Abel's Bounty

Reads: 50  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 1  | Comments: 1

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Westerns  |  House: Review Chain

Enjoy my take on a Western, set in my fantasy world.

The sun sat high, relentless, casting waves of blinding yellow light and malicious heat over the tortured desert sand. Cloudless, the sky above seemed to be a pool of pure water out of Abel’s reach. Rain faded from a distant memory and into a dream.

Having wandered the Nappit Barrens for four days, Abel’s horse had collapsed and died. Abel wandered on foot now, his hard leather boots torn by jagged stones from the unnamed valley of yesterday. His cowhide trench coat was burdensome and hot, but too sentimental to cast aside. His black hat, black like his coat, lay enough of a shadow down his face so he could squint into the distance and make out a black wart among the vast flatlands around him. Either a mountain, or, hopefully, a town.

A harsh wind came like an open furnace across his face.

Holding his hand atop his hat, Abel licked the family of sand and sweat crystals off his lips. He spat, but nothing came out of his dry mouth.

It was foolish to look behind himself: no one would dare to follow him here. It was just habit, like an old dog raising his head at an opening door, awaiting his dead master.

As the sun crept behind Abel, gazing over his shoulder, the heat did not abate. But the wart ahead grew brown, and the steeple of a goddess’ sanctuary pricked the air. The little moving figures were people, and Abel, having been lost and alone for six days, stood still on the hard dirt road disbelieving his eyes.

Of all the joy he felt at the sight of other humans ahead, he wondered if instead he should hide.

A wagon wheel wobbled down the road, rolling and then tumbling on its side by Abel’s feet. From the disabled wagon, laying lame at the steps of the weathered tavern, a pair of men were hammering on it as a teenage boy came chasing the runaway wheel.

Abel touched his side where his pistol, the only cold thing in the desert, sat clinging to its holster. Old habits, he thought, and grinned.

This was no land for old habits. The border to Abel’s past life lay a hundred leagues behind him, just on the other side of the River Wilde, where the desert begins. He would have to learn new things, like not to draw his gun on people who approached him.

“A-haya, Mister,” the boy said, tentatively halting. Poised curiously, leaning on his right leg, he had stopped a toss away from Abel and gazed with a cocked head.

Without reply, but in a gesture of good-will, Abel bent and picked up the wheel. “Look’n like you lost somthin’,” Abel replied.

The boy smiled and took the wheel, comfortably. “Easier to catch than Old Miller’s chik’ns.” After eyeing Abel, the boy gestured with a nod, “That real bone?”

Abel pinched his necklace, the reminder of his old life. “Ayup.”

“From people?”

Most of the fragments were pinky-tip bones: trophies from head-hunting. The most recent one, still white and fresh, rested between his fingers. “If they is, ain’t nobody come to get them back.”

The boy smiled admiringly, then jumped as his father put his hand on his shoulder.

The father looked Abel up and down, more suspiciously than his son had. “Come from that-a-way?” the father asked, shifting his eyes toward the desert behind Abel.

“Yessir.”

The father tossed his canteen to Abel. As thirsty as he was, Abel nodded and raised the canteen in thanks, taking only a few gulps. It was liquid life. After stopping the spout with the cork again, he tossed it back, half-full.

“They’s got a locomotive that runs a half-league from here. No sense in walkin’ across death’s road from Caribrand; you coulda’ jus’ rode the Steel Wagon,” the father said.

The locomotive was invented by some young brain. Abel didn’t trust the big hunk of metal, careening ‘round mountains and over river-bridges with its wheels tip-toeing on those tiny tracks. The knights would’ve kept watch for Abel on it anyway. “Time’s a-changin’ too fast,” said Abel. “Goddess gave us legs to walk, an’ horses to ride. Don’t much like wagons, even.”

The father, who must have been twenty years younger than Abel, smiled. “Sure. Time’s a-changin’.” More amiable, he waved Abel into town. “C’mon. Maybe if you make friends and help put that wagon together,” he pointed to the lame cart, “you’ll like it more, seein’ as how it will get you supper.”

Supper would do nicely, even if it was only potatoes and bread, Abel would make love to the wagon if it got him supper. He nodded, and followed the father and boy past the creaking windmill and trickling water tower. The women carrying laundry were beautiful, and whispered as he passed. In the past, it would have been because he was handsome, but now it was because he had been birthed from no-man’s land.

