Alan Warren should never have ended up where he was now. Born to an impecunious family to a father who bred horses for a living, Alan, the oldest of five, was destined for a life of farm labour. A skilled horseman, Warren joined the U.S. Calvary at fifteen and, by some fluke in paperwork, ended up fighting in the Battle of Plum Creek under the Rangers of the Republic of Texas. Recognized for his audaciousness in warfare, Warren was promoted to Major, a title he lived under until twenty-four, when he was diagnosed with Typhoid fever. Surviving the illness, Alan began to pick up mercenary work as a Scout for Westward Pioneers, employing his expansive knowledge of the West. He and his long-breathed horse, Highfly, a dark dapple grey stallion, had made a reasonable name for themselves on the Westward trail for their virtue and success.
The spring sun was blazing, a single white, hot eye of light in an infinite stretch of blue. Save for the mugginess, there was nothing unpleasant about the day. A warm breezed sifted through the small clearing, dispersing the smell of animal that surrounded the stream. Water bubbled down rocks and Alan watched the continuous stream with blasť blue eyes, holding on to the leather reins as Highfly slurped and splashed at the streamside. They had just returned to the East after helping a family wagon pass through the California Trail. Of course, now that was Spring was upon the land, more and more groups scrambled to get West and the working season for Alan had just begun. It was intentions to retire from Scouting following this season as he had made a respectable sum of money. He would return to New York, where he was from, and would marry an honest woman and lead a virtuous life that was not filled with the constant peril of war and Scouting.
Alan was a handsome man with a clean-shaven face, boyish features, and skin that had tanned from the long hours spent under the Southern sun. His Aryan blonde hair, which had gotten unruly and long over his travels, was tied back with a strip of leather from an old saddle to keep it out of his way. He was a simple man and wore simple clothes, black trousers and threadbare leather riding boots with spurs that caught the sun and gleamed. Although he no longer carried his Calvary blues and had traded them for some coffee some months back, he retained his standard-issue military Rifle, embellished with steel and Walnut wood that was beginning to have its colour wane, but he carried it heartwarmingly as it gave him comfort of his home and family, for whom he solely functioned.
Highfly lazily lifted his slender head, water dripping down his muzzle as he snorted, a sight that made Alan chuckle a little, patting the horse’s thick neck with endearment.
“I suppose you are trying to tell me you have finished, have you?”
He stretched his back a little, expelling a yawn. There were bound to be many families and groups around the stream today and one, or more, was bound to need a Scout. He had decided it would be best to hang around and offer his services. His saddlebags had been filled, his horse had been rested, and his gun reloaded, although his duties as a Scout were not something he enjoyed, he promised himself that this would be the last trip. This would be the last time he would travel through the inhospitable landscapes, across the endless miles of barren plain and grassland, scraping every survival instinct he had just to sustain himself. Sometimes, he felt as though if he were asked if the money was worth it, he would seriously have to consider his response.
Flipping the reins over the horse’s neck and tying them to the breastplate to keep pressure on Highfly’s mouth to prevent him from wandering off, Alan Warren crouched down, splashing his hands in the water and rinsing off his arms and face. The cool water was a brisk relief from the encroaching heat. He then drank and filled his canteen, taking his leisurely time down by the creek, as it would probably be the last time he’d be given a chance to relax for some weeks. With the sun beginning to decline and darkness setting in, Alan straightened himself and untied the reins, deciding to make for camp; however, before he got the chance to wander off, the sight of a young woman clamoring to the stream caught his attention. If it had been anyone else, he wouldn’t have thought twice, but it wasn’t everyday that a woman like that just hauled a bucket to a stream. Even on the trail, where survival was arduous and took every member of the wagon, he rarely saw women willing, or able, to engage in hard labour. The sight made him quirk an eyebrow and crack a goofy grin, resting a hand up on his hip and watching for a moment.
“Be careful you don’t fall in,” he teased her gently, although he did admire her for what she was doing. Alan had met many strong, self-governing women, especially when he spent some time trading with Native American tribes in the West, whose women were often political leaders, but to see an Anglo woman doing the same left an immediate impression on him.
“I wouldn’t want you to get your dress wet,” his teasing was all in good fun and he meant no harm by it, of course, he hadn’t realized until after he spoke that not all people took friendly to jesting.