A Woman’s Claim

11 09 2006

you’all seem to like these medieval stories. This one is ‘manly’,
yet the real courage lies with a woman …
as with many of my stories it is 20% fact, 40% period documentation
and 40% imagineering …
but then — perhaps I was there

papa faucon


Koynan stood motionless beside the scrub pine and viewed the lumbering train of carts and horsemen that skirted the edge of the dark forest. He did not attempt to hide, for experience had shown that his eyesight was far more distant-keen than that of the soldiers from the West. With the sun behind him he had no fear of reflection from the jewels on his helm. His cloak was wrapped around the scabbard of a great curving sword to still it in the breeze, while the slight flutter of his doublet against chain mail echoed the quickening pace of his heart. The ambush and assault was imminent and well planned. However, the Alan warrior placed only partial confidence in an attack plan scratched into the sandy soil of the steppes. As the leader of the marauding band he placed more faith in the skill of his men to react quickly to changes of battle and the silent preparation each would make in playing out the attack in advance. Such was the way of his people. They had not lost a decisive battle in more than 1200 years. The Roman legions avoided them and the slavs had been quickly subdued. For more than 500 years the Alan had lived by extracting tribute and ransom from the Magyar towns, as they did from the Turkish Marmalukes. He thirsted for real battle. It was fortunate, he thought, that the armored knights had come from the west. Such armor already hung on poles before his tent.

The supply train consisted of 20 mounted knights in colorful surcoats and glistening coifs escorting a cadre of women and Dominican Friars-Preachers. These were followed, at a distance, by a mixed collection of oxen and serf-pulled carts of varying size. The rear guard of six knights had been reduced to four when two had ridden into the woods in search of game. They would not return! A thick undergrowth of hazel brush mixed with birch and tall pines to make passage within the safety of the forest impossible. The mottled hues of green, yellow and white produced a languid affect on the soldiers in the warming morning sun. Only the serfs remained alert, probing ahead with their long staffs for rodent holes that might cause the cattle to stumble. Even then, thoughts were on reaching the safety of the village before nightfall, thankful for a night on a straw pallet rather than the hard ground beneath a leaky cart.

Koynan played out his role in the ambush in his mind. When the train reached the river ahead they would have to come down to the shallows away from the trees. He knew that the mounted knights and travelers would cross first, separating them from the struggling carts. They could not know that a band of 40 hid behind the group of kurgan mounds to the south. At this point, Koyan would lead his band of six in charge from the thicket into the carts while his pair of comrades in the woods would spear the rear guard and join the melee. When the knights turned to aid the caravan they would be attacked from the rear by an infamous Alan spear charge. Only the serfs would be spared, as they also tilled the fields and gathered honey from the dark woods. He had given his own two spears to the forest warriors for their part and would rely solely on his proven skill with scimitar and lasso. His steed would attack on its own with only his knees to guide it. Even if he dismounted, Thron would guard his back with slashing hooves. He joined his band in the thicket for a last fortifying drink of fermented curdled mare’s milk and awaited the crossing.

Aldic was called Bern after the brown forest bear that foraged near his homeland Odra valley. His size, ferocity and tinge of red in his hair had forged the nickname. Even Aldic was not his true name. As a peasant miller he had no official name. He had joined the forces of Charles the Lame years earlier with nothing but a shingling froe for a weapon. The name meant “stalwart one”, and its conference by Charlemagne was a granting of knighthood in a sense. Leadership and promotion came from action within the Frankish armies, rather than from effete noblistic abuse. Thus, Aldic the Bern did not lead from the head of his troops, but rather from the front of a cart where he knew the battle would be the thickest. His cowled robe hid helm, hauberk and two-handed barbarian sword across his back. His walking staff had inlayed strips of iron and a dagger was strapped upside down against his thigh. An instinct born of experience told him that the attack was coming. A low whistle alerted the rear guard and other disguised knights. Swords were loosened in their scabbards.

