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Ole Billy Ree
Part 2: Act 7 of The Knights Trace in Awes West
© 2022 James LaFond
OCT/29/22
A rule of angle slid in his mind, pleased with the concord between those two beastly minds, filled with a confidence born in wicked dream, that he woke to be the taker on this day. A great old hand of bloody mind stepped out from within his good-slanted mind to bring wiles and woe among friends and foe.
Brawn felt the killer emerge, the killer that had slain half asleep with his hand three nights gone at Red Rock Station.
The other beast used the charge of the greater beast as a cover to shuffle off to the right.
Brawn eased his roan with his knees to turn and face that beast there, keeping his muzzle on the big one that dared him, turning in the saddle as the mare turned under him.
The daring wendigo charged and Brawn sent the right barrel blasting its spherical lead round spinning into its chest. The running action of the wendigo, which strode like a greyhound with its hind feet leaping out past its clenched fists running on knuckle, brought the right shoulder into the bullet’s path.
Without stopping to ascertain if that creature was down, Brawn turned forward as his roan pissed and shat but stood her ground [5] at the nightmare rumbling across the intervening rock of ground and pulled the left trigger, sending it’s ball blazing into the face of that slathering thing, bursting its head in three parts as it skidded face forward to within a horse-length of his steady standing roan.
Without first turning, he drew his issue pistol and leveled it over his left forearm to finish the thing to his right, what if it weren’t dead would now be ripping him from the saddle.
Dead it was not, but dragging itself gape-mouthed towards with its one left arm, the other one dangling, the shoulder exploded and broken, its four-legged dog gate wrecked by that shot, but it’s inhuman heart pumping strong, spurting blood with every beat as it dragged itself on, testament to the strength in one arm, that it could drag that form forward as its rear feet—nearly human of kind—lost purchase on the rocky ground at the prone angle.
A chill went down his spine that this creature had embraced death so that its brother fiend might access Brawn’s neck. A slow-burning wick of keen wit smoldered yet within that monstrous head.
Brawn took his roan sideways, vexing the fiend’s straight crawl, and it seemed to curse it’s arrogance and turned to snarl in its inhuman gibberish up at Brawn, now to it’s right.
Brawn met those eyes and stayed his pistol hand, placing the muzzle up and easing the lock downward. The fiend then...spoke, as lucid as any learned Englishman, but with a French accent, “Thank you, Mercy Knight.”
To Brawn’s suddenly slack jaw, it grinned, something in the way that Saddler might grin, it’s snout fur now seeming a beard of wicked greasy sort, matted with blood.
Brawn dismounted at this afront, the fiend obviously indicating by his manner that he was afraid now, to be facing a monstrous speaker. Brawn hooded his issue and belted it, and stood a snarl before the bleeding fiend.
He thought, ‘Monster, I do not fear thee’ a more formal thought than he had ever entertained.
The wendigo then grimaced in pain, “Yet I fear thee, Bloody Knight Three.”
There being no further sense in keeping one’s thoughts from this sorcerer of beasts, Brawn drew his tooth pick in his right hand and his knife in his left hand.
To this the fiend objected, “God has brought we as a curse upon thee, ravening upon all of your steep-minded kind, Bloody Knight Three!”
The perfect Noble Class English diction of these words, coupled with the off-center French accent, stunned Brawn.
He raged, hissingly, “I am Brawn Pillory, slave of The Knights Trace—the knights I hates!”
He stepped closer, confident that the fiend could not claw him before he stroked him dead—as yet arrogant with his store of youth unspent.
But that fiendish monstrous hand, thrice as large as The Stone Deacon’s mighty man hand, slipped out like a dart, easily encircling Brawn’s boot top and closing with a strength that could have yet snapped both his ankle bones, but did not.
He felt the mercy there in those blueing eyes of despair, loosing their bloodshot rage. The voice lost its bestial quality and there sounded a man at his feet, though the massive claw was as monstrous as that of Grendel that ended up decking Hereot’s hall.
“Yes, Old Grendel, middling of us all. God said, of the Sons of Cain your cruel kind should leave us wander. Mercy, Knight Three, your likeness now, is known to all of us of Wendigory.”
Brawn felt the claw ease, as more blood spurted from the ruined shoulder on the other side of that massive woolly head. The dark to invisible hand within Brawn’s mind drew back a curtain of sorts and let some light in, “Who, wendigo, do I send before The Creator?”
The face waned almost to a kindness and kissed the scarlet snow with a bubbling answer passing between fang-festooned lips of leathery black, “Ole Billy Ree, naught but a pemican hunter caught ‘tween far heaven en near hell.”
A lyre string broke in his heart as he plunged the toothpick into the left neck of Ole Billy Ree, the wendigo, the last of his blood gushing in a well over the shoulder attached to that slackening claw.
He heard Saddler on Bullet, behind him, the mare and the gelding of a sudden so calm that there was no doubt that all of wendigo kind was gone from this place.
The Sergeant then spat, “Well I’ll be good en Goddamned! Did that night critter speak?”
