A/N: Hey everyone! I got back from camp and I'm proud to say that I *drumroll* took a shower. Yes, of all crazy things to do, I took a shower. I'm so proud of myself. Anyway, please read and review, but no begging me to change things that happen very close to the end of the book because then I would have to change history, too. Nobody actually asked me to-well, you know, but I'm just warning you. And thanks to my first reviewer, whose name, I regret to say, escapes my grasps. Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, because if I did I would not feel the urge to write senseless fanfiction about them. I am merely an eleven-year-old seventh-grader mourning HIM.


Chapter Two: The Beginning (Yes, it's only the beginning.)

Annie smiles indulgently at me, and kisses my cheek gently. "It's a wonderful house Dauphin, I'm so glad that you favored this one over Mister Whitten's rickety old thing." I grin toothily back at her. "Yes, I really think that the architecture is quite superb when compared to the others."
"Dauphin, wake up! It's time to eat!" For some reason Annie's jabbing me in the chest with what appears to be a butter knife.
"You'll miss breakfast if you lie in any later, and then we'll all be in for it."
Oh, it's Will. "Okay, okay, I'll be right there," I groan, and open my eyes. I'm lying in bed in that tiny old shack across the road from the Kennedy Farm, and my brother's standing above me with a look that would weaken a heart of steel. "Out, you lazy lay-about, we haven't got all day, y'know." He seems to struggle inwardly for a moment, then starts laughing like a schoolboy who just stole a girl's bonnet. "You should see your face, Dauphin, really, you look as if you got caught snitching doughnuts from the big crock." He shakes his head and disappears down the stairwell.

I dress in a clean white shirt and a pair of rough work pants, and dash across the path to the farm. It's just about eight in the morning and the sun is well above the horizon, but Annie says that her pa holds with relatively late repasts. I walk into the dining room, and nearly everyone is there, except for Owen, Cook, and Green. Mr. Brown probably let him have a bit of a lye-in. Huh, he might even let the Negro lounge around the cabin all day if he wanted. I sit down next to Martha; she always manages to get you the best parts of the meal.
John Brown clears his throat firmly as Cook and Owen walk quietly into the room, their heads bent close as they murmur softly together. Evidently I was right about Green.
"Good servants of light, we do ask the most Holy God to grant us the power and permission to give poor souls deliverance." Mr. Brown goes on in that vein for some time, until finally he sits down and lets us eat. The food isn't bad at all; Martha's a fair hand at cooking. It's fresh wheat bread with raspberry preserves and an interesting fruit salad comprised of apples, pears, strawberries, and plums, then topped with yogurt from the dairy down the lane. Mmm, it'd be really good with a mug of coffee, but unfortunately we only have water and milk. I really should be more grateful, but I'm a bit spoiled, I suppose. I load my fork with fruit and pop it into my mouth; a burst of flavor all at once, and then a lingering sweet trace.


It's awfully hot up here in the attic, but "The Captain," as we are supposed to call him, wants us out of the way. I suppose that translates to "sweltering to death," but I'm not really allowed to complain. We have to spend all day up here, playing cards or checkers, reading, talking, reviewing the battle strategies of Napoleon-For God's sake, why do we have to study Napoleon's tactics? I mean, it's 1859 and we're not even waging an entire war or anything! Anyway, we have precious little to do and I feel like I'm going to die if I can't get outside. It's like being in a cage that's locked on the inside, but you don't have the key. Damn, now I'm getting all philosophical. But the point is, we're like rats locked in a pen. And my fiddle's back on the shelf above my bunk, all the way across the road.
Oliver and I are on our eleventh game of cribbage when Green finally decides to saunter up here. He's smirking like a smug little demon, and he's wearing a shirt that I recognize as the one Martha made for Oliver last Christmas. Green probably bullied her into giving it to him. He ambles on over to the card table and peers at my hand. "Get rid of the four and the ace, young'n," he whispers audibly, which is extremely annoying, as Oliver now knows that I have an ace and a four. Besides, aces are great for pegging. (A/N: We had to play cribbage ALL the time in sixth grade math. Go look it up.) I restrain myself from glaring at him, but grind my teeth as he glances at Oliver's hand and mutters something incomprehensible to him. It's not my crib, and my hand's a bit average, not bad, not good: An ace, an eight, a four, a two, another eight, and a six. Eventually I discard the two and the six, trusting to hope as I generally do in cribbage. I'm not very good at it; I'm pretty bad at cards in general.
Green lounges against the table, propping himself with one hand as I completely fail to score hardly any points at all. He cocks a brow, shakes his head despairingly, and strolls off like he's got springs on the balls of his feet. Why does he have to be so presumptuous all the time? It's like he's an old male peacock that doesn't know he hasn't got any feathers to show off. Some folks just will never learn, like my old mum says far too often for my enjoyment.

It's finally dinnertime and the Captain doesn't look happy. Maybe it's that neighbor woman Annie told me about, the one who sounds prophetic. We'll find out, I suppose, he looks about to start. "My young Turks, I have some news that may be of an unfortunate nature, but I fear that I must convey it to you." He scowls menacingly, and I shiver a bit. He's disconcerting. "This afternoon we received information that five of our recruits have backed out of The Plan, and are no longer willing to contribute their efforts. I am very surprised, particularly in one case, as the man in question seemed to be almost to be a warmonger, but it is as it must be. I cannot sway their minds. You may now eat."
All right, now I am surprised. He didn't even say the prayer; can it really be that bad? I shake my head to clear it, and pick up my fork. Supper looks delicious, smells even better, and I would bet Nate Farnsworth that it tastes near heavenly. (A/N: Let's just say that Nate Farnsworth is the local lucky guy in North Elba.) Scalding beef stew with gobs of potatoes and carrots, and with scads of ground black pepper dotting the surface, steaming farls of nutbread fresh out of the oven, and a garden salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and drizzled all over with spiced vinegar. I could sit here forever just looking at it all.
Annie lowers her eyes as I try to catch her eye. Something's not quite right here; I can't quite pinpoint it, but it's definitely there. I get this feeling that someone's watching me, and I whirl around. Owen grins at me. "It's time to leave, Dauphin, the sun's goin' down."
I nod, and turn to the door, but pause in the jamb, and take one last glance at Annie, her long chestnut hair flowing. Her eyes are closed but they flick open and meet mine for a split-second that feels like an eternity. They communicate everything that words never could.
Dauphin, she pleads, don't leave. Don't go with them, don't give in.
We stare at each other, her gaze full of longing.
Don't.let them overpower you, don't let them.take you.
I shake my head the tiniest bit and walk, painfully slowly, out of the farmhouse. Even with my back turned I know she's watching me leave. The shadows grow long, the sky's awash in flaming hues, and Annie watches me from the porch.
As I climb the wobbly stair up to my garret bedroom I wonder what's going wrong here. Why did Annie look at me like that? What made those five recruits back out of the raid? Why do I even care?

A/N: Thanks for reading, all you wonderful people out there! Please review, please! I really need some moral support here, ya know. Auburn Middle School starts on Thursday, and I can't wait. Although it does means that life gets more complicated. If you have read Mine Eyes Have Seen please begin to break down and weep right now because today is when we have to mourn for HIM because we should always mourn for HIM. If you haven't read Mine Eyes Have Seen you should still start to cry because every decent person in the world should. And I put the fruit salad in because I lived on fruit salad at camp. Well, almost. And please, if you don't already, read my other three stories, because I love having folks REVIEW my work. Shameless advertising.
Merry Christmas, to aaaaaaaaaall theeeeeeeeeee!