Recommend Print

Alternative Histories - Falkirk

Written by The Highlander :: [Sunday, 10 July 2011 17:35] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 02 December 2012 22:21]

Click to subscribe
10th July, 1298, a field near the Town of Falkirk, Scotland
Night had descended upon the camp of the rebel Scottish army. Most of the 6000
men inside were fast asleep, blissfully unaware of the terrible news that had just
reached their commander, William Wallace. A scout had recently arrived with
word that a massive English army, lead by the famous King Edward ‘Hammer of the
Scots’ himself, was only a few miles away. Tomorrow Wallace knew that he would
be forced to the one thing he had tried to avoid since he had taken up arms
against the English, fight a pitched battle on their terms. Wallace had tried
to appear upbeat and confident when the news had arrived to prevent panic
spreading throughout the army, but now, alone in his tent, he was overcome with
despair. King Edward’s skills as a commander were legendary throughout Europe
and tomorrow he would be leading the pride of English chivalry against his
lightly armed foot soldiers. Never before had infantry managed to stand up to
the might of heavily armoured knights in open battle, and defeat here would
mean the end of all hopes for an independent Scotland. Wallace sat in his chair
with his head in his hands and wept at the fate which awaited his country. “O
lord” he cried out in anguish, “Why have you abandoned Scotland at the hour of
her greatest need? Can nothing deliver us from the tyranny of England’s rule?”
To his surprise, Wallace’s outburst was answered almost immediately by an
amused chuckle coming from the entrance to his tent. “There’s no point
appealing to that god, he’s not listening! Fortunately for you, I am.” The
voice had been female, a strong confident voice but definitely that of a woman.
Wallace raised his face and stared in disbelief at the figure which had
appeared, seemingly out of thin air, inside his tent. The stranger was a woman,
the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her hair was long and as bright red
as the sunset over a Ben. The hair framed a high cheek-boned and strikingly
attractive face with slim lips and eyes as green as the first shoots of spring
that seemed to sparkle with inner light. Her skin was completely without
blemishes, and as white as fresh snow. With a shock Wallace realized that the
top of the mysterious woman’s head was a few inches above the top of the 6’
tall entrance to the tent. She wore a short leather jerkin that was pulled
tight by a pair of large firm breasts and ended about 6” above her waist, revealing
several rows of very taut looking abdominal muscles. Instead of a skirt, the
stranger wore tight trousers like a man would, the lean muscles of her long
legs clearly visible though the material. The arms were exposed and showed the
same lean but powerful looking musculature as the rest of her body.
Wallace had been shocked both by her sudden appearance in his tent and by her
stunning attractiveness, but finally he recovered his wits. He stood and
grabbed the pommel of the short sword hanging from his belt. “Who are you, and
how did you manage to get past the guards?” The strange woman smiled at
Wallace’s outburst, “I have gone by many names thought the centuries, but you
may address me as Mary. As to how I got here, that is not important. I have
come to deliver my country from the threat of the English and to destroy their
army. They have committed horrendous crimes against Scotland and its people,
and now it is time for them to face the consequences of their actions. You are
going to help me to accomplish this task, tomorrow you will lead your army
against the English force, and with my help you will destroy them and free all
of Scotland from their grip!”
Wallace couldn’t believe what he was hearing! The Scottish rebellion appeared
to be doomed; his army was staring defeat in the face and now some crazy woman
had barged into his tent and had the nerve to try and give orders to him! His
anger flaring Wallace snatched the sword from his belt and pointed it at Mary.
“I am the Guardian of Scotland,” he shouted at her “chosen to protect the realm
in the name of King Balliol. I answer to no man but the king, and I certainly
do not take orders from a woman! To attack the English army is madness.
I will not allow this army to be slaughteredfor no good reason!”
The smile disappeared from Mary’s face. “I should kill you where you stand for
displaying such insolence. But fortunately for you, Scotland needs someone to
lead it once the war is over. And as for the English army...” Mary paused for a
few seconds, and then moving faster than the eye could follow she snatched the
sword out of Wallace’s hand. He looked on amazed as Mary held the weapon out in
front of her, gripping the blade by its razor sharp edges. “You can leave the
English to me!” Slowly, and without any sign of either effort or pain, she
began to bend the sword in half. The metal groaned as she deformed it, until
suddenly the blade snapped in two under the strain. Mary dropped the broken
halves of the sword onto the ground, and Wallace saw that while the metal had
been mangled in her grasp, there was not a single mark on her smooth skin.
Mary fixed Wallace with a commanding stare. “You will take your army and attack
the English tomorrow, or they will be the least of your worries!” With that she
turned and strode from the tent, leaving Wallace standing there in shock.
Recovering with a start he ran to the entrance, flung open the flap, and dashed
outside, but there was no sign at all of his mysterious visitor. Shaken Wallace
walked back inside the tent, wondering if he had imagined it all. Then he saw
the two broken halves of his sword, the imprint of Mary’s hands clear in the
metal. Wallace shook his head in disbelief, before pushing back the tent flap
again and shouting an order for his captains to join him at once. He had no
idea how he was going to explain this to them, and he still was uncomfortable
with attacking the mighty English army. However, having seen what she could do
Wallace was even more afraid of what Mary would do to him if he disobeyed her!
11th July, 1298
For the hundredth time that day Wallace looked over his assembled army and
prayed that he was not making a terrible mistake. He was trusting not only his
own life, but the lives of every one of the thousands of men in his army, along
with the future of his country to the word of the mysterious woman who had
appeared in his tent last night. He had spent a long time trying to decide what
to tell his subordinates about Mary, but eventually he decided that they
deserved to know why they were risking their lives. Of course at first they had
not believed him, Sir John ‘the Red’ Comyn of Badenoch, his cavalry commander,
claimed that he had gone mad and tried to have him relieved of command. But
they changed their tune when he showed them the broken remains of his short
sword. Sir John Stewart of Bonkill, leader of the handful of Scottish archers
had fingered one of the mangled halves for the weapon before commenting “If she
can do this to steel without any apparent effort, what would she be able to do
to a person if she put her mind to it? Better to face an overwhelming human
enemy than to risk the wrath of such an individual.” Wallace had got the
impression that Bonkill knew more than he was letting on, but had dismissed his
cares as irrelevant. Looking across the field he though glumly that they all
had greater things to worry about.
Across the open ground lay the full might of the English army, in all its splendour.
Thousands upon thousands of infantrymen stood in their ranks, waiting for the
order to advance. Many of them were bowmen; Wallace had heard enough stories
from Wales to know how effective they could be against his lightly armoured
troops. Worse than that, however, was the huge force of armoured knights that
Edward had borough with him, the sun glinting off their chainmail and gaudy
heraldry. Never before had infantry managed to stand their ground against
charging cavalry and Wallace feared that his army would simply be swept away.
The sight of the English knights caused him to glance back at his own force to
see if there was anything more to could do to prepare for the coming battle.
The Scottish infantry were arraigned in four schiltrons, massive densely packed
blocks of men bristling with spears and pikes. Bonkill’s handful of archers
were deployed between the schiltrons while behind them stood Comyn and his
As Wallace looked over his army he noticed a disturbance in one of the
schiltrons. There a ripple was running through it, a straight line almost as if
there was a ship sailing thought the middle of the packed group of men. The
line-ripple continued to move as he watched, until it reached the front of the
schiltron and the reason for it became suddenly clear. Out of the front of the
formation strode Mary, moving as effortlessly though the ranks of men as if she
was walking across an open moor. Her striking form was instantly recognizable
and she carried herself with the same confidence and grace she displayed the
night before. However instead of the simple leather jerkin and trousers, she
was now resplendent in a bright yellow surcoat emblazoned with the Royal Symbol
of Scotland, a lion rampant. A long red dress hung from her waist and across
her back were scabbarded not one, but two massive swords, the sort that were
usually wielded with two hands by only the strongest of men.
Both armies seemed stunned by the sudden appearance of this strange and
beautiful woman as she walked out in front of the Scottish army. As a hush
descended across both armies Mary stared defiantly at King Edward (who was
watching her progress intently from behind his army’s centre) and in a loud
clear voice that carried effortlessly over both forces she addressed him and
his troops. “Edward Plantagenet, this is the only warning that I am going to
give you. Turn around now and leave Scotland forever, or before this day is out
I will destroy your army and drag you into Falkirk in chains!”
