June 1775, America
“But women do not fight.” It was a bit late for advice now. She’d made her choice and now she’d have to live with it. Or die with it, Buffy thought ruefully.
She had signed up stupidly three winters previous and agreed to fight the English should a war start. But that was back when the reality of the world hadn’t reached her yet, and at a time when she was desperate to be elsewhere.
She had crept out of her father’s house that night and gone to the forbidden meeting as a man. Edward Lincroft, that had been the name she used. And now she was to become him again, thought this time she might die as him.
“Please, Buffy, don’t go.” Her friend asked again as she watched her tie her hair back with rough string and don her musket.
“How do I look?” Buffy asked, stopping for a moment before she reached the door. Her friend stood up on shaken legs.
“Like a man.” She frowned back, morosely.
“Then all is done.” She breathed before arms draped around her and she embraced her one friend whose family had remained American. A bell sounded in the street, summoning her to her horse. “All is done.”
“Come, boy,” one of the men slapped her hard on the back. Encouragement, she assumed, coughing slightly as she moved quickly to keep up with his steps. “There will be blood before midday. You will have your honour. Patience.”
Buffy shot a look up at him. He had obviously mistaken her nervous carriage for eagerness. Oh, how wrong he was!
Her throat had gone dry, her hands were damp, her legs felt weak; and that was only her reaction to being dressed as Edward, never mind the war. She could barely see above the blue-clad shoulders of the thirty or so men around her all laughing jovially as they headed towards a battle that could cause an end before a middle.
“Where are we going?” She asked, as they left the streets behind and continued on foot.
“To meet them where they land,” another man growled back. “They’ll not poison our land with their presence for long.” There was a scar already on his face, and a fresh wound against his neck, but he was three feet higher than her, she was sure. If he had been injured in battle then she was sure to be flattened.
She let out a feeble groan and looked away. She preferred looking at her feet. It made her less aware of how soon she was going to die.
The man in front of her stopped abruptly and she found herself flattened against his body before able to stand upright. She looked around. Everything had stopped, everyone was stood, and everyone was ready for battle… Except her.
Out of breath she tried to see beyond the people and the grass, but she could see nothing but grassland. Maybe they had gone home.
All the men went silent and began to spread out. Buffy blinked; there were far more men than she had first thought. These English did not stand a chance.
“Boy, get out of the way!” A man growled, pushing her behind him to take her place. She was forced to the back, peering through the blue and green to a dash of red beyond.
A foreign accent called out loudly and unafraid. “Stand down and disperse.”
“Stand down and disperse.” It called again, louder. Buffy strained to see more.
“What’s going on?” She whispered to a tall man next to her.
He peered down at her and frowned for a moment before responding. “The British want us to leave.”
Buffy blinked and shifted from foot to foot. “Surely there is no need for war. They should go.”
The man laughed. “Indeed.”
A cry was let out from the men.
“What has happened?” She asked hopefully, as everyone began to move. “Is it over?”
He laughed and lifted his musket, readying it in a final preparation. “No. It is just begun.”
Buffy let out a breath and felt her stomach turn. She swung her gun round and played with the holes and balls just as she saw the other men doing until the young man took it from her.
“Here,” he said, passing it back a few moments later. “Just pull this back when you want to fire. Then move this and fire again. By then you will be on your own.” Buffy swallowed held onto the metal tightly. “Do you have a blade?” He asked, frowning at her.
“Yes.” She croaked back, indicating the dagger at her side.
He furrowed his brow and rested a hand to her shoulder. “What is your name?”
“Eli-Edward Lincroft.” She coughed as all went silent again.
“I am Robert Mortimer. Lincroft, you are about to get a taste of war. Stay with me and you may get another.”
Buffy’s face hit the dirt hard as she dived upon seeing the smoke from another firing. That had to be the last, she was sure! The shouts of war all about her, she held a bloodied dagger as if all her life depended upon it. Thank God for Mortimer! Were it not for him, she would have died long ago.
“We are outnumbered by far,” she choked as Mortimer dived next to her and there was a crack overhead.
“Yes,” he said, wiping blood from his brow before it blinded him.
“Are you so fearless?” She breathed, readying herself to go back over.
“We fight for freedom in this mud. Our numbers mean nothing; we have right on our side.”
Buffy arched her back and tipped her head back to see the field as it remained. None left on horseback. Muskets cast aside, the men fought sword to sword. The British were like madmen, and though they fought back, the redcoats swarmed again, bloodthirsty for more. She paused to spy a man with a bloodied face and chest without uniform as he stabbed two men at once and revelled in his triumph, short, light hair dripping with his success. “Are you stupid?”
He laughed and caught his breath a moment before turning and charging over the mound. A few moments later she joined him. Whatever it was that was causing them to fight in this way, she knew she had reason enough to fight for Mortimer at least.
A man swung at her and knocked her to the ground. Hot pain splintered in her jaw as she dropped her dagger and spat blood. She flipped her head back just in time to see his sword stab down inches from her.
Scrambling to her feet, she slipped in the mud and fell inches from the dagger. He cried out again as he lifted his blade, ready to swing, and once again Buffy found herself inches from its fury.
She pushed herself up and ran as he moved to follow her, reaching out in time to grab a cluster of her hair and rip it with the string from her hair. She cried out and fell down upon the body of a man.
Thinking fast, she reached for the blade within his hand and forced herself to her feet just in time to push his sword from hitting her and slide her own blade deep into his flesh, shouting out with her own cry.
She watched him choke and blood dribble from his mouth, but held firm, falling with him even as he fell to the ground. She waited for him to die before taking calming gulps of air and blinking in the realisation that she was still alive.
Every part of her that ached and stung, she ignored. Spurred on by a new determination, she rose once again, sword and dagger in hand, and charged deeper into battle.
Buffy screamed as another fell to the ground by her hand. Time seemed endless, this battle seemed endless. No matter how many fell there were always more. But she was part of it, and she would live her part while she could.
Laughter resonated from behind her and she turned to see the mad, wild, bare-chested man she had seen revelling in the bloodshed before. This time his piercing eyes were fixed on her. Despite herself she swallowed.
Taking a quick breath, she lunged forwards, screaming, but he deflected her blades as if she was nothing, and laughed all the harder when she felt into the mud.
“Come on, boy. Give me something to remember you by. After all, you are going to be the smallest man I’ve killed.” Buffy pushed herself up and, with bared teeth, charged again, this time turning just in time and catching his arm.
She looked back to see his reaction and watched him taste his own blood. “Seriously, not buying the whole warrior thing yet. Why don’t you try holding a man’s sword, or can’t you carry it?”
She ran for him but he flipped her, this time tapping her backside with his foot as she passed him.
“Fight me!” She yelled, glaring at him, trying to move her hair from her face so that she could see, sword and dagger raised.
“Bold words, boy. Are you sure you want to die just yet?” He asked, stepping forwards without lifting his blade.
“Fight me like a man!”
He looked at her and frowned for a moment, unable to quite make out what was different after the boy he fought.
“Fight me like a man!”
And then it came to him.
She charged again but he tripped her up, falling down on top of her and pinning her hands to the ground. She tried to move but he was too strong.
“Could say the same to you, pet,” he grunted, shifting a little on top of her just to check. “Missing something?”
END OF PART ONE