So sorry for the wait!
I originally planned on writing one, HUGE chapter, but I decided to split it in two. Here's the first part. Hopefully soon I'll have time to finish the second part.
Disclaimer: You know the routine. Want Braveheart...Don't own...keep your filthy hands off my characters...Yadah, yadah, yadah.
I sighed loudly as the camp rushed around me. Wallace was readying to march to Stirling, to meet the English. I dug my toe through the loose dirt before me in frustration. Those past two days, I'd never been in a fouler mood. I avoided any person—man or woman—and those I encountered met my sharp tongue. I didn't mean to act so…bratty. I regretted any cruel words as soon as they left my throat, but at the same time, I didn't. Aye, I know, I was a mad little lass.
As the soldiers bustled about, I was going to return to my bedroll to sleep a bit more, when Wallace approached me, adourned in leather-and-iron armour. "Listen, lass," he said to me as he cinched his armour into place. "In case you're having any thoughts of sneaking along with us men, you'd best leave those thoughts alone. I won't have your death on my conscience."
I blinked at him. "I wasn't even—"
He slid a leather, spiked covering onto his arm. "Don't tell me you weren't. I've little time. Just make sure you don't come...Steward, where are those blasted horses?!" he called as he strode off.
I blinked again. Little did Wallace know, he had just promoted exactly what he only then forbid.
It was quite easy to fit into the Scotsmen. All I needed to do was steal a kilt and shirt from the drying laundry, bind my chest flat, braid my hair, and rub some extra dirt over myself. Now, actually figuring out how to wear the kilt was a completely different matter…Anyway, when I was done, I easily passed as a scrawny, young soldier. No way in all the hells was I going to be a good little lassie and do what Wallace bid me. No, I would show him. It would be easy. …Oh, god was I naïve.
The march was one of the more difficult things I'd ever done. Stomping around muddy, rainy trails when I had only just recovered from my stab was not in my list for a perfect week. Not to mention hiding my face from the few who actually knew me, eating meagre "meals", and sleeping on the cold, wet ground with no blanket. Never would my bedroll leave my side if I returned. Never, ever, ever.
It took two weeks to march to the battle site—two of the most miserable weeks of my life, mind you. We were allowed to rest a sleepless night until we would storm onto the battlefield, and join with some unknowing lords' army at the back of one side of the field. I truly tried to be rested that night, but it was impossible while knowing I was marching onto the battlefield, and either getting off alive, or staying there for eternity in the carnage after the battle, my body sprawled and bloodied among others. That last thought chilled me thoroughly, and by the time I fell asleep, I was dreaming up laughing Englishmen and dying Scots.
"Lad, wake up," a voice said softly, twining through my restless sleep. "We're almost on the march. Come on, lad."
I blinked, and then opened my eyes fully to see a grizzly veteran soldier, to whom I had taken a liking. I groaned. "Leave me alone, Sean," I grumbled, rolling my back to the man and closing my eyes.
"Fine," I heard Sean say. "But I've this bucket of nice, cold river-water, saved for dumpin' onto young lads who don' waken when asked…"
My eyes shot open at the threat. "I'm up, I'm up!" I yelped, jumping to my feet groggily. I blinked dazedly at Sean's empty hands. "Where's the bucket?"
He grinned. "I don' have one. I was jus' bluffin'."
I swore and observed the forested camp. Soldiers were running everywhere, arming themselves, donning meek leather armour, and sharpening long spears. A few younger boys were readying horses for Wallace and his captains.
Sean sat on a log and picked up a bowl of blue paint. "Sit, lad," he said, patting the wood.
As I complied, I asked, "What's the paint for?"
Sean grinned. "It's the tradition of our ancestors," he explained, dipping his fingers into the substance. "Hold still." He reached towards my face with paint-wet fingers.
I held up my hand and backed up a bit. "Hold still for what?" I enquired warily.
The man grinned again. "I'll show you when I'm done." Though hesitant, I allowed Sean to press his fingers to my face, smearing blue over my cheeks, once I saw that other men indeed had their faces painted. When he finished, he handed the bowl to me. "Go ahead," he encouraged. I shrugged and repeated his actions. I ran aggressive arrows down the man's cheeks, a mask around his eyes, and spikes over his brow. When finished, Sean took the bowl and gave it to another group of men. The veteran then gestured for me to follow him, and he led me to a spring. "See what ye look like," he laughed, pointing to the water.
