Ride the Pale Landscape

The pain never showed on the horses faces as they hoofed through the fresh fallen snow.  Though it kicked up like a dust cloud from a desert wasteland, they continued to push the animals harder than ought to be necessary lest it found them again.  The wounded man slumped over his saddle, uttering no sound with exception to the gurgling breath that oozed from his mouth along with oxygenated bubbles of blood.  The boy that kept pace caring for him tried for miles to get the rest of the party to slow their pace, but the pack leader would not hear of it, his wounds may get the best of him but at least they will return his corpse to a grieving widow.

Onward, the party galloped through the snow.  Hoping against hope they would not lose another man this day.

A blast like thunder rips apart the silent sky and the lead man falls.  Blood and flesh spatter across the air and settle to ruin the pristine snow that had been undisturbed only seconds before.  The horses cry and most kick their riders off their backs, fleeing for their own lives, leaving the party of men to fend for themselves without provision or ammunition left to their defense.

The ward and his wounded master are left alone to the back of the pack of former riders and they gaze upon their slaughter, wholesale as though they were lead right into the crossfire that tore their flesh from bone.  The boy rummaged through the wounded man’s coat, pulling the revolver and its five rounds from the inner pocket.  Turning his master onto his back, the ward shut the man’s eyelids and began to burrow deep into the snow with nothing more than the frostbitten fingers that increasingly turned purple with every second.

He heard the footsteps.  Crushing down the now imperfect snow, their wide-soled shoes that distributed the weight of their steps did little to hide the noise of their oncoming trek.  He pulled back the hammer with his thumb, the appendage screaming as though it were ready to give up claim to the boy palm.  He readied himself, trying and mostly failing to settle the rage that welled inside.  Hiding in his hole in the snow, he watched as his master tried to cling to what little life he had remaining, something his teachers said would strengthen his resolve, yet only he felt fear brooding just behind the tears that felt as though they may freeze before they touched his cheeks.

His finger quivered against the cold metal of the trigger, though his skin was now glued to his master’s weapon.  He raised it to peer through the iron sights, lining up the front sight with the shadow of a man that crept toward his dying master.  The ward flinched his aim, squeezing the trigger slowly and breaking apart the serenity of the falling sun, the shadow flung backward as little bits of jaw and tooth sprinkled down into the ward’s hole.

The revolver simply turned, allowing another bullet to line up against the hammer, waiting for their next victim.  The ward felt the pressure pushing against his trigger finger, the cold metal against the pad of the finger pushing back as though excited and waiting for the next kill.  The wait did not last long, as a horse galloped through the horizon, the shooter waited until the ranger marker he placed in his mind was satisfied until allowing the firearm to shout its warning to death.  The rider’s head forced skyward as a frosty mist of pink exploded from the rear of his skull, falling from his mount dead before he could feel the pain.

The boy stood from his hidden perch, laboring steps through the blistering snow that tried its best to hide the red paint of death that spattered across its previously perfect sea of white.  Each step disturbed the powder, pressing it down only to be refilled later by the drifting snow.  He took each step with caution, his finger always ready to let loose the exploding screams of his non-living life-taker.  The only companion he had left offered no comfort or objection to its use, he continued to walk – ever so slowly – with his trigger finger taught and both eyes darting continuous.

The last man to fall from his steed came into sight within a moment or two, nothing on his body moved except the steam still escaping the gaping hole left behind by a screaming bullet that ended his life only moments before.  His horse was long gone; it continued its gallop long after the rider fell lifeless from the mount, something the young man could use lest his long journey home make him suffer from the frostbite that was surely to afflict him.  Neither here nor there, he knelt beside the dead man, picking off the ammunition strapped to his waist and chest, one bullet at a time, filling his hungry companion and his piece of mind.

There was nothing else left to the dead man, a spare firearm and two belts of ammunition were all the young man could carry despite the best of conditions.  It was a long hike ahead of him, nothing in view on neither the horizon nor a sound to be heard for miles.  He drags his feet though the powder snow and like a man possessed struggles to keep the drifting flakes out of his eyes as the wind punishes the bare skin of his face.  Miles to go to reach anything of significance, as he walks to abandon the death he left behind.

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