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Slave to Time - Part 2 (IC)


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Continued from Slave to Time

Slave to Time - Part 2 - Journey to the Future!

A carriage drew up ahead of El Heraldo and Young Brittania, who were short on water, food, sleep, and energy.

"You folks alright?" said the Captain Yates. there were six of them. Northern soldiers, weary, dirty, and in at least one case, injured (with a grubby bandage wrapped round his head.

Captain Yates was a youngish man, but lined by the war. He looked strong and healthy, with a mop of blond hair and a square jaw, his looks marred by a broken nose and a cauliflower ear. One would not call him an intellectual, by any means, but he seemed to have more wit about him than the average cannon fodder. He had a pleasant attitude, but a gruff voice.

"Got to be careful up ahead. The South, they moving. Its going to be dirty fighting soon, all mud and swamp round here. Damn mosquitos nearly as bad as the war, to be honest. I swear, its more rotten and diseased than ever. Lost two of men to fever before we even saw action. Hell, I don't know why we are even fighting over that land..."

He seemed genuinely puzzled by his own question.

"Still, you folks got to be careful, you know..." he looked at Vile, bound and gagged.

"Who you got their, Son?" he asked El Heraldo "a Southern Spy?"

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El Heraldo was by now tired to the bone. The novelty of being in the past had by now worn off entirely now that he knew that they still had miserable days. He was sick of the man on his back, of the gloomy, oppressive world they had found themselves in, and of the fact that the Blue Dame was tight-lipped about what to expect in this time. As a result, he was brusque, and not a little impatient. "We're fine, just travelers going to see a mutual acquaintance" he snapped, adding grouchily "And no, he's not a spy. He's a dangerous man though, and I can't in good conscience turn him over to the authorities yet. He'd escape in hours," he added by way of explanation "We're taking him to a city where he can be tried"

He glanced at Young Britannia, wondering what they could safely say. Deciding to risk it he said "Where are you marching, sir? And can we join you, at least for a little while?"

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"And no, he's not a spy. He's a dangerous man though, and I can't in good conscience turn him over to the authorities yet. He'd escape in hours, we're taking him to a city where he can be tried"

Captain Yates frowned slightly. "Now hold on young man, round here, were the authorities! the sherrifs, well, they might work back up in New York, or Freedom City, where you ain't dodging cannon fire. But when you are on the front line, or near it, well, its Army Law, Son. Can't say its the best, but thats how it works round here. Ain't got time for no high and noble laws and lawyers. We got a war to fight..."

"Where are you marching, sir? And can we join you, at least for a little while?"

"Well that rightly solves our problems, Son. We marching to the forward Camp. Commander can take care of your prisoner there, and I guess he going to be strapping a rifle to your paws too, seeing as how we needing all the men we can get down there. And your wife..." he nodded at Young Brittania "I guess she could help out with the nursin' and the cookin' sure enough. Food is short, mind, down there..."

"Its about a half days ride, Son, so hop on board!"

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Agnes had worried a little how they would react to a 6ft tall Woman of Colour, but they seemed to be cool with her being there. Or maybe they were all just all too tired to care. Now let’s see if they could deal with her being British.

“Well I have done some Medical Work I’m a qualified Doctor and all. I can’t cook for toffee thought, I can burn water...â€

That would explain the healing power, and get her out of cooking duties. She let the married line slide, it would stop them thinking she was a camp follower. She hopped up onto the wagon and offered her hand to Subito.

“Hop up honey!†she grinned at him before turning to the Captain “I’m Agnes Stone by the way.â€

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Yates looked on, rather intimidated as Agnes jumped on board.

"Sweet Jesus, you one tall lady!" he commented. And she was, taller than any of the men in the cart "And a Brit, and a Doctor?" he said, surprised as could be.

"Well, I seen some crazy mad goings on, 'specially in that swamp, but never seen no lady doctor. Guess the English, they do things real different over there. Educatin' and learnin' a Negro lady. Well, ain't that something...." he blew out in surprise.

"Still, you can pull a bullet out a fevered man's leg, I don't care where you from or who you is" he added, kindly, saluting her. "We could do with a Doc. Last one got the fever and died. We been makin do, best we can, but a sawbones would be much appreciated, ma'am" he nodded.

"Welcome to the United States Army!" he said, saluting both of them, as the Cart carried on forth.

Vile, still gagged, stifled a laugh.

