Windows Birth Part II

Weaving back and forth William clung to the side of the horse, riding on its flank as he had been taught when he was a child, so as not to be knocked from his saddle by low hanging branches. The ground sloped down towards the sound of rushing water, the pounding hooves of his pursuers thundering through the forest behind him. They would make good time racing across the field, but once they reached the forest their progress would be slowed as his had been.

Allowing his horse to pick its own way down the hill that was growing steadily steeper, he glanced back over his shoulder to find two of his pursuers already within sight.  He recognized the one on the left, that wide brim hat a dead giveaway for the one known as Preacher. It was a nickname he’d earned because he always allowed those he hunted down an opportunity to make peace with the god of their choice before he took them out. If they had called on the Preacher, that meant they were dead serious about ending this child’s life.

But why. It was a question he’d been asking himself ever since he’d learned of his lady’s pregnancy and the resulting flight from the royal court. What did this child represent? What was his purpose? How could his survival threaten a dynasty that had outlasted the very reign of man?

Somewhere within those endlessly circling questions that spun about like a whirlpool that consumed all it came into contact with, the truth lay.

As they neared the bottom of the hill, his pursuers matching him step for step he scanned the bank of a narrow river, looking for a place to cross. He would be vulnerable then, his back to those who would run him down to the ground, he knew he couldn’t make it easy for them.

Coming out of the tree line he laid into his horses flanks with the whip, driving the beast forward at an insane run, the horse struggled at first, its massive lungs pumping the air in and out as it ran headlong along the bank of the river. Behind him he heard his pursuers and chanced to take a look back. When he did his horse hit a hole with one hoof, screaming in surprised agony as the bone snapped and his flight was brought to a jarring stop.

William was thrown from his mount, the baby clutched close to his chest as he curled his body around the child to protect it as they slammed into the ground. They rolled through the grass, small rocks and limbs dinging his back, and arms, and legs. Stars exploded behind his closed eyelids as he hit his head on a larger stone, and he struggled to remain conscious as they rolled to a stop.

Getting to his knees he gently laid the child in a shallow depression. The baby watched him with an interest that belied his age. Strangely enough the child had not once cried out during their flight, as if it were instinctively aware that it must remain silent if it wished to live.

Shaking off the effects of his fall he pulled himself to his feet and turned to face his pursuers as only a true gunslinger could. His hand loose above the sandalwood butt of his revolver protruding from the holster on his hip, he pulled the brim of his hat down to shade his eyes as he squared his shoulders to meet their attack.

They came around the bend in the river, riding low against the backs of their mounts, digging their spurs into the bloodied flanks of their massive steeds.

Faster than the naked eye could follow he slid his revolver from its holster, bringing the barrel up as he focused on the point he wanted the round to strike, thumbing back the hammer, and squeezing the trigger all in one fluid movement.

The .44 caliber slug covered the dwindling distance between him and the approaching riders almost instantly. Slamming into the crown of the hat of the rider beside Preacher, shattering bone on impact, jelling the brain, and killing the man instantly. His lifeless body, no longer able to hang onto the reins, was thrown from the saddle, coming to rest in a shattered heap that would become his final resting place.

The man known as Preacher drew his mount up short, stopping twenty yards away, and slid down from the saddle. With measured steps he moved away from his mount, never taking his eyes off William who tracked his every move.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Preacher said, “give me the child, let me return him to his rightful place.”

“The child has found his rightful place,” William said as he returned his revolver to its home.

Preacher shook his head slowly from side to side as he spread out his arms and turned to look at the wilderness that surrounded them. “You call this backwards world his rightful place, he belongs in the royal court, not out here among the savages.”

“You ask me to return this innocent child to die?” 

“That’s not your decision to make. Ours is but to follow orders, do as we’re told, fulfill the obligations of our forefathers.”

“What about protecting the innocent? Isn’t that what our forefathers really wanted? When did we become servants to the royal court?”

Preacher shrugged, dipping his head to the left, and as he did he made his play but William had seen it coming. Two shots rang out as one, their deadly voices rolling away like distant thunder as both men stood facing one another.

Preacher looked down at his chest, at the hole that had suddenly appeared there, dark red blood pumping from the wound to stain his vest. He could no longer hold his pistol steady and he let his hand drop to his side as he fell first to his knees, then onto his face.

William staggered back, Preachers slug having slammed into his shoulder, and he felt the sickening way his arm hung lifelessly from his side. Blood stained his shirt, trickling down beneath his vest. He had to find a place to hole up soon. A cry from the horse reminded him of its agony and he quickly dispatched it to ease its pain.

Gathering up the reins for Preachers horse he retrieved the child and painfully climbed into the saddle, turning towards the stream he urged his mount across. He had reached the other side of the stream by the time the rest of his pursuers rounded the bend. The sight of Preachers dead body would stop them for a moment, but it would also drive them to double their efforts to bring him down and return the child to the royal court.

First blood had been drawn and it had become a feud

As his pursuers gathered around the two bodies William faded into the tree line and began making his way up the steep incline. He had to find a place soon to take care of his wounded shoulder if he hoped to survive.

To be continued!

Follow Windows adventures as he explores a post apocalyptic world with his three friends. 

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Available exclusively at Amazon 
Read for free with Kindle Unlimited

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