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The March of Victoria Kensington

Written by castor :: [Thursday, 20 February 2014 15:33] Last updated by :: [Thursday, 20 February 2014 16:22]

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The March of Victoria Kensington

by Castor

editing by Dru

Based on an idea by Solaris

 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff” – Psalms 24:4

 

It caused considerable pain for Victoria to standup. Every part of her seemed to hurt in a symphony of torment. It hurt as she put her foot in front of her, as she fell down again, landing face first in the dirt.

But she didn't curse

She simply got up once more and started to stumble forward, seemingly unable to walk or to balance, but just kind of lurch.

And in the process she stopped hurting, she stopped feeling pain … it was as if that part of her brain disappeared or ceased working. And she, for all practical purposes, never felt anything ever again.

It was an odd sensation, to not feel anything. For about a minute she didn't move at all. Just stood stiff is a board in the poplar grove, perfectly still. She didn't say anything. She didn't even breath. She just stood there listening to the wind, some kind of bird, sensing the wind … but not feeling it. She wasn't cold. She wasn't wet (though mud had made her soaked) … she simply existed.

And, intellectually, that was strange. It took her quite a while to simply work up the energy to go forward again. She wondered if the reason the dead didn't move was that they didn't have a reason. That must be nice.

But she did.

Her leg – specifically her right – leg was pretty bad. There were bullets in it, but it wasn't bleeding … as if it had cauterized. But the bullets were lodged in her muscle. She looked down, and with her fingers pulled out one … then the second. They where covered and blood and puss little packets. She remembered pulling them out of birds and deer – they looked the same. Except they didn't come out of a bird or deer, they came out of her.

She expected pain, even after an hour passed. Perhaps Victoria should have realized that wasn't going to happen.

Her arm still had some bullets, so did her chest her gut. But she couldn't pull out the one from her arm and they didn't seem to be bothering her too much.

That should have been bothering her. Not just the physical pain. She should be terrified at how close she was to dying, how close she was to the end – and beyond that the fact that by all logical reasoning she should be dead already.

But it didn't bother her. She could observe the reality of the situation, but she wasn't scared. She wasn't frightened.

She adjusted herself. She was at the bottom of a small hill. It took some effort to walk up the slope, she almost had to relearn the process of raising her leg that high.

But by and by she did.

 

*****

 

“We got rid of the Norwegian farmers near the moon,” said Chang.

He was standing in a clearing next to the pale moonlight. It was pretty. But spooky. Rollins, as he stood by him, watched the hills made anyplace seem spooky.

“Got rid of as in killed, or as in scared off?”

“Killed,” Chang confirmed. They used to trade for some chicken eggs from them. That wasn't going to happen anymore.

“Any trouble?”

“No, apart from that woman it's been quiet” said Chang. “I think we got pretty much anyone or anything that could cause us some trouble”

“Good,” approved Rollins. His eyes never left the hills.

“Her friend, though,” said Chang. “What do you want to …”

“Oh? I thought I made it clear what was to happen to her.”

“Well, I was wondering … well, if you want to go first.” Chang spoke with his head down, able to say the words … but not to hide his shame.

“No, no! Let the men have her first,” said Rollins. “A good leader only eats after his men does . What about you? Do you want to go first … or are holding out for a chink woman?”

“Something like that,” Chang told him.

“We'll find you one” Rollins assured him. “Just you wait …” He looked back to the hills. “Let's just see where it goes.”

 

*****

 

Meanwhile, back in Portland in a fine grassy square, Captain Lloyd Dillon was prepping his horse.

He took pride in his horse: a beautiful black stallion with his well groomed mane and his bright clear eyes. A horse was, after all, more than his transportation, it was a part of his uniform. He took pride in it. He was a captain in the cavalry, and even a 1000 miles away from his commanding officer he took pride in it, pride in his bright blue uniform, pride in his men. They were still soldiers, still part of the US army. Part of a nation; part of whole.

All 100 of his men had their uniforms washed and pressed for this occasion. All 100 of his men where fit and able for duty, strong and sure, and looking splendid. He would not brook any dereliction of code or duty. He knew of some detachments – not to name names – where soldiers were slothful, traded brass buttons for Indian trinkets, acted little better then settlers, and some little better then the savage. Not him. Not his men.

Which was why this current assignment was so … distasteful. He knew the Governor was, in this case, his superior, and his duty to see to meet his nations needs … but … .

He looked outward to see fat, old, stringy, hairy and beardy men get on horses. Their job was to accompany his men, this posse comitas. To act like irregular rabble, like something out of an ancient the fall of the Roman Empire . They were frontiersmen of the worst kind. Shopkeepers, farmers, most who hardly knew how to hold a gun let along march with it. Sure, there were maybe a few who had seen militia work, or had experience in the bush … but well … .they were a distraction. Something to drag. A few were half-breeds.

He looked at their leader, Marshal Silas Grover, an older man with a salt and pepper mustache who wore the badge of a US marshal upon a ridiculous green vest. Yet he was a practical man, reserved and quiet. There was something to his quiet reserve that appealed to Dillon as he road over.

“I want to leave in 15 minutes, Captain. Will your men be ready?”

“Of course, sir,” said Dillion. “I hope your men will be.”

“If not,” Grover told him, “the stragglers will catch us up by nightfall.”

“I don't shoot stragglers,” said Dillion. “But I been known to whip 'em. My lieutenant, Anders here, can testify to that.”

Anders smiled the kind of smile that you got when you made a joke about whipping. Which perhaps wasn't much of a smile at all.

“Don't much bother with that,” said Grover. They're volunteers and all.”

Dillion looked at the 100 or so men that was decamping. “Yes, it would be a shame if we loose any of them.”

“We're going to need them. Rollins is a tough son of a bitch.”

Dillion nodded. In these parts one often heard legend of Rollins. Of his heroics in the Mexican American War, his turning outlaw, of his various raids up north. Dillion had never met him. He was in West Point during the conflict and had never had chance to encounter him before, or after it either. He knew his reputation at the battle of Guadalajara. One often heard stories of men. The army was grand place for reputations – but there he had been leading soldiers, disciplined forces, into conflict …

Out here, Dillon doubted the Rollins gang was much better then those in the posse. Though perhaps a little less pudgy around the gut.

Dillion nodded anyway.

“I sent Francois to scout ahead,” said Grover. “Put your forces on the flanks, my men in the middle. We'll ride north towards the bay. Word is his forces are up on the cape there.”

“Yes sir. Anders, lead the detachment on the right. Hastings the left. Let's go gentleman. We're got a man needs hangin'.”

And 220 men road out of Salem, northward to adventure.

And a little man in a suit, standing there eating a peach watching them moe out … thought perhaps a little more.

Who could say?

 

*****

 

Joshua's world was no longer burning, not even smoldering.

A small light drizzle was taking care of putting out the last burning embers of what had once been his village … what had once been his world.

 

As his church had burned down he had run away. Run away like a coward. Run out through the back, using a weak spot in the wall. Which was good, as those who ran out of the front where slaughtered by guns … by the men.

He ran away from them, not offering a fight. There was not much he could have done to fight … but the urge of a coward came into him.

He ran, somewhat ironically, into men coming forward to help – a couple of his tribesmen who where gathering berries instead of praying to god. He loved Jesus with all of his heart – but perhaps right now he couldn't blame them.

He urged them to hide.

By and by the men left, burning what they could and moving on. And about 18 hours later the rain was putting out the fire. Joshua still didn't dare go too close.

He just sat on the ridge, watched and cried. His squaw was there … his wife. They didn't have children, but they had wanted to. His nephew was there, his brother was … there. Now he, two women, one too old, and another warrior, were traveling south to warm the white men. He brought along a little child that he had found in the village, a child that the white men had not found the stomach to kill. That little bit of mercy, that small touch of humanity, made their crimes worse somehow.

But somehow …

He heard a noise, and Joshua turned his head to see it.

A shape walked out into the clearing. She walked out, for though it took him a second to recognize it, it was certainly a her, that it was human at all took a moment to tell. It took him longer still to see recognize exactly who.

“Victoria!” he cried.

“Joshua! It's you!” She walked more into the moonlight, and he saw that she had large gaping holes in her chest, just a bleeding spot where her nipple would be. She looked … pale, pallid, and waxy, almost as if one would expect a corpse to appear … but not quite.

“What's happened to you?” he demanded.

She walked over to the ridge to see the village.

“They burned it down,” she noted, matter-of-factually. “It figures. Tom Rollins. His gang.”

“Yes..but you …”

“Got shot.” she spat out some blood. “A couple of places … need to dress them. If you can get 'em out, maybe sew the wounds up. They don't hurt, but they're going to bother me if they start rotting.”

“Whats happened to you?” Joshua asked again

“You mentioned something about a tree. Right blathered something about it. Think I found it.” Victoria looked over.

“Your a …”

“Take care of my wounds if you can.”

Joshua looked at her again. She turned her head and lowered her eyes. Some small glimmer of … what was it? Humanity?

“Please.”

Joshua sighed. “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him.”

 

*****

 

The posse rode forward through the forest. It was surprisingly spooky at night.

Except for the fact that one of the men was yodeling.

“Yodel-yeh-he-hoo!”

“Quiet down!” snapped Dillion. “That's an order!”

“Don't have stake over me, you marionette,” said farmer Johnson. It produced a laugh.

And a few more yodels

“Quiet down,” commanded Marshal Grover. “I do!”

Dillion rode forward. “How long should we continue?”

“Faster the better,” Grover told him. “I suspect he's got word of us by now, more time for him to dig in … get ready to do some damage.”

“You really are worried,” observed Dillion.

“Had the chance to get him,” explained Grover, “when he had 10 men and airs of the better. Now he's a real threat. I always worry. I want each of these men..even our friend the yodeler there … to get back in one piece. Minimum of bloodshed too. That can be real tricky.”

“So the orders are?”

“Let's travel about 5 more miles and camp for the night. Then tomorrow we should be in his area … his land. It's tricky.”

Dillion shook his head.

“And before you ask,” said Grover, “I am fucking terrified.”

 

*****

 

“Are you sure this doesn't hurt,” Joshua asked. He was tying up a large hole with string were Victoria's nipple once was. She was cold so cold.

“Pain is in the mind.” Victoria looked over the ruined remnants of the village.

Joshua sighed. He tried to ignore the fact that he wasn't feeling a heart beat anymore in her chest. Worrying about that wouldn't do any good, but if she wasn't moving and talking he'd swear she was dead. He should be merciful. To everything there was a season under the sun.

“So,” Joshua said …

“I want to try something,” Victoria interrupted. “Finished tying?”

“Yeah.”

She got to her feet, naked from the chest up. There was something weird about seeing a thin woman wearing men's pants and nothing else. Well … it was odd.

She walked over to a heavy log … and lifted.

There wasn't a grunt, there didn't seem a reaction from her. If she felt the weight, she gave no indication. It rose smoothly. She lifted the 20 foot log overhead with no more effort then she would need to lift a stone.

“How much do you think this weighs?” she asked.

“Don't know white measurements. A lot, I reckon.”

Victoria grunted … and tossed it into the forest. It hit a branch and spun up 20 feet away, turning and landing awkwardly in the brush. It scared out a rabbit.

“Helps,” she noted.

“Helps with what?” Joshua asked.

“Get me a new shirt, if you can manage it. I got money too. I found, like, 20 dollars in silver they didn't take from our cabin. But we may need more.”

“What in the name of Jesus and Moses and all the saints and prophets is going on?” Joshua demanded. “What are you? What manner of demon?”

Victoria looked in a puddle of water at her face. She did it with no passion, no emotion … just to look.

“It doesn't matter.”

 

*****

 

Grover extended the telescope over the fields. He saw the large mountain, saw the large sandy cape, saw it it all. And it looked dangerous.

“We're going to send out five parties. Three men each. Each go 20 degrees one direction from that rock up the coast. Every half-hour I want you to shoot in the air. Ride until sunset, then come back. You see them, you shoot twice and ride back as fast as you can. They'll know with the first shot. All we want to do is establish where they are, and if you got an idea how many, that'd be great. But do not fight them.”

He nodded to Lacrioux, his lead tracker – and he was off.

“My men could do this,” Dillion pointed out.

“I want your men to protect us – 'cause Rollins finds us, there will be hell to pay.”

“We outnumber them,” Dillion reminded the Marshall.

“Hell to pay.”

 

*****

 

Joshua came forward and walked through a forest with a shirt.

“My uncle traded for this with an old sea captain. White-man's shirt.”

He saw her. She had put some pine cones on a stump, and Victoria was shooting them.

And missing pretty consistently. Yeah, she got some with her six shooter, but not many.

“Is it harder? Something with … ”

“Easier. But harder too, if that makes sense” answered Victoria. “I think my hand and arm move faster then before. less stopping it … which means I have to relearn how it goes.”

“Have you eaten anything?” Joshua inquired. “Drank water or wine?”

“No,” Victoria confessed. “Not slept either. Not tired. Not at all.”

He looked at her. It wasn't as if the wounds were healing … but scabbing somehow. More like disappearing …

“Can you eat?”

“I'm not sure. It doesn't seem to be important.”

“You're dead, aren't you?” asked Joshua. “Walking, but dead.”

“Guess who else did that,” Victoria told him. “Your old friend from your favorite book.”

Joshua walked up and smacked her.

“Don't take our lords name in vain. What you are unholy.”

Victoria looked at him … she had a gun in her hand but didn't bother to raise it.

“I don't want to kill you,” Victoria warned. “We're peas of a pod, us.”

Joshua turned and walked away.

“I am nothing like you. I am a god-fearing man.”

“Who I've not seen wearing pants,” Victoria observed. “And your genitals aren't doing anything for me, either.”

Joshua moved.

“Turn the other cheek to your aggressors. Do not strike … forgive them.”

“They took Ann. The killed all your people. Are you going to finish this?”

 

*****

 

All the work, all the preparation … Lacrioux rode back in less then an hour

“There's a smallish fort – like something you would build to fend off Indians. A wall 15 feet high, around maybe a quarter acre, tree trunks for sides. Its about a quarter mile away from the bay, two miles from here.”

Grover was smoking a pipe.

Dillion looked over

“ I can have my men rearing in 10 minutes.”

Grover paused.

“Anything else?”

“The gate was open, but they can close it. I saw 20 figures milling about … I don't think they saw me, but you never know.”

Grover paused again.

“Right.”

 

*****

 

Ann sat in a basement … though it felt more like a hole then anything, a dank hole maybe 5 feet deep . They had given her water at least, it was even almost fresh by any standard, and a loaf of bread.

She hurt all over. Not just in the places where you'd expect her to hurt, but all over. Every inch of her body was agony. Every inch felt like death, except in the part that mattered … like she wanted. She wasn't even tied up. Just strewn about, like a toy that you didn't bother to put away. They knew. Why bother? She waited there. She had gone through fitful sleep and frightful dreams – good dreams sometimes, which just made her scared that they would soon be over.

She heard horses coming. Maybe they where to rescue her.

She doubted it. Because this was hell.

 

*****

 

Grover stood outside the fort, 200 men in front of him. The fort was tight as a drum.

“Send Rollins out!” demanded Grover. “You'll all get fair trials!”

“We're safe here!” a voice retorted. Not that Grover knew him, but it was Chang.

“We'll burn you out and shoot you down! You start shooting and we'll do it right now! You got ten minutes while my offer stands. Come out and we'll take your surrender. Now, we know Rollins is going to hang … but I think most of you will just sit in the poke a bit, maybe even walk away. Fair trial is what I'm offering. You play nice and give up your leader … well, I'll see to it.”

Rollins sat by him. He had put forces on all four sides-there wasn't much of an escape

The voice of Chang hesitated.

“Give us a moment to …”

Then the first shot rang out.

Grover paused, and looked around for a second … before his brain caught up.

It was coming from behind him.

A giant force of men was spewing from the trees shooting at them and closing in.

From all four sides they where shot at, some of Dillon's men turned, but well … a horse ain't a tool for a rear attack. The gunmen kept firing … and they had no where to go

Except the fort.

From which men were now shooting from the palisades.

So many men, so many guns … the horses reared up as they were gunned down, some men leaned down to hide.

But there was more gun fire as they were caught in a pincer movement.

“Stand strong men … let's attack!” urged Grover.

Then he was shot, and fell from his horse. He wasn't quite dead though …

Then a horse trampled his skull in.

 

*****

 

Victoria packed a bag, such as it was.

“Heading into town to get some supplies, then I'll come right back. A gotta get some bullets … get ready.”

“Put this down,” Joshua urged. “Turn the other cheek … nothing will come of more violence.”

Victoria grunted.

“I don't have much keeping me up any more. If I really am dead, what's the point in living? I got a purpose. And if it's from god or not, its a purpose.

Just then, she saw something. A black horse with a saddle on it road into the clearing.

Victoria saw it and it reared up

“Hush darling,” she soothed, “I won't hurt you.”

She looked at the animal and didn't move. Victories didn't even breath, as she didn't much need to. She just stood there for a long moment, and waited for it to let out its energy.

Then she put a hand on it.

“It looks like a cavalry horse” observed Victoria. “Healthy enough. You're a beautiful animal … even I can appreciate that.”

Joshua sighed. Then felt a bullet fly past his ear. He turned to see a pinecone land on the ground.

“I think I got the gun to work, as well.”

She climbed up on the dark mount.

“Thank you Mr Joshua, for all you've done. I hope god finds mercy on your people, and on you. You deserve it I think, though He's the final judge.”

Victoria road off into the forest as Joshua watched.

 

*****

 

The horse's master, Captain Dillon, lay fallen on the ground. Every part of him hurt. His leg, at least one of them for sure, was broken. One expected the shock to trample things but not quite.

Then he saw a large foot in front of him.

“Got someone!” Jo-Bob declared. “He's breathing. An officer, too.”

“Take 'em over.”

Dillon had a hard time breathing, putting air in his lungs. Then watched, as he came around, to see that yodeler Johnson being held up, puking from fear. He was talking to a man with such an evil face … an evil glare. And standing next to him was Lacrioux smiling.

“Traitor.”

“We need a survivor,” said Rollins. “Some one to …”

And then Rollins took out his gun and shot Dillon dead.

 

Victoria rode the horse along a hill to see the fort – and the mass of dead. Her eyes quickly and dispassionately counted about 200 bodies in front of thew fort – all dead. She had heard sounds of a battle, and that must be the aftermath . She thought about it. Maybe now. No … she would prepare. She maybe something approaching invulnerable, but this was not the time for foolishness.

Just then she heard a gunshot behind her. She turned to see three men standing there.

“Get of your horse, Missy,” commanded the leader, waving a shotgun.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I'm the man with a shotgun pointed at you,” he replied. “We're deputies under a posse comitas seeking to get the Rollins Gang.”

“Ahh.” Victoria nodded. “Seen down the hill?”

“Yes. And we suspect you're some kind of … ”

“There's a fancy military word ain't it?” Victoria wondered aloud. “Sortie. Something. Squad? That the word?”

“Do we look we have any compunction about shooting you, if you do not dismount right now?”

“I am not the girl your looking for. Move on.”

The shot was sudden. It was a truism that it was easy forget that gunfire is instantaneous, that one moment it's normal … the next not.

Victoria saw a large hole in the right side of her stomach. Not too bad, but it was there.

She sighed. Joshua did seem very fond of this shirt. At least it wasn't too bad. It was smoking still from it.

“I suggest you move on, Sirs. Regroup with what men you can and withdraw!”

“What? Shit! Just … fuck!” one of them was having trouble with what his eyes were telling him.

“Regroup and figure out a new solution. That's my advice at least. Good day.”

And with that, Victoria rode off.

 

*****

 

“185 of them,” said Chang. “12 of us.”

Rollins nodded “Good numbers”

They sat in the fort drinking a cup of coffee.

Lecrioux nodded “They sent out some more search parties to find you before the battle . Maybe 15. I don't think we can realistically get all of them”

“No real consequence,” said Rollins. “Send some men out to make sure they don't come back foolhardy, but if they get 'em, they get 'em. ”

Chang sighed. “The bodies?”

“Let's dig a ditch tomorrow, bury em up together.. Anyone feels christian, they can say a word,” said Rollins. “Don't much care, but last thing we need are bears coming in.”

Jo-Bob looked concerned. “Some of them had pocket-watches, and such.”

“Of course,” said Rollins.

Just then, a small man on a horse came up strolling through the bloodied field of battle, but ignoring it. He was an odd looking fellow, but one who had an aura of happiness about his almost dwarfish frame.

Two sentries put their guns up to him almost immediately. A little slower then Rollins would have liked, but well … he wasn't in the military.

 

“Good afternoon” the man said. “Salutations! I want to talk to …”

“Captain Tom Rollins,” said the man himself, walking forward. “Say something that don't make me kill you.”

“If you give me a moment of your time, I have something to discuss with you. In Private. something of great interest. Afterward, well, you can kill me or not..if you wish.”

Rollins nodded

“Pour the man a cup of coffee.”

“Yes, Boss” said Chang

“I'm having one of my better days. I'd like to see how you can make it better”

 

*****

 

“The thing of it is,” explained Ester, “was that they didn't really go after us. They were after the other whitemen, they was their real target.”

“The nature of man is sinful,” intoned Joshua. “So sinful.”

Joshua was having a meeting of his tribe. This used to be restricted only to the men … but with six of them left, why bother?

“Let us consider,” said Chalkis, an man of late middle age . He was now defacto tribal elder. “I say we head north away from them, join up with Soufcoban. They have not abandoned sin, but well … perhaps we will be a good influence.”

It was cold in the early evening, and drizzling. They were in an old wigwam that was decayed, and that was the last of the great nations houses. So little left.

“They will destroy each other” said Ester. “We can stay.”

“I am not inclined to wait,” said Chalkis.

Joshua sighed. “We have lost so much.”

“Did the white woman go?” Chalklis asked. “The one who lost her spirit-mate?”

Joshua nodded. “The way of demons was with her … she is gone to fight the criminals herself. To kill them.”

“She will die by the sword.”

Joshua paused. “You'er right, of course … but … but …”

“There is no but. Let her go and fight, she will only find a hell of her own creation.”

 

*****

 

Victoria rode through the forest, not traveling particularly fast, when she came across a stream.

“Want some water, some grass?” she asked the horse. “I'm not in particular mind to join you.”

But she did get off her horse as it drank. She leaned down and cupped some water. It tasted … hmmm … watery. What does water taste like? It was neither sour nor sweet. It just was. She drank a little more to see if would be better … when she heard another click.

“Stay where you are,” said a man with 9 toes.

She however turned, and saw the pathetic little man.

“What's your name?” she asked.

“I'm asking the questions. Henry. My name is Henry. And I'm a representative of the Rollins gang, and you are in the gangs territory”

“Is there, like, a signpost I missed?” she asked. “Are you alone?”

“I'm the one with the gun. Now you drop yours out your pocket.”

Victoria moved, and dropped the gun to the ground slowly so he could see.

“Wait a second,” he said as he watched. “Do I know you?”

“I don't remember you,” said Victoria … not that it mattered.

She started to walk forward towards him. This may have been a bad move. Her shirt was already damaged and she didn't want to get it damaged any more … .but …

He was startled. He shot.

And completely missed her. The bullet went over her head to the right. Total wiff.

She punched him in the chest.

He flew back five feet and hit a small tree. His body broke into two pieces, almost symmetrical, down the middle.

They continued to fly backwards. One went about 10 feet and hit a rock , the other started spinning a bit in the air getting blood all over the forest before landing.

His head got stuck in a branch on the tree still, with the same dumb look on his face.

She considered it for a moment. She knew from experience that guns were unreliable things – maybe all this time the real problem was fear inside her. It was an interesting thought, as she watched blood drip out of his head and down the tree branch.

 

*****

 

“This is very good coffee,” said the little man. “Excellent for this place. Mainly I get chicory in these parts.”

The cabin itself – the lodge – was fairly nice. It was fitted with several features from an old trading ship that had capsized, and it had European elegance pieces in it, a painting, a table, a bit of carpet. Grubby … but..

“What do you want?” Rollins asked. “This is good coffee, and I hope it's not going to be wasted in a corpse's stomach.”

“Ahh. Well, to the point then,” said the little man. “You have just killed … 200 men.”

“185,” corrected Rollins. “If we're being accurate.”

“Well, still impressive. This was the first Calvary division. There are forces in Boise, and Spokane. 100 or so each. There are forces in Sacramento and San Francisco. But let us say they are all a thousand miles away. Well more accurately, closer to 800.”

“Right.”

The man nodded. “For all practical purposes, there are no more armies, no more men, in the entire northwest territories. None that can be used for attack. You just a finished a war with Mexico … but there is still the ongoing dispute with the British. Fixing your boundaries.”

“46.40 or fight,” said Rollins.

“Catchy,” said the stranger, “Catchy.”

“And you work for the British? Want to make all of Oregon part of Canada?”

“When the government hears about what you did today, they are going to send more men. Within a year, 1000 men will be at your door, and that trick you pulled today will not work twice. No sir. We can offer you protections. If nothing else, if it's British territory, such events won't happen.”

“Right, and how do we go about that?”

“Take Salem. Take Portland. We're planning to send a force to take Spokane and the north. All of it will be conquered and there's nothing more to fight about.”

Captain Rollins, formally a war hero, nodded. “You want me to betray my country.”

“Betray your country? Are you saying this for effect” inquired the figure. “You just killed a US Cavalry troop. Do you think your country will hang you any less for being a mass-murderer? Or any more for being a traitor?”

“You have a point,” agreed Rollins. “What's in it for me, when you have what you want?”

“Don't you want to be first governor of a new territory? Not an outlaw … but a hero? You can rule over it as you wish, as our representative in the area … be …”

“That's good” said Rollins. “For a start.”

 

*****

 

Victoria rode through the forest into the darkness, sitting on her horse motionless as was her new want. She couldn't day-dream anymore. The thoughts of the future or past, or random thoughts of days gone, by seem lost to her. No idle fancy. Just forward.

It started to drizzle. It didn't bother her. She thought for half a second of what she had lost, and that it didn't bother her. She used to have a life. Now all she had was this.

Then she heard a start. A noise. She paused her horse a bit, listening to a second horse come up.

“Hello Joshua,” she said, as he road up on an old brown horse. “Come to join me”

Joshua nodded “When you seek to perform revenge, dig two graves.”

“We're going to need a lot more than that,” observed Victoria, “by the time where done.”

“May god forgive us,” said Joshua. “May god forgive us for our hatred, our anger and our vanity. All of things we are. I join the monsters in the belly of Sodom.”

“Poetic,” said Victoria.

“I knew you were looking for money. We don't have any, but these are some raccoon and deer pelts. I know they can be traded for good coin.”

Victoria nodded. “Do you really think I am a monster?”

She reached out her hand to Joshua. He clasped it in partnership.

“Do you care?”

“No,” Victoria told him. “And yes. Something, somewhere, cares. I should care. I should have some feeling beyond this, and wanting this. I should just jump off a rock into the ocean and die.”

“That would be suicide” warned Joshua, “and you would live forever in purgatory with the unbaptised.”

“Maybe. This … just suicide instead. Maybe we can take some bastards with us at least. Maybe. I do know one thing, my friend.”

“What?” asked Joshua, intrigued.

“We're going to buy you some pants!”

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