You have probably heard the talk regarding that mysterious scholar, B. Biggs. Just in case you have not, the on dit has it that there is no record of any B. Biggs attending at any of the respectable schools or universities in England nor in Scotland. We all recognize that attendance at one of our respected institutions of learning is not a requirement for a keen and educated mind. However, this reporter has learned something previously unknown about the shadowy Biggs.
Starting at the printshop where the scholar’s work is published, this reporter identified which messenger was sent with proofs for Biggs to approve. I was able to follow the messenger as far as the unremarkable village of Starbrook in Yorkshire. Sadly, my horse lost a shoe,. I was delayed at the smithy’s forge and was unable to follow the messenger to his ultimate destination.
Starbrook is a typical village with little worthy of note to the traveler. A quick perusal of the town and some conversation with local patrons of a few taverns, revealed not only that Starbrook is not home to any scholarly or educational institutions but also that the village’s only claim to renown is that it sits within the borders of the ancestral lands of the Earl of Seahaven.
The ninth earl recently passed away–I’m certain you read of his obsequies here–and the tenth Earl has been installed. I have not had the pleasure of meeting the current Earl. However, I have not heard that he has a reputation for incisive scholarship of any kind, let alone the distinguished papers on Egypt that originate in the mind of B. Biggs. It is possible that the earl plays the dullard in society in order to prevent anyone from guessing that his is the hand which pens the Biggs papers. This reporter is of the opinion that it is not the earl but one of his connections, possibly even one of the ten daughters of the previous earl. Disappointingly, the local folk had little to say about the ninth Earl’s family. Thus, despite my best efforts, I have been unable to identify the true mind behind B. Biggs’s scholarship.
Rest assured dear readers that my inquiries will continue, and I hope to have more specific news at a date in the not-too-distant future.
I remain ever your loyal reporter dedicated to bringing you the truth–no matter how scandalous.
In the mid-13th century the Bishop of Durnoch was involved in a land dispute with Baron MacFearann. After exchanging several messages and suffering the disappearance of at least one messenger, the Bishop decided to attempt to resolve the problem in person. He gave notice to the baron that he and his entourage would arrive in time for the Shrove Tuesday feast.
On arrival, the bishop’s escort was welcomed and housed in the MacFearann barracks. The bishop and two of his most essential attendants were greeted with great courtesy and shown to lavish rooms in the MacFearann keep. It was only after a long and in the bishop’s opinion very delicious dinner that he was able to speak privately and at length with the baron.
The bishop did everything he knew how to do to persuade MacFearann to tithe the lands as ordered. But even the threat of ex-communication fell on deaf ears. The last thing the bishop did was to ask if MacFearann had encountered the friar sent more than a month earlier?
“Oh, aye, that I have,” assured the baron.
“Then do you know what became of him,” queried the bishop.
“Aye, I do, and so do yer excellency.”
“Then might you tell me where he is?”
“But ye know that already, excellency.”
The bishop was of course puzzled. “Would I ask you if I knew?”
“Mayhap ye’re a bit confused. Yer friar was present at dinner.”
“I did not see him.” The bishop shook his head.
“Och but ye did. He was setting on the table right before ye.”
The bishop’s eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open. “But that was . . .” he swallowed, clearly discomfited. “That was a roast.”
“Aye.” The baron nodded. “Ye told me from yer own lips how much you enjoyed the roast and the spiced gravy served with it.”
The bishop’s face turned green. “The spiced gravy?”
“Yer friar contributed to every part of the meal, in one way or another.”
The bishop tried to speak but his stomach overcame him and he cast up his accounts into the rushes. “What vile trick is this?” he asked when he could finally speak.
“Why ’tis no trick.” The baron stood and walked to where the bishop sat. “Ye wished to tithe the life blood from Clan MacFearann. I couldna let that happen. So when ye announce ye would visit–note that I dinna invite ye–I decided to take some of the church’s blood, but feeling guilty I then decided to give it back. Yer friar will be a part of ye always.”
*With that MacFearann stabbed the bishop doing severe damage that would lead to a slow death. Above stairs his two most trusted men were enacting the same punishment on the attendants, whose only crimes were to serve the bishop.
The dead bodies were put on display at the border of MacFearann lands and the story was told far and wide by every MacFearan to any and all who would listen. They wanted to be certain that everyone knew what might happen if an attempt was made to take from MacFearann what belonged to MacFearann.
The result was that the Scottish people have long feared and hated the entire clan for daring to so desecrate God’s bishop and his men. This evil has lived so long in the memories of the local folk, that even today the baron’s ancestors are reviled and despised.
We beg your pardon for publishing this lurid history, but assure you as gruesome as the tale may be the events are securely in the past. No such actions would be possible in this modern day and age–at least we most sincerely hope so.
As you know our intrepid reporter in Scotland has been researching the histories of various clans connected with the Duke of Cowal and the approaching marriage of his heir. Among these clans the most prominent are the MacTavish, MacKai and Marr. Each of these clans is dominant in regions blanketing Scotland’s Western coast and territories. However, our reporter discovered an obscure and ancient connection between Clan Marr, famous for its Strathnaver Whisky, and a small, currently quite poor clan whose lands once stretched from Thurso to Dornoch. As the history above explains Clan MacFearann was once the most hated of all Scottish clans and the most feared.
