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Pebble 2 — Scattered Petals of the White Rose

This pebble intermingles much of the 18th century side of events presented in Season 3 Episode 1, assuming all of the flashback battle scenes as given information for what happens here (including Jamie killing Randall, and being severely wounded in the process).  It’s also given information that Jamie was spared execution by Lord John’s brother, and that all the other Jacobites hiding in the stable (where he and they were discovered) were killed.  This alternate version differs, however, in that one of the Jacobites executed in that episode was not present at the time.  Additional events involving Claire and others are detailed as follows.

Pebble 2 picks up from Rupert’s discovery of Jamie on the field at Culloden, at the point Rupert motions to their fellow soldier for help. In the episode as aired, a bit of very welcome levity is provided in the brief dialogue exchange, “I won’t leave you to die in the mud… even if you are a pig-headed loon who can’t hold your whiskey.” to which Jamie responds, “I can drink you under the table.”  In this alternate version, the scene continues Jamie’s dialogue…

“Wait… what happened to Murtagh?”

“I dinna ken,” Rupert replied.

Jamie tried to rise on his own, but barely moved. “Mus’ find him.”

“Ye couldna find yer arse.” Rupert said.

“Canna just leave him… he wouldna leave me.”

Rupert grunted.  “Fine.  I’ll stay and look for him.  But, if I get killed by a Redcoat, I swear my ghost’ll haunt ye for the rest of yer days.”

“That couldna be worse than puttin’ up with ye in the flesh.”

Rupert just shook his head and motioned for the two men helping him to come lift Jamie.  “Take care – and make sure to hide yer tracks.  I’ll catch up when I can.”

The men and Jamie exited the field.  Rupert turned to begin his search.

*******

“Lass! What are ye doin’ here, lass?”  The low, but urgent voice penetrated the darkness and Claire’s foggy brain, as a hand gently shook her shoulder.  Not yet cognizant of her surroundings, she let out a cry of surprise.

“Hush, lass,” the voice warned.  “There’s Redcoats all about.”

Claire shivered as she became aware she was lying on hard, cold ground, and felt a wave of dizziness as the man helped her rise.  “Stay low and quiet,” he said, as the two scurried toward the edge of the field. Upon reaching it, and ducking into the cover of thick brush that led to a small clearing beyond, she quickly turned away and retched behind a bush.  Wiping her mouth, she turned back toward the man.

“Ye all right, lass?” he asked in concern.  “Yes.  Thank you,” Claire replied, waiting for the nausea to subside before trying further conversation. Offering a smile of gratitude, she said at last, “I’m Claire.”

“M’ name’s Lesley,” the man answered.  “I’ve been lookin’ fer my friend, Hayes.  We got separated near the end of the battle, and I dinna ken what happened to him.”

Nodding her understanding, Claire said, “I was looking for my husband.

“I found something that belongs to him, but…” she trailed, suddenly feeling around her clothing for the dragonfly. “It’s gone,” she lamented.

Looking around at the rapidly lightening sky, Lesley broke into her reverie, “We’d best find somewhere we can lie low today.  We canna stay this close to the field… we’d be discovered fer sure.  Claire nodded, and the two set off.

*******

As the sky began to lighten, Rupert, across the moor, was likewise hidden in brush.  Exhausted from the failed march two nights before, fighting the battle yesterday, and searching the field – without finding Murtagh — into the wee hours, he’d at last taken a chance on catching some sleep.  Slowly coming to life, he heard the voices of Redcoats still on the moor, though their periodic shouts seemed barely audible above the growling of his stomach.  Having subsisted on only the meagerest of rations for days, he rose determined to go find some form of breakfast, even if it meant facing the entire British army.  After all, he grumbled to himself, unless he ate soon, that would only mean they’d stumbled across the body of yet another dead highlander.

Moving with surprising stealth for one of such bulk, he began quickly putting distance between himself and the moor, at last happening upon an unlucky brown hare.  Recalling the food-laden tables at Castle Leoch, such a modest meal hardly compared, he thought, as he crept close to his prey.  But, having been deprived of even the driest of bannocks for most of the last year, his mouth watered in anticipation of what seemed an almost Gathering-worthy feast.

