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Part 2, Act 1, of The Knights Trace in New Spain
© 2022 James LaFond
The Knight Brass put out a staying and impatient hand to The Factor and grinned, deeply commenting, “So spoke Achilles once, in Old Heathenry.”
“Ranger, Sharp—you should have been a Brash.”
The Knight Brass then turned to The Factor, “My dear cousin, as acting cleric, you are enjoined to elevate this man to Ranger Brash, and also to scratch that gallows name Pillory. Brawny he is. But I say he should be named Hellbane—of all of my thirty men only he has sent wendigo kind back to the hell that belched them fourth, four to this date in as many days.”
The Knight Brass then looked back to Brawn, and finding no thanks in word or manner, but naught but the easy manner of a blooded discard, he commanded, “Brawn Hellbane, Ranger Brash, The Stone Deacon has declared you worthy with the fist. Before dinner, each night in camp, I shall require you for waster practice.”
Brawn nodded, “Yes, Sire,” and that last word was said with some grinding of the teeth as The Factor hissed, “Brash to a wolfish fault.”
He refused even then to regard The Factor with a glance, and in no way stole a look at the shapely woman, whoever she might be, as The Factor and paige led off the two women to their banner troop, and Saddler snarled, “Ye too Goddamned stupid to be my son, boy—but well done. Ged out front wit Tim en learn ye some. I’ll be on The Squire, and tonight, yer ass ‘ill be worked over mighty raw with waster strokes ta be sure, so ride easy.”
Winter Station remained lost over the high far snow teeth when they stopped in one grand camp, two hours before nightfall. The Factor summoned him afoot and brought him to The Knight’s tent, which had been given over to the Lady and her maid. The Factor and paige were none too happy about camping out, but The Knight Brass, in his full childish glory, seemed like a boy released from the work of the field to play.
He held two wooden swords, called wasters, made of hickory and two leather helmets with paired gloves of padded leather, that cushioned hand and forearm. He handed a set, and a leather helmet—complete with leather-banded bar face cage, like The Knights Sepulcher and Saint George wore but in iron—as well as a waster, over to Brawn.
Brawn donned the helmet and gauntlets and made ready on guard, hoping this would be little different from saber and knife practice. Such hopes, as hopes should be, being foolish fancies, were soon dashed.
The Knight Brass saluted him and the dance began, an hour long dance punctuated in a great variety of ways:
Brawn having the waster knocked from his hand,
Brawn being back-heeled and tripped,
Brawn being sword trapped with gauntlet, and the Knight’s hard hickory tip placed to his throat,
Brawn putting up his fists having found The Knight in possession of both wooden swords,
Brawn managing a bind, only to have the Knight punch him in the head with the leather cup hand guard and send him rolling onto his broad butt,
Brawn being stabbed in the leather helm and knocked back,
Brawn being stabbed in the wind and winded,
Brawn being stabbed every so slightly between the eyes and stunned,
Brawn being stabbed in the hand, in the bicep, through the forearm, in the kidney, in the spleen, in the liver, in the heart, in the neck, under the arm pit, in the left lung also, in the thigh, in the knee, behind the knee, through the calf, in the foot—for God’s sake!
Brawn being clubbed in the ribs and his legs swept from under him by those long booted legs,
Brawn binding The Knight close in a rush and being thrown cross-buttock to his back,
Brawn having his sword knocked clear again and a hickory point pressed to his throat,
Brawn blocking an overhand slash only to be kicked mid-drift and sent flying onto his back,
Brawn charging in like a bull, waster held high, coming to gripes with The Knight, only to be shoulder-thrown like a sack of grain, a knee on his chest as he lie on his back.
After this final simulated demise, the Knight Brass gave him his hand and hoisted him to his feet, patting him on the back, and whispering into his ear, “I’m sworn to celibate service, Brawn. But hear me—you bring me a great wendigo victory and I will knight thee and recommend you to Don Blake as a likely son in law and this beauty who has peeked from my tent hoping for your success with every clash might belong some evening to The Young Knight Brash!”
“Yes, Sire—my best I’ll give.”
A great gusty slap near knocked the wind from his back as he was recommended to The Stone Deacon for wine, and he thought, ‘The Knightly class is insane.’
He did there see a tent flap close, as if eyes had been peering forth. Though with trying his best to avoid swordly demise after griped compromise, he had failed to note any such dainty spectatorship during the beating.
Half drunk with wine, Brawn stumbled back bruised and numb to Saddler’s tent, which he was to share, only to find it occupied by Sarge and the Indian Maid, who had somehow found her way here. She was naked and riding the old hand as Brawn eased the tent flap shut again and Saddler soothed, “Now dat ye all high en mighty, son, I thought ye was too busy crossing toy swords ta have any fun.”
