Outlander Synopsis from The Outlandish Companion

Copyright © 1999 Diana Gabaldon, The Outlandish Companion. All rights reserved.

It's 1946, the Scottish Highlands are in bloom, and Claire Randall, an English ex-Army combat nurse, has come to Scotland on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank, from whom she's been separated by the War.

While she doesn't share Frank's passion for genealogy, she's looking forward to starting the next branch on the family tree. Meanwhile, she occupies her spare time in exploring the countryside, pursuing an interest in botany.

On one such expedition, she discovers an ancient circle of standing stones--made the more interesting by Frank's having heard that the circle is still in use by a local group of women who celebrate "the old ways" there.

In the dawn of the ancient feast of Beltane--May 1--Claire and Frank creep up to the circle, to see the women dancing and chanting, calling down the sun.

The couple steal away unseen, but later Claire returns to the circle, to get a closer look at an unusual plant she's seen growing there.

She touches one of the standing stones, and is enveloped in a sudden vortex of noise and confusion.

Disoriented and half-conscious, she finds herself on the hill outside the circle, and makes her way slowly down--to find what she assumes is a film-shoot in progress at the bottom; a Prince-in-the- Heather epic, with kilted Scotsmen being pursued by red-coated British soldiers.

Claire carefully skirts the scene, so as not to ruin the shot, and making her way through the woods, stumbles into a man in the costume of an eighteenth-century English army officer.

This doesn't disturb her nearly as much as does the man's striking resemblance to her husband, Frank.

The resemblance is quickly explained by the fact that the man is in fact Frank's ancestor, the notorious "Black Jack" Randall, of whom Frank had often told her.

While very similar in appearance, however, Jack Randall unfortunately does not share his descendant's personality--the former- day Randall being a sadistic bisexual pervert, rather than a mild- mannered history professor.

Claire is rescued from Black Jack's clutches by one of the Scotsmen she had seen earlier, who takes her to the cottage where his fellows are hiding, waiting for darkness to escape.

One of the men has been wounded, and Claire treats his wound--as best she can--meanwhile trying to come to terms with the apparent truth of where--and when--she is.

Bemused not only by Claire's peculiar dress--or lack of it--but by the sheer impossibility of her presence--English ladies simply aren't found in the Highlands in 1743--the Scotsmen decide to take her with them when they decamp under cover of darkness.

As Claire remarks,

"The rest of the journey passed uneventfully, if you consider it uneventful to ride fifteen miles on horseback through rough country at night, frequently without benefit of roads, in company with kilted men armed to the teeth, and sharing a horse with a wounded man.

At least we were not set upon by highwaymen, we encountered no wild beasts, and it didn't rain.

By the standards I was becoming used to, it was quite dull."

Arriving at dawn at Castle Leoch, seat of Clan MacKenzie, Claire meets The MacKenzie, Colum.

A courtly man deformed by a hideous genetic disease, Colum is both intrigued and suspicious.

He can think of no conceivable reason for an Englishwoman to have been wandering the Highlands, and makes no pretense of believing Claire's thin story of having been beset by robbers.

Not knowing who she may be, or what her purposes are, he makes it plain that he intends to keep her as his guest for the time being--willing or not.

While laying plans for her escape and return to the stone circle, Claire becomes better acquainted with the young man whose wound she had dressed, a clansman named Jamie, whom she at first takes for a groom at the castle.

She discovers her mistake; Jamie is in fact the nephew of Colum and his brother Dougal (the clan's war chieftain, who leads the men to battle in place of his crippled brother), though his father belonged to Clan Fraser.

He is also an outlaw; wanted by the English for offenses ranging from theft to unspecified "obstruction"--offenses that have left his back webbed with the scars of flogging.

Relations between uncles and nephew appear oddly strained, and the reason is explained following a clan Gathering, at which Colum demands an oath of loyalty from Jamie--and fails to get it.

Colum has one son, Hamish, aged eight.

As Jamie explains to Claire, if Colum should die--as is likely, given the nature of his disease--before young Hamish is of an age to lead the clan, who will inherit the chieftainship?

Dougal is the obvious candidate, but there are those among the clan who feel that while he is an able warrior, he lacks the cool head and intelligence a chief should have. Hamish is plainly too young--but there is another candidate: Jamie.

While Jamie himself professes no desire to usurp the chieftainship, Colum and Dougal are not so sure his protestations are sincere, and are inclined to take steps--some of them lethal--to prevent any such attempt.

Claire has so far failed twice in her attempts to escape from Leoch, so is delighted to hear Dougal announce that he intends to take her with him on his journey to collect rents from the tacksmen of the district.

