February, 2023

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Issue #161

Welcome, Western Fans!

Looking for free, tantalizing Tales of the Old West?
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Read this month's Tales and vote for your favorite.
They'll appear in upcoming print volumes of The Best of Frontier Tales Anthologies!

Showdown at Silver City
by James Ott
Silver City had lost its shine. Gangs ruled. Banks closed. The gleaming metal became local currency. But mined silver was loaded with impurities. No deal was certain. Every transaction on gaming tables was suspect. Will a pistol-packing assayer from the East put a shine back into Silver City?

* * *

by John H. Dromey
A man who does odd jobs around town may seem like an odd choice for a sheriff in need of an extra deputy. Can Homer prove himself right for the job?

* * *

On National Road, 1869
by William Baker
Elijah prepared for life in the West by practicing with horse and gun, reading the literature of the time. But his first encounter is not as he anticipated.

* * *

The Dangerous Type
by Austen Burke
Harrison Frittata has been run out of Arrow Creek County for some extra-legal career aspirations. Thinking, "Perhaps it's time for Mexico" he follows the time-worn tradition of escaping south of the border—right into a civil war.

* * *

Feckful Mirror
by Ginger Strivelli
A broken magic mirror with multiple personalities comes in handy on the wagon train.

* * *

Rolle's Rangers
by George Kotlik
May, 1777. British loyalist Rolle, disgusted by the lack of organized protection from the French, decides to form a militia that comes to be known as Rolle's Rangers. What could possibly go wrong?

* * *

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All the Tales

Rolle's Rangers
by George Kotlik

Rolle ran as fast as he could. At long last, he reached a meadow surrounded by wooded hills with a log cabin erected at its center. Rolle approached the cabin. The front door swung open, and a middle-aged woman appeared—musket in hand.

"Rolle!" the woman shouted, dropping the gun.


They embraced.

"What happened?" Hannah asked. "Why are you back so soon?"

Rolle informed her about the Battle of the Monongahela. Fearing what would become of Hannah once the British pulled out of western Pennsylvania, he escaped his service to protect her. Hannah was furious.

"I cannot believe it!" she fumed, "How irresponsible of my husband to put our lives in jeopardy like this. Mother was right, I sure do know how to pick 'em."

"Honey, you need to relax."

"Relax? How can I relax? The British army kills deserters." Tears welled up in her eyes. "I don't want to lose you."

"You're not going to lose me," Rolle said, holding her tight, "We need to figure out what to do next. Braddock's Army is gone along with Pennsylvania's only defense against the French. The French control the forks of the Ohio and they will use Duquesne as a staging ground to raid backcountry settlers." Rolle shook her urgently. "Do you know what that means?"

Hannah looked up at him. "What do we do?" she asked helplessly.

"I have an idea."

"I'm scared."

"Me too."

* * *

The following day, Rolle ventured into town. At the local tavern, Rolle assembled an audience. Standing atop a wooden chair in the dimly lit tavern, Rolle addressed thirty-five settlers, "The French are coming sooner rather than later. When they come, we must be ready."

The settlers murmured among themselves.

"What do we do now?" one settler shouted out.

"Raise a militia," Rolle replied, "we defend this valley ourselves."

"And who's going to lead this militia?" another settler said.

"I am."

"What qualifies you for that job?"

"I was a provincial officer; I saw action in King George's War." More murmuring. Rolle went on. "If we refuse to fight, the French will pillage our homes. Join my militia. Sometime tonight, if you have the time, come speak with me at my table."

At the end of the night, Rolle collected his signatures and rode home. Hannah was waiting by the fireplace when her husband stepped through the front door.

"How did you do?" she asked.

"Eight names," Rolle said exasperatedly, "less than half of what I expected."

"It's a start." Hannah replied. "More will join. The settlers need to see that we have a chance. Give them time and you'll see—more will come."

Rolle sighed. "You're right."

