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Stonish Giants
Scene 13.5 of The Acts of Awes West
The gads [0] scraped on Heaven’s roof, heaving thunder bursts into the sky, expelled from God’s domain...he who had been invited into their furious dream emerging midstream and wondering, ‘What does this mean?’
Lightning struck.
Morning broke without a dawn.
He rose from the Stream of Dream, the water washing off his shoulders, his beard not yet thick enough to wet his chest, young, restless, loaded by fate and charged by hate like a ready son of a gun. Downstream shone the deep, broad blue lake, its steep banks dressed in spires of spruce and fir marching to the sky.
There was a castle of a sort to rival Saint George’s Citadel raised up upon the site of Saint Louis, that old mote and bailey keep of wood stockade that had fallen to The Knights of Saint George way back in the French and Indian War in 18 and 24.
This castle was lighter built but of stone and had white banners chased with rosy finery.
Trumpets of a lady-like sort what he was informed by The Dreamer were clear-o-nets, sang like doves a whistling accompanied by a chorus of a dozen maidens, one each pretty-dressed with long brushed tresses, smiling solemnly out of the window of one of the 12 towers facing the Lake to no martial purpose that a ranger might define…
“Not a ranger yet, Dear Noose, twelve years young, your soul not yet woe spun,” came the unseen voice of The Dreamer from all around, of a lady with languid song.
The chorus chimed sweetly:
“Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.” [1]
He looked all around and saw no foe, no boss, no big wigged blow, no ford to cross.
Confused, wanting to hear that serene voice again, he hoped with words, “What can I do Milady—you is the Rose Lady, what become the Angel o’ Whitefish Nuns?”
Out upon the long, narrow waters of the quiet lake, the sound of the glacier melt streaming into its cold-fed depths, rose a fish, a great white swim-critter of a fish that came to the surface and swam, eyes above the water. It swam for him, where he stood at the mouth of the ice cold snow-fed creek that somehow warmed rather than chilled his bones.
The fish had a weird fin that fluttered in the wind.
The fish approached the creek mouth and slowed, like a sled that sped upon water and sank, as the flapping fin was seen to be the gossamer dress of a beautiful lady, his Order Mamma of old, as young as she was when he first knelt before her, her hair confined in a modest habit of blue cotton, her dress no longer fluttering in the wind as she stood on the submerged back of the great white fish in pink slippers.
“Mamma Rose, so sorry I failed ta save yer Great Knight, me is.”
She smiled, her eyes blinking sadly with remember, placed her hands together and before her. Up from the water between the dream-called youth and the God-called lady rose a sword, a sword with a hilt as a black cross, the twisted grip worked like the body of the Christ, his feet nailed upon the V-shaped pommel, his tiny hands nailed upon the pointed ends of the crosspiece, His leonine head crowned in thorns, lolling against the ricasso between two blade catchers worked like devil thorns.
Her voice sounded like thunder made with a drum piped through a dove’s soft throat, “Noose, I need you. Take up the gun, honor what your swore…” and she smiled “...my song shall sink with no champion to wield My Sword.”
She smiled with a mouth like a whispering rose under eyes that dripped tears…
“Mamma?” he croaked, croaked pathetic, like a baby dying of old age.
A big hand pressed against his small chest, a hand near as broad as the chest he had left and the little voice of the big man worriedly said, “It Pemicin Bill, Sorcerer. Drink, Father, drink.”
Hot broth was spooned into his half open mouth and he regarded the giant with a compassioned eye, his thoughts spouting from his mouth in the senility of the end of life, “Ye face be cracked a month’s wort’ o’ winter en ye a rack o’ bone fer a critter so dang big.”
“It has been a long trek from Hudson Bay. I am the last of my folk to remain after the summer failed to thaw the bay.”
The giant sat back, gaunt even under the bush of beard, his muskoxen robes hung by the fire to expose buckskin clad shoulders near as wide as some men’s wingspans, but not an ounce of fat and much muscle of recent gone, if he were a judge of men.
“The Eskimos drive ye out? What is ye anyhow—a’might stout fer a Frenchy en no Paree in yer lingo?”
“My people are Norwegian and Icelandic. Our homes have failed to give crop in summer and we have been brought as hired men by the Montreal Pope and the Black Robes. [2]”
His voice halted, amplifying the cadence already in each sentence, and here expanded as a pause.
“Inuit en Eskimo we not feud with no more. They joined with us and we all fled. I took up the back trail when the Nine Black Robes and their Nine Black Knights stayed behind to battle the White Night.”
“The White Night?” croaked he.
Pemicin Bill gave him the cup to hold, smiled softly and turned as he spoke, “They come with the snow at night, always in a blizzard. We call it the White Night. The Nine and Nine never returned along the back trail. I waited two weeks and ate my stores. When another blow threatened I set out for here. An Indian said that Medicine Wheel Man, called Sorcerer, would know what this was.”
Prayed he: ‘Father, wish you were here with me.’
A great arm, frozen, as long as Noose had been tall before he shrunk with age, looking to be about eighty pounds in weight, hacked from the shoulder and rudely stitched, was held between the giants hands, making Bill seem not a giant at all.
The hair was snow white and matted with some hard flat flaps along its length, terminating in a hand that could palm a grizzly bear’s head, pointed with blotched enamel nails with gray streaks as wide as a silver dollar at the base and as pointy as a cougar claw at the end of each three inch nail. The palms seemed a gray leather pad.
Remember struck him sick, recalling a swampy mud pit where Kansas Pete floated chest deep, missing a hand that he swore had been ripped off by the critter whose finger and ear Pete clutched in the other hand as he died telling the story of how he had shot it, knifed it, wrestled it, and it had lurched off when Noose and the rangers had come up.
“Sorcerer, came the soft voice, are you well to speak?”
“Sure,” halted he. “Bring it ‘ere so’s I can touch it please.”
As he examined, sniffed, and felt the thing that was frozen, he asked, “What y’all been callin’ dese?”
“Stonish Giants, the Mohawks said, in the long ago far away.”
“Yep, Medicine Crow summed dat dey woul’ come back—so ma Father, ye real gen-you-wine Sorcerer, said. Opined dat dey was mussed up Sasquatch what the Westy en Fish Injuns talk of. A scout named Kansas Pete I knowed what shot en cut en lost ‘is hand to a critter called a swam ape with hair exact like dis sept da color, unda coat en all. It were, accordin’ ta Pete ‘fore he passed, only half dis size but strong as five men. Hell, Pete wrastled bear fo fun! He knew strong uns.”
He examined the hard flaps more closely and began to work at one and kept the patient giant busy with a query, “This sucker still smells bad ‘spite da cold en freeze, like an ole swamp ape what I neva saw alive or dead. I recall the hair, like a giant weasle o’ stink more coarse den grizz like dis ‘ere.”
The giant was looking closely at him fussing with the hair, and asked, “Not a growth or a burr?”
“Naw, Big Bill. Let an ole coon aks, what sand-sacked sumbitch cut dis limb free from dat meat-eatin’ tree was wingin’ it?”
The giant grinned, and holding the great arm in one hand, hefted a great bearded ax with his right and offered, “His other hand was ripping my ox—I ride an ox, not to be unkind to horse kind—from arse to appetite. The same fear that winged my stroke winged my feet. This one come ahead of that White Night blow.”
He looked up into that broad gaunt face, “Big Bill, if I coul’ dream me up a son, he’d be you.”
The man smiled, perhaps thirty by his wind-worn look.
The thing came loose.
“Ged a brand ova ‘ere for seein’, Big Bill…”
They soon huddled over the arm like two trackers over a sign on a grizz trace, the younger all ears, “Dis ‘ere, I s’pose, all dese ovalapped flat bur flaps is what brings the calls o’ ‘stonish’ down on deese giant gents. A staff or a sword might turn on dese like ole timey armor and get caught in d tree layers o’ fur. Yer ax obsoleted dat.”
“Thing is,” he said, pointing to the etched and carved flat of bone in his palm, “dis is armor. Dese critters are a’ smart by half ova dat ole swamp ape what done fer Kansas Pete as da Pope’s own Prelate is to a black voodoo coon. Dey armored up. Dese be notched bits o’ human skull—thick Eskimo en Injun skulls—dat ‘ave also etched in dem witch signs like dem stinkin’ preach-by-night Voodoo men make ta bugger us right-doin’ men up. Dese critters be makin’ bits o’ scale armor out o’ human ‘eads, scribblin’ dey dastard curses on dem, en windin’ dem up in dey fur, fo blade protection en voodoo projection.”
He then took the etched bone scale and held the scratched surface to the end of one of the claw-like fingernails and the grooves of the weaver slots and the bad symbol—a hangman stick-figure—matched the point of the nail, used as a stylus to make this rude war art armor part.
Bill intoned, in a deep octave that told that his soft voice was affected not to intimidate little folks, “They are intelligent, use magic and are taking to tool making?”
“Yep,” snarled old Noose, for a moment his old man-hunting self, “en if dere even ten o’ dese stone ape sumbitches, Outer Christendom is headed up Shit’s Own Crick witout paddle one.”
The giant man smiled bemusedly, and his old fellow asked, “Dat funny, Big Bill?”
The man patted him kindly and smiled, “No, not at all. I had a certain idea of how a Sorcerer might give counsel. I am pleased that your candid way is more to my way of mind.”
He laughed with the giant, laughed for the first time that he could remember since before the fight at Massacre Tree.
Notes
-0. Demons and devils of the minor sort that had counterparts among Indian trickster spirits and harried a ranger or scout or hunter’s concourse with saints, angels and God through deception and doubt. Gads were the reasons why rangers needed praying saint ladies and hymn singing nuns.
-1. Isaiah 43:4
-2. Jesuits
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