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Scene 3 of The Acts of Awes West
© 2022 James LaFond
‘Sorcerer,’ thought he, as he broke the roots by hand that impeded the shovel of sadness.
The creeper vines, barren branches and livid leaves about the great oaken trunk rattled, whipped and rustled in the wicked wind of autumn.
‘Sorcerer,’ seared he within a war mind of a singular obsessive kind, ‘You took my War Sons with your blasted curses!’
The roots popped as he pulled, the lesser roots, that permitted the digging about the greater roots, that gave the ax its angle of removal.
The Comanche would have hauled off their dead.
The French or English would have let them lie and be defiled by the voodooists.
But he was a ranger, slave to The Knights of Saint George, his Patron Saint Martial, permitting no battle brother left behind save under The Lord’s Holy Cross.
His was the same patron as the Dons of Texas, Saint Martial, and when they met in battle pause was granted for burial at sunset. But among the accursed borderlands of Arkansas, the decadent Military Factors of New France and the fiendish Voodooist foes, the fallen were tools for magic, food for coyotes and boars, not minor monuments to their struggles so tragic.
Furious he pulled, dirt popping up moist and ocherish with blood of friend and foe into his gore caked eyes...
Full he chopped.
Deep he dug!
All through the night, dun Destrier and painted pony looking on, did he dig deep into sorrow to bury, stacked according to rank:
Ranger Johns, ten years in the ragged ranks,
Ranger Hicks, seven years in the ranks and the best of them all,
Ranger Rock, the mute and ear-cropped, Mulatto French galley slave crawled up through Louisiana to enlist against his soul drivers, had served five years with un-quitting heart,
Squire Williamson, The Meek, in command of this scout for The Fifth Chapter of The Knights of Saint George against Papa Doc Black-Oh-Roy’s Piney Shadow cult, with but three years in the ranks, but 21 years of age, and loved by them all—brave to a fault and beyond,
Page Henry, but twelve years old, orphan of a Knight Sworn of George,
Poor Boy Bold, the half-breed Muscogy orphan they had adopted two years gone from the Elkhorn Station ruins, a pony handler of but thirteen years, stacked nearest the surface of this rooty deep trench dug from dusk until dawn after the day that would haunt him, Sergeant of Rangers for all these the years of his life!
Six brave souls stacked six feet deep in a seven foot slit where the roots crept and the autumn rains seeped.
A saddle for a headstone and a sword for a cross, all belonging to Squire Williamson, rose above the dirtsome mound. The grave would be pillaged, giving him time to make up his loss of rout. But the curses would be weak upon the departed souls and only chase him upon the earth, for that Saddle and Sword of Saint George would lock Purgatory’s Door against the skulkers of Hell.
Papa Doc Black-Oh-Roy might even sacrifice some of his Machete Boys here to worry his departed friends at the Gates of Purgatory’s Bend.
Knights and Squires went to Heaven.
Rangers fallen against the Fiend Foe went to Purgatory where they guarded the lower approaches to the Hallowed Halls of Heaven and its silvery stair from the fiends of Hell.
He stood, girded and armed himself, and lowered the visor of his square-barred war hat. In one weary thud of boot heels he saluted beneath the massive oak:
“Bless ye all and cova Squire’s back o’ he retreats up Heaven’s understair! They come fo’ ye there as they hunt me here. I’ll see ye soon unda Heaven’s Stair!”
Leaving his rosary as a ward upon Squire’s hilt of holy sword, he knelt and kissed his young Lord’s saddle, snarled and rose, sizzling within with the slaying power… the hate of 38 years in the war saddle banked to fuel his retreat. He would at least report his mission’s ruin complete and stand before the Judge of The Knights of Saint George. Grasping Squire’s tartan and cross banner, he mounted the pony, trusting the destrier to follow.
Pledged he: ‘Heathen who might bar my way—beware!’
Time has a stair…
Seems be Time has a hatch too…
Fell he: ‘I am stricken, the power gone from limbs, drowning under the weight of sins—Father!’
He woke, starting, sweating and coughing at the foot of the cold coaled hearth, the North Wind having chilled the base room of The Tower and his body streaming with sweat despite.
The heavy lodge pole door behind him moaned on its wooden pin hinge, emitting a gust of snowy wind.
The mallet of hard ponderosa wood, the chisel of cold steel, were in his tattered and cracked right hand. The cottonwood shovel was half-burned to char in the hearth before him, useless as chills of snakey sickness and woeful defeat coursed through his wheezing chest.
His old soul commanded, that sinner come down pale from upon the gallows past, “Kindle ye fire, fool,” and he descended into a coughing fit, yellow gobs of venom spewing from his betrayed breast, up through his raspy frayed throat, to fall upon his buffalo cloak, flecking his mountain goat beard…
Damned he: ‘Weakling ghoul, befallen be you.’
Time has a ladder, it seems…
He woke cross-legged before the flaming fire, as it roared, devouring the remains of his shovel. He had, upon the traces of delirium scaled the inner tower, retrieved the tools of etching, made a fire, lost a fire, lost his snow-battling tool and sat now with feet warmed under smoking moccasins, the outer pair singed, the inner warm.
Pressing his left hand to the warm hearth stone he rose with a crack, his thumb snapping into a place approaching usefulness, but remaining swollen and immobile. Grunting he rose, coughing a great gob of venom from his serpent-nest chest into the fire.
Into this fire he glared: ‘Father, why do they call you Sorcerer—you so Holy and kind?’
For answer warmth sheeted him from the hearth as if Father heard and smiled from Torture Burned eyes. Yet from behind, the cold world howled, “Sorcerer.”
He turned on heel and toe, turning back to comfort, face to wintry foe, and stepped to the shuddering door, sinking within as his chest rattled with bitterness and sin.
The door opened and the snow howled in.
Time had portals…
Latching the door behind him, unconscious of how he had traversed the threshold, he stepped outward into the teeth of the pitiless North Wind and spat venom into the wind—and ducked with wry grin—as the gob of puss hurled back over ducked head and spattered already near frozen on the lintel overhead.
With hands and tools under cloak, he trusted his soul to trace the way to Father’s resting place as the whiteout gathered its breathtaking pace.
Time has a trace…
riding the nightmare
orphan nation
by the wine dark sea
menthol rampage
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