Prologue:
A few years before this story, the war between Lutherans and Catholics had taken an unexpected turn in the Prussian Territories. Duke Maximilian had taken over Bavaria. He was Catholic. The previous Lutheran champion, Frederick V, had been forced into exile. Maximilian was busily killing Lutherans unless they swore allegiance to him and the Pope.

A few of the Lutherans had gotten together and, with secret funds from powerful sympathizers, rented space on the merchantman “Arduous” to make a fresh start in the New World. Most of them were in their teens and unaware of the hardships they could expect to encounter. Few of the group were overly-religious. They were simply not willing to submit to the new authority. In their native Munich, if you weren't openly Catholic you were ostracized, often tortured and killed.

Not very many of them had any professional skills outside those of their immediate families. There were a handful of farmers and a few artisans of different types whom had gotten their skills working at family businesses.

The small ship contained thirty-three of them, crowded into three cabins. The vessel was lightly armed with only a few small cannon; depending on speed and maneuverability to avoid Spanish warships.

The vessel also carried supplies for the English colony at Jamestown. Profit from the supplies, belonging to their backers, was to go toward paying for the trip. Included were such items as seeds and trade-goods for the natives as well as a few farming implements. The ship also brought along various small articles and provisions for the trip, including a ballast of firebricks for metal and glass-making ovens. It had been found better to manufacture small metal objects and glass beads for trading with the natives as needed, rather than to use valuable ship space to bring them over.
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The Lost Virginia Colony 1 of 10
European colonists find a really New World.

This is a story of a group of colonists in the 1600s. Sailing to the New World, they find not only those colonies gone, but all sign of human habitation. Instead, the continent is occupied by giant intelligent rats. This novel is about interaction between the two species....
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Joseph Goebbels sat under an elm tree. Too old to participate, he watched his family plant a field. It was then the year 1690, only a week from the fiftieth anniversary of their landing in the New World.

He turned his head to idly watch younger children playing. One was his grandson Chkriss, the others two of the rat children. In the distance, he could see a half-dozen humans and huge rodents plowing another field and sowing grain. They were helped by two teams of buffalo hitched with rats guiding the plows.

Others followed behind, planting seeds. Two older children carried baskets of small fish or fish parts to drop in with every seed, then covering the hole. Each individual seed was still precious, even after fifty years. As he watched, the elderly colony leader's mind wandered back, back to the beginning, fifty years before, in the Year of our Lord, 1640....

***

“Still no sign of either colonists or savages, Joseph?” Mr. Michaels, the first mate, asked while shoving bushes aside as they searched for anything that would prove previous human habitation. They had sailed all the way from the coast of France to the new world, expecting to join the Massachusetts Colony, and finding exactly nothing.

“Not yet, Mr. Michaels,” Joseph Thompson, a colonist, answered as he peered into virgin forest. “No colony. No natives. No people at all. Not even a footprint.” They could hear and see other searchers around them.

No colony and no natives! Both the captain and the sailing-master had been along on at least one other trip to the colonies and were dead-certain of the location. The Massachusetts Colony had a distinctive profile as seen from the water and had been there for years. Even if the colony had been wiped out in some way, there should have been ruins -- but there was nothing.

The entire ship’s complement, including part of the crew, searched throughout the day for signs of habitation. Although not finding any, they did run into quite a bit of wild game. One deer was shot by Samuel Smithers, their best with a blunderbuss. The fact that the game wasn’t particularly afraid of them also served to show that there were no humans in the area.

“We should sail down the coast. There’s another colony there run by the English Virginia Company,” Captain Mendelson decided. “If it makes no difference to you people? We’re committed to sell these supplies before we leave.”

“Makes no difference to us,” Joseph Goebbels answered for his group of prospective colonists. He had been chosen as the leader among the passengers. “It might be better to avoid the Pilgrims, though. I can see religious conflicts starting. God knows, we’ve had enough of that in Bavaria.”

Since the weather was willing, most of them spent the night on shore. The next morning they set out to find another settlement, or any signs of civilization. First, Captain Mendelson sailed north for a day to make certain there wasn’t a mistake. Not finding anything, he turned the brigantine and headed south along the coast.

He had been positive the first time, and was even more so the second, as they passed the Massachusetts Colony location. The entrance was also distinctive, but empty of civilization. Although they sailed south along the coast for the next week, they found no signs of habitation.

Even though it was early spring, there should have been heating and cooking fires going. They still found none. Not even signs of natives, such as canoes, were evident. Only once did they find smoke, and it turned out to be a forest fire.

“What do you want to do?” the captain eventually asked his passengers, anchoring in a sheltered spot near the shore. “I can drop you off along here or take you back with me? It's up to you.”

