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Pemicin Bill
Scene 13 of The Acts of Awes West
Papa Doc Rew grinned down at him as his life blood flowed from his side, grinned a grin that some Arabian jinn must have give when he trapped a Mohamed boy in his lamp. Slowly the hideous ashen fiend gave out his life. Noose, a young sergeant of rangers, the youngest of his kind, felt dumbstruck and his mind remained in an awful state, wondering if he had done right or wrong. It would make no mind for a hostage, he factored, for this fiend would never give up Voodooist secrets to his Christly enemies when put to The Question.
Indian Dave, the Cherokee scout was standing by him silently. The remaining rangers were tending to the piling of arms, care of the wounded and the arrangement of the dead.
Long they stood as night fell.
A call from the piney woods and the trumpet of the Horn of Saint George sounded behind them. The jangle of horse tackle and swords, the bawling of orders by no less than three sergeants told him that the main force under the Prelate and Baron Blake and the Three Knights Under Blake: Blundt, O’Henry and Red Slake, along with the train of pioneers [1], factors [2] and pages and squires, had finally come up to close the trap what Noose’s fallen Master had insisted on taking for himself—the Knight Roar and his Squire Knell being the boldest of their impetuous kind.
The Big Wigs would be pissed at the Knight Roar and Squire Knell—but they’d take it out on Noose, as those two heroes were near to dead.
Little did Noose know, as he and Indian Dave stood beneath that crucified Voodoo Prophet, that he had done worse than exceed orders and gain glory.
The Prelate, standing next to Baron Blake, the former robed in the Colors of Saint George and the latter wearing a full steel breast plate and bearing a great arming sword, and snarling from the corner of his mouth down to Noose, “Ye blood-greedy shit fer brain—ye stole my scalp en got yer Lord Kilt—second knight yer rash o’ brash led ta Hell’s grinnin’ gate!”
Noose bowed his head, looking at the dripping feet of the crucified Voodooist, “As ye say, Baron Sire. It be mine ta bear—Misire, Knight Roar neva been so rash of ‘iz own.”
The Baron, easily capable of beheading him or having him flogged, instead, bestowed surprise, “Ye randy shit, loyal as all git. Ye be my bloodhound now, Second Sergeant ta Sergeant Major Kit, wit what rouges ye got left ta lead.”
“Yes, Milord Baron,” grunted he.
Then, the voice he had never heard directed at wee him, only heard giving the sermons and leading the Crusade Hymn, sounded from the soft pale mouth of the Prelate, who suffered from the gout and the malaria, “You accursed sergeant of fools! You stabbed this devil in the side as if he were Our Lord and Christ!”
He did not rightly know how to respond, “Sorry, ye Grace, my dumbass jus’ coul’ no’ cotton ta dis tar-black coon babblin’ fro’ Our Lord’s rightful place.”
Two of The Knights Blake snickered and the easy hand of Baron Blake touched his back in sympathy even as that stentorian voice inquired of the Prelate, “Your Grace, shall Sergeant Noose be flogged for speaking above his station?”
The Prelate, wearing a deforming mask of pallid horror, answered absently, “No need, Baron. The bloody-handed fool has brought a curse upon himself that shall await service in the Hereafter. May Almighty God Bless his damned soul.”
Noose’s soul sank into the deep pit of his belly as he rolled on his side and felt somehow that he was no longer standing beneath that mockery of Calvary. A moan echoed back to him, the moan of an old worn man, “Mamma, mamma…”
It must not have been he who pleaded so mournfully, for he had no mother, was the mere wee son of sin.
A soft, womanly voice sounded within:
“Who has measured the waters in the
hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in the balance?” [3]
Half awake, dreamed he: ‘The Jesuit, did he recite this—I know not this word of God?’
Answered he, coming to wake: ‘His voice was deep, not lady-like.’
His eyes opened. The fire was still smoldering warm and he was cozy but feeling worn. Reached he for a tiny finger of that medicine and ate, closing his eyes against the wall of hate that he expected to well up from the echoed words of the Prelate…
A chorus of ladies sung, under a rising sun:
“They who wait for the Lord
shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings of eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.” [4]
The walls of dream fell like blue drapes in a Knight’s pavilion.
No piney dark or rustling canebrakes awaited to tangle his boots.
A bright sunlit lake, ringed by evergreen trees, opened before him and he glided like a kite across its clear blue surface as an angelic voice encouraged,
“Fly my dear boy,
Smile for me.
Find a final joy…”
The room smiled and he drooled.
“Sorcerer?”
“Sorcerer!”
“Wake! I have stoked the fire. You are wasted and must eat. Wake.”
He sat cradled in the arms of a great bear of a man, who sat him on his crossed legs like a babe, held his back in the crook of one arm and tipped the bowl to his lips with a broad roughened hand.
He drank and it burned.
“Sorcerer,” we need you. Please, drink,” came the soft voice in a halting accent he had not heard before, in curious English without a French taint.
The voice he knew to be his own sounded faraway and stony, “Tank ye—a big ‘un ye be.”
The voice was small for such a big man, “Pemicin Bill da name. Ye fire was out en you like ta froze. Added jerky and pemicin ta da pot—ye got plenty o’ marrow bones remain. Take it all down,” the giant said in his soft voice, as he placed him in a wood-framed fur cradle with one great hand.
“Sorcerer, you have no attendant and the roof is near to give. I will go clear it.”
A faraway voice rasped, “Careful,” concerned that the giant would fall through the floor and unable to articulate a full statement.
The tall, broad man, dressed in muskoxen furs that made him loom larger than he was, smiled a gap-toothed smile and climbed the ladder lightly as a cat. The creaks above should have been given by a much smaller man and Noose of Old came in reverie to the busy-minded place within with admiration for such a big two-legged critter being so light-footed and gentle.
Factored he: ‘I must help this big fellow out. He has come from afar—never seen his like.”
Notes
-1. Convict laborers used for road making, construction, ditching, etc.
-2. Convicts of the learned middling classes such as teachers, account keepers, scribes, and such, who through debt or sin have incurred a period of service in the ranks as administrators and secretaries for the priors and prelates and knights and the illiterate rangers who might need to file reports or receive written orders. In the absence of factors, pages and squires would act in the secretarial role. But on a dedicated crusade, these persons would be needed in a martial capacity.
-3. Isaiah 40:12
-4. Isaiah 40:31
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