For a moment no-one moved, then the whole of the English army erupted with
laughter. The idea of a mere woman, even one as impressive looking as Mary,
defeating the most powerful military force that Britain had ever seen was
utterly preposterous. The Scots on the other hand remained silent. While
Wallace and his commanders had decided not to reveal to the rest of the army
what had happened the night before, they had told them that help would come
from an unlikely source. It had also been made clear to them that they were not
to do anything that might antagonize this mysterious help, lest they suffer the
As the English army continued to laugh one of their knights, Sir Henry de Bahn,
suddenly spurred his horse towards Mary. He was a young nephew of one of
Edward’s commanders and was eager to prove himself in battle. He figured that
taking the head of this woman who had (however laughably) threatened his lord
and master would earn him a great deal of honour(and fame), as he thundered
onwards he was already dreaming of the reward he would receive from Edward for
his valiant act. Mary on the other hand seamed completely relaxed as the
armoured knight closed on her.  Shedidn’t even bother to draw her swords as de Bahn
lowered his lance and bracedhimself for the impact to come. At the last second,
with de Bahn mere feet away from her, Mary suddenly reacted. Moving faster
than the eye could follow shestepped to one side and whipped up her hand to seize
the end of de Bahn’s lance, and to everyone’s shock de Bahn was plucked off the
back of his horse as if his lance has stuck a rock. For a few seconds he dangled there
on the end of his lance, completely shocked as what has just happened, before dropping to the
ground in a heap of limbs and chainmail. Mary stepped towards the fallen
knight, snapping his lance in half like a twig as she did so. Tossing aside the
broken halves she reached down and sized de Bahn’s mail coat with on hand.
Without showing any apparent effort Mary dragged the fallen knight upwards, until
he hung suspended from her arm with his feet several inches off the ground.
Mary smiled upwards at the suddenly terrified knight, and then with a flick of
her wrist she tossed him over her shoulder to land in front of the nearest
schiltron. Before the fallen knight could recover the Scottish infantry
finished off the fallen de Bahn, ending forever his dreams of glory. The
Scottish army was jubilant at the ease with which Mary had disposed of the
arrogant de Bahn, and many of them were now starting to believe that they would
soon be victorious. The English on the other hand were shaken at the display of
power from Mary, however many of them were also burning with a desire for
revenge and were still confident of their eventual victory. After all, Mary was
only one woman.
King Edward was furious with the undisciplined display by de Bahn, and refused
to allow any more of his knights to attack. Instead, he called up the commander
of his archers and issued his orders to him. “Destroy those rebellious scum over
there,” he commanded, pointing towards the Scottish schiltrons. “And turn that
blasted woman into a pin cushion!” The archery commander nodded his
understanding then turned and began issuing orders to his subordinates. Soon the
thousands of longbowmen had formed up in front of their army ready to unleash
their deadly rain. At the signal they nocked their arrows, pulled back the
strings on the bows and unleashed a volley of arrows towards the Scots.
For a moment the sky darkened under the shower of arrows before they rained
down onto the Scottish infantry. The iron tips on the arrows tore through the
light armour worn by the Scots, driving deeply into their flesh. Edward’s
bowmen were already famous throughout Britain, there were already stories from
Wales that their arrows could pierce even the hardest armour worn by the richest
knights, but the hail of arrows that fell on Mary simply bounced off as if they
were nothing more than spring rain. Apparently oblivious to the impact of the
second English volley she took a deep breath, stretching the top of her surcoat
as her chest rose. Then, as the third volley of arrows began to fall towards
her, Mary pursed her lips and started to blow.
A fierce gale erupted, seemingly without effort from Mary’s mouth. It formed a
cone of fast moving air that whipped out to catch the arrows in mid-flight and
blow them back onto the English archers. Now, their screams filled the air as
they felt the sting of their own arrows, and realizing that any further effort
on their parts would be futile they turned and fled from the battlefield.
By this stage the Scottish army was ecstatic with their success. Mary had
managed to defeat the English archers with just the power of her breath, and
few of them now doubted that she would destroy the English army. Edward on the
other hand was utterly furious with how his army had performed. Many of his
nobles were still insisting that they should be given the honour of destroying
the Scottish army and killing Mary. But Edward was still fuming about de Bahn’s
impetuous charge and refused their requests. Moreover, he doubted that his
knights would be able to overcome the dense Scottish schiltrons. So instead, he
issued orders for the thousands of English infantry to advance and overwhelm
the Scottish infantry. Over on the other side of the battlefield the Scots in
their dense schiltrons waited confidently for the attack to come. While many of
them had faced the English billmen before and respected their skills, they
guessed that Mary would have some plan to deal with them as she had dealt with
the archers, and they were not to be disappointed.

