Part 10: A Scotsman In Egypt - Chapter 9"I hate the English," grunted Captain Aidan, standing on the walls of Edinburgh and staring out at the host of English that was laying siege to them.
"I hate the Scottish," muttered Captain Gregory, sitting his horse on the field outside Edinburgh staring up at the walls of the enemy.
Captain Aidan had 941 men, all of them untested in battle (with the exception of the survivors of York) but well trained for years in preparation of the inevitable. When young Prince Edward and Edmund had left Scotland they'd taken the bulk of King Malcolm's veteran fighters, leaving Edinburgh basically without a trained garrison. King Malcolm had instituted a training program for young Scottish men and called for reinforcements from Scottish Nobles and various villages throughout the land. But few had answered, not wanting to lose their own defences, and for years now, what Aidan considered the true Capital of Scotland (not some bizarre desert city on the other side of the world) had been defended by the militia. For years it had seemed that would be enough, as their only real threat, England, looked to France and ignored the North. But now England had taken York, and Edinburgh was left to stand alone.
They had sent word to King Edward in Egypt of course, but received no answer. Aidan didn't even know if the message had reached him, and even if it had, would Edward even care? He'd not returned once to Scotland, even for the burial of his Father, and as far as Aidan was concerned, the real rulers of Scotland had been Prince Alexander and David. David had died under Edward's care in the accursed desert, and Alexander apparently rode with Edward and Edmund now, the last Aidan had heard was that they were expanding their Empire north, towards the Turks.
If Morgunn Brechyne had been near, Aidan would have asked him to make contact with the Church in Europe and seek information of any possible help. But the Priest had disappeared after his recent trial, a farce brought about by an Inquisitor who had stopped on his way to Inverness. Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone who suffered the Inquisition was found guilty, and Morgunn had been found innocent of heresy, but the event had left the Priest clearly shaken. In any case, there were rumors that the Pope was focused on France at the current time, and despite recent poor relations with England, his Holiness was unlikely to come to Scotland's aid anytime soon by ordering England to call off their attack.
"It's come to this, lads!" he cried,"If the English take Edinburgh, they'll control all of Scotland beneath Inverness! There'll be nae going back to ye villages or ye clans, the English will take our homes, our lands, our women.... so what do ye say lads, are we going to let them!?!"
The men roared their defiance, and Aidan grinned. This was possibly the bleakest point in Edinburgh's history, but by God he loved being Scottish, and he was looking forward to this fight!
"Send up the ram," yawned Captain Gregory, sitting his horse and looking thoroughly bored,"Fire arrows at the walls to keep the scum back, and have our militia place ladders at the walls and scale them. Let's try to have this done by nightfall, shall we? I think it's going to rain and I just had this armor polished."
The battering ram pushed forward with groans, the way hardgoing in the muddy grass alongside the road. The men cursed that the ram hadn't been placed on the paved road itself, but did so quietly, Captain Gregory was well known for his dislike of backchat in the ranks. In fact, the infantry were almost all concerned about the way Gregory was leading the Army, though none would say so. He seemed almost irritated to have to come out into the field, and hadn't even known to order a latrine trench be dug when they arrived at Edinburgh, as if he expected one to be ready for him upon arrival. The ram had been placed on muddy grass in the damp Scottish weather rather than on the hard road, the siege ladders were in the control of untested militia units, and the archers were placed too close to the walls to be able to effectively fire over the walls. In fact, the ram hadn't been treated to make it fire resistant, and if the Scots were to....
"Fire flaming arrows!" roared Captain Aidan, and suddenly fiery death was raining down upon the English, arrows jamming into the ram which quickly caught alight.
"Put that bloody ram out!" snapped Captain Gregory with disdain,"It's useless if it is burnt, you fools!"
But the ram was all ready falling apart, and in desperation the archers charged behind the burnt remains for cover and began firing their arrows at the wall, all of them falling short. Captain Aidan barked laughter and ordered the men manning the gate towers to fire arrows from their murder holes, bringing down the archers where they stood.
At the walls themselves, English militia stared in horror up at their siege ladders at the laughing, taunting Scotsmen on the walls. Several tentatively started climbing, but when they reached the top they were quickly killed and thrown back, and suddenly the militia broke, turning and running from the ladders in horror.
"Are these English really men!?!" screamed Aidan in rapturous disbelief as his men howled with laughter,"Arrows, bring the cowards down! Better they die than live like rabbits!"
Arrows brought them down in scores, as Captain Gregory clenched his teeth in fury, demanding to know what was wrong with the idiots he was being forced to deal with.
"Your orders, sir?" asked the Spearman Reserve Commander.
"Orders?" asked Gregory, confused,"Kill them! That's my order!"
The Commander blinked in surprise, then saluted sharply,"Yes sir, kill them we will."
Inside the city, Aidan grinned in satisfaction as the last of the English militia died squealing and running from the arrows. The last of the English were beyond the reach of the Gate Archers now, and it was time for Aidan to make a decision. The City seemed to be safe from the English breaching their walls, but their presence in the field was unacceptable. Aidan needed to take a risk, and venture out beyond the walls to put paid to them for good, or they would be back in greater numbers before they could reinforce and fortify the City.
