Training.

It took us but an hour or so to find and walk to the Kentucky Brigade at its temporary quarters in Camp Boone. Once there, we swore an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, and that was it. We were now enlisted soldiers, with all the privileges or lack thereof enlistment implied.

So the first thing we were taught was marching. I never did so much walking around in my life, not even the time I walked from Resolute to Louisville on a dare.  I wasn’t too surprised to find the sergeant in charge of us was named Walker.

I guess they were training us to go walking a lot shoulder to shoulder, making pretty formations. We’d wake up at dawn, five thirty or so, do some drill, then go to breakfast. That was usually a bit of hardtack with some vile brew calling itself coffee to wash it down with. If we were lucky and Tommy Purcell was cooking, it might be biscuits. If we were really lucky, there’d be some squirrel or rabbit thrown on top of it. Then it was back to drill for most of the day. So it was march until the sun came up, and when it went down, it said goodbye to us poor fools marching around in all sorts of weather.

Some times, just to liven things up, we’d go out shooting. I think that happened once or twice. The goal was to get us good enough to hit Federals, and I guess it was a good thing that we did some shooting, because it told us that maybe two or three people were going to be crack shots. The rest, myself included, had better be relying on the bayonet.

The other thing that took up most of our time was guard duty. i suppose Federals might have made it all the way into Tennessee, and then somehow gotten the idea that our camps were worthy targets for attack, because every night a group of us were selected to stand at points around the camp. We were to shout out a question to anyone who came near, then they would give an answer that we would have been told at dinner. So one night I drew the onerous task.

I was given the question: what was the name of Napoleon’s horse, and its answer, Marengo, then told to stand near a wooded spot and watch for anyone coming. If someone did, I was to ask the question. If they couldn’t answer, I was to shoot, then raise the alarm. This went as well as you would expect.

One night I found myself standing guard, stalwart defender of the Confederacy, when I heard a noise like someone stepping on a twig.

“Who’s there?” I shouted.

“It’s me, Jack.”

“Who’s me? You sound like Walter Hartley.”

“That would be me, Jack.”

I smiled. Sure it was him – Federals hadn’t come this way yet, but Sergeant Walker had been most adamant that I follow the procedure for admitting a fellow to camp.

“What’s the password?” I shouted.

“Password?”

“Yeah, when you leave camp, you’re supposed to tell me the password. Then I let you return.”

“I don’t know. Come on Jack, just let me on by.”

I kept the rifle I had borrowed from one of the Holden twins level. “You know I have to have the password to let you by, Walter.”

“Mississppi,” Walter replied.

Resolute, Kentucky 1861

Like right then, when I decided to summon a sprite in hope that the small Aetherial being would be able to tell me where Harlan was. Had he lost his nerve, at least I could continue south on my own without having to stand about on the road where I would eventually be discovered. I took out my hip flask, pouring a small dram of the brandy I had taken from August’s store. Sprites were attracted to the stuff for some reason, as were many other creatures of the Aetheric.

With that, I began the incantation, the long flowing words of the Aetherial language tripping from my tongue. No delicate creature appeared once I finished. Instead, the night sky grew even darker until what little moonlight there was vanished. The hair on the back of my neck rose as I realized that something else had been drawn to my summoning, and it was not a delicate winged sprite, but more a thing of nightmare.

It smiled at me, and I felt myself go cold.

“You will be mine,” it said.

Oh no,” I replied. “Not today.” With shaking hand, I drew a glyph of banishing in the air. “As the Lord is my protector, my sword and shield, I command you. Get you gone, demon!”

The figure laughed, a gurgling foulness like bubbles from a cesspit, then vanished.

“Where the devil you at, Harlan?” I asked the night sky, which now seemed much lighter.

An age later, Harlan appeared, carrying a satchel, which was a satchel more than what I had, which was what was in my coat pockets.

“Took you long enough,” I said. “What did you do, pack your sister’s trousseau?”

