These are short stories put up each Friday that you can read for free. By the next Friday the post will be taken down and a new one will go up.
“This is what we’re thinking, men,” Andrew Henry said, and he paused to look around at them. There were seventy-one of them jammed into the barracks and they crowded forward, hard-pressed against each other and jostling even more.
It was almost as if they knew if they got closer they’d be able to get out of there, get away from the savages that plagued them, get free with their lives. Henry waited for their movement to die down and then started into it. “We’d like to send a party of men overland to Fort Raymond.”
Murmuring began immediately, and then the shouting, each man trying to be heard over the next.
“What sized party?
“Who gets to go?”
“The snows’ll be too deep!”
“Why not upriver?”
“Who gets to go, damn it?”
“Goin’ through those bluffs would be suicide, you fool.”
“When do we leave?”
“Who you callin’ a fool, you bastard!”
Henry’s shout cut through the air and very well could have cut through the thick log walls, so loud and forceful was it. The shouting stopped, everyone looking up to their captain.
“We’ve got fifty to a hundred Blackfeet Indians out there as far as we can tell, all of ‘em itchin’ to take our scalps,” Henry said quickly, his eyes going this way and that as he met the men’s worried looks. “That’s a hundred Indians to the seventy men we got here. Last count puts our food stores at 128 pounds. That means we can feed seventy men for one month and then we’ve got nothin’. Huntin’ won’t help neither – the Blackfeet have us hemmed in on all sides and they’ve scared all the game off from the areas closest to the forts.” He sighed. “If they don’t fight us to death they’ll starve us.”
“That’s why we want to go overland,” Morrison said, drawing Henry’s and the men’s attention.
Henry nodded, picked up his train of thought once again. “And that’s overland, through the snow, and not through those bluffs in the river.” He frowned, held up his hand as well. “I know the going was rough getting over here, and that with an experienced guide like Colter showing us the way. Well, we all took the route and the men that remember it best’ll be in the party.”
“How many are going, sir?” Schaefer managed to get in real quick.
Henry chewed on his lip for a moment, staring at the man. “Twenty,” he said at last.
“Twenty!” several of the men repeated at once, and there were groans all around, though for different reasons once you started listening to the grumbling. Some wanted more to go, if not all, just to be away from the accursed fort that damn Spaniard Manuel Lisa had sent them to. Others wanted fewer to go, figuring stealth and small numbers would prove the only way to get past the wily Blackfeet.