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Hold Fast

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Rosemary Anderson
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:33 am    Post subject: Hold Fast Reply with quote

22nd January, 1617

The dawn will come.

It was a promise that had been shared among the dispossessed and downtrodden of Coimbra for the last hundred years, used as a password, an assurance that they, at least, had not broken faith with the Goddess and the true Church of Meringia. Despite the fact that their king had been dispossessed, that their country was ruled by a puppet king in turn ruled by a heretic council, there were many who had never stopped fighting that regime. With the Coimbrans defeat on the battlefield of Berynsford in Francia, hope had begun to rise in the common people that their true king might be able to reclaim his land and his rights. And as that hope rose, so the rebel army that had lingered in the forests and mountains of Coimbra for three generations had become more bold.

Strikes hit castles known to be held by new nobility, and many of those castles fell. Those that did not were infiltrated by spies, and soon fell in other ways. But there were also victories on the side of the usurping council, and one of those victories had managed to capture not only one of the rebel king's finest generals, but also his eldest son and only daughter, too. Caerell Adair, who should have been the highest ranking noble in the land, knelt with his children in the dank cell they had been pressed into, aware that their deaths could come swiftly. What he regretted most was the death of his daughter, a girl he had never coddled, named for the mother who had died birthing her. Rosemary should not have been here, and yet here she was, as capable to spy and fight as her brothers ever were. She had evaded capture too many times for it to be mere luck, and yet at this crucial moment, she had been caught. It had been her capture that had brought both he and her elder brother out of hiding, the new noble of this castle reneging on his word and keeping her imprisoned with them.

Outside, they could hear the clash of weapons as their army fought to take the castle and free them. It would take a miracle, they all knew. Yet of the three of them, only Rosemary was on her knees, praying to the Goddess to deliver them from the fate that seemed to be their destiny.

It seemed the Goddess had a strange way of answering prayers. Malcolm Anderson wasn't a noble or a knight or even a soldier. He was a simple historian from a peaceful time in Coimbra's history. He was familiar with the war that had taken place nearly a hundred years ago, but only because he had studied it. As it happened, he was something of an expert on this period of history, over a hundred years in his own past. It was during a crucial period in that history that the Goddess answered a prayer and drew him from his time into theirs.

"Will you not at least plead for her, Father?" Duncan was saying in a low voice, trying to get his father to somehow spare his sister's life. He knew his was forfeit, as was Caerell's, but Rosemary might come out of this alive, if not the way she would have liked.

Caerell frowned, considering his youngest child as she prayed. She was a capable young woman, though she should have been married years ago. What man would have her now, he reflected, with her knowledge of daggers and death? Any man who wed her would have to be very sure she wanted to be in his bed. Still, Duncan made a fair point. She should not have been here, he should not have used her as his spy. If he could save her, he should try.

Unaware of the whispers behind her, Rose knelt in the middle of the cell, her clasped hands touching her forehead, her eyes closed. She was a devout follower of the Goddess, raised in the true faith and believing in it with a ferocity that put some clerics to shame. If there was anyone in this castle the Goddess might hear, it was her. And it seemed She had heard.

Without any warning, there was a thunderous crack of sound within the small cell, a flash of light that blinded all three of them, and Caerell heard his daughter yelp, the scramble of her body over mold-ridden rushes and dank stone as something else landed heavily against the flagstone floor. Duncan reached out to pull his little sister to her feet, blinking against the purple flowers that bloomed over his vision as outside the door to their cell, footsteps could be heard approaching. Whatever had happened, it had not gone unnoticed by their captors.

Upon further examination, what it was that had landed heavily on the floor of their cell was a man - crumpled on the floor, dazed and disoriented and groaning as if in pain. He was dressed in the tartan of the Clan Anderson, though the style of his clothing was a bit strange. His face couldn't yet be seen, as he'd arrived face down, a thick head of wavy brown hair on his head.

The three captives did not have much time to absorb what had just happened, however. The heavy door to their cell burst open; two guards charged inside, against all orders to the contrary from their master. Without needing to even glance at one another, the three members of the Adair family sprang into action, and for a few minutes, the air rang with the sound of pain and the crash of metal against stone.

When all was quiet once again, the guards lay dead, their weapons distributed among the three Adairs.

"Father ... what about him?" Rose asked, nodding toward their unexpected guest. "Couldn't be witchcraft, I was praying."

"Aye, and he's wearing Anderson colors," Duncan added. "They've been true."

Caerell frowned, glancing between his children. His priority was to get out of this castle ... but he wouldn't have had the opportunity to do that without this stranger's unexpected arrival. "Bring him," he ordered in a harsh tone. "Kill him if he gives us up."

Duncan rolled his eyes, reaching down to pull the stranger up onto his feet, pressing a spare sword into his hand. "Keep close and keep quiet," he told the Anderson. "You're dead if you squeak."

The stranger groaned again as he was pulled to his feet, the cell swaying around him dizzily for an instant before it righted itself. He found a sword thrust into his hand, and looking around, a couple of bleeding bodies on the floor. "Where ..." he murmured, in a language which matched their own, his face going pale at the threat of death, and yet, the man had put a sword in his hand, as though he was might need it, but for what? He quickly took in his surroundings, realizing they were in a prison of some sort or another, but that didn't explain how he'd arrived there.