A short while later, his hunger finally dulled, if not completely satisfied, he doused the small fire he’d risked building in the dense woods, and sat for a few moments in the peaceful silence… a profound contrast from the chaos of battle still faintly echoing through his being.  Finally, he stood up, and after erasing all evidence of his presence, made his way to the edge of the woods, headed for the place he hoped had provided at least temporary safety for Jamie and the others.  Once the wounded had mended a bit, he reasoned, they would surely all have to come up with a more long-term plan. But, with a bit of luck, perhaps they could remain undetected in the meantime.

*******

In the distance, a prison wagon followed by two Redcoat escorts bumped along the rough highland terrain.  A closer viewpoint from behind showed that the wagon was crammed with prisoners taken from the Culloden battlefield.  Inside the wagon, a frightened voice asked “Where do you think they’re taking us?”

“I’d wager it’s not to the palace for tea,” another voice (easily recognized as belonging to Murtagh) answered.

“D’ye think they’ll hang us?”

Raising one eyebrow as he offered a challenging grin, Murtagh replied, “I reckon they’ll try.”

Seen from outside again, the wagon continued bouncing along.

*******

A flushed Claire knelt beside a stream and felt her forehead before splashing her face with the cold water.   Reaching under her skirt for the medical supplies secured within it, she located a bottle of aspirin and removed two pills, before tucking the bottle back in its hiding place, and eagerly quaffing water to wash them down.  What she’d originally taken as an early bout of morning sickness was proving something unrelated, which now included a fever and left her feeling frustratingly weak.  She and Lesley had found a cave to hide out in, well hidden down a tree covered slope, despite being located very close to a main road.  The stream that ran just behind it made it a desirable camping spot – one at which she’d once shared a night with Jamie.  Fingering her wedding ring, fashioned from his Lallybroch key, she hoped fervently that he was still alive, and like her, merely hiding from the Redcoats during the daylight hours.  But where?

Rising, a bit unsteadily, she reached for a tree’s momentary support before walking slowly back to the cave.  She hoped a few hours of rest, combined with the aspirin, might relieve her fever, and provide sufficient strength to continue her search for Jamie when nightfall finally came.

*******

Rupert watched from a safe distance for signs of Redcoats near the stable that had been designated as the meeting place of his fellow surviving highlanders.  But, he saw no British uniforms – nor any activity at all.  Carefully skirting the brush along the deserted property’s edge, he made his way to the back of the stable. Pressing himself against the wall, he glanced around once more before having a look through a small window, and felt a chill colder than the stone under his hand upon realizing he heard not even the slightest sounds of men. His heart pounded in his throat as a quick gaze inside, taking in the whole of the interior, revealed no other human.  Turning away from the window, he leaned back against the wall for a moment, letting sink in all he hadn’t seen. Releasing the breath he’d unconsciously been holding, he walked around the stable’s perimeter, at last arriving at the road in front, from which he observed that the grass surrounding it had been recently trampled under many feet.  Looking down, a gleam of metal caught his eye, and he knelt to retrieve a clan pin attached to a torn scrap of tartan.  Turning the pin over, he read the words, “Je suit prest.  Bowing his head, he swore under his breath, and turning around in the road, noticed a large area devoid of vegetation a short distance away.  Dropping the pin and tartan in his sporran, he walked over for a closer look, and discovered a stone into which a large “T” had been etched, marking a pit that had been covered over to serve as a mass grave.    Nodding, as he accepted what had taken place before he arrived, he crossed himself and said a prayer, then returned to the road, and began slowly walking toward an uncertain destination.

*******

At Lallybroch, Jamie lay in a semi-conscious state in the main bedroom. Ian looked on as Jenny worked valiantly to tend the horrific leg wound dealt by Black Jack Randall, a medical kit left by Claire open on a chair pulled close to the bed.  Casting aside another bloodsoaked cloth, Jenny fretfully commented, “I don’t know if I can save him.  His blood’s flowin’ out like water over the mill wheel.”  Wiping her face with a rolled up sleeve, she added distractedly, “If only Claire was here…”

Prompted by her words, Ian’s look of concern deepened.  “Where is Claire?” he asked.

“Milady was at the battle field before the fighting began,” piped a voice from the doorway.  Unaware Fergus had been looking on, Ian and Jenny both turned, their faces simultaneously registering speculations neither wanted to air aloud.  Leaning close to Jamie’s face, Jenny shook his shoulder gently, and asked, “Brother, where’s Claire?  Was she hurt? Should we be looking for her?”

Jamie answered thickly, “You’ll no find her.”  Then, writhing in an anguish unrelated to his leg, he continued, “She’s gone.”

