An army of men and boats struggle west along the Mohawk and Oswego rivers and the portages between. A raid west and north to blunt the colonial French sword hanging over the Hudson Valley. Ben Deland’s crew is wedged between, exposed, vulnerable to the spying eyes sent from the north.
From my recently released historical novel, CAPTAIN’S SORTIE:
He covered more ground, at least most of the time. Thomas was missing his young hunting partner. Paul was an easy companion. His skill with his short rifle improved each day and he did not complain about tending the fire or when making a pot of tea while out on the hunt. Thomas still had to make the biscuits; Paul had not mastered that yet.
Ben relied upon his stealth and cunning and sent Thomas out alone. Ben told him, “Hunt with an eye for moccasins as well as elk hooves. The tales you return with are more valuable than meat right now.”
But he was on foot now skirting a ridge and trying to follow a game trail over rocky ground. His yellow gelding was hobbled and grazing in a tiny meadow with the pack horse several miles to the east. The signs Thomas was trying to sort were from two legged animals and he needed to be much quieter than possible while mounted. He did not like leaving the horses to the panthers and wolves, but he had no choice. The Mohawk and Oneida were well to the south and east. Only visitors from the north would be this far into this wilderness and leaving a very hard to follow trail to the southwest.
He felt for the short rifle a across his back and thought he would change and bring it to the front. His long rifle was more difficult to manage in the thick trees. A rock ledge gave him a place to squat and he made the switch, checking the prime in the short rifle. He strung the bigger weapon back over his back and took a drink from his water skin. The air was moving with a small breeze and coming up the ridge. He wished it was coming to his face so he could hear and smell what he was walking into. The trail wound around the rocks and then appeared to descend a bit. Thomas sat for a while longer trying to pick movement among the thick trees below him, though he saw nothing but leaves moving with the wind.
“There,” the Huron warrior said in French. “On the rocks above. He watches for us.”
The White man in woodsman’s clothes had soft hands. He slipped up next to the Huron and tried to see what the Indian was pointing out. He had been in these bug infested woods for much longer than he had been told he would have to be. And he wanted a bottle of wine and a bath more than anything right now.
“It is but one hunter, leave him be. We have much more urgent business than giving your belt a fresh scalp,” the White man said in flawless French.
The Huron moved to one of his younger tribesmen crouched aside the game trail and said, “Delay him,” then motioned for the rest to follow.