Click to Subscribe
Red Rock Red
Act 5, Part 1 of The Knights Trace in Awes West
© 2022 James LaFond
“To be his man in faith and war allied…
He’s fierce I know, and high of heart and dread…”
-First Jest, First Chant
The tower was occupied by the sallow-faced paige and the Stone Deacon at its based, the paige barring the door, and the Stone Deacon leading Sergeant Saddler up the winding red rock stair, winding within the stacked stone wall. This bottom floor was the dwelling of these two lowliest of the high, where their hearth smoldered to cook the meals of the uppers above.
The second floor was a simple room where the Squire and the Factor slept in two small cots, the noble mess table at its center shared between the two, books stacked their and weapons racked on a stand next to the single window that overlooked the gate. Both of these worthies were already gathered above in The Knight’s chamber.
Brawn was the last of the four men to emerge from the floor of The Knight Brass’s quarters. The Knight towered six feet and three inches, long of limb and broad of shoulder, dressed in his brazen breast plate, his brass helm yet on the armor stand with his gauntlets of the same golden shine clothing the ends of the crosspiece on the armor-bearing crucifix. His face was clean shaven like all of the order, his hair cut in the flat-topped spike like all of his class. Thus, the bowl cut of the ranks marked them off at a glance according to their class, just as slouch hat and helm, or ‘war hat’ marked off the men according to class in the field. His bed was no richer and no wider than those below, but was longer to accommodate his great length of leg.
Brawn thought that The Knight Brass was a handsome, high-headed man of almost 40 years, his Squire nearer to 30, the Factor aged between and the Stone Deacon the eldest by far. The paige, he despised, a youth of 19, who lacked much of a ranger’s rugged quality—though this paige was fearless and well known to be, making sport of hunting snakes bare-handed and stalking cougars with his sword alone—though as yet not honored by a joust with such a beast.
The Stone Deacon, at his lord’s nod, took the ladder to the roof above, scrambling there in his buff coat, belted with pistol and saber, first taking from The Knight Brass his spyglass.
The Factor, sat in a writing chair, the Red Rock Station Journal on his lap, ink quill in hand, dipped in the ink well at the end of the right arm of the writing chair, where he recorded all that was said in his lord’s presence. The Factor was a gaunt, narrow-shouldered fellow, who might have been the brother of The Knight Brass, if he had been deprived of milk as a babe, health as a lad, and vigorous activity as a youth.
Marking Brawn’s presence, The Factor looked sharply over his bony beak of a nose, eyes severe in that narrow, pasty face, at Saddler, who raised his hand in the sign of sharp sight, [0] by this simple sign indicating that Brawn Pillory was a fresh Ranger, of the Sharp class.
The Factor nodded and wrote in his book, sending a chill down Brawn’s spine as he realized with superstitious dread that his name and make were being entered into that register of power that would ever be used by his betters to pass judgment on such as he, the lowly and the lesser.
The Squire Brass announced—he being near as tall as his knight, attired alike in brassy plate, though lacking the deep voice of The Knight Brass, “Come to parley, Sergeant Saddler.”
His hands folded before his belt buckle, “Yes, Squire, this Comanche be well-known as the ablest Spaniard killer o’ ‘is kind, en comes a parley on but one horse—en a one ‘o ‘is kin what rides but one horse, has must got a sorrow tale to tell.”
Saddler stood back now next to the right of the Comanche, his hands now woven behind his back.
The Knight Brass addressed the copper-faced savage, “I be His Knight Brass, chief of this station, God’s humble factor in this land.”
The Indian spoke softly, “I A’Quah, War Chief Platte River Band—now cold in Fatherland.”
Not understanding, Brass looked to Saddler who amplified the curt heathen account, “Strongest band, most ruthless smart chief, hidin’ out in The Wind Rivers what rough cold mountains begat ‘deir kind in the long ago.”
The Indian looked at Saddler narrowly, then transferred his gaze to The Knight Brass, to whom he nodded in agreement.
The Knight intoned, “Your purpose for parley?”
A’Quah reached into his buckskin pants flap and drew forth a flat buckskin packet and spoke, “Come from Medicine Wheel under counsel Crazy Rope to make friend Spanish—” a word he could not say without spitting.
Saddler looked astart at the Indian, and this was noted by The Knight who blurted, against his normal stayed way, “Why?”
“Crazy Rope—enemy old, much blood! Ask to him Skinwalker come, Comanche brave run.”
They were agape and The Squire, who served the factor as questioner, asked, “Skinwalker?”
Saddler grunted, “Heathen booger men, Lazarus-like coyote-headed witch, called trickster by some.”
A’Qua did not understand all of the references, and tore open his buckskin tunic to show a white paw print, a taloned almost human hand-print, burned like white ash scar on his breast.
The nobles all shook their heads in the positive, being fast to believe in devils rising, as crusaders are wont to accept. Saddler only was the skeptic, for this being the Sergeant’s job.
“Crazy Rope, ye say, on da Medicine Wheel?”
A’Quah nodded, “Yes.”
Saddler snarled, “Da Comanchero claim ye kin put da arrow to dat desertin’ sombitch.”
A’Quah agreed, with a nod.
Saddler continued, “He be seventy winter if a day.”
