Clan season 3 episode 1.., p.1
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       Clan: Season 3: Episode 1 - Calum's Country, p.1

           Leigh Barker
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Clan: Season 3: Episode 1 - Calum's Country

  (Season 3)

  (Episode 1)

  Calum's Country

  Copyright 2016 Leigh Barker

  ISBN: 9781311557346

  Calum’s Country

  Even as Calum left Moy Hall and headed south on the main road, he knew that there was little chance of catching the coach carrying General Richmond before it reached Aberdeen and the ship waiting to take him to London. To hang. Three days ride, perhaps four if the coach they were using wasn’t much good, but they were a day ahead, and even the fine thoroughbreds he and John were riding couldn’t make up that time. Not without killing the animals, and he wouldn’t do that. Not for an Englishman, even one as noble as the general.

  He slowed the mare down and waited for John to ride up beside him.

  “Aye, we’ll not catch them like this,” John said, then leaned over to look at his young friend. “I know that look. What’s in your head?”

  Calum smiled quickly. They’d been together too long.

  “I’m thinking the coach will be driven by Englishmen.”

  “Aye, I’d say you’re right, the English being who they are, they’d not trust a Scot with such an important task as transporting one of their own generals to his death.”

  “Then they’ll stop at the best inn they can find and eat and drink their fill at the crown’s expense.”

  John smiled. “And Angus will drop on their heads like the wrath of god.”

  Calum’s smile faded. “Aye, he will, won’t he?”

  “And that bothers you?”

  “Aye, Angus is a brave man, braver than most, but he’s only one man. And there’ll be four or five English.”

  “That’s nay a fair fight.” John grinned. “They need more English.”

  “For you m’be, but Angus is a Black Watch officer.”

  John nodded once. “Aye, so he’ll be soft.”

  “I’m thinking.”

  “He’ll try anyway. It’ll never enter his stubborn head to let them take the man.”

  “What they’re doing is wrong. That’s all he’ll see. He’ll not walk away and let them be.”

  “Like you would?”

  Calum gave him another smile. One more than John had seen in many a month. Since the bloodbath at Drummossie Moor.

  “So what will you be doing about the general?”

  Calum urged his chestnut mare into a steady trot. “I’m thinking Angus will wait for dawn before he does anything…”


  “Aye, stupid.”

  “Something we would never do.”

  “If we ride through the night,” Calum said, ignoring his friend’s sarcasm, “we might just get there before he does anything.”

  “Stupid,” John said.

  “Like getting himself killed,” Calum said.

  John’s smile vanished and he leaned forward to pat his stallion’s neck. There was a long ride ahead. But not as long as he thought.

  The coach had stopped at the first decent inn on the Aberdeen Road, so it was only a little after midnight when they rode into the yard and dismounted next to the coach.

  Calum pointed at the inn door, then at John and imitated walking with his fingers.

  John watched him for a moment with his head tilted quizzically. “So you want me to go in there while you go around to the other door?”

  Calum flinched. Then nodded.

  “Why didn’t you say, then?”

  “Are you going?”

  “What if they’re in the stables?” John pointed across the yard, then pointed at himself and imitated walking with his fingers.

  Calum swore quietly and went to find the front door. John could go in the back or the stables or just sit and watch the moon, he didn’t care.

  He reached the corner of the inn and saw the lantern hanging above the door, then felt a presence behind him. He relaxed, brushed his sleeve and let his hand finish on the hilt of his dirk.

  “If you stick your old clan chief with your dirk,” a familiar voice said, “Anne will likely beat you around the head with a live chicken.”

  Calum turned and slapped Angus on the shoulder. “I’d given you up for dead.”

  “Not yet, a few good years left in me.”

  “Not if you go bursting into the place to rescue some Englishman you’ve never met.”

  Angus shrugged. “Don’t have to meet a man to know he’s worth saving.”

  John stepped up beside them and grunted.

  “You came back,” Calum said, and hid his smile.

  “I was getting lonely standing at the door all by myself.”

  Angus chuckled. “Must be a familiar feeling though.”

  John grunted again.

  “John got married,” Calum said. “Fine woman. She’ll keep him facing forward.”

  “Are we going to stand out here chatting or go and get the general?” John said.

  Calum looked at Angus. “Do you know where he’s being held?”

  Angus shook his head. “I was waiting for them to go to bed. It took a long time and a lot of ale.”

  “Then you search the stables and the barn,” Calum said. “John, you go and search the cellars. I’ll look upstairs.” He saw Angus raise his eyebrows. “Trust me, you’ll be better with the horses. Lady Anne wouldn’t object.”

  He chuckled again. “True.” He slapped John on the shoulder. “Take care, they’re likely holding him in the ale cellar. I would.”

  Calum watched Angus move around the edge of the yard and John lift the cover over the ramp to the cellar. He waited a moment to make sure there was no cry of alarm, then stepped into the inn.

  Except for a lantern over the long bar, the place was in darkness and not a soul anywhere, not even the customary drunk sleeping it off on the floor. He guessed the regular customers had found other places to be when the English arrived. And he didn’t blame them for that.