Brawn felt as if that conversation had been private and held before the wretched speakers and The Almighty. He had never taken too well to the religion espoused by The Factor on Sunday, but rather to The Stone Deacon’s version of it in the yard before and after fisticuffs. As such the words of Ole Billy Ree of Wendigory, touched a religious chord in his soul, breaking it of a kind. Saddler seemed to understand in his own rude way:
“Well Goddamn, Son. Ye ‘ave killed more o’ deese sons o’ Satan den all o’ Us of The Trace. Yer own counsel it is.”
A creak of wood and hinge, released from frostbitten stone sounded up ahead and two figures stepped forward, accented in their soft way by the iron-stone tower, the snow, and the scarlet gore upon it.
Brawn sheathed his knives, without taking scalp, and gently pried the dead claw of Ole Billy Ree from his ankle, placing it across the chest of the beast as he rolled him gently over on his back. Absently he knew, that this was a great feat of strength that Saddler would normally comment upon. But something of more keen interest to the rugged Sergeant of rangers loomed lithely ahead and held that rampaging mind in its one quiet stall.
Looking up, his view was accented by Saddler’s sucked in breath, “Oh’ the Good Lord do work in wondrous curved ways, Son. I sure could use me a fresh squaw, en let us pray dat the sun-tressed philly is not a noble birt—‘cause I sure would like ye ta sire a son on ‘er!”
Two women stood, an Indian in a blue dress, a good-looking woman of some 20 years, and the most well-formed woman Brawn recalled having seen, hair like Mother Mary’s own hay bail all decked out, eyes like the sky, and a face as pale as cottony summer clouds.
“Well, son, ye taking scalp en squaw or no?”
“I will not take a Wendigo scalp.”
Saddler grunted, “Cursed, aye—agreed, wouldn’t want that swinging from my belt hoop.”
‘It is disappointing how Saddler yearns for me to lead.’
Brawn had too much respect for the Ranger Sergeant to address the women directly, and took the gelding over to the tower and began to saddle it up, ignoring the women. As they stood holding hands nervously and he saddled the gelding, he heard Saddler on the back of Gunbarell siddle up and say, “Las’ ride off o’ Hell’s own mountain, ladies. One a ye may saddle up behind me. The Knight Brass sent us ta yer rescue. He waits below en den we head west ta Winter Station.”
This reminded Brawn that he had clean forgotten why they had come and he said more easily than surprise might have predicted in a recent grown man, “I’m up ta da firebox, Sarge. I’ll load it up and let ‘er light.”
Don’ foget da cross. Place da iron cross in da stand so it reflects off da brass panel—dey at Winter Station needs to know we comin’ strong under da Lord.”
“Yes, Sir,” he said, discovering suddenly a refuge in his subservient role and coming to understand some little and some lot about Saddler’s apparent desire to let others take the burden of choice and command.
‘Do not look at her—a noble bitch to a certain.’
And so, without a glance at that creature some part of him had such an interest in, Brawn entered the dark tower and found the ladder leading to the brass fire box.
Up above, the morning broke clean and clear, the first clean cloudless rays of the sun pointing the way to Winter Station, a place marked off beyond a snowy peak, by a smoke signal, a signal lit clear, for the column of smoke told that the distant tower was a blaze.
Monkey running down the ladder, Brawn hit bottom and burst out through the door, “Winter Station Tower is ablaze, Sarge.”
Saddler seemed his old assured self now, what with that squaw in that blue dress looking up at him like he were God’s own Agent on Earth, “Good on ye fer not lightin’ ‘er up. We off ladies, off ta meet the Good Knight Brass—kindest of His Class iffn’ y’all didn’t care fo da company o’ The Knights Two—ye girls got an hour ta set yer stories straight, understanding that a man will be inclined ta believe a song based on the beauty of its singer.”
The women gave each other knowing looks and both, with double glances, seemed to settle on Brawn as the answer to their predicament, which made him want to snarl.
He kicked his mare out into the lead, looking down at Ole Billy Ree staring sightlessly into the risen sun.
….
Chriseman, Chriseman,
Flower boys o comin…
Singing mamma song,
Swinging dream flowers long…
Breathing ‘come girl’ calm;
Dancin’ maze o’ Hindoo balm.”
Notes
-1. Trace-bonding, like scalp-taking, were warrior practices borrowed from the heathen tribes. Just as the man who first touched a fallen foe had scalp-right over that corpse credit, the man who first cast his lasso about a captive, has authority over that captive equal to that of his common superior, though of course unsustainable before the wishes of The Knightly Class.
-2. Curt talk for “read the situation and suggest a course of action.”
-3. Gunbarrel was a breed, a cross between a quarter horse and a mountain mare, so named for his most prized color, black shot with steely gray, giving his hide the glint of a fresh blued gun barrel.
-4. Only the nobility, and those superior sergeants such as Saddler who were awarded a destrier for heroism—an award Saddler was keen not to merit—wore spurs on their boots. This prohibition did have the positive effect of making mounted rangers almost equal to wild Indians in their quietude in the saddle.
-5. All shooting practice, even shooting from standing, kneeling and prone positions, is done in the company of mounts, to condition these horses to gun fire and gunsmoke. In the best horses, gunfire calms them to the noises and aggression of foes, both of beasts and men.
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