Maps of fate, p.1
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       Maps of Fate, p.1


Maps of Fate


  INSIDE FRONT COVER

  Mac lowered the spyglass. “It’s Zeb, and he ain’t wasting no time getting back.” His great bushy eyebrows furrowed in contemplation. “Reuben, tell folks to get out their rifles and gather in every other wagon. Get five men on horses, and come back up here. I’d choose Johannes, Charlie, John, Harris and that swine Jacob. He is always looking for a scrap.” He nodded down at the holstered Colt on Reuben’s hip. “I would take the thong off that hammer, son.”

  She felt the fire in the smooth caress of his fingertips as they traced across her breast, lingered, then continued down her hips and came to rest lightly, longingly, on the concave valley of smooth belly between her hips. The smell of him, and of them, mingled with the fragrance of sun-baked sage.

  “That is called a holy iron. It is the weapon of the hairy-faced-ones,” had been the response to his inquisitive tug on his father’s loin cloth. The memory dissipated, and the promise of the spring dawn and later lovemaking were carried away by the east breeze; only to be replaced by a feeling of foreboding deep in Eagle Talon’s spirit.

  “Don't you dare ‘now Lucy’ me,” she wagged her finger at him, the digits crooked from years of manual labor. “You know it's against the law for our kind to read.” Peeling the thick-glassed spectacles from one ear, and then the other, Israel ignored his wife, cleaned the lenses with his shirttail, and thought about what he had just read: “New York–January 17, 1855–“Slaves Find Help In Escape.”

  The farmer spoke in a cracking voice. “Whatever you want. Please, this is all we have.” The Smoothbore lay across Black Feather’s forearm, its muzzle pointing at the man's head. “We already know that we can have whatever we want.” Black Feather let his eyes slip to the hysterical girl. Her gangly shape was just taking on the form of a woman.

  BOOK TWO—MAPS OF FATE

  By

  REID LANCE ROSENTHAL

  Second novel of the Maps of Fate Era (1854–1875) of the

  Threads West, An American Saga

  ROCKIN' SR PUBLISHING

  Cheyenne, lVyoming

  © 2012 Reid Lance Rosenthal

  http://reidlrosenthal.com

  Smashwords Edition License Notes

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reid Lance Rosenthal © 2012.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  Publisher’s Note:

  This is a work of fiction. All characters, places, businesses and incidents are from the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual places, people, or events is purely coincidental. Any trademarks mentioned herein are not authorized by the trademark owners and do not in any way mean the work is sponsored by or associated with the trademark owners. Any trademarks used are specifically in a descriptive capacity.

  Book Design by TLC Graphics, www.tlcgraphics.com

  Cover by Tamara Dever; Interior by Erin Stark

  Proofreading by: Tami St. Germaine

  Outside and inside cover photo credits:

  woman’s portrait: courtesy of the Ida May Miller family

  flag: ©iStockphoto.com/Blueberries

  leather: ©iStockphoto.com/colevineyard

  leather tooling: ©iStockphoto.com/belterz

  scrolled leather: ©iStockphoto.com/billnoll

  parchment paper: ©iStockphoto.com/ranplett

  map compass: [2012] mike301. Image from Bigstock.com

  Indian chief: ©iStockphoto.com/emyerson

  Cover painting by: Debbie Sampson

  Printed in the United States of America

  ISBN: 978-0-9821576-3-3

  Library of Congress Control Number: 2012902581

  To my mother June who, among many gifts, passed on to me a love of and talent for writing. To my literary editor, Page Lambert, who cajoles, commends and scolds at just the right times, and who continues to teach me just how much I do not know about the wonderful craft of prose. To my daughter, Jordan, without whose artistic and technical skills this book would not be a reality.

  And to America—her values, history, people, and the mystical energy and magical empowerment that flows from her lands.

  SPECIAL MENTION:

  To Susan Murnon, whose overall period, location and other dedicated historical research is instrumental to the historical integrity of the series.

  To Denise Winter, whose extensive expertise and incredibly detailed research in the clothing of the era is key to accurate portrayal of the times and characters who live in these pages.

  To the great Threads West team, without whose enthusiastic belief in this series and unending efforts, this book would not exist:

