Man, boy, woman, and child snatched from a warm fire and forced into the wilderness at gunpoint to be murdered or ransomed. Life on the colonial American frontier was precarious, at best. In wartime even more so. Captured by Huron raiders and a French spy, members of Captain Ben Deland’s crew are desperate to escape before they are locked into in a French prison north of the border.
CAPTAIN’S SORTIE is my second historical novel and set during the French and Indian War. Fiction mixing with real history and lots of action and adventure. The captives are tied and led on horseback through the deep forest until a momentary mistake allows them to flee their captors. Unarmed, they push hard to the south and rescue until . . .
From CAPTAIN’S SORTIE:
Joshua fell hard when the pack horse stepped between two rocks and faltered. He was pitched out over the front of the horse and landed sideways on a fallen tree trunk. He let out a shriek quite involuntarily and felt the stinging pain in his side. Breath came laboriously to him for a few moments, but he sat up and shook his head to clear it. The pack horse was down and floundering to rise. Joshua went hollow when he saw white bone pushing out through the dark hair of the horse’s leg.
Paul and Hummingbird were crashing through the woods out ahead and did not seem to be stopping. There was nothing Joshua could do for the horse. He had no gun or knife to end its misery and it pained him even in his worrisome condition to watch the animal suffer. But the Huron came to mind and he pulled himself up to go after Paul. He stopped and snatched the rope lead from the horse’s halter. A good piece of cordage could be helpful and then with a last look at the poor thing he hobbled into the trees.
It was surprising to Joshua, but he was able to stay within the sounds of the horse in front of him, though he did not catch sight of them until it was almost dark. He came upon them as they stood beside the horse looking out over an open space. The last light from the sky opened up over a clearing, but as Joshua came closer his heart turned to ice. Before them for a good distance in every direction was a mass of fallen timber. As if God had swept his angelic hand down upon the hillside and laid flat every tree, shrub and sapling. A blowdown. Thick trunks and branches criss-crossed in every direction. Not a piece of ground was visible. A tear formed in the corner of Joshua’s eye.
They plunged into the mess. There was no other choice. As they skirted the blowdown and tried to find a way around it, they found the edge of it was pulling them back to the north. To get to the low country along the lakeshore, they would have to turn back into the arms of the Huron. So south they went.
It was hard and slow work going over, under and through the mass of trees. The tangled upper branches, still full with dying leaves and the huge round trunks were mingled tightly together. Joshua carried the fussing boy and Paul was working with Hummingbird, sliding and pulling each other through it. The horse was left behind.
By now it was dark with just a glow in the sky to the west. Joshua was not sure if they could go on much longer. But then he smelled them. The odor of the Indians drifted out over the open air. Joshua froze in place and held up his hand for Paul to stop. When they did, the sounds of their followers came to them on the same breeze. Leather sliding over bark and the clunk of a musket bumping against wood.
“Down,” Joshua hissed. “Down under as far as you can. They come.”
Paul followed Hummingbird and slithered under the tree they had just crossed over. There was a small bit of space between the tree trunk and the leafy branches of one squashed under it. Joshua swung his legs over the next tree and tried to back himself under it. There was not enough room and he went back up over and found a place under the branches of a smaller tree between two larger trunks. The squirming boy wrapped in his arms was not happy and began to fuss. Joshua put his hand over the boy’s mouth and cooed quietly into his ear to get him to quiet down.
Paul was terrified. He did not know what the Huron would do. Kill them there or drag them back on the trail to the north. The brief taste of freedom had given him more hope than all of the day before. The sturdy horse had not given up and was pulling them closer and closer to the camp they’d been so rudely snatched from. The thought of Ben and Bear appearing through the trees sustained him. Now it was crashing from his mind. He’d never been so afraid in his short life. Hummingbird was like a stone next to him. Not a movement and he tried to get his body to stop twitching in the leaves and twigs all around him.
The Indians were coming closer. Their noise increasing with each moment. Joshua tried to slow his breathing, but the possibilities of what could happen only fueled his tension. The boy seemed to stir into motion as the seconds passed and Joshua’s hand pressed tighter over the child’s face.