Click to Subscribe
▶  More from Fiction
Iron-Fence Camp 2—Act 2: Thunderbird

Wolf Paw and Axe-and-sack led the Wolves and Bears into the deep, Whiteman fort house, guided by the longhaired Lumbee and his captive, a white, whimpering “warrior” in obedience war suit.

Swims-by-night and Chestnut thief took turns standing guard and raping the white woman “warrior” while the three remaining Lumbees, along with Dragging-elk and Fox-catcher secured the iron fence and rolling canoes, which would not accommodate more than half the warriors, due to the shortage of Lumbee guides, so would—each of the two rolling Sunset canoes—be used to acquire larger rolling canoes down on the broad stone river below, lit by ghost tree torches.

The weapon catch was a place of amazement. Much of what was found was unknown and poorly understood by Panther-across-the moon and his warriors, so he assigned the Lumbee guide one wolf and one bear, the youngest and most eager minded, Crowds-the-corn-crib and Tied-sack-dream, to learn the ways of Sunset thunder as it were, for there were many things in this cache, a cache as large as a house, that were crudely said by the Lumbee in bad Southern-mountain-cousin dialect, to by bringers of thunder upon the enemy: colored wooden boxes that were placed, large iron fruits that were tossed, obscured trail traps that ripped the legs off of enemy pursuers, things that smoked, things that burned, a green iron tube that focused lightning—this was the magic house of the Sunset Whiteman, the place where their dreamers stored their death tricks, a place that Bears, Wolves and insane half-whites pillaged, every man carrying more than what he thought wise.

Panther-across-the-moon now missed the fool Sunset Indian, who just now thundered off under the storm paddles to burn the Whiteman forts in the night. The man was an un-blooded fool and would endanger them. But the more warlike Lumbees had little human language. Indeed, one might suspect that they were captive white children brought up to the war way, for all they cared about was killing the Whiteman and the soot-whites in vast numbers, grinning like hungry Wendigos when they hefted the otherworldly weapons of the Sunset whites.

There was one thing Panther-across-the-moon and his men did understand, that their large heavy muskets would be kept strapped to their backs and used to defend positions, for the guns of the whites were smaller, lighter and magical of nature. While a normal gun was like a person who eats and then spits out thunder, the Sunset guns had thunderbolts inserted in their right kidney in many bolts, small spears of shinning steel.

Many iron boxes held countless tiny thunderbolts, which must be stuffed into smaller boxes, which were mated with the side mouth on the weapon like a copulation.

There was the familiar trigger, the lock for deciding on shooting one or many and the lock for not shooting—an un-cocking lock. There was only time for each warrior to load and couple a single thunderbolt box to his gun, each warrior hauling a box of bolts and a pouch of bolt couplers. The Lumbee indicated they had little time and must move, loading their bolt couplers while in the rolling canoes.

He said, sternly to the Lumbee chief, “You but slightly speak, and your men are dumb devils. Avoid being slain or I am blind in the night.”

For answer the Lumbee lifted a slightly different, heavier gun, which did not make use of a thunderbolt coupler, but a wampum-belt of thunder bolts, which threaded through both sides of the guns side mouth, and grinned evilly. The Lumbee then shoved the terrified white man against the inhumanly smooth wall and unleashed a torrent of thunder that was as if every warrior of a large band had fired muskets in quick succession, but with a sharper, lower, cracking report, and geysers of spattering blood emerged from the tortured body of the writhing coward.

As they stood over the ruined form, Panther-across-the-sky was pleased by the lack of smoke discharged by this weapon and signed for the Lumbee chief to hold back this weapon’s wrath until he should signal for it to be unleashed.

They left her on the hard, cold floor, her hands and feet tied to some of the many things for sitting and leaning that white warriors could not do without.

Her tears shone like rain on her moon-pale face and he wondered again if the Crone of Night would take her festering retribution on behalf of these unwilling mothers of their sons.

They emerged into the bright night to see more lights appearing in the windows of the whites’ houses. He looked to the Lumbee and signed for a distraction, for use of Sunset magic to bemuse the rising whites who must be numberless, for their dwellings were packed as far as could be seen in all directions.

The wicked grin returned and the Lumbee called over his second warrior, who had detailed the other two to pilot the rolling ground canoes, which could be heard rumbling in the background as his warriors positioned themselves evasively while handling their new weapons with unfamiliar hands.

Axe-and-sack scorned the new weapons and handed his to the Lumbee second and un-shouldered his musket. As the rolling canoes rumbled around the fort building like Thunderer grumbling in his throat, the Lumbee war-fathered Tied-sack-dream and Crowds-the corn-crib in the feeding of the short metal guns he had assigned them, the opening of the six-chambered, spinning belly of the green steel weapon, and the feeding of what seemed thunder eggs into this spinning belly crib under the gun.

Once these weapons were readied, all eyes were on their deployment, as the Lumbee directed the two young warriors to aim at nothing, but over the houses, as if trying to shoot an arrow over a village to the other side. When both elevated their guns, one to winter and one to sunrise—as the Lumbee explained they would be headed to summer after this thunder trick to confuse their position—and squeezed the triggers, a mere click, like corn popping if it were made of iron, announced the sending off of these two eggs. And then, almost two breaths later, thunder rumbled in the distance and 46 sets of teeth grinned in the night and then the Lumbee spread his hands from sunrise to sunset, indicating that the young warriors should play like Thunderer along the unseen distance, ten clacks birthing ten distant thunderclaps.

