March Of The Cameron Men
There's many a man of the Cameron clan
that has followed his chief to the field.
He has sworn to support him or die by his side
for a Cameron never can yield.
I hear the piper sounding, sounding
deep o'er the mountain and glen,
while light footsteps are trampling the heather,
‘tis the march of the Cameron men.
Oh, proudly they walk, but each Cameron knows
he may tread on the heather no more,
but boldly he follows his chief to the field
where his laurels were gathered before.
The moon has arisen it’s shinning
on the path trod by gallant and true.
High, high are their hopes, for their chieftain has said whatever Cameron dare, they can do.
The Celtic Knot
Verdun, France, June 11th 1916
The smell of last nights rain still hung in the air, but even that fresh smell could not disguise the stench of burning flesh or the bitter tang of smoldering trees. Rebecca had been awake for hours crawling, dragging her aching body through the deep black mud. The trench she had taken refuge in the night before had become a bed for the river of oil, blood and feces. She wanted so badly to stand and walk or even run, if she only had the strength and the nerve. She stared ahead, along the black walls of the trench; bodies were stacked or sprawled in contorted shapes, each one tattooed with bloody red badges. Over the edge of the trench she heard the sound of the occasional rifle shot in the distance and she knew that with the rising of the grey dawn the fighting would start again.
Passing body after body did not bother her anymore, she had become so use to seeing the dead that she no longer feared the cold gray corpses, in a way, she envied them, at least they were free of fear.
A sarcastic smile crept across her face as she thought of death as freedom; things had changed a lot since she had taken up arms and joined the fight.
The second daughter of an old, Scottish family, Rebecca had wanted to follow her brothers when they had joined the military back in 1914, but as a girl she had been turned away. So she and her sister had done the next best thing, they received medical training and had volunteered to aid with the wounded. While her sister had remained in Scotland, but she had volunteered to go with a unit of the Black Watch, straight into the very heart of battle, Verdun in France.
At first it had been gratifying, knowing that she could provide comfort to those brave, and often, dying soldiers evacuated from the front lines. But, now, more often, she found that her face was the last one they saw.
She had been stunned, horrified by the brutality of the injuries. Times were changing and man had certainly developed; he had become quite creative in the art of war, constantly devising new and better tools to bring about horrible injury and death to his fellow man.
As the war dragged on and the numbers of dead grew, Rebecca found herself numbed to the sites of missing limbs and bloody stumps, of torn bodies and the cold face of death. Now she found herself appreciative of that pain ending angel. Death had become her ally. It was no longer the numbing horror that the sights of the dying brought, but anger and frustration as she realized her training and aid was no longer enough. No matter how hard she tried, the injured continued to die. She wanted to do more, but how.
One evening, as she sat quietly writing at her desk in the barn that served as the aid station for the British, Scottish and Belgium troops, a young man was brought in. Even lying on the stretcher she could tell that he was tall and slender. The dim light of the interior revealed a shock of red hair as dark as her own. He made no sound, no moaning of pain or discomfort, he had not moved once, even when he was badly jostled as the stretcher bearers hurriedly rolled him onto the first available cot.
Rebecca moved closer, curious to see what had brought this silent soldier to the aid station. She held a lamp high shining a light on the still figure on the canvas bed, slowly she approached noticing for the first time the blood tangled with the red of his hair close to his ears and the hairline at his neck.
‘He must have a head injury, that would explain his silence.’ she though edging towards the bed.
As she drew closer, she raised her lamp, the light initially showed her what she had suspected. The soldier had a terrible wound, he had been shot in the face, the entire lower half of it was missing. To add to that horrendous injury, the parts that remained appeared to be burned raw by the effects of heavy mustard gas. His nose, eyelids and the flesh of his forehead all swollen and red seeming to melt into the hole that had been his mouth and chin.
The lantern in Rebecca’s hand trembled causing the light to dance across the mutilated features of the young man’s face. It wasn’t fear that made her hand shake, but anger. How could people do this to each other she wondered?
Turning she went to her work station to retrieve fresh bandages, a shallow bowl of clean water and some swabbing alcohol. Returning to the still form on the cot she knelt and began unbuttoning the mans’ shirt. It was covered in dirt and some bits of flesh and blood, but otherwise was undamaged. Apparently the soldier must have fallen back immediately when he had been hit and most of the blood from his injury had run into his hair and ears. The burning effect of the mustard gas had actually acted as a cauterizing agent, sealing the worst of his injuries enough to slow the flow of blood, this had kept him alive, though she doubted he would have wished it. She imagined his face before the bullet had torn away the lower half of it. His skin was pale white with creamy freckles in places that had been spared by both bullet and gas. If he had been able to open his eyes she imagined they would be green.
She poured alcohol into the bowl of water then added several of the large bandages, carefully twisting the gauze she used the damp cloth to gently wipe away the caked blood on the young mans face. As she worked she began humming a soothing children’s lullaby, it had become a habit for her whenever she needed to concentrate. She focused on the tune and blocked out everything else, here mind a blank slate, clean of emotion, clean of fear, clean of hate.
As she worked she failed to notice the pale white hand that slowly lifted from the cot and reached for her hands. She jumped when the cold waxy gray fingers wrapped around her wrist. Staring down at those dirty fingers with their torn nails she realized that her patient was awake. Her humming stopped and her eyes traveled slowly down the length of the slender arm, up the shoulder and on past the blood and tissue that covered the young mans’ neck. Finally, fearfully they moved past the gaping hole and on to where his eyes should be. As she watched, the damaged flesh tore and clear red fluid leaked from the pit that held a sad green eye. As that battered face turned towards her she heard a sound, a moan resonating from the body, a heart wrenching plea to be left alone, to die with dignity.
Her hands hesitated as she and the young man, more a boy than a man, stared at each other. She understood what he wanted and though her heart agreed, she knew she should continue. Lifting his trembling hand from her arm she lowered it back to the cot and began again to wipe away the blood. As she reached his torn eye socket she saw that the green orb had rolled back. She threw the bloody gauze into the bowl and lowered her head to his chest, her ears straining to hear the thudding beat of a heart. Nothing. She quickly unbuttoned his shirt; dragging away the blood splattered tan cloth and placed her ear directly on his dirty undershirt, still nothing.
