Thunder at the Crossroads Chapter 3
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Constructive criticism always welcomed, flames cheerfully ignored.
Major Walter Taylor, aide to General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, Confederate States of America exited his tent and frowned as he saw a picket approaching with a buggy following him. The rider rode up to the major, and after saluting said, “Corporal Thomas Johnson, B Company, 11th North Carolina Regiment.”
“Who do we have here Corporal,” the major asked.
“Sir, this man claims to be a representative of an English textile company,” The corporal replied.
“Sir?” Taylor asked the driver of the buggy.
Giles climbed out of it and said, “Rupert Giles of the Dark Wool Textiles Company.”
Taylor considered, they had a list of English companies whose representatives they were to be polite too, and Dark Wool was on the list, still, “I’ve heard of your company sir, based out Boston I believe.”
Giles frowned, “Charlestown and Philadelphia, Sir.”
Taylor smiled, “Of course my mistake.” Still any spy worth his salt would have known that if he was using that company as a cover. Wait, he said his name is Giles, “Would you be related to a Reginald Giles?”
It was Giles turn to frown, “I have a distant cousin by that name, do you know him? I’m afraid I haven’t seen him in over a decade.”
“I have had the pleasure of meeting him; in fact he is traveling with the army now. He is acting as a tutor to a private in the 13th Alabama. He is not to far away; if you wish I’d be more than happy to show you the way.”
Buffy stiffened, what was the chance? She glanced at Giles and saw how relaxed he was. Drawing strength from his calm demeanor she settled down as he said, “That would be most kind of you, but, I’m sure you have more important duties to perform though.”
“Not at all sir, I’d be happy to be of assistance.”
Buffy almost panicked, okay she was one of the greatest Slayers in history, but, she was in the middle of an army. Okay, part of an army, but there was still probably twenty or thirty thousand soldiers surrounding her. She probably wouldn’t be able to get herself out, much less pull Giles out with her.
She noticed though that Giles didn’t seem all that perturbed, he was carrying on an easy conversation with Major Taylor, who had a horse brought while Giles was climbing back into the buggy. As they set off down the road Buffy decided to herself again that if Giles had it under control she’d just go with the flow. To take her mind off of the situation they were in Buffy began to stretch out her Slayer senses. She knew from studying that demons and vamps often followed along behind, or in the case of demons that could pass for human, joined armies on the march. The chaos that armies left in their wake provided prime feeding grounds. As they went along she began studying the soldiers they passed. A group of five festooned with dripping canteens caught her eye. Human,
Buffy thought to herself, Human, Human, Slayer, Hum… wha?
Buffy turned and looked behind her at the retreating figures, only to see the one she read as a Slayer looking back over his shoulder. His? How could there be a male Slayer?
Major Taylor turned off onto a small sidetrack and Giles followed. Coming around some tall bushes they found a small camp set up. There was a tent, with its flap closed, several logs pulled up around a fire pit that had a pot of coffee simmering on it. The tent flap opened and a tall man stepped out. Buffy blinked, any doubt that Giles and this guy were related were instantly dashed. He was a little shorter than Giles, true, but he had almost the same hair and eyes, and his facial structure was close enough to be called brother, rather than cousin.
For his part he frowned at Giles and Buffy. He was about to open his mouth when he squinted and said, “Cousin, what a wonderful surprise.”
Giles, as he was climbing out of the buggy had given the stranger a signal with his hand that was hidden from Major Taylor, it informed Reginald Giles that he was also a Watcher, and told him that Rupert was claiming to be his cousin.
“Reginald, imagine my surprise when Major Taylor here told me you were traveling with the army. I thought you said you didn’t want to travel.”
“I must lead an impious life. I think I must be being punished from above. I thought I was signing up to be a tutor for a young man in Mobile, Alabama, but then this war started and my charge decided he needed to help defend his homeland, and well, there not being any other prospects for a job, and with those damnyankees closing up the ports, I found I had a choice, continue being a tutor, no matter where it led, or starve. Since I have no interest in the latter, needs I must pursue the former.”
The other two men laughed at the statement.
“Now cousin, who is this ravishing creature you have with you?” Reginald asked.
“Oh, how rude of me, this is Buffy Summers, she is my ward. Unfortunately, I had no one to look after her in Philadelphia, so I was forced to bring her along with me.”
“Miss Summers, charmed to make your acquaintance, my camp is humble, but I offer what comforts I can.”
Buffy, glad to be included in the conversation, finally, gracefully climbed out of the buggy and holding out her hand said, “Thank you Mr. Giles; that is very kind of you.”
Reginald took Buffy’s offered hand and kissed her knuckles.
Major Taylor, now content that in fact Reginald Giles did indeed know Rupert said, “If you stop by later in the day, or tomorrow morning Mr. Giles, I’ll see about getting you and your ward included in a supply train heading south, though I’m afraid the cost for that trip will be your horse. I’m afraid we are somewhat short on replacement mounts.”
“If we can get passage south, that will be a small price to pay Major Taylor.”
Nodding to the men, and doffing his hat at Buffy, Major Taylor turned his horse and headed back toward the headquarters area.
As soon as he was sure Taylor was out of ear shot Reginald Giles turned to Rupert and Buffy and asked, “All right, exactly who are you, and what are you doing here?”
“As I told you, I’m your cousin Rupert,” Giles replied to the other watcher as he moved into the camp and sat down on one of the logs.
Reginald moved to keep the fire between him and the new comers and said, “A fair story, but the only cousin Rupert I have is seventy-five and well gone to dementia. He’s also about six inches shorter than you.”
Giles smiled and turning to Buffy he said, “You must be roasting in that get-up, why don’t you sit down?”
Buffy wanted to, among the things not invented yet was anti-persperant, and the heat was really starting to get to her, and, she bet she smelled rank. But she wanted to be able to move as well as she could so she said, “I think I’ll stand Giles.”
“I’m waiting for an answer,” Reginald stated, one hand reaching into a pocket.
“If you are reaching for a gun I’m going to take it away from you and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine,” Buffy warned him.
“I would listen to her cousin,” Giles told the other watcher, “she’s well able to carry out the threat.”
“Somehow I doubt that,” Reginald told Giles, “I know where the Slayer is.”
“As do I, however, you might be surprised.”
Reginald took his hand out of his pocket, “All right, who are you, and why are you here.”
“I am your cousin Reginald, just from a little down the family tree. Buffy Summers is my Slayer. Tell me, have you ever heard of the Circle of the Black Thorn?”
“A minor mystical secret society mostly based in Southern Europe,” Reginald replied, not seeing the relevance.
“They grow in power and influence. In our time,” Giles began.
“Time?” Reginald asked, shocked.
“Yes time, we come from your future. Anton Davis, a senior member of the Circle has come back in time to alter the course of history. If he succeeds then our timeline will be replaced by the new one he will create. Naturally we had to come back and stop him.”
Reginald looked at Giles in shock, “Do you realize the risk you are running? Even if this Anton Davis is stopped, you run the risk of destroying your timeline yourself.”
“A risk is not a certainty. I have a fair bit of knowledge of this era so I should be able to navigate it so as to not change anything major.”
Reginald stood up and began pacing after a minute or two he stopped, “Yes of course, I see your point. Dare I hope you have some idea what he is planning?”
“We believe he will kill Robert E. Lee sometime in the next day or so.”
A feeling began tickling the back of Buffy’s senses, it was kind of familiar.
Reginald nodded, “Yes, that would make sense, there will be a major battle sometime in the next several days, one that I believe will win the war for the South. Removing Lee will throw the Army of Northern Virginia into confusion, and allow the Army of the Potomac to possibly defeat them, at least do enough damage as to lengthen the war. With the news coming from Mississippi that could well be disastrous to their cause. But if we can prevent that from happening, then Lee will destroy the Yankees north of Washington, and after cutting off their capitol from the rest of the country force a peace. Yes I can see it now.”
That feeling kept getting stronger and Buffy realized she was feeling another Slayer; she almost dismissed it, until she remembered where she was. She whirled around, just in time to see that Confederate Private charging her holding a rifle, with the longest bayonet Buffy had ever seen. Once again she asked herself, “How could there be a male Slayer?”