Daniel and Evelyn Whitcomb dreamed of adventure as they made a home in the Rocky Mountains. Four years after Daniel left Montana, he returns from the Civil War a man uncertain of where he belongs. Through courage, honor, and the arrival of an old friend, Daniel finds a way back to the life he once imagined. Join him in “Unchained Courage” for a lesson in the power of hope, faith, and remembrance.
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Whitcomb Springs, Montana Territory—July 4, 1865
Daniel led his horse over the familiar two-mile ride up the mountain trail. He reached a small clearing, and in the center a lake spread out in glistening glory, reflecting the mountain peaks behind it. He dismounted and stared in awe at the vista as his speckled horse grazed. Images of Evelyn overlapped his vision until it seemed a transparent silhouette of her smiling face hovered over the mountains.
A well-kept cabin stood a dozen yards from the crystal-clear lake. The stream feeding into it from the north flowed out to the east and created a short waterfall down a slope of rocks. Cooper McCord, the man who had been by Evelyn’s side while Daniel had been at war, called this part of paradise home when he wasn’t in town.
Cooper’s friendship had become a steadying hand in the three months since Daniel’s return. Without speaking of it, Cooper understood what Daniel had been through. They never spoke of their experiences: Daniel’s in the war between the North and South, and Cooper’s from his days serving as a civilian tracker in the army, occupying the West and witnessing the travesties wrought against the natives.
Cooper first brought Daniel to this same mountain lake a week after the nightmares had begun. Since then, Daniel had found solace in this place high above the town, the people, the noise. When he craved silence, he came here. Daniel had seen the disappointment in Evelyn’s eyes when he remained quiet about his experiences, but she never pushed.
He heard the crunch of horse hooves on rocks and twigs covering the trail. Only Cooper came here—it was his home. Daniel wondered where he had been for the past three days.
Daniel did turn when Cooper said nothing and saw the extra horse with the large buck draped over the saddle and covered in heavy canvas. Cooper walked over and stood next to Daniel. The dawn’s warm sun promised a clear and sunny day.
“Thought you might be here this morning.”
“The buck is for tonight?”
Cooper nodded. “Evelyn will understand if you aren’t there.”
“I can’t do that to her.” Daniel watched the sun inch higher on the horizon. The first Independence Day in four years without the screams, trumpets, cannons, and muskets echoing in his ears. Instead of a body-strewn battlefield, Daniel gazed upon the most beautiful valley he’d ever seen in his life.
Instead of cries coming from a hospital tent, the town of Whitcomb Springs below was a haven for him and anyone else seeking solace and a peaceful place to live.
Daniel still heard the screams in his nightmares. Muskets firing, filling the air with the stench of smoke and death. He relived it often. Most nights, the comfort of holding his wife was enough to waylay the madness within, but the worst of the memories sneaked through his barrier.
End of Excerpt
Copyright © by MK McClintock
"Unchained Courage" released August 28, 2018.
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Type: Short Story/Novelette
Heat Level: 1
Language Level: 1
Violence Level: 2
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