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Hinter Station 3
Act 4 of The Knights Trace in New Spain
© 2022 James LaFond
NOV/26/22
A thrill was his, as sharp and cold a thrill as Alissa’s adore had been soft and warm.
No part of him felt any part the boy. He could not, if asked, have answered his age—never a sure thing for the lowly in any case. Lowly still, he was at least the lowest of the uppity.
‘Will I catch their noble insanity—become a lunatic as The Factor says?’
The horn blared revelry, lacking most of the musical alacrity of the bugles that served this purpose in the King’s Ranks:
‘All the better for the blare. I am down here waiting—with your twice-bred bitch, you big white booger.’
The Knight Brass and he waited for the Point Troop under the ranger banner and the Forte Troop under the station banner, to file out, and then led off.
Brass: “Saddler says we arrive at Hinter Station an hour before sunfall. What is your thought of the enemy?”
Brash: “The Indian woman, as I slept, she painted a cross with Mary crying for Our Lord at its base, over my heart.”
Brass: “She is quite heartbroken over your coming separation. On her Lady’s request, I have deputized My Brother Knight Brass to escort them and King A’Quah to Castle Blake to form an alliance and to assure the security of Vale Bernie. The Lady Blake bore witness to the perfidy of Don Silver and has pledged to intercede. Brash, we must put away Christian wars and crusade as true men of Christ!”
Brash: “Yes, Sire—the enemy?”
Brass: “Oh, yes—the hairy foes of hell!”
Brash: “As I slept and the girl etched, I dreamed.”
Brass: “Like Charlemagne before victory over the Moors?”
Brash: “I dreamed that the beasts rose this morning from their lairs with the thought—no, the urge—to overtake us just as darkness falls.”
Brass: “Good, damn their paws! The Archangel Michael has come to you on our behalf. This will be marked in the Journal Brass, Aye Good Factor?”
Factor: “Writing as I ride, Sire!”
Brass: “Man, what drudgery! You should have become the Third Knight Brass! Why the paige would then be consigned to scrawl like a monk ahorse!”
Factor: “Sire, we all suffer according to our kind In Christ.”
Brass: “Yes, and some of us get to cry, ‘Mount Joy!’” [1]
Brawn thought as he felt the awesome power of Wake and Ready beneath him, ‘I suppose I’m now crazy too.’
He felt Her eyes on him, felt Her Beast’s, eyes on them both, pained from a distance, saw nostrils expand before his eyes like flares of a heaving stallion, and silently addressed a patron devil shade, ‘Thank ye Ole Billy Ree.’
All the day they marched along the high meandering valley dusted with snow in the meadow, crusted with ice on the heights. They kept the saddle and ate dry rations and watered their horses, filling their canteens by swinging down in the saddle and plunging them into the cold Colorado.
Brass: “Good Factor, is this hell’s hand, bringing winter in summer, or is it God’s punishment for being off our guard—or perhaps a warning from Gabriel Archangel of Care?”
Factor: “Sire, I have pondered this these last ten winters as the cold grew deeper, and the springs and summer’s cooler, noting that the sun in the sky is of a slight wane. I cannot credit Satan with power over the sun. Recall that God kept night at bay so that Charlemagne could catch the Saracen hosts. Quote then, under God Almighty Judge, the suggestion that God in Heaven has dimmed the sun by day, as a warning, and as a preparation, for the war me must fight by night.”
Brass: “Yes, yes my good Naymond!” [2] as he looked in wonderment at the ice-cloaked mountains and the cloud-shrouded sun. The north-facing southern peaks grew right up from the river in most places. They followed the river west on the north side, under those soaring south-facing peaks.
With an hour of light to spare The Sword Brass, near on thirty souls, approached Hinter Station, home of The Lone Knight in his simple square tower such as the signal tower on Lookout Mountain, surrounded by a 40 foot square stockade of lodge pole. This station had various outbuildings, barns, hay sheds, sculler huts—everything but the smith’s forge. These had been scorched by Don Silver obviously, as the siege flag of defiance, a bold red banner, flew under The Lone Knight’s plain, unadorned banner.
