Stormrider!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Writers And Readers Websites Wednesday




Here's today's website - called oTranscribe and it's in Beta. I'll admit there are few instructions and little info, but it's kind of self-explanatory and I'm going to give it a shot. 

Whatever your need in that area - recorded interviews that need transcribing, maybe videos on your YouTube you need the audio transcribed from or if you're just a person who records and has to get those words down on paper this could be your 'go-to'. 

I'll be trying it out myself. Don't be shy, if this is a tool you might use to cut down on your workload, give it a shot and be sure to come back here and post your opinions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Writers Keep Writing



Writer? Screenwriter? Novelist?



I won’t mention writers of shorter pieces because that’s not what I’m going to focus on in this post. 

illustration by Gabriel Hardman
 

The crux of the matter here is do you have a couple of half-finished novels on your hard drive? Screenplays maybe? You get going with lots of steam and a great idea that’s exciting and motivating, but somewhere along the line something happens. Maybe it feels like the original premise hits a dead end or the writer gets confused about where the original destination was or it just isn’t coming together the way it was hoped. Regardless of what it is that happens it gets agonizing. It’s a wrestling match between writer and story. Many times the writer will beat his or her head against a way for a while and then just gives up.



When it happens it can cause the writer to feel worthless. It can cause the writer to believe he can’t write. It’s flat awful.



So what can cause this? There are a number of things that can cause a writer to give up, not finish script or novel, not complete the story.



First, it’s possible there just wasn’t enough story there in the first place. What to do? Give yourself a break, stop beating yourself up and learn to think your story idea through before you start. That doesn’t mean you need to create every little tiny detail of the story, but it does mean you need to consider where that story idea you came up with is going. Don’t just jump in and start writing script or novel. Create some sort of synopsis or treatment that takes the story from beginning to end and weed out things that don’t make sense or don’t carry the story forward. Take it seriously. Don’t leave yourself in the middle of the lake without a boat so to speak. Create that plan and the solid sense of story and the knowledge of craft, novel or screenwriting, you need to carry you to the finish.



If you have a strong premise and you’re still failing to finish consider how you feel about your writing. Are you afraid that when it’s complete and you put it out into the world that you’ll be rejected? That that rejection is failure? You’ve heard it before, read it, and had it shoved in your face in every way conceivable. To be a writer is to face rejection, feel that terrible humiliation, and learn to live with it in some fashion. The very best get bad coverage, terrible reviews and premises that are ripped to shreds by editors or readers. That’s the way it is. If it’s not for you, if you can’t handle it maybe you need to be doing something else.



But keep in mind, many may pass on your manuscript or screen script, but you only need one yes. If you really are a writer and can handle that inevitable rejection and you can’t find a single yes on one project, it’s time to start another. And when you finally get that yes from publisher or producer you know you finally measure up to industry standards. That means you, as a writer, learned not to take negative comments personally and used rejection to learn and do better.



Embrace rejection. Learn from it. Move forward. Take classes, find readers, keep submitting. Keep the faith and keep writing. It takes focus and serious effort. The one shot wonder is just that, and who wants to be a one shot anyway? Dump the self-pity that can accompany rejection and the whining, “it’s-not-fair”, curl-in-a-ball and hide stance of the abused victim.


http://bit.ly/1Oxj0OM


Be proud of your rejections – it means you’re in the game.




Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Skykicker Conclusion - Award-winning Short Story by P.A. Bechko



 Instead of my usual Writers and Readers Websites this week I bring you THE CONCLUSION of my award-winning short story  SKYKICKER ~enjoy!
___________________________________________________
THE CONCLUSION!




CONTINUED FROM PART 1, POST OF APRIL 7
SKYKICKER 

     She shifted the reins to her left hand alone, her right going to the six-gun riding at her hip.  She always kept it with her for varmints of all descriptions, but she had never dreamed she would be forced to use it on the stud she viewed as her prize.

    Nora's heart filled her throat.  Her stomach churned and she knew she couldn't sacrifice the faithful, valiant Buck.

   The faded buckskin twisted away from Skykicker's attack, managed to spin, and planted a solid kick with both rear feet, in the stallion's girth.  Snow was falling heavier.  The stud was bloodied now, but the injury was plainly superficial.

     She prayed Buck's were the same as she pulled the gun from her holster, frantically firing first into the air.  Three shots in a row cracked across the snowfall’s woolen silence.

      The golden stud reared to his full height, forefeet pawing the air while Buck danced just out of reach at the end of his picket rope.  The powerful Skykicker came down hard at the sound of gunshots, hoofs gouging the earth when he lunged forward, slamming a shoulder into the already off-balance buckskin.

      Buck went down hard, thrown onto his side and rolling onto his back, legs flailing helplessly in the air as the stud took flight in a deer-like leap, tossing his rear quarters into the air in his trademark gesture of defiance.

       Nora pulled Windy up short, leaping from his back and running to Buck as the horse climbed unsteadily to his feet.  A glance told her his injuries were not serious, though he was bleeding some.  Hands trembling, she pulled his picket pin herself.

      "Go!  Go home!"

     She slapped the gelding’s rump and threw her arms in the air, yelling, startling Buck into a trot.  He headed in the general direction of the ranch house.

      She was astride Windy in the next moment.  Nora couldn't give up now.  She was too close -- and too damned mad. 

     Windy pivoted, nearly unseating her, then took off like he knew he was Nora’s only salvation.  He snorted, shook, crow-hopped, then threw off fatigue, running with a second wind, neck stretched into the thickening snowfall.

     Skykicker was just up ahead.  The run, then the brief skirmish with Buck, had taken a toll.  He was moving slower and his mares were slacking off in passive rebellion.  It took more effort from him just to keep them bunched and moving.

    Then there was the mare about to foal.  She lagged further and further behind.  Nora, even on Windy who'd already given his best, was gaining rapidly on that mare who brought up the rear of the herd.  The stud moved to intercept Nora, placing himself between Nora, astride Windy, and the tiring mare.  He nipped and pushed, running alongside her, urging greater speed, but the little mare's strides continued to shorten.  She hung her head in exhaustion, plumes of vapor streaming from dilated nostrils.

    The mustang band was drawing further ahead.  The snow, falling heavily, drew a pale curtain between them.

    Nora sat very still upon Windy, silently urging him on, trying to be as small a burden as possible, knowing he was very nearly spent.  But Shadow, her last mount, was picketed just ahead.  Windy had given much more than she had ever counted on.  The stallion's tactic had gained him no relief.  Nora spoke softly to Windy.

    "You'll be able to rest soon.  Not much further.  Shadow's waiting for us over the next rise."

     She edged Windy over to thwart any attempt the stallion might make to try again with Shadow what he had with Buck.

    There was unbridled fury in the toss of the stallion's head.  Through the blowing snow he appeared the demon riding the storm crest.

       Despite the cold, Nora sweated into the folds of her sheepskin jacket.  She couldn't afford to be caught flat-footed by the stallion a second time.

       The pace punishing, they came off a low hill, stride for stride, running a hard race parallel to the golden stud, clouds of the dry snow pluming up in their wake.  Up ahead of them, right where she had left her picketed, Nora saw Shadow. 

The gray filly was dancing lightly at the end of her picket rope, ears up, face turned toward their approach, barely more than a dark form, a silhouette against the rippling curtain of white falling from the sky.  She was more high-strung than the rest, but she had incredible speed and endurance.  And, she wasn't afraid of anything.  She was attentive and eager to race the wind.  Agile and fleet, the towering stallion would be just another challenge to her.  What a match the pair would make when the time was right.  What offspring they'd produce.

      Nora gauged Skykicker, paced him, aware of the heaving of Windy's sides, his great gulps of air, and the weightiness she sensed in his legs.

      The stallion turned his eyes toward her, his gaze intense, but he was looking past her, eyes fixed on Shadow.

      "Oh no you don't!  You're not getting to her!"

     Nora was barely aware of having shouted the words at the running horse.  Just as she hadn't been aware of the snow accumulating upon the ground in wind-blown drifts and shallow blanketings.

      The golden mustang nipped his companion, turning her from their original course which would have taken them right past Shadow.  He couldn't attack Shadow so he was sheering off, veering away from the real threat.  But the heavily burdened mare continued to slow, blowing with her efforts.  He had to take a stand or leave her.

      Nora drew Windy back to an easy lope, congratulating herself on her unexpected luck when she saw the mare slip, lose her balance, and step down hard into a dip hidden beneath the snow.  And she was close enough to hear the awful sound, like that of a green branch snapping, before she heard the animal's scream of pain and terror.  A piercing, heart-rending sound that quelled self-congratulation and wiped the smile from Nora’s face.

    Instinctively the woman hauled back on the reins, dragging Windy to a quivering halt as the mare tumbled to the ground.  There was no thought involved, no time for consideration or apprehension as to what the stallion would do.  Nora just leapt from Windy's sweaty back, running to the fallen horse who thrashed in the light, dry snow, trying to get back up.  She threw herself across the mare's neck, trying to hold her down, wishing she could quiet her fears while Windy stood lock-legged nearby and the stallion broke stride, whipping back to where his charge lay.

     The pregnancy-swollen mare ceased her struggles and lay still beneath Nora, breath rasping in her throat, small sounds of pain escaping her lips.  Her leg was badly broken.  There was no hope for the little mustang mare.  There was only the merciful end Nora could provide.  And the terrible loss of both mare and the foal she was carrying.  The weight of the tragedy slammed into Nora like a mule kick.  Her stomach curled into a cold knot.

       "Oh, God!"  I didn't mean for this to happen!  I'm sorry!"

       With a gulp that wrenched her throat with pain that threatened to shut off her breath, Nora's hand went to the gun she had settled back in its holster.  The mare's eyes, soft and solemn, were fixed on her in a strangely trusting gaze and in that instant Nora knew hope wasn't lost for the foal.  It was trying to be born.

       Skykicker pranced closer, tossing his magnificent head, black eyes glinting his fury, while his body telegraphed his uncertainty and even dismay.  He nickered softly to the fallen mare and for a wild instant, Nora was convinced that she was his favorite.  Windy backed up a couple of strides, snow swirling in wind-borne plumes as the stud circled the woman and the mare.

       Nora was on the ground, at the mercy of the stallion she had been relentlessly pursuing.  She gave him one hard look, then turned her full attention back to the suffering animal sprawled in the snow.  She couldn't save the mare, but maybe she could save the foal.  If the king of that little mustang band didn't decide to pound her into the ground.

       She began stroking the mare, murmuring soft encouragement.

      "We can save your baby.  I'll help you.  Shhhh, it'll be all right."

      Whether from the fall or because she had already been in labor for some time, or just because was no pampered, domesticated lady's mount, the foal was coming fast.   Nora saw it begin to emerge.

     The stallion continued his circuit, prancing, feinting toward Windy who shifted back a few more strides, and half reared every time the stud neared Nora.  In the distance, above the rising wind, Shadow gave shrill testimony to her anxiety.

     Skykicker turned toward the sound, pivoting in the snow, creating a softly mounded crater.  He turned back toward Nora, circling her again while the mare struggled and the woman guided the foal into the cold, wind-swept world.

      The stud chuffed the wind, catching the scent of fresh blood, then charged, pulling up short mere inches from Nora, sharp forefeet plunging down beside her and cascading snow across her.  Just as quickly, while the adrenaline flooded her system, he backed up, head lowered, eyes fastened on her with malevolence.

     "Damn you!"  Nora ground the words out.  "Damn you!"  This time louder.

      Then, arms full of helpless new-born colt, she subsided.

     "Damn me."  Softly spoken.  "This wasn't supposed to happen."

     "It was supposed to have been an adventure; we were going to be friends one day."

     Skykicker bolted, snow geysering in his wake.  He raced after his band of mares, then pulled up, prancing toward Shadow, head elevated, tail arched.  Beyond him his mares, slowed, fading into the snowy curtain like wraiths, hovering just at the edge of his influence, awaiting the patriarch's command.

     Nora grabbed handfuls of snow, giving the small, newly arrived little horse a brisk rub down.  She examined the small orphan mite closely as she did.  He was a fine, sturdy colt with the promise of a broad chest, large nostrils, long legs and dark, intelligent eyes.  Every inch of him proclaimed his parentage.  He stared at Nora as if comprehending all that had so recently transpired.

      She helped him struggle to his feet on the snow-covered ground and he promptly plunged down into the fluffy white stuff.  Then he immediately tried to get back up.

    Gaining her feet, Nora took a deep breath, glancing from exhausted, mortally injured mustang mare at her feet to Skykicker, where he sidled up to Shadow.  Her stomach twisted.  It was cold, snowing more heavily.  She had to get the colt home.  Her plans and dreams shattered, she would have to begin again.

      Calm now that the golden stallion had retreated, Windy stood a few yards away.  He was blowing, but still game.

     She hadn't noticed it before, but she was breathing deep and fast as well, sucking the frigid air deep into her lungs in a cathartic wash.  And suddenly it dawned full force on her that the stud was intent on having Shadow.

     Nora left the colt and raced through the snow toward the big stud, slipping and sliding, gasping and yelling.

     "Hiup thar!  Get on with you!"

    Skykicker's head jerked up, the fury returning to his stance at Nora's stumbling approach.  He screamed his piercing challenge, forefoot pawing a gouge in the accumulating snow.  Shadow shied at his display, but she pranced, neck bowed, signaling interest.

     Nora kept coming, not about to give up her prize filly so easily.  For now she would settle for driving the stallion off and getting home with the colt and her animals.  She would test the stallion's mettle another day.

     Skykicker had other ideas.

   He ran toward Nora, attempting to force her to give way.  Playing his own version of chicken.

     She stood straight and tall, immobile, eyes meeting those of the stallion as he bore down upon her, pulled up short and reared to his full height towering over her as impressive as an enraged grizzly.

     When she didn't budge the golden stud wheeled, a phantom in the white-gray filigree of the falling snow, racing back toward where the colt stood uncertainly near his fallen mother.  The little thing tottered a few steps away from the mare, then closer, head raised, legs unsteady, his posture nonetheless a miniature of his sire.

      Nora nearly screamed her frustration, a sob rising into the back of her throat attempting to strangle her.  The mustang was running her just as she'd run him and she was helpless to anything other than run the direction he dictated, terrified he was going to trample the tiny foal.

   Windy snorted and danced, reins dragging in the snow, head elevated unnaturally high, ears turned forward while he kept the distance between himself and the crazy stallion respectable.

     Skykicker, in a juxtapositioning of rage and tenderness, nuzzled the mare where she lay, blowing hot air against her cheek and muzzle, urging her to get up.

     Nora felt the tears burn their way down her cheeks then, her heart breaking when the valiant mustang mare rolled up, trying to regain her feet.   The injured horse squealed her agony and the stallion was right beside her, nosing her gently, turning his magnificent head toward his new son, then back to her.

     The mare tried, oh how she tried, but she couldn't put enough weight on the injured limb to lever herself up.  She fell back exhausted as Nora blundered through the deepening snow back toward where she lay.

     Skykicker feinted in Nora's direction, returned to the injured mare and hung his head a few moments.

     "She can't run with you any more,"  Nora said quietly to the stallion, choking on the last words, then dragging in a deep breath to continue.  "I'm sorry,” the words were strangled out of her, “I didn't mean for it to end this way."

     The stallion lifted his head, looking at her through intelligent, liquid black eyes while the snow fell, clinging to lustrous mane and forelock, melting on his broad back raising a faint yet distinctive steam.  He nudged his offspring, Nora could have sworn, in her direction, then wheeled and loped off a few strides.

     Nora, tears freezing on her cheeks, her insides twisted into knots she didn't know existed, didn't hesitate again.  She drew her gun from her holster and one well-placed shot ended the mare's suffering, the crack of the pistol oddly muted in the eerie, silence of the snow-swathed valley.

     She shrugged out of her heavy coat and stripped out of  her thick flannel shirt and woolen undershirt.  Then she swiftly drew the coat back on, buttoning it against the rising wind before wrapping the struggling foal in her garments and hurrying to where Windy stood, ground-tied and uncertain.  She put the colt across Windy's withers, gathered the reins and vaulted up behind, pressing close to the orphan to share her warmth.

      Nora turned Windy toward Shadow, glancing toward Skykicker with something akin to gratitude for a few moments before the stallion jerked away and began to run.

       And he was running straight for Shadow.

      Burdened as she was, there was nothing Nora could do.  The stud made a bee-line for the filly.  Sharp teeth went right for the picket line, severing it as swiftly as would a Bowie knife and then he sank his teeth into her flank.  Shadow whinnied sharply and bolted.

