A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 29byTaLtos6©
***Ok, I'll admit it. I've got kind of a thing for Drow girls. As a writer of course, heh heh. So for a long time I pondered over whether Cha'Khah would ever even see somebody who could get to her heart. This is what I came up with and I hope it's enjoyed. 0_o
Book of the Mountain Clan Part 5
It was driving him insane, he thought to himself as he sat on a folded up blanket behind a wide old stump and looked down over part of his small range. He'd freeze to death before he'd ever see anybody like this. He knew that he had to remain still, while at the same time, his body was trying to do the natural and correct thing and shiver to at least make an attempt at keeping itself warm.
He started to think about asking himself the obvious question, and that was 'Am I already nuts?' as he sat there. Anybody with a functional mind would be inside and warm. He already knew the likely answer.
Anyone with a brain wouldn't even be here. They'd have a real life, and not need to do stupid shi-
He snapped his head around at a slight sigh in the woods not far off, already cursing himself in his mind. It was a load of snow sluicing off the branches of an evergreen. They just did that. Often.
He was even angrier with himself that he'd moved at all. He knew better than to move suddenly. Out here doing something like this, you moved very slowly and with a lot of care if you moved at all.
Barrett Ransom was a reluctant privateer cattleman, trying to keep his little herd alive through a Colorado winter all alone. Any real cattleman knows that you can't really do that alone, and Barrett was no different. He knew it too.
He just didn't have all that much choice in it.
Everything that he had, pretty much, was wrapped up in that herd. But this was where his land was, handed down to him from his Pa, who got it from his father and so on.
He'd grown up out here and he knew these mountains well. He also knew what the isolation could do to a person. He was a little tall and these days he was even leaner from the impossible and never-ending series of tasks that his occupation demanded of him. Who the hell had time to eat? Not that there was all that much, and what there was had to be managed well. He'd gone light on himself and a little heavy on his herd whenever he'd had to go to town to buy supplies. It was about all that he could do.
Barrett had tried to make a life for himself as a few things by this stage of his life. He'd always been a bit shy and he guessed that was due to where he'd grown up. He could manage being around a crowd of people for short periods, but he wasn't happy there. He was more comfortable with a small group of people that he knew well. These days he was really comfortable. Hardly anyone even knew him.
He'd tried various occupations and had been just about to leave the banking business, not being especially fond of not being allowed to defend himself if the place was being robbed. He figured that he could handle just about anything, but not when the boss tied his hands by not even allowing Barrett to wear his old shooter on his hip at work. That was why he'd been leaving. Three robberies in a week was getting to be a bit hard on his nerves.
But then pretty Carlene had moseyed in and with a few soft bats of her eyelashes, he was hooked. They were married within two months and he was as good as chained to his teller's cage. Carlene seemed to think that it did her some kind of good to be able to tell her friends that her husband was a banker – which of course, he wasn't. He was prepared to do a lot of things for the love of that girl and the hurried and half-hearted way that she'd let him near her very occasionally, though in his heart, he wanted to really make love with his wife. Apparently, married life wasn't all that he'd heard that it was supposed to be, but he struggled on for a time.
It was during the week that he had to work late and prepare the annual reports that he'd learned that having a pretty young wife could be just fine – as long as you weren't her hardworking and dedicated husband. He'd worked his ass off so that he'd be able to come home an hour and a half early the last night with the frilly new dress that Carlene had wanted. He'd made the last payment on it that day and had picked it up on his lunch, not eating so that he'd be sure to have the time to do it. He'd walked in on Carlene while she was otherwise engaged, and she wasn't being half-hearted about anything then.
His defense attorney had done his best, but ...
He'd done the five years for beating the banker's son half to death and of course, on the day that he'd been released, Carlene had already been gone for four and a half years by then, not that he'd wanted to see her.
He did get a letter just before he'd been released, though. It was from the administrator of the sanatorium where Carlene received care and they wanted money for the drugs which were needed to keep her from trying to kill herself. After leaving Barrett, she'd gone to Tellandride or someplace like that to take up with a banker. Barrett figured that there was a pattern there.
