Drums roll. In the distance, I can just make out the gathering thousands beyond the mist. The hoofbeats of hundreds of horses shake the grassy moor beneath our feet. Beasts dressed for war- their plates of steel glistening in the watery, failing sunshine of the early morning. The air is heavy with their breathing, and ours. Trumpets now. The call of a commander, and the shuffling of disciplined feet. They maneuver into formations, too afraid to disobey, present only because of orders and out of a wish to quell Plantagenet's fierce temper. We have made his last year full of wrath and uneasiness; his attempts to fight a war in France disturbed because he looks back over his shoulder to the North. The disobedient Scots are putting up a damned good fight for being filthy savages!
But we, the simple folk, do not come because of politics. We do not come for glory- what need has a farmer working his laird's lands for glory? We do not come for riches, for indeed we will be poorer ere this war is over. We come because of true fealty. Because the man we are loyal to knows full well the meaning of servitude, and is as loyal to us as he demands from his followers. We come because we want our sons to be free men, and our daughters to live in peace, not in fear of rape and slaughter from an English officer.
I can hear the trumpets louder now; a breeze gently urges the mist aside, leaving a gray sky. The deep green of the moor stretches beyond us, dotted with purple heather, droplets of blood from the angels above. The breeze stirs my plaid, lifting my hair. It is a sharp Highland breeze, that cools the blood and clears the mind.
In truth we have no choice but to be here; no man with a sense of honour would turn his tail and run. We are the fierce Highland charge; our cries run chills through our enemies. We defeated this same foe at Stirling, we may yet defeat them here.
A clear Highland song rises up from behind us. In the dim sky the Highland mountains loom from many miles away. They implore us to win; to win back the country that Plantagenet stole. We are the hope of the mountains, the lochs, the people. We are the hope of Wallace, though not many may realize. Because he is our hope.
Guardian of the Realm, he is one of our own. We stand here beside him at Falkirk, not truly in defiance of the English- though we hate them with a coursing rage through our bones- but to honour our pledge. For some that pledge was unspoken, but it exists just the same. There is a difference between the thrones in England and Scotland, and that difference is what calls the common people to follow him. The King of England is just that, King of the land, and everyone who happens to be within those borders. But the King of the Realm of Scotland is called the King of Scots. The King of the people, and it is for the people whom Wallace fights, God bless him.
The jeers begin now. Screaming erupts from both ends of the moor, a mixture of Gaelic and English. Wallace, at the fore of it all, unmounted but still towering over everyone, raises a mighty hand. Everything is now silent on our side of the moor. All around me, men shift. Out of fear, anger or urgency, none can say. The clink of steel hitting steel is common, men bang their weapons together. I however, have onlyu one weapon, like so many other Highlanders. Compared to an English knight, I am almost naked. Beneath my plaid, there is a leather jerkin. Beneath my kilt, nothing. My head is bare save the caress of the morning breeze. I carry only a spear, used for my schiltrom. I am a farmer, I carry no sword, wear no mail. I am resigned that I will probably die, here on this deep, mossy moor. If the tight-packed organization of the schiltrom breaks down, I will certainly die, with nothing but my dirk to protect me from the onslaught of heavy cavalry. A spear has no use in close contact fighting.
Wallace is staring at the army. Behind those keen eyes, his mind is working, I can tell. There have been rumours that he feels unworthy to call himself Guardian, and believes he has made a mistake in fighting a real battle. But heros rarely think they are worth renown, and the weaklings are the ones who believe themselves to be above the status of God. The odds are forever against us. Men are looking to him now, as I do. My eldest son stands beside me, hero-worshipping the large, broad man standing stoic as a Highland mountain himself.
They charge, cavalry and light horse coming together in a whirlwind of bay, chestnut and gray. Armour flashing, they are silent, utter no cries. They are a perfect, disciplined machine. But we are ready, formed into tight- knit groups with spears pointing at all levels, designed to take down the poor beasts galloping towards us. The knights who are felled, we slaughter. Then comes the next wave.
But it is none so easy, nor so organized. What is seen is a mêlée of bodies, hooves flashing and legs flailing, men shrieking as they fall to their deaths. Already I see a schiltrom has fallen apart. What is left after agonizing minutes are isolated schiltroms, surrounded by footmen now. Scots whose schiltroms have failed either try to hold their own with their dirks or English swords lying unused and bloodied, or join another schiltrom. Nothing seems to work. Hope is failing fast. Where is the Bruce?
Now the Comyns begin to flee. Their banner is caught up in the breeze. Do they feel no shame, abandoning their leader? Their horsemen gallop into and beyond the forest. Everyone looks to Wallace. He is in the middle of a hard- pressed group of his most loyal and close friends. They die around him, he is flecked with their blood. Yet he fights on, as all must do. My son falls to the ground. Oh, where is the Bruce? Wallace has no hope of getting out alive. The English horse mill around, over the piles of my kinsmen and theirs, and they pick off the straggling Scots warriors. We fight for our lives, the cause dying just as surely as Wallace will. At least we will have fought.
An axe swings towards me, whistling with its speed, the wielder cursing at me. I duck, a lock of my auburn hair falls to the ground, what should have been my head. My wife brushed my hair, long and straight, the morning I left to join Wallace's army. She plaited it, tying it back with a leather thong. It flows free now, piece of leather long forgotten on the moor that slowly turns to red. The axe lets loose again. This time, it connects, deep into my chest. I fall beside my son. My vision is fading, slowly fading. Saying a prayer through lips struggling to draw breath, I hear a trumpet. English re-enforcements, probably. I pray to die quickly, grasping my son's bloodied hand in mine, also soaked in blood. Soon it will all be over. Many men around us are falling, too loyal to the man who has moved mountains to flee and leave him stranded and alone.
A familiar sound rings in my ears, causing me to lift my head in disbelief. I wedge formation, spear-headed by the Bruce banner streams towards the pocket where Wallace stands. The air is filled with cries of "A Bruce, A Bruce!", the Lord Robert of Carrick's slogan. Smiling, I lay my head down. My life has not been in vain, I realize, feeling the skin of my flesh and blood clasped with mine. Slowly, my world fades, vision grows dark, and long after the sky has faded to nothingness, I still hear the Highland song, fainter and fainter, and the mountains seem to sing with glory.
A/N: Well, what did you think? Review if you wish, and if I get some positive feedback, I may write a series of vignettes about Wallace from different points of view. Thanks for reading.