     The benevolent feelings of but moments past fled and Nora threw a curse after the golden stud as he bolted for his band of mares, herding Shadow before him, head high, tail streaming burnished gold on the wind.  Helplessly she watched the wild stallion take off with her best filly.

      "We're not finished, you and me!"  Nora yelled past a raw and dry throat.  "Not by a long shot!  You look for me, because I'll be coming after you!"

      She took a deep breath, turning Windy toward the home corral as the stallion withdrew into the distance, snowfall dimming his silhouette.  He was nearly lost to her sight when he gave his distinctive bound, throwing both hind legs into the air and let loose with the challenging whistle of the victorious stallion.


THE END

Read more of my work: 
Hawke's Indians at  http://amzn.to/1FBFwlp
   book trailer at http://bit.ly/12gp4He
Warrior Flight at  http://amzn.to/1a5Aan0
Blown To Hell at   http://amzn.to/1Flsgi8
To Hell And Back at    http://amzn.to/1IJQWnv
Cloud Dancer (historic romance) at http://amzn.to/1DJyTjt


For SciFi/Fantasy Fans:
Stormrider at  http://amzn.to/1CUXw9f


For the Kids:
The Guardian at http://amzn.to/1CoiPMZ (a digital comic)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Skykicker - Award-winning Short Story by P.A. Bechko

This week I'm offering part one of my award-winning shortstory SKYKICKER, to be completed tomorrow with part 2. Share with friends and enjoy. 



http://amzn.to/13LG2qI




          It was going to snow.  She knew it for a fact, but she kicked her dependable roan ahead anyway, casting a wary glance toward the darkening western sky.

           It would hold off for a while yet, it had to.

          Nora had made and executed her plans with a meticulous eye to detail.  She'd worked out tactics and she intended to have that damned mustang stallion in her corral by nightfall. 

Skykicker she’d named him.

For months she'd watched him, followed him and his little band of mares, keeping her distance, admiring his many strengths and what they would add to the bloodlines of her string; and all the while she'd been scheming.

            Skykicker was a powerful golden stud in his prime, and wild as a prairie wind, not a horse she'd be able to just run down and rope.  He was too swift, too agile and too damn smart for that.  He could outrun everything west of the Mississippi, and he'd have the advantage.  No rider to slow him down.  He'd fight, too; probably turn on her. 

            Today everything was in place.  A string of her best horses, were positioned along the route the stallion and his band most often frequented.  All of the remounts were reasonably fast, dependable and strong of wind.  Changing horses along the way would help her keep that stud running.  She would wear him down.

            Nora spotted Skykicker and smiled.

            The leaden sky drooped nearer the earth.

            "Come on Red," she softly urged her faithful gelding a little faster.

            The big-boned roan with the broad, dish-shaped nostrils gave an anxious snort of the sort he always produced when they neared the stallion, and stepped up the pace.

            "Today we're taking him home."

            She stroked the horse, leaning into the warmth radiating from the animal's bowed neck and huddled deeper into the folds of her sheepskin coat.

            Nora's slight build was no great burden to the striding horse, but the weight was more than the wild stallion would be carrying. 

The tie-down of her hat bit beneath her chin.  Ebony hair billowed beneath the brim, rippling behind her in a sooty cloud.  Her pale blue eyes glittered with silver lights when she turned them once again toward the bilious heavens.  Red snorted again.

            "It'll hold off," she told her equine companion confidently.  "Don't you go worrying about it."

            The roan wasn't worrying.  She was.  Her best animals were waiting.  The most steadfast, each would, one after the other, head for the home corral when she left one mount for another.  She'd chosen Red for the first leg because there was only one horse swifter with more bottom than Red in her string; Shadow, a small, fleet-footed filly picketed at the last stop.  It was Shadow she would depend upon at the end, but still, she worried.

            Because now was only the beginning.

            The powerful golden stallion was moving.  He whickered to his mares, trotted from one side to the other and finally, head lowered, nipped at their heels to press them forward.  He ignored the woman's presence as he always had; as Nora had planned that he would -- in the beginning.  He would not look through her much longer.

            "This is it, Red.  Let's make it good."

            They took the slope at a controlled trot.  Nora looked out across the broad, curving valley toward the distant mountains.  Clouds gathered in those mountains, boiling ominously upward.  Their glimmering coal black edges swept toward the sun, reaching out to engulf it.

