Click to Subscribe
Search
Jesuit Brand
Scene 11 of The Acts of Awes West
Waking cold under his bison robes, the soft sunlight filtering down from the ladder hatch above, reminding him of his imperfect building, brought the desire to die. The snake now rattled in his chest, his cough weaker than the wheeze, the loneliness colder than the north-sent breeze.
The last embers smoldered beneath the kettle, a mere shadow of deeper dark behind the sunbeam and its dancing motes, the last ash cast out from the almost dead fire.
Mused-mumbled he: ‘Demon of fire, ye like me expire. Ye hunger for wood...so much more clean than my thirst for such as can’t be understood by such as me.’
His lips worked raggedly, mouthing the words of his mind’s lyre that he was too weak to speak.
His breath, cold like snow, gave out across the beam of sunlight nearest and made a cloud among which danced the ashy motes…
Sergeant Noose, having lost and buried his command entire, woke from that cold camp. 38 years in the saddle, under the banner of Saint George, under the swords of knights good, bad and saint-like, living by the gun had of a sudden risen within he who had been regarded for 35 years as the hardest heart in the ranks; had bubbled up within him and dashed him to an earthly purgatory, spiritless and undone.
A trio of Comancheros were tracking him with middling skill and less will, greedy but wet-fingered of wit.
Noose of old would have turned and slew them.
Noose now suddenly old lacked the sand to even loose them.
Into Comanche Stand, the finger of Kansas belonging to the Dog Morning Band, he would head, cold camping, starving, limping of soul. It was spite, to lead these slave-trading whiskey-mongering turds into the den of the very wolves of all tribes.
Noose o’ Gun, youngest ranger made, would have chaffed under such orders.
Sergeant Noose, raised to that rank after the Battle of Little Rock, at age 21, where Old Sacks fell before the Voodoo Horde, youngest Sergeant raised, would have never given such orders.
But Sergeant of Nobody, born by the noose—failed his every charge under Massacre Tree—traced now like an old bull what lost his antlers before the rut, hang-headed and bent on dying on the lonesome loose.
Sunrise caught him sleeping, blazing light into his waking peepers and blinding him to what crept near.
A hand pressed to his chest—
Mused he: ‘A Comanche got the get-time woke of me?’
The hand was kind, questing after a life sign.
The chest the hand felt was sunken and rattle-torn, not the still deep chest of Sergeant of Nobody, leader of the Dead, deserter of The Order.
He coughed weakly and a strong hand pulled him up and began slapping his back, trying to loosen up the venom in his chest…
A rag in a broad hand cleared his mouth.
The bright cold of winter day shone and shone as the door opened and an Injun and a Voyager brought in wood, took out the kettle, brought it back full of snow and stoked the great hearth.
Groused he: ‘Blasted Canadians!’
At last he leaned upright propped by aspen logs covered with bison hide blankets. Across from him, seeming like a specter in the flickering firelight, sat a young strong man in middle years—no, not young, but way south of done. This man had a clean shaved face, wore a black cap, black robes, an ornate rosary, and held the Bible between his hands, broad hands incongruent for a book-reading man.
Above someone shoveled snow off the roof.
Next to him an Injun—Huron he thought, the slaves of the Jesuit heretics—tilted his lolling head forward and pressed a wooden cup of hot tea to his lips with the other hand, saying in soothing and French-accented English, ‘Drink Medicine Wheel Father, drink.”
Mused he: ‘I but be the broken son—not the Father.’
The Jesuit smiled slightly and kindly and said in deep, resonant tones, “Sorcerer, I have much need of your counsel. Please, live to speak on matters troubling and deep—heal and rest. I am Jesuit Brand. Talks by Night is a healer. We have brought medicine from the Pharmacists of Montreal, knowing your life has been so long and without comfort. Sleep, sleep deep.”
The Comanche had got the half-breed Comanchero scum a few days back near the Kansas Colorado line. Wyoming loomed leering in the sky as he began his night march with his remaining two ponies, having cut the big destrier loose to occupy the pursuers that would no doubt be on his trace after torturing the weakest of those he had witted and paced.
He would hide by day and ride by night into the very abandoned homeland of the Comanche who had left this wind-shaped place when the horse they found and rose from savage anon to ride as God’s very scourge upon impious Christian men.
On his last and final trace, whether murdered and despoiled or attaining that sacred high place, Deserter Sergeant o’ None felt in his belly growls and the wind’s hollow groans a chorus that told him that as a warrior he was done. His stomach for fight was all gone, and even his appetite for cunning flight was spent down like a ranger’s crib hand [1] as his trickster tracing degenerated into a flat-out run.
Was it the fifth day in Wyoming or the seventh?
Six seemed all wrong.
The sluggish blood in his veins rose in his temples like a drum and told him he was near, that the Medicine Wheel Man was up there to the right of the setting sun.
They were a mere hour back, within sight coming over that gray and black striped bluff of a mountain. Up ahead he could see the ponderosa stand where many a bitter man had been laid low 35 years gone, not only by his vicious hand, but on account of his unforgiving soul.
The last pony halted between his knees, his saddle and gear long shucked, his canteen empty and only the toothpick and Old Issue in his sash to remember his ways.
Those three were ragged as well, their pony string either eaten or left graze with the follow-up mob.
The world swam and the sun swelled as his arched and cracked lips drooled a puff of dust, “Girl, get dis ole geaze ta yon trees en ill monkey da res’.”
Not having the heart to put heels to her—him never being one for spurs, even when making sergeant and having them awarded as a lay squire’s due—he clicked that old pony boy’s click and the poor worn hooves of his final mount trotted lightly, her gait telling him that a gallop would break her.
He croaked, not even having the sand left to ride another mount into the dust, “‘At’s alright girl—if ye please I’d appreciate getting arrow shot jus’ ‘tween dem trees, where ole Paint laid her bones savin’ a wee boy for this rattle o’ groans.”
On she trotted, gingerly. His backward glance told him that the pursuers were taking their time, knowing his mount was done and saving theirs for their homeward return, content to take him afoot, three young lances to his one empty, ancient gun.
“Sorcerer?” whispered a deep rasp of kind concern, “wake from your far place.”
Notes
-1. The card game played by the Rangers of the Knights of Saint George, who are forbid to gamble, is cribbage, a game which uses pegs upon a small board to mark points in the manner of a race. The crib hand is the four cards reserved for the dealer for his extra count, though he counts last, permitting the other two players to peg in first across the finish. The three player aspect appeals to the frame of military mind held by the rangers, who conduct scouts and pursuits of fugitives, most often in trios and also organize their larger bodies in three parts. It is Order Doctrine, that so long as there are three men in the ranks, then that unit remains fully functional as an operational element.
prev:  Noose Continued     ‹  fiction  ›     next:  Jesuit Brand Continued
eBook
supplicant song
eBook
broken dance
eBook
son of a lesser god
eBook
yusef of the dusk
eBook
logic of force
Add a new comment below:
NAME  
EMAIL  
MSG