Bookshelf Confessions welcomes P. A. Minyard to the blog:
Here are the Chapters 1 & 2 of her new book Rogue, sequel to the Beloved, which I have reviewed before here , and scroll down more to find out where to get the free book :)
Rogue does not have an official photo and blurb yet
UPDATED: Rogue has an official photo and blurb! check this out :)
There is no greater strength or courage than to throw yourself into danger on another’s behalf.
Bound by the attributes of valor, patience, and compassion, the Beloved must face the temptation of a demon’s power in order to help those in greatest need. But Major Daniel Parker finds that power does not give; it simply takes your very being until you are left with nothing but a shell.
Daniel’s thirst for power clouds his judgment leaving him damned to an eternal hell of suffering and remorse at the hands of an ancient demon. His only chance at salvation now lies with his younger brother, Jonathan.
No matter the price, Jonathan will not abandon Daniel, as Daniel would never have abandoned Jonathan. He must believe that he has the courage and the strength to complete the task now set at his feet. Even more than the love for his brother, the scar upon his chest is the key to who he must become.
Contrasting the valiant qualities of the Beloved with the vicious intent of the demons, Rogue inextricably weaves real-life battles of the Union and Confederate armies with the mystical wars between demons and the Beloved.
April 18, 1861
By now you’ve heard of the siege at Fort Sumter and our boys’ valiant struggle at the misguided hands of our Southern brothers. I had hoped to return soon from the Academy, but my services will be needed here. I can no longer stand idly by while the severing of ties throughout this nation continues. West Point has prepared me well. Please tell Father, Mother and Beth that though I’m young they needn’t worry on my behalf—I’ll be home soon enough. Take heart in my belief that all will be set right, maybe even before you receive this letter. A show of force should end this conflict before it becomes a war.
Your loving brother,
Carefully folding the letter, Jonathan slid it to the bottom of the small stack on his dresser. It was the first his elder brother had sent over the last sixteen months. He looked out his bedroom window at the peaceful scene that lay before him, the stillness only slightly broken by the faint chirping of crickets.
It was late August and the mountains of northern Pennsylvania were still lush and green. The air was crisp and clear as evening approached. It was a far cry from what Daniel was surely faced with this night, yet Jonathan longed to be just like his brother. His thoughts turned toward glorious victory, a fearless charge into the face of danger as he waved his sword over his head urging his men forward. The deafening roar of battle or smoke thick enough to choke his breath was not a part of his fantasy.
“Jonathan!” Mother called out to him. “Your father is going to want his supper. You know how grumpy he gets when you’re late.”
Jonathan dipped his head and sighed, brought back to earth by his mother’s voice. He was already fifteen but his parents often acted like he was too young to handle himself. He left his bedroom and went downstairs to the kitchen where his mother packed up the food. “Are there extra rolls in there for Robert?” he asked.
“Of course. How could I forget Robert?” she said. “That young man needs to find himself a wife.”
Jonathan watched his mother knot the cloth. The look of her hands caught his eye, the thinning skin revealing the bones of her knuckles in detail. He had never thought of her as getting older until just then.
Jonathan took the package his mother had thoughtfully wrapped for his father, noting the extra rolls for the plant foreman. The foundry was a mile and a half down the road, and it would likely be dark by the time he got there. As he walked along the dirt road, he kicked at stones and waved to neighbors as he passed by. He imagined himself a secret courier, delivering an important package to the Union headquarters. He tried to appear casual, unassuming, so that no one would suspect who he was or what he carried.
Robert was standing outside the front of the foundry when he arrived. They walked inside together so Jonathan could set down the food and find the rolls his mother had wrapped in a napkin for him.
“You’re in luck tonight,” Jonathan said.
“Your mother is a saint,” said Robert, gleefully jamming a roll in his mouth.
“She thinks it’s time you found a wife.”
