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Thread: Counterweight: Chapter 1

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    Senior Member Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde's Avatar
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    Default Counterweight: Chapter 1

    Counterweight
    Fort William Henry
    Province of New York
    8 August, 1757
    It seemed that watching an approaching enemy army was not the best remedy for drowsiness. The boredom was too much to bear, and I was barely winning the battle to keep my eyes open. I cannot describe how badly I wanted to go to sleep just to escape the monotony of watching the French milling around on the ground below near the walls of Fort William Henry. Each day they were digging yards and yards of trenches towards us, getting ever closer while protecting themselves from our cannons. To put it simply, morning after morning the French grew closer while we grew hungrier. The presence of their white and blue uniforms was frightening for the first few days, but now the only feeling the French uniforms inspired in me was immense boredom.

    I was stretched out on my stomach under one of the battlements on the fort’s wall, looking out through the small window-like aperture built into the battlement. These apertures were built into evenly spaced, raised sections of the fort’s outer wall, and were covered by a small roof that served, in theory, to protect guards who looked out through the apertures. Only the threat of being whipped for falling asleep on guard duty kept me awake; well, that and the setting sun in the west that informed me that my shift would soon be up. The West—that’s where the French were. I often tried to look at the sunrise and sunset in order to get my bearings, and as I did so I usually found myself trying to picture how close our fort was to the land that France claimed as her own. From what I could gather from the British regulars, our fort marked one link in a long chain of forts that the French and British had built along the disputed area between the eastern and western parts of America. I was not sure how far south the “chain” extended into America, but I certainly knew that it extended far enough north to make the province of New York nervous enough to raise a regiment of volunteers to bolster the ranks of the Crown.

    New York…every time I thought about the very name of my province, my homesickness returned. Thoughts of my mother would flood into my mind, and I knew this process well enough to know that I would be thinking of her for quite a while yet. A gruff voice behind me caused me to jump a bit, finally providing the stimulus I needed to wake up.

    “Alright, Sam—get out. My turn to watch the frogs for a while.” Wycliffe s dry, almost monotone voice broke my reverie. Finally, it was time to be relieved of duty on the wall. Another voice soon sounded out from behind him, a loud, commanding voice screaming, “Down, get down! The cannon’s ready!”

    Wycliffe instinctively jumped into the area beneath the roofed part of the battlement with me, covering his ears. I had quickly covered mine as soon as I heard the command, knowing what was to follow the warning. A deafening explosion seemed to come from all directions, shaking the wall a bit, followed by the smell of burnt gunpowder. Wycliffe and I watched the expanse of field that was visible through the aperture in our battlement, curious as to how successful this latest cannon shot would prove to be. A dark speck was visible for a brief moment, growing smaller rapidly until it fell between what appeared to be two thin lines of dirt in the distance but were actually two massive lines of French trench works. Earth seemed to erupt between the trenches, and large pieces of dirt and rock were showering down before the sound of the impact reached us. The cannon ball had landed harmlessly between two trenches, and the French jeers soon reached our ears. Wycliffe did not speak French, but I could understand what some of them were saying, and it was nothing short of what we already knew for ourselves: our cannons were useless. That’s the edited, paraphrased version, of course.

    “Fantastic…” Wycliffe sarcastically said while turning his head from the aperture, more as an exhalation than an actual attempt at speaking. I got to my knees and began to crawl out of the roofed battlement, happy to be relieved from another monotonous round of guard duty. It was our job to make sure that the French didn’t get within fifty yards of our walls. If they did, they might be able to pull off an accurate shot with their flint muskets, and we needed every advantage we could get at the moment.

    “Rumor is,” Wycliffe said as I finally exited the battlement, “reinforcements have been requested.” I thought Wyckoff might say more, but he just resumed his previous position of staring out the window, stretched out on his stomach in exactly the same position I had previously been in. His vibrant, red jacket with its shiny, gold-colored buttons made my own dull, blue jacket appear to be beggar’s clothing. All the British Regulars had those jackets, and some believed that we would eventually get them as well so that we might blend in with the British when we drew up for battle formations. I was proud of the New York militia’s colors, but I have to confess that I wanted a red coat of my own. “Anyway, let me get some sleep, Sam,” Wycliffe finally said.

    “If you do sleep, I hope the French charge your side of the wall,” I said as I turned to walk down the steps into the interior of the fort. Wycliffe’s rejoinder came quickly.

    “I don’t care if that happens; I’ll just tell them where your quarters are, and that they’ll find no difficult fight there, that’s for sure. Who knows? Maybe they’ll give me a proper meal as a reward. Anything would be better than the mess they serve here.”

    After descending down the stairs and walking towards the main building that housed the bulk of the fort, I met the gaze of another provincial militiaman across the yard, a tall man whose black hair stood out in places under his hat. It was Alex, who was also from New York. We hadn’t known each other before coming to the fort, but our common province—or was it our similar position as provincial militiamen?—provided just the connection we needed to become quick friends. I hadn’t met many of the other militiamen, and had instead become friends with a few Regulars such as Timothy Wycliffe and Percival Ward.

    “Samuel,” Alex called out as I began to walk in his direction. He was taller than most men, which made him much taller than me, with straight, low-cut black hair that barely showed below his large, blue hat. “Just getting off guard duty on the wall, Sam?”

    We were now close enough to each other to talk without shouting, and I responded, “Yeah, it’s all the same. The French are getting closer, building more trenches every hour. They don’t even stop at night. It’s like they aren’t tiring at all…”

    “Of course,” Alex said, “they’re taking shifts.” He shook his head and looked towards the fort wall. “Really, Sam, if Washington hadn’t been so…so incapable.

    Many people felt that way nowadays. Three years ago, George Washington, a colonist and Colonel of the Virginia Regiment of militiamen, had been sent to contain the French who were thought to be moving closer to the British colonies in Pennsylvania. Yet when Washington had nudged, the French had shoved. Now, the French were officially at war with the Crown. I thought that the war would be over soon after I joined the militia of the Province of New York. I also thought that I would be spending my time in ways much more exciting than this. Both assumptions had been equally wrong.

    “At any rate,” Alex continued, “I’m going inside to see if they have any of that stale bread left.” He shook his head and added, “You know, the French don’t have to work so hard at their digging. All they have to do is wait and starvation and smallpox will do the dirty work for them. I sure hope those reinforcements come, and that they come fast.”

    My eyes widened as news of reinforcements came to me once again. “Tim Wycliffe told me the same thing,” I said. “Where are the reinforcements coming from?”

    “From Brigadier General Daniel Webb himself,” a familiar and confident voice behind me said. I turned around to see my best friend, the wiry and somewhat diminutive Percival Ward, leaning against the fort’s wall with his arms crossed, a small smile on his face. I smiled in return. Of all the friends I had made since joining the Provincial militia of New York, Percival Ward, a British regular, was the closest. “Are you sure, Percy?” I asked. “After all, Webb already sent us a great deal of troops not long ago.”

    “Sure?” Percival responded, looking up at me. I was as tall as most men, but Percival was just below the height of the average British regular or militiaman. “Just the opposite, actually. I’m as doubtful as I can be.” He shook his head and lowered his gaze to the earth below him. “I like to go with the most plausible guess,” he said slowly. “So, just think about the men Webb sent us earlier this month. Two hundred regulars like me and about eight hundred provincial militiamen like you. The catch, however, is that many of those poor souls were sick, multitudes of them having smallpox.”

    Percival looked back up to me, his smile now gone. “Webb doesn’t have the men, Samuel. At least, that’s what I’m thinking. I hope I’m wrong.” Brigadier General Webb was stationed at Fort Edward to the south, and he needed men just like we did. Having already sent reinforcements once before, I started to doubt that he would do so once again. Our numbers were now around two thousand five hundred men, but the French far outnumbered us; that much was visibly clear upon one glimpse over the fort’s wall.

    Bored with the speculation, or perhaps worried over Percival’s prediction, Alex quickly said something about food and walked off towards the interior of the fort. I looked at Percival squarely in the face and said, “What does that mean for us? That is…what I’m trying to say is…well, how can we beat them without reinforcements? There are myriads of them, and the Indians with them are almost just as numerous.” I could have said more but I found that, after so many monotonous days had passed, I was once again becoming anxious over the prospects of our survival.

    Percival took off his hat and inspected it for dust. He was fastidious about his attire, a fact that Wycliffe never forgot to tease him over. Placing it back on his brown head of hair, he said, “Well, Sam, I have two measures of advice concerning that; one, don’t worry about it; and two, we’ll both find out soon enough. I mean, come on, there’s not enough food here to wait much longer and the smallpox is spreading throughout the fort, despite the quarantine. Trust me, Lieutenant-Colonel Monro and Montcalm will come to an agreement soon enough. Montcalm won’t desire to lose the men on a siege that he already sees as a victory, and Monro will try to minimize his losses. They’ll probably decide the terms of surrender over some fine French wine and venison. Anyway…don’t worry about it. Let’s get inside. Nightfall is soon, and it’s hard to see the mosquitoes at night.” He turned to walk into the fort’s main structure which was divided into rooms for housing, meals, a small prison, and, in the farthest reaches of the fort, the rooms that were filled with quarantined, smallpox-infested colonists and regulars. I followed him.

    I did not wish to appear even the least bit like a coward, so I quickly spoke again. “No, I’m not worried, I just…you know, I miss my mother. I think about her all the time, Percy.”

    Turning to walk into the room that he and I shared with eighteen other men-at-arms, he nodded and closed his eyes briefly. “As do I, Sam. And my father. And my friends. All of them back in England, so far away from me. And then, in Wales…Aeronwyn. God, I miss her, Sam. I wonder what she’s doing right now.”

    Percival had often told me about Aeronwyn, a Welsh girl that had caught his fancy two summers ago when Percival was in Wales. From what he had told me about her, she was tall, had dark skin and dark hair, and was brilliant. She had even taught him how to speak fluent Welsh in a year and a half, a feat that astounded me. I was raised speaking English, but had learned French from my mother as well. From what my mother told me, I spoke fluent French without an accent, a compliment that meant much coming from her. I had not learned the language when I was older, however, and I thought that would be a much more difficult task than learning a second language in childhood.

