NaNoWriMo Update Two

Having not written anything yesterday I struggled a bit to make up for lost time. Didn’t quite make it – only 1509 words this go round. Not bad though, only a hundred or so off quota.


The sun was going down. In the Badlands it seemed to do that faster than just about anywhere else. One minute, it seemed, there was still broad daylight. The very next it was only the stars to see by. Whether the speed of that change was thanks to the rock formations or her mind being mean, it brought the same feeling of dread home to Katherine’s heart. She’d gotten lucky once today. She didn’t want to have to try doing it again. Next time, she knew, there would be more than one goyle.

“Come on, Bales,” she urged her wounded charge. He was hanging off of her shoulder, using her for support as they shuffled their way towards what passed for civilization out here in the Frontier Territories. She’d been tempted, if only just a bit, to leave Bales behind and keep hunting their fugitive on her own. Letting a murderer get away was something that would burn in her guts for weeks, but that fire would pale beside the one she knew she’d have to deal with if she left Bales to die on his own.

“Yes’m,” Bales said through gritted teeth. “Tryin’ my best.”

“Tryin’ aint doin’,” she told him grimly. It wasn’t that she wanted to be hard on the man. In fact, she wished she could just let him stop and take a rest for a spell. Not yet, though. Not while they were still where they were.

Bales coughed a laugh and groaned when it hurt. When he could breathe again he said, “You sound like my mother.”

“They say men marry their mothers,” Katherine told him lightly. “You making a move on me, Bales?”

“If I’m going to die out here I just figure I should have a sweetheart to cry over my passing, and you’re the only one here.”

It was meant as a joke to play along with hers, she knew, but the words sobered Katherine’s mood. “You won’t die here. I won’t let that happen.”

“She’s got out of worse than this, let me tell you,” a voice reached out through the night. The pair stopped walking, and the voice asked, “Why do you think they call her Wild Kat?”

“Son of a bitch,” Katherine grinned. “Lonesome, you know full well you’re the only one that calls me that. Now get out here where I can see you.”

There was the sound of boots scrabbling on rock, and Lonesome Cooper came sliding down a nearby hill. His silhouette lifted the edge of that broad brimmed hat in greeting. “Can’t fault me for trying to spread it around,” he said apologetically. “An Arbiter needs a good nickname. And who’s this fellow?”

“Deputy Norman Bales,” he introduced himself. “No nickname. You’re Lonesome Cooper? I’ve heard talk about you.”

“And for good reason,” Katherine said. “He’s one of the best Spirit Talkers out here on the edge.”

“One of the only,” Lonesome corrected her.

“Six of one,  half dozen of the other,” she passed off the correction. “Now, as much as I’d love to stand around and chat all day, Lonesome, you can see we’re in a bit of a situation here. I don’t suppose you’ve got any horses handy?”

“You say that like I just have some hidden in my bag,” he said sourly. “I’m a Spirit Talker, not one of those magic trick charlatans that keeps things hidden up their sleeves.”

“Spirits curse you Cooper, you know what I meant. Can you find us one or not?”

“Well,” he drew the word out a bit, sounding thoughtful. “I guess you two must’ve come in on some. They’ve got to be around somewhere. If the goyles haven’t eaten them, that is. Yeah, I’ll see if I can find them. In the meantime you two should probably take a load off. Come on, there’s an overhang near here where you can make a fire.”

“What about the goyles?” Bales asked. “Won’t a fire attract them?”

“Most likely,” Lonesome agreed easily. “But you don’t have to worry about them. The goyles around these parts and I have… well, let’s call it an understanding. They’ll leave you be for tonight.”

The overhang provided them with what little protection they needed from the elements, and helped to trap the heat of the fire. Bales sat down against the rock, one arm cradling his side, and seemed to doze off. Lonesome stayed with them as they got settled, muttering to himself all the while. Katherine picked out a couple of First Words amid the mutters, a sure sign he was talking to the spirits. She let him finish and waited until he’d sat cross legged by the fire.

“So I don’t mean to pry,” she started, “but you finding us here was awfully convenient. You weren’t following us, were you?”

“Perish the thought, Arbiter Bishop. Following you around usually means more trouble than I care to have. I recall we burnt down a saloon, once.”

Though she ignored his jab about the saloon the memory did bring a brief smile to her face. “Well if you weren’t following us what were you doing out here?”

“Doing what I usually do,” he replied cryptically before turning the question back on her. “I’d ask the same of you, but I have a feeling I already know the answer.”

Katherine leaned forward, eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “Do tell,” she prompted.

“You really need to work on that reputation of yours. Chasing people out into the Badlands… what’d that boy Lee hear that made him think his chances were better with the goyles than with you?”

“Probably that I was going to hang him,” she said frankly. “Lee Caswell killed his girlfriend’s father and tried his damndest to kill her brother, then he shot his way right out of town. I’ve no idea where he got so many guns.”

“Ah,” Lonesome nodded to himself. “So it was as bad as all that. I tried to convince him he had a chance at escaping the noose. It’s no wonder he didn’t believe me.”

“You spoke to him?”

“Tried to get him to turn himself in. He chose to do things the hard way. I figure the goyle’s have got him by now.”

“Shit,” Katherine sighed. “I hope he doesn’t end up killing any on his way out. Just what we need is them coming back on us for revenge.”

“Nah. I took care of that. And if he manages to kill a goyle with that little knife I left him… well, they might just figure that’s fair.”

Katherine woke to the morning sun and a feeling of uncertainty. When she’d dozed off Lonesome had still been sitting at the fire, muttering to the spirits. Now the fire was cold and Lonesome was gone. She looked to Bales and found him still asleep. Absent the supplies that had been in their saddlebags there would be no breakfast, and Katherine’s stomach was complaining at the lack of it. It growled. And then it… whinnied? She rubbed at her face and looked around. No, she decided, that had obviously not been her. Which meant – she pushed herself to her feet and walked around the side of the overhand. There, grazing on the sparse tufts of grass, were two horses. Not just any who horses, either. These were the two she and Bales had ridden out on. They even had their saddles and saddlebags, which meant breakfast!

“Wake up Bales!” she called over her shoulder, “I’ve got some good news!”

“You’re welcome,” Lonesome said, appearing from seemingly nowhere.

“Oh,” Katherine said as if she weren’t surprised in the least. “You’re still here?”

“Course I am. Where did you think I’d be?”

“Oh, I dunno,” she shrugged. “Out there doing whatever it is you do.”

“I was out answering the call of nature. Spirit Talkers have to do that too, you know.”

“Curse it Lonesome,” she smiled and shook her head. “Now everytime I hear you say you’re out doing what you usually do I’m gonna see you pissin on a tree somewhere.”

“Glad I could offer up such enthralling imagery,” he told her dryly.

“Oh, hey,” Bales shuffled into view. “The horses are back.”

“He’s a real observant one, ain’t he?” Lonesome told Katherine as a quiet aside. “That’s right,” he turned his attention back to Bales. “Now don’t go tellin’ folks I can just conjure ‘em up out of my hat, alright?”

“No, of course not,” Bales promised. “That’d be just… silly.” Even so, he gave Katherine a questioning glance. She just rolled her eyes.

After a quick breakfast they were back on the trail. Lonesome walked along beside them, seemingly unbothered by the lack of a horse. When Katherine asked how long he’d be with them he said, “Might as well come all the way back with you. It’s been a bit since I’ve had some work in town. Any town. Probably time I got back into the routine.”

There was one more surprise waiting for them as they left the Badlands.


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