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Stormwolfe

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  1. Two hours later, Shade and John Sherman leaned against the rails of the corral's fence and watched twenty head of top horseflesh mill around while John's two sons, Andy and Mike, filled the water trough. The horses were still nervous from the roundup, not unusual after a winter running loose. Sherman gestured at the two-year-old that had tried to escape earlier, "Bringing in the bloodstock from back east is starting to pay off. The youngsters are showing more leg and heft." Shade nodded, "And more speed. You'll need to upgrade your working stock to keep up. It's a good looking bunch this year. Should get top dollar." "Think you can get them ready in time?" John asked. He didn't doubt Shade's ability with the horses, but the other man also had his duties with the stage company to keep up with. "I think so," Shade replied, narrowing his blue eyes against the morning's sun. "The boys can start halter breaking them, and you know Marianne will be out here as much as she can. That gal is a better bronc rider than either of us." Shade preferred having time to really gentle a horse, teach it to trust the humans around it before putting a saddle on it. There wasn't always the luxury of that much time, however, especially with the first round-up of the season. Not only did they have the horses to get ready, but they needed to tend to the spring calving and foaling. "If time gets too tight, we can see about hiring an additional man or two. Prefer to handle it ourselves if we can." "Right! No sense in souring them before we have the rep out to see them," Marianne's soft voice said from behind the two men. She stood on tiptoe to kiss her husband's cheek and patted Shade's arm. "Lunch is ready." Shade grinned, "Best thing I've heard since breakfast is ready this morning." He trailed behind the Shermans toward the ranch house. John and his wife walked arm-in-arm, talking quietly about the horses, occasionally tossing a question over their shoulders to Shade. The Shermans were the best friends Shade had ever had. There had been others during his years of riding rough, most were not to be trusted when you were down and out. It was different with John and Marianne. Shade's past had come calling in Laramie on more than one occasion, and they had stood by him through everything. He stopped at the sink in the kitchen to pump some water into the basin for washing, laughing as Marianne sent her two sons back outside to rinse off. The smell of fresh cornbread and hot beef stew made his mouth water while the companionship of his friends helped ease the occasional longing for the Montana mountains. Andy and Mike crowded in, chattering excitedly about a couple of the horses they'd helped bring in. Shade took his place at the table, bowing his head and linking hands with Marianne and Mike as John began to say grace. The boys were clearing the table as the sound of hooves and rattle of the noon stage reached them from the yard. John and Shade moved together to help unhook and change the team while Marianne hurried to lay out refreshments for the passengers. "Another day, another dollar," John said as they unbuckled harnesses from the horses. "Amen, partner," Shade grinned, "Amen!"
  2. Like a beautiful woman donning a gown for a spring social, the land was turning green as the cold of winter retreated. Her shoulders, the high peaks of the Laramie and Snowy Mountain ranges, still showed white with snow-capped splendor. Soon, though, the snow would only remain on the highest summits. It was the time of year to round-up and inventory the ranch's herds of horses and cattle, make repairs to home and out-buildings and get crops planted. The Sherman Ranch lay a few miles outside the town of Laramie along the main stage routes from Cheyenne and Denver. With the foothills of the Laramie Mountains behind it, the ranch was well-watered and the soil fertile. Its primary source of income was the stage relay franchise and supplying horses to the stagecoach line and the army. It also raised cattle for ranch consumption as well as holding contracts to supply the army with enough beef for themselves and the Indian reservations. The Shermans weren't rich, but they weren't destitute either, able to pay their bills with a little left over for improvements to the ranch and a few simple pleasures. Shade Thornton had been born into wealth but left it all behind at the age of seventeen. Chance Thornton, Shade's older brother, had inherited the family's fortune, ranch, and other business assets after the death of their father in 1868. The younger children were usually given the means to start their lives, but the killing of a man and the subsequent row with his stern and often unforgiving father had sent Shade off to make his own way. Time had healed some of the hard feelings from the original rift and opened others as Shade's reputation as a gunfighter reached his father's ears, not to mention the occasional wanted poster. Still, Shade and Chance had exchanged letters on occasion although he had not returned home other than to attend his mother's funeral from a careful distance. No, Shade had made his home with the Shermans in Laramie. He almost had enough money saved for a