At any rate, he and his fifteen fur-trapping footsoldiers make their way to Fort Chesterfield, Motley standing behind the cannon in the barge's bow "as black and hunched as a carrion crow, his eyes sunk into his head like smoldering coal pits." They beach the boat, the Orkneymen leap out and take up firing positions, and Motley marches forward "as though his knees had no joints. A pistol was gripped in his spidery hand." He comes a hundred paces from the gate and shouts for McGlincy's surrender. "Open the gates, you pork eaters!"
I'm assuming this is an insult that made more sense in the 17th Century.
Now Fort Chesterfield is not at all battle-ready - it'd take half an hour to prep the cannons over the gate, and no armed men are standing guard. So someone waves the white flag and out comes McGlincy, acting all surprised at the English's visit.
"Well, it is Motley," said McGlincy. "Good old Motley. Getting many furs downriver this spring?"
"You know how many," snapped Motley.
"Ah, now, I wouldn't say that. Of course, our spies do return with information, but---"
"I'm talking about the murder of my barge crew."
Oh, good, he did bring that up eventually.
McGlincy is like 'ohhh, that's what the dead Orkneyman was about.' Yeah, McGlincy was just taking a walk on the riverbank, not murdering Motley's guys or anything, when he saw this scalped fellow with an arrow in his back floating facedown in the river. Those Indians sure are savages, am I right?
Motley accuses the Nor'Westers of the attack, and McGlincy is shocked, shocked at the very idea.
"Ah me, but you're a man of stubborn convictions. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Ain't we all honorable white men in a savage land? Hadn't we ought to protect ourselves? That's my policy, Motley, and that's why I picked him up for you. A young renegade head of a war party, he was. Tall, with a quiver across his back. He tried to run off our horses but I was too quick for him. I went galloping out and he drawed his knife and I--"
"Renegade? You mean a fellow in buckskin? Where is he?"
Yeah, so, shortly after a corpse floated down the river, McGlincy got raided by an Indian band, and he just so happened to take the leader prisoner, and when he saw the quiver on the guy's back he knew that he was the one who attacked the Orkneyman - I mean, the guy was shot with an arrow, wasn't he? And that's what quivers hold! And he knew that this "renegade" was the culprit even before Motley mentioned the buckskin clothes. McGlincy is a hell of a detective, see.
Motley immediately accepts McGlincy's story and is positively quivering with anticipation, eager to get this renegade hanged. So the HBC guys are invited into the fort, McGlincy orders Luberly to bring out the prisoner, and Luberly orders two nameless extras to bring out the prisoner.
Now, our dear friend Yellow Hair has only heard the shouting in the fort, and is actually excited when two armed guards let him out of the butter tub since he thinks that he's needed for a fight against the English. This lasts until he's actually led out into the fort's yard, and in a mere glance - again, he's super smart, guys - Yellow Hair puts everything together. The HBC guys in the fort means that there's no attack, Father Marc looks dismayed so Yellow Hair is in trouble, and everyone's looking at him for some reason beyond the fact that he probably hasn't bathed in like two weeks.
The dead Orkneyman, Luberly's lies, Marc's questions, his illness and his late confinement, fitted like the metal parts of a cannon---which weapon was turned squarely upon him.
And only the metal parts. Nothing that's happened can be compared to the wooden carriage or the wheels, that would just be silly.
Now, Yellow Hair's been in a cell for... let's see, ten days between now and Father Marc's visit, four days sick and feverish, and then locked up for over a week before that. Wow, nearly a month in captivity with lousy food and no exercise, not to mention getting poisoned. But dammit, he's a Hubbard Hero, meaning that Yellow Hair is capable of pulling a Hubbard Action Sequence at the drop of the hat, no matter what condition he's in. So he does.
His reflexes were like steel springs.
He stopped abruptly one pace outside.
The slower-witted guards made one more step.
Yellow Hair stabbed out with his arms, swept them in front of him and banged their skulls together. With the same movement he hurtled backwards and inside the trading room, slamming the thick doors shut.
The sound of its closing was echoed instantly with the bang of a rifle and the slap of a shot into timber.
Ah, see, if Yellow Hair hadn't been sick, he'd have been able to get the doors shut a whole three seconds before the first reaction shot was fired.
Even so, "before the men outside had understood his intention" Yellow Hair manages to lock all three entrances to the trading room, yanks all those well-maintained guns off the shelves, readies a bag of musket balls and pops a powder keg. He then... uh, looks like he fires a flintlock right through the door to wound an Orkneyman outside. Guess there's no handy windows or firing slits to shoot through, which begs the question of how he aimed. Must've used the Force or something.
And the whole time he hollers like an idiot.
Slapping another load home with a ramrod, Yellow Hair shouted, "Hyai! Yeeow! You fools come and get me! Open the door, McGlincy! Open it up! Batter it down! Come on, you bullies, here's your chance for glory! Come and get me, I can be got! Come on, you English, if you like to stomach lead! Hyai! Yeeow! My scalp is yellow! A fine scalp! Rip it off and wave it on your sticks! Take it and tell your women you've killed a Pikuni but don't tell them how many of you died! Come on, you whites, you brave bullies, you heroes! Break it in and get me! Knock it down! Hyai! Yeeow! Come on! I'm waiting!"
So there's the "blood-curdling war cries," as promised on the back cover. Meanwhile some Orkneymen are rolling a cannon into position outside. I'd love to say that this means the book will be ending next chapter in a hail of lead pellets, splinters and chunks of Yellow Hair, but no such luck.
But that's "Yellow Hair Declares War." Couple of thoughts:
First, Father Marc didn't do squat. He didn't speak up to try and tell the truth, and he evidently couldn't work up the courage to voice any objections over the ten days between this chapter and the previous one. I've skimmed ahead in search of any evidence that he might have done so off-screen, but can't find anything. Maybe I just missed it and the padre did try really hard to stop this injustice before it happened.
Second, why did Yellow Hair feel the need to fight not just the entirety of the Nor'Wester crew of Fort Chesterfield, but some visiting Hudson's Bay Company men as well? The book has been suggesting that he's just the sort of headstrong idiot who would try to fight fifty men at once, but surely he could've at least spared a thought for making a run for it? Going out a side door and going up and over the wall? At least explain why he didn't think that was an option instead of having him not even consider it. And why not try words? That language you just learned? Maybe protest your innocence in front of everyone, with Father Marc backing you up? Why incriminate yourself by resisting arrest with a one-man siege?
Third, let's take another look at McGlincy's plan. He puts a white Indian in jail for causing a ruckus, then decides to keep him around for nearly a year to be the fall guy in a false flag operation. When it's go time, he attacks the rival company's shipment using both firearms and a bow and arrow, taking care that the one guy visible during the attack has a quiver on the back that he can then ascribe to his captive. But is this the most efficient plan? Why not kill all of the guys on the boat, scalp the bodies, and feign ignorance when someone investigates weeks later? Why is producing this highly specific prisoner so important? And why the false flag op in the first place if none of the other forts have been punished for all the raiding?
At least Yellow Hair isn't moping in a room for a month, hoping for inspiration on how to get the plot moving again. Next time we'll check on his love interest and see if we can develop her character or something.
Back to Chapter 11