|Disclaimer:No rights infringement intended
Warning: Mature Adults only
Subject: 'Lana's Sharpe'
Date: Sat, 25 May 2002 19:34:40 -0400 Status: Normal
Disclaimer: I do not own the Sharpe's series or any of the characters involved therein. However, 'Lana Parks' and 'Phillipe de Jarqu' are creations of my imagination and never existed. Any similarities to a reader or their acquaintances are pure coincidence.
Summary: Lana Parks is a fierce, battle trained British girl. She and her brother, Charles, journey from Great Britain to visit with their uncle, Wellington. However, they are attacked by Phillipe de Jarqu and his men and taken hostage. Lana is to be his personal whore, but she escapes one night and runs into Major Richard Sharpe. A/N- I apologize profoundly to any Sharpe fan that reads this. To date I have only seen 'Sharpe's Gold', 'Sharpe's Battle,' and 'Sharpe's Sword', due to this unfortunate happenstance, I may mess up some details. I have been doing research so I know of parts of his past; such as Teresa. Undoubtabely as I see more movies my writing will improve. Bare with me until that much looked for date!
Time- Three months after Sharpe sees 'Lass' on his way- the ending of 'Sharpe's Sword'
Phillipe de Jarqu was not considered the noblest of French captains. Not by his own men, his enemies, or himself. He was ruthless and uncaring, not to mention pitiless. He would kill any man or woman who stood in his way, even one of his own allies. He was also a man with an eye for pretty things. In Lana Parks he had found something very pretty indeed. If only she wasn't so disagreeable.
He gazed at her disdainfully. Her hands and feet were bound. Eager and slightly drunken soldiers had ripped her fine clothes away from her body. Her curly brown hair was matted with blood and her green eyes darted around, looking for escape. She knelt before him, dressed only in a sheer under garment. It was slashed across the shoulders and clung to her frail frame.
Despite her frail and gentle appearance, this one was hardly harmless. When taking her and her brother, her brother had almost given up instantly and agreed to come where they were ordered. Phillipe was sure he would be signed on with the French army within the week. However, his sister had fought like a panther, killing one man with her bare hands. Her kicks and punches had fallen true each time and one especially strong kick had finally cut a man's wind cords.
He had tortured her for three days, and yet all he had managed to get from her was her name, Lana Parks. She had revealed that only under extreme pressure, the worst they had save amputation. He would not cripple this one. She was too fair a face to ruin it with severing a limb. Finally, while staring at her face, which had been slick with sweat but still emotionless, he had ordered the torturers to set her free. He had taken her to his chambers, and here they sat.
"Almost as bad as one of Sharpe's bloody Chosen Men," he muttered to himself. There was another worry. One by one, every French fort around this area had been cut down and turned British. Every last one of them had fallen to Major Richard Sharpe. Although his own fort, Tylaran, was the strongest out here in these bloody wastelands, even it could not hold forever.
He glanced at Lana once more; she stood before him proudly without any fear showing on her face, although surely she had to feel some. Her body was covered with bruises and cuts- the torturers had not been gentle. "Listen to me girl," he finally said. "Look at yourself and your surroundings. Your father is back home in his manor in Britain, thousand of miles away. You know what that means, don't you?"
She stared at him as though she was looking at a piece of dirt beneath her feet. It infuriated him, yet it captivated him. One so lovely, one so powerful should not be British, she should be fighting for the French. She should not bed some British man, but a French captain. That thought especially stuck in his head. "I see you will still not speak to me," he smiled. She did amuse him. "Very well, I will tell you. It means, that no matter how hard you scream, daddy can't hear you!"
Her lip tightened slightly, not from fear, but from anger. "Unlike you seem to think," she said tightly. "I am not in need of my father's protection. Nor do I want his protection. You stand here and make foolish promises and bluffs. But I know where you stand. Wellington is winning, this battle is almost over! Where is Napoleon now? When was last you heard from him? Has he abandoned you to the mercy of Major Sharpe? You appear shocked, but yes, I know of Major Sharpe. He will defeat you, and even if by the time he does, you have bedded me until I can stand it no longer, I will run away from you, even if I carry your child. You have no say over me!"
Phillipe snarled. "What a fitting speech!" he smirked. "So, you have taken to thinking that Sharpe is a hero, have you? You think he will march in here and carry you away on a white horse. You think of him as a knight in shining armor, do you? Well, things aren't story tale like out here. I know Sharpe, and I know exactly what he would do. He would save you, oh yes. He would take you with him and then shag you worse than I could ever imagine. Then, when you are most likely with his child, he will send you home to England and never again would you hear from him. How many poor whores has he made? How many bastards has he bred? Even I do not know."
"Liar!" shouted Lana, anger contorting her face.
Phillipe surged to his feet. "Do not insult me, for I am the only one who can save you in this godforsaken place."
"I would rather die than receive help from you!" she hissed, spitting on his feet.