His professed intention is to take her to the captain of the English garrison, who may be able to shed light on her presence and/or take charge of her.

Claire is highly in favor of this, feeling sure that she can persuade the English captain to send her back to the stone circle, from which she may be able to get back to her own time.

Her hopes vanish abruptly, upon her discovery that the captain of the garrison is Jack Randall.

For his part, Jack Randall is delighted to see Claire again, and determined to find out who and what she is.

Englishwomen simply don't go to the Highlands; if she is here, alone, she must undoubtedly be a spy--but for whom, and why?

His notions of interrogation are not gentle, and even Dougal MacKenzie is appalled.

Refusing to leave her with the Captain, Dougal takes Claire away with him, and after a pause for thought, tells her that he has conceived a plan; the Captain has the right to compel the person of an English citizen, but cannot arrest a Scotswoman in her own country without legal formalities.

So, Dougal announces triumphantly, he will make her a Scot; she must marry his nephew Jamie without delay.

Nearly as horrified by this notion as by the Captain's behavior, Claire does her best to resist, but can find no alternative.

Convinced at last that if she marries Jamie, she will have a better chance of escape, she consents, finding her horror tempered with bemusement at her prospective bridegroom's inexperience:

"Does it bother you that I'm not a virgin?"

He hesitated a moment before answering.

"Well, no," he said slowly, "so long as it doesna bother you that I am."

He grinned at my drop-jawed expression and backed toward the door.

"Reckon one of us should know what they're doing," he said.

The door closed softly behind him; clearly the courtship was over."

However, there is no immediate chance of escape, and Claire is obliged to consummate her marriage with Jamie--under Dougal's firm orders.

Dougal, it appears, is killing two birds with one stone; while he has sufficient humanitarian instincts to wish to keep Claire away from Randall (and is still curious enough about her to want to find out for himself what she's doing there), his principal motive is to stifle any chance of his nephew attaining the chieftainship of Clan MacKenzie--for the clan will never accept Jamie as leader, with an English wife.

Realizing that Jamie is as much under duress as is she, Claire accepts the inevitable--and finds herself becoming very fond of her new young husband.

Much too fond; for she still means to escape and return to Frank, as soon as she can.

Soon enough, she finds her chance, and steals away while Jamie is occupied elsewhere.

However, her attempt fails when she falls once more into the hands of a prowling Jack Randall, and is taken to his inner sanctum in Fort William, where she discovers more than she wanted to know about the Captain's recreational proclivities.

This time, she is rescued by Jamie, who escapes with her from the fort while the other Scots create a diversion by blowing up the powder magazine.

During the angry confrontation that follows their escape, Claire learns that there is more to Jamie's antipathy to Randall than his recent behavior.

She had already known that the scars on Jamie's back were inflicted by Randall, who had taken the young Scotsman prisoner several years before.

Now she learns that the vicious flogging was the result of Jamie's refusal to yield his body to Randall, who gratifies his inclinations with the readiest victims; the Scottish prisoners under his control, who have no recourse or means of escape.

Returning, perforce, to Leoch, Claire does not give up searching for a way back to the stones--and Frank--but becomes increasingly aware of how wrenching such a return would be, tearing her away from the man she has come to love.

One small difficulty shows some hope of resolution, though; Colum--now secure in the knowledge that his nephew is no threat to his son Hamish's chieftainship--offers to intercede for Jamie with an English noble of his acquaintance, the Duke of Sandringham. Perhaps, Colum thinks, the Duke could be induced to gain a pardon from the Crown for Jamie, removing the continuing danger of outlawry.

Arrangements are made for Jamie and Dougal to accompany the Duke on a hunting trip, where the delicate negotiations for a pardon might be accomplished.

As Jamie remarks wryly to Claire, "It goes against the grain a bit, to be pardoned for something I've not done, but it's better than being hanged."

Meanwhile, Claire has formed a friendship with the wife of the local Procurator Fiscal, a woman named Geillis Duncan, with whom she shares a knowledge of herbs and healing.

But at a dinner to honor a visiting Duke, the Fiscal dies--probably poisoned.

Rumors spread like wildfire, fueled with hysteria and superstition, and in Jamie's absence, Claire finds herself on trial for witchcraft, in company with Geillis Duncan.

On the verge of condemnation, Claire discovers Geillie's secret--she is pregnant, and clearly not by her impotent late husband.

She is indeed a poisoner, if not a witch--but proves also a good friend; she creates a distraction that allows Jamie to rescue Claire.

Jamie and Claire flee from the castle on horseback, but once safely away, he confronts her--he will love her forever, and stand by her no matter what, but for his own peace of mind, he must know--is she a witch?