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El Heraldo stared at captain Yates before hurriedly beginning "My wife? Captain, y-"

“Hop up honey!†she grinned at him before turning to the Captain “I’m Agnes Stone by the way.â€

He gave up immediately "...Yes, darling" he said resignedly, following Agnes into the carriage, shutting the door behind himself and leaning Lorenzo against it. To the captain he said "My name is Subito Stone. I and my relations are from an island just north of the Southern Americas" he added by way of explanation. Settling into the hard seat(which was still far better than walking) he glanced with a scow at the bound man "You can shut right up" he murmured darkly to the prisoner.

He raised an eyebrow at the mention of "crazy mad happenings" in the swamps "What sort of happenings are you talking about, captain?"

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"What sort of happenings are you talking about, captain?"

There were grumblings and murmurs amongst the squad. A few crossed themselves. Yates himself looked less phased than the rest, but even he frowned.

"Don't rightly know, Son" he explained "Rumours, gossip, that kind of thing. But we hear stuff that puts your soul on edge. Its swamp territory down there, all mosquitoes, fever, and the like. Snakes big as your arm, or bigger. And some of the, well, less reliable folk, on accounts of having brain-fever, they talk about the cult of the coldblood. Doing witchcraft and the like. Well, down here I could believe anything. Or nothing. But we have seen some strange stuff. Human skulls, snake bones, the like. Rituals maybe. And even for this time of year, the swamp, well it feels alive. Spooks a brave man out. Fever's been rife, more than usual. And then there was poor Jennings, at least, we think it was Jennings..."

"Jennings..." mumbled the squad.

"...couldn't rightly say. Wasn't to much left of him when we found him. Been killed, rightly enough, but in a way no man should. Witchcraft, they say..."

He tried to muster up a smile.

"Stay fast and pray to God, son! you are in the army now, and we will win this war! right lads?" he demanded, and was greeted with a semi-cheer.

"God knows why we are fighting over this god forsaken swamp though..." he whispered under his breath, but heard perfectly by the acute hearing of El Heraldo.

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Agnes gave a wide grin “You’d be amazed how forward thinking the UK is, you could almost say it’s the future.â€

Agnes leaned in and whispered to her husband.

“The Cult of the Coldblood that was mentioned in the book. But it said they didn’t get involved in the war, just wallowed in the misery.†The joys of having a perfect memory. “Let’s hope that we and him…†She gave Lorenzo an elbow to the ribs “…haven’t screw the timeline up to bad. After a good night rest and a meal maybe we could check them out.â€

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Subito looked at her blankly for a second before remembrance hit, when it did his eyes widened and he said very softly "Ohh, right, I forgot that part. Maybe this IS their wallowing? They could have just attacked folks who got too close, never really entering into the war? Yeah, we should look into this business, it feels off"

"I and Agnes have complete confidence in you and your troops, Captain Yates" he said to their benefactor more loudly, with an incline of his behatted head.

He remained as quiet as he could politely be during the remainder of the ride down to the camp. During that time, he never took his eyes off Lorenzo for longer than a few minutes.

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The wheels of the cart turned, as did the time. Morning became an oppressive late afternoon, stuffed with heat and humidity, as the cart hit Forward Camp York.

It was a ramshakle wooden fort, built as best as could be managed by a tired and worn out company of men on the edge of a swamp. Beyond, the ground grew thick, wet, and descended into mangrove in patches, alive with mosquitos, snakes, and all sorts of irritating life forms.

El Heraldo and Young Brittania were succulent feasts for the mosquito's, but at least they could wave them away and swat them. Poor Lorenzo Vile was a banquet beyond measure for the bloodsuckers.

Captain Yates stepped off the Cart to the welcome of Commander Basque, a huge rotund man with a crop of ginger hair and a sunburnt face. Basque looked jovial but drunk, with the swollen nose and aroma of a drunkard.

"Basque, he is a friendly sort, goes easy on the men, but...not a military man by nature..." he whispered to his new recruits.

"Yates man, there you are!" he said "Hope you brought those supplies. Lost another man to the fever last night. We need bandages, oil, food, and whiskey of course!" he laughed, swatting a mosquito feeding on his bloated neck.

"And two new recuits! excellent!" he added.

"Even better, sir. We have a Doctor here, all the way from England!" he smiled, helping the men unload the precious supplies into the camp.

