Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Curse of Scáthach

As promised on my post today on, here is the opening of my Historical Fantasy short story... 

The Curse of Scáthach
March, 1949
It’s weird to be dead.
Or rather, it’s a strange feelin’ when the world thinks you’re dead and yet, here you are, walkin’ around, saving the world from evil…well, I best not get ahead of things. Let me introduce myself. My name is Will, or it is for the time being.
I arrived in New Mexico today for a job and it’s the first time I’ve been here since I “died” in 1881. The memories flooding my brain make it hard to concentrate on the current task at hand, so I thought I’d write them down. I never have before, which is odd, I know. With all I’ve seen and done, one would assume I keep better records.
They say to start at the very beginning. That would be where I tell you I was born in 1859 to a poor Irish woman in New York City, that she died when I was about fourteen, and that I was a good kid when it all began…but that shit is boring and no one, not even me, wants to rehash it. What needs rememberin’ is the year I became a Regulator, for that’s where my true-life began.
I was eighteen years old, and unfortunately it was a death that gave me my new life…

February 18, 1878
The thunderous echo of approaching horsemen interrupted the leisurely quiet of the canyon. Gunfire erupted behind Middleton and me, and we spun about to see a large posse of Dolan’s men on horseback comin’ at us, guns a’blazin’. Looking ahead, for we were at the back of the travelin’ party, I noted the other three of our group had just gone over the brow of the next hill. They couldn’t see the trouble comin’ our way.
“Hey-ah!” I yelled, slammin’ my heels into my horse’s sides. We raced through the newly fallen snow, past the horses we were movin’ to town, and toward Brewer, Widenmann, and our boss, John Tunstall. We needed to warn them.
Once over the hill, we noted that Widenmann and Brewer were off the trail to the left a ways. Making a split second decision, I rode toward them and Middleton headed to warn Tunstall.
As I rode I heard Middleton shout, “For God’s sake, follow me!”
As I came up on Brewer, Widenmann yelled out, “We can’t hold this place! Let’s ride to the hill ove there and make a stand!”
With no time to argue, we rode toward an area covered with tall timber and large boulders, and I assumed the others were right behind us. Yet, as Middleton joined us, he was alone.
“Where’s Tunstall?” I said, panic squeezing my chest tight.
John Tunstall was the one they were after. Jimmy Dolan was out for blood ever since John posted that letter in the Mesilla Valley Independent, exposing Dolan and his pals as the real crooks of Lincoln County.
Middleton spoke up. “I yelled for him to follow. He rode in a circle and I motioned him to follow me. As soon as he started toward me I headed here. Maybe he didn't hear me?”
“Or he didn't want to hear you,” I clarified, “Damn it, John, you can’t talk your way out of this one!”
“What?” Middleton asked.
“Not you, the other John. We really need to give you a new first name,” I said before looking to Tunstall’s Cattle Foreman, Richard “Dick” Brewer. “Tunstall thinks he can surrender and fight this in court.”
“Dodgasted! They’ll kill him, Will,” Dick replied, his voice strained and his eyes filled with worry.
“Let’s lay down some cover fire and get him outta there!” Rob Widenmann, Tunstall’s best friend, suggested.
Dick’s eyes swiftly scanned the area, which was no more than vast, unsettled land, filled with nothin’ but brush and trees surrounded by mountains covered in snow. We were well hidden, but that caused another problem.
“Will, you’re the smallest. Can you climb?”
I nodded, dismounted, and reluctantly handed the reins to Middleton, for I’d have preferred to ride out there, take a shot at them myself, but I also understood what Brewer was aimin’ for. Besides, at five-foot-eight and only a hundred and thirty-five pounds, I was the best option for giving us eyes to what was goin’ on the other side of the hill.
Spotting a good tree, I started up. Halfway there, an eerie silence filled my ears like water and a rifle shot echoed off the canyon walls. I came to a halt as dread slammed into my gut.
“Oh, God,” Middleton said, “They've killed Tunstall.”
I prayed he was wrong and scaled the tree as fast as I could. Once high enough, the scene before me froze the air in my lungs. John Tunstall, a man I looked up to, lay on the ground next to his prize horse, not moving, his left cheek buried in the snow.
The group of twenty or so men had now split into three sections. Most were back a few hundred yards while four men rounded up our small herd of horses, leaving just three men on horseback looming over John’s body. I recognized them as Billy “Buck” Morton, Tom Hill, and the dangerous outlaw I used to ride with, Jesse Evans.
Buck Morton still held his rifle in firing position as Hill dismounted, snatched up Tunstall’s revolver, and fired a bullet into John’s head before killing his horse the same way. He then placed John’s hat on the dead horse’s head and remounted as Morton shouted orders to his men who rounded up our horses.
Eyes wide and jaw clenched, my soul felt cold to the core with blood as hot as a smithy’s furnace. Drenched in a need for revenge, I shook with rage, gripping the tree with all my might to keep me from grabbin’ my gun then and there. I was on the brink of losin’ it, when Brewer appeared below me. He wanted answers I didn't want to give. 

Find out what happens to Will, Dick, and the rest of the gang 
by picking up 
The Curse of Scáthach 
EXCLUSIVELY available in print at ConCarolinas, 2015! 
Short Story Synopsis
Will McCarty has returned to New Mexico for the first time since he “died” in 1881. While in town for a job, memories come flooding back and the murder of his boss, John Tunstall, still plagues him.
The death of The Englishman ignited the Lincoln County War of 1878. This story of revenge and greed has been told many different ways, but Will knows the truth, and it’s time others did too.
Go back to when crooked politicians, mafia mentality, and dirty lawmen were the demons that ran the Wild West, and walk alongside the reluctant hero who decided it was time their reign ended.

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