Title: What Evil Men Wrought
Disclaimer: If I owned them, I would runaway with ‘em and never be seen again. CBS and Co. have the rights and don’t want to share. No profit has been made from having fun writing about them.
Notes: Story is based on a Native American legend.
All mistakes are mine alone
To Sonia, thank you for your encouragement. Your lines gave me a place to begin and your confidence in me kept me for quitting.
To Mary H., you placed my commas, took out my mistakes and gave me great feedback. Thank you for your beta work and your help.
Chris your words and collages inspired me.
Deirdre, I took your advice.
To the members of the groups for sharing your work and allowing me to share mine.
What Evil Men Wrought
Chapter 1: THE BEGINNING
*The young man’s head trashed on the pillow, smooth brow furrowed, bare chest glistening with perspiration, eyes frantically darting under the closed eyelids.
“See…” he mumbled in his sleep. “Seeahtkoh…”
His slightly parted lips let the name slip past them repeatedly. A name, that the young warrior wouldn’t remember upon wakening.
The forest was quiet, as he made his way silently among the trees, the late afternoon sun filtering through the leaves. He stopped as his keen eyes caught sight of something on the ground. He crouched down and reached out brushing his long fingers over the dirt. He frowned in thought. That print sure didn’t belong to any creature he knew of. A scream echoed through the plants and he shot to his feet, looking all around for its source.
Another bone-chilling cry. He spun around and saw it. A massive shape was lingering at the edge of the clearing. He could not see any of it except the huge dimensions. The figure was so dark, it seemed to be made of shadow. It stood there for a moment, then turned and disappeared through the thick plants.
He made to follow it, but to his horror, he found that he couldn’t move. Then the screaming came again, and this time it seemed there were thousands of voices crying out in pain, anger, and fear.
Voices that filled his chest, his ears, and filled the air. Unable to hang on any longer, he opened his jaws and added his own voice to the faceless cry.*
For the fourth night on end, Vin woke up screaming. Sitting upright, he took his face in shaking hands trying to get his breathing under control and to calm his racing heart.
“Lord!” What was that dream, that nightmare, that… He refused to think of the word vision. He had not had a vision in a long time, and he sure as hell was not dying to repeat the experience. Even though his head denied it, his heart knew better.
Still visibly shaken, the tracker shrugged into his shirt and coat and climbed out of his wagon, to walk restlessly through the silent streets in the pre-dawn’s light.
Usually in tune with the Spirits, this time there seemed to be something he was missing.
Whatever it was calling to him, he knew, it was important.
If he didn’t figure it out soon, the others would start to notice that his inner peace had deserted him, in exchange for a wild inner torment invoked by that soul-wrenching scream.
As he stared at the morning sun rising over the mountains, he knew that what he was seeking, he would not find here. It was time to leave.
His decision was made.
Tanner had no way of knowing that that decision would lead him on a path through hell, one he could not return from alone.
Chris was sitting in front of the jail as Tanner rode in from morning patrol. He watched as Vin dismounted and took his usual stance, leaning next to him. When he locked eyes with the Texan, he knew what was coming.
“Things are quiet out there, thought I’d head out for a few days.”
Chris only nodded, he had been expecting this. Something was eatin’ at Vin and damned if he knew what. It was something that had the tracker withdrawing even from him.
“Want some company?”
“Nah, need some time to myself, thought I’d leave today, and before you say it, I know that look cowboy,’ m fine, jist need some space alone. Be gone two maybe three days, you won’t even have time to miss me.”
As Vin straightened to leave, he waited to hear those three words he knew were coming.
“Watch your back.”
He smiled as he led Peso to the livery
Chris was worried. Hell, lately worrying about that ornery Texan was a full-time job. He had better be back by Friday and be his usual pain-in the ass self. Or else! Vin just needed a few days alone to sort out what was troubling him. Chris was confident it was nothing earth shattering.
Chris was wrong.
As the Texan walked into the livery to retrieve the packs he had prepared earlier, a cold chill assaulted him and he started to shiver. Seeing J.D. coming from the back stall, he tried to hide his discomfort by tending to Peso.
Noticing the packs, J.D.’s curiosity went into action. “Taking a trip Vin?”
“Free time…great! Maybe I can go and you can teach me more about tracking.”
“Not this time, kid.”
Disappointed, he moved toward the door, turned to say “Sure Vin, maybe next time,” but something didn’t feel right. Vin always took time to talk to him and hardly ever called him kid, knowing he hated being treated like one.
As he left, J.D. had a bad feeling. He had walked about halfway down the street before deciding to go back and find out what was wrong.
