He didn’t know how long he knelt there before he heard a horse galloping toward him. He looked up and saw that it was an English knight with a lance leveled at him. But it was not the lancer who had caught his eye. It was another horseman who was riding out of the Scottish ranks. At first, Wallace searched to see who it was, for the stance of the man and his device seemed familiar to him, then he was left in no doubt when he saw the golden hair curling from underneath the helmet.
“Bruce!” Wallace spat, his eyes flashing as he leapt up, forgetting his sword, and grabbed the surprised lancer, throwing him from the saddle. He leapt on the horse and tore after the retreating knight.
“ROBERT BRUCE!” Wallace shouted out, his voice so full of hatred and anger that Bruce looked back over his shoulder. His heart actually clenched in fear as he saw Wallace, vengeance clouding his eyes, as he rode the traitor Scotsman down.
Wallace urged his horse onward until he was neck-and-neck with Bruce’s mount, then he leapt sideways, grabbing Bruce’s arm and bringing them both crashing to the ground. Bruce fell on top of Wallace, crushing his ribs with his heavy armor. Wallace didn’t seem to notice the weight crushing him and shoved the other man away. His helmet had fallen off and Wallace grabbed him around the throat, glaring into his eyes.
“Robert, ye’re a bloody traitor!” he shouted at him.
Bruce wrenched Wallace’s hands away from his throat and shoved him backwards, standing up as he glared at the other man..
“Traitor, is it? Where do you get your gall to oppose the king of England?!”
Wallace stood up as well, his hands clenching into fists. “Robert! It’s your unwillingness to act and yer cowardice that cause me to fight to free a land that is yours by right!” he shouted. “Have they brainwashed ye sae much that ye believe what Longshanks has to say? It’s ye Bruce, who have driven me to such drastic and perhaps even foolhardy measures, because ye, Scotland’s rightful leader, wouldn’t wake up and lead them against the English tyranny!” Wallace shook his head in disgust and quieted his voice a bit. “I told ye several months ago that I would follow ye if only ye would take the lead,” he motioned to his dilapidated army. “They would follow ye, Robert, but they need to know that they can trust ye, and nothing I say will make them decide that. So ye need to choose if you are going to serve Edward and hope he doesna spike yer head on London Bridge, or if ye want to be the man who will lead the Scots to freedom.”
“I would fight, Wallace!” Robert began. “It’s just complications. I want what you want, William: Freedom. But there are other ways to get it than fighting useless wars!”
“So ye would make a pact with our worst enemy instead?!” Wallace cried, disgusted almost to the loss of words. “That’s not freedom, Robert. You don’t have the gall to stand up and fight for a country that is yours by right! You think Longshanks will set ye on the throne? He want’s it for himself! Ye’d be nothing but a puppet, Robert, a lackey bent to his will like Toom Tabard! I have seen Baliol, Robert. And he’s a broken man. No, you would not rule Scotland, Bruce, and I think deep down inside ye know that.”
“I don’t have a choice, Wallace!” Bruce protested, his voice hoarse with feeling and anger. “I...”
“There’s always a choice!” Wallace shouted, stopping his words. “Do you not see that? I would have followed you! As my brother, Robert!” He paused and then lowered his voice to an earnest whisper. “As my king.” Then without another word, he turned and stumbled off, leaving a flabbergasted Bruce standing open-mouthed, watching his back as he walked off. The Scottish knight felt his mind clear then and suddenly, he knew where his allegiances lay and where, now, they always would.