    I sat beside the cloth mat that served as my bed in the cramped room, only five of our roommates present in the room besides us. Percival sat on the mat across from me, moving to take his boots off. The mats were easily rolled up and placed on top of our rucksacks during marches, but we had thought little of moving ever since the French had started the siege of the fort.

    I took two letters my mother had written out from under my mat and read them over again. Reading my mother’s signature, I remembered that I had to tear the bottoms off both letters before any decisions were made regarding our imminent engagement with the French. I didn’t want any British regular or even a Francophobic militiaman finding my letters and thinking that I was sympathizing with the enemy. My mother always wrote her complimentary closings in French in her letters to me, usually writing, “Avec l’amour le plus profonds, et dans le Christ,” before signing her name. I moved my hand to the lower part of the first letter and began slowly ripping off the closing and her name from the wrinkled page that I had read so many times over.

    If Monro makes the right choice, I’ll be able to see her soon. If not…

    I reached over to my rifle beside my mat and moved it over to my lap. I was very careful to keep it clean and in good working order as it was not merely a weapon but also a family heirloom. It had belonged to my father, and his flint musket had done much to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies while inspiring courage in the souls of his comrades during King George’s War. Percival called it the “War of Austrian Secession,” but it did not take us long to realize that we were speaking of the same conflict when I told him the same stories my mother had told me about my father’s actions in the war, and his brave final moments in Schenectady, New York, in 1748.

    “Cleaning your flint musket again, Sam?” Percival asked with a smile on his face. “Of course, Percy,” I said. “Can’t take a chance risking a jamb.” Stretching out on his mat Percival added, “You know, the care you show to that weapon makes me think you would have been a great student at Oxford. We could have met there, you know, instead of some cramped, nasty place like this.”

    It was a wistful thought, but being in a smallpox-ridden place like Fort William Henry was enough to drive a man to wish that he were many places instead of the dark confines of a surrounded fort. I had no idea, however, that all too soon the French would provide a certain remedy to our cramped life in the fort.





    Last edited by Cross Avantgarde; 03-30-2012 at 12:14 PM. Reason: Redundancy is redundant
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    Senior Member Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde has a reputation beyond repute Cross Avantgarde's Avatar
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    Default Re: Counterweight: Chapter 1

    Note: This chapter includes the events that precipitated the end of the siege of Fort William Henry and the ensuing massacre. This event has become relatively well-known through the writings of James Fenimore Cooper in his terrific book, The Last of the Mohicans. I make this note because the attentive reader is bound to notice large discrepancies between my account of the event and Cooper’s, a fact I attribute to my access in the 21st century to various (and usually much more accurate) sources on the event. In short, my account will less Romantic (in the sense of the literary genre itself) and truer (I hope) to the actual incident.


    Chapter 2


    Fort William Henry


    Province of New York


    9 August, 1757


    I woke in what seemed to be the middle of the night with the memories of the evening before swirling about in my mind abstractly, refusing to congeal into one coherent thought. While we had eaten hard bread and venison stew which seemed strangely absent of any venison, the militiamen and regulars had discussed a very important talk that had occurred earlier that afternoon.

    “Montcalm gave Monro a letter that he intercepted from Ft. Edward,” Joseph Frye, an older militiaman, had said gravely before ripping off a piece of bread with an effort that made me want to eat mine all the less. We all knew that Monro and his officers had gone out to meet the French in the field between the closest French trench works and our embattled, diseased fort after the white flag was raised on the fort’s flagpole. What we did not know was exactly what was said earlier that afternoon, though rumors were rampant.

    “So?” Tim had responded dryly. “The French got a letter from Webb. What difference does it make? It’s not like Webb could divulge any of Ft. William Henry’s secrets, if we had any clandestine passages in the first place…”

    “That’s not the point,” Joseph had said quickly, looking up from his poor excuse for a meal. Joseph seemed to be around forty or fifty years of age, though his white hair and matching beard atop a face that seemed too young for the color surrounding it made any guess of his age just that—a mere guess. “Listen,” he continued. “I know you’ve heard a lot of babble about what the letter contained, but I know Officer Piers Lennox and he made it perfectly clear what was in that letter.”

    Piers Lennox was a British officer under Monro who just so happened to be in command of Percival, Tim, and myself. Hearing his name mentioned along with Joseph Frye’s information gave his words an imagined stamp of validity as we all respected Officer Lennox, despite the fact that he was only about two years older than the 26 year-old Tim. He was an experienced British officer, and never went anywhere without a certain Indian from the Mohawk tribe known simply as “Joshua” with him. Joshua was a tall, muscular man who seldom spoke in public but was often seen speaking with Piers in private.

    Joseph had eyed us all carefully as if judging whether to trust us with his precious information or not. Joseph was a respected veteran of King George’s War, the war that claimed the life of my father, Charles Lewis. When Joseph had told me of his service during King George’s War, I mentioned my father’s name. Joseph never told me that he had known my father, but he had looked at me for several moments without speaking after I first mentioned the name of Charles Lewis. From that point on, he sat with me during any meals in which we were both free from guarding the wall or any other duties.