I looked into the calm, reflective water and jumped backwards. My face looked inhuman, and very intimidating. Sean had painted forked horns sprouting from my brows, intense curves over the bridge of my nose, flecked patterns on my cheeks and striped below my eyes. I heard Sean chuckle and glanced at him in curiosity.
"I like what ye painted," he said, indicating his elaborate features. "Interesting meanings. Come on, we'd better get back to camp." As we walked back to the campsite, he pointed to my face. "The horns mean tranquillity and assertion of a stag, the curves suggest the brutality of the sea, and the stripes signify the fork of the devil."
I blinked. "The designs were supposed to mean somethin'?"
He frowned. "Well…yea. Ye didn't know that?"
As we approached camp, I sat on the ground and laughed. "No, I didn't. When are we leavin' for the field?"
Sean grimaced. "In twenty minutes. Don' remind me."
"What're battles like?"
Sean looked away, a distant dullness in his russet eyes. "Bad," was all he said.
"Aw, come on, MacAndrew," John, a young soldier, jeered. He lounged around our fire casually, already armed, and an aloof look in his eyes. "They can't be that bad."
Sean glared at the young man. "Ye've never been in war; ye wouldn't know."
John snarled suddenly, rising from the ground. "You think I've been livin' under a boulder, the past eighteen years of my life?" he shot viciously at the veteran, drawing his pike. "I've had to deal with Longshanks' hold on Scotland, just as much as any man here! Don' tell me I haven't been in war!"
A burly, dark soldier named Douglas stood purposefully. "Put it away, boy," he said quietly, resting a large hand on the hilt of his own axe.
John looked as if he was going to reply sharply, but seemed to think better of it and tucked his pike into his belt. He laughed, brushing the tension off as if it had never appeared. "Aye, I may have never been in a battle, but I know that the lassies like soldiers!" he said, nudging me with an elbow and sitting. "What 'bout you, Alan?" he asked, using the same I had given my male alias. "You ever had a lass?" I shook my head, obviously. I don't fancy other girls. "'Course not," he laughed. "You're just a wee boy!"
Knowing that the remark was meant to offend me, I clenched my jaw and looked away, pretending to have my dignity hurt.
"Leave him alone," Sean said, sounding bored.
John laughed. "Well, he is young. Have you heard him talk? His voice hasn't even cracked yet!" He grabbed my forearm. "An' look, his hair's as sparse as a girl's!"
I jerked my arm out of his grip. "Leave me be, John." I hoped the men hadn't noticed that my breath had quickened. John had been so close to guessing my true identity.
The young soldier snorted and stood. "I'm goin' for a piss," he announced, and marched off.
Douglas patted my shoulder. "Ignore the brute," he said lightly. I nodded, shrugging. He stared at me for a moment, then walked away to arm himself.
Sean approached and held a soft-leather tunic out to me. "Here," he said. It won't do much, but still it's better for ye than it will for me."
I blinked at him. "But—"
"Take it—" Sean looked around to see if anyone was close, then whispered, "Take it, lass. And before ye ask any unnecessary questions, it would be easy to tell who ye are for any father who has raised four daughters." He frowned. "Though I may not agree with ye riskin' yer life, I won't stop ye." He shoved the tunic in my hands. "See ye on the field, Alan," he said loudly, then striding over a large group of men to pick up a spear.
I hesitantly slipped the light leather over my head, musing on the thought of my secret being found so easily.
The English army is a terrifying sight. They are so organized…so uniform…so…immense. And their armour all looks the same, so that you'd swear they are all copies of a single person. Even generations from now, they will probably be the same. Aye, their weapons may improve and strategies may vary…but they will always be that same army.
However, these were not my thoughts as I stared at cold death from across the green field. Instead, I was thinking of how I may never see the golden Scottish sunrise again, or play memories of my childhood before my eyes. It was impossible not to think of these risks when Death beckoned with His cold finger, naught even a half-mile away. I licked my lips nervously and glanced at Sean, who stood two soldiers away. He gave me a small, sad smile and nodded. I looked back at the front and gulped. I was grateful that two lines of soldiers were between me and the English. So grateful.
Four horses were galloping back to our line from the middle of the field. I prayed that Wallace and the nobles had negotiated a treaty with the English, but when Wallace dismounted from his horse and joined his captains on the line, I knew that was not the case. We would fight after all.
I caught a glimpse of Stephen as he stood after praying. His face was painted, as mine was, but in a resemblance of slashing claw marks. The woad hue pronounced his blue eyes and contrasted his dark hair, and played across his expressionless face as he stared at our enemy. I prayed to any being listening that he would survive the battle.
