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Into the Game
by Pam and Del

PART FIFTEEN

 

There were seven of them, riding south and west. Carmichael, Ferguson,
Erskine, Monaghan, Conroy, and Doyle - the last three, members of the Irish
division. And Archie.

Back at Merrion Square, they had divided their forces: seven of them to go
out to locate and eliminate the foundry, the rest to deal with the armory in
Patrick Street.

Carmichael had left Jamieson in charge.

"Choose your moment and your means," he had advised the knife expert. "And
make it look like an accident--if you can."

Turning away, Carmichael's gaze had found Archie, remained there while he
frowned to himself, more in thought than in displeasure. "Odd, I never
thought to ask if you knew anything about munitions, Stewart."

"I know how to blow things up," Archie said cautiously.

"Fancy a trip into the country?"

*****

South and west--between the foothills of Wicklow, and the wide flat fields of
Kildare. Phil Long was a prosperous merchant, his cousin a gentleman of
means, though his country estate was not, apparently, as large or as grand as
many in the region. Stillif it was large enough to house a foundry on the
premises . . .

Archie considered the matter as he rode with the others. Additional probing
before their departure had yielded a closer approximation of the time of the
rising: Emmet apparently favored August - and, ideally, the rebellion would
coincide with a French landing on Irish soil.

Yet the promise of French support appeared - still - to be the weakest link in
the chain, even with the rebels' promise of arms and cannon thrown in.
Taking the foundry out of the reckoning altogether was probably the best way
to settle the problem . And to that end, Kilcarron's agents had brought along
a formidable arsenal of their own. Powder and fuses. Oil--it might be
necessary to start a fire. Darklanterns--the afternoon was fading fast, and
it would be a windy night.

Erskine, looking his blandest and most benevolent, drove the cart, which
carried their gear, concealed in what appeared to be a stack of beer casks.
The Scottish agent was also carrying a flask of notably potent spirits on his
person, which he was prepared to offer to any stranger who might question his
guise as a brewer, on his way to market to sell his wares, with the help of
various companions. Fortunately, those they passed on the road seemed
inclined to accept them at face value.

Carmichael was talking to Monaghan, the Dublin arms expert.

" - not sure about the size of this place. If we can, we'll blow up the works.
If not - then we'll take out as much as we can to put them out of commission
for a few weeks. That might be enough to give the Frogs second thoughts."

"And this is to look like an accident as well?"

The tomcat grin flicked out. "I've been thinking about the furnace. Unchancy
things, I hear. Likely to explode if you're not careful." His face turned
serious. "There's more. The message said they'd cast a score of guns
already - smaller field pieces. But once they've heard from the Frogs, they'll
be prepared to cast something bigger."

Monaghan nodded. "So we'll need to find those and blow them too. And look
around for the new moulds."

"The moulds?"

"They pour the molten metal into earthenware moulds for casting. We can find
the new set and smash them - it'll hold them up a bit. And we'll know if they
were ready to start on bigger weapons."

"The cannon, the furnace, the moulds." Carmichael ordered them on his
fingers. "At the very least. We've enough powder to blow the furnace and the
guns. And then --maybe a fire?"

Monaghan shook his head. "No good, that. Most foundries are stone buildings,
*because* of the furnaces."

"Ahh." A faint, dissatisfied noise. "We'll have to use whatever else comes to
hand, then."

The track was becoming rougher and narrower as they moved into wooded, more
secluded areas. Conroy, who had grown up in Wicklow and whose knowledge of
the region was proving invaluable, had said as much before they set out.
Fewer enclosures and boundaries here than in England - under cover of darkness,
it would not be too difficult to steal on to Long's cousin's property, do
what needed to be done . . .

Archie glanced at the Irish agent, riding stolidly beside him, then at
Monaghan still deep in conversation with Carmichael, and Doyle seated next to
Erskine on the driver's perch of the cart. What must it be like for them,
siding against one of their own countrymen? Plotting with British agents to
scuttle this rising before it even started?

Bit late to start doubting your allies, a small voice in his head remarked
dryly. Archie grimaced to himself. He *didn't* doubt the members of the
Irish division - not really. During the last five months, they had shown
themselves as committed to the fulfillment of this mission as any of the
Edinburgh contingent. He remembered overhearing a comment Conroy had made to
Jamieson: "There's the devil you know, and the devil you don't know - who
might be a damn sight worse!"

