In the year of our Lord 1781, the wild frontier of the Ohio River Valley, a land uncharted and untamed, stretched its calloused fingers into the heart of the American wilds. Amidst the dense woodland, the cunning hunter, wily trapper, and the daring longhunter sought their fortune in this vast, hostile land. Their hearts beat to the rhythm of the wilderness, their spirits intertwined with the woods, rivers, and the creatures that made this land their home.
As the sun set on a cool day in late October, the light cast deep shadows across the land. Storm clouds gathered overhead, foretelling a long night of fury and tempest. The silhouettes of the tall trees reached out like hungry beasts, forming the backdrop for the story of a tall, broad-shouldered man, clad in fringed buckskin and carrying a long, flintlock rifle. His face was weathered, and the scars that etched his visage spoke of many battles fought and enemies overcome. His eyes, sharp as those of the soaring hawk, missed nothing as he moved through the twilight gloom.
His name was known only to the wind, the trees, and a few settlers whose homes he had protected. To the Shawnee, he was an ominous shadow, a threat lurking in the gloom. Tonight, his quarry was a band of renegade Shawnee, who had been raiding settlements, leaving a trail of blood and misery in their wake. The Longhunter had sworn an oath to put an end to their reign of terror, and so he had tracked them across the Ohio Valley, his long strides eating up the miles.
As he moved through the forest, his senses were as keen as a hunting cat's. He could smell the tang of woodsmoke on the breeze, and he knew the renegades' campfire was nearby. The Longhunter moved with the stealth of a stalking panther, for he knew well that if the Shawnee discovered him, the odds would be against him, and the chances of his survival decreased dramatically.
As the shadows lengthened into night, he came upon the encampment. The Shawnee warriors were gathered around a large fire, their painted faces twisted into grotesque masks by the flickering flames. Their chief, a tall, powerful man named Black Eagle, stood at the edge of the firelight, surveying his men. The Longhunter knew that Black Eagle was no ordinary foe. He was a cunning strategist, a feared warrior, and his men were as loyal to him as wolves to the leader of their pack.
The Longhunter silently watched from the edge of the clearing, his keen eyes studying the encampment. He counted the warriors, gauging their strengths and weaknesses. He knew he could not take them all on at once. He would have to draw them out, thin their numbers, and take them one by one. He also knew that Black Eagle would not be easily fooled, so he would have to be as clever as the fox and his timing nothing short of perfect.
As the night deepened, the Longhunter prepared his trap. He found a small grove of trees nearby, and within it, he carved a symbol into the bark of each tree. He had spent much time in this rugged country and learned many things about the people inhabiting it. The symbol was an ancient one from the tribes in the northern territories, known to the Shawnee as the mark of the dreaded Wendigo, a monstrous beast that preyed upon men who ventured too far into the woods.
When the symbols were complete, the Longhunter retreated to a nearby thicket and waited. He knew that the Shawnee were already on edge. The slightest sound or movement would draw them to investigate. So he remained as still and silent as the stone that lay beneath him.
As the fire in the encampment began to die down, the Longhunter chose his moment. He let loose a haunting cry, a sound that seemed to be torn from the very bowels of the earth. It echoed through the night, chilling the blood of those who heard it, man and animal alike.
The Shawnee warriors leaped to their feet, weapons in hand. They knew the cry of the Wendigo and feared it more than any other creature in the forest. Black Eagle barked orders to his men, sending them out in pairs to investigate the source of that chilling wail. As the warriors ventured into the darkness, Black Eagle remained in the camp, his eyes narrowed and his senses alert. He knew that there was more to this night than the howl of a mythical beast, and he was determined to uncover the truth.
The Longhunter watched from his thicket as the Shawnee cautiously approached the grove. He saw the fear in their eyes as they discovered the symbols carved into the trees, and their whispers filled the night air. As they debated whether to return to camp or continue their search, the Longhunter struck.
He moved with the speed of a striking serpent, his long rifle thundered and one of the warriors fell, his lifeblood staining the ground. Before the others could react, the Longhunter vanished into the shadows, leaving the remaining Shawnee warriors scrambling for cover.
The sounds of gunfire reached Black Eagle's ears, and he knew that his men had fallen into a trap. He dispatched more warriors to join their fallen comrades, but this time, he would not be content to wait in the camp. He snatched up his tomahawk and set off into the darkness, determined to meet whatever danger lurked in the darkness. He was a leader of warriors, and he would face the beast that terrorized his men, even if that beast walked on two legs and fired a rifle.
The Longhunter moved through the forest, knife in one hand, tomahawk in the other, and his keen senses guiding him. His blades whispered in the night, cutting throats and drawing blood. He picked off the renegades one by one, as silent and deadly as the Reaper himself. He could sense Black Eagle's approach and knew that their final confrontation was close at hand.
A flash of lightning split the sky, casting eerie shadows across the forest floor. Thunder rumbled deep and low, shaking the ground beneath the Longhunter's moccasin feet. The wind howled like a tortured beast, filling the night with dread. For only a moment the Longhunter thought that perhaps on the screeching wind he heard the echoing cries of the Wendigo.
Then he emerged into a small clearing and saw Black Eagle waiting there, the air crackling with tension. The storm raged above them, but for a moment, time seemed to stand still. Another flash of lightning illuminated the two warriors, and they stood face to face, the hunter and the hunted, each man knowing that only one would leave the clearing alive.
With roars that dissolved into thunder, the two men charged at each other. Tomahawks whistling through the storm, they clashed in a brutal and deadly dance, each man seeking to land the killing blow.
They fought like titans, their weapons flashing in the storm-tossed darkness. A swipe from Black Eagle's tomahawk tore and bloodied the Longhunter's buckskin. The Shawnee renegade's painted face was streaked with sweat and blood. The storm raged around them, but neither man noticed the rain that soaked their bodies or the wind that tore at their clothes.
As the battle raged on, the Longhunter began to tire. He had been tracking the renegades for days, and the fatigue was finally taking its toll. Black Eagle, sensing his opponent's weakness, pressed his advantage. He struck with the speed of a striking snake, his tomahawk biting deep into the Longhunter's side.
The Longhunter stumbled, the pain threatening to overwhelm him. But as he looked into Black Eagle's wild and fearsome eyes, he found a reserve of strength he did not know he possessed. With a primal scream, he hurled his knife at the renegade warrior. Black Eagle swatted the blade away with his tomahawk, but failed to recover before the Longhunter was upon him. With a single, heavy strike, the Longhunter buried his tomahawk in Black Eagle's sinewy chest. The Shawnee's eyes went wide with shock, his mouth dropping open in a silent gasp.
As Black Eagle fell, the howling wind died down, and the rain slowed to a gentle patter. The Longhunter stood over his fallen foe, the last of the renegade Shawnee, and knew that his mission was complete.
He moved back through the thicket and recovered his rifle, then turned and limped back to the settlements, his wounds a testament to the ferocity of the battle he had fought. The settlers hailed him as a hero, but the Longhunter knew that his work was far from over. There would always be danger lurking in the untamed wilds of the Ohio Valley.
Though the settlers offered him a place among them, the Longhunter knew that he could not stay. His spirit was bound to the wilderness, and his restless heart yearned for the solitude of the frontier. But he slept some and ate a little, giving his wounds time to heal. Then, some days later, with a heavy heart and his long rifle resting on his shoulder, he bade farewell to the settlers and headed into the trees, disappearing into the unforgiving wilds of the Ohio Valley once more.