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Pebble 1 — The Solid Rock

As per the opening scene of Season 2, Episode 1 (which actually follows the events of Season 2’s finale episode), Claire awakens at the stones of Craigh na Dun, recalling where she is and how she got there.  The following alternate/”what if” version of events begins at the point where she says in voiceover, “But I’d made a promise that I had to keep.”  (From this point in the actual episode, believing Jamie to have been killed at Culloden, she makes her way back to Frank and begins her life in Boston).

Pebble 1 picks up with that voiceover line, and instead continues as follows…

“I’d made a promise that I had to keep — if he were dead.  But, history recorded that, despite the horrific number killed, the battle did have survivors.  Surely Jamie could be one of them.  After all, he’d already beaten every odd by surviving Black Jack Randall, Wentworth Prison — even the power of his own will.  Why not Culloden? And, what if he had survived… what if he was lying wounded on the battlefield right now… or perhaps, even making his way to this very spot? Yes, I’d made a promise – but I’d made another long before it: to stand by Jamie’s side  ‘’til death us do part’.  And, until I knew it had, that was the promise I was going to keep.”

Scrambling to her feet, Claire once more approached the tallest stone, holding out her hands as her heart thudded in her ears. “The buzzing,” she suddenly said to herself.  “Where’s the buzzing?”  A slight panic rose in her chest as she moved closer to the stone.  At last, she pressed her palms against it — eager to be transported back to 1746…back to Culloden… and back to Jamie.

And then… nothing.

The stone loomed defiantly before her, solid and impenetrable.  Claire waited, feeling turned to stone herself as the seconds ticked away — seconds that might be taking Jamie away from her forever.  Finally, the tension welling inside her broke. She pounded her fists against the unyielding rock tower. “Nooooooo!!!!!!”

Slowly gathering her wits, Claire backed from the stone, impatiently brushed away tears and smoothed her hair.  Determinedly swallowing a roil of emotions, she made her way down the hill, picking up her pace as a plan began to form.  Upon reaching the road, she began walking in the direction of Inverness, and when a car approached, hoped she didn’t look completely insane as she flagged it down.  Anticipating the questions her 18th century attire would naturally raise, she countered the wary expression of the male driver with a warm smile, and adopted a casual tone she was far from feeling.  “Hello!  So glad you came along.  I’m with a traveling theater troupe… we were supposed to be doing a play about the Jacobite Rising today, but our bus broke down and I volunteered to go fetch help.”  Offering a little laugh as she settled herself in the car, she added, “If I’d realized how far from town we were, I might not have been as quick to do so.”

The car rolled along the road, finally pulling up to Rev. Wakefield’s house, where Claire got out and the driver continued on his way.

*******

Mrs. Graham’s eyes widened in surprise at the sight of Claire.

“Is the reverend home?” Claire quickly asks.  “I don’t want him to tell Frank I’m here.”

“Rev. Wakefield’s expected to be out all afternoon… Come inside, my dear. ”

“Let me make you some tea, “Mrs. Graham offered, leading Claire to the kitchen, as questions and explanations tumbled out of her.

“Mrs. Graham — I need your help.  You know about traveling through the stones — I know you do.  I have to go back… But, it wouldn’t budge… he may be dying at Culloden right this minute… I have to go back!”

In the kitchen doorway, Claire fell silent as she saw a boy of seven or eight standing in the doorway.  “Are we having biscuits?” he asked Mrs. Graham, noting a visitor and anticipating that tea would soon be served.  Edging closer to Mrs. Graham, he stole another look at Claire, before quietly asking the housekeeper, “Why is that lady dressed funny?”

“’Why haven’t you combed your hair yet today?’ is probably a better question,” Mrs. Graham answered, giving Claire a quick apologetic smile.   “Now, Roger,” she said, removing a tin from a cupboard. “you take a biscuit, and go make yourself presentable.  And then, maybe you can search your room for that little airplane you lost yesterday.” Roger nodded, took the biscuit and walked off, his curiosity forcing another glance back at Claire as he went.  Mrs. Graham turned to fill the tea kettle and light the stove.