    “Webb can’t spare the men,” Joseph had said slowly, chewing in a dilatory fashion. “He even suggested that Monro negotiate the best terms possible for our surrender.” The last word was laden with a fair amount of disgust, and I had felt the sting of the word all the way in my gut. Percival had just stared down into his bowl of venison soup, failing to eat a bite of it. It had seemed that his earlier suspicions had been vindicated, and this only spelt uncertainty for everyone in the fort. My mind quickly went to the civilians who had fled to Ft. William Henry from the surrounding villages and towns. What would happen to them? They were unlike us. They were families of men, women, and children who had no interest in warfare. Many were diseased with Smallpox, just like a large amount of the soldiers in the fort. The unfairness of it all hurt just as much as the word “surrender” had hurt in my gut.

    Later that evening, during a speech provided by our respective officers, we found out that Joseph Frye was right. We were surrendering to the French and had to march out in the morning. Terms of the surrender would be made clear to us once we reached our destination, Ft. Edward, to the south. We were to march out in a full retreat, escorted by the French, in the morning.

    This morning. That thought woke me up a bit more. In just a few hours, we would suffer our first defeat. My deployment to Ft. William Henry was my first true station in the New York provincial militia since I began training, and it would end in a bitter defeat. All things considered, I was nevertheless glad that the French would not take us prisoner but instead were allowing us to retreat to Ft. Edward. Montcalm truly wanted the siege to be over, so perhaps that was reason enough to provide such amenable terms. We had lost several men to French artillery and musket fire on the wall, and several others were wounded. Further, smallpox was wreaking havoc in the fort. Perhaps this defeat was a blessing in disguise…

    All of these thoughts bombarded me just as I was waking in the dead of night. What had awoken me? The sun was not yet up, and there was no sign of dawn. The room was so dark that I could barely make out the sleeping bodies of nine of the other men in the room. Suddenly, my attention moved to a shadow near the entrance that seemed to be moving. It seemed to move quickly into the room, but made no noise whatsoever.

    My eyes almost refused to focus as I strained to get a better look at the shadowy figure that had slinked into the room. Thoughts of the night before faded completely out of my mind as I saw the figure approach the mat of the soldier lying directly across from me on the floor, Daniel Foxe. It moved stealthily, and seemed to have had ample amount of practice doing so as I could not hear the first footfall or shuffle as the figure advanced toward Daniel. What was this? Another soldier pulling a prank? The figure was nothing but a blacker portion of the darkness that filled the room, but when I saw what appeared to be the figure’s arm raise slowly, the malevolent intentions of the intruder became more than apparent. Attempting to cry out to stop the intruder, my fear and apprehension allowed only a startled gasp to escape from my lips.

    Apparently the gasp was loud enough, for I saw the figure spin around in alarm, almost tripping over Daniel’s artillery box on the floor. I briefly discerned that several men to the left of me were stirring, and Daniel, Percival, and others beside them were moving as well. I struggled to get out of my blanket, off my mat, and to my feet as quickly as possible, but fear seized me as I saw the figure advancing toward me with unnerving speed.

    Reacting purely out of half-awoken fear, I grabbed the closest thing nearby—my blanket—and threw it at the intruder while scrambling to my feet. The shadow of a man attempted to swat the blanket away with his right arm, but the blanket instead wrapped around his arm, from what I could discern in the scarce moonlight that filtered in through one small window on the left side of the room. Fear was no longer driving me to act purely erratically as I found myself consciously bent over, groping desperately at my feet for my father’s flint musket which I always kept to my right as I slept. Looking to my left quickly as I continued to grab at the area on the floor where I believed my musket to be, I saw that the intruder had freed himself from the blanket and was now standing only a pace or two away from me as I was kneeling down to find my musket, raising his right arm in preparation to strike me. It was then that I noticed two things: one was the tomahawk in his hand as it gleamed in a beam of moonlight; the other was the sensation of the barrel of my musket in my right hand.

    I had often despised the bayonet lessons my father had drilled into my head as a child, preferring instead to play in the river with my friends, but he had always insisted that I finish my lessons with him every single day save Sundays. My father, Charles Lewis, was a renowned bayonet combatant, and sparring with him always frustrated me. Though he promised that he would teach me to be as good a fighter as he, I had a hard time believing that when I consistently failed to get one hit in on my father. Yes, I had hated those lessons back then; this night, however, I cherished every bit of his drilling as I brought the musket up and above my head instinctively, just how my father had taught me. I felt the portion of the tomahawk’s handle just below the blade collide violently with the middle of my musket’s barrel, pushing both my arms back to the extent that the butt of my musket almost hit my face.

