Western Fiction posted February 20, 2021 Chapters:  ...28 29 -30- 31... 


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Jane's escape from captivity leads to greater peril

A chapter in the book The Spirit of the Wind

Facing the Enemy

by forestport12




Background
Jane once widowed at twenty, fought to keep her Nebraska homestead land for her son to inherit. She remarried but was taken captive until her escape.
The damp cold rattled my bones. It stole what sleep I could endure. Digging the grit from my eyes, I realized I was alone. Was I left behind by Little Deer and Standing Bear, my Indian guides?

Shafts of light chased the morning mist of the forest floor. I listened for any sounds, the snap of a twig, rustling leaves, or the call of a bird. But it was quiet as a coffin to a grave.

The smoldering fire had spent itself despite the heated reflection of the rock enclave. I drew to my knees, hugged myself for warmth. Hunger scraped my insides like a carving knife.

Fear churned inside me over where Little Deer and Standing Bear must be. I hoped they were hunting for a meal or on the lookout for the Brule tribe party. I danced around the spent fire, rubbing my shoulders, straining my eyes to see through the forest.

I slipped from the ledge and snuck through the ferns on a game trail leading around the rocks, quiet as a mouse. The pounding of my heart drummed in my head.

I climbed on some slick rocks toward boulders hemmed in by white elm trees. Little Deer called out, making the sound of a jaybird. As I climbed, the pair were already scouting the valley to see if it was safe enough to cross and make our escape and circle the tribes.

They looked down over me, as I crawled toward them. Their cinnamon skin glistened in the sun breaking through the mist. They knew best how to live in this wilderness. But I only knew how to plant and grow on my prairie homestead. As I got within a few feet of them, I breathed a sigh and spied the vast valley below.

As the sun burned the remaining mist from the valley. The Arapaho party moved along a natural path by the river's edge. Their garments were like the color of a rainbow on spotted white horses. It appeared they had given up finding me. They were to me like a ghostly parade in the vast wilderness. They were heading through the pass west of the Rockies.

Little Deer grabbed my hand and whispered in my ear. "Once they have gone, we follow the river leading us away from the valley of the Brule. The Great Spirit has made a way of escape."

Standing Bear said nothing. He seemed unwavering in his commitment to save us, though it meant for him he no longer had a tribe or a place to belong. I learned right quick they valued their word as much as their life.

After an eternity, we climbed down over rocks where some loose stones gave way and we had to duck. I clung to edges and grasped what limb or roots I could until my hands throbbed. We managed to whittle away at the mountain until we could hear the roar of the river and welcomed a path easy on our feet.

I collapsed on the soft grass near the slick silver stream where I could drink from the splash of water. We all breathed a sigh.

Little Deer and Standing Bear knelt and collected water into a skin of pouches to sling over their shoulders. We sat on round rocks and shared the last bites of jerky. But our eyes kept trained along the trails edge. Then they looked past me. I turned to see members of what looked like the Brule tribe rounding the bend of the river on horses. Our surprise cut both ways into razor focus.

I froze, couldn't breathe, and waited for an arrow to pierce my heart. Thoughts of my son without his mother struck a bolt of fear in me. The hiss of arrows filled a frail blue sky.





Book of the Month contest entry

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Cast of characters:
Jane McCord, a homesteader taken by the Indians into the Rockies.
Little Deer, a half breed captive, later adopted by the Brule tribe and married.
Standing Bear, Little Deer's husband who helps them escape because he had killed the son of the Brule chief.
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