downpayment on a spread of his own, but he was in no hurry. In one of the letters he'd exchanged with his older brother, Chance had again asked Shade to come home, stating that he would happily deed over half of the ranch. Shade had refused. His past tended to follow him and bring trouble with it. It was bad enough that it had put the Shermans in danger more than once, he didn't want the same to happen to his brother and family. Shade's big horse snorted and sidled sideways bringing his attention back to business. He was posted on a slight rise where he could watch for trouble and spot any horses trying to break from the herd. John Sherman, his wife Marianne, and their two sons were driving the herd of twenty animals toward the largest of the ranch's corrals where they would cut out the colts and fillies that were old enough for saddle breaking. They only had a short period of time before the army representative would be arriving to look over the horses and make their selections. They didn't like taking green-broke animals, preferring horses that were ready for cavalry training. Shade smoothed a tangle of glossy black mane and chuckled as a big two-year-old broke from the herd and Lakota's muscles tensed. "Let's get 'em, boy," Shade told the horse, laying the reins against his neck and setting heels to his flanks. Lakota leaped forward, galloping down the slight rise and angling away from the running colt, calculating the best track to take to cut off the stray. It was the mark of a good stock horse. Whether running cattle or other livestock, a good one learned how to anticipate the moves of the quarry and bring them in.
  3. Shadows swept over the yard, and Shade found himself peering toward the road, the harness he was mending lay forgotten across his lap. John sat in a rocking chair next to his, its gentle creak as he pushed it back and forth sounding a counterpoint to the call of a nightbird of some kind. A horse whinnied from the corral and Shade sighed. He really couldn't put it off any longer. It was time to tell John that he was leaving the next day. John lay the ledger aside that he'd been updating. It was getting too dark to read anyway and lighting a lantern would bring in the insects. Besides, it had become a normal routine, sitting on the porch with Shade as night fell. Usually, they'd talk about the day's business at the relay station. Sometimes Marianne would come outside and join in. Often, Mike and Andy would sit with their mother in the swing, asking Shade about his travels. Always, though, there was the sense that Shade felt the pull to leave. John had caught him practicing with his gun earlier in the day, watching just short of amazed at the younger man's lightning fast draw and even more amazed when he hit his targets without missing a single one. On some level, it troubled the tall rancher, on another, it actually made him feel safe to see how good Shade was. He and Marianne agreed though. Having Shade around was more positive than negative. Sherman's eyes, a lighter blue, more the color of the sky than the deeper cobalt of Shade's followed where the other man's gaze was centered. He idly pushed his rocking chair with one foot propped on the porch rail. "You think they're coming back, don't you?" Shade didn't ask what they John was asking about. He knew. "Yeah, they'll be back." "I don't think so, Shade," Sherman said quietly. "The sheriff made it clear they'd go to jail. You were cleared of all charges. He even showed them the recalls on the wanted posters. So, what aren't you telling us?" Eyes the deep blue of polished river stones flashed a look in John's direction. It wasn't lost on the older man that there was a degree of calculation in the now wary gaze. As if coming to a decision, Shade also propped his foot on the rail. A gentle push had his chair rocking in time to John's. Neither man noticed Marianne lay her sewing aside, her attention on the two men. Shade huffed out a breath, not quite a sigh, more like a sound of exasperation. "They don't want to take me back to Brownsville, Sherm. They want me dead." For some reason, Sherman was not surprised, "Why?" "There used to be three of them. They caught up with me near Fort Lincoln, Kansas, not long after I was acquitted." A quiet chuckle from the shadows reached John's ears. "I objected to being taken in. They set me up in a crossfire. The funny thing is, I didn't kill their brother, one of them did." "Who are they?" John prompted Shade to continue. "Val and Carter Bundy. Their older brother was Todd, known as Grease. It suited him," Shade answered, his deep, gravelly voice oddly soothing. "I've heard of the Bundys," Marianne's voice floated from where she sat in the swing. "Heard they tend to ambush their quarry. You were lucky." John was quiet. Shade's story checked out almost word for word with the information that Sheriff Fenner had reported. He'd also said it would be a good thing to get Shade on his feet and off the ranch. The sheriff agreed that the Brothers Bundy would make another try for Shade. John had replied in his languid, easy-going manner that it'd be best if Shade had help when that happened. Marianne let out an exasperated snort, "What John is working around to saying is that we want you to stay on here. We could use the help, and Mr. Frasier doesn't care where you get on the stage for your guard work...here or Laramie doesn't matter to him." "I'll be riding..." Shade's words had overlapped with Marianne's. He stopped, almost sounding annoyed, "Wait! What...? Stay...here?" John let out a war whoop of laughter while Marianne giggled. From inside the house, Shade could hear Mike and Andy echoing their parents' laughter. "Yes...stay...here. Work the ranch with me when your other duties allow. Forty a month, room and board. You've got a way with the horses. We'd be idiots not to ask." Shade's breath left him in a rush. He could think of hundreds of reasons to leave and not one good one to stay. None. "I reckon that'd work, but only if Marianne fixes more of that apple pie," Shade heard himself saying.
  4. A Few Days Later Eventually, Shade awakened free of the debilitating fever, and with a dull ache in the back of his left shoulder. Movement next to the bed made his hand reach for his right hip where his six-gun normally rode. His fingers encountered nothing but bare skin. Startled, he couldn't help his blue eyes opening wide as he realized not only was his gunbelt gone, so were his pants. A soft laugh pulled his attention upward to see a tall, wide-shouldered man with thick blond hair sitting in a chair pulled close to the bed. "I'm John Sherman," he said, the voice tugging at a buried memory in Shade's mind. "You're in my house, just outside of Laramie." "Shade Thornton," Shade croaked out his name, aghast that it was raspier than normal. "I know," John Sherman said with an easy smile. "Sorry, we went through your things trying to find out who you were and if there was someone to contact. We found your papers, so I sent word to Mr. Frasier via the stage. He said to assure you that your job would be waiting when you're back on your feet." Shade watched the man's handsome features, looking for a lie in his expression. He saw nothing other than concern and kindness in his blue eyes. He started to try and sit up, then remembered his state of undress. Had he been able, he'd have blushed. Sherman seemed to read his mind because he chuckled. "Doc Wheeler and I undressed you. Your clothes were sodden with blood. My wife, Marianne, washed and mended them. Washed your spares too. My sons have been tendin' your bay." "I was shot." Shade rasped out, then stopped as a spate of coughing took him. John got up, grabbed some extra pillows and gently eased Shade to a sitting position, tucking the bedclothes securely around him. He then picked up a cup of cold water and helped Shade hold it before settling back in the chair. "Yes. Back of left shoulder. Must've happened a day or two out from here 'cause quite a bit of infection had set in," John told him. "Best we can figure, a couple of bounty hunters planned on takin' you back to Brownsville more dead than alive. We found everything in your saddlebags...wanted posters, acquittal papers, letters of employment." Sherman gestured toward a tall walnut dresser on the far side of the room. "Everything is there. The bounty hunters tried to take you. The sheriff put a stop to that real quick." John refilled the cup and held it for Shade again, "Not too fast. Think you're up to a little bread and broth?" Shade managed to nod which set up a cacophony of pain in his shoulder, but he made himself stay awake long enough to eat. It hadn't been easy. He knew, though, that he had to eat to heal and regain his strength. Despite John Sherman's assurances, Shade couldn't quite trust that the bounty hunters had given up and gone away. They weren't known for giving up. Over the next few days, Shade mostly slept, only awakening briefly to sip water and eat. When he did awaken, it was always to see John, his pretty wife, Marianne, or one of their two sons sitting by the bed. If it were Andy or Mike, they would go get one of their parents. Shade learned that the Sherman ranch was about twelve miles outside Laramie and served the Grand Central Stage Line as its last relay station before hitting the town. It was the same stagecoach company that had hired Shade as a guard. In fact, Jeb Frasier, the man who'd interviewed him in Cheyenne, had stopped by, once again assuring Shade that his job was safe. A few more days passed, and Shade was promoted to sitting in the rocking chair on the front porch, then to a little bit of walking and a few light chores. John, Marianne, and their sons seemed to take it for granted that he would be staying with them indefinitely. More days passed and Shade was able to dress and walk unaided, draw his gun and help with grooming the horses. Handling the changing of the stagecoach teams was still more than he could manage, but he felt he was earning his keep by helping to mend harness, feed the chickens and gather eggs. He finally reached the point where his strength was returning in significant increments each day. It would soon be time to leave. Shade didn't understand why that bothered him as much as it did. He'd lived on the drift for the better part of the last seven years. Besides, it wasn't as if he was moving to Canada. Laramie was twelve miles away, not twelve-hundred. Shade answered his own silent concerns. It was rare that he'd found people he instinctively trusted and liked. Even more rare to find those that felt the same toward him.
  5. Stormwolfe