    The intruder was undeterred by my defense and raised the tomahawk to strike once more, standing over me. Again, just as my father had taught me, I used the sparse time he took to prepare his next strike to provide one of my own. Swinging the opening of the barrel around to the right side of my face, I aimed the butt of the musket at the intruder’s abdomen and thrust it with as much force as I could muster. The intruder abandoned his attack and jumped back to evade my thrust, and quickly circled to my right in order to strike at me before I could turn the musket in time to defend my side. He raised the tomahawk again, and I knew I would be too slow in defending myself as I had not anticipated his sudden move to my right side.

    Yet it was just as he raised the tomahawk high above his head that he suddenly flinched and the weapon’s ascent was stilled. Slowly, ever so slowly, his knees began to bend and the intruder finally collapsed to the floor beside me. Standing just behind the spot where the intruder had been was Michael Tyons, one of the soldiers who shared the room with me, his musket and bayonet at the ready.

    “Don’t worry, mate,” he said with strained eyes while looking down at the intruder. “He’s been properly dispatched.”

    Standing shakily, I wiped the sweat off my forehead and nodded a thanks to Michael, unable in my fear to express my appreciation for his intervention which had saved my life. I looked down and found that my eyes had adjusted to the darkness enough to see that the intruder was an Indian. The excitement and anxiety were causing my hands to shake incessantly, and I barely registered the words Percival spoke next.

    “What happened, Sam?” he asked, his tone both caring and bewildered.

    I shook my head, attempting to figure out what had happened for myself. “I—I woke up just in time to see someone steal into the room. He…he went straight to Daniel Foxe’s mat, and I cried out when I saw him raise the tomahawk above Daniel. That’s when he came straight for me, ‘til Michael here intervened.”

    Michael was kneeling beside the Indian now, looking at the decorations the Indian had strung in his hair. “I think we need to find Officer Lennox’s Indian friend, Joshua. He can tell us what tribe this man is from.”

    Percival nodded and added, “My main concern is whether the French sent him here or not. And is he alone? After all, I—”

    Shouts were suddenly heard down the hall in the other men’s rooms, providing a grim answer to Percival’s query. What we had believed to be the incident of a lone intruder caught in a single act of espionage was in fact nothing of the sort.

    It was an act of war.
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    Default Re: Counterweight: Chapter 1

    borrrrrrrrrring

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    Default Re: Counterweight: Chapter 1

    Chapter 3
    Fort William Henry, New York Province
    9 August, 1757

    The night was filled with chaos, confusion, anxiety, and the shouts of officers as we were told to assemble in a French-made camp a small distance from the fort. The fort was being abandoned, and the surrender was almost complete. We were ordered by our officers to give up all our ammunition to the French before we entered the makeshift camp that they had prepared for us until our retreat. Upon retreat, we were to march south to Fort Edward, carrying only our ammunition-void weapons and one single cannon. The march would happen around dawn, but it was initially supposed to happen that very night. Yet when we first got into formation to make our march, several groups of Indians assembled all around us and began to scream and yell. The French looked totally incapable of calming them, so we were told we would have to march in the morning. At least that is the summation of all I could make sense of in light of all the chatter and confusion that night.

    The men who shared my room in the barracks stuck together in the camp, as did most of the other soldiers. I did notice that a small part of the camp was being reserved for those who had the awful disease of smallpox, but it was probably not much different than the quarantined life they had experienced in the fort.

    “We’ll march south in the morning,” officer Piers Lennox had told us. He was my commanding officer, and that was fortunate because he was a responsible man; further, he was a man who had an Indian for a best friend, and none of us knew how to communicate with the Indians without help from Daniel.

    “Shall we make a fire?” Percival asked. We were sitting in a small circle, anxiously awaiting the morning sun so that we could march to our allies at Fort Edward. Michael Tyons ignored Percival’s question and said, “Montcalm has given us a generous proposal.”

    “Thank God for that,” Percival quickly responded.

    “I’m not so sure we should be thanking God just yet,” Michael snapped back, jerking a glance Percival’s way. “Think about it,” he added. “Why would you let so many men go so easily?”

    “He can’t possibly think that he can feed us all,” I said.

    “Don’t be ignorant, Sam,” Michael replied, glaring at me. “Feeding us is the last thing on his mind.”

    “Michael, Montcalm may be a Frenchman, but he understands the art of war,” Justin Rhodes answered with some frustration towards Michael’s cynicism. “You don’t slaughter your prisoners. He’s not a savage.”

    “Oh, no?” Michael answered dryly. “I bet Percy here knows a good example of a European doing just the opposite.” Michael looked at Percival as if he were expecting another meal to be handed out in the mess hall back at Fort William Henry.

    Though it was obvious Percival did not want to answer, he hesitantly replied, “Yes. I can think of an example.”

    “There!” Michael exclaimed. “If our chief optimist Percy here agrees with me, then I think the rest of you lot had better come to your senses. Do you hear the savages out there? Whooping and screaming? You think they care about the Frenchmen’s terms of surrender?” He turned to Percival again. “And just who did you think of in your example, little Percy?”

    “Richard the Lionhearted,” he said with his head down. “He massacred Muslim prisoners during the Crusades.”

