The Lady in the Mist, The Western Werewolf Legend

October 14, 2012

October 14, 2012

What do you do when you discover you’re a werewolf in love?  Most of us don’t have to consider that question, but it happened to Sonja Brooks many years ago in a small town in Pennsylvania.  The year was 1863 and the Civil War was raging all over the land.

In a rural area near the Virginia border, Sonja lived on a small farm.  She wasn’t afraid to live by herself since the death of her husband.  He’d been killed early in the war.  No, Sonja worked the farm they’d started together and chores kept her too busy to worry over being alone.  That was until the day she met the stranger trespassing on her land.  That one encounter proved very costly for Sonja.

She’d always been a realistic woman so when she awoke and found out she’d been attacked and turned into a werewolf, she thought it someone’s idea of a cruel joke.  Her ideas of reality verses fantasy take a drastic change with the discovery of a Rebel soldier dying of his wounds.

Here’s an excerpt from The Lady in the Mist, The Western Werewolf Legend.  Sometimes love can be a dangerous thing.

Cannons erupted in the distance.  Lieutenant Tyler Loflin opened his eyes and glanced around once more.  A smoky haze drifted over everything like a fog in a dream.  Vaguely he remembered where he lay.  He’d fallen amid the murky water of a southern Pennsylvania swamp.  The dampness seeped into his bones, numbing them but not the pain.  Ty remained motionless, though the heat radiating from the burning wagons loaded with supplies resembled hell’s own.  His efforts to remain conscious wavered.  Fighting the encroaching darkness, Ty finally succumbed to the pain of his wounds again.

Behind his closed lids stood the old, rambling whitewashed house of his home, Shooter Creek.  The gentle hills’ quiet peace beckoned to him.  Returning in his mind to the pastures where his horses roamed untouched by the cruelty of war, Ty moaned as the pain in his leg reminded him the scene lived only in his head.  Using the back of his faded, gray uniform sleeve, he wiped at the sweat on his forehead.

Those days seemed to be from someone else’s life now.  There, in his mind’s eye stood the family he’d left behind his brother, John, standing ramrod straight on the steps of the family’s home.  Ty resembled John in many ways.  His brother’s fierce determination and code of honor anchored Ty these days while his own happy-go-lucky nature remained buried, all but forgotten in the throes of war.

Then, Cloe, the half-breed Comanche and John’s wife, stood stoically on their front porch.  Her deep green eyes didn’t miss a thing.  She held John’s heart in the palm of her lovely hand.  In her arms, she cradled their newest baby, Billie.  Laura Loflin, John’s mother, would’ve said the baby favored her grandmother.  Ty agreed.

A strapping, dark-haired boy of five stood beside Cloe.  His name was James, after John and Ty’s father.  Ty would admit the boy played havoc with Ty’s affections.  The twins, Sara and Mattie, played happily on their palette while Maggie McVey, the family’s housekeeper turned adopted matriarch, took care of them with pride. She’d been a fixture at the ranch as long as Ty could remember.  Since the death of his mother, Running Deer, she’d been his rock in the storm.

The picture of them seemed so real. Ty couldn’t help reaching up to grasping at the thin wisps of haze as the fog floated over him.  He hated to cause them so much pain.  Damn the Yankee bastards to hell and back.  If he could get up, he’d shoot every one of the blood thirsty bastards in the heart for what they’d done!  Another cannon erupted.  This time the explosion sounded closer.  Ty licked his parched lips and wiped the fever’s perspiration from his temple.  Only vaguely annoyed now, he errantly blinked at the picture of his family.  He would miss them so much.

Visualizing them on those steps, Ty focused on his family instead of the melee around him.  He remembered how much he had enjoyed getting under John’s skin about wasting no time in increasing the family linage immediately following his marriage to the eastern educated, half-breed with the sparkling green eyes.  He smiled.  One day, he’d like to increase his own linage.

The late evening sky lit up once more with the explosion of yet another cannon ball.

Ty blinked before coming back from inside his head.  He gritted his teeth as pain radiated down his leg.  He cut his gaze around at the destruction.  After the initial attack, he and his men had taken cover in the swamp.  With the addition of the smoke, which hung thick and unyielding, the land resembled the marshes back in Louisiana instead of the hollows of Pennsylvania.

