Clash of Empires – excerpt chap 5

Otetiani awoke to the sounds of thunder, and of Liza preparing their breakfast.  That he had slept surprised him, as he had not for almost three days. During their short stay at the fort, Pierre told Otetiani what he saw across the river, how Orenda died and the image of Orenda tied to that tree haunted his dreams still, as did the sound of her screams as she cried out to him.  Daniel and Henry were already awake, and making ready to begin today’s trek to Donehogawa’s camp on Mahoning Creek.

Teeyeehogrow and Pierre rose before dawn to backtrack, to see if anyone was in pursuit.  They stood on a hilltop about two miles from camp, looking down at a troop of French about a mile distant preparing to break camp.  “Best to warn the others, and hasten our pace,” said Pierre.

Teeyeehogrow nodded in agreement, and replied, “We don’t know for sure they are after us, though I suspect they are. There’s little chance they won’t find our tracks.”  They returned to their tethered mounts, soothing the trembling horses as a blast of thunder and flash of lightning pierced the early morning quiet.

Another sudden clap of thunder brought a pelting rain that soaked them to the bones as they made their way back to camp.  “The beckoning call of the rising sun,” spoke Pierre, “the breath of promise on the early morning breeze.  Dawn is God’s blessing to man and beast, though it seems to be an off day for the almighty.  I suppose even God enjoys a bit of variety.”

Teeyeehogrow slapped Pierre on the back and chuckled, “More likely he’s mighty agitated about something.”

“My friend, you are quite probably truer to the mark,” replied Pierre.

With the news that the French were probably tracking them, Otetiani and Daniel took a position a few miles behind the others as they rode, keeping a watchful eye on their pursuers.  By mid-morning, the storm was no longer a problem as it had been blown  eastward. The sun was beginning the drying out process, as steam rose from the horses’ flanks and the ground was enveloped in a swirling mist.  Birdsong now replaced the staccato rhythm of the .

On the third day after leaving Fort Necessity, Teeyeehogrow and Baptist led the others toward the Mohawk camp on Mahoning Creek while Daniel took up a position to the rear. They were pretty sure they could reach it by nightfall, if they pushed their mounts a little harder.  As they crested a hill, they found themselves looking down at the creek, but could not see the Mohawk camp, and were not sure which direction they should take once they crossed the Mahoning.

The sound of hoof beats from behind had reaching for their weapons, but as Daniel came into view, they relaxed and dismounted.  He came to a halt, the suddenness of his stopping sending up a spray of dirt and leaves.  “We’ve got trouble,” he started, “the French have split their pursuit. Now, half of them are heading down to the creek to keep us from crossing, while the rest drive us into it.  Otetiani and I will hold them back for as long as we can but you need to make haste across the water.”  Teeyeehogrow motioned with his hand to point to a group of French already getting into position for the ambush at the water’s edge.

Lieutenant LeFurge directed the six men with him to take their positions behind a scattering of boulders and fallen trees.  “We have them now,” he murmured to himself as he slid his saber in and out of its scabbard, willing himself to quell his nervousness his first real taste of battle.  There was no way he was going to obey his orders to the .  “No one fires until I give the command,” he ordered. “Shoot to kill, but spare the woman – she’ll make a fine gift to our Shawnee friends.”

Wahta and Deganawidah, returning to the Mohawk encampment from a hunting trip, stopped among the trees above the creek when they noticed the French across the creek, setting up for what appeared to be an ambush.  First setting down the deer they carried, the two crept to the creek bank to see if they could be of help to whoever the French were after.  The sounds of gunfire from the hill in the distance drew their attention, but they still could not make out who it was.

“We can’t take on both groups, there are too many,” said Teeyeehogrow, “Pierre, go get Daniel and Otetiani  .  We’ll meet the group behind us from here.  We’ll have the advantage of being uphill with enough cover to protect us.  Liza, I know you’re a good shot, but – for now – I need you to reload our muskets.  We have two extras, so we should be able to keep up a continual fire.  No doubt, Otetiani will be using his bow as well as his musket.”

****************************

Otetiani, Daniel and Pierre returned to the others, taking up positions behind the trees just as the first of the French charged up the slope.  They dismounted quickly as Otetiani let an arrow fly, and struck one of the horses in the shoulder, causing it to rear and throw its rider.  Daniel and the others then let with musket fire, taking down two in their first volley.  The remaining three returned fire, but Otetiani and the rest were too well sheltered for any clean hits; when the French troops reloaded and stood to fire, they were met with another volley wounding two more.  Laying his musket down and holding his palms outward, the lone remaining Frenchman helped his wounded comrades onto their horses and  retreated back the way they came.

“Looks as though we won’t have to worry about that group,” said Daniel, “How do we deal with those in the rocks below?”

Wahta now recognized Otetiani. As he drew back his bow and released an arrow, striking one of the surprised French in the back, the force of the arrow causing him to stumble and fall into the creek, Wahta shouted “Snake-slayer, my brother, let us meet our foes together.”  At the sound of his voice, and seeing one of his troopers floating away, LeFurge turned to see two Mohawk braves shooting from across the creek.  He barely had time to duck as an arrow whizzed by his ear.

Taking advantage of the changing situation, Otetiani, Daniel, Henry, Liza, and Teeyeehogrow charged their horses down the hill, muskets at the ready and firing into the rocks.  There wasn’t much chance of hitting anyone while riding, but it kept the French pinned down as they took fire from front and rear.  Thirty yards from the French, Otetiani and the others veered off to the right and plunged into the creek, while Wahta and Deganawidah kept up their fire, killing one more of the French and wounding LeFurge.  Once his friends were safely across, Wahta stopped shooting, and headed up to meet them in the trees.

With a smile almost as broad as his shoulders, Wahta embraced Otetiani. “It does my heart good to see you again, brother.”

Otetiani replied, “Not as much good as to mine to see you.  We were in some trouble, and the outcome would have most likely been different without your timely involvement.  How far is it to Donehogawa’s camp?  I fear our horses are sorely tired, as are we.”

“We will be there before the sun sets. We will feast on venison, and talk late into the night,” replied Wahta.

************************************

His right thigh bandaged, Lieutenant LeFurge was in some pain. He seethed at the thought that, in his first battle engagement, he was so thoroughly routed — and wounded on top of it.  All that, and he didn’t even fire his musket once, so complete was the surprise attack from across the creek.  His already smoldering loathing of the English now raged into an inferno of hate, and the need for revenge – especially as he believed his loss occurred at the expense of these uncultured backwoodsmen, and that bastard Colonel Washington for allowing them to leave the fort.

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