excerpt from Clash of Empires – Fort Ticonderoga

ticonderoga

The Battle

The word brought back by Daniel and Liam had the desirable effect and now 11,000 troops were marching at a quicker pace, an easy victory seemingly within their grasps.  Amherst, a veteran of many battles both in North America and Europe rode at the head of the column and when he saw the abandoned French redoubts that he had expected to have to fight for, he turned in his saddle and with a crisp military manner sent his adjutant racing to the rear to have the cannon brought up quickly.  ‘Orderly,’ said Amherst pointing down the formation to where Colonel Alun Williams was sharing a laugh with Sgt. Mulhern, ‘please give my compliments to Colonel Williams and ask him and his head scouts to join me after the camp is set, and have the chief engineer report to me immediately.  No time like the present to let the French know our intentions.  Let’s get to work gentlemen.’

It was a warm July evening so the General had set his camp desk outside under the boughs of an old oak tree where there was at least a slight breeze rather than in the stifling heat of the tent. He was sipping wine from a crystal goblet while he went over the troop assignments for tomorrow.  He saw Williams and the scouts approaching, the dapper Colonel Williams in stark contrast to the three buckskinned colonial backwoodsmen and one very large Mohawk. Colonel Williams had undergone a change of heart concerning the irregular troops, at least the scouts anyway.  He had read the command reports of the battles at Fort William Henry and Fort Duquesne and gained a new respect for Daniel and those in his charge.  He even pulled strings to get Mulhern permanently assigned to what was now being called Mallory’s Militia.  Williams was so impressed that he volunteered to take command of the irregulars once it became known that Colonel Washington, having come down with a fever last winter and only now resuming military duties, was not going to be part of this expedition.  General Amherst stood when they reached his desk, ‘ahh, gentlemen, please be seated.  I’ll try to keep this short, there’s much to do and I want to make sure we make every effort to save that fort from being destroyed.’  Looking at Daniel, Liam, Mulhern and Wahta he continued, ‘Colonel Williams told me of your plan for getting into the fort prior to the powder magazine blowing and I approve.  If this works it will save us a lot of time and effort.  Now is there anything else that you need from me?’  Daniel cleared his throat, pulled out the map and pointed to a section of the wall and spoke, ‘General, we did some more talking about it and it came to us that if you concentrate some artillery fire at this point in the fort wall it could, if effective enough, make our climb that much easier.’  ‘Consider the order given, ‘replied Amherst, ‘the artillery should be ready to commence firing in just a short while.  I take it you have men posted so that we’ll know when the French begin their flight to the harbor?’  ‘Yes sir, General, ‘answered Daniel, ‘we’re maintaining a constant watch.  We will get plenty of advance notice though I don’t think anything will happen for a couple of days.  In three nights there will be no moon; the perfect time for the French to abandon the fort and the perfect time for us to go in.’  ‘Excellent,’ said Amherst, ‘we should be able to soften up that portion of the defenses for you over two days.  God go with you, gentlemen.’  At this word of dismissal they stood and headed back to their tent for what would be an interrupted sleep as the first of the cannons belched forth in fire and iron, the first shot falling just short of the wall.