  Jordan Katie Allhands—Art, web and organization Jani Flinn—Rockin SR Publishing

  Laura Kennedy—Coordination, media and administration

  Deborah Kunzie “Web Deb”—web design and programming

  Devani Alderson—Social media

  Erin Stark and Tami Dever—TLC Graphics

  Tom Dever—Narrow Gate Books

  MAPS OF FATE

  Book Two of the Threads West series

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  INTRODUCTION

  DEDICATION

  CHAPTER ONE

  Sunlight on Steel

  CHAPTER TWO

  Threads Converge

  CHAPTER THREE

  Foreboding

  CHAPTER FOUR

  Straining Against the Traces

  CHAPTER FIVE

  Renegade

  CHAPTER SIX

  Strength of Conviction

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  Practicalities

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  Ludwig’s Diamonds

  CHAPTER NINE

  Amongst Friends

  CHAPTER TWENTY–FOUR

  Affront

  CHAPTER TWENTY–FIVE

  Into the Night

  CHAPTER TWENTY–SIX

  Hide of the Tatanka

  CHAPTER TWENTY–SEVEN

  Thread the Needle

  CHAPTER TWENTY–EIGHT

  The Gift

  CHAPTER TWENTY–NINE

  Mormon Wagons

  CHAPTER THIRTY

  Fort Kearney

  CHAPTER THIRTY–ONE

  Prophecy

  CHAPTER THIRTY–TWO

  Unshod Horses

  CHAPTER THIRTY–THREE

  Unspoken

  CHAPTER THIRTY–FOUR

  Buck’s Run

  CHAPTER THIRTY–FIVE

  Surprise

  CHAPTER THIRTY–SIX

  The Bond

  CHAPTER THIRTY–SEVEN

  Letting Go

  CHAPTER THIRTY–EIGHT

  Then There Were Three

  CHAPTER THIRTY–NINE

  The Patrol

  CHAPTER FORTY

  Jagged Frame

  CHAPTER FORTY–ONE

  Badger Creek

  CHAPTER FORTY–TWO

  Revenge

  CHAPTER FORTY–THREE

  Sacred Pact

  CHAPTER FORTY–FOUR

  Cherry Creek

>   CHAPTER FORTY–FIVE

  Snake Bite

  CHAPTER FORTY–SIX

  Rails of Freedom

  CHAPTER FORTY–SEVEN

  Spirit Whispers

  CHAPTER FORTY–EIGHT

  Indecision

  CHAPTER FORTY–NINE

  Johannes’ Promise

  BACK INSIDE COVER

  BACK COVER

  OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES

  SERIES AWARDS

  THREADS WEST EXPRESS

  MAPS OF FATE

  BOOK 2

  OF THE

  THREADS WEST, AN AMERICAN SAGA SERIES

  INTRODUCTION

  In the spring of 1855, America is on the cusp of her great westward expansion, reluctantly on the threshold of becoming a world power. St. Louis, gateway to the frontier, booms with an eight-fold population expansion from just a decade prior.

  One Thousand miles to the west is the lawless, untamed spine of the continent, the Rocky Mountains. The power of their jagged peaks, rugged territories, and vast resources beckon the souls of a few adventurous men and women, destined to love and struggle in the vibrant but unforgiving landscape of the West.

  America draws individuals and families from all corners of the earth with the promise of land, freedom, self-determination and economic opportunity. Immigrants exchange the lives they know for the hope and romance of a country embarked on the course of greatness. The revolt of Texas against Mexico, with the surreptitious aid of the United States, has resulted in vast new American terrain—unexplored western lands stretching from the Rio Grande to the Pacific, and north to the areas later to become the Kansas Territories and eventually Colorado and Utah—magnetic draws for the restless and ambitious, and those in search of freedom and future.

  The brave, passion-filled characters of Maps of Fate set forth on a dangerous journey as they try to establish life in this unknown wilderness, swept unknowingly into the tumultuous vortex of momentous changes shaping the United States and the West between 1855 and 1875, the years ensconced in the Maps of Fate era of the Threads West series. Secret maps, hidden ambitions, and magnetic attractions inherent in lives forged by the conflicting fires of love and loss, hope and sorrow, life and death, shape their futures and the destinies of their lineage.

  America is in transition, the lives of the characters shaken by events they cannot foresee. Spurred by a lust for gold, land, and the conquest of Mexican territory, a massive westward migration begins. Railroads and telegraphs will soon pierce this wild land. The first newspapers in the west roll off the presses in Leavenworth and Lawrence, Kansas, and Platte Valley, Nebraska. Opposing stands on slavery ignite deadly hatred throughout the Kansas Territories. The budding enmity between North and South flares into the winds of war, and the remote fringe of the frontier falls into virtual anarchy as most of the meager army troops assigned to protect this area withdraw to the East.

  On the front range of the Rockies, newly spawned Denver City, built on the shores of Cherry Creek, booms with the impact of gold discovered in the Pikes Peak area and the Ouray, San Juan, and Uncompahgre mountain ranges. The Civil War erupts, and the fires of deadly tumult sweep west. Some of those manacled by the chains of slavery set their life sails to the winds of freedom. A Confederate Army mustered in Texas is repulsed by the Denver Militia. The broken treaties between the white man and Native Americans spread into bitter and contagious conflicts throughout the West. The “resolution” of the “Indian Problem” leaves families and hearts broken, forever staining the pages of American history.

  Momentous change continues, igniting further greed and compassion, courage and treachery, rugged independence, torrid passions, and fierce loyalties. The discovery of gold in California and the meeting of the tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad from the east and Central Pacific from the west in 1869, underpin the rise of the robber-barons, cattle empires, and commerce, drawing hundreds of thousands to the Rockies and beyond.

