Thorn in the Flesh

A Magnificent Seven gen novel by Rhiannon, set in the Old West and with lots of hurt-comfort. NOTE! This story has appeared, or is currently available, on-line.

A perfect storm is brewing. A newcomer in town, an old nemesis waiting to strike, and a dance in the offing. Ella is plotting her revenge, and Vin is at the top of her list. but the tracker has other worries, like asking Inez to the dance.


"So, what d'ya reckon, Josh?"

Josh scrambled up from his uncomfortable position prostrate on the ground, stretching cramped muscles and brushing earth off his pants. "Well, it's kinda egg-shaped, and I think I made out four toes, so could be a wolf or a coyote. Umm… more likely coyote out here. And… the outer toes are larger, which means it must be a coyote because a wolf's toes are all the same size."

Vin nodded, pleased at the progress the boy was making. As he had guessed, Josh was turning out to be a quick learner. Throughout the day, Vin showed his willing pupil how to locate the telltale signs of an animal's passing and identify different types of feathers and hair. He explained how to distinguish different tracks by shape, size, and number of toes, and let him practice following a trail.

Josh listened attentively to everything he was told, but Vin was mildly surprised that he didn't seem to want to talk, other than to ask questions about the skills he was being taught. He wondered if the boy felt uncomfortable in his company without JD along. He decided not to dwell on it, but to be grateful for the chance to pursue his own thoughts. He was still mentally kicking himself for failing to ask Inez to that stupid dance, knowing that he'd now have to work up his courage once more when he returned to town.

They had stopped to examine some sign just as the trail began to wind upwards into the foothills. It was now less than an hour's ride to the place Vin had decided to camp for the night and, once they arrived, he planned to show Josh some tricks of survival in what could be harsh and unforgiving country.

Vin sat down on a boulder, took a swig of water from his canteen and poured a small quantity over his face, wiping it with his bandanna. It was late afternoon, but the heat was still fierce. He would be grateful for the breeze as they worked their way higher into the hills. He watched Josh as the young man drank out of his own canteen and decided that now might be a good time to try to find out what was on his companion's mind.

"Josh, you've been mighty quiet all day. Something eatin' at ya?"

Josh looked startled. "No, of course not. I'm fine."

Vin shrugged. "Just ain't used to ya bein' so quiet, is all."

"Just concentrating, trying to take in all you've been teachin' me." Vin looked at him searchingly, but Josh was looking down and wouldn't meet his gaze. "Well, if there's something botherin' ya, ya can just come out and say it," he said.

"It's nothing, really."

"Ya sure? 'Cause, if this trip ain't what you were expectin'…"

Josh looked up then. "No, it's not that! I'm learning a lot, really."

Vin waited patiently, certain that there was something on the boy's mind. Sure enough, after a while, Josh looked at him diffidently.

123 pages. $10 for PDF version with color cover.

Magnificent Seven Home | Aurora | Blood Brothers | Devil's Bargain | Driven | Echoes in the Dark | Helluva Thing | Hostages of Obsession | In for a Peso, In for a Pound | Killing Time | Music Hath Charms | Need/Lost Boys | Quicksand | Rough Stones | Savage Fury | Second Chances, Volume 1 | Second Chances, Volume 2 | Secrets Ghost | Virtual Reality | Visits With Dr. Will | Whispers in the Darkness | With Eagle's Wings