Over the course of the next two days, both sides exchanged artillery fire, neither side causing much damage to the other.  The French did manage to knock out one battery, killing four British soldiers while the British cannon did little to damage the formidable stone walls, except in one spot where there was now a fairly good sized gap surrounded by piles of stone rubble.  The French commander knew why and to counter the expected move by the British stationed shooters on the roofs of the two barrack buildings.  Taking one last look at the powder trails that led to the munitions barns, he saluted his chief engineer and headed to the gate to lead the rest of the remaining garrison to the waiting boats.  Daniel and the others were preparing their gear for the assault when the message came from their lookouts that the French were boarding the bateaux.  They trotted the short distance from the redoubt and clambered down the defensive ditch outside the wall and headed to the rubble strewn opening in the wall.  Picking their way through the scree they took up a position behind one of the barns from where they could see the two powder trails and the men with torches getting ready to set fire to the powder.  Liam pulled an arrow from his quiver and in one swift motion shot down the nearest torch bearer knocking him back, the torch flying harmlessly to the ground.  Sgt. Mulhern took aim on the one farthest away and shot.  The lead ball striking the French soldier in the chest but his forward motion continued and his torch set the powder trail sizzling toward the other munition filled barn.  Without hesitation Daniel handed his musket to Wahta and raced between the two barns to stop the trail of sputtering powder from reaching the waiting barrels of powder inside.  The sniper on the far barracks roof fired striking a boulder in front of Daniel, a shard of stone striking him a glancing blow on the cheek.  The closest sniper now took aim on Daniel, firing and hitting him in the leg.  Wahta saw the flash of the muzzle and ran toward the barrack, the sniper now in a crouched run to the ladder on the other side.  He reached the ground and took two steps before the blade of a tomahawk cracked into his back severing his spine.  Daniel reeled from the blow to his leg and fell to the ground.  He knew he had no chance to reach the powder fuse so started crawling away from the coming blast.  Liam and Mulhern stayed behind the second barn but made their way over where Daniel was struggling to get behind the interior wall.

Colonel Williams and the follow up assault team were poised outside the defensive ditch waiting for a signal from inside.  The blast had them all hitting the ground as the flames rose up into the night sky.  Williams had the foresight to equip the men with as many buckets as they could scrounge from the camp; some were filled with water, some with sand.  The colonel looked to his aide and said, ‘that wasn’t the signal I expected but it’ll do.  Get the men moving; put out that fire.’  Another blast shook the night slowing their advance but soon the men had formed a bucket brigade from the barn to the two wells in front of the barracks; some were dousing the flames while the others were throwing water on the walls and roof of the second munitions barn.  Colonel Williams wandered over to where Liam, Mulhern and Wahta were huddled over the still form of Daniel.  The first blast had thrown him into a pile of rubble, the back of his head striking a boulder and a large splinter of wood was protruding from his side.  Liam had wrapped a bandage around his brother’s head.  Daniel was alive but still unconscious as they gently picked him up and carried him to outside the walls to await the surgeon.

General Amherst stood in the entrance to his tent now a makeshift hospital tent and watched the surgeon cleanse and bandage the wounds to Daniel’s head and leg.  That he had given over his living quarters to a lowly colonial irregular was astonishing in and of itself, but the General found that he was genuinely fond of the lad.  Colonel Washington had sent him an effusive letter of praise regarding the scout troop and the Mallory brothers in particular and some of the words of that letter came to him now, ‘there is no one braver of spirit or one truer of heart.’  No, he did not fully understand his action, but he was not going to begrudge the fact that he would now be bunking with Colonel Williams for a few days.  He glanced over and caught Liam looking down at his injured brother, tears evident on his usually stern countenance.  ‘Ahh,’ thought the General, ‘his mask of hatred has slipped a bit,’ something else that Washington had hinted at, ‘matters weigh heavily on this young man.’   The doctor was now preparing to examine the gaping hole in Daniel’s side from where he had extracted a seven inch long by 2 inches wide hunk of wood.  As he began to probe for smaller splinters Daniel woke up. ‘Mr. Mallory, I imagine your head is pounding like a drummer calling a change in formation,’ said Dr. Martin Locke, personal physician to General Amherst, ‘that is quite a bump you have; most certainly a concussion.  Your leg wound will heal fine, no bones were hit and the bleeding was minimal.  Now, about the wound here in your side, again nothing vital was hit but I need to make sure all of the bits of wood are removed or a nasty infection could set in.  It would be best if you were not squirming around while I am probing so if you would please drink this.  It will relax you and make my job easier and you more comfortable.’  Daniel tried to nod his head yes but the throbbing pain seemed to him to be oozing out of his eyes and ears, even the pressure of closing his eyes sent yet another wave of pain.  Dr. Locke put a cup to Daniel’s lips and said, ‘this is a mixture of opium and an extract form the leaves of the hemp plant mixed in elderberry tea.  You’ll be asleep in a few minutes then I will continue with the procedure.’