She sat there like that, her head on the dead boy man’s chest for what may have been minutes but felt like eternity. Finally she raised her head and looked down at the now tear soaked shirt and sighed. Another dead boy, another child that would not go home and, she imagined, another mother to grieve.
Slowly Rebecca stood, picking up the bowl of red tinted water she went back to her station exhausted.
Eve Cameron sat at the head of an intricately carved oak table; she stared down at the thick sheath of paper in her hand it had been accompanied by a small dark brown box. She knew what both contained as soon as she opened the great manor door and stared out at the soldier in the British uniform. Behind him she had seen a car with a driver waiting, the engine still running. The soldier saluted sharply, handing the small package to the lady of the manor before turning and heading back to the car, he had many, many more stops to make he though sadly.
Eve sat in the heavy chair, its ancient leather back bearing the coat of arms of the Cameron clan; in her hands she held the clan’s future. One hand slowly lifted the lid of the small box, exposing the bronze plaque to the evening sun.
"Dear Sir or Madam, we regret to inform you that your son…", Eve did not need to read the rest she knew what it would say. Her husband, Lord Charles Cameron, a Colonel in the 154th Brigade of the 51st Highlands, had fallen; he was not coming home, ever. Somehow, she felt it was for the better and in her heart she was relieved.
Charles at one time had been a good man, a gentle man, but, at first, he had been no different than any other twelve year old. A true free spirit, he had spent his inheritance as if money sprang from the garden grounds. He had flirted outrageously and flaunted his many mistresses in front of her at every opportunity. She had not cared, she had a son to raise and he kept her happy and very busy. That son was now in the United States living with her parents and living far away from the dangers of war.
Charles had though that the war would be a great adventure, and opportunity to prove himself, but that had all changed. On his last visit home, the womanizing fun loving clown she had grown to know, and love, was gone. The man that returned had been hardened; he laughed less often and took every opportunity to show her how much he cared for her. They had grown closer than they had ever been before and she had begun to learn to truly love the man. But soon the nightmares came bringing with them, sudden bouts of anger and violence. Finally it was these things that pushed her away, kept her at a distance and torturing him when he realized that he had lost control.
It had been a relief for them both when his leave ended. He seemed anxious to return to his unit and to the horrible task of killing. Their final evening together had be one of long conversations and slow love. She knew then, deep in her heart that he would not be coming home again.
Now, with Charles dead, and she, again resumed the responsibility of maintaining the estate for her son, the heir to the Cameron clan and all, however small, that heritage may entail.
Sighing, she folded the crisp clean letter and placed it back into the envelope; she picked it up along with the death plaque and moved to the library. There she took the keys from her pocket and opened the desk drawer, she slipped both into the center drawer, closed it, locked it and slipped the key back into her pocket. Turning she glanced back at the silent room taking one last look at a memory, then quietly left, pulling the door shut behind her.
Rebecca stared into the mirror the face that reflected there seemed so different. Her hand reached up gently brushing down the red curls, her hair looked so different short. Green eyes stared first at the strands of red curls that lay in the sink, then to the dresser top in front of the mirror, where a thick braid of dark red hair lay, tied with the green velvet ribbon. Her neck felt funny without the weight of her hair, but to do what she needed to do the hair had to go.
Turning from the mirror she reached for the several rolls of bandages. She walked into her small bedroom, knowing after countless months of living in the small cramped space where everything was in the dim candle light. She slowly unbuttoned her blouse and slipped her arms from soft cotton chemise, picking up the bandages she slowly, gently began wrapping them around her breasts pulling them tight. That done she reached for the white undershirt followed by the tan trousers and matching shirt. Sitting on the bed she slipped her feet into heavy wool socks, then strapped on the canvas like leggings and short dark brown boots. Standing she walked back to the bathroom mirror and looked in, looking back at her was a handsome young man with large green eyes and thick lashes. She smiled looking at her reflection and thought, for the first time, that her plan may work. She reached down and picked up the identification, the young red-haired soldier who had died on Rebecca’s watch had provided her with a new name, Robert Edward Childress, ` Corporal, 16th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry.
"Just call me Reb" she said, trying to lower her voice. Turning her body she tried to see herself from the rear as she walked away, this made her realize how tight the pants were in the seat.
"Humm, cute bottom and no ladies around to admire it, real shame, yes sir, a real shame." She grinned at her reflection forgetting for the moment exactly why she was dressed in such a manner.
That had been six months ago, long before she joined her unit, long before she had gotten separated from them in a hail of grenades, bombs, gas and bullets. Now she remembered exactly why she had wrapped her breasts, donned a uniform and joined the ranks, she had wanted to do something besides wait for men to come and die.
Now that she was on the front she could help ease the suffering, or so she thought. ‘How naive I was, to think I could make a difference by coming to the front. Now I know the only difference I can really make is with my rifle and a great deal of luck.’
Reb pushed herself along the muddy river hoping to find a point where she could safely leave the trench and search for her unit. At one point, she thought of sacking the whole thing and turning herself in to the first Allied Officer she saw, but then she though, ‘Why? No sense in going back home, there was nothing there she wanted. Even before she began her masquerade as a man, she had lost those that mattered most to her. Her family was scattered to the winds and she was not even sure if anyone had survived the war so far. Her whole world had changed; people that she had come to care about were dying. Now her only thoughts were to find her unit and kill the enemy.
She slid a bit further along the trench careful to keep a grip on her rifle sling and to keep the barrel up out of the black ooze. The sun had finally come up and the day had changed from the dark grey of twilight to the dull grey of dawn. Ahead of her, a body blocked her path, a French soldier lay on his back, his rifle still gripped in his hands, his face frozen with the shock of death, his throat had been torn away.
Reb stopped long enough to search his body for ammunition before she crawled over him and continued on. The trench she lay in was between La Morte Homme and Cumieres, close to the city of Verdun. She knew that they had to hold the line here, stop the Germans here, if they got past her and the others and took Verdun, Paris would be lost.
Ahead she heard voices, French voices, she thought in relief. The trench seemed to get wider and deeper here and she found she could stand in a crouch and shuffle along the trench. The dirt was much firmer underfoot now, and up ahead she spotted the soldiers she had heard earlier. She squinted her eyes trying to see the shoulder patch; they wore a patch she recognized. This was the French sister unit, to her lost unit. She grinned in relief when she saw them, but the grin faded quickly when she realized that they were farther away than she first though.