The Tattler and its staff, most sincerely pity any family having even a distant connection to such a clan.
From the author, Rue Allyn: Members of the MacFearann clan appear frequently in my fictional version of Scotland. The MacFearanns had their strongest impact to date in Knight Protector – Knight Chronicles Book Two. Because of that story and a few others, at least one member of the clan will appear briefly in The Pirate Duchess – Duchess Series Book Two, one of my current works in progress. You may purchase Knight Protector from your favorite retailer https://books2read.com/u/bwjMAP. Or join my mailing list to receive my latest news and most recent deals. Here’s the link to my website homepage where you may find the subscription form at the bottom of the page.
*The black and white image on the right depicts Tantalus who was condemned after death to starve for all eternity for the grievous sin of serving his dead son as a meal to the gods.
The polite world is agog at the notice in today’s Times of an engagement between Viscount Cairndow, recently of His Majesty’s Royal Navy and an obscure young woman by the un-pretentious name of Miss Esmaralda Crobbin.
Viscount C’s engagement has been anticipated for months since his return from his Naval duties and with the well-known circumstance of his uncle, the Duke of Cowal’s ill health. It is to be expected that the heir to such an ancient and noble title [even if it is Scottish in origin] would wed at the earliest opportunity, but to an unknown miss of modest and possibly dubious origins?
Yes, you read correctly. Miss Crobbin’s origins are dubious at best. Rumor has it that she is none other than the by-blow of that dastardly pirate, Irish Red. However, direct proof of this relationship is lacking. Nonetheless, the Duke’s outriders have been seen scurrying hither and tither over the countryside visiting churches and accosting prelates for information concerning the disappearance of a young lady about twenty odd years ago. That the Duke’s daughter, who is also the Viscount’s youngest aunt disappeared about that same time is widely accepted. Could Miss Crobbin be the Duke’s great niece? If so had her mother been wed at the time of Miss Crobbin’s birth? What is the connection between the Duke’s missing daughter and a scourge such as Irish Red?
Fear not dear readers. Our intrepid reporters will discover the truth of this curious matter. As soon as we receive news that can be confirmed, we will report it here.
About The Pirate Duchess–Duchess Series Book 2: Dear readers, I regret that as I write this post, The Pirate Duchess is still a work in progress. None of that progress is if sufficient quality to allow posting of even a short scene. The best I can offer at this point is to recommend you read Wait for Me, my contribution to the Bluestocking Belles and Friends novella collection, Storm & Shelter. You may find links to vendors offering Storm & Shelter here https://bluestockingbelles.net/belles-joint-projects/storm-shelter/. You may also expect to learn more of the Viscount and the modest miss in the pages of the Tattler.
The Teatime Tattler’s most dedicated reporter in the Scottish highlands has unearthed the following letter, found in an attic chest. (To protect our reporter, we cannot in good conscience reveal the precise location.) The letter reveals astonishing news about those perpetually feuding clans MacKai and MacTavish. Could it be that after all it was a MacKai lady, who began the troubles between the clans, and not a bear-like MacTavish as has always been believed. Read on and judge for yourselves. We can only imagine how the current Earl of T and a certain Lady M will take this news of their respective ancestors.
Dearest Brother and Sisters,
I pray you have not been too worried by my disappearance these past months. I write to ensure you that I am as safe as God can make me and to confess that, with the best of intentions, I have deceived you all. I hope you will forgive me when I tell you that I, not our sister Keeva, wed Laird Iver MacTavish, Earl of Trossachs.
In my heart, I know that a match between Keeva and the earl would have led to her early death from sheer unhappiness. The earl is a crude, arrogant, aggressive and demanding man. Our gentle Keeva would not have lasted a year in marriage with him. Pride and honor, I am certain, would not permit her to desert such an unhappy union. The only alternative to avoiding the misery of a bad marriage, caused me to fear for Keeva’s immortal soul. As I love her and all my family, I knew I must prevent the marriage.
Brother, having given MacTavish his choice of your sisters as bride, you could not honorably forbid Keeva to wed him. ‘Twas a mistake, for which I forgive you, as I believe God will forgive you. The aid of Clan MacTavish in defeating the English invasion of our home was essential, so of course you agreed to their laird’s demands in order to gain his cooperation. I am equally certain, that to preserve your honor and that of Clan MacKai, Keeva would enter the marriage no matter her feelings about the bear of Trossachs.
I can only ask that you will forgive me for sending Keeva to England and taking her place in the proxy ceremony. I was glad you had been called away on the day of the ceremony. Still I was heavily veiled to maintain my deception with our sisters.
As for Keeva, the night before the ceremony I gave her a sleeping potion and had her taken aboard a ship bound for Moriancabris. From there she was delivered to the care of your father-in-law, Earl Du Grace at Castle Blancmer. I sent with her a letter to the earl, asking that he guard Keeva well until spring when calmer seas would permit her return to Dungarob and our family.
