Tag Archives: The Fox Cycle

The Fox Cycle, Story Ten (End): The Hero

Montreal, 1717

Gerard la Russo rushed up the front steps of the Grand Cathedral, praying with every step his daughter Renard was still alive.

He cursed himself for not keeping a closer eye on the teen.

This, of all days!

Today, young Marlon Wiese was wedding Claudette Dupris in a forced match between the rich merchant’s son and the daughter of an impoverished Seigneur. Marlon’s men had kidnapped the girl, his daughter’s best friend, and held her these past weeks while this travesty of justice had been pushed through by his family. Finally, with the support of the governor, the wedding day had come, and the two houses were to be joined as one.

And now, Rennie, not yet recovered from the beating she’d sustained the night of the kidnapping, had disappeared along with several of his other students.

The armed men who loitered outside the church entrance saw him coming, and made a move to stop him, only to fall back and away under the aging musketeer’s gaze.

They were paid men, but not that well.

Then Gerard reached the door, paused for a brief moment to pray for God’s mercy, and pulled it open to step inside.

He expected chaos, blood- death.

His adopted daughter was perhaps the best fighter he had ever seen, and her talent for the arts of war amazed even him at times. At sixteen, she was as good a swordswoman as he had been at his peak of twenty-five! She kept this talent hidden for the most part, not wanting to outdistance her father in front of their company, but he knew from their sparring was a fearsome talent she could be.

Tabernac! All of New France would know her strength now! It would be here on display!

He could only hope that he was in time to prevent it.

But when he got inside, Gerard came up short.

The organ droned, incense hung leisurely in the air, and the chatter of the small crowd was most peaceful.

At the front of the cathedral, the Bishop of Montreal chatted amiably with The Troll, that disgusting henchman of the Wiese family. Near him, Marlon stood, having his suit checked by his mother, while other men stood about in what they could cobble together for the occasion. Claudette’s father was in the second row with the other landed gentry, looking grave.

There was no sign of Rennie or the others.

Or trouble at all.

Puzzled, Gerard spotted his neighbor Madam Tusseau in one of the pews, and slipped in to sit next to her.


“Ah, Monsieur Russo. Come to watch the happy occasion?”

“Yes…I had thought it would be…quite the show.”

“Oh, I’m sure it will be.” She said, looking a little tired. “If the bride is done her confession.”


“The bride, she asked for confessional so that she could enter into this marriage with a clean record before God. Although, I never would have guessed such a respectful little thing would have so much to confess. She has been in there for some time.”

Gerard nodded sadly. It was likely Claudette was hiding in that wooden cabinet at the front, trying to avoid her fate. But that would only last so long, eventually, she would need to come out.


“Madam,” he commented. “I am most surprised the bishop himself is not taking the confessional.”

“Oh,” she answered. “The bride requested one of the new priests do it. I’m sorry, I don’t know his name.”

“Youngish fellow?” Gerard offered. “A bit swarthy?”

“Yes, that sounds right. Do you know him?”

The former musketeer nodded. “I believe I might. Has anything happened since young Claudette entered that box? Anything which might disturb the sanctity of the church?”

She looked at him, surprised.

“Why yes, how did you know? A young fellow came in shouting just a few minutes ago- said his father was dying and he needed the bishop to give absolution. Of course the bishop said no, but the young man was most determined. He got quite angry, and several of the men with the Wiese family ejected him.”

Hearing this, Gerard wished Madam Tusseau a good day and left the church as quickly as he could.

* * *

Gerard found them at the docks.

Rennie and a small group of his other students were bidding farewell to a smallboat being rowed out to one of the merchantman tallships anchored just off the river’s shore. Aboard the boat, a cloaked figure waved a sad, pale hand of goodbye.

When they saw him, the other students scattered like birds, leaving only his daughter.

“If you planned to join the priesthood, you could have at least warned me.” He said, stepping up next to her.

“I was afraid you may have stopped me.” Rennie answered, her eyes never leaving the smallboat.

“Stop you? No.” Gerard shook his head. “Although I must say, I am impressed you got the bishop to go along with it.”

She smiled, faintly. “He visits Michelle’s mother twice a week, to discuss the ways of sin.”

“Ah. And here I was worried that you’d put your sword before your head.”

“Sounds like a good way to get something cut off.” Rennie commented, using one of Gerard’s own truisms.

The old soldier looked at her, suddenly unable to believe that the woman standing next to him was his own adopted daughter. Had the years passed so quickly? Had she really matured so?

“She’s going to stay with relatives in France. Her father arranged it.” Rennie said with resignation. “I shan’t see her again.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I do.”

The silence hung there for a time between them as a small cloaked figure climbed aboard the distant ship, and waved goodbye.

Rennie waved back, and then, finally, turned and started to walk away.

“Where are you going?” Gerard asked, marching after her.

“To prepare. Marlon will want revenge.”

“But, how is he to know you were responsible?”

Rennie paused to give him a wide toothy grin. “I left a note in the confessional.”

Gerard la Russo looked at his daughter in shock, and then started to laugh.

He laughed deep. He laughed long. He laughed hard.

Then, when he was done laughing, a sharp, cruel glint appeared in his eyes.

“That’s my girl.”



Rennie and Gerard, 1717

This marks the end of the Fox Cycle, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. If you want to know more about where the name comes from and what inspired this series of stories then check my blog for more details.



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The Fox Cycle, Story Nine: The Troll

Near Montreal, 1717

They called him Le Troll, a hulking, blustering ox of a man.

Renard had only seconds before he hit her- hard.

Twisting out of the way, she threw a handful of ash from the manor house fireplace into his face, blinding him.

“Run!” She screamed at Claudette, who was caught like a deer in the firelight.

