Fort Chesterfield has four cannons now, and... well, McGlincy and/or the author has them positioned in an interesting way. They're on protruding platforms along the fort's palisades, two on one wall, two on the opposite, and each is aimed inward, parallel to the fortifications. Instead of using the artillery pieces for long-ranged fire, they're intended to blast grapeshot as attackers try to climb over the walls. Because what better time to shoot giant shotguns than when the enemy is trying to attack your men in close combat?
An old character returns to the story, or at least is mentioned, when McGlincy learns that the leader of the HBC fort across the river is none other than Motley, who was kinda badass when he was first introduced and then got made a fool of when McGlincy stuck him with the bill after a farcical siege. I'm more interested in the new guy.
See, there's a half-breed who traveled up the river with the Nor'Westers, and I don't mean Yellow Hair. This guy's of mixed French and Native American blood, he knows how to survive in the wilds, and he knows enough Algonquin to try and communicate with the Blackfoot, or at the very least he can sign-talk with them. You might even consider him a foil of sorts to our hero, since as far as we know he's always worked with the whites, and is now being sent among the people that make up the other half of his heritage.
Hubbard doesn't even give him a name.
He's just "the runner," or "the messenger," though I'd have to call him "a wasted opportunity." Here we have a character that Yellow Hair should be keenly interested in talking to, someone else who's had to decide whether to live among people of his shared skin tone or the culture he was raised in. He'd be a sympathetic listener, and could have some valuable insights to help Yellow Hair figure out his own identity issues. At the very least he might have some good stories to tell.
But Yellow Hair never interacts with him, and I guess there's really no reason for him to, because our hero has decided that he's just a particularly pale Pikuni and he hates all white people. Except maybe Father Marc, who is... he must be priesting somewhere, the chapter doesn't mention him.
Anyway, eight days after being dispatched with a message for the Blackfoot, the runner returns.
"What's up?" bawled McGlincy.
I'm having trouble believing people said that two hundred years ago.
The runner explains, in between McGlincy's loud demands for information, that he ran into a Blackfoot raiding party of less than six men, who told him that they were after Crow. The messenger explained that a nearby Great White Chief wanted to invite their leaders for a talk, the raiding party thanked him for his offer and assured him that they'd pass it along once they got back, no need for him to go any further. The messenger turned around and came back.
McGlincy doesn't chew out the guy for not delivering the critical message in person or worry that these raiders might get killed before they're able to pass the invitation to their chiefs, but instead "scrubbed his hands together" and chortles about how everything's going according to plan. The Mustache makes sure his three new rifles are ready for firing, and all the Nor'Westers at the fort start bragging about how many Indians they're gonna kill.
Yellow Hair, meanwhile, knows that everything's really going according to his plan. He knows that the Blackfoot "raiding party" encountered by the nameless messenger was actually an advance guard moving a day's march ahead of the main force, they only encountered him because they meant to be seen, and they turned him away so he wouldn't discover the rest of them.
He's a little concerned that his people are outgunned, with about one rifle per thirty warriors, but he knows that they can't afford not to fight this battle. Yes, it's not about him anymore - even though the first thing the scout said last chapter was "I have seen Yellow Hair," and it was his disappearance that mustered the Pikuni to spook McGlincy in the first place - the author insists that it's about bringing peace to the plains! The heroic Blackfoot must destroy this fort that supplies weapon to their enemies!
...In order to protect their monopoly on imported firearms, which the Blackfoot have used to dominate the northern Great Plains and raid and conquer their rivals. Which is like peace, right?
Back to Chapter 33