Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Science Fiction > Witch of the Glens 峡谷女巫 > 14. The Battle of Tippermuir
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
14. The Battle of Tippermuir
 At last word went round that the army was to move, but not, as Kelpie had expected, away from the danger of Perth and Lord Elcho’s great army. Quite the contrary. They were, it seemed, going to take Perth.
Recklessness and practical caution fought within Kelpie. A fine, daft, gallant, and suicidal idea it seemed to her. If she had any sense in the head of her, she would take her leave now and head for safety. But she decided, instead, to go along but to stay with the women and children well behind the lines, once the fighting started, and then take to the hills when the battle was lost.
The small, poorly equipped army gathered itself together and started south to the sound of pipes playing valiantly. They had got no farther than the hill of Buchanty when they ran into one of the enemy forces which
 had been surrounding them all the time. A full five hundred bowmen it must be, and Kelpie looked around hastily for something to hide under.
But she had reckoned without Montrose. He and Antrim rode to meet the two leaders of the bowmen, and they talked. And, sometime during the talking, Montrose cast his spell, for presently the two forces spread out over the purple masses of blooming heather and ate together, the leaders still talking over wine and food.
And then one of the enemy leaders sprang to his feet, and Kelpie could hear his words clearly. “You’re wrong!” he shouted. “’Tis not two thousand men ye have, but two thousand and five hundred! For we’ll never be fighting against Montrose!”
Kelpie shook her head wonderingly. Why on earth did Montrose fight at all, if he could do this? Or did Argyll and others have some kind of counter-magic? Kelpie began to feel newly discouraged about her own prospects for magical powers, with so much competition about.
The newly expanded army moved on again, undisturbed by the news that, in addition to his seven thousand infantry, Lord Elcho also had some eight hundred cavalry and nine pieces of heavy artillery. The Highlanders, like Kelpie, put their faith in the magic of Montrose. With him to lead them, no force on earth could beat them.
They spent the night on the moor of Fowlis, and early in the morning were away down the Small Glen, and on
 to Tippermuir. There stood the walled town of Perth, some three miles away. And between stood the Covenant army, spread wide, waiting to catch Montrose’s impudent small army between its fierce jaws.
Kelpie looked at it with awe, and some of her assurance left her. Surely, now, Montrose was stretching his powers too far! Lord Elcho would be wiping them out as easily as Antrim might knock down herself. There they stood, six deep, every man protected by corselet and an iron headpiece, and the most of them armed with muskets, against one-third the number of Highlanders, who wore only ragged kilts and rawhide brogans and had claymores and bows and arrows, or no weapons at all. It was a sad contrast.
The citizens of Perth seemed to regard the coming battle as a fine new kind of Sabbath sport, for they had turned out in great numbers to watch the fun. Kelpie shoved through the palpitating crowd of women and children, now well behind the army, until she reached a spot on high ground which gave her both a good view and a quick escape route for when she needed it. And she expected to need it. She hoped that Ian might escape the slaughter somehow, but she was going to be quite sure that she did.
Ian, who had an even better view in his spot in the front row of the battle line, was not feeling very optimistic
 himself. He looked with resignation over the flaunting blue banners of the Covenant ranks bearing the motto: For Christ’s Crown and Covenant—and then back to the one brave royal banner—three golden leopards on a red background—floating above the Highland rabble. The breeze rippled its folds and shivered across the purpled moors. It seemed too fine a day for men to die.
Alex turned from chaffing his cousins among the small band of Keppoch MacDonalds and looked at Ian. There was a touch of pallor beneath the sunburn of his angular face, but his eyes were bright.
“And are you frightened, Ian?” he asked with a crooked grin.
“As ever was!” retorted Ian forthrightly, and Alex chuckled.
“And I too,” he agreed. “My cousin Archie has just been saying it’s only a fool does not fear danger—in which case, I’m a wise man indeed!”
Ian looked around him. Most of the ordinary clansmen seemed not much worried. There was an almost supernatural faith in Montrose, that he would bring victory at any odds. And Antrim—the magnificent Colkitto—strode down the line with confidence in every inch of him. His legs were pillars beneath the MacDonald kilt he wore, and they were matched by the size of his shoulders.
“I think he isn’t afraid,” observed Ian.
Alex nodded agreement. “Montrose is worried, though,”
 he murmured. “You can see it behind his eyes. What is happening now?” For one of Montrose’s officers was going toward Lord Elcho, waving a white flag of truce.
“Here’s Ranald,” said Archie. “He’ll know. Ranald learns everything.” If Archie was frightened, one would never know it. His black eyes sparkled wickedly from under his thick black hair, and he turned eagerly to make room for another Keppoch cousin. “What is it Ranald, avic?”
“An envoy of courtesy,” reported Ranald, shaking his fair head wonderingly. “Montrose has sent to ask is it against their principles to fight on the Sabbath, and would they rather wait for tomorrow. Only Montrose would think to make such a gesture!”
Archie, who seemed to have a low opinion of Covenant principles, shook his head disapprovingly. Alex opened his mouth for a jesting remark, and forgot to close it again. For, incredibly, outrageously, the envoy was being taken prisoner! He was seized, bound, hustled off through the Covenant ranks.
Incredulous anger rippled through the Highland army. Ian stood aghast. “He couldn’t!” he whispered. “He couldn’t violate a flag of truce!” And for once even the more cynical Alex shared Ian’s feelings.
Oddly, Kelpie’s face came to Alex at that moment. Her narrow, slant-eyed, impudent face would be wondering what was so awful about violating a white flag. Was it any
 worse than killing a man in battle? And the envoy wasn’t even dead—yet, anyway. To his disgust, Alex found himself, in his own mind, trying to explain it to her. “Dhiaoul!” he muttered and turned his attention to the matters at hand.
It was quite possible that Lord Elcho had done himself an ill service, for a flame of Celtic rage had engulfed the Highland army. Alex found that he had shifted forward an inch or two without knowing it, and the rest of the army with him. Those without weapons had picked up stones. For a moment it seemed that they would all break into a wild charge, but Montrose achieved the minor miracle of holding them back. “Wait!” said his outflung arm. “Wait!” boomed Antrim. “Be patient a wee while, men of my heart, and we soon will be giving them cold steel for it.”
And they waited, only inching forward a toe at a time, as the Covenant army moved closer, until not a hundred paces separated them. A long wait it seemed, long enough for all the army to hear Lord Elcho’s answer to the message of the unfortunate envoy. “The Lord’s Day,” he had said, “is fit for the Lord’s work of exterminating the barbarous Irish and Highlanders.”
“When we charge,” muttered Archie, who had been in battles before, “keep just one thing in mind. Choose your enemy and kill him, and then a second man if you can.”
“Very well so,” agreed Alex mildly. “And what will I do with my third man?” He was pleased that his voice had just the nonchalance he wanted for it.
Ian’s was equally cool. “Just be leaving him to me,” he said. “I’ll have had my three by then.”
Another inch forward, and the Cov............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved