The ax has fallen
the lance is free
The enemy has awakened
There is no rest
for that of the wicked
A messiah has risen
coming forth is the call
Take Your Possession
In The Shadow’s Rising
Thirty enraged Indian braves and one blond mountain man hid in the trees watching the hated enemy approach the river. The cavalry’s numbers had increased by about twenty-five; probably joined by the patrol from The Forks that had chased the Sioux most of the previous day. Why the US cavalry had declared war on Isaac’s tribe no longer mattered to the warriors ready to ambush the soldiers coming to water their horses. What did matter was that the Sioux were thirsty for blood. Vengeance had fused this small, once peaceful branch of the Sioux tribe — reluctant for war, into a dangerous bond of merciless killers bent on the destruction of anyone associated with the US government. Death would come swiftly to the fools riding into a firestorm of men Isaac had positioned to take the best advantage of the natural cover afforded by the trees and tall ridges that guarded the seemingly safest course to the river. The green commander of the troop was oblivious to the danger, probably feeling safe in their numbers and training: armed with carbines and sabers, still toting the memories of their recent victory against the helpless victims of yesterday’s offensive: the elderly too old to fight and the wives and children of Isaac and Reuben’s adopted tribe.
Isaac’s plan was simple: lined along the ridges on either side, — wait until the enemy columns had made their way into the small valley, don’t fire until they’re so close no one would miss. In the first wave they would catch the soldiers by surprise and the numbers should swing closer to the tribe’s favor. Resist the first impulse to charge, but reload and shoot again from the cover of tree, hill, or natural rock bulwark. The startled soldiers will then call a retreat to regroup; but as they try and run, a rear guard, — that let them pass at first, — would make as much noise as possible and open fire in an effort to turn them back to the river. Undoubtedly by that time the Sioux would have the advantage and any survivors of the cavalry would feel the wrath of men outraged by the unthinkable and forged into a force with one purpose in life — to avenge.
Isaac‘s pistol rested on a rock ledge by his side within easy reach as he stood poised with grim determination; his muzzleloader trained on the captain near the head of the column. His shot would signal the attack as Reuben sat ready to then take out the lieutenant. Any other men of rank would be their next targets as the two marksmen would try and eliminate the command structure.
The blond mountain man took two deep deliberate breaths; exhaling them slowly as he calmed his nerves and steadied his muscles. With the ball at the muzzle end of his rifle resting smooth in the forked cradle of his sight he followed the captain’s head effortlessly as the unsuspecting target moved closer. Suddenly the officer reined his mount to a stop raising his arm to halt his command. The silent order spoke of trouble and although the enemy was farther away then Isaac had hoped he squeezed his trigger smoothly. The report of the weapon echoed over the small valley as a cloud billowed forth momentarily blocking the mountain man’s view, but the impact struck the intended man in the forehead, taking out half of the back of his skull as the ball exited, spinning the captain off the rear of his horse.
Within milliseconds Reuben shot the lieutenant in the chest. The man slumped forward in the saddle and then slid from his mount, his left foot still stuck in the stirrup as the horse bolted. The Sioux war cries and multiple rifle fire told the battle was in full swing within moments as Isaac and Reuben mechanically reloaded. The blond shot a sergeant yelling commands as he tried to organize the chaos and Reuben dropped the bugler amidst a hail of lead aimed at his position. Both men ducked the onslaught and reloaded as the cavalry un-expectantly charged the ridges, taking the offensive to the enemy.
Isaac popped up over his natural rock battlement to shoot again and met a mounted soldier with pistol drawn and aimed at him. The horse reared, startled at the sudden appearance of the blond and Isaac stumbled backwards to avoid the hooves and fell back to his left hip. Swinging the muzzle of his rifle upward toward his antagonist, he instantaneously pulled the trigger. The bullet struck the soldier in the chest causing him to jerk back and drop his Colt. The horse’s hooves hit the dirt to Isaac’s left as the blond rolled away from the danger and picked up his enemy’s fallen pistol and shot two more soldiers in quick succession from his prone position on the ground.
The charge quickly lost focus as some of the cavalry broke rank and bolted for the river. Reuben dropped the one leading the retreat and spun to the brush behind to recover his horse for pursuit.
Isaac scrambled to retrieve his own pistol from the rock ledge by his initial perch while the horse of the man he had shot with his rifle was still pounding the earth and striking the air with its front legs as the mortally wounded rider was fighting desperately to stay on. Isaac grabbed the reins to the rearing horse and swung into the saddle pulling the rider from his perch, then spurred the animal into a charge of the retreating enemy making a break for the river. The acquired cavalry pistol in his left hand clicked on an empty chamber as Isaac tried to fire the weapon so he threw it aside and pulled his revolver which he had tucked in his belt and shot into the fleeing soldiers.
