Authors: Marie Harte
TIP OF THE SPEAR
By Marie Harte
book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and plot points stem
from the writer’s imagination. They are fictitious and not to be interpreted as
real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locations or
organizations is entirely coincidental.
Tip of the Spear
Copyright © October 2012 by Marie
Cover by P and N Graphics
Rights Are Reserved. None of this book may be reproduced or used in any manner
without express written permission from the author, except in the case of brief
quotations used for reviews or promotion.
New Beginning, Year 1156 NB
swore under his breath as he watched his prospects for a fine meal and warm
woman fall under the boot heel of an aggressive shit-kicker. He hurried his
horse across the barren plain, praying he’d make it in time. Overhead, the sun
shone through wisps of white clouds in a lavender sky. Autumn gave his breath a
touch of frost with every nervous exhalation.
he saw made him swear. A tall, thin stranger kicked Hinto’s bounty in the knee,
forcing the little bastard to the ground. His bounty made the mistake of trying
to take the man down with him. Hinto swore again as the stranger’s knife plunged
through Bob’s jugular and cost him two hundred in gold.
gimme that knife. I saw it, it’s mine,” Lenny Apperson shouted, ignoring his
fallen comrade as he reached for the blade… and had his nose broken when the stranger
kicked him in the face.
impressive move, and a dumb one. Lenny’s brother, a meaner, larger version of
the rat-faced smaller man, caught the stranger from behind in a bear hug.
turn your back on the real threat
—a mantra Hinto had been raised repeating.
stranger didn’t struggle. As Hinto drew closer to the scene, he took in the details
he hadn’t seen before. Something didn’t add up.
Lenny the knife,” Benny Apperson ordered. Benny and Lenny. Two bumbling bank
robbers with a penchant for petty theft and the occasional murder. A real fun
pair Hinto looked forward to taking into his custody.
stranger nodded, his concealing black hat like a large raven against Benny’s
denim-clad chest. Dressed in denims from head to toe and wearing a leather
vest, a bandana, and a hat, the stranger looked like every other man in Little
Valley. Except Hinto hadn’t seen anyone move the way this guy did in years, not
since the circus had passed through Junction Way in Big Sky Territory up north.
squeezed and growled, “
give Lenny the knife.”
stranger held the knife out to Lenny, and Hinto noted the fine gold piping
around what looked like an ivory handle encrusted with gems. When Lenny moved forward
to grab it, the stranger twisted and sank the blade deep into Benny’s side
while kicking out at Lenny.
howled as Lenny went flying. The stranger raced to kneel over him, the tip of
his knife pressed against Lenny’s trembling throat.
of being ignored, Hinto fired once into the air.
brayed like a damn mule. “Thank God. Help me! This boy done killed Bob, stabbed
my brother, and tried to rob me. That’s my pa’s knife he’s holdin’!”
nudged his mount closer and pointed his rifle at the stranger, who didn’t so
much as twitch. “Sorry, mister. These two are mine. Take your knife, and your
horse,” he added, seeing the saddled beauty under a grove of nearby blood trees,
“and move along.” Prepared to fight to get his way, Hinto watched with wary surprise
as the lean man stood, sheathed his knife, and walked away without a word.
flew to Benny’s side. To Hinto’s relief, Benny’s wound didn’t appear life
threatening, because the giant idiot lumbered to his feet and started whining
to Lenny about every goddamned thing in the territory.
you two. Tie up and we’ll head out.”
turned to Hinto, as if seeing him for the first time, and swore. “Shit. Hinto
Dakota? I heard you was down south hunting Chatrell.”
Come on, Hinto. We ain’t doin’ nothing wrong, here. Fancy knife that boy’s got.
He don’t deserve it.”
Hinto studied the stranger now on his horse. He didn’t look right in the
saddle, though Hinto couldn’t have said why he thought such. The man, or boy, didn’t
react when the branches of a blood tree swayed toward him. Interesting, because
most men with sense would move away. The hungry trees sought the red stain of
Bob’s blood on his sleeve, and if they poked a few holes in the stranger
seeking more, they’d be sure to find a whole body full of the red stuff. Yet
the stranger rode away without looking back.
that quickly, he wasn’t Hinto’s problem anymore.
Lenny. You know the drill.” Hinto dismounted and tied the brothers up without a
fight. His reputation preceded him. Not necessarily a good thing, but in this
instance it helped. He fastened the brothers’ lead to his saddle. “Where are
You gonna feed them to that thing you ride?” Lenny sneered.
sighed. “Where are they? Quickly now, before I decide you’re not worth the
hassle to drag in alive and feed you to Beast.” Beast snorted with what sounded
like laughter. Hinto knew what most folks thought about carnivorous horses, or
vores, but he preferred a mount that could ride for days without food or water
and carry his weight with ease. So Beast liked to eat meat. That’s what the
dead were for.
he wouldn’t earn even a nugget for a corpse on this job, Hinto pulled Bob’s
carcass away from the others. “Go on, Beast. Get to it.”
vore huffed and pawed its appreciation, then made short work of Bob. Ignoring
Lenny and Benny’s horrified gasps, Hinto asked again. “Your horses? Or would
you rather I gave you to Beast for dessert?”
got none,” Benny answered in a hurry. “Lenny lost ‘em in a card game a few
nights ago. That’s why we’re lookin’ for some easy gold.”
up, Benny,” Lenny hissed.
shut up. I’m bleedin’ here. And I’m hungry,” Benny added in a sulky voice.
you what, fellas. I know the marshal in Little Valley. He’s got a right nice
jail cell with beds and meals included.” As well as chains and a lock to hold
these idiots until Mrs. Collins came in to claim her due. She’d hired Hinto,
and she’d find her justice for four hundred gold, easy.