The charging Alan came when only half the carts were in the stream and Aldic still on land, else he might have perished in the assault. The thunder of hooves gave fair warning and he had time to pull the great lance head from its sheath and affix it to the end of his staff. Thus prepared, he did not run as a serf might, but turned to meet the charging war-horse Thorn. With the butt of the shaft anchored beneath his foot, Aldic dropped to knee and saw the spearhead true to the chest of the steed. The force of the impact sent the splayed point a foot through bone and muscle and levered the beast high into the air. With slashing knife the knight severed the saddle straps and rolled aside as horse and surprised Koynan came crashing to earth. With his curved sword trapped beneath saddle and flesh Koynan had an eternity to contemplate the terrible bearded visage that approached from the dust cloud. He did not even attempt to avoid the awful slash of steel that sparkled against the sky. He thought only of his bride in the distant camp and the honor she would feel over his death in battle. In some ways he was fortunate to die quickly. He did not see that the soldiers emerging from the woods were not his, nor the swordsmen who sprang from the covered carts, nor women and friars who became archers and a brought a rain of death.

She did not feel honor, nor dread with the approach of the Frankish soldiers. She knew that Koynan must be dead now and unable to protect her, but also that the western knights did not war on women and children. She wondered why they came. “Ah, the horses of course.” They Alan horses were legend across the land, both a basis of survival and trade. As she was the wife of the leader, and a Princess in her own right, she came out to meet them, her black hair betraying a Scythian rather than Alan heritage. The largest man she had ever seen dismounted and approached her stand, placing at her feet the armor and weapons of her defeated husband. She knew instantly that all of the Alan warriors were gone. She also somehow knew that their hubris had killed them, not the powerful knights. A known enemy was indeed a blunt sword and this Frankish chieftain clearly knew more about Alan customs than Koynan had known of theirs.

Other knights were collecting all the spare horses, leaving only enough for the tribal band to return to their people. Without the horses the women would die, such was the way of the Alan. They were clearly to hastily depart the land of the Agar, but still, she did not move. She had been drawn to the fire of Koynan because of his great strength and felt now the stirring of his son within her loins. From instinct more than cunnings she made a choice. The sudden appearance of the forearm length curved short-sword in her hand did not seem to surprise this looming bear of a man. Perhaps he thought she meant to take her own life. At another time, perhaps. But the survival of Koynan’s bloodline was paramount now and she sensed that the honor and power of this strange knight could protect her. She slowly drew the blade across the thick part of her palm and handed Aldic the blade. No words or prior understanding was required. The silence between them seemed both detached and alive with fearful portent. Then a smile replaced his furrowed brow and he cut himself in kind. Their hands joined hotly, with her’s displaying a strength he had not expected. She held out her other hand for the Kinjal sword and smiled at his slight hesitation. Some surprises would always be good for their future years. He caller her Thrasa, which she learned meant courageous. The blood of Vikings, Huns, Mongols, Franks and Aryans mixed in their veins.

Thrasa refused to part with the proud blade even in the court of Charlemagne, and all knew that she would defend her new husband and many sons with a terrible passion. For his valor and deeds Aldic was made Baron over the valley of the Odra and became the eastern defense of the Carolingian Empire and the great Duchy of Sachen, later to be known as Saxony. Tales of the exploits of Aldebern and Thrasa became one with myth and fable. All retained a core of truth in which cunning and preparation held sway against pride and stealth. Centuries later the hordes of Ganghis Kahn would be stopped at the Oder River by the soldiers of Baron von Saxe-Odra. The Mongol warriors and Slav soldiers greatly feared the huge Teutonic Knights, resplendent in pure white with black cross and weapons. This in part was based on superstitious tales about why many of these knights had slightly slanted Mongolian eyes, and why they often charged rather than defend their ground.


Song of Star Woman

8 09 2006

“It was in the winters

Before The People

Came into being

That Star Woman Came.

She saw Mother Earth

And thought her lonely.

All praise Star Woman.

Star Woman spoke to

The Great Sprit of this. 

He agreed,

Mother Earth

Needed children to love.

Together Great Spirit

And Star Woman

Fashioned The People.

Brother to the wild things.

From the dust of the Stars

From the Oceans made them.

Gave them life with

A warm breath from

White Tatanka’s mouth.

Awaken, Great Spirit’s children.

Blessed them with

Plenty, and faith.

Set them in a good land.

Made us caretakers

Of our Mother Earth.

Walk softly on our Mother.

Great Spirit spoke to them,

‘Care well for your Mother,

Love her, keep her happy.’

I will watch over you,

And shine upon you.

Great Sprit’s first promise.

In times of great trouble,

I will return to you,

And never abandon you.

You are my children,

Born of the dust of the stars

And the tears of Mother Earth.

Heed Great Spirit’s words.”


