A Charmed Life
Eric was crouched and ready for a fight. His sword was drawn and the heavier pieces of his clothing, such as his cloak and saddle bags, had been discarded on the ground. He just hoped he could talk his pursuers out of the impending match.
"Now, gentlemen, I'm sure there is some way we can avoid unnecessary blood-shed." He tried to smile charmingly while shifting his feet to get better footing on the rocky slope.
"Yeah, all ya gotta do is come home," growled a burly man.
“Your father wants you home,” said a taller, thin man. Eric recognized him as the watch captain. The one he had tricked when he made his escape from the palatial grounds. It seemed the man had received one of his father’s infamous punishments for allowing Eric to slip past him. The fresh branding on the side of his face was painfully obvious.
“Not likely,” Eric retorted. “Although, I think we could join up together and have a merry little band of our own. What do you say?”
Any hopes of such an agreement were shattered when the captain stepped forward and, with a quick, downward stroke, began the sword play. Eric grunted when he blocked the older man’s sword, feeling the weight of experience, and gravity, fighting to drag him down. He was at a disadvantage with his back to the slope. The captain had the higher ground and better footing.
The fight didn’t last long. Just as the young man, who was still very much a boy in some ways, was about to start another attempt at bartering for his freedom, a loud, piercing cry echoed through the air. The ground was flooded with tremors as if the whole planet had been grabbed between two giant hands and shaken like a snow globe.
The gazes of the group turned and scanned the land around them, searching for the source of the quakes. They quickly discovered that it was not a natural tremor but, instead, a giant horse and rider. The rider was obviously a young woman, although not dressed properly for riding, much less riding a bucking horse. Instead of smart denim pants and a long sleeved shirt, she wore short denim shorts, a blue t-shirt with no sleeves and cowboy boots.
The horse was a massive black stallion that was clearly displeased his rider. The animal had his head down and back feet in the air, alternately bucking and running. There were times when it screamed with frustration, angry that the person on its back would not come off like all the others had.
The now-dwarfed group of humans was frozen in fear. Eric saw his opportunity for escape and promptly fled, throwing his cloak on and grabbing his saddle bags as he went. He cursed the loss of his horse. It would have been so much easier to escape if his charger had not broken its leg during the initial flight. Now, he was stuck fleeing on foot.
He slid down the loose shale of the hillside and made his way through the brush and scrub before coming to a stop behind a copse of trees. Eric watched through the tangled limbs, unable to help his morbid curiosity as the horse and rider advanced on the petrified group. He wanted to turn away, to not look at the demise of the men, but was unable.
Tor Keller rode the wild, unbroken stallion with all the strength and tenacity she had. However, her strength was pushed to a whole new level on this particular ride. Her idiot brothers were to blame. She would have to curse them out when she finally made it back home.
Gritting her teeth and clamping her jaw, Tor clenched her thighs firmly around the saddle and double checked the position of her heels. She adjusted her grip on the reigns, quickly throwing her hand back into the air to keep her balance on the mustang.
"Alright, boy," she growled, "this is gonna go one way or another. And it better end with you having some sense!” She looked up to gauge just where this rogue horse was taking them only to see a group of small men huddled in fear. Well, they ought to be scared! I just wish they'd be scared somewhere else! "Move it!" she yelled at them; no one moved except for one lone figure that stole into the bushes.
Smooth, real smooth. Now I have to watch out for those idiots and one more that I can't even see! Pulling hard, she tried to yank the horse's head up, hoping to stop the bucking. However, she wasn't strong enough to accomplish her goal, so she was forced to settle for something else.
Letting the reigns slacken slightly, she gave the stallion a false sense of victory before sharply hauling the reigns to the right. The stallion was thrown off balance and scrambled for footing, desperately trying to remain upright. Shortly after Tor's risky move, the stallion lost his footing and fell.
Tor screamed in an impotent rage that matched her horse. She pulled her left leg from the stirrup, trying to draw it up and over the saddle horn to protect it from getting scraped. She wasn't quite fast enough and ended up having the outside of her thigh and knee severely scraped. She groaned in pain as the wound throbbed. Biting her lip in an attempt to distract herself from the pain, she took account of herself and the horse. Already the animal was trying to stand.
Pulling herself out of the saddle, she stood to her feet to further inspect her wound. Gingerly, she brushed as much dirt and debris from it as she could. She silently thanked her idiot brothers for putting her good, fully stocked trail saddle on the stallion. Brushing her auburn bangs from her face, she pushed her hat off her head, letting it hang from the stampede string.
The would-be-bronc-buster looked around, searching for the group of tiny men. She couldn't find them right off hand, so, with a shrug, she grabbed the reigns of the struggling animal.
"Alright you asshole of a horse, you're going to listen to me." As she spoke, she dug through the exposed saddle bag, searching for her lead line. Finding it quickly, she pulled it from the bag and snapped it to the horse's bridle and unclipped the split-reigns. She took the reins and hooked them together, creating a makeshift whip.
Tor dropped the "whip" behind her and hauled the horse's head up, helping the animal on its next attempt to rise. At first, the stallion tried to bolt, but the young woman held the line too close to his head for him to go anywhere. Slowly easing him back towards her, she spoke softly in an effort not to spook him.
"Easy, boy, easy. I'm not gonna hurt you." The stallion perked his ears forward and took a step towards her. Chomping at the bit in his mouth, his ears flickered back and forth, showing his uncertainty about this two-legger. His sides heaved, his nostrils flared and his body was drenched in sweat. He took another step, followed by a third until his muzzle touched the tip of Tor's outstretched hand. "That's a good boy," she cooed. Slowly, she stretched her hand a bit farther in an attempt to stroke his nose.
The mustang shied, throwing his head up in the air and snorting. Tor pulled his head back down slowly, reaching out to stroke him again. This time she succeeded and gently ran her hand up and down his muzzle. "See there?" the violet-eyed young woman smiled. "No one's going to hurt you, Idiot." A little grin settled on her face. "There's a fine name for a fine horse. Idiots are who put me on you, an idiot is what you're acting like so 'Idiot' you shall be named."
She ran her hand down his neck and carefully patted the thick muscle beneath the skin. “Easy,” she hummed when he snorted and stomped a hind leg. She led the now semi-complacent horse to a tall tree and tied him to a thick branch, making sure the half-hitch knot would hold. She walked back to the reins and picked them up and tossed them across her shoulders. Afterward, she inspected the saddle, elated to find no broken or damaged pieces. The only damage to the goods in her saddle bags was her trail mix was now just a bag of crumbs.
Stepping back, the young woman wondered what to do with the stallion. She knew if she untacked him, she would not likely get the saddle back on him later. For now, she decided, leave the horse tied and tend to the severe abrasion she got when the mustang fell.