Riding Through Riddles – Extended Epilogue

The sun was just beginning to set, casting a golden hue across the ranch that Lewis and Essie had built together over the last two years. The cattle in the fields cast long shadows across the range, their placid grazing a stark contrast to the events unfolding in the nearby town.

Essie was in the kitchen, preparing a meal when Lewis walked in, his expression grave. His sharp brown eyes seemed to hold a storm in them, a stark contrast to the clear sky outside. She looked up, her heart lurching at the worry etched into his features.

“The Dunbars are at it again,” Lewis muttered, scraping a hand over his stubbled jaw. “They hit the Hendersons’ ranch this morning.”

Essie’s hands stilled, a pang of fear settling in her stomach. She knew of the Dunbars – a gang of ruthless outlaws who had been terrorizing the nearby settlements. Her gaze found Lewis’s, and she saw the same determination in his eyes that she felt stirring within her.

“Then we’ll have to do something about it,” she said, her voice steady despite the anxiety clawing at her.

As the darkness fell outside, the cozy warmth of their home contrasted sharply with the grave discussions taking place within. Amos, having arrived at the ranch for his usual evening visit, shared in the decision-making. His stocky form was sprawled comfortably in one of the ranch house’s worn armchairs, but his eyes bore a serious gleam.

“Right now, we’ve got two choices,” Lewis started, resting his elbows on the table. “We either sit here and wait for the Dunbars to come to us, or we go with the sheriff and his men and do something about it.”

There was a silence that hung in the room, a silence filled with the weight of their decision. The peace they had cultivated in this place was threatened, and though Amos wanted nothing more than to stand with his friends, his past still haunted him. He couldn’t face the thought of violence again so soon after the war. He stayed silent, looking at his hands.

Lewis looked over at Essie, his gaze filled with concern. “Essie, I–”

But Essie cut him off, her decision already made. “I’m going with you, Lewis. We can’t let them destroy everything we’ve worked for.”

In the face of Essie’s determination, Amos found his voice again. “I’ll stay,” he said, looking from Lewis to Essie. “I’ll take care of the ranch.”

Lewis nodded, relief evident on his face. He trusted Amos. If anything were to happen, he knew that Amos would protect their home. He clasped Amos’ hand in a firm grip, their bond solidified over the years of hardship they had faced together.

With their plans set, they spent the rest of the evening in quiet conversation, discussing tactics and strategies. When it was time to sleep, they each retired to their rooms, the thought of what lay ahead leaving them with a restless anticipation.

The following morning, Lewis and Essie, with their weapons loaded and determination firm, set off with the sheriff and a small group of townsfolk, leaving their peaceful ranch behind. Their journey towards justice had begun. The air was thick with tension, and as they looked back at their home one last time, they knew they were making the right decision.

Lewis glanced at Essie, who was riding by his side. He saw in her the same resolution that was burning within him. Together, they would face whatever was coming their way. The calm before the storm had never felt more peaceful, nor more ominous.

Riding through the verdant Texan landscape, Lewis felt an uneasy sense of déjà vu. It had been years since he had ridden off to face danger with a band of comrades, but the Civil War still lingered in his memory, as fresh as if it had ended yesterday. He glanced at Essie, her petite frame belying the steely determination that shone in her eyes. This time, though, he wasn’t leaving someone behind; he was going into battle with his partner at his side.

They rode in silence, each lost in their thoughts. The posse was made up of a motley group of townsfolk, some experienced with firearms, others palpably fearful yet firm in their decision to protect their homes. The sheriff led the group, his sturdy figure a beacon of quiet authority.

As the sun began to set, they made camp. The surrounding landscape was bathed in an otherworldly glow, their tranquil surroundings at odds with their grim purpose. Over a hasty meal of hardtack and jerky, Lewis outlined the plan he had been formulating.

“We can’t take them head-on,” he began, his gaze flicking over the apprehensive faces around the campfire. “Their numbers are greater, and they have the advantage of being on the defensive.”

He spread out a rudimentary map in the dirt, illustrating the layout of the bandit’s camp as best he could. “The key is to surprise them. We strike at dawn when they’re least expecting it.”

The sheriff, a grizzled veteran named Harlan, nodded thoughtfully. He had been dubious about letting a rancher lead the strategy, but he had heard about Lewis’s military past and knew desperate times required unorthodox measures.

The night passed with an undercurrent of anxiety thrumming through the camp. Lewis lay beside Essie, their hands intertwined. The stars overhead were a silent audience to their whispered promises and fervent prayers for safety.

The break of dawn brought with it a renewed sense of purpose. On horseback once again, they approached the outlaws’ camp. Lewis and Essie were at the front, leading the townsfolk into what they knew would be the fight of their lives.

As the first light of the day illuminated the unsuspecting bandits, the posse struck. A wild uproar ensued as the outlaws were taken by surprise, their startled shouts breaking the morning’s peace.