Have a seat, dear,” she urged.  Joining her at the table, she gently patted Claire’s hand.  “So that is where you went, then… I suspected as much  — but, I’ve never spoken to anyone who returned before.  So, how is it you’re here… and what is it you want me to do? ”

Fighting the urge to grab Mrs. Graham and shake the urgency of the matter into her, Claire instead briefly explained. “That day I went to Craigh na Dun… to look for a plant while Frank was with the reverend…  I heard a buzzing sound, and I touched the tallest stone there. The next thing I knew, it was 1743, and I was being assaulted by Frank’s ancestor, Black Jack Randall – except it’s actually his brother Alex… but, that doesn’t matter right now…

“Just as you said when you read my palm, I became married there, to Jamie — a Highlander.  I told him — eventually — that I was from the future, and we used my knowledge of it to try and stop the rising. But Charles Stuart is such a fool.  And, with the battle inevitable after we kil — after Dougal was killed this morning, he was sure the MacKenzies would avenge their war chief’s death even if he survived Cumberland’s army.  So, he brought me to Craigh na Dun and made me go back through the stones before it all started, to protect me…” She touched her stomach, “and our child.”

“But, when I woke up here I knew it was a mistake — that I shouldn’t have left… that I must go back.  Only, I couldn’t pass… the stone wouldn’t yield.  That’s why I came to you.  I need to know what to do… how to get through again — I must go back!”

“Oh — my dear.” Mrs. Graham cajoled, once more patting Claire’s hand.  Her tone conciliatory, she said, “Maybe your man was right in sending you to your own time.  Scotland after Culloden would be no place for a Jacobite’s wife…”  continuing very gently, “and even worse for his widow.”

“I may not be his widow!” Claire retorted angrily.  “Jamie may be alive — hurt, and in need of my help!  I didn’t come here for sympathy.  I came because I need help to go back through the stones.  Surely you know something of how this all works… I passed twice with no effort at all.  Why not the third time?”

“I’m not sure.  But, maybe this time you’re not meant to pass.  I know that’s not what you want to hear.   And, as I’ve said, until now I’ve never known for sure of anyone coming back to their own time.  I know the stories say it’s happened that way.  And, even though I believe in the truth behind them, anything beyond folk tales is mere whispering of how it’s thought to work, not a clear path to follow. ”

“Just tell me what you know.  I must get back — as soon as possible.”

Realizing no words would deter Claire from her mission, Mrs. Graham relented.  “Well,” she began, “there are rumors that passage requires blood… a human sacrifice, some people believe.  But, since no one died in your case, we know that bit is false — thank Goodness,” she added with a little laugh.  “It’s also said there must be fire — which is rumored to be how the sacrifice is offered.   That must be false, too.”

“Is there nothing else?”  Claire asked.

“There is one more thing.  The traveler is supposed to carry gemstones — for guidance, and protection along the way.  Did you have any jewelry with you when you passed before?”

“Yes!” Claire exclaimed.  “I lost the jewels from my watch the first time, and the stone from Jamie’s father’s ring this morning. That must be it.”

“It may be,” Mrs. Graham said cautiously.  “But, there are other things to consider.”

“Like what?”

“A journey through the stones is a huge transformation — it can take a heavy toll on the traveler.  It’s believed the reason more people haven’t spoken to those who’ve returned is that they didn’t survive the passage.  It truly may have been for the best that you were stopped today. ”

“I don’t care.  I have to try again.  Please help me!”

“I’ll try, dear. But, we must wait for the cover of darkness.  And,” she added firmly, “you need to rest.  We will go to the stones tonight.”

*******

Mrs. Graham showed Claire to the guest room she had long ago shared with Frank.  A far from settling place to sleep, every object seemed to take on new life, and she could almost see Frank sitting in the chair near the window.  Opening the closet, she half expected his suits to be neatly hanging there – but was surprised to instead spot her own suitcase on the shelf above her.  Pulling it down, she walked to the bed to examine its contents.  Rather than opening it immediately, however, she stared at it for several seconds, recalling the mix of uncertainty and anticipation she had felt when packing it, what now seemed a lifetime ago.  “Perhaps,” her mind rebelliously raised more recent memories, “it had been.”  Lifting the lid at last, she was confronted by belongings she could scarce believe had once been hers.  Sleek leather gloves, silk stockings, a small bottle of perfume Frank had given her when she’d returned from the war.  Rummaging through further, she came to the photo of her and Frank on their wedding day. Looking at the woman in the photo, she couldn’t help glancing toward the mirror on the dresser before her.  Surely these were not images of the same person.  Trying to recall the feelings of the event commemorated in the picture, she could hear the words, “For richer, for poorer… to have and to hold…”  But, it was not Frank’s voice she heard speaking them.  In her ears was only Jamie… “’til death us do part.” Reaching into a side pocket, she pulled out a silver bracelet, from which dangled two teardrop-shaped sapphires. She donned this, then shoving the photo, and everything else, back inside, she shut the suitcase, returned it to the closet, and closed the door.

*******

Shortly after dusk, while the reverend was poring over the historical papers he’d obtained on his sojourn that afternoon, Mrs. Graham and Claire slipped out and made the short journey to Craigh na Dun. After profusely thanking Mrs. Graham, who waited, lest her plans should once more go awry, Claire approached the circle of stones.  This time, the small breeze that had been blowing when they left the reverend’s home picked up into a brisk wind that whipped her hair about her face and,  as she’d expected earlier in the day, a familiar buzzing accosted her ears.  Relief flooded over her as she looked back with a grateful smile and nod to Mrs. Graham, then turned and held out her hands.  The silver bracelet glinted in the moonlight as she took a deep breath and touched the stone.

*******

Once more feeling the strange sensations that accompanied falling back through the centuries, Claire awoke to a cold and starless night and instinctively drew the warm shawl Mrs. Graham had sent her off with close around her shoulders.  Mrs. Graham had also fashioned a bundle filled with food and first aid supplies, which she’d secured inside her skirt and prayed would make the trip.  After making sure the bundle was intact, she looked around for signs of Redcoats – or Jamie.  Spotting no one, she carefully began the long descent to Culloden Moor.

Claire wished fervently for the speed of the horse she and Jamie had ridden that morning — which now, indeed, seemed two hundred years in the past — as she picked her way along.  Pushing carefully on, she at last rounded a copse of trees, and the Moor came into full view, lighted by the torches of Redcoats moving about. She gasped, and stood transfixed at the sight below.  Hoping it might be merely her eyes playing tricks on her in the dim light, she thought she could make out bodies stretched as far as the eye could see, and lowered herself to a near crouching position to make her way closer to the field.

A brief snow flurry greeted her as she stopped to rest, a short distance from the far edge of the moor.  Maneuvering her way through the mud and carnage, she began searching for Jamie, keeping a wary eye on the Redcoats’s torches as she went.  It was a slow and painstaking endeavor, and she had no concept of passing time as she stole through rows and rows of Scots lost to an inept leader and ill fated cause.  Pulling her shawl closer against the chill, she inched her way silently along.

“Jamie…  Are you alive?” she asked aloud, fairly willing a response from somewhere in the universe. Only silence answered, and she soon resumed her search. Taking care to steer clear of the torches and their Redcoat bearers made progress slow, and the clouds that obscured the moon made it difficult to discern even the familiar faces she was saddened to occasionally cross. Remaining resolute, she pressed on, methodically working her way through sections of the field.

Wavering between relief and frustration as time dragged on with no sign of Jamie, fatigue began to take over until faces blurred together, forcing her to repeatedly stop and will her eyes to focus. Still, refusing to give up, she had just turned to make her way through another row of bodies when she caught sight of a gleaming object.  Moving closer, she began to shake as recognition dawned.  Plucking it from the ground, she felt a familiar stickiness that far too much experience helped her easily identify as something other than mud. Leaning on the body beside her for support, Claire fought back the unthinkable images conjured by her weary brain — until she was jolted to full wakefulness when she looked down into the sightless eyes of Black Jack Randall.

Jamie had been here… at this very spot.  But, where was he now?  Her mind reeling, fatigue and the after effects of travel through the stones finally taking over, the question remained unanswered.  Claire collapsed beside the body of Randall, the dragonfly still clutched tightly in her hand.

*******

Coming soon… Pebble 2 – Scattered Petals of the White Rose