She felt her shoulders slump with exhaustion as she took a moment to leaned forward resting her hands on her knees and catching her breath. That was when she heard the first of them, a shrill screaming whistle that seemed to echo off of the trench walls. She glanced up and saw the French soldiers fix bayonets in preparation of a charge, just then the whistling stopped and the black soot and grime of the battered earth around her flew into the air as the round impacted. Reb was thrown back by the force; the wind knocked from her lungs as she hit the ground hard. She sat up, shaking the dirt from her short hair, the palms of her hands were skinned and bruised from the landing but she still had her rifle. Quickly, her eyes darting around for the steel helmet that had been torn from her head, seeing it several feet behind her, she crawled toward it as she heard more rounds coming in. Grabbing her helmet she slammed it on her head, slipped the chinstrap down under her chin and turned to run back towards the other soldiers. As she ran she felt the earth erupting beneath her feet as if hundreds of small volcanoes had some how all selected that moment to belch out in anger.
As she ran her eyes took in the site before her, a site her mind refused to believe. The men, an entire platoon of soldiers, were gone! There was nothing there but a wall of dirt.
Reb slowed to a stop her arms suddenly too heavy to lift as her rifle slipped to the ground. Stunned by what she saw, her legs gave under her and she collapsed onto her hands and knees. Crying silently she lifted her head to stare at the black wall of dirt that had once been a trench filled with men. As the tears crawled down her dirty cheeks she tried to put her thoughts together, where to now? For a moment the heavy shelling had stopped, an eerie quiet replaced the explosions. There were no birds, no soldiers talking, no sounds at all just a deathly calm. That was when she heard the scratching, staring at the wall she gasped as a small avalanche of dirt rolled down the side, piling in a mound at the base. As she watched the wall moved, first a hand, then an arm wiggled its way out of the dirt. The hand clawed at the black dirt that imprisoned it, trying to dig itself free. Grabbing her rifle again, Reb crawled forward, scrambling to help, she took the hand in hers, squeezing it to let the soldier know that she was there. They had to work together, if he was to live, they had to dig together. She slipped her pack from her back and laid her rifle on it; quickly she pulled her small trench shovel free and attacked the wall. The soldier continued to flail away at the dirt, now an arm and shoulder were free, soon a neck and face. They were going to do it, they would make it. The soldier smiled at her and she grinned back, happy to have another living thing with her. Then it started again, the huge German guns, far away, loud, destructive and uncaring. The shelling seemed even worse, the dirt heavier, each shovel full, each hand full, was quickly replaced by the dirt that rained down on them, a result of the heavy bombardment. First his face was gone, then the arm was buried again; the hand frantically scratched at the earth, then slowed its efforts, finally stopping, hanging limp and lifeless, like the naked white root of a dead tree. Reb threw down her shovel and grabbed the filthy hand; feeling for a pulse, a tiny thread of life beating, beating, beating…nothing.
"NO!" she screamed aloud, throwing her head back to scream again at fate and to the mindless rounds that continued to land around her. As the tears streamed down her face she dropped her head, shaking the dirt from her hair and spitting the clots from her mouth. Anger turned her world from gray to red as she looked for her rifle, realizing for the first time, that she was being buried as well. Seeing only a small portion of the rifle butt still visible through the dirt she reached down and struggling, pulled it free. Tapping it with the shovel she knocked most of the dirt from it then slung it over her shoulder. Tossing the shovel aside she abandoned her pack and ran. She didn’t look back, so she didn’t see the rain of dirt cascade down covering the limp white hand, nor did she see the bayonets gleaming in the sun like flashing deadly headstones that now mark the grave of thirty nine men.
Reb ran in anger and fear, she had become mindlessly furious, as she ran she reached for her bayonet, with a twist she fixed it to her rifle snatching the sheath off and tossing in to the ground. Coming to the end of the trench she was forced to stop, this war was insanity, men died for inches of dirt that was so littered with bodies of deadly debris that it useless to anyone. She had come here to help and by god she would do something. Sucking in the bitter air, Reb collected her thoughts, she saw no options. To the rear was Paris, to the front was the enemy, there was only one way to go.
She removed her helmet and ran her fingers through her wet hair. Pushing the curls back from her face she replaced her helmet and steeled herself for what was coming. She had no delusion of her next action; she did not expect to return from this one woman charge. Closing her eyes she inhaled deeply grit her teeth and screaming. Crawled over the edge and into the open Rebecca scrambled to her feet and charged forward, as she moved she heard and felt nothing, not the bullets slipping past her ears, pulling on her short red hair, nor the shells exploding around her. She only saw the barbed wire and the glitter of the Pickelhaube helmets worn by the Germans.
Suddenly, a flicker of movement caught her eye, she slowed her charge and she glanced off to the far right. What she saw almost made her stop her mad, head long charge. A unit of black soldiers crawled over the barbed wire; they seemed to spring from the earth by the hundreds. These heroic men carried with them a strange flag, red white and blue, the flag of France with a large bloody red hand centered on the white stripe and a small American flag over the dark blue stripe.
Their faces were black with dirt their uniforms covered, like hers, in mud, dirt and blood, but it was the sheer determination she saw there that drew her to them. Laughing she veered over towards them adding her voice to theirs; they saw her coming and waved her in. Now she was surrounded by like minded men, they cut through the dirt of the battlefield like a hot knife through butter. Ahead of her she saw a second flag, this one said New York National Guard, these were American soldiers fighting under a French command. She did not care, they were all dying here together, black and white, French, and Scots, Polish, and American, and today, today many German. ‘As many as it would take to silence those uncaring guns.’ She thought.
In the thrill of the charge she never felt the first round that cut through her side, nor the second one that shattered her thigh bone and dropped her in her tracks.
It had taken her some time, and many sleepless night before Eve had a settled on a plan to save the land and the manor. With the fighting so close, safe medical facilities were needed. The governments of the Allies would provide supplies, security and food for all who supported the war effort by offering their homes to the wounded. So her plan was very simple, she would open a care center for the injured and wounded. The government would provide for her and whomever she had assisting her.
As a hospital, however temporary, she and the manor would be protected. Her son would stay in America until after the war then return to her and home that remained relatively untouched. Yes, it could work, it had to work.