Then, before Rennie could get away, a hand the size of bull’s head clamped onto her arm and she was slammed into the sitting room’s stone walls.

There was a cracking sound, and she felt something come apart in her right shoulder, but she forced herself to move.

The Troll was clawing at his eyes, trying to get the stinging ash out with his over-sized fingers, and she rolled on her left through his legs and made for the door, grabbing Claudette by the arm as she passed.

“What is this?” The stunned aristocrat gasped as they rushed down the hallway, still trying to make sense of the situation.

Rennie didn’t have to think hard to guess.

The Troll worked for the Wiese family, and Claudette had just spurned a marriage proposal from Marlon Wiese, the spoiled son of the grand seigneur of Montreal. Claudette was the teenaged daughter of one of New France’s aristocrats, and despite their current status as the owner of one of the poorest seigneuries, to marry her meant entry into the nobility here and in France. Rennie had thought that he had taken the refusal well and had let herself hope against hope that there wouldn’t be trouble.

Still, to be cautious Rennie had stayed with her closest friend the night of the festival to celebrate work beginning on the new city walls, when Claudette’s father and the rest of the household staff had gone into town. Claudette had feared encountering Marlon during the festivities, and had chosen to remain behind to avoid a scandalous scene. The plan had been for a nice quiet evening drinking cider and playing Lanterloo, a card game both excelled at but which Claudette’s father had forbidden her to play.

But Rennie hadn’t counted on Marlon’s determination.

There was little doubt his plan was to simply take Claudette, and then claim she had willingly come to him. In New France, the legal remedies for those without power were limited, and Claudette’s own Dupris family had little influence these days. With Claudette in hand, it was all too likely for him to succeed.

So he had sent The Troll to get her.

The monster had crept upon the girls while they played by the fire in the sitting room, and almost caught them completely unawares were it not for Rennie’s keen hearing.

Now they had escaped him, but for how long?

He had come in alone, but that didn’t mean he was alone. She had to assume there were others prowling around the grounds, hunting for them.

Her good arm was already giving jolts of pain, and going stiff from the impact.

There would be no help from any outside, everyone was at the festival, even the wives of the tenant farmers.

And, while she could vanish easily enough into the night-time forest, Claudette was hardly a runner at the best of the times.

Given these options, Rennie banged out the best plan she could.

“Audey, listen to me.” Rennie said as they ducked into the kitchen. “You’ve got to get a horse, it’s our best chance.”

“But…But the stables? There may be others.” Said her wide-eyed friend, starting to show signs that her wits had returned.

“I’m expecting it,” Rennie agreed, helping herself to a couple of the larger kitchen knives. “I’m going to distract them while you get a horse. Then, while you ride for safety, I will lose them in the forest.” Then she paused when she saw the look of worry on her friend’s face. “Is there a day when a clod like that can catch me in the forest? I’ll be fine.”

A bit more convincing was necessary, but in the end Claudette agreed and the two moved to the servant’s entrance.

There, they could see the stables, but before they could act they heard a great thunder of a voice yelling.

“Escaped! The girls have escaped me!”

Soon the Troll ran into view, and from the shadows around the yard several other men emerged to join him in the bright moonlight.

“Search everywhere!” He screamed. “It’s your hides if they run off!”

“Now’s my chance.” Rennie whispered. “Take your horse and ride for my father’s farm.”

Claudette squeezed her arm, and gave her a deeply concerned look.

“Don’t worry so, Audey.” Rennie said as she kissed her friend’s forehead, then she was off.

Rennie dashed back through the house to avoid giving away their position, and then leapt through one of the side windows to get outside. Once out in the courtyard, she made a point of running through one of the brightly lit open areas, making sure her feet crunched into the gravel as loudly as possible.

Alors!” Cried the men. “There they are!”

In a flash, Rennie was running hard, with the sound of many footsteps behind her.

She ran through the front gate of an estate she knew like her own garden, and then dashed straight for a nearby woodlot. Her intent was to get them into the marshy bog which lay within the patch of forest, but which she could easily avoid, and then double back through the ravine beyond to make sure Claudette escaped safely.

However, just as she hit the edge of the woods, a woman’s scream ran out through the night, making Rennie’s blood run cold.


Rennie’s body had already begun to spin before her mind could react, and she came to a halt at the wood’s edge.

The men were almost upon her, forming a wall between her and the manor house.

Another scream rang out- she was sure she heard her name.

And Rennie, one arm useless, facing five men twice her size, made a decision.

She drew one of the kitchen knives with her off hand…

And attacked.


Le Troll1

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The Fox Cycle, Story Eight: Rennie’s Wedding

Story 8- Rennie’s Wedding

Montreal, 1715

“It is the duty of all young women to marry and produce children for the good of New France!”

These words, spoken with authority by the Father Tremblay, echoed in the ears of Gerard la Russo as he marched along home after his audience with his parish priest.  And they were the truth-were they not? Although he had raised his adopted daughter Renard more like a boy, and the thought of parting with the child tore at his soul, he had to face the truth- Rennie was a girl, and at 15, one of marriageable age!

Past marriageable age- the priest had pointed out the average age for a girl to marry in New France was twelve! Twelve!

He had been lax in his duties as a father.

Did Rennie not deserve happiness? Did she not deserve a man to love her, and a bundle of joy hiding beneath her skirts?

That last thought brought a smile to Gerard’s face- not the idea of Rennie with kids, but that of her wearing a skirt! The child had never taken especially well to the womanly ways.

But again, perhaps that was her upbringing. Growing up first with the old Musketeer, and then after he’d opened Ville-Marie’s first L’école D’armes with Richmond de Villefort and his other comrades, she had always been in the company of rough, fighting men.  When had she had the chance to spend time with other women?

Well, there was Seigneur Dupris’s daughter- the two were thick as thieves.