Phillipe shrugged his shoulders and gave her up as a loss cause. "Very well, you have made your choice. You burn at dawn."
Lana lay staring at the ceiling in her room. The first light of morning would soon peak above the horizon, and with it would come her death. She cared not. She said what she meant and she would rather die in one hour, than spend the rest of her life as a personal whore. She rolled over and stared out the small slit of a window. Only one thing bothered her about the whole affair. This Sharpe character.
'What is he really liked?' she thought. 'He saved my uncle's life, didn't he? Surely he couldn't be as bad as that bastard of a Captain made him out to be?' Lana smiled. Believing a Frog over her uncle was pure foolishness. She lay back on her pillow, and saw the first rays of light peeking over the horizon. The icy hands of fear tickled her neck, causing her hair to rise. It was time.
Moments later, a soft rap came on the door. Swallowing hard, she crossed to the door. Only for a moment did she wonder why the frog had even bothered knocking. She opened the door to face a tall man. He was wrapped in a heavy wool cloak and his face was hidden. "Come with me wench," he said gruffly.
He pulled her along roughly through the dark alleys of the fort. He stopped outside a small side door that was used only by the scouts. 'What are we doing here?' wondered Lana silently.
" Here," he said, his voice cosiderabley gentler. "Now, I will open the door and you must run as fast as you can."
"You're letting me go?" she gasped softly. "But why?"
He let the hood drop to reveal the face of Father Curtis. He had been introduced to Lana once before and she had admired the spy greatly. "Dear Lana," he smiled. "I could not let you die. Now, take this necklace and go east. That is where Major Sharpe is supposed to be. Find him and show him this." He handed her a silver necklace with a silver cross. "Tell him everything about yourself and then tell him I sent you. Can you manage the journey?"
"I have to, don't I?" she retorted.
Father Curtis did not appear happy with her answer. "Worry not, Father," she smiled. "I have been trained by real soldiers. I believe I can make it to this Sharpe. I am eager to make his acquaintance after so many praise him so highly."
"He is an interesting man," agreed Curtis. "May God go with you." He kissed her on the top of her head and then opened the door. "Run Lana!" She began to run.
Shouts from the fort told her that she had been sighted. Gunshots rang out, but by now she was out of firing range. She slipped into the woods and ran to the east, towards the rising sun. Tears slipped down her face. Finally, when she was sure no one was following her, she stopped and faced the fort. The fort where she had left her brother. "I'll come back for you Charles," she whispered. "I promise!"
Sharpe barely looked up as Harper came to stand with him. "We've looked all over," he reported. "There is no sign of the new orders."
"I don't believe it," Sharpe sighed. "Who would have thought both Monroe and Wellington could have gotten lost? Bloody fools."
"Just because they aren't here, doesn't mean they are lost," Harper said uneasily.
Sharpe opened his mouth to respond, but his ears picked something up. "Hush," he motioned to the Chosen Men. "Listen, what is that?"
Harper tilted his head towards the sound. "Why, it's singing Major."
"I know bloody well that it's singing," snarled Sharpe. "Harris, you come with me. Harper and Hagman go and circle back the way we came. Find the singer, before whoever it is calls down the French."
Lana sighed wearily and slumped down on a reddish rock. It was so hot and she was very worried about burning her skin. She still wore the underclothes that the Frog captain had given her. 'What a sight I must look!' she smiled to herself. 'If Sharpe doesn't find me soon, or vice versa, I'll be roasted! If he is anywhere nearby he should be able to hear me singing!'
She licked her lips and prayed that her parched throat would still be able to produce some attempt at singing.
"Darkness creeps across the plain,
Stars flicker in and out, night has come again.
On a sleepless evening I sing alone,
Tomorrow I'll sing with you, on the wings of a dream."
She listened for a while, no noise. She was just about to jump into the second verse, when a gunshot went off just behind her. She leapt up. "Bloody hell!" she shouted, more furious than frightened. She crouched to the ground and slunk away into the opposite bush. Her eyes darted around, waiting for the rifleman to appear. 'If I've brought the bloody Frogs down on myself, I deserve to be shot,' she though angrily.
She continued crawling backwards. Finally, certain that no one was going to show themselves, she slumped down. But another gunshot rang out behind her and she leapt up. She was surrounded. Quickly, a plan formed in her head. She fumbled around until she found a very large tree branch.
With all the silence she could muster, she slipped aside, and them continued going in the direction from where the most recent gunshot had been fired. Smiling slightly to herself, she prepared to fight to the death.
She pushed aside some brush to see a young man looking in the opposite direction. He wore a dark green coat with silver buttons. He had a black leather waist belt with a silver 'S' engraved in it. His shoulder belt was also black leather and attached to it was a silver whistle and powder horn. He had a shako on his head. On it was a silver bugle badge with a green plume, marking him as an officer. He also wore deep green overalls that appeared black. His boots were French made, but that proved nothing of him, as so were Lana's old boots, though now she went bare foot. He held in his hands a Baker rifle and at his waist there hung a sheathed bayonet.
