Black Cloud is one of two major protagonists of the story. He is entirely fictional, and not based on any particular historical figure. He was born in 1754 in the village of Cussewago in the Allegheny region of Pennsylvania, the son of the French Canadian rum, gun, and fur trader Jean Paul Chalfont, and the Munsee Delaware (Lenapi) woman Elizabeth Many Blankets. Baptized by a priest traveling with the French army he was given the Christian name of Etienne Chalfont. He was raised among his mother’s people and at the time of his Youth Vigil, age twelve, he received he name Black Cloud. This name was given due to the vision he had during his youth vigil of becoming a great war chief and driving the Long Knives (Whites) out of their native lands. He had taken the great Thunderbird to be his Spirit Guide and he saw himself at the head of a great “storm” driving away the enemies of his people. His vision was nurtured by the shaman Wingemund. Many Blankets left her native village to join the congregation of the Moravian’s and became a “Christian Indian”, ultimately moving into the Ohio country to the village of Salem. Against his better wishes, Etienne accompanied his mother and sister to the Moravian towns, along with his young wife. At the birth of his son Little James, his wife died. Etienne’s sister French Mary, and his mother now agreed to raise the child.
Although living among the peaceable and prosperous Moravian community, the vision of his youth continued to nag at him until Etienne finally left his Moravian congregation and returned to the village of his former sachem, Captain Pipe, who had now taken up the hatchet against the Long Knives. The skilled and powerful Etienne soon became the feared war captain called Black Cloud. His like as a war captain, where he was joined by his Shawnee half-brother Stone Catcher, showed him to be a feared and ruthless warriors while at the same time suffering inside from the conflict created by his former life with the Moravians. This was a conflict that he had to resolve.
After an attack he lead on some boats on the Ohio River, Black Cloud made a mortal enemy of the rough and rowdy frontier merchant and tavern owner, Jubal Blackburn. Blackburn has sworn an oath that Black Cloud will die by his hand, and he will fanatically pursue this end. There will be a showdown in the Monongahela Basin between these men.
A constant menace in his life, and the life of his sister French Mary, is that of Daniel, the Moravian Indian who is married to French Mary’s best friend and Black Cloud’s former secret lover. Has this passion died, or is is still quite alive? This will come to a head and threaten Black Cloud’s relationship with his new Chickamauga wife. Daniel will have to pay a price for his machinations.
Believing his own son died at the hand of the Washington County militia at Gnadenhutten, Black Cloud will seek vengeance against the Long Knives and their militia as it attempts to invade their towns on the Plains of Sandusky. This may be his chance to bring his vision to fruition.
Etienne/Black Cloud is a war captain bent on revenge and fulfillment of his vision while fighting his internal struggle of hidden passion for the Mohegan woman Ruth, and his conflict between his tribal ways and his Moravian teachings.