“Hah, more like I just brought a few things. Unlike your brother, my pa sees sense in this struggle and didn’t have a problem with me taking a few supplies. So we’ve some sandwiches, and I brought an extra shirt. Never know when you might need one of them. And I got my pa’s old LeMat revolver.”

I grinned. “That thing’s older than we are.”

“Yeah, but in case we need it, better to have it than not, right? Remember when my Ma’s maid Juno caught us with it? My Pa about skinned us alive.”

I shook my head, then smiled wryly, as my feeble protest that Harlan and I had found it on the ground by the Sterling cool house had failed to impress Mr. Sterling. “Let’s go then, we need to be somewhere near the Elizabethtown station by the morning.” I stuffed my hands in my pockets while Harlan shifted the satchel to his other hand.

I’ll spare you the details of the walk, save that it was long.

Apologies

I started a new job this week. It’s night shift, so I am still adjusting to being awake when the rest of the world is asleep. However, a new Jack post will be up shortly.

Resolute, Kentucky 1861

It was a clear Kentucky evening, one of those evenings that if you were a poet, you’d want to write about. But I wasn’t a poet, and I shouldn’t have been waiting five miles down the road from my family’s house.

I was supposed to be meeting my friend Harlan – of the Resolute, Kentucky Sterlings, just like my family is the Resolute MacQuarries, and we were going to run south to enlist in the Confederacy to save our fair state from the ravages of the Federals.

See, our Governor, Governor Magoffin, declared that Kentucky was to stay neutral in this war for states’ rights. So right on after that comes out, the Federals started getting ideas about arming their followers, and they go sneak guns in to arm their people, then got their people voted into office in the state Congress so Kentucky will go Federal. The thing is, who wants a big government telling you how to run your state? Doesn’t make any sense, if you look at it that way. Wasn’t the United States founded on the belief that you should be able to govern yourself how you want, so long as you aren’t harming someone else? Well, the pro-Federal Congress apparently doesn’t think that way, because it starts getting into action and next thing you know, right thinking folks are getting their guns confiscated, and Federal ships come block the harbor up at Louisville. Or so I heard, last time I went up to Louisville was early that year.

So about two days ago, Harlan and I heard that the Confederates invaded down around Bowling Green. Next day I go up to Elizabethtown to pick up a Louisville paper so I can get some idea what this is about, and I see this broadsheet written by a Mr. Buckner, out of Hart County.

“To the People of Kentucky,” it read. Then it told how the Confederates were only acting in defense by invading Bowling Green, and went on with a big long list of crimes against us. It ended with “Are we indeed slaves, that we are thus to be dragged in chains at the feet of a despotic power?” I frowned. I mean, I’m no Caesar or Xenophon, or Washington crossing the Potomac, but there it was, a call to arms. And the Resolute MacQuarries, despite the inactions of my brother August, are ones to respond to a call to arms.

Oh sure, you’ve probably heard the stories: Jack MacQuarrie, son of Louisa Sullivan out of Georgia, and those Sullivans, well, from what I’ve heard, never a soul said anything good about the Sullivans at any rate. But as the Bible says, gossip is a sin – at least I heard that’s what it says. I’ve beaten enough of my fellow scholars at the University of Louisville to put paid to speculations of my mother’s nature, though. And yes, I’ve heard I’m a layabout, and no good compared to my father or my brother, but this is my home, and I will defend it.

Oh, and you may have heard that I can work the Aetheric. That is very much true, unlike the rumors about my mother. It’s a shame though, that working the Aetheric is the province of weak men and the hysterical sort of woman who reads novels of dark brooding beings summoned from the depths. However, it serves me well. Mostly.

Prologue to the Actual Material

I decided to start this blog as a way to prod myself to write down the stories I have in my head. At this point, I am looking at a serial bi-weekly format of an American Civil War novel I’m writing, tentatively titled Demon Jack.

This is a very rough draft, so you may see notes such as (did they have campfires). If you happen to know, do feel free to provide me with a reference. If Jack’s ever published, you will receive credit.