The Redeemer: Hawk

The Redeemer: Hawk

“The Plan” by Robert Griffing.

Brave Mohawk warriors, feckless colonials, the mighty Adirondacks and our favorite revenge dealing spirit. Not exactly the Last of the Mohicans but hey! Enjoy and let me know how to improve this story!

Hawk looked down upon the land between the two waters and had no doubts as to why the spirits held it dear.  The morning sun had climbed over the mountains and lifted the night’s mist exposing a blanket of bright reds, oranges and yellows that covered the mountains, hills and valley in preparation of the cold winter to come.  A cool breeze wisped through every few moments carrying the occasional scents of the small campfires, chimneys and smokehouses of those that lived in the valley.  The waters of the End Lake glistened and the birds soared high above either waiting for the sight of prey in the forest below or bellowing as they started their long journey away.

Hawk stood with one leg up on the rocky perch of the overlook. His deerskin leggings and shirt bore the marks of many days of travel and the numerous beaded necklaces around his neck marked his great victories over the Barkeaters, Frenchman and a great bear. His new long rifle was strapped over his left shoulder and axes hung from his belt ready to capture a meal or fell the next great enemy of the Kanienke. A single thin white cloth sash was tied to the stripe of black hair on his head marking him as a friend of the Englishmen. He did not like it.

The white tribes had come to these lands a few generations before and like flies had made their way everywhere.  They brought many marvelous things with them like medicine, delicious foods and rifles but also disease and foolish wars to Hawk’s people.  It is a great thing to want to bring wealth and lands to one’s tribe but foolhardy to be careless and destroy everything and everyone to accomplish it.

Hawk’s green eyes and thoughts turned to the other four brave warriors and an Englishman wandering about the small camp below him. They were all busy cleaning the camp from the night’s sleep, watering horses and carrying out other tasks of a small scout troop.

The first was Great Owl who was the eldest of the group and giving direction. He had taken many Barkeater scalps before he was Hawk’s age and carried them with great pride. He was now old and had grown a great stomach that he said contained the great wisdom he had collected. Everybody questioned his ideas why stomachs are big but did not question his great skill with the English rifle. His great scarred but smiling face was always behind it guiding the iron ball to the mark.

River was breaking down their tents and was Hawk’s best friend for a long as he could remember. He was a proven warrior but his true passion was the summer games. He displayed his many victories of these matches rather than those won in battle. He would speak nightly of his new strategies in sport and his blue eyes were always looking for the best tree to climb or rock to scale.  He had recently found his mate and prayed that his firstborn would be the finest runner in the tribe. He looked forward to showing him how.

Loud One was the son of a great chief that was proud to let everybody know. He was doing that now while rolling blankets and speaking to the Englishman in his language.  His skills in battle were not great but he always made up for it with his skills in medicine and talk. Hawk thought he would make a great leader one day.

The Englishman was a skinny blue-eyed boy named Tim that was here to help them communicate with the English hunters and warriors. He seemed to have much knowledge about the tribe’s ways and spoke their language better than most white men. He dressed in deerskin leggings, shirt and moccasins but did not take on the warrior’s hair but instead wore a flimsy leather sculpted leather hat.  He did not require help in moving about or living in the woods which made him very likable. He was currently digging out an alcove to stash their heavier tools which would be retrieved later. Hawk hoped he would be with them for some time and could perhaps pass on greater wisdom to the English. He is proof that perhaps there is some hope for them.

Hawk’s attention quickly shifted back to the task of hand which was a final survey. He glanced down the valley to the right toward the shores of the End Lake and could see smoke trailing up from a campsite along the north-south road the French traveled between the great forts on the lakes. This was likely the French fur traders the English and the tribe wanted destroyed. Looking to the left he saw the first waterfall and knew the ambush site was near. No fires or movement seemed to be nearby which meant their morning trek could be uneventful.

Hawk quickly climbed down from the rocky outlook and joined the group at the forested bottom.

“The Frenchman’s fires still burn so we should have time to get to the hunting ground,” Hawk said walking up to help the group finish packing.

“Good, the quicker we can get this deed done the quicker we can get back and prepare for winter,” said the Great Owl.

“Yes, many more deer must be caught to fill the great bear’s belly!” said Loud One causing the group to laugh.

“One day you will have a great one to fill as well!” replied Ox with a smile.

The group then finished hiding the tents and heavier equipment and moved out for the morning trek down through the forest to an ambush site with only weapons, water skins and a lunch in hand.  Travel was easy as most of it was downhill and the forest was thinning out as the fall season progressed. The group moved carefully with each member taking a turn to dash ahead and scout for friend or foe. Running into either wouldn’t help their cause and nobody wanted to kill when they did not have too.

The terrain was starting to flatten out when Tim jogged back toward the group rapidly showing the hand signal for bear. The group members quickly crouched in place or in Tim’s case crawled underneath the nearest pine. Great bears were not to be trifled with.

Their efforts were rewarded when a black giant slowly lumbered bye only a stone’s throw away. The great beast was almost as tall as a man and likely weighted four times as much. If he stood he would tower over any man and it would take many rifles to bring it down. Its great head moved back and forth as it sniffed at the ground and air knowing something was near. It let a low bellowing growl warning away all from challenging it.

River looked over at Hawk and smiled giving the sign of the Great Spirit.

Hawk and watched the great beast pass. The beast didn’t seem to be hunting and that was a good omen. Only foolish men would confuse it as otherwise, he thought while noticing Tim’s exposed foot from underneath a great pine.

The group continued on through the morning and arrived at the ambush site when the sun was high. Great Owl had chosen it because the nearby falls would mask most sounds and they could shoot from high positions down on to the passing road. This would make it harder for the caravan’s guards to detect the ambush and put up a good defense.  Not only would they have to pick out Hawk’s group hiding behind terrain and trees but it would be an uphill run to attack them. Loud One was positioned at the bottom near the trail as a lookout and to prevent any scouts from outflanking the shooters on the hill. It was also a great way to keep him quiet.

The group didn’t have long to wait. The first sign was the rhythmic hum of a stringed instrument in the distance that got louder as time passed.  Soon a baritone voice joined. It was unintelligible at first but then clearly French as time progressed. The group looked at each other knowing their pray was quickly approaching.

Hawk could not believe what he was hearing. The French would be caught unaware and would be at a supreme disadvantage.  There was no signal from Loud One so the French hadn’t even sent scouts ahead. How foolish, he thought.

Hawk’s thoughts quickly drifted to the task at hand as Loud One’s hand came up signaling that four riders were approaching and three wagons. They all quickly lifted their long rifles onto the trees, mounts or rocks provided cover and stability. All eyes went to their sights with a second ball and powder in hand to fire accurately and then quickly reload.

Minutes later the wagon train and riders appeared. There were four French riflemen on horseback in front of three covered carts. Drivers were perched high on a wooden bench at the front of all carts and the first also held the musician who continued to bellow a tune for all to hear.

A tension-filled minute passed as the caravan drew closer and below the group into their hunting ground.

It was River who fired first followed by the rest of the ambushers.  The drivers are all three carts were thrown violently off their mounts as the balls struck their bodies.  The armed horseman dropped from their mounts seeking cover beyond their horrified mounts.  They then brought their rifles to bear only to be torn to the ground by a second volley of gunfire. A half dozen more Frenchman poured from the now stopped carts only to be shot down in order with the last victim being cleaved by a thrown tomahawk that buried itself in the victim’s back.

The firing then stopped leaving great puffs of gunpowder smoke in the air and one whimpering musician behind the first cart. He stepped out holding his instrument high. “Please, stop this now. We surrender!” Great Owl’s rifle boomed as he humanely shot the entertainer through his right eye.

The group then descended on the wreckage of the caravan and quickly silenced the gravely injured and then scalped the dead much to Tim’s dismay. They then set horses free and put the pelt filled carts to the torch for all in the valley to see. They then disappeared back up the mountain as quickly as they had arrived.

The trek back to their mountainside camp and observation point was uneventful and solemn. It was only after they had unpacked and set up for their last night’s stay that Great Owl spoke what they all were thinking.

“It appears the Frenchman still have not learned much from their years here.”

“Yes. No scouts, their eyes were not up and the singing,” said Loud One putting a chunk of cooked rabbit in his mouth with his knife.

“Foolish French. Not as smart as the English, right Tim?” said Owl.

“Ha! Yes in this case old one.” Tim said with a slight grin.

Hawk sat quietly, eating and thinking while the fire crackled and dark blue sky was starting to give way to a black one. What was the purpose of doing this? Those foolish Frenchman were doing nothing but traveling from one village to the next. There was not a worthy warrior among them!

A pebble painfully bounced off his forehead which snapped him away from his internal dialog.

“The soaring Hawk is brought back to the ground by a rock!” River said with a smile.

Hawk smiled and the group passed the evening on happier subjects, the rest of their meal and a night’s rest. They would need to move early as the French would send soldiers to search for the missing men.

The next three days were filled with travel back to the village beyond the pines. His Chief, Fox, had brought the war band there to trade with the English. He would be happy that his tribe had lived up to the bargain and the English would provide more food for their village further west.

Cold rain was falling and the morning fog was thick as they walked into their band’s camp outside the great village. The group and the camp’s denizens had covered themselves with great deerskin cloaks that kept them warm and water running off of them. Smokey Fires were kept alit and the spitted remnants of the last mean remained above them filling the air with the delicious scents of smoked deer and fish.  The dozen or so dome like tents were abuzz with activity with Indian warriors and craftsmen walking in and out carrying out the day’s tasks.

The group walked to the center of the camp to a large tent with both an Indian and English guard on either side of the door. The tent was twice the height of a man and as long as any longhouse. It was decorated with many drawings of his tribe and was noisy with both Tribe and English voices.  Hawk, Owl and Tim walked into the tent while the remaining pair remained outside under the solemn glare of both guardsmen.

Hawk cleared the entry flaps and ahead of him sat Fox who was flanked on the left by his trusted warriors and advisors. The chief of the English, Colonel Stroud sat to his right surrounded by his warriors, advisors and toad-like son. Fox was old and had brought many victories and much wealth to his tribe. His many scars showed this much better than the sashes and beads on his clothes and body. General Stroud was also very old but was the cleanest of chiefs all had seen. His face, hands and clothes were clean and without wear.  To the trio’s left and right, the craftsmen of both tribes were meeting working out smaller trades of the day. Fox smiled as he saw his warriors approach him.

“Great Ox and our Hawk. I am glad to see you have returned. Was your raid successful?” said the Fox in a volume great enough to catch the attention of the entire room.

“It was. The Frenchmen were caught unaware and quickly defeated.  Their bodies and carts were put to the torch. All of our brave warriors are unharmed and acted like seasoned hunters” replied Ox in their native tongue.

“What is this one saying?” Colonel Stroud asked in English pointing a finger at Great Owl.

“Their raid has been successful,” replied Tim.

“And how do we know this?” asked Lieutenant Stroud stepping from the shadows behind his father.

Hawks stomach ached at the site of the two Strouds. They were not good men and should not be trusted. Their tongues are silvered and they delivered half meals.

Great Owl replied by opening his cloak and tossing the bundled French scalps at their feet with a soft thump. An unseen Englishman in the rear muttered, “Bloody Savages,” loud enough for the group to hear causing them all to look back.

“Ah yes. I’d assume these would be French….” said the elder Stroud.  He then clapped his old hands together and said “Very well then. We’ll provide payment right away. Lieutenant, please go see that payment is provided for services rendered.”

“Right sir,” the younger Stroud replied. He then turned and walked off to see to it.

Fox looked back toward his Hawk and Owl.

“You have done well. Tonight we will have a great feast in celebration of your victory. Please let the rest of the band know.”

The pair nodded and then walked out and joined the rest of the band leaving Tim behind.

“Is the clean Chief happy?” asked Loud One.

“He is satisfied and Fox wants to eat,” replied Hawk.

“That is as good as it gets!” said Owl.

The four warriors moved back to their tent for the afternoon to rest and remove the days of travel from them.  It was vacant, stuffy, damp and cold when they arrived but a small cooking fire and an open flap soon rectified that. The group washed, dressed in fresh skins and was in good spirits for the great feast to come.

When the sun set the group walked through a cold and misty rain to the great tent. This time two smiling Tribesmen guarded it and once entered a totally different scene awaited them. The great Chief still sat in his great chair but two great long tables were set out in front of him the length of the tent.  All sorts of spitted meats and fish were there were as well as dishes their wives and mothers made for them at home. Most of the war band was also here cheerfully talking and conducting anything but business. The group quickly dispersed to enjoy the fun with their brothers and sisters.

Many hours passed and the group had eaten twice that of any man. The Great Owl was now telling the story of the Great Bear in the woods that had looked them all in the eye to give them strength in battle. River then caused much laughter as he mentioned the bear probably saw Tim’s foot from beneath the Pine and moved on for better tasting prey. The laughter then subsided as Fox approached them and waved the group over to speak.

“You have provided our wives and children more food to get through the cold season and I thank you. You are all brave warriors who serve your tribe well!”

“Thank you for this great feast Fox. It is good for the band to celebrate and be happy,” replied Owl.

Fox smiled and at that moment Hawk’s stomach ached as he knew what Fox was about to say.

“Colonel Stroud would like us to raid soon again. The entire band would attack the Frenchman’s outpost close to the Bulging Lake. This will feed the tribe for the entire winter and into the thaw.”

“Great Fox, that fort has many riflemen. We would need the help of the Englishmen or another band to even hope to defeat it,” said Loud One.

“The French are weak and do not belong there. The Englishmen are better and this will feed the tribe”, replied Fox sternly.

“The English are not true friends. We just took the scalps of craftsmen and merchants not warriors. It was below us!” said River in a raised voice.

Great Owl put his hand out toward River.

“You will respect our leader and not speak so loud at him.”

“This is my decision and it must be done.” Fox replied flatly.

“A leader does not sacrifice his warriors or old fools!” River shouted looking ready to pounce.

The room suddenly got silent and the conversation a whole lot less private.  Owl grabbed his knife from his belt and pulled it.

“You will not speak to the Great Fox in such as manner.”

“This is not our way!” replied River looking at Owl with Rage in his eyes.

River’s hand went to his blade and the worst scene possible played out in front of the entire war band. The Great Owl charged River with his blade raised high to slash down upon him. River used his great speed and agility to dive below it and with a quick backhand slash carved a vicious gash into the back of Owl’s leg causing him to crash to the ground. He then jumped on to the Giants back and quickly drove his blade down into the back of the giant’s neck killing him instantly.  It was a quick, vicious and final end to a friend.

River turned and looked toward the Chief with rage in eyes. He hopped up from Owl’s body and with one shoulder down and blades in hand charged Fox. The thunder of a rifle and the violence of a musket ball strike then sent him to the floor of the tent, face down in a great pool of his and Owl’s blood. His body twitched for several moments as if trying to rise again and then fell still.  A guardsman stepped forward from the shadows lowering the smoking rifle that had stopped River’s rage permanently.

Fox looked at him and nodded and then looked up at the group. His voice then thundered, “I am this band’s leader and you will do what I think is right for our tribe! Does anybody else wish to challenge me?”

The reply was utter silence. Fox looked up and around at the crowd angrily and stomped out of the tent.

Hawk was frozen. He could see his dead friends and couldn’t understand how things had escalated so quickly. This was madness! He sat there looking down at them for several minutes until the guards dragged their bloody corpses out the front door. He said a small prayer to the great one for them.

The now somber crowd vacated the tent to their own for the night.  An eerie silence filled the camp only to be broken by the occasional pop from the burning pyres on the camp’s periphery. This was not their way and the camp drifted to into troubled sleep. Some were angry at the attempt on their wise chief’s life but others mourned the loss of friends.

Hawk tossed and turned as his mind traveled a gauntlet of memories to the final scene of the death of his friends. His mind then drifted to the memory or vision of being on a great hunt with River. It felt good to see his friend and the weight of what had happened seemed to fade away. He was sure it was his friend leading him into a dream away from his troubled thoughts so he followed.

Hawk and River prowled through the great forest in search of deer. River was twenty paces ahead leading this hunt looking left and right.They were not carrying long rifles but instead the traditional bows of their tribe. Arrows were knocked as they carefully moved ahead one quiet step at a time. Hawk could feel the soft forest floor beneath his feet, smell the pine of the forest but mostly of all relished their near silence.

The ground rose below then and they moved like slithering snakes knowing that he could find a great position to shoot any passing deer below with far less obstruction.  River stopped, looked to Hawk and smiled and pointed to the cap of the rise ahead. Hawk nodded and moved swiftly over the rise.

In front of him stood the great black bear he and his comrades had experienced days before near Lake End. It looked toward him and then rose on two feet towering over him and gave a ground-shaking roar commanding his attention.

Hawk was frozen. He knew the smart thing to do was freeze and hold one’s ground but the horror of the moment was also telling him to raise his bow. He nearly did so when River walked calmly in front of him with his hands raised.

“The Great One would like to talk with you,” he said.

The Great Bear then looked down at him and in his mind he could hear it speak.

“A great evil is consuming your tribe like a great fire.”

Hawk nodded in agreement.

“It has killed your friends and many innocents. It will kill more. What do you intend to do about it brave warrior?”

Hawk then thought about the twice-talking Englishman and his men. He instantly knew what he wanted to do.

“Go warrior and protect your tribe. Do what you must” said the Great One.

Hawk nodded lowered his bow and put the arrow back in his quiver. With a final glance at a smiling River he quickly disappeared back over the rise and into the mist of the valley floor.

The Great Bear grinned as it slowly reverted back to the great demon it was.  The fuse was once again lit and the show was about to begin.

Colonel and Lieutenant Stroud were now on the hunt as well. They had left a successful meeting with the savages happy and had a wonderful meal and sleep. This weather this day was as miserable as the last though but it wasn’t dampening their spirits. A fox was about to be released and along with twelve other officers they were about to run it down in sport.

“Do you think that Mongrel will attack? “asked the younger Stroud as he mounted his horse.

“The savage will do anything we ask as long as its feeds his tribe,” replied the elder Stroud from his well- groomed horse.

“Transactions with them are uncomplicated. Right, wrong, expensive, inexpensive, profitable, wasteful are words that mean nothing to them. We can use them to grind down the French at will.”

“Yes, Dad,” replied Lieutenant Stroud with a smile.

A cold wind blew forcing them to pull their cloaks closer to them for a second. Looking to the north they could see another great tuff of fog rolling down the valley toward them.

“Oi! Lets get this hunt on and done before we’re chilled to the bone,” said Colonel Stroud.

He raised his rifle high and a trumpeter blew the starting note. A responding note was then heard from across the field at forest’s edge noting the release of the foxes. Dozens of dogs were then released with the Strouds and two dozen other hunters in tow. The hunt was on!

The Strouds pushed into the light wood closely following a pair of excited hounds that seemed to have their prey close at hand. The morning fog was thick but the dogs pushed it aside in great twirls leaving a clear path for the Strouds to follow. They both had a good feeling about these two mutts as they did not stray and seemed fixated on something ahead.

They then came to an abrupt stop. The mist opened up and two of Stroud’s officers were stopped on horseback ahead. One had his right palm facing them that signaled a halt. The dogs continued on but the Strouds did as directed and their mounts reared back into first a trot and then a complete stop. One of the officers started to say something but was drowned out by a great roar that seemed to come the forest around them.

