Part 70: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 69Moving an army was a slow process at the best of time, but moving an army of 9000 was even slower. Factor in the thin mountain passes they were traveling through and the time taken to move became even longer.
Throw in five prayers a day for the Warlords of that army and as many of the troops as wanted to join in and it became a farce.
James Bunnok sat on a rock near the barren, thin rocky mountain pass that Timur and his fellow Warlords had traveled up to make their prayers, eating an apple apparently nonchalantly, though his eyes took in everything around him, filing information away for later use.
"You offend us by not taking part in prayer," Timur grunted as he moved Bunnok's way, his prayers for the day finished. He had "cleansed" himself with sand due to the need to conserve water, and made an odd sight standing before Bunnok now.
"I'd offend ye more by taking part in a prayer I dinnae believe in," Bunnok observed.
"Now that I know more of your religion, it shares many basic tenets with our own Faith," Timur offered back,"Surely a conversion to Islam wo-"
"I have a gift for ye," interrupted Bunnok, pulling a scroll out of his sleeve and catching Timur off-guard. The Warlord frowned and took the scroll as the other Warlords passed by, each casting a distrustful glance at Bunnok as they passed. They were jealous of the meals Bunnok took nightly with Timur, and the fact the two were often locked in conversation while riding at the head of The Horde. Now Bunnok knew they were burning to know the contents of the scroll he had handed to Timur, but too proud to admit it. They moved into the thin rocky path and expertly made their way down it towards the giant canyon where the massive snaking trail of the Timurids was currently at rest. It was an easily defended position should anyone be mad enough to attack them, and the scouts and guards were placed in high positions that would alert them to any approaching army. Bunnok had assured Timur time and again there were no Scottish nearby, despite the fact they'd crossed the border several days earlier, but Timur did not believe in taking chances.
Alone together on the cliff where the Timurid had taken his prayers, Timur noted not for the last time to himself that he had technically left himself open to attack if Bunnok was not as "loyal" as he claimed. But Bunnok had never so much as made a move to put himself in a position to attack, and Timur wondered if this was a proof of loyalty or that Bunnok knew that there were always silent guards watching from a close distance. Putting such thoughts from his head, Timur rolled opened the scroll, and caught his breath as he realized what he was looking at.
It was the world.
"I recognize that stretch of coast from our own maps," grunted Timur, fighting to hide his excitement,"Our lands are not shown on this map?"
"The accepted knowledge is that the world stretches north in a field of ice, west into the sea, and south and east to desert," smirked Bunnok,"Eventually the edges of the world are reached and break off into the void, in which the world sits in the centre, circled by the sun. This is what is known as the "Universe", or "Creation" if you prefer, and it the product of God's work.... or in other words, they dinnae ken what is beyond the limits of their maps, and so they claim there is naught. Scotland kens from its run-in with Genghis' Horde that somewhere in the Eastern Deserts there are tribes of nomads and a city called Transoxiana, but that is all."
"The blue is broken and divided," noted Timur,"These people you call Romans have split Scotland north and south, and the people you call Polish have split them east and west, while the Portugese burrow into their holdings to the west, and rebellious men overthrow the rule of their betters wherever the Scottish are most stretched.... truly, how has Scotland come to this?"
"I told ye," grinned Bunnok,"The Black Plague, worse than any plague that came before it, when Hew Mar was returned to Krakow he bought the plague with him, Poland's "gift" to Scotland. The Polish had been gutted by the plague, losing thousands, and by the time they realized they had erred in listening to my advice, they saw the plague as their way to level the playing field with Scotland.
"After that..." chuckled Bunnok,"Well, there is a saying ye may have even amongst ye own people, that the grass is always greener on the other side?"
"I understand your meaning," grunted Timur, finger tracing over the Scottish borders.
"Despite KNOWING that the plague made no distinction between man, woman, animal, noble, commoner and that it recognized no borders, the peoples of other Nations claimed that Scotland was free of the plague, or that their physicians could cure the fatal condition. So they invaded, and the Scottish found themselves - for the first time in over 100 years - too weak to defend themselves..... because the plague WAS in Scotland, there was NO cure."
"Cities fell, the soldiers who were supposed to be defending them too weak even to lift a sword or strap on their armor. Nobles were dying in their droves, leaving those cities that remained in Scotland's control without Governance and ripe for revolt," Bunnok paused and closed his eyes, breathing in deeply with a look of deep, intense pleasure on his face,"And then Scotland was dealt two massive, crippling blows. Hew Mar died, a victim of the plague he had brought to Scotland, and then their highly vaunted "King of the Spies", the man who took MY rightful place as Spymaster of the Scottish Empire, he died too, and their information network collapsed with him."
"And then finally... mercifully after several miserable years, but far too late, the Black Death passed."
"By then it was too late for Scotland," Bunnok exulted, eyes feverish as he recounted the fall of those he believed had wronged him,"Their best General - Dougall Macdonchie - was an old man by this point, the new King - Aodh - had proved himself in the past as a grand manipulator but failed completely to deal with sudden, chaotic changes that could nae be predicted, their Spymaster was dead and the two men who could replace him..... hahahaha, it was enough to make me believe in God... or maybe the Devil."
"It is the work of Allah," grunted Timur,"The men of Scotland allowed pride to blind them to God, and they were punished for it."
"But the punishment is nae complete yet, is it?" chuckled Bunnok, rubbing his hands together with glee,"And for a pious man such as ye... ye must ken ye part in it."
"Indeed," nodded Timur, rolling up the map of the world and sliding it up one sleeve,"The Timurids shall be the final instrument of God's wrath on the men of Scotland... and then we shall take the "world" from the rest of these weak, indulgent nations."
Bunnok laughed happily, his voice echoing out over the cliff and against the rocky grey walls of the mountain, but then Timur grabbed his shoulders and looked deep into his eyes, and Bunnok's laughter faded.
"And now you will tell me, James Bunnok," the Timurid Warlord growled,"How a man who went into self-imposed exile knows so much about what has happened over this last decade in a land no longer his."
Bunnok stared with wide eyes back at Timur, and then suddenly his grin returned, and he threw back his head and laughed. Timur frowned, thinking - again, not for the first time - that as obviously brilliant as this man was, he was also clearly addled in the mind, and it was probably this mental defect that had seen him passed over for Spymaster no matter what his claims.
"Oh aye I could tell ye that," laughed Bunnok,"I could tell ye how I moved East, and learned to live in the desert. I could tell ye how I maintained contact with sources I had developed as a spy over the years to keep up to date with happenings in my former land. I could tell ye how I survived conditions that would have killed lesser men, and came to the lands of your namesake, Timur, though of course he would never call them that himself. I could tell ye how I was viewed as an outsider and heathen, but then came to the attention of Emir's and Imams and was used to make connections with criminals and infidels and bring them to justice. I could tell ye how I began to sell information, even as I continued to keep track of goings on in Scotland, and how I took advantage of the Black Death to begin infiltrating a small Spyring into those lands. How I soon became Spymaster of a Spyring in Scotland that was working AGAINST Scotland, gathering information for its enemies, and helping bring down Scottish cities. How Timur the Lame called me to his fine palace in Delhi, and tested me, and how I discovered a spy in his Court and exposed him, a man that Eoin Makartane had sent to infiltrate years earlier, but who had no idea of the goings on in the Scottish Empire. How I recognized and denounced Patrick Boyd, and how he was executed and Timur the Lame himself interrogated me, and discovered my spyring. How he told of his dreams of revenge for the crushing of The Horde by Edward Canmore. I could tell ye how I discovered the exact point on the Scottish border where an army could march through unmolested into Scottish Lands, and of how I came to become Timur the Lame's favorite to play chess against."
Bunnok removed Timur's hands from his shoulders and pointed upwards to three different locations, each one where Timur's "hidden" guards were watching, and he grinned even wider, this madman who had turned his vast intellect against those who had trained and nurtured him and his skills,"I could tell ye all of those things, Timur the Pious, but the truth is.... it can all be summed up in four words."
"I'm just that good."