Sunday, May 16, 2021

Le Portage


As night fell, the brothers once again dragged their canoe up on the riverbank. Jacques immediately began to collect small branches.

"What are you doing brother? You're not thinking of building a fire are you?" Alain asked.

"Of course, it's cool here by the water at night, a fire would be nice to have would it not?" Jacques often despaired of his brother ever relaxing for even a moment.

"We camp cold, no fire, we leave everything in the canoe, we'll have to portage around those in the morning." Alain said, nodding towards the roar from up the river, far closer now.


"But nothing, there are Indians about. I can almost feel their presence."

Tall Elk motioned to his band, they followed him back into the forest above the river. "We make camp here, les français look to be done for the day. They will probably portage tomorrow."

Spotted Owl let out a breath in frustration, "Why don't we just talk to them? Why must we follow them?"

"Do you speak the tongue of les français? What would you tell them, 'Hello, this is our land, why are you here?' I tell you, the sachem said follow them, see they come to no harm. There is war brewing between les français and les anglais, we shall have to take sides. Perhaps it will be a chance to hurt the Mohican, they have grown bolder this summer." Tall Elk seldom spoke at length, but when he did, people listened. Spotted Owl, being young and impatient, did so as well, but he grumbled anyway.

Little Wolf put a hand on Spotted Owl's shoulder, "There will be blood soon enough cousin, be patient."

Big Teeth watched from the woods across the river. Two men pulling a canoe out of the water, they looked like the people of the north, those their English friends called the Huron. The river was far too wide here to cross, but Big Teeth knew a place just north of the Great Falls which was shallow enough for his war band to cross into Abenaki territory. He regretted not having his canoes nearby, they were at the main camp a day's walk away.

He Laughs watched his cousin's back, the man was like a caged animal when he scented prey. The two men across the river were certainly prey. A Huron raiding party had killed his father when he was still a small boy. The man had been big and happy, which was all that He Laughs could remember of him. Now with thirteen winters under his belt, he was ready to seek his revenge.

One Leg came limping through the brush behind the scouts, he had been answering a call of nature. Born with one leg slightly shorter than the other, he had a strange gait, but he could move like a startled deer through the forest. As he liked to say, "I may walk funny, but I run as well as anyone." And he did.

"So Big Teeth, do we make for the crossing before first light? There is a good path to get there, the animals use that ford as well I think." One Leg asked.

"Yes, at first light. I want to speak with these Huron." As Big Teeth said that, he lifted his tomahawk and shook it. None of the men wanted to 'talk' with Big Teeth when he was in this kind of mood.

The pale quarter moon lent just enough light so that the brothers could pick their way along the rough trail Jacques had found. While he had wanted to wait until morning, Alain was still spooked, so they moved off when the moon came up.

"The natives don't like going out in the dead of night, they fear the spirit world. Remember when Papa told us that?" Alain had mentioned this as they lifted their canoe and its contents onto their shoulders for the trek around the roaring falls.

"I don't like going out at night either, my brother. Remember the old shaman who told us of the Wendigo?" Jacques sounded fearful.

"It's a story to scare children with Jacques, it isn't a real being. Remember what Father Yves said? A good Christian should not believe such things..." As those words left his mouth, the howl of a wolf came from the mountain above them.

"But we should hurry along, this place is not Christian at all!"

Tall Elk came to a stop, something was wrong.

He had roused his small band at moonrise, they feared the night, especially so near the gorge surrounding the Great Falls, evil things liked to dwell in such places. But he had his task set by the sachem, he needed to see les français safely through his people's lands, and Spotted Owl had been scouting the riverside to the north and had spotted people across the river.

"It's a Mohican war band, well, part of one. Men in paint skulking through the trees. I think they have spotted les français." Spotted Owl had made his report, still panting from his run back from the riverside.

"Then we must move, the Mohicans may know of the ford. We need to block them from crossing the river. Then les français can travel safely up the river for at least two days without fear of the Mohican. That will also take them out of our territory and they become someone else's problem."

"Can't we rest a bit Alain? I am exhausted." Jacques looked down at his feet, he truly was tired.

"Help me get the canoe in the water, once we get going you can rest, I will paddle." Alain had seen something on the bank not far away, on the same bank they were on, an Indian!

The two boys got the canoe into the river. Once they had gotten into the deeper part of the stream with both paddling, Alain had made Jacques work hard until there was a good distance from the man he had seen back in the trees. When he told his brother of that, Jacques had no trouble paddling.

"I don't want to meet Indians this far south, we don't know the tribes down here, do we?"

"You and I don't, perhaps not even Papa knows, but better to be safe, than sorry!"

Big Teeth's impatience was wearing at the other men's nerves.

"Take your time, there is no reason to think the Huron moved at night." One Leg had chided him.

"We did! Perhaps they did as well. Hurry, I want to get across the shallows before the Huron awaken and take to the river!"

As Big Teeth splashed into the river, he quickened the pace, his men followed, not happy but anxious to engage these Huron. Their sachem would be pleased at having captives from the people of the north.

"Are you sure of him Little Wolf?" Tall Elk watched with approval as his brother drew back on his war bow. He had selected his arrow with care, they didn't want to kill all of the Mohican, one or two would drive the others back across the river, giving les français time to move further up river.

"Of course I am sure of him brother, how often do I miss?" Little Wolf responded.

"Almost never." Spotted Owl whispered.

"Send his spirit to the next world." Tall Elk grunted.

Big Teeth looked up in shock, he saw the flight of the arrow too late. He hissed as the arrow penetrated his chest, he knew he would be in the spirit world soon, his breath was leaving him even as he fell.

He Laughs looked up to see Big Teeth fall into the water, the man struggled weakly as the blood-tinged river current began to tug him down towards the falls. As He Laughs began to step back and lead the others back across the river, another arrow came from the trees.

Lone Pine's scream was choked off as the Abenaki arrow pierced his throat. He turned and staggered back towards the western bank of the great river, but all too soon he weakened and fell to one knee. The others tried to help him along, but it was no use. Soon Lone Pine's spirit fled.

The sun burned through the river fog, it promised to be a hot day. But Alain only noted the beauty of his surroundings for a mere moment. They were deep in unknown territory and no time could be lost admiring the rays of the sun sparkling on the river.

After another half hour Alain woke his brother, shaking his shoulder, "Jacques, I need to sleep, can you paddle for a while?"

Jacques sat up and looked around, "How beautiful this place is brother, I could live the rest of my days here." Yawning he looked at his brother, Alain looked ready to keel over.

"Rest a while Alain, I'll keep us moving north."

As he paddled, Jacques began to sing a song that he vaguely remembered his mother singing to him when they still lived in France. All he remembered of her was the way she smelled of bread and that song. Of her face he remembered not a thing.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. 'Tis a good thing I take my blood pressure meds before I turn the computer on. Old Guns

  2. But...but....but....Native Americans were peaceful and lived in harmony with Nature........but....but.....Homo sapiens gonna homo sapiens.

  3. From the way it's progressing, I'll be following Alain and Jacques downstream pretty closely. Thank you, Spinner of Good Tales, the story line is proving to be highly interesting (as usual).

  4. Hey Old AFSarge;

    You done set the hook good with this one...".With the Huron or the Mohicans win over the who get the party?....Stay Tuned for another installment......And drink your Ovaltine."

  5. Were the Mohicans on Abenaki land?

    1. They tried to cross over, the Abenaki stopped them.

    2. Ok, I didn't understand why they were killed.

    3. If I'm reading the situation right...

      The sachem had told Tall Elk to "Watch them until they leave our lands." regarding the Frenchmen, whom he considered might possibly be the enemies of their enemies. Tall Elk obviously took that to mean that he should protect the brothers from coming to harm. It's better to have more allies than enemies. The Mohicans are already their enemies, so I'm sure that taking the opportunity to eliminate some of their warriors didn't create any friction that didn't already exist.

    4. Tuna - See Patrick's comment.

    5. Thanks, sometimes I need things close-captioned for the plot impaired!

  6. As others said, very nice. You capture the concept of 'other people's languages' and 'other people's thoughts' very well.

    Makes me look forward to seeing you do Japanese, or Korean.

    Nice how all three parties decided to jump the gun. Our two francais really lucked out. And, yeah, you get that feeling, you need to act on that feeling.

    One of the best things Mrs. Andrew taught me was to listen to that feeling. Some days you just wake up and your mind tells you "Don't Go!" or it acts slow, then you hear about a huge accident or you pass one, that if you had gone or gone at your normal time, you would have been there.

    Your story got that feeling right.

    1. You have to listen to that little voice.

      I learned that the hard way.

  7. Forgot to post on MeWe??

  8. The social relationships among the tribes, as far as I understand it, could be very complex, something that is seldom captured in the gentle remembrancing as we have it today. Unfortunate really: not that it justified anything, but it would help to clearly see things for what they were.

    Hook set indeed.

    One should always listen to the little voice. I have scarcely regretted it when I did, but often when I did not.

    1. These days the Indians are all painted with the same brush, but the relationships between tribes could be complex. It's more interesting to look at them as the very real and interesting people that they were. And still are.

    2. Indeed. One of the most meaningful visits to a national monument we took was in 2016 when we went to the Little Bighorn/Greasy Grass. It was a 4.5 hour one way trip from where we were staying, but very much worth the drive. They have market out where the Sioux died as well, and there is a memorial to the Sioux and allied tribes along with the US Cavalry monument. A bit out of the way, but well worth the trip if you are anywhere close.


    3. A grim reminder of the cost of war.

  9. It is good to have a sniper in your unit. I'd be willing to bet Little Wolf doesn't lose any sleep over it, either.

    It's a shame the brothers don't know how lucky they are! Guardian spirits are hard to come by.

    1. Innocents in the forest they are.

      It won't last...

  10. (Don McCollor)...and bows are almost silent...

    1. They are, especially near the falls on a river.

  11. (Don McCollor)...One quibble "the boys". You wrote that they are in their late teens. Not 'boys' (sounds like a children's adventure story). Not sure what to suggest...

  12. (Don McCollor)...[Sorry Sarge, more suggestions) {I know this is a first effort]. First thing perhaps pack' instead of 'baggage' perhaps. Now what where the brothers wearing? Footgear? How long did it take to dry out? What weapons? The Indians - buckskin or loincloth or less? All those little details that made your last story so great!!!


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.