Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters of The Patriot, or the film. No monetary profit will be made and no infringement is intended.
Summary: This is an alternative version of the scene in The Patriot in which the Green Dragoons arrive at Charlotte Selton's plantation in the middle of the night, seeking the Martin children. The story contains some violence.
My heartfelt gratitude goes to Sylvia and Meryn for their excellent feedback.
"Aunt Charlotte! Aunt Charlotte! Wake up! Someone's coming!"
Charlotte woke with a start, looking groggily at her nephew. It must be very late no light was coming in through the east-facing bank of windows in her bedroom.
She realized with a sudden cold rush that she could hear horses' hooves, coming up the long entrance road toward the house. She swung off the bed immediately. A quick glance through the window showed her that the troop cantering up to her house was none other than the dreaded British Green Dragoons.
Terror coursed through her. A soft whimper from the boy at her side released her from her paralysis. She must protect the children!
"Get your brothers! Quickly!" Running to the girl's room, she gathered the girls and hurried the lot down the stairs.
"Children, go to your hiding places in the woods. Stay hidden, no matter what, until I come and get you." Charlotte flashed a glance out the windows, seeing the Dragoons drawing up in front of the house.
"If I haven't got you by morning, go to the neighbour's house and wait for your father to come for you. Understood? Run, run now, and hide as carefully as you can. Go!"
She pushed them away, watching as they flew to the back of the house and disappeared into the darkness. Hurrying to the front door, she seized the loaded musket beside it and stalked out onto the veranda.
Her sudden appearance startled the Dragoons marching toward her house. They drew up at the command of the lead officer, their guns held ready but not trained on her, despite the musket she carried.
Charlotte quickly levelled her gun at the officer's chest, her eyes locking with his.
"Identify yourselves and your business here!" Charlotte's voice was surprisingly calm, while her heart was racing and her face showed little but desperate fear.
The officer coolly considered her, his face composed despite the gun trained on him. He looked carefully over the house and grounds.
"Colonel William Tavington, Green Dragoons, at your service," he nodded pleasantly, returning his piercing gaze to her.
Charlotte whimpered: this was none other than the infamous 'Butcher'.
"Weapons down," Tavington ordered his men, keeping his eyes on Charlotte's.
He slowly handed his own gun to Bordon, hoping to ease some of Charlotte's panic. In Tavington's experience, terror turned the charming 'weaker sex' into irrational, unpredictable creatures, very tricky to manage.
"Are you Charlotte Selton?" he asked, keeping his rich voice as disarming as possible.
"Yes." Charlotte's gun trembled but stayed centered on his chest.
"Your sister was married to one Benjamin Martin?"
"Yes," Charlotte answered slowly, her heart beating even harder. "What do you want?"
Tavington spread his hands soothingly. "I was wondering if Benjamin Martin's children are here?" he asked politely, as if they were chatting over tea.
Charlotte's eyes widened. She stared dumbly at Tavington, her gun dropping. He eased forward until she brought the gun back up with a start.
"Here?" she echoed, seemingly puzzled. She prayed that she was giving the children enough time to hide themselves very well indeed, if the Butcher wanted them.
"Yes. Here, with you." A hint of impatience flashed over Tavington's face.
Charlotte slowly shook her head, staring bemusedly down at Tavington.
"They're with their father, at his plantation."
She quickly looked over the Dragoons, alarm heavy on her face. Tavington eased closer yet in the second she took her eyes from him.
"What's going on?"
"You're all alone here?" Tavington sounded politely incredulous, his gaze moving over the large house behind her. Charlotte didn't know what to make of him. She stalled, staring at his face as if to unlock its secrets.
"Yes. No! I have servants, of course, but they're in their own quarters. What's going on?" she demanded again.
"Calm yourself, Miss Selton. We're merely seeking the Martin children."
Tavington spoke calmly, arms crossed behind his back. He presented the breadth of his chest to her gun, almost convinced that rational purpose, not fear, lay behind her actions; purpose which would prevent her from shooting him unless she truly had nothing to lose. Tavington looked thoughtfully up at her: was she trying to delay his search for the children, he wondered, to allow them more time to hide?
Fury flared over his face; he eased his expression quickly, unwilling to call her bluff until he was completely certain of his intuition. At the same time, his ears strained for sounds within the stillness of the night, and he glanced sharply around, before Charlotte recalled his attention.