*In the livery, Vin was on his knees. Lightning was flashing in his head and a soul-twisting bellow of rage roared in his ears. Time cease to exist and he could not move. He could see the figure of something or someone in the shadows and felt an overwhelming sadness engulf him. A violent tremor shot through his body and then it was over.*
Shaking he reached for the stirrup to pull himself up. Damn it, not now, not here...I...Aww, hell, his head hurt.
He recovered his footing and tried to right himself against Peso. As he did, J.D. came back through the door, seeing Vin pale and unsteady, he raced to the trackers side.
“Vin! What happened? I heard you yelling from outside.”
After a few moments of hesitation, the Texan said the first thing that came to mind.
“YOU fell! YOU! Vin, YOU don’t just fall. You’re more sure-footed than a mountain goat!
Are you hurt? Sick? Should I get Nathan? You need Chris?
Are you bleeding? You break anything?”
J.D.’s rambling gave him enough time to somewhat gain control.
“J.D.! J.D.! Stop it, ’m fine. Listen to me, ’m fine, ‘kay?”
“No buts, I said I was okay and I am! I jist let that ornery mule push me too close to the wall and I fell.”
Peso gave him a hard look that said, “You’ll be sorry you blamed me.”
“If you’re sure, I guess… it’s just you were yelling like you were in pain and when I saw you I thought … I was scared, Vin.”
I’m glad it wasn’t more than a run-in with Peso. Are you sure, you should be riding?
He received a blue-eyed glare as an answer.
“Geeze, I was just asking.”
They walked out together. As Vin mounted up, he turned to J.D. and, softening his words, said, “Thanks for bein’ concerned, J.D., when I get back we’ll work on those tracking lessons.”
As the tracker rode off, his head still throbbing, he wondered why he didn’t recall yelling. What else did he not remember?
As J.D. watched Vin leave he forgot to ask him what “Seeahtkoh” meant.
After Vin was out of sight, J.D. turned and headed for the saloon. Just as he started to enter Chris almost ran him over.
“Chris, you ok?”
“What, yeah I’m fine.”
“You sure? You don’t look so good.”
“Said I was, didn’t I!”
“It’s just, well you look kinda sick.”
A low growl was all he heard in return.
Vin knew he was in trouble. That attack in the livery came on too quickly and in broad daylight! * “Just what the hell was going on?”
He knew he had to find out and fast. Instinct told him to head northwest, so he left the main trail and headed out.
Peso was as peeved as his rider. Vin would have to make peace with the stubborn horse soon or this would be a very uncomfortable trip. The tracker set a brisk pace and kept moving.
As evening fell, he reluctantly found a place to camp. As soon as his feet hit the ground, he turned to remove the saddle and soothe Peso’s bruised ego. As he brushed him down, he started to speak softly.
“I know you are a little unhappy with me right now." Peso snorted.
“OK, a lot unhappy! Ya got to understand, ‘m not sure about what is going on, but I do know it’s gonna get worse before it gets better. And you and me, that’s all we got, so we need each other.” The Texan explained.
“How about it?”
Peso started to nuzzle Vin’s shoulder to let him know he was forgiven, for now.
After he ate, Vin decided that even though he did not want to sleep, he needed to. As sleep drew him in, he felt the air turn colder.
*The forest was still. Not one sound could be heard, as he silently advanced, then he saw it. A huge figure crouched by a clump of trees. Covered by dense, dark brown hair, yet as a long arm reached to uproot a bush, muscles could be seen below the hairy coat. Shots rang out quickly, followed by shouting and a scream that surely was born in hell. Men stumbled through the forest to retrieve their horses and the scream continued consuming the entire area. All the pain, anger, and fear in the world combined, to form the rage released in that one sound.*
Vin shot up from his bedroll, his heart was racing, hands shaking, with a terror that reached to his soul. Unable to stand, he sat until his breathing was under control and the shaking ceased. His mind was trying to unravel what he had “seen.”
The Texan had learned while he lived with the Indians, many things.
They taught him to track and hunt any prey. He also learned how listening to the Spirits that live in all things gave you knowledge and to respect the power they held. Observing the world around him, taught the young warrior how to move in harmony with all things. He gained knowledge not found in books, but in the lessons of survival. What they were before was revealed through the Elders and their stories of Spirits, great warriors, and legendary visions
Yes he had visions, too.
One, when he was fifteen or sixteen years old, showed him the heartbreaking slaughter of his Indian family at the hands of the horse soldiers. That one reared its ugly head in nightmares, sometimes.
Later, alone for many years, he had a vision of two eagles coming together side by side. A few weeks later, he met Chris and found a brother, alone no longer.