So, you see, both Keeva and I are safe. Laird MacTavish was not happy about the substitution. Nonetheless, I believe with time and prayer, he will come to see the benefit of having a wife whose faith in God will save him and all his clan. He has already unbent so far as to permit a priest to take up residence at Trossachs to care for the chapel and the clan’s souls. I pray daily for the time when my husband will learn to share my faith in God and set a true example for his people by attending chapel daily and confessing his sins so his soul may be washed clean.
I have made my own confession, and our priest with God’s wisdom urged me to write this letter in addition to the other penance I have suffered to atone for my deception. Please write to let me know that I am forgiven. If my husband agrees and you will permit it, I hope to visit Dungarob this summer. Give my love to all.
Brigdhe MacKai MacTavish
About The Taming of Iver MacTavish: Determined to save her younger sister from a marriage worse than death, Brigdhe MacKai, commits a number of sins in order to become wife to Lord MacTavish, The Bear of Trossachs. She trusts that God and her family will understand, even if MacTavish does not. Is her faith strong enough to create an enduring love match from the ashes of deception and lies?
The Taming of Iver MacTavish is the first in my MacKai Brides series of novellas. The story is a work in progress, which I hope to have available to my newsletter subscribers and Rue’s Crew members before September. For updates, watch here or at Rue’s Crew.
To protect our reporter from reprisals, we dare not reveal the source of the conversation related below. However, we can tell you that our intrepid employee is safely away from Stonegreave Priory, where the conversation occurred and is hot on the trail of the nefarious person under the protection of Her Grace of S.
“My dear Marielle, you cannot possibly expect me to chaperone a person you yourself suspect of underhanded dealings and lax morality.” Miss Verity Walford protested.
“Verity, I understand your reluctance.” Her Grace handed her friend and protégé a cup of tea. “However, I owe this young woman a debt of gratitude. Her quick thinking saved my life and others when Richard and I were at Fontainbleau last April to rescue my cousin.” The duchess grimaced and pressed a hand to her swollen belly.
Verity put her tea aside. “Are you well? Should I call for the doctor? Richard?”
“No, thank you.” Her Grace released a long breath. “It is just the baby kicking. He or she delights in disturbing my peace at every opportunity, and I understand this is just the beginning. Disturbed peace is normal, I hear, when a household includes children.”
“If you say all is well, I believe you. You’ve never been a fool about your health.” Verity sipped her tea. “As for children and lack of peace, being an only child and a spinster, I could not say.”
“And I would not expect it of you, although I do hope someday you will find the kind of love Richard and I have.”
“The two of you are to be envied.”
Her Grace picked up her cup and took a cautious sip. “Quite possibly, but we owe our lives and our happiness to the young woman I wish you to chaperone. Esme is quite unusual, and I suspect you would be best off not to question her too deeply about her actions or her background.”
“Such a warning makes me even more reluctant to do this little favor for you.”
The duchess leaned forward and took Verity’s hand. “You must. It is obvious that in my condition I cannot, and were I not enceinte, I would not cause Richard to worry by attempting to aid Esme. If you cannot, I will have to hire a stranger, whom I could not possibly trust as much as you.”
“Very well, since I’ve nothing of import on my calendar for the next two months, I will help you.”
“Excellent.” Her Grace’s face glowed. “She’ll be traveling under the name Eugenia Fynlock and will meet you at The Queen’s Barque Inn of Fenwick on Sea.”
Verity’s brows rose. “Why such a backwater? Won’t two strange women draw attention in such a place?”
“I cannot say why that particular inn and town were chosen, but that is the information I received. I will cover your expenses, of course, and provide you with transport both to and from Fenwick on Sea. You’ll be bringing Esme back to me for a visit.”
“Then I hope I like this unusual young woman. Sharing a room with a stranger for three or four days is stressful enough. Add in a journey of the time from here to the coast, and we would both be miserable, if we cannot become friends.”
“Even if you cannot like her tremendously as I do,” the duchess said. “You will find her highly entertaining. Now ring for a maid, please. I find I tire easily and need a nap before dinner.”
“Certainly.” Miss Walford put action to words then returned to her seat. “When do you think I should leave for Fenwick on Sea?”
“Within the week. As long as the winds are favorable, Esme expects to arrive at the village no later than March 31st.”
“Favorable winds? Is she arriving by sea?”
“Oh dear. Please forget I said that. The less you know about Esme, the better.”
At which point our reporter was compelled to depart the premises, having learned all that could be learned about the mysterious Miss Eugenia Fynlock—or whatever the woman’s name might be. We can only speculate at this time what sort of person might have a duchess in her debt and be visiting an out of the way corner of England such as Fenwick on Sea let alone be in need of a chaperone.
Dear readers, look for more information on this intriguing tidbit. Our reporter will be writing from Fenwick on Sea and dishing out all the dirt—so to speak—that may be found in such a place.
About Storm & Shelter: When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel. One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.