Taking the long view. As Kilcarron invariably did - or so Carmichael had said.
And the Dublin agents, like their Edinburgh counterparts, had been handpicked
by the earl. Small wonder, then, if they shared his perspective.

The afternoon light was just beginning to fade when the halt was called. In
what Conroy identified as the last bit of tree-cover for some distance, they
unloaded and tended the horses. Erskine and Doyle would stay behind with the
powder and fuses until sent for.

"Less than half an hour's walk," Conroy said as they strapped on packs. "The
river will be on the other side --they built near a water source."

"And wrote the damn directions down, just like that?" Doyle, one of the you
nger members of the Dublin division, had not seen the decoded messages.

"He wanted to convince one of his Froggy contacts to come see the works,"
Carmichael explained. "So he was trying to point out a good meeting place. It
helped *us* find the way, right enough." He slung one last strap into place.
"Quiet now, lads, let's go."

*****

They smelled the foundry before they saw it. Carmichael, slightly in the
lead, paused and sniffed the air. "Smoke. From there - just up ahead."

A little distance further and they saw the thin plume rising over the crest
of a low hill. More than that, they heard the faint but unmistakable sound
of running water.

Carmichael glanced at Conroy, who nodded confirmation. Together, they led
their party up the hill, moving at half a crouch lest they encounter anyone
on the other side of the slope. The long grass afforded them partial cover as
they neared the summit. Three-quarters up the hill, Carmichael dropped to
all fours and crawled the rest of the way; the others followed suit.

It was closer than Archie had thought: just down the slope, where the ground
flattened out, stood a long, narrow stone building, its chimneys giving off
puffs of smoke. From this distance, the foundry looked L-shaped - one long
wing joined at a right angle with a much shorter one; behind and running
parallel to the building was the river, its waters brownish-green in the
gathering dusk.

"Monaghan, Conroy." Carmichael spoke just above a murmur. "You know the area
best. Get up closer and have a look round - see how many buildings there are,
how many people or houses in the area, then report back when you can."

The Irish agents nodded, slipped away on their scouting mission. Prudent to
send them, Archie reflected as he settled himself more firmly against the
turf. Not only were Monaghan and Conroy more familiar with the area, but if
worst came to worst and they encountered anyone at the foundry, they were far
better equipped to brazen it out than the Edinburgh agents would be.

Time crawled by and the sky darkened as he, Carmichael, and Ferguson waited
on the hill. Perhaps half-an-hour had elapsed when they heard Monaghan and
Conroy coming up behind them.

Carmichael turned swiftly towards them. "Well?"

"There's the foundry itself - just the one building," Monaghan reported in a
low voice. "And two sheds, not twenty yards away. If the cannon aren't in
the foundry, we're betting they've been moved to one of those."

The commander nodded. "Very likely. Anyone about?"

Conroy shook his head. "Not that we could see. No houses nearby. Maybe two,
three people inside the foundry. I'm thinking they're keeping the fire
going, but not casting anything at present."

Carmichael frowned. "Odd, that. I suppose - they might be waiting for the
Frogs, after all." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Ferguson, go fetch
Erskine and Doyle. Tell them to bring the cart to the foot of the hill, and
wait for us. Won't be long now."

"Yes, sir." The other agent moved off, still keeping his head down.

*****

 

More time passed as they waited for Ferguson's return. Sitting up cautiously,
they stretched their cramped, stiffened limbs as much as they dared.
Carmichael and Monaghan began to discuss the process of demolition, while
Conroy and Archie listened attentively.

"Shouldn't take too much to shut it down," Monaghan remarked. "It looks like
a very small operation."

"Mm." Carmichael rubbed his jaw with the back of his hand, eyes narrowed.
"No, it's not as big as I thought it would be, either. So we burn what we
can, and blow up everything else. . . . "

He stopped, as the sound came clearly to all of them in the still evening
air: the creak of hinges, then the closing of a door.

"Down!" Carmichael hissed. "It's the watch!"

They all dropped to the ground then, taking cover in the long grass. After
some minutes, Carmichael shifted himself expertly, brought out the spyglass,
and wriggled cautiously forward to the edge of the hill. Archie followed at
his signal.

