Prologue: 1918 Battle at Hell's Gate
Constable Nathan Grant of Northwest Mounted Police of Hope Valley, was currently not in Hope Valley. He had received orders to help out at Hell's Gate. Hell's Gate was a series of cliffs that used to be part of the fur trade. Natives and trappers used to cross using ropes and foot holes in the cliff face. This was the path until the railroad came. In 1884 the Canadian Pacific Railway built their line on one side of the treacherous riverbank. The Canadian Northern Railway decided to build a line on the other side of the river. Rock slides have been hindering progress on this project.* At first, they thought they were accidents from treacherous terrain during rainy season and unsafe structures with the rock after blasting, but railway workers found evidence of someone messing with the blasts to create more problems and hinder the progress of the track. The evidence was brought to the attention of the Northwest Mounted Police, and through their investigations it became apparent that the problem was a series of a larger group of people who were angry at the railway and not wanting them to make any more progress into this area. This group of people were being helped by professional criminals. So, that required more Mountie presence.
Many Mounties were asked to come and watch for activity and try to stop the people, either through intimidation in the increased Mountie presence, or through catching the people involved, hopefully before any damage was done. Constable Nathan Grant from Hope Valley had been ordered to participate in the skirmish because of his skills in tracking and because of his quiet observational skills. He noticed small details, things that others would miss. This and his ability to sit in silence for hours made him uniquely qualified for this mission. Or at least that is what his superiors had said when they told him of the mission. Apparently, when one puts Mounties with other Mounties, they all start to talk and rough house and share things. Nathan Grant wouldn't know because he seldom talked, and rarely shared anything personal. Not to say that they would be unprofessional in this situation. Nathan's superiors were exaggerating in order to emphasize to Nathan exactly why HE was being assigned the job.
Currently, Nathan Grant was getting to his position overlooking the unfinished railway track. He was following his native guide. Behind him was a new recruit, Constable Fremont, just out of the academy, but scored highly on his tests there, so he was placed with Nathan as a runner to communicate with the other Mounties along that stretch. Once they were securely in positions, the native guide would go back down the cliffs. The guide led the Mounties to their landing space. Nathan shook his hand and the guide quickly and quietly left Nathan and Constable Fremont to set up.
"Whew, what a hike, huh? That was quite a hike, wasn't it?" Constable Fremont asked Constable Grant apparently trying to prove his superiors correct. Nathan just glared at the kid and put his finger to his lips to indicate that Fremont needed to be quiet.
"We need to set up." Nathan whispered.
"Sure thing, sir! Let me do that for you." Fremont loudly whispered. Nathan watched in amused aggravation as the green horn meticulously, but nervously laid out the gear Nathan would need near the cliff face, and the gear Fremont would need just behind that. Nathan could see that this kid was very eager to please his superiors.
Once everything was ready, Nathan got on his knees and crawled to the ledge with his binoculars. 'If I am here to observe, better start observing,' he thought. He looked started with other two-person teams along the ledges. One of the two-person teams a bit to their left had Gabriel Montgomery, a Hope Valley resident in the team. Nathan had not had the pleasure of knowing Gabe before this mission, but as his niece was good friends with his young sister, he had heard all about how Gabriel Montgomery had been inspired by the late Jack Thornton to become a Mountie. Nathan let up a quick prayer for Cat Montgomery, Gabe's mother, because Gabe, while not completely new, was still newer to the Mounties.
Nathan continued his search below the ledges. It seemed like normal business with the railroad and looking at how the dynamite was being carefully placed and the line connecting it going back further than the required fall back line that is mandated.
"Fremont signal out to check if all is well," Nathan whispered. Constable Fremont did just that using morse code and a mirror. It took a few minutes, but every team had the same response, all's well.
Nathan couldn't get the bad feeling out of his gut. But the day progressed with normal business as usual. Nathan could see that they were preparing to blast at the expected portion of the cliffs. Fremont was squatting next to him also looking down at the activity below.
"They look like they will be blasting any minute. Perhaps we should get protection for our ears, constable?" Fremont whispered. Nathan nodded his response. Fremont stealthy went back to their gear and pulled out two sets of earplugs. He put one pair in his ears and crawled back to Nathan to give him his. Nathan could not get the feeling of unease that had been building to lesson, but he also, at the moment couldn't see anything wrong. Nathan waited until the last minute to put on his protective ear wear. The blast in the canyon was deafening and shook the ground significantly. Layers of rock and dust were pushed into the air. Nathan had put his head in his left arm to cover his eyes from the dust. When it seemed the dust finally settled and no major rock slide had occurred in this blast, the people in the canyon started cheering.
Nathan however was noticing movements that were not his fellow Mounties behind a lot of them on ledges. Men wearing masks, moving quickly but quietly with knives out sneaking behind them, intent on killing a good chunk of Mounties on the cliff ledges. Nathan, grabbed his binoculars and zoomed in on one set, and recognized the man sneaking up as one of the criminals on a wanted poster. His insides froze. This is what they wanted. The criminals "helping out" with the problem. A large group of Mounties would be involved and all looking down instead of up and behind. They wanted to make this a massacre. Nathan swore as he looked behind him,
"Fremont! Grab your weapons and go to the next team over to try and help them fight! Try not to shoot! We might start a rock slide," Nathan urgently, but quietly ordered. "I am going to cover you and make sure we aren't snuck up on."
