It was nice to hear a sound that symbolized a human reaction, a reasonable speak at her treat by him. Iron didn’t hope any illusions about it, not passing off as frighten cry or any over roughness on his part, mere an injury to her pride as he felt her fingers dig into for purchase likely from the abrupt shift. The pulled down was a dizzying experience and one he hoped would discourage her temper. Sadly not her cheek it seemed. Her chin up held and pouting, Melinda tried to look as prime and dignified as she could manage under the circumstances noted Iron. Her words gave him the alright, at least in his mind, to examine her ankle with his hand.
He fought the need to scuff at the last part of her comment and her reaction. It wouldn’t matter how smooth the ride was, the jarring of the horse’s motions were mere murder on broken let alone fractured bone of any type. His own experience spoke well about that. Iron focused more on the task at hand then the woman’s sassy nature at his treatment, feeling it was partly her fault for jumping off the horse in the first place and then insisting on aiding him back to Sundance using her hurt ankle as support. That threat of worsening it had forced his hand. It spread the poison farther but using guilt to bridle this wild high stepping mare into behaving wasn’t his way, at some point it would be seen to be vicious and far too jaded to be of use anymore.
He couldn’t blame her for being miserable, desperate, or rude. It was both her plight and up brings that fed this stick up her romp add that with a more distant reason of his own race and background, he quickly became use to this common trait around settlers thus he mere clenched his teeth though her words.
Still leaning down, he shifted to the side and placed the sticks upon the ground. Loosening his already limp fingers leaving them crisscrossed upon the ground, Iron’s eyes couldn’t help looked over the pale skin peering out from beneath with a neutral expression though his breath was held on the sight of it, his chest stilled and silent for a moment absorbing the shape and flesh, seeming like living perfect porcelain. Beautiful, the only word in his thoughts that seemed fitting. Muscles tensed and tightened, his free hand then took a hold of the back of her foot strongly before twisting his body and brought his knee underneath hers. It brought it closer and allowed him a better view of her foot. His fingers pulled at the laces, roughly and with much difficulty, until they came loose. Prying the curving flaps of dye cow leather as far from her ankle as possible, he gently pulled her foot upwards letting the footwear slip away.
Iron knew it would hurt, but it was the best he could do one handed.
The barrier off, his fingers touched the outer bump of the ankle feeling for more than the slight swollenness of being sprain. His touch moved to where it curved in and few inches higher, making sure the Achilles heel was intact with his palm wrapped about her slender leg. Breathing, his, was shallow and soft against the feeling of the concaves and swells in the ankle to skim over the slightest hint of a break. Slowly he once more took up the ankle in his hand. He pulled it slowly up, moving it about ever slowly to check its mobile ready to stop the instance Melinda gave a sign of unbearable pain. No matter how stubborn she was the pain would be enough to rip a small yell from her. Contented with his findings, Iron turned to his sticks and placed the foot back down to pick them back up then placing the long braided hide in his gripped teeth. His mouth occupied, Iron couldn’t answer Melinda right away as she stared off into the vast landscape towards where they were destined it seemed and spoke with confusion and pain he expected. Pinching her ankle between the sticks held by his gripping hand, the Native American leaned into her ankle taking a breath on his lean in. It was well practiced it seemed, like a past experience, that he had his forefinger reach and snag the dangling braid giving a signal for his teeth to toss it over her ankle top. Trying to make this moment as quickly as possible, he moved his head around brushing her leg, his hair bangs glided across her flesh, alongside his breath to press his cheek against the contours of the ankle just to grip the held portion.
Tedious work in the end that farther aroused him, his body feeling like a small fire filled him. Burning at parts it shouldn’t while it threatened to eat away at him. Iron never claimed to be a saint, just a man, and like all men he had lust and explored his fair share of women yet this. It was something he never experienced-at least on this level of desire- as he struggled to bite on the braid. Three times he missed despite his luck so far before it came to rest in his mouth with tightly clenched bite to keep it from running away from him, sinking into the deer hide leather dried by smoke and ample salt. Even then he could taste it, drying his tongue slightly while he refused to release it in his upward pull. Finally it was done as he held one end in his mouth and the other was pulled by his working hand to loop it through, holding the sticks in place.
It took much pausing and readjusting while he tied it, but once Iron was pleased with the secureness he pulled back. Meeting her eyes he spoke, his ass planting on ground while he pulled her leg to the side in an attempt to make it more comfortable and less awkward. He needed the rest.
“You might be stubborn enough to ignore your body and let it hurt, but I am not. The horse’s motions would’ve worsened it. Especially if it was a fracture, the up and down motions would’ve cracked the bone and drawing out pain along the trip’s course. The bone wouldn’t heal right then, crippling you,” Iron spoke with an even tone as if this to a child, since she was determined to act as one, he would talk to her like such,” This attitude proves it to me, that you would’ve bore through the pain until it was too late. Setting it now solves it for the future.”
He paused a bit before continuing to answer her question, “According to the legends, Jealousy will use that Wishing Stone to destroy everything and create it once more a new but he needs you, the woman of the story reborn, to do it. The only thing that isn’t said in the stories if that’s possible to destroy the world and recreate it. Your emotions- pull of attraction and the fear of his presence- was all left behind by what has happened before. The more I tell you the less believable it becomes, even I had a heck of a time in believing it when I was first told the story. In time, you will do things you can’t explain or even believe but only in time.”
Iron looked at the boot and then the splintered leg before pulling himself upwards, standing as he held his fingers to his lips after shifting the strings to his cradled hand. Making a high pitched whistle that echoed off the trees, gathering Sundance’s attention while her ears perked up in alert before her body moved towards them. She was paced lazy and slow, drawing out her time with each step until she came right up to Iron. Head tossed in boredom batting her mane and accepting his free hand petting and stroking her muzzle, bring her teeth to nibble at his shirt playfully. Once more he beckoned her to lower her body for them to mount looking sour at repeating the chore until the mare felt Iron’s weight settle in the saddle, he considered taking it off but the idea of leaving a trail wasn’t appealing.
Holding his hand out, Iron spoke gently to coax Melinda behind him,” Let’s head and while we travel, you ask the questions and I’ll answer them best I can. This way I’ll know what you’re ready to hear.”
Dark and cold eyes watched the pairing from the cover of trees. Its brown fur looked shabby and not kept allowing some patches of tanned skin to show through the creature’s pelt, with dappled light hitting its thick bulk making lighter spots on its flanks. Its black tarnished nose sniffed the air even as black lips pulled back revealing white teeth in a low, unheard growl. The nose scrunched up in disgust, scenting the man and hating what it scented. Its large paws sank into the ground making it’s thick legs tense and eager to rush them, separating the woman and the man while it tore into Iron’s sweet flesh and spill his blood upon the ground where it would vanish into.
Steady…. Came the icy chill of His voice, Steady… you only watch. Or you will suffer the same fate as the other one. Obey or suffer, simple yes? Obey.
Satisfied it seemed, the beast rein in its desire within the hollow shell of a great master of the forest, the large brown bear’s mind long gone seasons ago leaving only a tool to Him. It pulled back farther into the shade hiding its bulk letting the darkness swallow it up from sight, leaving no trace of its presence but a tuff of fur ripped from its hide on its retreat. Wait…watch…obey, the orders rushed through its simple mind at all times. For how long, it remains to be seen.
Last edited by Fallenreaper; 12-17-2012 at 03:04 PM.
She went very far away while he tended to her ankle, very, very far away. All the way back home to her parent’s house where she’d last been something like happy. It was a year before they died revealing the mountain of debt they’d been hiding, and it was summer. She’d been reading out in the walled garden with it’s sculpted hedges and it’s neatly laid rows of plants, all cleverly laid to disguise the truth of the garden, it was a prison. Not in any real sense of the word. She wasn’t a prisoner because she was bad, but she was a prisoner because of love. They adored her, their one girl with her pale hair and skin, so delicate and pretty. They wanted to keep her safe from the cruel world. So they built up the walls, physical as well as metaphorical and let her grow up cosseted and educated. She thrived, for a time. Until a year before their final death when she’d begun to grow restless and uneasy in her confinement. She went out, but it was always supervised and she was only ever exposed to the correct sort of people. They let her read whatever she wanted, because books were safe. But they weren’t. They filled her head with longings she couldn’t articulate, longings for places she’d never seen. Then the dreams had happened.
Dreams of a landscape eerily similar to this one, dreams of being tangled with a man, eerily similar to this one. Doctors had been brought in when she’d woken up sweaty and restless one too many times. She’d been examined, treated for hysteria, drugged, hypnotized and even treated to an exorcism, all to no avail. The only thing that had come of that was that during her hypnosis she’d said over and over, “I bear the stone.” Which made absolutely no sense. It was so hard on her mother, a nervous woman overly concerned with safety and appearances. She began to withdraw from her daughter, as if she’d given up on her. It was hard on Melinda, harder on her father who fretted over the schism between his family members.
But it hadn’t lasted long, less than a year later, in a drugged stupor Melina had been informed that her parents had died in a motorcar accident and that the Bank was going to seize all her assets. All in an instant Melinda’s world had turned upside down. She found herself in a third-rate boarding house with just the clothing on her back and withdrawals from the drugs she’d been pumped with wracking her system. She’d always been spare and slender but the efforts of ridding her system of the poisons left her frail. Somehow, through an old contact she’d been permitted, she learned of an opening in a new all-girls school on the west coast. They needed an educated, cultured woman to run the dormitory. She applied and got the position, sold almost all her jewelry to get a train ticket and headed west.
Except everything went wrong. The job fell through, she was stranded in Silas and now she was here, in the middle of nowhere with a man she didn’t know handling her ankle with hands that were far, far too warm. She made no noise of pain, determined to keep it in, but she couldn’t help the soft sound that escaped her when his rough calloused hands skimmed over her sensitive skin.
She kept her eyes averted when he chided her for being stubborn and accusing her of doing exactly what she’d planned on doing. She resented his assumptions and even more that he’d have been right. She hated that it bothered her that he likely loathed her. He probably thought she was a weak, pampered city girl unused to any hardship. And this was true. She was weak and pampered but she thought she deserved some credit for so gracefully transitioning from her old world to her new one. He didn’t know, he couldn't know the life she’d left behind, he was a savage after all. But that he thought poorly of her hurt her terribly.