But, had not the Seigneur come to his home more than once to complain that Rennie was a corrupting influence? It did seem as though Rennie had been a force upon Claudette much more than young Claudette had been upon Rennie.

He had never considered that a bad thing, however, as young Claudette had been well on her way to being a spoiled little princess before she’d met Rennie. After they’d become close, Rennie had brought the girl down to earth, and given her a sense of perspective- something that her powder-faced father had never managed.

So the girl did have her good qualities- he mused.

Perhaps, she could have a similar effect on one of the young men her own age?

He and his partners taught a number of them- many of the local families sent their sons to him to learn the fighting ways. Perhaps young Peter? Or Wenceslas? Both were farmer’s sons of good character, and their fathers were strong men who Gerard respected- not boot-licking peasants who spent most of their days polishing their Seigneur’s brass.

Or was he thinking too low?

Should his daughter not have the best match possible? Was he himself not of noble, if somewhat diluted, blood?

So, perhaps Jean-François then? He was the son of Seigneur Lapointe, and while yes he did have the reflexes of a dying cat (and the physicality of one), he wasn’t all that bad of character. He was well read, and generally seemed of good humour. His father was among the wealthier Seigneurs in Ville-Marie, or as they had started to call it recently- Montreal.

Perhaps he could make Rennie the boy’s tutor, and in the time the two spent together affection would blossom? She was such a stubborn girl that forcing the issue wasn’t likely to go well, so this seemed the wisest of choices.

Yes! He decided as he came up the path to the front gate of his farm, he would do it!

So with determination, and a little excitement, he marched around the house and into the training area, where in the late morning sun he could hear the clanging of blades and the hearty shouts of spectators.

And stopped dead.

For what he saw was a training ground littered with the fallen, moaning bodies of half a dozen young men, and in the middle, her bronzed muscled skin slick with sweat and her eyes glowing with fire, stood the young woman who had put them there.

“Come on! You call that a fight?!?” She yelled at them. “Mon Dieu! If your ancestors could see you now, they’d be pissing themselves that their loins had produced such a bunch of children! Can not one of you defeat even a little girl? Should I send someone to the nunnery to find someone you can beat in a fight? Get up!”

Then, noticing her father had returned, Rennie thrust her practice sword into the hands of one of the assistants and rushed over to him, her harsh demeanor completely changing.

“Papa!” She said, greeting him with a toothy smile. “How was your meeting with the Father? What did he say?”

And Gerard, looking between the practice ground and the girl in front of him, shook his head.

“He worried that I hadn’t come to confession recently. Nothing more.”

Perhaps, he decided, God would be a better matchmaker than he.


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The Fox Cycle, Story Seven- Home

Home Picture

The Fox Cycle, Story Seven- Home

Near the Ohio River, August 1714

Gerard la Russo and his adopted daughter stood on the crest of the hill looking down on the little native village.

It was such a small place for so a long journey, he reflected. It was a late-summer afternoon, and only a few people were visible in the clearing, with most having found shelter from the heat inside the tents or elsewhere. Still, it was the place they had sought, and it marked the end of their quest.

After a short time of standing there, Gerard gave a mental sigh and decided there was no helping it.

“Well Rennie,” he said with a gentle touch on her shoulder. “Let’s go meet your family.”

Beside him, the thirteen year old girl hesitated, and then he saw her face scrunch up in that expression she made when she was making a decision.

“Non,” she finally said, and turned to start walking back the way they’d come.

Gerard stared at her, dumbfounded. “What? Where are you going? These are your people. The ones you have wanted to know for so long.”

But Rennie, stopping to make a long glance back in the village’s direction, shook her head.

“Father, when I came to you and told you I wanted to know who I really was, you told me that we would find out together.  Knowing nothing but the name of my native father and his tribe, you talked to the native labourers on the seigneuries and learned that my family was from the Owl Clan of the Fox Tribe, and that they lived beneath the great inland lakes to the west.

“For many, that would have been enough, but instead of giving up, you prepared yourself and I for the journey to find the tribe. We had to learn how to survive on the land, and speak with the natives, and it was hard, but you did it- for me. Even though you knew that we would lose each other at the end.

“Once we had found Coureur des Bois who would guide us, you went into debt to Uncle Armand to pay them and you traded away most of the livestock to buy supplies. I should have stopped you then, but in my heart I still wanted nothing more than to see my people, and know where it was I belonged.

“The journey here was a hard one, and we fought for our lives for and against the natives and their strange family relations. If it were not for Ahanu and his Mississauga people, and his deep friendship with you, we would have undoubtedly perished. It was he who helped me rescue you from the Seneca when they captured you to ransom you to the English. It was he who treated me like a daughter, and taught me what it was to be one of The People.  I thank him for that.

“With our own guides gone, he gave us his own sons Mundoo and Askook to help us on our journey, and with their help we have made our way through the hostile lands of the Fox Tribe and found the Owl Clan. They too have risked much, and I can never repay them. “

She looked up at him, her eyes almost filled with tears.

“Father, I wanted to know where I came from. I wanted to know where I belonged, and why I was never treated as an equal by the people of Ville-Marie. I have grown up with the love of you, and my friends and my uncles, but I have always felt a part of me was missing. When that cursed farmer tried to turn me into a slave two years ago, I was scared that without you to take care of me, someone else would do the same thing. I wondered where I belonged, and I prayed to Mary each night to let me know my way.”

Gerard looked at the young girl he’d raised, now suddenly so much like a woman.

“Mon dieu, Rennie. She has!” He declared. “The people below are your family. Do you not want to know them?”

But Renard la Russo just shook her head. “My family isn’t the colour of my skin, or the colour of my hair. It isn’t the language I speak. It isn’t the clothes I wear. It is the people who love me, and raised me to be the one I am. God made me of the blood of those people below, but you made me who I am- father.”

