Into the Game
by Pam and Del

 

EPILOGUE

 

Standing at the rail of the Caledonia, Archie watched the Irish shore recede,
a dark hump barely visible in the deepening twilight. In another few minutes,
the last of the day's light would fade, the first of the evening's stars
appear. He had never minded standing a watch at this hour"indeed, he had
often found something oddly soothing about it.

He was not entirely sure he felt soothed *now*, however.

They had made good time yesterday, riding back to Dublin to give their report
of the foundry's destruction to Kilcarron. By then, Jamieson had brought his
own part of the mission to a successful conclusion"by blowing up the arms
depot in Patrick Street. The furor following the explosion had scattered
Emmet's forces, sent them underground, at least for the moment. It was
possible, Kilcarron acknowledged, that they might regroup later. However,
what mattered most to the organization was that the rebels no longer had a
foundry with which to tempt the French over to Ireland.

In the meantime, new orders had arrived from London, necessitating the earl's
immediate return to England. Most of the Edinburgh contingent was going back
with him, though Kilcarron had left a handful of agents behind to help the
Dublin division deal with whatever aftermath resulted.

Once the Caledonia had safely put to sea, the Edinburgh agents had, each in
his or her own way, set about celebrating the successful conclusion of the
mission. Several had simply retired to their cabins and fallen into their
bunks, whether singly or in pairs; others were marking the occasion with
drinks in the common room. Although invited by Carmichael, Jamieson, and
Rory to join them in the latter endeavor, Archie had declined. It seemed an
eternity since he had had the chance to reflect"really reflect"on just what
had happened to him during the last five months.

He looked up at the rigging longingly. It had been a fine place to think, on
the Indy, with the open air around him, and the open sea below, but tonight
it would have brought back too many memories.

Yet he *needed* to think.

Carmichael's revelation at the bottom of the hill had shaken him to the core.
Why *hadn't* he run when he had had the chance? He'd had everything he could
need for an escape, stashed at the bottom of his sea-chest: money, clothes,
disguises. Yet"none had been used for the purpose he had intended.

At first, simply on reaching Ireland, he had needed to view the lay of the
land; then afterward, he had been waiting for an opportunity when he would
not be missed by the agents who might notice his absence most quickly:
Carmichael, Jamieson, Rory. And even later than that--as the mission had
proceeded, as Archie's own work had become more important to the operation .
. .

More than a mere "observing brief." He had become . . . necessary. And
somehow, without even consciously realizing it, he had relinquished his plans
for escape.

Had part of it been curiosity? The overwhelming need to see something through
to the end? To find out whether or not he was capable of succeeding as an
intelligence agent? Professional vanity? Or was it something more . . .
intangible?

Unbidden, his thoughts turned again to that desperate confrontation by the
Liffey. To Rory. It was all very well to *think* that Carmichael would have
found someone else to accompany the boy that night if Archie had not been
there. But"how could he be sure that matters would have been resolved the
same way? If Rory had been partnered with an agent he trusted less--he might
not have come to the bridge, might have tried to take on his four pursuers
alone . . . and paid for it with his life. //They *meant* killing.//

Even Carmichael, seasoned veteran that he was--would he have truly had the
time to reach the fuse in the shed, as well as the foundry, if both had
needed to be re-lit? Of course not, that was why he had sent Archie to do it.
Or if Archie's suggestion had proved correct and there had been sentries in
the foundry to thwart their plans--the munitions cache might yet be intact
and Carmichael himself in the hands of the enemy.

They had trusted him. And, in the end, he . . . had been unable to desert
them.

They were his . . . allies? Companions? He shrank, still, from using any
warmer, more intimate term"he had had friends once, loved ones, and lost them
all, as the result of one vital decision. It had torn his heart out--he did
not want to risk such pain again.

Archie shivered, pulling himself back to the present. Above him, the sky had
darkened to black, studded with stars like diamond pinpoints. He closed his
eyes, breathing in the bracing sea air . . . then opened his eyes at the
disconcerting realization that he was no longer alone at the rail.

Sense of familiarity, without any accompanying sense of comfort. Uneasily,
he slid his glance towards the figure who had come up beside him, not too
close, but close enough. Fair skin, light, uncovered hair despite the
evening's chill . . . Kilcarron himself, regarding Archie with his usual
speculative gaze.

"Agent Stewart." The earl's voice was as cool and unruffled as ever.

Archie swallowed. "My lord." To his relief, the words sounded calm.

"I have just come from speaking with Commander Carmichael," Kilcarron
continued. "I understand you did well on this mission, Stewart. Better than
expected."