Intensely we stared at the English, and they at us. But as my heavy heart sunk and I was sure I would never leave that field, a sudden cry burst through the air, followed by another, and another, and another, until the entire Scottish army erupted into war screams. I found even myself hurling insults and bellows at the English, thrusting my shortsword into the air, then clashing it together with my dagger.
One man stepped forward from the rest of the army, dropped his weapons…and lifted his kilt skyward to reveal himself to the English. The rest of the soldiers thought this to be, apparently, a very ingenious idea, and with a roar, soon every Scot was proudly displaying his manhood to our opponents. Every Scot except me, that is. A vulgar act such as that would have exposed my true sex…not to mention draw multiple male gazes.
Then, flags rose from the other side of the field. Archer flags. The Scots immediately hushed and dropped their kilt hems, retrieving their weapons and tensing for the onslaught. I looked at Stephen and Sean a last time before watching the Englishmen again. I saw the arm wave of one of the men on a horse, and the scarcely audible cry of, "Loose!" followed by the thrum of released bowstrings and the buzz of flying arrows. They flew towards us, a black fire of Hell ready to devour. Men watched, watched…waited…waited…raised their shields as the missiles flew towards them.
The repeated sound of thwap thwap thwap thwap! and cries of agony filled the air as the arrows found their targets. The soldier next to me screamed as an arrow dug into his stomach. I turned my head to look at him, just when something flew past my ear and shot into the man behind me. Another arrow barely brushed Sean's leather armour, so that I felt only a slight sting. I would have to thank the veteran later, if I didn't die.
The missiles finally ceased piercing the Scots. Men peeked out from over their shields or behind raised arms. They then stood and began to roar at the English in triumph…then…turned, bent and bared their arses at our enemies. This act I partook in, making sure to use my kilt to cover up anything that would have revealed my gender. I just couldn't resist taunting my parents' murderers like that. Also, if I didn't, I would have stood out…considering every member in our army, save the Calvary, was shaking their arse at the English.
Unexpectedly, we heard arrows release again and immediately turned to duck behind shields and swords. As they descended into the Scots, a few men were unlucky enough to not turn around in time and had arrowheads lodged into their buttocks, poor lads.
When the missles ceased piercing into us, I saw Wallace stand alone, and wave his weapons at our Calvary. "Ride!" he called. I looked over my shoulder, still crouched down, to see the Scottish horsemen turn and ride off of the field. My jaw dropped as my mind buzzed rapidly. Where were they going? Horses, even light calvary, were a main part of the Scottish army. Surely Wallace knew that!
Aye, he does know, the reasonable part of me--a small, often ignored part, mind you--whispered soothingly to myself. He's a soldier--trust him to make the field decisions. You just focus of surviving today. Deep inside of me knew that the voice was right, and I swallowed hard, trying to shake off my anxiousness. I stood, as the rest of the army did. I tucked my weapons into my belt, wiped sweaty palms on my kilt, then drew my dagger and shortsword again.
On the English side, the man who had ordered the archers to fire raised his arm again, and cried something inaudible. But the raised Calvary flags varified what he had commanded. Knights perched upon great, armoured warhorses and bearing menacing lances. They trotted out onto the feild at an even pace, armour heard clicking together even from where I stood. Seemingly hours passed as the mounted warriors approached us Scots. I looked at Sean again, hoping to catch his eye, but he was staring at the knights. My gaze then shifted to Stephen, then to Douglas, but both appeared to be mesmerized at the sight of the horsemen. As a last resort, I looked at John. His dark eyes, like mine, were shifty, and I caught his attention. He tried a weak grin, but failed and the attempt looked more like a grimace. I nodded to him, my brow furrowed, and looked back at the feild as I heard the speed and volume of hoofbeats increase.
The Calvary now charged fully, their war cries ringing from within their helms. As they came at us, I heard Wallace calmly say, "Hold."
Faster they came...
Closer now, closer, closer...
Still the horsemen came, thundering hooves like the hellish storms that brewed in the winter.
The riders leapt over the bank, lowering their lances to impale the first line of Scots. What was Wallace waiting for? Now, you curst man! I screamed at him silently. NOW!
First thing first, before I begin my usual plea for reviews. The true meanings of the Celtic marks the Scots painted on eachother are probably MUCH different than what I wrote. I just made the meanings up, because I'm lazy like that. O.O
Now: Reviews and even Flames are much appreciated.