Endeavour’s Fall #18: ExecutionMar 20, 2017
“When it comes time to die, be not one whose heart is filled with the fear of death, weeping and praying to live his life over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.”
– Chief Aupumut
Running Bear approached the palisade where three captives lay bound tightly on the ground. He was tired. He had still not found Lockhart’s body.
The pirates and a young woman in Royal Airship Navy uniform stood between the captives and his braves. Pirates and braves were shoving back and forth. Soon there would be blood.
“What is the meaning of this?” Running Bear said in his cold, precise English. The scuffling died down, and the captives peered up at him from the ground. There were two boys—one pale with yellow hair and the other with dark African skin and black hair—and an older man whose head was covered with blood. The circle of braves held their weapons high.
His braves parted for him and Running Bear stepped smoothly between them like. He looked down at the three captives, ignoring the young woman completely. She, in turn, urgently whispered into Norris’s ear. Running Bear sighed to himself. Perhaps she was going to be a bad influence on Norris. He had been so cooperative until now. So pliant.
“I am called Running Bear. I have some questions that I would like answered. I think that perhaps you will end your time with us more honorably if you answer my questions quickly.”
The prisoners glared up at him. The old one mumbled something incoherently. He was not Lockhart.
“Now, see here, Running Bear,” Norris said. “You said that you would spare my friends.” The woman stood behind him now, arms crossed.
“Norris, you are not a good liar. You know well that we agreed we would spare your spy and only your spy. I presume it is her words you are speaking?” Running Bear looked sternly at the woman.
Adams took a deep breath and stepped towards him. “There has been enough blood spilled. These crewmen were part of my team. Sam, Jack, Airman Jones. They must be spared as well.” She nodded back at the three prisoners.
“The blood debt will be paid when I say it is paid. I still have not seen the body of your Captain,” Running Bear said.
The captives exchanged glances.
Running Bear looked down at Sam’s peg leg.
“Well, that is interesting.”
“What of it? It’s my leg.”
“No need to be so defensive, young man. We would call a tireless walker ‘Wooden Leg’, but I suppose that is not what it means to you at all. Your people’s inclination to strap wood and glass to their bodies is simply foreign to me. The practice poses such interesting questions. Does it leave one less than a whole man… Pardon me, less than a whole boy, or more?”
Sam looked at Adams for help, who simply shrugged, lost.
“My leg lets me work like I did before I lost it.”
“Ah, it allows you to work. Always with you people, everything must be put to work in, what is it called, its ‘highest and best use.’ I suppose it is reasonable that you would think the same of your own flesh.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“No, of course not, young man. You see, it is a deep divide between our peoples. You cover yourselves with wood and glass. You would cover the earth with iron and stone. But what does that leave you with? More earth or less? I do not think my people would do this.”
Running Bear turned back to Adams.
“Take you, young-woman-who-dresses-like-a-soldier.”
“I am Airman Adams, second class.”
“Yes, of course. And you claim to be the leader of these spies.” He smiled coldly. It looked foreign on his face, a practiced effect.
“Norris, this is another oddity of your people. You tear your women from their homes and dress them in trousers and give them guns. I do not understand why your women permit you to do this. Of course our women can fight as fiercely as any man. No doubt many of your late crewmembers recently learned this to be true.”
Running Bear paused to observe each of their reactions. Jones mumbled and squirmed in the mud. “However, our women would not choose leaders who would do this to them. How does one learn the joys of family and home from one’s mother while shooting guns and sailing airships?”
“Savages. What do you know about me, or my mother?” Adams spat the words out. “And who are you to speak of humanity? Indians live like animals in the woods. You are barely human at all.”
Running Bear smiled a cold, tight smile. “That is where you are wrong, Airman Adams. And that is perhaps your people’s greatest error of all. Many years ago, my people thought much the same way you do. We did not think that those who spoke strange tongues could be worth our respect. We called them dogs. This tradition served us well for many years.
“However, when we … met your tribe, we soon realized that we needed all tribes as our allies, not as dogs. There was one of us, a prophet, who saw this most clearly.” Running Bear said. “He put an end to this foolishness among the People. Now the Haudonausee have brothers from the Eastern Wall as far to the west as the Moose winds blow.”
“There are some among your people who also are forced to this conclusion. They too, realize that they are better served by speaking straight with my people.”
Norris stood straighter. “That’s right. I’ve been straight with you. Enough of this. What of our deal?”
Running Bear continued to speak to Adams. “There are some among your people who would prefer to smoke the pipe with us than to eat mud as slaves.”
“The enemy of my enemy…” Adams murmured.
“Yes, now I think we are starting to see each other more clearly. So my question to you is this. If you are truly the enemy of my enemy, why are you lying to save the lives of these foolish English?”
“Hold on Running Bear, sir. I think we have a misunderstanding.” Norris raised his hands slowly. “This is my spy here.” He put his arm gently over Adams’ shoulder. “And these gentlemen are my airship crew.”
“You already have a crew. In addition, I am happy to supply some of these strong braves to assist as needed.”
“He has five sailors,” Adams jumped in, “not airmen. Even if they can learn the ropes, they can’t replace these two airmen on the outer hull. And Jones here,” Adams looked at down in the dirt, “despite appearances, is the only one that can run the Endeavour’s mainspring.”
“Is this true?” said Running Bear. He turned and raised his weapon. Before anyone could react, he brought his smooth steel tomahawk down into Jones’s skull.
© J. O. Evans 2017. All Rights Reserved.