Post by Char-Vell on May 23, 2019 14:41:39 GMT -5
The Remaining Mule
Gradually, Engbrecht recovered awareness, first detecting the scent of woodsmoke and roasting meat, then the glow of sunlight through his eyelids, and the sound of a crackling fire.
He struggled to a sitting position, groaning as the pain of his injured leg reasserted itself. Through swollen, bleary eyes he beheld Sarangaroro, squatting before a blazing fire, roasting a piece of venison. The Indian turned to grin at him.
“Good morning! Or good day to be more precise! You’ve slept like a dead man and the sun is high. I’ll have breakfast finished in a moment.”
The awareness of his surroundings and the memory of the previous night suddenly barreled into the dutchman’s mind. He thrashed about and wailed.
“Mary! Where is Mary! God help me, did the ghost snake kill her?”
Sarangaroro crept over and pressed the hysterical trapper back into his blankets.
“Calm yourself white man, before you set that wound to bleeding again! That raven-haired slattern is alive and no doubt well. While the Ghost Snake contended with the Spirit Warrior, she took the opportunity to take one of your mules and steal away into the forest.”
Engbrecht groaned and fell back onto the blankets, covering his face with his hands.
“No! A woman will not survive long in the wilderness! She will perish.”
Sarangaroro snorted and returned to his place by the fire.
“That woman will survive just fine I’ll wager! You still care for her, though she cared little for you, and merely used you to facilitate her trek to this place?”
“The further we traveled into the wood, the clearer it was she was using me, But I loved her and cared not. I thought once she had what she desired, she would resume her affection for me. I was foolish.”
The indian sliced of astrip of venison and offered it up to Engbrecht on the tip of his knife.
“Eat. Don’t reproach yourself overmuch about the girl, we have all been made fools of over a woman at one time or another. Besides, she must have held you in some regard, she left you the other mule.”
Not seeing the humor in Sarangaroro’s observation, Engbrecht took the proffered meat and chewed it wearily.
“Where are we, and how did I get here? What transpired on the mound?”
“The Ghost Snake and Spirit Warrior fought until the sun rose, then both faded away like the fog. The Warrior seemed to be gaining the upper hand. I am not sure. Then I built a travois and used the remaining mule to bring you here, to my camp.”
Engbrecht looked about. There was a rude shelter of limbs and branches built between two trees behind him., and the remaining mule grazed placidly nearby.
The trapper lay still, chewing the venison. He waited for the throbbing pain in his leg to subside. At length he spoke again.
“I thank you Sarangaroro. No one would begrudge you had you left me to bleed out by that damned mound. Mary and I unleashed a horror on the world, through her greed and my foolishness.”
Sarangaroro shook his head and stretched out on the ground by the fire. He rummaged about his clothing and produce a pipe and tobacco. In short order he was smoking with great relish. Expelling a great cloud of pungent smoke , he addressed the dutchman.
“I bear you no hatred white man. There are few I hate so much as to leave them to die when I could help. I think you’d do the same for me, unless I misjudge your character. If you want to thank me, do so by sticking to hunting and trapping, and dig no more into old mounds. Find yourself a more even-tempered woman.”
Sarangaroro took another long draw on his pipe, the offered it to Engbrecht.
“As to the the other matter, I doubt the Ghost Snake will cause much trouble as long as the Spirit Warrior stands watch over the Serpent Mound.”