Dr. Locke placed a loose bandage on the wound deciding to leave it open for a few days to make sure that the bit of wood he just dug out was the last.  ‘He will sleep for a while.  When he wakes have him drink some broth and another draught of the tea.  He needs rest more for his head wound than the other ones.  The hole in his side looks good but I will check it again in the morning,’ said the doctor as he packed up his kit and headed for the entrance.  General Amherst backed away to let the doctor through, ‘thank you Dr. Locke.’  Dr. Locke took in the night time sky, shrugged off the tension and fatigue in his shoulders and nodded a greeting to Colonel Williams and Sgt. Mulhern who had just arrived.  They smelled of smoke and were soot stained from the firefighting efforts but now that situation was mostly under control.  Wahta had gone down to the harbor checking to see if the French had any more surprises waiting.  Liam came out, the adrenaline from the night’s actions finally bleeding away causing him to bend over at the waist and retch.  After a moment he stood and gasped in lungs full of air his head gradually clearing.  Walking over to Williams and Mulhern he said, ‘Quite the night, eh?  Daniel looks a sight right now but doc says he should be okay after a bit of rest.  Sergeant, once you get cleaned up, can you sit with Daniel?  I’ll be back shortly, I want to find Wahta; still have a job to do, you know.’

It was two weeks before the doctor agreed that Daniel could be moved.  During that time General Amherst saw to the rebuilding of Fort Ticonderoga and made preparations to follow the French up the lake, although he thought the chase to be futile as the French had already abandoned and destroyed Fort Frederic and they were now on their way to Canada.  Liam and Wahta had just returned from leading a party of engineers to the ruined site of Fort Frederic and left them there to begin the construction of Fort Crown Point.  When Liam learned that Daniel was beseeching anyone who would listen that he was okay and needed to do something other than lie around on his arse, he marched over to General Amherst and received permission for Sgt. Mulhern, Wahta and himself to accompany Daniel to the Ford’s place and the gentle ministrations of Deborah Prescott for his continuing convalescence.  While he was improving, Daniel was still feeling the effects of the blow to his head; any sustained activity brought on a throbbing pulse of pain. Also joining them and driving the wagon was Daniel Boone who had arrived with a wagon train load of material to be shipped up the lake to Crown Point.  It was only twenty miles or so to the well hidden valley the Ford’s called home but to Daniel it was a painful twenty miles.  Even after a reluctant draught of the opium laced tea an occasional jarring bump would bring him to a foggy state of wakefulness but a vision of Deborah kissing and soothing his brow would lull him back to sleep.  It was with great relief that Daniel finally clambered out of the wagon and with some help from Wahta made it to a nice soft bed and to Deborah kissing and soothing his brow.

Excerpt from Clash of Empires

Pontiac_chief

La Grand Traverse

Early autumn 1760

Pontiac stood at the top of the dune facing the large gathering of tribes who had come to hear the words of this imposing and captivating Ottawa warrior and chief.  The wind from off of the lake blowing his unbraided hair, he waited until everyone was settled before beginning what he hoped would be the talk needed to get the tribes united behind him.  The tribes had been camped together for two months and during that time Pontiac and his followers visited each of the tribes and talked to them of the idea of rebellion against the British and the ways of the white man and tonight he would find out if they would accede to support his leadership. Since there were many tribes and many languages and dialects to deal with, he had seen to the placing of those who could translate among the people so all would understand exactly what he said.  He raised his eyes and his hands to the star filled night sky and softly uttered, ‘Manitou, be with me and speak through me.’  His chosen bodyguard came to join him after seeing that everything was in readiness for their chief.

‘The Great Spirit in his wisdom made this land for us,’ Pontiac began, pausing frequently for the translators, ‘he made it for us to dwell in for as many years as there are grains of sand on this hill or stars in the sky.  He gave us everything we needed from the forest, from the lakes, from the fields we sow, from the streams and rivers.  Then the evil spirit came to us and we became dependent on first the French and now the British white men to supply us with goods we did not need before they arrived.  Now the whites are holding back those goods and we cry to them because we feel betrayed, because we have become dependent on them.  This is not what the Great Spirit intended for his people.  The whites also brought us new ways to worship claiming they knew more about The Great Spirit than our fathers did, that their Christ was more important than what our fathers taught us.  This also is not what The Great Spirit intended for his children.  The white man also brought us sickness and death with his smallpox and with his whisky and rum.  Our time with the French is now over and while they started this downfall of our culture, our religion, our very identity, they did not steal our land or go back on treaties when we allowed them the land they desired for their forts and trading posts.  The British whites have stolen the land from us and they continue to do so as they push us further and further into the setting sun even when they have said they would not.  They have time and time again ignored the treaties they sign, ignore the promises they made.  Now the British have driven the French away.  How long will it be before they drive us from our land here and in the Ohio country?  How long will it be before the whites enter our sacred hunting lands below the Ohio, the Cantuckee lands?  The Great Spirit has appeared and spoken with many of his children of all these evils and he is telling us to throw off the yoke put around our necks and to return to the time of our fathers, to return to the time before the evil one brought the whites to our land.  The Great Spirit is telling us to resist them, to fight them, to halt the progress of the evils they bring.  The time to do this is now but we cannot succeed against the British if we take up the hatchet as individual tribes.  The Ojibway, the Potawatomi, the Delaware, the Shawnee, the Ottawa cannot bring victory if they fight alone.  If we take up the war hatchet we must be as one, we must band together.  Any old arguments and differences must be thrust aside and let go.  Just as we use the wind to blow away the chaff from our crops we must let these past problems between us blow away like the chaff.  Instead let us use the wind to fan the flames of war.  The Great Spirit is calling us to unite; only by being as one people can we return to the ways of our fathers.  I know we can do this but it will take time to form the alliances, to gather the warriors for the task of ridding the land of the evil.  I ask that the war chiefs of all who are gathered here to speak to their people and to prepare for when the time becomes ripe for war.  I ask the chiefs to give me some of their young braves that I may use them to spread the word of our plans and our purpose.  I ask the chiefs to give me the power to lead our people to the victory that the Great Spirit intends for us.’

Pontiac awoke the next morning to the sound of waves breaking along the shore.  A brisk wind from the northwest promised to bring rain as it whipped the previously placid surface of the lake into four foot breakers.  He followed the trail down the dune and plunged into the lake, the water refreshing him and helping to ease the aches from the ballgame of yesterday.  He stood in the water as the waves broke upon him remembering the thundering roar of the people, his people after his talk last night.  On the beach, Eluwilussit, the hoary, white haired Ottawa holy one watched his chief and spoke, ‘Just as these waves strike and fall away from you so shall the British disappear as droplets of water into the air.’  Pontiac shook the water from his hair as he walked to his spiritual advisor.  ‘Manitou will bring us great victories but it is up to us to bring it about,’ he said, taking Eluwilussit by the shoulders, ‘come old friend, let us begin.’

The delegation from the Seneca was waiting for Pontiac to emerge from his tent.  With them were Pontiac’s most trusted warrior, Machk and a few Delaware and Ojibway braves.  They were seated around the campfire, the Seneca cloistered in conversation when Pontiac, preceded by Eluwilussit, came out resplendent in his finest buckskin leggings, war vest and a headdress adorned with two eagle feathers.  His long hair braided and finished with the downy breast feather of a wild turkey hanging from the ends.  They all stood up as Pontiac made his way around the circle greeting each by name.  ‘Sit, my friends, ‘he said recognizing the positive effect his appearance and manner was having, ‘the time has come for us to begin striking fear into the hearts of those who would take our land; who would destroy our way of life.  It will be many moons before we are ready to strike at Fort Detroit or Michilimackinac but we have an opportunity in the land of our brothers the Seneca.’ He then proceeded to lay out his plans for the coming spring.  The Seneca along with warriors from the Delaware and Ojibway would assault and destroy the many white settlements along the Allegheny River working their way south toward Fort Pitt.