“The women around here are too smart for that,” Robert said through a mouthful. He turned on his crutch to head back to the foundry, carrying the napkin full of rolls under his free arm. “Your father is in his office, and I’d say you’re just in time.”
Jonathan knew what that meant. He grabbed up the rest of the food and went to find his father.
Mr. Parker was pouring over paperwork at his desk. He had removed his jacket and the sleeves of his shirt were rolled up. His coarse, black beard was peppered more with grey. In contrast, Jonathan’s blonde hair and the features he’d inherited from his mother accentuated his youth. As he stepped closer to the desk, he could see the lines on his father’s forehead, exaggerated by the lamp’s dim light. The foundry had been contracted to aid in the construction of rifles for the army. Father kept operations going day and night to meet the demands.
“I got here as soon as I could. I hope I’m not too late,” Jonathan said, setting the package down in front of his father.
His father looked up and his face brightened. “Right on time. What wondrous feast has your mother made this evening?”
“Roasted turkey, potatoes and fresh rolls.”
“She’ll have to start sewing me new clothes,” his father chuckled. “I really shouldn’t be eating this late at night.”
“How much longer will you be?”
“Tell your mother another two hours. I’m sending Robert out with a shipment tomorrow morning and have to finalize all the paperwork. I’ve sent everyone else home.”
On the walk back to the house, Jonathan thought again about Daniel. They hadn’t received word from him for weeks, and gaps between letters always raised concern. They followed the war through articles in the paper, but mainly they re-hashed what people had already heard. Jonathan hated the engravings that accompanied the articles, images of young men marching, likely to their death. He shuddered to think of his brother lying in a field, his body disfigured by unforgiving bullets or worse. He knew better than to harbor such thoughts, but the darkness of the night seemed to welcome them, and he dared not share them with his family, not even Beth.
Jonathan could tell his sister Beth just about anything. She always listened intently, smiling, nodding and rarely interjecting. She was eighteen and though considered plain by some her vivacity had attracted many suitors. Beth was no stranger to speaking her mind, but she had fallen ill of late. She was tired all the time and bruised easily. Over the last few months, her condition had worsened and now her eager young escorts were nowhere to be found. She was melancholy at times, and Jonathan tried to speak with her only of light-hearted matters.
He arrived at home to find his mother and Beth sitting near the fire. Beth was engrossed in her book while Mother repaired a tear in one of Father’s shirts. He was constantly snagging his clothes down at the foundry.
“How late tonight?” his mother asked.
“Another two hours,” Jonathan responded. “Robert leaves in the morning with the next shipment.” He watched as his mother forced a smile, but he knew that she was scared, scared for Daniel, scared for Beth, and scared that her husband would work himself to illness. Hopefully his efforts would help bring a welcome end to this war and hasten Daniel’s return.
They all tried to keep busy, Mother in particular. Jonathan noticed that she’d taken to sewing every night instead of leaving it for the weekends, as had been her custom. He watched as she pushed strands of her blonde hair away from her face. She continued sewing without looking up, but was unable to forestall the inevitable prick of her finger. Jonathan saw her wince each time she missed a stitch.
She never had such trouble in the past, he thought. He remembered how she looked when he was younger and they would play together in the yard. Her hazel eyes sparkled in the sun. She was slender and always had a wink and nod for him. But time and age had slowed her down, and while she was still thin, Jonathan thought she looked frail in the firelight. Her soft green dress hung from her frame.
Jonathan turned his attention to Beth. She was seated awfully close to the fire. Maybe she was cold or the lamp was not enough to brighten the page she was reading. He noticed that she looked worn out as if she’d worked all day in the garden. But her skin wasn’t reddened. It was pale, an odd grayish white he’d never seen before. And the shadows cast by the dancing flames made the circles under her eyes look that much darker.
“Still reading the same book?” Jonathan teased. “You don’t have to read all the lines to understand the story.”
“Then how can you claim to have read the book?” Beth countered.
“I’ve more important thoughts than to fill my head with everything I read.”