Now both of them were crying, and embraced in a hug.

“Father, let’s go home.”

And they did.

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The Fox Cycle, Story Six- Identity

The Fox Cycle, Story Six- Identity

Near Ville-Marie, New France, 1712

When Renard la Russo awoke, the native women began to talk to her, but she could only stare at them as she waited for the room to stop spinning. When it eventually did, she found herself in what seemed to be a cramped, dimly-lit storeroom with straw strewn on the floor.

“Where is this?” She asked the native women in French, rubbing the back of her head.

The last thing she remembered was pounding on the door of the farmhouse, and then pain and blackness.

The native women, there were six, looked at each other when she spoke. Then one a few years older than Renard’s twelve years drew closer and asked “You no speak…” And rhymed off a string of syllables Ren couldn’t hope to follow.

“No, I speak French.” Ren answered, guessing the question. “Please speak to me in French. Where am I?”

“This is farm of Master Durand. I am Onida.”

“I’m Ren.” She told the girl, then started to get up but the dizziness returned so she held her head and stayed put.

“You shouldn’t make master angry.” Onida commented. “Or he will beat you again.”

“He’s not my master,” Ren snapped. “I’m no slave.”

This caused some surprise among the women, and then Ren noticed for the first time in the poor light that the women’s ankles were shackled with chains between their legs.  Suddenly, she felt a little embarrassed at her choice of words.

“I mean…I…” Ren stammered. “I’m not a servant.”

“But, you are of The People?”

It was a phrase Ren knew from dealing with the natives on some of the Seigneuries and in town- “The People” was how the natives referred to themselves as a group. She often wondered what that meant the Europeans were, if they were not people.

“No,” Ren corrected as she usually did when natives approached her because of her appearance. “I’m French. I’m not a savage.”

Onida suddenly laughed at that, and then told the other women something Ren couldn’t understand, and they laughed too.

“The master hit you so hard, you crazy.” Said Onida, grinning at her with white teeth. “You don’t know who you are, little girl. But you learn soon.”

*                             *


Ren was able to stand again by the time Farmer Durand came to check on her, although she had a large headache. The big, fat man had bushy black hair that seemed to explode from everywhere on his head except his bloodshot eyes. He towered over her while the slaves stood against the wall- looking at their feet.

“Monsieur Durand, there has been a mistake.” Ren told him in her best French.

“Yeah?” He said, eyeing her suspiciously.

“I am not a slave, I am a French girl.”

“Well, you’re somebody’s girl. I can hear that. Why’d you come to my house?”

Ren smiled, glad he was willing to listen.

“Sir, a force of natives is coming in this direction. I was sent you warn you that you need to take your family and escape now before they come.”

“Leave my farm?” He grinned. “Nope. Don’t think I will.”

“Sir, you are in danger.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. The garrison’s always stopped ‘em before.”

“But…” Then she nodded. “As you wish then, sir. Please let me leave.”

“Nope. Don’t think I will.”

“But, sir!” Ren said, horrified.

“Don’t matter what you speak, you’re still a savage. Harvest is coming. I need all the hands I can get.” Then he looked over at the other slaves. “You lot, chain her up.”

Then suddenly hands were grabbing Ren, and as she fought a voice whispered in her ear- “Who you now, French girl?”

*                             *


Ren lay on her bed of straw, listening to Onida and the other women snore in the hot stinking blackness. She hated them. She hated the farmer. She hated the cold noisy chains around her ankles. She hated the smell of the mouldy straw. She wanted it all to burn in hell.

Mother Mary forgive her- she wanted it so bad, she could almost smell it.

She breathed deeply.

In fact, she could smell it!

Opening her eyes, Ren looked up and saw the orange light dancing across the ceiling of the sleeping room from the single barred window that begrudged them fresh air.

“Fire!” Yelled Ren, jumping to her feet, and almost immediately tripping over the unexpected weight of her shackles.

Ren pulled herself up and rushed to the barred window. Peering out from the outhouse that served as the slave quarters and onto the farmstead itself, she could see the main house burning, and the black shapes of men and horses running against the light.

Then she was jostled aside by the other, larger women, but it didn’t matter- she knew who had come. Diving into the straw pile that had served as her bed, she buried herself as quickly and deeply as she could, hiding beneath the straw. She knew the natives often took women as slaves, and she didn’t intend to trade one master for another.

She held her breath as the door was ripped open, and the warriors rushed into the room. The air was filled with the screams and cries of Onida and the others, and then the sound of men laughing and orders being barked.

For a moment, she thought they’d search the straw and find her.

But then the warriors took the women and left.

She was alone.

*                            *


Ren stayed beneath the straw until morning, afraid to leave her hiding place in case the natives still lurked. With the coming of the sun, and the sound of the morning birds, she clinked out into the morning light and peered around.

The farmhouse was a smouldering ruin, as were the other farm buildings. A slaughtered pig was all that remained of the livestock, and the yard was a wash of mud and ash. There was no sign of the farmer, or his family.

If this was how the natives acted, she decided she was glad to be French. But, as she walked past the smoking house, she considered- it was the Frenchman who put her in chains, not the natives. The natives naturally accepted her because of her skin, but the Frenchman condemned her for the same reason.

Who was she really? Where did she belong?

She resolved to find out.


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The Fox Cycle, Story Five- The Beating

The Fox Cycle, Story Five- The Beating

New France, Ville-Marie, 1711

The three men were reluctant to beat a nine year old girl, but they had their orders.

As their young master, Marlon Wiese, watched, two of them went for her arms, holding her in place so the third could do the actual dirty work.