“Can we have the supplies if we stay?” Joseph asked.

“Not hardly. I have to account for them, either in gold or goods. If I don’t return them it’ll come out of my own pocket.” The captain shook his head. “I’ll give you what I can, but you’ll be on your own.”

Joseph conferred with the rest of the settlers. They wanted to stay, but not without enough food and weapons to tide them over. How could they build new homes without tools, or farm without equipment or even seeds? It was a stand off. He went back to the captain.

“Do we have to decide right now? Can it wait a few days?”

“Well ... I have to replenish the ship’s water and do some hunting before we return. It'll take a couple of days to get ready, at least. You have until then to decide. Better do it quick, though. If you stay, I won’t need as much of either.”

Joseph returned to a contrite group. They didn’t like to think of all that time wasted, only to return to Europe. They might be dropped off in England, though, which was a better place for them right then than Germany.

Joseph didn’t pay any attention to a small party of settlers talking and smiling amongst themselves. He was too busy placating the others. That night -- as they had become accustomed to doing -- most of them, including the crew, slept ashore to take advantage of the good weather.

The next morning the entire eight-man crew, along with some willing passengers, hunted for game and a fresh-water source. Joseph and the others had pretty much decided that they had to return to Europe, and he told Captain Mendelson so.

“Guess we don’t have any choice, captain. We’ll have to go back. Damn. All this time wasted.”

“Can’t say we’re glad to have you with us, either. We could have used the space to load cargo in Bermuda. But we can’t leave you here to die,” the captain agreed.

Water was found and the entire crew went after it with empty barrels and buckets. It took them most of the day to transport the liquid back to the shore. Meanwhile, nobody noticed the "Arduous" slowly settling into the mud of the harbor. The ship was anchored a few-hundred-yards offshore and, since it had a shallow draft its settling wasn’t all that noticeable.

***

“What the hell happened out there, you bastards?” The captain came storming back ashore. It seemed the ship had been sabotaged. While they'd been working, numerous holes had been chopped in the hull as well as rigging slashed and ropes cut. The Arduous wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon.

“You know anything about this, Goebbels?” the angry captain demanded of Joseph, standing within inches of his face, spittle flying.

“Nothing, Captain Mendelson. I have no idea who did it.” He honestly didn’t know, although Joseph had a good idea, seeing hidden smiles among several of his people.

The captain appeared, for a moment, ready to hit Joseph, tensing his muscles and leaning forward. Then conditioning and experience took over.

“Get the hell back to the ship,” he instructed his crew, “NOW.”

They retreated to the partially-sunken craft. One of the sailors, seaman Wirtz, leaned a blunderbuss against a tree and unbuckled his powder belt, dropping it. He grinned at the colonists as he passed on his way to the skiff, hurrying to get aboard before it left for the ship.

***


“Jürgen, check out the damage to the hull,” the captain instructed. “Franz, find out if we can repair the rigging and if we have enough extra rope.” After instructing the cook and the boatswain to inventory ship's stores, he stormed into his cabin for a strong drink. He realized they might be there for a long time.

An hour or so later, he received word from his men.

“The hull can be repaired, but it will take a very long time. Six months to a year, depending on the availability of good lumber and the weather,” Kurt Jürgen, the ship's carpenter, told him. “It'll have to be found, cut, dragged to the beach and then trimmed and split into planks of the right size. Without a dry-dock, we'll only be able to make repairs at low tide. The sails can be patched and ropes spliced, but all that’ll take time.”

Mr. Edwards, the sailing-master, groaned. It looked like, in any case, they would be there through the winter.

The captain had no idea how rough winter would be on that point of the coast, and had to figure on the worst.

The ship weighted 150 tons loaded and the captain figured he could get it down to about sixty or seventy tons dead-weigh if everything loose were unloaded. That included everything not built in -- and even some of that. Heavy internal partitions could also be dismantled.

If the ship were stripped down to essentials, it could be pulled closer to shore and propped up, making it easier to repair. The sails could also be repaired easier on dry land, where they could be laid out on grass. It would be a major project and he would get those damned Lutherans to do most of the work, he decided, furious at the prospect.

Of course, it would have to mean using the cargo to live on. He could see his personal wealth and reputation going out with the tide, but it was either that or starve. Actually, most of it would be covered by the owner’s insurance -- or so he hoped. The captain realized that a board of inquiry would likely blame him for inattention. He should have posted a watch on board.

No need to tell the bastards yet. Let them sweat it out, he decided, waiting for a report on food and other supplies.

***

“Alright, I don’t know who did it, and I don’t want to know,” Joseph told his people. “Right now we have a lot of work to do, depending on how good a job you’ve done on the ship.” He went over and picked up the weapon that had been purposely left behind. “I want Samuel, who can shoot, to take this and hunt us more meat.