Hysterical from her recent ordeal, Claire tells him that it's much worse than that, and confesses the truth, telling him about the stones--and about Frank.

Clearly not believing her, but shaken by her obvious emotion, Jamie takes her through the Highlands, to the stone circle.

The truth of her story proven, he says she must make her choice--to stay with him, or to go back to her husband in the future--and leaves her alone by the stones to decide.

Agonizing through most of an afternoon, she finally stands, makes her way slowly toward the cleft stone that is her passage back to her own time--and then finds herself running the other way, stumbling and falling down the hillside, her body having decided what her mind cannot--running toward Jamie.

Reunited, Claire asks, "Do you really believe me, Jamie?"

He sighed, and smiled ruefully down at me.

"Aye, I believe ye, Sassenach.

But it would ha' been a good deal easier, if you'd only been a witch."

With the truth clear between them, they make their way through the Highlands to Jamie's home at Lallybroch, where they are made welcome by his remaining family, his sister Jenny, with her husband Ian and son, Young Jamie.

Their idyll is short-lived, though; Jamie is waylaid by the local Watch, an unofficial police force in the pay of the English, who deliver him to his enemies.

Assisted by Jamie's godfather, Murtagh, Claire sets out to rescue him.

Jamie has escaped from the Watch, she learns, but is now somewhere afoot in the Highlands.

Plainly he cannot return to Lallybroch; the place is watched.

How to find a man who might be anywhere in a desolate countryside?

Murtagh and Claire work their way north, thinking that Jamie might be heading for Beauly, where his Fraser grandfather, Simon, Lord Lovat, might offer him help.

Before they reach Beauly, though, they encounter someone else--Dougal MacKenzie, who has brought disastrous news:

Jamie has been tried, condemned to hang, and sent to Wentworth Prison, near the Border, where the sentence of execution will be carried out.

Insisting that it is not possible to free Jamie, Dougal (a recent widower) instead promises to take care of Claire, proposing marriage to her.

Instantly, a number of things become clear to Claire; by the terms of Jamie's inheritance, a woman can own Lallybroch estate.

If Jamie is executed, Lallybroch will belong to her--or to whoever marries her.

During the ensuing confrontation with Dougal, Claire verifies what she had previously suspected; young Hamish is not Colum's son--Colum's disease renders him sterile, and largely impotent as well.

Hamish was sired by Dougal, as an act of loyalty to the brother he loves, to give Colum an heir.

The tete-a-tete is interrupted by Murtagh, armed with pistols, who politely suggests that they have more pressing business; getting to Wentworth while Jamie is still alive to save.

Under duress, Dougal reluctantly supplies them with money and a few men--and a surprising bit of information.

Geillis Duncan, he tells Claire, was indeed burnt as a witch, after the birth of her child--which was also sired by Dougal.

Before being taken to the stake, though, she gave Dougal a message to be passed on to Claire, should Dougal ever meet her again.

The message, to be repeated verbatim:

"Tell her that I do not know for certain, but I think it is possible."

That sentence, and four numbers: one, nine, six, and eight.

Claire, Murtagh, and their companions leave at once on the long ride to Wentworth, which gives Claire time to ponder the meaning of Geillis' message--clearly, what Geillis meant was that she herself thought it possible to return through the stones to Claire's own time.

And the numbers?

"She had told them to him separately, for the sake of a secrecy which must have gone bone-deep in her by that time, but they were all part of one number, really.

One, nine, six, eight.

Nineteen sixty-eight.

The year of her disappearance into the past."

Arriving at Wentworth, Claire inveigles her way into the prison on the eve of the execution, searching for Jamie--and finds him in the dungeon, at the mercy of Jack Randall. Unable to exercise his inclinations to the fullest, Randall must content himself with such brutality as will pass without comment--bruises and broken bones are within the realm of official toleration; homosexual rape is not.

Claire succeeds in freeing Jamie from his shackles, but is interrupted by the return of Randall, in company with his hulking, mentally-deficient--but terribly obedient--orderly, Marley.

Delighted to see Claire again, Randall declares his intention of giving her to Marley to enjoy, allowing Jamie to watch as his final entertainment before hanging.

Jamie attacks Marley, and after a bone-crushing fight, succeeds in overpowering him. Randall, though, has a trump--a knife at Claire's throat.

Desperate, and feeling that he has nothing to left to lose, Jamie makes a devil's bargain--his body, and his silence, in return for Claire's freedom.

Unable to resist the temptation of a victim at once completely unwilling but completely compliant, Randall agrees.

After all, Claire is quite helpless--he thinks.