His story was absurd and she didn’t believe him for a second, but she also, perversely knew it to be true. She just couldn’t let herself accept the reality he was proposing because it was even further from where she wanted to be than where she was now. But she didn’t say anything, simply let herself be let up on the horse, blessedly behind him, which after a time proved to be no more comfortable than in front. There were other issues besides her bottom rubbing up against him, such as where to put her hands. She needed to put them around him, but she didn’t want to rest them on his thighs, that was too intimate, she needed to hold onto him, both to keep herself balanced and to hold him on should the poison take him. She settled on putting her hands around his hard waist, knitting her fingers just over his navel lest her hands slip too far south and cause new problems she wasn’t certain how to deal with, her uncorsetted chest pressing into his back simultaneously.
She felt the rhythm of the horse settle her and then, into the silence asked.
“So what are we supposed to do? Just live? Accomplish something? I just don’t know where I stand and I hate that.”
He wondered if she felt guilty, her reaction seemed to say so. His legs straddled across the mare’s back, pushed closely to the forefront of the thing in wait. Her hand reached into his brought a slight comfort and made him grateful, while he led her about to sit behind him. The lack of her warm body in front of him, surprised Iron was at quickly he’d now missed it, his hand reaching for the thick reins before he could dawdle on it for much longer. It then her hands slipped about Iron. His dark eyes looked down to see the contrast color of pale hand slipping about his waist, the grazing along his side drew his focus down, the delicate feeling of her arms emitting more strength than he thought was possible, entwine fingers and pulled her close.
He couldn’t help again note how well she fit him on the other side too. A lump of nerves gathered in his throat and his chest a little labored, mind blamed the effects of the poison, before clicking his teeth with his tongue. Sundance knew she laid too long on the ground as it was. Her body lifted, bring them up, making his out stretched legs scratch back across the ground on their way to now tower over it. Time was growing shorter and running against them.
Iron had noted the dog seemed to have vanished, not a word or hair of it since after their stop. Melinda hadn’t spoken either. Not since his scolding and for a moment, Iron wondered if he was too harsh with her. The emotions were new to control and in the pass they weren’t at all half as strong then, only her presence seemed to draw it out much worse than before making him edgy and guarded. Even the thought of her hurting made him crazy, an unreasonable thing for a complete stranger.
He can completed on speaking, anything to break the odd and thick quiet that misted around them. The thought was casted away when Melinda spoke. Her voice, feeling like she was being high strung again, asked him a question that give away more then she would understand.
The mare’s hooves trotted on the ground, skirting pass shrubbery in a slow and easy walk, a vain hope to at least ease Melinda’s bottom. Trying not to remember the feel of when his hand pushed down on it while sliding along her legs and even more ignoring that heat which seemed to tug lower. His throat constricted and swallowed, clearing the airway of all possible trouble for his reply. Eyes looked onward, seemingly taking the question into great consideration and seeking a right answer. In truth there wasn’t one. The lump leaving only a shadow of what was there before his voice rang out, a calm and steady beat to match the rhythm of the mare.
“I can’t tell you that. It would be taking away your rights as a living being to tell where you stand, even Jealousy has its own reasons for being as He is. He believes to be wronged and is pushing to correct it. At any cost. I’m trying to get to my cousin’s farm to wait out the poison then we will head to my village. The shaman woman knows the next step. With any luck, she would know how to help you create the stone and then, the choice is yours of what to do from there. To be honest, I can’t tell you all the details since I never expected to find you in my lifetime,” his words truthfully spoken.
He hadn’t been the only one to seek her out, his people’s tribe name in his language translated to People of the Coyote after all. Even among these people he wasn’t the normal. His connect was powerful making even the shaman woman nervous, cautioning him against using it, that if he became too accustomed and fell too deeply then he would fade from existing leaving only the other part to exist. If that happened, there would be no returning. Little did Melinda know, his life was set firmly in her hands but telling that would affect events and her choices. Who knew what would come from that simple sentence if anything.
The sun was high in the sky now, marking the time was noon with its rays beating down over head before Iron’s head turned to Melinda. She was so pale with her skin likely never seeing the light or punishment the sun was capable of, ready to scorch that white into red.
“Keep a hold of me, please,” Once Iron was sure she had a hold of him, the man leaned back towards the saddle bag.
His weight leaned on Melinda, his mind disliked the idea of putting more on her then was needed and his good arms stretched outward to the flap. Flipping it open, his coarse hand reached into the deep material and sought for something important, shoving aside the items in his search. The object clicked and shuffled with soft sharp sounds. Finally his fingers touched the familiar texture of cotton before grasping it, the horse’s motions uncared for her rider’s current position as she grown use to it by now. Him, on the other hand gritted his teeth each time the mare took a step with the shifting muscles rubbing deeply into his back, sending shots of pain through what he could feel but not a cry of pain escaped. The brown and soft deer skin came free from the bag, pulled both by his hand and his motion to sit back upright in the saddle with grunt of effort. It was clearly a bad idea.
“Use this to shield your skin… it’s not much but it’s better than sunburn,” Iron paused for a moment, his hand wiped the starting sweat from his brow with the fore arm before handing the blanket back,” It seems you might in the sun’s rays… A little longer and we’ll be there, promise… Just bear with me,” His sentences were short and spoken between gasps. The poison was kicking in quickly then he wanted, his motions making it less helpful with each passing moment.
She felt a great deal of frustration well up in her when he gave her his vague answer. He couldn’t tell her, choice? What was he going on about? She asked because she wanted to know, she needed to know and his answer implied that he knew something but was keeping it from her to protect her. She closed her eyes and fought down a flash of temper that threatened to overwhelm her. He protected her from the truth, but he hadn’t protected her from the situation in the first place. She’d protected him for certain, first from that thing that had attacked him first under the guise of the store keeper, next as itself. Then she shielded him from the wrath of the Sheriff and the misguided justice of the law.
She took the blanket from him and draped it over head and shoulders, feeling a momentary cessation of the sun beating down upon her fair skin. She thought wryly to herself, so this was how he protected her? From the sun? With a blanket? Had she had the chance she would have had a hat that would have done with same without the added effect of making her swelter like the blanket soon did. She kept her grip on him though despite being annoyed with him, annoyed with herself and annoyed with the situation in general. Things would only get worse if he fell off his horse and broke something. Then she’d be on the run, stranded in the middle of the desert. She sighed and tried to determine which heat she felt more keenly, that of the sun beating down on the blanket or that of his body in the circle of his arms.
Unable to conclude she kept her silence and pondered his words about his village. She was supposed to go with him to a village full of his people where she would stick out like a sore thumb and then hope that some shaman woman would be able to help her do something that didn’t even make sense when put into words. Form the stone? What did that even mean? And that it was only something he hoped would be possible made it even more aggravating. Startled she realized that in her long moments of silence she’d leaned forward and rested her soft cheek against the broad plane of his back and that her arms had slipped lower on him and tightened, though not so much as to be uncomfortable. That she was surprisingly comfortable and that it felt so right hardly made her any less piqued about it and she pulled herself upright and fixed her grip so that it was in a more proper location. It made her long to slip off the horse and walk along side it. But that hadn’t ended so well last time and she realized she was pretty much kidnapped and at his mercy, albeit willingly, at least for now.
“So you can’t tell me a thing, and you don’t know what’s next?” she asked with a bit of her pique in her voice. “So how do you know you are doing this right to begin with? Whatever this is.” She sniffed.
She wasn’t going to fight him, because deep down she sensed, probably like he did, that they were doing what was right. But that didn’t mean she would hold her tongue. She was so vexed and confused and all that made her waspish. If he didn’t like it he could return her to the village and find someone else to form the stone or whatever that meant.
Even as she snapped at him her head lowered to rest on his back again, her cheek pressed into the muscle of his shoulder. Her late night, poor sleep, the excitement of the day were all making her sleepy. Even as her mind resisted the rightness of the situation, resisted the connection with him, her body remembered and sought comfort where it knew it could find it.
Iron was relieved that Melinda didn’t fight. Feeling her hands take the blanket from his loosening hand while she. begrudgingly perhaps, draped over herself, her arms momentarily left his sides- the one that could feel that is- leaving a sense of missing. His head tilted to the side taking in the darkening of her deep borrowed eyes heat for a moment with anger, his own nerves steeled expecting the incoming wrath much like her earlier ire to the white sheriff. The horse’s movements had rattled his bones, each new step seemed to found a hidden uneven surface making his teeth clench tighter and tighter just to keep a straight face. His face turned back to the direction they were destined both looking at the path ahead and hiding his eyes from sight. His spine stiff and ridge, Iron forced his free hand to take a firm white knuckled grip just in case her strength wasn’t enough to keep him upright on the horse.
He knew the trip was going to be a long one. This worried him, feeling his fate was no longer his own and now lay smack in the hands of a stranger. A woman who could ultimately didn’t care, other than selfish reasons, if he lived or died. He knew back in the sheriff’s office that her motives, the quick change wasn’t hard to overlook and even more that she seemed disgruntled by their current travel, weren’t on helping him determine the fate of the world. There was something more but for now, he yet to have the desire to examine it.
Distrust wasn’t about to get this task done and over, mere make it more difficult. She was a burden as it was. Adding distrust and worry was bound to impair his judgment, second guess his instincts and likely get them both killed sooner. His hand ushered the mare into a trot then to aid in pushing his mind from such thoughts, her pace increased and in the end worsened his ache with each forceful bounce. In a way running away from his own doubts.
The silence seemed powerful. It was like a spirit that swirled about the two, dousing out their voices and discouraging sound. This alone seemed to increase his awareness; the pain magnified before it numbed had became the first notice in his head followed by what he could feel on his back. His breathing was being forced to keep even as he tried to turn his attention away from the ideas prancing about his head with the sensation creeping up his sides like water spiders across a pond, preferring to focus on her instead and exercising what was left in his sense of touch. His eyes sank below heavy lids to drive out the scenery pushing pass them. Her body was firmly against his, causing his blood vessels to race when more weight was applied. The encircled arms had slide downwards to rest her elbows on his thighs, still encasing his waist about him like a lover’s embrace.
He thought she was asleep and a sense of pity for her experience, frustrations, and what was in store for her fluttered in his head. Iron found her presence something of a lulling and soon enough his mind began to waft to lean back edging to sleep. For now he was only concerned with the present. Iron felt a longing to just lose themselves in this blissful trip, to sway on horseback with a thought for the future while the horse’s motions rocked and finally found a rhythm to her motions. Suddenly his mind snapped out of its drifting, her body had pulled away with her hands sliding higher to the middle of his navel likely realizing where they lingered to close to. Inwardly Iron wanted to curse but he never allowed his disappointment in himself show on the outside, his head turned with open eyes looking around back to the source of the voice.