            The snow wasn't going to wait.  She’d worked this ranch alone for too long since losing her husband.  She wasn't about to be stopped now by weather!

            The small, tight band of wild horses trotted smartly, but not beneath the lash of panic.  They flowed with the land, moved with the silky grace of a clear creek's water.  Manes tossed by the rising wind, they loped easily at the stud's bidding.  He was nothing less than a king and his subjects obeyed when he gave a command.

            "He's moving them to storm shelter," Nora observed.

            Red's ears flicked toward her.  Then, whether he felt her excitement or the bite of the coming storm, he moved along faster, tossing his head against the restraint of the bit.

            The woman sensed his eagerness, felt the gathering of large, powerful muscles beneath her, and let the reins slide between her small rawhide-gloved hands.

            The strong, steady roan surged forward.  He hit a gallop in a stride, a raw-boned run in a few more.

            "Easy," the slight woman said to the big-boned roan.  "Keep it steady, Red.  We're not in a hurry yet."

            She lined the horse out, let him find his stride and settle into it.  His gait was steady as a metronome.  She smiled into the bitter wind.

            The stud and his mares were aware of Nora and big Red, but not running from them yet.  Just keeping the distance between them acceptable.

            The roan edged closer beneath her guiding hand.  He added speed gradually lengthening his stride until Nora was draped over his stocky neck.

            She and Red were flying, her cheeks stinging and red from the cold.  The heavy gray clouds dragged nearer to the ground threatening storm weather, an all-out-hell-raiser.

            It was time to up the stakes.  She touched her heels to the gelding's sides.  God, how Red loved to run.  If he hadn't been gelded as a colt he would have been a prime stud in his own right.  He leapt forward at Nora's urging, stretching to the limit.

            The change in their speed and attitude brought Skykicker's head up and around with a jerk.  A high-pitched squeal from the stallion both challenged Red and sent his mares before him at a quicker pace.  Red kept coming and the stud went to full flight.

            One of the mares, Nora noted, was pregnant.  Due to deliver by the size of her.  That should slow him down!  But in the meantime the beauty of the wild herd on the move was breathtaking.  Fleet and nimble as deer they raced up the valley, manes and tales flowing a calico of color against the dreary hues of early winter.

            Nora allowed Red to set his pace.  They ran on, all of them, the wild horses and the steady roan string horse.

            The stallion turned his mares and Nora grinned, not denying herself the enthusiastic whoop of victory which sprang to her lips.  They were running hard now.  The mares would begin to tire.  Her remount awaited down the valley.

            The drum of hoofbeats thrummed loudly in her ears, a rolling pulse of thunder.  Red was tiring.  His strides reluctantly shortened, breath came quicker and he stumbled galloping around the base of the last hill.  Nora urged him on, asking for it all.  And the noble red horse answered her call, driving on as they swept up-valley into the maw of the oncoming storm.

            The golden stallion raced along beside his mares, head up, alert.  The horse near foaling, was slowing, dropping back.  The stud squealed his frustration and nipped at her haunches to encourage her, looking back at Nora with what could only be described as disdain.  He ran with ears pricked and tail streaming like liquid gold on the wind.

            Her roan gelding was beginning to labor when Nora spotted Windy picketed on the side of a hill replete with dried fodder.  The horse's head came up from grazing as the thunderous presence of the wild herd pursued by Nora, bore down upon him.

            "You've done fine, Red, just fine," Nora yelled into the gelding's ear as the first fat snowflakes fell from overburdened clouds.

            The snow was coming down heavily by the time Nora vaulted from Red's back, pulled the next horse's picket pin and managed a flying mount, Pony Express style, as the animal lunged forward and hit his stride.  Red ran alongside the chestnut for a few paces, seemingly disappointed to be left out.  Then, exhausted, he dropped further and further behind.

            Windy took up the chase like he'd been looking forward to it, hoofs digging into nearly frozen ground.  Nora urged him to greater speed, and they ate away at the distance separating them from the flying stallion and his band.

            Skykicker shrieked a warning and challenge, an unearthly sound only a stallion in high fury could utter.

            Nora clung, burr-like, to Windy's bare back, fists wrapped in taut leather reins and coarse horsehair.  She was grateful for the protection of chaps and coat, and they pressed on.

