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Owl's Wheel Contest Draft[]

Daniel Saxon was born on the move. His parents were Joseph Saxon, a Methodist frontier circuit minister, and Anabelle Westerberg Saxon, herself the daughter of a Swedish Lutheran pastor in Delaware who had been defrocked and excommunicated for embracing the Swedenborgian movement. Daniel's early memories were of constantly changing places and people, many of them blurring into innaccurate composite settings. He had no siblings, and no lasting friendships. Most of his formative years were spent frontier revival camps, or at Indian missions.

The family met with a detachment of United States soldiers while riding circuit in the Ohio territory during the Nortwest Indian War. Joseph Saxon had himself been a colonel in the Continental Army but was now an avowed pacifist. This encounter was Daniel's first impression of what soldiers looked like. Their stylish uniforms immediately attracted him to the military life. His father was deterimined that Daniel should be a minister like himself, and after inviting the soldiers to one of his revival meetings, they quickly parted ways.

Joseph died when Daniel was 16. Against his fahter's wishes, he moved to New York and enrolled in Kings College to study not the ministry, but secular humanities. He quickly became an admirer of Voltaire, Kant, and Locke. Religion as such could not be further from his ambitions.

When war broke out again with Britian over the Indian territories in 1812, he left the university to join the New York militia, where he was given the rank of Captain at just 20 years old. He was given command of a company of some sixty men, and ordered to march to Lake Ontario, where he was to establish a fort to prevent British amphibious incursions.

The land Captain Saxon chose for his new fort was poorly suited to the purpose. He selected a low clearing surrounded by woods about a quarter of a mile from the lake. The ground was permanently moist and rocky, and the clearing itself was barely spacious enough to hold a small fort.

Nevertheless, they managed to build something from what dry wood they could find, a chest-high circular wall, and some crude earthworks. Saxon also ordered the construction of a short watchtower, which barely cleared the surrounding trees to overlook the lake. No proper barracks were built, only a large wooden awning for the men to sleep under. The fort's one clear advantage was that nobody would ever guess it was there.

Captain Saxon named the post Fort Kant. His mission was to watch for British patrols, but there was never any sign of the redcoats. He turned his focus to the matter of shoring up his garrison's provisions for the coming winter, sending out foraging parties and excising supplies from local farms. They eventually planted a vegetable garden.

Daniel took to meditating in the evenening down by the lake. Sometimes he would see a warship, but never any land forces. Sometimes he would drill the men, but that quickly became tiresome. He soon felt his assignment was pointless.

The first real excitement came not from the enemy, but among his own men. A certain Private Sawill had gotten into an altercation with one Corporal Dunning. The private had punched the corporal in the nose, killing him.

Saxon held a drumhead at his command tent by the lookout tower. There was only one correct disposition: Private Sawill had to die. The man blubbered and sobbed that he never intended for the Corporal to die. He never pleaded for his life, only that he was sorry. It was a pathetic display, but one that weighed heavily on Saxon's mind.

The prisoner was housed in a tent within the fort and an extra section of fence was put up to sequester him from the rest of the garrison. Two militiamen guarded him at all times and he was not to speak to the other men. Sawill's only last request was a Bible. His execution was delayed a few days for a supply party to find one. The best they could manage was an old hymnal, found at a nearby farm.

He was shot on the bank of the lake, his executioners having drawn straws, and buried right there. His last words had been merely to repeat that he was sorry. The dead corporal had been buried on that same strip. It wasn't really proper that they should be interned so close together, but it was the only available space.

Captain Saxon had given funderal rites for Dunning and now did the same for Sawill. He didn't even believe in God at this point, but was able to perform it from memory based on watching his father do it so many times, not even having to use the hymnal that had been procured.

That night Saxon had a dark dream. He dreamt of people falling dead, their blood flowing out onto the ground, and then being swallowed up by the earth.

Winter came without the enemy ever rearing his head. Daniel didn't know much about what was happening outside the wooded clearing where his tiny fort lay, but he had heard from the commander of the nearest other garrison that the focus of the war had moved westward. With fighting season over, most of the men were suffered to return home for Christmas, though one perished of pneumonia and was buried at that same makeshift graveyard on the lake.

Daniel with now almost alone, with just a handful of men who had elected to stay at Fort Kant. They managed to acquire a half-keg of beer and a single bottle of wine for a Christmas celebration of their own. They sang around a fire at the center of the fort until the early morning.

When it was time to muster in the spring, some men did not report back, and there were a few new faces. Despite not having a complete complement of troops, Daniel recieved orders to abandon Fort Kant and march east toward the new front at Lake Erie.

He was to join with a company of regulars where a new fort was being built. They took what supplies they could carry and buried the rest. There was no time to demolish the fort, as his orders were to depart immediately.

It was on the way to his new post that Saxon had his first engagement. In the early evening, his forward patrol, consisting of six men, stumbled upon some British irregulars in an aspen grove. Fire was exchanged, and when the main force rushed in, the British retreated, melting into the encroaching darkness. Two enemies had been killed. One was captured but let go as they did not have time to transport a prisoner. Saxon's company had lost one man, and one had been wounded.

They hastily buried the three dead men while a party was detached to find a spot to camp for the night. They recommended a low-lying pine grove, where it would be difficult for potential enemy reinforcements to find them. The needle- and stick-laden ground was bloody uncomfortable, but any intruder would have a hard time approaching without being heard. It rained that night, which made further confrontation even more unlikely.