They had no trouble getting a hold of her as they had her trapped in the alleyway, and she offered no real resistance. Not even a yell for help or a scream escaped her lips- only a look of defiance that one didn’t expect from a child. But this one was a native, after all, so what could one expect? Normal rules didn’t apply.

As the leader of the three looked down at her, he wondered why she’d done this. Why she’d put herself into this situation. The girl had literally attacked his master, throwing clumps of horse dung at the young aristocrat as he’d passed through town. Did she bear him a grudge? Or was she another child of the poor showing contempt for her betters and acting out?

No matter, he had a job to do.

“Grit your teeth, kid.” Whispered the lead servant to the girl he loomed over. “It’ll make it easier.”

His attempt at kindness was greeted with only a fierce glare from the girl and a berating from his young master to hurry it up.

So, he shrugged his shoulders and hit her.

He went lightly at first, slapping her open-handedly.

But this was not enough for the young master.

“Hit her harder. Use your fist.”

And so he did. Five times.

Still, she only glared at them from behind her bloody face.

“Whip her, I want to hear her beg.”

The servant hesitated. “Young Master, the child may not speak French.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Marlon said with a toothy grin. “Begging is begging in any language. I’ve heard father’s native slaves beg as Big Harrod puts them to the lash. I’ll tell you when to stop.”

“Young master, we don’t know who she belongs to.” The lead servant protested. “If we kill her there could be trouble.”

“What trouble could there be? She soiled my clothes and my honour. Is there a punishment she does not deserve?” Then, seeing his man still hesitate, the young Aristo growled. “Do it!”

“Oui.” Nodded the servant. He started to pull off his belt, and gestured for the others to turn the child around.

He hoped under the taste of the belt that the child would cry soon, for he had no desire to see how far this might go.

“Start with twenty,” said Marlon excitedly, walking around to see her face as the whipping began.

The child, barely younger than Marlon himself, only grunted with each lash.

“Do you know your place yet, girl?” Marlon yanked her head up by the hair, watching her expression as the final lash of the set came.

Fierce eyes looked back at him, and then she spit in his face.

As blood and spittle ran down his cheek, Marlon’s expression changed from playful to hard.

“Give her forty more.”

“But, Young Master!”

“Forty. I will see this little whore cry if it takes all day. By my count!”

The men hesitated, the lead servant hesitated.


The belt struck.



“THREE! Harder!”




The girl’s thin shirt was bloody after ten.

She passed out after twenty-six.

“Find some water. Wake her.” Ordered Marlon.

“Sir, it’s already past mid-day. We are already late. Can this not be enough punishment?”

Marlon paused, looking up at the sky above them. Considering.

Then he turned and punched the unconscious girl in the face- hard. The alley was filled with the sound of breaking bone.

“My honour is satisfied.” He declared as he wiped the blood from his fist with a lace handkerchief. “Let’s go.”

At a gesture from their leader, the servants dropped the child’s broken form in the mud and filth, and turned to follow their master. Only the lead servant paused a moment, making the sign of the cross and whispering a silent prayer for the girl.

Then he too left her to die.

*                             *                             *

Renard woke up three days later in her own bed.

There was not a part of her that didn’t hurt, and one of her eyes was still swollen shut.

“Father…” She rasped, looking up at the man who sat next to the bed, whittling.

“I see you are awake, foolish girl.” Gerard la Russo commented, laying down his knife and the half-carved block of wood. “God’s grace! It was a near thing. The doctors even wanted to bleed you, but I told them you had already bled enough for three.”

“K-Katha…Katha…” She began, unable to get the words out past her swollen tongue.

“Katharine Moreau? Your friend? Yes, her father is still alive.” He sighed. “You must be very proud of yourself. Young Marlon didn’t arrive in time to testify at the trial, so the judge used it as an excuse to let Monsieur Moreau free with only a fine. Foolish man, I hope he learns not to poach from Wiese family stock again, no matter how hungry his family may be.” Then he stood up and walked over to open the curtains and let the sunlight and fresh air in. “Still, he didn’t deserve the death sentence they were demanding, so there is something to be said for your loyalty, if not your senses.”

“Sorry.” She said, but inside she couldn’t help feeling relief, even jubilation.

“When you are better, your chores are doubled. You’re also not to leave the farm until the end of the season- I expect young master Wiese will remember the girl who delayed him and there will be trouble again because of it. When he comes looking, your Uncles and I will handle it- not you. Am I clear?”


“My brave girl, what am I going to do with you?” He said in a softened tone, kissing her on the forehead. “Wear your scars well, you’ve earned them.”


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The Fox Cycle, Story Four- The Bodyguard

Rennie and Claudette Durpris- 1710

The Fox Cycle- Story 4- The Bodyguard

Ville Marie, New France, 1710.

As his charge gulped the now-cold stew he’d left for her, Gerard la Russo leaned back into his chair and asked the girl where she’d been.

“I was working, Father.”

“Working?” Gerard raised an eyebrow at that, and studied the eight-year old as he took a long draw from his pipe and leaned back into his chair.

“Oui,” she agreed with great earnestness. “Just as you and my other uncles do- I was working as a bodyguard.”

Gerard suppressed a smile- “And who were you guarding, little Renard?”

“Claudette Dupris.”

“The Seigneur’s daughter?”


“And why does young Claudette need a bodyguard?”

The girl paused her eating and gave him a stupid look. “Why, to protect her against the natives, of course!”

Gerard nodded, there had been several native raids in nearby communities recently, and likely the large Dupris estate was filled nightly with horrifically exaggerated tales of these events. With this in mind, it made sense for Claudette’s imagination to run wild and for her to believe that their land was in imminent danger. However, he couldn’t help but wonder at the irony of her picking Rennie, a girl of native blood, to prepare her farm against this phantom native menace.

“She came here this morning. When you were out with Uncle Richmond,” Rennie explained. “She said she wanted someone to help organize the farmers so it would be safe if the natives came.”