    Woodpecker

    From the album: Spirit Animal Avatars

    © https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/native-american-zodiac-astrology/

  6. Stormwolfe

    Spirit Animal Avatars

    Browse this album to choose your OOC spirit animal avatar.
  7. Stormwolfe

    Wolf

    From the album: Spirit Animal Avatars

    © https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/native-american-zodiac-astrology/

  8. Stormwolfe

    Snow Goose

    From the album: Spirit Animal Avatars

    © https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/native-american-zodiac-astrology/

  9. Stormwolfe

    Snake

    From the album: Spirit Animal Avatars

    © https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/native-american-zodiac-astrology/

  10. Stormwolfe

    Salmon

    From the album: Spirit Animal Avatars

    © https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/native-american-zodiac-astrology/

  11. Stormwolfe

    Raven

    From the album: Spirit Animal Avatars

    © https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/native-american-zodiac-astrology/

  12. Stormwolfe

    Owl

    From the album: Spirit Animal Avatars

    © https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/native-american-zodiac-astrology/

  13. Stormwolfe

    Otter

    From the album: Spirit Animal Avatars

    © https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/native-american-zodiac-astrology/

  14. Stormwolfe

    Falcon

    From the album: Spirit Animal Avatars

    © https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/native-american-zodiac-astrology/

  15. Stormwolfe

    Deer

    From the album: Spirit Animal Avatars

    © https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/native-american-zodiac-astrology/

  16. Stormwolfe

    Beaver

    From the album: Spirit Animal Avatars

    © https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/native-american-zodiac-astrology/

  17. Stormwolfe

    Bear

    From the album: Spirit Animal Avatars

    © https://whatismyspiritanimal.com/native-american-zodiac-astrology/

  18. Shade clung to the saddle as if his very life depended on it. Which, he thought grimly, it probably did. He had lost track of how long it'd been since he'd been shot. The miles passed beneath his bay gelding's hooves alternating between pain and near oblivion. Each jolt of the horse's movement sent flames of agony up and down his back and through his left shoulder. Suddenly, Brimstone threw his head up and whinnied loudly, answering the neighs of other horses and the distant rattling of a feed bucket. Shade, once again barely conscious, wrapped the fingers of his right hand, his gun hand, through the reins and around the saddle horn, holding on grimly as Brimstone's gait changed to a trot. Horses were herd animals, and Brimstone smelled his kind nearby. John Sherman came out of the barn carrying two buckets filled with grain for the horses in the corral. It was the end of the day and time to get the evening chores done so they could settle in for dinner and a quiet evening. He emptied the buckets into the trough, sparing a brief glance to where his eldest son, Andrew, forked hay out of the loft and down into the corral for the horses. His younger son, Michael, was inside helping his mother with dinner. He was about to go back to the grain bin for another load when Andrew shouted, "Pa, look!" John looked up to see that his son was pointing toward the gate into the yard. He turned to see what the boy was yelling about, startled to see a big blood bay horse entering at a jolting trot, a nearly unconscious man clinging to its saddle. "Marianne!" John shouted for his wife as he headed toward the horse, waving his arms, hoping to slow it down. "Andrew, get inside. Watch your brother." Andrew dropped his pitchfork, ran to the loft's ladder and shimmied down it. He passed his mother coming out of the house as he headed inside, knowing better than to argue with his father when he gave orders in that tone of voice. Marianne raised her eyebrows and Andrew pointed to where John was now trying to get the man off the horse, "Stranger. Looks like he might be injured or sick." Marianne nodded. By now she was assessing the situation as well, "Get some water on to boil, just in case. Stir the stew. Keep Mikey inside." Andrew hurried to do his ma's bidding, and Marianne crossed to where the bay had come to a stop. "John?" She made a question of her husband's name as she took hold of the bridle. "I think he's been shot, Mar. Steady the horse while I try to get him to the ground." John's voice was quiet and calming. While Marianne calmed the big gelding, John gently tried unwinding the man's fingers from the reins and tried to cajole him into releasing his grip on the saddle horn. It didn't occur to him to turn his back on the stranger, to worry about why he was hurt, and to send him away. "C'mon, mister, I've got ya, you can let go now." Something in the voice got through to Shade. It was deep and kind, the tone both cajoling and firm. He flexed stiff fingers, dropping the reins and made a valiant effort to swing his leg over the cantle of the saddle so he could dismount. The effort proved too much, and he pitched from the saddle, barely saved from hitting the hard-packed earth. The man started to pull Shade's left arm over his shoulder causing him to whimper in agony. There was the sound of a breath being sucked in, "Oh God! I'm sorry, sorry. Easy." John deftly shifted the smaller man's weight so that he was supporting him beneath his right arm instead of his left. Marianne tugged the reins, calling over her shoulder as she urged the horse to a trot, "I'll send Andy out to take care of the horse. Let's get him inside." She looped the reins over the fence and turned back to do what she could to help her husband. Neither of them saw the two horsemen on the ridge. What little meaning there remained to the passing of time was lost on Shade. Someone roused him to sip water, sometimes a thin hot gruel. Occasionally, he surfaced enough to know that someone was wiping his face with a cool cloth. Any thought of surfacing to full consciousness fled when strong hands shifted him to change bandages. He knew there was something urgent that he needed to tell the people he sensed around him, someplace he was supposed to be, but it was beyond what he could endure to wake up and articulate it. As some people would say, it was more than his life was worth.
  19. Stormwolfe

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About Sagas

Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.

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