Part 4Vortigern's army vanished after the battle near Londonium, having destroyed the Pharaoh's army. Some said he commanded an army not of men but ghosts that could appear and disappear at whim. The gael had certainly proven his might, and life in Calleva went on uninterrupted. It's people drank and celebrated the winter away as they had every winter, and ran their battle between two roaring bonfires to cleanse them as they had every winter. The war had barely touched Calleva, for marshy plains of Londonium had absorbed the corpses of the dead.
Only a bleached elephant skull, hanging in the city tavern as a trophy, served to remind the people of Calleva of their impending retribution.
That spring, the pharaoh returned with another army.
Cocolitanus, son of Cacumattus, had only been the garrison commander since earlier that winter. He had inherited the post after the heroic death of his father in the battle that had saved Calleva from the invaders. Now he found himself in a similar situation to that which killed his father: two hundred forty one men against the pharaoh's army. This time, however, there was no army of highlanders to save his men.
He remembered rushing to the gates as soon as he heard the news, only to find they had already been sabotaged, the hinges melted by some unholy alchemy.
It was hopeless. How could a few hundred men hold off an entire army? Certainly such a thing had never happened, and was impossible.
* * * * *
Heruben Ptolemy sat atop his horse, a stony look on his face. He could remember the joy he felt when spring had finally arrived, after the winter of their arrival. Like the last spring, the iron gray shroud had lifted from around the country, the warm and welcome sun had emerged and life had returned to the countryside. He could remember how he felt, a warm breeze behind him and the entire Ptolomaic Civilization at his back.
A year later, spring had returned, the sun on his shoulders and a cool breeze around his ankles. He had ridden through fields of blossoms with another army behind his back, but still he felt nothing, no cheer could lift him from the mood that had befallen him. The Heruben Ptolemy who had returned from the catastrophic battle that winter, bloodied and exhausted was a different man that had left before. Even the good news of the coming of age of Borus and Amyrtaios Ptolemy failed to brighten his mood significantly.
The Pharaoh had become a withdrawn and brooding man, and his family were left secretly wondering if part of him had died on the battlefield.
Khu the Deceiving had jammed the city gates open, as he had been charged to do, and the city garrison had made their stand at the village square. Wordlessly, Heruben turned and surveyed the men around him: eighty bodyguard cavalry, eight surviving elephants and eighteen hundred miscellaneous infantry. All of them met his gaze, expectantly.
They were waiting for a speech, he realized. He had almost forgotten something that before had come naturally to him. He spoke. "These past two years have cost us dearly. These savages have cost us dearly. That broken gateway ahead of us is a border, between our world and theirs." The pharaoh had become quite wild-eyed by then, his speaking turning into shouting. "Only cross that border with me if you have something to AVENGE!"
Without saying another word, Heruben about-faced, smoothed his white cape, and charged. The entire army charged, the Pharaoh at the head.
The Britons found themselves hugely outnumbered by a raging foe. Those that escaped the wrath of the pharaoh and his bodyguards were ground into jelly by furious elephants, who had seen the rest of their herd killed on the battlefield at the hands of britons.
Heruben Ptolemy slashed and slashed, severing limbs and heads alike. Yet every time he brought his sword down on an enemy he saw more and more friendly faces around him and fewer enemies. Until he saw no enemies. The battle was over before the infantry had even reached the gate.
The men about him cheered at their conquest, but the emptiness Heruben felt only persisted. He had taken no joy from this slaughter, because he knew that somewhere, out there, his nemesis was still there. Where was he?
It was believed that Vortigern really had left Calleva believing he had proven his might to the rest of Britain. Maybe, just maybe though, the highlander had seen that day what he had created in the pharaoh after destroying his army, and feared what he saw.
* * * * *
Euergetes the Profane awoke again to the sound of footsteps entering the hut. He was in the same position they had left him in before: bloodied and hunched-over, tied into a large chair. He had been drifting in and out of consciousness ever since the savage beating four hours ago. One again, he recounted to himself how exactly he had found himself in this position.
It had been a chilly night, and the frost still clung to the grass. He and his mercenary band had been on the move when they were attacked by a huge army that seemed just to melt out of the forest. He had no idea where it came from.
The mercenary slingers he had picked up unloaded their entire satchels into the approaching army, but the enemy kept on coming, until they filled the horizon.
He had fought the good fight, and even managed to panic several of the enemy units into routing. Euergetes chuckled at the insults he had hurled as he rode into his last charge. One in particular he had directed at the enemy general: "I'll make you scream like your sister nine months from now when she dies giving birth to my bastard son."
If words meant anything in battle, he would have yelled a hole through the enemy army. Unfortunately, only sticks and stones could do that, and the enemy had more. And here he was, captured.
And what a rotten imprisonment it had been so far. Euergetes the Profane had always believed that when everyone around you was offended, you were doing something right. Unfortunately, he didn't speak gaelic and his captor, a monster of a man named Vortigern, didn't speak greek. The beatings Euergetes didn't mind. He was dead already. He just couldn't stand the thought of dying without giving the enemy a piece of his mind.
His redheaded captor stood in front of him, jobbering with his bodyguards in gaelic. Then, they all stopped, and they all looked expectantly at Euergetes. Vortigern crouched slowly in front of Euergetes and spoke. "Pto-lo-maeoi? Where Far-row?"
Even if he did respond in greek, telling him everything he knew and begging for his life, would the Gael understand him? Euergetes took his time formulating his response so the highlander would understand him perfectly. Then, very slowly, he leaned toward Vortigern, looked him straight in the eye, and broke wind, loudly and sloppily.
Ironically, the anger behind the highlander's blow made Euergetes' death painless, for the sword connected with the Ptolemaic's neck so swiftly that his death was instant.