Mary watched the mass of men advancing on her with a
detached air. The thousands of English infantry were marching slowly and
purposefully towards the Scottish ranks, seemingly untroubled by the light
shower of arrows from Bonkill’s archers. But just as the English were building
up speed to charge home against the schiltrons and raising their defiant
warcries, Mary made her move. With a grim smile she raised one long lean leg,
held it there for a moment, and then slammed it down onto the ground. A
shockwave erupted away from the point of impact, shaking the ground and causing
it to buck and heave. Most of the energy of Mary’s blow was directed away from
the Scottish infantry, who had already been bracing themselves to receive the
English charge. They managed to survive with only a little disruption to their
formation. The effect on the English, however, was devastating. The force of
the impact sent the nearest men flying, snapping weapons and breaking bones as
if they were twigs. The shockwave tore through their tightly parked ranks,
scattering the billmen like they were leaves. Even the troops at the rear of
the formation were severely shaken and struggled to remain on their feet.
Mary remained completely unmoved after so effortlessly halting the English
advance, but the Scottish spearmen seized full advantage. With a deafening roar
they broke ranks and charged into the shattered English infantry, followed
closely by Comyn’s cavalry. The effect was devastating; most of the English
were slaughtered while lying helpless on the ground unable to defend themselves
from the vengeful Scots. Within less than a minute the terrified survivors were
running desperately for their lives.
The sight of their infantry being slaughtered by the hated Scottish finally
destroyed any remaining restraint in the English knights. It was not that they
particularly cared for the soldiers’ lives- they were, after all only peasants-
but the humiliation of seeing them massacred by impudent Scottish rebels, aided
by a mere woman, was too much for them. As one almost all of the two thousand
English knights raked back their spurs and launched themselves towards the
Scottish army. King Edward, however was not one of them. While he was as
furious as any of them at what had happened he was not so blinded by rage as to
underestimate Mary’s power. After seeing how easily she defeated his archers
and billmen he had no illusions that his knights would fare any better. So, as
most of his knights thundered towards the Scots, Edward, accompanied by the
handful of knights left with him, turned his horse around and spurred away
leaving the remains of his army to their fates.
As Edward rode away the great mass of English knights swept down upon the
Scottish army. For a tantalizing few minutes it looked as if they might succeed
for the Scottish infantry were still busy slaughtering the English footsoldiers
and they were scattered and disorganised. However, as the English knights
lowered their lances and spurred their horses into the final charge there was a
flash of yellow and red as Mary suddenly appeared between them and Scots. All
trace of detachment had vanished and in her hands she held her two massive
swords, twirling them menacingly as the knights approached. The English cavalry
barely had time to register Mary’s sudden appearance as they charged towards
the Scots, and had no chance at all to try and redirect their charge. As the first
knight closed on her, Mary leapt forward towards him, swinging one of her
massive swords downwards in a glittering arc. The weapon sliced cleanly though
the knight’s lance and shield before tearing into his mail coat. The links of
steel parted before the blade as if they were rotten threads and the sword
continued clean though the man’s body and out the other side, cutting him completely
in half. Even as the bloody top half of the knight dropped to the ground, Mary
dispatched another rider with a backward cut from her blade, severing the man’s
arm at the elbow, his armour once again offering no protection at all.
More and more knights were left dead or badly wounded as Mary tore her way
through the English formation like a force of nature. Men, horses and armour
none of it could withstand the force of her blows while the few knights who did
manage to strike Mary found their swords and lances rebounding from her as
though they had struck stone. Panic gripped the knights; those nearest Mary
tried to turn and flee but ended up colliding with those that were still
charging forward, causing a tangle of men and beasts. Then the Scottish
infantry and cavalry arrived, having finally disentangled themselves from the
remains of the English billmen. With a roar, they launched themselves into the
confused mass of knights, hacking and slashing at all those in front of them.
