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Sergeant Saddler’s Second
Act 2 of The Knights Trace in Awes West
© 2022 James LaFond
“The talk begins, that’s fated grim to finish.”
-Roland, First Jest, Second Chant
The gatehouse at Redrock Station, was, of course, nowhere near the gate! The gate tower was formidable enough and overlooked by the Tower Brass. Said tower was not affixed with a single symbol or coin or even guilt with a tincture of that rare knightly metal. The gate was of willow stake, a drop gate. The tower door was woven of hawthorn to a massive proportion, six inches thick and six feet wide by 8 feet high.
The yard, between tower and gate, with stables and barracks between tower and side-canyon walls, was a mere fifty paces across, with Redrock Creek running through it, before the tower, over which a ten foot bridge of stacked stone lead to the door of that tower, fronted by a ten by ten foot red flag court, accessed immediately from barracks and stables, barracks to the north. From the tower roof the Knight Brass could see the Great Plains, 20 miles east.
The gatehouse, was so named for it hid the postern gate, that secret way up the narrow defile concealed by the stone walled station, walled only on the front by man and to north, south and west by God’s tireless hand. Among the scullers, three Mexican goatherds, an Irish shepherd and dogs, and two negro chicken boys provided fresh food to supplement the maize flatbread and Saint George’s own sour dough crackers provided by The Order. The rue mainstay was the venison, bison, elk, moose and bear provided by the scouts, Scout Sergeant Praying Trigger Tim, Creed the Hymn singing breed, and Vile Quill the Ute breed and young Sharp Shoe Brown, a most curious looking brown Buffalo-head Indian. The troop ate in two watches even as the boys who camped out in the yard messed in two watches. These boys were commanded by the Farrier Sergeant, who also direct the horse tender, usually a slave and the Gate Ranger. The gate rangers were the three most junior rangers posted in rotation.
The scullers called the barns and stables there home and were under the command of the Station Sergeant.
The gatehouse door had been taken from a Spanish church rectory. Hence, the hanging of this door was a story oft told, of how Saddler finally threw up his hands in disgust, unable to level the door on its hinges, rode to Saint George, abducted a carpenter indented under the Masons, brought him here to set the door proper, and then, telling him he had runaway that he was wanted dead or alive by the dread masons, whole ruled the cathedral cities. But since the carpenter had fixed their door, he was free to go. Saddler lent him passage to New Spain, with Praying Trigger Tim as a guide, with assurances that work to order could be had from a padre missing his rectory door.
Brawn often wondered if Tim had slain the carpenter on the trace to New Spain, but lacked the courage to ask, even with his eyes.
Such thoughts reveried across the young pilloried mind as he walked surly like into the lair of is betters, for rangers could only be said to be denning when winter covered the stations with deep snow.
‘So this is my plight, to be one of these murdercrows?’
He reached for the door and sensed or heard something behind him. Stopping and turning his head, he saw Tim shadowing him by a pace, and motioned to the door, “Scout Sergeant,” giving way with some sardonic tension released in his grin, to which Tim narrowed his gaze into a dark-moted slot of disapproval and glided by him, through the perfectly balanced door, swinging easy on its precision hinges.
Within, the two lanterns hung from the center beam illuminated the scene: this was no shift mess here. Only the Farrier Sergeant and scullers and boys were at duty, the nobility four of course in their stone tower nosing through their Bible and Roland’s Song with their servant the Stone Deacon decreeing what the learned would dispense to the rude in scripture and song this night.
‘I am a man now!’
“Boy,” snarled Sergeant Saddler, I got me a dee-lem-ah!”
The man was a terror of Awes West, some fifty years old, stronger and fitter then all the rest except for The Knight Brass and the Farrier Sergeant; not a large man like Their Lord or the Stone Deacon, but a man of stout, wiry action. At five feet and ten inches, Saddler stood to look Brawn directly in the eye, the same height the both of them, the tallest rangers, with only lanky Tim taller among the scouts.
Saddler extended his hand, “Come ‘ere boy,” beckoning him to come take a cup of grog. “It’s time for the much delayed medicinal treatment of your Denver-earned stripes—Ranger Shacks, get a shirt on dis barechested sombitch!”
A chest opened and a buckskin shirt, like what a real ranger wore, was taken out and held up to Brawn by the eldest and thinnest of their band, Old Shacks, sixty and two, with but three teeth left in his head. “Yep, Sarge, da ole squaw stretched ‘er right.”
The old timer then looked askance at Brawn and sneered, “We’ll, I ain’ a gonna dress yer scarified hide! Whatch you da Knight Brass! Standin’ dere a loogin’ at me like I some pert piece ‘o ass?”
Laughter rocked the room at Brawn’s surly expense, the humor of world-wearied men prodding the world wary youth into their mirth-filled den.
Brawn took the buckskin shirt and donned it, it fitting nicer by far than any of his youthful charity rags or his care-made nunspun attire.
That was all it took, as the shirt was pulled on, the men in the room all stood and raised their cups of grog [1] and shouted, “Boy to man—in like sin!”
Then, instead of raising their leather cups to their lips, they passed them around, and one by one each was emptied into the cup held by Saddler, until it was full to the rim, as full as a German beer mug, not with grog, but with rum.
Saddler beckoned him closer, put an arm around his shoulder, and said, “Drink, today man, before the devil counts the whiskers on your chest what to lay you to miserable rest!”
The company of rangers was ever so different than that of boys and far more different than one would suppose—based on the Stone Deacon’s solemn Psalms and Roland’s furious Song, the Squire’s Sunday sermons and the paige’s midnight hymns, than what he had thought such company to comprise.
The drink washed like fire down his throat and their his virgin belly smote, stoking a smolder of coals in his guts that rose to set a light his senses with a haze of realization, a vision of men as they were, rather than what they did say, playing a part in some monstrous play.
He downed it all without drowning, and there stood tall. Saddler then sat him down in the chair at the head of the table—the Sergeant’s Perch. Patting Brawn on the shoulders he crowed, “Broad” Brawn Pillory, toughest whoreson out of Denver Station, what paid for his own bail and bond with the toughness of his own damned hide!”
The man’s boots clunked loudly on the floor as he marched around.
“I told ye, Young Brawn, dat I ‘ad a dee-lem-ah, and it were true, but I understated in dat I had two. The first vexation was that—true dat I got four tarable Prarie Niggers [2], I had me but nine Gun Niggers [3]—one bein’ dat unshinable turd in the gatetower out dere dat couldn’ spot a Comanch lance if it were cavortin’ in a whorehouse dance. Problem solved—I got you, got me Young Brawn!
“One problem leads to some odder problem, see. So I got no Crowns, no shillings either, ‘cause I done been ta town to poke old Sharp Shoe Brown’s coffee smile sister.”
Brawn was aghast and started, to which the men all laughed, except for Sharp Shoe, most vicious man of the band, who glared at Saddler with ireful intent, who continued in obnoxious wise: “You see, it’s a long bad habit of mine, pokin whores, or better yet making washer women into whores…”
There was a silent pause, and Brawn looked at Sharp Shoe, about twenty-and-two in years, who looked at Brawn with a dark realization.
Saddler continued, “I needed extra rum ration for your elevation, seeings as Ole Shacks here drank it all up…
[Laughter, numbness and anger]
“… but, lowly are the bold, I done poked Sharp Shoe’s sister, who in my defense, and in a matter his mother’s recompense, is not my daughter, just because he’s my little squirt. This leaves me with the problem of having used up Sharp Shoe’s ration, which he do save for in case he gets cut or shot for medicinal application, for your elevation. So, Brawn, I owes ‘im, which.. and since you my natural born son, done sired on washer woman wants an apple—your bastard ass owes ‘im!”
Brawn lunged up out of the chair, a snarl, swinging a haymaker, a far worse punch than he had been taught by The Stone Deacon, and the hard, thick fist of Sergeant Saddler, sank unseen into his liver and sent him with a staggering groan to his right knee.
Unable to move, to breathe, to even heave up that poison he had drunk, as the table and chairs and all things movable were heard being dragged to the stone walls, Brawn was helpless but to listen.
“Brawn, you think there is really a tribe of Buffalo Injuns what live past the Great Divide?”
“We made dat shit up ta feed on a brass platter to dey what matter, so yer olda half brother ‘ere, product of my own indiscretion, might be a scout. En you, knowin’ ye was me—half a me and ‘alf a me bein’ tougher den a Goddanged Heathen Ree, I laid dat whippin’ bet what set you with me, with all us, yer gun kin, yer saddle kin, brothers all even do I ‘av’nt found all yer mothers on whom to call.”
Brawn snarled, stood, and spat in Sergeant Saddler’s face, a hanging offense at the least, expecting no such sentence from this rough and ready killer, but a quick hand.
Saddler grinned as the saliva dripped down his stubble-bearded chin, all of them two days late on the shave for Saint Brendon’s Fast, and patted Brawn kindly on the shoulder, “Proud to call ye my son. You got yer one shot. Do it again in you gut shot.”
This was disarming.
Saddler then turned him by the shoulders and began to pull off his buckskin as he faced Sharp Shoe Brown, who was stripping to his breaches and Sergeant Saddler said, “I gotz ta know, which one a my sonsof-bitches is the best brawling son-of-my-britches.”
“Careful now, son, he heard Saddler say from behind him as the man who claimed to be his true father, backed away and soothed, “Don’ call dat coon Sharp Shoe fer nothin’.”
-1. rum is mixed 1 part to 2 water to make grog.
-2. attribution for breeds or half-civilized Indians
-3. rangers, insult
First Coil
Sharp Shoe Brown

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