Part 72: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 719000 Timurids was enough to strike terror into the hearts of any Nation, King, General or soldier.
Unless you had 15,000 Scotsmen waiting to meet them.
In the lifting darkness of dawn, King Domnall Canmore sat alongside his brother, Aodh, waiting for what he knew would be the last great battle of his generation. Sitting nervously to his other side was his son-in-law Patrick and grandson Edward of Shetland, a favorite of Aodh's. Edward was barely a man and all ready preparing to face a battle unlike any Scotland had seen in its history, and Domnall felt for the lad, remembering his own nervousness at what had been relatively the minor battles that had introduced him personally to warfare, under the tutelage of his Father and Uncle.
He stroked his throat, a familiar trait he had developed in the decade since Hungary's Istok had almost choked the life from him. Domnall often thought of that fight, remembering how the shouting and cheering of the men had been drowned out by the thumping of blood in his ears, and the world had shrunk to Istok's grimacing face as the two King's attempted to choke the life from each other. Domnall had felt the strength fleeing from his arms and struggled to maintain his grip around Istok's throat as the bleeding wound in his hand had made his hand slippery.... but then Istok's strength had faded and given Domnall new energy, and he'd redoubled his efforts, seeing the despair in Istok's eyes as the Hungarian realized at last that while Domnall was not Edward Canmore, he WAS a Canmore, and Istok was no match for him.
Angus and Hew, two men he considered the sons he'd never had, had lead the slaughter of the surviving Hungarians who had not run when they'd seen their King dead, and Domnall had been left to sit by Istok's cooling corpse, recovering his strength and thinking to himself that he would never, ever let an enemy get as close to him again as Istok had.
So when Aodh had arrived at Constantinople warning of a fresh threat from the East, between the two of them they had worked out a plan to bring out all the Timurids at once, and put an end to them before they could spread out into the desert and entrench themselves in Scottish lands. Aodh had dreamed of a swarm of locusts devouring a field of wheat and attributed the clarity of the dream to divine reasons, believing he had received a Vision from God. Domnall knew his brother better than to think his warnings were based only on a dream of course, and learnt of research from Aodh's Spy Network that had discovered the extent of Timur the Lame's reconstruction of The Horde. When Aodh also discovered that James Bunnok - a talented spy with delusions of grandeur - had gone over to the Hungarians to set up a trap for his former masters, they had decided to use him to accomplish their own goal - a unified world under Scotland ready to meet the Timurids, who would have no idea what they were walking into.
As if by divine mandate, the Great Mortality had struck in Poland, The Holy Roman Empire and Portugal, greatly weakening those nations and - perhaps more importantly - striking down their leaders with the illness. Though the King of Portugal and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire did not die, their convalescence put other less.... desirable.... family members in their place.
To put it bluntly, madmen.
Though it was impossible to keep The Black Plague out of Scottish lands, Aodh's knowledge that the disease was coming allowed the peoples of Scotland to be as best prepared as possible. While thousands died, it was less than every other Nation on Earth apart from Hungary, which was somewhat protected by - oddly enough - the war with Scotland that had put an end to trading and movement by the Hungarians. Scotland's relatively low numbers of plague dead saw many claim that Scotland had some kind of divine protection, and the mad rulers of Portugal and the Holy Roman Empire attempted to gain that protection for themselves by declaring war on the most powerful Nation in the World.
The result was... predictable.
Hungary's apparent resistance to the plague was also put down to supernatural intervention, but not of the same kind credited to Scotland. The Pope decried Hungary as Devil Worshippers, claiming that Satan had granted them protection from the plague in return for their souls. While Alferius no longer held the power he once had over the secular world, Scotland was all too eager to heed his call for a Crusade against Hungary's new capital of Bucharest, and their new King, Vtalyus.
Duncan Colison had told Timur the Pious the story of how Roy Macgoulchane had avenged the deaths of Domnall Canmore and Angus the Mauler by leading the Crusade against Istok at Constantinople. The truth was that Roy had led the Crusade against Vtalyus at Bucharest and killed the Hungarian King, breaking what was left of the fighting spirit of the Hungarians. It was less than a year later that Scotland crushed the last of the Hungarian armies, leaving only one Nation in the world to stand against Scotland.