The eight warriors with the thunderbolt boxes and couplers were loaded into the belly of the closed rolling canoes to load the couplers that their hungry weapons would soon desire.

A Lumbee guided each massive land canoe, rumbling along on its six wheels, while his two youngest warriors, the thunder casters, sat next to them with the awesome little guns, happily feeding the things like a rabbit hunting boy happy with his dog.


The rolling canoes rolled over the iron fence, down toward the stone river, stretching white in the night, Axe-and-sack and the Bears following one and Wolf Paw and the Wolves the other, Panther-across-the-moon, the Lumbee chief and his second man and Swims-by-night between the two double files, Swims-by-night confiding in his chief, “War Owl is not with us.”

An icy chill clutched at his spine, but he could let on none of the deep dread he felt, not only having forgotten to make a final consultation with their medicine-man—having no recollection of when he last saw him after laying eyes on the thunder salmon, doubtful now that he had. A deep theory was in short order and it came naturally to the man charged with convincing men that they were the most powerful of their puny kind.

He gave a sly look to Swims-by-night and winked at the distant sunset sky as it streaked with fire under the distant thudding of the thunder paddles which visited this doom on the Whiteman recumbent in ancient slumber below, “Who do you think flew us here, warrior? Do you think the Whiteman would send his own flying salmon to bring his killer to his coward town by night? No, War Owl is with us, looking over us, flying like a broken winged owl, but flying all the same.”

The shadowy flicker of flames could be seen in the distance, giving rise to a smoke column darker than night and then the thunder salmon passed overhead, on its nightlong quest to burn every Whiteman fort under the night.

Swims-by-night, his sister’s bright son, smiled with a confidence in Panther-across-the-moon that sickened him, angered, him, impelled him to inspirational action to match the younger man’s admiration.

He broke into a run, followed by his men, a run that put him just ahead of the rolling canoes which were held back by their masters, observant of his lead. He was soon scrapping moccasin on the solid, white stone trail that bordered the rolling canoe river. A white box on wheels with black looking glass raced toward him, white, red and blue light flashing from its top. He stood, instinctively shouldering the little sunset gun and unlimbering his musket, standing fiercely to the path of this screaming thing within which soft people sat.

The ground canoe screeched to stop, spun like an ear of corn in a hungry woman’s hands, and sped back the way it came, screaming like a white woman in the bright night.

Then across the white stone strip, he saw a rolling canoe nearly the size of the thunder salmon and advanced to halt it, for all of his warriors not within the white warrior canoes could surely fit within this brightly-lit, rolling house.

Panther-across-the-moon walked across white stone path to bar the way, primed, cocked and leveled his musket and laid aim on the big soot-white canoe guide who sat behind the transparent shield of the white man’s glass for drinking and seeing through which all humans knew to be as brittle as thin ice. [1]

The huge, rolling canoe eased to a halt before him with the hiss of countless snakes.

Soot-whites, including the guide, began to empty out of the strong side of the rolling canoe, which had been loaded with people in the same side-coupling fashion as guns were loaded with thunderbolts.

A young white woman tripped as she spilled out of the now silent hissing canoe and Swims-by-night was upon her, throwing her over his shoulder as the two clan bands boarded the long, box-like canoe—a great bundling board for fat white people—with the young woman being the only person of fit form upon it, the rest squealing like the Whiteman’s pigs as they ran off into the night.

The second Lumbee took the guide’s seat and the great rolling canoe hissed to life while the Lumbee chief open the glass panels to act as firing ports, kicking one out, the Bears and Wolves following his lead and pushing the obstructive seeing panels out into the solid stone path.

Then, as the last panels were removed, Swims-by-night brought the naked girl to him, pointing out that she was newly pregnant and also covered in strange pictures.

Panther-across-the-moon was disgusted, at the lost opportunity to leave a warrior in this dying world, but was worried about the symbols this woman bore. He missed War Owl.

Should he kill her, let her go, or let her go after a kick in the stomach?

He then saw the symbol of Old Crone Moon when she was young and beautiful, painted within the skin of the white arm, the image of a pretty girl sitting on the moon. Chilled with dread, he directed Swims-by-night to release her, running naked through a town of soot-whites, a bad enough fate he thought, without bringing down the ire of the Moon Crone.

He looked into the Lumbee’s backward looking glass and nodded and the three-rolling-canoes head up over the stone river hump and then down into a place of deeper night, a leaping fire springing up between the houses to winter as the iron salmon dropped another torch box on a Sunset fort.

As they rolled on, he barked to his men, “Shoot what moves. Do not fire muskets within this box. Use the Sunset guns. The Lumbee will take us to the houses of the young women.”

A cheer of lust went up like a roar, surely shivering the Crone on her moon perch.


1. The first glass manufactured in English North America was in Jamestown, 1608. However, after the failure of that effort, glass was imported, not made, from Great Britain to colonial buyers until after 1700. Indian warriors of New England and New York were familiar with glass windows, spy glasses, eye glasses and drinking vessels.

Ire and Ice: Winter and A White Christmas

Add Comment