Hoskins’ War, by Brian K. Lowe

When an ambush goes awry, Continental Army Captain Daniel Hoskins learns that something else—something inhuman—has been stalking the British rear column! He soon finds himself faced with deadly foes in a hidden ancient subterranean city!

Daniel Hoskins held his breath in anticipation of signaling his men to raise their bows. The line of redcoats had almost passed them by now, and his back itched where the sweat had dried in the long wait. With only a dozen followers, he could not attack directly. Timed right, the rest of British would come running back at the painful screams of their rear guard, see the arrows in their dead and blame the Iroquois, their allies, while the Americans retreated unseen. Harass the enemy and fade away.

Daniel silently urged the British to move more quickly. The column had run late, and the light was fading—no white man wanted to spend a night in the woods. A less prideful leader, he chided himself, would have called off the attack and gone home.

A shout went up; one of the wagons had hit a soft spot in the road, and its wheel was stuck. There was a brief, angry discussion between a redcoat lieutenant and the civilians, with violent gesticulations toward the wagon, piled high with supplies and several women.

Finally, the lieutenant, throwing a hasty glance over his shoulder, reached a decision.

“Sergeant! Take five men and stand watch while these ladies are debarked then follow us at your best speed. I must stay with the column.”

“Aye, sir!”

And ignoring the renewed shouts, the lieutenant turned to trot after the column. Daniel debated shooting him but decided that the lieutenant was more use to the rebel cause alive.

Amidst more arguing, the women were helped down, the soldiers formed up around them, and half a dozen men tried to free the wagon. Daniel swallowed an impious remark; he had waited too long. He could not attack the soldiers without risking the women’s lives, and he did not war on non-combatants.

Others did not feel the same.

Two black shapes exploded out of the trees on the opposite side of the trail, blurs that looked like dogs, like wolves, like something in between but larger than either. Two redcoats talking to a civilian in buckskins died under their charge before they could raise muskets. A third brought his weapon to bear even as he went down; there was a loud report as he fired point-blank—but the beast did not even hesitate before ripping out his throat with a shower of blood. The women had only now begun to scream, the other men to react, when a band of howling braves, emblazoned as for war, swarmed from the trees on the beasts’ heels.

Daniel watched in shock as the braves, supposedly English allies, did his work for him. One moment the trees were empty, the next a score of natives was boiling onto the road, killing every man they could reach. The wolf-dogs had set their eyes on the buckskin-clad civilian, who had separated himself from the crowd and even now leveled his own musket. He fired, and one of the hellhounds yelped, rolling on the ground. Pulling itself to three legs, it limped off with a look back at its fellow. The man dropped his musket and drew a gleaming hunting knife.

By now the other men were dead, and the women, though unharmed, were surrounded. At that moment, Daniel shook off his paralyses, drew his bow, and let fly. If they hit one of the women, it was a better fate than any that lay with the Iroquois.

His men followed his lead, and the Iroquois started to shout as several of their fellows went down. The wolf-thing and the sole remaining white man crouched to one side, alone in the world, each daring the other to attack.

The Iroquois warriors, seeing no sign of their assailants save a new rain of death, slipped back into the woods whence they had come, but at the last instant one grabbed a young woman and pulled her shrieking into the trees. The black beast, with one last growl, followed like a dog. Daniel motioned his men to the edge of the trail.

“Best to put down the knife, friend,” he called.

The white man looked startled. He scanned the trees, plainly unable to see anyone.

“Americans?”

“I asked you to put down your weapon, sir,” Daniel repeated. “You are surrounded and we will not hesitate to shoot.”

“Please, Mr. Lampe,” said one of the remaining women. “Do as he says.” The others added their entreaties.

“I believe they are rebels, ma’am.”

“But they are not Indians!”

The man addressed as Lampe dropped his knife in the road, and Daniel stepped into the open. Lowering his bow, Daniel held up a hand to keep his men back in case the natives should return. Without taking his eyes off Mr. Lampe, he retrieved the knife.

Lampe’s eyes flicked over him. “But you’re carrying bows like the Iroquois. You were going to attack us and let the army think the Indians had done—but the Iroquois beat you to your own game.”

“The Iroquois were supposed to be protecting you,” Daniel countered. “Why would they attack a British convoy?”

“How should I know? My name is John Lampe. I came from the Philadelphia area. I was moving to Vermont, and this caravan seemed the safest way to proceed.”