Caerell looked out into the passage beyond the door, glancing back. "Rose," he ordered, and the young woman slipped past them all, hurrying on silent feet to the far end of the passage to peer about the corner. She nodded back to them, and Caerell set off after her.

Duncan grasped a handful of the newcomer's shirt and pushed him after his father. "Silence or death," he reminded him, hefting the sword in his own hand.

The man might have argued, had he not been threatened with death, though none of it made any sense. Why give a sword to someone you were threatening to kill? And yet, he was quick enough to realize that his captors - whoever they were - had just killed two guards in an attempt to escape from a prison cell. But who were they and why were they here, and more importantly, why was he here with them, and where the bloody hell were they? The last thing he remembered was being at church, praying alone as he did from time to time for the soul of his dear late sister.
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Rosemary Anderson
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As the group crept through stone-clad passages, it became no clearer for him. Though the sounds of fighting came from all around, they were distant, muffled by thick walls and closed doors. The woman took point, leading the way as though she knew the place by heart; the men, both elder and younger, followed her lead; and between them, he had no choice but to do so as well. She lead them down, not up, into darker passages thick with dust and slime, and the further they went, the less likely it seemed that they were to be challenged. Until, at last, they came to a heavy door set in the wall, its bolts rusted in place.

Caerell swore, nudging the newcomer as Duncan moved forward to wrestle with those bolts. "Help him," he ordered, drawing his daughter away to guard the passageway.

He might have asked more questions or even put up a fight if he wasn't outnumbered, not to mention feeling a bit queasy. He glanced at the girl as she was drawn away. There was something familiar about her, but he didn't have time to think on it now. "Who are you?" he dared ask as he moved to help the younger man with the door.

The look he got for his question was a little confused, but Duncan wasn't in the mood to tease right now. "Duncan Adair," he introduced himself, heaving on the heavy bolt in his hands. "The soon to be dead Duncan Adair if we don't get these bolts open. Your name, Anderson?"

"Adair?" the stranger echoed, eying the other man suspiciously. "Is this some kind of prank, because I'm in no mood for it," he warned, narrowing his eyes warningly. He wasn't quite sure what was going on, but it seemed the most logical explanation, even if he didn't understand how he'd ended up here.

"Get that bolt open, or you'll die with us, miracle or no miracle," Duncan hissed, glancing over his shoulder as they were suddenly plunged into darkness.

"Shh!" That order came from Caerell. "Company coming."

A hand covered the newcomer's on the bolt, stilling his motion as the four of them waited in the darkness, listening to the sound of footsteps approaching with the flicker of torchlight on the walls. The owner of that torch rounded the corner and froze, suddenly face to face with three men attempting to open a doorway that had not been opened in decades. He opened his mouth to shout for the guards ... and a small hand covered his mouth, another drawing a dagger across his throat.

As the man dropped, Caerell caught the torch, barely even glancing up as his daughter wiped her blade clean on the man's cloak. He nodded back to Duncan. "Bolts, lads, quick as you can."

Miracle? What miracle? The more the man claiming to be Duncan Adair told him, the less sense he made, but as soon as it went dark, he quieted, the hair on the back of his neck prickling as he sensed danger. The man couldn't be telling the truth. Duncan Adair had died over one hundred years ago! Everything was happening too fast, panic rising like bile in his throat, and then there were footsteps, and a torch, and the woman, who was barely older than a girl, was slitting a stranger's throat, blood spurting like a fountain before the man collapsed on the floor.

"Bloody hell," he murmured, his face turning paler. Whatever was going on, this was definitely no prank.

"There's more coming," Rose whispered, the stress plain on her face even in the poor light from the torch. "They know we're out, Da."

Caerell's frown darkened into a scowl, and he abandoned his post by the corner to join Duncan and their unwilling accomplice, fighting to get those bolts open.

The man who had yet to name himself froze, looking quickly between the trio and realizing at last not only how dire their circumstances, but who they must be. He wasn't sure how he had come to be here in this time and place, but he was suddenly filled with excitement, adrenalin rushing through his veins as he realized he was somehow living history, rather than studying it.

"There's a better way. Come with me," he said, turning on a heel to go back the way they'd come. "Hurry!"

The trio hesitated as one, staring after him as he passed Rose by. "Wait!" she called softly, catching at his arm, her eyes dark with suspicion.

"How'd you know a better way out of here?" Duncan demanded, as suspicious as his sister. "You know the castle?"

"There's no time to explain now, but if you don't come with me, they'll kill you, and the rebellion will fail," he told them, as though he knew this for fact. "There's another way out, but we have to hurry." He searched each face for only a moment, unsure how to convince them, unsure he wasn't dreaming or had gone stark raving mad, but he knew what he knew, and if they didn't listen to him, there was a good chance, he'd die with them. "You said something about a miracle. Well, maybe this is it."

There was only a moment to hesitate in; the sound of other footsteps was beginning to make itself known. Despite themselves, the two younger Adairs looked to their father. Caerell considered the newcomer for only a moment longer.

