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Noose
Scene 10 of the Acts of Awes West
All eyes were on the still chest of the Rose Knight, dressed in that black cuffed shirt with white collar under the hard leather breast plate worked with rose embroidery under the checkered banner of Saint George.
Hoped he: ‘Breathe, Sire—my Master no more.’
The pure-hearted chest rose with a ragged heave, the mind of it’s owner apparently still on leave. The Rose Knight was alive if unconscious, and Noose breathed a slight sigh of relief.
Sergeant Sacks dismounted to care for his Lord.
Then Satan’s Hand reached down into this piney sward in the bellows like growl of the Grizz Knight. The giant man’s left hand gripped the ricasso of his great blade and the right hand palmed the scepter pommel and with one snarling downward thrust, the beastly knight thrust downward with all of his might. The sound of hardened gloss leather, cotton and silk, skin and breastbone, lung and backbone and pine needles, loam and stone beneath pierced and scraped by that great blade, sounded through the wind-dried glade.
The Rose Knight gave one unconscious heave and a wheeze, bubbled up blood from his open mouth and fluttered the lids of his closed eyes and lie dead beneath the hulking brute that had laid him out.
Resigned he: ‘Big-wigged concerns begone.’
For three years Noose had rode with Sergeant Sacks and Indian Ben.
Sergeant Tiggs had about as much chance of seeing the tenth second after get-time [1] as Noose would have of wrestling the Grizz Knight.
The rangers to the right had a chance to do in Ben, but slim chance of living to brag about it.
No get-time signal had been gave. Thus, Noose was guilty of various violations of Christian Precept and Order Rule.
The Grizz Knight was as tall standing as Noose was seated on his pony, steady little Paint, the most limber of the lot. The broad-faced man seemed of a sudden overtaken with remorse and inspired to kindness towards his knew pony boy, as he rumbled from near and faraway, “Boy, sinned ‘ave I upon dis betta’ man. Be a righteous lad and grave ‘im up true whilst I beg forgiveness of Jesus Christ Our Lord.”
A better man—a full man for that matter—would have agreed. But Noose had the thirst of manhood raging in late youth, some whiskers starting on his chin, hair done growed in on his cods. This was not justice so much as an opportune climb up the rungs of servitude by one at once ruthless and rude.
There eyes met, the Grizz Knight and the pony boy, and Noose saw a weakness there that he had never seen in His Master. He would never cotton to having this man as his Master.
Indian Ben watched he knew.
Old Sacks cursed silently inside if he knew him true.
Rangers Mike and Grog and the rest of the randy rogues back at Bastion teased him to no end over his constant fawning over his wheellocks and flintlocks and his obsession with Old Issue. They had particularly laughed while drinking grog [2], forbidden to pony boys until they became Rangers True, to see Noose quick drawing and mock-firing his irons—Rattle ‘o Gun they called, those who liked him for his doing in of those two Comanche, calling him Young Gun.
He met the giant’s gaze and the giant man blinked, gave both Will and Way to a boy stepping through that shattered brink that made men.
The voice sounded gruff, not wee, and sounded dull and faraway, “Name’s Noose, ye goddamned brute booger,” and the left wheellock slid from his leg holster, rose, leveled before that broad face three-paces off, the thumb having cocked the hammer in one smooth drawing motion and the forefinger pulling the trigger as soon as the muzzle came to rest between those startled eyes.
The clock-maker wheel turned and showered sparks into the closed pan with a crack, and a boom of smoke exploded comfortable-like in his easy hand as that head damn near exploded, struck clean between the eyes and mess splattering from ears, mouth and nose.
Indian Ben’s death song sang out as did his Issue lock and his saddle iron and curses and steel drawn could be heard to his right, the men not dead of the instant and giving fight.
Sacks was charging Tiggs as both drew steel, Sack’s toothpick and straight saber to Tigg’s clubbed pistol and curved saber.
Noose was kicking heel to Paint—knowing somehow that the pony was pissed that her sister Dapple went north without her—and bore down on the squire as he holstered wheel left and drew flint left and flint right, controlling Paint with his little knobs of knee.
The startled squire leveled the lance of the Grizz Knight to impale him as he spurred his destrier.
Noose fired flint left on a dead run, a shower of sparks and a billow of smoke blowing back over his left shoulder and half into his face, and took the squire through the chest, stunning him in the saddle where he reeled listless, his lance point elevating towards the sky and the destrier pawing hooves in frustration as its rider failed to direct him in the trample of little Paint.
The page dove aside with a peep, some sorry, big-wigged brat of a sissy.
The ranger who had taken back his master’s destrier pushed the great beast into Paint’s path as he drew his pistol, leveled it, cursed, “Ye miserable urchin shit!” pulled the trigger... and a “click” sounded a misfired.
Noose had not even swung off the saddle, as Paint turned left towards the ranger to avoid colliding with the giant destrier, knowing that if these grog-swilling rangers were as goony as his superiors in the ranks, that the only time they ever had their pistols good, and cleaned, loaded and primed a proper, was when the sergeant took them to the firing post. But a wary little gallows shit what can’t drink at down time and collects firing irons, that critter knows his tools.
The ranger threw his pistol, hitting Noose in the left upper forearm with the iron butt, cracking that bone what would have caused a whore or a chaplain to moan, but brought a snarl from Noose’s lips as he turned Paint left with his right knee and leveled flint right at the belly of the furious ranger ripping out his great curved saber and fired. In a shower of spark and cloud of smoke, the crackle of muzzle fire, a hole sprouted in the belly of that blue buff jacket so close that powder burned the cloth as the man fell back with a grunted, “Gut-shootin’ prick!”
Paint stamped on the man’s face with her left forehoove and removed the teeth as Noose holstered flint right in the saddle holster and drew wheel right as he nudged her with his left knee to charge the Shawnee.
Notes
-1. The rangers of the Knights of Saint George called the signal to attack “get-time.”
-2. Rum mixed with water, and in garrison washed down with beer. Knights and other big-wigs drank wine only. Beer and cider were the preferred drinks of common folk. Rum was the drink of sailor and soldier and ranger too. Whiskey or The Devil’s Tea, was a subject of excommunication and was forbidden and only made by Canadian heretics, moonshiners and alchemists and drunk in flirtation with The Devil by those who took their lives and souls in their hands.
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