Not a word about losing five guineas. The near-civility in his voice made
him seem almost--approachable. He did not seem to expect a response to his
remark, either. Just as well, since Archie was too astonished by the
accolade, however casual, to frame one.

"A bad business," Kilcarron went on, turning his gaze towards the shore they
had departed. "And I suspect, not concluded"at least, not for Ireland."

"What will happen?" The words were out before he could recall them.

"What will happen?" The earl raised his brows. "Well, if Emmet had any
sense, he would call off this rising while he and his cohorts still have a
chance of escaping with their lives. Since he has none, he will continue
with his mad scheme, make further errors of judgement, get himself caught . .
. and Ireland will have yet another martyr to the cause of independence.
Which is regrettable--but no longer our concern."

Archie gritted his teeth under this mercilessly incisive assessment. "God,
is there anyone you *don't* see right through?"

A thoughtful pause, then, "*One* man. It requires . . . all my ingenuity to
discern what his next actions might be. And once I know--those I would
inform do not always choose to listen."

Bonaparte, of course. And "those idiots in London," as Carmichael referred to
them.

Before Archie could think of a response, the earl was speaking again. "This
promises to be a long struggle indeed"for anyone, in any branch of the
service."

"Indeed," Archie ventured cautiously, not sure where this was leading.

"Long"and difficult. Not everyone is capable of staying the course, but
those who do," the earl's penetrating blue eyes scanned Archie from head to
toe, "often surprise themselves most of all. "

Despite the chill night air, Archie felt his face beginning to burn, but
could not have said whether it was from gratification at the mild compliment
or outrage at having once again proved transparent as a pane of glass to this
man.

Kilcarron resumed, "If you were considering the quality that caused *you* to
stay the course on this mission, I believe--it might be defined as 'loyalty.'"

Archie looked down, holding himself in check. The cool voice continued,
still measured and deliberate, but oddly, not unkind.

"Regarding certain matters pertaining to you, I have, in fact, been giving
them what consideration is possible under the circumstances. It may be that,
eventually, certain restorations may be achieved, though not, I fear, in
their entirety. Nor has the appropriate time yet presented itself. Patience
will be necessary. Still, I would not advise you to live without hope. Good
evening, Stewart." With a brief nod, the earl departed the deck.

Archie stayed at the rail after Kilcarron had gone, staring at the rippling
light on the water. "Stewart," not "Lazarus." And--possibilities in time?
He wasn't sure what to think--or do.

Except that, for the first time in their association, Kilcarron had spoken to
him as if he were a person, instead of a game-piece. And he had mentioned
"hope."

Hope. It kept coming back to that. More than a year ago, on this very ship,
he had committed himself to life. Months later, sitting by a window and
watching the sun rise, he had committed himself to work. But he had still
held back when the cup was brought to his lips, knowing the bitter taste of
disappointment all too well. He had not dared, then, to dream of a future
that meant more than solitary survival.

And now?

It might still be only the remotest possibility . . .but it could not be
ignored--or suppressed--any longer.

//*Now drink.*//

A familiar voice, from long ago, that had ordered him to believe again.

Looking down at the stars reflected in the water, Archie breathed in slowly,
smelled the salt air . . .

. . . and, for the first time in eighteen months, tasted hope.

 

END

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AUTHORS' NOTES

1. Slave turned soldier and revolutionary Toussaint L'Ouverture captured the
port of Santo Domingo in 1801 and thus gained control over the entire island
of Hispaniola, which later became Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In 1802,
however, Napoleon Bonaparte, then first Consul of France, sent French troops
to retake the island. Betrayed by his chief lieutenants, Toussaint was forced
to surrender to the French, dying in prison the following year. We wonder if
Toussaint made an uncredited appearance in "Retribution," as the rebel slave
leader who attempted to negotiate with Buckland.

2. The drug used on Archie"mentioned in Parts Four and Eight"to simulate
death was, of course, curare, which had first been brought to Europe from
South America in the 1750s by the French explorer and scientist Charles Marie
de la Condamine. Between 1799-1804 the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt
and the French botanist Aime Bonpland also traveled through South America and
brought back curare samples as well. The information that salt can
neutralize the effects of curare was available in de la Condamine's time. A
later experiment conducted by Dr. Benjamin Brodie revealed that a victim of
curare poisoning could survive as long as respiration was quickly restored.

