Inside a small, ruined cottage at the base of Craigh na Dun
April 16th, 1746
We had failed: Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army was encamped at Culloden, Dougal was dead, and we were fleeing for our very lives.
Or rather, I had failed: Julia had hours left to live.
Julia lay still in my arms, her pulse unsteady and erratic. Her little brow was furrowed with the effort it took to draw another breath. Jamie’s face was buried in my hair and I could feel his hot tears trickle down my neck. My own tears fell as I helplessly watched the life drain away from my precious child. My herbs and poultices could only go so far. I knew even with the medicine of my own time, there was nothing that I could do to save her.
“Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside. I do like to be beside the sea…”
My voice stuck in my throat and I couldn’t finish the chorus I had sung so many times as I rocked my child to sleep. My own mother had sung it to me before she had died. Soon, she would be singing it to Julia in heaven. The thought of her being together with our parents in eternal rest gave me comfort and I told Jamie so.
“Aye,” Jamie’s voice was horse with emotion. His hands traveled across my womb and held me close, his breath tickling my ear. “They’ll take care of our braw, canty lass. Just as you’ll care for this bairn in the safety of the future, mo chridhe.”
A sudden noise outside told us that we were not alone. Springing to his feet, Jamie bounded across the small room to peer thru the slats in the dilapidated door. He muttered a Gaelic expletive under his breath and I struggled to stand.
Jamie whirled around, wrapped one arm about my waist, and dragged me thru the door. He pulled me along as we struggled to climb over the uneven ground.
We stood panting atop Craigh na Dun between the outer circle and center stone. Julia started to cry, the first sound she had made in days, and buried her face in my neck. My heart dropped to my toes as I realized she was trying to cover her ears. She could hear them. She could hear the stones.
“Please, tell me you hear it too.” I begged Jamie, even though I already knew his answer.
He took my face in his strong hands. “Nae, mo nighean dubh. I canna hear it and I canna go with ye. But you and our calman geal must. Take the both of our bairns to safety.”
Jamie took a step back and reached into his sporran, bringing out a silver pendant. It hung on a delicate chain and was engraved with a Scottish thistle entwined in swirling pattern of knots. He placed it around Julia’s neck and turned the pendant over. On the back small, elegant script read: Julia Ellen Fraser. I looked up at him thru misty eyes. It was beautiful.
“For mo bheag nighean,” he whispered, gently kissing the top of her head.
He reached into his sporran again and withdrew his father’s signet ring. Jamie’s eyes mirrored the desperation and emotion that thundered thru me with every heartbeat. Placing it on my finger he continued, “Give this to the bairn, when he is old enough, aye? Name him after my father. He is all that will be left of me.”
“I will,” I promised, never taking my eyes off his.