Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon




  Seven Stones to Stand or Fall is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2017 by Diana Gabaldon

  “The Custom of the Army” copyright © 2010 by Diana Gabaldon

  “The Space Between” copyright © 2013 by Diana Gabaldon

  “A Plague of Zombies” copyright © 2011 by Diana Gabaldon

  “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” copyright © 2010 by Diana Gabaldon

  “Virgins” copyright © 2013 by Diana Gabaldon

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

  DELACORTE PRESS and the HOUSE colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

  “The Custom of the Army” was originally published in Warriors, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, published by Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, in 2010. “The Space Between” was originally published in The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius, edited by John Joseph Adams, published by Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, in 2013. “A Plague of Zombies” was originally published as “Lord John and the Plague of Zombies” in Down These Strange Streets: All-New Stories of Urban Fantasy, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, published by Ace Books, a division of Penguin, in 2011. “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” was originally published in Songs of Love and Death: All Original Tales of Star-Crossed Love, edited by George R. R. Martin, published by Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, in 2010. “Virgins” was originally published in Dangerous Women, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, published by Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, in 2013.

  Hardback ISBN 9780399593420

  Ebook ISBN 9780399593444

  randomhousebooks.com

  Book design by Virginia Norey, adapted for ebook

  Cover design: Marietta Anastassatos

  Cover art: Robert Hunt

  v4.1

  ep

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Introduction

  The Custom of the Army

  The Space Between

  A Plague of Zombies

  A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows

  Virgins

  A Fugitive Green

  Besieged

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  By Diana Gabaldon

  About the Author

  INTRODUCTION

  A Chronology of the Outlander Series

  If you picked this book up under the misapprehension that it’s the ninth novel in the main Outlander series, it’s not. I apologize.

  So, if it’s not the ninth novel, what is it? Well, it’s a collection of seven…er…things, of varying length and content, but all having to do with the Outlander universe. As for the title…basically, it’s the result of my editor not liking my original title choice, Salmagundi.* Not that I couldn’t see her point…Anyway, there was a polite request via my agent for something more in line with the “resonant, poetic” nature of the main titles.

  Without going too much into the mental process that led to this (words like “sausage-making” and “rock-polishing” come to mind), I wanted a title that at least suggested that there were a number of elements in this book (hence the Seven), and Seven Stones just came naturally, and that was nice (“stone” is always a weighty word) and suitably alliterative but not a complete poetic thought (or rhythm). So, a bit more thinkering (no, that’s not a typo), and I came up with to Stand or Fall, which sounded suitably portentous.

  It took a bit of ex post facto thought to figure out what the heck that meant, but things usually do mean something if you think long enough. In this instance, the “stand or fall” has to do with people’s response to grief and adversity: to wit, if you aren’t killed outright by whatever happened, you have a choice in how the rest of your life is lived—you keep standing, though battered and worn by time and elements, still a buttress and a signpost—or you fall and return quietly to the earth from which you sprang, your elements giving succor to those who come after you.

  SO. THIS IS (as the front cover suggests) a collection of seven novellas (fiction shorter than a novel but longer than a short story), though all of them are indeed part of the Outlander universe and do intersect with the main novels.

  Five of the novellas included in this book were originally written for various anthologies over the last few years; two are brand-new and have never been published before: “A Fugitive Green” and “Besieged.”

  Owing to differences among publishers in different countries, some of the previously published novellas may subsequently have been published in print form as a four-story collection (in the UK and Germany) or as separate ebooks (in the United States). Seven Stones provides a complete print collection for those readers who like tactile books and includes the two new stories.

  Since the novellas fit into the main series at different points (and involve a number of different characters), below is an overall chronology of the Outlander series, to explain Who, What, and When.

  THE OUTLANDER SERIES includes three kinds of stories:

  The Big, Enormous Books of the main series, which have no discernible genre (or all of them);

  The Shorter, Less Indescribable Novels, which are more or less historical mysteries (though dealing also with battles, eels, and assorted sexual practices);

  And

  The Bulges,—these being short(er) pieces that fit somewhere inside the story lines of the novels, much in the nature of squirming prey swallowed by a large snake. These deal frequently—but not exclusively—with secondary characters, are prequels or sequels, and/or fill some lacuna left in the original story lines.

  The Big Books of the main series deal with the lives and times of Claire and Jamie Fraser. The shorter novels focus on the adventures of Lord John Grey but intersect with the larger books (The Scottish Prisoner, for example, features both Lord John and Jamie Fraser in a shared story). The novellas all feature people from the main series, including Jamie and/or Claire on occasion. The description below explains which characters appear in which stories.

  Most of the shorter Lord John novels and novellas (so far) fit within a large lacuna left in the middle of Voyager, in the years between 1756 and 1761. Some of the Bulges also fall in this period; others don’t.

