These are short stories put up each Friday that you can read for free. By the next Friday the post will be taken down and a new one will go up.
They were on those plains, up against the edge and with the Rocky Mountains in the distance. They were far to the west still, but Big Dog had no doubt the runner was wishing he were there right now.
Big Dog looked over, for the race was about to begin. A dog of a Nez Perce had been captured the day before and brought in by one of the bands. He was in good shape, and might even prove capable of giving Strong Breeze a good chase. That rarely happened anymore, everyone knew, for Strong Breeze was the fastest runner amongst them.
To anyone looking at Strong Breeze, as Big Dog was, it was plain why that was the case. The man’s legs were long and muscled, his stomach taut and his arms spry. He was strong but lean, and that made him a running machine. Big Dog still remembered the first time Strong Breeze had shown the tribe what he was made of, back when they’d rounded up a whole band of Shoshone and told them to flee across the plains.
They’d still been using horses in those days, with the best braves atop them and those that weren’t relegated to running behind. Strong Breeze had been one of those braves, but that day he’d overtaken the horses while they’d been close to a gallop. By the time the horses had caught up there was only a few of the dozen Shoshone braves left – Strong Breeze had butchered the rest.
Ever since then the men had run after their captors, for it was much more sporting that way. It’s what the tribe wanted to see on days like this, when the sun was high overhead, work was postponed, and there was nothing to fill the time. Sport filled that time, however, and for the Blackfeet sport was much more entertaining when death was involved.
“Go!” Wolf Eyes shouted from the area where the Nez Perce was standing, and the man jerked to life and took off. He knew full well that the nearby river – it was the Marias – wasn’t more than a mile away, and that if he could reach it, he’d stand a chance. What he didn’t know was the speed of his pursuer, Strong Breeze.
The rules were simple – the captive would be allowed to run for a full minute or so, sometimes more depending on how the lead runner felt. That lead runner was always Long Snake, so Strong Breeze often waited longer, knowing that he’d have the choicest kills because of it, usually many of them in fact, until the rest of the runners caught up. With only one captive today, however, everyone knew that it was Strong Breeze’s show.
And it was a show. Strong Breeze made a point of stretching and preening and showing himself off for all the maidens, and even some of the wives. It wasn’t uncommon for Blackfeet women to bed down with more than one man, and Strong Breeze was typically the sought-after commodity on nights when runs had taken place. Big Dog doubted it would be any different tonight, the way the women were cooing over him.
Out on the plain, Strong Breeze gave his final overhand-overhead stretch, the signal that he was going to start. And with that he did, darting out onto the plain, his moccasined feet easily dodging the prickly pear cactus that sprouted up here and there. The hundreds of Indians gathered to watch let out a tremendous cheer.
Ahead of Strong Breeze the captive glanced back, for he’d heard the great cheer that’d erupted from the gathered Blackfeet. He was already panting and sweating and his feet were killing him. Bare feet were the last thing you wanted when cactus was around, and already he’d stepped on a good two dozen of the things at least. His feet were leaving bloody footprints in the hard-packed earth, though he barely noticed, so high was his adrenaline, so desperate were his thoughts.
Behind him Strong Breeze held back, allowing the captive to continue the run. He liked them to get within seeing distance of the river, liked for them to get that idea in their head that yes, they might indeed get out of this alive. It made the kill so much sweeter, for the look in their eyes when he finally reached them was always what the Blackfoot runner wanted. He lived for that look, lived for the sheer fear and agony that he knew he could cause.
It was sheer pain that the Nez Perce was feeling as he ran on, and he was about to crumple to the ground in defeat when over a small rise the river appeared. It was still far off, a good quarter of a mile at least, but he could reach it, he could…
The Nez Perce’s thoughts were disrupted by the strangest of sounds – a loud thumping coming up from behind. He turned to glance over his shoulder and his eyes went wide. The brave that’d been more than a hundred yards back just a few moments before was now right behind him and–
Strong Breeze brought the butt-end of his spear up and smacked it across the captive’s face. The blow sent the man flying backward to land on his back, hard. The breath was knocked from him.
The Nez Perce looked up, gasping for breath, his lungs in agony without air. Finally he sucked in some oxygen, a pure relief, but one that lasted but a moment before the Blackfoot brave appeared over him. His eyes went wide.
Strong Breeze smiled at the look of fear, smiled more than he did when bedded down with several of the tribe’s women. He raised his spear up, a wicked smile coming to his face.
“No!” the Nez Perce began to shout, but the sound was cutoff as Strong Breeze’s spear plunged into his heart.