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The River Clyde

The River Clyde
The River Clyde Near Midculter in Lanarkshire

Friday, May 5, 2017

Part Four. The End Game. Chapter III. Knight Adversary

1. Strange Refuge

Saturday, June 23

And it also behooves [people] that they first heal themselves and also rid themselves of all disease and vices and show themselves whole and pure and ready to heal others.

In other words, heal yourself before you try to heal others.

Apostume or aposteme is a pus-filled abscess, but I thought a more general term like disease better makes the point.

The Dovecote
The men in the dovecote hear the bell of Hexham Abbey ('With my living voice I drive away all things that may do hurt') and the approach of a single rider coming quickly towards them as the evening approaches.

The wait in the dovecote must have seemed interminable to them all, especially Richard, who still cannot seem to grasp why Tom prevented him from going to Hexham. At least Richard's blood fury appears to have waned a tiny bit and the rush of adrenaline from the fight and the pursuit has no doubt subsided, leaving him irritable and impatient, but not in a murderous rage. He has regained some measure of self control.

Still, all Richard cares about is Lymond's status and whereabouts. He does not even appreciate that Acheson was prevented from exposing the Scots' plans and thereby causing untold harm to the nation. He is maniacally focused on Lymond. Tom tries without success to convince Richard that Lymond is no traitor, but Richard refuses to believe him:
There was no softening in Richard’s face. “He had to choose between Grey and you, and he plumped for the likelier prospect, that’s all.…Justifiably: you rescued him, didn’t you?” 
Tom does not have time to deal with this pig-headed fool Culter. He is leaving and washing his hands of this feud. If Richard wants Lymond dead, then by God, Richard can kill him or simply leave Lymond to die. Richard will not do this because he wants his brother "killed publicly and lawfully and painfully and fully conscious." In fact, the last Erskine sees of Richard, he is leaning over Lymond's unconscious body, excitedly tallying his brother's numerous and potentially deadly wounds. Richard's behavior, I must say, is ghoulish.

Only Richard and Francis remain in the dovecote, and only Richard is awake. This is a most unusual circumstance: Lymond completely out of commission--and silent. Richard's military training automatically kicks in as he cleans and binds his brother's wounds, all the while noting the old ones made not only by weapons of war but also by the lash, the oars, and, probably most horrifically, the branding iron.

Aside: France branded galley slaves with GAL or TF (travaux forcés, 'forced labour'); branding was legal in France until 1832.

Richard evinces no pity. His actions appear to be thoroughly mechanical. The exhaustion of the day gives way to a short but deep sleep for Richard.

June 25-29

Richard wakes in a stupor, momentarily confused and forgetful of the circumstances until he spies Lymond's limpid blue eyes gazing at him. Richard is all business, building up the fire and putting water on to boil. Lymond's first words tug the thread of memory: "You still snore like a frog." Once again, Richard is compared to the frog of the children's song that Lymond alluded to in their first meeting since Lymond's return to Scotland. (Pt 1, Ch I, Sec 3)

Richard builds a "cathedral of boughs" to protect them from the elements, and Lymond plays upon the ecclesiastical image, telling Richard that if he is waiting to pray over his dead body, he need not delay. Richard is in no hurry and plans, in fact, to keep Francis alive. When Lymond says that "the fenestration seems fairly extensive" he alludes to the many wounds to his body. As Richard prepares to deal more effectively with the injuries than he was able to the night before, Lymond gently mocks him:
“Two chapters of Anatomía Porci [a medieval book of anatomy based on dissection of pigs] and they think they’re Avicenna [the great Persian physician]."
This is the second time Lymond has alluded to himself as porcine. The first was when he arrived at Flaw Valleys and compared himself to St. Anthony's pig. (Pt 4, Ch II, Sec 2) Lymond hardly sounds like a man brimming with venom towards his brother, does he?

Richard does the best he can under the circumstances. His brother's injuries must be very serious because even the voluble Lymond has nothing to say during the cleaning and dressing of his wounds. All the time he is cleansing Lymond's injuries, Richard cannot help thinking that this is the body Mariotta has known so intimately. And this is the man who killed his son. Given this belief, it is no wonder Richard loathes Lymond and wants him dead. But not yet. Not until Lymond is well enough to stand trial.

Lymond says he "loves sadism too," but sadism is derived from the name of Count Donatien A.F. de Sade (1740-1815), commonly known as the Marquis de Sade. It is a small, forgivable error.

Richard spends the rest of the day looking for a new hiding place, one that is both sheltered and remote. Lymond is convinced he is dying and he wants to have it out with Richard before it is too late. He wants to talk about Mariotta. With the little strength he has, fighting against the waves of nausea that come with extreme pain, Lymond pushes Richard hard to listen to what he has to say or never learn the truth: "You nearly lost her, but not to me."

Under the circumstances, Richard retains admirable command of himself. Even the doves seem to taunt him with the words of the old Scottish Ballad of Cospatrick:
O rowe my ladye in satin and silk,
And wash my son in the morning milk!
Richard's mind reels with the "resurrected deaths he had died because of Lymond." Richard reaches a crossroads at this moment, and it says a great deal about his character that he chooses to unbuckle his sword belt and agree to hear Lymond out. In reality, Richard could have killed his brother, buried the body, and reported that Francis died of his considerable injuries. No one would challenge him, although some might suspect that Francis was helped along by Richard. Instead, he chooses to listen to the man he just the day before vowed to kill and came very close to so doing.

Lymond is beginning to return to his old, mouthy self, throwing out a reference to the fable of the old man and the three young men, casting himself as the old man. This fable is an odd one for Lymond to allude to at this moment.

The old man in the fable is found planting trees by three young men, who mock him for bothering to do so since he won't live long enough to enjoy the fruit of the trees. The old man tells the young men that he plants the trees because others before him have done things to care for him and he is now doing something for future generations. And besides, no one knows the hour of his death--who knows? He might outlive them all. Which he does. The moral of the fable is two-fold: it is our duty to care for others, especially those who come after us, and no one knows when he will die; the young should not presume they will outlive the old.

Lymond is very subtly telling Richard that all the things he has been doing are for the benefit of others (including you, Richard, if you would pay attention) and fate may determine that he, Lymond, may outlive those who are sure he will die soon.

When Lymond tells Richard that Mariotta is "no marrow of mine," he means she is not his mate (or lover). He does confess to being too forward with her at Midculter when they first met, but he attributes that to his drunkenness, and pledges it will not happen again.

We are now treated to an full-blown Lymond-style explanation of what happened between Mariotta and Francis.
  • After the initial encounter at Midculter, Lymond tried to get as far away from Mariotta as possible.
  • She ran away from Midculter out of anger and frustration with Richard.
  • The English caught her.
  • Lymond's men rescued Mariotta from the English and brought her to Lymond's hangout because she fell ill.
  • Lymond posits he could have simply returned Mariotta to Midculter dead but untouched.
  • Lymond did not send Mariotta any jewels.
  • Lymond knows who did send the jewels, and so does Sybilla.
Before he passes out, Lymond alludes to something he once told someone else about truth. I believe he refers to the moment at the fair after the papingo shoot when he is alone with Christian in the fortune teller's tent. He says,
"Truth’s nothing but falsehood with the edges sharpened up, and ill-tempered at that: no repair, no retraction, no possible going back once it’s out." (Pt 1, Ch VII, Sec 2)
Everyone says they want the truth, but frequently they regret hearing it. Truth is a dangerous thing. Once spoken, it cannot be unsaid or unheard. But Lymond seems to be rambling, stringing together divergent imagery and allusions, Greek (Phoenissae), Assyrian (Ninevah), Roman, and Hindu.

The elephant's head riding on a rat refers to Ganesha, a Hindu deity. Often called "the remover of obstacles," he is also the god of wisdom and prudence. He is frequently depicted riding on a rat. There are many interpretations of this image, a prominent one being that Ganesha is subduing the pesky, destructive rodent. Also, the animal Ganesha rides is sometimes a mouse, which links this image directly to "The Ballad of the Frog and the Mouse" that made its appearance in Richard and Francis's first encounter. (Pt 1, Ch I, Sec 3) The question here is, who is the Ganesha and who is the rat?

Ganesha on his Rat

With Lymond fading in and out of consciousness, Richard is determined that he not die because he is not finished with his brother. Richard tends Lymond with all the skills he has learned in the field among wounded and sick men. He does so with a purpose:
He longed for his brother, desperately ill as he was, to know what was being done for him, and to savour this devoted nursing at his hands.
Why? Why is Richard longing for Francis to know and acknowledge the nursing? Richard muses that Lymond needs two or three weeks of convalescence before he can travel, and this delights Richard. Why? Because Lymond is a man who prizes self-control and who cannot bear dependence on any living being. This forced period of dependency and incapacitation, Richard reckons, should be enough time to break Lymond's carefully constructed façade of self-control and self-sufficiency once and for all. Richard plans to strip him bare emotionally just as he is physically exposed, weak and vulnerable as a newborn--and completely at Richard's mercy. Richard plans to break Francis just as he had promised Mariotta earlier:
“I will bring him to you,” said Richard. “I will bring him to you on his knees, and weeping, and begging aloud to be killed.” (Pt 3, Ch II, Sec 1)
Lymond is alone, pondering in pain and under the brutality of a hot early summer sun whether he is experiencing brotherly love or raging madness. Two days of misery have passed with Richard doing what is necessary to keep him alive but little or nothing for his comfort. Richard has been fishing because, as he says sarcastically, he hasn't Lymond talent for killing birds, a none-too-subtle reference to the papingo shoot. Richard, of course, believes Francis shot him at that event.

Perhaps giving in to momentary compassion, Richard moves Lymond out of the sun and asks the interesting question about whether Patey Liddell has ever been whipped. Patey used Crawfordmuir gold to gild the shooting glove for Lymond, who left it at the papingo shoot, a red herring Richard followed to Perth. Richard will happily have Patey whipped, ostensibly for possession of illegal gold but in reality for adding the gold to Lymond's glove, which Richard views as a betrayal and a humiliation.

Richard admits he did not connect the Crawfordmuir gold and Patey at first, but guesses that their mother did. Lymond confirms that. We already knew Sybilla was helping Lymond, but this is the first time Richard has his suspicions confirmed. 

Note that Richard displays some of that Crawford wit himself, just as he did when he saved Agnes Herries in the river:
[Lymond] “How dull of some of you. What a delicious smell. You nurse; you cook. Do you sew?”
[Richard] “I reap..."
The brothers' banter continues with Lymond asking how long Richard was in prison when he refused to obey the Queen Dowager's orders to go to Edinburgh to buck up Arran and she has him briefly imprisoned. (Pt 3, Ch III, Sec 1) Richard's retort is vicious, referring to Lymond's hands scarred at the oars:
Richard rubbed the palm of his hand on his seat, and then held it up, square, clean and unmarked, for Lymond to see. “I was lucky. No one could tell, could they?”
Running down a litany of Richard's failures, Lymond hits his brother hard. Perhaps the toughest blow concerns the fighting at Durisdeer in February when Harry Wharton burned the town to the ground and slaughtered many of its residents. The Scots drove the English back and technically won the battle, but Lymond is telling Richard that the victory was incomplete. The Scots could have and should have stopped "young Harry" Wharton sooner and thus possibly captured Harry's father Lord Wharton and Grey. Instead, it was Lymond and his men who caught Harry Wharton and "shaved and cropped him with his own knife" while both Wharton and Grey escaped to fight another day, which they did and will again.

Richard's excuse for letting the English go is facetious but designed to make the point that he believes Lymond relied upon the enemy for his funding. Lymond is only half joking when he says he relied instead on "force of character," the other lure being money but not as an English agent or spy.

When Richard dangles the "what next" question before Francis, it is Lymond's turn to bite. Lymond's reaction is concern not for himself but for Sybilla, Richard, Mariotta, and any children that might follow. Lymond lays out the case for Richard killing him and avoiding the sensation of a trial:
“The scandal of five years ago will be nothing compared to what they’ll raise in open court. You know damned well I’ll be found guilty: nobody has any illusions about that. But you’ve got the rest of your life to live, and what’s more important, so has Mother and so has your wife. Do you want your sons to have that sort of nauseating exhibition cast up to them?”
The "scandal of five years ago" got Lymond branded traitor when he supposedly turned coat after the battle of Solway Moss where he was taken prisoner by the English. He came back to Scotland less than a year ago in August 1547.

Richard is not buying what Lymond is selling, but Francis refuses to relent. He gives Richard an eloquent tongue lashing for his foolish, single-minded pursuit of him, even though he admits that at first he understood why Richard would feel the need to capture and kill him: "I was labelled cur, and in the end I had to bark. Not entirely your fault." But Richard developed a maniacal obsession that led him astray and away from his duty to his family, his friends, and his country. None of what Lymond says moves Richard, who keeps pushes the fish he has cooked at Lymond.

It is necessary to discuss the fish symbolism given that fish or fishing is mentioned nine times in two pages. The obvious symbolism is Christian: Christ is the "fisher of men" and the ichthys is a Christian symbol. But the fish has older symbolic meaning. Fish is a sacred or forbidden food in some near-eastern religions and Orpheus is the "fisher god." This potential connection with Lymond is especially interesting. Orpheus was the musician and poet who was able to charm even the stones with his music: "with his songs, Orpheus, the bard of Thrace, allured the trees, the savage animals, and even the insensate rocks, to follow him." (Ovid, Metamorphoses 11) This sounds a great deal like Lymond, who is able to enthrall and manipulate people with his voice.

"Lymond would not break." Try as he might, Richard has not succeeded in bringing his brother to his knees and instead finds himself at a dangerous breaking point, "his hands murderers at his sides." Richard controls his desire to kill Lymond because he has figured out that this is what his brother is trying to drive him to do. Then Richard makes a mistake. He hears a horse in the distance and leaves off cleaning a rabbit to silence his horse. When he comes back, he finds Lymond has taken his knife. This is the first time Lymond has risen from his makeshift bed and his exhaustion shows. Richard knows exactly what Francis has done, but Richard remarks on Lymond's "mental agility" instead:
“This peculiar mental agility of yours has been no friend to you, has it? Without it, you might have survived, harmless, in a lukewarm limbo of drink and drugs and insipid women—”
This is a fascinating insight into Richard's opinion of Francis: dissolute, lecherous, and indifferent except that his slashing tongue and keen intellect keep intervening to get him in trouble. Taking full advantage of Lymond's weakness, Richard sharpens his attack, running down a list of things Lymond must miss from his outlaw life: money, authority, adulation, "the vicarious thrill of defying nations," fame, and "the love of young boys." Is this last an implication that Lymond is homosexual? Unlikely; Richard is probably referring to the fact that Lymond took Will Scott under his tutelage, twisting and manipulating him into his acolyte. This interpretation is borne out by the next phrase: "And your women."

Finally, the first fissure appears: the mention of Christian is the catalyst that initiates the process of breaking Lymond. At last, Richard has figured out what will get to Francis, and he uses this knowledge mercilessly: the people who died because of Lymond. Christian, Turkey Mat, and, worst of all, Eloise, their younger sister.

It seems odd that it took Richard six days to figure out how to destroy Lymond's self-control by taunting him with those whose deaths Francis feels responsible for. Why didn't Richard use this approach sooner? I believe it is because Richard waited until Francis had recovered to an extent where he could engage in a prolonged discussion and react to the jibes. Until this point, Lymond has simply been too ill to give Richard the reaction he is seeking.

Now comes one of the most puzzling and oft-discussed passages in The Game of Kings or any of the books in the series, in fact.
“The only daughter, and the finest child. The most vivid, the most eager, the most intelligent. By now, cherished by her own lover, with her own children in her arms. Once, late at night when you were away, she told me …”
What did Eloise tell Richard? I am sorry to tell you, dear reader, that this question is not answered in this book or, not explicitly, in any other. There are many, many clues to the mystery of what Eloise told Richard, and there is a discussion of this with Dorothy Dunnett herself that explains what Eloise said. However, Dunnett expects a great deal from her readers, so I strongly recommend you to keep reading and decide for yourself by the end of The Lymond Chronicles what Eloise said that so upset Lymond. I do believe the answer becomes clear by the end of the series. I would definitely not read any commentary of this subject because it will spoil a major story line.

What matters now is that Lymond blames himself for Eloise's death. So does Richard, claiming Francis wanted Eloise "burned alive." A change comes over Lymond, one so shocking even Richard is astonished as he is "swept into a ... foreign dimension." Never again would Lymond's pretenses, his mockery, his playacting, his many masks hide his true face from Richard. We hear Lymond speak without art or artifice, a rare event.
Why? I made one mistake. Who doesn’t?"
Why can't anyone trust him? Why must he be haunted and hunted for one mistake when others make many more and do not suffer as he has? Why does no one show him a shred of charity? Especially Richard, with whom he shares not only the experience of growing up together but also their bond of blood.

Richard is unmoved and unpersuaded.
“Do you think my life,” said Richard violently, “is a matter for your tarnished and paltry conscience?”
There was a silence. Then the Master said at last, “Why else should I say what I have done?”
This is an extremely important moment, but it is one that escapes Richard, as many things do. For all his virtues, Richard is, to put it bluntly, a bit dense. Lymond for once is telling him the unvarnished truth.

Richard does not buy this explanation. He thinks Lymond is simply a whining, sniveling coward afraid of the noose. But not, apparently, afraid of death, because at this moment Lymond attempts to take his own life. Richard will not permit such a clean end. Their struggle is titanic. Richard must be shocked that one who has been so ill could still retain so much physical strength and grim determination. But Richard is also determined, determined that the hangman will not be cheated. Then something unexpected happens: astonishing light broke on Richard.
Blue eyes met grey, and Richard read in them a power and a determination that he suddenly knew were unassailable. Anger left him.
Could this be the beginning of a change in Richard's attitude towards his brother?

Regardless, Richard has to stop Lymond from harming either of them the only way he knows how. He uses all his considerable strength to attack Lymond where he is wounded, causing what must be indescribable agony.

Richard is not willing to let his brother take his own life even though Lymond eloquently and passionately begs to exercise the right of self-execution. Richard at last has what he told Mariotta he wanted: Lymond on his knees weeping and begging to be killed. Turning away, Richard simply walks off to find his mare. When, some time later, he returns "the clearing was empty. It was no longer a sanctuary, he knew, but the antechamber to a solitary, a desperately wanted death." Lymond is gone.

In contrast to Lymond's raw, explicit thoughts and emotions, we do not know how Richard feels or what he is thinking now that he has achieved his goal of breaking his brother.

July 7, 1548

In a few paragraphs Dunnett gives us a remarkable precis of the historical events of this summer of 1548 when the Scots with their French allies faced off against the English and their Spanish, German, and Italian mercenaries. The historic nature of most moments is as invisible to those in its midst as air is to us or water is to fish--it is just there, everywhere and nowhere. The participants are all wrapped up tight in their own miseries and worries and frustrations. Then, something happens that changes everything:
Villegagne quietly left Court, and one evening four galleys of the French fleet slipped anchor at dusk and moved with ductile grace out of the Firth of Forth.

Nicolas Durand, Sieur de Villegagnon [Villegagne], is one of the most intriguing men who ever lived. In addition to leading the daring voyage that spirited the Scottish Queen to France under the noses of the English, he was a member of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John, who play a central part in The Disorderly Knights, the third book in The Lymond Chronicles. After fighting on behalf of the Knights and Scotland, he led an expedition to the coast of Brazil to help the Huguenots, who were fleeing persecution in Catholic France, establish a colony in the New World. An island there still bears his name.

But the ships the English were watching and waiting for never came. Why? Because, in a plan equally daring and foolhardy, they sailed not south but north "over the roof of Scotland" to Dumbarton on the west coast where little Queen Mary embarked for France to be raised in the French court as the future queen of both nations should her eventual marriage to the Dauphin of France come to pass. In Haddington for this historic parliament are both Tom Erskine and Will Scott. Will has news for Tom. Buccleuch is planning to go look for Richard and Francis, something Tom would advise against because this is a Crawford family matter best left to them alone.

The Scottish parliament met about a mile outside the besieged town in Haddington Abbey. The town itself was largely under English control since Grey had captured and garrisoned Haddington in February.


Richard wakes during a wind storm to discover rational thought, facts, humdrum responsibilities, and a powerful urge to go home have crept back into his conscious mind. After all, what is keeping him from leaving? He has achieved what he set out to do:
The graceless, the dissolute, the debauched, the insolent, the exquisite Lymond was obliterated. As he intended, he had broken his brother. He had, indeed, been more merciful than he had intended.
Intermingled with the resurgence of practical concerns and a yearning to return home, despite what Richard knows will be a painful reunion, is something else: a "stiff-jointed thing at the back of his mind was flexing its subconscious limbs and shaking its aged neck and rearing nearer and nearer his waking mind." It becomes an "obsessive compulsion."

Richard must find his brother.

And find him he does. Lymond is again close to death and not at all interested in being rescued or redeemed. But Richard is nothing if not stubborn and determined once he makes his mind up to do something. He has decided Lymond is going to live. Richard does the one thing he can to reach Francis. He talks. He talks and talks and talks about their home and childhood, all the mundane bits and pieces of growing up together that over time form the tapestry of memory. 

As he talks, Richard is amazed to discover things he never realized, especially about his father. It occurs to Richard that Lymond was mimicking the second Baron on the road near Annan (Pt 1, Ch I, Sec 3) when he so crudely and cruelly mocked Richard. Moreover, Richard is forced to consider for the first time the real reasons for Francis's refusal to conform to their father's wishes and perversely challenge him at every turn, inviting his wrath and scorn. Did Lymond "go his own way uncaring, and allow Richard his arena"? Or was it something more? Was this Lymond's (and Sybilla's) plan all along, knowing Richard, however gifted an athlete, could never compete with the brilliant second son Lymond who excelled at so much more?

Richard starts to perceive the flickers of comprehension in Lymond's eyes, so he keeps taking like a "mechanical corncrake" until finally Lymond speaks. Francis still wants to die rather than face trial in Edinburgh. In what must have been a total shock to Lymond as it is to many of us readers, Richard has made an about-face. He now wants to "renovate" his brother just enough to get him in the saddle, take him to Leith, and usher him out of Scotland. 

Richard's decision is uncharacteristic of him. Normally a deliberate, careful thinker, Richard's desire to set Lymond free is "a momentous decision [made] purely on impulse" just as his decision two days earlier to find Lymond and save his life was equally impetuous.

The days pass and the brothers spend this time of Lymond "renovation" talking not about the recent, excruciating past but about impersonal issues about which Lymond makes "shrewd observation over the battlefields and spyholds of half Europe." Richard is surprised and impressed by his baby brother. Finally, in a moment of exasperation, Richard says,
"If only you’d come to us after you left Lennox, instead of …" Instead of foundering in self-pity. He could hardly say that.
Once again, Richard is in for a shock. Francis did return to his family four years ago and was promptly shown the door by the Baron, who "tried to enforce the suggestion with a whip," hardly something Lymond would suffer lightly. No one else knew, except perhaps Sybilla, who has been in on Lymond's schemes from the beginning.

And now, what we have all been waiting for: Lymond begins to explain himself at last. His overall strategy since returning to Scotland was to make sure everyone believed that Richard hated his brother and wanted him if not killed then at least captured. This was the only way Lymond could protect Richard from being tainted or even ruined by his ties to him. Lymond is, after all, accused of treason, and everything he has been doing has been to disassociate himself from Richard and ensure everyone knows Richard is a loyal Scot. In order to protect Richard, Francis has to make Richard hate him. To accomplish this schism, Lymond plotted a series of events to ensure Richard's fury would be stoked.
  • The fire at Midculter (using green wood to ensure lots of smoke and little fire).
  • The "theft" of the silver (to which Sybilla was party).
  • The wounding of Janet Beaton to save her from a possibly fatal attack by one of Lymond's overly enthusiastic men.
The problem was that Lymond really was drunk that day at Midculter. He was not playacting:
"I had to drink the whole bloody night through to get enough courage to visit the castle at all."
And his drunkenness led to some unfortunate unplanned results, including the injury to Janet and the "lunatic blunder" with Mariotta. Richard is at last seeing Lymond as he really is, and he knows that Lymond's actions at Hexham were heroic and self-sacrificing. Francis does not want to discuss Hexham, but Richard finally understands his brother's true motives. As they spend more time together and Richard gets to know the adult Francis he has never before encountered, interesting and random thoughts occur to him:
...once, out of an obscure train of thought, said, “Francis. Did you ever tell Will Scott how old you actually are?” 
Lymond looked blank. “No. Should I?” and Richard grinned.
“Probably not. You appear to be immeasurable in his view, like God and the Devil.”
This is an irresistible hint about Lymond's age, one that will not be satisfied until the fourth book in the series, Pawn in Frankincense. Dunnett keeps us guessing and wondering, and Francis's age is alluded to again before it is revealed. What is important right now is Richard's insight: Lymond is ageless and " God and the Devil."

Francis offers his brother a way out of his promise to nurse him to health and get him out of the country, but as Richard says with wit, "You think I’ll discard in the perpendicular what I favour in the prone?" Next day, Lymond takes matters into his own hands when he tries riding Bryony knowing that taking off unannounced will inflame Richard, which it does. Lymond is testing both himself and his brother with this little stunt. Richard admits his emotions towards Francis are still "in a muddle," but his promise is still good.

Before they depart for Scotland, Lymond again mentions Mariotta and assures Richard what he has already told him about his wife is true. Lymond reintroduces the topic of their sister Eloise and offers to discuss her, but Richard will have none of that. That's unfortunate for us! Just as we think we might finally learn what happened with Eloise, Richard says, "nope. Don't want to go there."

July 15

Kate and Gideon are present at a dinner at Lord Grey's house in Berwick where the plans for fortifying and manning Haddington are laid using salt cellars and ale jugs. Kate comments on the linguistic difficulties the English face trying to lead armies from Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. Moreover, once Grey brings up the "nasty business" of Christian's fall and subsequent death at Flaw Valleys, Kate cannot resist pursuing Lymond's fate. She knows he killed Acheson at Hexham but apparently does not know until now that Lymond escaped.

We first encountered Thomas Palmer, Grey's Scottish engineer and cousin of Samuel Harvey's, in Concerted Attack (Pt. 3, Ch. IV, Sec. 1) while Gideon was in London. On that occasion Palmer was instrumental in Margaret Douglas's discovery of Lymond's role in humiliating Grey at Hume and as leader of the band to which Will Scott belonged. Palmer also speaks of "Ned Dudley"; he was the English captain of the guard at Hume castle during the humiliating events involving Will and Lymond.

Later, Gideon and Kate share a few private moments on the castle ramparts, and we have a view into Kate's dear sweet soul:
"I want to put right the world’s sorrows in a night, and it might take a night and a day."
July 16, 1548

The French and Scottish rout of the English and Spanish outside Haddington comprises this short section. Grey badly miscalculated, thinking the enemy were withdrawing from the siege of Haddington. Instead, Palmer and John Ellekar, commander of the 400 horse, are assaulted first by French cavalry and then cut off by French foot. The French kill or capture at least 800 English and Spanish soldiers leaving "a Haddington not only lacking the new forces intended for it, but disastrously bled of Ellerkar, Gamboa and the horsemen who had issued to help."

During the frenetic retreat, Palmer is captured by the Scots, led by Wat Scott, who sends Palmer along to Edinburgh with some of his men while he continues south, presumably looking for Richard, whom he finds. The encounter between Buccleuch and Culter is tense and wary. Wat may bluster and bray, but he is a cagey old soul who quickly takes the measure of the situation. He figures out that Richard is traveling with his brother and is not going to turn him over without a fight: "Wat’s experienced eye read the tilt of his [Richard's] right arm with accuracy." Richard has his hand on his sword.

Wat is going to let Richard (and Lymond) pass until the Cockburns arrive, whooping and hollering. They assume Richard has captured his brother and is taking him to Edinburgh for trial. Lymond sees what is happening and makes a half-hearted attempt at escape to keep up appearances for Richard's sake. Wat does not betray Richard to the Cockburns and even tries to help him get away with Lymond.

Sadly, the section ends with a terrible irony: "Richard, after all, escorted his young brother to Edinburgh," but very much against his will and desire. How things between the brothers have changed. In breaking Lymond, Richard broke himself, broke his own anger and hatred and envy and resentment all to pieces.

2. One Loss Is Made Good

Mid-July 1548

It has been "three newsless weeks since Tom Erskine's return from Hexham" and Mariotta's nerves are fraying. Sybilla, on the other hand, at least appears sanguine enough to burst into song and flushed with excitement over Johnnie Bullo's midnight experiment to turn lead into gold. Janet is interested, Mariotta is distracted, and Agnes, once awake, is nervous.

At the behest of Sybilla, Johnnie Bullo has been working on his alchemical experiments at Midculter since they reached an agreement for him to set up his laboratory in late November of last year. (Pt 2, Ch II, Sec 1) 

Bullo's laboratory is a rat's nest of equipment and potions and scrawlings and tools and dirty dishes, all adding to the unfamiliar and strange atmosphere. Johnnie puts on quite the show for the ladies, complete with incantations, a glowing furnace, and smoke--lots and lots of smoke. The smoke is essential to his deception, allowing Bullo's slight of hand in switching the jars to hide the lead bar and replace it with the gold-plated one. Sybilla, of course, knows this is an act, and she will have none of it. In fact, Sybilla went along with the charade as a way of exposing Bullo as a charlatan and, in essence, blackmailing him into doing her bidding. She has half her men with their pikestaffs waiting outside should Johnnie try a quick exit. Bullo is philosophic about the situation:
“Have I made an error? I was under the impression you were buying my services.”
The blue eyes were equally seraphic. “Your services proved a little expensive.”
He shrugged a little. “I did all I could be expected to do, barring manufacture fresh time."
Johnnie and Sybilla's efforts to help Lymond have not worked out quite as planned. He is still no closer to redeeming himself. Sybilla, no fool, knew all along that the alchemy was fraudulent; she only went along with and funded Bullo's experiments as a way to stay in contact with the Gypsy King, and now to force him to do something else for her.

It is time for a new approach, and Johnnie somehow figures into that plan.

The last time Richard Crawford was at Midculter was March. "For five months he had carried a sleepless sword and husbanded other, corrupt intentions." Now he is headed home in the dark. Lost in thought and worries about how things will turn out, Richard is careless. Three men overtake and unhorse him. Suddenly, another man arrives and the three attackers slip away without a word. Johnnie Bullo explains to Richard these men were not acting on his orders.

Richard overhears his attackers speaking Romany, which in turn reminds Richard of the three arrows from the papingo shoot (Pt 1, Ch VII, Sec 2): "Vivid in his mind was the firelit room at Stirling, and the stained arrows on the table." This was his first encounter with Bullo and his gypsies and was also another close encounter with death. Richard is only mildly surprised to learn from Johnnie that he is at the mercy of Sybilla, not Lymond, whom Bullo calls "the shrewdest" of the Crawfords. What is Sybilla up to? Richard is off to Midculter as fast as Bryony can carry him to find out.

Home at last, Richard hesitates on how best to approach Mariotta. "He had removed all traces of his adventure: he had no idea of posing as a brave but battered warrior. Was it equally unfair to take her unaware like this?" If it is, Richard decides it nonetheless must be done and done now. Mariotta immediately perceives the changes in Richard, both in appearance and in demeanor. Possibly still under the influence of the night's unsettling sorcery, Mariotta looks into Richard's eyes wondering if she will see "the devil" there, but all she sees is herself, "sanely, twice over."

The difficult thing Richard had come to discuss quickly enters the conversation. Mariotta is unhappy that Richard would not believe her assertions of innocence but does believe someone else's. Richard is not off to a good start. Mariotta confronts Richard with a terrible choice: either she is lying about what happened when Francis took her to Crawfordmuir or Lymond is. Which is it?
Richard said steadily, “You had no right to ask me that question, and no right to expect me to make that choice.”
“I knew you wouldn’t make it,” she said. “I knew if you had made it, even in your own mind, that Lymond would be dead. I was only—”
“— Frightening me for the good of my soul,” said Richard,
Mariotta is ferreting out the truth using harsh words and brutal tactics. She wants to find out if Richard really does believe her and Lymond's claims that there was never anything between them. She has her answer: he does, because if Richard believed that she and Francis had betrayed him, Richard would have already killed his brother.

Richard makes an essential admission to Mariotta: he has made his fair share of mistakes. But...
“A mistake is something you build on: it’s the irritant that makes the pearl; the flaw that creates the geyser—but a mistake made twice is a folly..."
Just as earlier Lymond admitted he made "one mistake" that set him on this ruthless, unforgiving path in life, Richard is finally able to acknowledge his own mistakes. And, just as Richard reached some level of understanding and forgiveness of Lymond, so does Mariotta forgive Richard.
[Mariotta] “My dear fool, why am I fighting you and denying you and hurting you except that I am so afraid of you, and of myself; because I love you far too well for peace and gentle harmonies.…
The last stumbling block is removed and the couple can go forward in truth and love. Richard and Mariotta probably have the first real conversation of their marriage, and it leads to forgiveness, deeper understanding, commitment, and acknowledgement of their love for each other.

In the final brief but enticing scene between Richard and Sybilla, she immediately knows two things: that Mariotta and Richard have made up and that Richard did not kill Francis ("you wouldn't have kissed me, would you?"). But she does not know until now that Lymond is imprisoned and about to stand trial in Edinburgh. Despite what must be a terrible fear for Lymond's life, Sybilla is pleased to learn that Richard has come round and actually tried to help his brother escape:
She drew a finger down his cheek and said, “That was remarkably well done, no matter what came of it. You won’t regret it, either."
Sybilla will not go see Francis in prison in part because it would "only weaken him" and in part because she has places to go and people to see, people who apparently will be none too pleased to see her.  Like Lymond, Sybilla remains an insoluble mystery to Richard.

  1. Given the events in Hexham Abbey, were you surprised that Tom Erskine was so willing to leave Lymond to die in the dovecote? 
  2. Why did Richard decide not to kill Lymond when he had both the opportunity and the motive to do so?
  3. What was the "one mistake" Lymond says he made?
  4. Who sent the jewels to Mariotta?
  5. Right before Lymond passes out, he says to Richard, “God, I forgot. You don’t like glovers.” Why do you think Lymond alludes to the episode with the gilded glove from the papingo shoot that led Richard on a merry chase at Christmas?
  6. When Richard finally has what he said he wants--Lymond on his knees weeping and begging to die--does Richard savor the moment? How does he feel after breaking Lymond?
  7. Why does Richard change his mind and decide to spirit Lymond out of Scotland rather than take him to Edinburgh to stand trial? 
  8. What does Richard's question to Francis about his age imply?
  9. Why does Dunnett include Kate and Gideon in the scene with Grey and Palmer? Their presence is not necessary to the plot, so there must be another reason they are in the scene.
  10. Why does Buccleuch change his mind and try to help Richard and Lymond get away?
  11. Why does Sybilla believe she now needs to expose Johnnie Bullo as a fraud and blackmail him to help her when before she was simply paying him? 
Favorite Line
You choose to play God, and the Deity points out that the post is already adequately filled.
Words that Describe Lymond in Strange Refuge
  • suicidal
  • hopeless
  • angry
  • despairing
  • exhausted
  • frustrated
  • guilty
  • honest
  • direct
  • afraid
  • determined
  • weak
  • defeated
  • desolate
  • manipulative (still)

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