Calling his Spearmen down from the walls, they marched to the gate where the Pikemen had been instructed to hold the Door, ready to absorb a Cavalry charge that had never come. Aidan stopped to speak quickly with the Pike Commander, warning him to hold steady if things went unexpectedly badly, and then contrary to all he had expected at day's dawning, ordered the gates of Edinburgh to open.
"That will do," sighed Captain Gregory, surprising his men,"These Scots are too ignorant to fight war in a proper fashion, and our men too lazy to follow proper command. We'll leave them their city for today."
Turning, Gregory rode away, followed shortly after by his perplexed and horrified men, leaving behind the English Spearmen to face the wild, laughing Scotsmen as they emptied out of the city and unleashed years of pent up frustration. To their credit, the English held for a few moments before turning and routing, chased for close to an hour by the laughing, whooping Scottish as they celebrated an unexpectedly clear and total victory.
Captain Aidan stood in the field with his men, watching the last of the English disappearing into the deep forests, and threw his head back and laughed. Doubling over, he clutched at a knee and roared with mirth before finally regaining control of himself. He stood tall and pulled off his helm, turning to face his men who were laughing, cheering, dancing and joking amongst themselves.
"A great victory, lads," he smiled,"But we must return to the City and send forth the call for reinforcements. The English will nae like having their noses bloodied like this, they'll be back, and they'll come in larger numbers..... and we'll throw him back just like we did today!"
Pope Gregory the Chivalrous sat in his sumptuously appointed offices, coughing roughly into a silk cloth as he read through the day's correspondence. Each day, the most important letters and missives off the thousands he received were separated out and sent to his Secretary for review, before being passed on to his final attention. Even with only 1% of the correspondence being sent to him eventually making its way to his desk, the Pope still dealt with scores of important documentation every day. Previous Popes had taken a less off-hand approach, in fact some had ignored the paperwork entirely in favor of either a more spiritual focus or, in a depressingly large number of cases, to indulge in the physical. But Pope Gregory wasn't interested in physical pursuits, his only interest was in the strengthening of the Church's position. So many of the world's nations professed devotion to God and the Church, but so few of them actually suited action to words. He sometimes felt Scotland was the only Nation that he could trust, and King Edward the only King who truly believed in spreading the word. Why the man had travelled halfway around the world to spread the message to the heathens in Egypt and liberated Jerusalem, Gaza and Baghdad from Islamic rule.
So it was with great pleasure when the Pope opened his next document and discovered that Scotland had officially joined the Crusade. He had called recently for the occupation of Toulouse, a city held by the ex-communicated French, and only Scotland so far had answered the call.
"Truly he is bless.... <cough, cough>... blessed by God," gasped the Pope, coughing more harshly,"King Edward the Blessed I.... <cough>.... I call him, a true Catholic... a.... a...."
He opened the next document and his eyes widened as another fit of coughing overtook him, the report from his Inquisitor at Inverness telling him that the English had laid siege to Edinburgh!
"This.... this cannot.... <cough, cough>.... cannot stand," wheezed Pope Gregory, grabbing at parchment and quill,"The English go... <cough>.... go too far."
He coughed violently and cursed his failing body at a time when his mind and spirit felt more infused than ever with the Holy Spirit. Ringing a small bell on his desk, a page arrived and solemnly took the sealed parchment from him, leaving without a word but offering a quirk of his eyebrows to the Pope's Secretary, the man instantly understanding that the Pope needed his help. He entered the quarters and went to the Pope's side, supporting him as the man coughed violently.
"To bed please, your Holiness," whispered his Secretary,"You must preserve your strength if you are to continue God's work."
"I have.... <cough, cough>.... ordered the ex-communication of the English," wheezed the Pope as he allowed himself to be supported up from his desk,"They spit in my face by attacking the Scots.... you do not spit in the face of God's man!"
His Secretary agreed, helping the Pope into his adjourning quarters, where he undressed him and placed him into bed, urging him to rest himself. The Crusade against France would require the Pope to at least allow an audience with the Armies going to war on his behalf, and he would need his strength.
He needn't have worried. A week later, the Pope was dead.
In France, King Louis the Merciless received a report that a Scottish Army had landed on his shores and instructed the City to make quiet fortifications of the defences AND the garrison, and ordered two trusted Generals to take their men on manoeuvres between Toulouse and the landed Scots. It was clear the Scots were part of the Crusade ordered by the late Pope, but he was not going to move prematurely and anger the Church before a new Pope was named, this could be an entirely new start for France and the Catholic Church.
He was right.
Pope Stephanus' first address to the Faithful spoke of Christ's message of forgiveness, and spoke with great passion of his time as a Missionary bringing faith to the faithless and truth to the heathen. He declared the Crusade over, and bid France be accepted back into the fold, along with The Holy Roman Empire, Poland, Venice and, more importantly for Scotland, England.
Scotland was still well regarded by the Church, but where Pope Gregory had been impressed by King Edward's presence in Pagan lands, Pope Stephanus was unimpressed that more heathens had yet to be converted.