"If this be a trick, lad, I'll spit you myself," he promised darkly, but he was already moving, ushering Duncan and Rosemary ahead of himself to follow their miracle back into the castle.

He didn't go far, moving quickly and with quiet deliberation back inside the castle, but instead of taking the passage that would take them back toward the prison, he headed toward the kitchens where a garbage chute would take them quickly and efficiently out of the castle. He wasn't sure what time of year it was - castles were damp and drafty places even in good weather - but it was the surest and quickest way to freedom, despite the danger of cold.

Even in the midst of a battle, the kitchens were staffed, servants and serfs working to feed the men fighting on the walls, as well as the family in residence. Most barely glanced up as the quartet of escapees hurried by, content not to see what was happening around them. Some, however, noticed, and not all of them rushed to inform the guards. One woman, burly arms dusted with flour, raised a cast-iron pan as she rounded on them. "One wrong move, and I'll clout you, laird or no laird!"

"Out of the way, woman," the stranger growled, brandishing the sword, though he had no intentions of cutting down a female threatening them with a pan, of all things. "We have no time for nonsense."

The cook, for that was undoubtedly what she was, gave him an unimpressed look. "Mind, you'll cut yourself," was all she said in answer.

Caerell, however, was already moving. "We're just passing through, good woman, no need to hanker after a bloody nose," he told her, glancing to their surprisingly bloodthirsty guide. "Where's this way out, lad?"

The man was anything but bloodthirsty, but he was also in something of a panic, knowing what would happen to the trio - and probably himself - if they didn't make good on their escape. "Through here!" he said, extending an arm toward the garbage chute. It wasn't a very glamorous escape route, but it was brilliant in its own way, as it was the quickest and surest way out of the castle, though they'd end up in freezing cold water, which had posed its own dangers.
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Rosemary Anderson
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Not a word," Caerell told the cook, who actually blushed when he kissed her hand. Evidently Laird Caerell Adair had something of a reputation, as well as charm when it suited him. He turned to his children. "Go on ... Rose, you're first."

The young woman discarded her dagger, heaving herself into the chute to slither down slimy stone with barely a sound.

Duncan took the sword from the stranger's hand. "You're next," he told him.

The man scowled, slightly annoyed that he hadn't thought of charming the cook, but then he wasn't a laird and charming women - young or old - had never been his strong point. He wasn't entirely sure if he trusted the younger Adair, but he had no choice but to do as he was told. It had been his idea, after all. He knew it was going to be cold, but it was better than the alternative option of facing imprisonment or execution, and so, he, too, climbed into the chute and slithered downward, his stomach turning at the stench.

It was just as well the sword had been taken from him - the thought of what could happen to a man hitting water from thirty feet up with a sharp weapon in his hand didn't bear considering. That water, however, was a relatively swift river that served as moat to the castle itself, and it was icy cold. Indeed, he may only have had a moment to acknowledge that there was snow on the ground before he hit that water.

The water was cold enough to take his breath away, but thankfully, he knew how to swim and knew he and his companions had to get to land quickly or they'd freeze. Even so, there was the danger of freezing if they couldn't find shelter and get dry and warm very soon. Fortunately, he knew a little something about their surroundings and knew that there should be a rebel encampment nearby. He gulped a breath as he surfaced, his breath turning to vapor in the cold, and searched for any sign of the girl.

She was slower in surfacing, or perhaps his heavier form had caught up to hers in the falling, but either way, she popped up from the water with a shocked gasp almost the moment his eyes turned to find her. Flailing arms and a robust grasp of unladylike language saw her striking for the bank, eager to get out of the water as fast as she could, even as two successive splashes declared that her brother and father had joined them in freedom.

Relieved to find her surfacing nearby, and hearing the two splashes that announced her brother and father had joined them, he struck out for the bank, as eager as her to get out of the cold water before his arms and legs were so cold they refused to obey him. It wasn't far to shore, but climbing out of the water with heavy, water-laden clothing and nearly frozen limbs proved a challenge, even for a man of his size. Somehow he managed to stumble onto the shore, shivering and soaked to the skin.

Huffing out belabored breaths as she dragged herself up onto her feet, each breath misting in the frozen air, Rose reached out to pull him up onto his feet, glancing back to see her father and brother crawling from the water. The woods encroached on this bank, a helpful offer of cover from careless glances over the battlements, and with luck, their people were camped within. Shivering, Caerell pushed them all toward the trees. He needed to find his men and call a retreat.

Why she was helping him when he should be helping her, he wasn't sure. Maybe they were helping each other, but there was no time to think about any of that now, not when their lives were in danger. There was no time for questions or explanations, and the stranger whose name they still did not know hurried toward the cover of trees along with them.

"Where now, Da?" Duncan asked as they ducked out of sight of the battlements, each of them struggling as the cold air turned their clothing to ice against their skin.

Caerell huffed on his hands, warming his already numb fingers, scanning the wood. "Deeper in," he said, nodding to the west. "We need to find the forward camp." With barely a glance to the others, he headed in that direction, marching with a smart step to try and counteract the cold.

