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Summer’s Gone
Act 5, Part 2 of the Acts of Awes West
© 2022 James LaFond
“He is not like other men…
Lord God has lit his heart with prowess.”
-Jest 1, Chant 2
Ranger Brawn was relieved of all tack and gear duties, other than to tend to his new saddle gun. For he was the honor guard of the dour Injun, A’Quah, who Saddler told him with a wry snicker had hospitably arranged for an entire troop of Spanish dons and Mexican scouts to be drowned, horses and all, in a box canyon he had lured them within, using a squaw wearing a lady’s dress and a blond wig as a lure.
“Now sleep with one eye open, son!” Saddler cheered him in his hangover state as he kindled the camp fire under the eve of the gatetower for old A’Quah and him. It was his duty to tend to A’Quah’s lance, so he sharpened the belly of each edge and polished each face, propping it against the gate tower stair behind him.
The saddle gun came with a spare horn of powder and a pouch of half-inch ball shot—but not ball, shaped like carved goose eggs with theads cut there, what to make it spin and fly true, something fangled and new. No priming powder was needed what with the pyrite wheel locks, one to each side. Within the stock was a brass-latched compartment that had two spare wheel locks primed with pyrite, and four pyrite primers, should a primer be lost or a lock broke beating some heathen over the head.
There were only 50 goose egg shot. So Saddler advised him to use the goose egg in the right barrel for distance shooting and regular round lead ball for the left barrel, for close work.
As night came down Brawn meticulously cleaned and polished his saddle gun. He then set to work on Issue, his made from junk belt pistol, an old flintlock as ancient as old Ranger Shacks. He tamped his powder good and placed the falcon hood over the closed flint lock and pan against the morning dew. The issues loaded quickly, and were good for knocking in a head with the butt. But they misfired about 1 in 3 times on the trace, 1 in 6 at target practice. Brawn was a proud owner of a 1 in 5 misfire on trace and a 1 in 9 misfire rate at target practice.
Issue all tucked away, he keened up his scalping knife, the small blade he took from that Blackfeet Warrior that Dillon had scalped, which he kept in a backhand draw spot for his left hand in a sheathe at his belt.
That done, Brawn checked the razor keen edge of his toothpick, 20 inches of tapering double edge yearning to be thrust into a foe. He oiled it and re-sheathed it, noting that the sour-faced Injun was watching his every move and had decided that Brawn had not yet killed a man, and yearned to with his toothpick, the weapon he was most enamored of.
Brawn met his gaze and searched there, wondering what other observations or criticisms wandered behind those nigh unreadable eyes.
The man answered them, “Sarge beat you, poison you.”
He felt a flame of challenged loyalty light within his chest and he answered back flatly, “I poisoned myself. My brother, Sharp Shoe, done beat me.”
The Indian nodded, over at the four breeds about their campfire, “Buffalo Hair?”
“Yes, Sarge made us fight. I won, so got this here saddle gun,” pointing to the double-barrel Prussian iron, with its heavy octagonal barrels.
The Indian nodded with curt understanding and rocked off to sleep, just like that, gone into some voiceless dream.
Something gurgled like a bubbling spring, if that spring bubbled mud.
His arm was touched by a gentle hand as the Comanche reached over his head to grab his lance.
Something horrible was happening to Saddle Dillon above, a crunching and tearing and unmanning feast. His saddle gun was placed to his hand by A’Quah, and as he rose in a crouch and the Comanche glided aside by a step,
Brawn, half in a maze, sited into the risen moon, along the black barrel to the silver-guilt bead and saw there, framed in the moon, a fat-headed man with something like a goat snout, naked and pale in the moonlight, twice as broad as Brawn, fixing to leap out into the court. Behind him another two of its kind feasted on still not dead Dillon, one eating his nether reaches while the other clamped its great jut of chin and fangs about Dillon’s throat.
Brawn and the Comanche were not seen by the leading fiend of the three, for they were just underneath of it, looking up through the murder holes, for shooting down on those that got through an open gate, or up at them that skulked over it like this. Furthermore, the lead fiend was fixated with its bloodshot eyes on the scouts about their smoldering goal of a camp fire. And, not least of all, was the presence of a malformed chin so massive, and head so wide, that the hog-like eyes did not look easily down over.
A’Quah was poised.
Brawn smoothly raised his saddle gun to his shoulder without breathing, held his breath, silent cocked the right hammer, drew a steady bead on that jut of beastly chin, and squeezed: thunder and lightning splitting the night from his shoulder.
A great shower of bloody mess, faceless head and pallid hair-matted brawn fell into the courtyard over and past A’Quah, who hissed like a snake and threw his lance true, ripping into the side of the loin-feasting fiend.
The critter that had Dillon’s throat, ripped off the ranger’s head with a twist of its bull-like head, and threw it like a stone, hitting A’Quah in the head and knocking him to his back, still conscious, but dazed, reaching for his scalping knife as the fiend leaped down upon him, and had a whole blown clear through its back as Brawn let loose the round ball in the left barrel of the saddle gun and the thing, yet raged and clawed at the man under him with great raking strokes of nails.
The brass horn rang.
The scouts whooped their Indian yells.
