Thursday, April 10, 2014
Coming to Terms with Blood and Innocence
With that monstrous, thorn-bedecked bear run off, Erin and Saul could sit a spell and tend to their own wounds (which are, at this point, considerable). But the bear is their best lead in finding out what flavor of hell has broken loose out here amongst the logging camps, so maybe they should follow it now before the trail goes cold. Then again, this might be a good time to head back to Golgotha and renegotiate with the town fathers for taking care of this spate of trouble.
Much as it pains him to admit it, Saul grudgingly admits that he's in no shape to go after the bear. Erin has a solution; she rustles around in her saddlebag until she finds a fresh bottle of whiskey, sits down with it in Indian fashion, closes her eyes and begins to chant. Now, Erin Landry is what you'd call a "plain woman." You wouldn't turn your eyes from her in disgust, nor would you ever spare a second to think her beautiful. But as she chants, Saul stares in wonder as face changes--becoming bright, alluring, and wicked. Saul feels a sick feeling awaken in his gut as he looks at her, for the low words she repeats are words given to her by Lilith, the Mother of Sin.
When the chant ends, Erin is road-worn again, no longer comely and fair and serpentine. She offers the bottle of whiskey to Saul; the slug he takes from the bottle burns going down, but it also stitches his wounds together from the inside. They pass the bottle back and forth, and are restored.
Time to see about that bear.
The trail is easy enough to follow, up to a point. Then the way branches off in two directions with no clear indication where the bear went. Misdirection is afoot. Saul and Erin choose the right-hand path, which carries on for a bit before opening out into a little clearing. At the center of the clearing is a large wooden cross; the lumber used in its construction looks an awful lot like the rough wooden plants used back at the logging camp. Nailed to the cross is the twisted and broken body of a logger.
"Aww, hell no," Saul growls. He unholsters his pistols and puts lead into the body on the cross. His intuition served him well, as the woman's eyes flutter open and his face twists into a grin as she rips herself free from her own crucifixion. The thing eats dirt before it can even reach Erin and Saul.
Pushing on, then. Deeper into the woods they go, until they arrive at another, larger clearing. At this center of this one is an enormous, warped tree that heaves and shakes as though breathing. Surrounding it are the men from the second logging camp who ran off during the fight with the transformed woodsmen. They glare at Saul and Erin. "You shouldn't have come here," one of them mutters.
Something like a man, but green of skin with gnarled branches for arms, acorns for teeth, and leaves for hair emerges from the pulsating tree. The bear emerges behind him, its wounded bandaged with greenery. Guns unslung, of course. "Let's parlay, if you're able," says Erin.
The Green Man gestures for the loggers to hang back a pace. In a voice ancient and deep, he explains that Saul and Erin now stand at the Sacred Heart of the Woods, and that the loggers from Golgotha had begun to cut too far into forest for their lumber. Only these loggers, he gestures to the men around him, have offered the proper blood sacrifice to maintain the balance. Perhaps the town fathers of Golgotha would be willing to pay a blood tithe to the Woods so that all could remain in agreement, and no more violence or transformation of its men would be necessary? Such a bargain would require a lot of blood...
This is a dark bargain to strike, but in their heart of hearts both Erin and Saul know that it is one that the town will readily assent to. Part of them would like to just open fire and put an end to this here and now, to strike a blow for progress against this demon-twisted aspect of nature. But this isn't that kind of world anymore; continued existence is paid for in shed innocence. And so they deal; the Green Man agrees to a truce, Saul and Erin will take his offer to the town and return in the morning with an answer. Blood will water the soil and strike the balance between the natural world and man's coexistence with it once more. So it goes under the demon sun.