In the book, the Jesuits send Father Laforgue and his young assistant, Daniel, to the region of Ossossane, to a place called Ihonatiria.
Since neither Father Laforgue nor Daniel knows the way, they must depend on their Algonquin guides. Initially, both Chomina and Neehatin are worried that the Jesuits won't keep their word. In exchange for taking Father Laforgue and Daniel to Ihonatiria, the Algonquins are to be given six muskets, some powder, and shot.
Champlain, a French colonist, soldier, and explorer and the commandant of the mission, is skeptical that Father Laforgue and Daniel can reach the mission before the onset of winter. Father Bourque, a priest, assures him that the journey can be made in time.
For his part, Champlain doesn't show much enthusiasm for gifting the Algonquins with muskets. He imagines that muskets in the hands of the Algonquins would pose a threat to the Jesuits.
However, Father Bourque is more concerned that the two priests at Ihonatiria—Father Jerome and his assistant, Father Duval—may have already been martyred by disgruntled Huron tribal members.
Understanding the challenges but reluctant to renege on his commitment to the French cause, Champlain agrees to give the Algonquin guides six muskets, some powder, and shot. He also decides to hold the customary departure feast for them.
As we read about the interactions between Champlain, the Jesuit priests, and their Algonquin guides, it's clear that there is little trust between the Europeans and Native Americans. Each is suspicious of the other's motives, and it is this distrust that drives the action in the novel.