A/N: I'm currently experimenting with a style of writing called a "50 Sentences" challenge – you are given a table of fifty prompts and have to write one sentence to go with each prompt. Naturally, sometimes the grammar gets a bit flimsy, but it's a fun exercise. For 2011, I am writing a series of 50 Sentences challenges (four per month – or, if I miss a month, it will be covered elsewhere) covering many different fandoms and characters. Since I couldn't find a decent category to put the series in (this really isn't a crossover, so the crossover options are out), I am posting each entry separately in its own fandom. This is the fourteenth ficlet in the series.
If you'd like to keep track of the series, there's an index in my profile listing the titles and fandoms of them all.
Thanks for reading!
Not Every Man Really Lives
Children heard stories of brave heroes who traversed dangerous lands and waged wars to achieve their quests – but the greatest task lay at home in the hands of farmers and peasants: a country of their own.
On the misty shores of history, truth was seldom remembered in the stead of myths that favoured the victor.
When he was a child, William thought little about the land around him – it was not until he returned from his travels that Scotland became the home he swore never to relinquish.
As the stories of his conquests spread from village to village, a hero arose worthy of the grand myths of old.
Angus was no more than fifteen and still looked more like a boy than a man when he faced the armies of the English king and wondered what he was fighting for.
Hamish had thrown the first rock, hitting William on the forehead and knocking him over; the boy struggled to his feet, leapt on his attacker's back and together they tumbled into the stream – they became fast friends as soon as the blood stopped flowing.
When Isabelle stood before the altar, she swore an oath aloud to the son of her father's enemy, but a curse within for the husband she could never love.
He received the claymore not long after Stirling; it was not a grand sword, but something made with purpose, force and strength imminent in its very blade.
Murron felt the hungry eyes of the soldiers on her whenever they passed through the village, always watching her, no matter how much dirt she rubbed on her face or how many weeds she tangled in her hair.
Robert kept the blood-stained, dirty embroidered cloth on him at all times as a tribute – it was the last memento of Wallace's life on this earth.
In deference to tradition – even as the English army bore down on them – they turned as one, shouting and hollering, and raised their kilts.
She was thankful for Nicolette – in this barren land of drafty stone and enclosed walls, at least she had the small blessing of a single friend.
To her enemies, England was nothing more than a tyrant standing behind the battle line, taking what she pleased with deadly accuracy.
Stephen never said what exactly had caused him to leave "his" island – perhaps his fellows had thrown him into the sea for his bad mouth and claims to speak to God and he had miraculously swum to Scotland's shores – but whatever the reason, the Irishman had proven himself one of them more than even the Scottish lords could say.
When Murron saw him standing on the hills outside her house, she clambered through the window and ran after him, gleefully fleeing from her mother's shouts of disapproval.
"I thought he was taller than that," Angus whispered to his fellow as Wallace rode past, hawk-like blue eyes piercing the opposing army with the ferocity of a man born from vengeance.
Her husband was useless, but she knew how to play him and his damned father – the key was to stay in the middle ground: quiet, but not silent; respectful, but not useless; and abundantly feminine, but not submissive.
York's gates were closed and barred, but that could not stop the burning hatred that set it aflame.
It was difficulty to see the right path to take: siding with Wallace would condemn them to the eventual brutal annexation of Scotland and thousands of dead, but allegiance to Longshanks would result in immediate bloody death by Wallace's personal hand.
Even when he lay on his sickbed, Edward the Longshanks' stare was impassive and stony, incapable of straying from his decision.
As his blood seeped into the ground of Falkirk, he felt himself being pulled up and lifted to safety – but the image of the Bruce's face was burned in his memory.
When it rained and the castle seemed even darker than before, Isabelle dreamed – perhaps she had been born a peasant, destined to a life of labour and mud and cold, but then, at least, she would have seen the sun.
None knew how Wallace had entered Mornay and Lochlan's chambers and escaped so easily; he was like a phantom, bringing brutal death to those he deemed guilty.
The two armies – one of trained soldiers, the other of raging, passionate rebels – swarmed toward each other, closing the gap in a swirl of blood and steel.
The English had been setting traps for him for years; even now, as he lay enflamed with pain, moments and memories flashing before his eyes, he continued to swear that he would never give them what they wanted – a cry for English mercy.
Robert strove to be a good man, a good leader – but as the years passed, he began to realised how there was no such thing as good men, but men who made choices for the greater good or men who made choices for personal beliefs.
Whenever she had the chance, Murron snuck her mother's wedding dress from under her parents' bed and carefully added her own embroidery – she was insistent on having her own wedding dress, something she had crafted herself for the occasion.
Stephen stood in the square, his eyes raised to the heavens as William was dragged forward to his death – Father, if you love me at all, have mercy on him and let him die quickly.
Isabelle was witness to the slow fall of the English court; she swore she would allow it to rebuild only under her hand.
When she asked him was right he possessed to invade a land that was not his, he merely looked at her with that savage stare and laughed – she waited, determined to be just as stubborn as he.
Young Hamish picked up a stone and threw it at the back of William's head, but lost his footing on the rocks and fell into the river; he resurfaced moments later to see that he had missed his now grinning target.
"Each man is as much a beast as the next, even a king," she murmured, her fingers digging into the silent, ill man's shoulder, "but surely even you are capable of mercy."
Wallace's words could stir men into a passionate rage – it was something both wonderful and terrible to behold.
Blood spilled, villages pillaged, lands destroyed – this realm that burned was in ruins, but at least it was something they could call home.
Fate was fickle and God chose each man's time in turn, but that did not stop him from carving his own life in this brutal, wonderful world.
Gradually, her gowns seemed to become tighter; it was not until she had passed the time for her monthly courses twice that she was certain of the beautiful truth.
His father was weak and rotting with disease, but his words stung and drew power still.
Men like Mornay were in a position to bring victory, but they fled from it with fear, with greed, choosing bribes over any sense of honour – for that, they would die.
Perhaps the Bruce was right; perhaps he was fuelled by rage and there was nothing but blind fury in the place of courage – even so, righteous wrath was better than noble cowardice.
He had sworn to Murron that he would love her and no other as long as he lived; though she was long dead, he felt the guilt the moment desire for the princess awoke.
She was royalty; she had aided him far more than he had ever expected, crossing the land to personally deliver a message that saved his life; and yet she was a woman, yearning for escape from the same king that bound him to war – in many ways, they were one and the same.
Men followed Wallace blindly, believing in the legends of his accomplishments – this man, the former farmer, was something Robert, a lord born into nobility, could only strive to be.
The years passed and with each new spring it became more and more difficult to remember why he did what he did, save for one thing – freedom, whatever it meant.
Hamish watched silently as his friend was torn apart before a screaming crowd – even in death, William became something greater than he had ever been in life.
As his friends fell and were taken from him, Stephen did not know what remained for him in Scotland – perhaps the Almighty said it was time for him to return to his island once more.
He knew she would be waiting for him on the other side – a smile, a tear, a welcome for the weary warrior who had endured so much in her name.
Wallace's death was a pointed warning, one that went unheeded by the Scots.
He could hear the shouting of the crowds from his prison cell as he prayed for the strength to die well – even as his body trembled with fear for what lay in store.
When Hamish returned to his village, he saw Murron's grave, along with those for William's father and brother – he bowed his head, knowing there would be one grave missing from this number forever.
All men died, but there were those who were remembered: the traitor, the warrior, the brother, the knight, the hero – a man could be all in the face of history, though death had taken him, his name and deeds lasting forever.