Crossfire

Distraction and Loss in Kansas

The Journal of Father Eric Brooks

September 3, 1875

Following the events of my last entry, we were indeed set upon by unsavory types. From what we could gather after, they were agents of the Mormon blasphemers, intent on preventing Miss Veila from reaching Salt Lake City.

In the meantime, both the Ranger and the reporter have taken their leave of us. Their journeys simply took them down a different road than ours. We continued through Kansas in relative peace, until one day when a storm came bearing down upon us. The storm was very intense, and others in the group reported seeing or feeling something “strange” in the atmosphere. We took refuge in a nearby barn. “Refuge” being a relative term, as it turns out.

The barn was abandoned, and looked about three days from falling down of it’s own accord. After stabling the horses, and securing the doors from the wind and rain, we set about exploring our temporary home.

In the back room we found three graves. As soon as we were settled, I set myself to giving these unknown men their last rites. Suddenly, I found myself to be… not myself.

I was in the same room, but there were three men with me, all in Confederate uniforms, and all preparing their weapons. Upon examining myself, I found that I too was in uniform. The men repeatedly addressed me as Marks, and it was obvious they weren’t too fond of me. Not knowing what else to do, I played along with this vision, until I came out of whatever trance I had found myself in.

Near-panicked, I left the back room to join the others in the main barn. Ever since Oxford, Danika has developed a habit of drawing a salt-circle when she feels threatened. It seems to calm her, and at that point I was willing to take what comfort I could get. I joined her in drawing the circle, but some unseen force kept marring the line before we could complete it.

Eventually, fatigue overtook the three adults in the group, and we fell unconscious. In my dream, I found myself back in the story of Private Marks. I was to learn later that Miss Veila and Mister Marconi would experience the same dream, though from the perspectives of the other two privates.

The Lieutenant insisted that we go out in the storm – he wanted to get the payroll wagon back from those damned, double-crossing redskins. I didn’t think it was the best idea, but the LT had gotten us through some pretty bad situations in the years since our unit formed, so I followed his orders.

Back in the barn, Danika and Pookie found themselves entertaining an enigmatic Indian fellow, who seemed to know more about the overall situation with both the storm, and our shared dream.

We saddled up, and Consecas was able to find their trail pretty quick. After hours of hard riding, we found the village. Dornan took up a sharpshooter position on the ridge, and the rest of us headed in under cover to try and take back the wagon.
We were able to eliminate a few warriors before we were discovered. In the ensuing fight, Consecas was gravely injured. As I hauled him out of the camp, he was fading in and out of consciousness.

I was to find out later that, as Consecas went under, back in the barn Mister Marconi would wake up. Danika and the Indian were worried that it wasn’t necessarily Marconi who woke up, and sent him back to sleep with the judicious application of a frying pan to the head.

As we were retreating, the savages took down the LT. Dornan and me got back to the horses, threw Consecas over one of the saddles, and rode hellbent for leather back to the barn. When we made it back, we finally had time to check out his injuries. It looked bad, but neither of us were medics. We calmed our nerves with the LT’s stash of bourbon – he didn’t need it anymore – and tried to do what we could.

We all woke from the dream just as the Indian warriors broke into the barn, and presumably slaughtered the three Privates. Though initially Marconi appeared to have injuries mirroring those of Consecas, they quickly faded to nothing.

As we came back to reality, the Indian explained to us that he was a survivor of that massacre. That the entire village had perished in the storm, and the spirits – both theirs and the soldiers’ – were using the storm to reenact the battle. He claimed the situation was steadily worsening, and there could be catastrophic results if nothing was done about it.

Further exploration of the barn also revealed inscriptions on the back of the barn, near the three graves. It seems that Private Consecas survived to bury his companions. What became of him after, we don’t currently know.

The next day, we began exploring the area. Danika found a small settlement a couple hours’ ride away, though they were not particularly welcoming. Two boys followed her back to the barn, and the three got into a scrap. As a group, we rode out to return the children to their parents. They were cautious but slightly more friendly when they learned we were simply traveling through the area. The leader of the clan was a man named Corvin, and we made arrangements to return the next day to stock up our water. In addition, I agreed to take confession and lead a Mass for the families.

When we arrived the next day, everything started out rather well. Mister Marconi set to filling water barrels, Miss Veila was taken up by the ladies of the farm, and Danika left to play with the girls. Confession from a group of people is rather boring – nobody wants to do anything bad, because pretty soon everyone is going to find out. After finishing with confessions, I returned to the yard to find Marconi leading a demonstration of one of his may inventions.

Suddenly, there was a great commotion. A fight had broken out between the farm children and Danika. The boys who she had fought with the day before didn’t take kindly to losing to a girl, and wanted payback. Greatly outnumbered, Danika called on Pookie to help her out. Being part wolf, Pookie reacted the only way he knew how. When the dust settled, three children were dead, and the farmers killed the animal.

How we left that farm alive, I still don’t know. I can only thank Divine Providence for staying the hands of Corvin and his men. They agreed to let us leave, so long as we left. We immediately returned to the barn to gather our belongings.

As Miss Veila, Danika and myself were breaking camp, Mister Marconi went outside to load the wagon. After a few minutes, we followed out to see what had become of him, but he was nowhere to be seen. We eventually found indications of a struggle and a trail. Not wanting Corvin to think we were returning, we finished packing and set out in pursuit. After several days, we were forced to abandon the wagon in order to maintain the chase. We eventually caught up with his kidnappers far to the south-west, at a pass leading into the mountains.

Having been pinned down by an ambush, we were eventually able to learn that Marconi had been taken by the Confederate government. They were, shall I say, interested in some of his inventions, and decided to offer him a job – whether he wanted it or not. Though it pains me still, we were forced to leave our friend behind. Of the three of us remaining, the only one likely to mount even a meager assault is eleven years old. I can only hope that we can rescue, or at least make contact with, Mister Marconi at some future date.

Returning to the nearest town, we discovered that we had given chase nearly to Santa Fe. We decided our next step would be to turn north to Denver, in hopes of finding passage to Salt Lake City. We acquired enough provisions for a three week ride, and Miss Veila sent a telegraph ahead of us, arranging for money from her late uncle’s estate to be waiting for us upon our arrival.

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