ON HIS OWN

winter trail

The characters tell the story, with a little help. And the story changes with each addition to the cast. I seem to write from a broad outline. With my historical novel, CAPTAIN’S CROSS, the research helped shape the fiction around the real history. But then faces and personalities enter and make changes to the direction the fiction is going. A minor character added to highlight strengths and weaknesses of the “main” ones grew into a crucial pivot to the twists and turns of the story.

Thomas takes the reader along for his journey from shivering victim to entry into a much too early manhood. Fourteen and alone in the wilderness, he must summon up everything he has inside to survive. From my recently released historical novel, CAPTAIN’S CROSS:

Thomas was several hundred yards up into the forest when the sound of the distant guns reached him. He turned and ran as fast as his strong legs could propel him down over the wet, slippery ground. He slid on his bottom several times but reached the yellow horse and snatched up the reins. Not taking the time to saddle, he surprised himself by leaping up onto the bare back of the horse, holding on to the mane. He swung the gelding around and started back down the trail toward the trouble.

“Thomas is out there,” Ben said to Bear, “Can you ride?”

“Lead on, Captain, and I will follow,” Ben pulled hard and the arrow resisted but lost to Ben’s strength. Bear growled as the point moved back out, cutting through more flesh. Ben turned and dropped the bloody arrow, reaching into the stream for mud. Bear took off his coat, looking at the hole in the back as he did. Ben grabbed a dripping handful and packed it up under Bear’s buckskins against the wound.

“That will have to do for now,” said Ben. They both mounted and urged the horses to the trail rising up and over the next mountain.

Thomas almost fell from the horse as he dodged trees and descended. He grabbed the horse’s mane as the gelding leaped over a small stream filled with runoff from the rain. As he settled back into the horse’s movement, he saw the Indians trotting toward him only yards away.

The Indian at the rear fell and shouted out. Thomas was pulling up the horse and saw Draco appear on top of the Indian, working his powerful teeth on the head and neck of the warrior. The lead Indian cocked and fired his musket at Thomas from his hip and the ball clipped the left rein from Thomas’ hand, passing through without striking flesh. The second Indian tried to slow to a walk and raise his musket but Thomas was faster and shot the second Indian in his face.

The lead Indian was now at the side of Thomas and grabbed him, pulling him off the horse, sending Thomas crashing hard to the ground. Thomas lost the grip on his rifle and was stunned by the fall. But he knew this was life or death. Looking up into the face of the Delaware, his hand was already grasping for the pistol at his belt. The Indian came down with a knife at Thomas’ face and Thomas caught the Indian’s wrist with his left hand. The young warrior was stronger and choking Thomas with the other hand, but Thomas was able to hold the knife suspended in the air for just a moment as his right hand found the hilt of his short sword instead of the pistol. The strength in the Indian’s arms faded as Thomas twisted the sword that he had sunk deep into the side of the attacker. The Indian was heaved off and Thomas rolled out to find Draco watching him from over the body of the Indian he had killed. Switching the sword to his left while pulling the pistol with his right hand, Thomas tried to suck in air and stop his hands from trembling so.

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