He felt her relax once more, though her words were bladed and sharp, her body seemed exhausted. Though he hated to admit it, part of him enjoyed her laying against him with her hands wrapped about. It felt familiar and even natural, something he missed and lingered for all in the same way. Iron’s body moved alongside Sundance’s natural motions trying not to fight each time her hollowed hooves click and clacked forward, letting the sense of time flow way from him. It wasn’t hard to see how hard this journey would be, her constant tongue wagging and her resistance was problems in their own way giving the woman an air of having a stick up her ass when things didn’t slide remotely right for her. He couldn’t avoid the answer even if he wished to.
“I don’t know if I’m doing it right but… a part of me does,” Iron answered, a simple one that he hoped would be enough as he would refuse to answer any more hoping she would sleep the rest of the ride,” that’s the part I’m willing to go on blind faith with.”
Bind faith. She wasn’t certain she had it in her to have blind faith in anything. She’d acted on instinct certainly, shooting the horse, getting involved in the fight that had wounded Iron. All that had been her heeding instinct. It hadn’t gotten her very far, but then again she wasn’t back in the small town awaiting a hangman’s noose. So perhaps instinct hadn’t led her so far astray. She sighed as she rested her cheek against his back, unconsciously nuzzling in closer. She was so tired, she wanted nothing more than to fall asleep so that she could wake later and find this had all been some sort of fever induced dream. She was exhausted but not stupid. She knew full well that she wasn’t going to be so lucky. She also knew that the time was approaching that her arms around him would be all that kept him upright. She knew that if he fell, if he broke himself, she would be lost. She wondered how long it would take her to die out here in the middle of nowhere. Probably not long, but long enough for her to suffer. She tightened her arms around his middle, her palms splayed out, fingers lightly curving into the muscle that lay beneath his shirt.
She knew she was being short tempered and more than a little bitchy, but she didn’t know what else to do. She was lost, completely lost and had nothing to anchor her. He at least had knowledge of the legends that she instinctively knew to be true. He had probably heard them his whole life and had been prepared. She had nothing, just this sudden knowledge that they were true and that she was tangled up in the story. She hated that. She felt trapped and so she lashed out. Part of her wanted to apologize, to explain why she’d been so waspish but she didn’t know where to begin and she was too proud to start. So she bided her time and just held him, letting her body press into his without much thought as the horse moved along.
She resisted sleep though, not wanting to wake up when he fell off though her mind pleaded with her to doze. The small triangle of space that she’d allowed herself under the blanket showed a dreary landscape and bright light that made her half-lidded eyes ache even underneath the blanket. She found herself with fingers lightly moving across the worn fabric of his shirt rhythmically. She stopped and felt herself blushing at the liberties she’d taken. The cessation of the motion seemed so painfully obvious to her, yet she couldn’t resume so she filled the space with words, hoping to distract herself as well as him.
“You can rest. I won’t fall asleep. I will keep you upright. I presume your horse knows where we are going. So rest. I will keep you safe.”
It was some time but he noticed the absence of the dog then. There was no familiar sound of its padding feet alongside the mare’s heavier ones, the trotting of her hooves digging up the ground with tail swishing behind. For a moment Iron thought he should mention it before pulling Sundance about to look for the mangy animal, missing its presence in a way like something that had always been there. He had casted that notion aside. They didn’t have the time and wasting what precious little they had just for a dog, one that likely could care for itself seemed pointless. Not to mention Melinda seemed unworried cradling against Iron’s body then him.
Still, Iron made a mental note to keep eyes out for the animal. He only hoped it had wandered off and not killed. Last thing they needed was robbers pouncing upon them, mainly due to his current condition and likely finishing what was started before leaving them both dead on the trail. Or worse, Iron thought, taken to an enemy tribe as slaves for trading good and favorable terms with the chieftain. His skin stretched out on a deer bone the woman wishing she was dead. Iron found his body shudders at the idea, the basic function and horror of the notion tore through his calm.
The horse keep in time, shifting one hip side forward and then the other with each one of her stepping hooves. Kicking a small unsettling dust trail in the two’s close quarter wake, Iron forced his body to remind upright with his spine stiff and uncomfortable until all he felt was numbness. His knuckles tighten about the reins, letting the leather straps ring about his forearm and dig into the flesh helping him stay on Sundance’s back. Iron’s mind focused on his breath. Afraid his lungs would stop, he made his chest go in and out in a slow and easy rhythm. Pouring air into his chest each time, only to settle that fact he was still alive.
The mare seemed like a living ship with her muscles moving beneath the two; bring a gentle rolling and falling across the back. Nostrils flared while her mane sagged low, reaching pass the slender neck to the ground below and over her unique hide, her ears alert and listening for sounds. She was nervous. That much Iron could tell, her ears flickered around as if seeking any sounds from the source making Iron more edgy as they roamed through the open areas. He felt expose and open for attack. It went on for several hours with the silence between the two, adding to the creepy feeling he already felt while the black short hair flipped a bit whenever his head snapped about when he saw a dart of shadow or believed a dart of movement unnatural to the woods. Something was out there, that much Iron couldn’t deny even if the thought would bring him comfort.