A lone figure below was striding further and further away from the foundry.
It did not look back, nor turn around, as if on a guard's patrol of the
perimeter.

Carmichael shook his head. "I can't believe what I'm seeing," he muttered.

"There *can't* be--only one man?" Archie queried softly.

Carmichael passed him the glass. "Do *you* see any bloody sentries, then?"

Archie scanned all visible sides of the building before handing back the
glass. "No."

"D'you think there's even a lock on the damn door?"

"I wouldn't want to guess. Maybe they thought - they'll be overlooked?"

"We'll wait it out," Carmichael decided. "See if anyone shows up between now
and full dark. We may be lucky--or they may be fools."

A faint rustling behind them. Ferguson was wriggling back up the hill towards
them. "Erskine and Doyle are here," he called softly. "With the powder."

*****

The powder kegs were of a moderate size, Archie discovered, as he hoisted one
on to his shoulder. Not as large, he remembered, as the ones he, Horatio,
and the other Renowns had needed to blow up the fort at Santo Domingo.
Still - they seemed adequate to the task at hand; as Carmichael had said, the
foundry was not that large a building.

Erskine joined them for this part of the mission, shouldering his own powder
keg and slinging a pack containing the fuses onto his back as well. Doyle
would drive the cart a little down the road, wait for further orders should
they be necessary.

Despite Monaghan and Conroy's report, they proceeded with the utmost caution,
moving stealthily down the hill towards the foundry once darkness had fallen.
As it turned out, there *was* a lock on the door, though under Ferguson's
attentions it lasted less than five minutes -- Archie had not been Rory's
only pupil. Once the door was open and they were sure the building was
indeed deserted, they brought in the powder, setting the barrels just over
the threshold for now.

"Have a look round out here for the guns," Carmichael ordered Conroy and
Ferguson. "And you, stand watch," he added to Erskine, who nodded and took
up a position just outside the door. Archie and Monaghan followed Carmichael
further into the building.

Once inside, Carmichael and Monaghan opened their darklanterns. Archie
blinked at what the beams revealed: long stone walls, countless windows,
recesses in which unfamiliar pieces of equipment stood waiting. Towards one
end of the foundry, a great scale hung suspended from the wooden
roof-beams - for weighing new loads of metal, he supposed. At the other end,
encased in brick, stood the furnace.

"It's the firebox you'll be wanting," Monaghan told Carmichael. "That's how
they heat the furnace, and if we're lucky, they've kept it burning. Takes too
long a time to start from ashes."

"There's a great stack of wood just behind here," Archie reported, peering
around the archway nearest the furnace.

"That'll be it," Monaghan confirmed.

Carmichael joined his subordinate by the archway. "Is there a fire going?"

Archie squinted towards the firebox. "Yes - it's not very large, but it seems
sufficient. May be a while before anyone comes to check it again."

"Right, then." Carmichael turned back to the main furnace. "See if you two
can find moulds, new guns, or anything else likely to be an immediate threat."

Picking up one of the darklanterns, Archie went to investigate some of the
recesses. He knew very little about foundries, but he did remember that
cannon were cast solid, then the bore drilled afterwards. Somewhere, in
these recesses, there might be a boring-mill, and new guns awaiting attention.

The first and second recesses yielded tables and sawhorses, the third
something that was probably a lathe; the fourth and farthest from the furnace
housed the boring-mill. No guns in any of them, however. A good sign? Archie
wondered. Leaving the last recess, he returned to the main part of the
foundry, saw Monaghan crouching by what appeared to be a big square pit in
the center of the floor.

The Irish agent beckoned to him. "Look there." He pointed into the pit.
"Only two moulds - and the pit's not even filled in yet. They *are* waiting for
the French."

The first sign of caution Emmet's conspirators had shown to date, Archie
reflected. Dropping to his own knees beside Monaghan, he studied the moulds,
standing muzzle up in the pit. "They look quite large, though. For eighteen-
and twenty-four pounders, at a guess."

"Mm." Monaghan glanced at him quizzically, but made no further comment.

Carmichael was still assessing the resources at hand. "It's a bloody lot of
stone, but--" His gaze flicked upward. "The roof-beams might burn, though.
And some of these ropes--it'd make a right mess of things."