A bunch of demons had gone through town and after ripping her banker to pieces in front of her, she'd spent the better part of a week with two of them, begging for her life and offering to do whatever they wanted if they'd let her live.
He figured that they couldn't have understood each other, and they had let her live, but she'd done everything that they'd wanted anyway, a lot of it, from what the letter said if you read between the lines a little. When she'd been found, she was squatting naked and filthy over the half-eaten banker's corpse cutting off another piece of him for lunch. She'd been upset when they'd dragged her out of there, growling the whole time.
Barrett Ransom had spent a little time considering and when he was a free man again, the first thing that he did was to buy one bullet. He mailed it to the sanatorium.
Since then, he'd done other things for a while, but he'd finally gone home. What he hoped to do was to get through this one winter alone. If he could do that, he'd be able to make a real start next year, and he didn't plan on doing it alone, either. With a bit of luck and care, he might almost be able to afford to pay somebody to work with him.
He sighed and then wanted to curse himself again for making the soft sound. Out here, now, that was a loud noise. For no reason that would come to him, he thought of the closest that he'd come to happiness.
He hadn't done it in a while, he thought, not since before the snow because he didn't have the money now and he couldn't get through the snow-filled passes anyway. But every once in a while, if he had the gold, he'd go into town and head for the cat-house there. They used to have one girl there - Katy her name was, and he'd pick her and she'd take him up to her room because he'd bought her for the night.
All they ever did was talk for a while and go to bed together. They'd talk for a while in bed too – just like they were married and happy. Barrett would always let Katy do whatever she wanted, whatever felt good to her to do, and if she'd had a busy evening, well then if she just wanted to hold him close and go to sleep, that was fine with him too. They'd even talked about really getting married. Katy had said that she wasn't all that much of a town girl anyway; she'd have loved to do that and be his wife.
But somebody else had a similar idea and had beaten Barrett to it.
That man wasn't anything like he knew that Katy liked in a man, but he had a big old house and with his deep pockets, she'd never have to lift a finger. Barrett figured that it must have sounded better than being the wife of a struggling cattle rancher stupid enough to try to make it work in the foothills of the Rockies. He wished her well when he'd said goodbye the last time that they'd seen each other.
He decided to pull his mind back to this part of the world and what he was trying to do. Like any businessman, a rancher has to try to build against losses in case of hard times – should they happen. Barrett had a few head extra, just in case. Where he was, you never knew what might try to make a meal out of one of your steers. He'd done alright up to a point., not even losing one, but that was changing, and he'd been going on even less sleep lately trying to figure out just what was feeding on his cattle.
It looked to him at first blush to have been people poaching from him. The snow told him the strangest tale. He might see a bit of blood near the place where the steer had gone down. Whoever it had been hadn't tried to butcher it there, it looked to him as though they'd carried the steer off without leaving much of a trace. Worse, he'd seen no human-like tracks. What he had seen had knocked him for a bit of a loop. The tracks only went so far, leading into a clearing just over the low rise. Once they reached the clearing, they disappeared.
Not petered out or faded away, they'd just stopped.
Barrett had seen demon tracks before. What he'd seen on his land had not been left by demons. If he'd had to make a guess, he'd have decided that it was a really, really large dog, but that made no sense either. Half of the tracks were missing. He'd found only rear tracks. Now he tried to picture one or two huge dogs walking on their hind legs. How would they even be able to carry a steer between them?
If somebody had tried to tell him a tall tale like that one, he'd laugh them out the door over it.
But he was still out a couple of head of cattle, no matter how it had been done.
He'd been out hunting for more sign and going on even less sleep the first time that he'd seen her. He caught just the quickest glimpse as he was passing by a nearby tree trunk. He'd frozen then, not believing what he thought that he'd seen. Sure enough, when he'd backed up a step to look again, there was no one there. Not even one track in the snow.