The battle was chaotic, a maelstrom of shouts, gunfire, and dust. But despite the mayhem, Lewis and Essie were unwavering. They fought back to back, their movements synchronized from years of working together on the ranch.

Essie was relentless, her fear forgotten in the face of the danger that threatened her home and her loved ones. Each time she felled an outlaw, she felt a grim satisfaction. They were fighting for their future, for their right to live in peace, and she would not back down.

Lewis, utilizing his war-hardened instincts, picked off the outlaws one by one. The grim reality of their situation was clear, but his resolve did not waver. He was protecting his home, his wife, his friend, and his town, and he would fight to the bitter end if necessary.

As the hours went by, the tide began to turn in their favor. The element of surprise and their determined stand had given them the upper hand. The outlaws, disoriented and panicked, began to falter.

Despite the gunfire, the dust, and the blood, there was a palpable shift in the air. The townsfolk, inspired by Lewis and Essie’s bravery, fought on with newfound determination. They weren’t just defending their homes now; they were reclaiming their peace.

The sun was high overhead when the last shot echoed through the landscape, a haunting reminder of the morning’s violent encounter. Silence then settled over the battlefield, and the cost of their victory became painfully clear.

The outlaws had either fled or had been captured or killed, and the townsfolk were left panting and bloodied but triumphant. Their quiet determination had won over the bandit’s might and numbers. Lewis and Essie stood side by side, their bodies aching and hearts pounding. Their eyes met, relief and concern mirrored in their gaze. They were both still standing, and that was what mattered most.

The sheriff, his weathered face grimmer than ever, walked over to the couple. He held out his hand to Lewis, who shook it firmly. “Your plan worked,” he said, the corners of his eyes crinkling in a semblance of a smile. “We owe our homes, our lives to you and your wife.”

Lewis shook his head modestly, his arm instinctively wrapping around Essie. “We all did what we had to,” he replied. But he felt a surge of pride, for himself and for Essie. They had faced danger head-on and had come out victorious.

The return journey was a somber affair. The adrenaline of the fight had worn off, replaced by the heavy reality of their encounter. The townsfolk were victorious but quiet, each lost in their thoughts. They had defended their homes, their loved ones, but the taste of victory was bitter.

Lewis and Essie rode home together, their hands intertwined just as they had been the previous night. Their ranch came into view, and they both felt a wave of relief wash over them. They had won, and they were home.

Waiting for them by the porch was Amos, worry etched on his face. But seeing them return unscathed, a genuine smile lit up his features.

“I heard the commotion in town,” he said, rushing to help them off their horses. “I reckon you had something to do with it?”

“We did,” Lewis replied, the words sounding foreign to him even now. He took in their sprawling ranch, the cattle grazing peacefully in the distance. Despite the turmoil of the day, this was still their home, and they had protected it.

They filled Amos in about the day’s events, their voices overlapping in their haste to narrate the story. With each passing moment, Lewis could see the relief settle on Amos’ face, knowing their home was safe, their lives back to normal.

In the following days, life on the ranch went back to its familiar rhythm. They returned to their routines, the trauma of the past week slowly fading away. The cattle were tended, the fences mended, and once again, they found comfort in the simplicity of their existence.

One evening, as the sun set and painted the sky in hues of orange and purple, Lewis found himself standing beside Essie, overlooking their land. His arm was wrapped securely around her waist, drawing her closer to his side.

“We did good, didn’t we?” Essie whispered, breaking the peaceful silence.

“We did, Essie. We did,” Lewis replied, pressing a kiss on her temple. They stood in silence, watching as the last rays of the sun disappeared, their land plunging into a comfortable darkness.

And thus, life went on for Lewis, Essie, and Amos, not without its hardships, but filled with resilience and unity. They were a team, a family, connected not just by their shared past but also by the promise of a shared future.

Their story had been one of love and friendship, of bravery and sacrifice. And while the echoes of their past would never entirely fade away, their present was all about living, not just surviving, but truly living. And perhaps, that was the most significant victory of all.


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7 thoughts on “Riding Through Riddles – Extended Epilogue”

    1. Jonnie I enjoyed your book but I being an old western man only 95 I never heard of a cattle drive with only three hands a three horses next time you should take a few hands and extra horses but I did like the story

  1. This was one fantastic book. The name grabbed me before I ever read one word.
    Johnnie this is one of your best. Congrats

  2. This was absolutely wonderful and I loved it! The story was absolutely amazing, the excitement, the drama throughout will keep you turning those pages, this Author has you captured from page one and to the end! 🎭📚🤠🐝🎶

  3. Excellent dramatic story. Once I decided to read it…the title “Riddles” held me back from starting. Glad I did…characters intertwined their thoughts, ambition and courage to help a country, a town and fellow ranchers. Great read.

    1. Great story. Lots of action throughout the book and great character development. Great prMotection of family, friends and their town against the rustlers/outlaws in the extended epilogue.

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