  So, for the reader’s convenience, the detailed listing here shows the sequence of the various elements in terms of the story line. However, it should be noted that the shorter novels and novellas are all designed in such a way that they may be read alone, without reference either to one another or to the Big, Enormous Books—should you be in the mood for a light literary snack instead of the nine-course meal with wine pairings and dessert trolley.

  (For your added convenience, the description of each story includes the dates covered in it, and,—if it has been published before, the original anthology title and year of publication are also given. This information will be mostly useful to collectors and hardcore bibliophiles, but we aim to please as many people as possible.)

  “Virgins” (novella)—Set in 1740 in France. In which Jamie Fraser (aged nineteen) and his friend Ian Murray (aged twenty) become young mercenaries. [Originally published in the anthology Dangerous Women, eds. George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, 2012.]

  Outlander (novel)—If you’ve never read any of the series, I’d suggest starting here. If you’re
unsure about it, open the book anywhere and read three pages; if you can put it down again, I’ll give you a dollar. (1946/1743)

  Dragonfly in Amber (novel)—It doesn’t start where you think it’s going to. And it doesn’t end how you think it’s going to, either. Just keep reading; it’ll be fine. (1968/1744–46)

  “A Fugitive Green” (novella)—Set in 1744–45 in Paris, London, and Amsterdam, this is the story of Lord John’s elder brother, Hal (Harold, Earl Melton and Duke of Pardloe), and his (eventual) wife, Minnie—at the time of this story a seventeen-year-old dealer in rare books with a sideline in forgery, blackmail, and burglary. Jamie Fraser also appears in this one.

  Voyager (novel)—This won an award from EW magazine for “Best Opening Line.” (To save you having to find a copy just to read the opening, it was: He was dead. However, his nose throbbed painfully, which he thought odd in the circumstances.) If you’re reading the series in order rather than piecemeal, you do want to read this book before tackling the novellas. (1968/1746–67)

  Lord John and the Hand of Devils, “Lord John and the Hellfire Club” (short story)—Just to add an extra layer of confusion, The Hand of Devils is a collection that includes three novellas. The first one, “Lord John and the Hellfire Club,” is set in London in 1756 and deals with a red-haired man who approaches Lord John Grey with an urgent plea for help, just before dying in front of him. [Originally published in the anthology Past Poisons, ed. Maxim Jakubowski, 1998.]

  Lord John and the Private Matter (novel)—Set in London in 1757, this is a historical mystery steeped in blood and even less-savory substances, in which Lord John meets (in short order) a valet, a traitor, an apothecary with a sure cure for syphilis, a bumptious German, and an unscrupulous merchant prince.

  Lord John and the Hand of Devils, “Lord John and the Succubus” (novella)—The second novella in the Hand of Devils collection finds Lord John in Germany in 1757, having unsettling dreams about Jamie Fraser, unsettling encounters with Saxon princesses, night hags, and a really disturbing encounter with a big blond Hanoverian graf. [Originally published in the anthology Legends II, ed. Robert Silverberg, 2003.]

  Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade (novel)—The second full-length novel focused on Lord John (though Jamie Fraser also appears) is set in 1758, deals with a twenty-year-old family scandal, and sees Lord John engaged at close range with exploding cannon and even more dangerously explosive emotions.

  Lord John and the Hand of Devils, “Lord John and the Haunted Soldier” (novella)—The third novella in this collection is set in 1758, in London and the Woolwich Arsenal. In which Lord John faces a court of inquiry into the explosion of a cannon and learns that there are more-dangerous things in the world than gunpowder.

  “The Custom of the Army” (novella)—Set in 1759. In which his lordship attends an electric-eel party in London and consequently ends up at the Battle of Quebec. He’s just the sort of person things like that happen to. [Originally published in Warriors, eds. George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, 2010.]

  The Scottish Prisoner (novel)—This one’s set in 1760, in the Lake District, London, and Ireland. A sort of hybrid novel, it’s divided evenly between Jamie Fraser and Lord John Grey, who are recounting their different perspectives in a tale of politics, corruption, murder, opium dreams, horses, and illegitimate sons.

  “A Plague of Zombies” (novella)—Set in 1761 in Jamaica, when Lord John is sent in command of a battalion to put down a slave rebellion and discovers a hitherto unsuspected affinity for snakes, cockroaches, and zombies. [Originally published in Down These Strange Streets, eds. George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, 2011.]

