He zenithed the disobedient fire with horse feed, old clothes and lamp oil while redolent, dim orange leaves of unwilling flames were more pulled into the byre of the witch then went willingly. The other boy had choked on his tongue and was dead. Vern sat in the room where he had been given or brought back, where he had been standing, exactly where he had been standing when he had caught that glimpse of the witch Ohern had only just now been freed from thinking of.
“I can’t see.” He said, this time more to himself then the first several times that this statement was, Ohern felt, leveled at him, an accusation, a complaint, a call for help. Ohern looked at him again, rested his arms on his waist exhausted. He nodded at the boy.
On the floor, Gable’s face was the deep almost royal red of men his age, tired men wrought into exhaustion. He breathed. Ohern closed his eyes to safe them from dirt or what have you and then rose grabbing up a straw mat and taking it to the black rictus of the dead witch.
It had been to long for simple help to return. Shimmer ignored his handiwork and exploited the bags of grain that would have been safe from fettered mounts. He pushed the haft of the busted fork against her back every so often until it entered easy and returned steaming. He made shimmer ready, swapping out for a fine steel bridle and new pair of saddle bags, emptying his stuffs into the new one already across shimmers back then tossing it into the fire. With a brand he wrote the symbol of his name on it, filled with what he could carry from the shed then walked shimmer to the door of the house to come upon Vern still on the floor, his eyes bloodied from calloused dirty fingers gouging them towards life.
“I still can’t see.”
Ohern helped him to stand and walked him out the door. He led him to shimmer and put his hand on her flank then put a run of rope in his hand and went back inside. Gable was dead. Ohern nodded again then left and began the slow ride home.
The woman who had waited was gone as was the other boy, the horses, he knew this.
He could not take the young man to his home, Deal would play hell with him. With Gable gone, none now ran the Bar and Cross. It was past dawn when they had come in. He walked Vern to the transom of the common room and put his hand in the door way than took his rope back coiling it as he walked shimmer to water, the smell of burnt bodies more common to him than the smell of good meat. He ignored the questions and met no eye. What they wanted from him he would not give and when shimmer had drank he rode west ways towards home.