    “Our very own celebrated King Richard the Third! Oh, but we can expect fair treatment from the Frenchman Montcalm, can we? Balderdash.” Michael shook his head and stared at the ground. He was never usually this serious and dire, but Michael was a practical man. And pragmatically speaking, we seemed doomed.

    I’ll never see my mother again? Can this really be happening? Are we to be turned over to the savages?

    If the savages were like Daniel, then they would never simply massacre us. I hoped for that to be the case as Percival spoke in the awkward silence.

    “We should pray, gentlemen.”

    “Oh, let us pray, shall we? Funny—I’ve never seen God open the heavens before and lend us a hand,” Wycliffe said. “Michael’s right…we’ve got nothing to trust in but our bayonets, thanks to our officers allowing us to be robbed of our ammunition. I wouldn’t be surprised if—”

    A scream caused me to jump, though it surely came from at least two hundred paces away. I turned and squinted in the moonlight to see men in red all across the camp jumping up and running towards a group of Indians who retreated quickly out the camp and out of danger. One was carrying an immobile British soldier with him.

    “God help us,” Percival said.

    Such events happened several times that night. The Indians knew just where to strike to catch us unawares. We and many men around us set up posts to defend against such raids, but it seemed that the Indians always found a way through to their targets. They even killed some of the guards while they stood their posts. Often they would kill a few soldiers and retreat, but sometimes they would take hostages, including wounded soldiers, women, and even children. Rage was building up in the camp and it caused our officers to meet again with the French leadership to discuss the atrocities. Nothing seemed to change, however, as the night drug on, soldiers were murdered, and kidnappings were rampant. Before the sun even rose, we began to once again get into formation for our retreat. It was the most anxious formation we had ever put together, as we feared that once again the Indians would assemble and challenge us. This time, however, it seemed that we might finally be allowed to march in what little dignity there could be in a retreat.

    Percival stood to my left at the end of our line, which was the second rank from the front. Michael stood to my right, and Wycliffe to his right. Officers began to assemble at the front of the formation, and we knew the time to march was approaching. Some of the French officers drew near to our formation and began speaking quickly to one another. They were close enough for me to hear almost everything they were saying.

    “What are they saying, Sam?” he asked impatiently.

    I shook my head. “I don’t understand why, but they’re saying that we’ll have to leave some of our belongings here.”

    “We’ve already given up our ammunition!” Wycliffe shouted. “What else do they want?”

    Some of the men nearby heard Wycliffe’s words and were grumbling to each other in disbelief and disgust. After a few moments had passed the British officers, including my commanding officer, Piers Lennox, were summoned over by the French interpreter to speak with the French officers. Soon afterwards the British officers came to us and picked random men out of the formation to give up some of their clothing, blankets, and some food they might have brought with them. I immediately began to hear men cursing the French and their Indian allies.

    “What else do they expect of us?” a man in the rank behind me yelled.

    “We’ve already set the conditions for retreat!” another man close to him shouted. “How can they change the terms now?”

    The French carried the clothing and small portions of packaged rations to several Indians close to them. Apparently the demands had been made by the Indians, but they only looked partially appeased at the moment. We would occasionally hear a shout or two from the collected groups of Indians. The number of groups made it difficult to determine how many separate tribes there were present, and none among us, save Daniel, perhaps, knew what the Indians were saying as they shouted, and none of us could have fathomed the terrifying way the Indians would express their anger toward us.
    Last edited by Cross Avantgarde; 03-24-2012 at 06:46 PM. Reason: Spacing issue
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    Default Re: Counterweight: Chapter 1

    I've only managed to read the first section so far but I already love it. Anything that relates to History always grabs my attention so I was pleasantly surprised when I first began to read this. =)

    Overall, your writing is fantastic. There were some instances where you repeated words or phrases close to each other

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    A gruff voice behind me caused me to jump a bit, finally providing the stimulus I needed to wake up a bit.
    but I just thought I'd let you know in case it slipped by without notice; I know I've been guilty of doing the same thing before! A word I noticed you seemed to favor was monotonous and at first it seemed to be repetitive, but as I read on I felt it added to the way the character felt to the situation and found that I liked how it fit.

    Can't wait to read the other two parts. ^^

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    Default Re: Counterweight: Chapter 1

    @Aelwynsal : I very much appreciate your input, and your time! You’re exactly right, that phrasing in the quote is beyond redundant and I hope there won’t be much more to follow like that. In fact, I’m going to purge it right after posting this. Again, thanks for your input, and your time; I certainly hope you like the subsequent parts.
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    Default Re: Counterweight: Chapter 1

    Another great post! It had me thoroughly engaged and I like how you know where to add the right amount of detail where it's needed without overdoing it. If you don't mind, I'd like to give you a few pointers in a few different parts that might make your writing a little better. =)

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    It had seemed that his earlier suspicions had been vindicated, and this only spelt uncertainty for everyone in the fort. My mind quickly went to the civilians who had fled to Ft. William Henry from the surrounding villages and towns. What would happen to them? They were unlike us. They were families of men, women, and children who had no interest in warfare. Many were diseased with Smallpox, just like a large amount of the soldiers in the fort.
    Again, the two phrases so close together just seems off to me. Maybe for the second 'in the fort' you could put "Many were diseased with Smallpox like a large amount of the soldiers were."