The Strouds looked at each other and pulled their rifles from the holsters at their side. The elder looked into the eyes of his son and could see fear on this face. The morning fog was starting to creep back in at them covering the once open trail to the dogs and others. The rumbling was now close perhaps a stone throw away.

It was then that a great black bear emerged from the fog and launched itself at one of the officers that had ordered the halt with a great roar. The officer never had a chance to even see what was coming at him as the great beast simply barreled through his mount pin-wheeling the soldier to the ground. The second officer was able to pull his pistol but did not see his demise coming in the form of a great claw that then ripped him down from his mount with enough force to also snap the bones his neck. The pin wheeled officer then attempted to rise from his fall only to have the great beast stomp down upon on his form visibly crushing most of his body.  With a mighty roar, the beast then grabbed its victims head its maw and twisted and pulled until it came loose.

The younger Stroud stood in horror but the older pointed his rifle at the murderous beast . The target took notice but did not flinch and with a flick of its head launched the head in its maw off into the fog. The beast roared as it looked at the two Englishmen.

“Iain fire that rifle!” shouted the elder Stroud.

Lieutenant Stroud then lifted his rifle to fire but with amazing speed the great bear then disappeared back into the fog.

Both men dismounted their horses. The senior quickly bit down upon a packet to reload his rifle with ball and powder. They could hear great thuds of the running beasts punctuated with the screams of dogs and men alike. They quickly positioned themselves defensively behind their mounts ready to take the beast under fire if it appeared once again.

Hawk emerged from the fog with fire in his eyes and a Tomahawk in each hand. The Englishmen first turned their rifles toward him but did not fire, recognizing the form of an Indian. “Savage! Get over here if you value life! ”said the fearful Lieutenant.

The younger Stroud then took a closer look and for a moment his eyes locked with Hawk. He saw fury and a murderous rage looking back at him.  He turned his rifle toward Hawk and fired and heard the roar of his father’s rifle right after doing the same. The savage was thrown backward through his own bloody mist as both shots struck true.

Hawk’s chest exploded in pain and his breath quickly vanished as he felt his back strike the earth. He looked down briefly to see two great gory holes in his chest. He started to panic briefly as he could not catch his breath but he felt something inside of him surge and the panic was replaced by anger.  Carry this out, do not die yet!

Hawk lept to his feet and charged Iian Stoud. The young man lifted his rifle to block but Hawk hooked his right Tomahawk around the younger enemy’s rifle and tossed it aside. The young officer stared at him with open mouth and eyes as if to express his shock but never had the chance as Hawk’s second axe split his skull ending his life.

Hawk then released both Tomahawks and turned to face the elder Stroud but was quickly blinded by the flash of Stroud’s pistol firing and great pain on the right side of his face and head. His energy and strength start to drain from his body and his head back and chest were felt as if they were on fire. His vision returned to his left side and his target was still at hand and started reloading while snarling and saying indecipherable things. Hawk looked at him and knew this man could not live. He will murder many more if allowed.

Reaching down Hawk felt the great hilt of the knife at his belt, pulled it and dove onto the old man with his blade raised. The elder Stroud dropped his pistol and caught Hawk’s downward plunging arm but could not hope to match Hawk’s strength, ferocity and momentum which pushed them both backwards toward the ground.  When they struck the ground the sharp blade entered Stroud between his neck and chest.  His dying vision was of the great bloodied but victorious warrior Hawk looking down upon him.

Hawk rolled off the man on to his back.  Looking skyward he could see the morning mist breaking revealing the blue sky above. A lone bird sailed far above twisting and turning through the cool breeze that carried it. With a smile, he closed his eyes and let go.

The hunting grounds were now silent and the Great Black Bear stepped over the bodies of the Englishmen and looked upon the brave warrior Hawk. It then rose on two feet and gave a mighty roar. Vengeance had been achieved and it was only right to give this brave warrior his due for the sacrifice. It then dropped and trotted quickly into the disappearing fog making way for the sun.

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