Thursday, October 11, 2012

Flashback Friday

Lizzie and the Rebel by Stephy Smith 
 Chapter One

Smoke drifted across the treetops of the snow-­‐‑covered
Rocky Mountains. A strong smell of burned pine trees lingered in
the air. Lizzie’s anger engulfed her at the thought of another series
of persistent terrorization from trappers who threatened to take
over the land.

“It looks like we have visitors, Oro. Better take care of them
first and pick up the mountain lion later.” Elizabeth George bent
forward and patted the golden stallion on the neck. The sky was a
little grayer than it had been in the past half hour.

Danger of men on the mountain brought mixed grief and
pain. Aware of the dangers of the mountain storm fueled her
determination to keep trappers from taking what, by all rights, was
hers. It wasn’t the first time she’d had to stand toe to toe with one
of the rude men and she knew it wouldn’t be the last if things
worked in her favor. Her eyes narrowed and she squinted against
the white ground cover.

She cast one more glance at the paw prints leading to a large
boulder. “You, my furry friend, get to live at least one more day. If
you follow me, you could have fresh meat for your last meal,” she
whispered, and checked the rifle and pistol. With a heave, she
pulled the bearskin coat tighter around her neck and spurred the
palomino stallion up a rocky, winding trail.

Death of cattle to the mountain lion would be naught. Loss
of the land was different. Land, she held close to heart, the land of
her mother’s people. The land her family had sacrificed their lives
to keep. Their spirits lived on this mountain. She could sense them
along the trails when the trees rustled and the rivers sang with
rapid water from winter snow. Everything about the mountain
held one spirit or another to reach and guide her on some kind of
instructive journey. A lesson to intensify skills each time she re-­‐‑
entered the area.

Always on the lookout, alert to the environment, she
watched a fox chase a rabbit into dense underbrush. The wildlife
touched her heart and left her smiling. God and the great spirits
had always been good to provide joy from the world created. She
reached to the heavens, thanked both, and asked for guidance as
she moved further up the trail.

She followed the smell of smoke in anticipation of what she
may find at the end. Another drunken trapper was more apt to be
the source of the fire. They would be the type of men to brave a
blizzard high on the mountain. This time of year they invaded the
territory every chance they got. With a nudge, Oro walked up the

Boulders blocked paths, and shrubs and small trees whipped
the legs of the horse. For the most part, the mountain lay silent with
an occasional winter sound. The fall of snow from thick boughs
overhead cracked branches and fell with heavy thuds on the
mountain floor. Winter songs, she called them. She had listened to
the songs for so many years now.

From the time Lizzie had been young, big cats frequented
the area. Their screams sent the mountain into a frenzy of panicked
animals and women who gathered their small children. All of Mrs.
George’s children accompanied her to the mountain to gather
winter herbs needed for emotional and physical healing and spices
for food. The children took nature lessons from their mother.
Lizzie thought on the first mountain lion she’d encountered.

She’d been sprawled on her stomach on a rock high above a small,
grass-­‐‑covered platform where a tiny deer grazed. The fawn
appeared soft and delicate. Its petite form took a small nip of grass
and raised its head to keep an eye out for predators while it
chewed. She giggled when it stamped a little foot at an insect.
Delighted with the deer, she lay there a long while, mesmerized by
the sight.

The large cat appeared on a boulder above the deer. Mrs.
George peered over the edge, “Nature at its best and its worst, little

Enthralled with the beautiful cat beast, she couldn’t take her
eyes off the mountain lion. It appeared so big towering above the
tiny deer. The agile feet seemed to float above the rock like a
feather. Massive muscles relaxed and, with confidence, waited for
just the right moment. Silent and unsuspecting, the cat kept eyes on
its prey. With one swift, powerful lunge, the cat flew through the
air to the tiny deer.

Lizzie wanted to yell for the deer to run, but no words
would come out. Rolling thunder built in her chest. Frozen on the
overhang, unable to pull her eyes from the scene, she glared at the
cat dragging its supper up and over large boulders before it
disappeared around the bend.

Her little legs carried her to her mother where she wrapped
her shaky arms around her legs. Never had her little heart beat so
wild, or the tears fallen so swift. She wiped her face on her mother’s

For months, she would not wander more than a few feet
from her mother when they went to the mountain. On that
particular day, Lizzie had learned her first lesson about wildlife
and its existence in the world.

From that day forward, she listened and learned about the
herbs gathered. Her mother taught her which ones to stay away
from and which ones to use for medicine or cooking. Her mind had
taken it all in.

She chuckled at the memory and made her way up the side
of the mountain. “Those were the good days with my family, Oro. I
always thought I would be able to save that deer with those herbs.”
She laughed at the thoughts from her childhood.