Now…realization of what the young man saw was taking hold …”Seeahtkoh”…he knew of the legend of course, most tribes did. It was something he hoped, no believed, he would never see.
*What had they done?*
As the young warrior sat in the darkness, he could not stop the tears than silently slid down his face.
When the sun began to peek over the horizon, Vin was ready to move on, then without warning, he felt eyes watching him, as he turned the tracker realized he was not alone.
Not ten feet away stood two braves and they did not look pleased.
One brave stepped forward and said, “He comes.”
Vin only nodded. Beyond the two braves, he counted at least eight more warriors. He cursed himself for letting them sneak up on him.
The brave started speaking again, the tracker understood every word.
Three day past the Shaman shared with them his vision about the “Evil One”. One of the Seeahtkoh tribe, it often stood over seven feet, having a hairy body like the bear, but it was not an animal. It stood on two feet, with the ability to grasp with hands, like a human, but it was not a human. It could kill, as easily as to breathe, and supposedly possessed the magical ability to simply vanish at will. It also was said, to have some type of power to hypnotize its prey. It was very intelligent and thought harmless if left alone.
However, once many generations ago, one was killed by another tribe, in return the “Evil One” had turned loose a reign of terror and destruction on the land. Animals were slaughtered and Indian women and children disappeared never to be seen again. Entire branches of the killer’s tribe were killed save one, left only to deliver a message.
Leave us alone!
After that, the Indians respected the territory of the Seeahtkoh and would do nothing to anger the Spirit of the “Evil One.” Now man has injured one and once again, he was coming to extract his revenge. He will not stop until it is done.
The “Evil One” was coming!
The hunting party had been sent out to find this creature, hopefully to stop it before it was too late.
“We told to find you. You come.”
Vin realized they fully expected him to join their hunt, but his gut told him to track alone.
Yes, he was afraid, only a fool is without fear, in the face of danger. Long ago, he learned there was no shame in admitting this emotion. Fear sharpens your senses and increases adrenaline. Controlled fear makes a man more alert and cautious.
He knew what he had to do.
“No, I go alone”
For a moment, he saw in the warrior’s eyes a flash of anger, then surprise, just as quickly it was replaced with acceptance.
The warrior nodded, turned, and walked away.
For now at least, Vin knew he was right to go on alone. He had left the warriors about two hours past, when Peso began to balk at continuing in this direction.
Cautiously, the tracker slid to the ground looking for any sign that might tell him why.
Leading his reluctant horse, he found what he was looking for quickly. Scattered animal skins were everywhere. Signs, of a recent assault, were evident. Ahead of him was a small ravine, with the recent rains a few inches of water still ran through it.
At the bottom, there was what appeared to be a dead animal. Scattered around were some very strange tracks, none like he had seen before.
Leaving Peso securely tied, he headed down the side for a closer look. There in the shallow water were the remains of not an animal, but a man. The only recognizable part was the torso torn and bloody.Vin had the feeling he had just step one foot into hell.
*The chill came first and then he saw it. The trapper was ripped off his horse by one hairy arm, his neck snapped like a twig. The creature then wrenched the right arm from it socket and threw it into the trees, the left arm followed it. His head was torn from his body and splattered into the nearest boulder, the legs twisted off and propelled into the air like spears. The creature stood erect and measured more than eight feet from the ground. With a spine-chilling bellow of rage, he lifted the torso and threw it into the ravine. Then it disappeared. *
It took the tracker over two hours to retrieve the scattered body parts and attempt to bury what he found. When he finished his strength was spent and his stomach rebelling.
*Why in the hell did he have “watch” the devastation this vile creature fed on?*
All he wanted to do was rest, but not here! The weary Texan made his way back to Peso and moved on, several miles down the trail he found the dead man’s horse…his neck had been broken.
Peso needed no encouragement to get them both the hell out of there.
By nightfall, Vin was ready to drop just about anywhere. He found a clearing near a stream and made camp, he considered eating, but his stomach rolled at just the
Peso was still on edge, so he put him closer in than normal. After what he had experienced today, real sleep was not an option. With his back against a tree, he tried
to get comfortable, to at least rest his body.
Trying to understand what he had “seen,” it looked as if he was getting more questions than answers and he was getting damn tired of it!
His thoughts turned to home. No way would he want the others at risk out here.
But what he wouldn’t give to be there just for a few minutes. As he dozed into a light sleep, one though rose above the others.
*What would Chris say when he wasn’t back in three days?*
Many miles away Chris was having a restless night. Concern over Vin, made sleephard to come by. When he did, shadow images danced in his head . Large animals chased the gunslinger in his nightmares. The missing Texan was on his mind constantly.
Larabee was feeling things he did not understand and had more questions than answers.
*Dammit Vin, what did you get yourself into?*
Neither Vin nor Peso had a restful night, but thankfully, it was almost over. The sun was still an hour away, when they were moving again. Nearing a small settlement, he started to encounter a few people. Usually he steered clear of any civilization, but today he had a need to see people and seek some answers.
Riding down the main street, he spotted the livery and went straight to it. Peso deserved some grain and a good rub down.
As he approached, the blacksmith met him at the entrance.
“Afternoon, what can I do for you?”
“Be here a couple of hours and wanted to grain my horse.”
“I’ll take him for you.”
“No offence, I’ll do it, he can be a bit ornery.”
“Same charge either way.”
Soon Peso was settled and the Texan was on his way to the saloon. Taking a place at the end of the bar so he could observe the entire room, he ordered a beer. Vin found listening got more information than asking.
There was a lot of conversation in the room, but it all seemed to be about the same thing. Seems there has been a rash of missing animals and torn down fences lately. People were starting to worry about the strange things going on. Bits of discussion started to get louder.
“I heard the Wilson’s lost three head of cattle and two pigs.”
“The Johnson’s woke up and found a horse missin’ and a big hole busted through the back of their barn.”
“Something’s got all the animals spooked around here.”
Fear could be heard in some of the voices, fear of the unknown. Vin had heard enough, he downed the last of his beer, and started to leave, just as a man ran shouting into the saloon.
‘Did ya hear? Clint Rollin just came into town, his oldest kid is missin!”
Vin felt needles of ice travel down his spine, it wasn’t coming, it was already here!
Vin started to think about the last few days, the nightmares, the torment, the warriors words came back to him…women and children disappear… animals slaughtered…revenge.
Then for the first time in days, the confusion in his mind was lifting. Vin “saw” clearly, what the Spirits were revealing to him. The time for questioning why had passed. Now he knew only one path lay before him and with a stubborn resolve, Tanner was ready to hunt.
The Tracker was back on the trail within the hour, searching for any sign that would led him to his prey. His only intention now was to chase the thing down and send it straight back to hell.
The tracks were getting easier to follow, before they had been damn hard to find, now they were in plain sight.
Tanner was getting an uneasy feeling about this.It was almost as if the thing wanted him to get closer.
It was getting late and soon he would be forced to stop. With no moon, even the tracker couldn’t keep on in the dark. He recalled a cave, not to far from here. If he could get there soon enough, it would be the best place to hold up. The Texan urged Peso to move a little faster.
The sun was just about gone by the time he got there.
Quickly, he gathered some wood and started a fire. The cave had only one way in and was big enough to include Peso. Vin made sure he had enough wood to keep the fire going all-night. He was still ill at ease about the latest turn of events.
He was sure Peso would alert him if anything were out there, so after he ate, Tanner settled in to get some much needed sleep.
*Morning was still hours away, when the assault started with an angry roar, boulders the size of horse’s heads were being propelled through the trees, the Seeahtkoh was on a rampage! Screams of pain and terror combined, were heard far and wide. The men stood to face their attacker, but would not defend themselves, for some reason. One by one they fell. The stench of death hung in the air. Vin saw it all, from start the finish.*
Tanner bolted awake and forced himself into action. Quickly he broke camp, saddled Peso and led him out into the night. He knew about where they were camped and if he hurried, he could make it by dawn. The Texan hoped he still had time to deliver a warning before disaster struck.
The Tracker made good time and reached his destination, just as dawn was breaking. Aiming to make his presence known, quietly, he dismounted and walked toward the camp.
What he saw took his breath away and almost brought him to is knees.
Before him were the results of a rage born of the devil, pieces of bodies lay everywhere, bones exposed, heads missing, limbs torn away. The ground was painted red from their blood. The horses that could not escape lay in death among them. Nothing had been spared the swipe of spiteful devastation.
*How could one creature do this against ten brave warriors*
* *How could one Texas Tracker stop it?*
Chris sat at the corner table alone. Black did not begin to describe his mood today, even Buck was keeping his distance.
The last few days had been hell for the gunslinger, lack of sleep, headaches, and an overall feeling of sadness and fear had plagued him for days. Tanner had been gone four of those days, a gut feeling told him he was not yet on his way home. Added together, well things were bound to explode sooner rather than later.
Across the saloon sat the other peacekeepers, unusually quiet. The last few days had been hard on them too. Hell, anytime Chris was like this, they paid for it. This time was worse than any they could remember.
“Nathan, has Chris said anything about being sick?”
“Josiah, I tried three times to check on him and the last time he threatened to lock me up, if I came near him again.”
J.D. laughed “At least he didn’t growl at you.”
“Growl, J.D, I’ve known Chris a long time and growling is easy to deal with, at least he didn’t take a shot at you,” Buck joined in.
“Buck! All I did was ask him if he was ok and he growled at me. You gotta talk to him.”
“Hell no! Do I look crazy to you?” Buck snapped.
“Gentlemen, this is getting us nowhere. May I inquire if any of you are knowledgeable about the actives of our resident tracker?” query Ezra
“If your asking if we know where he is no,” Nathan answered for all of them.
“It has been my observation that our leader has been particularly preoccupied since our Mr. Tanner departed. Perhaps all is not well, are any of you privileged to the reason for his leave taking?” The gambler persevered.
“Hell Ez, you know Vin, he don’t need a reason to get away from town, any reason will do,” Buck counted.
“Brother Vin needs time alone sometimes to reflect,” Josiah threw in.
“Sometimes when Vin‘s feeling poorly he takes off and holds up somewhere to heal, thinks I don’t know it,” Nathan added.
Listening to everyone discuss why Vin left had JD deep in thought, about that day in the livery. Wondering now, if he should have pushed for more answers.
Suddenly the doors to the saloon burst open allowing three men to enter. They were rough looking, dirty, smelly and huge.
Trappers, usually that meant trouble. However, they seemed to be arguing with each other. Something about missing the shot of a lifetime, losing a prize pelt that would have netted a large price. The more they drank, the louder they got.
“I telling you we kilt it and shouda gone back” Dirty yelled.
“I’m telling YOU it wern’t dead and no way I was going back. Didn’t you hear it? Sounded like the wailin’ of damned souls callin’ ‘outta hell. I never want to hear anythang like that ever again,” Smelly was yelling now.
Dirty fired back “It twas jist a big bear, you afeared of a big bear?”
“Big bear, my ass! That wern’t no bear! It was the devil, that’s what it was and it ain’t dead!” Smelly thought he had the last word.
Huge decided not, “You two idiots have any idea what people would pay to see something like that! That wern’t no bear it was something like we ain’t never seen and now, thanks to you two, it’ll jist go off and die someplace.”
The sound of a bottle shattering got everyone’s attention. A black thundercloud, named Chris Larabee, descended on the trio.
Grabbing Smelly by the throat, he growled at the others, “Shut up! “
Larabee continued “Are you saying, you shot an animal that size and didn’t kill it? Do you have any idea what a wounded animal is capable of doing before it dies?”
Dirty got brave and started after the thundercloud…Big mistake...before he made one move, he found a gun in his face.
Huge thought about helping his idiot friends, but five guns pointed in his direction changed his mind fast.
“I asked you a question,” The thundercloud spoke.
Smelly attempted to answer, but the hand around his throat made it difficult.
Dirty decided to answer for him, “The thang was dead, no call to git all upset over it.”
Chris released his hold on Smelly and asks him. “How did it make noise if it was dead?’
Smelly never hesitated in his answer, “It wern’t dead and it screamed louder than anything I ever heard.”
Dirty started to argue, but one glare from Chris and he decided not to.
Pushing Smelly in a chair, Chris ordered him to start at the beginning and tell the whole story… he did.
Four of them had set out to hunt and trap. Things had been going well and they were feeling good. Then about a week ago, northwest of here, they had found a strange footprint. Track like that belonged to something really big. It was nothing like any of them had seen before. Judging from the size and depth of it, the animal had to be at least seven hundred pounds. If it had not been for the width and the space between the toes, they would have sworn it was human.
Then they split up and tried to find it, After a while, Dirty and Smelly got really close and then they saw it crouched down, near some thick brush.
“We were gonna catch it and then it turned and stood up. That thang were almost seven foot tall! Well, forgit catchin it, we jist started shootin.” He took a deep breath and continued.
“Then that thang let loosen a scream so loud it made my ears hurt, sounded like it was a coming right outta hell. Wern’t no way I was stayin’ there, we ran til we catched our horses and rode like hell outta there.” Just talking about it had him shaking.
“Three of us kept ridin’…our other partner went back to git it. Ain’t seen ‘em since. “ After that, they had been arguing about their actions non-stop.
When the trapper was finished, Chris told J.D. to lock up all three. J.D. wisely did so, without question.
Chris pushed the doors open and walked outside.
Staring into the distance, he had but one thought.
Somewhere, out there, was a wounded devil of a creature and his overdue brother. He “knew” Vin was in trouble.”
*“Where are you, brother?*