Clash of Empires – excerpt from chapter 16

frontiersmanChapter 16

Fort Pitt – Mallory Town

Fort Pitt – October 1763

While it could be said that the siege of Fort Pitt had had little effect on Jimmy Two Birds, the same could not be said for the garrison who had been on half rations for three weeks.  However, just as with the siege at Detroit, the tribes were getting restless with the lack of success or activity.  When the Delaware brave reported to Guyasuta that a large British relief column was approaching, he jumped at the chance and almost the entire besieging force left to intercept them.  The ensuing battle saw Guyasuta inflict severe casualties but still the British made it through and reached Fort Pitt lifting the siege.  This news was unknown to Liam and company as they made their way south.  They were crossing an open meadow when Wahta reined in his horse and motioned them to be quiet but the band of ten Delaware braves had already seen them and were even now rushing in.  With little time to react but having an advantage being mounted, the three pulled their tomahawks from their belts, kicked their mounts and charged the oncoming Delaware.  Wahta swung down and struck the brave reaching up to pull him from the saddle knocking him to the ground under the charging hooves of Liam’s horse.  Liam’s arm was grabbed and his tomahawk wrenched out of his grasp but reaching back to his quiver he pulled out an arrow and stabbed his attacker in the eye.  In just a matter of seconds they were past the Delaware but before they were out of range Mulhern was hit in the back of his shoulder by a war lance; the spear point embedding in the fabric of his coat and in his back.  He was thrown forward in the saddle losing his grip on the reins but was able to hang on by grabbing the horse’s mane.  Liam slowed down and came up next to Mulhern and with Wahta’s help they held Mulhern up as they rode away not daring to stop until they had outraced their foes though it appeared that the Delaware were not too keen on pursuit.  When it was safe they stopped and gently helped Mulhern dismount. ’Now laddies,’ he said through gritted teeth, ‘would you please be a getting this thing out of my back?’  They rigged up a travois for Mulhern whose shoulder was certainly broken in addition to the deep cut that required stitching.  They were only a day away from Fort Pitt so Liam rode ahead not knowing that the siege was over so he was pleasantly surprised to find the gate open and the bustle of everyday activity.  Turning his mount around he galloped back to Wahta and Mulhern who when told the news said, ‘Then why are we dawdling around talking for?  I need a drink, stitches and a sling; in that order if you please.’

The post surgeon put away his scalpel and probe and having readied the needle stitched the wound closed.  He had needed to open it up to clean it out properly, a process that Mulhern endured with nary a whimper after toasting the health of Two Birds after each of the five glasses of Irish whiskey he drank.  They were in Two Birds tavern using the backroom for Mulhern to convalesce.  Liam had gone off to report to the garrison commander while Wahta stayed with Mulhern to, ‘make sure the little Irishman doesn’t roll out of bed.’  When Liam returned to the tavern Two Birds handed him a letter that had arrived almost a year ago but with all the trouble stirred up by Pontiac it hadn’t been possible to forward it along to any of the western forts.  Grabbing a mug of ale he bade Two Birds good night and went to the room he was sharing with Mulhern and Wahta.  He set a lantern on the table next to his cot and opened the letter.  It was from Daniel and in which he told Liam of the state of affairs at Mallory Town and of the occasional exchange of gunfire with Seneca or Delaware.  Then the handwriting changed and Rebecca wrote just a few words, I am with child.  Hurry home my love. Liam sputtered and coughed up the mouthful of ale he had just started to swallow, ‘I’m gonna be a father.  Wait, this was sent a year ago.  I am a father.’

A Little Gratitude – part 3

frontiersman

I know most of you have been waiting patiently for this, my report on my favorite authors of Roman historical fiction.  I do sincerely apologize for the interminable wait and offer up some feeble, yet relevant excuses.  As you are, or should be, aware, I am in the editing phase of my book and that takes up a good portion of my creative process time.  The other mitigating factor is that I have been immersed in a slew of really good books and as a direct result, the rest of my creative process time has been filled with reading and then reviewing.

