While his brethren fought and died in Hibernia, Heruben spent his days with his military cabinet, planning the future of warfare. Even when mayors and ministers petitioned him with policy and law, he secretly dreamed of gore and glory. As his relatives married and built lives in Britannia, he had poured over battle records, histories and theories. He had known classical Hellenic tactics failed miserably against the natives, but it hadn't been until the conquest of Calleva that he had had the time to learn from his enemies.
Now, in the highlands, he sat at the rear of the new army he had crafted. Three quarters of his phalanx units had traded in their spears and segmented armor for swords, shields and chain mail. Heruben personally had retrained them during the two years it took for Acestes to conquer Hibernia, and had sculpted them into highly flexible and mobile heavy infantry. They learned to fight not as a wall but as a unit, emphasizing teamwork and coordination. Heruben called them the Legeonarioi.
In front of them, stood the Hypaspistai, much lighter phalanx units who wielded shorter spears and lighter armor, which had been dyed from the purple thistle flowers that grew in abundance in northern Britain. Only the best pezoi spearmen had been chosen to remain as phalanx units.
At the front of the army, the Peltastai shifted in their linen armor. Before they had been archers, but they had traded their bows for javelins. Though they had diminished range, the javelins flew straighter and were deadlier on impact, whereas arrows were easily blown off-course by the wind. Highly mobile and in supreme physical condition, the Peltastai were intended to serve as skirmisher troops to harass and slow down the enemy.
The highlands reminded Heruben of a mountain range, as if it had been shattered by some giant of giants. Peaks and ridges jutted chaotically from grasslands that concealed valleys and ravines. The terrain made marching difficult, but now his army stood at the bottom of a final ridge.
At the top, Vortigern waited patiently at the back of his army as it gazed down the slope at their attackers. All around him were men clad in cloth and chain, but his armor was greek, taken from the slain Euergetes Ptolemy.
Acestes no longer felt bored with battle. He was nervous as hell. Beside him sat Heruben Ptolemy, legendary conqueror of Britain, Pharaoh and reincarnation of the god Horus. His followers worshipped him as a god. At the top of the ridge was the dreaded and legendary Vortigern. "I don't like this." Acestes said to Heruben.
The pharaoh gave no response, his icy and determined stare remained fixed on the rebel battle flags that were peeking over the top of the ridge. He slowly drew his sword, and raised it. "Forward! Ahead one hundred paces!" The command echoed against the icy hills as the first British Legion began their ascent.
Heruben rode at the front of his army, until he could barely see the highlanders standing chest to chest at the top. He knew his nemesis waited right behind them.
"Vortigern!" He shouted in his most formal greek, "It doesn't have to end this way! Britain is mine, but the flame of the Britons will never be extinguished! Join me, Vortigern, and together we shall bring that fire to the far sides of the world!"
Slowly the highlander ranks parted, and Heruben gasped as he beheld Vortigern in Greek general's armor, riding a chariot that had been carved from the skull of an elephant. The highlander grimaced horribly, and then hurled insults and curses at the Ptolemaics with a voice that carried like thunder.
" He disappeared back over the crest of the ridge, as his men defiantly taunted and jeered.
"Then you shall be destroyed." Heruben muttered, in a sanguinary voice. "Peltasts, open fire!"
On the other side of the battle line, the same order had also been given.
The air became thick with spears, javelins and the cries of the dying as Ptolemaics and Highlanders both fell, impaled by the heavy projectiles. Thousands and thousands of the weapons rained down on both sides as men plucked them from the ground and the bodies of their dead comrades and hurled them back at their enemies. Amidst the never-ending exchange, the highlander infantry charged.
They fell upon the ptolemaics with a terrible fury, cleaving the peltasts with their heavy broadswords and battering them with their iron shields. Somewhere amongst the ranks, one of the Ptolemaics yelped "Run!" The entire formation broke, as seven hundred peltasts fled in terror from three hundred highlanders.
The three hundred highlanders pursued them, right into the waiting ranks of the Legionaries below. They were swallowed up and destroyed almost immediately.
Heruben watched as the skirmishing wave continued to flee in terror down the ridge. They had suffered huge casualties, but they had given the rest of the army enough time to climb the ridge uncontested. Now, his legionaries stood relatively level with the enemy. "All units! Charge!" They broke into a run, sheathing their swords between steps, and brought out the collapsed piluses hooked to their belts.
Still running, they took aim and hurled their weapons at the startled highlander ranks.
The highlanders had barely recovered from the rain of missiles before they were beset upon by thousands upon thousands of Ptolemaics. Even the phalanx units charged, their short spears lowered and their shields raised. Thousands of bodies collided as both sides locked in furious combat atop the ridge.
The two armies fought for what felt like days, neither side gaining or losing ground. Man for man, kill for kill, the balance of forces was evenly matched. The screaming and shouting of men, alive and dying, the clattering of weapons against metal, flesh and ground, the thudding of feet and the crunching of corpses; all these sounds converged into a single, low roar that drifted across the battlefield for miles.
Which is why Heruben almost missed the cry of one of his Hetairoi: "It's him!" and he saw Vortigern, his chariot racing up and down the main battle line, snapping limbs and splintering spines as the highlander general aboard struck all about him with his sword.
"There he is, THERE HE IS!" Heruben bellowed, his voice bubbling with obsessional madness. "To me, Hetairoi! Kill him! Kill him!" He kicked his horse into a run and plowed through dozen of highlanders and his own men, bobbing through the forest of spears and swords around him until he leapt through the line and into the trampled snow. Vortigern had seen him, and turned to meet him, raising his sword above his shoulders and halting the chariot.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl for the pharaoh. Heruben's horse leapt over the chariot, clearing the vehicle entirely. Both men roared as swords swung and steel flashed in the low winter sun.
The highlanders watched agape as Vortigern's body hit the ground wetly, followed moments later by his head, which landed several yards away. The man who had single-handedly killed a Ptolemy, who had obliterated two invading armies, the man who who had slain elephants, was dead and the pharaoh stood over the body, holding a shield across his chest and a sword in his hand, looking down at the bleeding mess.
Then Heruben looked up, meeting their gaze with a fierceome glower. The highlanders broke rank and fled. No mere mortal could fight Vortigern and still live. Truly the pharaoh must be a god.
As the broken and fleeing highlanders ran into the wilderness, Heruben remained where he stood. Acestes rode up to him and dismounted, surprised by how still his brother remained, despite witnessing the largest mass rout ever. Heruben appeared to have regained his composure, and Acestes was overjoyed. "Oh mighty pharaoh! You've done it. Truly none remain to question your awesome power!"
"I am at war only with the living." Heruben remained, quite still, until the last of the rebels had fled into the forest and the Ptolemaics remained alone, uncontested, on the ridge dominating the countryside. "I have come to terms with the dead." Then he dropped the shield and collapsed.
He had been holding his guts in with his shield.
* * * * *
Heruben Ptolemy never did return to Alexandria. That work he had left for his heirs, and that they left theirs. Change continued to sweep the world as the empires of antiquity winked out one by one. Like the Ptolemies before them, the Seleucids too were swept by the changing world around them.
Word would eventually reach the Ptolemies in Britain of the collapse of the Seleucid Empire at the hands of a mighty warlord from the east, Bryzos the Conquerer, who conquered and butchered from the eastern jungles of India all the way to Byzantium and Macedonia. It was said that Bryzos was imbued with the might of a god, but the Ptolemies whether Anubis had found an agent through which to exact his revenge on the Seleucids for the sacking of Egypt.
Though the Pharaoh was dead, his bloodline had become an inseparable part of Britannia, it's roots sinking more deeply into the land than the largest of trees. They flourished, inexorable, in Britain as a union of tribes. Time passed and the name Ptolemy was eventually forgotten completely, yet the descendants of Heruben Ptolemy, Pharaoh of Britain, continued to carry his blood, if not his name.
Before leaving the sands of Egypt, Heruben Ptolemy had uttered the words We will return. Fourteen centuries later, his oath was finally fulfilled when his descendants, unbeknownst to them, once more occupied the complete ancestral lands of the Egyptian Empire. And they finalized their return, their fulfillment of the Pharaoh's oath, with the following words:
A gah-lah bala to you too, laddie. Jerusalem is Scotland's!