“Obviously, Mr. Lampe, you were wrong.” Daniel turned to the women, who shrank into a knot. “Ladies, my name is Captain Hoskins. I am a soldier in the Continental Army. I’m going to have my men escort you to Prattsville. You’ll be safe there until something can be arranged. Excuse me for a moment.” He returned to the edge of the trees to address his men. “Coates, take these women back to the village. It’s getting dark; the Iroquois will be heading home, so you should be safe.”

“Prattsville?” one of the women repeated. “But that’s in rebel hands. How can we be safe there? What if those wolves come back?”

Daniel ignored her.

Coates, his face streaked with mud to mask his chalky complexion, stepped into the open. “She’s right, captain. What were those things? That redcoat shot one, and it just ate him.”

Daniel shook his head. “I don’t know. Something’s going on with the Indians—something ungodly. We’ve got to find out what it is. If they’ve turned on the British, the army has to know. I’ll take Matthew and go after them.”

“I want to go with you.”

Daniel had not even heard Lampe approach. “Why should I let you join us?”

Lampe gestured toward the woods. “The woman the Iroquois kidnapped was my sister, Elizabeth. I was accompanying her to meet her fiancé. You may send me back to Prattsville, but I will not give you my word not to try to escape. Or you may give me leave to accompany you, and I will give you my parole. Then there will be three of us, not merely two.”

“Or we could just kill you and leave you here,” one of Daniel’s men said, pushing forward. He was blond and finely-featured like his captain.

“Matthew.” Daniel’s quiet word was enough to establish order. “We don’t execute prisoners.” He leaned in so that only his brother could hear him. “I’m your commanding officer, Matthew. If you can’t remember that, I will see you transferred.”

Matthew apologized in a voice almost too low to hear, and Daniel turned his attention back to Lampe.

“If the Iroquois have turned on the English, then every white man in New England is in danger, be he royalist or rebel. I will accept your parole, Mr. Lampe. But when this is done, you are still my prisoner.”

“When this is done, captain, I will be happy to be your prisoner. There are rumors that the Indians are gathering their forces into an army, an army larger than any single tribe,” Lampe said. “But I will expect honorable treatment for my sister,” he added.

“She will have it. And you may as well call me Daniel.” He indicated his brother. “This is my brother, Matthew. The Iroquois have had more than enough time to get ahead of us, and it’s getting dark. You’d best pick up your musket. You may need it.” Although if you do, none of us will live to see our truce expire.

“Thank you, sir. And one more thing.” Lampe glanced toward where Daniel’s men were starting to herd the frightened women down the road and lowered his voice. “I didn’t want to mention it in front of the ladies, but there are rumors that the Iroquois are preparing to initiate the practice of human sacrifice. My sister’s life may be measured in hours.”

“Rumors grow thicker than blackberries in these woods, Mr. Lampe, and I’ve never heard of any of the Five Nations practicing human sacrifice.”

“Nevertheless, women have been disappearing from some of the outlying towns. And every rumor contains a grain of truth.”

 

Any worries Daniel might have held regarding John Lampe’s ability to hold to their trail were quickly resolved, to be replaced by others. This was not a royalist simply wearing woodsman’s gear for show; he was as silent on the Iroquois’ trail as Daniel himself. And he had eyes like a cat, lightly hurdling small roots and fallen branches, avoiding even dry leaves that would crackle underfoot—all this, even though the trees blocked the sky and the light was almost gone.

“He’s good, Daniel,” Matthew whispered, “Good as we are.”

“I have to admit, had we not allowed him to accompany, we’d have no way to track the Iroquois now but through divine intervention.”

They stopped for a half-minute’s rest and for Daniel and Matthew to let their eyes adjust to the gloom.

“I thought I knew all of the woodsmen and trappers in this part of the state,” Matthew said to Lampe. “But I don’t recognize your name.”

Perhaps hoping to make up for their suspended enmity, Lampe did not object to his bluntness. “As I said, I originally settled in Pennsylvania, but it was too civilized for me.”

“Too civilized? Is that why you left England in the first place?”

“Yes, in a way. My father and his father and his father were Lincolnshire foresters. But the trees fall every year in the old country.” He shook his head. “The King needs lumber for his factories, his ships. An empire eats wood like termites.”

“What was that thing that attacked you?” Daniel wondered, hoping to change the subject. Every settler he knew cut down trees to build homes and forts, and as fuel. It was why God had put them there. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Lampe surprised him with a speculative look, seeming to search Daniel’s face in the dimness.