  A tidal wave of hopeful souls follows on the trail of the strong men and women of Maps of Fate. Throngs of those displaced by the devastation of the Civil War add to the torrent of humanity flowing west. In the third and fourth books of the Threads West novels (Uncompahgre, and The Footsteps), the first Thread’s West generation born in the remote and sparsely settled west begins to mature and contend with this cauldron of events, their lives unsettled by personal tragedies, triumphs, loves, and loss. Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana evolve into separate and distinct territories and then achieve statehood. Law and order struggles as outlaws linger on the outer edges and range wars erupt between the landowners and the landless, sheep herders, cattlemen, and sodbusters. The clash of cultures, creeds and beliefs, and bitter rivalries over the control of scarce water resources, fuels further violence and cruelty.

  These decades of the Threads West novels become the crucible of the American spirit. This violent but magical period in American history will affect forever the souls of generations, the building of the heart of the nation, destiny of a people, and the relentless energy and beauty of the western landscape. This is our story.

  To be continued…

  CHAPTER 1

  MARCH 18, 1855

  SUNLIGHT ON STEEL

  A light upstream breeze stirred the slow-moving current of the Mississippi. The riffles sparkled in bursts of reflected sunlight, lapping against the thick planks of the barge’s hull. The small steam paddle wheeler pulling it belched black smoke in time with the uneven chug of its engines. Two heavy braided hemp ropes stretched taut from either corner of the stern to the bow of the barge. The two vessels were making sluggish progress toward the west bank. Above the murmur of the current, the shouts of men, bleats of oxen and nickers of horses floated in the light wind of late dawn.

  Zebarriah Taylor’s tall, thin frame leaned against the corner bulwark of the port side of the barge. He occasionally glanced up from the smoke he was rolling to take in the scene. His green eyes, deepset in weathered features, carefully assessed the two wagons and teams that shared the barge with him. Now and then, he glanced at the three pack mules loaded with supplies from St. Louis. The animals fidgeted, shook their heads and stomped their hooves, shifting their weight from left to right. A muscular mustang horse stood perfectly still at Zeb’s side, not nervous but completely alert, his eyes focused on something Zeb couldn’t see far to the west and beyond the side of the river they were approaching.

  “You see something out there I can’t, Buck?” The tobiano did not change his stance nor look at Zeb. “Trouble, maybe?” One of the mustang’s ears flicked, and he let out a soft whinny.

  “Not going to let me in on the secret, are you? Well, never mind, I suppose we’ll both find out soon enough.”

  Raised voices drew Zeb’s eyes to the foremost wagon near the bow. He had surveyed the cargo-type rig as it trundled by him when the barge was loading. The wagon was solid, though older and makeshift with an arched canvas cover. His curiosity had been stirred by the couple who shared the driver’s seat. Zeb sensed in the stocky, dirty, blond-haired man who drove the rig a discomfited unfamiliarity with wagons, lines and horses. They had only two horses, both older geldings. Not enough, thought Zeb to himself. A young, attractive, redheaded woman shared the driver’s seat with the barrel-chested driver. The morning was chill, but not cold, yet she was bundled up, the somber grey shawl over her head not quite concealing semi-curly red hair, which peaked out from well-tailored, thick-knitted wool. Her shoulders were hunched as if the wagon was making its way into the teeth of a blizzard. She sat on the other side of the driving bench, as far from the driver as she could get. Zeb had seen the man’s hands clenched tightly around the lines as they drove by and noticed the scars over his knuckles. The woman’s jaw was tense and her complexion pale.

  Zeb turned to Buck and ran a heavily calloused hand down the mustang’s cheek. “Doesn’t much look like married bliss to me,” he confided to the horse. His reflections were interrupted by more raised voices coming from th
e front of the barge.

  “I don’t need any of your lip, woman. I will make these foul-smelling beasts do exactly what I want. I can handle this wagon just fine. I hate being out in the middle of this river. Reminds me of the last time I was on water and that was none too pleasant.” The voice had a thick Irish brogue.

  There was a pause during which the woman, out of Zeb’s line of sight, must have spoken. “Shut your mouth, bitch!” Zeb heard the man shout. But the woman must have disregarded her companion’s admonition, for the driver raised his muscular right arm over his shoulder, set to deliver a backhanded blow. Before he could swing, the woman jumped. On the far side of the wagon, Zeb caught a glimpse of high-laced boots with rounded toes. Her feet tangled in the hems of her heavy wool grey skirt and horsehair petticoats, and she almost fell to the barge deck. The driver, cursing, jumped from the near side of the seat and sprinted for the rear of the converted cargo rig, intent on intercepting his fleeing companion. She stopped in startled surprise as they met head-on at the tailgate, directly in front of the team pulling the second wagon. The frightened horses began to back up, lifting their forelegs nervously. Alarmed, the elderly couple in the rearward prairie schooner shouted.

 
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