Jacob stopped. He crouched down behind some brown snow-covered bushes. He watched the small cabin. It was his cabin. Its thatched roof covered the single room that was only big enough for one person; two or three in an emergency but that would require the removal of the bench and makeshift table. Smoke curled from the chimney. He had been away for four days. There should not have been any fire.
Someone was in his cabin; that was the only answer. Under the lean-to, where his horse would protect itself from the elements, there was another horse taking shelter in it. Jacob did not recognize it and he did not see any of the familiar gear of a trapper or fur trader. He crept back to his horse and fetched his rifle. After loading it, he returned to his spot behind a bush.
He watched the cabin with his rifle trained on the small door. Other than the smoke and fading footprints, there was no other sign of anyone inside the cabin. After watching the door for what he thought was an hour, Jacob began to wonder if whoever was still in it. Right before he decided to take a closer look, the door opened.
From inside the cabin, a man dressed furs came out. He was not a big man. The only bulk that he had was his clothing. As Jacob studied him, he thought the man did not carry himself like who lived in the wilderness. He carried a bucket and turned towards the creek. When the man turned his back to Jacob, he decided that it was time to introduce himself.
With his rifle aimed at the man, Jacob shouted, “Is there something you need?”
The man jerked and turned to face Jacob. When he saw Jacob, he dropped the bucket and stood there with his hands where Jacob could see them. Jacob cautiously approached the cabin to get a better look inside of it. If there was someone in there, he would have to be small and actively hiding.
The man shouted back to him in French, “Are you, Jacob Holt?”
Satisfied that nobody was hiding in the cabin, Jacob had a better look at the man, Jacob became convinced that this man was not one of the fur trappers. This man was too clean, too well groomed. For sure, he was dirty and had the beginnings of a beard but people do not get to where Jacob lived without becoming part of nature.
“My name’s Jacob,” he responded in French.
In the last two years since the savages forced him from his settlement and killed everyone there, he had been living the life of a fur trapper and trader. He had to learn enough French to haggle prices and to tell his story to those who would listen. Nobody spoke German out here and English speakers were uncommon.
Jacob continued, “What brings you out here?”
“I’m looking for you. I’m a hunter.”
“You don’t seem to be the hunting type. What is it you hunt?”
“Evil… the kind that kills whole settlements.”
Something in Jacob released, it was like a twisted knot in a rope suddenly coming loose. However, a tightness in his chest replaced the sensation and his mind went blank. As Jacob looked at the man in his eyes, he lowered his rifle.
After proper introductions, Jacob learned the man was Father Jacques LaChapelle from a recently constructed fort built at the point in the river called Terre Haute. The Father explained that several months ago, he visited Vincennes and heard about the fate of Jacob’s settlement through the fur traders. He wanted to learn more and spent the time trying to locate him.
Father Jacques admitted that he was about to give up until he met a fur trader named Louis. Jacob nodded when he heard the name. He traded with Louis often and had him as a guest when the weather became dangerous. The Father said he arrived the day before but nobody was there. He stayed in hopes that Jaboc would return.
By this time, the fire in the cabin warmed Jacob and finished the simple stew. As they sat in the small cabin and eating, Jacob warned him that he might sound crazy and began telling the Father about the dream he had as their prisoner and what happened at the settlement.
When Jacob confessed at what he did to Brandon and the circumstances in which it happened, the Father did not seem too interested but added that he should take penance and that the Lord will have the final say.
In the morning after the dream, the savages gave him some provisions and told him to head south. Like a fool, he disregarded their warning and after a few days, he tried to return to the settlement under the cover of darkness. He intended to talk to Wilheim about Brandon in hopes that Wilheim would help sort out that mess.
Jacob did not get that chance. On that night, the savages had a war party outside the settlement. Wilheim spoke with the savages and tried to convince them to leave the settlement alone. When the elder rejected his offer, shadow people with red glowing eyes walked out of the forest. Some of these shadow people had horns and they reminded Jacob of the mysterious totem he saw in his dream.
Father Jacques agreed that they were the vengeance spirits that the elder mentioned. Jacob sat there staring into the fire. The glowing embers reminded Jacob of their eyes and a chill went down his spine.
He ended the story, “When they attacked, nobody had a chance. There was no place to hide and they tore some of my friends to pieces. Even the children and women who were innocent died. I hid in the forest for a couple days and returned to give everyone a proper burial.”
“How many spirits did you see?” asked Father Jacques.
Jacob shrugged, “twenty… maybe more.”
Father Jacques gasped and stared at Jacob as if he did not believe him. This was a normal reaction whenever Jacob told this story. Accusations of drunkenness or insanity followed the reaction. Jacob braced himself.
Instead, the Father said, “I need to return to Terre Haute.”
Jacob sighed, “I told you that you won’t believe me.”
The Father shook his head, “No… No, I believe you. This is bad. We are going to need help.”
“I don’t think a militia is going to help with these savages.”
“You’re right, we need more than a militia. There’s others like me but they’re in Quebec…”
Jacob did not know of anywhere with that name. If he had to be honest with himself, he did not know much of what was outside the former colonies.
Jacob asked, “Where is that?”
Father Jacques sighed, “It is a long way, in Canada. It will take months to get there.”
The Father added, “We need to leave tomorrow morning.”
A jolt of lightning went through him. Why would he need to go with the Father? As far as he knew, he only needed to go to the fort in Terre Haute and the Father could find his way to Canada from there.
“Yes, you need to come with me.”
“To this place called Quebec… in Canada?”
“We need you. We’ll need you as our guide.”
The Father hesitated and added, “You know too much.”
Jacob’s eyes widened, “I know too much? What do you mean by that?”
Father Jacques pointed a finger at him, “Yes, you know too much. You’ve seen those demons and I believe one tainted you. You need to come with me to save your soul. These savages, as you call them, have made pacts with them. They are using them as an unholy weapon and we need to stop them.”
Jacob was not sure what to say. He looked around his cabin. While it was not much, it was the beginning of a new life and he worked hard for it. On the other hand, he was lonely. Other than the occasional trapper such as Louis, he did not get any company.
The Father continued, “Plus, there is going to be questions asked; questions that only you might be able to answer.”
Traveling with the Father was an attractive proposal and if it would lead to him getting revenge on the savages, even better. Plus, there was that matter with his soul. What did the Father mean by tainted? It has been a couple years and he has not noticed any ill effects.
Could it be that you would not tell if you had a demon-tainted soul? That was a question that the Father could answer because that is what priests do; care for people’s souls.
Unfortunately, it seemed to Jacob there was no choice and his fate laid in Canada.
“I’ll need to pack a few things.”