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Hornblower/Edrington fiction - Muzillac

I posted this in a couple of places, but then became worried about hosting issues. So I thought I'd repost here, where at least if it disappears I'll know about it. 

I was toying with the idea of writing something about the Earl of Edrington, but I kept worrying about what actually happened on the Muzillac expedition.  So I asked him.  It only works properly if you know Frogs & Lobsters/The Wrong War, but all fanfiction is like that - it's best if you know the original.  Based firmly on that film, but with a touch of very AU about it.

[Usual disclaimers about not owning characters, or ships, or countries, and certainly about not making any money out of it.]
 
[Acknowledgement: I have been inspired on the form of this conversation by the series In Their Own Words, on http://community.livejournal.com/maryrenaultfics/, which not surprisingly interviews characters from Mary Renault’s novels, particularly the introductions. On the other hand, it is similar to the way I’ve interacted with characters from the first time Cottontail hopped into my garden and chatted to me about Mr McGregor and Peter Rabbit. Ginger Hebblethwaite, Rupert Alastair and all the Flavii Aquilae have told me about their lives, their feelings, their loves. Only I wouldn’t have thought of croquet.]
 
[Warning: this interview contains no sexual activity of any kind, nor is more than passing acknowledgement made of the possibility of such activity, at any time or at any place.]

Where, a villa on the Amalfi coast; when, beyond Time itself.
 
The dazzle from the sun on the playful wavelets in the Bay would have merited a health warning if on television. But with the sun’s last sinking the sea became a flat blue field stretching to a gold and cream sky. The temperature began to settle to that balmy warmth that made this season so delightful. The Earl of Edrington leaned across and refilled my glass. Our conversation had been suspended by mutual agreement as we watched the sun set, but now the light would fade quickly. Voices, in a variety of languages and accents, rang from the croquet lawn below the terrace, as the players argued companionably about whether to try to finish the game quickly, to send for flambeaux and continue to the bitter end, or to simply mark the places of the balls and retreat to the house for drinks.
 
“Thomas.” I took up the conversation again. “You did promise – before that glorious interruption – to tell me about the Quiberon expedition.”
 
“A disaster,” he said with a familiar twist of his mouth. “Or at least, not quite a disaster for the British. We killed more of them than they did of us, which makes it a success, I suppose. But as a plan, it was a total failure. I suspect that the Admiralty and the War Office were misadvised to support it – the Royalists feeding them false information about the situation there, to make it seem as if there was much greater support for the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. So it was ill-fated from the start.”
 
“A dodgy dossier,” I murmured. The Earl frowned at me, quelling my interruption.
 
“Something like that. But the Admiralty’s insistence on continuing, even when they knew that a copy of the plans had been stolen, smacks of politics. To carry on after that was foolish beyond belief. But fortunately the transportation went smoothly. We could not afford at that time to have lost ships such as the Indefatigable, and to do so as part of such a ramshackle affair…”
 
His eyes shifted and he studied his wine glass for a moment. “I have no time for the French, Jacobins or Bonapartists, and the Bourbons were no better. Our natural enemies. We had been at war with them on and off for centuries, and when they dared not face us in battle, they fomented rebellion wherever they could. Whatever we British felt about the Frogs, they surely felt about us. Even if the people of Brittany had been eager to welcome the émigrés back – and we saw no sign of it – their arrival supported by a battalion of the British Army, red coats and all, would surely have caused a rapid reassessment of the situation. Redcoats! Possibly the new 95th would have stood out less, or my dear Germans, but you can hardly overlook a couple of hundred men in scarlet. The most supportive peasants might have started to throw something other than flowers.”
 
“I know what you mean,” I said.
 
“Of course. If you wish to arrange a regime-change in a country that thinks of you as its traditional enemy, and to support émigrés eager to set up a new government, it is probably wisest not to tramp through it in heavy boots. Fortunately, my men were well disciplined. I kept them to the camp by the ford, so at least we didn’t make the situation worse by harassing the natives.  We didn’t need to – the Marquis and his rag-tag of ill-disciplined oafs were more than capable of turning even a benign population against their cause.
 
“If ever I wish to retake Masklyn Hows from a rebellious population, I promise you that my first move will not be to erect a gallows on the South Lawn – that’s where the cricket pitch is, or was in my day. Or indeed anywhere else. Although I might be tempted to shoot someone if they start to sing at me. Whatever General Charette was expecting from Moncoutant, the man’s character made failure certain.”
 
“To be fair,” he added, “that part of the plan was made hopeless once the Frogs had crossed the river before we ever arrived!”
 
He lifted the glass, and then set it down again. “The General paid with his life, of course, so it is better not to speak ill of him, but he must have known what type of man Moncoutant was. Perhaps we should have refused to carry his damnable guillotine with us.”
 
“But you managed the retreat in fine style,” I prompted.
 
“Oh yes – always plan to retreat. But we would have been lost if the Indefatigable had not turned up when she did. A most unpleasant position to have been in. As it was, we had to burn the tents, and the wagons…”
 
“The wagons?”
 
“It would have been trailing our coats with a vengeance to have brought them back through Muzillac. We couldn’t take them across the ford, of course. We put the wounded and the best of our equipment on the draught horses, so that much was saved.” This answer rather missed my point, that wagons had not previously been mentioned at all, but it was clearly impossible for the men to have carried the tents in their knapsacks.
 
“How did you get the horses off the beach?”
 
“The same way as they got them onto the Indefatigable in Plymouth in the first place. The officers’ mounts as well. I wouldn’t let the Frogs win Pumpernickel.”
 
“Your horse was called Pumpernickel?”
 
“He was German-bred.” His eyes held mine for a moment before shifting. “Now we have reached the point of embarkation, perhaps it is time to end this and go in. The boys have finished their game and will be drinking too much.” He rose to his feet.
 
“You haven’t mentioned Horatio Hornblower.”
 
“Horatio and the bridge. That would take too long. Let us leave it for another time.” He reached down and gave me his hand. “Come, Rosina, let us go in and join the boys.”

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