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    Later that evening, during a speech provided by our respective officers, we found out that Joseph Frye was right. We were surrendering to the French and had to march out in the morning. Terms of the surrender would be made clear to us once we reached our destination, Ft. Edward, to the south. We were to march out in a full retreat, escorted by the French, in the morning.
    I thought the last sentence was a bit redundant. If I were you, I would've incorporated the fact that they were being escorted by the French in the second sentence: "We were surrendering to the French and they were to march us out in the morning."

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    The room was so dark that I could barely make out the sleeping bodies of nine of the other men in the room.
    I would edit the bolded part out, it seemed a little unnecessary.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    The shadow of a man attempted to swat the blanket away with his right arm, but the blanket instead wrapped around his arm, from what I could discern in the scarce moonlight that filtered in through one small window on the left side of the room.
    Again, I would use 'it' to replace the second 'his arm' to prevent the repetition and maybe even word the second half differently altogether."The shadow of a man attempted to swat the blanket away with his right arm, but from what I could discern in the scarce moonlight it only wrapped around the limb."

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    The intruder was undeterred by my defense and raised the tomahawk to strike once more, standing over me. Again, just as my father had taught me, I used the sparse time he took to prepare his next strike to provide one of my own. Swinging the opening of the barrel around to the right side of my face, I aimed the butt of the musket at the intruder’s abdomen and thrust it with as much force as I could muster. The intruder abandoned his attack and jumped back to evade my thrust, and quickly circled to my right in order to strike at me before I could turn the musket in time to defend my side. He raised the tomahawk again, and I knew I would be too slow in defending myself as I had not anticipated his sudden move to my right side.

    Yet it was just as he raised the tomahawk high above his head that he suddenly flinched and the weapon’s ascent was stilled. Slowly, ever so slowly, his knees began to bend and the intruder finally collapsed to the floor beside me. Standing just behind the spot where the intruder had been was Michael Tyons, one of the soldiers who shared the room with me, his musket and bayonet at the ready.

    “Don’t worry, mate,” he said with strained eyes while looking down at the intruder. “He’s been properly dispatched.”

    Standing shakily, I wiped the sweat off my forehead and nodded a thanks to Michael, unable in my fear to express my appreciation for his intervention which had saved my life. I looked down and found that my eyes had adjusted to the darkness enough to see that the intruder was..
    Just pointing those out in case you wanted to use different words to describe him such as 'he', 'him', 'the shadow', etc.

    Overall, I'm really enjoying your story so far and can't wait to read the third post!
    Last edited by Slayer; 03-31-2012 at 10:15 AM.

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    Default Re: Counterweight: Chapter 1

    @Aelwynsal : I’m deeply indebted to your thorough readings and great suggestions, and I have to give you credit for helping me to polish this piece up! I’m going to make corrections by tomorrow, and once again you’re right on the mark considering the necessary changes. I hope the later installments will be equally interesting, and hopefully they’ll also reflect your very valuable input. Thanks again!
    May she fly in perpetuity!
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    Default Re: Counterweight: Chapter 1

    Another great post. Enjoyed it as always and here are my suggestions!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    We were ordered by our officers to give up all our ammunition to the French before we entered the makeshift camp that they had prepared for us until our retreat. Upon retreat,
    I'd substitute either of those with surrender.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    The march would happen around dawn, but it was initially supposed to happen that very night.
    The pause there seems a little awkward to me, so I would say "The march would happen around dawn even though it was initially supposed to happen that very night."

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    Yet when we first got into formation to make our march, several groups of Indians assembled all around us and began to scream and yell. The French looked totally incapable of calming them, so we were told we would have to march in the morning.
    The wording of those few sentences makes it so they don't flow together very well. I'd suggest "When we had first got into formation to make our march, several groups of Indians gathered all around us and began to scream and yell. The French looked completely incapable of calming them so it was decided the march would take place in the morning."

    Quote Originally Posted by =Cross Avantgarde
    We’ll march south in the morning
    Capitalize the S in South.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    further, he was a man who had an Indian for a best friend, and none of us knew how to communicate with the Indians without help from Daniel.
    Further should be furthermore and the comma in the sentence isn't needed, in my opinion, but feel free to keep it if it suits you better!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    Oh, let us pray, shall we? Funny—I’ve never seen God open the heavens
    Heavens should be capitalized.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    I turned and squinted in the moonlight to see men in red all across the camp jumping up and running towards a group of Indians who retreated quickly out the camp and out of danger
    Sounds funny, I'd use "retreated away from the camp and danger."

    Quote Originally Posted by =Cross Avantgarde
    Nothing seemed to change, however, as the night drug on, soldiers were murdered, and kidnappings were rampant.
    "as the night drug on; soldiers were murdered and kidnappings were rampant."

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    Officers began to assemble at the front of the formation, and we knew the time to march was approaching. Some of the French officers drew near to our formation and began speaking quickly to one another.
    Comma seems unnecessary, and to keep from using formation again so closely to the previous one, I'd say "Some of the French officers drew close and began speaking quickly to one another."

