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Continued from Cattle Drive [Part 1] Mature Content: No With: Quentin Cantrell, NPCs Location: Kalispell to Fort Poison, south end of Flathead Lake. When: Early September 1875 Time of Day: Varies Harriet sat astride Shade's big paint, Spirit, that had formerly belonged to Chance Thornton. She had ridden the horse before but never in the animal's capacity as a working cow pony. None of her string of horses had the training for the task at hand. The big gelding flicked his ears, and his body tensed. She could tell the horse was ready to follow the herd of cattle that meandered slowly past. Harriet put a gloved hand on the horse's neck and muttered a few soft words to calm him down. Three days ago, the San Francisco attorney had been in the office of Lost Lake Ranch's co-owner, Shade Thornton, explaining about the contract and how it had gotten lost. Somehow, it had been misfiled in with completed contracts. The ranch was in the black, but due to a judge's ruling regarding the custody of the five-year-old Thornton twins, it had to show a clear six-percent increase in profits. Losing the contract for twenty-five head of cattle would not impact the ranch's wealth. However, it might cause problems with the custody of the children. Another issue was the fact that the majority of the hands had ridden south to Missoula with Sage Miller, the ranch's night foreman, to deliver the fall herd to the stockyards. That left the ranch with a skeleton crew. They could not strip the remainder of the riders off the ranch, so she, Quentin Cantrell, and two of the younger hands were tasked with taking the herd to Fort Poison. Who knew that it would be Shade Thornton's sharp eyes that would see the codicil that stated the fort's commander would only take delivery from an owner or suitably high-ranking ranch employee, such as a foreman. The fort's commanding officer required the codicil as a means of preventing fraud and possibly the receipt of stolen cattle. Harriet had ridden into town with a letter written by Shade and copies of the appropriate paperwork. She had sent the telegraph on Shade's behalf and put the envelope on the next mail wagon out. It should reach Fort Poison well ahead of the drive. Now, here she sat, wondering precisely what she was supposed to do. Harriet had watched her friend, Regina Thornton, deftly ride, rope, and cut with the best of them. She felt clueless. Harriet hated the feeling of not knowing what to do and of not being in control of her situation. Suddenly a big red and white heifer broke from the meandering herd and shot toward where she was sitting. Before she could gather her wits and shout "Shoo, cow" at the creature, Spirit launched into action. Harriet uttered a soft shriek and hung on for dear life as the paint zigged and zagged after the heifer finally deftly turning it back to the herd. Quentin sat Paladin nearby. He brought his gloved hand up and covered his mouth to hide his wide grin as he watched the shrieking woman atop the cow pony as it herded the stray. He quickly schooled his features as her horse steadied and she shot a look over at him. "Ahem...You're doing fine, Harriet!" "At least I am doing something!" Harriet snapped. She glared at the big paint gelding she was riding. "Bad horse," she muttered under her breath. At least the two hands and wagon driver were pretending to be preoccupied with the herd...or the horizon. Quentin reached up and tugged the brim of his hat, then spurred off along one side of the herd. His free hand swung a coil of rope back and forth. He gave an occasional yell to keep the mass moving in the same direction. Quentin lifted his eyes up to see the other hands, seeing that they both seemed to have a handle on their side of the herd. The supply wagon was on ahead, pulling off into the distance so he could find a good spot to stop and pitch camp for the night. Another series of shrieks and yelps behind him told Quentin that Shade's horse was doing its job again while Harriet valiantly tried not to fall off. Quentin decided that discretion was the better part of valor and he continued on, ignoring the sounds behind him so the only thing Harriet would be mad at would be the horse.
Mature Content: No With: Mike Wentworth, Wentworth Brothers Location: Blackbird Lodge, front terrace When: Early September 1875 Time of Day: Mid-to-Late Morning According to some folks, Blackbird Lodge had been built backward. The courtyard and main entrance were on the side of the house that the family considered its rear. Isadora Thornton had wanted it that way, so the coming and going of horses in the courtyard would not distract from the vista of the vast crater lake and the mountains. Ranch hands and others that had had business with John Caleb Thornton could come and go without disturbing her. Isadora's husband had, at first, objected to the building site she had chosen for that very reason. She had overridden his objections by pointing out that it also meant only one main entrance to defend should the need arise. No one would be able to enter the house from the side of the house that overlooked the lake. It made perfect sense to her and, after thinking it over for a while, John Caleb had agreed with her. Shade had grown up with stories of how Blackbird Lodge came to be where it was. The house was built on a flat expanse of bedrock that jutted out from one of the lower peaks of the Chogun Mountain Range. Although technically not a basin, it had been named Moonlight Basin due to the slight concavity of the outcropping. The area was surrounded by creeks and waterfalls, all making their way down the mountain to the Chogun River or into Lost Lake, which lay far below the house's front terrace. The house had been built out of local river stone, massive redwoods hauled in from the west coast, and local oak and aspen. Shade's father had spared no expense, including having massive windows built into the front of the house so that one always had a view of the mountains, forests, and lake. The lodge was as beautiful as his mother had been and as rugged as his father. It reflected his parents' personalities perfectly. The morning had been well advanced when Shade made his way down from the office and study attached to the master bedroom. He had honestly wanted to continue living in the downstairs room that had been his when he was a kid, but Laura Hale had put her foot down. While she and her husband, Ezra, lived in the lodge, it had made sense for them to live in the upstairs master suite. Ezra often worked on the ranch's ledgers late into the night. It was easier for him to do that in the office and study that was attached to the main bedroom. It had also kept Laura near the children's room. Laura had insisted that Shade needed to take over the master suite so that he would be on the same floor as the five-year-old twins. It made sense. It had also seemed to bring home the fact that the Hales were retiring and moving away and that everything was changing. Mary Miller, the ranch's housekeeper and cook, greeted him with a bit of a frown. Her sharp eyes noted that he was leaning heavier on the cane than he had been. The repeated trips up and down the stairs required to move his belongings had left the injured leg sore. "You go sit out on the terrace, Mr. Shade. It's a beautiful day. I'll bring coffee and sandwiches." She did not scold him for coming down late since she had brought his breakfast up to his office just after dawn. "When do you think Mr. Quentin and Miss Harriet will get back?" "Not for a few days yet, Mary. I figure it'll take them longer to move twenty-five head to the south end of Lake Flathead than it'll take Sage to move the hundred and fifty all the way to Missoula," Shade replied with a chuckle. Taking Mary's advice, Shade exited the house and settled in one of the chairs on the terrace. Leaning forward, he dragged one of the smaller chairs over so that he could prop his leg up. A few minutes later, Mary came out with a tray of sandwiches and a pot of coffee. Shade poured himself a cup of coffee and picked up a sandwich. @JulieS