James Bunnok had spent time in Poland before the Plague truly devastated the Nation and he had returned to Hungary briefly before setting out into the desert to find the Timurids. As a result, King Zygmunt had believed he had inside knowledge of how Scotland would attack Poland, and prepared his defenses accordingly. Unfortunately for the horrifically scarred King, the information that Bunnok had been in possession of had been flawed, fed to him by Cormac Feniss to test the man's loyalty. Bunnok had also had a tendency to hold back vital information in order to protect his usefulness to his new Masters, and so Zygmunt had led his plague-ravaged armies completely out of place, leaving the cities of Poland open to attack by Angus the Mauler and Hew Mar. By the time he had force-marched his exhausted army to Bulgar on the far North-Eastern border, the Scottish had been prepared for them, and the Polish had fallen to the same fate as all the other Nations in the World.
But before the freshly conquered world could be prepared for the coming of the Timurids, the plague needed to be eliminated. Scotland had been insulated, but now formerly Hungarian, Polish, Portugese and Roman Cities ravaged by the Great Mortality were under the control of the Scottish, and the plague spread anew as Aodh Canmore sought ways to contain and then eradicate the disease. Tens of thousands died, their bodies carted away and burnt or buried in deep, mass graves, and even the Canmore family was not safe from its power.
Domnall was concerned that his nephew Kirk - whom he had taken a shine to during his time in Toulouse - had been left without a Father at such a vital age, only a few years away from manhood. He'd written to the boy's Mother suggesting that either Edward of Shetland move from Milan to Toulouse or Kirk from Toulouse to Milan, given that Edward's own Father - Rory - had recently died, several years after holding off an attack of the Holy Roman Empire at Milan. Domnall had been surprised when the boy himself had returned a letter.
I am grateful for your concern as to my wellbeing, and appreciate your offer of providing both a friend and an "older brother" in Edward of Shetland. However I must decline, it would be unkind to move Edward away from his brother Algune, and there is much for me to learn here in Toulouse, where my Father ruled for so many years.
My Father was always kind and loving towards me, but not to the people he ruled. It was meant to be kept from me that he was known as Adam the Cruel, but one would have to be death and blind to not know. Few people outside of our family will mourn his passing, those who knew him best were those closest to him, and to the rest of the world he affected disdain, looking down upon them as less than himself.
His death from the plague taught me something, however, that God does not distinguish between Royalty and the "common man". My Father did a great disservice to the people of Toulouse, and I mean to be the one to right it, so I shall remain here. Besides which, I am near the sea here, which pleases me, I would not feel right without the open waters near me.
Domnall had been surprised by the letter, and the surprising maturity of the boy, but his mind had obviously been fixed and Domnall had put thoughts of him to the background to concentrate on the now diminishing impact of the plague, and preparations for the Timurids as he and Eoin Makartane reviewed the intelligence reports being sent back to them by "James Bunnok". Aodh had been in mourning for his daughter Ada, which had stymied their progress in planning as the two men got to know each other, Domnall the General and Eoin the Spy, both eagerly waiting for Aodh - a man who could bridge the gap between both roles - to return.
And now, after all this time, it had come down to this early morning dawn at the foot of the mountains between what had once been the lands of the Turks and the Polish, 9000 Timurids finally emerging from the mountains two days after discovering the bodies of their Warlords and that 15,000 Scotsmen were waiting for them.
Domnall couldn't wait.
Captain Belgutei led his men over the hill, grimacing at the darkening clouds above, then wincing as they moved into view of the distant waiting Scotsmen.
"We thought ourselves The Horde," grunted Belgutei, staring at the thousands upon thousands of men waiting for them, prepared and eager to fight,"We were wrong."
Belgutei had argued long and loud after the discovery of the dead Warlords and the waiting Scottish ambush that they ride out to meet the waiting Scottish. Others had suggested they wait in the mountains and try to draw the Scottish in for an ambush of their own, while Khan Horkhudagh had been aghast that no one was even considering turning and running away.
"It's better to be on hand with ten men, then absent with ten thousand," Belgutei had grunted back at Horkhudagh angrily when the Khan suggested they run,"Timur-i-Lenk said that, do you even know what it means, you piece of dung?"
"Brave words do not dissuade death," Horkhudagh sneered back,"The Skot-tish have played your precious Timur-i-Lenk, and led your mighty Warlords to death. There is no disgrace in returning to our own Empire, and returning another day when total defeat is not inevitable."
"There are barely half again as many as us," Captain Chagurkhai had snapped,"The Skot-tish are strong, yes, but I would pit any one of us against any two of them!"
"Besides which," noted Shakrukh,"The Mongols were defeated by ranged artillery, and now we have that... and the mountains, and high ground, we can win this battle!"
"Imagine the songs they will sing," Onggiran had whispered, eyes wide,"When they hear how we crushed 15,000 Skot-tish, turning their own ambush back on them!"