It was all they could do to keep moving when they were slowly freezing to death, but it was better than standing still. The stranger who was wearing Clan Anderson tartan turned quiet, all of his attention focused on keeping one foot moving in front of the other.

It seemed as though Laird Adair knew how his people would have set their lines, though. Within a few minutes, they came upon a patrol of pikemen, who were only too happy to part with their cloaks to warm the quartet's backs and escort them into the forward camp. There, Caerell left them, giving orders to have their guest treated well before disappearing to take charge of his army. Now he was out, he needed to pull them back before he lost too many good people. Rose was quickly out of sight, but the stranger was taken into the tent set aside for Duncan and his father. The brazier was lit already, hot wine in a jug set nearby, and dry clothing easily found. Duncan sacrificed some of his own clothing to get their stranger dressed and warm, if not entirely comfortable.

The stranger made no complaints, but he had turned sullenly quiet now that they were free of the castle. It wasn't so much the cold that held his tongue, though as he huddled in front of the fire, his teeth stopped chattering and he started to feel the blood flowing to his arms and legs again. He was feeling bewildered and confused, though strangely at home here. None of it made any sense, but if this truly was some miracle, then he wondered what his part was in it.

"So, you're an Anderson," Duncan said finally, handing him a cup of spiced wine and joining him in that huddle by the fire. "Have to get you measured for boots - those slipper things were ruined by the fall. You've a name, have you?"

"Malcolm," the man replied, looking away from the fire to meet the other man's gaze and take the cup of spice wine in his hand with a murmur of thanks. "Malcolm Anderson. And you're Duncan Adair, the son of Caerell Adair and brother to Rosemary," he said, having gleaned most of this on his own.

"Aye, I am," Duncan nodded. "You forgot Brodie - he's between me and Rose. Most people forget him, though, seems to be how he likes it." He eyed Malcolm thoughtfully. "How'd you get in there? Magic doesn't exist, there's got to be a how to what happened to drop you in Rose's lap."

"I dunnae know," Malcolm replied with a brogue that matched Duncan's so closely, it seemed he must be from roughly the same area, if not the same time period. "You will think me mad when I tell you."

"Aye, it's like as not that I will," Duncan agreed with a chuckle, glancing up as a shadow passed over the flap of the tent. "Get your skinny backside in here, Rosie. Keep warm while you're dropping your eaves."

Obligingly, the flap of the tent opened to admit Rosemary Adair, clean and cloaked, her wet hair braided back from her face. She still didn't look much like a laird's daughter, foregoing skirts for sturdy leather breeches and a thick padded jerkin over a shirt, but she was infinitely less a ragamuffin now than she had been in the cell.

"Rose, this is Malcolm Anderson," her brother introduced them. "Malcolm, this is my wee sister, Rosemary. He was about to explain how he dropped on us."

"Aye, that'd be a good start," Rose smiled, tucking herself onto the bench beside her brother. Her dark eyes rested on Malcolm curiously. "I've never known the Goddess to answer prayers like that before."
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Rosemary Anderson
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

At least, the pair seemed more friendly now that he'd helped them escape the castle, though they likely had no idea how close they'd all come to disaster. His heart sank to think about his own time, and yet, if it really had been the Goddess who'd brought him here, now that they were free, why was he still here? "Nor have I, but here I am. You said something about a miracle. Is that what you meant? You prayed to the Goddess for a miracle, and you got me."

"Would have taken a miracle to get us out of there," Duncan pointed out. "Dalgleish was all for hanging us from the battlements."

Rosemary shifted awkwardly. "Wouldn't have been there at all if it wasn't for me," she said guiltily. "I should have got out when I had the chance, not stayed to snoop."

"Aye, he would have, and he would have made Rose ..." Malcolm broke off with a frown, his knowledge of the time period getting away from him. He found himself once again filled with a certain amount of excitement to know he was in the company of two of history's most famous personages, and yet, he was having a hard time believing it. "Forgive me, I ... 'Tis all a bit hard to believe."

"Would've made Rose what?" Duncan asked sharply, a dark frown forming between his brows. "What's that numpty planning about my sister?"

Beside him, Rosemary rolled her eyes. She thought it was fairly obvious herself, but then Duncan had never had to consider himself as a prize of war.

"He would have made her marry him and bear his children," Malcolm replied. That wasn't so hard to believe, given what they all knew of Roland Dalgleish, but the thought of young, bonny Rosemary forced to marry that swine had always made Malcolm's blood boil, even though he'd never met her, until now. "Forgive me, lass, but any man who has to force a woman to marry him is nae much of a man."

Duncan glanced at his sister, snorting with laughter. "She'd chop his knackers off," he predicted in amusement, grunting in pain at the healthy thump Rosemary gave him in return for that. Malcolm's apparent anger at the thought of what might have been her fate made her smile a little, though.

"Aye," she agreed softly. "But there's little in the world to stop a man in power having what he chooses."

He said nothing of the thirteen children she'd bear the man before she'd die in childbirth, but perhaps now that she was free, her fate would change. "I dunnae understand how I came to be here," he blurted. "I was in church, praying for ..." He broke off again, gaze darting from one to the other before continuing. "Praying for my sister's soul when there was a flash of light and I found myself here."

