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The Lyne of Lauderdale | after lunch, 27th December- Xmas 1677

Douglas FitzJames

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Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland


Inside the antechamber of the office sat a heavyset clerk, dressed finely as one of the gentry might. The clerk, one Aaron McAndrews by name, was a member of the gentry himself, holding the position of secretary to the Secretary. As such, he was more officious than most. His master was a tyrant and it bred small tyrannies.


There was also a younger clerk at a smallish desk nearby.


The Duke of Lauderdale saw whom he chose, and only whom he chose. Without an appointment, there was no hope of gaining entry to the duke himself. Those who gained admittance would find the duke seated behind a small elegant writing desk, in a small, but well-decorated office.


Lauderdale was a difficult character, Douglas knew. He was also the most powerful man in Scotland. Whether his apparent disinterest at church had been a front to seem less connected to Dundarg, or whether whatever had caused him to send the note during recess was no longer an issue Douglas didn’t know, but he would at least endeavour to find out.


If he could be of use to the man, there could be the potential for an angle into Scottish politics. He’d tried previously, done a little light work in the realm of keeping an ear to the ground and reporting on Scottish doings, nothing particularly consequential. He had yet to work out what exactly might appeal to Lauderdale. Perhaps the man would tell him.


Nodding politely to the heavyset clerk at the desk, Douglas mused on the many layers of guardedness that surrounded the Duke of Lauderdale.


“Baron Dundarg.” He announced himself to the clerk. “His Grace is expectin’ me.”*



* “Baron Dundarg. His Grace is expecting me.”

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McAndrews was there, giving instruction to a junior clerk when Douglas entered. Upon seeing the lanky Scot, Aaron separated himself from the clerk.


"Yes, Lord Dundarg. The Duke is expecting you. Please be seated. Can I offer you some whiskey perhaps, while you wait?"


A servant emerged from Lauderdale's office carrying a tray of dishes with scraps of food upon it. It seemed that Lauderdale had ordered the remnants of his lunch removed.


Douglas was made to wait five minutes before he was summoned into the Duke's office. The heavyset man was standing before the fire warming his hands. Two comfortable chairs sat opposite each other nearby. "Ah, Dundarg, please have a seat. How is the season treating you so far?"

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“Aye, thank ye. T’weel ward off the cauld.”* Douglas accepted the offer of whiskey graciously and lowered himself into the seat McAndrews indicated. It was the prerogative of the powerful to keep others waiting, and at least he was being offered a drink in the meantime. The big Scotsman settled himself with the patient air of a soldier who is warm and comfortable and has no intention of moving until necessary. The conversation with the clerk washed over him.


It seemed the Duke was having a late lunch to judge by the plates being brought out. Hard at work perhaps? It begged the question of what was keeping him working today.


When McAndrews finally indicated he could enter, Douglas found Lauderdale warming himself by the fire. You’d have thought he’d have enough insulation. He seemed in an amiable mood, and Douglas doffed his hat and bowed deeply in response to his greeting.


“Cannae complain, Yer Grace.” He returned with a smile. Oh, he might like to. His sisters would be top of the list to bitch about but he knew the other man would be all ears. “Tis guid tae see a less sombre season.”** He observed as he took the offered seat.


“An’ yersel’?” He asked politely. Small talk first, but he doubted Lauderdale was really interested in the niceties. He wondered whether this was about his militia. It was the only thing that he could think would be on Lauderdale’s mind with regards to him, at the moment. Unless he wanted to shag one of his sisters of course, which was not outside of the realms of possibility.



* “Yes, thank you. It will ward off the cold.”

** “Can’t complain, Your Grace. It’s good to see a less sombre season.”

*** “And yourself?”

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The harsh accent employed by Douglas often caused consternation on the faces of others; but here, Scottish accents were well understood. The Duke had heard them all.


"Tell me FitzJames," Lauderdale began, "would you describe yourself as an ambitious man?" he already knew the answer to that question, but would use it as a foundation for further questions.


"Do your ambitions go north of the border or do they stay here in London?"

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Lauderdale didn’t need to ask the question, Douglas was certain of that. He was leading up to something, thought the question was ‘what’? It probably wasn't the time to call him out on that The tall Life Guard settled for eyeballing Maitland briefly before answering. “Is the Pope a Catholic?”* Bastards knew no other way to be. When you started at the bottom, the only way was up, especially when you ignored the fact that although you were starting at the bottom, it was of the top heap.