            Without the burden of a saddle, Windy ran like his namesake, into the snow falling now horizontally.  The smaller horse's gait was not nearly as smooth as Red's, but he was swift and game.  Nora silently congratulated herself on her decision to go without the saddle.  She rocked with Windy's gait, but her seat was firm.  The ground passed beneath them in a blur.  The snow did nothing to inhibit their progress yet and Windy gained steadily on the wild bunch.  Almost imperceptible at first, his shorter strides came ever more swiftly.  He ran stretched out like his belly was going to sweep the ground and she hugged his neck, giving him the play he needed to lunge forward.

            Together Nora and Windy topped a rise, the horse wheeling to slash diagonally down the far side.  They picked up the skirt of a steeper hill, cut across it, and bolted across the stream, half frozen, on the other side.  Never once did falter or misstep.  She moved with her tough little mustang string horse, muscles warming with the exertion and she no longer felt the intense cold of the surrounding air.

            "Go Windy, go!"

            Nora unleashed a heartfelt rebel yell, shifting forward on the mustang's withers as he took another leap ahead.  His thick, coarse mane slapped her repeatedly in the face until she was sure it was red as fire, but she laughed out loud and tapped her heels again to the horse's flanks.  Windy tossed his head and from somewhere down deep inside, gave her more.

            The space between pursuer and pursued closed rapidly.  She was on that stallion's tail, right where she wanted to be.  In the distance, Nora spotted her third horse, Buck.  Not so swift as either Windy or Red, Buck was solid and that was what she was counting on.

            Skykicker moved with fluid grace, hardened muscles flowing silken beneath that golden hide.  He herded his mares toward the northwest, in Buck's direction. 

            Her second mount still strong, Nora was ready to change to her third.  The stud could not run easy for much longer, and the animal, more intelligent than most, would be aware of the growing threat of her continued presence.  Shifting her position to Windy's best advantage, feeling the strain in her own muscles at the prolonged run, she leaned a little to one side, peering through the steadily falling snow toward Buck.

            Stolid and strong, the washed out buckskin colored horse waited patiently, head up.  Buck was always curious, always observant.  Rarely was he so absorbed in his grazing or anything else, that he wouldn't take a moment to give the world around him a good look.  Now he was aware of the thundering herd heading his way.  He'd be aware of her as well.

            The stallion, a shimmering golden blur in the snowfall, bolted ahead, racing alongside his mares, nipping and squealing, forcing them off their course, causing them to swerve onto a new path that would take them even closer to where Buck was picketed.

            "That's your first mistake!" Nora called to the flying patriarch.

            She eased Windy's stride, giving him a breather, watching Skykicker carefully.  The stallion pushed the mares some more, then with a shriek and a bound that took him off at right angles to the rushing band of wild mares, he shot like a bullet in Buck's direction.

            Nora knew in her gut what was coming the instant the stud changed direction and that knowledge brought a chilled lump born of fear to her throat and a cry of denial to her lips.

            "No!"

            She lunged Windy after the stallion, watching in horror while Skykicker headed for Buck like a runaway freight train.

            He knew.  Godamn him, he knew what she was about!  And he was out to cripple her remount!

            At an ear-piercing scream from the wild mustang, Buck pivoted at the end of his line, turning to meet the stallion's charge with stoic acceptance.  Neck bowed, head up, ears pricked forward, he didn't retreat and Nora wished he would pull that damned picket pin and run.

            Buck half rose on hind legs as the mustang came at him and Nora hear the audible slapping thud of the collision of horseflesh vibrating through brittle air stilled by winter's snow.  Skykicker struck with a snake’s speed, powerful jaws reaching out to catch Buck on the side of the neck, tearing out a chunk of hide and flesh.

            Buck squealed in pain, thrashed out at the stallion with his forefeet and twisted his head and neck away from the stallion's attack.  Blood streaked his pale buckskin hide.

            Windy covered ground with amazing speed, but it wasn't fast enough.  Nora leaned into the wind, bellowing at the mustang king.

            "Let him go you bastard!  This is between you and me!  Run!  Run or I'll put a bullet in you!  I swear to God I will!"


----END PART ONE  - come back next week for Part Two, the conclusion


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