Captain Ben Deland sails north from the Caribbean to join the English and provincial forces moving to stop the French from control of the frontier. But Ben becomes the only hope for the rescue of loved ones snatched by Indian and French raiders.
Thomas had done the same thing when he was younger. He lay next to Paul just behind a moss-covered log. He could see Paul’s hand quiver just a little as the boy cocked the hammer of his short rifle. Thomas had been surprised and a bit overwhelmed when Ben presented an almost identical rifle to him years ago. Thomas had since outgrown it and now had his own full sized long rifle. So, it was his turn to pass along to Paul the knowledge of the mountains as Ben had done to him before.
“Just where the shoulder rounds over the front leg,” Thomas whispered. The shot would drop a little over the distance and put the ball in the vital spot of the doe whitetail on the opposite bank across the stream. “Take a breath and let part of it out. Just touch the trigger, don’t pull it…”
The little rifle roared and through the smoke Thomas could see the doe crumple to the ground. Paul tried to see where the deer had gone and rose up on his knee to look over the smoke. As he started to move over the log, Thomas reached out and put a firm hand on Paul’s shirt.
“What did you forget?” Thomas had heard the same thing from Ben in the past.
Paul looked at Thomas for a moment and then frowned. “Yes, Sir, to reload.” Paul stood and began the process of powder and ball, finishing with priming the pan of the flintlock. It took longer than Thomas would like, but the lad was still learning.
The meat from the doe would fill out the load on their pack horses and send them back to the smoke camp. Paul was out with Thomas on this trip. Paul had been sent out with several members of the crew, each adding their own woods wisdom to his education. The summer was full and they had to be careful where they stepped as they moved through the thick forest. There were other hunters in the warm woods now and some of them had very poisonous fangs.
Ben was less than a mile north of them and leading the mare and his pack horse down a ridge following an Indian trail too narrow and overgrown to ride atop the mare. Horses were sometimes more of a burden in the thick woods and Ben decided he would leave the mare behind next trip and only walk with the pack horse.
The warm southerly wind carried the sound of the gunshot to him and he stopped for a moment trying to place the direction of the sound. He listened for any follow on shots, but none came. The meat they brought in was feeding boat builders and soldiers south of them at the head of the Mohawk. They would have to move soon. The army was loading the boats on wagons and going to the west. Another part of the war was off to the northeast. The French and the British fought over the lakes and forts there without much progress for several years. The farmers on the frontier suffered the most though. Raids from the north continued with bloody results. The French relied upon their Indian allies and did little to hold back their murder and torture. Thomas had lost his family to it.
Ben kept moving. He likely would cross with the shooters when they got closer to the smoke camp. The summer heat meant that they had to turn around their hunts quickly lest the meat spoil. It was good they were moving west again to new hunting territory. They would have to venture farther every day that they took game around the camp.
Just the smallest bit of red color in the distance ahead brought Ben to his knee and the long rifle up and aimed at the spot. He dropped the leather rein to the mare and slipped sideways into the thicker brush aside the narrow trail. It would hurt his soul if the mare took a ball meant for him, but that may have to be. With skill refined to the highest level over twenty years in the woods, he moved toward the swatch of color angling out away from the horses.
The red swatch was joined by another of a less bright hue and another of gray feather. The top dressings of northern woods Indians. He counted three, but knew more could be just behind these three. It would come to confrontation soon. They had not seen the mare and pack horse yet, but in only a few more steps…
~ * ~
Draco had the scent. The wolf dog appeared just as Paul was tying off the meat on the pack horse and circled the small piece of forest the two men and four horses occupied. Thomas stopped his digging at the front foot of the gelding and let the hoof drop back to the ground to watch the dog.
“Something’s wrong,” was all that Thomas said before he mounted and slipped the buckskin cover from his short rifle. He tapped the gelding’s sides with his moccasins and the horse was gone into the trees in only a moment behind the dog. Paul was confused, but regained his thoughts and gathered the leads of the pack horses and once on his own horse, set off after Thomas.
