That Pikuni "wolf" Yellow Hair saw two chapters ago makes it back to Blackfoot territory on his last horse, "riding so hard that the mustang's feet could not be seen and both horse and rider appeared to be canted over and detached from the undulating ocean of the limitless prairie." As you can see from this, this chapter is at least in part an effort by Hubbard to try and create a cinematic image of the Indians mobilizing
Four outriders see the scout coming and join him on the last sprint to the Still-Nameless Pikuni Village, and we're told that they're signalling "enemy in sight" a few sentences before the author explains how they do that, by riding in pairs to pass each other before turning around and passing again. It's a little thing, but still annoying.
White Fox and Low Horns happen to be walking around when the riders come in, they shout, and the whole village is in an uproar as warriors grab their weapons and the horse herders bring in the war ponies.
Shouting and yipping warriors crowded out into the streets. Dogs howled. Children screamed. Orders went rocketing the length and breadth of the big camp.
The wolf swept by the lookout post and raised his hand in a negative.
"I am not followed! I have important news!"
Yeah, he waited until he was right on top of everybody to make the visual signal that they don't have to panic. Jackass.
The wolf... interesting how scouts tend to end up with cool names for themselves, isn't it? Never heard of a group who calls their recon units "chipmunks" or anything, even though their job is to be beneath notice but still raise an alarm. Anyway, he walks into the main lodge all dignified, his face "without excitement." Guess he knows that he's in an L. Ron Hubbard novel and the villains aren't worth getting worked up over.
Now it just so happens that there's already a collection of various chiefs and clan leaders assembled at this Still-Nameless Pikuni Village. We're never told why - my best guess is that they're discussing the whites' arms sales to their rival tribes, even though that happened months and months ago. And if they were meeting for something like that, why wasn't White Fox inside with them?
At any rate, the Pikuni wolf makes his report. He's no doubt aware that the Blackfoot's traditional enemies are now better-armed than ever, and now he's seen a huge host of white invaders paddling towards a mustering point worryingly close to Blackfoot territory. So of course the first thing he says is "Chiefs, I have seen Yellow Hair."
Now I know this scout knows he's in an L. Ron Hubbard novel, because he's figured out that everything revolves around the main character.
Nobody's like "who?", instead "a shiver ran around the circle, almost imperceptible," but the scout is allowed to continue without interruption. Then the scout mentions the swarm of canoes bearing white men and weapons, because I guess good news comes first. And he lists all things we saw two chapters ago, the drawing in the dirt at the old camp, Yellow Hair's warpaint and jacket design. "Yellow Hair is telling us that they come for war against the Pikuni nation."
There's no confusion, this scout saw that Yellow Hair "was not working with the others." Even though he's traveling with them, and helping row their canoes, and has been living with white guys for two years now. Not a single person at the meeting has any doubts or suspicions about the pale-skinned Indian and where his loyalties might lie after so long in "civilization." Even though just a few years ago, these people were on the verge of disowning Yellow Hair after an unrelated white guy shot one of their tribesmen.
Nope, Low Horns just stands up and declares that this is obviously why the whites traded guns for pelts with all their enemies, but not the Blackfoot - it's all a vast plot and preparation for invasion. You know, just like the Lewis and Clark Expedition's message of peace and trade. So, "Let there be war." And there's no further discussion, instead the chiefs immediately break up, go back to their tents, grab their gear, and head out.
And then, having prepared themselves with swiftness which would have been envied by any cavalry leader, they spread themselves out in the order of march and, with bonnets flowing, fringes dancing, weapons flashing, the host swept over the brown ocean of the plains, heading north.
Do the Nor'Westers even know where the Blackfoot live? The tribes come to the fort to trade occasionally, but how capable are the white guys of launching a search-and-destroy mission at this point? The fur traders don't even have horses. And it's October, they don't have much of a window to go campaigning.
They knew exactly what each man was to do, exactly how they should proceed. They had rear guard and advance guard and scouts on their flanks. They had left a detachment behind to guard their town. They had at least two relays of horses to a man.
All to deal with a bunch of drunken louts whose leader is such a fearsome shot that he couldn't hit a target from behind in an ambush.
The Pikunis were on their way to war.
And it's a good thing to, or else the Nor'Westers would have all these guns and no one to fight.
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