A dozen lampposts and dozens more lantern hooks stood sturdy along the road and nailed into shop doorways. ilektricity, that new and baffling way of lighting streets, seemed absent. Perhaps the changes happening in the world hadn’t yet touched this little town.

At the wagon, the other man ceased his work with his wooden mallet in mid-air and looked over his shoulder, expressionless. Sweat soaked his tan shirt, darkening the Y-shaped suspenders into a deep crimson. He wiped his brow and nodded.

Abel was handed a bundle of wire. The father sat on his barrel and began carving a hole in a long beam. “The hound cables broke,” he said. “Weave us some new ones.”

“Yessir,” Abel replied, and sat on the spare box between the men whilst the boy ran off.

With the bundle of wires in his hands, and his boot holding their ends on the ground, Abel began to methodically weave. In and out, through and around.

The sun was hot. Since he would be here awhile, he took his black hat off, and removed his black jacket, lightly setting them neatly on the ground, then continued the numbing, but enjoyable work.

Looking left and right, Abel paused. The two men were gone, and only a whiff of dust walked the street. His smile fell, as did his working hands, which stopped mid-braid. He had been in similar situations before.

The expected cold barrel of a pistol chilled the back of his skull.

“Hay-a Abel,” a woman said behind him, and he was sure of who it was.

“Evenin’n Miss Wolf,” Abel replied courteously, though he could not hide his defeat in those words. “When d’you get here?”

As she spoke, the round steel pressing on his skull undulated forward and back. “Four days ago: took that locomotive right on down here from Caribrand. Ya kept me waitin’. And how many times I gotta tell you? It’s Knight Wolf, mister.”

“Not to me, Miss Wolf. I remember when you was dancin’ at Frank’s Hall at sixteen.” Abel turned his head cautiously. Little Miss Wolf, who at Frank’s Hall had been wearing a modest forest-green dress, long-sleeved and with wide skirts, looked more a whore than a woman now. Her wide cattle hat sat atop her sandy hair, and her plaid shirt, with sleeves rolled above the elbows, was unbuttoned at her bosom immodestly. She wore tight jeans, and boots. All the more, Miss Wolf was grinning wide, showing pearly canines.

She leaned into his skull, pushing his head forward. “Didn’ I tell you to quit your killin’ business, Abel? I warned ya, I truly did.”

“S’all I ever known. But I come here to get away, there’s jurisdiction, you know? You can’t cross the border,” Abel attempted for his defense.

She told him, “Caribrand and Lossity has a treaty now: our criminals are theirs and theirs is ours. See here?”

Abel turned again as she pulled at the new, shiny badge which had been inscribed with both nations’ names. “I see it.”

She pushed his head forward again. “I told ya, Abel. I told ya to quit yer killin business, I told ya that times were changin’. And you din’t listen one lick. Now look what I gotta do.”

“Seems like you like it.”

“Well, Abel: killing is reserved for kingdom employees now. Can’t just go ‘round taken lives willy-nilly. You gotta get certified. I warned ya, din’t I?”

“You did, Miss Wolf.”

“And you didn’t listen, like a disobedient hound. Now look what I gotta do. You ready, Abel?”

“Sure,” he replied.

“Any last words?”

He thought about his life. It had been long, simple, and he had enjoyed his work. But he wished he had more. He wished time had waited for him, but it had scorned him like an unwanted lover. “You used to be a pretty young thing, Miss Wolf. Now you’s a whore and a killer.”

There was a brief silence, still and cold.

“Bad dog,” she murmured, angrily, then pulled the trigger.

 


Submitted: November 12, 2020

© Copyright 2020 C. S. Spence. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Comments

Celtic-Scribe63

What a great atmosphere, you conjure up. From the searing hot sands to the people. The language used only helps to forge a great old Western feel to it.
And the last line of the story is just explosive.

A very easy and enjoyable read.

Mon, November 23rd, 2020 9:55am

Author
Reply

Thanks for reading and commenting! Your encouragement is uplifting.

Mon, November 23rd, 2020 9:35am

More Westerns Short Stories

Other Content by C. S. Spence

Short Story / Literary Fiction