A Weight to Bear - Chaucer
Thanks to my beta, NotTasha
chestnut gelding waited patiently for his owner to leave the human barn.
Ezra had left him out front of the lively building, tethered to the
hitching rail. He lowered his mouth to the mirrored water in the
trough and slurped down a luke-warm swallow. He couldn’t
complain, because when the gambler had left him to wait, he’d been
comfortable in the shade afforded by the veranda and awning, but as time
wore on and the sun had climbed high in the sky, the cool shade had
moved, shrinking away toward the building, leaving him stranded in the
smouldering heat. The human saddle itched uncomfortably and sweat
trickled under the woollen blanket. Chaucer shook his head at the
nagging flies that bothered his eyes and swung his tail periodically to
shoo them away from his hindquarters.
As the afternoon drew on an old
sway-backed sorrel joined him at the rail. The mare’s owner
dressed nothing like his Ezra, and he certainly didn’t smell anything
like his partner. He certainly could use a bath. The uncouth
human smacked the gelding lightly on the rump and Chaucer heartily
disapproved of the intimate gesture and stomped his hooves perilously
close to the human’s booted feet and nipped him on the thigh.
That sent the man off cursing and grumbling inside to where his Ezra
was. The chestnut arched his neck, stretching to its full length
in an effort to catch a glimpse inside the building as the sorrel’s
owner swung open the batwing doors, but the doors closed quickly on the
odorous human and the chestnut was left without sighting of his Ezra.
With a heavy sigh he bestowed a
quizzical look at his dusty companion. The poor creature was in
need of a wash even more so than his owner. And had his
owner never heard of brushing down the mount at the end of the day?
The mare’s coat was bare of hair in some areas, giving it a patchy
appearance and was matted with layers of dirt and filth. Chaucer
snorted high in the air, shooting a heavy rush of breath from his
nostrils and tugged at his reins, moving as far right as the length of
leather would allow. He kicked out with his hind legs to show he
was in no way interested in his companion, and returned his attention to
the excitement, that he could only guess at, coming from behind the
It was some time after this, when
his partner left the human barn, strolling with a jaunty swagger to his
steps and joining him at the rail. Chaucer nickered, happy to
finally see his companion. He was fed up already with the nervous
“Oh, my apologies, my friend,”
Ezra softly commiserated, glancing at the mount sharing room at the
trough. He reached over and stroked Chaucer’s neck and
shoulders, then delved into his smart jacket pocket and retrieved a
fresh apple. He offered the morsel of fruit to the spoilt mount
and the gelding took it as his due.
He didn’t completely understand
what his partner had said, but the tone of voice and empathic shake of
his head, coupled with the pitying glance at the sorrel, pretty much
completed the picture in the horse’s mind. But the simple fact
that his partner was paying him attention and brought him a treat,
Chaucer couldn’t care less who he shared room with, so long as he
wasn’t in the same stall as the pitiful creature at the end of the
Ezra Standish jumped the short step
off the sidewalk and double-checked the rigging of the saddle, taking
the time to tighten the leather straps under the flaps of the saddle.
“Hope you are ready for a brisk departure and invigorating run, ole
boy,” the Southerner chuckled lightly.
The chestnut nickered contently as
this partner ran a firm hand down each of his legs and lifted them off
the ground to check each shoe. Oh good! We’re going to
pound the earth and gallop like crazy. He nickered again and
nodded his head, informing the gambler that he was ready and capable.
“Excellent!” his Ezra grinned,
showing off the shiny gold tooth. He affectionately patted the
gelding behind the ears prior to returning to the human barn.
Chaucer gazed at the spot where his
friend disappeared and continued his patient vigil. The
tempo of the music had increased and the solid thump of boots hitting
the wooden floor echoed in the street. Laughter and raucous cries
mingled with the rowdy atmosphere, and occasionally, the intelligent
beast would prick its ears up when Ezra’s familiar tones joined in
with the others. Chaucer wondered at times, how all the humans
managed to stable inside the single building, for surely it was not that
much larger than the barns where he stayed. He whickered in
confusion as another three trail-hands entered through the swinging
doors. He also wondered how any of them could sleep with all that noise
going on. Each to their own he supposed.
Chaucer had been dosing off and
on, when the abrupt shattering of glass startled him. The eruptive
music, which had spewed from the bowels of the human barn slowed and
painfully stopped with a heavy thump of notes pressed distastefully
together in one final death knoll. More glass was broken and
a wooden chair clattered onto the sidewalk after emerging through the
windowpane. Shouts and calls of ‘cheat and lying mangy thief’,
where loud and clear; the gelding recognised the foul stench of
The chestnut toed nervously at the
dusty street; his partner was in there and he worried that his friend
required his help. Ezra had been in these situations before, and
he was lucky that his steed was always alert and near in times of
peril. It never occurred to the horse that the gambler had
anticipated that events might escalate and had planned for the hasty
retreat. The chestnut pulled back his lips and bared his teeth and
gums, then proceeded to untie the loop in the reins and pull them from
the rail. His Ezra didn’t even have to teach him how to do that;
after all, Chaucer was an intelligent horse. The gelding drifted
away from the hitching rail and trough and instinctively trotted up the
narrow step onto the wooden sidewalk. The steady pulse of the
fight drowned out his tread on the planks, and he knew Ezra would be
joining him soon.
Sooner than he’d figured, in
Ezra sailed through the air,
crashing open the swinging doors and following through on his flight to
land at the feet of his mount. “Time to leave, Chaucer!”
Ezra surged from his prone position and leapt onto the back of the
horse. “Giddup!” he hollered, digging in his heels.
Chaucer needed no interpretation of
that message. That one was as simple as knowing his own name.
He heeded the command and bolted down off the sidewalk and skidded into
the street. The hot whiz of lead burned a blazing trail after them
as they spirited out of town. Hostile voices and aggressive
gestures also rode on the coattails of his partner. The chestnut
gelding dug in his hooves and pumped his well-rested muscles, stretching
and lengthening each stride. His Ezra lay low against his neck,
making the pair streamlined in their escape. “Come on, boy,”
Ezra urged, but the gelding required no further incentive. He sped
past the corral at the south end of town and the cemetery that was
perched on the hill.
The strong-legged horse carried the
weight of the Southerner easily over the well-traversed road. They
detoured off the obvious track and forged down the small knoll,
ploughing through the sagebrush. A cloud of dust kicked up from
his heels as they galloped on. It would be a welcome finish to
arrive home and have his partner rub down his coat and congratulate the
mount for his excellent manoeuvrability and stamina in the face of
“Keep going,” the gambler
wheezed, gathering the slipped reins, he turned in the saddle to check
for any pursuit.
Chaucer wondered what his friend had done to prevent an immediate chase. He remembered the dopey eyes and lethargic stance of the herd in the livery when his Ezra collected him that morning. He wondered how all the horses became sick all at the same time. Must be the feed, he guessed. In any event, the gelding presumed that his partner would not be welcomed back in this town readily. He did seem to get into trouble when he went into those human barns. But not nearly as often as used to happen. Since his Ezra had joined up with his herd, and stayed in the one place, they didn’t have to escape like this any more. Of course, Chaucer was quite happy to have a roof over his head at night, fresh straw for bedding and plenty of food and clean water. And he had even made friends with the mounts of his Ezra’s herd.
As the pair drifted along the
banks of the rain-swollen watercourse, the faithful mount realised his
ardent thirst. His Ezra must have agreed to the horse’s idea, as
he didn’t prevent Chaucer from lowering his head and drinking from the
edges. It was then that he detected the faint acidic taint of
blood. He pranced in the shallows of the water; the smell always
disturbed his senses. He whinnied in concern, but the gambler
barely moved. This uncertainty frightened the horse and he plunged
into the middle of the stream, after all they needed to cross to the
other side, even if they normally traversed the body of water further
downstream where it was narrower. The sudden chill of frigid water
lapped at his under belly and he hurried to cross. The quickened and
rocky gait pre-empted the gambler’s slide from the saddle.
His Ezra landed with a splash mere
feet from the shore. Chaucer splashed in the water and whinnied
frantically. The gelding nudged the gambler’s back, but his
friend remained face first in the water. Chaucer bared his teeth,
latched onto the Southerner’s jacket and hauled him out.
Ezra groaned, then coughed as he
rolled onto his side. Curling his legs to his chest the gambler
emitted a tormented moan. He hugged his arms around his chest and
with bleary eyes, glanced up into the visage of his loyal mount.
“Home,” Standish ordered weakly.
Chaucer snorted air from his
nostrils and nudged the gambler. He knew the command, but the
mount had no intention of leaving his Ezra.
“Home, Cha…sir,” Ezra pleaded
Chaucer shook his mane and
nickered. He wanted the gambler to climb back into the saddle so
he could take his friend home. Ezra’s herd would help him.
The chestnut horse took a mouthful of clothing in his teeth and dragged
Standish further up the bank. He’d drag his partner all the way
home if necessary. Ezra let out a straggled gasp and the horse
released his grip. On second thoughts, perhaps dragging his Ezra
would not work. He whickered over the gambler’s ear and prodded
Standish reached up with a wavering
hand and gently patted his velvety muzzle. “Stubborn horse,”
Ezra slurred, attempting to sit.
Chaucer tossed his head excitedly;
he understood the sentiments of his Ezra’s words. He heard the
pride in his partner’s tone. Indeed, he was doing just as the
gambler wanted. He stayed motionless as the injured man struggled
to clamber into the seat. Once the gelding was satisfied his
partner was firmly in place, he made his way home.
It disturbed the elegant horse to
have the bloody odour mingle with the crisp mountain air and nature’s
aroma. The warm touch of the sun was dwindling low on the horizon
when the gelding came into town. He was relieved to be home again.
The familiar scents and sounds were a pleasant welcome. It amazed
him how accustomed he’d become to living in the western town.
“Oh my, gosh! It’s
Ezra!” the youngest of Ezra’s herd shouted loudly, bolting over the
veranda rail and meeting them in the street. Chaucer had always
liked the youth; he made his Ezra laugh and paid the horse special
attention. Even now, with his concern for his Ezra, JD rubbed the
flat of his face in comfort. “He’s gonna be fine, Chaucer,”
Dunne promised. Chaucer liked the reassuring tone of the young
Buck arrived hot on the heels of JD
and then the rest of Ezra’s herd were surrounding them. They
removed Ezra from his back and carried the limp form between the two
largest of the herd. The chestnut made a futile effort to follow,
but Vin grabbed the loose reins and remained by his side.
“I’ll settle Chaucer in,”
Tanner called out. “Come on, boy,” Vin urged, “you’ve done
all you can. Now it’s up ta Nathan.”
The strong gelding initially
resisted against Vin’s control, and swept his head around preparing to
take a bite of the tracker.
Tanner cuffed him behind the ears
and growled a low-throated warning that the gelding clearly understood.
“Don’t you dare!” Tanner cautioned. “I reckon you’re
anxious to know what’s happening to ‘im, but ya can’t go with
‘im.” Tanner’s tone softened, “Nathan’ll fix ‘im
Chaucer closed his mouth over
midair and blew hot air out his nostrils. The horse sent a last
forlorn glance up the stairs where his Ezra had disappeared, then meekly
followed Vin to the livery.
It had been three days since
Chaucer had last seen his Ezra and he was seriously beginning to think
the worse had happened. Peso was in the stall next to him and
Vin’s mount seemed to understand some of the anguish he was going
through. In fact, the sleek black had allowed Ezra’s mount to
monopolise his partner, without getting’ overly jealous at the
attention that Vin had afforded the finicky chestnut. Both JD and
Vin had been spending a large portion of their time coaxing the
mule-headed gelding not to fret over Ezra’s absence. He was
feeling rather lowly, and dispirited. Eating had become a chore.
JD enthusiastically leapt through
the livery door and bounded to his stall. “Come on, Chaucer!”
The gelding pricked up his ears and
his heart started racing a little faster. The youth’s demeanour
over the past days had been down, but with the lightened frame of mind,
the horse began entertaining thoughts that perhaps the young
gunslinger’s improved mood had something to do with his Ezra. He
nickered impatiently for the younger man to slip on the bridle and allow
him out of the stall.
JD guided the chestnut outside and
turned him around to face upstairs. His Ezra was leaning against
Josiah and smiling broadly. Chaucer pulled his rein from the hands
of JD and neighed with immense pleasure. He was happy to see his
Ezra again. He pranced backward as Dunne chased the dangling lead,
then circled about the youth until JD tripped over his feet and fell
hard on the ground. The horse neighed again when he heard the
hearty laughter of his Ezra and Josiah from above.
Chaucer bolted for the human stairs
and navigated them to the landing at the top. His Ezra was waiting
The timber groaned under the weight of the large mammal and the
stairs shook as the horse mounted them.
The timber groaned under the weight of the large mammal and the stairs shook as the horse mounted them.
“What’s he doing?”
Dunne shouted in disbelief.
“Climbing the stairs to reunite with his master,” Josiah chuckled. “Gonna be fun ta watch ‘im go down.”
When the gelding stepped hooves on the landing, Standish greeted the excited horse, by wrapping his arms around his neck.
“It is so good to see you, my
friend. Miss me?”
Chaucer nickered contently, relishing the bond that they shared. He had sorely missed his partner.
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A Weight to Bear - Series
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