a tree born crooked will never grow straight

POSTED: Tue May 14, 2019 12:00 pm

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Thankfully, Arlo hadn't come to dog their heels - infection of his wounds would set in soon enough. Solomon was unperturbed by this - the boy was a mess, unorganized, reckless; and as if to follow the thought his eyes trailed, slow, over to Pippin, riding alongside, Arlo's rose dapple steed meandering along after them. After a moment, his eyes shifted to his own horse's ears.

Trying to track these miscreants was proving to be an undertaking all its own - too many of them littered the area as current, trails crisscrossed this way and that - like a hive of rats, Solomon wondered if it would've been just as satisfying to set fire to the nest. Wynona's ears pricked a little, before the horse merely sneezed, and mouthed at her bit.

The aging wolf sighed slow at the gesture, and looked to the ground again to the hoof prints - mud was starting to dry, and it wouldn't be easy to follow them for long.

"Anyone see anythin', yet?" he muttered down the line, his voice a patient drone. Pippin hummed his negative answer, and drew his dark lips up to a line, nose twitching alongside his whiskers, before he paused, and pulled the bay gelding he was riding to a stop.

"Wait, I think I see somethin'," he answered abruptly, pointing to a fresher trail of prints, and the young man raised his head, taking in the air. "I smell whiskey."

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POSTED: Wed May 15, 2019 5:49 pm

Guerilla warfare was a necessity in Zion, when the coyotes banded together with unnatural conviction and boasted greater numbers. Harassing and scattering campsites, ambushing small groups—Dolores was familiar with these tactics.

She was less familiar with hunting down vermin like this. By all accounts, it ought to have been a simple task, but the coyotes' paths wandered and they hadn't a defined home. She kept an eye out for individuals they could shoot and bring back, but there was no such luck. At least Arlo was no longer a liability.

Red's head bobbed as he kept up the pace, with Kidd at his heels. Belladonna sat straight as an arrow on her back, an intent expression fixed on her pretty face. Dolores glanced at her from time to time, but she kept her ears trained on Solomon. Their hunting party had found some of the scavengers' tracks this time, and the stink of drunken coyotes that clung to Kidd's hide confirmed that they were in the area.

"No sir," Dolores answered when the patriarch called back, her blue-green eyes scanning the brush. But then Pippin piped up, and both she and Donnie's gazes shot forward to the trail through the muck. "On it," woofed Dolores, nudging heels into Red's flanks. He cantered forward with Donnie's grey horse close behind.

Even in motion, Donnie was able to nock an arrow. She pulled the bowstring back effortlessly, and pointed at a pair of tall ears in the bush.

A thrill went through Dolores' chest, and she bared her teeth. "Found 'im!"

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POSTED: Wed May 15, 2019 6:25 pm

--

A flash of gold amidst the drab of cloth - a wide brimmed hat, they vanished quick in the flash of Solomon's deep amber eyes, and hands pulled taut on Wynona's reigns to wheel her around. Dolores and Belladonna were already on it, a flash of gray and whites and red through the brush. Not one to be outshone, Pippin streaked after them, barking out quick order to Friday and sharply digging his heels into the young stallion's ribs. Head rearing back and wild-eyed, the dark bay took off after quarry.

In fully capable hands, Solomon himself took a slower approach, unhurried, especially after Dolores's rough voice broke the quiet.

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The gold coyote was trying to pull himself into his liver chestnut mare's saddle when the wolves circled in, and he could hear nothing but the thunder of rushing blood in his ears.

"C'mon, Bruni," he grunted quick to his steed, halfway into that saddle before the air left him quick before he could even hear the thunk of the arrowhead into his back.

Bruni startled, and screamed out her alarm, shying her hooves out from under her before she threw him unceremoniously into the earth and wheeled, steered back into a circle by a trio of riders.

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POSTED: Wed May 15, 2019 7:08 pm

Donnie loosed her arrow.

The shaft buried itself into the coyote's back, and he was tossed from the saddle by the screaming chestnut mare, landing in the dust with a breathy sound.

Dolores urged Red first, and the gelding weaved from side to side to keep the mare pinned in, his movements confident and instinctive—although this was nothing that Dolores had taught him. He made soft sounds and pricked his ears toward the other horse in an almost kindly way, seemingly shushing her.

Belladonna already had another arrow aimed at the vermin, her lips curled back in a vindictive smile. "Well, well, well," she drawled. "Made it easy fer us, didn't ya?" She lifted her head and tossed her bangs out of her face, smiling as she spotted her father steadily riding toward them. "What d'ya think, Daddy? Think he c'n tell us where th' other scavengers 're holed up?"

Dolores' pulse raced in her neck, and she stared down at the coyote, almost marveling at the way he was sprawled in the grass. She never would have dreamed of having one at her mercy back in Zion; it was a wonder how much she'd grown since traveling with James' posse, how much they'd offered her in exchange for the loyalty Boreas had taken for granted. The Kasper girl flexed her fingers in the leather reins, the saddle creaking as she leaned tall to keep an eye on him.

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POSTED: Wed May 15, 2019 7:41 pm

--

Solomon rode up, weight shifting in his saddle as he looked to the man, trembling and wheezing on the ground as he reigned back his breath.

Perhaps man was too generous a word. Worm suited him much better.

The mare was uneasy, nostrils flared and hooves shuffling near the downed coyote rider, the whites of her eyes bared.

"Pippin, my boy, if you'd get a hold of his horse," Solomon stated, calm, and the dark wolf dismounted to gingerly scoop up her reigns, if anything just to hold the beast steady.

"I ain't gonna tell you folks nothin'," the coyote finally managed, pushing up slowly onto his hands and knees. At the show of insolence, Solomon's heavy brows raised, before he slipped out of his own saddle, clearing his throat some as he made his way over, and slowly moved to stoop to a knee before the coyote at their mercy.

"That's quite alright, boy," Solomon started, before wetting his lips. "Whatchyer name?"

The gold coyote looked up, slowly, his eyes a vicious shade of sunshine, and just as blistering before he glimpsed up to the drawn bow. "The Reverend."

Solomon had to resist the urge to scoff openly. "Dolores, would you mind helpin' him into some restraints? I think we can make 'im talk yet."

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