Thrown out into the snow, Claire makes her way frantically in search of help.

She has a plan--if only she is in time.

Randall has put her out by a small rear door, concealed in a narrow declivity that forms the prison's garbage dump.

Randall doesn't know about Claire's companions; if she can find them in time, they can perhaps force the rear door and enter the prison.

Unfortunately, Claire meets not her companions, but the dump's inhabitants--a small pack of degenerate wolves.

Claire manages by luck and desperation to kill one wolf, but is stalked relentlessly through the winter twilight by the others.

Suddenly an arrow whizzes out of nowhere--one of the woodsmen of Sir Marcus MacRannoch, whose estate adjoins Wenthworth, has been attracted by the wolves' howling, and is astonished to find Claire, tattered, blood-stained, and in a state of desperate hurry.

Reaching Sir Marcus, she implores his help in freeing Jamie from the prison.

He is sympathetic, but adamant; there is nothing he can do.

Claire offers to pay him, bringing out the string of freshwater pearls that Jamie gave her on their wedding day; pearls that had belonged to his mother, Ellen.

MacRannoch is shaken by the sight of the pearls; as a young man, he had paid court to Ellen MacKenzie, and when she chose elsewhere, had insisted nonetheless that she keep his gift--the freshwater pearls.

Still, much as he would wish to help Ellen's son, he tells Claire, he dares not risk an assault on the prison; the prison's governor would be sure to take revenge on Eldridge Manor, MacRannoch's estate.

Driven to despair, Claire collapses, only dully noticing the entry of another of MacRannoch's men, who reluctantly reports that he and his companions have only managed to find a small fraction of MacRannoch's purebred herd of Highland cows--and there is a snowstorm coming on.

Hearing this, Claire begins cautiously to hope.

For one of her companions is Rupert MacKenzie, a man with a great reputation for "cattle-lifting"--and one unlikely to resist the temptation offered by a straying herd.

Rising to her feet, she informs MacRannoch that she has a plan that will protect him from suspicion in Jamie's escape--and if he wants to see his cattle again, he'd better agree to it.

Finding her companions, Claire tells them her plan, leads them to the door--and then is forced to wait, as they drive head after head of shaggy Highland cattle down the alley, and into the prison's dungeons.

Meanwhile, Sir Marcus MacRannoch, to whom the cattle belong, has stormed into the Governor's office, claiming that the garrison soldiers have stolen his herd, and insisting that he be allowed to search for them.

Under cover of the bellowing confusion in the dungeon, his men have orders to find and rescue Jamie, spiriting him out through the rear door.

As Sir Marcus reports to Claire, a man emerged from the dungeon cell to investigate the racket, and was trampled to death beneath the cattles' hooves, "nay more than a rag-doll, rolled in blood."

Jack Randall is dead, then, and Jamie rescued--but hours have passed; hours spent in an airless dungeon with a monster.

Claire can heal Jamie's external wounds, but how can she deal with the damage to his soul?

She and Murtagh manage to get Jamie safely across the Channel to France, where one of Jamie's uncles is the abbot of the Abbey of Ste. Anne de Beaupre.

Taking refuge in the abbey, Claire faces her last and most important fight.

With nothing but her healing skills and her own courage, she risks both her life and Jamie's, using opium to resurrect and exorcise the ghost of Jack Randall, that Jamie might reclaim his manhood through the same violence by which it was taken from him.

At the last, they both find healing in the grotto of a hot spring, in a cave far under the abbey.

"We struggled upward, out of the womb of the world, damp and steaming, rubber-limbed with wine and heat.

I fell to my knees at the first landing, and Jamie, trying to help me, fell down next to me in an untidy heap of robes and bare legs.

Giggling helplessly, drunk more with love than with wine, we made our way side by side, on hands and knees up the second flight of steps, hindering each other more than helping, jostling and caroming softly off each other in the narrow space, until we collapsed at last in each other's arms on the second landing.

Here an ancient oriel window opened glassless to the sky, and the light of the hunter's moon washed us in silver.

We lay clasped together, damp skins cooling in the winter air, waiting for our racing hearts to slow and breath to return to our heaving bodies.

The moon above was a Christmas moon, so large as almost to fill the empty window. It seemed no wonder that the tides of sea and woman should be subject to the pull of that stately orb, so close and so commanding.

But my own tides moved no longer to that chaste and sterile summons, and the knowledge of my freedom raced like danger through my blood.

"I have a gift for you, too," I said suddenly to Jamie.

He turned toward me and his hand slid, large and sure, over the plane of my still-flat stomach.

"Have you, now?" he said.

And the world was all around us, new with possibility."