“Truly it’s a mystery why you read at all.” Beth smiled, and rolled her eyes, turning her attention back to her book.
“It’s been a long day,” Mother interjected before the frivolity could continue. “Jonathan, would you please help your sister to her room?”
“Please, just a little while longer?” Beth pleaded. “I’m almost done with this chapter.”
“The book will still be there for you tomorrow,” Mother said.
Beth looked to Jonathan to come to her rescue, but he knew better than to get in the middle of this argument. She sighed and closed the book. Jonathan walked to her side, giving her his hand, steadying her to her feet. She struggled to maintain her balance but covered her embarrassment, dropping his hand and winking at him.
“It seems we’ll make a proper gentleman out of you yet.” Beth said.
His father’s voice rose sharply behind the door. “Your mother has asked you to get up twice now. Do you hear me in there? Jonathan!”
“Yes, sir! I’m almost dressed,” he lied, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He sighed and forced himself out of bed. The blankets seemed to hold him against his will. He bumbled around the room looking for clothes and stubbed his big toe twice before finally making his way down to the breakfast table, bleary and disheveled.
“You can’t make a living out of sleeping just because you’re good at it,” Father said angrily.
Jonathan tried to smooth out his shirt and straighten up his appearance, much to Beth’s amusement.
“Your mother is counting on you to accompany her into town,” Father reminded him. “Will you conduct yourself in a timelier manner on her behalf?”
“Yes Father,” Jonathan replied, glancing over at Beth, who was having trouble containing her laughter. He shook his head and made a face at her. He didn’t know why she was so tickled; it was like every other morning at the house.
Breakfast ended far more peacefully than it began, and as Beth cleared the table and Father set off for the foundry, Jonathan headed to the stable to prepare the horse and cart for a trip into town. He knew they would be gone all morning, maybe even part of the afternoon. His mother didn’t like leaving the house these days, which meant leaving Beth alone too long or being out when news from Daniel could be on its way. Shopping was only a priority when all their resources had been exhausted.
As they rode along, Mother chatted about which stores she wanted to visit and what she would buy. Jonathan almost drove past the first one, and Mother had to clear her throat, causing him to abruptly call for the horse to stop.
He helped her down and waited by the cart while she went inside the store. Across the street, Jonathan noticed his friend Joshua and smiled and waved as Joshua lumbered over to greet him. He was a year older than Jonathan and taller than the other boys their age. He was husky and imposing with thick brown hair to the bottom of his neck. He intimidated most of the boys, but Jonathan only ever saw his big heart. They shook hands robustly, excited to see each other.
“Helping your mother?” Joshua asked.
“Yes, we’re picking up some supplies,” Jonathan replied, eager for conversation. “And you, helping out your father?” Jonathan looked around, expecting to see him.
“We’re ordering paint. The barn needs repair.”
“So, will you be coming to school next week?”
“Not this year,” Joshua replied. “Father wants me to help run the farm. He won’t let me out of his sight. I think he’s afraid that I’ll run off and join Daniel.”
“I know just what you mean,” Jonathan sighed. “We’d put an end to it though, wouldn’t we?”
“They wouldn’t know what hit them.”
Jonathan looked back across the street and noticed Joshua's little brother, Benjamin, had emerged from the store and was waiting patiently on the sidewalk. He was dressed in one of Joshua’s old shirts. The oversized garment swallowed him. His suspenders were barely able to contain the billowing material, which spilled out over the top of his pants.
Joshua followed Jonathan’s gaze, and the smile fell from his face. “Will you do me a favor, Jonathan? Will you look after Benjamin at school? The boys will likely pick on him in my absence.”
“He’s going to have to stand up for himself one day. You know that.”
“I know. He’s just . . . ” Joshua looked back at his brother, and Benjamin smiled and waved.
Jonathan wondered if that’s how his own face looked when Daniel was around. “Don’t worry. I’ll keep an eye on him.”