She had submitted her information to the Commander of the Allied forces in France and England and had received, with their reply, medical supplies, beds and food for herself and her patience. Initially she had been apprehensive of opening her home to strangers and leaving herself vulnerable to these strange men, but once she received her first patient all her fears dissolved.
Sitting next to the bed Eve stared down at the wounded soldier, she had been told that the young woman had been found on the battlefield among the bodies of soldiers of the 369th, a unit of black Americans assigned to the French. She was dressed as a boy and had been critically injured in a valiant charge on a German artillery site. The men of the unit had patched up the injuries well enough to slow the bleeding and had rushed her to the rear. The bullet wounds, scrapes, blisters, torn hands spoke of the hardships she had endured, and bloody face made it difficult to see what she really looked like. Eve assessed her patient, she could tell that the young woman was slender whether that was from the poor living conditions of trench warfare of if that were her normal body weight, she could not guess. What she had noticed was that the woman was very well built and what skin was left, undamaged or discolored with bruises, was very fair.
Now she sat at the stranger’s side impatiently waiting to see if green eyes went along with the short deep red hair. Temptation forced her to reach up and gently brush the curls back from the warm forehead, as she did so the dark lashes fluttered and the dull green eyes suddenly focused on hers. Eve looked into those confused eyes and, for an instant, lost herself in their depth. Smiling she spoke in a very soft Scottish burr.
"Hi, my name is Eve. You are in my home; you have been here for a few days now." The confusion did not leave the green eyes.
Eve spoke again hoping to soothe the worried look. "You are safe here. You are in Scotland, France and the war are very far away."
Rebecca had no idea what had happened only that one minute she had been in a trench crawling over a dead soldier and the next she was in a bed with an angel bending over her.
"How? How long?" Asked a harsh dry whisper
"How long have you been here? Is that what you want to know?" the angel asked.
Rebecca tried to nod her head, exhausted by even that small effort.
"Three days, you have been here for three days." Eve spoke slowly unsure if the soldier would understand. She stared at the green eyes for several minutes before she realized they were staring back. Embarrassed for being caught staring, she reached for a glass and the pitcher of cold water resting in a bowl on the nightstand. After filling the glass, she set the pitcher down. Carefully she slipped one hand under the soft red curl of the beautiful woman’s head and with the other hand lifted the glass to dry lips.
"Drink this; it will make your throat feel better." Eve said.
Still staring at the angel above her, Rebecca drank slowly, not believing her eyes until she felt the cool water flow over her tongue and ease down her throat. The refreshing fluid seemed to wash the sand from her vocal cords.
"My unit, do you have any idea what happened to them anything about the men? Are they alive?" Rebecca asked, her voice still a harsh sound but at least now it was a bit more familiar.
She watched sadness darken the deep blue eyes of the young woman.
"I was told that your unit, the others, are gone, you were the only one they found. The soldiers who brought you here said that you had joined a unit of Americans but they had no idea where you came from. They assumed you had been separated somehow, from your unit but they didn’t know who you were. An American medical unit brought you here because you couldn’t stay in the hospital with the men and they had no facilities for women."
Eve paused here letting the soldier absorb this information. "Do know that there was a search conducted for you unit. I’m sorry but they are all gone. I was told that they had died in their trench just before a charge. That is all I know." Eve watched the frown appear on the woman’s face as she struggled absorbing this information. Hoping to distract her from the struggle she added, "You are my first patient, and you have been asleep for some time now. I was beginning to worry that you may sleep through the rest of the year." She added hoping to lift the gray thoughts from the troubled soldiers mind.
Rebecca smiled sadly, then tried to sit up; as she moved a pain shot through her, from her toes to her leg, up her hips to her spine, tearing a scream from her lips.
Stunned by the sound Eve watched the tears spring into the green eyes and anxiety made her reach for the laudanum. It wasn’t much, but it was all she had, medical supplies were very limited after so many years of fighting. She had been promised more by the medical unit but there were so many larger hospitals with more in need than her small facility.
Carefully she poured out a spoonful; gently lifting the wounded woman’s head again she slipped the spoon past pale trembling lips. That done, she pulled the blanket up over the trembling form, then reached out to the side lamp and dimmed the flickering light.
As she pulled a chair closer to the bed and sat down she took the battered hand in hers, stroking the long fingers her mind searched for some topic to lighten the mood.
"What’s your name?" she asked the silently crying woman.
"Rebecca, my name is Rebecca."
It took weeks for the soldier to heal. Eve watched her progress, pleased to see that her charge was recovering so well. The bruises gradually changed from red to blue to green and had begun to slowly fade away. The swelling in her leg had receded and the shattered leg bone began to heal.
Each day now she seemed to get stronger and Eve had begun helping her to move from her bed to a chair on the sunny lawn of the garden. The healthy growth of green grass and the sounds of living things gradually worked to bring color back to the pale face. The warmth of the sun shine tanned Rebecca’s skin to a soft creamy tan, freckles appeared, dancing across a rather straight nose.
After weeks of medicine, poking and prodding, the medical unit’s doctor had finally released her from their care telling Eve that she was out of danger but needed to allow her leg to heal. In addition to this good news, Eve was relieved to know that no charges would be filed against Rebecca; she would be allowed to stay until her injuries had healed completely and then discharged from the Army.
While she recovered, several wounded soldiers that had been with Reb in her one woman charge, stopped by to visit. They sat in the garden, sometimes for hours, talking about the battle and the war. Eve would sometimes hear laughter coming from the garden, other times it was silent, once she had looked out to see what had happened and was stunned to see Reb being held as she cried into a comforting shoulder of one of the black troopers. The other men hung their heads as if stunned into silence. A strange knot filled her chest and threatened to choke her as she swallowed. Slowly she backed out of view, promising herself to leave the soldiers to their privacy in the future.
The visits aside, Eve discovered that the more she watched her charge the more she wanted to watch. Each morning began the same, up early preparing a warm breakfast of tea and biscuits for herself and her charge. Then it was outside, into the sun, with a blanket and a foot warmer against the chill of the early morning mist. If she felt up to it, they would have a slow stroll around the garden then back to the house for lunch and rest. The evenings were spent with Eve reading aloud from one of many novels that Rebecca had selected from the library.