His hair was blonde and it brushed his shoulders at the very nape of his neck. His green eyes were darting around, just waiting for her to break out of the brush. He was quite handsome, so handsome that Lana almost paused in killing him. 'Pretty is as pretty does,' she reminded herself. 'Be that as may, it will still be a shame killing this one!'
Gripping the branch tightly, she slipped out of the brush. With a small grin, she snuck up behind him. She raised her stick and was just bringing it up to strike him the deathblow on top of the head when a voice rang out. "Sharpe!" shouted a strange man tearing through the brush. He had bright red hair and it was now wildly arrayed as he tore to his companion's rescue. "Behind you Major Sharpe!"
Lana cursed silently and tossed the branch into the bush- she couldn't believe she had tried to kill the one man Father Curtis thought could help her. Sharpe spun around. He slammed the butt of his gun into her stomach. His eyes widened when he saw exactly whom he was threatening. He almost blushed.
"Forgive me miss," he apologized. "I didn't realize you were a, well, a miss."
"Quite all right," she nodded, deciding to be blunt. "I was about to kill you myself."
Sharpe looked as though he couldn't decide to kill her or laugh. "Well, then," he blinked. "Allow me to introduce myself at least. My name is Richard Sharpe. And you would be - ?"
"My name is Lana Parks," she answered.
"Well, Lana," he smiled charmingly. "What is a lady such as yourself doing out here? And why are you dressed like that?"
Lana blushed as she remembered how sheer her garments were. "My brother and I were on our way to visit our uncle when we were ambushed by the French. Their captain took me and after torturing me for several days, he decided I would make a good personal whore. He took me to his rooms, but when I refused to become his skivvy, he changed his mind and decided that I was better off dead. I was to die this morning, but Father Curtis saved me. He gave me this and told me to find a Major Richard Sharpe. I trust that you are the Sharpe he was referring to?"
She held out the necklace and Sharpe took it. After examining it for a moment he nodded. "Its Cur'is' all right," he agreed. "You have had quite a time Miss Parks."
"Please, call me Lana," Lana begged.
"Very well," agreed Sharpe. "Then you must call me Richard."
"I would prefer to call you Sharpe," Lana announced. "If I may be so bold."
Sharpe grinned, but he looked a little bewildered. "Very well," he agreed. "Lana, this is one of my Chosen Men, Harris. If you ever need any help, he will know where to find me. I will come as quickly as I can."
Lana smiled warmly at Harris, but quickly turned her attention on Sharpe again. "What do you plan to do with me, Sharpe?" she demanded.
"I will bring you back to our small camp with me," he answered. "Though you are trying to deny it, I can see that your torture brought you pain. I will find Ramona and have her nurse you back to health. Then I will find you some proper clothing and begin training you."
"Training me?" she inquired. "Did I hear you right?"
"You did," he nodded. "If you managed to sneak up on me, I would say you would make a bloody good Chosen Man, err, Woman. At least for the time you remain with us." He offered his hand.
Lana smiled. No matter what the Frog Captain had said, even if Sharpe wasn't riding a horse, he was a bloody good knight in shining armor. "As you wish," she agreed, taking his hand. A jolt of electricity seemed to shoot through her. She looked up at Sharpe, trying to disguise her wonder. He was staring at her hand.
"Right this way," Harris urged, pushing back a branch. Was it Lana's imagination, or did Harris wear a knowing grin?
Chapter 2 - The Camp of the Chosen Men
Sharpe tried not to stare at Lana too hard. He did not understand her, and the Major did not like things he did not understand. He could almost see through her garment. Her entire body was bruised with ugly purple marks, the toll of her torture.
Yet, she still had a bit of a spring in her step and her eyes did not hold the look of one who had been broken. She seemed to have intelligence by the way she carried on a conversation with Harris. The teacher turned soldier looked at her as though he was astonished to find brains on a woman. Because of bad debts, Harris had had to become a soldier. Yet Sharpe was positive Harris already looked at Lana as a student. 'But who in bloody hell is she?' he thought to himself. 'What kind of woman wanders around this wasteland, even with her brother coming to visit their uncle, whoever he is?'
'Teresa would do that,' said a nasty little voice inside his head. Sharpe firmly silenced the voice. He still loved Teresa with all his heart and her name was enough to bring shameful tears.
"Major Sharpe," Harris interrupted his thoughts. "Major Sharpe, we're here!"
Sharpe's head jerked up as he was brought back to the present. They were in the middle of the miniature camp that had been set up only this morning. It consisted of three tents; one for his own use, one for Harper and Ramona and their son, and one for Hagman and Harris. There was a cooking fire in the middle over which Ramona currently stood, stirring the lunch meal.
She looked up and smiled gently. "Ah, Major," she laughed softly. "I see you have brought back another girl." Ramona was a pretty Spanish woman. She and Harper had had little Richard out of wedlock, but Father Curtis had managed to trick Harper into marrying her several months ago. Not that Patrick Harper didn't love Ramona. He had been concerned that his mother and all the rest of Ireland would shun her and instantly mark her as a Spanish skivvy. But now, there would be no problem.
Richard, who had just recently learned to walk, came tottering out to greet Sharpe and Harris. Sharpe swept him up and swatted at his nose affectionately. "I do declare," he smirked. "The camp is becoming more like a household day by day." He turned his attention on Richard. "Come to see your Uncle Sharpe have you?" he laughed.
"If you'll excuse me Major," Harris begged. "I have some reading to do."
"You know when we're alone you don't have to bother with all that formal codswallop," Sharpe answered. "Do whatever you please!"
Harris grinned and sauntered off to his tent. "Now Richard," Ramona smiled, taking her son into her own arms. "There will be no play time until you introduce me to your new friend."
"Well," he laughed. "This is Lana Parks. She has just escaped torture from the Frogs. Her wounds are quite painful, but I think they are mild. Can you nurse her and perhaps clothe her properly?"
"She'll have to wear men's clothing for now," Ramona frowned. "She is too tall for any of my things! Oh, and by the way Richard, Hagman came back a while ago. Seems Wellington and company has been sighted. He and Patrick should be back soon and the company will be here in the next hour. Come child, let's get you out of those rags."
Sharpe pulled his white shirt over his head and stared broodingly at the red raw wound on his lower stomach. He didn't doubt that Wellington would hardly let him go to battle if he found out about it. Although it was no longer fatal while closed, if it broke open again, he would most certainly die.
Shrugging his shoulders uncomfortably he pulled on his spare white one and fastened it up. Over it he pulled on his dark green tunic, but left it unbuttoned. He buckled his sword belt around his waist. He had to look proper when Wellington rode into camp.
"Those buttons are horribly done," laughed a voice.
Sharpe spun around to face Lana grinning at him. She wore tight green breeches and a white shirt, over her arm there was a dark green tunic. He recognized them as the ones Lass had worn while she stayed at camp.
"What's wrong with them?" he demanded.
She rolled her eyes. "Really, I was only joking Sharpe!" She turned to go, but something caught her eye. Her eyes were on his wound that remained slightly visible through the white shirt. "So, I am not the only one to suffer from the Frogs' torment. If you plan to go to battle, I suggest you hide that. My uncle would never allow you to go with that bloody thing."
She left the tent, and he was quick after her. "Wait a moment!" he called after her. "Who exactly is your uncle?"
She looked at him, confused. "Didn't you know?" she laughed. "My uncle is Wellington. He has praised you highly and you were the main reason I came out here. Meeting a true war hero seemed an adventure indeed. You had better make yourself worth my trip Major Sharpe." She laughed again at the bewildered look on his face. Ramona came up to him. "Patrick and Hagman have returned, Major Sharpe," she announced. "Come away child. Richard needs to attend to his duties. He says you are to be trained to be one of the Chosen Women. You should begin your lessons with Harris."
"No, it's all right Ramona," Sharpe smiled, taking Lana's hand again. "I will be giving Lana her lessons. She will stay with me."
"That's not what you said about the last one," Ramona muttered. But, she let it pass and Lana and Sharpe hurried off to meet Harper and Hagman.
Lana stayed close to Sharpe as they left to meet Harper and Hagman. He had discarded his tunic and through the thin white shirt, she could make out five red scars. Whiplashes, unless she missed her guess. But who would dare to whip a Major?
Lana suddenly became aware of two men dressed similar to Sharpe walking towards them. Sharpe motioned for her to stop and they waited for the men to come to them. "Lana," smiled Sharpe. "This is Patrick Harper and Dan Hagman, the last of the Chosen Men. Harper, Hagman, meet Lana Parks, the first of the Chosen Women!"
Harper, a strong dark-haired Irishman, grinned down at Lana. "Hello lass," he greeted. "So Sharpe found his lil' songbird, did he?"
"Aye, a songbird she is," nodded Hagman. Hagman was a rather old man with long dark hair streaked with gray. "A Chosen Woman did you say Major? Well, maybe so. Would you be related to Wellington lass? He told us to watch out for a young girl by the name of Lana."
Lana nodded. "He's my uncle," she informed him. "So, you have seen him?"
"Yes," answered Harper. "He should be here nigh on this very hour!"
"Good," nodded Sharpe. "Wellington and Monroe have-"
A shot from a gun rang through the air. "Blood and bloody ashes!" cursed Sharpe. "What mess have they gotten themselves into now?"