The sudden Scottish attack shattered the last remnants of the English morale,
many of the knights threw down their weapons in surrender, which the Scots
accepted gladly, knowing just how valuable these captives would be. The rest
turned to flee, chased by the Scottish cavalry. Mary let them go; she had a
much more important matter to deal with.
King Edward hadn’t seen much of his knights’ charge; he was concentrating on
putting as much distance between himself and the Scottish army as possible. It
was probably a hopeless endeavour, but if he could escape capture and manage to
cross the border back into England then he might be able to salvage something
from the disaster. Edward was so caught up with his thoughts for the future
that he failed to notice a sudden flash of yellow and red until his horse
reared in panic. Standing in front of his little group of horsemen was Mary, a
grim expression on her beautiful face.
Seeing the woman who had single-handedly destroyed his army and shattered his
dreams of conquest drove Edward into a paroxysm of rage. He screamed at her,
his face red with fury. “Fowl daemon, by what unholy power have you been
summoned here to torment me!” he drew his sword from its scabbard, but Mary
snatched it from him as if he was a small child and tore him from his horse
with a flick of her wrist. The few surviving aides stood frozen in terror as
Mary gazed down at the fallen king. “You do not know how wrong you are about
me. I was summoned here, but not by the Scots; I was summoned by you! Your
campaigns have brought death and destruction to the whole of Scotland; you have
tried to destroy not only her people but the country itself. The very land cries
out for vengeance, and I am her instrument! Now it is time for you to answer
for your crimes.”
Mary gripped Edward’s sword blade with both her hands,
crumpling the sharp metal. She ran her hands along the length of the weapon,
reducing it to a mangled metal bar within seconds. Seizing King Edward’s hands,
Mary bent the remains of the sword around his wrists as easily as if she was
binding them with rope. Turning away from her work she addressed the small
group of horsemen standing around her, who had remained transfixed by the
unfolding scene before them. “Go back to England,” Mary ordered them, “and tell
its lords what you have seen here today. Warn them that if they ever again try
to destroy Scotland, then I will return and take my revenge on England itself!”
one of the group managed to stammer out a feeble question. “What about King
Edward? What will happen to him?” Mary looked down again at the broken man at
her feet. “His fate will be decided by William Wallace and the rest of the
Scottish leaders. Pray to your god that they show more mercy then I would. Now
go, before I change my mind!” At her words, the terrified aides turned and fled
as fast as their horses could go. Mary bent down and without displaying any
effort hoisted King Edward onto her shoulder like a sack of tatties. Gripping
him tightly to make sure that she didn’t drop him, she turned and sped away
back towards the Scottish army, moving much faster than any horse could ever
Back at the battlefield, the fighting was over and Wallace was dealing with the
aftermath of the day’s incredible events. As he watched the lines of defeated
English being sorted into little groups for future ransom, he still could not
believe what had happened. It seemed amazing that the strange woman who had
appeared in his tent the previous night had managed to defeat the English army
almost single-handed, but the evidence was all around him. Wallace was just
thinking what a shame it was that King Edward had managed to escape when he
heard a great cheer. A group of Comyn’s knights were riding towards him,
surrounding a figure sitting on a spare horse. As the groups got closer Wallace
suddenly realized that the strange figure was King Edward! The cheering was
spreading though the army as Scottish soldiers realized that their hated enemy
was finally their prisoner. Comyn and Bonkill hurried over to Wallace as the
group reached him, eager to discover how the English king had been captured. The
story proved to be an anticlimax. The leader of the group explained that Mary
had suddenly appeared and deposited King Edward in front of them, before
vanishing into thin air.
While most of the group was struggling to take in the news, Bonkill just nodded
thoughtfully. “She’s done what she came here to do, so now she’ll disappear
until she is needed again. Just like the last time.” Everyone suddenly stared
at Bonkill in amazement.
“What do you mean last time?” Wallace asked incredulously,
“You’ve heard about Mary before haven’t you?”
Bonkill remained silent for several seconds, apparently deep in thought.
Finally he started to explain what he knew. “I have heard of her before, but
not by that name. When I was a child my mother used to tell me stories, legends
really, from the old times. One of them was about a roman legion that was sent
north to conquer the tribes Caledonia.”
Wallace interrupted him, “I’ve heard that story as well, the
legend of the 9th. They disappeared without any trace.”