"Smash the moulds and the great scale," Monaghan suggested. "Oil up the
beams, to catch when the furnace blows--"

He stopped as Conroy and Ferguson came in.

"We've found the cannon," the Irishman reported. "In the near shed. Only
tools, in the far one."

"You counted the guns?"

"Yes. Twenty, like they said. Not all of 'em fully assembled."

"So we blow them up." Archie found he was thinking aloud, but none of his col
leagues seemed to consider that unusual. "And it looks like--"

"A fire," Ferguson finished thoughtfully. "Oil on the timbers of the shed--"

"And on the roof-beams in here," Monaghan suggested. "break out the windows,
it'll look as if the flames carried--"

"That far shed, too," Carmichael said, after a moment's consideration. "To
look as though it all went up together." He nodded a little grimly. "Let's
get to work - we don't know how much time we have left."

*****

There were iron bars a-plenty to smash windows and moulds; dismantling the
scale proved similarly easy. Oiling the timbers, however, took longer.
Ferguson, the tallest, rolled two barrels against a wall, and stacked them, a
little awkwardly, in order to climb up and splash oil on one side of a
roof-beam.

"Shame we don't have young MacCrimmon with us," he commented. "He'd be right
at home with this."

"He's better where he is," Archie responded absently, spilling oil onto a
stack of coiled ropes..

"Quiet over there, you lot," Carmichael warned. "I'm thinking."

Frowning in concentration, he looked from the furnace to the windows, then
turned his head to look back toward the door.

"Not a powder trail," he said finally. "The wind's up--too much of a draught,
with the windows smashed out. Better be fuse."

"Ferguson," he ordered, "Take two kegs of powder to the gun-shed. Leave us
the rest to use here."

"And the other shed?" Conroy asked.

"No powder to spare for that 'un, and only one flask of oil. But there's
another way." Going to the foundry door, Carmichael opened it and called out
in a low voice. "Erskine?"

"Yes?" the other answered him warily.

"Still got that flask of spirits from the cart?"

"And I was hoping you'd forgotten about it," Erskine complained.

"I'll stand you another back in town, if we get out of here."

"Two."

The feral grin showed itself, if a little tightly. "If you insist. Now, give
Ferguson a hand with the powder."

Erskine sighed but shouldered the second powder keg and started after his
colleague readily enough.

Archie and Conroy picked up the remaining barrels, stacking them where
directed. Carmichael and Monaghan worked in close consultation, starting
backward, planning out the blast points and laying fuse to reach each one.
The last segment would run straight back from the furnace--they had to knot
on a new spool of fuse--and nearly the length of the building. Carmichael cut
the end of the line a few feet from the threshold.

"That should do it," he announced, eyes still speculative. "As long as the
knot burns on--lost a man that way, once."

"That should be . . .close to four minutes, I'd reckon," Monaghan told him,
his eyes also expertly assessing the fuse. "What do you want for the gun
shed?"

"We'll need enough time to get everybody clear--and the cart away. Seven or
eight minutes after this goes, if you can reckon it that far."

"I can," Monaghan declared confidently, and left them.

*****

The fuse was balky.

Carmichael swore at it, after the third time it failed to ignite. "Anyone
know if this bloody thing got wet?"

"Don't think so," Conroy answered, as Carmichael made a fourth unsuccessful
attempt with the flint-striker on his pistol. The commander swore again,
renewed his efforts.

On the fifth attempt, the spark caught, wavered, and began to burn sullenly
down the fuse. Carmichael exhaled audibly.

"Right. Out now, lads - we've got a bit less than four minutes." He picked up
the darklantern and headed for the door, Archie and Conroy at his heels.

Erskine, back at his post, fell into step beside them. "Tool shed's been
dealt with," he reported, a trifle breathlessly. "It'll burn slowly at
first, but it should go up about the same time everything else does."

"Right. And the others?"

"Coming this way."

Monaghan and Ferguson approached at a jog from the direction of the gun-shed.

"Four minutes," Carmichael told them.

Monaghan nodded. "We did what you said - *about* eight minutes after the
furnace, the guns'll blow." He waved back towards the shed. "What now?"

"We'll stay and see it all goes up." Carmichael indicated himself and Archie.
"The rest of you, find Doyle and get back to the horses. We'll meet at the
crossroads, eh?"

Without waiting for a reply, he broke into a lope, the others quickly
following.