“Have you heard from Daniel?” Joshua asked, as if breaking into his thoughts.
“No, but you know how slow letters can be.”
“And the army is constantly moving. Who knows how much time he gets for himself these days?” Joshua said.
“Well, I best be going,” Joshua said sheepishly.
“See you soon, I hope,” Jonathan answered.
His friend’s father was a harsh taskmaster, intolerant of frivolity. He would likely lay into Joshua for his brief absence. He watched as Joshua retrieved Benjamin and went into the store.
“Jonathan?! Will you help me with this?” Mother called out behind him.
He turned, red-faced with embarrassment, and ran to the store.
The errands progressed as expected, and by mid-afternoon Jonathan was unloading the supplies back at home. Beth had started to prepare dinner, and Mother joined in as he went to return the horse to its stable. He unhooked the cart and freed the mare from her collar and leads, then diligently wiped down her glistening brown coat before leaving her in the stall with food and water.
After dinner, Jonathan completed his chores just in time to rest briefly before walking to the foundry with Father’s meal. Jonathan’s days had become monotonous—the next repeating the last with no end in sight. Keeping busy was no longer enough to temper his frustrations, and as he walked Beth back to her room for the evening, she could sense his distance.
“You don’t have to go just yet,” Beth said as she sat down on her bed. “Tell me about your day.”
“I shouldn’t keep you up,” Jonathan said, still moving toward the door.
“Please stay,” Beth pleaded. He stopped and looked back at her. “Did you see anyone in town?” she pushed.
“Josh was there with Benjamin,” he said as he stepped back into the room.
“Well, you’ll be seeing lots of them with school starting.”
“No,” Jonathan said, dropping his head. “Joshua won’t be coming back this year; his father wants him to help run the farm.”
“I see,” Beth said. She tried to further the conversation. “Well, did you see anything new at the store?”
“No, same as before—nothing new really.” Jonathan placed his hand on the back of his neck and began to fidget.
“Why won’t you talk to me anymore?” Beth blurted out. “You used to tell me everything.”
Jonathan looked back with surprise.
“I know you’re worried about Daniel,” she pressed. “It’s all right to tell me, you know, I’m worried too.”
“But you’re . . . ” Jonathan stopped himself.
“I’m what?! I’m sick? No one ever wants to say that word around me.” Her voice faltered. “As if I don’t know, as if not talking about it will make it go away.” She immediately regretted putting Jonathan on the spot as she watched his lower lip quiver and his eyes well up.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean . . . ”
“I don’t want you to die!” Jonathan couldn’t hold back. “I don’t want Daniel to die either.”
Beth stood from the bed and stopped just short of him. “Daniel would never leave us.”
“How do you know that?” Jonathan’s hand began to shake.
“Though he’s courageous, he’s also very cautious. I believe he’s too smart to take unnecessary risks.” She reached out and grabbed his hand. “I don’t want you to give it another thought,” she said. “Mother and Father are counting on you now more than ever.”
“It feels at times as though they don’t trust me.” His voice cracked. Beth reached out for her little brother. She held him as his body heaved, holding back the rush of tears.
“It’s not that. It’s not that at all. They simply aren’t ready to let go just yet,” she said in a comforting tone. Jonathan wrapped his arms around his sister as if holding on for dear life.
“Promise that you won’t leave me,” he said. Beth closed her eyes tightly, summoning the courage to answer him.
“What will become of my dear, sweet Jonathan?” she said with a steady voice. “You are far too kind for your own good. Someone’s got to keep an eye on you. How could I possibly leave?” She pushed him slightly back so he could see the smile on her face.
“You won’t tell Father or Mother about this, will you?” he sighed.
“Not a word,” she assured him with a wink. “But you must promise not to hold out on me anymore. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” he answered as he led her back to her bed.