To Honor One Woman — To Honor All

3 09 2006

I have avoided posting this true story because it seems too much of me …

but I must share the honor due to a woman who created the setting and events that made this possible. Like our Heather, it was not her direct action of will, nor guiding words that engendered creation in this way, but the internal knowledge (FAITH) that her actions would create ‘touches of wonder’ somewhere — always.

papa faucon


There was a crossing — of Paths, Currents, Metaphysical tremors, whatever. No special portents. A featureless steel sky with sense of snow, but a ‘shirt-sleeve’ 70° for all of that. Each Sunday morning in Salt Lake City, a famed charitable woman hosted a breakfast beneath the stretch of freeway fingered overpasses. Hardly a set cathedral arches and buttresses, but by conjoined will a spiritual place, and the only ‘mass’ the teaming homeless were likely to attend. Others came, like myself, to participate and support the event — to honor perhaps both the simple fellowship of strangers and the non-religious giving of so many volunteers. I ‘paid’ for my ham and eggs and pancakes and juice by wandering about with pitchers of coffee and loading garbage bags on trucks. There were about 300 fed that morning, more than most Sundays, as this was the last breakfast to be held. I don’t know why he came.

Due to the impending Winter Olympics the entire road system was being rebuilt. There would be no room in the inn, and no other place was willing to allow the hordes of unwashed to accumulate on their property. Yet with each death there is always rebirth, and meeting Dann was part of that. I had arrived early in order to secure a special parking place, but now could not get out from the bumper-locked, inching traffic. Several pedestrians, some with physical disabilities, were also ‘grid-locked’ and unable to cross the street. From no where, a largish man with a broken staff paced boldly into the fray and stopped the flow from both directions. He might have been Moses parting the sea — arms outstretched and commanding presence — though his bald head and knee high boots would not have attracted Hollywood’s attention. No one honked — strange! With a parade of wheel chairs to guard my escape, I was able to cross both lines of traffic as if by right. I might have continued unabashed had I not noticed that the extended staff was burned as well as broken. I pulled aside down the block and walked back, after securing an article from the trunk. It was meant to be.

Three years before in the mountains of California, a branch had fallen from a giant tree and hit my car rather painfully. I would have picked up such a branch at any time, because of a hobby I make staffs and canes for people — just to give away. This piece was seven feet long and reasonably straight and the width of an axe handle. Perfect. It also came from a 1000 year old Sequoia with a ruddy bark that flaked softly in my hands. Over the years I had worked it some, just wire brushing the outer bark to reveal whorls of iridescent reds and black and ochre. The few protrusions yielded to knife and file, and a leather tip and a coat of teak oil seemed right. Then it lived in my car for a year — just waiting.

I just walked out into the street and handed it to him. He did not speak or smile — but his eyes did. I will not attempt to describe what I saw there, but the phrase, “pale blue of sorrowful joy” came to mind. He pointed to a jagged scar on his throat and then to my shirt pocket. I handed over two business cards and a pen. One he placed in a pouch on his belt. The other received a quick note, which I assumed would be his name. Not so. He visibly swallowed some air and issued forth a sound not possible from his smashed larynx. “Dawwnn” was what I heard. “Hello, Dann, with two ‘n’s,” I said. His eyes flashed another smile. A brief nod. Then he strode away and I have never seen him since.

On the card he had written, “It’s all about faith.” You decide.

Ancient Style – (an attempt)

22 08 2006

This is written in a medieval split form, meant to be read out loud. The break in the middle of the lines is an exagerated pause (1,2,3) to allow those with limited language skills to keep pace with the ballad. The center column is supposed to be centered and uniform, but … so I have substituted “======”


The crone was not evil ====== Nor privy to sin of any kind,
And thus not thought human ====== But feared for no reason save one;
A knowing that she heard ======= And in doing was alone and shunned.

She perceived what was not ====== At least by claim of toil and folly.
She danced when other’s wept ====== And often cried when others did laugh;
But all knew she was fey ====== And left her to weave her shadow cloak.

Yet many came to chide her ====== Pester anew the differences and all
For no other reason, Given .====== if any cared to ask or ponder,
“Look there now for yourself. ====== See one who ne’er should’ve been born.”

‘cept there was tale and myth ====== That she had never known a mother’s soul
Nor gifted father seed, ====== But just was and nothing more be said,
Save that she was now ====== And would always be found sitting there.

She ne’er gave an answer ====== Nor querried after folks and weather,
Nor swapped old recipes, ====== Or gossiped about the preacher’s wife,
Nor walked far the woods,====== Or even hid from the rain or sun.

