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Into Dark and Untrue Timber
© 2023 James LaFond
“A she wolf was at the lion’s heel,
In her leanness full of all wants—
Stalking the waste for a life to steal.”
-Canto 1, JH
Lynn ran in a quick and unsure shuffle up through the dewy scrub oak and maple leaves, now orange, and red and rust, but still waxy enough to deposit their copious moisture on her. The cloud she ran through towards the deep green firs that yet loomed unseen, drenched her as well. Within her protective garments, every handmade article with a life-sustaining purpose, Lynn’s progress up the mist-choked mountain crest, on this second saddle between the second and third humps, caused her to sweat. Soaked in and out, nothing dry but her forehead covered by her mop of black bangs, the rest of her hair hung hip long.
And then, as she thought of her hair, it gave rise to The Mountain playing her for caught, as an oak caught at her now tangled locks. But she ran on and broke off the branch, trailing now about her back, bouncing there to remind her that by this hair she would be caught. She was up above the aspen, she knew, above where their coin-like leaves quaked in this sodden breeze.
‘Remember Mountain, that I am your admiring friend.’
The pony whinnied down below, back in that first stand of fir and ponderosa she had passed, the breed certainly exiting that stand and now on the same scrub crest as her. She resented and feared sharing the same stretch of terrain with her mounted hunter—rather her hunters, for she sensed that the paint pony shared an active part in her tracking.
‘Thank God for the mist, or he would run me down.’
‘I love this Faerie Mountain!’
The broken branch somehow fell from her hair, and so she felt herself of having received an omen and quickened her step. Her wooden clogs trod brazenly across the top shelf of red and white stone. She had forgotten her caution. But what was there to be cautious of? She was had, a mounted breed close on her trail. She was merely her brief flight prolonging.
The wet mob of wind gushed west over the crest from the east as she headed southeast across its path. Five paces away, as far as one could see in the white murk, a shelf of white rock to her right, knee high, funneled the game trail a mere single pace wide above the yawning scrub grown chasm to the left. She knew that to her left, easterly, mountains uncounted, traversed by very few men, her father included, soared spitefully above questing men and hid many unknown and unnamed lakes. This greater lake region was known as ‘The Divides’ or the Utesh Range and to some The Haunts of Big John Hide.
On that slab of rock, as big as House Plowbent’s dinning table, above a roof angle decline down a bow shot to the bench where the aspens rise, was a snapped off pine cap. A lodge pole pine, that had been clinging to the very precipice of this ridge, above the cliff, about as thick as a girl’s arm, had snapped just below the boughs of its top. The entire tree might have been 15 feet tall. Ten foot stood in ruin. The cap, the top five feet, with the boughs, looking like a perfect little yule tree [and in better times she would have retrieved it as so] lay on that slab of rock.
‘A caper!’ crowed her inner brat.
The pony could be heard clapping across the rocky scrub of the crest down behind.
‘How would I climb down into this bramble-choked gulch for trapping giants?’ Lynn mused as if a hero in a fairy tale.
She turned and faced over the unseen Vale of her birth, hidden below the cloud bank floor of her fantastical kingdom, her back to the yawn of mist above a 500 foot cliff, a cliff a desperate girl might try and descend, grabbing onto the many scrub trees and stunted pines sprouting out of its face. That cliff her father assured her was a trap, and which most men would descend at their peril and probably have to reclimb after stalling out above a sheer face.
‘I would back out of these wooden shoes.’
And she did so.
‘I would place my hands on the rocky duff for purchase.’
And she did so.
‘But I will frog hop to the rocky shelf.’
And she did so.
Lynn landed like the cow of all frogs on the white rock, her bare feet slapping, her moist rosy face grinning. Down the upper left side of the rock she climbed, it being about five feet on the higher end and 3 feet on the lower right end. She dragged down the lodge pole cap and held the splintered top trunk in her hands and peered through the boughs and needles, up at her shoes, which she could barely see so thick was the mist.
For long moments did Time make her suffer for her treachery. For The Mountain and her, they had made a deal. Now cruel Fate ushered in her husband Time on her doom-weaving behalf. She willed her hands not to shake. She reduced her breath and took pains to limit her intake.
The pony hooves clacked unshod upon the stony duff crest.
Lynn’s toes curled to grip the chalky, wet, slick, rock shelf.
The pony came into view through the needles and boughs.
It stopped of its own accord, just as the rider came into view, its head over her shoes, dipping its pretty muzzle to sniff her shoes.
‘Damn, I am too far forward. I should have moved the clogs up closer.’
Lynn had thought of rushing horse and rider with the lodge-pole cap at about the saddle. But all she would get is the horse’s head.
The breed, with his black hair glistening with dew, and hanging now clear to the ground as he hung down from the Comanche [1] style saddle to study her shoes, corrected Lynn’s poorly planned caper.
With silent gritted teeth and no breath taken, Lynn rushed like a pikeman in an Old World pitch of set-piece battle, at the hanging breed. The man’s striking blue eyes were opened in surprise and not fear as he jerked his head back and raised his long-handled tomahawk high, his manner silent and dire.
The paint reared it’s head away from the plunging pine top that was aimed at its right eye and in so doing its front hooves came up and the back left hoof lost some purchase on the slick stony crest. Though, the stone had plenty of duff littering the grooves in the rock and its hind hooves found their footing—but Lynn kept coming, exhaling with a shrill peep of a shout that she regarded absently as pathetic, as she stabbed the horse near the eye with the very tree tip and it reared more and slipped.