"They're with Benjamin!" she insisted.
Tavington raised an eyebrow. It was time to bait her, to see if his intuition was indeed true.
"You think so?" he drawled, shifting his weight and easing forward again. "I do hate to be the bearer of bad news. Benjamin Martin is dead," he lied calmly, ice blue eyes fixed on her face. "His two eldest sons are dead also, so you could say they're with him. The other children are not!"
Tavington eased closer yet, almost to the steps of the veranda, as Charlotte looked down in horror. Her face was working, her eyes huge.
"No, no!" she breathed, dropping the gun slightly, no longer sighting along it. "That cannot be. You lie!"
Tavington stopped by the steps, spreading his arms out with apparent sympathy.
"Alas, I do not lie, Madam," Tavington lied compellingly. His men moved restlessly behind him. Charlotte flashed the musket up, sighting at Tavington's heart again as a fresh wave of panic washed over her white face. Tavington put his hand up sharply, snapping "Stand down!" to his men, who immediately froze.
"No closer, Sir!" Charlotte gasped, her mouth still working. "On my honour, I swear to you that there are no children in my house!"
Tavington studied her in silence for a handful of heartbeats.
"Your honour " he sneered. His patience seemed to be at an end. "If your honour has any worth, then the children are hiding on the grounds. We'll see. Search the outbuildings and grounds!" he barked to his men.
"No! Do not move, if you value your Colonel's life!" Charlotte begged. The Dragoons paused, waiting for Tavington's order.
"You won't kill me," Tavington said contemptuously. He glared unbendingly up at her.
Charlotte looked lost. "Thou shalt not kill," she quoted softly, despairingly.
Swallowing, she dropped the muzzle of the gun, still sighting carefully along it, aiming now at Tavington's groin.
His eyes widened and he involuntarily twitched, angling his body to present his side.
"There's nothing about maiming, though," she breathed, shaking.
He scowled up at her, his face hard. Finally, he repeated, "Search the grounds. Find the children!"
Charlotte looked up with a gasp as the Dragoons immediately spread out, leaving a small circle of men backing their commander. Simultaneously, Tavington flashed forward, seizing the muzzle of her gun with one hand and her wrist with the other.
Charlotte cried out helplessly as Tavington yanked her down the steps, tearing the gun from her hand. She fell before him, one arm held high in his iron grip. He looked savagely down at her, her gun at his side. She lunged for the gun with her free hand, gasping as he blocked her with his body, jerking the musket out of her reach.
"How dare you?" Tavington breathed, fury clipping his words.
He hauled her roughly to her feet, his face blazing above hers, frightening any further thoughts of retrieving her gun from her. Charlotte held her breath, held frozen by the savage expression playing across his face.
Without breaking his glare, Tavington said to his remaining men, "Search the house. Find the children! They can't be far. Bordon! My gun." He pushed Charlotte to Wilkins, snapping "Hold her", before taking his pistol and stalking into the house without a backward glance.
Charlotte found the familiar face of Wilkins above hers; he was holding her arms securely without employing the bruising strength Tavington had used. Perhaps he felt sympathy for her? She whimpered piteously, looking up at him.
"Mr. Wilkins," she sobbed, "tell me Ben and his children are ok, please tell me that Tavington lied."
Wilkins put his head up uncomfortably. He refused to respond to her panicked pleas concerning her and her family's safety, remaining silent as Dragoons marched around them busily. Charlotte's heart couldn't have pounded harder; so far, no shout had sounded, indicating their discovery of the hidden children. Tavington leisurely returned from her house, surveying his men.
"Fire the house," he ordered the nearest who held torches. The servants were pulled before him. He considered them coldly.
"We're looking for Benjamin Martin's children," he informed them. "I know they are here. Where would they hide?"
The servants cowered silently, looking between Charlotte and the Colonel. He tightened his lips. Almost casually, Tavington raised Charlotte's gun and shot the nearest man.
Tavington waited, glaring around at the remaining terrified servants. "Very well, you had your chance." He turned to his men. "Kill them."
Charlotte struggled against Wilkins as the Dragoons trained their weapons on her sobbing servants. They were shot, execution style, right in front of her. Charlotte cried out helplessly. She became very still when Tavington returned his icy gaze to her and slowly approached.
