This is a short story by Marie Hefele, inspired by the events of the Battle of Falkirk which took place on 22 July 1298. The story won the first prize in the teen category of the 500 Words for Falkirk short story competition.
I have spent my entire life seeking something more. Something bigger. But for the most part,
something more exciting. My life as a farmers’ boy in Falkirk certainly lacked that. Excitement. I dreamed of a life as a soldier. A man, brave and strong defending the honor of king and country.
I was 17 when I first heard of William Wallace and his uprisings against Edward, who with no right occupied and terrorized our Scotland. He was a smart man, to be sure, but unlike Wallace, he had no honor, and his thirst for glory and power never-ending. Wallace embodied everything I strove to become. A man longing for the freedom of his beloved country. With Falkirk being relatively close to English strongholds I have felt the restrictions of their occupation stronger than most. The constant limitation and suppression only made me wish even more to break free from my dull and repetitive daily routine.
The little time that I had for myself I spent researching about the great independence warrior. News about his triumphs in Lanark and Scone traveled fast and as his troops began to move towards Sterling Bridge, I couldn’t help but feel excitement and hope. Adventure and change were within my grasp. Sterling Bridge was only a few miles away and the Scottish troops could surely use my help. If not as soldier, then as footboy or helper. I was ready to take any position as long as it would get me out of this immensely tedious village. However, all this was just me daydreaming. My mother would never let me go to the front lines and I wouldn’t make it two miles trying to sneak away through the woods around our village. So, I forced myself back into reality, focused on my tasks and tried to ignore any urge and emotion. Days later I heard a rumor that Wallace, against all odds, won a great victory at Sterling Bridge and left over 5000 English dead, littering the field surrounding the cross over and was now moving further south towards Falkirk. And so was Edward with a 15000 men strong army. I knew immediately what this would mean for us. My brothers and I would have to join
Wallace’s troops. I should have been mad with joy.
A few days later I found myself standing on a hillside south of my town armed with nothing more than a small silver dagger which has been passed down for generations in our family. I could barely see the English with their neat uniforms on the other side of the marsh. My senses were heightened like never before. I could smell the scents of the hot July winds. I could hear a man softly praying a few lines behind me. I could feel the silver getting heavier and hotter in my hands. My brief moment of peace was interrupted by a voice howling: “I have brought you to the ring. Now dance if you can!”.
I turned around and ran.
Marie Hefele is a 17 years old Scottish history enthusiast from Hungary, who aspires to study medicine. In her free time she enjoys dancing, hiking and skiing, and once the pandemic is over she's planning her first trip to Scotland, to visit the Highlands.