  Drums of Autumn (novel)—The fourth novel of the main series, this one begins in 1767, in the New World, where Jamie and Claire find a foothold in the mountains of North Carolina, and their daughter, Brianna, finds a whole lot of things she didn’t expect, when a sinister newspaper clipping sends her in search of her parents. (1969–1970/1767–70)

  The Fiery Cross (novel)—The historical background to this, the fifth novel of the main series, is the War of the Regulation in North Carolina (1767–1771), which was more or less a dress rehearsal for the oncoming Revolution. In which Jamie Fraser becomes a reluctant Rebel, his wife, Claire, becomes a conjure-woman, and their grandson, Jeremiah, gets drunk on cherry bounce. Something Much Worse happens to Brianna’s husband, Roger, but I’m not telling you what. This won several awards for “Best Last Line,” but I’m not telling you that, either. (1770–1772)

  A Breath of Snow and Ashes (novel)—Sixth novel of the main series, this book won the 2006 Corine International Prize for Fiction and a Quill Award (this book beat novels by both George R. R. Martin and Stephen King, which I thought was pretty entertaining; I mean, how often does that happen?). All the books have an internal “shape” that I see while I’m writing them. This one looks like the Hokusai print titled “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.” Think tsunami—two of them. (1773–1776/1980)

  An Echo in the Bone (novel)—Set in America, London, Canada, and Scotland, this is the seventh novel of the main series. The book’s cover image reflects the internal shape of the novel: a caltrop. That’s an ancient military weapon that looks like a child’s jack with sharp points; the Romans used them to deter elephants, and the highway patrol still uses them to stop fleeing perps in cars. This book has four major story lines: Jamie and Claire; Roger and Brianna (and family); Lord John and William; and Young Ian, all intersecting in the nexus of the American Revolution—and all the stories have sharp points. (1776–1778/1980)

  Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (novel)—The eighth book of the main series, Blood begins where An Echo in the Bone leaves off, in the summer of 1778 (and the autumn of 1980). The American Revolution is in full roar, and a lot of fairly horrifying things are happening in Scotland in the 1980s, too.

  “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” (short story [no, really, it is])—Set (mostly) in 1941–43, this is the story of What Really Happened to Roger MacKenzie’s parents. [Originally published in the anthology Songs of Love and Death, eds. George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, 2010.]

  “The Space Between” (novella)—Set in 1778, mostly in Paris, this novella deals with Michael Murray (Young Ian’s elder brother), Joan MacKimmie (Marsali’s younger sister), the Comte St. Germain (who is Not Dead After All), Mother Hildegarde, and a few other persons of interest. The space between what? It depends who you’re talking to. [Originally published in the anthology The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, ed. John Joseph Adams, 2013]

  “Besieged” (novella)—Set in 1762 in Jamaica and Havana. Lord John, about to leave his post as temporary military governor of Jamaica, learns that his mother is in Havana, Cuba. Which would be fine, save that the British Navy is on its way to lay siege to the city. Attended by his valet, Tom Byrd, an ex-zombie named Rodrigo, and Rodrigo’s homicidally inclined wife, Azeel, Lord John sets out to rescue the erstwhile Dowager Duchess of Pardloe before the warships arrive.

  NOW, REMEMBER…

  You can read the short novels and novellas by themselves, or in any order you like. I would recommend reading the Big, Enormous Books of the main series in order, though. Hope you enjoy them all!

  * * *

  * Salmagundi: 1) A collection of disparate elements, or 2) a dish composed of meats, fruits, vegetables, and/or any other items the cook has on hand, often provided as an ad hoc accompaniment to an insufficient meal.

  THE CUSTOM OF THE ARMY

  INTRODUCTION

  ONE OF THE pleasures of writing historical fiction is that the best parts aren’t made up. This particular story came about as the result of my having read Wendy Moore’s excellent biography of Dr. John Hunter, The Knife Man—and my having read at the same time a brief facsimile book printed by the National Park Service, detailing regulations of the British Army during the American Revolution.

  I wasn’t looking for anything in particular in either of these books; just reading for background,
general information on the period, and the always alluring chance of stumbling across something fascinating, like electric eel parties in London (these, along with Dr. Hunter himself—who appears briefly in this story—are a matter of historical record).

  As for British Army regulations, a little of that stuff goes a long way; as a novelist, you want to resist the temptation to tell people things just because you happen to know them. Still, that book too had its little nuggets, such as the information that the word “bomb” was common in the eighteenth century, and that (in addition to merely meaning “an explosive device”) it referred also to a wrapped and tarred parcel of shrapnel shot from a cannon (though we must be careful not to use the word “shrapnel,” as it’s derived from Lt. Henry Shrapnel of the Royal Artillery, who took the original “bomb” concept and developed the “shrapnel shell,” a debris-filled bomb filled also with gunpowder and designed to explode in mid-air after being fired from a cannon; unfortunately, he did this in 1784, which was inconvenient, as “shrapnel” is a pretty good word to have when writing about warfare).

  Among the other bits of interesting trivia, though, I was struck by a brief description of the procedure for courts-martial: The custom of the army is that a court-martial be presided over by a senior officer and such a number of other officers as he shall think fit to serve as council, these being generally four in number, but can be more but not generally less than three….The person accused shall have the right to call witnesses in his support, and the council shall question these, as well as any other persons whom they may wish, and shall thus determine the circumstances, and if conviction ensue, the sentence to be imposed.

  And that was it. No elaborate procedures for the introduction of evidence, no standards for conviction, no sentencing guidelines, no requirements for who could or should serve as “council” to a court-martial—just “the custom of the army.” The phrase—rather obviously—stuck in my head.

 
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