"I'm your wife. I'm always right."

* * *

Of the eight recruits that signed up, only six showed up to their first training session, further perturbing the already anxious Rolle. Regardless of how he felt, from sunrise to sunset, Rolle trained his militia six days a week for four months straight. In due time, the militia began referring to themselves as Rolle's Rangers.

In the coming weeks, several French and Indian raiding parties penetrated the Pennsylvania frontier. In response, Rolle and his men orchestrated traps and ambuscades. Dozens of French soldiers were slaughtered in numerous backcountry engagements. Soon enough, word of Rolle's Rangers and their success against the French spread like wildfire. Eager to join the fight, frontiersmen from across western Pennsylvania flocked to Rolle's standard. By the end of the month, Rolle's Rangers boasted thirty-five recruits.

* * *

Further west at the Forks of the Ohio, Captain François-Marie Le Marchand de Lignery, presiding officer over all French forces in the Ohio Country, chaired a council of war with the other officers under his command.

"No one has answered my question," Lignery said through gritted teeth. The officers fell silent. "How have a bunch of farmers, these Rolle's Rangers, managed to kill seventy-one French soldiers and thirty-three Native warriors?"


The newest officer spoke up. "Our raiding parties," he reported, "have been less successful than we had originally anticipated."

Lignery fumed. "Really? I had no idea." Picking up the nearest bottle, he threw it at the young officer who ducked just in time before the bottle whizzed past his head, shattering on the wall behind him. "You think I don't know that!?"

Afraid of Lignery's wrath, the officers remained silent. Composing himself, the captain spoke calmly. "Your incompetence," he said, addressing his officers, "has shown me that you cannot handle a ragged group of country farmers. In consequence, I will personally assume command of this problem myself. Lieutenant Nicolas?"

"Yes, captain."

"I want the army ready to march first thing tomorrow morning."

"Yes, captain."

* * *

In short order, Lignery marched into Pennsylvania at the head of a hundred-fifty-man mixed force of French soldiers and Indian warriors. Lignery launched a brutal border war, razing every settlement he came upon. After torching one homesteaders' cabin, the frontiersman begged the French captain to spare his life.

"I'll do anything you ask," the farmer pleaded.

"I'm looking for Rolle's Rangers," Lignery replied. "Tell me where they are, and I will spare your life."

The farmer hesitated a moment before giving in. "They're not far, about half a day's ride east from here."

"How many are there?"

"No more than thirty last I checked."

"You will take me to them. Do you understand?"

The farmer nodded.

"Good." Lignery turned to his sergeant, "Watch him. If he does anything stupid, shoot him."

* * *

The following morning, while Rolle was away, Lignery and his troops surrounded the ranger's basecamp. All at once, Lignery's troops opened fire on the unsuspecting frontiersmen. The settlers closest to the woods died first. A few rangers took up positions around Rolle's cabin and fired back. Unable to see their opponents, the rangers fired blindly into the woods. The battle lasted an hour. After suffering nineteen casualties, Rolle's Rangers surrendered.

The French Captain stood triumphantly before his prisoners. "Which one of you is Rolle?"

The prisoners stared back at him.

"Which one of you is Rolle?" he said, a little louder this time.

The prisoners remained quiet.

Lignery sighed. He produced his pistol. "Have it your way."

A ranger stepped forward. "Rolle is not here! Don't shoot, have mercy!"

"Where is Rolle?"

"I don't know," the ranger replied.

Lignery scoffed. "I'm going to shoot you."

"I don't know where Rolle is," the ranger said, "but I know where his wife is."

"Shut up, Trevor," one of the other rangers said. Lignery lowered his pistol. "Rolle's wife?"

"Yes, she is here with us."

"Where?" Lignery asked.

"Trevor, don't. I swear to God."

Trevor pointed to one of the prisoners. "Her name is Hannah. She's Rolle's wife. She knows where he is."