Bonkill nodded, “Yes, but the version of the legend I heard
as a child described what happened to them. According to that legend, a
beautiful maiden appeared before the roman army and slaughtered them to a man
before vanishing without a trace. Does that story sound familiar to anyone?”
Bonkill looked around the little group, none said anything but they all realized
the significance of what he had said.
After a few moments Wallace spoke up. “Did any of these
legends say who this woman was or where she had come from?”
Bonkill shook his head. “No, but they did speculate. Some of
them said that she was a powerful Witch dedicated to protecting the land,
others that she is an ancient Celtic goddess. Some of the legends even suggest
that she is the physical manifestation of the land itself, rising up to defend
against invaders. All of the legends agree on one point however. This
mysterious woman is an unstoppable force, and no one who has stood against her
will have escaped her wrath.” He paused and looked around at his fellow
commanders. “We would do well to remember what has happened here today, lest we
incur Mary’s wrath and end up broken as the English have been.”
The battle of Falkirk proved to be a turning point in the history of both
Scotland and England. The utter destruction of King Edward’s army crippled
England’s military power for a generation while the cost of ransoming the king
and surviving knights severely depleted the economy. As part of Edward’s ransom,
John Balliol, the Scottish king who Edward had captured during his initial
invasion, was released, but he was already a broken man. Not long after he
returned to Scotland, he was forced to abdicate and, following a short power
struggle, his place was taken by Robert the Bruce, the son of Balliol’s rival
for the throne.
Meanwhile, the situation in England deteriorated significantly. King Edward
died only a few years after he returned from Scotland and he was succeeded by
his weakling son Edward the Second. Without a strong leader, the country soon
descended into a confused civil war as rival lords fought each other for
dominance. As the English fought amongst themselves, Bruce seized the
opportunity and invaded the northern counties. His well trained and experienced
army (many of whom were veterans of Falkirk) overran the north of England, managing
to capture both York and Newcastle. Severely weakened by internal conflict (and
still fearful of provoking Mary’s wrath) the new English king was forced to cede
the conquered territories to Scotland, forever altering the balance of power
between the two countries.
Over the centuries, fortunes of both England and Scotland rose and fell in
turn, but while there were numerous border skirmishes, England never again
attempted a full scale invasion of its northern neighbour. Finally, after the
English Queen Elizabeth died without an heir, Queen Mary of Scotland (named
after the woman who had saved Scotland at Falkirk centuries before) was
proclaimed Queen of England uniting both kingdoms under a single ruler.

Author’s Notes
The real battle of Falkirk ended in a crushing defeat for Wallace and the
Scottish army. An initial charge by Edward’s knights failed to break the
Scottish schiltrons but managed to drive off the Scottish cavalry and destroy
their archers. With these out of the way the English bowmen were able to
decimate the tightly packed infantry before a second cavalry charge shattered
their formations. Wallace escaped the battle, but was later betrayed to the
English and executed as a traitor.
I have tried wherever possible to make this story has historically accurate as
I can manage. Most of the major characters mentioned were genuine historical
figures, although their personalities and words are my own invention. In
addition to King Edward and William Wallace both John ‘the Red’ Comyn of Badenoch
and John Stewart of Bonkill were present at the real battle of Falkirk. Bonkill
was killed alongside his men by Edward’s knights while Comyn survived the
battle only to be later murdered in Grayfirers Church by Robert the Bruce, the
future king of Scotland. Sir Henry de Bahn did not die at Falkirk instead died
during a similar lone charge during the battle of Bannockburn where he tried to
kill Robert the Bruce (and got his skull split open for his trouble); this
incident formed the basis for his charge in my story. Obviously, Mary and all
her actions are completely fictional. The disappearance of the 9th Roman legion
is the basis for several legends, but unfortunately none of them involve them
being destroyed by a mysterious young woman. All other historical mistakes are
due to my limited knowledge of life in early medieval Scotland and I apologize
for them.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the notable
FMG author stmercy2020 for his help in proofreading and helping me sort some of
my grammatical errors. I would also like to thank GeekSeven who’s series of
Alternative History stories inspired me to actually get off my backside and
write this! I hope you have enjoyed my work, any comments, criticism or indeed praise
is greatly appreciated.
Categories SWM Library

Add comment

Security code