There was no gatehouse, but a simple catwalk all along the stockade fence, to include a catwalk over the gate. The one distinguishing aspect of Hinter Station, was the lone culvern [3] mounted atop the narrow tower.
Hinter Station was built above the river on the high south bank and guarded an ancient stone bridge that lead directly to the gate. This bridge had been built by the Spanish, hundreds of years ago, before they were driven south by the Comanche. This bridge enabled the settling of far Vale Bernie as it was and marked the furthest post of The Knights Trace. On the craggy slopes of the south-facing mountain north, was Hell’s Door West, a sulfurous spring where alchemists and sorcerers were said to come and consult The Devil and his vile minions.
Glancing at the slight seep of smoke behind them, as they prepared to cross the bridge, The Knight Brass, intoned, “Hell’s very Dark Door. There the fiends will drag our flesh where to dine and their souls will return as they fall in the battle line.”
Brawn turned in the saddle of Wake and Ready, a saddle that had surely cost Don Silver, or whoever he stole it from, as much coin as all the yearly wages of the rangers and scouts of all the stations he had visited. His eyes were keen, as youth was in full bloom his. He was able to see a trace of dots moving across the south face of the mountainside, threading from among pines to an outcrop of craggy boulders. The Knight Brass followed his gaze and softly said, “Spyglass,” and it was placed in his absent open hand by The Factor.
The Knight looked through the glass and whistled, “What horrid beasts of Hell!” and handed the spyglass to Brawn, who, as a boy would have been thrilled to a song over the chance to gaze through this knightly device. But bloody-handed manhood was upon him already. He calmly counted the panting figures squatting on all fours, or on their haunches, ice caking their bearded snouts, some lazing on their sides sharpening their black fingernails. The round window of close-looking finally settled on one especially surly beast, all white of hair, mane and beard, a third again as large as the others, scars by the score gouging his lustrous coat, where those by his sides were patchy and mottled, spotted and mean. The creature seemed to see him, and he heard, in his mind, a calmly intentioned threat, “I will take your one mean eye.”
He handed the spyglass to The Knight Brass, “They are thirteen. The shaggy white chief signed a challenge to me. I will spend the night on this bridge.”
“Huzzah!” bawled The Knight Brass. “We are so blessed by God—Spanish rabble mumming Saracens and now Grendel pawing for worth!”
The Factor, took the spyglass, “Easy Sire Cousin, greeting the Sons of Cain might affront The Lord and earn a dragon for a hungry bane.”
“Yes, you are right Good Factor Cousin—please confess me tonight and place my heart firmly in The Lord’s sight.”
The Factor nodded informally, being their pastor, seeming in this instance more of a close and old friend to Brass, who Brawn gathered would be lost without him.
He then turned in his saddle glancing at the gate manned by two dull slouch-hatted fellows, and drawled, “What tardies The Lone Knight. This is odd to rude, Underknight Brash.”
“Yes!” and his urgent need to please his master brought a growling down from the crags, “Dog of men, hound underfoot—we prowl free, you, you…”
He adopted a fury in his mid, summoned her from some ancient clime and the beating of her ravening wings drowned out the monstrous rantings cast from above and felt within.
Brawn rode across the bridge and up to the gate, noting that the men there were sallow-faced, fearful, and branded on the cheek with the runaway R. He made eye contact with both of them and they blinked in a watery was, so he bawled, sounding something near as arrogant as a knight, “Raise the gate for The Sword Brass. We are your relief.”
The gate raised and he rode through impatiently when it was half up, swinging side line in the saddle, almost getting hung up by the buckskins in his hurry, and found himself in a slaughter pen.
His sword rang out right and his saddle gun came up in his left hand, like it had been born there, the click of the left hammer sounding like the trumpet Brass in this place aghast.
“Pappa Doc say:
‘Howling nort—come Wendigory,
Calling west—come Walkery,
Chriseman east—slump sleepy,
Macheteman sout—some Voodoory.’
Chriseman sleep.”
Notes
-1. The battle cry of Charlemagne, Emperor of France, who slew the Moors in revenge for the death of Roland.
-2. Charlemagne’s elderly advisor.
-3. A light swivel cannon.
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