1304 … almost 10 long years of war, of swaying battlelines, of march and countermarch. Both the Scots and English were growing weary, and rumors of a negotiated settlement were bandied about by the lower ranks. Most English officers knew enough to keep these rumblings away from King Edward I. But a lone Welsh knight, of the Weir family, whether from inexperience or mead, had broached the subject. That same knight, now stripped of land and title, was guarding the crossroads at Fife with a thin collection of footmen and walking wounded. An inglorious assignment for the house of Weir, keep the road open between Mentieth and Angus, and thus allow the soon-to-be victorious English army to exploit the destruction of the Scots.
Edward looked forward at his army on Fife's northern border poised to invade Angus. The grandest coalition he'd ever assembled on English soil. Knights and archers, nobles, men-at-arms, pikesmen, bowmen, axemen. Brutal men for a brutal task. One last great victory was all that was needed, and it would happen at Angus.
Wallace had tried to rally his troops, urging them to move quickly, to do a spoiling attack against the English at Fife and delay them for a season. But Wallace's passion could not match English discipline. The English army moved first into Angus, tying down the enemy army there.
Wallace controlled the Atholl highlands on the English left with a token force, but the English had troops to spare. Edward moved them into Atholl from both Mentieth and Fife, locking down the borders and ensuring Atholl would play no part in the upcoming battle.
As his hammer drew near the Scot lines, Edward waited for word of Scot reinforcements rushing to Angus. More grist for the mill, but no word came from his scouts. Without reinforcements it would seem the Scots were preparing to withdraw once again, opening the door for the English re-conquest of Atholl, Argyll, Lenox, Mar and Buchan. The flanking scouts did report the Scots were reinforcing Atholl with a token force, enough to hold it this year, but Edward gave it no more thought. Atholl would bend their knee soon enough.
Coastal patrol boats also reported seeing some Viking far out to sea, but Edward would not allow himself to fall for another of Wallace's endless feints and distractions. As The Second Battle of Stirling had shown, no Scot army could go toe-to-toe with a similar sized English army. Angus was the prize, and with the fall of Angus came the collapse of Scot resistance. To Edward it was clear, as Angus went, so went the north.
Weir raged against the insult to his family, and his loss of holdings. Surrounded by supposed friends on all sides, the English army marching north, the English troops attacking Atholl to the West, and English held Mentieth to the south, he could only imagine the glory and redemption of combat as he tilted another tankard.
They came out of the fog from the East for a grim task, a battle to the death, to cut the road in Fife or die trying. They were Wallace's Vikings. A young warrior, seeing the shoreline unprotected, and wishing the honor of being first on English soil leapt into the surf 20 yards from shore. Weighted by weapon he sank swiftly, his last sight was of the hull of the trailing long ship and it passed just a few feet above his outstretched hand. A poor omen, some thought, but in hindsight a sacrifice to the gods, for he was their only casualty. As soon as Weir learned of the landing to the Vikings, he and his troops fled. He would not die today for a king who had publicly humiliated him.
One could ask King Edward I what he thought when he found his retreat routes had been cut to both, Atholl and Fife. Was he concerned when the Scots did not fall back, and instead stood toe-to-toe with the English army. A Scot army unlike anything the English had faced before. Wallace, and French knights, Comyn, Moray, Angus and Douglas's infantry. All full and fresh for battle. For Wallace had realized, as went Angus, so went the North. And to commune with King Edward one would have to ask the dead.