King Louis was relieved, though in public he affected a bored air over the entire affair. There still remained the issue of what to do about the large Scottish army on his shores though, but that issue too resolved itself when a Scottish Diplomat introduced himself to the Royal Court - Gille Calline the Balleol.
The Diplomat instantly gained kudos by speaking in flawless French, and offered just the right amount of ingratiating flattery without being saccharine to fit in perfectly in the Court. King Louis found himself impressed, the man wasn't just talking French, he was talking LIKE a French Noble, impressive indeed for a barbaric Scot.
Gille spoke eloquently of Scotland and France's shared Catholic faith, and of Scotland's service to the Church and God through the Christ on Earth, the Pope. But he also noted that where the last Christ on Earth called for the ex-communication of France and the capture of Toulouse, the current Christ on Earth called for the reconciliation of France. Scotland had no quarrel with France, it never had, and had acted only in the service of God's will, which was for no mortal to question or understand. Thus, a new Pope meant the declaration of War between Scotland and France should also come to an end.
King Louis felt immense relief wash over him, France's wealth had been sapped by its constant wars with its enemies, its power was capable but nowhere near that of Scotland's. But in the French Court, appearance was everything, and thus he kept a blank face as he noted with a bored look,"Oui, why not?"
Outside Antioch, north of Damascus, King Edward received note from Gille of the deal with France without much interest. He'd never wanted to go to war with France, but one did not ignore the call of the Pope, plus it had given him an opportunity he would not otherwise have had. Now they were not at war with France, and no French or Scottish soldier had come within shouting distance of each other, it had been a war on paper only. What did interest him was Gille's report on the actions of the Scottish army that had landed on France, and he read those details over and over again before he was satisfied.
Stepping outside of his tent, he stared at the walls of Antioch. Another City taken by rebels that they thought would be safe haven for them, located at it was between desert and mountains. But nowhere was safe for the Rebels from Edward, he would not be satisfied until they were all in Hell.
With Antioch taken, King Edward wasted little time in riding his army to the small outpost of Adana, taking control of the final rebel stronghold between Scotland and the Turks with little trouble. The mountains provided a good natural buffer between the two Nations, which pleased Edward as at the current time he had no desire to fight the Turks.... but he also knew the Church would not look kindly on an Alliance with non-Catholics.
To the South and West, his agents were investigating the previously known locations of Rebel Desert strongholds. King Edward had plans to take control of much of the African coastline, which would put him in a position to launch from any number of locations should he seek to expand into Europe at any point. But that was far into the future, and in his darker nights, Edward wondered if he, Edmund and Alexander's sons would be the ones to fulfil the dreams of their Fathers.
In Scotland, Captain Aidan walked the walls of Edinburgh and wondered if his sons would live as Scottish men. Perhaps they would, but in some far off desert under the rule of King Edward? Or worse still, would they grow up English?
England had laid siege to Edinburgh within a week of their defeat there. By that time, however, Aidan had managed to bring more men in from nearby villages and farms, and though they were mostly untrained they made up numbers, and that had been enough to scare England off.... for now.
But recently reports had come to him of English ships sailing up and down between the Irish and English coasts, and armies unloading into York in preparation for another shot at Edinburgh. When they came this time, they'd bring catapults and rams treated to be fire resistant. They'd bring siege ladders manned by experienced troops and siege towers that would allow huge numbers to jump onto the walls. They'd come from multiple angles, spreading the Scottish troops thin, and they would overwhelm them with sheer numbers alone. All ready a spy had been spotted inside the City Walls, only to escape when challenged. Who knew how many had entered the city unseen.
"Men approach from the West!" cried a guard, and Aidan briskly marched along the walls to see. He reached the guard, who pointed out towards the far distant shore where a large, unmarked mercenary ship sat anchored. About halfway between the distant coast and Edinburgh was the raised dust of what was clearly a marching army.
"How many?" he asked, as the guard lifted a looking glass to his eye.
"Close to 1500, by my reckoning," gulped the Guard,"Sir, they have catapults."
Aidan cursed, and asked himself why they were approaching from the West instead of from York.... unless they were to lay siege while reinforcements came up from York.... in which case it would not be a battle, but slaughter, the annihilation of every soldier in Edinburgh for sure. He took the looking glass from the guard and raised it to his own eye, grimacing at the approaching men covered in dust from marching, too far away still to make out faces or emotions.... but.... but.
"That's nae English red," he whispered, and squinted his eye tight as he looked through the glass again,"That's blue.... that's the blue of Scotland, by God!"
"Sir?" asked the Guard,"There are nae Scottish troops of such number anywhere but Egypt."
"The Crusade..." gasped Aidan, a huge smile crossing his face,"Do ye not see, man? Scotland joined the Crusade.... but the Crusade did nae happen! And what happened to the Crusaders?"
"They... they..." started the guard, his eyes growing wide and a smile lighting up his own face as he too realized what Aidan had already grasped.
"The army has returned to Scotland!" laughed Aidan, then roared with glee from the walls,"The army has returned to Scotland!"
And marching down the road far in the distance, Prince Alexander Canmore lead his 1500 men down the road towards Edinburgh.