Each day, the two women grew closer, and Eve felt the first tantalizing hints of love. Her heart seemed to skip when the deep soft voice of the soldier spoke her name. She found herself stammering when she looked into the sad green eyes. She was amazed when she noticed the same responses and reactions from the beautiful soldier, it seemed that their meeting was destiny, now; she wanted it to be forever.
Rebecca had been with Eve for almost a month and found herself slowly drawn to the dark haired woman. Each evening she used the excuse of exhaustion to lure Eve to her side to read to her. The books she had selected were all well known to her but the times she shared with Eve in the evenings had become the one thing that drove the demons away at night.
As she sat out in the garden late one evening she considered her future. August was fast approaching and the days had lengthened and warmed, they were able to spend more time together in the evenings watching the sun set and the day end. She found her strength returning and knew that some decisions needed to be made and soon. She realized that the military knew the truth of her gender and there would be no slipping back to the front. The question now became how she could help in the efforts and was there a way to do that and keep Eve in her life. She could ask to stay on at the hospice and help Eve with the wounded, she knew how and her experience in combat may help some poor soul survive.
In the house Eve was replacing the novel they had finished last night and had selected the next book from the slowly shrinking pile that Rebecca had chosen. What could she do to keep the red haired soldier here? Maybe she could use the excuse of needing help with the wounded that would surely be arriving soon. It wasn’t really a lie, she knew that sooner or later she would need an extra set of hands. Taking care of Rebecca alone had tested her strength and patience, more soldiers with more severe injuries would require help if they were to survive. Time was short, she knew that Rebecca was feeling stronger each day and she would want to return to helping in the cause. She needed to do something soon or she would lose the beautiful soldier.
Neither woman even considered the attraction for the other as strange or different; in these times one had to take love in any form that they could find, tomorrow it might be gone in a billowing cloud of mustard gas or the earth shattering explosion of the artillery shells.
That night, the two sat side by side in front of the fire in the great room, Rebecca, dressed in late Lord Cameron’s pajamas and robe sat in a heavy chair, cocooned in blankets, facing the fire. On a foot stool at her knees Eve sat in a deep rose colored day dress, a book open on her lap unread, the words running together incoherently.
"Rebecca, umm Reb? I…I, have been thinking, umm, you know the military knows that you are a woman and…" Eve began.
"Eve, the Army knows I am a woman so I thought perhaps…" Rebecca began at the same time.
"Oh, I am sorry Eve, please continue." The redhead stammered apologetically.
"No, you first." Eve said somewhat relieved to get a break in what she feared would be a rather delicate topic.
"No, you go ahead." Rebecca smiled hoping that Eve would not see the blush that tinted her cheeks. "I insist." She added.
"Well, Rebecca, Reb, I was thinking that, since the military knows you are a woman, you won’t be able to rejoin your unit. So maybe you can stay here and help me." She began dropping her eyes to the open book in front of her. Hoping to find some rescue there, she was surprised to hear the soft deep voice murmer.
"Huh, it would appear that we think alike." Eve heard the smile in the redheads’ voice and peeked up to see Reb smiling at her. She leaned forward, her eyes captured by the flickering firelight dancing in the green eyes and off soft creamy skin. Her hands move up slowly to brush back the burnished red curls and to draw the other woman closer.
Rebecca felt the hands combing through her hair and her body tingled alive with anticipation. She wanted this, it may only be a single stolen moment in this brutal time but it would be a sweet lasting memory. She leaned into the kiss as their lips met. She felt the soft tip of a tongue brush her lips and she opened to allow it access. Her eyes fluttered closed as lights danced behind her lids, the fire racing from her lips to her loins echoed the fire in the hearth.
Eve felt the other woman tremble as a bolt of sexual energy raced through her body. She felt her hand bury itself in the soft red hair as she pulled Rebecca closer. She felt her other hand rise as if pulled by some invisible thread, her fingers traced there way up onto soft arm, across broad shoulders and down a delicate collar bone, down to cup a full soft breast. Gently she felt the weight of it settle in her hand, she felt the other woman’s heart hammering under her finger tips as she gently squeezed.
Rebecca felt her heart thundering in her temples when the small hand caressed her breast. She felt her skin tingle with anticipation and her nipple harden with need, want and desire. She wanted this, she wanted the love. She wanted to feel this woman under her, over her, inside her. She wanted to feel again.
Eve slowly pulled away from Rebecca, her hands sliding away from the heated body down long arms to hold chilled hands, her eyes searching the dark green in front of her, looking for rejection. Slowly she stood, the book sliding from her lap to the heavy carpet in front of the hearth. Gently, she helped Rebecca to her feet, careful of her healing leg. She drew the other woman to center of the carpet, the heat of the fire adding to her overheated body. Hands reached up to push back the blankets, catching them as the fell from broad shoulders. She turned and lay the blankets on the carpet, arranging them in a warm nest, she returned and led the taller woman to the center of the pile, turning her to face the fire. With her eyes on Rebecca’s face she slowly untied the robe letting the belt fall free, slowly she unbuttoned the pajama top and push it and the robe from the tall soldier’s body. Her hands followed the material as it fell, but stopping at the small waist and gently sloping hips, allowing the robe and top to crumple at their feet. Her eyes remained for a moment locked with Rebecca’s, praying to see acceptance, then slowly, they lowered taking in the full breasts, the nipples peaked, begging to be tasted. Eve felt her hands touch the edges of the pajama bottoms, her fingers working loose the button at the waist, her mind filled with jumbled thoughts, of fear, of joy, of excitement and confusion. She felt the bottoms fall away.
Rebecca laid one hand gently on Eve’s shoulder to steady herself as she stepped out and away from the clothes, then brought her hand up to caress a soft cheek her eyes saying what her voice could not. She felt Eve step away and for a moment her heart dropped, she watched with fear as the brunette’s eyes traveled from her face downward, the look of hunger she saw there renewed her hopes.