Refusing to acknowledge the blood mixed with the muddy water could be his own, Ty chose instead to focus on the circumstances around him.  The desire to sleep tempted him.  He struggled against the strong pull of unconsciousness.  Vigilance remained imperative.  Confederate Major General Jeb Stewart, his commander, expected nothing less.

Have to stay alert!  Ty bore down hard on the encroaching dizziness. His peripheral vision started to close in.

“Must stay awake,” he whispered to the dead men scattered like broken toy soldiers all around him.  Have to report to headquarters, he reminded himself as his eyes closed of their own volition.

Guns discharged.  Men screamed.  The battle had been more of a massacre than a conflict.  Ty was lucky to be alive.  Able to recall few of the details of the ambush, Ty’s head lolled to one side.  Explosion after explosion erupted before the pain brought him back to the present.

His mission had been top-secret.  His cavalry unit was given orders to report to Major Jeb Stewart with their supplies destined for the vast wasteland simply known as “The Wilderness”.  His unit had traveled within twelve miles of Richmond before the Yankees attacked them in the foothills surrounding Spotsylvania.  Retreating to the cover of a nearby bog, the Rebels hunkered down.  The Yankees continued their assault.  At first, hope of reinforcements had bolstered the men’s courage.  But the long hours of waiting for help, which never arrived, proved most disheartening.  Darkness fell.  The burning of the wagons had been the final blow.  His men didn’t have a chance of escape.  Most died where they’d fought so bravely.  The rapid fire of the Yankees’ repeating rifles sang overhead.  Fierce, uncontrollable flames broke out almost immediately as his men tried frantically to reverse the wagons loaded with ammunitions to a safer distance.

Then came the explosions.

Desperately, Ty tried to backtrack in order to protect as much of his supply loads as possible before they fell into enemy hands.  Few of the wagons or Ty’s men survived as the sharpshooters picked off the Rebel soldiers like ducks on a pond.

While wagons blazed, shouts of warning rolled over him.  Ty’s men fled past his position and directly into the path of more snipers’ fire.  In the commotion, his commands to “hold their positions” had been mute.  He would never forget the pitying, erratic dance of his men, their bodies already dead before they met the ground.

In the dregs of unconscious, he relived the fighting again.  Sniper fire sounded overhead, Ty’s flight or fight instinct jerked him to attention, his pistol waving wildly about.  The effort proved to be too much for him and he fell back into the water.

Wiping his eyes, Ty glanced around amid the mangled bodies of his comrades.  His throat burned, the heat from the flames scorching the tender skin of his esophagus.  He’d give a month’s pay for a drink of water, he mused.  Firelight flickered all around him, brilliant and bold.  The flames licked greedily at the ammunitions boxes as they erupted, their explosions echoed through the crags and bluffs of the valley.  Trees stood like blackened sentinels, a bleak reminder of the brutality of man.  Ty glanced down at the shrapnel protruding from his thigh with detached interest as if he were looking at someone else’s leg.  He was bleeding out.  The reinforcements wouldn’t get there in time.  Tugging a medallion hanging on a long, silver chain beneath his woolen jacket, he rubbed the precious metal.  Months would pass before John got word of his death, he worried, but at least the medallion would give those who buried him a name to put on his stone.  Weakening rapidly, he realized his time must be drawing near because he couldn’t work up the strength to care that he would never see home again.  He loved his home.  Death was the only reason he could fathom that would take his concern for what he loved.  In the distance through the fire and the darkness, he saw his long dead father and mother.  He would be with them very soon.  Still unable to give the idea the attention it deserved, he glanced about the ruins absently.  Almost time to go.

Another explosion sent more shrapnel raining down.  His men lay strewn at awkward angles in death.  Soon the Yankees would descend like the plague.  He’d witnessed the scavengers going through the belongings of the dead or dying searching for whatever they could carry off the bodies.  His men.  The idea tore at his gut.