The second question was more interesting, and something that Douglas had given thought to before. “North o’ the border Yer Grace, more so than Sooth.” He said in a more respectful tone of voice. “Thair I’m jus’ a bastard.”** Here he was a bastard and a Scotsman.


Which was perhaps leading to the reason that he had tried to cultivate Lauderdale in the first place. “But I dinnae hae the kennin’ o’ the politics; unlike yersel’.”*** He admitted. They said the first step to knowledge was recognising the lack; he needed a tutor. In truth, there were likely few who understood politics the way Lauderdale did. After all, the man was more hated than Danby had ever been, but where the Earl was impeached, the Duke ruled a quarter of the Kingdom. Douglas wanted to know how to do that.



* “Is the Pope a Catholic?”

** “North of the border Your Grace, more so than South. There I’m just a bastard.”

*** “But I don’t have the (needed) knowledge of politics; unlike yourself.”

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The older man seemed satisfied with the answer. He continued to warm his hands which had become unnaturally cold of late.


"Your eldest half sister. She does not like me." It was a simple statement, but it was clear that he was looking for an answer. "You two seem to get along well."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Understatement of the bloody century. Cat hated Lauderdale with a passion, but then the man had tried to force her to become his mistress, and Scots were slow to forgive and even slower to forget.


Still, he wouldn’t say that they got along well so much as they tolerated each other better than others did. They still had rip-roaring rows on occasion, but he had found that she listened to him more than she used to, and more than to other people, though that wasn’t saying much. Even the King got ignored when she didn’t like what he said, such as with Fiona’s situation.


“She’s inclined tae neither fergi’ nor ferget.” He observed blandly, and shrugged. Lauderdale knew better than Douglas did the reasons for that. “Like mos’ Scots really.”* Their countryfolk had long memories and nursed clan feuds like one aged fine wines, ready to pass on to the next generation.


“But aye, we git alang weel enou’.”** Which was more than many could say, he supposed. Oh, Cat mothered people, but who were her true friends? Apart from some of the other Royal Mistresses, and the healed rift with Heather, he wasn’t certain.


It all begged the question of why Lauderdale was asking. Douglas regarded the other man’s back with a guarded curiosity, and noted that he was still standing by the fire. Did he feel the cold so much? Perhaps he’d spent too long south, or perhaps he was growing old. It was an odd thought; Lauderdale was a force of nature. Much as Cat might harbour fantasies about killing him, it was hard to imagine court without him. If Douglas recalled correctly, the man had no male heir either.



* “She’s inclined to neither forgive nor forget. Like most Scots really.”

** “But yes, we get along well enough.”

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Douglas remembered well that Maitland had no heir. He had a single daughter.


"Aye, all we Scots have long memories," the older man acknowledged. The fire seemed to entrance him as he spoke. Perhaps he was both getting old and gaining a southerner's dislike for the cold.


"When I consider opportunities for business, it is only natural that I consider the man I might do business with. What are his strengths and weaknesses? What are his family alliances? No one can trust a man that has a grudge against him, or shares the grudge from a loved one."


He rubbed his hands together before the fire, unhappy that his hands were always so cold these days. "Tell me Dundarg, would I be a wise man to trust you?"

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  • 1 month later...

So that was what Lauderdale was getting at. He wanted to know whether Douglas shared Cat’s hatred of him. It was a fair question, and one that Douglas had considered himself before now. The spin the other man put on it gave him pause as he considered the question; would Lauderdale be wise to trust him?


“Prolly nae.”* Douglas acknowledged. At least if you considered his family ties, which was really all that Lauderdale had to go on. It wasn’t a good start. The big man tried to look at the situation from the fat man’s point of view; you could practically see the wheels turning in his head.


How could one sum up the difficult and often spiky allegiance of blood, bile and tolerance that ran between him and Catriona? “I dinnae like hou ye treat wimmen.” He said simply, having seen other examples of Lauderdale’s heavy-handedness. “But Cat’s feuds arenae mine. She’s kent tae hexaggerate, an’ she swapped fuckin’ one poowerfu’ man fer ano’er.”** So he really didn’t see what the difference was. Of course, he hadn’t been there at the time. He was also aware that Cat was rapidly heading for ex-Mistress status, which would not help them in the slightest.