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Agnes gave a little curtsy to the Commander, sometime it was just helpful to show some manners.

“Hello there Commander I’m Agnes, and in case you couldn’t tell I’m the Doctor.†She gave a little pause to gauge his reactions “I’ll be happy to help your men, but we’re tired from a long journey so if we could have a space to get a couple of hours sleep…â€

By rights they were both independent, not attached to the military at all, but in the middle of a military camp with almost nothing around them for miles, it wouldn’t hurt to allow the Commander to have the illusion of being in charge.

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"Sweet merry Joe Chef!" misquoted the befuddled and intoxicated captain, a broad grin on his face. "I'll be damned, a doctor from England. A woman doctor! A nubian woman doctor too! Guess those aristocrats do things different over there!"

He scratched his chubby neck and picked off a feasting mosquito.

"Ma'am I don't care where you from or who you are. If you can pull out a bullet and hack of an limb gone bad, then you are a Godsend, ma'am and no mistake. Why, poor Wilkins, he is in a bad way, ma'am. Leg half bitten off, got some venom in him. Well, if we had a priest, he would be with the poor lad..."

He frowned. Basque may not have been the most competent of leaders (quite the opposite), but he didn't like losing men.

"If you could spare some of your time to see to Wilkins..." he said hopefully "...the man's in shock, half mad from fever. We'll make up some quaters for you. What with you being a woman and all..." he said, a tad awkwardly.

"In the mean time your new recruit here can muck in with the boys, ain't they so, boy?" he asked, laughing at El Heraldo.

"And we'll put this dangerous criminal of yours in the cell. Good solid Iron there, safe as houses!"

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Subito didn't envy the difficult and bloody work ahead of Agnes, and said earnestly to her "Be well, my dear. I do not envy the job you will have to do" he added. To Commander Basque he bowed with a bob and grinned "I doubt it will be the worst place I have rested my head" he said jauntily, doffing his cap and stuffing it in one pocket. Surveying the muddy wooden fort he added "Also commander, captain. If you ever need some heavy work done, don't hesitate to ask me! These muscles aren't just for show!"

"As for Mr. Lorenzo here..." he glanced sharpy at his prisoner, saying quietly "...If it can be arranged, I would like to sleep close to the prison. I am entrusted with this man's being taken to justice, and could never forgive myself if I let him get away" he looked hopefully at the two Americans.

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In the last 24 hour she had travelled through time, carried Subito for a day’s worth of flying, fought a foul mouth racist and had seen a side of herself she thought she’d left behind her whilst by being tempted by an evil artefact. She was so tired she just wanted to sleep it all off, about 200 years should do her fine.

But she also didn’t want to let anyone die because she was a bit tired, it defiantly wasn’t a sin to care too much about people.

“I’ll take a look at him right away; though I’ll need some privacy some of my methods are unorthodox. And something resembling coffee wouldn’t go a miss.â€

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Commander Basque was quite accommodating to the pair. They needed soldiers, they needed doctors. He was even, in his own way, accommodating to Vile, who was slammed up, alone, in a wooden shack, manacled to the floor, with a sleepy guard over him. He was happy for El Heraldo to take watch over the prisoner too.

"Come this way, doctor!" said Basque, bringing Young Brittania to the infirmary. Two were three men in there. One with swamp fever, one with a nasty gash on his head, who was floating in and out of consciousness...and Wilkins.

Wilkins had a nurse by his side, a pretty, and pretty small lady of no more than two score years, who dabbed his forehead with a damp towel. The man was burning up with fever, and the source was obvious. He had a nasty wound, festering and exuding puss, in his left leg. The veins were black, and the leg was cold and pale. Wilkins himself was mumbling almost incoherently...

"Aiii Aiii...Tik Tik! TIK TIK! The yellow sign...Snap! Tik! Aiii! The snakes! THE SNAKES!"

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Almost unbidden to her mind came the knowledge of the Medicine she need for the task in hand. And as a befitted her position as a Doctor she took over the situation.

“Hi there I’m Doctor Stone, Agnes Stone. I need some hot water and clean, and I mean clean bandages. Straight away if you could please.â€

Making sure she was left alone she knelt beside Wilkins and held her hand just above the wound, allowing her healing light to permeate the wound.