The breed chopped down at the tree cap, hooking it with his light ax below a branch and in doomed calculation sought to drag Lynn and her tree cap with him and his horse.
‘Let go!’ she thought, and as she did, the hind hooves slid and the horse looked into her eyes with a light of betrayal of all things, as if it knew her of old as benevolent animal keeper. As horse and rider—whose face Lynn did not see in the light of the horse’s indictment—tomahawk and pine cap, all tumbled into mist with but a whinny of equine despair, Lynn felt a keen emptiness, an emptiness giving way to thrumming elation.
Rocks slid.
Branches snapped.
Leaves rustled among rocks tumbling.
Real wood, perhaps scrub oak trunks, snapped.
Something plaintive smashed—the horse as it screamed.
Boulders rumbled and tumbled and a man growled, then groaned when his body broke on a tree, and then continued, flopping and sopping among horse carcass and boulders, to plunge down into a vertical thicket, both bodies coming to a crashing rest.
Stones continued to rattle below.
A boulder rumbled and clapped.
‘Hell they do say is down below,’ mused she absently.
All was still and unseen in the mist below as Lynn looked down.
Then a call came up from down left, “Bitch ahead, boys!”
She ran, ran barefoot across the rocky ground, reminding her that Father used to say, “They don’t call ‘em the Rockies fer nothin’ girl.”
In a mere few minutes she would be under dark timber, among thick fir, running upon padded pine duff. Steeling herself against the pain, she fled upward along the crest, the look of tearful reproach in the eyes of that paint pony reminding her to ever err right, and not left.
Before the sodden realm of misty gloom, before entering the realm of pitch-blooded giants who soared ancient before Christians ever heard tell of this land, Lynn stopped and listened.
Voices drifted up to her from where her wooden shoes had been swept into oblivion with her hunter. These creatures, if men they could be called, either mumbled in vague indistinction or shouted in the strident cant of damnation.
“Breed’s down!”
[unenthusiastic mumbling]
“Ye dast lowlan’ knave!”
‘That must be the masked man with the ax shouting,’ reasoned she.
[defiant mumbling]
A sickening chopping sound was heard along with what sounded from afar like a hog’s guts hitting the butcher house floor.
“You, Casty, ye up fer dis bitch hunt!”
[enthusiastic mumbling]
‘The mumblers must be the crop-eared lasso men,’ she figured.
“Sniffy, ye up fer da bitch coursin’!”
A terrible call, part gurgle, part snort, but all howl, went up from a throat that must have been stretched once upon a time on a gallows rope.
Tears rushed down her cheeks as the leader shouted, “I gotz da rear—which a ye getz ‘er sassy locks first gets first rut!”
They howled, both of them, and the leader whipped them into a further fury, “Sweet lass ain’ e’or been fawked—ain’t we da lucky sons o’ ole Black Buck!” [2]
All three howled now, and they, seeming more terrible in their present glee than in their former dogged tenacity.
‘Do not stray far from a sheer fall,’ she admonished her feet and took off up the mountain spine with a prayer in her mind, ‘Mother Mary, I pray my virginity to keep, and if it may not be so, I ask The Almighty to forgive my plunge down the jagged steep.’
Her feet sounded like little running drums and she was somehow thrilled now, to discover that despite her ungainly posterior expansion, she could still, almost as quick as a man, run.
‘Almost, Girl. Almost as quick as a man. You must not lose your lead.’
-1. Though Comanches do not use a saddle, Comancheros and some scouts use light saddles without wooden frames and name them after the bareback riders of the high planes.
-2. Slaves of Awes South, of Western New England [3] have a legend about an Irishman runaway who was magicked into a Negro by a Voodoo conjurer, and who returned to Christendom, where he ‘holes up in a boogerman cave,’ and has prodigious episodes of sexual concourse with lowly maids and wealthy ladies, who he summons to him with a harmonica voodoo welded by the conjurer from his very brass fetters. These women then fall in love with Black Buck, who retains a florid deep red head of hair, despite his change in race, and decline to lead rangers to his lair, where he is said to have deflowered near the entire maid flock of Awes South over the past 70 years. So the rancid story goes. -JH
-3. In Lost Earth the northern Arkansas, Kansas, eastern Oklahoma and Missouri, range of The Knights of Saint George of the Cross
Plight of a Footloose Keeper
Third Hymn
on the overton railroad
by the wine dark sea
fiction anthology one
songs of aryas
the sunset saga complete
song of the secret gardener
let the world fend for itself
your trojan whorse
the gods of boxing
solo boxing
night city
thriving in bad places
blue eyed daughter of zeus
taboo you
time & cosmos
the lesser angels of our nature
when you're food
book of nightmares
the first boxers
dark, distant futures
logic of steel
z-pill forever
barbarism versus civilization
honor among men
within leviathan’s craw
orphan nation
into leviathan’s maw
america the brutal
masculine axis
winter of a fighting life
the combat space
the greatest boxer
under the god of things
menthol rampage
the year the world took the z-pill
logic of force
advent america
on combat
the greatest lie ever sold
the fighting edge
broken dance
son of a lesser god
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