Many times, the screams of the cats echoed down the
mountain. She felt the eerie silence of their presence. Stares of their
eyes followed as she rode the mountain, and on a few occasions,
brought quivers. Yet now, there was nothing except bitter cold as
the snow fell.

Common sense told her to step up the pace. It also told her it
could be dangerous to do so. She shivered against the cold. Her
eyes stung from the wicked wind. Her wrapped fingers tucked the
rabbit fur scarf tighter.

The howl of the wind shook treetops. Clumps of snow fell to
echo on impact of lower branches and rocks. A harsh stiffness
tightened her cheeks and clasped her jaws. Bitter cold chomped
down on her thighs. Smoke reached her senses again. This time it
seemed to fade with the falling snow, drowning it out.

She continued.

Around a slight bend in the trail, there in a clearance, a fire
smoldered within a circle of rocks in the camp. A slight pull on the
reins stopped the horse. She listened for any sign of movement. Her
heart drummed against the silence of winter. The sizzle of snow fell
on hot embers and she waited for anything out of the ordinary
besides the dead fire.

An ice-­‐‑covered body leaned against a tree and a second lay
several feet away. With rifle in hand, she dismounted. Each step
was muffled beneath the snow. She cocked her head for a quick
glance around, and then she removed her finger from the trigger.
Wind whistled across large boulders and into the small
clearing where the men lay. An urgent call from the higher beings
told her to get off the mountain. Times like now strained her
insides. She couldn’t leave the men lying in wait for wildlife to
devour their bodies.

The storms moved down the trail, but not slow enough to
prevent her from its nasty grip. A full-­‐‑scale blizzard would hit
soon. Temperatures dropped within a matter of minutes. Her mind
worked overtime.

A strange instinct rattled her bones. There was a life form in
the area. Whatever it was, it wasn’t the big cat, but it still left her
uneasy. In front of the men dressed in familiar confederate
uniforms, she paused. From time to time, uniformed men filtered
through the area since the war had ended.

She wondered why it took the men so long to return to their
homes and families. During the war, other things had occupied her
mind; as a result, she didn’t keep track of what had caused the
ruckus in the first place.

The guilt of her family flooded her senses. At times, their
loss hit her square in the face. Tears would flow for days on end.
Why couldn’t she have gone with them? This was neither the time
nor the place to play that card again. Frozen men needed to be
removed from the angry storm.

“How in the name of Mother Nature did you men end up on
this mountain? Who led you so far, and left you here to die like
this?” Shaking her head, she fought the sting in her eyes.
Her intuition told her who would try something this cruel. It
could only be the trapper. Why would he lure men who fought for
their beliefs to a mountain in the winter when danger took over?
These innocent men had no coats or blankets to ward off the
dangers of the elements. With one glance, she knew their spirits
had abandoned the bodies. Lizzie returned the rifle to its sheath.
“A few months ago you would have made it out of here
alive.” She cringed against the cold.

Scarcely able to feel the soldiers, her fur wrapped fingers
grasped the first man and loaded him on the travois fashioned from
the bedroll. She pulled and tugged. Her thighs burned as she wove
in and out of the boulders.

A breath of disgust escaped her lips. “Why couldn’t you
have been that mangy trapper? If you were, I’d leave you here for
the wildlife to feast upon your rotten carcass. Even the wildlife
wouldn’t touch the venomous trapper for fear of their own deaths.”
After a short respite, she continued to fight the heaviness of
the man and the bitterness of the storm. Her strength seemed to
fade in the abyss of endurance. Without thinking, she set foot for
the other body and started the task all over again.

Cold reached to bite her skin despite the leggings and rabbit
lined moccasins. It would take forever to warm up if she ever
escaped the sharpness of the storm. Regardless of discomfort, she
would remove the bodies of these brave young men from the

Once off the mountain, and when the weather cleared, she
hoped to take them to town for a proper burial. It was the least she
could do for their family’s sake. Death didn’t mean much. Only the
souls moved on to greater plains.

Survivors would have to endure the brunt of the dreadful
blow. To face the loss of their loved ones was hard on Lizzie. Once
again, she reminded herself there were more important tasks than
throwing herself another pity party.

A rustle in the trees caught Lizzie’s attention. She caught a
glimpse of movement from the corner of her eye. With a steady
hand, she reached under the coat and drew a pistol. The mountain
lion she tracked could be lurking in the area. Gut instinct told her
that wasn’t the case. A hungry mountain lion wouldn’t be careless
unless it was extremely sick.

No, whatever this was, it seemed to be in search of a release.
It wasn’t hiding to save its own life and it wasn’t hunting for
something to kill.