*****

Alone, Archie and Carmichael crouched side by side on the far side of the
hill. The three-quarters moon gave them just enough light to see the minutes
go by on Carmichael's watch.

Three minutes. Four.

Five.

Carmichael swore between clenched teeth. "It's that bloody fuse! I know
it!"

He scrambled to his feet, waved dismissively at Archie as he began to rise.

"No! You stay back here."

He was over the crest of the hill before Archie could muster an argument.
But memory stirred, prickled restlessly.

// Dust drifting through the still air. . . . distant yells of an approaching
pursuit. Two figures, one wearing a dress, the other a blue uniform, stru
ggling-- slowly, God, too slowly!--toward the bridge and safety. A single
shot ringing out, then the shorter figure crumpling to the ground, the taller
falling to its knees in shock and grief.

Mouth dry, heart pounding, he took off at a run, dashing across the bridge to
where his friend, oblivious to everything but his loss, was crouching in the
dust . . . //

He could not have stopped himself then.

He could not stop himself now.

Archie gritted his teeth, and started for the foundry.

*****

He left the door a little ajar and retraced their steps, watching for the
beam of light from the darklantern.

There it was - and the sound of a familiar voice, swearing.

Archie stepped into the light. "Was it the knot?"

"No doubt of it." Carmichael was glaring down at the line in his hand. "And
the draught coming in did the rest. Bloody hell!"

His gaze shifted to Archie, suddenly and sharply. "What the devil are you
doing here? I told you, stay put!"

"What if a sentry *had* come in and stamped out the fuse?" Archie countered.
"You'd need someone to watch your back!"

>From the brief silence that followed, he knew he had scored. Carmichael swore
again. "If you were Rory's age - "

"You can swing at me later. What's to be done?"

Carmichael nodded down at the fuse in his hands. "I'll have to cut it
shorter and relight it. You get over to the shed and see *that* fuse is
still burning. Then get the hell out."

"But - "

Tawny eyes bored into his. "That's. An. Order!" Carmichael bit off each
word, his voice cold as death.

No arguing with *that*. Not ever. Archie nodded reluctantly and slipped away.

*****

He stood just on the threshold of the shed, door ajar, ears pricked for the
familiar hiss, eyes searching the shadows. There! The spark, eating its way
along the fuse like a small, hungry demon, leaving a trail of dead ash in its
wake. How much longer? They'd started with an eight-minute delay and he no
longer knew how much time had passed. Stepping away from the door, Archie
turned and headed, not for open ground, but back the way he had come, towards
the foundry.

Door ajar there, too and only darkness showing within. Again he strained his
eyes for any glimmer of light that might come from the darklantern . . .

Running footsteps, then a hand descending on his shoulder, hard.

"I told you to get out - " Carmichael's voice, low and furious.

"Just run, damn it!" Archie flung back - and together, they pounded towards the
hill, not stopping at the crest but plunging down; first running, then
skidding, finally rolling until they reached the bottom, breathless and
disheveled, covered with soil and damp grass.

Behind them came the sudden roar of an explosion, then a series of BOOMS!
that filled the night with fire and thunder.

At the bottom of the hill, two figures lay limp and motionless as rag dolls.
After several minutes, the taller of the pair rolled over cautiously,
squinting up at the distant blaze.

"That," said Carmichael, at last, "was a deal too close for comfort."

His still-breathless companion only nodded. Carmichael grinned suddenly and
reached over to slap his shoulder hard in approval.

"Good man. And one in the eye for Old Nick, too . . . that's five guineas
he's going to owe me."

Puzzled blue eyes regarded him, under raised, questioning eyebrows.

"He told me you'd bolt--or try to."

There was a half-strangled, ragged gasp that was nearly a sob. Then a second
gasp, as Carmichael listened, that became a fluent, inventive, increasingly
profane stream of expletives detailing Nicholas Crawford's ancestry,
appearance, character, personal habits, and probable destination in the
hereafter.

Carmichael waited, in silent and relieved amusement, until the words trailed
off, and were replaced by deep, exhausted breathing. "Not bad," he remarked
admiringly. "Army man, were you?"

"Navy," Archie said weakly.

Carmichael grinned up at the sky but did not inquire further. "Let's go
home."

 

END PART FIFTEEN