Liam awoke to the sound of thunder and Liza preparing porridge for their breakfast. That he had been asleep surprised him as he had not slept for almost three days, the sight 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 had risen before dawn and went back tracking to see if anyone was in pursuit. They had gone about two miles and were standing on the top of a hill 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 and there’s little chance they won’t find our tracks.’ They returned to where they had tethered their mounts and had to soothe the trembling horses as a blast of thunder and flash of lightning pierced the early morning quiet. Another sudden clap of thunder brought with it 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 just pissed about something.’ ‘My friend, you are quite probably truer to the mark,’ replied Pierre.
With the news that they were probably being tracked by the French, Liam and Daniel decided they would take a position a few miles behind the others as they rode, keeping a watchful eye on their pursuers. By mid-morning the storm had fled eastward and now the sun was beginning the drying out process as steam rose from the horse’s flanks and the ground was enveloped in a swirling mist. Birdsong now replaced the staccato rhythm of the rain. This was the third day after leaving Fort Necessity and they were pretty sure they could reach the Mohawk camp on Mahoning Creek 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 them 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 and now half of them are heading down to the creek to keep us from crossing while the rest drive us into it. Liam 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 out the fact that there was already a group of French getting into position for the ambush at the water’s edge.
Lieutenant LeFurge positioned the six men with him 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 not be nervous about his first real taste of battle and there was no way he was going to obey his orders to the letter. ‘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 were returning to the Mohawk encampment from a hunting trip and from the trees noticed the French across the creek setting up for what appeared to be an ambush. They set down the deer they were carrying and 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 Daniel, ‘Pierre, go get Liam. 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 continuous fire and no doubt Liam will be using his bow as well as his musket.’
Liam and Pierre rode back to the others and took up positions behind the trees just as the first of the French came riding up the slope. They dismounted quickly as Liam let fly and struck one the horses with an arrow in the shoulder causing it to rear and throw its rider. Daniel and the others then opened up with musket fire taking down two in the first volley. The remaining three returned fire but Liam and the rest were too well sheltered for any clean hits and when they reloaded and stood to fire again they were met with another volley wounding two more of the French troops. Setting his musket down and holding his palms outward, the lone remaining Frenchman helped his wounded comrades onto their horses and took off 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?’ It was then that Wahta recognized Liam and shouted while 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, ‘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, Liam, Daniel, Henry, Liza and Teeyeehogrow charged down the hill, muskets at the ready and firing into the rocks. There wasn’t much chance of hitting anyone from the back of a charging horse but it kept the French pinned down as they took fire from front and rear. Thirty yards from the French Liam 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 Liam, ‘It does my heart good to see you again brother.’ ‘Not as much as I am 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 and then we will feast on venison and talk late into the night,’ replied Wahta.
Lieutenant LeFurge, his right thigh bandaged and in some pain seethed at the thought that in his first 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 hatred for the English was now raging into an inferno of revenge especially at the expense of these uncultured backwoodsmen and that bastard Colonel Washington for allowing them to leave the fort.