3. From Part Six: "My heart is sair, I daur not tell""A Jacobite code song,
composed sometime after 1745.

4. From Part Seven: Bonaparte launched his Egyptian expedition in May 1798,
achieved several notable victories, including the captures of Malta,
Alexandria, and Cairo. Bonaparte's defeat at the Battle of the Nile, however,
marked the first of many setbacks in his campaign. In 1799, deciding there
was no more to be accomplished in Egypt, Bonaparte abandoned his army and
returned to France, where the unstable Directory government was on the brink
of collapse. In November of that year, Bonaparte staged a successful coup
d'etat and became First Consul for life.

5. The Peace of Amiens was declared in March 1802 and ended in May 1803.
Skeptics believed that Bonaparte only meant it to last long enough for him to
strengthen his forces"fourteen months later, they appeared to have been
proven right.

6. From Part Eight: "Seaton, Beaton, and Carmichael"""The Queen's Maries,"
traditional (though possibly apocryphal) Scottish ballad about the ladies of
Mary, Queen of Scots, narrated by Mary Hamilton, the *fourth* "Marie."
Commander Carmichael complains that he existed as a character long before we
remembered the song"which is perfectly true.

7. From Part Eight: "'I can't get out"I can't get out,' said the
starling""From The Sentimental Journey, by Lawrence Sterne. (This is the
first of Archie's *non-Shakespearean* quotes in the story).

8. From Part Nine: "Dips" thieves' cant for pickpockets.

9. From Part Nine: The Compleat Angler, by Izaak Walton"a
seventeenth-century guide to the joys of fishing, very popular with
nineteenth-century readers.

10. From Part Ten: Jack Sheppard was indeed the king of English
housebreakers, famous not just for his flair but for his ability to escape
from various prisons, including Newgate, despite remarkable odds. Recaptured
after his fourth attempt, Sheppard was loaded down with 300 pounds of iron
before being executed at Tyburn in 1724. A year later, Jonathan Wild, a
much-hated police informer and fence of stolen properties, who had aided in
Sheppard's arrest, was himself hanged at Tyburn. John Gay adapted the
exploits of both men for his "Beggar's Opera."

11. From Part Eleven: "The state of man dois change and vary""William
Dunbar, "Lament for the Makers."

12. From Part Eleven: "Prigging gangs""thieves' cant for housebreakers.

13. From Part Thirteen: Colonel Edward Marcus Despard, an Anglo-Irish
anarchist, really did plot to seize control of the Tower of London and the
Bank of England. He was apprehended in autumn of 1802 and later executed.

14. From Part Thirteen: Thomas and Robert Emmet were both real people and
involved in the cause of Irish independence up to their eyebrows. Thomas, the
elder brother, was arrested, imprisoned, and later exiled for his part in the
Irish rising of 1798. Robert Emmet enlisted his brother and many of the
surviving rebels of '98 in his cause when he began planning a rebellion of
his own. Emmet also met with Napoleon and Talleyrand, hoping to obtain French
support.

15. From Part Thirteen: "My name is Jack Hall""an eighteenth-century
broadside detailing the career and fate of a hapless housebreaker who
eventually hangs at Tyburn. Not a song Rory MacCrimmon would enjoy listening
to, if he didn't have mal de mer to distract him.

16. From Part Fourteen: Throughout the early months of 1803, Emmet continued
to hope for and solicit support from the French, who would not commit
themselves beyond words and vague promises. Meanwhile, Emmet did indeed set
up arms depots all around Dublin and plotted to take Dublin Castle in the
summer. Emmet's allies Phil Long, Sarah Curran, and Johnstone were all real
people. Long's cousin and his foundry are wholly fictional"at least, we think
so!

17. From Part Fourteen: "I have acres of land"""Jock Stewart," an Irish
drinking song that eventually made its way to Scotland too.

18. From Part Fifteen: Emmet's arms depot in Patrick Street mysteriously
exploded on July 16, 1803. Believing that his secret had been fatally
compromised, Emmet decided to push up the date of the rising to July 23,
without waiting for French aid. The result was disastrous. The rebellion
degenerated into a mob riot, during which Chief Justice Kilwarden, a very
moderate official, was piked to death. Emmet managed to elude the authorities
for about a month, but was captured while trying to visit Sarah Curran. Tried
for high treason in September 1803, Emmet made an eloquent speech from the
dock before his execution, declaring that his epitaph would not be written
until Ireland "[took] its place among the nations of the world."

19. A great big thanks to our beta-reader Jean G., and to everyone who has
followed this story, offered feedback and suggestions, and answered our
various technical questions. Your interest and assistance have been
invaluable.

20. Archie's adventures will be continued in "Into the Fire."