They had been fighting for three hours and only the runners, who came with water and supplies, and their determination to fight to protect Scotland, kept them going. Fleance had trained his mind to see the men before him as the same as the difficult branches he had to cut down for Magness. It would undo him to imagine them as flesh and blood.
The rebels were not so well armed or trained as they had all been led to believe. Their weapons were inferior and the soldiers poorly armed. Only anger and strength, it seemed, propelled them forward.
For the Scottish army, however, there were the best of fighters and armament. This sometimes hostile land bred warriors keen and well equipped to deal with any usurper. Over the years, many nations had tried to quench the spirit of the Scottish heart – and had failed.
It was a land peopled by those who lived amongst the vast and cruel and wonderful, and who adored its lochs, highlands, lowlands, ports, and mountains. But, these were folk who quickly changed allegiances and had many among them who openly spoke against the establishment. At this time, however, many gave their support to Duncan, content with God’s appointment.
Beside him, fought Macduff. The old man talked all the way through his fights with whomever he was up against – sometimes with humour and sometimes with rage. In another life, Fleance thought at one time, the man would be a great jester of the court. They killed many men. Fleance was glad to have Macduff by his side as he fought against those who came against him. Some he killed; a number he fought but they, knowing they were out-smarted, quickly ran away.
Such was the case of the last man to try his luck against Banquo’s sword. After two attempts to thrust his own sword into Fleance’s side, (which were skilfully blocked by Fleance), the rebel threw down his sword in defeat and lifted his hands in surrender.
Macduff had dispatched his last enemy and turned to the trembling man who stood before Fleance. ‘Away with yer, yer skanky dog. Take yer tail between yer legs and tell yer leader Macduff says it’s a foolish man who tries to conquer Scotland.’ The man hesitated a moment and Macduff feigned to charge him. The poor soldier turned on his heels and sprinted back across the battle field to his own side. ‘Foolish git,’ Macduff growled. ‘You were kind to spare his life.’
Fleance shook his head. ‘Honour, not kindness. He had surrendered. Had I run him through, it would be murder.’
The field lay before them. Many fellows were down. Sounds of moaning and crying drifting into the cold, spring air. Fleance and Macduff lent against their swords, breathing heavily.
‘You have your father’s skill and strength,’ Macduff said.
Fleance shook his head. ‘Twas not from Banquo I received this education but from my adoptive father who spent many long hours teaching me the skills of the sword and crossbow.’