"And I was praying for some kind of miracle," Rosemary said quietly, her eyes alight with devout joy. "Seems the Goddess answered my prayer with you. But we've no way to get you back where you were."

"Aye, and where in Coimbra did you get those fiddly wee shoes?" Duncan asked in amusement. "Looked more like something a widow'd wear than a man."

"Duncan," Rose chastised her brother softly.

How was he going to explain that those fiddly wee shoes were in fashion where he was from, at a time that was only a little over a century in the future? Malcolm thought there were more important matters to discuss than his clothes, but at least the other man was smiling in amusement, instead of threatening him with a sword. "We need to finish Dalgleish," he said, without explaining why.

"He'll be finished," Duncan assured him. "But not today. We'll need to draw him out of Imbre if we're going to have a chance at dealing with the brute."

As he spoke, someone cleared their throat outside the tent. "Master, mistress?"

"Aye, speak up, lad," Duncan called to the young voice that asked for them.

"The Laird is callin' the retreat, master," the boy told him. "We're tae strike camp and scatter."

Rosemary and Duncan exchanged a resigned look; it seemed as though this was not an unexpected order. "Aye, we'll do it," Duncan told the boy. "Be about your business."

As the lad hurried away, Rose tilted her head toward her brother. "What'll we do with him?" she asked, nodding toward Malcolm.

What could they do with him? It seemed he couldn't go back to where he'd come from, and he couldn't stay here. He had little choice but to follow the camp as they withdrew and perhaps put his knowledge of the period to good use. "I might be of use," he pointed out, not because he feared for his life so much as that he truly thought he might be able to help. After all, he already knew what was supposed to take place, though their actions were changing history as he knew it.

"Aye, you might," Duncan agreed. "And you've saved our lives today. You'll come with us."

Rose looked at her brother, brows raised. "Us?" she echoed tartly.

Her brother grinned at her. "Aye, us," he confirmed. "You think you're slipping out from my eyes until we're safe again, you've another thing coming, Rosie."

She sighed, rolling her eyes as she rose. "Don't you slow me down," she warned him, stepping out of the tent as her brother took to his feet again, turning to assemble two packs.

"She'll come by when she's packed and ready. We'll be taking a longer route back to the main camp - 'bout two weeks on foot, just the three of us. You any good with a weapon?"

Malcolm watched the verbal sparring silently. While he might know the historical facts surrounding their lives, he did not know much about them personally. "Where's she want to go?" he asked curiously, stretched out in front of the fire like he was with a cup of spiced wine in his hand. "Aye, it depends on the weapon," he replied, in regard to the man's question.

"Well, a weapon you're more comfortable with than the sword you were waving at the cooks would be a start," Duncan chuckled, hands busily rolling blankets and other necessaries for a journey on foot into a pair of packs. He glanced toward the tent flaps briefly. "Rosie? She's smug about being fast over ground, that's all. Thinks having two hulking men around'll slow her down and break her best speed for a return."

"'Tis nae safe to travel alone," Malcolm commented, especially not now with a war waging, but that probably went without saying. He frowned a little at the thought of a weapon. He was a historian, a teacher, and a scholar, not a soldier, but he knew enough about weapons to be able to defend himself. "I can use a sword or a bow," he insisted, bristling a little at the inference that he was not skilled with a blade. "What I dunnae know, I can learn."

"Aye, but 'tis best to have you armed with something you've a notion of using well, to start," Duncan pointed out. "There's no shame in it, Anderson. I've known men twice our age who fight best with a quill."
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Rosemary Anderson
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"A quill," he echoed, frowning further. He was not about to admit that he was probably one of those men, determined to do his part while he was here, for however long he was here, realizing suddenly that he had no idea how to go home, and yet, this was a historian's dream. "I'm better with a bow than a sword," he admitted at last, though he was at least adequate with both.

"Good, then we'll have some decent game to eat on our way," Duncan grinned at him. "Don't look so glum, Malcolm. You've saved our lives - saved the Laird from a bad death. That's proof enough you're of our mind, even without the display you made with your entrance. Rose believes in you, that's good enough for me."

"Display I made?" Malcolm echoed again, moving to his feet, his face flushed, not from anger but excitement. "Do you have any idea who I am or where I'm from? Do you have any bloody idea how I got here?" he asked further, his voice rising and tinged with a hint of panic. "If I told you, you'd think me mad. I am nae sure myself. I was in church, praying for my sister, and suddenly I'm here ... over one hundred years in the past."

To his credit, Duncan took all this in with relative calm, eyeing Malcolm for a long moment. "Well, I didn't say you weren't a wee bit touched in the head," he pointed out, handing over one of the packs. "Settle that on you; let me see about a bow."

"You are not hearing me, man. I know what happened here ... What was supposed to happen. I know what happens in the days and years to come. But if anyone knows that I know, they'll either think me mad or a servant of the devil. I cannae explain how I came to be here, miracle or no, but I am no kin of the devil," Malcolm told the man, with a hint of panic in his voice.