“Since you know soil, you farmers get together and decide where to plow and what to plant. Sooner or later, Captain Mendelson will have to give us seeds. Jonathon Thompson knows his wood. He can find what he needs and you can help him make something to plow with. Someone find out and list how many and what type of knives we have among us. We’ll also have to gather what food we can.
“The women will find a place to build and help the rest of us with some sort of lean-to shelter. They can also find and gather food and firewood. The weather’s good now, but for who knows how long?”

They hurried to comply. Joseph and one of the boys gathered firewood and started a fire with flint and steel.

Captain Mendelson became even angrier when he found they were making a shelter and then heard a blunderbuss go off in the distance. He was supposed to have all the firearms. Private arms were not allowed during the passage and not issued since. The passengers had figured on buying goods at the Massachusetts Colony and hadn’t brought many supplies with them. At that moment, gold, silver, and coins were useless.

“Where the hell did they get that damned thing?” he thundered to no one in particular. It was too late to find out, since the crew had already replaced the weapons used on the hunting expedition. He checked and found one blunderbuss gone from the rack of five. The crew professed not to know anything about it. Someone must have known, but they weren't about to tell him. Already, he thought, he was feeling the beginning of rebellion.

***

A few days later, sober, the captain sighed and dressed in his best finery. He could see no valid reason to avoid it. He had to go back to shore and confront those bastard saboteurs.

The work of getting ready for winter and unloading the ship had to be started as soon as possible. Captain Mendelson was used to being in complete charge, his word the law. It galled him to have to split his authority with, for God’s sake, passengers.

***

“All right, we need each other’s help on this. We need your backs, and you need our supplies,” Captain Mendelson admitted to Joseph, although it stuck in his craw. If he figured he could arrest them all, investigate the sabotage and do it at gunpoint he would have -- even preferred that type of action. Unfortunately, he didn’t have enough men to guard unwilling and possibly rebellious workers, repair the craft, and still prepare for an uncertain winter.

The captain even thought of taking Joseph Goebbels prisoner, but realized it would do little good and generate animosity. Goebbels not being a real leader, they would only choose another one. Having risen through the ranks, Captain Mendelson knew when to swallow his pride -- even if it choked him.

In consequence, all forty-one of them were busy the rest of the summer and fall. A crop of beans, peas, carrots, peppers, and onions was started, along with a patch of tobacco. The original lean-to acquired mud and log walls. Several more-permanent buildings were built, with a clear space in the center.

“Stack those partitions on top of that pile of coal.” The first mate was in charge of stripping the vessel. “The coal has to be kept dry. We don’t give a damn if the wood gets wet.”

Sails were wound tightly, brought in and piled into a corner of the largest building. A few were needed to cover stacks of furniture and other goods stored outside. They would burn wood for heating in the winter, saving the more efficient coal for the trip back to Europe. It would have to last at least as far as Bermuda, where they could be restocked and refitted.

The ship was slowly being stripped. It was finally manhandled, at high tide with the holes temporarily patched, closer to shore where it was propped upright with logs. At low tide the entire hull was above water. It would be the next spring before permanent patching could be started. A quick repair might hold in port, but hardly in the ocean where a vessel would be twisted and pounded by waves.

With the ship taken care of, the entire group spent time hunting, drying, and salting meat. Salt was evaporated out of seawater to preserve food. Two more crude buildings were also started to be ready by winter, and firewood cut. The crew also kept an eye out for trees usable for repairs. Those were slowly accumulating in a pile behind the first building.

In the evenings, the entire settlement stitched and patched sails. Rope splicing could wait until winter and be done indoors.

No natives were seen during all that time, nor any sign of them. Captain Mendelson thought it very strange. There should have been red savages around by then. Also, though he kept an intermittent watch from the ship's crows-nest, no other vessels were seen. If a large ship should pass by, the captain’s problems might be solved.

Although the vessel’s swivel-gun and two five-pound cannon had been brought ashore, it hardly seemed worth the effort to position the weapons. Nothing had yet been seen that could threaten them.

The group wasn’t very religious, although one of the crew was an amateur preacher and gave Sunday morning services. Captain Mendelson insisted on it during a voyage, himself sometimes taking the role of preacher.

By the time the weather began getting colder, they were set for the winter. The ship was propped up well and there were five warm buildings. The former lean-to was stacked with plenty of firewood and they had sufficient food for the season. There was still no sign of other human life.

***

The smallest of the new buildings was taken over by the crew, along with the more delicate stores that needed heat in the winter. Also those that had to be kept away from wild animals. The largest building was to be heated only slightly, to prevent freezing perishable stores. The women took over one of the other buildings, and the male settlers the last, next to largest, one.