So, without further ado or deliberation or that most heinous of sins, procrastination, here come the Romans.  As I mentioned in part 1, Colleen McCollough started me down this path but after finishing that series my soul cried out for more.  Enter Simon Scarrow and his Cato and Macro books.  Well, I devoured the the first five in the series and that caught me up while I waited for number six to be published but still I craved more.  I remember going to Amazon and based on my reading of Scarrow, they recommended the Marius Mules books by Simon James Atkinson Turney.  Like the Scarrow series, I read all of them so quickly that I had to wait for number four to come out.  In the meantime I contacted SJA Turney via Twitter and soon found myself swimming in Roman hist-fic…so many wonderfully talented  authors…so many great books…:

Simon Scarrow – Cato/Macro

SJA Turney – Marius Mules and now Praetorian

Gordon Doherty – Legionary and Strategos series

Robert Fabbri…Anthony Riches…Douglas Jackson…Nick Brown…John Salter…Alex Gough…Kate Quinn…Ruth Downie…Ben Kane(sorry for the late addition)  🙂

I highly recommend all of the above…and that ain’t all of them by a long shot(or a bolt from a ballista.)  🙂

Take care….turn off the TV and read a book…and write a review – the author’s best friend.

A little gratitude – part 2

frontiersman

Before I venture into the realm of the Roman historical fiction genre and the authors I follow, I thought I would mention some of the side effects of social media.  When I began this read and review process a couple years ago it was due to a Twitter conversation I had with the author of the very fine Marius Mules series by SJA Turney(more on him and his work later).  He pointed me in the direction of some other authors whose work I might enjoy.  From that and my own search I soon branched out from reading only ancient stories and entered the world of medieval Europe, a time period that I had only a passing interest in.  I tended to jump right from 430 BC to 1775 and the American Revolution, skipping most of the other history along the way.  That soon changed when introduced to Angus Donald and his series on Robin Hood – a vastly different take on the famed outlaw than what is commonly portrayed – add to that Steven A. McKay’s books on Robin, books that offer yet another version of him…great stuff indeed.  Another fine series that is set in Britain in the same time period but written from the point of view of a totally fictional character(Ned Elder) are the Feud books by Derek Birks.  Going back a little further to 1066 and William the Great, there are the likes of Martin Lake & Glynn Holloway.  If like the Tudor period then the aforementioned Martin Lake’s A Love Most Dangerous is a must read.  If you want to read about Britain after the Romans pulled stakes and left, Wulfsuna by Elaine Moxon is a wonderful tale as is Matthew Harffy’s Serpent Sword  If you’re looking for something a little more widespread than just Britain then you cannot go wrong with the Gisborne books by the very gifted Prue Batten.  Now I hear some of you saying, ‘what about the Crusades, the Templars, the Hospitallers.’…well check out Robyn Young’s trilogy or The Holy Lance by Andrew Latham.

Before I go any further with this I should point out that this is not an exhaustive list…I’m sure to miss some book or author that I read and enjoyed, so here’s the link to my book review blog – https://hooverbookreviews.wordpress.com/  .

I’m beginning to see that this will need a part 3 so I will close this with some alternative historical fiction.  Alison Morton has written the Roma Nova series – tales about a remnant of the Roman Empire that exists in the modern day time period – taut and exciting thrillers to say the least.

More later.  🙂

Excerpt – revised Chapter 1 – Clash of Empires

frontiersman

CHAPTER 1

A Journey Contemplated

1749 – Autumn

Thomas Mallory stopped chopping and took a moment to wipe the sweat from his brow.  ‘Saints preserve us,’ he sighed, ‘it will take more wood than this to see us through the winter.’  He gazed about and took in the sights of the small lease held farm he worked with his family.  His wife Abigail was baking bread in the outdoor oven. His eldest son Daniel was over in the field harvesting the last of the squash and pumpkin. His only daughter Elizabeth was spreading feed for the ducks and chickens.  Liam, the youngest son was nowhere to be seen as he was out hunting.  ‘Aye and what about the spring?  What will they think about my plans for the spring?’