Sharp Shoe was seated out there by the fire and motioned to Brawn’s saddle and gear all set up and cleaned, and his blanket laid out. There they sat, quiet ciphers in a quiet night, wondering what Winter Station would bring near noon the next day when they made its great height; pondering what rare doom awaited them at the highest station in Awes West.
Saddler snorred alone in the tent…
Brawn sat in a circle around a bonfire where roasted a man on a spit. Here he heard the wendigo song, was in truth part of that mass mind’s hungry harp, “He comes, brothers, the brassy drink with his straight arrow comes.”
To this song the gathered brothers hulked and sang silently deep as their big hands beat upon cattle-skull drums, within the walls of a keep whose defenders, head down, swung.
The Knight Brass rode boldly to Saddler and his rangers at dawn, already armed for the fray, commanding The Squire to take his place with the rest of his retainers and to safeguard The Lady Blake. He looked at Brawn directly, “What do you think of this day’s march, Ranger Hellbane?”
“They are dead, slain, eaten and souls fled. I do not know if the wendigo will wait for us.”
Praying Trigger Tim regarded him with horror and The Knight Brass believed, clenching his jaw and leading the way, with no patience for order of march, his rangers catching up, Tim and Brawn of a sudden devoted to keeping him alive.
At mid day, not waiting for the rest of the command struggling to keep up, The Knight Brass, Praying Trigger Tim and Brawn Hellbane, rode into Winter Station, the tower deserted, the gate torn from its hinges, the 20 rangers, scouts and scullers hung upside down from the stockade wall, constructed of mature lodge pole pine. The Winter Knight, his Factor and Squire had been roasted and eaten on a great bonfire. The paige had been staked out and raped. The crucifix with Christ on it, had, however, been placed atop the Winter Tower, where the visage of Jesus looked down upon the terrible spectacle. The Lord’s face had been streaked with ashy tears, by some great-clawed artist and not in mockery, but with sublime sorrow.
In his mind Ole Billy Ree spoke, “Ye have forsaken He—Oh’ man self-damned.”
‘Why did not your words repeat, Billy Ree?’
In answer, some soothing shade out of the depths of his soul echoed within, ‘True words store deep. Bring your Brass Man to us—to the feast.’
The Knight Brass asked him, “Are there ghosts here that speak to thee?”
He felt the dead hand of Ole Billy Ree through his boot, on his ankle, and he shrugged his shoulders and pointed at the log round seats and before the cattle skulls, whose meat had been eaten in a great fleshy feast by a dozen and one wendigo, “They are thirteen. Thier words came to me in dream and well up now—they are not here. Hinter Station is where they lay their trap for you, there or on the way.”
He turned to look up at The Knight, “They ask me to bring you for their hungry feast.”
The Knight Brass clenched his jaw, then smiled, then laughed, then spread his arms upward towards the snow-crowned mountain glinting in the July sun, “Lord God Almighty praise be to You for opening hell’s dread door! Soon, soon, I might wonder in your Light! For now, I wander in this earthly night to serve Your Glory!”
The man was in a rapture of heroic ecstasy, a death wish that was as numbing to see, as horrible in its way, as the grisly feast whence Brawn had been brought in dream.
“Orders, Sire?”
“Our men do not need to see this. The both of you, upon your souls, do not weaken their hearts with the words of it. We can meet them back at the ford and perhaps gain a march on the hellspawn. Delaying here in solemnity will doom those few souls in damnation’s sights at Hinter Station.”
“My word of silence, is here give, Sire,” said Brawn.
Tim spoke, “I see only tomorrow—last night is gone.”
“On Me,” bolted The Brass Knight, on his great steely black destrier, and, yelling into the snow-flecked mountain air, “Tim, develop a route that will bring the wendigo to battle before Hinter Station, or meet them at its approach.”
Saddler and the rangers could be seen nearing the ford above the river fork out of the east as the three of them, horror-stricken to an oath of silence, rode to meet friend before foe.
“From Haiti Land,
come keen Deacon Hand.
From Piney Land,
come Ceecee da Conjure man.
From Mississippi Web—
come da spiders o’ Get:
Pappa Loi Snakey Pope,
Mamma Loi Dancey Rope—
Dee Prophet o’ Chrisey Hope. [1]
-1. According to evidence gathered, this creature is an apostate claiming Christ’s message, perverted to advance his own cult. Chief among the acolytes of Pappa Dock Black o’ Roy, this French speaking prophet is thought to be using heretical works out of antiquity to predict the weather and lay claim to false prophecy, within churches that have not been converted to voodoory, but employed to shepherd addled Christian minds into damnation.
Second Coil
Acursed Nation

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