He, Harper, and Hagman ran towards where the shot had come from. Lana was quick after them. When they reached the squrimsh, the French were already in full retreat. Lana's eyes almost instantly fell on Phillipe de Jarqu.
She clutched Sharpe's arm. "That's him!" she hissed, hate coating her distasteful tone. "Hes the' one who captured Charles and I!"
Phillipe caught sight of Lana. His eyes widened in astonishment, but he quickly recovered. "So, the little skivvy found her way to Sharpe, did she?" he called. "Well, girl, remember what I said when you sleep tonight!" He reared his mount and galloped after his men.
Sharpe turned to Lana. "What did he tell you?" Sharpe demanded.
Lana bit her lip. "Nothing important," she shrugged. "Just French cock-a-bull stories!"
Sharpe looked about to say more, when Wellington trotted up on his gray stallion. He was a middle-aged man with a rather large nose. He treated Sharpe well, especially after Sharpe had saved his life.
"Lana," he smiled. "And Major Sharpe! But where is Charles?" He saw Lana's worried look and Sharpe's confused one. "Well, it looks like this is a tale worth telling! Meet me at six Major. You come with me right now Lana!"
Ramona and Harris were waiting for them when they returned with the army. Sharpe watched Lana and Wellington ride off to where Wellington's tent would be set up. He was surprised over his anxious feelings. 'What did that bloody Frog tell her?' he thought.
"All right men!" shouted Monroe, a thin, balding Major. "Set up your camp! Move along then!" He lowered his voice. "A word with you Major Sharpe!"
"Certainly sir," nodded Sharpe. Although both Majors, Monroe outranked Sharpe. For the time, Sharpe had to be pleasant to the slimy bastard, for the time.
Monroe swung down from his saddle and stood in silence, regarding Sharpe. "You said you needed to talk?" inquired Sharpe, rather impatiently.
"Yes lad," nodded Monroe. "Keep your hands off Lana!"
Sharpe's lip curled back in a snarl, but Monroe raised his hand. "Hold it Sharpie! Perhaps I shouldn't have been so blunt!" he protested. "Just friendly advice. She's all but promised to Captain Martin. And she's one who could break your heat, unless I am highly mistaken! Sort of another special lady like your dead Teresa!"
Monroe turned to go, but Sharpe lunged for him. The mention of Teresa set him into an emotional turmoil. He grabbed Monroe's collar. "Never mention my wife again!" he snarled. "And who is this Captain Martin?"
"Easy Sharpe!" soothed Monroe. "I didn't mean to offend you any! As for Captain Martin, he is with us right now. He leaves tomorrow though. He is one of Cutis' men- a spy you see? Hell be' stationed in Tylaran so that El Mirador can return to Villafranca."
Sharpe nodded and let Monroe go. He turned to go. He must have worn a smile, for Monroe called after him. "Sharpe! Don't do anything foolish!"
Sharpe's grin grew larger as he pretended not to hear. He knew what he wanted and he always got what he wanted in the end.
Lana tried to get comfortable in the folding chair she sat in, but it was impossible. She asked to be excused. Her uncle nodded his consent, face grim. She went out to a large water bucket meant for washing and dabbed her tear-streaked face.
"Lana?" inquired a kind voice behind her. She turned to face Sharpe- who was obviously on his way to speak with her uncle. "Are you all right Lana?"
"Yes," she nodded. "I'm quite all right! Shall we go in?"
Sharpe smiled and offered his arm, which she gladly took. When they entered, Wellington only rolled his eyes a little at their linked arms. "Sit down," he invited. "Make yourselves at home!"
Lana sat in her folding chair, while Sharpe sat on top of a small stool. "Well Sharpe," smiled Wellington. "Long time, no see! From what I have heard, you are doing a fine job with the Frogs. Always knew I could trust you!"
"Thank you sir," Sharpe said, with a brief decline of his head. There was genuine respect in his voice.
"Now," Wellington sighed, leaning back in his chair. "I suppose you want your new orders?"
"Yes please sir," agreed Sharpe.
"Well," began Wellington. "We have a tricky situation here. As you know, there is only one Frog fort remaining in your area, the greatest of them all. Fort Tylaran under the control of Colonel Phillipe de Jarqu!" Lana felt her lip curl in distaste. "This man has done my family personal harm. Remember that when you kill him Sharpe!"
"Yes sir," nodded Sharpe, with emotion.
"But, you cannot just blow up the place you see," Wellington explained. "Inside we have Captain Martin and my nephew Charles. Neither of them must be harmed. Now, two days from now you and the Chosen Men will ride north to Devil's Point. That is where Martin and El Mirador will drop off their information. Do you understand Sharpe?"
"Yes sir," nodded Sharpe. "One question though sir!"
"What is it?" inquired Wellington.
"How long will the Chosen Men have to wait at Devil's Point?" asked Sharpe.
"I don't know," admitted Wellington. "Pack enough food for a fortnight's journey at least. Anything else Sharpe?"
