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Noah charged through the cornfield, bending low to stay hidden in the half-grown stalks. He'd left his buckskin shirt behind in the canoe hidden downstream with twenty other canoes, and the edges of the corn leaves cut at his face and bare arms.
The weather was hot, damn hot. Besides that, what lay ahead meant he'd need complete freedom of movement. His musket already primed, he carried it in one hand as he batted at the corn leaves with the other. At his waist hung his large hunting knife in its sheath, and a tomahawk.
For the moment he felt as much an Indian as the Miami, Huron and Ottawa who ran with him, beside him, ahead of him, behind him. French soldiers, mostly infantrymen in blue and white, were also part of this war party, all on a mission: to attack the English trading post of Pickawillany in Ohio Territory. The French were determined to seal their hold on all land west of the Ohio River, which meant destroying Pickawillany.
He skimmed over the packed earth in moccasined feet. Most of the Indians with him were barefoot and nearly naked, as was the custom among most Iroquois in summer's heat. Soon thesounds of men panting as they ran grew into the sounds of women and children screaming as they fled the cornfields, heading for the trading post as the French and Iroquois routed them from the fields. The attacking Iroquois began slaying as many as they could catch, as did the French soldiers.
How he hated being a part of this! He couldn't do a damn thing to help the women and children falling to this cruel enemy. He could have warned them, but the words of his good friend, Miami Chief Cold Foot, nudged at his conscience: Do not warn them, my friend. If you do, it will be very bad for me and my people. You know what Chief Pontiac will do.
Cold Foot had saved his life three years ago, when Noah was attacked by a bear. For weeks he'd lain in Cold Foot's village being cared for by the Miami. He owed them. But the people Chief Pontiac and his French cohorts attacked today were also Miami--those who'd chosen to side with the English. The man who led these people was Chief Unemakemi, who'd become unpopular with the Detroit-area Miami. It was those Miami, led by Pontiac, who now warred against their own people.
Already bodies lay strewn about as Noah exited the cornfield. Those women still alive hoisted their babies under their arms and tried to reach the wooden stockade ahead of them. Their men poured from the fort to protect them, and in minutes cries of horror filled the air as one-on-one fighting took place.
The attack came as a complete surprise: more than two hundred primed warriors led by a bloodthirsty Chief Pontiac eager to take scalps. Noah had spied for the English for years, ever since his precious wife was killed by the French and Indian attack on Albany seven years ago. Hate was all he'd felt since then, and a desire for revenge against the French. As a spy, he'd ended up a part of this horrendous mission, hired by the unwitting French to scout for their French soldiers. If somehow he could have warnedthese people, and they had appeared prepared for this attack, Pontiac would have blamed it on Cold Foot, thinking the old chief had managed to get word to them after promising not to do so. Among the Iroquois, to betray one's word meant death, and not an easy one.
They reached the main village, and sickening fear permeated Noah as he dodged arrows and musket fire. This was only one of the sad results of the English and French vying for land and trading rights. Here at Pickawillany, Miami were fighting Miami, the tribes of the Iroquois becoming split over loyalties. It took a man of considerable experience hunting in the wilds and dealing with the numerous tribes to even know which man was enemy and which was not. Noah had no idea how many English traders might be here, and he had no desire to kill any of them, but kill he must to make his French sympathies appear genuine.
Two Miami warriors headed for him, and he raised his musket, opening a hole in the chest of one man. He tossed the musket aside then and dove headfirst into the midsection of the second man, wrestling him to the ground as he growled with determination. He grasped the man's wrist, twisting viciously until the warrior dropped the knife he carried. Quickly, Noah grabbed the knife and slashed it across the man's throat, grimacing at the blood that spewed forth, hitting him in the face.
There was no time now to feel sympathy for any of them. Still holding the knife, he leapt over the man he'd shot and rammed the knife into the heart of yet a third attacking warrior. Now it was each man for himself. With his left hand he pulled his tomahawk from the loop at his waist and turned to land it into yet another attacker. His own war cries mixed with the others, the air reverberating with screams, war whoops, children crying, men shouting, muskets firing, grunts and blows.
Noah turned and yanked his knife from the dead warrior,and for the next several minutes he fought with knife and tomahawk as the battle progressed toward the wooden stockade, over which Indians and French soldiers swarmed. Noah expected to feel a slash or a blow to his body, but he remained unscathed. Bloody, dismembered bodies lay everywhere, and as the fighting outside the stockade finally eased, Noah turned to see Charles Langlade, a French and Indian long hunter, straddling the mangled body of a Miami warrior.
Noah ran back to pick up his long gun, still surprised he'd not been harmed. When he looked back at Langlade, he realized the warrior the man had pinned down was Chief Unemakemi himself, a man for whom Langlade carried a deep hatred. The main reason Langlade had agreed to help lead the French here was because Langlade knew he'd find Unemakemi. He wished to kill the chief, simply because Unemakemi had insulted him a year earlier. Now, true to his Indian side, Langlade literally carved the heart out of a still-living Unemakemi. He yanked it out of the man's chest and cut the vessels and tendons holding it, then took a bite out of the still-beating muscle!
There was a time when such behavior would have made Noah vomit. No more. He'd learned the ways of the warrior, as had Langlade. To cut out and eat a man's heart was to gain great strength. He simply turned away for a moment. He could not stop the hideous act. His job was to infiltrate these forces and see what the French were up to. He would have to march back to Quebec with them, which meant he'd probably be forced to spend the winter in Canada before returning to Virginia to report on the things he'd learned and seen: an English trading post, occupied by English-sympathizing Miami Indians, had been attacked by surprise and destroyed; the occupants, including a Miami chief who'd allied himself with the English, brutally slain. He certainly hadconsiderable news for Virginia's Governor Dinwiddie when he returned east.
He looked down at the blood on his own hands, hardly able to believe he'd been a part of this hell. Besides the bodies of dead Miami Indians, he recognized a few Shawnee. Several of the attacking warriors were also dead and wounded, but the rest were already rejoicing.
Everything had happened so quickly. Noah scanned the hideous scene as the air came alive with screams of victory and death. Sporadic gunfire came from inside the fort, and Pontiac himself headed toward the gates, his body covered in blood, four scalps hanging from his waistband. When the shooting inside died down, Pontiac held up his hands and shouted to those remaining inside.
"Hear me, you warriors who betray we who love the French! You will be let go if you take your families and return to your villages and no longer bring harm to the French. It is your chief, Unemakemi, whom we came here to kill, for he killed and ate the flesh of ten French traders and their slaves! Now you can see he is dead, and you must pledge to no longer call the English your friends! We want only the English traders you now protect! Send them out and the rest of you will not be harmed!"
Langlade proceeded to chop off Unemakemi's head, as a demonstration of what could happen to the others, who were outnumbered. He shouted a warning to them, declaring he'd eaten of Unemakemi's heart, and so had become stronger. Quickly, those inside the fort made an exit, several Miami warriors shoving four English traders ahead of them. Terror showed in their eyes, and to Noah's horror, one of them was young Johnny Peidt!
Johnny glanced at him, and in that moment Noah saw a young man of great courage. Johnny said nothing, even though he knew Noah was an English spy. Revealing that fact might save the young man's life, but both knew it could also spoil Noah'sefforts at learning the strength of the French, and what their plans were against the English. Old Cold Foot knew it, too. That was why he'd asked Noah not to warn these Miami. He knew Noah would be mighty tempted to do so. Cold Foot was a good friend. He, too, had kept quiet.
Now it was Noah's turn to keep quiet, to force back the deep urge to run up to Johnny and beg Pontiac not to harm him. He could only pray that would not be necessary. Perhaps they would only take him prisoner. After all, the wealthy William Fairfax was good friends with Johnny's father. He would pay any reward necessary to get Johnny back.
Now Langlade marched in front of the prisoners with Unemakemi's head held high, warning that this was what would happen to other Iroquois who dared call the English friend. Chief Pontiac proceeded to ram his knife into the heart of one of the traders, then yanked it out and turned to slash open the chest of another. He bare-handedly ripped out the man's heart and took a bite from it. Noah's blood ran cold as the chief passed the heart on to other warriors, who proceeded to eat of it before tossing it to the ground for dogs to fight over.
Johnny! Noah screamed inside as Pontiac walked up to the young man. Johnny's eyes grew wide with horror, and Noah was forced to look away. He heard a hideous grunt, and he knew Pontiac's knife had found its mark. There came another grunt and a ripping sound. He closed his eyes when he heard Johnny fall, and when he finally looked back, Johnny's eyes were still open as he stared blindly into nothingness. Noah knew the sight would haunt him the rest of his life; yet he had no choice but to swallow his horror.
He was, after all, supposed to be a part of this. Besides that, he had his father to think about, a Frenchman living in Albany among English. Because of him, Noah spoke French. He even hada little Mohawk blood through his fraternal grandmother, who was a Mohawk married to a Frenchman.
All of that made his job easy. Many said he looked Indian, as he wore his dark hair long now, and had learned the Indian ways. He dressed in buckskins because they were more comfortable for living and hunting in the wild. He fit right in with these Indians, and with the French trappers. With every act like this one, he learned to hate the French, and men like Chief Pontiac and Charles Langlade, even more fiercely.
To his relief, Pontiac had killed Johnny quickly rather than by slow torture. Langlade ordered the five remaining English traders be held as captives and taken to Montreal as a prize. If only he'd done the same for poor Johnny. Noah supposed that on their trek back to Canada, they would stop along the way at Detroit and tell Captain Pierre Joseph Celeron de Bienville of their great victory here. It was Celeron who'd ordered the attack.
Still holding Unemakemi's head, Langlade marched the five prisoners ahead of him, joined by Pontiac, a small-built and heavily tattooed warrior whose size belied his brutality. Noah was ordered to fall behind and look around for any who might have escaped. In doing so, he glimpsed two figures running off in the opposite direction. They did not look Indian.
Giving no indication of what he'd seen, he dove into the underbrush after them, tomahawk still in hand, his musket slung over his shoulder. He jumped over fallen branches, tore through undergrowth that cut across his face, gaining on the two escapees, most likely English traders afraid their hearts, too, would be ripped out and eaten, then tossed to the ground like so much bad meat.
Finally, he came close enough to see they were indeed white men. One of them whirled to face him, and for a quiet moment both just stared at each other, panting and sweating. Noah guessedthe man was out of black powder, or he would have shot at him. He straightened from a defensive posture.
"Tell the English what happened here today," he shouted to the man. "Tell them they've got to bring soldiers from England and be ready for war. Build up the colonist militia! They think they have nothing to worry about, but what you saw today proves otherwise!"
The trader frowned, watching him warily. "Who the hell are you?"
"It doesn't matter. Just do what I say. Go to Albany or Alexandria and let them know!" Noah turned and headed back to join Pontiac and Langlade. He couldn't help wondering how William Fairfax would react when he learned what had happened to poor Johnny. The man would probably think Noah should somehow have been able to save him. Men like Governor Dinwiddie and William Fairfax had no idea what life was like out here in the wilderness, especially for a man who was playing both sides in this hellish war. And this was war! The English didn't think so. Maybe after this they would wake up to the gruesome reality.
Copyright 2002 by Rosanne Bittner
Posted July 4, 2002
Rosanne Bittner has written a historical romance that is enjoyable, memorable, and historically accurate. The story begins in June of 1752 as we meet Noah Wilde; a British spy surrounded by Indians from the Miami, Huron and Ottawa nations, as well as French soldiers. The French are determined to seal their hold on all land west of the Ohio River, and are attacking the English trading post of Pickawillany in the Ohio Territory. Noah Wilde hates to be part of this horror, and wishes he could have warned of the attack. However, circumstances have caught Noah between his debt to an Indian Chief and his loyalty to the English; all this while he is in the middle of Miami Indians warring against their own people. Noah's spying is fueled by a personal desire for revenge against the French for the murder of his wife, killed by the French and Indians in an attack on Albany seven years before. Ten months after the brutal attack at Pickawillany the reader meets sixteen year old Jessica Matthews as she is gathering kindling. Her chore ends abruptly when Indians try to attack her, and her escape is only made possible by the appearance of a stranger in bucksins. It is Noah Wilde, and his act of bravery has caused him to be seriously injured. Jessica and Noah, from different worlds, are now bonded to each other as a result of this harrowing experience. It seems only natural that these two will fall in love. However, their journey to be together is not to be easy. It is challenging, heroic, and, in the end, inspiring. It is refreshing that Ms. Bittner's writing shows Jessica to be a strong young woman in her own right. She does not gain her strength, wisdom, or character from the man who stands before her. Jessica must deal with incredible emotional grief, and terror. Bravely she confronts her predicament, refuses to show weakness, endures her ordeal and ultimately survives. In her writing Rosanne Bittner includes real historical characters. We meet Virginia's Governor Dinwiddie, a young George Washington, William Fairfax, and Chiefs Pontiac and Unemakemi. In these profiles Ms. Bittner shows how these men incluenced history, for better or for worse. Chapters in Into the Wilderness are divided by date, helping the reader to understand the historical context of the story. Ms. Bittner also writes in clear, uncluttered sentences. Rosanne Bittner warns that she has incorporated the stark realities of war in her book. While the warning should be heeded, all of her descriptions are vital to the story. She also hopes that upon reading this book, one will develop a new respect for the bravery and determination of the early settlers, and the dominance and fierceness of the eastern Native Americans. She has been highly successful on all counts. Into the Wilderness is a wonderful story, and leaves the reader wanting a sequel.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 15, 2013
Posted December 9, 2008
As the French and Indian War breaks out in North America, hunter and English spy Noah Barnes happens upon a small group of Iroquois trying to abduct teenage Jessica Matthews near her parents cabin in the Pennsylvania Allegheny Mountains. Though the fight is fierce and Jessica¿s savior is outnumbered Noah wins the battle but is wounded. Perhaps its hero worship or puppy love, but not long afterward Jess decides she wants to marry Noah. <P>A widower, Noah falls in love with Jess, but he has a mission to complete before they can wed. While he is on his adventures, Indians kill Jess parents and capture her and her sibling. When he learns what happened to his beloved, Jess leaves George Washington on his own personal quest. <P>In terms of Colonial romance, INTO THE WILDERNESS is similar to most works in the genre. However, what makes this tale superior is that it is more of a historical fiction novel providing the audience a deep account of 1750s America. The story line is loaded with interesting tidbits that cleverly blends and enhances the action especially since the two lead protagonists spend much of the time in separate, but vividly described subplots. Romance readers will enjoy Roseanne Bittner¿s latest novel while historical fiction fans will welcome a new find. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 4, 2013
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