Daniel stood outside his tent, overseeing his men set up camp. His full beard hid well his youthful features. His eyes, closed by the burn of gunpowder from battle, were like slits, but his lean frame was steady and unyielding. The soldiers’ movements were slow, weary from two days of fighting and burdened by the blood and dirt now caked to their shoes. There was no shock or horror on their faces, only solemn resignation. Some had been fighting now for more than a year; some were new to the effort; and some would not see the sunrise tomorrow. They were silent as they went about their duties, yet several raised their eyes to him and nodded, grateful for another day, grateful they were still alive.
Daniel heaved a sigh as he retreated to his tent. He sat down on the narrow cot, reached for a lamp on the ground, placed it on a small wooden table, and lit the wick. Dusk had already begun to darken the tent. He turned away from the entrance and stretched out his legs, but he had only a moment’s peace before a sergeant entered his tent.
“Sergeant?” Daniel’s voice was like gravel.
“You sent for me, Major Parker,” the sergeant replied.
“How many, Sergeant,” Daniel asked, still turned away.
“Almost half, sir, dead or wounded,” the sergeant replied. Daniel’s shoulders heaved in disgust.
“Make sure Captain Barnes has those numbers. That will be all. You are dismissed.”
“Thank you, sir.” The sergeant turned to leave the tent, making way for Captain Gerald Duffy who waited at the entrance. The tall, handsome young officer was barely recognizable, his strawberry blonde hair matted with sweat, his face and mustache painted with soot. His clothes were spattered with blood.
“We have new orders, Major Parker,” Duffy said as he stepped inside the tent. Daniel remained motionless as if he did not hear him.
“Orders, sir,” Duffy pressed. Daniel continued to stare down at his blood soaked boots, his eyes barely blinking even though they still stung of gunpowder.
“Daniel . . . ” Duffy’s voice had softened.
Still dumfounded by battle, he turned to look at his friend. “I’m sorry, did you say something?” Daniel asked.
“You can’t think on it so much,” Duffy said.
“This isn’t at all what I expected when we left the Academy.”
“What do you mean?” Duffy asked. “You made Captain and then Major in record time.”
“Because I have a talent for getting boys slaughtered?”
“You were following orders, and you led them out when the call came. What more were you supposed to do?”
“We owe them more than that,” Daniel replied. “Duff, those boys trust us. Did you see how they fought? Not one under my command ran, even as they watched the men beside them get cut down.” Daniel’s cheeks began to flush. “And now I’m supposed to go before them with new orders?!”
Duff pulled his gaze away from Daniel. “You are far too taken with these events so early in this conflict.”
“Conflict?! We are at war and have been so for nearly fourteen months now. I’m afraid I do not share your enthusiasm for the fighting.”
“It is not enthusiasm,” Duff replied. “It is simply what we do—what we were trained to do.” He paused to wipe the blackened sweat from his brow. “I worry that your compassion will one day get the better of you.”
“I always thought my brother Jonathan was the sensitive one,” Daniel sighed. “Where will they have us now?”
“We are to move into Maryland and join forces with the Army of the Potomac.”
“Make the arrangements to move the wounded to safe haven,” Daniel said. “The rest of the boys will continue north.”
“Yes, sir, Major Parker.” Duff saluted.
Daniel simply waved him out of the tent. He stood up, listening to the boys as they finished setting up camp and could smell the fires that had just been lit. He was an eternity away from the whir of bullets and screams of stricken soldiers that buzzed around him only hours ago. He stepped forward out of the tent and stopped. He looked back and forth across the encampment, marveling at the bustle of men, the clanking of tin cups, the utter normalcy of it all.
The afternoon sun brightened the tent as Daniel removed his jacket and laid it across the cot before sitting down. His lips tightened then loosened around the pipe in his mouth. The whiskers on his chin danced in symphony with each movement, and the pungent odor of tobacco filled the air as he composed another letter to Jonathan.
September 15, 1862
My days of endless drills and training seem so far removed from me now. We’ve moved north and once again prepare for battle. The boys are ripe for a fight, and I marvel at their strength. I’ve earned their trust and respect and know that they would follow me to hell itself, but I would much rather lead them safely back to their homes. They give so much without complaint or want for any reward.
I think of you, Beth, Mother and Father often. I will be home for Christmas, as it is only a few months away. Foul weather will likely slow the fighting if it even still rages then. I’ve been told our numbers far outweigh the Confederate forces. Their resources are few, and they’ll likely give up soon. I look forward to sharing stories with you by the fireside.
Please give my love to everyone, and tell Mother not to worry.
Duff entered Daniel’s tent with a wide smile on his lips. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small bottle of whiskey.
“You are a true gentleman,” Daniel said as he motioned Duff to take a seat. The bottle was passed back and forth between the two in silence at first.
“How long are we to sit here?” Duff finally asked. “We know where Lee is. Why are we waiting?”
“You would question the leader of our nation’s greatest force?”
“I would call him a fool, if he were not in earshot,” Duff laughed.
“Are you that eager for battle, my friend?” Daniel took another swig from the bottle and stared silently at the pipe in his hand.
“What’s wrong?” Duff asked.
“This is different,” Daniel replied. “Something powerful is about to happen here. You can see it in the boys’ faces, hear it in their voices. I approve of the caution McClellan is taking.”
“I’d say you’ve had enough,” Duff declared as he snatched the bottle out of his hand.
Daniel placed the pipe back in his mouth and began puffing away again. He could see Duff’s eyes dart down toward the letter.
“Writing your brother again?” Duff asked, quickly turning the conversation around.
“I’m glad he’s still home. I fear one day I will turn and see him lined up amongst the troops.”
“You said he never liked guns, never liked to go hunting.”
“He’s far too eager to impress me,” Daniel said. “I’m worried he’ll run off any day now.”
“I doubt your father would let that happen.”
“I can only hope you’re right.”
Duff took another swig and swirled what was left of the whiskey around in the bottle, thoughtfully. “What would you do if Jonathan did come in with a band of new recruits?”
“What are you getting at?” Daniel asked, taken aback.
“What would you do?”
“There’s no need to think on it because it’s not going to happen.”
“You really don’t have the stomach for any of this, do you?”
“And how is it that you do?” Daniel shot back. “What’s so appealing about the things we’ve witnessed, about the things we’ve done? We were trained to protect people and save lives, not needlessly take them.”
“Actually we were trained for all of those things.”
“I swear, it’s as if the devil himself has sent you here to torment me,” Daniel said. He shook his head, then reached for the bottle once more.
“Does your mother know you swear?” Duff handed over the bottle, flashing a wicked grin.
Daniel tucked his letter to Jonathan inside his jacket pocket. He walked a short distance past the other officers’ quarters, picking up Duff along the way. They were convening for final orders. The air inside the major general’s tent was thick and stifling. Several of the officers smoked furiously in an attempt to calm their nerves. The stench of sweat and tobacco permeated the small area, adding to the tension. Once the assignments were handed down, Duff and Daniel moved out of earshot of those who remained behind. They had been glancing back and forth at one another as the battle plan was laid out.
“Looks like we’ll be attacking from the East Woods.” Duff stroked his mustache.
“That cornfield concerns me,” Daniel replied, tapping his finger on the map in front of them. “No cover there.” He stared back at Duff. “Do you believe the scouting report is accurate?”
“They definitely have artillery along the West Woods as well as the fence line to the South, but the wooded area is thick and the count is uncertain.”
“A swift approach might afford us the upper hand,” Daniel said.
“That’s up to Hooker now. We’re under his command.”
Daniel excused himself and slowly walked to the back of camp. He wished to deliver his letter to the private who handled the post. The men would march at first light the next morning, and he noticed he wasn’t the only one in camp looking for a diversion. Some played cards or similar games of chance while others wrote letters with the hope of sending them off that afternoon. Still others had taken to reading their bibles, flipping to the dog-eared pages that held comforting passages.