"No sir," answered Sharpe.
"Then you're dismissed Sharpe" Wellington smiled. Sharpe got up to leave.
"Wait!" cried Lana, jumping to her feet. "Uncle, may I have permission to travel with the Chosen Men?"
Wellington hesitated. Monroe leaned over and whispered. "It will get her away from that bloody Frog Captain sir!"
Wellington nodded. "Permission granted," he smiled.
"Thank you!" Lana grinned.
Sharpe smiled over at Lana and she happily returned it.
That night Harris, Harper, Ramona and Sharpe sat around the fire and listened to Lana and Hagman sing. "As Pretty Polly Oliver sat musing 'tis said,
A comical fancy came into her head!
Nor father nor mother shall make me false prove
I'll list for a soldier and follow my love!" Lana sang cheerfully.
"Well done Lana," complimented Harper. "Now, off to bed with you! Sharpe and I begin your training first thing in the morning."
"All right," agreed Lana. "But where will I sleep?"
"I've made you up a cot in Richard's tent," answered Ramona. Sharpe's eyes only widened a little. "Now, sweet dreams child!"
Lana smiled and ducked into Sharpe's tent.
By the time Sharpe came to bed, Lana appeared to be asleep. He pulled off his shirt. He winced as he felt the old sting from the old scars on his back.
Lana, who had woken at his entrance, noticed the wince. She rose from her bed and crossed to him. "Here," she said. "This is a salve my mother makes. Uncle gave me some for my bruises and they feel much better. You should try it on those scars."
Sharpe took the jar of salve. "Thanks," he smiled. He paused. "I can't put it on myself. Would you mind-?"
Wordlessly, Lana popped open the salve and dipped her finger in. Gently she spread the salve onto his scars. When they had each been treated, she turned a critical eye on the wound that still pained Sharpe.
"This might sting a little," she warned him. "Since it is so large." She spread the salve all over the wound. "It should be covered!" She took from her bag a cloth and tied it around Sharpe's waist.
"Are you always this prepared?" Sharpe asked teasingly.
"My mother is an herbalist," answered Lana. "She has taught me much and I have learned a few other things as well. I believe that, maybe, if I can treat the men after battles, maybe Uncle will let me stay longer."
"Oh," Sharpe said dumbly. "Well, thank you."
"You're welcome," nodded Lana. She tossed the sale into her bag and crawled into her cot. "Goodnight Sharpe."
"Goodnight Lana," he smiled, blowing out the candle.
Chapter 3- The Trials of Camp Life
Lana stretched as much as she could in her little cot. A glance over at Sharpe"s bed told her he was already up. She swung her legs over the side of the cot. They were still marred by bruises, but in time, the bruises would vanish and she would have unblemished legs once more.
She slipped off the undergarment and pulled on her breeches and shirt. Outside there was a large bucket filled with water. She splashed her face, shivering as the ice cold water dripped down her back. Her breath came out in white puffs and the chill morning air nipped at her ears.
"Morning Lana," greeted Hagman.
Lana smiled broadly to greet the ex-poacher. Already she adored each of the Chosen Men, but Hagman had a special place with her. "Good morning Hagman!" she grinned. "Do you know where I might find Sharpe?"
"Aye, I do," nodded Hagman. "He sent me to fetch you. He, Wellington, and Monroe are just about to see Captain Martin off. I"m to bring you to him right away!"
"Well, we mustn"t keep them waiting!" Lana said anxiously.
"No indeed," Hagman agreed and turned immediately. Lana followed.
Her thoughts were on Captain Martin- or Michael, as she knew him. Her parents adored him and acted as though they were already engaged. Michael seemed to think along the same lines, but Lana strongly disagreed. In her opinion, Michael was horribly boring and terribly plain.
"Not like Major Sharpe!" The thought came unbiddened and caused Lana to blush. She prayed her face had lost its redness when she saw Michael, Monroe, Wellington, and Sharpe. She smiled coyly to herself. "Though it is true! Sharpe is much better than Michael is!"
"I"ll leave you here," Hagman announced. Lana nodded. Her eyes were already watching Michael warily.
"Ah!" Michael exclaimed, leaping down from his horse. "I almost thought you wouldn't make it in time. And what is this you"re wearing?"
Lana studied Michael. His black hair and brown eyes looked even plainer when he stood next to Sharpe. "I wouldn"t miss seeing you off Captain Martin," Lana assured him with a cool, unemotional voice. "And Major Sh arpe was kind enough to provide these clothes. They are most practical, especially for our journey to Devil"s Point!"
"You' re journeying with the Chosen Men to Devil"s Point?" repeated Michael, not even hiding his shock.
"Yes," confirmed Lana. "Uncle agreed that I might."
"He did, did he?" muttered Michael so that only Lana could hear. He turned to Wellington and smiled respectfully. "Sir, if it is all right, could Lana accompany me to Tylaran?"