“How much do you know about Indian spirits?” he asked, then shook off Daniel’s dogmatic reply. “Never mind. It doesn’t even matter if you believe me. You will soon enough. Those beasts have many names, but I call them spirit dogs. Wild as a wolf, but they obey their master’s commands like a mastiff. They can track a man for a hundred miles then tear him apart on his own doorstep. Indian shamans use them to murder their enemies when they don’t want to meet them face-to-face or when they are too far away to reach.”

“Why would he send them after the British?” Matthew interjected.

Daniel made a mental note to lecture him on gullibility and impiety—if they survived the night.

“For now, the allied tribes are using the British to fight the colonists, one white man against another. But that won’t stop them from taking advantage when they see it. Obviously they have enlisted a shaman to their cause, and the shaman sent the spirit dogs to help his braves. It didn’t really matter who they attacked, as long as no one survived to tell the tale. Like you, they seek only to divide their enemies.”

We’re fighting for our freedom,” Matthew said.

Lampe gazed at him mildly. “And so are they.”

 

They were quickly on the move again, and the moon hardly seemed to have moved when they pulled up short against a granite escarpment rising for a hundred feet or more. Daniel looked at his brother inquiringly, but Matthew shook his head. This cliff was nothing either had ever heard tell of.

“Don’t believe all that you see and hear,” Lampe warned, as though privy to their confusion. “A shaman can make you see things that aren’t there—or hide himself in plain sight.”

Daniel weighed these words for a long moment. “You know a lot about them.”

Lampe ignored him and moved on until they came upon a cave mouth, large enough for two men to enter upright.

“All right,” Lampe said urgently. “This is where we split up.”

“Who put you in charge?” Daniel asked. Belatedly, he twisted his head to scan the area, but saw nothing suspicious.

“You have to take it on faith, my friend, that I know more about what is going on than you do.” He drew a small, folded parchment from his purse. “Matthew, take this paper. There’s a British encampment about two miles to the southwest. Give this to the major in charge. He’ll know what to do.”

Matthew took the paper with a frown, and opened it.

“There’s nothing on it.”

Lampe pressed the parchment into his hand. “You have to trust me. Daniel and I are going after those braves.”

“Go ahead, Matthew. Mr. Lampe has given his parole. There are none of us going to survive the night if we don’t trust each other.”

Matthew started to say something, then grabbed Daniel in a hard, quick hug. A moment later he was gone, not a leaf stirring in his wake.

Lampe led the way into the tunnel, which quickly went from dim to dark to total blackness, but even as Daniel thought he had lost his way, a light appeared in the distance. In moments the two white men stepped into a tableau from a poet’s nightmare.

“This can’t be…” Daniel breathed.

Far above their heads, the roof of a cave arched, streaked with sparkling green and blue turquoise so bright as to light the whole cavern like the grey pre-dawn sky. The walls around them stretched for what seemed miles, adding to the glow in hues of silver. But of the furthest extent of walls or ceiling nothing could be seen, blocked as they were by the vast bulk of an entire city under the mountain.

Half a hundred steps in front them, buildings of living rock rose a hundred feet high, tapering to graceful points, studded with balconies and ledges and carvings whose details could not be made out at a distance. There was no wall, but the avenues that led into the city from the downward-sloping path were twisted and narrow, and now that Daniel had had the opportunity to take it all in, he could see that the buildings curved inward, as though imitating the arching cave walls, creating an aesthetic that unsettled his human sensibilities.

After a moment’s pause, they could hear a soft susurration, as of many voices echoing and reechoing in the vast space until they were no more than the waves of the ocean. Despite this, they saw no one.

“I am impressed,” Lampe admitted. “I had heard that these places might exist in the New World, but I had my doubts.”

Daniel turned on him, eyes wide. “You‘ve heard of this? The Iroquois build wooden huts and lodges. How could they have created all of this?”

Lampe took him by the shoulders. “Listen, Daniel, because I have much to tell you and not much time to do so. The Indians didn’t build this; it was here when they came. Millennia ago, long before any white man or any savage, other beings walked the Earth. They lived in Europe, and in the Orient, and in the black jungles, and plainly they lived here too. No one knows much about them, save that they were an evil race, and when Man came, they began to glory in human sacrifice.