Eve could not stop herself; she had to see what her imagination had been teasing her with. Slowly she allowed her gaze to drop, savoring each new discovery as a thirsty man would a drink of fresh water. She paused at the beautiful breasts, the puckered nipples seeming to strain for her lips, her eyes traveled past the slender waist down the curve of hips to the glistening damp amber curls, there her searching eyes stopped. She felt arms wrap around her pulling her closer as she reached around cupped the firm muscles of Reb’s buttocks. Her mind knew when her own cloths fell away, the heat at her back let her know that she was now as naked as the beautiful woman in front of her, but her eyes and her heart were already occupied and so paid no attention and felt no shyness at her own nakedness. Slowly she fell to her knees, her eyes never having left their final target. She watched as her own hands slide around to stroke the wet curls, her tongue peaking out to taste the dampness, her fingers wanting only to slide into the warmth she found there. Her mind tumbled in confusion when Rebecca stepped away. Eve’s eyes darted up shocked and hurt until she realized that Rebecca had simple reached down to ask for assistance in sitting. Slowly she helped the tall woman to the blankets, still kneeling she looked into the green eyes, to reassure herself of acceptance, that done she returned her wandering eyes and hands to the feast before her. She crawled around to Rebecca’s feet and gently pushed her legs up and apart, her hands resting on one soft smooth thigh the other on one still healing one. She traced her hands down glistening thighs towards the soft sweet flesh that parted there, waiting for her fingers to explore. She started to lie on her stomach between those parted thighs when she felt a hand pulling at her arm.
Rebecca had been waiting for weeks for this night, she had dreamed of Eve just this way and she did not want to wait another second. She turned the dark haired woman around arranging a leg on either side of her head, her eyes now on their goal, her tongue aching with anticipation she slowly pulled Eve to her.
Eve felt the hands on her hips lowering her onto Rebecca’s waiting mouth, she felt the fingers part her flesh and a hot tongue bury itself in the curls that guarded her clit. Her heart thudded but her own need screamed at her, her fingers frantically found their way into the crisp wet hair, parting the lips and revealing the throbbing flesh hidden there. With a moan she lowered her head, her tongue lapping up the flowing wetness she found there, her lips wrapping themselves around flesh, eager to take in all she could find.
Rebecca felt the tugging of an eager mouth at her loins and she arched her back to offer Eve all of herself. Her own hunger still calling, she plunged her long fingers deep into the tight opening that dripped just out of reach of her own needy mouth. Slowly she plunged in and out each effort dripping more of the liquid sweetness into her mouth, finally she felt the shudder, it built from deep within and echoed the one she felt inside herself. She felt walls closing around her fingers and she slowed her hand, as the throbbing shudder reached its peak she gently parted the buried digits, sliding a third into the warmth and plunging all three deeply into Eve, as her mouth moved to take in all of the richly flowing reward as she could. Her own hips thrusting upward as Eve plunged her tongue deep into her, the thick warm muscle and soft lips drawing first from the throbbing clit then to the aching hole as small fingers reached in and scooped out the last bit of wetness they found there, a murmer of appreciation followed the cleaning of each finger as the small hand was lifted to waiting lips.
Sated, Eve lifted herself from Rebecca and turned to curl into the soldier’s side. Rebecca reached out and pulled the blankets over them as she wrapped a protective arm around Eve.
As the fire slowly died in the hearth the two women drifted off to dreamless sleep.
For days following the women developed a routing, each day would begin with loving caresses. They made an effort to get outside so Rebecca, with the help of a stout cane, could exercise her rapidly healing leg injury. Eve sometime remained behind when Rebecca took her walks. She knew the redhead would return within the hour starving for lunch then they would spend the rest of the day preparing the house for the influx of injured soldiers they were expecting. Rebecca knew she would stay on and help Eve with the hospital, providing what assistance she could offer. Eve was thrilled to have finally met the one person she was destine to love, when they were together, the manor was filled with laughter, light and warmth.
Things were wonderful, Rebecca found she could venture a little further each day, and her leg seemed to be healing well, though she knew she would probably always have a limp when the weather turned cold and the bone ached, but for now things could not get much better.
The Allies seemed to be winning on all fronts and the Germans were in retreat. She hoped that the war would soon be over and they could settle down to some sort of life together.
Perhaps it was the distraction of thoughts in her mind, perhaps it was the beauty of the forest. Perhaps it was simply the idea that this was a safe area, but for whatever reason, Rebecca had broken the first rule of war; never let your guard down. That is how it happened, that is how the Germans were able to over come her so easily.
As she strolled down the path, through the fall of leaves, her mind played over and over the images of the last few days, these had been the most wonderful days of her life. Eve, her beautiful Eve had promised that they would be together forever.
She never heard them, never saw them coming, they waited until she had passed then sprang from piles of leaves to attack the tall soldier, unaware that this was no young lad they were fighting. Rebecca fought them, with all that was in her, she fought. Her heart she knew that if they defeated her, if they got past her, Eve would be next.
The Germans had not expected the fight they were getting. Many reached for broken tree limbs, using them as clubs; they beat the young man, unwilling to draw attention with the bark of rifle shots or to waste the few remaining bullets they had just to kill one soldier. Hearing ribs break, they kept swinging, breaking first one arm then the delicate bones of a hand shattered under a hobnailed boot, but this young man kept coming. Why wouldn’t he stay down, they had not wanted to kill him, they just needed to get him out of the way.
They had never imagined themselves in this position, lost in the homeland of the enemy, traveling with a large shipment of desperately needed gold. Days earlier they were on one of the homelands most advanced ships, a submarine, heading back to Germany. They had captured and sunken a passenger liner traveling with refugees, the gold and jewelry they had taken from the passengers would help fund the German army for the next six months, maybe more. They had been so close to success when they had run into an enemy battleship. They had used most of their firepower sinking the liner and the Allied destroyer that had attacked their new submarine used depth charges. As the shells exploded around them the outer hull of the submarine began to buckle and the ship had taken on water. Desperate to save the ship and as many of the crew as possible the Commander had closed off the flooding compartments to keep the ship afloat, many men had been trapped and had drown. Unfortunately, the compartments that had flooded also contained most of their food, it had been lost but they had been able to save the confiscated gold and jewelry. The ship had been badly damaged and unable to make it home, they had been lucky enough to limp close to a coastline; they followed it to a narrow channel called the Firth of Lorn. The channel gradually narrowed until they found that any further movement would beach the wounded vessel. The Captain had also been injured during the first days of the conflict with the larger battle ship; he had been struck by a large section of interior sheet metal from the inner hull when the depth charges had first hit the ship. The metal had sliced through one of his leather boots and neatly removed his foot, unable to stop the bleeding; death had been slow and painful. The First mate had wanted to end it for him but the Captain had been a brave man and had made sure that the subs survivors had made it to land. He guided the ship toward an ancient citadel called Fort, he beached the ship then ordered the surviving crew to unload all the provisions they could salvage. The Captain knew he would be unable to lead the men to safety, so he did the best he could for his crew. He insured that his men had all that he could provide, then ordered the First Mate, Mikiel Taunus to take charge. Valiantly he struggled to reclaim the Captains seat at the guiding system for the small ship. The crew now pushed the small beached metal fish back out into the narrow channel and watched as their last bit of home sail out to sea, sinking from their site for the last time. Better the bottom of the ocean than the hands of the enemy.
That was how they had arrived in their present position, hungry and desperate in the middle of enemy land. They had made been traveling for days, following the river hoping it would lead them to some port and possible transportation home. They had been hauling a large heavy trunk of gold and gems across this strange hostile land. Traveling mostly at night they had been able to remain undiscovered, now for several days, but had finally run out of food. First Mate Taunus, had sent out several scouts trying to find a likely source of food, three had returned, one had not, there was no time to look for the missing man, they simple assumed he had been captured or killed. Frightened and alarmed at the possibility of capture they knew that they needed to get what they supplies they could and move on quickly.
After several trips into the countryside one of the scouts had been able to locate a large house north east of them. He had watched it from a distance for several hour and had only seen two people, a soldier was staying in the house with a young woman. He assured Taunus that he had not seen any other people at the house and the soldier appeared to be injured.
Carefully the crew moved closer to the manor, from hidden positions in the tree line, they had watched the house the rest of that day. The scout had been right, there appeared to be only the couple staying there. Taunus had them bed down in the forest that night as he and the senior crewman, an Ensign, sat up most of the night planning the safest and hopefully most successful route of attack.
Early the next morning, they woke and prepared for the day. Taunus had them hide along the road hidden from site in the heavy trees waiting for nightfall, so they could slip in through one of the ground level windows. He and one or two men would search for food and other supplies then return and they would leave, hopefully with enough food and supplies to reach a port and steal transportation away from this desolate land.
The day was still young when they saw him, the soldier, he was heading towards them. They were suddenly alert, slowly slipping deeper into the shadows, waiting like serpents for the mouse.
Taunus had told them to lie still in the dead leaves and wait for him to pass. Then they were to capture him and take the house, he would ensure their safe passage away from these cursed hills and with the food they were sure to find there they could make it home.
The plan seemed sound but the young man was not cooperating. When they sprang on him from the trees he fought like a demon. He fought fiercely, using anything and everything that came to hand, first his cane then his fists. Finally, the Ensign picked up a fallen tree branch; he drew back and aimed for the soldier’s legs, hoping to knock him off his feet, but in the struggle the red haired soldier suddenly turned and stumbled, the Ensign tried to stop but his momentum had already committed him to follow through. The blow, when it landed, struck the young man on the back of the neck; not his legs, as intended. They all heard the crack as his neck broke. Gathering around him, they waited as the Ensign rolled him over with the toe of his boot. They leaned in wanting to look into the face of such a valiant fighter; the gasp of recognition and pain came from all of them at once, a woman! They had killed a woman. The sailors were sickened at what they had done, one, the youngest in the group, had rushed off to the forest, they heard him retching up what little there was left in his stomach. Many of the older men wished they were innocent enough to still feel that way, but sadly they had seen much of death over the last few years and the sight of yet another dead soldier did not tear at them as violently.
The First Mate’s face twisted in pain and anger as he staring down at the beautiful woman. This was not what he had wanted; he did not like to make war on women.
"We must bury her, but hurry; we have to reach the house before she is missed." He said pulling out his entrenching tool and handing it to one stunned sailors. They quickly dug a shallow grave and lay the body in. They all paused for a moment to stare down at the woman in the shallow ditch. Frowning, the Mate reached into his pants pocket and laid his handkerchief protectively, over the woman face just before they covered the body with leaves and dirt.
Saddened by the tragic death and burial of the woman, the crew stood silently staring down at the torn earth, each man knowing that they had buried a tiny piece of their humanity with the dead woman. War was indeed a horrible thing and there was not honor in their work today.
The Mate, grumbled a command to the men and they gathered up their tools and prepared to move out. He realized that it had been a long week, the men were exhausted and things had not gone well today. All they had wanted was food, and to get the valuable chest back to their homeland. Perhaps this was an omen. Perhaps this would be the last horrible thing they had to face before they reached home. Then he remembered something his mother had always told him, ‘bad things always come in threes.’
Storing away their shovels they picked up their weapons and the now hated trunk and headed down the path, hoping to remain undetected until they reached the house. They had little to no ammunition and were in no shape to fight. They had been lucky so far in only having to kill the one woman soldier, now if there was only some food at the end of this trail.
Eve, felt her heart lurch and a cold chill crackled up her spine, something was wrong. She left the kitchen where she had been preparing their breakfast and ran to the front door to call for Rebecca. Just as she reached for the handle, the door swung open. The smile on her face froze as she saw eight strange men enter her home. Their uniforms were different, grey, and their appearance was strange as well. As soon as one spoke she knew the horrible truth, Germans, the enemy was in her home. Where was Rebecca?
As the German Mate pushed open the door he found himself face to face with a beautiful dark haired woman. This was not good; he had been hoping to escape detection, but in order to do so they would have to come do a decision about the woman.
Eve stared at the men, seeing the one who was apparently in charge she stepped forward. "Where is she? Where is Rebecca?" She asked somehow knowing the answer already.
Taunus, had an idea of what the woman was asking, he had learned a little English and he was sure that the name she mentioned was female. He stared at the dark haired woman for a minute, trying to collect the proper words.
"The Frauline is… gone. Yes, gone." He nodded sure that he had used the correct words.
Eve had no idea what the German meant, had Rebecca been able to escape? Would she be returning with help? Hoping that what she heard was correct, Eve knew that she would need to stall. If Rebecca had escaped perhaps she would be returning with help, if that was true, then she needed to keep these men here for as long as possible.
"Why are you here? What do you want?" She asked the man that seemed to be in charge.
"Brochen? Habben sie brochen und snitzel mit gluvien." He stated, frowning at his inability to communicate more clearly.