  He crossed the barroom slowly, careful not to knock against anything and disturb the guards. He could hear snoring from upstairs, but that could change very quickly.

  The stairs creaked, but not loud or sharp enough to wake anyone. And the sleepers were full of ale. But he still moved slowly one step at a time, setting his foot down carefully.

  The first floor was a corridor with four doors on each side, and snoring came from most of them. At the end of the corridor was another narrow staircase, and he stepped onto it and waited for it to creak. It didn’t, which struck him as a little odd. He stopped with his foot on the second step. Why would this narrow steep staircase be better maintained than the main one? Because the person who used it didn’t like creaking. Which meant it led to the owner’s rooms.

  He half turned. The English wouldn’t put their prisoner with the innkeeper. No, but the innkeeper would know where he was. He continued up the stairs, still stepping lightly.

  There were two doors at the top, meeting at a point in the middle of a small landing. He put his ear to them, but there was nothing. A sound sleeper. Or a room full of wide-awake Englishmen. Not likely.

  He opened the door to his left, his right hand on the hilt of his dirk, stepped in and stayed very still until his eyes adjusted to the almost total darkness.

  There was a large bed in the middle of the small room, and a little way from its foot was a narrow dresser with a bowl and jug on it. To his right was a room-height wardrobe with the doors slightly ajar to show—the bed creaked and he turned to see a huge figure silhouetted against the pale window.

  He drew his dirk, then put it back. A dagger wasn’t going to do him much good against somebody that size. He’d need his sword. But even as he started to draw it, the shadow lifte
d the screen on a lantern and flooded the room with pale yellow light. And Calum’s head spun.

  The woman was massive. And completely naked. He looked away, not out of any sense of decency but because it was quicker than turning and running screaming from the room.

  “What you want?” the naked giant boomed. “We’re closed.”

  Her meaning jumped into his mind and he immediately squashed the thought before he acted on his urge for headlong flight.

  “Looking for somebody,” he said, without turning.

  “Well, there’s nobody here, only me.” She was silent for several seconds while she looked him over. “But I’m available for someone as lovely as yourself.”

  She giggled. It was the stuff of nightmares.

  On reflex, he looked to his left and there she was. He didn’t know much about livestock, that was his deceased brother’s life, but those were udders, he’d swear to it.

  Dear God. He’d rather it had been the English guards in the room.

  She patted the bed and it sounded like she was beating a carpet. “Room for two, deary.”

  No, there wasn’t, unless the second person was flat.

  “Bit shy, are you, deary?” She put her hands on the place where a normal person’s hips would be. “I’ll be gentle.”

  Calum thought he’d better say something before it got out of hand. “Thank you, lassie—”

  “You think I’m a lassie?” She giggled again.

  Calum would never sleep again.

  “Cheeky little thing. Come on over here. I won’t hurt you.”

  Now he knew that was a lie.

  “I’m looking for my friend,” Calum said. It was worth a try, anything to change the subject.

  “Well, iffin this friend’s like you, deary, he’d still be here.”

  Keep going. Don’t run away. God, why didn’t he take the stables?

  “He’s English.”

  “They all was, deary.”

  “This one’s their prisoner.”

  She shrugged, and everything rose and splashed back down.

  Calum looked away, but slowly. He didn’t want to offend the woman. She might have a delicate disposition.

  “Didn’t see no prisoner,” she said, then coughed, looked around for a moment and spat into a pot at the side of the bed. “Never had one in chains before.” She thought about it. “Might be a nice change.”

  “Sorry to bother you.”

  “Don’t you worry yourself. Come and sit and tell me about your friend in chains.”

  Calum’s instincts, honed by years of combat, warned him he needed to get out of there or he’d not be heard from again.

  There was a creak as the door opened a little, and he looked back to see John staring at the woman with his jaw hanging open; then he looked at Calum and then back at the woman. And a smile crept across his face. He raised his hands. And closed the door.

  Calum grabbed the handle and pulled it open. Part of his mind was considering pushing John into the room and locking the door, but he was his friend and he would never do that. Unless there was no other way.

  “Did you find him?” Please say yes.


  “I did,” Angus said, looking over John’s shoulder. “Oh, I see you’ve got company. We’ll come back later.”

  “Stop!” Calum said, and for the first time since he was a bairn, there was a hint of pleading in his voice. “You found Richmond?”

  “Yes,” Angus said, still staring at the huge naked woman. “He’s in the stables under guard.”

  “That’s easy to remedy,” John said, and started to turn.

  “Wait,” Calum said.

  They stared at him, surprised by his failure to grab the chance to get out.

  “We can get Richmond out,” he said. “But between here and Inverness are dozens of English patrols. They’ll have him, and us, before we get halfway.”

  Nobody spoke. Angus looked in awe at the woman. John tried not to look but just couldn’t help it. Calum looked around the room.

  “Do you have a dress?” he said.

  The woman patted her breasts, causing them to ripple like wineskins on a freight wagon. “Do you think I walk about letting people see the goods? They have to pay like everybody.”

  “Sorry, I meant can I borrow one of your dresses?” Calum said.

  She sighed heavily and looked at the men in the doorway. “It’s always the pretty ones, ain’t it?”

  “Aye,” John said, “it is that.”

  She pointed at the wardrobe. “In there. But keep your hands off me good stuff.”

  Calum pulled open the doors and stepped back as a pile of clothes cascaded out onto the floor. He bent and picked up a black dress with off-white frills and held it up as a question.

  “You can have that one,” she said. “Two pounds should help with me suffering for its loss.”

  John spluttered.

  “Seems fair,” Calum said, and rolled up the dress and crossed to the door. “Pay the fine lassie, Angus.”

  Angus was still staring at the woman and didn’t register the implications of what had been said until Calum and John were already away down the stairs. He decided to run. The woman was not built for speed, and she was naked. He looked back into the room but couldn’t see anything. Except white nakedness about a foot from his face.

  “Two pounds,” she said, then leaned forward. “Unless you want to make it three and you’ve got the time.” She smiled.

  And now he could see she’d lost most of her front teeth. And had been eating something that would turn a man’s hair green.

  When he joined Calum and John in the dark yard, he was two pounds worse off. And had the prospect of many nights of troubled sleep to come.

  “You’ll pay for this, Maclean,” he said. “You won’t know when. You won’t be able to get ready. You won’t be able to hide. You’ll pay.”

  Calum grinned. “Worth it.”

  “How we going to get Richmond?” John said, before his friend dug his hole any deeper.

  “How many guards?” Calum said.

  Angus raised four fingers. “Asleep.”

  “They’ve had a long day,” Calum said. “It’s our duty to fellow English soldiers to ensure they sleep soundly.” He nodded at John and was about to do the walking-fingers signal again, but gave up. “Angus, you go around back. John will go in the front.”

  “And you?” John said.

  “I’ll be in the loft.” He pointed at the open hatch above the stable doors. “If you can lift me that high, now you’re married and fat.”

  Calum had to tuck his head and roll as if he’d been thrown from a horse as he sailed headfirst through the hatch and onto the hay. So, John could still lift him, fat and married as he was.

  He continued the roll until he was back on his feet and looked around quickly. The loft was free of soldiers, so there were no surprises. There should’ve been at least one guard there. These soldiers were poor specimens. He heard a thud below, three more, then silence. Poor sleeping soldiers.

  General Richmond’s wrists were tied above his head to a stable door. It looked very uncomfortable, but he was silent, just watching the highlanders dispatch the guards almost without breaking step. It was very disappointing. English troops should be better than this.

  Calum dropped down from the loft, drew his dirk and cut Richmond’s ropes, then went back outside without speaking. A moment later he returned and dropped the dress on the general’s lap.

  Richmond stood up stiffly, eased his back, then held up the dress. He spread his arms to their full width, but it still didn’t expand the dress to its proper dimensions.

  “What the devil is this?”

  “Disguise,” Calum said, and suppressed a grin.

  “For what?” Richmond shook the dress and straw blew around the stable. “To disguise a wagon?”

  “Put it on. It’s better than being hanged.”

  “Is it?” Richmond turned the dress slowly, h
olding it by his fingertips, then sighed and shook it out, ready to step into it.

  “Sorry, General,” Calum said. “You have to lose the uniform. At least the red coat.”

  Richmond looked up sharply.

  “It’s going to be hard enough passing you off as a bonnie lassie without some sharp-eyed English trooper seeing your coat tucked under this fine dress.”

  The general looked at the dress then at Calum. “It cost me a pretty penny; perhaps I could secrete it on my horse.”

  “And if we’re searched?” Calum shook his head. “They’ll say we killed an officer and hang us all.”

  “Very well, but I’ll have you know this uniform cost more than a regiment’s wages for a year.”

  Calum had no trouble believing that, and less trouble ignoring it.

  By the time they’d saddled the horses they were going to steal, the general was unrecognizable under enough material to make a fair-sized sail.

  “I could fall for you m’self,” John said, looking him over. “If I hadn’t just found m’ one true love.”

  “I wouldn’t look at you twice,” Richmond said. “Not good enough for the buxom wench I’ve become.”

  Calum chuckled and handed the lassie the reins of a small mare.

  Richmond looked it over. “Is this the best you could find?”

  “For a lassie?” Calum shrugged. “Aye. Even one as buxom as you.” He swung up onto his black stallion. “What d’ya think the English would say if they stop us and you’re riding… this?” He patted his horse.

  “Very well.” Richmond reached for the saddle and was about to put his foot in the stirrup but stopped and pulled rolls of material up until he found his boot. “This dress?”

  Calum waited.

  “This was the best you could find?”

  “There’s more.” He pointed at the inn. “Top floor. Fine lassie will be glad to find you another.”

  John laughed and put his hand over his mouth.

  “Am I missing something?” Richmond said, finally mounting.

  “Thank your lord that you are,” Angus said.

  Richmond shook out the dress over his saddle, frowned and looked up at the inn as they rode slowly out of the stables. Perhaps they were right. The woman who could wear this would be best met in full daylight.

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