“So you offered her your services?”

“Oui. I am your daughter and you have trained me- they are just farmers.” She said with supreme self-assurance.

“Rennie,” her father said with a frown. “I have taught you a few fundamentals- you should not mistake them for skill at fighting.”

“Oh, I know father. But, I told you they were just farmers. I was sure I could prepare them for when you or my uncles came later.”

“I see. So what happened?”

“I had her take me to her father’s estate, and told her that I would need them bring all the farming men to the estate mill so I could train them.”

“And did they?”

“Oh yes! Claudette went to her father and asked him, and he told his servants to gather them together at noon and to beat them if they didn’t want to come.”

Although this tale was starting to sound outlandish, Gerard was inclined to believe it so far. Seigneur Dupris was a man who was known to dote on his spoiled daughter’s every whim, to the point of having her clothes shipped in from France. If these mere trifles kept her happy, he would certainly indulge them.

“How many were there?”

“Twenty-two,” Rennie answered promptly. “I counted to make sure that none ran away to sleep in training like Uncle Armand.”

“Uncle Armand sneaks off during training?”

“Uh-huh, he gives me an apple to let him know if you come back early.”

Gerard made a note to have a word with Armand.

“So, what did you do with this small army?”

“I told them who I was, and that they had to listen to everything I said. A couple didn’t want to do it, but then the Seigneur said they had to listen to me, so they shut their mouths.”

“Very good.”

“After that, I told them to run around the house three times to get ready, and asked the Seigneur for swords to practice with.”

“Really? And what did he say?”

Rennie suddenly looked angry. “Father, that man is stupid. He said that they should go find sticks instead. That this was just practice. Claudette and I tried to tell him that they needed to use real swords to get ready, but he still said no.”

“Rennie,” Gerard tried to calm his daughter. “You and I practice with sticks, don’t we? Do I not say it is the skill, not the weapon, that matters?”

“I guess so.” Said the girl, downcast.

“So, you had them gather sticks to practice with,” he said, trying to refocus her. “What did you do after?”

“I made them all line up and showed them how to hold their swords properly. I had to help a few of them because they’re just farmers. Then, I made them get in pairs and start practicing.”

“Practicing in what way?”

“Well, I told the half of them to hit their friend ten times, while their friend protects themselves. I was going to have them do that, then switch like you do, but then one of them broke his stick over the other man’s head, and the two of them started to fight for real. They kept hitting each other until the Seigneur made them stop and sent them home.”

“Was that the end of the training?”

“Oh no, father! We still had much to do. After that, I told them we needed to practice an attack on the manor house, ‘cause that’s where the natives would go first. So I said that the farmers would attack the house with the sticks, and the servants would have to defend it, since it’s their job.”

“Did the farmers want to do this?”

“Oh yes, they were really happy about the idea. But, I don’t think the servants liked it much because they complained to the Seigneur.”

Gerard couldn’t suppress his grin at the thought of Seigneur Dupris’ downtrodden peasant farmers being asked to assault the arrogant house servants with sticks.

“And what did the Seigneur think?”

“Oh, he didn’t want to do it ‘cause he said something might get broken, but Claudette cried and he said ‘okay’. She’s really good at crying.”

“I’ll wager she is. So, what occurred?”

“I had the servants go into the house to get ready, and then after I thought they’d had enough time, I told the farmers to act like real natives and try and get inside. A bunch of them jumped in the windows, and a few of them broke down one of the doors on the side. There was lots of yelling and cursing, and Claudette’s father fainted, but there was no-one there to take care of him, so we just put him under a tree.”

She said the last part so casually that even Gerard could do nothing but look at his young charge in astonishment. “You placed the Seigneur under a tree?”

“It was shadier there.”

“Of course.”

“Then I got hungry, and decided to come home.” She yawned sleepily. “I told Claudette that I’d come back tomorrow.”


“Of course, Father. I have to teach them how to shoot arrows, don’t I?”


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The Fox Cycle- Story 3: The Elders of Ville-Marie

The Race 1702

The Fox Cycle- Story Three- The Elders of Ville-Marie

What do we do? What do we do?

Words and hands were rung throughout the Hall of Elders of Ville-Marie, but still none had an answer.

The question was simple enough- What do we do about de Villefort and his gang?

But the answer was something that eluded these “most wise” men of the city.

They could…but no…

Why not…but no…

Mother of god, what could they do?

Then all the nervous voices fell silent as the great elder -Jacques LeGrande- was led into the chambers.

His gnarled walking stick waved their attempts at pleasantries away, and he swept them with his cyclopean eye.

He had been told of their problem, and he had come with an answer.

After he felt he had waited enough to gain sufficient respect, he told them what it was.

* * *

When the three chosen men came to the farm of Gerard la Russo, they were greeted (to their silent relief) not by the unpredictable, wild-haired owner, but by the girl he referred to as his niece. An ebony-haired child of but four, her dark eyes looked at them warily as she stood on the front stoop of the house, a vinegar soaked rag in one hand and the bowl she’d been using it to clean with in the other.

“Where is your Uncle?” Asked the leader of the chosen men.

Instead of speaking, the child merely pointed at the nearby field- tall with late-summer corn.

They thanked her respectfully and left, repeating the various whispered gossips of the native girl’s origins and how she came to be with La Russo. Some said she was his slave, others said his secret daughter, while still others said she was an orphan whose parents he had killed in a duel. Whatever the truth, they pitied the child.

The uncle they found wrestling with a tree he was attempting to uproot- covered in dirt and sweat, his leathery skin almost as tanned as the girl’s and his chestnut hair and whiskers extending in all directions. Word was that before he came to New France, this man had been a Captain of the Musketeers, but now he was seen as a poor excuse for a farmer at best, and a notoriously temper-mental drunk at worst. A savage made more so by the land and his demons.

