Part 74: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 73Things were looking grim for Scotland.
"PROTECT THE KING!" screamed the Commanders, as men rallied towards the King as his bodyguard was flooded by the Timurids' Elephants.
"KILL THEIR KHAN!" screamed Chagurkhai,"KILL HIM!"
The Timurid Captain's cries were cut short as Aodh Canmore rode his men against Chagurkhai's, and the two forces crashed against each other. Chagurkhai roared with laughter, spurring his horse forward to crash headfirst into the Scottish.
"YOU FACE REAL HORSEMEN NOW, SKOT-TISH!" howled Chagurkhai in laughter,"LET US SEE HOW YOU FARE AGAIN US!"
Unfortunately for Chagurkhai... they fared very well ndeed.
"TO THE KING!" roared Aodh as Chagurkhai's bodyguard was destroyed, while more men flooded past him hoping to take advantage of the shellshocked Timurids, who hadn't expected to see their Captain brought down so quickly,"GET ME HORSES! GET ME PIKEMEN! SWORDSMEN! ANYTHING! KILL THOSE ELEPHANTS!"
As the Timurid cavalry broke and ran, Aodh's personal bodyguard and a unit of Knights moved into formation and then charged into the backs and sides of the elephants crushed together around the rapidly diminishing circle of men trying to protect the King. They cut and slashed at the great beasts, finding gaps in the armor only to discover their own skin was an armor unto itself.... but weight of numbers took their toll, and the monstrosities began to fall, first one, then another, then more, causing the survivors to panic and lose direction, smashing against each other, against the Scottish, into the King's defenders, running amok as they tried to flee the pain and death coming for them.
"TIMURID INFANTRY INCOMING!" cried a Scotsman as the Elephants began to clear away, pointing East to where Timurid Infantry clutching halberds were rushing in, hoping to take advantage of the exhaustion and depleted numbers of the Scottish who had dealt to the elephants.
"SECURE THE LINE AND HOLD THEM IN PLACE!" demanded Aodh, then dismounted and rushed through the pile of dead and dying Scottish and their horses to find his brother the King.... if he lived.
Hew Mar was at a loss, as for the first time in his life, he didn't have advice from his father to fall back on.
"HOW THE HELL DO YOU FIGHT ELEPHANTS!?!" he screamed in frustration as he twisted his horse aside from the swing of one of the great beast's tusks,"YE NAE TOLD ME THAT, FATHER!"
The Timurids on the Northwestern Front had regained control of their elephants and charged the Scottish lines, and now those formations were in disarray as discipline; training and skill were outweighed by the massive bulk and swinging tusks and trunks of the elephants, not to mention the cannons mounted to their backs. Hew Mar and Edmund Besat chased the surprisingly fast beasts on their horses, while pikemen tried desperately to hold themselves in place and brace for the impact when the monsters snapped through their pikes like twigs.
A horn sounded and Hew looked up in surprise, a burst of relief washing through him as he saw that Dougall the Unstoppable had finally returned from the Northern Front, coming over the hill above the elephants. If they charged down they could finally catch the beasts between them and hold them in place.... once the monsters were no longer mobile, they could be killed.
"It's just a question of how many of us die in the meantime," sighed Hew to himself, and then ordered his men to prepare to charge in conjunction with Dougall's men.
"Where is Angus!?!" cried Dougall as the fighting brought him side by side with Hew, the Scottish surrounding the elephants and attempting to bring them down as the Timurid Captains sent in men to break the Scottish ring.
"Dead!" growled Hew, scarcely able to believe it himself,"Run down by one of these abominations!"
"These bastards won't die!" snarled Edmund, hacking uselessly at the side of one of the elephants, then twisting away to cut down a screaming Timurid as he tried to attack the Scottish General,"No man can stand before these monsters!"
"I'LL NAE HAVE THAT TALK!" snapped Hew,"THEY'RE BIG AND UGLY BUT THEY CAN DIE! AND IF IT CAN DIE, THE SCOTTISH WILL KILL IT!"
With the preternatural speed that had surprised the Scottish so far, the elephant Hew was attacking shoved to its right and twisted about, massive tusks slamming against Hew's horse and lifting his mount off of its feet. Hew was sent flying and crashed into the ground, and then the other elephants - following the lead of the alpha male which was ignoring its driver's commands as its pain drove it made with rage - tore through the lines of the Scottish, sending men sprawling and breaking their formations once more.
"Perfect!" sneered Ongirran as the elephants crashed through the Scottish,"Send up the archers, open fire on the Skot-tish!"
"Our elephants will suffer under the onslaught," warned Shakrukh.
"Let them run amok," grinned Onggiran,"They do more damage running wild than moving under command... as long as they are clear of the bulk of our own men, driving them crazier works only to our advantage."
"RETURN FIRE DAMN IT!" snapped Dougall as he helped Hew back to his feet, the other Scottish General dizzy and battered,"ARCHERS! FORGET THE ELEPHANTS! HOLD THOSE TIMURIDS BACK!"
"We need to take those elephants out of the equation," grunted Hew, clutching at his ribs, which he suspected to be broken,"That Bull-Elephant leading them has to be put do-"
"..aannnNNTTTSSSS!" cried a distant voice from the west.
"What?" grunted Dougall, looking up in surprise.
"..phaANNTTTSSSSS!" came the voice again, louder now.
And then Dougall and Hew stared in wonder as a dead man rode over the crest of the hill aimed directly at the Bull Elephant leading the other monsters in their stampede, charging directly for it while screaming,"ELEPHAAANNNTSSSSS!"
Angus The Mauler had returned from the dead.
The Elephants were crashing about, running amok and driving through Scottish and Timurid lines alike, but Aodh ignored them as he rushed from one pile of bodies to another, searching for his Brother and King. He clambered over the massive corpse of an elephant cut in hundreds of places by Domnall and his defenders, and found dozens of bodies - human and horse - lying on its other side, their bodies crushed by the stampeding of elephants, those that had lived through the stampede screaming in pain with shattered limbs or ruined bodies. Aodh's eyes widened as he saw Domnall's banner lying tattered and trampled in the ground, alongside a pile of Scottish bodies surrounding a familiar armored figure.
"DOMNALL! he cried, and rushed to his Brother's side, kneeling down and opening his helm to check for signs of life. For one moment he felt his heart sink, and then Domnall's eyelids fluttered and opened, and he grinned up at Aodh.
"The me... the men surrounded.... surrounded me and protected me," he coughed,"I wanted.. wanted to fight but would nae ha... have any of it..."
"Then bless them," grinned Aodh, staring around at the devastation around him, Domnall's bodyguard lying stretched around all about him. They were the finest soldiers in the world, but even they had been powerless to stand up against a concentrated stampede of 30 elephants,"They saved ye life."
"Help me up, Aodh," grunted Domnall,"The men must see I live, and that I fight with them.... a Canmor-"
"A Canmore fights on the front line with his men, aye," smiled Aodh, hauling Domnall up out of the corpses of the bodyguard that had protected him in death as well as life,"There is much fighting yet to do."
The Bull Elephant lowered its head and crashed its skull full force into Angus' horse, but the brutal General had been expecting it. As he came thundering directly towards the monster, he stepped up in his saddle, flinging himself forward the moment before impact and slamming against the upper portion of the elephant's trunk.
"AHH! GET AWAY! GET AWAY!" squealed the Timurid Driver sitting in the basket atop the elephant's neck,"CRAZY MAN GET AWAY!"
"Hello gorgeous," hissed Angus, staring directly into the surprised eye of the elephant only an inch from his own,"Did ye miss me?"
"YOU GO AWAY!" cried the driver, and jabbed his spear down at Angus, who sneered angrily and grabbed the spear around the shaft, glaring up at the driver.
"Fuck off!" he hissed, hauling back and pulling the squawking driver out of his basket and flinging him through the air,"This is between me and the elephant!"
The Elephant had halted in place and begun shaking its head about in an attempt to get the man off of its trunk, but Angus clutched on tenaciously, throwing his arm back then driving the spear deep into the eye of the beast.
"By God," whispered Hew Mar, still struggling to stand in place after being knocked aside by the same elephant only a few minutes earlier, wincing as he heard the bellow of rage, confusion and pain come thundering out of the beat,"He never met a man he didnae want to fight.... I guess we can throw animals into the mix as well."
Screaming in pain, the elephant flung its trunk up with enormous force and sent Angus flying into the air, coming crashing down into the basket on it's back, smashing into the cannoneer who had been watching the whole thing with wide eyes and a gaping mouth.
"YOU CANNOT BE HERE!" screamed the Timurid, sounding almost offended.
"A gah-lah bala to ye too, laddie," grunted Angus, who hadn't understood a word of the Timurid's language. He slammed his fist into the man's face, then pulled himself to his feet and grabbed the cannoneer's feet, pitching him over the side of the basket to crash into the ground and be stomped on by the bull elephant, which was stumbling around in confusion, raking its face along the ground trying to remove the spear from its eye.
"ANGUS! ANGUS!" screamed Hew, mounted up again and riding up as close to the elephant as he dared,"YE HAVE TO KILL IT!"
"What do ye think I'm trying to do!?!" snapped Angus back.
"NAE ANGUS! IT'S LEADING THE OTHERS! KILL IT! IT'S LEADING THE OTHERS!" Hew shouted in explanation,"KILL IT AND THE REST WILL SCATTER!"
Angus turned about and looked behind him, spotting the surviving Elephants that were still causing destruction amongst the Scottish and Timurids who were struggling just to fight each other.
"CANNON!" shouted Angus as inspiration struck, spotting the mounted cannon at the head of the basket. He grabbed it with a huge grin on his face... which faded when he realized he had no idea how to make it fire. Cursing, he shoved it down as far as it could go, only to discover that it didn't move low enough to be able to fire into the elephant's head (or into the driver who was supposed to be there), and he cursed angrily,"WHO THE MADE THE TIMURIDS SMART!?!"
"ANGUS! KILL IT!" screamed Hew.
"I'll kill ye," muttered Angus angrily to himself, then looked down and saw the oil lying alongside the shots used as ammunition for the cannons, and inspiration struck again. Reaching down, he grabbed the flasks of oil in a heap, lifting them up and then began tossing them one by one at the elephant, onto its head, it's back, its sides and all around the basket. It bellowed in surprise as flasks broke against its body and oil began to run all the way down it, twisting about in circles looking for its attacker. It slammed into the midst of the herd that had been following it seeking guidance, sending the Timurid riders flying from their necks and backs, its tusks goring into their sides.
"ANGUS!?! WHAT ARE YE DOING!?!" cried Hew.
"KILLING IT, YE STUPID BASTARD!" laughed Angus, lighting the torch that the Timurid cannoneer had used to fire his cannon. He lifted the torch high and grinned happily,"I'll see you in hell, elephant! NOW BURN! BURN YE BASTARD!"
He dropped the torch and oil ignited, the elephant screaming in terror as it was engulfed, flames shooting up all around Angus, casting a demonic light on his face as he stood at the centre of the inferno roaring with laughter, and shouting the same two words over and over again,"I WIN! I WIN! I WIN!"
"HOLD! HOLD!" screamed Daidukul, trying desperately to maintain the formation of his men. Their elephants were dead, the Scottish were slowly gaining the upper hand on the Timurid Infantry, and now Daidukul could see the dreaded Scottish Cavalry - led by their King and Prince - moving back into formation and preparing to ride against them,"ONGIRRAN AND SHAKRUKH WILL REINFORCE US SOON! JUST HOLD!"
The Timurids would have if they could, but the Scottish gave them no choice in the matter.
"DRIVE THEM BACK! DRIVE THEM BACK!" roared Domnall, riding at the head of the army with Aodh by his side, Patrick and Edward following close behind,"DRIVE THEM BACK TO THEIR BROTHERS, AND THEN DRIVE THEM ALL BACK TO THE MOUNTAINS! WE WILL CAST THESE HEATHENS OUT OF SCOTLAND AND TEACH THEM WHAT IT MEANS TO GO TO WAR WITH THE SCOTTISH! DRIVE THEM BACK!"
And at the behest of their King, the Scottish did just that.
Domnall and Aodh pushed the Timurids back, driving them before them until Daidukul was reunited with Ongirran and Shakrukh, whose own forces were being driven back by Hew Mar, Dougall and Edmund Besat. The two Timurid forces combined and pushed north back towards the mountains, hoping to block at least one point of access for the Scottish.
"Angus?" Domnall asked Hew as they merged their armies together and began marching towards the Timurids.
"Killed a bloody elephant singlehandedly," Hew said, shaking his head,"It went down and the rest went berserk, broke in all different directions. We killed the ones that got near us, the Timurids mostly just ran from the ones that broke through their ranks.... he set fire to it while he was on it, my King, he died to break the Timurids' advantage."
"He was a true soldier," grunted Domnall, closing his eyes for a moment,"And nae the only good man to fall this day."
So many had fallen, and despite it all, there were still thousands of Timurids to kill.
"Now what?" Edward of Shetland asked,"Is it time, Aodh?"
"Nae yet, lad," smiled Aodh,"They hold the higher ground, and they dinnae want to surrender it... but they ken they cannae stay there forever. They'll try to pretend they can negotiate from a position of strength, but we all ken how desperate their situation is. Their only hope is that we cannae bear to lose any more of our men."
"And can we?" Edward asked.
Aodh simply smiled, and said nothing.
"SKOT-TISH!" cried Ongirran, after a heated argument with his two fellow surviving Captains, his voice carrying clearly over the expanse between his forces and the Scottish,"WE OFFER YOU WHAT WE HAVE NEVER OFFERED BEFORE! OUR MERCY!"
"Mercy," muttered Domnall, sitting too tall in his saddle, his face set too grimly, though only Aodh noticed. To the rest of the Scottish, their King simply sat tall and resolute on his horse.
"MANY OF OUR BROTHERS HAVE FALLEN TODAY! AND MANY OF YOURS HAVE DONE THE SAME!" continued Ongirran, who had been chosen to speak because he had the best use of English,"WE HAVE TESTED OURSELVES AND FOUND EQUALS TODAY HERE, I THINK! LET THAT BE AN END TO IT! WE WILL ALLOW YOU TO LEAVE THE FIELD OF BATTLE WITH YOUR LIVES INTACT! YOU WILL NOT ATTEMPT TO FOLLOW US THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS! LET THERE BE PEACE BETWEEN SCOTLAND AND THE EMPIRE OF TIMUR!"
The Scottish bayed and shouted out insults in reply, but Domnall and Aodh sat quietly, the one grim-faced and the other smiling, and Edward of Shetland looked at both wondering what the answer would be. Ongirran was obviously wondering as well, and did not have the patience to wait long.
"YOUR NUMBERS ARE GREAT, BUT NOT GREAT ENOUGH TO GUARANTEE YOUR VICTORY! CHOOSE PEACE! CHOOSE AN END TO A WAR NEITHER SIDE CAN WIN WITHOUT GREAT LOSS!"
The Scottish broke out in angry insults, denials and derogatory claims about Ongirran's mother, but when their King spoke, they silenced.
"AYE! PEACE!" cried Domnall, and his voice to Aodh was the clear, strong voice of Domnall as a young man, hearty and strong, and his heart broke, knowing that what he had suspected since pulling Domnall out of the pile of corpses was true. He closed his eyes for a moment and lowered his head, and then raised it and watched with pride as Domnall continued,"I WILL GIVE YE PEACE! I WILL GIVE YE THE PEACE MY FATHER AND UNCLE GAVE EGYPT! I WILL GIVE YE THE PEACE THAT THEY AND I GAVE THE MONGOLS! I WILL GIVE YE THE PEACE I GAVE PUCCIO! THE PEACE MY BROTHER GAVE THE SICILIANS! THE PEACE WE GAVE THE SPANISH! THE PEACE I GAVE THE DANISH, THE VENETIANS, THE HUNGARIANS, THE PORTUGESE, THE ROMANS AND THE POLISH! I WILL GIVE YE THE PEACE OF THE GRAVE, AND THE WORLD WILL BE A BETTER PLACE FOR IT!"
The assembled Scottish let loose a mighty roar of approval, and Ongirran spat on the ground in disgust. The great tumult died down and the Scottish Infantry began to stomp their feet in time, shaking the ground even more than the elephants had before them, chanting the name,"CANMORE! CANMORE! CANMORE!"
"They are mad," hissed Ongirran,"They may kill us, but we will cripple their armies in the process.... do they think we will fall like wheat before a scythe?"
As if in answer, Domnall Canmore lifted his great horn from his side and pressed his lips against it, blowing a great blast that rose over the chanting Scotsmen, silencing them momentarily. And in the silence that followed, a distant blast sounded in response, and then another, and then another.
"NO!" gasped Ongirran in horror,"NO!"
Domnall had sounded his horn, and Scotland's reserve armies had come in response to the call.
All thoughts of honor, dignity or self-esteem fled from the Timurids at the sight of thousands upon thousands of fresh Scottish soldiers marched on them from the East and the West. They turned and ran, together only because there was only one way to run - north into the mountains.
And at Domnall's command, the Scottish gave chase.
"RIDE! RIDE!" screamed Ongirran as he saw his men slaughtered,"INTO THE MOUNTAINS!"
"HEW! GIVE CHASE!" roared Domnall, sitting still in his horse watching the end of the Timurids, sweat beginning to run freely down his face and his knuckles turning white as he clutched more firmly to the saddle,"DINNAE LET THEIR CAPTAINS ESCAPE!"
Hew nodded and spurred his horse, his men following as they rode past the slaughter of the unmounted Timurids and up the steep slopes of the mountain after Ongirran, Shakrukh and Daidukul.
"I should be there on the frontline with the-" Domnall started, but Aodh quieted him with a hand placed gently on his wrist.
"Domnall," Aodh said, sadly looking his brother directly in the eyes,"Ye've done enough, let the men finish this."
Domnall hesitated for a moment, and then let down his guard for a brief second, and in that moment he seemed to age by decades and become the old man that by right the years should have made him by now,"Aye Aodh, ye have the right of it."
The two brothers sat on their horses, side by side, and watched the mighty Timurid army brought low.
As the battle waged on the lower slopes of the mountains, to the south, amongst the thousands of dead a single Scotmsan stood over his fallen foe, his helm removed to reveal a face not even a mother could love, twisted by scars, burns and a brutal mind. His foe dwarfed him even in death, its great bulk lying on its side, even more burnt and scarred than the Scotsman, who by all rights should have been dead himself. He'd been tossed clear of the monster when it had fallen into its burning, screaming death throes, knocked unconscious and laying as if dead for the last hour as the battle had moved on without him. He meant to rejoin the battle soon enough, but first he meant to mark the passing of his foe, even if it wasn't human.
"Ye were nae bad," the Scotsman told the elephant's corpse before hauling himself up into the saddle of the horse he'd found wondering aimlessly amongst the dead,"But ye'd nae met a Scotsman before."
And Angus the Mauler rode away from the beast, to rejoin his King in ending it's former masters.
The battle had waged from dawn to dusk, and in total over 10,000 men had died, thousands of horses and several hundred elephants. The Timurids efforts to break up the Scottish army had succeeded only for a few hours, and for the bulk of the day the Scottish had been united and kept the Timurids on the run. Now, as the sun set and darkness began to spread, the last of the Timurids under the command of Ongirran were making their final desperate effort to escape back into the mountains.
But the Scottish did not stop coming.
Ongirran was dragged by the Scottish to their King and Prince, his eyes widened as he looked over the field of battle their position afforded them, showing to the last few score Timurids being shepherded into place by the Scottish for a final stand against the mountainside.
"Grant me an honorable death!" spat Ongirran angrily at who he took to be the Khan, suspecting the bearded man sitting sweating and seemingly swooning in place on his horse to be some weakling noble along for the ride,"There is no gain to keeping me prisoner."
"Nae, there is nae," grunted the sweating man, and Ongirran looked into his eyes and realized his mistake, seeing the true power in this man.
"You are the Kanmor Khan?" he asked.
"We will let you go," Domnall said by way of reply,"You will take a message to Tamerlane for us."
"What message?" demanded Ongirran, the revelation he would live returning some of his confidence.
"Watch," the man beside Domnall - Aodh - said,"Ye'll soon understand."
Aodh rode forward a few feet, looking out over the battlefield where the Timurid Infantry was packed tightly together now, just as he'd wanted.