The next time, he'd been over a mile away a day later. This time, he guessed that the mirage or hallucination must have lasted for over three seconds, long enough to see details over the sixty feet between them.
A cloaked figure stood in the heaviest part of the woods, facing a little away from him.
He was at least able to suppress the gasp that he'd felt coming as he'd stared at the strangest and most lovely woman that he was not sure that he'd really ever seen, or something like that. The bit of her face that he saw was as black as the night, and he'd had long enough to blink twice to be sure of it.
Barrett Ransom had seen black women before. He'd just never seen one who had long straight hair as white as the snow at her feet, and she wasn't old.
She hadn't even been looking in his direction, but he'd seen part of the profile of someone who had literally caused him to stop breathing, for fear that she'd know that he was nearby. He wished that hood was back and off her head. He'd have bet money that the rest of her face was as lovely as the little bit that he saw.
He wanted to get a little closer, but he wasn't as stupid as he kept telling himself that he was when he'd ever had one of his finer moments, such as picking up the coffee pot from the stove without a hand towel over the handle. But he had given in to the impulse just a little, before his brain had kicked in to stop him. In that tiny slice of time, his weight had begun to shift, just a bit, and that was enough.
The snow under his heavy boot had just begun to make the slightest noise and well, ...
That had been enough as well. She moved out of his view behind a tree and when she did not re-emerge, he walked to the spot.
And of course, she was gone – as though she'd never been there.
And of course, she wasn't anywhere to be seen.
Worse, and, ... of course, there wasn't even one track in the snow.
He'd had to think about it, seriously wondering if he was going mad. He replayed the scene in his mind a few times, and then he knew that he wasn't losing his mind. At least he was a little sure of it.
As clearly as any other detail that he could remember, Barrett could remember seeing her shadow quite clearly as she'd stood there. He didn't think that he was bright enough to remember to put in a shadow if he was hallucinating what he'd seen.
He went back and did his evening chores, pausing to glance around a lot more often before he walked to his lonely home. He hoped that he wouldn't lose another head of cattle that night as he ate his dull and sparse meal all alone, before he blew out the lantern and sat by the window with his father's ancient rifle handy. He was lonelier now than he'd been for a long time as he sat at the table scratching his short beard a little with his fingers.
He hated having a full beard, but it was winter. Even so, he cut it short when he couldn't stand it anymore, but then it was a little itchy for a while afterward. He didn't know how he managed it, but every time that he cut it, the weather turned cold within hours.
After dozing off more than a dozen times, he shrugged and laid down on the couch. It was as stupid as anything else, he told himself. He was losing cattle and couldn't determine the cause. Now he was seeing a beautiful dark woman outside in the forest where nobody would be if they didn't have a reason to be there at this time of year. Somebody more lovely than his fool mind would ever be able to come up with.
He didn't even dream of women like that. He didn't have the imagination for it.
He thought about her for a few more minutes as the thin light of the sliver of a moon came in through the window which faced his feet. Barrett groaned as he sat up and went to get himself a handkerchief. He doubted that he could ever get to sleep if he didn't help himself a little.
He'd added one too many logs to the stove and now the heat would only make him sweat, so he decided that if whatever was taking his cattle came tonight, he'd just take a little longer to get there, he supposed. His clothes came off, and at least he felt a little better.
He wanted to curse again. He was a grown man, not some teenager, and here he was, stone hard from thinking about someone who hadn't been there – who couldn't have been there and left no sign of her passing.
It didn't matter much, he thought. There was nobody in his life anyway. What was the harm in a crazy cattleman jerking off thinking about a girl in the forest in the middle of winter?
It didn't matter now and it wouldn't matter in the spring, after all of his cattle were gone, stolen in some mysterious way while he lay here masturbating. He tried not to think about it as he stroked himself with one hand and squeezed his testicles a little with the other – just the way that Katy used to do it for him.