Thomas never did much like farming.  The plot of land that he leased from a wealthy member of the Philadelphia merchant aristocracy was barely sufficient to feed his family and make a profit.  For fifteen years he toiled, saving up every last farthing so that at last they could move West and begin a new life.  He had met William Trent, an adventurous woodsman and one time officer in the Virginia militia a few years back when he stopped by the farm looking for a place to bed down for a few nights.  He regaled them with his stories of the frontier, about his trip down The Ohio and the opportunities waiting for men with vision and courage.  ‘This is only the beginning’, said William, ‘but I plan on opening a trading post along the Allegheny River.  If I’m any judge of events then it won’t be long before the frontier will be teeming with them that’s looking to make their fortune.  Hunters and trappers at first and then with settlers.  Once things have settled there it will be back to The Ohio to start another trading post.’

The seed of adventure and profit was duly planted in Thomas so when William asked him to be his partner in a recent letter he quietly accepted to himself.  The time to tell the family would come soon enough.  All he needed to do now was to convince his wife Abigail that the move would be more than worth the risks involved as the area in question was in dispute between the British, the French and the various tribes of Indians, some of which sided with the British and some with the French.

The thought came to Liam as he followed the movement of the deer that he was never so at peace as when he was in the woods.  For as long as he could remember he made the most of every opportunity to be outside, marveling at nature and studying it.  Indeed he had come to know the area around his home very well and was now hidden on a small mound that was overgrown with brush.  He knew from experience that the deer used the trail below the mound to travel to a small creek for water.  He also knew that he would be too far away for an effective shot with his favorite weapon, the bow, so he had brought his musket along.  The deer was now broadside to Liam, the hindquarters obscured by tree branches but the front shoulder was in the open.  Liam fired, the shot hit and knocked the deer down but it was soon back on its feet, staggering away.  Liam resisted the notion of rising up and following the deer right away.  He knew that that would only cause the deer to panic even more causing it to run meaning it would be farther away once it finally succumbed to the wound and Liam was sure the shot was fatal.  ‘That got at least one lung, maybe both,’ he said to himself as he rose up just enough to keep an eye on the deer.  The wounded deer was still standing and walking but it was quickly losing blood and becoming weaker.  Liam, satisfied that it would not be going too much farther sat back down to wait for a few more minutes giving him time to think and daydream.   As was usually the case his thoughts were of Indians and how they used and nature to survive.  He was most in awe of the Indians and their way of life though he had encountered them only fleetingly. The farm he grew up on along the Schuylkill River west of Philadelphia didn’t have many Indians in the area. The last of them, the Delaware tribes, had been pushed farther west by the encroaching white settlers.  What truth he did learn he gleaned from a former Black Robe, a priest who had lived with his Order in the village of Teatontaloga near the white settlement of Albany.   Pierre Baptiste was now the village apothecary having learned from the Mohawk about the various herbs and plants that could be used for assorted ailments.  He was also an amateur naturalist and agreed with Liam to teach him about the Mohawk including their language in exchange for Liam gathering up and bringing him herbs and any other interesting plants and critters he could find. Liam peered over the brush in time to see the deer collapse to the forest floor.  He slowly got up and stretched his cramped legs.  When he reached the where the deer had fallen he noticed the pink froth that had been seeping out of the deer’s mouth and nose.  ‘Yep, got the lungs,’ he said to himself.  Liam then got down to the business of field dressing the deer, removing the unwanted innards, placing the heart, liver and kidneys in a pouch.  He used a long strip of rawhide to wind around the torso, keeping it closed as he hoisted the carcass up onto his shoulders using the legs as handles and began the short but laborious trek back home.

‘Pa?’ exclaimed Daniel as he gazed off to the woodland that bordered the tilled soil, ‘Here comes Liam, looks like we’ll be havin’ venison for supper.’  ‘Aye that it does,’ replied Thomas.  ‘He may not be much of a farmer but I am glad he’s such a fine hunter. ’

Liam strode towards the farmhouse with a fine young white tailed buck draped across his brawny shoulders. Thomas and Daniel came over and helped Liam hoist the carcass up and tie it to an overhanging branch of the tree that Liam used for skinning his prey.    ‘ Only took one shot to bring him down, got him right behind the front shoulder and got him in the lungs,’ Liam exclaimed as he began the skinning process.  ‘When you’ve finished the butchering, head over to the Clarkes and invite them for supper tonight,’ said Thomas, ’Things aren’t going so well since Joseph’s wife died and this will help.  Besides I have big news to share and I’d like them to be a part of it.’