"HEAR ME!" he cried, his voice carrying to the Timurids, the Scottish hearing his words and falling back to put distance between them and their foe,"THIS BATTLE IS OVER! THE TIMURIDS HAVE LOST! SCOTLAND IS VICTORIOUS! THERE IS NAE TO BE GAINED BY US KILLING YOU NOW! I WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND THAT!"
"Edward," Aodh said, turning to his Great Nephew.
"Aye, Uncle?" asked Edward of Shetland, whose Father's Brother had been Aodh's greatest friend, and whom Aodh meant to turn into a great man.
Edward smiled with relief, and turned and gave the order he'd been waiting all battle for. He'd thought it would come against the elephants, or when the battle was at its most pitched... and then he'd thought the order would never come.... The order to bring forward the Mongols.
And their rocket launchers.
"The message for your Emir," Aodh sneered down at Ongirran, who had watched agape as all that was left of the Timurids were wiped out by rockets fired by men likely distantly related to them by blood, wiped out to a man in the most inhumane, brutal way possible,"Is that there are nae survivors, nae second place when it comes to war with Scotland. Ye message is that we ken ye exist now, and we ken where ye live, and Scotland brings peace to our enemies."
"The peace of the grave," finished Domnall Canmore coldly,"Now be gone from my sight, dung, return to ye master and give him our message - the Timurids are dead, they just dinnae ken it yet."
Mounted men hauled Ongirran away, preparing to take him to the mountains and set him on his way back to his Master. Whether he survived the journey or not did not bother the Canmores, the message would be clear to Timur-i-Lenk regardless of whether it was delivered or not.... and Aodh Canmore had weightier things on his mind.
"Gather around me, ye Generals!" Domnall ordered as all around them, as far as the eye could see, Scotsmen let loose gusty roars and cheers and danced about as they realized that finally the great battle was over,"I have words for ye!"
They gathered to join him, men trusted to lead soldiers even if Domnall no longer knew them all personally, as he once had. There were his kin - Aodh joined by their cousin Aed, who had been one of those held in reserve. Those as close or closer than kin - Hew Mar, Dougall the Unstoppable, even battered and scarred Angus the Mauler who had surprised them all by riding back into battle having survived the burning death throes of an elephant. Those directly related to him through marriage - Patrick the Chivalrous, Edward of Shetland. Those whose names he had known only by letter and report before meeting for this battle - Lulach Erskyn, Edmund Besat, Nevin Campbell and so many more.
They followed his lead and dismounted, and finally it was too much for him and his body gave way, and he would have crumpled to the ground if Aodh had not been there to catch him, and lower him to the ground as his Generals cried out in alarm and the cheering soldiers surrounding them fell into a shocked silence.
"..m...my body is broken," Domnall managed, nodding with gratitude to Aodh,"My men sacrificed themselves for me, and earned me a few more hours, and my will held me together so their sacrifice would nae be in vain.... but I will nae see another sunrise."
"My King, dinnae say su-" started Hew, but Aodh shook his head and silenced the General, and Domnall smiled, wincing and betraying the pain he'd been fighting through since Aodh had pulled him from the corpses of his bodyguard.
"I.. I never had sons," Domnall grunted, feeling his broken body grinding together, almost as if the will that had held him together had been doing the same to his body,"I have nae male heir, and I will nae let my death fracture a Kingdom I spent my life stitching together. I was made for war, but all I ever wanted was peace.... and so I used war to bring the peace of the grave to our enemies, and created a world that I could nae rule.... but others could..... Aodh, Aodh is my heir, Aodh will be ye King, and he will groom a man - be he Canmore or not - to be his heir, and maintain peace for the Empire my Father and Uncle began and I finished."
"Domnall, ye've done more for Scotland than.... I'll have ye Sainted, I'll demand it.... ye..." started Aodh, crying openly now. But Domnall shook his head and silenced him, coughing harshly and bringing up blood.
"Edward survived his final battle," sighed Domnall after Aodh wiped the blood from his mouth, and then amazingly the King began to laugh, which turned into a hacking cough as he lay in Aodh's arms,"I'm so proud of the man ye became Aodh, and Father would be too.. and Uncle... but the story of my death is the story of my life.... I was nae Edward Canmore."
"Aye," smiled Aodh, tears streaming down his cheeks, holding his dying brother close,"Ye were better."