"Now listen here ..." Duncan turned to him suddenly, grasping him by the collar to pull him close, a fierceness about his expression that did not bear arguing with. "You're a miracle, a gift from the Goddess. Without you, we'd be dead or worse. My wee sister believes in you, believes the Goddess sent you here in answer to her prayers, and I'll not have you even mentioning demons and devils to her, you understand me? Talking of past and future and knowledge you couldn't have - I'll not stand for it. She trusts you, and for her sake, so do I. But you put yourself out in front of the common man spouting that nonsense, and not even the king can save you from a burning, you ken?"

"That's what I'm trying to tell you," Malcolm said, shoving the man off, bristling a little at his lecture, though he knew he was only trying to help. He didn't know who to trust here and knowing the past didn't help. "You should know, there is no Coimbra in the future," he warned him, dropping his voice to not much more than a whisper. "If by some miracle, the Goddess truly did bring me here, then I will do everything in my power to make sure the rightful king is restored to his throne."

"No Coi -? Shut your mouth!" Duncan jerked back from him, fierce and angry now. "I don't know what you think you're doing, but saying stuff like that's not going to make you any friends, man. Get that pack on your back, pick up that bow. Not another word of this, or I'll black your eye."

From outside the tent came the sound of a feminine chuckle. "Playing nicely, are we, boys?" Rosemary asked, opening the flap to peer inside.

Malcolm might have taken offense to that, if Rosemary had not intervened. He realized pretty quickly that Duncan was not the one to whom he should be confiding. Whether the man believed him or not, there didn't seem much point in arguing about something that couldn't be proven. He shouldered the pack with a scowl and a grumble. "Believe me or not, I just saved your hide, and I'll likely do so again in the future."

"Did I say you didn't?" Duncan countered incredulously, but wasn't allowed to say anything else.

Rosemary threw a heavy bundle at him, distracting him from hasty words as he fumbled to catch it. "Come away out here, Master Anderson," she invited Malcolm. "Let's set a quiver for that bow to you."

It was just as well before the two men wound up giving each other black eyes. Malcolm was no coward, nor was he incapable of defending himself, even if he wasn't a soldier by trade. He eyed Duncan a moment longer before pushing out of the tent with another muttered grumble.

Rosemary stepped back to the tent once he was out, pausing to meet her brother's eyes with a warning before she followed Malcolm. "Well, there's a fine start to a journey," she commented in mild amusement, drawing him out of the way of the bustle as around them tents were struck. She paused to take up a quiver, eyeing his waist thoughtfully. "Aye, that belt should fit. Get it on you."

"Is it true?" Malcolm asked, once he and Rosemary were out of earshot of her brother. He took hold of the belt and fit it around his waist. Weapons hadn't really changed all that much in a hundred years, though other things had. He was asking specifically about the Goddess, but she might not know what it was he was asking about.

She frowned curiously, tilting her head up at him as she gathered a handful of arrows to tuck into the quiver he was adjusting as they spoke. "Is what true?" she asked him. After all, she hadn't overheard much, if any, of his conversation with her brother.

"That I'm a miracle from the Goddess," he replied, relaxing a little now that he wasn't arguing with her brother. Maybe Duncan was right; maybe it was better if he kept the truth to himself, but if it was Rosemary's prayer that had brought him here, he thought she at least deserved to know.

"How can you not be?" she asked gently. "No one but I knows the content of my prayer, and yet here you are. And no, I'm not telling you exactly what I was praying for." She broke off with a low laugh, a fresh blush on her cheeks as she tucked the last of the arrows into his quiver and checked him over.

"I'm nae soldier, lass," he warned her. "But I swear I will do whatever I can for the good of Coimbra, her king, and her people." Hadn't he always thought he'd been born too late? Too late to change history, too late to save the king, too late to fight for the land he so loved; but now, it seemed the Goddess was giving him a chance to do just that, and who was he to question it?

"Which king?" The question wasn't the accusation it might have been; Rosemary believed he had been sent to them in their hour of need, after all. She was actually teasing the man, a sparkle in her dark eyes not really needing the grin on her lips to tell him so. "I may have to cut your trews off if you answer wrongly."

"You know what king I mean," he told her, his voice softening for some reason when he spoke to her, without even realizing it. Perhaps it was because he had only recently lost his sister, or perhaps it was something else. "Tralin," he replied simply enough.

"Hold fast," she answered, the motto of Clan Nairn - the true royal house - the only confirmation he needed. "I prayed for you, and you came when I most needed you. Never mind Duncan; he's a wee bit addled with everything moving so fast. He won't hold hasty words against you if you don't hold them against him."

It was a little overwhelming to know he was actually standing in the presence of Rosemary Adair, and that he had met her father and brother and helped saved them from death. Oh, he knew he'd only played a small part in changing history, but he couldn't help but wonder what impact it might have on not only his future, but that of the entire country's. "I did nae come by choice. I dunnae know how I came to be here, but here I am, and here I will stay so long as the Goddess wills it."
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Rosemary Anderson
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Then I shall have to keep praying, won't I?" She smiled up at him, stepping back to adjust her gloves as Duncan came out of the tent. Both Adair siblings were garbed for travel, as was Malcolm; all three of them armed, and carrying all they would need for their trek.