"And we have the elephants," finished Belgutei,"The Skot-tish have never faced their like... we will destroy the Skot-tish! We will destroy the Skot-tish!"
The other Timurids had taken up the chant as Horkhudagh looked on in horror, realizing that they truly intended to go through with this suicide, and what was worse... they actually thought they stood a chance.
And even now, as Belgutei sat on his horse with only 1600 men under his command staring down at the thousands of Scottish, he still believed it.
"They have emerged at last," Domnall grunted,"They look few, barely 2000 if that."
"There are others," Aodh replied smoothly,"Remember these are desert nomads used to moving fast and unnoticed. As ridiculous as it sounds, they will be trying to flank us."
"Let them try," nodded Domnall, then raised his voice,"Dougall, Angus! Our Timurid friends have finally come out of hiding to say hello, go and give them my greetings!"
Angus grinned in delight at the order and shouted to his men to follow him, and as they rode forward closely followed by Dougall, the dark clouds finally broke and it began to rain down upon what would soon be the battlefield.
"An ill omen," grunted Domnall.
"Aye," nodded Aodh,"But for who?"
"1600 looks like a lot more when you get up close," noted Dougall with a slight, worried grin.
"Ahhh Dougall, I thought ye were unstoppable!" laughed Angus,"1600 isn't enough, 16000 would nae be enough... I'll nae tire of killing these bastards, I missed the first Mongol Wars, and these bastards are supposed to be even tougher... this is the fight I've been waiting all my life for."
"Well ye're about to get ye wish," noted Dougall,"Feel free to kill any that get near me, too!"
And with that, after all the planning, the set-ups, the lies and deceptions... battle between Scotland and the Timurids was finally joined.
"THEY HOLD THE HIGHER GROUND, ANGUS!" screamed Dougall as he slashed away at the Timurids pouring downhill into his men, using their own weight to add the pressure of numbers to the Scottish's defensive concerns.
"THEN TAKE IT FROM THEM!" laughed Angus, roaring with delight as he laid into the swarming Timurids trying to overwhelm him,"PUSH THEM BACK LADS! PUSH THEM BACK!"
"He's mad," muttered Dougall, shaking his head in disbelief before dodging the blade of one of hundreds of Timurid archers who had fired on them from range then drawn swords to attack once the Scottish drew near.
"Only just figured that out, sir?" chuckled a grey-haired veteran as he slammed a fist into a Timurid's face and then plunged his sword into his belly,"It's why we love him, God favors madmen!"
"RALLY! RALLY!" screamed Belgutei,"PRESS THEM BACK DOWN THE HILL! HOLD THE HIGH GROUND AND WE WILL WIN TH-"
"Oh shut up," grunted Angus, slashing Belgutei's arm off below the elbow and then swiftly bringing the sword back up and decapitating the man,"Why do people insist on talking so much in a fight?"
"RUN! RUN!" screamed a Timurid Commander, seeing his leader slain,"BACK INTO THE MOUNTAINS! RUN!"
"They're running lads!" cried Dougall, seeing the Timurids beginning to turn to run,"DINNAE LET THEM ESCAPE! CATCH WHO YOU CAN AN-"
"KILL ALL THE BASTARDS!" roared Angus, throwing his head back and howling in delight,"KILL THEM!"
"That too, I guess," sighed Dougall under his breath, and then followed his baying, delighted soldiers after the fleeing Timurids.
To the south, Domnall nodded in satisfaction as a scout reported back that Angus and Dougall had wiped out the small force of Timurids. As if on cue, the rain ceased and the clouds began to roll back, the sun shining through and lighting up the sky, burning through the mists that had come down from the mountain.
"Is that truly it, is it over?" asked Edward of Shetland,"I was expecting so much more.... I guess the other Timurids ran?"
"Over?" asked Domnall, and barked with laughter. Edward stared at him in confusion, and Aodh smiled warmly, as their brother Nectan had once smiled at him so many decades ago as he showed him war for the first time.
"It's nae over, lad, it's barely begun," Aodh explained,"The Timurids are brave, suicidally so, and that little force was merely designed to grab our attention so they could move their other men into position."
"What position?" asked Edward, confused.
In answer, Aodh turned his horse and pointed first to the Northwest between themselves and Angus and Dougall's forces, then to the East. The mist had rolled back and the sun had illuminated areas of the mountains previously shrouded in darkness, as dawn had passed into early morning and now approached noon.
Revealing two forces of Timurids approaching on either side of the great Scottish Horde.
And with them came the elephants.
The battle was about to truly begin.