The best thing to do was move onward and hopefully it was merely a territorial wolf waiting for them to move on. Inside, that was only a fleeting hope. Iron’s breath stalled a bit when he realized out of the corner of his eyes that Melinda had lean farther into him even through the position of the blanket he could see to get that lower, her cheek would have to rest along the broad of his back. Iron smirked, thinking she might have fallen asleep much to his relief and would cast away the day he couldn’t imagine from the bits he knew this woman had had. She was a female and most the time, he viewed females like honey bees. Sweet when they wanted to be but woe to the man that pisses them off without expecting the stinger.
Deeper, from what he could still feel, her body leaned into his causing Iron to slouch a bit before he noticed. Pushing his legs forward a bit, the Indian adjusted his weight towards his back giving her a more stable leaning post then before. It took some doing fighting the spread of the poison and the effects of numbness all at the same time. Her wandering fingers hadn’t helped in the least, the thin shirt pressed by her flat palms into his navel and crinkling to fit his firm abs. Iron took pride in his body as much as any man of his tribe did, any worth their lives that is. It amazed him in a small way. His body was never affected by the whipping sands of the desert or the fangs of the wolf, at least by much, but at the slightest touch of a woman as attractive as the one behind him they tighten and coiled. A tingle raced up to his head filling with blood that it was painful.
He shook his heavy eyelids, both in an attempt to rid him of the numbness and unsettling thoughts burrowed in his fore mind. Iron couldn’t know for sure the source was so it was best not to allow them. It seemed she was hoping to draw away from the current activity that was tapping on his shirt, crumbling it and shifting it distractingly around his middle.
Little did Melinda know, it was more comforting to him. Iron listened to her words, vain hollow things of comfort before he replied in his deep rumbling voice,” Yes, we travel this way often. It’s like a second home to Sundance. Thank you…”
He knew she would fall asleep as they continued the ride.
The sun overhead started to dip low, edging for the horizon, the sky still pale in the evening. The temperature had died a bit, growing colder while the ride seemed endless. The numbness had turned off and on in its path, spreading to the his lower half that not even the horse’s movements could rattle any life or pain from him. His untied arm was held close to his body, a thick figure that now jostled with the mare’s footing and threaten to toss him even in her slow guarded walk. Melinda’s hands were all that kept Iron from falling into the ground even as he struggled to stay on Sundance. His neck still able to turn and twist about spotted it not too long ago: his cousin’s cabin in the distance.
The distance eliminated any real details save for recognizing the structures, a hen house, a barn and a two room cabin. A pen held a plump mare prancing with strength around a single figure with a long line likely leading from her, pulling the horse about in a circle before looking up. As if noting them for the first time, the woman with her long skirts hitched up darted for the cabin door likely to get a gun and saddle a horse to meet them. Iron was hoping she wouldn’t shoot first before seeing who was approaching her property. The last thing he wanted to feel buckshot up his ass and limping to the cabin, towing Melinda in his wake.
Iron’s body started to fall from the horse as Sundance’s loud whinny pitched out, her body drawn away so not to step on her master’s falling form. Fighting his hold on her reins that pulled her with him, likely waking Melinda completely. Iron’s last words managed to come out,” Melinda...Pois… Sam, help..” The poison had taken him completely now. He couldn’t stop his fall, turning the horse’s board side to the approaching rider and hiding his face in his leaning off the saddle. Unable to see his face, she wouldn’t realize it was Iron and he couldn’t move to look her in the eyes. Shit not now, no Iron’s mind screamed.
The woman now galloping within range with her hair pulled messily into a blonde bun and faded blue dress. A shotgun barrel held in one hand with the reins of a stallion in the other. Sam looked like a true frontier woman, her face young and serious, as her jaw set there clenched against what she saw as a threat to her land. Her light blue eyes settled on Melinda even as her horse came to a stop. Cocking her gun and holding it at the ready, her voice was commanding in a thick accent of deep southern culture,” Who are you and what are you doin’ on my land?”
Melinda wasn’t asleep, if asked she would have insisted. She was simply dozing, resting in the heat of the day after a long and grueling twenty four hours. She was most certainly NOT sleeping. She’d told him she would take care of him and she would, did take care of him. Her grip was sure and strong and if the horse didn’t need guiding then she had no reason to keep her eyes open. Especially since she was under the blanket and behind his sinfully broad shoulders, she wouldn’t have been able to see anything in any case. So she closed her eyes. Her grip did not slacken, she was quite certain of that.
Besides, who would blame her? She was in completely unknown waters, not to mention that she’d been in three physical altercations in the same time period, which is three times the physical altercations she’d ever been in in her whole life. That she was functioning at all was admirable and no one with any sense of humanity would blame her for closing her eyes.
But she did, deep down she blamed herself greatly for not being strong enough, mentally and physically when she felt him slipping. That she wouldn’t’ have been able to stop him had she been fully aware hardly made her feel any better. She didn’t even see the figure approaching, so focused was she on keeping Iron upright. She made some inarticulate noise of alarm and grabbed for him, as wakefulness flooded her on the tail of a decent flood of adrenaline. She didn’t quite manage to stop him fully, but she did manage to go down after him while slowing his descent. She wasn’t sure how she did it, somehow slipping off the horse in a dexterous move that pulled some muscles she would feel later and slipped her body under his so that when he landed it wasn’t on the hard rocky ground but upon Melinda’s soft lap. Likely the whole thing appeared to an observer as a great tangle of limbs and gracelessness but she was rather pleased with the result, is did much to assuage her guilt even if it battered her bodily. Once she had him down and in her lap, sort of, she tried to straighten him and hope that the horse had the sense not to step on its master.
Beyond its four, thankfully still legs she could see four more and it was then that she realized that someone had approached. She tried to peer under the horse to see who was addressing them but all she could see was boots and the ends of a faded skirt. She detected a southern accent and felt her pale brow rise in surprise. She didn’t know that Indians had southern accents. She cleared her throat of road dust and then spoke in her uptight, eastern accent as she continued to cradle Iron in her hands, brushing the slick black hair off of his face.
“I don’t suppose you are the cousin of a Mr. Iron Horse Jameson? I’m sure he’d be happy to greet you but it seems he’s been poisoned. We were heading to his cousin’s place to seek shelter. If this isn’t where we are supposed to be then I will simply get him back in the saddle and trouble you no longer.” There was a decidedly irritated, sarcastic tone to her words for all that they were relatively polite. It was the best she could managed and she was in a mood to live with the consequences.
Falling, his body gave out under him while his arm’s grip had slackened before it released completely from the reins, the hard leather slipping through his fingers. Iron’s eyes despite his immobile body, could see what his head was turned to while gravity drew him to kiss her making his vision see the grey and red ground become his destination. Every muscle seemed to following the same pattern as the last, relaxing against his will to let him fall to a hard landing and risk breaking his neck in the process. Iron’s natural instinct was to brace but his body was already too far gone to the poison for that to help him now. He could only watch himself slip from Sundance while his ears heard the faint thumping of hooves plowing into the distance, becoming loud with Sam’s approach and at the back of his mind praying she wasn’t in a mood to shoot first and question later. Hair pushed back by his descent, the Native American expected to find himself face planted into the grainy landscape with the rocks scratching his face and muscles bruised and sore if he was lucky.
Not what had happened next. One moment his dark brown eyes were staring down from the horse, unafraid, then a deeper, chocolate brown flood his sight shielding him from his plunge. Another feeling form the opposite direct had slowed down his fall, not by much but enough, allowing Melinda to slip about around him to the side facing down. His facial expression was a man lose, blank and emotionless. The same was far from the truth for his eyes however. The irises flickered with worry, both the damage and the woman’s foolish risk to soften his impact shone through his intense eyes when he head finally whipped, unable to fight the flow of movement.
His dark limps tangled with her pale ones, his thick figure pushed against her while they landed. Melinda’s flesh was all that brushed his skin, instead the hard crushed rock, sparing him from being cut up in the result. Iron overlapped her unable to rise from her this time and only the shallow breathing of his lungs could be felt, the rest of him merely dead weight now to the world at large. Not even able to move his head, Iron could only helplessly allow Melinda to manipulate his body like a corn stalk doll or something. Her hands soft and tenderly positioned his head about her lap, settling on the shapely thighs that to his inward disappointment was covered by a few a layers of her dress. His hair fell in his fixed eyes, biting back guilt at his weakness as well as his pride being broken more by the present image then fall from the horse. How could he let this happen? What if she was injured because of this? The impact, the filling of her soft form underneath him was still lingering in his mind and across his body. His heart bounced around in his chest uncontrollably. Rushing blood to fill his ears, making his head dizzy and light, while his sight was drawn to her face even if it was hard not to note the sight of another of her features. Prove enough of the type he enjoyed sharing his bedside with.
The only thing was, Melinda’s voice seemed irritated and flooded with a snappish tone as she addresses the voice of Sam. He missed the earlier rise of the eyebrow or he would have noted the surprise, realizing in that moment what she expected only to chuckle at her assumptions. He had hoped the name would endear her to his cousin but it seemed the road had soured her mood, the light touch of her fingers shifted his disheveled bangs exposing more of his forehead and clearing his eyes in the same motion. Now all he could do was sit and listen through the woman’s conversation.
As a man, he was in a living hell right now.
Sundance skittishly sidestep away from his falling form and mindful of her hooves placement, sparing both the sharp and hard toes the mare had. She snorted feeling more than sensing the last bit of weight lighten from her board back before twisting her head about, watching the familiar woman approaching with shot gun in hand until she pulled back on the stallion’s bridle, slowing his neck break gait into a walk.
Her hips shifted and swayed, eyes narrowed on the mare. She knew the horse well even from a distance. Despite that fact, Samantha Phillips was a suspicious woman by nature and it didn’t help she was often hounded by her relative’s goons night and day. It turned out her land was prime restate for the man’s line of work. It was only cause of her blood relation and the fact they were family that he hadn’t went beyond harassing, slightly hindering her livelihood when he drove off potential customers. Some were better than others, but she always pulled through the bleak times. It only made her wary of strangers now.
Finally reaching them, the only thing Sam managed to see was a massive tangle of arms and legs falling over the side of the disturbed mare. Being mindful of the two that fell, Sam shifted her horse’s reins to her gun hand –the finger lightly on the trigger- before making her next move. The horse’s body language gave away her wary state forcing Sam to pull the stallion closer to seize the reins, her blue eyes ran over the animal’s features farther proving it was definitely her cousin’s horse. Placing a firm hold, Sam heard a female voice ask for her using Iron’s name and though it was said with some lip, it was the word poison that snatched the blonde’s attention before the prick under her skin began. Again? Oh Iron, how many times must you play with that damn demon before you end up in the grave? Pulling her leg around the woman dismounted, one handed hooking her shot gun upon the saddle and tie it quickly as possible before answering.
“Aye, I’m Sam. Is he fully gone? Cain’t move at all? How long ago was he scratched, how deep and did you pour alcohol into the wound before patchin’ it? It lessens the time and effect, if not, then he’s in for a rough night,” Her hands patted the stallion flank gently before pulling Sundance’s lead away from the pair.
Her pump form moved and her boots fluttered from under her skirts, shifting them with each step to the nearby tall pine. Leading the willing Sundance and hers to a pine, she looped the leather straps over a thick and firm looking branch to secure the horses. Last thing she wanted was the silly beast rushing off into the night, not when she would likely need them. Fingers pulled and looped one final time, fastening them in place to her standards while the male nuzzled the mare’s ear making Sam roll her eyes at the devilish stud. It wasn’t a surprise for Iron’s mare once mother one of his own foals a few years back, stolen by that bastard that badgered her and likely sold first chance given. Sam had no illusions that she would ever see that foal again. A sad mark in her life but right now, she needed to focus on Iron.
Turning on her heel, Sam brought herself to face whose sarcastic tone it was. A woman pale, ghostly looking in fact, sat on the ground cradling Iron’s head in her lap, his arms bound in a slung. The dark chocolate day dress dusty and dirtied from the tumble, even her hair seemed a bit of a mess. Her looks matched the high strung attitude the tone of the voice gave out and for a moment seemed in thought. Inside she was considering leaving the woman out here. It would serve Iron for getting his ass tied up and poisoned, then lugging a stranger to her homestead without warning her first. Letting silence occur until the woman looked about to speak, Sam interrupted her with a boom in her voice sounding like one of age and authority. It was a pain to deal with such people, often avoiding contact altogether, yet in this particular case there was no option.
“Lift his head and I’ll get the wagon. I’d rather not risk slinging him between the horse if I can help, it might cause more damage and bein’ looser then a wet noodle, he iden goin’ to be able to ride even with you helpin’ him,” pulling closer, stopping when she was close Sam leaned pulling up to crouch beside the woman. She was notably thicker, not fat, in her figure with naturally wide hips and short height, Sam was the spitting image of prairie woman or when she cleaned up, an aristocratic young woman. Not that it was easy to tell with her face slightly grimed from the trail’s dust being kicked up in the rush riding out here.
Adding one more thing, the image of the fall passed her fore mind, Sam asked,” You dudden break anythin’ did you?”
Melinda felt relief fill her when the woman replied that she was indeed Iron’s cousin. She closed her eyes and sagged in relief, her fingers still idly combing though his tangled hair. Help, they’d made it to help. She heard the woman’s question about the wound and tried to remember. She had been so overwhelmed back then, well overwhelmed all day really and she couldn't remember all the details of the order of events. She tried to recreate the scene in her mind and just wound up with a headache.
“I think iodine was poured on the wound but I don’t know what else. I didn’t tend to his wound, the sheriff did.”
The woman walked the horse away, Melinda didn’t open her eyes to see her, more that she felt the horse being led away and the slanting light of the afternoon sun kissed her bare face, turning the inside of her eyelids alight. She felt a tear or two, those of exhaustion and fear, slip from beneath her pale lids. Still her idle fingers combed his hair, feeling some strange comfort from the touch. Soon Iron’s cousin returned and Melina opened her eyes to see her and felt her jaw drop. She’d expected a native woman, not this soft, blond specimen. She quickly snapped it shut, not liking to look like a fool. Really she should have known better. He had told her he was part white, it stood to reason that he’d have white relatives if that were the case. It was just that he seemed more native than white to her, really only because of his skin. It shouldn’t have been so hard to understand for her but it was and she could and did blame her exhaustion for her surprise.
“Thank you, the wagon will be of great help,no doubt.” She said with more gratitude than sarcasm in her tone. “I can’t keep him up any longer, I’m done in too.”
She wiped discretely at her tears, which only served to highlight them more as she made twin swaths of dirt on her cheeks in the path of her swipe.
“I’m fine.” She said when the woman inquired about her own health. She’d fallen and she hurt but it was more an issue of hard rocks upon her bottom. She’d landed hard and would likely be bruised, badly. She was wearing a thin dress and not as many petticoats as she normally did and her posterior was paying the price. She was certain, incorrectly that she was simply bruised. Along her thigh, underneath where Iron rested there was a gash trough her skirts, through her flesh and though it wasn’t deep, it bled, unknowingly soaking her skirts.
“Please hurry. He’s been getting worse for some time.” She looked up into the blue eyes of the settler-woman, her borrowed ones filled with pain and concern, the expression making her look very young, very fragile. “He’s not going to die is he?”