"Best we be moving, Rose," Duncan told his sister, offering Malcolm a nod - the closest he would get to apologizing for his behavior for now. "We've a long road ahead."

"Aye, and it's not friendly for a few miles yet," Rosemary agreed, looking between the two men. "Well, come on with you, now. And no hitting, or I'll geld you both."

Duncan snorted with laughter as she headed through the bustle of the camp, falling into step with Malcolm to follow.

Malcolm snorted a half-chuckle, but it held no anger or annoyance, the harsh words mostly forgotten. Historian or not, it seemed he had a lot to learn here about these people who he had always thought of as heroes and legends. It was strange to find they were as human as he was. He fell into step behind Duncan, happy to let the man lead, his thoughts his own for now. He knew this was no game. There were people out there who would love to see them dead.

That was never more evident than in the first hours of that march. With Rosemary leading the way, the trio left the retreating army behind swiftly, clambering down the sheer side of what felt like a mountain to follow game trails between thickets and streams, all the while acutely aware of the castle looming above. Every so often, Rosemary would drop flat into the snow, and Duncan would follow suit, dragging Malcolm down with him. And there they would wait, until the patrol wearing Dalgleish's colors passed them by without incident. For all the reputation Coimbrans had in this era of spoiling for a fight, it seemed as though the Adair siblings would be glad to get away without spilling more blood.

The further they got from the castle, the fewer those patrols were, and by the time the sun was setting, they had chosen a place to camp for the night - a cave, tucked away in the side of a hill, covered with scrub. There would be no fire tonight, and thus, no hot meal. There was not even call to unroll their blankets. Instead, brother and sister pulled Malcolm to sit close with them, their blankets spread over legs and shoulders, sharing their body heat as the night drew on. Duncan was the first to succumb to sleep, his head heavy on his chest before the moon rose.

Rosemary sighed softly, watching her breath form crystals in the air. "Oh, for summer and a night that doesn't leave my arse numb for the day ahead," she mused longingly, her voice soft in the darkness.

Malcolm could not argue it was not only uncomfortable but cold, especially for someone unaccustomed to such hardships, but he made no complaints. The night wasn't as painfully cold as the water had been earlier that day, but what he wouldn't give for a warm fire and a cup of mulled wine. "Are you cold, lass?" he asked, unable to find a comfortable position for sleeping, though it seemed her brother had had no trouble dropping off to sleep.

"With you two cuddled up on me?" she teased in amusement, shaking her head. "Nay, I'm well enough. T'will be a cold night, but tomorrow will be better." She tilted her head to look at him. "How're your feet, Master Anderson? You're not so used to a forced march, I'm thinking."

"Sore, but 'tis the cold that worries me," he replied with a small frown, relieved though he was that she would not freeze. "I was a fool to suggest the rubbish chute," he admitted, frown deepening, although they had escaped, and that was the important thing.

"Had you not, we would have been taken again," she pointed out quietly, careful not to disturb her brother as they spoke. "Aye, and likely you would have been tortured, for there was no way to enter the castle and you still managed it. You saved our lives, Master Anderson. You'll not find us ungrateful for that."

"Your brother does nae seem too fond of me," Malcolm pointed out, with a glance toward the snoring Duncan, and yet, they had only known each other a few short hours. Assuming he was staying, as he had no way home, there would be plenty of time for them to get better acquainted.

She glanced at her brother, a fond smirk on her face. "He's a goat," she informed Malcolm succinctly. "Runs at everything with his head, and if it doesn't give in, he complains. He'll come 'round to you. Brodie's the clever one; Duncan's just the heir, as he reminds people constantly."

"Aye, Brodie," Malcolm echoed, almost forgetting the younger son, who'd met a different fate than that of the rest of his family. "Your brother thinks me mad," he pointed out. He wasn't so sure of his own sanity either, even if Rose did believe he was a miracle sent by the Goddess.

She snorted softly with laughter, aware that Duncan did not absorb information happily, and certainly not information he wasn't prepared for. "And what did you say to make him think that?" she asked curiously. "You should think of him as a hammer. Every problem is a nail."

Malcolm's frown deepened as he glanced to the sleeping brother, unsure he wanted to repeat what he'd said that had so upset her brother a few hours earlier. "I'm nae sure I should tell you. He seems to think 'tis better to keep my thoughts to myself."

"Aye, well ..." She shrugged, albeit carefully, so as not to jerk her brother's head off her shoulder. "They're your thoughts. Your choice who you share them with, though my father may ask a few searching questions when he's the time for it. As for me, I trust you, though I daresay I shouldn't."

"Why shouldn't you?" he asked curiously, envious of the fond familiarity between brother and sister, his heart sore with grief for the loss of his own sister not long ago. "Then again, I'm nae sure I would trust me either."

"Och, you're a strange man, don't you know," she teased him quietly. "I've ne'er met you before in my life. I'm sure there's ladies a-plenty who'd be scandalized at us sharing blankets on our first night of meeting." She laughed, shaking her head. "Of course, I'm not exactly a lady myself."