Wiping the blood out of his eyes, Ty gathered his last ounce of strength.  He was gonna die anyway,  so taking as many Yankees with him as possible would be a fitting way to go.  At least the loss of his men’s lives wouldn’t be for nothing.  With all the strength he had left, Ty struggled to stand.  Slowly dragging himself upright, he stumbled once before bracing himself against a nearby tree.  His breath came ragged and weak.  Stars floated in front of his eyes.  Ty gave his head a good shake.  The stars spun behind his eyes, while he checked his revolver.  No need to ponder his fate, so he’d go out with guns blazing.  It’s what cowboys did.

The sound of the Yankees advancing caused ripples in the murky water as the horses hooves pounding in the earth grew nearer.  With his back against the tree, Ty strained hard to see the blue-bellied killers.  Here they come!  Their blue coats standing out in stark relief against the smoke and flames.  Like haints of the souls unable to cross over because of crimes done on earth, the Yankees came marching in unison toward the bodies of his men.  Ty refused to watch the despicable act happen to the men he served with.  His vision clouded again.  Gotta stay awake.  Damn their immoral souls, he swore under his breath, “They’ll pay!”  He struggled to lift the revolver.

Footsteps sounded from behind him.  They sounded too small to be a man’s.  The ground didn’t crunch and grind with the shifting of rocks, he mused.  Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a movement as another thieving Yankee took Ty’s sergeant’s pocket watch.  Curse their wretched lives!  More would come, he snarled to the smoke and fire.  Let them come.

Falling to his back with his revolver in his hand, Ty leaned over, aiming at the apparition floating in the smoky haze.  Scanning to either side, Ty found only one body advancing in the damnable smoke. “Who’s there?” he hissed as blood chocked his throat.  The gun in his hand shook, but he forced his one good eye to focus on the form moving closer.

“Easy, mister.” The voice belonged to a  young female.  She formed out of the mist.  Human or ghost, Ty couldn’t tell as the woman advanced in the urethral fog that hung over everything in sight.

“You’re hurt.  Helping is all I’m about.”  The slight, slender form of a woman in a gauzy drape slipped closer until she stood within steps of his position.  She all but hovered like an angel.  Her voice, a sweet, singsong whisper, settled nicely in his fevered mind.

Mesmerized, all Ty could do was stare.  His head pounded as if the whole of the Army of the Potomac marched between his eyes. The apparition faded in and out of his vision.  Struggling to focus, he fought to remain awake.  He had to remain alert!  Report!  Nausea swam in his gut.  The wet ground soaked his uniform as he sank deeper into the mire.  “Stay back!” he ordered.  Hearing the slur of his own tongue, Ty sought a more convincing voice.  “I don’t want to have to shoot you, but I will!  Do you understand?  Back, I said!”

“There, there, mister.  I won’t hurt you.”  A small delicate hand reached out, touching his shoulder. “I’m here to help.”

Ty flinched, jerking back before aiming the gun at the chest of the mud-clad form of a golden-haired woman.  Without the sight in one eye, he could only surmise she wasn’t a soldier.  Stories, of the enemy’s women running a man through with a blade or a sword simply for being a Rebel made him cock the gun.  He shoved back farther digging into the muddy bank.  Watch her hands, you buffoon!  “Get back.  I’ll shoot you even if you are a woman.  Stay away!”  He had no such intentions of harming her, but he prayed she believed his words.

He rubbed at his eyes with his coat sleeve.  Praying seemed of little use these days.  His faith in the prayers, even less, but they were the only things he had left at the moment.  The woman’s smile stilled his hand.  She was an angel sent down from heaven.

“Sir, I’m here to help.  My name is Sonja.  I only want to tend your injuries.  Don’t worry.”  Her small hand stroked his cheek.  Ty tried to fight by shoving at her.  Her hand simply gripped his.  “Take heed, sir, I mean you no harm.  You’re safe now.  You’re saved.”

The woman’s hand ran lightly over the wound in his thigh as she bent forward.  The cannon fire receded to a distant rumble as her gentle fingers glided over his flesh.  A drawing sensation washed over him.  Someone cried out.  Did he scream?  The blood in his veins coursed through his body.  The sensation grew stronger as his hold on consciousness ebbed away.  Slowly his body relaxed and the pain eased.  With his eyes fluttering shut, Ty floated on a cloud of oblivion.  He smiled inwardly as cool water lapped at his fevered skin while tall grasses caressed his dying body.  Birds sang from the treetops and white clouds floated in the bluest of skies.  He must be home.


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