They even enjoyed a little free time, the first since landing. It not being too cold, Jurgen the ship’s carpenter started work on repairing the ship. He supervised trimming the straightest logs. The rest of them kept busy on other tasks, according to their skills.

Siegmund Pfrommer was a trained shoemaker and had plenty to do repairing footwear. There were a couple of amateur blacksmiths among them, and Paula Pfister was an experienced cook. She roamed nearby woods, looking for wild herbs and edible roots. Some of the women canned and dried food for the dead of winter.

***

“Joseph. Don’t you think it’s about time we sent out a party to see what’s over the hill?” Samuel Smithers asked. “It would be nice to know if there ARE any dangers out there. Just because we haven’t seen any natives doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

Joseph pondered the question for a few minutes, then agreed. Better to know now than wait until they were attacked, he decided.

“All right, Samuel. Take a couple of others with you and check it out.”

Samuel and another man named Walter Reimann, also a fair shot, left to explore. One of the Pflaume twins, Nina, begged to go with them.

She had never fired a blunderbuss, but was of an adventurous nature. Having been a barmaid before the voyage, Nina figured she could keep up with any man. They had five blunderbusses, though the three were only allowed to take one with them.

Since there were no paths to follow, the explorers walked up the shore a ways and then inland, planning to make a wide half-circle around the landing. Since Walter was twice the age of the others, he carried the heavy weapon and acted as focal point, paying attention to his position in regard to the small colony.

Samuel and Nina wondered far afield, though keeping Walter in sight. In that way, they circled him and covered more territory. By early afternoon, they had returned to the beach south of the landing. After lunch the three set out again.

“I found a large stream this morning. Maybe we should follow it?” Nina suggested. “If anyone's around, they’ll probably be near water.”

“Might as well, I guess. As good a way as any,” Walter agreed.

“Sure, for a few hours anyway. Then come back on the other side,” Samuel also agreed.

They started on the northern side of a wide but shallow stream. Not being very straight, it meandered through a great many curves as they slowly made their way west and inland. The terrain was mainly virgin forest but had small patches of grassy prairie, the surface brown and flattened by wind and cold temperatures.

During a break, Samuel spotted a small hill inside a tree-line. For some reason it seemed odd. As he smoked his pipe, he studied it more closely, finally noticing what had caught his attention.

The top of the hill was flat. In fact, studying the sides showed them somewhat even, like on a rough crate.

“Hey, look what I found.“ He motioned to the others and went over to the strange protuberance. “I'll bet this is man-made.”

They found it was indeed artificial, formed of mud walls covered with grass-turf and live shrubbery. The forest-side had an irregular opening about a foot and a half across. The entire sod building was almost fifteen by twenty feet on the outside.

A deep narrow trench, complete with flowing water from the stream, extended through the building, one side coming straight in from the creek and the other going off into the distance. “Maybe for drinking water?” Walter observed. “A good idea. You want a drink, just dip it off the floor.”

Nina saw something light-colored about fifty-feet behind the building. It stood out among the dark-green forest. Going over, she saw a depression filled with whitened bones. Whoever lived there was a meat-eater. A rather neat one.

A foul smell came from nearby. They hunted it down to find a small clearing containing a couple of holes that had been used as toilets. Nearby were piles of dirt that probably covered others.

Samuel looked in one of the holes but, not being an expert in the subject, couldn’t see anything odd. “Something doesn’t smell right,” he told them.

They had to decide who was to go inside the sod-covered structure. The opening was pretty small. Walter’s gut probably wouldn’t make it, was the thought going through all their minds as they stood looking at the rounded opening.

“I’ll do it. I’m the smallest,” Nina offered, bending down to look inside. “Give me your knife, Samuel.”

With the blade held in her teeth, she steeled herself and stuck her head into the hole. Not seeing or hearing anything, Nina scurried inside and looked around. The girl had to move to the side because her body was blocking the light.

As her eyes adjusted, she saw a red glow in one corner of the single room. The space was about twelve by eighteen feet inside. It was also only five-feet high, with a ceiling of dead branches mixed with leaves and mud.

The glow came from a banked fire in a fireplace consisting of a circle of rocks. A row of very-rough clay pots sat against the wall, along with a pile of raw meat and a stack of firewood. Light came in from a hole in the roof above the fire. Looking across the room, she saw two large piles of still-green leaves. Beds, she figured.

Nina grabbed one of the smaller pots and quickly made her way back outside. As she was exiting backwards, she heard the loud report of the blunderbuss.

End of the first section. What was Walter shooting at? If interested, I can IM you the rest. 30k
Oscar Rat, the famouse riter. (hvysmker helped.)