    Quote Originally Posted by Cross Avantgarde
    The number of groups made it difficult to determine how many separate tribes there were present, and none among us, save Daniel, perhaps, knew what the Indians were saying as they shouted, and none of us could have fathomed the terrifying way the Indians would express their anger toward us.
    Should be split into two sentences. "The number of groups made it difficult to determine how many separate tribes were present and none among us, save Daniel, perhaps, knew what the Indians were saying as they shouted. None of us could have ever fathomed the terrifying way the Indians would express their anger toward us."

    I hope these helped and I'm looking forward to the next part!

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    Default Re: Counterweight: Chapter 1

    @Cross Avantgarde

    I'm going to do the same thing Slayer did and give you my critique chapter by chapter.

    Critique of chapter 1:

    First of all, let me commend you on your excellent prose! Very beautiful indeed. There were some sentences and things that I could see needed some clearing up, so I'd watch that. I figure you already do this, but if you don't, when you revise you should read aloud to yourself. You can hear the sentences when they're weird, and if you trip over them while reading (unless you have a stutter...then this probably doesn't work so well), that usually means you need to rework it.

    What I saw that could use some work:

    The beginning does have a bit of a slow start. I think you should jump right into it. Start with him having a few thoughts about his mother or the French, but then get into the conversation with Wycliffe.

    How old is the protagonist? I'm going to say late teens - early twenties. But sometimes your voice sounds a little more intellectual at times than others. So I would watch that. You're a smart cat, so it's going to show through in your writing.

    Dialogue - a few times in your dialogue I kept thinking to myself, This doesn't sound like the 1700's, especially whenever you used a contraction. You don't want your characters to sound stiff and unrealistic, but you also want the dialogue to match the historical time period.

    Sentence variation - You tend to stack clauses (don't feel bad, tones of writers do it). Make sure you use some shorter sentences to vary it up. Also, watch the way you start your sentences ex: "From what he had told me about her, she was tall, had dark skin and dark hair, and was brilliant. She had even taught him how to speak fluent Welsh in a year and a half, a feat that astounded me. I was raised speaking English, but had learned French from my mother as well. From what my mother told me, I spoke fluent French without an accent, a compliment that meant much coming from her. I had not learned the language when I was older, however, and I thought that would be a much more difficult task than learning a second language in childhood." - Make sure to vary the way you start your sentences in most sentences. The only exceptions - in my book - are names and pronouns. But here, two "From what so-and-so told me," is one too many.

    Stacked clause example: "Wycliffe and I watched the expanse of field that was visible through the aperture in our battlement, curious as to how successful this latest cannon shot would prove to be."- Remove the clause at the end, and just say they watched the cannon and describe it. Stacked clauses tend to slow the pace of a piece.
    Last edited by pleasant_disorder; 04-22-2012 at 10:49 PM.

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    Default Re: Counterweight: Chapter 1

    @Slayer ; @pleasant_disorder : Your commentary is extremely useful; in fact, I’m going to polish some of it up as soon as possible. I very much appreciate your close attention to the sentences and the pace of the work, and rest assured that your input means very much. Both of you point out some much-needed amendments, and I'm thankful to have the chance to do this. Since it's pleasant_disorder's first time contributing, I'm going to respond to a few of the issues in brief.

    Dialogue has indeed been one of the most salient talking points as I have shown others this piece. I finally had to stick with the current vernacular, since “screw your courage to the sticking place” is likely to stall attention instead of gripping it when it’s time for the men to embolden themselves and charge forward. There are pros and cons both ways, and you’re certainly right about the anachronistic wording. In the end I had to sacrifice the dialogue of the age with more vernacular, colloquial words, and I hope the pros outweigh the cons.

    And you’re very close to the age of Sam! He is 17, the age I was when I was in basic training. I’ll have to make sure that I stay inside the right “voice,” with the character, mirroring his age.

    Again, many thanks for the contribution and your time!
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    Tell me what you think.

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    Default Re: Counterweight: Chapter 1

    @Cross Avantgarde Yeah...I thought of that when I posted it. I'm not really sure how you can fix that completely, but I think the contractions might be the biggest issue of mine. When I think of the 1700s I just don't think "don't" (hahaha...lame joke). I would look at the dialogue from the Coehn Brother's version of "True Grit". Even though it's a little stiff, it's still REALLY good dialogue. Also looking at other 'historical' hollywood movies might help (i.e. The Patriot...which is the only one I can think of right now...). See if they dumb that one down for audiences or if they try to live up to the standard of speaking in the 1700's. True Grit is about 100 years later than your story (takes place in Western times), but it's a good example of dialogue that doesn't use contractions, and it might give you ideas for how to get the dialogue a bit closer. Maybe some British inflections would help too? Just trying to throw out ideas. XD

    Personally, I dunno. I write in the present so I don't have to deal with all that jazz. The most I can do with dialects is a good southern accent...but that's just because I've lived in the South my entire life. :P
    Last edited by pleasant_disorder; 04-29-2012 at 07:27 PM.

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