Just the man they needed.

La Russo, for his part, did his best to pat down his hair and wiped his hand on his pants before offering it.

“How may I help you today, respected elders?” He asked them, looking somewhat bewildered.

“Farmer Gerard,” said the eldest. “Are you not aware that every man in this community must do his service to the state?”

La Russo replied he was.

“And, have you done so since you took up residence here in our beautiful land?”

La Russo hesitated, and then admitted that he had meant to but hadn’t gotten around to offering.

“There is a fine for not doing so.” Said the leader, sternly.

“A large fine.” Added the second.

“Very large,” agreed the third.

Gerard took on the look of a drowning man.

So they threw him a rope.

“But we will waive it, brother,” said the leader in a not unkindly way. “If you are able to do us one small service…”

* * *

As the three old men walked down the road which led back into Ville-Marie, they moved like men who had just escaped a trap and were now enjoying the vigor which comes with knowing that their lives were again their own.

And in a very real sense they were.

The problem which had vexed the elders had been a simple one- there was a young gentleman named Richmond de Villefort who was the son of one of New France’s wealthiest merchants, but who was also a noted bully and scoundrel. He had come to Ville-Marie not a year before, and was causing no end of trouble with his licentious ways, having even assembled a group of toughs around him. They could arrest him, but doing so would incur the wrath of his father, whose ships brought in much of the supplies the city needed and would undoubtedly lead to a disaster. To make matters worse, the son had harassed some members of the household of the Intendant, and so the head of New France himself had written to the Governor of Ville-Marie and demanded something be done about the boy.

It was this that they had been deliberating the night before when the honorable LeGrande had come to them with an answer.

They would make the temperamental drunk La Russo a temporary agent of the government, and send him off with orders to remove the de Villefort boy from the city. Given the tempers of the two men, they would undoubtedly come to blows, and one or the other would be injured or (hopefully) killed. If it was de Villefort who took the worst of it, they would ship either him or his body back to France and blame the overzealous La Russo for the crime. The father would likely demand La Russo in exchange for peace, who they would happily give him, and be rid of a troublesome drunk.

If it was La Russo who died who was injured (a capital crime), they would arrest de Villefort for harming an officer of the state and ship the son off to the Intendant to deal with. Thus also sparing themselves the blame and again ridding themselves of two nuisances with a single blow.

Now all that was required was to return home, and wait.

* * *

Early the next morning, the Elders of Ville-Marie gathered at the central hall, each of them eager to know the results.

Word had already spread of a confrontation the night before between La Russo and de Villefort.

Some said Gerard had gone to arrest the boy at a local bar and been killed.

Nonsense, said others, it was de Villefort and members of his gang who had died.

Finally, the chief elder appeared and they demanded the truth of the matter.

Had there been a confrontation?

There had, admitted the chief elder.

Had weapons been drawn? Blows exchanged?

Most definitely. It was a terrible battle.

So then, who had won?

At this, the chief elder raised his hands to the sky, and cried.

* * *

On the farmstead of Gerard la Russo, little Rennie stood on a stump and stirred the breakfast pot while behind her the group of young men at her uncle’s table laughed and exchanged drinks.

“To our new teacher!” Toasted Richmond de Villefort with a broad smile and a black eye.

Returning the toast, Gerard la Russo nodded in approval. He had been thinking of taking on students for some time- it had been getting lonely on the farm with no-one but young Rennie to practice combat with. When the elders had asked him to remove the young toughs from the city, he had taken it as a chance to show off his skills and perhaps advertise. However, once he realized that all of these young men were from good (and wealthy) families, and not of a bad sort at heart, he’d decided to make them his own.

One staged fight later to prove his mettle, and they had been the ones to come to him.

The elders had asked him to remove the youths from the city, and he had.

He would be sure and drop by the hall later to thank the old men for their kindness.


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The Fox Cycle, Story Two- The Eyes of a Warrior

The Eyes of a Warrior

When the Indian came to challenge Gerard La Russo, the Frenchman cursed and told him to leave. He had just gotten to his second bottle of wine for the day, and it wasn’t even noon yet. Too early for such nonsense.

Still, the Indian refused to move.

He was a tall sort- muscular, with skin the color of summer earth and eyes sharp and dark like coals. His head was shaved on either side, and what hair remained died the crimson red of the Fox tribe. He carried a short spear.

A warrior. A fighter.

“S’en aller!” Gerard told him. Get Lost.

The Indian paid him no mind. “We fight,” he said again in poor French.

He pointed the spear with its hide wrapped tip at Gerard.

The Frenchman slammed the front door to his cottage and returned to drinking.

* * *

When Gerard went to town that night, he asked around.

He learned that the Indian had come to Ville Marie a few days before with his wife and baby. He had challenged a few of the locals who fancied themselves fencers to fight, and when Luc’s boy Marcel had accepted the challenge, the Indian had whipped him soundly.

That alone put the Indian up a few notches in Gerard’s opinion- Marcel was a braggart and a bully.

French pride had made a few others accept the challenge, but none had been able to best the Indian and his short spear style of fighting.

At last, they had sent him to the former musketeer.


Still, Gerard considered, it had been a long time since he’d had a good match…

* * *

At dawn, the Indian came again.

This time, Gerard was waiting. Rapier hanging at his side.

He wasn’t much good with a spear, but a short spear like the Indian used was closer to a sword anyway. It would be a fair fight.

They didn’t talk, they didn’t need to. Both understood.

They started when the dew was on the grass.

They finished when the sun had risen high and it was too hot to continue.

Gerard was the victor.

“Abooksigun,” said the Indian, touching his sweaty chest.

“Gerard.” Said the Frenchman, doing the same.

Then Abooksigun left, and a thirsty Gerard wondering how much wine he had left.

* * *

The next day, Abooksigun came again.

After five minutes of fighting, Gerard stopped the duel.

What was that movement the Indian had just done- with his short spear? The Frenchmen wanted to know.

Abooksigun first showed, then taught him.

When this was understood, the battle resumed.

Shortly after, Abooksigun stopped the fight.

Would it not be better if he did- this? The Indian pantomimed.

Gerard had not considered that before, so they went through the movements until both were satisfied.

In this way, the two spent the day, fighting in fits and spurts.

They toasted Abooksigun’s victory with wine, and Gerard cursed his poor condition.

But, in his heart, he felt alive again.

* * *

On the third and fourth day, it was the same.

Each won and lost equally, and the time ended in a draw.

* * *

On the fifth day, Abooksigun didn’t come.

It rained.

* * *

On the sixth day, Abooksigun didn’t come.

The sun shone, and the wine sat untouched- waiting.

* * *

On the seventh day, Gerard inquired in the city as to where the Indian was staying. The man at the general store told him a field just to the North of town. He’d sold the Indians some blankets a few days before, but hadn’t seen them since.

Gerard bought some wine and food, thanked him, and went on his way.

* * *

The Indian camp held the stench of death.

Angry blackflies buzzed around the tent’s open flap as Gerard approached and looked inside.

The Frenchman vomited. Twice.

When his stomach was empty, he took down the tent rather than enter it. Abooksigun and his wife lay dead on the blankets- she wrapped in his cordlike arms. The fever had taken them, the summer heat and bugs had done the rest.

He stared at them for a time, not sure what to do or feel. He would need to bury them. He would get the priest and bury them. The man. The wife. The…


Where was the child?

The people in town had spoken of a child!

Pacing around the camp, La Russo began his search.

Had the child died first and been buried?

No. There was no grave and that was not the native custom.

It was not between them. Where was it?

He searched first the camp, then the field around.

At last, he found it.

Tears poured hot down La Russo’s cheeks.

* * *

Sitting in his cottage, Gerard La Russo did something he had not done in a very long time- he considered the future.

It was hard not to do so with a baby cradled in his arms.

The doctor said it was God’s Will that the baby was still alive. She showed no trace of the fever, and had been taking the mush Old Genevieve had taught him how to make well.

But now he had to consider what he would do with her.

She should find a new home. This cottage was no place for a child, and he was not the fatherly kind. Old Gennie had offered to send the child to live with her sister on the other side of town. They needed more hands for the fields. She could live a good life there.

A farmer’s life.

But, as Gerard watched, the infant stirred.

Eyes dark like coals opened and looked up at him.

Not the eyes of a farmer.

The eyes of a warrior.



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The Fox Cycle, Story One- The Musketeer

The Musketeer

“You sir, are a madman!

“Is your name not Gerard La Russo? Are you not a Captain in the Musketeers of the Black, in service to Louis the XIV, the Sun King who rules all of France? Have you taken complete leave of your senses?

“Now, I grant you that your cause is just. You have spoken often how your sister fawned over you as a child, how she softly whispered your fears away and sheparded your heart through the troubling times of youth. When she took up the cause of your house, impoverished as it was noble, I was there to cheer with you on her wedding day. What a grand memory it was, for her husband is a man rich and powerful, and he takes every chance he can to show off.

“And that is what I want to remind you! He is a man rich and powerful!

“And what are you?

“I grant you, your skill with the blade is formidable. In fact, I think you would have to go back to the time of de Batz-Castelmore or that long nosed dramatist to find a man whose skill or ability in the arts of war could compare.  I have seen you lead men into battle in Catalonia against the most fearsome of odds, and step into rows where ten and twenty stood against you and walked out nearly unscathed while I could barely stand against two!

“But despite this, and I speak to you as a friend dear to your heart, you are overmatched in this duel by graver odds than you have ever faced before! Your opponent is the nephew of the Duc de Villeroi, and while it may be his uncle that holds sway over the king, the serpentine nephew stays close cuddled within the bosom of power.

“To even step close to this man would require that you bypass the personal guard of the house, an elite group of men who you well know- for many of them were in fact trained by you yourself! Do you expect that to make them turn their heads? Is so, you are gravely mistaken. While they are loyal, good men, you would put them in a position where they would be forced to fight against you with all the ferocity of an animal trapped.

“And, if in your rage, you were to cut down these young men whose faces and names are so familiar to you, that would still not get you to your quarry! For the bladesman known as Phillipe Noir stands guard over the Chateu de Villeroi– a man you have duelled with more than once (I remind you), and never defeated!  What makes you think this time, blinded by rage and fuelled by wine, that you will be able to do what you could not in clearheaded days?

“Finally, if I may point out. If you succeeded in driving your blade through the heart of the snake, your life would be forfeit. You would be the most wanted man in France, and there are few places on the continent you could go where the power of le Duc could not reach you. If you lived, it would be in torture, whether internal or external, and the known world would be your prison.

“So, see reason, my friend. Yes, the world would be better off without a devil like Henri de Neufville upon it, and I too curse his name with every breath. But, although we know that it was by his cruel hand your beloved sister died, killing yourself will not return her to us, nor will it do your friends a service to rob us of our beloved companion and commander.

“So, come now! Drink with us! Let us celebrate her life, and curse the unfair whims of a callous heaven by showing it our resiliency!”

*                             *                             *

Two days later, on the 5th of July, 1698, Gerard La Russo boarded a ship bound for New France.

When the captain asked as to his reason for passage, La Russo answered- “To leave the past behind.”

The captain, observing the spatter of dried blood that marked the man’s clothes, chose to let the matter stand.

Gerard la Russo at Callais 1698

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