“Gone where?” Jenny pressed.  “Did she wait somewhere ‘til the battle was over?   She must be looking for you!”

“No! She’s gone!” Jamie growled, with surprising strength.  His outburst taking its toll, he grew quieter, and burying his face in the pillow, concluded tearfully. “I’ll never see her again.”

Jenny and Ian exchanged looks of confusion and concern.  Turning back to Jamie, Jenny tried once more to question him, without success.  He slumbered as  she redoubled her attempt to seal his wound. “We have to find Claire,” she said to Ian.

“Aye,” he quickly replied.  “But, we canna just go in plain sight, with the Redcoats stirred up in every direction.  They’re likely to take any highlander they come across – without asking if he fought at Culloden.”

“I’ll go!” said Fergus.  “They don’t know I’m a highlander.  Besides, I’m just a boy – I can fool dem!”

“You’ll do no such thing.”  Jenny scolded.

“But someone has to search for milady.  It should be me.  In France it was my duty to protect her when milord was away.” Hatching a plan as he spoke, Fergus went on, “If I’m discovered, I will say a cow ran away and I was sent to find it and bring it home.”

Again, Ian and Jenny exchanged looks, Ian meeting Jenny’s determined gaze with a half-apologetic, “What choice do we have?” expression.  Jenny softened.

Facing Fergus, she said firmly, “Take ‘milord’s’ horse. And, you won’t be very convincing if you forget to bring a rope to lead the cow with.  Stay off the main road – you know the back paths my brother would take. Those are where Claire would be likely to search for him.  Be careful.”

Offering Jenny a nod of reassurance, Ian laid a hand on Fergus’s shoulder and left with him to gather supplies for his departure.

*******

Claire slept fitfully, awakened frequently by frightening dreams that wandered between her 18th and 20th century worlds.  From her makeshift “bedroom,” behind the shawl that hung as a curtain near the back of the cave, she had no idea if mere minutes, hours or days had passed – or if it was day or night.  Caught between the edges of sleep and waking she thought she heard voices conversing at the cave’s mouth.  Willing herself to rise in her still fevered state, it took supreme effort to stand behind the curtain, straining to hear the words – and to determine if the visitor might be friend or foe. Unable to make out more than indistinct murmurings, she pulled her sgian dubh from her shoe and peeked around the shawl.

“Rupert!” she exclaimed in confusion, her emotions of blurred tangle of relief at a familiar face and remembrance of the circumstances – and promised threats – that had characterized their last meeting.  Gripping her small knife more tightly, she held it concealed in her skirt as she moved forward.  Rupert approached her, and she wondered dully if it was merely her fevered haze that made his expression seem kindly, sad and maybe sympathetic… this last thought heightening her own emotions.

“Claire,” Rupert began, before looking down at his hands, which she suddenly noticed held something she tried to tell herself she didn’t recognize.  Even if she did, “There were a lot of Frasers on the field,” she told herself.  But, this voice of logic was drowned out by that of Jamie, declaring his preference for death in battle to “the wrath of the MacKenzies.”  Rage welled within her, and she lunged toward Rupert, wielding her sgian dubh.  “You bastard!” she railed. “You killed him — to avenge Dougal!”

“Ach! Christ, woman!”  Claire’s knife grazed across Rupert’s knuckles, drawing blood, as he subdued her in his bearlike embrace.  “Stop yer flailin’!  I didna kill anybody – well, no one who wasna a Redcoat…”

Pointing at the pin and tartan, Claire asked, “Then how did you get that. It’s Jamie’s, isn’t it?!” she shouted, kicking and squirming in Rupert’s grasp.

“I tried to save ‘im!” Rupert countered in frustration, slightly relaxing his grip as he felt Claire quiet at this news.  “’twas the Redcoats found ‘em, and killed ‘em all.”

The adrenaline from her anger fading, Claire felt weary and numb at the knowledge her journeys through time, back – and back again, had led to this crushing end.   But, she had little time for contemplation.

“Quiet!” Lesley broke in.  “Did you hear that?”

They listened. “There’s someone outside,” Rupert hissed, pulling out his dirk.   He and Lesley crept to the cave’s mouth, with Claire, ignoring their gestures to stay put, trailing close behind. They waited.  Hooves could be heard pounding on the road above, followed by a Redcoat’s shout, “Who goes there?”

*******

Coming soon… Pebble 3 – What Meets the Eye

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