He didn’t particularly want Lauderdale to know just how shaky the ties that bound their little family were, but he didn’t doubt that the man could guess that the standard Scottish blood loyalties applied. These are mine, those are yours. Trespass with mine and you’ll get yours.


What then did the two of them have in common? “We both serve the same master.” He said after a moment. “I want tae serve Scotland.”*** They shouldn’t be second-rate citizens under a Stuart King.



* “Probably not.”

** “I don’t like how you treat women. But Cat’s feuds aren’t mine. She’s known to exaggerate, and she swapped fucking one powerful man for another.”

*** “We both serve the same master. I want to serve Scotland.”

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The fact that Douglas acknowledged that the Duke would be unwise to trust him caused the older man to grunt in satisfaction, his hands still held open to the fire. "I appreciate your candor."


As for Cat's switching to fuck another powerful man, John Maitland was left to wonder what the Life Guard meant by that. Had his sister taken on another lover besides the King? If so, his spies had missed the liaison entirely. Did he mean a switch from Lauderdale to the King? If so, the young Scot insulted both powerful men with his non chalice and inability to note a distinction.


"You and your sister are seen as having no love for me," Lauderdale continued, stating the obvious. "In this way, you could be useful to me in a discreet matter. It would place you in a delicate position, one in which you would need to choose your future loyalties." The heavyset man turned to face Douglas. "The question FitzJames is whether you know in your heart and in your mind that you benefit more from my favor than that of my enemies?"

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Douglas had meant that Cat had switched from Lauderdale to the King, and he didn’t see that much difference. The King was more powerful certainly – and less ugly – but at the end of the day she was still someone’s whore. Douglas didn’t like it, knowing how it dragged the family down, and so he was not particularly kind in his view of his sister’s choices; fat lot he could do about it.


As for his candour, honesty was the best policy, unless you had no other option. Tell too many lies and you could tie yourself in knots. Lauderdale had no reason to trust him save that he wanted him to; perhaps this meeting had been a foolish idea. Perhaps he should have gone to Rupert, who was at least a fellow military man. It had to be someone though; a dog needed a master and Douglas was running out of options. He hadn’t the political nouse to direct himself. Lauderdale did.


It was a fair assumption that none of the MacBains had any love for Lauderdale, and Douglas listened with interest as the other man spoke circumspectly of a possible use for him. Unfortunately he didn’t have much idea as to which particular enemies Lauderdale was thinking of; a large portion of court hated him. The important thing was that Lauderdale was hated, and still standing. That was something Douglas wanted; he was hated simply for what he was, he needed that skill.


“Which enemies did ye hae in mind?” He asked, curious. One of the most infamous was the man’s own son-in-law, but as far as Douglas was aware, John Hay was still on the continent. The Marquess of Tweedale’s falling out with the man was rather famous, but Douglas was certain that he would have pissed off many people in his time. “I s’pose t’ultimately depends on whit yer favour offers, but t’seems tae me that a man bent on advancin’ in Scottish circles wuid do puirly tae stand agin’ the most poowerfu’ man in Scotland.”* He observed pragmatically.


And as he’s said before, the two men served the same master. But that might not be enough for Lauderdale; likely the man wanted to know he had a hold on him. “Most folk dismiss me ‘cause o’ my birth.” He observed blandly. “If ye kin see past that tae whit I’m worth, I’m yers.”** He was sick to death of being told to know his place; he knew it alright and it wasn’t where others thought it was.



* “Which enemies did you have in mind? I suppose it ultimately depends on what your favour offers, but it seems to me that a man bent on advancing in Scottish circles would do poorly to stand against the most powerful man in Scotland.”

** “Most people dismiss me because of my birth. If you can see past that to what I’m worth, I’m yours.”

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"The term enemy is a curious term FitzJames," the Duke stated in a cryptic way. "There are those that hate me certainly. These I pay little heed. The more important concern are those that might profess friendship when their heart is false. I am an experienced courtier and can see through many masks; but, there are times that instinct needs verification." He pause to see if the Captain understood.


"Being born on the wrong side of the sheets does not limit a man's value to me FitzJames. There may be legal obstacles and societal prejudice, but that does not prevent my gratitude," he explained, expecting that would answer Douglas' query.


I was thinking you might approach an avowed friend with a plan for my undoing and see where his heart lies. Would this be something that you could do?"

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