As long as he was fantasizing, he decided that he may as well imagine that the woman in the woods was looking at him with a soft smile as though she cared.
That had been two nights ago, and it had startled him at how only thinking about that woman made him come so hard. He'd even sat up – something that he never did then. He stared at the handkerchief in his hand, clamped loosely as it was to catch his semen. He was amazed as he looked down. He couldn't see it, but he sure felt it as he kept ejaculating, about twice as long as what he'd have thought was usual for him.
It was too bad that she was likely not real, he thought. She probably wouldn't want to have anything to do with him if she was, but it would be nice to meet her once.
What Barrett didn't know that night was that his mystery woman actually was smiling softly – through the window at him. She'd watched the whole thing and even then, she'd wondered about herself – when she wasn't staring at him in wonder. With the eyes of her kind, seeing in through the front window into the darkened room was nothing. The sliver of a moon gave her all the light that she needed as she watched him masturbate. Normally, she couldn't have cared less, but right then, she actually took a little time to wonder what he was thinking of.
As a rule, Cha'Khah didn't like human males. She never had. She tended to put them into the same category as pack animals, only less useful to her mind. You could get a man to carry something for you, but all told, a donkey would do that and not even expect any conversation for it.
But this one seemed to fascinate her somehow and she knew it, though she had no explanation. He'd come to her attention by accident, and it had been her fault.
They'd needed meat for their meals and that usually meant having to go hunt for something. It had turned bitter cold then and Cha'Khah's enthusiasm for the hunt fell off a few minutes after she'd stepped outside with Shaevre.
Most 'regular' elves aren't much affected by cold, but some, notably Drow, are affected, since the places where they originated were always a pretty constant temperature, underground as they were. Her cousin Vadren never said a word about feeling cold, but though she could stand it, Cha'Khah hated being in the cold and she said so often. It was about the only hardship that she ever mentioned. Of course Shaevre came equipped with a fur coat, and found a day in the cold outdoors refreshing.
As it happened, Shaevre had reason to feel a little bit of disappointment while Cha'Khah had reason to rejoice. After a rather short and easy hunt, they'd found plentiful game which just seemed to be standing around, ...
Their mistake came out of Cha'Khah knowing what a cattle ranch was roughly, but not ever expecting to find one here of all places. Steers wandering around in mountain meadows, almost asking to be allowed onto your plate. With the cold wind up the back of her cloak, the Drowess was more than prepared to oblige their requests.
Shaevre knew less than Cha'Khah, having spent little time on Earth as yet. The long and short of it was that they'd killed and taken two cows over almost a month before both Dahlgren and Selena had asked where the meat had come from. That presented them all with a problem.
Azrael had looked, and he told them all that the rancher was running a one-man subsistence show, or not far from it. He was doing all of it alone – work that normally required several at least for the number of heads of cattle that he had. He was also taking a big risk in doing so. A misstep, being gored by one of his animals, and he was looking at a long and slow painful death.
They'd decided that the right thing to do was to pay for the cattle, but they didn't want anyone to really know that they were there.
Cha'Khah had nodded and said that since it had been her mistake – when really, she should have known better, as she said, then it was her task to make the required amends.
That was when she'd seen Barrett Ransom, the tall, lean rancher with the thoughtful light gray eyes and the sandy brown hair. And he had a close-cropped beard.
Of all of the strange things that she'd seen and done in her life, she doubted that there was anything more uncharacteristic of her than this – her fascination with his close-cropped beard. Until she'd come topside into the light with Vadren, she'd only seen beards on the dwarves, and she didn't like them either, whether the dwarf was male or female, it didn't matter. She didn't like them, and she didn't like their beards. She'd since seen human males with beards as well, and the sight had done little to endear them to her.
But on this male, she was absolutely fascinated with the facial hair that she saw. It was short, for one thing, and it didn't hide the strong line of his jaw. It even accentuated it to her mind. She'd found herself smirking at him as she'd watched him work, being a little tantalized over wondering how something like that might feel against her skin.