Daniel had a repetition of his dream from before, people dying and bleeding out on the ground, and swallowed up in a great pit. This time there was an additional detail: everythig was on fire, and smoke blanketed the dark sky.

Having slept a few hours, they decamped just before dawn. Saxon diverted his course somewhat, but his next destination remained the same: a frontier town en route to the site of the new fort. There they would commend the wounded militiaman to the care if the townspeople, rest, and resupply.

When they arrived, Daniel realized he had been there before. The town was one of the many he had been to with his father. In fact, the tiny local church had started as one of Joseph Saxon's missions.

The company was larger than the population of the town itself. Several of the local families had taken after Joseph's pacifism, and refused to house the militiamen. Daniel considered putting the town under effective martial law, but with the town being this close to the enemy, he decided it was best to be a good neighbor. Those who could not find housing camped outside in a farmer's field.

(need suggestions for what to put here to segue to the next scene)

Major Thomas Greenwald, officer of the fort currently under construction, had been waiting over a fortnite for his expected reinforcements. Neither side in the war had yet gained naval hegemony over Lake Erie, and the fort was being built in fluid territory. If the fort was discovered it would take but a hundred British soldiers or Confederacy warriors to take it.

He gazed over the lake. Not a vessel in sight, but that meant nothing. Greenwald privately intended to surrender or abandon the fort if the British won the expected upcoming naval showdown, regardless of his orders.

His quartermaster ran up the hill where he was perched, informing him that somebody was approaching the fort by horse. The major could see him from there, clearly an inexperienced rider, bolting up the path like a drunk lunatic.

The man said he was from the militia company that was supposed to reinforce the fort. They had been ambushed by Indians and annihilated, the captain left for dead. He claimed to be the last survivor; though others would later be found, Saxon's company had been effectively wiped out.

Colonel Peter Silver had now fought three wars against the British. A young officer in the Revolution, and then in the Northwest Indian War, he now commanded a batallion of rangers in this latest frontier war. With the war drawing to a close, he expected to retire soon, maybe buy a plantation in Tidewater, or live out his days as a merchant or statesman in New Enland.

His current orders were peculiar: he was to deploy north to Lake Ontario, where the war had long since ended, to investigate a potential mutiny. Apparently, a former militia officer was encouraging soldiers and militiamen to desert and mass at the site of an abandoned fort. It was rumored that even some British soldiers had joined them.

Upon arriving at a nearby town they gained context. One Daniel Saxon, previously thought to have been killed in battle, was now a self-styled preacher and prophet. He claimed to have recieved divine visions forshadowing the imminent end of the world, and was urging troops to abandon the war in preparation.

Silver's lieutenant, Major Bowers, had a predictable suggestion: march right up to the fort, bayonets fixed, in an overwhelming show of force. He was showing his knavery. Prior to becoming a soldier the major had never in his life met a negro, talked to an Indian, or known a Catholic in his whole life. Of course people preparing for the end of the world sent him into alarm. For his own part, Silver had had some dealings with these frontier revivalists, and knew they were odd but for the most part harmless. He had a better plan: send in spies to see what this Daniel Saxon was all about.

Two soldiers were sent, pretending to have deserted. They stayed among the sectarians for four days before sneaking out of the camp at night. When they reported back, they had a wild story. This prophet was a highly energetic man, delivering his apocolyptic message in mesmerizing speeches that bewitched those in attendance. Even the two spies were enthralled. The assembly would erupt in spontaneous outburts of foot stomping, shouting, or yelling in what sounded like gibberish, and the two men could scarce resist joining in. It was like he had cast a spell over all of them. During meal times, there was a bizarre form of participatory prayer in which people would interject at will, and afterward they would sometimes break into small groups for silent meditation, until one would receive a revelation and share it.

For Colonel Silver, these were all things he'd heard before. But for Major Bowers and the other officers, they portended a revolution. The Colonel decided to speak to Saxon himself. He arrived at the fort one Saturday, the rangers hiding about in the woods in case of an emergency.

The once small clearing on which the fort lay had been widened to make room for the pilgrims. The colonel passed a number of tree stumps as he walked the path up to the site. Up in a wooden tower he saw whom he presumed to be Saxon, preaching down to the assembly below. Over the chest-high wooden wall he could see people - mostly men, but a few women and children as well - packed like matches around the tower, some having to look on from outside the wall where there were tents and sleeping sacks. Some wore their army and militia uniforms, including a couple wearing red jackets. There was at least one Indian there as well, and some negroes. For his own part, the man assumed to be Saxon wore a black alb.

The man in the tower wrapped up his preaching just as Silver reached the bare entryway to the fort. Despite the small size of the fort, the colonel had trouble making his way through the congregants to Saxon. He reached him at the bottom of the tower, where he was now sitting in a tent.

Whatever was said between the colonel and the renegade militia captain would never be known, for something caused the rangers hiding in the foliage to open fire at that point. Shooting over the low wall, they felled a number of those gathered, and as one of the few there who were armed fired back, a second volley was poured out upon them. A third was dischared at the mass of those attempting to flee.

The ranger batallion well outnumbered Saxon's little mission, so whether it was their intention or not, they killed almost everyone in the fort, including Saxon and Silver. The rangers took Silver's body and buried it on the shore of the lake. They then interned the rest of the dead in a mass grave along the newly cleared path to the fort. Finally, they burned the fort and the wooden tower to the ground. Within a generation the place would become just a legend and a failed prophecy.

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