Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Storm


Molly Henderson sighed with relief when they came to the river. She could tell by it's expanse that it was the Cannitticutt and not some tributary of New England's largest river. She wondered what the Indian would do next.

He had tried to convey his name to her, it sounded something like "Awasosis¹." She managed to convey her own name back to him, which he pronounced with an emphasis on the second syllable, "Ma-LEE." Her reasoning for telling him her name was that if he saw her as a person, a fellow human, then perhaps she might yet survive this 'adventure.'

Short Bear surveyed the river for a moment, then he gestured for Molly to hide herself in the brush. By now she knew to listen to him so she got under cover and made herself as comfortable as she could, she might have to wait quite some time. As usual he slipped away with no more sound than a gentle breeze might make in the long grass.

Short Bear was looking for something to cross the river with, a canoe, even an older one, would be just the thing, but he doubted he would be that lucky. A log would work just as well, the current here was placid, the yellow hair girl, Ma-LEE he grinned, could hold onto the log while he swam them across. It might be dangerous but remaining on the western bank of the Great River was dangerous in and of itself. He had seen more sign of a large party headed east.

He wondered where they might cross, or would they sweep up river along the bank and destroy any Abenaki villages they found? Short Bear was convinced that the war party was Mohican.

Long Cat of the Mohican paused and sniffed the air, the wind was from the north, he could swear that he smelled wood smoke. A village? Maybe a small forest fire, but there had not been any of the great lightning storms for over a week now, so he suspected a village.

"Red Bear, Otter Who Can't Swim, go north for a half day, no more, we shall camp here. I sense a nearby village, find it if it is there. The sachems have promised our English brothers many scalps, the Abenaki and their Wyandot allies want war. We shall give them war."

The two warriors loped off, they could cover twenty miles in a half day, if there was a village it would be near water, either the Great River itself or one of its tributaries. It should be easy to find the village. The trick was not to allow the villagers to find them!

Short Bear returned to Molly and motioned for her to follow him. He didn't speak much at all, she knew that he had a few words in French, as did she, but when she thought to tell him the English words for things, he paid no attention. For her this was something of an adventure, though one fraught with peril. She didn't realize that for him it was a matter of life and death.

He led her to where there was a partially submerged log on the river bank. She knew right away what he had in mind, and she was terrified. She couldn't swim a stroke, what if she fell in? She feared that she would die in the big river flowing past them.

Still, she helped him get the log fully into the river, he showed her how to lay on the log so that she wouldn't fall off. She thought about the log rolling and throwing her into the river. What if this Awasosis couldn't swim either?

Short Bear saw her trembling and thought for a moment. He set his weapons down on the bank then slid into the river. With powerful strokes he swam quite a ways out into the river, then back. Then he pointed at the log again and said, "Très facile, oui?²"

Comforted by the knowledge that he could indeed swim, she managed to climb onto the log, lying down carefully, she grasped two broken stubs of branch and closed her eyes. She was trembling as she did so. She nearly fainted when she felt his hands on her back. She nearly jumped off, then she realized that he was placing his bow and his sheath of arrows on her back. She realized that he needed to keep those dry, so she relaxed. somewhat.

Pushing the log out into the river, Short Bear began to push the log across, propelling it with just his legs. The current was pushing them downriver, but he had anticipated that, he was aiming for a part of the bank diagonally from where they had entered the river.

Towards the center of the river the current was a bit stronger, he didn't panic, he simply adjusted his aim toward the far bank, they would come ashore further downriver but the bank was still easy.

Red Bear came into the open, very near the Great River, Otter Who Can't Swim right behind him. Otter 
Who Can't Swim grunted and pointed, unslinging his bow as he did so. Red Bear looked in that direction, there, climbing out of the river was an Indian, accompanied by a woman of the whites. Her yellow hair gave her away.

As Otter Who Can't Swim notched an arrow, Red Bear placed a hand on his arm. "It is too far brother, you won't hit them, only alert them."

Otter Who Can't Swim again grunted, then said, "Let's continue, maybe someday we'll see that yellow hair woman again. Her scalp would look good on my lodge pole. My woman would be impressed I think."

"Brother, your woman is easily impressed, after all, she settled for you as her man." Red Bear grinned as he said that.

Otter Who Can't Swim chuckled and said, "Well, there is that. Maybe she is not as smart as I like to believe."

Laughing softly, the two Mohican warriors continued on their scouting mission. Red Bear could smell the wood smoke now, they were very close.

From a bare ridgetop, Captain Samuel Jenkins could see the Cannitticutt River in the distance, they were perhaps a day's march from their destination. "Sergeant Major!"


"Have the men take a break, remain on their feet, stay alert. The river is in sight." He pointed it out for his Sergeant Major.

Sergeant Major Edward Jacobs stared for a long moment, his eyesight wasn't as good as it used to be, then he saw it as a ray of sunlight sparkled on the distant water. He also saw darkness to the north.

"Looks like a storm brewing Cap'n. They can be very nasty in this river valley. Lots of lightning, lots of rain. We need to get down off this ridge top, Sir, soon as we can. These storms move very fast as well."

Captain Jenkins thought for a few long moments, when he looked again, the storm was closer. The sergeant major was right, they should get moving. "Right then Sarn't Major, get the lads moving."

"Very good Sir."

The wind came up suddenly, Short Bear and Ma-LEE were crossing a meadow bordered by tall pines and a few scattered elm trees. As the wind rose, Ma-LEE was watching the top of one of the elms. The branches first bent one way, then back to the other. Without warning the top of the tree suddenly, and violently, snapped off and crashed to the ground.

Moments later the rain swept in, drenching the two people.

Short Bear pulled Ma-LEE down behind a dead tree, no doubt toppled in a similar storm in past years. Just as he did so there was a dazzling flash of light followed instantly by a loud crashing boom which seemed to press them into the ground with its force.

Short Bear could feel Ma-LEE trembling so he did the one thing that his mother did for him when the big summer storms came when he was a child, he held her tightly and whispered "Shh, shh, shh. Shh, shh, shh." While gently patting her on the back, it seemed to calm her.

Molly had been caught out in such storms before, but never far from the shelter of a house or barn. Now there was nowhere to turn. She had been shocked when Awasosis held her close and began murmuring to her. She struggled briefly in his grasp until the lightning had flashed once more and the thunder had again boomed directly overhead.

She closed her eyes and eventually began to relax. She was still terrified, and she was soaked to the bone, but she no longer felt helpless.

The storm passed downriver nearly as quickly as it had arrived. The two people sat up and then stood, trying to brush and squeeze as much of the rainwater from their clothing as they could. Short Bear was better off, being half naked as he was, breechcloth and leggings were his only clothing apart from his moccasins.

Molly though was drenched. After she'd gotten as much water out of her clothing as she could, without disrobing, she looked at Awasosis. "Thank you, er, merci."

Awasosis nodded, then pointed to the opposite side of the clearing and spoke one of his few words, "Allons!³"

They moved off, Molly's clothes began to steam as the sun broke through the dissipating storm clouds. She wondered again, where were they going?

But now she felt only a little fearful of the Indian. Perhaps she was judging him as she might judge an Englishman, she knew little of the people of this land. But damme (her late mother would have objected strongly to such language), weren't they just as human as the English, different customs yes, but human nevertheless.

But this man was of the same tribe which had butchered her family and her village, the same people who had cut down young Joshua Hawkins for being clumsy and unable to keep up. She had seen the casual way which the warrior had killed the boy, not even batting an eye.

She must keep her wits about her, she couldn't trust these people completely, not even with Awasosis' kindness towards her. Would he strike her down if she faltered?

She couldn't possibly know. So she would keep up, she would persevere.

¹ The Abenaki word for Little Bear. His name is actually "Short Bear" but close enough.
² Very easy, yes?
³ Let's go.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. Sarge, what is very nicely conveyed in your writings is the sense that, prior to the Europeans settlers, the forest with humans was exactly like the forest without humans. Humans were just one more component of it and (depending on where one was) rather in constant danger if one found one's self in someone else's territory.

    We (and I include myself in this) are terribly unobservant about life around us anymore, likely because it is not (literally) a life and death endeavor.

    1. I like to be aware of my surroundings, I've spent enough time in the woods to know what a fascinating place it is, lots going on. There are areas of the country where danger in the forest is still very real, mountain lion and bear country spring to mind.

      What most modern people miss is life itself, all around us.

    2. Sarge, in New England I think the danger from falling tree limbs is far greater than that of bears or big cats. I remember some years ago a woman was killed in the Sabbaday Falls parking lot on the Kanc, when a falling limb knocked her off the back of a motorcycle

    3. One of the things the Indians were known to do in the forests west of the mountains was to do periodic burns. Else the forests get cluttered with deadfall and widowmakers and other wonderful hazards like stacking too much fuel so the next burns would sterilize the land (kinda like California, the sterilization that is.)

      Proper forest management is a good thing. Florida learned that in 1998 when half the state burned during the Great Florida Firestorm of 1998. Because people moved down here who didn't like prescribed burns and got them stopped so then the state burned when it got dry (much like, well, today, right now, we're very behind on the rainfall pattern.) But at least Florida learned as we always do after a natural disaster, and prescribed burns were back to stay.

    4. Living around people is also something to be aware of considering how the last sixteen months have gone, for those in urban areas survival is becoming a bit more problematic........look at the increase in the homicide rates in many cities last year and this year.

    5. Those homicide rates correspond directly to defunding and emasculating the police and of laws and of the whole judicial and penal systems.

  2. Otter That Cannot Swim. Would that be something on the order of a Pine Martin? It wouldn't be Wolverine, I know they were considered demon animals, for obvious reasons, and Badgers are critters of prairie environments.

    1. It's a name like "Afraid of His Horses," an ironic name. Not meant to represent any particular animal other than an otter. Who can't swim.

    2. And American Badgers are like angry, meth-filled, caffeine-starved murder hobos, whilst European badgers are cute and sweet and eat tea and crumpets...

      As to the name, he may have been... shaped kinda like an otter, and who can't swim. Rule of Callsign applies to this one.

  3. I have been sucked in to this story in the same way I was totally enthralled with the last epic adventure.

    I hopw we see those men again...maybe a little older and Korea.

  4. One thing that surprised most Europeans once arriving in America was, as our noble host points out, the storms. Storms like the one described whip up over the Great Lakes and go crashing through the mountain ranges with great violence. Storms brewed on the prairies or in the Gulf do much the same thing as they sweep eastwardly, building speed and concentrating over the Appalachians. The people on the east coast get the full brunt of stuff brewed up in the tropics during the summer and stuff being shoved down on them from the Arctic during the winter.

    What joy!

    You don't see 'breezy weather' of 70+ MPH in good old Europe on a normal basis. Here? We have lots of names for that. And some Texans will call that a 'normal day.'

    As to Indian names, seems some of them are like call signs. The worse the owner complains about it, the more it sticks!

  5. I receive regular e-mails from William Federer. Here is a pdf from Mr. Federer which speaks of the conditions leading to the current story.
    How North America nearly became New France.

  6. In Maryland, goofing off, I'll get to the comments soon.



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