now, Captain?" asked Denes, staring in wonder at the dying Pope.

"Now?" grinned Bulscu,"There is a certain Scottish Princess who I am keen to introduce myself to."


"..... GET'EM!" screamed Allan, and charged forward, followed by his men, all of them screaming and roaring as they charged the Byzantines who were frantically reloading their stolen Bombards. All ready they were loading up the cannonballs, and Allan knew they weren't going to get there in time, and as he watched the Byzantines duck away from the Bombards and before his entire world turned yellow, he knew that it was the story of his life all over again.

He was going to be too late.

"H... HOW COULD YOU MISS!?!" screamed the Byzantine soldier to the two men who had loaded the Bombard and fired it at almost point blank range.

Mere feet from them stood Captain Allan and his men, and to their shook they were alive. The ground before them was cratered from the blast of the Bombard, but impossibly, the Byzantines had missed them.

"I... I...." grunted Allan in total disbelief,"I... GET'EM!"

The Byzantines died screaming and then finally, blessedly, it was over. Nicaea had fallen to the Scottish, even if there were only ten left of the 1300 who had woken this morning ahead of the battle.

"What now, Captain?" asked one of Allan's men, and he shook his head in wonder, still unable to believe he was actually alive.

"We... there are Armenians out in that field," he grunted at last,"They ran like cowards, but we need them to help keep control of this city. Go out and find them and bring them back, remind them there is a city to be sacked that will more than pay for their mercenary fees."

The man saluted and started away, and then Allan called all his men back to give them one final order.

"Men," he told the 9 men left of the 100 initially under his Command,"We will nae speak of this disaster of a battle ever again."

It was something they could all agree on.


"Leave us," Bulscu commanded authoritatively, but the handmaiden stood her ground bravely.

"I'll nae leave ye alone with the Princess," she insisted,"Have ye no honor, man?"

"Leave us, Ada," Joan commanded, the authority clear in her own voice,"The man may have been mad enough to put his soul at risk by attacking the Church, but he isn't mad enough to risk his life by defiling the daughter of the mightiest Nation on Earth."

"My Lady?" asked Ada, unsure of herself, but Joan simply smiled and nodded her head, and finally the woman left, leaving Bulscu and Joan standing alone in her bedchamber, which would have been scandalous anywhere in the world, but especially so in Rome.

"Alone at last," grinned Bulscu lecherously.

"Ye are mad to attack Rome," she told him gravely,"Completely and totally."

"Aye," chuckled Bulscu,"They say love will do that to a man."

And suddenly Joan's face cracked into a welcoming smile, and she fell into Bulscu's embrace as the architects of the fall of Rome kissed each other passionately.