Why didn’t you say so?” Lenny grew almost agreeable. “I thought you was takin’
us to Annie Collins. Bitch is crazy.”
with the need for vengeance. But who could blame her? Lenny and Benny had shot
her husband in cold blood for a pocketful of nuggets.
the three of them made their way to town, Hinto couldn’t help thinking about
his own father. Just like Annie’s husband, Dan Dakota had been shot for no good
reason. The bullet had passed through his chest, but he hadn’t been the same
since. Lung sickness settled in, and all the medicines in the Territories
couldn’t help him. Which left just one option.
picked up his pace, ignoring the swearing behind him as the Apperson brothers
were forced to run to keep up. Bounty hunting had become a lucrative career,
but it kept him away from home. The tougher bounties brought more gold, which
would buy him a better chance to cross the Divide into the East. Consulting
with several doctors led him to believe the rumors that some working lung machines,
and the doctors who could handle them, were his father’s only option. No one
Hinto had ever met could handle anything electronic. The few devices in
existence winked out after a minute in anyone’s hands. What choice did he have?
Go East and search, or lose his father forever.
his fists around the reins, Hinto forced himself to slow down. Dragging the
Appersons wouldn’t help. Annie wanted them unharmed. She intended to pay good
money to exert her own brand of justice. Hinto had envisioned time and time
again what he’d do to the bastards that had tried to steal his father’s spread
should he catch them. Annie wouldn’t be half as inventive as what he planned.
damn, son. Wait a spell,” Lenny rasped and tried to catch his breath.
looked behind him. Benny’s side bled through the rough bandage Lenny had fixed,
but the giant trudged along without a problem. In the distance, a few raptors
sailed above the clouds, heading south. The hint of ball lightning threatened
in the direction of the Divide, that damned land the sky rocks owned. The hell
of it was, a part of him wanted to head East, to feel the lightning dance along
his skin. Beast snorted, as if agreeing with the unspoken thought.
cleared his throat. “Come on, you two. We’re nearly there.” A few lengths of
shadow and they’d reach Little Valley.
his focus on the objective—to raise enough gold to save his father—Hinto used a
nice, easy gait to walk the brothers into town.
on a flat plain adjacent to a large, fresh lake, Little Valley had a large
populace and constant stream of visitors. At least five hundred townspeople had
settled down for the duration. The railroad that ran past the town only
enhanced its viability. Little Valley prospered, as did all who lived on its
wooden and brick buildings stood high against the sun. Three streets made up
the bulk of the town. On the main road, on which he traveled, sat the jail, an
apothecary, mercantile, smithy, bank, saloon and hotel. And at the end of the
road, a large church complete with a bell tower and stained glass windows
watched over the town. Second Street boasted shops for those more prosperous. Clothing
stores, tailors, bakeries and the like. Nothing necessary, just nice items to
have if one could afford them. Third Street, farthest away from the housing
district and the church, catered to his kind of man. Whorehouses, another bar,
and gambling dens accounted for the majority of sins one could find in Little
Valley. Still, the town had a wholesomeness to it Hinto welcomed. So different
from the places he normally frequented.
nodded and tipped his hat at several women. Another rarity Little Valley
amassed. In the centuries since the Great Storm, when the human population had
dwindled to just about nothing, the divide between men and women had grown. For
some odd reason, males dominated in the Territories. A good woman was hard to
come by, and a decent whore even more so. Abusing a woman was frowned upon. Of
course, “abuse” could be subjective. Going against the Nature Laws, however,
could get a man killed.
speaking of the Nature Laws… Hinto made sure to stop first at the United
Territorial Office. Every registered town had a UTO, and only a fool
disregarded the Territorials who kept the natural order of things. He
dismounted from Beast, hitched him to a post, and grabbed his rifle and papers.
To the Appersons, he said, “You two keep quiet and keep still. I’ll be out
right quick. Don’t fuck around,” he muttered in a low voice, conscious as not
to offend a pair of women who skirted Beast with wide eyes.
here, uh uh,” Lenny said, at least smart enough not to screw around near Territorials.
his tired ass up wooden steps and into the large building, Hinto couldn’t help
everything was. Plants and flowers spilled over wooden
buckets and flower boxes under cut-glass windows. The porch before the front
door had been swept free of dirt, and the breeze that flowed past him smelled
sweet and clean. The Territorials obviously took their jobs seriously. The last
“town” Hinto had visited smelled like piss, stale ale, and crude oil. It was
only a matter of time before the Territorials found it and razed the place to