Behind, his victorious brethren were also gathering up their horses to take up pursuit as ten yelling riders led by Reuben joined Isaac in his attack. About fifteen surviving soldiers regrouped at the river edge and turned to charge,— to the Indians surprise.
The blond mountain man noticing one of the men, with four crusted red marks down his left cheek, was flanking his companions nearer the river’s edge. Sashtee had, had skin and blood under her right fingernails and Isaac had assumed she had clawed the flesh of an assailant during her fight for her life. Now the blond felt sure he had found the very man that had assaulted his wife and left her and his unborn child to die. His rage surged as he thought of his beautiful Sashtee slipping away in his arms. Gut-shot was a slow unbearable way to die in itself, but this animal in his merciless assault had put a bullet in her stomach and left her to lie naked and alone on an icy snow bank in agony for hours before death had finally claimed her. Isaac’s soul screamed for revenge; to feel this man’s life drain under his hand sucked all reason as he dashed his mount in a direct line of attack on the man to the right of the regrouped offensive. Pounding down the ridge on a course undeterred by the shower of lead Isaac saw nothing but the single target of his revenge.
Isaac emptied his pistol in the direction of the advancing enemy then tossed the useless weapon aside and pulled his Bowie knife from its sheath. The soldiers drew saber to meet the onslaught of Indians as Isaac drove his animal into the charging scar-faced soldier’s mount. Both horses stumbled at the collision, but Isaac sprang over his saddle at impact, hitting the soldier in the chest, forcing the enemy from the saddle and causing the soldier to land with a thud on his back. The blond mountain man came up grabbing the solder’s throat with his left hand and stuck his blade into the man’s abdomen while spitting in the man’s face. Leaning down over the defeated, Isaac whispered in the helpless man‘s ear, “After I kill your comrades, I’ll be back to peel you slow.” Then he twisted the blade as the man screamed out in agony. Grabbing the man’s topknot he cut to the bone tugging with his left hand as he drove his right knee into the man’s shoulder, shoving the limp body to the earth. The scalp snapped free with a pop. With the Sioux war cry on his lips the enraged blond rose off his vanquished and pounded his chest in fury. Spotting the soldier’s sword in the grass by the bank, Isaac lunged after the weapon and picking up the fallen saber with his left hand — ran to meet the next enemy.
Clashing sword, knife, war-axe and lance echoed over the rivers surface as the battle pushed into the swift water,— when in the distance a bugle sounded announcing the near approach of support coming to the cavalry’s aid.
Reuben flew off his horse and landed behind the saddle of a fighting soldier. Wrapping his left arm around the man’s neck he plunged his knife into the soldier’s kidney and pulled the man from his mount when the bugle’s call caught his attention. A large force was pressing their way from the opposite side of the river. The young looking Crow brave scanned the battle spotting his uncle pushing waist deep into the river after a soldier who had fallen from his mount. The chase through the splashing barrier would lead the two into the path of the advancing support as panic melted over Reuben’s features. “Uncle we must fall back!” He screamed, but Isaac was blinded by revenge and oblivious to the danger’s swift approach.
Reuben seized the reins of his acquired mount and turned, charging his ride into the river after Isaac as a hail of bullets whistled over the banks of the channel. The first volley had little effect other than warn the Sioux of the advancing reserves and the sudden reversal of their victory, but the warriors refused to yield and continued to press on over the vanquished to the other side of the water misinterpreting Reuben’s course as a continuing offensive.
Isaac caught his prey and drove the saber into the man’s back then looked up to face the oncoming onslaught. With only a knife in his belt and sword in his hand he cursed. Taking no heed of his tribe’s following him into death’s jaws; he continued his path to the opposite bank. Resigning his mortality he would surrender his soul with grim determination as he faced the well-armed reinforcements as the survivors of his band came up behind.
The cavalry was almost upon them when a Sioux war cry echoed from the sparse trees around the approaching fresh soldiers and gunfire erupted from the hidden crags and brush of an almost barren landscape. As if from nowhere a party of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors intercepted the enemy catching them off guard. The battle immediately turned in the Indians favor as The Seer’s band, armed with repeating rifles, laid waste to the unsuspecting enemy and Isaac‘s tribe charged into the fray with sword, lance and powder.
“Uncle!” Reuben called out as his mount splashed out of the river on the opposite bank beside Isaac and extended his hand to his blond brother. The mountain man grasped the offer and swung easily into the saddle behind the Crow warrior. Together, with war cries on their lips they attacked. Isaac again pulled his knife, tucked into his belt, as Reuben shot an acquired colt pistol at an enemy hitting his target square in the chest.
