Disclaimer: I do not own Nancy Drew or any characters associated with her. I make no profit from this work.
Disclaimer: The copy art, entitled "Brave Spirit," is the work of Lee Bogle. Lee is an accomplished artist and readers can view his other works by visiting his website.
A/N: This story is quite different from the usual stories posted here. No Frank, no Joe, and Ned as the leading man? Yes. I think he's terribly underused in fanfiction. That could be because he comes as sort of a blank canvas. The books never gave him much backstory which suits my purposes fine. It's left to me, the writer, to develop his character and guide you, the reader, through his journey from boy to man. And not just a man, an Indian brave. Nancy shows up in the tale, but not for a while. Ultimately, this a Ned/Nancy love story.
I realize readers may not be interested in a story such as this, historical-fiction, and if I find that is the case, I'll remove it. This story is based on real events that happened to real people in the 1860s and 70s. I have woven those elements into my story.
Horses. One of God's most majestic creatures. Here in Texas, herds of mustangs roamed the plains free and wild.
One year ago, on my 11th birthday, father gave me a horse. A beautiful gray mare with a white spot on her forehead. The spot was shaped like a diamond and so, I named her Diamond.
Five years ago my family moved to Texas. Father often said, we were part of the westward expansion of the United States. Mother often reminded him that our move had not come without a great many inconveniences and dangers.
The land was hard and unforgiving. Rain fell in either abundance or not at all. Most folks made their living raising cattle and horses. We were no exception. Our ranch consisted of cattle and a few horses.
Father was a blacksmith and knew a great deal about horses. He imparted this knowledge to me, his only son. Most days, father rode to the Army Fort. He had first offered his services to the commander during the Civil War. The commander, often short on men and supplies, had gladly accepted. Thus, father had established a business for himself. The fort had hundreds of horses and welcomed the services of another blacksmith. The fort's own blacksmiths were frequently out with scouting parties, hunting for marauding Indians.
Father received a small amount of money for his services and this provided us the means to buy sugar, flour, cornmeal, and coffee. The essentials of frontier life.
Today, I thought not of food or Indians, but of the magnificent land before me. The Southern Plains. I sat straight and tall in the saddle and let my gaze sweep over the undulating landscape. Waves of buffalo grass swayed in the chilly morning breeze. Mesquite trees and sage brush dotted the land.
It was late April. My mother and two younger sisters were busy planting the garden. Mother had sent me out to check on the cattle. It was calving season and we had several pregnant cows. Breach births were common and could be fatal to mother and calf. I knew what to do if I encountered this situation.
I prodded Diamond and we trotted toward a spring that ran through our property. Cows liked to gather there and lay in the shade of a large Palo Verde Tree.
My breath plumed in front of my face as I scanned the open fields. I kept a sharp lookout for cows resting on the ground.
We were nearing the spring when the baleful moo of a cow caught my ear. I turned in the saddle and froze. A band of mounted Indians, galloping at breakneck speed, were headed straight for me. A cloud of dust swirled behind them. War paint glistened on their cheeks. Decorated shields hung from their arms. Hands clasped weapons; tomahawks, lances, rifles, or bows. A quiver of arrows bounced on their backs.
I took the scene in and then came to my senses and thumped Diamond with my heels. An arrow zipped past my head as Diamond bolted through the thorny brush and tall grass. Bloodcurdling war whoops split the air. I thumped Diamond harder and glanced back. Angry faced Indians lashed their ponies with their quirts, pressing them hard.
I urged Diamond on. "Giddy up, Girl! Giddy up!"
Diamond's speed increased. Her long strides devoured the ground. She loved to run and I was a good rider. My legs strained against her body, each delicate movement of my thighs and calves directed her.
Cold air rushed past my face and grabbed at my throat. Giant puffs of steam bellowed from Diamond's mouth and nostrils. Fleet and sure-footed, she raced over grassy mounds. Her hoofs plowed up dirt and dust. Cactus and sage brush clawed at my pants and boots.
What did the Indians want? Me or Diamond? The Comanche and Apache were known horse thieves. Horses, for them, were money. After a successful raid, the Indians would travel to Mexico and trade stolen horses for blankets, beads, and other goods such as tobacco, rifles, and ammunition.
In recent months, Indians had raided many of the surrounding ranches. They'd made off with property, cattle, horses, and even a few children. Those poor souls. What had become of them?
The soldiers at Fort Mason had tried to exact revenge on the savages. But the Indians knew this land well and always managed to escape unpunished.
