Not an ask but just a bit of kudos, I am really diggin "Tales from the Past". I'm very curious to see if Claire thinks it all a big coincidence and how Uncle Lamb will react to all of the info they find? Thank you for the lovely writing.
Scotland was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The land was an unbelievable shade of green and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. The image I had of my witch and whisky maker family fit perfectly within this landscape. The rolling hills leading to towering mountains, and the glistening lakes reflecting the scenery around them gave the air of magic and endless possibilities. The deeper into the Highlands we travelled, the easier it was to see how the Scots, and my Scots in particular, transitioned and settled in the mountains of North Carolina. There was a familiarity between the two, but whereas Scotland felt old and full of legends, the North Carolinian mountains had an air of youthful mystery in comparison.
“Are we there yet, Uncle?” I asked as yet another town flashed beyond the car windows.
“Not yet my dear. We’ll be there in no time at all, just enjoy the scenery. Maybe you could come up with your own legend by the time we get to our destination!” He cheered then went back to humming a nameless tune.
I sighed and looked longingly out the window. I just wanted to be there, I wanted to see their home and find out more. “Are we going to Broch Morda and Lallybroch?” I asked not five seconds later.
“No, Claire.” Uncle Lamb said with authority. “We’re headed to a town called Inverness. My correspondent who can trace their lineage back to Lallybroch itself lives there. She’s more than willing to tell her family stories and that of her husband’s as well.”
“Fine.” I grumbled, “I still wish we were going straight to Lallybroch. Something is pulling me in that direction, we need to go there.”
“Patience my dear, we will get there, just after we’ve heard what these Murray’s have to say.” Lamb winked.
Inverness was beautiful, tucked away at the top of Loch Ness I could see the appeal and history all around, but I was restless.
“How long do we have to be here?”
“Long enough,” He laughed guiding me towards the door. “I thought you wanted to hear the legends?”
I groaned, “I do but I want to go see Lallybroch more!”
“Let’s see what they have to say first. We’ll need their story to help further our investigation, despite your curious insistence!” Uncle Lamb cut me off before I could speak further.
“Fine,” I murmured into my arm that rested on the door. My excitement crushed for a moment.
The countryside blurred by until the faintest idea of a town sprung up in spires and stone.
“Inverness?” I asked looking to at Uncle Lamb. He grinned and nodded, weaving our way through the streets to the tea room where the mysterious Murray’s awaited our arrival.
“Here we are, m’dear!” Lamb exclaimed throwing the car door open. “Would you get my satchel from the boot? We may need to take photographs and extra pens and paper! You never know what all they’ll have or have to say!”
His excitement was contagious and I felt my own lift to a nervous bubble. I still longed to see the fabled home, but deep down I knew I needed to hear what the Murray’s had to say.
“Are you Quentin Lambert?” A tall and lanky man with jet black hair and gray eyes asked as he approached our car.
“That I am! You must be Alexander Murray,” Lamb greeted, clasping the man’s hand.
Mr. Murray chuckled and nodded. “Aye, and this is my sister Jennifer.” He gestured to short girl with the same black hair and gray eyes.
“We’ve already got a kettle on, please join us inside.” Her smile was kind, but wary.
“Claire! Don’t forget the books!” Uncle Lamb called from over his shoulder absentmindedly as he entered the quaint stone building.
I took a moment to breathe in my surroundings. The bustle of people and their cars contrasting against the ancient stone buildings. If I closed my eyes and blocked out the modern sounds I could believe I was there when it all began. I could feel the clean Scottish air as it wrapped itself around me and those on the streets, smell the the roasting meats from taverns and hearth fires as well as fresh bannocks and bread, and I could imagine the sounds of wagon wheels and horse’s hooves on cobble and splattering mud. My imagination took me to a world where I could imagine my whisky making Scot walking down the street, and with a swish of a kilt he was gone.
“Miss Beauchamp?” I jumped, startled, my eyes flying open as the pack fell to the street. “Och, sorry. I dinna mean to give ye such a fright. Yer uncle was asking for ye. I came to fetch ye inside.”
My cheeks reddened from getting caught in my fantasy. The real world felt foreign and distant compared to where my mind had just held me. I slowly retrieved Uncle Lamb’s bag and followed Jennifer Murray inside.
“Claire! Claire! There you are, what kept you? No matter, you really must hear what young Mr. Murray has told me about his family! There was a tale that originated from a great uncle of sorts, and that very uncle could be the James Fraser we are striving to find! But I’m very much more fascinated in this enthralling tale of a cave, espionage and freedom! Please, come sit. Sit and listen!” Lamb managed to get all of this out in a single breath, his face red, but eyes alight with excitement. I noticed his hands were already ink-stained and smudged, his left worst of all.
“Breathe Uncle.” I said, laying a hand to his shoulder. “I’m sure Mr. Murray doesn’t wish to recount the tale again.”
“I dinna mind at all! Would ye like some tea before I start?” Alexander Murray gestured to the barely touched tray of tea and shortbread.
“Yes, thankyou.” I replied, pouring my own cup and grabbing a biscuit.
“As I was telling your very enthusiastic Uncle, my family has many tales and legends as does most here in the highlands. But one, we can go so far to say, is one of the more famous ones.” he said lowering his voice with a wink. “This one legend was said to be the Laird of Broch Tuarach during the uprising of Prince Tearlach in 1745. It’s said that the Laird was spared at the battle of Culloden or most likely escaped the clutches of the British and fled back to his homeland. His hair was a fiery red, easily spotted and gave him little chances to hide. My–” he paused and then gestured to his sister, “–our great-great-great grandmother was this Laird’s sister. She hid him in a priest hole that her recently dead sister-in-law had told her to build. You see the Laird’s wife was a Sassenach and a faerie.
“The folk in the highlands were wary of her and her healing abilities, even though the laird loved her more than life. She was among those caught in the crossfire of Culloden. The Laird being so distraught had nearly given up the will to live and when he was well enough to stand, decided to hide in the hillside to better protect his family.”
“Och! You’re tellin it wrong Sawny!” Jennifer interrupted.
“Och aye? Am I? Weel why dinna you tell it then and let me save my voice!” he said and smugly crossed his arms and legs into a relaxed position.
“I will then!” She settled herself deep into her chair.
“As my brother said, our great-great-great grandmother was the sister to the Laird who became legend, and it is from her that we get our story. Before the days of Culloden and the blackened soul of Prince Tearlach set this bonnie nation into strife, the Murray’s and Fraser’s lived peacefully on the estate. The young Laird had taken a faerie to wife, but all that knew her well enough said she was kinder than of any fae, and that she loved the Laird and his family to the ends of time. It was when she caught a vision of great strife and suffering for her beloved’s people, she told her good sister to plant crops that would yield a great amount, and prepare hidden storages including a priest’s hole under the kitchen cellar. The fae and her husband rushed out to protect the people and try to stop the horror she had seen from coming to fruition.
“They had earned the trust of Prince Tearlach, and made their way into his inner council. Night after night, day after day, the Laird tried to convince the Prince of his doomed cause, but to no avail. The horror still approached and overcame the people of this good nation. Killing thousands, destroying homes and the highland culture at it’s roots. The faerie wife, so distraught at the destruction of her adopted home, begged for her people to save the Scots, to turn back time and not let it happen, but they didna answer. Instead, it’s said she curled up on a faerie hill just outside Inverness and died of a broken heart. Unable to save her beloved nor her new people, and the old ones wouldnae have her back.
“However, the Laird did survive! He made his way home to Broch Tuarach where his sister tended to his physical wounds, but nothing could take away the pain he felt at the death of his wife. He hid for months in the priest’s hole, listening to raid after raid from the British soldiers and he could have it no more. He was too much of a danger to his family, and he couldna bear to lose another part of his heart. One night, he hid himself deep into the caves of the hills that surrounded his property with naught but a dun bonnet to his name. Just far enough that he would pose no danger, but close enough that if he was needed, he could be called upon. For seven years he hid by himself in the caves, coming out at night, clad in brown from head to toe, hiding the flames of his hair under bonnet and cloak of night to deliver fresh meat of his kills to his people and family.
“The Laird’s most faithful servant would risk his life week after week to bring the Laird fresh ale, clothes, and news of the town and of his family when the laird could not make his way down the mountain. On a day, not unlike today, where the sun shone high and the temperature mild, the servant raced up the hill bringing his lairdship fresh supplies, only to be stopped by a wicked cluster of British soldiers. They accused the lad of stealing and chopped his hand off for his crimes, then stole the Laird’s supplies for their own gain. Outraged the Laird tended the lad as best he could in the cave before taking him to the estate for proper healing. It was then the Laird decided that his time in the caves were at an end. He had to stand, he needed to fight the cruelty and oppression being imposed on his people.
“Seven years since the uprising, and there was still a traitor’s reward for the Laird. The laird asked his brother-in-law to turn himself in, grab the stirling reward and feed the family and people he could no longer protect.”
Jennifer stood up and went to the window. I blinked trying to come back to the world around me. The tale she had spun so vivid in my mind, like that was the true reality and not this tea parlour.
“What happened to him? The Laird?” I asked, desperate to hear more.
She turned, the light a halo around her silhouette, “The Dun Bonnet Laird went to prison to save his family. If you go back to our family’s ancestral home and speak to the locals they may tell you of him in a different way, the story altering from family to family. But one thing is for sure, they say on the old fire feasts, ye can see the Dun Bonnet standing at the mouth of his cave, keeping his vigil for all who are under his protection.”