Authors: Anna Markland
CALEDONIA CHRONICLES BOOK II
Copyright © Anna Markland 2015
Cover Art by Steven Novak
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the author.
All fictional characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author and all incidents are pure invention.
I would like to acknowledge the help of my critique partners in polishing this manuscript. Thank you Reggi Allder, Jacquie Biggar and Sylvie Grayson.
For my brilliant grandson, Matthew Gerard,
and for Time Travelers Everywhere
"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. We must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures."
Braden awoke in chains.
His last memory was a frantic awareness he was drowning in Brecan’s Cauldron, saltwater filling his lungs, his flailing arms and legs buffeted by pieces of his shattered boat. Seagulls high above danced at his demise.
He’d died and must now be in Hell, lying on a damp stone floor, his wrists and ankles shackled in rusted manacles. He gagged on the stench of human filth and blood and fear.
He closed his eyes, the specter of never-ending pain and torment tightening his gut. He was a young man with an eye for pretty lasses and hadn’t lived a life without sin, but eternal damnation seemed harsh. It wasn’t his fault if women pursued him. Mayhap this was his punishment for causing the deaths of his brothers who’d been sucked into the maelstrom with him.
The narrow straits between Jura and Scarba were the fastest way home to Oban. Too cocksure of his ability to master the Cauldron at Corryvreckan, he’d dismissed Callum’s worries that the flood tide was running high on that fateful day. The roar of the inflow from the Firth of Lorne deafened them before they sighted the swirling waters. The tidal bore had quickly swallowed their boat, and them. Now they’d never go home. His mother and father must be devastated, his sister, Margaret, bereft. Three sons lost thanks to him.
He opened his eyes slowly, praying with all his heart he hadn’t dragged Callum and Donal into Hades. Only muffled coughs broke the silence. When he became accustomed to the gloom, his heart leaped into his throat. He was surrounded by at least a hundred men, some sitting, others lying, packed together like maggots on the stone floor.
Many looked like they’d been in this black hole for a long while. They were bruised and battered. Filthy, bloodied bandages covered arms, legs, heads and eyes. Most were swathed in some kind of plaid, leading him to surmise this must be a part of Hell reserved for wicked Scotsmen. Their plaids had seen better days, but had more reds and greens than his own brown and grey.
To a man they stared into nothingness, as though they’d lost the will to live.
He chuckled at the absurd notion. “Dead men who’ve lost the will to live!”
“What’s funny, laddie?”
At first he thought Satan taunted him, but the sharp elbow prodding his ribs was flesh and bone. “Naught,” he rasped to the grey bearded wretch who lay beside him. “I was remembering the day I died.”
“Aye,” his companion agreed. “That fateful day was a death sentence fer us all.”
Their exchange was barely a whisper, yet every unseeing eye in the fetid place turned to them. What did the auld man mean? Had these men died the same day as he? Sweat trickled down his spine. “I’m nay sure how long I’ve been here,” he whispered.
“Nor I. They musta brought ye in during the night. Ye did well to stay out o’ their clutches for sae long. ’Tis a fortnight since our Bonnie Prince fled, abandoning us to our fate, but who can blame him?”
Braden had no notion of who this prince might be or whose clutches he’d avoided. “Ye mean the King, James?” he asked, wondering what his monarch had to do with men condemned for eternity, and where and why had he fled.
His neighbor eyed him curiously. “Nay, James was the Auld Pretender. Did ye suffer a blow to yer ‘ed during the battle? I’m speakin’ o’ the Young Pretender, his heir, Charles.”
It seemed Hell consisted of men in their dotage speaking in tormenting riddles. Braden resolved to sharpen his wits and not let madness overtake him. “As I recall, King James of Scotland’s heir is named James, nay Charles. And what battle are ye referring to?”
His tormentor spat. “Ye’re dafter than I thought, laddie. Culloden o’ course. A place o’ despair and defeat for the clans on the sixteenth day of April in the Year of Our Lord Seventeen Hundred and Forty-six.”
The auld fool had obviously been tortured into lunacy. It was impossible for Braden to have languished in hell for over three hundred years and been none the wiser. “I ne’er heard o’ this Culloden. Is it near Oban? That’s where I hail from. Braden Ogilvie’s my name, James is my king.”