"Now, Miss Selton," he said softly, his voice very cold, "the time for pleasantries is over. I want those children! Tell me where they are."
"I don't know!" Charlotte wailed, almost too panicked to stick to her story.
"Liar!" Tavington snapped, raising one hand threateningly.
She cowered as much as Wilkins' hold on her would allow. Tavington posed, scowling, ready to hit her, his eyes locked on hers. Just then, the sound of approaching horses came to their ears. Tavington looked beyond her, his sharp expression shifting into one of bloodlust. Wilkins twisted to look as well, pulling Charlotte around; she glimpsed riders in the distant mist, shooting into the air. Her heart skipped a beat as she recognized Benjamin!
"To horse!" Tavington shouted, seizing Charlotte from Wilkins.
He pulled Charlotte roughly along, throwing her bodily over his horse's withers as he swung into the saddle. She sobbed, pinned by Tavington's hand hard on her back, thrown painfully against the saddle with each stride as they galloped in pursuit.
The Militia retreated into the mist, drawing the Dragoons away from the house. Struck by this, Charlotte looked back quickly, seeing her house ablaze. She could just make out more Militia slipping across the lawn. The children would be safe! She half fainted with relief.
A sharp pain recalled her as Tavington abruptly stopped his horse, shouting "Hold!" to his men.
They milled around him. He was looking back and forth along the drive, as if working out what the Ghost was doing.
Tavington swore softly under his breath. He seized one of Charlotte's arms and twisted it painfully high on her pinned back.
Her arm felt like it was on fire. She couldn't help herself: her scream tore through the still night. She continued to scream helplessly as Tavington peered forward into the mist, waiting for her cries to draw the Ghost back. No one came. Tavington lowered her arm, easing some of her agony.
"Bordon, take half the men and go back to the house. Look for Militia trying to rescue the children," Tavington ordered, still focused on the mist where the Ghost had vanished with his men.
He shook Charlotte's arm, not to hurt her again, but to get her attention.
"Scream!" he snarled at her.
Charlotte sobbed quietly, shaking her head.
"Scream, damn you!" he demanded, scowling as she stayed stubbornly silent.
He tightened his grip on Charlotte's arm; she tensed, moaning. Before Tavington could force more than a strangled gasp from Charlotte, galloping hooves again sounded in the mist. He released her arm immediately, standing higher on the stirrups and straining to see along the driveway. His men readied their guns. The Militia erupted from the mist.
"Fire!" shouted Tavington, his pistol marking one of the oncoming riders. Though Militia fell from their fire, the Dragoon's divided force was now outnumbered. Tavington's face hardened.
"Retreat to the house!" he ordered as musket balls flew around them.
The Dragoons raced at full speed back toward the inferno. His other men raced out to meet him. The retreating Dragoons wheeled their steeds to face their attackers as soon as the troop was reunited, squeals of horses cutting through the air as the animals were pulled up sharply and wrenched around.
Tavington drew his sword, holding it high as he shouted, "Charge!"
His horse leapt forward as if stung, dislodging Tavington's hand on Charlotte's back and throwing her off balance. She cried out as she slipped from the horse. Tavington tried to hold her back but with his sword in his hand, he couldn't do more than momentarily pin her against the heaving shoulder of his horse. She hit the ground as the other horses flashed by her. Hooves struck her; she curled up into as small a target as possible. Tavington glanced back, but had to leave her lying like a broken doll on the road.
The Dragoons charged headlong into the Militia. They fought a pitched battle; then, the Ghost suddenly shouted "Retreat!" and the surviving Militia scattered in all directions.
Tavington wheeled around, trying to see where they were, but they had disappeared into the mist.
Galloping back to where Charlotte had fallen, Tavington was furious to discover that she was gone as well. He sat, his face set like stone, his gaze roving over the burning house and the carnage around it.
I will do what is required... he reminded himself, wheeling his horse to find Wilkins.
"Wilkins!" he ground out, "where are the Militia likely to be getting their supplies?"
Wilkins thought quickly.
"The town of Pembrook, Sir. It's situated perfectly for their range of action, and certainly houses many of Martin's old friends."
"Ah." Tavington considered his options. "Very well. We'll pay the good townsfolk a visit tomorrow afternoon. Bordon, prepare our wounded and dead for transfer to the base. Bring me any live Militia you find."
Tavington sat quietly, his jaw still working, as his men obeyed.