Thomas hadn’t gone far to the north when he pulled the gelding to a standstill. Draco was walking with his nose to the ground and the gray and black hair standing almost straight up on his back. Dismounting and loosely tying the horse to a sapling, Thomas followed on foot. Each step was thought out. It slowed him, but he knew silence was putting favor to his cause. He still carried the short rifle. He lost little in range and nothing in caliber with the smaller weapon. In the thick woods, he was satisfied his first rifle served him well. A turned leaf, an oak dropped this spring after the winter, showed the wetness from its underside where a careless foot pulled it over revealing passage. Thomas examined the forest floor and was able now to see the slightest trace of a game trail. Another leaf and a thin branch pulled forward then caught in the crook of another betrayed more of the man or men that had moved through. Not many White men would leave so little of a path behind. These were woodsmen, White or no.
Thomas scarcely breathed and within a few more steps saw Draco down on his belly and pointing his nose straight ahead. Only the soft swish the small breeze made as it passed through the upper leaves added to the stillness. Not a bird sound. Something or someone, more likely, was just beyond the pines blocking the way. Thomas tried to will his eyes to see through them, but it would not be.
It happened together. Paul crashed ahead through the trees from behind leading the horses atop his own and Draco lunged just as an Indian showed himself through the pine boughs and fired his musket past Thomas’s head toward Paul. The Indian died only a second later and Thomas hesitated deciding if he was to reload the rifle or go after Draco with his pistol and sword.
The sound of the dog roaring, as only Draco could do, within the pines and Paul hitting the ground with a cry of pain gave Thomas no choice. He spun and covered the distance to Paul and as he got close enough to see the boy awash in blood, he heard a gunshot then another from the pines. Thomas grabbed Paul’s collar and drug him back behind the horses scooping up Paul’s short rifle as he passed. A thick beech sheltered him as he put his body between Paul and the pines and began to reload his own rifle.
“Where?” he whispered to Paul. He heard no answer and did not dare take his eyes from the place the Indian had emerged. Thomas nudged Paul’s shoulder and said again, “Where?”
“In the pine trees, Thomas. The Indians are…” Paul coughed and went silent. Thomas meant to learn of Paul’s wound, but the boy went past that to the threat before them.
Thomas had his rifle reloaded and judged the distance to the long rifle in the scabbard on the gelding behind them. With both short rifles, his pistol and his long rifle, he could answer well for them. But then he had Paul to deal with. He took time to look down at the boy curled up beneath him in the lee of the beech. There was a lot of blood on the boy’s summer shirt. Most of it was near his waist and on the right side.
“I know where they are. Are you still with me, Paul?” Thomas again whispered.
“It hurts, Tom. So bad. My side hurts.”
The Abeneki was only about Thomas’ age and had a war club in his hand as he burst from the trees toward them. Thomas was looking down at Paul and could not see the look of pure and concentrated rage in the Indian’s eyes. The sound of the Indian’s buckskins against the pine boughs is what drug Thomas back into the fight, but it was too late to bring the short rifle to bear. Thomas was knocked backward and was underneath the warrior before he could even begin to defend himself.
The Indian swung the club down and caught the flinching Thomas with a glancing blow to the side of his head. Thomas felt the strike, but it didn’t hurt. He was too full of fight himself by then and the Indian was launched up and over Thomas, the club falling away. The warrior was well trained and rolled to his feet with a rather substantial trader’s knife in his hand. Thomas reached for the pistol in his belt, but it was gone and he didn’t bother searching for it, instead coming to his feet with the short sword in his hand.
More snarling dog sounds came from behind, but Thomas was otherwise occupied at the moment. The Abeneki did not know that Thomas’ family had been butchered by Abeneki raiders when Thomas was only thirteen. It may have not made a difference, but it did to Thomas. With a fierceness that overwhelmed the Indian, Thomas charged and swung the sword at the very last moment. The Indian died as his body hit the ground, the sword finding the heart of the attacker and ending the fight.
Thomas dove back to Paul and scooped up his rifle, ready for the next threat. But only a bloody faced Draco appeared followed a moment later by Ben and three Mohawk warriors.
Keywords: history, action adventure, colonial America, war, French and Indian War
Website URL: http://mikefullerauthor.com
Title: Captain's Cross
Author: Mike Fuller
Genre: Historical, Adventure
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 2
Ben Deland has survived pirates and near death from the deadly cannons of a French warship but now must trek deep into the hostile wilderness to save a young colonial officer from French and Indian treachery.