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Saddle Up

By T.S. Luikart

A small black blizzard blew in from the east, and worse news came with it, riding along the outskirts of the dust: Razor-Grin Ranisae Mosrear had broken out of an Imperial lockup, killing several squads of soldiers during his escape. Sheriff Buridwane set about to organize a posse, as the odds were short that Razor-Grin had forgotten the town that brought him low. Most folk were hesitant to enlist at first and rightfully so, till sooner or later the Sheriff implied that Grydal was already in. After that, recruitment was a small matter.

* * *
Sto Grydal stood in the midst of a rough field, hacking away at the hard soil of his farm with a pickaxe that had seen him through many a struggle. As he paused between blows to adjust the rag over his face and survey his handiwork through the swirling dust, he noted a trio of riders on the horizon, struggling toward him through the wind. He took a quick mental stock of the whereabouts of his family, the boys and Satdrie at the school, the little ‘un playing with the dogs, and Aizabol was mending laundry.

Damn fast, he mused, they’re here damn fast. He’d already heard about Mosrear that morning. I should have shot that son-of-a-bitch dead when I had the chance, he thought, but there was no force in it. He wasn’t that sort of man, and never had been, no matter what some said.

He made his way to the well for a bucket of water for himself and his guests, and then hauled it to the house, pausing only to place a cover over it to shield it from the dust. Aizabol looked up from her needlework as he entered and started to comment, but fell silent when she saw the bucket, with all it implied. Emotions slid across her face too fast for him to read before she slowly turned back to her chore without a word. He knew she was leaving it up to him, she said as much after the last time.

It wasn’t long before horses were snorting outside and a firm knocking was at the door. Grydal took his time opening it. Buridwane stood, hat in hand, a deputy and Elbresett Cransyr in tow.

“Sheriff.”

“Grydal. Can we come in?”

“Reckon so.”

The men came in, exchanged pleasantries, asked after the farm, the kids. Grydal wished they’d just get to it, but knew most folk were hard put to lay formalities aside, especially when what they had to ask for weighed so heavy. Finally, Buridwane broached the subject.

“So, Grydal… There’s word about town, we just confirmed it. Ranisae Mosrear is out of prison. You know he swore he would do for Willow Bend, made terrible threats. We’re organizing a posse to bring him in.”

Grydal gave him a slow, wry smile, “I’ve got planting to attend to Sheriff.”

Cransyr guffawed once, subsided when Buridwane glared at him.

“Damnit, Sto. You don’t make this easy on a man.”

“Why the hell should it be easy? You’ve got the sand to ask, ask then.”

Sheriff Buridwane stood up, and turned slowly to the corner of the room, hands rumpling the brim of his hat. “Mrs. Grydal… would you be so kind as to accompany us… Mam, would you join our posse?”

Aizabol laid her needlepoint aside and stood in a single slow, smooth motion. She flexed her hands, each knuckle in turn making an audible crack that even with the wind outside was as a gunshot in the quiet room. A warm, soft smile drifted over her face. “With my husband’s permission, Sheriff.”

Grydal sighed and looked only at his wife, ignoring the pleading expressions of the men who had come to his home to ask this terrible thing of him. He thought about the first time he met his mail-order bride, as she stepped off the train at Sevenfork and almost laughed aloud as he recalled her alarm as he tried to help her with her bag. She didn’t want him to know how little a chance he had of lifting it easily. He thought about her warm, strong hands moving over his back as they made love. He thought about the cold fall night that once a year without fail she would down an entire bottle of whiskey, glass after glass with nary a pause before shattering the empty bottle in the hearth. He thought about the way she treated his boys as hers, no different than she treated the two children they had made together…

And then he thought about Mosrear slipping into the schoolhouse one day and what he would do to the children of Willow Bend.

“Alright.”

* * *
Grydal helped saddle his wife’s horse, figuring it was the least he could do, though he let her settle the bags with her iron arm rings as she saw fit. She fussed over him before she mounted.

“Now make certain the boys wash and mind that Wadas keeps up with his numbers.”

“Yes, Mam.”

She frowned at him, but couldn’t quite manage to keep the cheerful glint out of her eyes. “You could have said no.”

“Uh-huh. I like the nights after you return, those are always memorable.”

She giggled and pushed him away playfully. “You are terrible.”

“Says the woman who can knock a steer unconscious with one punch…One day, are you going to tell me why you came out here?”

She paused, taken aback by the question he’d hesitated to ask for so long, before finally kissing him, firmly. She ran a scarred thumb along his cheek.

“One day.”

And then she was in the saddle and away into the dust.

3 Comments

  1. Sunsword says:

    These just keep getting better & better.

  2. Ben says:

    I really like this one.

  3. Alex says:

    Fourth paragraph

    “Emotions slid across her face to fast for him to read before she slowly turned back to her chore without a word.”

    Shouldn’t be “[…] too fast for him to […]”?

    Think this is my fourth or fifth fiction in one day. Very nice writing. Haven’t decided which one of you guys is my favourite yet though 😉

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