In honor of the day, I am putting another excerpt of my newest book On a Foreign Field up for you to read. This is where I introduce Robert the Bruce for the first time at Wallace's knighting and inauguration to Guardian of Scotland after the Battle of Stirling. For this novel, I went with Nigel Tranter's idea and had Bruce be the one to knight Wallace. Enjoy!
“Scotland needs an unbiased party as her Guardian," Bruce said. "Not someone who will be accused of wanting only the power that will lead to the throne. It would only breed contention if I or my rival, John Comyn, were to take the position. Nor have we distinguished ourselves in battle as Wallace has when he defeated the English at Stirling Bridge. I know not what lies ahead for any of us, but if Wallace defeated the English once, then he shall certainly do it again. And the men will fight all the more gladly for their commander if he be proclaimed Guardian of Scotland, than just the knight’s son from Elderslie.”
There were equal cheers and cries of protestation when he was done but Bruce turned back to Wallace. “And if it be a problem he is not a knight, than we shall remedy that as well. Kneel, Wallace.”
The Scotsman stared judgingly at Bruce, then did as he said, kneeling on the floor as Bruce drew his sword and touched it to Wallace’s shoulder.
“William Wallace, it is by my right as an earl of the realm that I dub you, Sir William Wallace of Elderslie in the name of God, and create you Guardian of the people of Scotland. Rise, Sir William.”
There were again mixed exclamations in the hall as Wallace rose, a look of slight suspicion still on his face as Lennox and Steward came forward to congratulate him and Graham slapped his back heartily, though he too, looked a little surprised by the proceedings. Reeve moved through the crowd as everyone started to disperse or talked amongst each other about the choice, some for it, and some against, and others still not sure what to think. The room was an uproar of argument and the Englishman would not have been surprised if the nobles started fighting amongst themselves despite the fact that they were in a kirk.
Reeve saw Wallace pull Bruce to one side of the room to stand in a corner and the Englishman, though he didn’t want to eavesdrop, could not bring himself to move away, wishing to see the confrontation between these two young men who seemed so different and yet so much alike.
“What game do you play, Bruce?” Wallace asked him in a low voice.
“Need it be a game?” the blond nobleman asked. “Did I not make the right choice? You were already the inevitable decision, the spark in the air; I just fed the flames.”
“But why?” Wallace demanded. “You have shown little enough interest in me in the past, why now? Why now when you have so recently come back from England?”
“If you are calling me a quisling, I will say nothing on the matter. I will not deny that I have spent time in King Edward’s court, but it was more under the will of my father than my own free. You must not judge without knowing a man properly, Wallace.”
“I know your type well enough,” Wallace told him coldly. “If you really wanted to fight for Scotland, then you could lead the army yourself, and you know it, Robert. Tell me when a lord, even a son, of Annandale could not raise a thousand spears in a night to his name? The men would follow you and so would I. If you showed yourself to be a worthy leader of the Scots, than not a man who loved his country would deny you his service. Instead you choose to fraternize with the bloody English and Longshanks himself, and thus lose all trust of your own people.”
“And you see why I did not vie for the position of Guardian,” Bruce said, a bitter note in his voice.
“One day, Robert, you will realize that you need not do what others wish of you. You can be your own man, and still achieve what you wish, whatever that may be. Don’t let people put ideas into your head. I know you have a lot to live up to with your family name, but we are fighting a war for freedom, and if our own people are not free from themselves and the cages they lock themselves in, than who will have the courage to win this war in the end?”
“And the people chose you because you are free,” Bruce told him with a harsh bark of laughter. “Not all of us have that luxury.” And he turned on his heel and soon disappeared into the crowd. Wallace turned away as well with a sigh and saw Reeve standing next to a pillar in the kirk. The Englishman looked away with a slight blush creeping over his face, embarrassed at being caught listening in on the conversation, but Wallace smiled and clapped a hand on his shoulder.
“I bloody hate politics,” he said. “Let’s go back to camp and have a fine supper and maybe a dance to celebrate? It has been too long since the men have had reason to laugh so we shall make the best of my fine ceremony.”
(And don't forget, everyone, this is the last week to enter the Giveaway for "Ballad of the Highwayman" so if you have not entered yet, do it now! I'll be announcing the winner here this Saturday the 30th!)