‘Okay Pa, can I ask Pierre to join us?  He’s in need of a good meal as well and it’s him that taught me to shoot.’

Shrugging his shoulders and smiling, Thomas replied, ‘Don’t see why not.  Least we can do to repay him for teaching you to shoot so well.  Besides, I was going to suggest you bring him along.  My news may interest him.’

Liam and Daniel continued skinning and cutting up the deer, hanging most of the venison in the smokehouse.  ‘As you never seem to be around to help me out, I’ll leave you to finish. Leave a couple nice cuts out,’ said Daniel, ‘I’ll take one to Ma for the stew and put one on the spit to cook while you’re fetching our company.’  Daniel wiped off his bloodied knife, picked up the venison and headed toward the farmhouse, stopping; he turned around to face his younger brother.  ‘You know, little brother, I used to be jealous of your freedom and more than little angry that you didn’t help out more with the farm.  You’re always gone, either in the woods or with Pierre, but I’ve come to realize that you would never have the patience for the life of a farmer.’

Liam grunted as broke through a shoulder joint and looked at his older sibling, ‘It ain’t no secret I have a dislike for the plow.  I’ve known for a long time that my fate or destiny lies out there,’ Liam said pointing a bloody finger west toward the frontier.

Daniel, with a huge smile on his face, clapped Liam on the back, chuckled, and said, ‘Well, Pierre must be a good teacher if he has you thinking about fate and destiny.  We could never get you thinking about anything that didn’t involve tracking critters or shooting them.’

‘Very funny,’ replied Liam, ‘Pierre is a good teacher.  I’ll not argue with that.  We’ve been keeping a secret from everyone.  He taught me to speak Mohawk, and believe you me, call it fate or any other fancy word you want, but learning Mohawk is part of mine.’

Daniel just nodded and said, ‘I’ve heard you muttering to yourself sometimes.  Never did figure out what you were sayin’.  Now I know.’  He walked away and made his way through the cabin door. ‘Here you are Ma, some extra meat for the pot.  We’re having company for dinner tonight.  Liam will be leaving after he finishes with that carcass to fetch Pierre and the Clarkes.  Pa says he has some news to tell everyone.  Wonder what it is.’

‘Your Pa can be secretive but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with that letter that he got the other day.  He doesn’t know that I know about it.  I do know that it has him talking to himself.  Ask Liza to fetch me another bucket of water, I need to make more stew if our guests want to eat.’

A little gratitude – part 1

I thought I would pay a little homage to a few of the authors and reviewers that have contributed to not only my reading enjoyment but who have gone above and beyond to encourage this fledgling wordsmith.  I guess to start at the beginning I must mention the renowned classical historical fiction author, Mary Renault.  Her series on Theseus,especially The King Must Die were instrumental in getting me into ancient fiction.  While we’re in the Greek era, the books on Odysseus by Glyn Iliffe are marvelous books on the Trojan War…also the Tyrant series by Christian Cameron are top notch.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Judith Starkson’s Hand of Fire; another book that takes place at Troy but this one is from the point of view of Briseis.

Regarding fiction of a Roman kind I can say for sure that Colleen McCullough’s First Man in Rome series cannot be beat.  It’s long and it’s detailed but what wonderful stories and imaginative interpretations of the major characters of the period from Marius thru Antony and the rise of the Empire.  For some work of a more sleuthful nature, check out Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa stories on Gordianus the Finder; the Falco books by Lindsey Davis; also authors David Wishart and John Maddox Roberts have written many intriguing whodunits.

Going back even further to the beginning of civilization in the Tigris-Euphrates region, the novels by Sam Barone are excellent as are the Egyptian works of Lauren Haney, Lynda Robinson.

More in part 2.  🙂