"Sharing blankets with both you and your brother," he corrected her, a small smile finally curling his lips. "And you're wrong. You're more lady than anyone I've ever known," he told her, trying not to sound too much like a smitten schoolboy.

Her laugh was softer this time, her expression warm beneath the chilly moonlight. "You seem to know of my family very well," she commented curiously. "I doubt I'm what you were expecting. Most laird's daughters don't go about in leathers, handling daggers and getting themselves imprisoned."

"'Tis what makes you ... special," he said, after a moment. She'd never understand that, where he came from, she was a legend, or at least, she might not understand that just yet. "Your brother said something about my clansmen." There was that frown again. "They are nae likely to know me," he told her. How could they when he'd not been born yet in this time? They were his predecessors, his ancestors even, and yet they were his family, too.
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Rosemary Anderson
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rose's smile gentled, unaccountably touched at being called special. It wasn't something she was used to. His frowning comment, however, drew her attention. "Aye, there's a few Andersons in the main camp," she said thoughtfully. "Mostly that clan keeps to the northern border. 'Tis your birthright, after all, and your laird has contacts with Pomerania that've been very useful this last year."

What would happen if they denied him or asked too many questions that he couldn't answer? He could not tell them the truth; they'd only think him a mad man. He had tried the truth with Duncan, and it had only earned him a scolding. "You should get some rest. We've a long way to go yet," he told her, tucking the blanket around her a bit tighter.

"No, you sleep," she told him, though she didn't stop him from drawing the blankets tighter about her. "You've more need of sleep than I. I'll keep this watch tonight, wake Duncan later for his turn."

"I'm nae sure I can," he admitted, though he would be sorry in the morning if he didn't at least try. He wasn't sure what to say to her suddenly, wanting to share what he'd shared with her brother, but afraid she would scold him and scorn him, as well. He wasn't mad, and he wasn't the devil's get. "Do you really believe the Goddess brought me here?"

She looked at him with clear eyes, no sign of suspicion or madness in her own gaze. "Aye, I do," she said softly. "All my life, the Goddess has watched over me. She kept me safe when no other could; She's protected my family, and given us opportunities that wouldn't have come to anyone else. She's always answered my prayers ... maybe not the way I expected, but always. Perhaps She's never been quite so blunt about it as She was with delivering you, but I believe. My faith is my shield, and you're a product of my faith, even if you don't believe that."

But if the Goddess had answered her prayer in bringing him here, what prayer had she answered of his? "You've nae asked much about me," he said, realizing, too, that she had not answered his question about why she should not trust him, though it seemed she did.

"True, I've not," she agreed. "Perhaps I'm not so naive as I seem. Perhaps I know that your words may well be guarded for this short while, until you're certain of your safety, and words cannot always be trusted. I trust your actions, and the panic you felt when you knew we were in danger. You didn't feel that panic for yourself; you felt it for us. That tells me you're a good man, a sound man, and a man I can trust, not only with my own life, but with my family's, too. What more do I need to know?"

He nodded, unable to argue with that. "I will do what I can to keep you safe, Lady," he told her solemnly, even though she might not want to hear that from him. He'd already promised to fight for the rightful king, but she was the one who had brought him here, and she was the one he thought the Goddess had sent him here to protect.

"Then you should sleep, Master Anderson," she told him gently. "There'll be time enough for you to take watch another time. I'm not tired enough to sleep yet, and you've had a busy day."

"You'll wake me if there's trouble," he said. It wasn't a question, though it was likely that if trouble found them, he'd wake on his own. He didn't think he was going to sleep very soundly until they were safe.

"I'll wake you before it gets here," she promised him, though in the back of her mind, she noted his concern. Had he ever had to sleep on the cold ground in hostile territory before this night? She couldn't be certain, but she didn't think he had. "You need to sleep. Try not to worry so much."

That was certainly advice he'd have a hard time taking. How could he not worry? He'd been thrown into one of the most dangerous, albeit, exciting times in his country's history. Not only would he have a chance to witness history, but maybe, just maybe, he'd be able to change it. "Goodnight, then, Lady," he told her, doing his best to make himself comfortable in an impossibly uncomfortable position.

She smiled at him briefly, letting him wriggle against her to get as comfortable as he could before trying to sleep, her own attention turning to the woods outside their chosen camp to keep watch for the first half of the night.

Had he thought to ask for the date, he might have realized that he had already changed the history he was so familiar with. In all the texts of his studies, the date of January 22nd, 1617, was considered one of the most critical in the second Coimbran civil war. It had been on that date that Laird Caerell Adair and his eldest son were hung in chains from the battlements of Imbre Castle, before the eyes of their loyal clansmen, breaking the spirit of the siege.

Yet there was Duncan Adair, alive and well - and snoring - freed from imprisonment by the unexpected intervention of this stranger who seemed to be a gift from an often distant deity. Perhaps the future was already looking brighter; perhaps not. But just by being in the right place at the right time, Malcolm Anderson had changed the history he knew. For good or ill, he would have a bearing on what came next, no matter his intentions.

No rose without a thorn ...
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