So why would anyone care ====== To scale up the slope and jump the thorns
To a dark musty cave ====== While lightning flashes without a cloud,
To find a withered crone, ====== Toothless — one eye lost to tangled hair?
Because you can, that’s why, ====== And answer a calling eternal;
For she knows the answer ====== And you are jealous through and beyond,
And hope to hear her sing .====== And smile with the golden eyes of God.

Dance to the Music

21 08 2006

Musical Memories… every one has them. The songs that immediately trensport to somewhen in our lives. My family has always been eclectic of tastes, so it isn’t surprising that I have so many styles of music represented in my personal library.

Classical (of all sorts) was de rigeur in our family. Grandma wanted her daughters to appreciate the ‘finer things’, Mum studied and loved dance-ballet, tap and jazz for years, and Aunt Diane is an accomplished classically trained pianist.

Between the sisters the whole family was touched by the works of Bach, Beethoven, Holst, Chopin, Grieg and others. To this day, Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi have the power to move me more deeply than any other style or genre.

My father was partial to Jazz, Grandpa DeShaw was into Rock and Roll. It is a musical memory of him that I wish to share.

My family has been in what became Michigan since before the American Revolutionary War, mostly French, and ‘salt of the earth’-type folks. The town I was born in was a factory town. Buick, A/C Sparkplug, Fisher Body were the places to work.

Grandpa DeShaw worked in the Buick Powerhouse for the better part of 40 years. Grandma DeShaw was with A/C since WWII (I’ll share some of her tales elsewere and when), Aunt Diane worked at the Buick, uncles, cousins, and assorted other relatives have done their apprenticeship in American factories. I tell you this simply so you can understand why the only vehicles allowed in the family were American-made, big-block V-8’s.

I wasn’t yet ten when Grandpa started picking up the three of us on a Sunday afternoon and pile the grandchildren into Grandma’s 4-door Buick behemoth.

He would start by telling us that, “Your Grandmother drives like an old lady. We need to take her car out and clear the carbon out of the rings.”

We would all have our own ‘window’ seat, and Grandpa would switch the station from old Country Western, playing softly; to a rock and roll station and ‘dust off them speakers’.

Once we were on a flat, smooth stretch of blacktop meandering through pockets of woodlands the gas pedal would be almost to the floorboards, and Grandpa was driving fearlessly and happily at a fairly high rate of speed.

There were songs we prayed would play while we were riding with Grandpa. The first being “Radar Love” by Golden Earring; the pedal would hit the metal and the radio would be cranked as high as it could go, while the scenery flew by and we kids gloried in the speed and experience.

Today, I have CD’s with “Radar Love” on them, and when I listen on the headphones, I am transported back so utterly that I can feel the roar of the motor when the back 2 barrels opened up, the broad leather-clad bench seat I was pressed into, and the music thundering in our ears with Grandpa when he was still living and fairly healthy holding the steering wheel easily, fingers tapping in time to the music.

I’m sure if you asked my brothers they rermember the same experiences with love and joy.

Grandpa DeShaw was the ‘touchstone’ of the family; the beloved, loving , and benevolent patriarch that was everyone’s favourite.

He would watch his chidren and grandchildren talking and laughing at the dinner table, and, although he had always dreamed of quiet, well-behaved family dinners, he loved all of us unreservedly and unconditionally. I could feel the love and pride in every breath he drew and the smiles he would bestow on us.

Now under construction in Mme Le Enchanteur’s Library

21 08 2006

Our library is expanding!! It is not just the words and images that inspire us as adults, we must include the words and images of our childhoods, for that was when the artists’ soul is first awakened.

In the “Children’s Reading Room” we will share children’s books that are a memory of our own childhoods, the books that we shared with children, and the books that revive our inner child.

Life would be unbearable without music, so, the Library will be adding a music catalogue, where we can share the music that has inspired, defined, comforted us and touched our spirits. “The Song of Life” music selection will be opening soon.

Also on the Calendar of upcoming events will be the Library’s “Film Buffs’ Catalogue. And, no surprise here, is where we can share films old and new that delight us, and call forth our creative selves.

With all of us working together, we can make the Library a net-wide resource for creative spirits. I look forward to seeing all the magic we can create here.

Before anyone needs to ask, yes, you can post suggestions from people outside our group as well as within the realm of Soul Food Cafe.