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Protection in a Wild Land ~ Chapter 13

Title: Protection in a Wild Land ~ Chapter 13 (Prior)
Author: bubble_cake101
Genre: Historical, romance, slash, war
Summary:  Major Bailey travels West  after the US Civil War to an isolated little fort commanded by a general whose intentions become increasingly suspicious. While there, he also meets a young lieutenant who appears to be hiding something.
Chapter summary: New orders have come in calling for an offensive mission against the Indians.
Rating: PG for this chapter
Warnings: Eventual m/m relationships, violence (individual warnings in chapters) None for this chapter
Feedback always appreciated! Thanks for the feedback so far!

Apologies for the large gap between this chapter and the last but I've just had a ton of exams so there was a lot of revision which took up a lot of time! However, they're all done now so I can get back into this story again! :)

As a recap of what has happened recently in the story, as there was a large gap between this chapter and the last, Taylor (Dandy) has just recovered from collapsing from what appears to be exhaustion and Major Bailey is becoming increasingly concerned and attached to him. Things are still strained around General Prior and Bailey is beginning to see more and more traits about the man he doesn't like, especially related to Taylor and Colonel Dawes.

Chapter 13 ~ Prior

He smiled as he looked out the window late that evening. He could feel his back aching, his arms, his eyes even from all the strain that day, but that didn’t matter. He had been doing this for years – how many, he wondered as he stared out across the parade ground, watched the flag fluttering in the light breeze. Twenty. Yes, twenty years, about that, maybe just more.

He had joined the military age 20, following from a long line of officers in his family. His father had wanted him on the front lines since the beginning, a man who had never got used to being away from the army, not even when he was too sick to possibly continue to lead his men. Prior had become used to seeing them visiting his house when he was a boy, come to see his father, the commander they had so respected and admired. One year, they had visited more and more and it had taken the young Prior a fair while to realise his father was even sicker, becoming ever more so as time went on. He was not the type of man to show weaknesses, didn’t want to be a trouble on anybody else nor himself, and when Prior had visited his room that one last time, he still saw the fight in his father’s eyes.

They had left the house after his father had passed away, his mother not able to tolerate being in it anymore, not with the memories of her husband still there. They had moved to live with Prior’s uncle, another honoured military man. He had picked up where his father had left off, encouraging the growing Prior to join the army, follow in his family’s footsteps. His mother had never had anything to say about it, kept to herself after her husband died. But when Prior found her that one day, told her he was enlisting, he had seen the hints of disappointment – no, not disappointment, defeat – as if she hadn’t done her job correctly. She didn’t want to lose another to the wars, he knew that. So when he left, he promised her that they wouldn’t take him as well. God had taken her husband, He wouldn’t take her son too.

It had been the same since the very beginning. He was put straight into administration, always the recruiter, the staff officer, the quartermaster, the organiser behind the lines, behind the scenes. He had felt his mother’s relief when he wrote the letters to her and she had replied back, the words strung across the page like she was breathing them out in one long sigh that had been kept back for so long. He had enjoyed it at first, thought he had one of the most important jobs in the army, organising everything, making sure everything was where it should be at the right time, but then he started thinking of his father and his uncle, started wondering what they would be thinking. He never heard from his uncle after his first assignment in the army, his mother having moved again to live with her friend, a widow to the war.

He thought that they would be disappointed in him, that they would think he had taken a soft job. They always had many stories of being out in the fields, never hesitated to tell him about those times, but he knew that being where he was, he would never have such stories to tell.

When the Civil War broke out, he thought he might have another chance to get out there, take command and find out for himself what those stories had been all about. But it was still the same, behind the desks. Sometimes he could hear the cannons in the distance, rumbling like thunder over the hills. There were times when he felt safe within the four walls, a different building but always the same inside, and times when he felt relieved that he had been given these jobs, away from the hissing of the musket balls and the stings of the bayonets. But then there were times when his father’s face would come to him again, the fire in his eyes, even as he lay there dying.

Sometimes he ever wondered how he was promoted to brigadier general amongst all that paperwork. But he soon found himself with his own staff, ready to help him as this same paperwork began to build up more and more. Amongst that staff was Dandy, the bright eyed young man, or rather, the bright eyed young boy, as he appeared. He couldn’t have been anything over 19 when he joined him but he was just as good, if not better, than the older members of his staff. They had worked together all through the War and Dandy had been loyal, oh so very loyal. Prior smiled and returned to his desk, sifting through the papers.

This had been what he was good at and that was why he had got so many administrating jobs. The only time had ever got on the field was towards the end of the War, 1864. He had been in the siege of Petersburg and though he could only say that very loosely, he still counted it. They hadn’t actually seen Petersburg until they marched through it and away but they had been there, under General Grant’s command for a few months at least, following General Lee, breaking his lines and trailing him all the way to Appomattox. They had been at the rear but they had been there.

They had been there.

Prior smiled again and looked around the office, appreciating how neat and tidy it looked. Dandy kept it that way, knew his general wanted it like that, always did. It was just one other deed that Dandy had done for him, still ever so loyal. He had requested for the boy to accompany him to Fort DeLacey, had been surprised when he had received the command of it. Well, there had been nothing to command to begin with.

A string of forts had been built in this territory back in 1866, including Fort DeLacey, to protect emigrant travellers down a new road that had been opened up to the Montana gold fields. A commission had gone to Fort Laramie in early 1866 to talk to the Indians about signing a treaty for permission to build the road through their land and there had been promise in them agreeing, until Colonel Carrington and his 18th Infantry showed up, ready to go ahead and build the first fort, Fort Phil Kearny. Red Cloud, the leader of the ‘hostile’, as they were called, Indians of the Powder River Country had been infuriated by their presence, claiming that the soldiers had arrived to build before the Indians could say yes or no.

This, the presence of the army in the area and the string of forts which still appeared over the land, against the wishes of the Indians, was what sparked off what was becoming known as Red Cloud’s War. Fort Phil Kearny had got the worse of it. Ever since the first days of the fort, there had been Indian attacks, small to begin with but none the less annoying, the stealing of the cattle and the horses, the attacks on the wood train designed to bring timber back and forward to the fort and soon, the attacks on the men outside the fort.

The December before, the winter had been the most bitter and harsh winter Prior could remember. All communications had been cut off from the world beyond the stockade of the fort and no supplies could be brought in or out. They were trapped inside, held siege by the weather. It hadn’t been until the snow had weakened had he got any news of Fort Phil Kearny, Fort CF Smith or Fort Reno. By the time he had heard anything, there was hardly anything left of the command at Fort Phil Kearny. The newspapers called it the Fetterman Massacre, a small command being decoyed over a ridge and slaughtered at the hands of thousands of Indian warriors. They were blaming the commander of the fort, Colonel Carrington, and some called him incompetent, unused to action, more focused on the running of his fort than anything else. At Fort Phil Kearny, they had also been held siege – not just by the weather, but by their own mad fears too, terrified of an Indian attack on the fort and knowing that if that happened, they couldn’t hold out.

There had been Indian attacks at his own fort before then, certainly, but nothing more than irritating. He could see the same patterns emerging, the Indians picking off men and cattle and horses, yet he would not let it go any further than that. He would not have happening to Fort DeLacey what had happened at Fort Phil Kearny. Recently, he had seen the attacks get worse and within the fort, he knew the atmosphere wasn’t the best, he would have been stupid not to see that. But he also knew that when they needed to, they would pull together and show the Indians their strength, show them that they wouldn’t suffer like Fort Phil Kearny had. And he, himself, would not get blamed like Colonel Carrington had. Maybe that was what scared him the most.

Prior shook the thought out of his head and told himself he was nothing like Colonel Carrington. He remembered the name, recalled meeting him once in the War, another man behind the desks, but he knew there were vast differences between them. He was one of the most sickeningly prim and proper men Prior had come across and an utmost perfectionist, striving for it almost. Prior wasn’t like that, he insisted that.

And now he was in the process of making sure that another Fort Phil Kearny disaster happened. He would not have his fort famous for being the next one to fall. He would not be blamed.

So, on his desk were the new orders. General Terry wanted an offensive against the Indians, also wanted to prevent history repeating itself. All throughout the past couple of days, he had been busy with Bailey and Dandy, organising and gathering and piecing together everything while trying to keep track of all that the officers said in their meetings. Prior felt a great pride when standing in front of them, knowing that they were speaking because of his orders and also, they were willing, they were just as enthusiastic about them…

Colonel Dawes would lead the men on the offensive mission, he had known that since the beginning, even before any of the meetings. The man had performed his duty time and time again from the day he had arrived at Fort DeLacey and they all adored him. Prior shook his head swiftly, knowing it was not a good time to go down that route. He had read the orders over and over, felt a warm pleasure inside when he looked at them, delight, eagerness, satisfaction but there was something there, something he wanted to be kept hidden from the nagging voice in his mind. They were rather ambitious, regarding how many Indian braves could potentially be out there, as the Fetterman Massacre had shown, but he believed his men could more than handle them. And if they didn’t… He wouldn’t get the blame. He was determined on that. When rereading the orders, something else, something quite different, began to show between the lines. He couldn’t remember whether it had been intentional or not. He was relatively sure it hadn’t.

Prior leant away from the table again and shuffled the orders up, storing them in his desk. Maybe he should reword it, just slightly. But not tonight. He needed some well earned rest.

Prior had given Bailey and Dandy permission to leave, after these past couple of days, and they had left a while ago to the river where they often went together. He knew how close they were now, knew how much Bailey looked after Dandy, and he admired the man for his care, that gentleness in his big, green eyes. How can he be friends with Dawes?

Prior shook his head and firmly told himself to retire for the night. Taking his jacket from the back of his chair, he left the room and started to make his way to his quarters. Somewhere along the way he found himself changing direction and walking through the trees down to the river.

TBC

 


Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
takemetocamelot
Jul. 4th, 2011 12:53 am (UTC)
Hello! ::waves:: I haven't commented so far - sorry about that! - but I've been tracking this story since you posted the first chapter in fictionwriters. :) Just wanted to say I was delighted to see an update in my inbox!

This story is fascinating, and what a lovely cliffhanger you ended this chapter with! Can't wait to see what happens next chapter! :D
bubble_cake101
Jul. 4th, 2011 08:28 am (UTC)
Hi tbere! *waves back* Always nice to see a new face :D
Glad you've been enjoying it so far! I'll be trying to update it more frequently now from now on! ;)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )