Saturday, June 5, 2021

A Silence on the River

(Source)

Alain and Jacques Gaudry, with their Abenaki companion Little Wolf, paddled silently up the Great River. They had come across an Abenaki village, a destroyed Abenaki village. The brothers had wanted to continue up river, but Little Wolf convinced them to land so he could investigate what had happened.

"My sachem will be interested in knowing who it is who comes into our lands, kills our people, and destroys our villages. I do not think the Anglais did this, more likely it was the Mohican, they seek to take our hunting grounds and our fields."

As the two brothers and the Abenaki warrior hauled the canoe ashore, Little Wolf gestured for them to wait at the river's edge, he would signal if things looked safe. He then disappeared up the river bank, moving quickly and quietly.

Moments later he signaled to the brothers that there was no danger at the moment and they should join him. Both brothers checked that their muskets were ready to fire.

When they climbed the bank they were appalled. The ruins of the tribe's longhouses still smoldered, the bodies of the dead were everywhere, neither man had ever seen anything quite like it.

"Les Anglais?" Jacques asked Little Wolf.

"No, Mohican," he gestured to an arrow jutting from the back of a young woman, "that is one of their arrows. They killed everyone, even the dogs."

Alain noticed that Little Wolf's eyes glittered, the man was struggling to control himself. While these people were a distant branch of the far flung Abenaki Confederation, they were still his people. Seeing them like this must have hurt.

"Why do people do such things?" Jacques, more open with his emotions, had tears streaming down his face. He and Little Wolf had become fast friends, what touched Little Wolf touched Jacques as well. Which, of course, extended to Alain, who cared for his younger brother deeply.

"When men take the warpath, they leave their humanity behind, not to be taken up again until they return to their families. My father told me of such things, this is the first I have seen this. I will not forget. Come my brothers, we must go."

Quickly the three men returned to the canoe and continued up river. Each man was lost in his own thoughts and no one spoke to break the silence. Only the lapping of the water against their canoe made any sound.


One of the men came rushing down from the platform on the southern wall of the stockade. The view down the river from that platform extended for at least a half a mile. Sergeant Josiah Adams made sure that men manned each of the four platforms at all hours of the day. So far they had seen no more sign of the Indian who had killed Ensign Mayberry.

"Sarn't Adams! Sarn't Adams!" Private Jonathan Walker yelled as he ran to the sergeant's quarters.

Sergeant Adams stepped out of the one room set aside for the sergeant of the post, pulling on his coat as he did so. "Damme Walker, what is all this noise about?"

"Sarn't! There's a column coming this way, red coats, look like proper soldiers they do! It's the rest of the company I daresay!"

Adams followed Walker back to the southward facing platform, his spyglass in hand. When he had mounted the ladder and brought the glass to his eye, he could see them. It was the remainder of the company. At last!


Captain Samuel Jenkins had spied the small fort as soon as they had cleared yet another bend in the river. In the late afternoon light he saw it atop a small rise. It was a welcome sight. He was wondering if the place was still occupied, he had begun to wonder if any Englishmen still lived this far west.

"Sarn't Major!"

"Sir!"

"Have the men look alive there! We're almost at the stockade, I don't want anyone to let their guard down. Who knows if the savages are in the area or not. Smartly lads, smartly!"

Sergeant Major Edward Jacobs had the men see to their firelocks. "Make ready lads, look alive now! We're almost there!"


Sergeant Adams turned to Private Walker, "Go to my quarters lad and fetch the colors, let's run them up so that the column knows we're still at our posts!"

"Right away Sarn't!" Walker said as he scrambled down the ladder.

Corporal Alan Barnes stepped out of the guard house and asked what the Hell was going on when he saw Walker raising the colors.

"The rest of the company Corp! They're comin' up the river. Sarn't Adams said to raise the colors!"

Barnes nodded and immediately had the men fall in, "Come on lads! The Captain and the rest of the boys are coming up the river! Let's welcome them in proper style!"


Jenkins felt a thrill when he saw the King's Colors break out atop the flag pole inside the stockade. It was then that he also noticed men in red coats near the top of the walls. So the garrison in this forsaken place still lived.

As they got within musket shot of the fort, the gates swung open and five men came out. Jenkins thought it rather odd that the sergeant of the place, Adams he remembered, should be greeting him and not Ensign Charles Mayberry. Perhaps the Ensign was out on a patrol or something.

"Sir! Welcome to..." Sergeant Adams began.

"Right! Adams isn't it? Where is your officer?"

"Sir, yessir, Sarn't Adams Sir, that's me. Uh, the Ensign is dead, Sir. Murdered by the savages, Sir."

Jenkins felt his spirits drop, murdered? Charles Mayberry dead?

"Let's get the company inside, shall we Sarn't Major? Adams, you're with me. Tell me everything which has passed since you first came to this place."


Captain Samuel Jenkins stood atop the west-facing platform and watched as the sun set on the other side of the Cannitticutt. From what Adams had told him, Mayberry had acted completely outside of his authority in destroying that Indian village. And what sort of idiot would think a war party would be encamped in the open within a half day's march of the fort?

"Damn fool killed himself!" Jenkins muttered aloud.

"What's that Sir?" Sergeant Major Jacobs asked as he climbed up the ladder to the platform.

"Nothing Sarn't Major, but I'm afraid we've arrived just in time to fight a war."

"Seems to me, Sir, that we've been in a war since we left Rumford. Not like the wars I saw in Europe mind you, but a nasty little war where even the civilians are fair game it seems."

"Quite. You go get some sleep Sarn't Major, I don't think I've seen you put your head down in days." Jenkins was also tired, but he relied on Jacobs more than he cared to admit, and the man looked ready to drop.

"No more than you Sir, but if you insist, I'll go put my head down for a bit. I'll see to the lads first, make sure everyone knows their duties and the like." Lifting his hat, Jacobs started back down the ladder, he paused as he did so.

"Mind you Sir, I'll send up one of the more experienced lads to this position. Seems the King didn't commission you to stand sentry duty, begging your pardon and all."

"Very good Sarn't Major, I appreciate that."

As the sun winked out over the mountains to the west, Jenkins scanned the area, he saw something to the north which gave him a start. Campfires starting, not all that far off.

On his side of the river.

Seems they might have company in the morning. He doubted sincerely that he would sleep at all that night. But he would let Jacobs sleep, it was the least he could do for the man.

After all, his services would no doubt be sorely needed on the morrow.



Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

14 comments:

  1. The Sergeant-Major sees to the troops before himself and the Capt sees to the Sergeant-Major; as it should be. The Capt will need some zz's though as well. Tired makes stupid.
    Boat Guy

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    Replies
    1. Nothing worse than tired leaders making bad decisions.

      Delete
    2. At least the tired ones have an excuse.

      Delete
  2. Multiple campfires, within sight of the fort. Seems somebody isn't being all too cautious, or stealthy. "Curiouser and curiouser", said Alice, as she took yet another bite of the mushroom.

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  3. Hmmm,...look over there, not over here, on the other side of the fort...?

    Often quite difficult to get into the head of that Muse of yours, Sarge!

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    Replies
    1. She keeps me guessing until the last minute!

      Delete
  4. Pardon me if this has already been asked, but what year is the setting for this tale?

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    Replies
    1. The story begins in the summer of 1743.

      And that's the first time I've actually pinned that down.

      Delete
  5. "When men take the warpath, they leave their humanity behind, not to be taken up again until they return to their families."

    Truer words were never spoken.

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    Replies
    1. I suppose it's necessary, sad nonetheless.

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  6. ...And now is it rescue, or just more men trapped in the cage?...The troops may be safe inside the stockade, but they venture outside at their peril...

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    Replies
    1. That remains to be seen. But it's a potential problem.

      Delete

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