“Shush now don’t worry the Serpent’s or there kind can’t get you here. I bloody well wouldn’t allow them to. Now rest you need to keep up your strength, you’ve got a family to go back home to.â€

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With a blaze of light, the fever burned away. Wilkins arched his back for a moment, in pain, as the toxin burned away, and the diseased leg was purified, and then sank to the bed, into a calm and sweet sedated state.

The nurse opened her eyes wide.

"It's a miracle! I have never seen anything like it! you are an angel!" she declared, falling to her knees and crossing herself.

Basque was less religious, but impressed nonetheless.

"I guess you English got a few tricks we don't down here..." he said, wiping his brow. A slight irritation hit him at the thought of being outdone by the English Doctor, but he couldn't argue with the results.

"Glad to have you here...." he mumbled, before stepping outside in the hot night air.

Meanwhile, Wilkins dropped into a full slumber. His leg was still injured, but he was now free of whatever ailed him. Time, bandages, and Young Brittania's care would do the rest.

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Lorenzo had been unbound and had the gag removed at the stern demand of the prison-guard, though Subito had managed to convince him to let the stocky youth watch over him for most of the day, to prevent 'mischief'.

Meanwhile, El Heraldo was watching Lorenzo like a hawk in the fort's haphazard stockade and cells. Leaning against the rough and unpolished wooden wall, he wrestled with the obvious questions: should he ask the servant of the Serpent People about the Cult of the Coldblooded? Would Lorenzo have any reason to answer truthfully, if he answered at all? It's...this is pretty hard he thought grumpily, his arms folded across his chest as he stared through the bars narrow-eyed at the prisoner If I don't at least try to find things out from this guy, we might not find out something crucial until it's too late. But if I ask and he just lies we could end up in even worse trouble You must take that risk resounded the voice of the Blue Dame in his mind Do what you can to find out what he knows, and you can determine the truth with the Spirit of Justice, whose bearer has, as she said, a perfect memory

Shifting his back so it would stop being bothered by a knothole he abruptly jerked away from his position, walked up to the bars and called over to Lorenzo "Hey, what was so funny back there, on the carriage? You know something about this Cult of the Coldblooded?"

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Lorenzo Vile was tired and thirsty, but the uncomfortable journey here had let his body recover, cracked rib aside.

He lifted his dirty head as El Heraldo ungagged him.

"So, you wish to talk, whelp?" he laughed, a cracked voice, parched as it was.

"I laughed at the thought of you and...her...", his face contorting at the thought of Young Brittania "being a couple. Wouldn't that be sweet! hahahaha!"

He coughed half way through his laughter, his mouth unused to the sound and dry as a bone.

"The cult of the coldblood are the Lemurian serpent people, fool! degenerate half bloods, perhaps, but serpents none the less. The writings on them are...corrupted, and confused...they are degenerate, after all. But they will serve their purpose. With the chains of Lemuria to aide them, they can swing the war back to the south, so that the spirit of slavery will live on..."

He gave El Heraldo a confident smile.

"You shouldn't ungag a sorcerer, you know...." he whipsered.

"Could you give me some water?" he hissed with kindly eyes.

"And untie me from my bonds?" he added, his smile widening and eyes glaring.

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Subito listened with a deep frown to Lorenzo's words. The man was obviously parched, which provoked a pang of remorse and pity over the his treatment. He won't have any reason to treat us better if we treat him like this...

"I laughed at the thought of you and...her...", his face contorting at the thought of Young Brittania "being a couple. Wouldn't that be sweet! hahahaha!"

He gritted his teeth "Yeah, it's a riot, ain't it? Now how about you never bring that up again, huh?" he glowered at the older man, a dull feeling of frustration that didn't seem to have anything to do with his actual words welling inside him.

His eyes widened at the revelation that the Cult was an entire group of half-Serpent people, and apparently strong enough to change the fortunes of the American Civil War in the Confederacy's favor, at least until that government's usefulness had passed. "So..you've got basically an army down here" he muttered, no little horror in his voice "and all it needs is the Chains..."

His eyes wandered over to the wall on Lorenzo's right, pondering what he had just learned. Oh Dame, what should we do? Try and defeat this Cult? Leave them be and just ward off their attacks? Your quest is not to change the past, Subito, but to return home with this trait-beware his words of venom! his head jerked up just as Lorenzo began to try and ensnare his body and mind to make the boy free him. Just in time, his thick hands clamped over his ears, saving him from the mystically-charged words of the sorcerer. "You'll drink, Lorenzo!" he shouted, not actually knowing how loud he was yelling "But as I live, you will not escape us in this time!" re-gagging the man, he stormed off out of the stockade, furious with himself at how he had almost ruined his and Agnes' plans.

"Now," he muttered darkly "to find a relatively clean pail to put some cleanish water in..."

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Agnes spent the rest of the night tending to Wilkins. Between checks she spent time looking at the wounds of the other two soldiers. She also tried to introduce the Nurse to modern, for the 19th century, medical techniques mostly it was just the common sense ideas she’d learned another lifetime ago at the British Hotel in the Crimea.

Between that and mouthful of really bad coffee she managed to catch a little sleep, it wasn’t the best sleep in the world, in a tent among the, previously, wounded but with her incredible stamina it was enough that she could struggle through the day.

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The next morning...

"Rise and shine, sleepyhead!" said Captain Yates, laughing as he prodded El Heraldo with his boot.

"And get changed into your army gear!" he commanded, throwing the young man some surprisingly clean and starched army overalls. Finally, he thrust a bayonetted rifled into his hands.

"And this is for you. You know how to fire one of these things? Make sure the pointy end is directed at the enemy, Son!" he smiled.

It was about 5 in the morning, the sun barely a glimmer in the sky.

"Young Wilkins made a miracle recovery. Guess your lady friend doctor is worth her salt after all, eh? despite being a lady. Beat's me. Next thing, they will be letting dame's into the army hahahaha! that will be the day!"

He chuckled at the thought.

"Come on, lets see what Wilkins has to say...."

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The night at the fort had been utter misery. Swarms of mosquitoes had buzzed around the room, and after almost a year sleeping in a soft bed with one other person in the room the snores and other night noises of the prisoners and soldiers sleeping around the jail had kept him up for hours before he managed to get himself adjusted to it and fall asleep; and he was pretty sure a horde of rats had infiltrated the place, searching out any unfortunate they could find to sniff at and scrabble over.

Thus, he reacted to the boot-stirring with a savage cry of "Grah! ¡Márchese!", tossing the blanket over his head he felt the clothes fall on him, and he got unsteadily and yawning out of bed to examine them, holding the garments at arms-length to inspect them critically while he held the rifle in his other hand. Putting the rifle on the bed he said grouchily as he changed "I know this'll sound weird, but I can fight better without using a gun. I know how to shoot one, but I ain't really a soldier."

Following the commander he nodded at his praise of Young Britannia "She's got to be one of the best people I've met," he said gravely "I doubt you'll lose another man as long as she's around" he kept in step as best as he could with the longer steps of the bigger, military man. He looked deeply concerned with what Wilkins would have to tell the time-displaced duo...

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At the infirmary...

Yates brought El Heraldo up to the Infirmary after a stiff insistence that he carry the rifle.

"Listen here Son, you've only been here one day. Bit early to get swamp fever. Affects the brain, it does. Nobody fight's better without a rifle. On account of them spitting out bullets that can kill a man at a hundred paces. And sharp pointy metal and round lead is a might more effective than knuckles, see?"

Wilkins was sat upright, his fever broke, and his leg on the mend, drinking water and even tucking into a little broth.

"We were out on patrol, Commander" he was explaining to Brasque and Young Brittania.

"Southern troops meant to be advancing here, but I reckons they gonna steer well clear of the swamp if they have any sense about them. Mosquitoes, fever, and heat. Anyway, we got ambushed. The others, they didn't come off to well. Some southern scouts. I was hit in the leg, thought I was gonna get caught, or worse. But then, the screaming started. I don't know what happened, commander, I swear I don't. It's like, these degenerate beggars came from the swamp, started ripping up the southerners with their bare hands...and teeth. I goddam swear, they weren't human, these folk. They had fangs...."

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Agnes subconsciously leant forward, pulling around her the jacket she picked up from a helpful trooper.

“I believe you Wilkins, there are many strange things in the swamp.†She turned to Commander Basque “Me and my colleagues are trouble shooters of sorts, sent by the War Office to deal with thing beyond the experience of it’s regular soldiers.†If need be she could reel off the names of some of the relevant people in the Unions War office.

“If Wilkins here can tell us where he encountered these fanged men we can deal with them without risking any more of your men.†She gave a broad grin “After all a doctors best tool is prevention.â€

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