His cell mate struggled to sit up. “Nay lad, Culloden’s close to Inbhir Nis, which is where we are now. ’Tis a good way from Oban. If ye’re from Argyll I hope ye didna fight for the English with the cursed Duke, John Campbell and his Loudon Highlanders?”
If this sorry soul was to be believed, Scotland was at war with the English. Surely Braden would have been aware of it. “Nay, I’m a loyal Scot and an obedient subject o’ King James Stewart and his Queen Joan.” He puffed out his chest. “My sister, Margaret, is betrothed to the king’s cousin, Robert Stewart.”
“Bollocks,” came the hoarse retort.
Braden laughed out loud, earning more sullen stares. “Margaret scolds me when I say that. It’s one of my favorite oaths.”
“Still bollocks. King James was assassinated more than three hundred years ago by the self same cousin ye boast of, and two accomplices.”
The hell-hole had become an inferno. “It canna be true,” Braden rasped.
“What’s the lad goin’ on aboot, George?” another condemned soul shouted from nearby, his chains dancing as he scratched his armpit.
“Naught that makes any sense,” his companion replied gruffly. “Livin’ in the past.” He tapped his forehead. “A blow to the noggin’.”
Inbhir Nis Castle, May 1746
“I pride myself on being a person of moral fortitude,” Lady Charlotte Tremayne insisted to her older sister.
Augusta yawned, leaned back in the upholstered sofa and put her feet up on the footstool in their uncle’s solar. “You mean a do-gooder,” she smirked.
“What’s the point of this,” Charlotte replied, gesturing to the paintings and tapestries adorning the walls, “if we don’t use our wealth and position as the nieces of the Duke of Argyll to help others?”
Her sister grimaced. “It sounds ghastly, Char. Why would you want to help the wretches who fought for the Jacobite cause? Uncle is right. They deserve whatever punishment the Duke of Cumberland metes out. I don’t like being in this wretched castle with hundreds of prisoners in the cells below us. I wish we’d stayed home.”
Charlotte wondered why she bothered trying to reason with her selfish sister. Next would come the incessant whining about the inconvenience of damage done to the castle by the defeated Jacobites. “The point is they weren’t fighting for money or glory or land. They believed Charles Stuart should be king, exactly as their forebears believed his father James was the rightful King of Scotland thirty years ago.”
Augusta rolled her eyes. “Best not let Uncle hear you utter such treacherous thoughts. Besides, the Stuarts are Papists.”
Charlotte bristled. “I’m not saying I agree with them. I’m loyal to King George and a staunch Protestant. But they are Scots, as are we, and if we don’t do something to heal the rift, our country is lost.”
Augusta stuck out her little finger and took a sip of her Vespetrò liqueur. “So you’re claiming that if you help these prisoners, all will be well.”
Charlotte disliked the smell of the Italian concoction her sister loved. Too much anise. And Augusta wrinkled up her nose when she drank, as if it tasted terrible. She retreated to the sideboard and poured a glass of Royal Usquebaugh. She held the liqueur up to the light. “I love the flecks of gold leaf, like the sun’s rays.”
She’d made the remark to annoy Augusta, and it had the desired effect. “You say that every time you drink the stuff.”
Satisfied, Charlotte sank into the mahogany winged-back armchair. “I believe compassion is our duty and that it will achieve more than brutality. I’ve heard horror stories of some of the atrocities Cumberland is perpetrating.”
Augusta made a
. “You won’t have much opportunity for compassion. It’s rumored the prisoners are being transported to Tilbury Prison.”
“Tilbury? But how?”
She closed her mouth abruptly when her Uncle entered the solar.
He had evidently overheard something of their conversation. “Some have already gone. First by ship to London, then to the Fort at Tilbury,” he explained.
“What will happen to them?” Charlotte asked, fearing the answer.
“Execution for the leaders,” he replied grimly. “Transportation for the rank and file, I expect. Release for a few who can prove themselves blameless, which I doubt. I’m interviewing them one by one before they’re shipped out.”