Saddler bellowed from the gatehouse incoherently as doors of stable, shed, tower and house burst open and the thing above him glared down through the murder hole with blazing pig eyes. The thing was eating some of Dillon’s intestines and breaking off the lance point that jutted out from under its ribs, through a flank of muscle as thick as Brawn’s stout leg.
The thing was eating on the move and intelligently removing the lance as they had been schooled to remove an arrow.
Brawn eased his saddle gun down in his left hand to rest butt on ground against his leg, drew his issue, aimed up through the murder hole, and a thudding crash of the willow stake gate shook him from his aim, him stepping back in instinctive fear at the shivering gate, and firing into it—a shot wasted even as his prize gun fell in the red dust before him.
With that the fiend above was leaping over the gate to thud to ground ten feet beyond and 15 feet down and great pawing strides, as if two grizzly bears ran shoulder to shoulder scattered the midnight gravel without, two ominous howls echoing up Redrock Canyon. These howls were answered by by others of their ilk more distant, and these were answered by the brazen trumpet of The Knight Brass, blown by the Stone Deacon on the roof of Tower Brass.
Scout arrows slithered into the clawing beast that straddled the Comanche, even as that man stabbed him in the groin. The fiend yet stood straddling the downed chief and raked him across the chest with that human like hand of black nails—Brawn’s scream seemed shrill to him, angry and unsure. But the terrible death sight of the thing brought confidence, as his toothpick plunged to the hilt into that right kidney, and slid back out to a gush of midnight paint.
Scouts took the walls.
The Knight Brass and Sergeant Saddler were first above the fiend, where it had folded bend-kneed to the side and failed to smother the chief in his death throes.
Brawn saw to the chief, whose skin-walker scar had been good and ruined by that larger, raking paw, the hand span so large that those dirty nails had rent four bone-deep tears from collar bone to mid belly. If the two short fingers had been as long as the two forefingers, the chief would have had his guts ripped open. As it was, the two lower cuts on the upper belly were mere ugly scratches, while the two deeper ones showed the white of breastbone in the moonlight.
Brawn had been well-trained by Farrier Sergeant. So much so that as the Sergeant bent above him to give instructions, he caught himself and said, “You got it, Brawn, dem nails as filthy as grizz claws.” As he emptied a charge of powder in the gaping tears on the Indian breast, and sprinkled the remnants in the lines of scratch across his belly. He sparked his issue flint into the upper wound and it sizzled as the chief ground his teeth audibly but did not cry out, the tear of flesh flaming with black smoke gray in the night.
Torch light came to bear as Brawn fired the other tear over the nipples and the chief grunted like a fiend himself under the sizzling burn. The burning of the two lesser tears were as nothing and had to be reignited for want of powder.
“Rum, over-proof!” yelled Brawn, and a hand extended a cup and he poured it along the four rakes of flesh, the trenches as well as the til lines.
“Salt and pitch,” he demanded, and the big hands of Farrier Sergeant handed him the pinch thimble of salt and the pitch pine brush.
The Indian refused to stay on his back, stood, and shook Brawn’s hand.
No one but the scouts above could spare a glance at anything, or a care for all, with two ruined monsters sprawling in just dead state at their feet.
The Factor brought his book, speaking the words he wrote in case there was any disagreement from the witnesses.
‘Pallid to gray of skin, splotched with black freckles of a pea size to a half inch.’
‘Seven feet tall.’
‘Four feet broad at the shoulder, arms as long as shoulders broad.’
‘The Farrier says 600 pounds, 500 dressed—short of fat and guts, all of hungry muscle.’
‘Three feet wide at the hips, long wasted and short legged, running on all fours, walking at an upright amble but slow.’
‘Feet and hands twice as broad as a human of the same height. The nails of the toes are like hoof fronts, those on the fingers long, dirty and sharp like obsidian.’
‘Genitalia like a longhorn bull—obscene deviltry obvious in the vile breed.’
‘Neck a foot thick and as long, the throat possessed of a gizzard like a turkey.’
‘Head, a foot wide, inset with deep hoggish eyes, a great jut of chin with inward ripping fangs on the lower jaw and outward spreading teeth on the upper, beneath a curious slopped snout, bristled like a boar. The face is given to a kinky wool, the ears thick and bristly with hackles like the neck. The hair upon the head is like that of the razorback boar. The tail is likewise akin to that of a boar.’
‘Declared by one and all most hideous and devil-like to behold.’
‘Praying Trigger Tim, Sergeant of Scouts, in consultation with the heathen chief, A’Quah, have named this creature, Wendigo after their ancient tribal lore.’
Jason Belmonte, Factor to The Knight Brass, Redrock Station
The Knight Brass was fired for action upon the scouts report and the examination of the beast men, which he ordered burned.
“We ride with the dawn, men—we ride for the Glory of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior!”
Sergeant Saddler, checking the saddle gun without a compliment as to its resent use, advised, in low tones, “We rides more-like ta the gory pleasure of Fate—en she a wicked bitch what don’t pray ta Mother Mary or ‘er redeemin’ Baby Boy. Ye keep dis iron ready, son. We ‘bout ta restock Hell wit its right-filled inmates.”
To this Tim put in, picking a snowflake from the dark, chilly night, “Summer’s gone, Sarge—summer is done up en gone.”
Red Rock Red
Denver Station

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