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Into the Game
by Pam and Del

 

PART THREE

 

The next morning's geography lesson received a change of venue.

"There's a globe in the study," said Latour, and escorted them from the
infirmary. Setting a pace that was brisk but not too hurried, the physician
led his companions to the main hallway, where two flights of stairs awaited
them. Archie ascended in the wake of his doctor and his pupil, gripping the
bannister firmly during the climb and trying not to puff or pant when they
reached the first, then the second landing.

*This is embarrassing.* Time was when he could scramble up the rigging like
a monkey and arrive at the fighting top without being the least bit winded.
Would he ever again engage in comparable activity, without wheezing and
blowing like an old dray horse? At least they were finally at the top of the
stairs.

Latour was eying him keenly as he drew level with them but made no comment.
Still, Archie could not help noticing that they proceeded more slowly along
the corridor towards their intended destination--and was grateful, if
slightly mortified.

A handsome house, Archie acknowledged, taking advantage of their more
leisurely progress to study their surroundings. Proportions were clean,
clear, and symmetrical, possessing the understated elegance reminiscent of
classical Greece and Rome. And the exterior was probably every bit as
impressive. Many Scottish aristocrats had built such estates here during the
last two centuries, fit to rival the manors and castles of the English.

Latour had paused before a polished oaken door. "The study, gentlemen.
Expect my return in two hours." He gave Rory a last admonitory look and
Archie a quizzical one, before he left.

The study contained an abundance of chairs and tables, along with maps and
charts; wasting no time, the two set to work. Rory continued to act the
docile, almost model pupil as Archie led a brief review of the first lesson,
then went on to new material. But Archie himself felt drained after the
previous day; his attention was wandering a little more than an hour into the
lesson.

"Do you need to rest?" Rory asked, green eyes watching him keenly.

Archie rubbed his forehead. "No, thank you, Mr. MacCrimmon. I'm sure we can
continue."

"Dr. Latour said I was not to plague you," Rory declared with an air of
conscious virtue.

Archie regarded him thoughtfully. "Do you plague other people?"

Green eyes grew round and innocent. "*I* don't think so!"

Archie lowered his head. Smiling at this point would probably be bad for
discipline. "Perhaps we should look at the globe," he suggested. "For a bit
of a change."

Even with the shift in activity, Archie found himself tiring and losing
focus. With a quarter hour left of their allotted time, he halted the lesson.

"You've done well, Mr. MacCrimmon. Perhaps we can stop a little early today."

Rory smiled briefly, stood up, and headed for the door.

"Where does the other door go?" Archie asked idly, indicating the door in the
adjacent wall.

"That one? Oh, into the library," Rory answered, and departed.

Library? His curiosity aroused, Archie rose slowly from the table. You
could learn a great deal about someone from seeing their library. And an
atlas might be useful too, if he could find one, for Rory's next lesson.

Archie opened the door and looked in.

*****

The first sight of the library--easily three times the size of the
study--drove all conscious thought from his head; he remained in the doorway,
staring about the room with avid, astonished eyes. None of his own family's
estates--neither Kennedy Manor nor Aylesford Hall--boasted such a collection.
Tall bookcases--extending from floor to ceiling and containing volumes of
every size and shape--stretched as far as the eye could see. There was even
a rolling staircase--no, *two* rolling staircases--to reach the upper
shelves. How long had it taken to amass such riches? Even an amateur
scholar would find enough here to occupy him for years . . .

Archie forced himself to return to the immediate present, relieved that no
one was there to see the expression of naked greed on his face. Besides, he
reflected cynically, Crawford of Kilcarron probably exacted a high price for
such privileges--and Archie felt he had already paid the earl quite enough as
it was.

But surely even Kilcarron would not begrudge the loan of an atlas, especially
if it helped Rory improve his map-reading skills. Archie moved about the
room, subjecting the shelves to a quick but thorough inspection. To his
relief, everything was arranged by category, and faultlessly organized. But
that made perfect sense, on further consideration. Someone who dealt in
information for a living could not afford to have one of his main resources
in disarray. Soon enough, Archie located the geography section, containing
numerous atlases which he mentally earmarked for future use.

No sign of Latour yet. Archie wondered briefly if the physician would think
to look in the library. *Probably--he knows I'm not likely to wander too far
on my own.* In the meantime, he was in no great hurry to depart. It had
been so long since he'd felt the stirrings of curiosity and interest that had
once been as much a part of him as the color of his eyes, and he was
reluctant to relinquish them.

Idly, he crossed to the nearest window, looked out--and froze, like a
terrified rabbit, at what he saw just below him.

Kilcarron. The pale hair and erect carriage were unmistakable. The earl
appeared to be talking to two more people, neither of whom Archie recognized.

As Kilcarron turned his head in the direction of the house, Archie shrank
back from the window, heart pounding, hands suddenly clammy. *Give me your
word.* The cool, imperative voice that had trapped him on the ship spoke
again in his memory. An all-too-familiar sense of panic rose in him, which
he struggled to contain.

*Stop it. There are three floors and a window between you--and plenty of
time for you to escape back to the infirmary, if need be.* Leaning against
the nearest wall, Archie made himself take slow, even breaths until the panic
receded. Gradually, his heart resumed its normal rhythm; he exhaled deeply
and pushed himself away from the wall.

Rational thought also began to return. Kilcarron had seemed quite intent on
whatever he was doing at that moment, which did not concern his newest
recruit at all. *Perhaps he's forgotten about me for now.* Archie only hoped
that he would continue to do so--indefinitely. A vain hope, no doubt, but
better than nothing.

One of the people Kilcarron had been speaking to was a woman, Archie
remembered suddenly. A wife? She had not seemed grandly dressed enough for
a countess, but that meant nothing. Perhaps another female relation . . .

It struck him, forcibly, how little he really knew about his new employer.
The converse could not be said. To Archie's infinite regret, Kilcarron knew a
great deal--too damned much--about *him.*

*Know thine enemy.* The earl might not be a true enemy, Archie conceded
grudgingly--at least, not in the way the French and Spanish were enemies.
Still, what had transpired on the voyage to Scotland had left him with no
great feelings of friendliness towards the spymaster.

*Perhaps it is time to even the score--just a trifle.* He had a whole
library at his disposal. Surely there would be something here that would
tell him more about Kilcarron. Hands clasped behind his back in an
unconscious quarterdeck stance, he began a further exploration of the shelves
. . .

*****

WARNING: This section contains spoilers and speculations about characters in
Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. Proceed at your own risk.

*****

What he was looking for was not in a book after all, but hanging on the wall,
rather obscurely, beyond the last bookcase. An enormous, faded, slightly
tattered sheet of parchment, covered with names, dates, and lines. Archie
recognized what it was at once--a remarkably similar one could be found in
his father's study. This was the Crawford family tree.

If he mounted the heavy rolling staircase and stood on the landing, he would
have a much better view. Determinedly grasping the bannister, he began his
ascent, taking care not to look down. Although heights had never troubled
*him* the way they did Horatio, this was more exercise than he'd been allowed
since he arrived and it would displease Latour if he injured himself through
carelessness. The staircase remained obligingly steady while he mounted to
his perch--excellent workmanship, that. Once ensconced on the landing, one
hand still on the bannister, Archie turned to view the family tree again.

It seemed to begin from the bestowing of a title. Richard Crawford, Earl of
Culter. His wife, Mariotta; their children Kevin, Lucy, and--the next few
names were too smudged to make out. One might have been "Eloise." Richard's
brother, Francis Crawford of Lymond and Sevigny. His wife Philippa, and
their children: Francis, Richard, Gideon, Katherine, Sybilla, Christian. A
broken line slightly off to one side, indicating bastardy--Khaireddin
Crawford, who seemed to have prospered nonetheless. But Kilcarron was
probably descended from the legitimate line . . .

Going down the various entries--so many of them--Archie felt his head begin
to spin and gripped the bannister more firmly. What name had Kilcarron said?
Philip. And 1746, the year of Culloden. Most Lowlanders had held to the
House of Hanover rather than to the Jacobite cause, the Kennedys among them.
It would seem there had been some dissension among the Crawfords.

Here. Descended from a younger son of Francis, rather than Richard. Philip
Francis Alastair Crawford, born 1729. Another second son. Married to--the
name was blurred and illegible. But underneath . . .

Nicholas Alastair Francis Crawford, born 1759. Still living, and unmarried.
And had apparently succeeded to the title of Kilcarron after the death of his
childless uncle. Had the uncle been a spymaster too?

A slow tap on the door between library and study roused Archie from his
thoughts. Latour, standing in the doorway and eying him with frosty
disapproval.

"Sir." The physician's voice was distinctly clipped and curt. "I advise you
to descend. Carefully."

*****

Archie braced himself for a diatribe but, except for a few pointed remarks
about patients who jeopardized their recovery by taking foolish risks, Latour
maintained his composure throughout the walk back to the infirmary. Once
there, Archie was glad to sit down again, though, after yesterday, he had no
desire to nap.

Wisely, Latour did not press the issue. Again, he sent for tea and led his
patient through another French lesson. To Archie's relief, it was becoming
much easier to remember what he was being taught. He even fancied his accent
might be improving--Latour looked slightly less pained when he spoke aloud.

Overall, the day passed much the way the previous one had. That night,
after dutifully swallowing his draught, Archie reflected drowsily that if
training at this time consisted merely of maps with Rory in the morning and
languages with Latour in the afternoon, perhaps he might survive it after
all.

If only he need never deal with Crawford of Kilcarron again . . .

Before that thought could cause him greater agitation, the medicine took
effect, and he sank unresisting into slumber.

 

END PART THREE