Daniel stopped to watch a battalion drilling in the mid-day sun. They marched in unison, row after row of thick blue uniforms set to purpose and moving in harmony. The air was still and for a brief moment there was silence as if the world had stopped to take notice of the scene that lay before him. The pale blue sky stretched out like a banner in their honor as the sun gleamed off their well polished rifles; both beautiful and daunting, never had he seen such a sight. He wondered if he ever would again.
He retreated to his tent and tried to get some rest, but his cot always felt harder and unwelcoming before a battle, causing him to toss and turn. Sleep was not on the agenda. Soon the bustle of men preparing to fight would be impossible to ignore. He sat up from the cot and pulled his boots on before stepping over to the stand and lighting the lamp. It was still very early, barely hours past midnight. His coat draped across one of the stools and Daniel reached into the left breast pocket and pulled out a small picture of his family.
Whatever happens this day, I pray you look back on me with pride, he thought. He gazed at the photo and found a smile before placing it back in his coat pocket. It was his ritual before battle and the last thing he’d do before leaving his tent to attend to orders.
Darkness blanketed the camp, protecting the soldiers as long it could. Death would have its say in the morning. Daniel walked among his men as they prepared for the fight. His nod and occasional pat on the shoulder told the boys of his concern for their well being. He made sure to check on each man in his company before taking his position.
First light brought canon fire along with an endless spray of bullets; the battle had begun. Daniel and Duff moved up and down the lines, keeping the boys calm and urging them forward. Men fell in rows where they stood only seconds earlier, but the tremendous loss of life was not enough to deter either side. Their courage never wavering, the men pushed forward over the backs of their fallen brothers. Wave after wave, first Union then Confederate soldiers pushed forward then fell back within the cornfield, the moans of dying men and cries for help drowned out by the cacophony. When a bullet passed through his thigh, Daniel felt as though his leg had been set on fire. It knocked him down, but it was merely a flesh wound, a minor annoyance. He pushed himself off the ground and continued limping up and down the lines of men, keeping order where he could. His voice was hoarse from shouting.
Amidst the confusion and thunderous roar of battle, he noticed a soldier walking aimlessly along the back line. The soldier’s gait stuttered as he walked sideways, and his left shoulder slouched forward, frozen in place by a bullet. He had a blank stare on his blood-smeared face and Daniel feared he would wander back into the thick of things. He hurried toward the soldier only to be beaten to him by a union officer he’d never seen before. He held the rank of colonel and grabbed the soldier’s jacket shaking him fiercely.
“Pick up your rifle, boy—back to the front with you!”
The soldier stared back at the colonel with no comprehension of the order.
“Did you hear me boy?!” the colonel shouted. “I said fight!”
Daniel intervened, forcing the colonel to let loose the young man. “He’s done with battle. Can’t you see it in his eyes?”
“No!” the colonel said, turning sharply, “but I can see it in yours.” He grabbed Daniel’s throat then reached for the ten-inch knife secured upon his belt and viciously thrust it into Daniel’s chest.
Panic raced through Daniel as he heard his ribs snap and felt the breath leave his body. He struggled to free himself as the colonel twisted the knife. His bloodthirsty grin sent a cold shock of horror through Daniel, who watched helplessly as his assailant savored the anguish he inflicted. There was so much confusion around them that no one took notice of the deed. When Daniel was just upon death’s door, the colonel dropped him to the ground and his body joined the sea of corpses lying in that cornfield. Daniel gasped one last time before succumbing to the darkness.
Duff fought closer to the tree line and was unaware of his friend’s demise. He was rallying the troops for another surge when two bullets shredded through his right shoulder. He was thrown to the ground, as if tackled, and the blow to his head by the hard earth knocked him unconscious. The fighting continued, and even as more officers fell, the boys continued to charge to their deaths without having to be told. By the battle’s end, the bodies of the wounded and the dead left no span of ground uncovered.
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