(Please note that we pulled a McFly and jumped backwards in time from the prologue.)
We open with William H. Ashley, a businessman with the "Rocky Mountain Fur Company," as he struggles to make a deal with a Frenchman named Kiowa Brazeau (1.1.1).
Kiowa runs a little trading post, and Ashley wants equipment. Unfortunately, Kiowa is currently awaiting a shipment from St. Louis, so it'll be a little bit before Ashley will get his goods.
Kiowa does have an immediate suggestion, however: Ashley should send a letter back to St. Louis regarding "Colonel Leavenworth's debacle" (1.1.6). Sounds juicy. With that, Kiowa grabs some writing gear for Ashley and goes on his merry way.
Here's the gist of Ashley's letter: two weeks ago, the Rocky Mountain Fur Company was attacked by a native tribe known as the Arikara, with whom they had been friendly before. The attack was brutal.
After their defeat, the company retreated. They gained additional support from Colonel Leavenworth and the U.S. Army, along with about 400 Sioux warriors who joined their side simply because they despise the Arikara, before readying a mighty assault...
This assault was a disaster. Ashley doesn't give details, but his boys got their butts handed to them. Even worse, this also means that most traders in the area are closing up shop.
But Ashley spins like a politician, arguing that this means they can make a lot of money by sneaking trappers into the area. To this end, he'll be sending Captains Henry and Smith straight into the lion's den to make some sweet cash.