“The earliest Europeans fought with them, and after centuries defeated them. But their science and their sorceries still remain in some deep pockets of the world, and this is one of them. This shaman is trying to resurrect some of those sorceries, and if he succeeds, heaven help us all.”

Daniel had ceased to wonder who John Lampe really was, or the source of his knowledge.

“You’ve come to stop him, then.”

“Aye, but you never would have believed me if I had told you the truth. Now, that building there—” he pointed to a slim tower set a bit apart from its fellows, with only one set of windows, set fifty feet above the ground—“that is the Tower of Sacrifice, where they keep the young maidens until it is time. That is where you must go. Without Elizabeth, there can be no sacrifice. Find her, bring her back here, and take her out through the tunnel.”

“And where will you be?”

“The fact that there is no one around, and no sentries, must mean that the shaman is getting ready for the ceremony. He will want as many witnesses as possible, since he thrives on the power of their fear. I’m going to see if I can put a different kind of fear into them.”

With a quick clap on the shoulder, he darted into a narrow passageway. Daniel belatedly felt the weight of the knife he’d taken from Lampe at his side, but it was too late to call him back.

Daniel saw no one on his trip to the Tower, making him feel almost foolish in his efforts to reach it unseen. Still he could not shake the sense that he was being watched, just as a rabbit knew when he was on its trail, just as he knew when a panther stalked the woods behind him, seeking to prey on the hunter. Again and again he whirled to look behind him, but no one crept at his back, no alarm was raised.

The Tower entrance had no door, an unnecessary luxury in a land without weather, although strange for a prison. Even here there were no guards to be seen, and Daniel wondered if he were too late, if Elizabeth Lampe had already been dragged screaming toward her unspeakable fate—and if, between himself and her brother, that fate might yet be avoided.

He found nothing but a stairway inside, winding its way upward along the wall. Daniel made certain that his musket was primed; in these stone walls without windows, the sound might well not carry. Still, he would prize stealth as long as it was his to use.

After perhaps thirty steps, he came upon a landing and a stout timbered door, fastened on the outside. Pictographs lined either side of the door in an incomprehensible language, red as fresh blood, but long, long ago dried. Daniel lifted the wooden bar and eased open the portal. He slipped through, seeing nothing but a continuation of the landing, and closed the door behind him, remembering at the last to draw in the wooden bar else he be locked in himself. He turned to continue.

Nausea seized him for the most fleeing instant, a feeling as if his organs had turned inside out, then he was himself again—but the room was not.

Daniel could not move for disbelieving his own eyes. Before, the tower had been no more than twenty paces from wall to interior wall, a drab rock face without decoration or feature. Now stretched before him what could only be a sultan’s antechamber from the heathen Orient.

Fully a hundred paces away, walls were covered to the heights with brilliant tapestries boasting panoramas of barbaric splendor, hunts and feasts and indescribable scenes which made him blush and turn away. The floor was layered with carpets and rugs as deep as snow, blazoned with geometric designs and swirls in yellow, crimson, and azure. From lamps set on carven pillars, soft light reflected from a silken rainbow of pillows—and on one of these mounds on the other side of the room, a woman leaned against a pillar, her dress torn and askew.

It was a sight meant for no man but her husband. Her loose blond hair barely concealed her bare bosom. The muscles of her long white legs, naked nearly to mid-thigh, were tense with the strain of pushing herself backward as she strained to become one with the stone column at her back. Daniel would have looked away, could he but take his eyes off of the slavering black nightmare that crouched over the helpless maid.

The spirit dog stood on two legs like a man, its jaws hanging open to reveal its dripping tongue. The woman was unbound, but it could have torn out her throat in a heartbeat. For now it seemed content to drink in the scent of her wild-eyed terror—but for how long? Thinking of how it had shrugged off his troop’s concerted attack on the trail, Daniel breathed a silent prayer. Perhaps, he thought as he shouldered his musket, the girl could escape in the confusion as it rushed him…

But as he tried to steady his aim, the beast’s ears perked up, and its attention was drawn away from its sport. Without warning, it bounded away in the opposite direction and through a hanging tapestry without a sound. Even from a distance, Daniel could hear the terrified woman’s sobs of relief as she sagged to the floor.

There was no time to be lost. She gasped in fresh horror at his footsteps, and her eyes went wide at the sight of him. She made a trembling attempt to cover her nakedness, but Daniel gave her no time.

“Elizabeth. My name is Daniel Hoskins. I’m an American soldier. We have to get out of here before that hellhound returns.”

She took his hand. “I—I don’t know how long I’ve been here—it—”

“It’s all right. It’s only been a few hours.”

“A few hours? It feels like days. How do you know my name?”

Her tangled hair, her frenzied breathing gave her a wild beauty, an unkempt splendor unlike any woman he had known, that made it hard to concentrate on anything else. He tried instead to focus on her words—perhaps time as well as space was distorted here—but he was no philosopher.

“We have to go, Elizabeth. John Lampe is trying to stop the ceremony, but we may not have much time. Can you walk?”

She answered by standing, but with one hand over the ragged edges of the bosom of her dress and one holding the skirt, it took all of her attention. Before Daniel could speak, she let go of the skirt.

“I will trust to your discretion, Master Hoskins,” she said, her voice gaining strength. “I doubt not it is more trustworthy than that of my captors.”

“Did they—harm you?”

“No! No. They did not touch me but to bind me and bring me here. My dress is the result of the sport of that—animal, nothing more.”

“John said they needed a maid for their heathen ceremony. I thank Providence I arrived before they did. Here, through this door—”

Suddenly Daniel threw his weight into Elizabeth a heartbeat before the ghost dog’s body swept by so close to him that he felt the wind of its passage. Only the instinct of a forest-dweller had warned him at the last possible instant.

Pushing her away, Daniel spun, scrabbling for a weapon. The beast hit the stone floor on all fours, its claws skittering without purchase as it spun to face him. Its yellow eyes were evil, and hungry—and aware.

“Your spirit guide frightened my people and interrupted my ceremony,” it rasped, forcing words through a throat never made for speech. “But I still have the sacrifice.” Its eyes flicked to Elizabeth. “And you will serve my hunger until then!”

The fight was too close for the bow, and Daniel had dropped his musket evading the monster’s charge. He made a desperate grab for it, expecting to feel hot breath and fangs, but nothing touched him as he picked up his weapon. He brought to bear on the ghost dog, which merely waited, panting hungrily but unmoving. Daniel fired into its face at point-blank range—to no effect.

The hellbeast laughed roughly, and then it leaped.

It slammed into him, its jaws snapping, pushing Daniel backward, but he held his ground. The ghost dog was strong but curiously light, as if the meat had been spread thin over the bones. Both hands at its throat, Daniel used his thick clothing to ward off its scraping claws, but neither of them could gain an advantage.

“Run, Elizabeth!” Daniel grunted, trying to keep his footing on the slick floor. The ghost dog growled in return and tried to turn its head to seek the girl, but Daniel held fast. The beast twisted back and forth, and Daniel’s hand slipped in its thick fur, sliding toward its muzzle. He jerked back at the last instant to save his fingers, but the momentum caused him to slip and fall backward.

He fell painfully on his bow, agony shooting through his spine and loosening his one-handed grip on the ghost dog’s throat. It shook itself and drove forward, its breath hot and foul on his face—

—and then it screamed!

The hellhound arched its back, howling and thrashing, and past its shoulder Daniel could see Elizabeth with John Lampe’s knife in her hand. Somewhere far away he could hear her screaming as well.

With a sudden twist, the beast threw Elizabeth aside, but the knife remained. Daniel could see the hilt, jerking just out of his reach every time the demon snapped at him. Its coat was too thick for his hands to find purchase and he was reduced to beating its snout with his fists, cutting his hands on its teeth but keeping them away from his neck. Then one of his hands, slick from his own blood, slipped full into the hellhound’s maw and came to rest at the back of its mouth.

It gagged on his arm but could neither dislodge it nor bite down. It stopped struggling and tried to retreat, but in that moment Daniel got a grip on the knife and plunged it in again and again.

All at once the beast went limp, a dead weight on his chest. Withdrawing his arm with some difficulty, Daniel threw the spirit dog off of him. Elizabeth gasped, and he turned to see that the body on the floor was no longer that of an animal, but a man, an Iroquois shaman, his back a bloody ruin.

“What—?” the girl began, but Daniel shushed her questions and urged her toward the door, pausing only to retrieve his weapons. The question pounded at his brain: Why did only John Lampe’s musket and knife hurt the ghost dogs? But he had no time to puzzle an answer. Lampe had done something to the Iroquois; they had to get out of the cave at once, and the pain in his back already made walking difficult.

Together they limped out of the door, past the point where it became a simple stone tower once more, and down the winding steps to the ground.