Ever so cautious, Lizzie crouched through the brush. She
peered around a large tree trunk to find three horses tied to a rope
stretched between two trees. Fog rolled from between her lips as
she resumed breathing. “You horses nearly scared me to death.”
She gave each one a brush off to wipe away the snow
accumulated on their backs. Untying the ropes from the line, she
led the horses around the tree and boulders. Her primary concern
was to remove the men from the mountain. The horses followed
with a tug. She returned to the bodies, and rolled them onto the

With the task done, she placed one foot in the stirrup. An
eerie groan whirled her around. Pistol drawn, her head cocked to
listen for the frequent loud moans. Her hair stood on end.
Tightness in her chest strangled her breathing. Despite the shake in
her hand, she held fast to the butt of the pistol. She ducked behind
one of the boulders and waited for the next move.

A large boulder in front of her stood close to the ring of
dying embers. Something slipped around its face and she jumped
as the sight of a glazed-­‐‑eyed man slid around the boulder and fell
to the frozen earth.

Tiny needle pricks ran up her arm as she released the
hammer on the pistol. She slipped it into her pocket and took a
deep breath before she ran to the next victim of the deadly

Many times her mother had warned about coming to the
mountain in a blizzard. The complex domain could bring down
even the most experienced men, and she didn’t want to be the next
life claimed.

Pushing her mother’s words aside, she led the horse to the
man and reached for the frozen body. A heart-­‐‑stopping jolt
knocked her on her backside when the man’s hand shot up to grab
her. Her vision blurred as she glanced at his mouth. His blue lips
moved, but no words came out. Running to the horse, she grabbed
the fur wrapped canteen and gave him a sip of cold water.

“I’m gonna pull you to the travois and get you off this
mountain. If I don’t, you’ll end up like your friends there.” Lizzie
nodded to the dead bodies. Waves of guilt spread through her for a
second. Then, she set back to work.

A strange prickle spread over her at the discovery of two
and a half frozen men. No matter how many bodies were found,
the ghostly images always stuck in her mind. Visions seemed to
dance around longer than necessary just to torment her winter
wonderland. She loaded the man between his companions and
placed her rabbit skin scarf over his head and face.

She led the horses down the mountain trail. Glancing back to
the cold campsite, she mounted the horse hoping another body
didn’t appear. If one did, he had to have walked in since there
weren’t enough horses. A tug on the reins twirled the stallion
toward the warmth and safety of the log cabin. Her mind
concentrated on the men.

Their tattered, thin uniforms told the story of the hardships
they’d endured from the war. Times when they would pray things
would end, maybe praying for their own safety or life to end to
escape the horrid scenes surrounding them. With no more than
what they had with them, she wondered if every winter for the last
four years had been brutal.

She envisioned the men on their knees asking for mercy, to
be relieved from the hands of the enemy, or the nightmarish howls
of the wounded men that echoed through the air. No matter where
they were, the harshness would burn into their minds like the
brand on the hide of cattle.

How could she even think her life had been rough? Look at
the things these men had endured for four long years, and she
doubted they would complain about the life they had been dealt.
How could she have been so selfish to think she was the only
person on this earth who endured a pain so deep she never wanted
to return to society? She was happier living with the spirits on the

How had they come to be on the mountain? Unless the new
man survived, she would never know the answer to that question.
She only wished she had known they were there earlier. Maybe she
could have helped, or at least taken them to her cabin out of the
vicious winter storm.

A frigid wind whipped up the side of the mountain. Lizzie’s
eyes burned against the glitter of whiteness. Her lips threatened to
crack with each minute it took to escape the sleepy slope. One last
glance at the men rendered a need to coax the horses to move

“If the man wasn’t still alive, I would be wrapped in the
warm rabbit fur scarf placed over his face. He’s a lot colder than I
am, and closer to death.” Guilt swam around in her mind, twisting
and turning her torrential flood of emotions up a notch.

For the first time, she was burdened with the life of another
human. Fierce determination to save the man hit hard on her soul.

“This man could die if I don’t get him home before long.

Why is it taking so long to get off the mountain today, Oro?” The
well-­‐‑placed steps of the horses were detrimental in the outcome of
the journey downhill. She prayed to the spirits for guidance and
more strength to endure the wickedness of the deadly storm that
pierced like one of her grandfather’s long buffalo spears.

She raised her fingers to her face. The face she could no
longer feel from the bulkiness of the fur, and the stone weight on
her cheeks, nose, and lips. Her eyelids, heavy with accumulated ice,
burned with the fury of stickers pricking her eyeballs.
“Not much further now. Not much further.”

No comments:

Post a Comment