Another glance back. Fear and panic rose hard and fast in my chest. The Indians were gaining on me. Their well-trained war-ponies seemed to fly across the ground.
I spurred Diamond in the sides. "C'mon, girl. C'mon!"
The Harmon Ranch was five miles away. Maybe we could make it there. We sailed over a ditch and landed hard on the other side. Diamond's neck was coated with sweat and I felt her faltering.
Seconds later, the Indians cleared the ditch. Behind me, the drone of hoofs grew louder and clearer. Thunk, ka-thunk. Thunk, ka-thunk. I peered into the distance and strained my eyes, searched for the Harmon's tin roof. Where was it?
Two Indians drew even with Diamond and me. One on the left and one on the right. We raced neck-and-neck, three riders, Diamond and me in the middle. One warrior reached out and tried to grab me. I ducked, threw myself flat on Diamond's neck and grabbed hold of her mane. The maneuver confused her and she slowed her pace. The two warriors raced on unaware of the change.
I sat up and tried to turn Diamond in a new direction. She wasn't having any of it. She reared and whinnied, her forelegs pawed the air. I clutched the reins and held on tight. The two warriors noticed our absence and turned their ponies. They galloped toward us kicking up a cloud of dust.
More Indians appeared and jerked their ponies to a halt. They formed a tight circle around Diamond and me. Diamond snorted, pawed the ground, and shook her head. We were trapped, surrounded, and neither of us liked it. Diamond curled her top lip, bared her teeth, and let out a heart-rending whinny. I felt for her, but there was little I could do to comfort her.
Six braves glared at us, an awe-inspiring sight in war paint, feathers, and beads. They were armed to the teeth, a terrifying array of weapons – rifles, revolvers, knives, lances, and the quintessential bow and arrow.
One brave motioned for me to dismount. Another raised a rifle and aimed it at me.
I leaned forward and patted Diamond's sweaty neck. "It'll be fine, Girl."
I slid off Diamond and lifted my hands in abject surrender. One mounted Indian let out a whoop and pumped the air with his lance. Another drove Diamond into a herd of stolen horses.
The remaining Indians reared their ponies in a victory display. Diamond was a real catch. As for me, I feared a lead ball in the heart and a scalping.
The Indians wheeled their ponies and rode in a wide circle around me. Yapping and whooping, they passed in a dizzying blur. Lances and arrows were thrust at me. I dodged the sharp tips then stumbled and fell. The ground vibrated beneath me as the ponies circled.
One painted warrior lifted his rifle in the air and shouted something that brought the others to a halt. He jumped off his pony, grabbed the front of my jacket with his free hand, and hauled me to my feet. He struck me in the head with the side of his rifle and motioned for me to mount his pony. I shook my head and backed away.
He went to hit me again, but I smacked his hand away. These Red Devils would not take me. Not easily and not without a fight. I balled my fists and conjured up the meanest, fiercest scowl I could muster.
The Indian slapped me about the head and shoulders. I blocked some of his blows and got in a good lick. I punched him in the cheek and smeared his war paint. His dark eyes flamed like the fires of Hell.
He struck me in the head with the butt of his rifle and yelled something in his language that I did not understand.
I paid him no mind and locked a hand in one of his long black braids and pulled. To my delight, he yelped. This brought another Indian into the fray and together they pushed me to the ground and pinned me on my back. I twisted and squirmed as they stripped me of my buckskin jacket and cotton shirt. Now, I was naked from the waist up just like the Indians. I laid there on the rough, rocky ground breathing hard. I was cut and scratched from wrestling with them.
My original antagonist grabbed me by the arm and yanked me up. He shoved me toward his pony and swiftly mounted it. With the help of his friend, he pulled me onto the pony and seated me behind him. He drew my arms around his waist and thumped his pony. The big palomino took off like a shot. I lurched and clutched my captor around the waist.
The Indians pressed their ponies to top speed and we raced across the plains. I caught sight of Diamond, wide-eyed and frightened, in the herd of stolen horses. I wished I could calm her, stroke her neck, tell her everything would be fine. Of course, I didn't believe that. Not at that time. Nothing was fine. Each long stride of my captor's pony took me farther from my family and home, farther from the life I knew. What lay ahead, I did not know and could never have imagined.
The Indians headed northwest pushing their ponies to the limit. When a pony became jaded, they switched to a fresh mount. I would soon learn my captors were Comanche, the best horse riders on the Southern Plains.