The blond mountain man simultaneously launched himself from the back of the horse striking two soldiers off balance and taking one out of the saddle as he plunged his blade deep into the vanquished’s side. The other soldier struck by the blond’s jump, regained his saddle and leveled his pistol at Isaac; but Reuben fired twice, the third trigger pull falling on an empty chamber; but the two bullets were sufficient as the enemy slumped over his horse’s neck. The animal reared spinning the dead man backwards as two other soldiers, now horseless charged Isaac. The mountain man grabbed the sword from the dying man under him and stood in time to parry the saber blow of his first assailant and blocked the second’s jab with his long knife. Clashing metal echoed over the river valley as the two assailants pressed their advantage driving the mountain man back to the water’s edge.
Reuben, under attack by another rider dropped the pistol and pulled his war axe and charged. The steeds collided as saber and tomahawk missed their intended targets, but the close quarter limited the sword’s usefulness and the Crow brave caught the enemy with his next effort under the chin as the warrior’s horse regained its footing. The soldier’s busted jaw stunned his attack as Reuben then swung a savage backhanded blow, driving the blunt end of the ax into the man’s temple knocking the man cold.
Isaac, tied into close conflict with one of the assailants as the other had tripped, kicked the enemy in his manhood then plunged his blade into the man’s abdomen. With a cough the man spit up blood dropping to his knees as Isaac deflected another blow from the second man, intended to decapitate the blond. The mountain man ducked and spun, kicking at the soldier’s knee with his left foot. The strike landed against the joint as a thunderous crack sounded and the man’s leg buckled backward. The pain caused the saber to drop as the blond plunged his sword into the fallen’s chest. As the mountain man pulled his weapon free he scanned the battlefield. As the last soldier fell, the victorious Indians began whooping and cheering their triumph.
Isaac fell back against a rock catching his breath and scanned the devastation rent on the cavalry. An unknown tribe had come to their aid saving the day. How they got there the blond had no idea, but as the mountain man caught his breath he took notice of a short warrior walking toward him with purpose. With steely eyes locked on the small Cheyenne, Isaac took a deep breath and stood up, not sure of the man’s intentions. Others of the short warrior’s tribe began to gather around, but the blond remained undaunted at the unnerving assembly. Isaac, the only white man still standing on the battlefield and perhaps viewed as an enemy by this new group of Indians at war with the whites, felt alone among this new throng.
Silence fell over the once chanting victor’s as the apparent leader of the Cheyenne and Sioux war party stopped in front of the blond. The men from Isaac’s tribe began to gather to their adopted brother’s side not sure either of this leader’s intentions. The two men studied each other with a long pause then the eyes of The Seer dropped to the bear claw adornment around the blond’s neck. The mummified finger of The War God’s hand rested center on the mountain man’s chest and an expression of wonderment melted over the stone features of The Seer. The leader slowly reached out and touched the digit, taking it between his thumb and index finger and began to gently rub the token just as Isaac often did out of habit then let go and stepped back. Turning to his men he cried out in the Cheyenne language, “Behold! The one who is to come!” The medicine man looked skyward then back to his tribe. “The Great Spirit has heard the cry of his children and sent us a brother not of our flesh. A warrior forged by his battle with the gods. It marks the time of our end. A time of change... The gods have demanded sacrifice.” The warrior paused for a long moment — then shouted, “The time of the calling has arrived.”
The gathered men began to mutter. Questioning looks passed among the warriors — one to the other. The braves of Isaac’s tribe were bewildered as they watched in confusion the events unfolding. With the skill of a practiced orator the medicine man had the full attention of all as the throng stared in amazement at the blond mountain man standing like a statue before the gestures of The Seer. The preacher’s voice dropped to almost a whisper as he looked back to Isaac. “We must join under The War God’s lead.” Pounding his chest, his words then lifted in tempo to a rhythm of poetry. “We must kill the hated enemy.” And in a crescendo he cried, “We must finish the task the heavens have loosened on our land.”
The Seer turned back to Isaac with his last word and pulled a knife from his belt. The mountain man stood unwavering as the small man came near. Was he the sacrifice the gods were calling for? What prophecy was this medicine man referring to? Isaac met the steely gaze of The Seer. Any fear the blond had of death had washed away with the passing of his wife, but Isaac felt he had more to do. For what purpose did this little man speak of?
The short warrior unflinchingly dragged the edge of his blade across his own palm while his gaze never faltered from the mountain man’s. “You are the warrior who is young, but old,— a brother, yet not. To the death I pledge my life to you.” The Seer handed the knife to Isaac. “May our mingled blood seal my loyalty.”
The blond took...