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Second Coil
The Knights Trace in New Spain: Five Acts
© 2022 James LaFond
“In Land of Spain, King Charlemagne’s at War,
After seven years he’s won it to the shore…”
-First Jest, First Chant
Act 1. Part 1, Winter Station
Noon: or near to, the three banners linked up on the hump of Saddle Mountain. The women, a noble lady out of New Spain and her maid, who had obviously runaway from The Knights Two, claimed to have been rescued from Comancheros by The Knights Two.
‘Bought from, more like,’ thought Brawn, critically, having lived his first 12 years under the cruel Knights Two, pious men who claimed to be celibate to their masters, but had a salacious thirst for serving maids, laundresses and cook wenches.
Brawn sat by Saddler and Tim, who all kept quiet concerning the obvious flight of the women from Denver Station. The blond woman was named Francesca, and claimed to be the daughter of one Don Brant, an Irish soldier of fortune called “El Gato” ‘The Cat’ who had been given in fief a vast area of Northern New Spain and Southwestern Colorado. The girl spoke well to The Knight Brass as the rangers sat their mounts with eyes downcast:
“The Good Knights Two could spare no escort for us and offered to take us to Saint George, to see its wondrous cathedral. But we rathered brave the wild and look to the knights of Winter and Hinter to aid us on our way.”
The Factor Brass credited little what the lady or her maid had to say, him questioning the latter in Spanish but unable to find a contradiction in their tales. But The Knight Brass was smitten in his chivalric way, not lusting after the girl as The Knights Two had quite likely, but thrilled to have some dainty creature to protect against the grave dangers they journeyed into. He asked her, in his gentile bell-like toll, “Lady Blake, what do you know of English Christians north and west of your Father’s fief?”
Her voice fairly sang, “Oh, that is the home of my maid, Alissa, of the Shoshone, who winter in the roof lands above the Wasatch Mountains among the Uintas above the great onion vale, called Bernie, Vale Bernie. Priests, monks, traders, factors and plague doctors travel the lands between our Fief of Cibbola and Vale Bernie. We have silver and they furs, lumber, woodwork, wool, velum, parchment, ink, nettle tea, berry wines and ores. The Utes, Shoshone, Berniemen and Cibolans ally against the Comanche.”
As she said this her gaze went fearfully towards A’Quah.
The Knight Brass assured her, “This is A’Quah, King of the Platte River Comanche, our ally against the hell-fiends called wendigo and skinwalker. Lady Blake, I place you under the protection of My Factor and men. You and your maid will ride under my banner.”
The woman paused and The Factor spoke up, “Ranger Brawn Pillory, raise your scowl brow when your better looks upon you with grace!”
Brawn raised his chin to look along the sound of that grating voice and when his eyes met the eyes of The Factor, the man reached for his needle of a word, affronted by what confronted him there. Brawn simply smirked in cold response to the exercise of that haughty instinct.
“You dare—you dare, low pillory scum of the gallows?!”
The Knight Brass he knew was watching him true. So he kept cool and did not let the boiling hatred for noble kind whistle to a vent, “Yes, Sire, I did dare, slew two wendigo on my own, and turned to see you not there.”
“Arghh!” The Factor drew his sword and spurred his mount forward to run Brawn through, to which Brawn did not much care, not if being spared meant kissing these golden-clothed and soon to blister asses.
“God no, Sir!” bellowed The Knight Brass, and that destrier stopped short and the blade quivered at his throat, causing Brawn to sneer.
The Knight Brass then intoned, “Ranger, what makes you sneer so at your better?”
Brawn did not look to The Knight Brass but kept eye contact with The Factor Brass, whose eyes narrowed, floated, squinted and broke at his gaze as if the wendigo was reflected there.
“Ranger, answer yer Lord!” snarled Saddler.
‘How can they be so much meaner than this wee ranger, can they not see.’
“Ranger!” and the rasp of Saddler’s saber drawing clear of the scabbard came to him, causing Brawn to turn and look his “father” in the eye, a look that made even Saddler balk, to which Brawn spoke levelly, looking into the sky at the whispering clouds, his tone, his good English, almost surprised him. He was not fond like some of imitating the stayed gibber of the nobility. Perhaps the wee bit of coward in him was protecting him from the brave part, by kissing ass by way of pronunciation:
“The wendigo are somewhere near as tough as a grizzly, we knew. As I foolishly left rough-old Saddler here behind thinking to win me some glory, I was caught alone between two of them. Had I just my saddle gun—and not this fine double barrel, I would already be eaten—these women too. They, the wendigo heard my thoughts, and let me know by act. Unlike our leaders, their leader gave up his life so that his ranger could flank me. I blew his shoulder to ruin and he still came on—the leader. He spoke the King’s English as he lie dying, English with a French accent. They raped the Indian maid’s pony before eating it, yet spoke to me like gents. I gave him mercy with the knife while he held onto my ankle with a claw that could have torn off my foot…”
There was silence as he dreamed skyward.
Brawn then looked to The Knight Brass, meeting those eyes that he knew somehow—with some sense got on Lookout Mountain—would be gazing right where they were.
He could see some wonder there, and some kindness that was not in The mean Factor. It did not escape him that the height of destrier and knight made it necessary to raise his line of sight. He spoke in the way that the uppity ups spoke to their superiors, slow, direct, sounding out the words complete.
“Sire, his name was Ole Billy Ree, that wendigo. He was as brave as ye, as smart as yer Factor, as ruthless as Sarge here ready to cut my throat, though he claims to be my father by a Denver whore. That, though is not why I count myself already dead. What one wendigo knows, here, yesterday, there over that mountain, or whenever we meet them—all of those devil spawn know. Their black hearts whisper across the night to each other in service to their master—who I will not name—and this book man would run me through for not kissing the feet of this young dame I saved from their damned embrace? How sire, can I not smile, when the man who scrawls in ye book means to part me from misery with a dainty man-sticker that Ole Billy Ree would have used as a toothpick to clean the sinews of Factor Brass from between his fangs?”
To be continued in Hellbane…
Ole Billy Ree

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