A young sailor stepped forward and, with a nod from the First Mate, spoke slowly to Eve. "Bread and meat and wine. Bitte" He said in heavily accented English, smiling when he saw that the woman understood the request.
"If I get these things for you, will you leave?" Eve asked. The young man nodded not fully understanding much of what the woman said but sure that she was going to cooperate.
Eve led the way back into the kitchen; she would have to give them what they wanted and hang on until Rebecca got back.
The young man followed her, his nose twitching at the tantalizing smell of cooked food. As he entered the large kitchen he turned and called to the other men.
The sound of pounding feet was soon followed by the cheers of the hungry sailors they ate the food Eve had been preparing for Rebecca’s lunch.
Seeing that this would not last long, the sailor turned to Eve.
"More eat, Fraulien? You have it here some, yes?" The young Sailor asked politely in broken English.
With the nod of her head Eve led the man to a small door on the far side of the kitchen. Pulling a key from the pocket of her dress she opened the ancient lock and pushed the door. Reaching inside she tugged at a slender cord to turn on the single light at the top of the stairs.
Unsure of what she was up to the young man, shoved the small woman aside, trying to see around her.
Eve felt the push and reached for the railing, she missed.
The stunned sailor saw her hand reach out to steady herself, he reached forward to help her, he missed. In horror he watched as the small dark haired woman fell backwards. Her head striking the stone stairs as she tumbled head over heels down the stairs to land at the bottom in a broken heap. The men, hearing her scream had rushed to the door and stared down at the dead woman, then at the tear streaked face of the young Sailor.
Later that evening the First Mate sent a party of four men out in the darkness to hunt for stones to build a tomb and hide the body. They could not afford the time it would take outside in the open to dig a proper grave and the remains left would eventually draw unwanted attention. If they were to escape this country, or even if not, they needed to hide this body.
As they quickly searched the surrounding area they wandered into a forgotten and neglected cemetery, many of the old headstones had fallen over, damaged or destroyed by time. Collecting broken bits of stone they returned to the manor home. One young man spotted a beautiful broken stone cross decorated with an intricate knotted design in the center. He dug up the broken stone carried it back for the tomb.
When they returned they lay the woman’s small body in a wardrobe size alcove in the cellar. With mortar made of mud and flower they, began to seal her in. They had almost completed the task when they were halted by the sound of tires crunching gravel in the driveway.
Taunus, leaped up the stairs, taking them two and three at a time. He rushed to the front door and easing it open, peered outside. There were Allied soldiers everywhere! With them he saw the lost sailor, the man that had disappeared on the scouting mission. Afraid of failure the First Mate ordered the men to hide the chest of looted gold in with the body of the dark haired woman, sealing the tomb to keep the gold from the enemy and in the hope of one day returning for it. He had the men drag a heavy rack of wine bottles in front of the now sealed alcove, disguising it from unfamiliar eyes. That done he turned to securing the house and preparing for a very one sided fight. Deep inside he knew that they would probably never survive to see their beloved Fatherland again.
Many of the soldiers that had fought with Reb had also been wounded. The Americans had been recovering at a field hospital and had finally been released. Worried about the two women alone at the house, several of the men decided to make a trip out to check on them and to say goodbye. They had gathered bits of chocolate and staple rations as well as some much needed medical supplies and had been traveling along the road on the way to the house when they had spotted the German sailor. It had not taken them long to turn around, return to base and collect more men to hunt down the Germans.
It took the Doughboys almost two days to take the well built mansion. Destroying the front door and much of the foyer, they had been forced to kill all but one of the Germans inside, a young man who spoke broken English. He tried to run from them, breaking away and going towards the rear of the kitchen. He made it to a door in the back of the large room before they caught him. He kept muttering something in broken English and German, but none of them spoke the language and they knew that headquarters needed to sort this out.
The captured sailor was miserable, he had thought that when he joined the Navy he would go home with stories of his great adventure, instead he had been taken prisoner, but he would not let them know about the gold. He would keep that secret until he could somehow return home. He stared around at his captors, these were strange soldiers, they had dark skin and heavy features. They wore the uniform of the French but spoke a rough sort of English. He had looked at their shoulder patch trying to recognize the unit, he had seen many of the patches when in training, but this one was unfamiliar to him. He stared again at the insignia trying to commit it to memory, a red five fingered hand on a tan and black background. Yes, he would remember that and he would remember the Celtic knot that marked the grave of the beautiful woman and the captured gold.
The Americans had searched the entire house but found no sign of the two women. Discouraged and disturbed the men could not waste anymore time on a search, they were needed on the front. They turned the young sailor over to the US command staff, from there; he was taken to interrogation in London. The soldiers returned to their unit on the front and eventually the war ended.
The villagers of the small town near the manor, the town of Chambers, often returned to the mansion looking for the Lady and the soldier, but nothing was ever found. The town counsel made sure the home was secured and a message was sent to the United States to tell a small boy that his mother had disappeared, another casualty of the war.
As time passed and the boy that had been shipped away to America and safety grew up, he married and had three sons, one, the oldest, returned to Scotland and the family home. His name was Ethan, he restored the old mansion and settled in to raise a family, his son inherited from him. The home was never again threatened by the enemy, it was never threatened by anyone, no one outside the family dare stay in the mansion. It is rumored that ghosts haunt the mansion and the forest surrounding it. Eventually, the mansion passed on to the last heir living in Scotland, Ethan’s Grand daughter, a woman named Matilda Cameron.
She had made it her life long mission to restore the old mansion and to learn its history. While she had lived there she had made a sort of peace with the spirits and had occasionally entertained in the mansion. She lived in the beautiful old home for many years never marrying but eventually taking a lover. The townspeople had gotten use to the two women and were saddened when they both passed on. Again a notice was sent to the United States, notifying the American Cameron’s of the death and of a peculiar stipulations in the old woman’s will.
This time however, no one in the town ventured up to the old mansion to secure the home, the housekeeper was still there, and she had been since the arrival of Matilda. No one wanted to go into the house; after all, with Matilda gone now who would control the spirits? No one was sure who they were or why they would not leave, that secret, they though, had died with Matilda. Most of the servants had left, chased out by the angry ghosts and with the exception of the housekeeper, no one outside the family had been able to spend a single restful night in the old manor home, that is until last week.
To Be Continued...
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