Elizabeth shrieked.

“I’m truly impressed, Daniel.” John Lampe shook his head in admiration. “I only needed you to hide my approach, and yet you did so much more! You are truly a hero, and believe me, I’ve known a few.”

Elizabeth was hiding behind Daniel, concealing herself from what seemed to Daniel’s eyes an unseemly stare.

“Elizabeth, it’s John, your brother! John, the Iroquois must be right behind you. We have to get Elizabeth out of here.”

Lampe nodded, but made no move to go, or aid them. “I’m sorry, Daniel. I’m afraid you’re on your own with the Indians. My work is done. I’ve disrupted their sacrificial rite, which is what I came to America to do.” His eye lit once again upon Elizabeth, and he sighed. “I apologize, Mistress Lindberg; I told Daniel you were my sister so that he could not refuse my request to accompany him. But I think he deserves the truth. Daniel, you know me as John Lampe, but I prefer Jack of the Lantern, of the court of the Faerie Queen.” He allowed a moment for this to sink in. “The Old World is getting crowded, and we’ve had our eye on the Americas for ever so long, but we couldn’t travel here ourselves, and it wasn’t until recently that we could ride with you. Of course, the locals do not appreciate our presence—as you will come to understand—and they had plans to stop us, plans which I, with Daniel’s help, have now ruined.”

Lampe tilted his head to one side. “And they’re not happy about it, I must admit. They’ll be here in a few moments, and I’m afraid they’ll try to kill everyone they see, so perhaps I should just go. They probably can’t harm me, but why take the chance?”

And he vanished.

“Who was that?” Elizabeth asked breathlessly. “What was that?”

Daniel was already moving. “I thought he was your brother. He may have been the devil himself, but he wasn’t lying. If the Iroquois catch us, they’ll do worse than kill us.” He handed her back the knife. “Keep this. I’ll hide just inside the cave mouth, where they can’t come at me all at once. You run for the outside. Perhaps you can escape.”

“And be tracked down, alone, in the woods? No, sir, I am with you. Give me the musket while you unlimber your bow.” After a moment’s hesitation he did so, and she took up a sentry’s post while he strung his bow and laid out his pitiful supply to arrows.

“Here they come!” she cried, but did not fire until the howling was echoing in their ears, and she sent a warrior in the first rank spinning to the ground. Then she took the knife in her fist and got behind Daniel, but even at his best, at point-blank range he could only shoot three or four times before they were overwhelmed. He raised the bow and loosed…

…in a roar of musket fire!

The first volley ripped through the Indian ranks and splintered them, and as they regrouped, a voice behind Daniel shouted “Fire!”, and death erupted from the cave.

Trapped in the open against an enemy they could not see, the Iroquois fled down the trail and into the labyrinth of their city. Daniel felt a hand on his shoulder and dimly heard a familiar voice through the ringing in his ears.

“We found you! We found you!” Matthew was saying.

“We need to move everyone back, sir,” interrupted another voice, and in the light from the cavern Daniel saw a royalist officer addressing Matthew, who nodded, and herded the British into an orderly retreat. Once out of the tunnel, they quick-marched away, their rear guard alert. Someone had conjured up a blanket for Elizabeth, which she accepted gratefully, but she whispered urgently in Daniel’s ear.

“My father sides with the rebels, sir. If they find me out, it may not go well for me.”

“Don’t worry, my dear. We’ll keep our secrets.” He clapped Matthew on the back. “And how did you arrange all this?”

“That piece of paper Lampe gave me. I could have sworn an oath there was nothing on it, but when I showed it to the Redcoats’ lieutenant, he ushered straight to the major, and when the major saw it, he ordered fifty troops put under my command at once. I don’t know who John Lampe is, but he must take orders from George himself.” Matthew’s brow furrowed. “Where is Lampe? Did he not make it out?”

“Oh, he made it out, all right. And as to who he is, that’s a question best left unasked. But do you think your friend the major would lend us a few men to escort us back to Prattsville?”

“I think he’d give me all of these if I asked—as long as I don’t tell him where we’re really going. Why just a few?”

“Because,” Daniel whispered, his mouth very close to his brother’s ear, “even we can’t march a full fifty soldiers into town and then announce they’re our prisoners, can we?”

Brian K. Lowe is a 20th century man living in the 21st century and writing about people in completely different centuries. Although he rarely visits the present, his work can always be found at http://www.brianklowe.wordpress.com

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