"Trevor, you son of a bitch." Hannah said angerly.


"Seize her," Lignery ordered. Two Troupes de la marine brought Hannah before the captain.

Lignery looked her up and down. "So, you are Madame Rolle?"


"Where is your husband?"

"You just missed him."

"Where did he go?"

"I don't know, he didn't tell me."

Lignery grinned wickedly. "Madame, we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way. I will let you choose."

"I am telling you I don't know where he is."

"She's lying!" Trevor shouted.

"Shut up, Trevor!" Hannah snapped. "I swear, captain, on my life, I do not know where my husband is."

Suddenly, a soldier appeared beside Lignery. "Captain, nightfall approaches," the soldier said in a low voice, "we must be on our way."

"Burn the cabin," Lignery ordered, "Clap this bitch in irons and kill the rest."

Seized with fear, a few settlers bolted for the tree line. French muskets quickly cut them down, while bayonets cleaned up the rest. Consumed in flame, the cabin burned behind Hannah who marched west—deep into the North American wilderness.

* * *

Rolle knelt beside the charred remains of his log cabin. A note nailed to a nearby tree caught his attention. It was addressed to him. It read:

Bonjour Monsieur Rolle,

I know you, but, alas, you do not know me. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Captain François Marie Le Marchand de Lignery. It has come to my attention that you have disrupted French aspirations for this country. I am putting an end to your designs once and for all. I am keeping Hannah at Fort Duquesne. She will be executed in three months' time. If you turn yourself in to me before then, I will release her.

Captain François Lignery

Crumpling the letter in his fist, Rolle mounted his horse and rode off towards Fort Duquesne.

* * *

After several days of hard riding, Rolle at last reached the Forks of the Ohio and, more importantly, Fort Duquesne. The French fort sat beside the conflux of the Alleghany and Monongahela Rivers. The fort was made of square logs roughly sixteen feet in length, stacked on top of one another, and filled with dirt. A parapet rose on the rampart.

The fort buzzed with activity. Rolle wondered how he could sneak inside undetected. Somewhere behind him, a French patrol meandered its way down an old Indian trail through the woods. Rolle counted four French soldiers. He quickly darted into a bush as they neared. Without warning, Rolle fired his musket into one of the soldiers, killing him instantly. The Pennsylvanian then fired his pistol into another soldier, knocking him out of the battle. One of the Frenchman fired back but missed, allowing Rolle to charge him. Rolle stabbed the Frenchman repeatedly. Seized by fear, the last soldier ran away. Rolle scooped up a musket from the ground. Taking aim, he sniped the retreating soldier in the back. The Frenchman screamed as he died.

Stripping the dead of their personal effects, Rolle donned one of the French soldier's uniforms. After inspecting his reflection in a nearby pond, he raced down the trail towards Fort Duquesne.

* * *

Fort Duquesne's sixteen-foot-high walls towered over Rolle. Night had fallen by the time he reached the gate. Two Troupes de la marine guarded the fort's entrance which was, curiously enough, opened. Sweat pouring down his face, Rolle nodded to one of the guards as he passed by. The guard nodded back and just like that Rolle was inside the French fort.

Rolle eventually found the prison. A watchman stood guard by the door. Rolle quickly knocked him out and seized the set of keys attached to the guard's belt. Rolle slipped the key into his pocket and searched for Hannah. Inspecting each prison cell carefully, Rolle finally found her curled up in a ball.

"Hannah, it's me, I'm here to save you." Rolle inserted his key into the door. With a click it swung open.

"Hey, honey." They embraced.

"I'm getting you out of here. Are you ready?"

She nodded. "I love you."

"I love you too."

* * *

In short order, Rolle and Hannah fled the prison. Posing as a guard with his prisoner, Rolle escorted Hannah past the gate and out of the fort to safety. Under the light of a full moon, they escaped into the hills.

The End

George lives in Florida.

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