A’Quah spoke, “Give Medicine Wheel Man twenty winters more. He come Medicine Wheel Man—dead,” and the Indian made his point by coughing in a feigned extremity of consumption.
“Sergeant Saddler?” came the deep impatient tone of The Lord.
Saddler stayed where he was, “Hates me a Comanche, Sire—but dis son o’ a squaw ain’ got no lie in ‘im.”
“Continue, Sergeant.”
“Crazy Rope be what da heathen’s call Noose Gun, once atime bloody gallows brash o’ Awes South, voodoo huntin’ Sarge o’ Saint George, what done lost ‘is mind en rode off wild wit dese sorts after ‘is hide. The Medicine Wheel be da heathen sacred place where dey goes fo’ advice to a marooned Christian at its top, what called Medicine Man by dem en Sorcerer by Sepulcher.” [1]
The Knight Brass looked ascance at The Factor and jibed, “A likely post for book-like men of certain stripe.”
The Factor winced and slid his eyes in silent protest and yet possible agreement.
The Knight then addressed A’Quah, “What did Crazy Rope advise concerning these skin-walking devils?”
“Knight Stupid—Knight Spanish… Knight White banner.”
The Knight Brass chuckled in mirth, his lantern jaw widening, “Ah, yes, our good rivals of The Knights of Saint Martial. You seek passage to their lands?”
A’Quah nodded and explained, “Not need—go bye.”
“Why then parlay here?” asked the Knight.
A’Quah held up the buckskin case and spoke in a prepared way, “Crazy Rope, say all brother ‘gainst skinwalker. Horses tire, Wendigo trace A’Quah out Medicine Bow. Seek Cheyenne Station Knights to brother.”
He then held up the buckskin packet in two hands towards The Knight Brass. To this The Squire Brass stepped forward, retrieved the packet and handed it to his Lord.
The Knight Brass opened the rawhide clasp and drew forth a banner, folded neatly but not by the hand of a member of the Order of the Knights Trace, for it was folded squarely, not in a wedge. The Knight, between his two big hands dropped a pennon of the order, a sky blue banner embroidered at Whitefish Cathedral with a red sword crossed with a white spyglass. This symbol had been marked with red ink, with the signs of retreat.
The Factor was summoned to ascertain the red letters meaning, examine the tincture of the ink and the hand with which it were scawled. He seemed near tears and said, “The Knight Rule falls back on Saint George. The pigeons of Whitefish have been ate by a griffon of thunderous aspect. The Trace Line [2] is shattered.”
The Knight Brass looked at the Indian, “How long were they gone.”
“Two days, night.”
“Why,” asked the Knight, “do you come here, rather than to New Spain as counseled.”
“Knights leave two horse; my life save.”
The Knight Brass glowed obscenely in his joy at some noble savage stepping forth as if from a story. The Comanche was startled by this expression of joy at such bad news. Stalking down off his slight raised judgment plank, his spurred boots jangling, his heavy weight thudding, The Knight Brass awakened to a lifelong purpose, came to stand with violent intensity before A’Quah over whom he towered like a cottonwood above a willow, both shading the same sad river.
The Indian chief, his profile stern, a head shorter than The Knight Brass, who seemed suddenly alive to a fright, had a look as if he half-expected to be slain for taking the banner from Cheyenne Station. But the Knight extended his hand to grasp the hand of his hereditary foe, and the hand was taken and grasped hard as The Knight Growled, “Why, ride to New Spain for a knight, when one stands here before you, Friend, ready to fight?”
The chief seemed to be infected with the fierce intensity of the fanatic of Christ, and nodded, hurk-a-jerk, “Yes!”
To this The Knight Brass spread his arms wide, looked up into everything and bellowed, “Brothers against the night!” and gathered the chief in his arms in a vigorous hug.
“To arms!” cheered The Squire Brass, and as his lord turned to embrace him, his closest counsel. The stunned Comanche gave a meaningful question of a look to Sergeant Saddler, who drawled in appropriate low tones, “Ye knows it ye redskin coon—ain’t a Knight o’ The Trace ain’t crazy as a squaw what lost ‘her first born chyle. Dey all sworn sons o’ Motha Mary what los’ ‘er boy on yon cross.”
Saddler punctuated this statement while pointing at the Crucifix hung in life size behind the Judgment Plank, a painted, wooden image of the Christ nailed to its cross pieces.
The heathen was impressed, like Charlemagne in his dream, wondering at the Greyhound coming to his rescue to battle the Nightmare Lion.
Rum had finally lost its touch as Brawn sobered to the realization that he was the freshest ranger ever to luck into a hot crusade—and against Injun boogermen at that.
“Muder Ert sing tru Her Tree:
‘Bring me Chriseman son,
Harvest me deir need—
Beat me yer hoodoo drum…
Lovely bring dey daughters for to seed!”
-0. The right hand visoring the right eye, as if on lookout.
-1. The Knights Sepulcher who watch Awes North west to Montana.
-2. The supply and communication network of the Stations is The Trace Line, an offensive string of bases for action, not a defensible line of castles as in The Old World. This line once known to be broken is to devolve upon all Knights the burden to do what seems best.
Three Coon Clown
Summer’s Gone

Ruben     Oct 15, 2022

Beautiful writing
  Add a new comment below: