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Denver Station
Act 6 of The Knights Trace in Awes West
© 2022 James LaFond
“Great Suffering is always a great teacher.”
-First Jest, Sixth Chant
The Station Banner had been taken down off the tower staff. Yet The Knight Brass would not leave it inverted over the open gate according to custom. He had rather taken the banner and handed it to The Station Sergeant among his scullers, goatherds, shepherds and gathering with them The Factor and The Stone Deacon, declaring them “Our Station!” lecturing briefly upon the crusade against monsters out of Hell, and swearing them all anew to brandish their tools: slings, crook-staves, hammers, axes and such to guard the banner as if it were Tower Brass itself.
The crisp, shallow dawn snow ushered them out of Red Rock Canyon to the terrible music of the wendigo howls, sung from slathering jowls above from the choir of those high horse tooth mountain crests where they could be seen scrambling upon all fours braying with wide-gapped snouts.
Double file, behind Saddler and Sharp Shoe, next to old Shacks the Bannerman, rode Brawn, attentive to the grim-faced canyon walls as Saddler counted the wendigo and advised his men, shouting down the line, “Study deir monsta gait wit yer eyes, imprint deir slathering yelps in yer mind—ye needs ta know dem, Rangers! Learn ta tell ‘em vile suckkers from a grizz at a distance.”
Tim and the Squire ranged out front, with the other two scouts bringing up the rear, behind The Knight and Paige, seconded by three Rangers. In the middle rode the Farrier Sergeant and the pony boys, leading and following the Stone Deacon, Station Sergeant and Scullers. Hence three banners were they: rangers out front [banner marked with a red horseshoe], Stationmen center [banner embroidered with a golden tower], followed by The Knight Brass under his banner, accented with an embroidered golden sword.
Saddler admonished Brawn to memorize every man and duty and his equipage of the three parts of the expedition, as he would be the messenger between the three sub-commands should they be separated by fate or folly or to execute a caper of arms. [0]
Not a man or boy was unarmed, all marked combatants on Crusade, even the sallow Factor, armed with his needle-like small sword and dainty long and deadly dagger, his soft face shielded from the elements by his fancy foppish hat. They had taken their time at muster, every man of the crusade entered in The Journal Brass, renamed “Wendigo-Walker Crusade: A.D. 2031.”
The Knight Brass seemed to have been half hoping that the wendigo would descend from their heights and bring him glory. His men, not a one of them, had failed to share his adore and breathed easier when the march was joined. Every man had a mount, every scout, ranger and noble two.
More enamored of ancient Chivalry than any Old World knight and with slight account to use their swords against the heathen foes of the west, The Knights Trace imagined their entire command as a sword. Each of them from low or high nobility, having given over their worldly identity for their sacred task, able to adopt the name of their choice, and even alter it under priestly authorization and with a factor as witness. Thus, The Third Son of the Baron Mount Joy above Saint Mary’s Town in Easter New England, became, ten years before the taking of this crusade, The Knight Brass of The Knights Trace.
His Christ Sword [his command] was ordered thus, with only the positive aspects of the sword named—no foible or ricasso entertained by this metaphor of Christly command, in order of march:
10 souls
Under the Ranger Banner Brass
mounted on mountain ponies for breaking trace
-Praying Trigger Tim, brash sergeant of scouts, bow & arrows, toothpick & knife [scouts, and half-scouts all like armed]
-The Squire Brass, in command, heavy straight saber with baskethilt, 6 wheel lock pistols, dagger
-Saddler Savage, Sergeant of rangers sharp, second in command, saddle gun, blunderbuss, 4 pistols, hussar saber, toothpick, knife
-Sharp Shoe Brown, 3rd scout sharp
-Old Shacks, ranger low, bannerman, banner lance, 3 pistols, straight saber, knife
-Brawn Pillory, ranger sharp, saddle gun, [0.5] pistol, toothpick, knife [rangers all like armed]
-Brick Butt, ranger middling
-Razor Slake, ranger low [barber]
-Can’t Jew, ranger dwaddle
-Whipt Jury, ranger slide
-4 mountain pack ponies
-14 souls
Under the Banner of Station Brass
mounted on quarter horses
-Brick Hill, Station Sergeant middling, in command, blunderbuss and saber
-Apple Rogue, Farrier Sergeant sharp, second in command, pistol, hammer, knife and rod
-Stone Deacon Brass, third in command, banner lance, mace & dagger
mounted on light ponies
-Stock Issue, Sergeant of Boys, fourth, pistol, toothpick & knife [all boys like-armed]
-Penny Breed, half-scout
-Rum Weasel Tin
-Scrap Pillory
-Dogear Mud
mounted on demi-donkeys
-Horse-tender, Bud, hayfork & knife
-Cowherd, Tom, with 2 dogs, cudgel, 4 cows, 10 steer
-Shepherd, Ire Red, with two dogs, sling and stave, fold of 30
-Goatherds, Jose and Juan, slings and staves, 20 of 40 goats remain [the wendigo having eaten half]
-Woodchucks, Bill and Joe, axes and hatchets
-Carpenter, Don, hammers
-14 pack mules
8 and a half [1] souls
Under the Banner of The Knight Brass
-The Knight Brass, lance, colmarge sword, dagger, mounted on the destrier Black Knight, with a quarter horse for a palfrey
-A’Quah, Comanche ‘King’ [1], mounted on the Knight Brass’s hunting horse, an Arabian mare
-The Paige Brass, saddle gun, small sword & dagger, mounted on a quarter horse, leading a pack horse for his lord
-The Factor Brass, second, 3 wheel lock pistols, small sword & poiniard, mounted on a Hungarian hussar stallion trained for caracole
-Brunt Bill, ranger middling, banner lance
-Stoic Joe, ranger low
-Runnagate Law, ranger low [2]
-Creed the Hymn singing breed, 1st scout sharp
-Vile Quill the Ute breed, 2nd scout sharp
-4 pack horses
Such was the composition of the 32-man troop that set out from Red Rock Station called The Tower Brass, onto the great plain where the horses, cattle, goats and sheep gloried in their graze and the dogs and men found a sunny refuge from the snowy mountains of Summer Slain whence they had been driven by the wendigo’s savage disdain, echoing down from the snowy heights to their driven ears as they debouched onto the plain The Factor named Love.
“Saved by goats, I’d bet,” quipped Saddler, to his Squire, who returned, “Fitting that such devil-visaged mutton should be eaten by fiends—I like not goat.”
“Mutton man, meself,” agreed Saddler as he nosed by The Squire, “Let me take this, stretch, Sir. Brown, siddle up to the Squire, on the high side oways, so as ta catch ‘is sharp shot arrow or leaping fiend o’ ‘ell. Brawn, on me—meat shields da both o’ ye.”
The squire gave a nod of respect to this arrangement, respecting Saddler and not half the glory-hound of his older cousin The Knight Brass.
Sergeant Saddler took Brawn with him, a fresh sharp often valued more than a dwaddle veteran of the ranks. There The Factor and Brawn sat their saddles at attention as their masters decided on a slow mosey on down to Denver Station so as to fatten horse and cattle. For they would be striking out from Denver Station up into the high Westermost Mountains in search for to relieve the men of the Stations Winter and Hinter, what to gather them in a great troop to descend into New Spain to “drive the vile devils back to hell,” and there determine if a turn north to Whitefish, or back to link with the Knights of Saint George at Awes South, as the Knight Rule at Cheyenne Station had been directed to do.
The Knight Brass was full of confidence in his counterparts and was eager to form a great knightly band with The Knights Two at Denver Station to place his sword with the two bold twins in concord. Brawn had no love for those two knights, as his whore mother had starved there for want of charity and he had been whipped to a scar by their order, before being bought by Saddler.
In two easy days of graze, Praying Trigger Tim ever riding to mountainward, looking never away, the Brass Troop arrived at Denver Station. Tears came to their eyes and were dried by the fierce cool wind, before dripping from their cheeks, when they saw the banner of this most powerful station, to have been inverted.
Sharp Shoe Brown was sent to the open gate—a high noble gate of ponderosa—where he stood on saddle back, plucked down the banner with due reverence, and rode back to The Factor Brass, a man who was coming into this own despite frail form. Brown did this without taking his seat, cheering the troop by making of himself a banner pole, holding his right hand high, as he commanded his pony with clicks and rode back, one foot on saddle back and the other on saddle horn.
The Factor read the cipher writ in black below the Embroidered Sign for Two, “Voodooist rising, Awes South—Little Rock Bastion fallen. The Knights Two crusade there. Knight Brass heed, gather the Knights High and Hinter.”
The Knight Brass, clenched his jaw, glanced at the restful station, out of which a coyote scampered towards the quarter of the falling sun, and bellowed, “No rest in the shade of an abandoned station—Winter Station is in peril. There we go!”
The order of three part march was rejoined, every man except for The Knight, Saddler and the Indians—full and breed—looking downward in dull disappointment, all seemingly trying to forget that they had an hour before held high hopes of massing with the Denver postmen. [3]
“Piney men hate,
Chriseman take’o Lille Rock,
Since winter dey do wait—rise!
Rise! Rise! wake—burn!
Burn! Burn! Take da Chriseman to da flame stake!”
-0. Unfortunate, yet perhaps apt, term for military maneuver in Wester New England.
-0.5. The standard saddle gun takes a half inch ball, as does the issue pistol, a “hand cannon” made for dropping horses, while wheel locks take 3 eighth inch balls made for felling men in the duel and the caracole.
-0.9. The caracole is a manuever by which pistol-armed knights ride forward and wheel to the side as they fire two pistols just beyond pike reach, and then return to the back of their line to continue, each such horseman typically armed with 6 pistols for three volleys, before the troop is retired to reload, or reformed to charge with the saber.
-1. The Knight Brass insisted that his ally was a heathen King, no mere chief. The Knight recited scripture—his favorite passages, of Joshua, David, Samson—to his heathen ally, as a way of dispelling any charges of heresy by association.
-2. No knight will accept slides or dwaddles among his retinue.
-3. The full force of Denver Station, a troop each commanded by The Knights Two and their Underknight, numbered 90 combatants and 40 of scullerkind, including laundresses, cook wenches and concubines.
Summer’s Gone
Lookout Mountain
the sunset saga complete
winter of a fighting life
book of nightmares
the first boxers
solo boxing
fiction anthology one
broken dance
into leviathan’s maw
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