Fremont nodded and followed his orders. Nathan turned back and began to look around the space more intently. He noticed that there was a crevice in the wall. Just wide enough for him to push his lithe frame into. For once, Nathan was grateful for being "a bean-pole." He managed to hide himself away with his head facing outwards just enough to see who was coming from both sides. Not a moment too soon, because one of the criminals in the plot came racing down from the right, with blood on his long knife. The man swiftly completed a circuit of the space and began heading down the trail to the left. The direction Fremont was going. Nathan waited until the man's back was turned towards him, then quietly approached him from the back. The idea of sneaking up on someone from behind with the intent to kill was abhorrent to Nathan, who was a true believer in honor and justice. However, this man would not have had the same moral quandary as Nathan; so, there were times it was prudent to do so. Not that Nathan, even in his many years as a Mountie, had killed many criminals. This would be new to him. But he didn't want this man following him towards the others. So, Nathan pulled his knife out and quickly and efficiently cut the man's throat, severing the jugular artery. The man choked and coughed, and went to his knees and lastly his face down on the trail spurting his blood against the trail wall and floor. Nathan didn't stop to watch; however, because he knew that others like him were up ahead.
There was more noise coming from across the cliffs. Nathan could hear the battles being fought in little skirmishes echoing up to walls. No gunshots, though. As Nathan reached the spot where a team should have been, he found a lot of blood, a dead Mountie and a dead criminal. The dead Mountie Nathan didn't recognize, and someone had already taken off his tags for his family for the loss of their loved one.
'Please God, let me get home to Allie,' Nathan prayed.
Nathan found the next two spots in similar conditions, until he managed to catch up to Constable Fremont, Constable Montgomery, and a few others. They were stooped over, catching their breath, all of them with knives out and some form of small injury. Even though they were almost down the cliff path, Nathan wanted to box all of their ears.
"Guys, why are we stopped here? This isn't safe, we don't know how ma…" Nathan was cut off because at that time a small hidden criminal fell on top of the resting Mounties and started swiping at them. Many of them got hit across arm tendons in dominant arms, so they quickly became more defenseless. Nathan put himself in front of Fremont and Montgomery to give them time to get away.
"Boys, run!" Nathan shouted. Montgomery turned but Fremont had his rifle and shot at the criminal whom Nathan was facing. The bullet hit its target, but the sound ricocheted off the cliff walls. Nathan could feel the shaking of the ground beneath his feet. He looked up and there were pebbles coming down from the cliff face. Fremont was standing where the largest rocks were going to fall. Nathan rushed forward and pushed him out of the way, before the larger boulders fell pinning Nathan to the ground. Nathan looked around quickly observing that his right leg was pinned with a medium sized boulder blocking the larger ones from falling directly onto him. He only had time to look at Constable Fremont's ashen face, and hear Constable Montgomery's cry of "CONSTABLE GRANT!" before a rock fell and hit him in the head, knocking him unconscious.
*Hell's Gate is an actual place in British Columbia about 2 hours drive from Vancouver in today's speeds according to Google Maps. When I was doing research for this story, I discovered Hell's Gate when I was trying to look into distances and proximities to towns and cities mentioned in When Calls the Heart. I was trying to find a place that would be kind of in a rough spot, where ambushes can easily happen, but also within realistic distances for my places in this fanfiction. And as I was scrolling in, I found a little dot for Hell's Gate. The history of it is pretty true to what I said in the story. The rockslides did hinder progress for the CNR, but it was completed in 1914 and, of course, no big battle, that I know of (quick Google Search). The pictures show cliffs with severe drop offs and two railway lines deep down in the gorge. It inspired me to have the battle in that location and have Nathan's injuries be from a rock slide rather than being shot, knived, or in an accident (all options before I found Hell's Gate). I am trying to make my story as realistic for the time period as possible. When I cannot, it is either out of ignorance or artistic license. I will put in a footnote about my sources if needed.
My goal with this story is to explore the character of Nathan Grant. So most of this will be from his perspective. I find his character to be very compelling and telling. I will admit that when Jack died, I had a hard time coming back to watch When Calls the Heart. I was like "they had their epic love, and who can top Jack Thornton?" But I came back and watched season 6 out of respect to the writers and was slowly becoming #TeamNathan. Before my hopes were dashed with the Ladies' Choice dance. But it really was the Christmas special and season 7 that made me want to learn more about this soft spoken, loving man. His relationship with Allie is so crucial to who he is. As I read fanfiction with the new pairing, I have wanted more interactions between him and Allie, pre-Hope Valley. Some of the fanfictions I have read are beautifully written, and make me smile and my heart happy, but most of them are from Elizabeth's perspective. My story has come out of a desire to see Nathan try to braid Allie's hair, to see how he would react when she gets her first period, wanting to see him teaching her how to fish, and other moments that I feel would give him character and growth.
Right now I have ideas for 5 different parts to the story of Nathan Grant. The prologue starts the story in medias res (in the middle). Part One, which comes next, will be about Nathan growing up with the Grants when he was a young boy. Part Two focuses on him raising Allie pre-Hope Valley. Part Three is Nathan's perspective on what has happened in Hope Valley leading up to the Battle at Hell's Gate. Part 4 focuses on Nathan's recovery from his injuries and other problems that they have caused. He will suffer from PTSD, although they didn't call it that. Part 5 focuses on Nathan and Elizabeth's courtship. I have absolutely no idea how many chapters there will be for each part. The more I read and the more I research, the more inspired I become and get new ideas for different sections.
Disclaimer: The characters of When Calls the Heart belong to Hallmark Channel.