Wellington began to shake his head no, but Lana barged over him. "I would much prefer to accompany Major Sharpe to Devil"s Point," she protested.
"Nonsense," snorted Michael. "You"ll come with me. Devil's Point is no place for a lady!"
"I want to go-" Lana began.
"Quiet!" snarled Michael. He rose his hand as though to s trike Lana, but Sharpe"s hand darted out and pulled his wrist back.
"If you lay a hand on Miss Parks," Sharpe said in a soft, yet deadly voice. "I will kill you."
Michael snorted, but when he tested Sharpe"s grip and realized he could not budge his wrist, he became more respectful. "Forgive me Major Sharpe," he sighed tightly. "But Lana is my fiance and I will do with her what I want."
"Not while I am here you bastard," snarled Sharpe. "And I see no ring on Miss Parks finger. Care to explain?"
Michael glared at Sharpe angrily . Lana answered for him. "Captain Martin is living in a dream!" she spat. "We are not engaged!"
Michael"s eyes darted from her to Wellington and back again. "Well," Sharpe smiled slyly. "As that is sorted out, Lana may accompany me to Devil"s Point." He grinned triumph antly at Michael.
"Surely you are not going to let him speak to me with that tone sir?" inquired Michael, looking at Wellington helplessly.
"It is none of my business what takes place between a man and his woman," Wellington said calmly. "Sharpe and Lana may go anywhere they bloody well please so long as they do their bloody job!" Michael"s jaw dropped in disbelief. "And you have your own job to attend to!" Wellington continued. "Now I suggest you get to Tylaran. Besides, Lana is known in the Frog fort. She would only help you to be discovered. Now, go man and spy!"
Michael"s lips parted in a sneer. However, he mounted his horse. "I won"t forget this Sharpe," he promised.
"Good," Sharpe said with a sickly pleasantness. "Neither will I!"
"Be gone with you, you bloody bastard!" snarled Monroe, slapping the horse"s rump. They watched as Michael galloped away towards the fort. "I never did like that man!"
"I fear you have made a bitter en emy in that one," Wellington said, shaking his head. "Watch your back Sharpe!"
"I will," Sharpe nodded. "Besides, it was worth it!" He grinned at Lana.
Wellington and Monroe laughed. "Well Lana," Monroe smiled. "I suggest you begin training right after you break your fast. Major Sharpe has two days to make sure you don"t kill yourself with these!" He tossed her a musket and a sword. She caught the sword, but the musket clattered to the ground at her feet.
Red faced, she picked it up. "I"ll get the hang of this, somehow,"she promised to herself.
"This is a sword," Sharpe informed Lana, hefting his sword into the air.
"So I see," she drawled in a very dry tone.
"Have you ever used a sword?" Sharpe inquired.
"Yes," she responded. "Charles, my brother, taught me as much as he thought proper before we left London." "Well, let's see what you can do," Sharpe shrugged. Lana tightened her grip and took a fighting stance.
Sharpe circled her warily, sizing her up. She followed him with her eyes, perfectly tense.
Suddenly, with no warning, he lunged for her. She brought up her sword just in time to stop the blade from nicking her arm. Angry at being caught off guard, she lunged for him. With two steady strokes, she forced Sharpe back two steps. Then he forced her back. And so it went on for, at the very least, five minutes. Finally, thoroughly frustrated, Lana twisted her body around, locked their swords together and kneed Sharpe in the crotch. He winced and let out a little yelp. As he dodged another lash out, he gasped, "Your brother thought that was proper?"
"No," she admitted. "I taught myself that!"
Obviously angry, Sharpe quickened the pace. Unable to keep up the set pace, Lana quickly lost ground. In two minutes, she was on her back with Sharpe"s sword placed gently on her neck. "I win," he grinned, helping her to her feet. "Your sword skills are in no need of training. Do you know how to fight with your body?"
Lana grinned and tossed her sword aside. "This is where I will be of use to you!" she announced.
"Good," Sharpe smiled. "Let"s see what you have!" He threw aside his sword as well. He was just about to bring up his fist, when Lana"s fist slammed into his nose.
He just had time to acknowledge that fact before her fist rammed into his ribcage. Next was a knee in his thigh and finally her elbow jammed into the small of his back. He crashed to the ground and prayed no one had seen him be whipped by a woman.
He saw a hand reach down and he took it. It was Lana and although her eyes shone with triumph, her look was a worried one. "Did I hurt you?" she asked anxiously.
Sharpe forced a laugh. "As though a girl like you could hurt me!"
He knew he had said the wrong thing when Lana twisted and kicked him in the hips. He cursed as the pain registered into him. "Now," Lana smiled calmly. "Go get something on your nose! You"re dripping blood everywhere. Then you can teach me how to shoot a musket!"
"Do you actually need training in that?" Sharpe joked.
"Yes," nodded Lana. "I have never held a musket in my entire life! Do I really fight well? I mean you didn"t just let me win?"
"Trust me!" Sharpe growled. "You stand more than a fair chance against any Frog!"
"That's wonderful!" laughed Lana, skipping after him.
Lana"s eyes popped open. She sighed deeply. The shame of yesterday's musket training still burned. It had taken her fifteen minutes to load the bloody thing. When it was loaded, her aim had always been far off.
Heavy slow breathing in the bed beside her marked Sharpe as still sleeping. She dressed quickly in case he did wake up and slipped outside. The grass was still wet with dew and her bare feet were soon soaked. "I really hope they manage to find me some boots!" she thought scornfully.
The camp was just beginning to stir and campfires were just being lit. Lana joined Harper and Ramona at the fire of the Chosen Men. Harper was cleaning his rifle while Ramona cooked the breakfast porridge. "Good morning Lana," greeted Ramona, straightening and wiping her hands on her grimy apron. "Sleep well?"
"Yes," nodded Lana. "I managed to drown out Sharpe"s snores."
Harper laughed. "After the whipping you gave him yesterday it is no wonder he snored!"
Lana smiled. "True," she agreed. "But my musket skills are non-existent!"
"Here, let me help you," Harper offered, tossing her a musket and crossing to her. "Do you have your supplies?"
"Yes," nodded Lana, patting her belt pouch.
"All right, let's begin!" Harper smiled encouragingly. "Now, load the gun- quick as you can!"
Under Harper"s instruction, Lana pulled the musket's hammer back to half cock. She pulled a cartridge from her belt pouch and bit through the waxed paper. She tucked the bullet inside her mouth and trickled a bit of the powder into her musket"s pan, then closed the lock.
She poured the remainder of her powder into her musket"s barrel and stuffed the cartridge paper right after it. She took the bullet from her mouth and pushed it into the muzzle. Lana tugged the ramrod free of the brass pipes that held it under the musket's barrel. She slammed the ramrod down, forcing the bullet, wadding and powder to the bottom of the barrel. Quickly, she pulled the ramrod free and placed it in its proper place.
"Good," nodded Harper. "A few unnecessary movements, but still a good time. Now, what should we use for a target?" He scanned the camp and a slow grin spread on his face. "Come with me lass!"
Lana followed Harper to Sharpe"s tent. They peered inside to see Sharpe still sleeping. "Do you see that wooden pole just on the other side of Major Sharpe's bed?" whispered Harper.
"Yes," nodded Lana.
"Well, that's your target!" he grinned.
"But what if I shoot Sharpe?" she hissed. "My aim isn't very good!"
"You won't," Harper said confidently. "Just remember, keep both eyes open!"
"Okay," she agreed, only a little nervous.
"All right," he smiled, clapping her on the back. "Fire when I start shouting!" He took a great breath.
"Major!" he hollered. "On your feet! The Frogs are upon us!"
Lana grinned. "Keep both eyes open," she repeated in her head. She aimed and fired. The bullet crashed through the wooden pole.
Sharpe scrambled up. "I was just laying down, Wellington, sir!" he shouted, standing at attention. Lana and Harper burst out laughing. Sharpe"s face grew considerably red when he caught sight of them. "Bloody hell," he moaned.
The tent flap was jerked aside and Monroe, only half-dressed, stormed in. "What is all this racket, might I inquire?" he demanded coolly.
Patrick stood at attention and Sharpe too stood a little straighter. "Nothing sir!" they said.
Lana laughed. "Do you care to explain Miss. Parks?" inquired Monroe.
"But of course," agreed Lana smoothly. "One of those fools from the Scottish Brigade 53 left his gun laying around while it was loaded. It just went off. Our shouting was from shock."
"I see," Monroe said, glaring at Sharpe suspiciously. "An interesting-"
Lana interrupted him. "Would you care to have breakfast with me Major Monroe?" she invited, wearing a charming grin.
"Of course Miss Parks," Monroe nodded eagerly, offering his arm.
Lana took it and left with him. She waved her free hand as they went through the tent flap, signaling that they could thank her later. "She's a special little lady," remarked Harper. "One that, if I dare say, you have your eye on Major Sharpe!" "Indeed she is," nodded Sharpe. "And indeed I do! But we will save pleasant conversation for later. Do you care to explain what in bloody hell you thought you were doing Sergeant Harper?"
Phillipe de Jarqu was furious. How dare that little skivvy turn him down for that bastard Sharpe? Who in bloody hell did she think she was?
The door creaked open and he turned to give his unannounced guest the rough side of his tongue. But when he saw who it was, he calmed himself. "Ah, so it is you again," he smirked. "Are you still faithful?"
"Always!" responded the newcomer. "Only you can help me kill that bastard Sharpe!"
"Yes," smiled Phillipe soothingly. "Now, tell me, what have you learned?"