The Challenge Story

This started with one drabble, but people kept asking what happened, so I decided to finish the story with other challenges. At first, just drabbles, but then another challenge enticed my muse and I figured I could justify using any challenge<G>. I think there’s still one part to go, maybe more depending on the type of challenge, so stay tuned and enjoy.

Thanks to Helen for betaing for me.

Challenge 1:

The Outdoors… Great…

By JudyL

Challenge from M7BrothersbyChoice group: A drabble – 100 words including – grass, tree, purple flower, cloud and dirt.


Ezra moaned. His bed had developed a sharp lump, right under his ribcage. He frowned, eyes still closed. Something wasn’t right. It was too quiet.

He opened one eye. Instead of his pillow, he saw grass, dirt and… a purple flower?? Ezra levered himself up onto one elbow. Where am I? His vision spun and he found himself on his back looking up. One lonely cloud floated overhead.

Kind of how I feel. What happened? Where are the others? And where’s my horse?

Ezra closed his eyes as another wave of dizziness swept over him. Lord, I hate the out-of-doors.


Challenge 2:


From the VinF&D list -A Picture prompt Drabble challenge (100 words) –write a drabble using the following picture – This one’s for Teri<G> who kept ‘pestering’ me to finish ‘The Outdoors’ drabble.

Vin leaned against the post, staring down the street. Ezra should have been back hours ago.

Josiah stepped up beside him. "Any sign?"

Vin shook his head and straightened up. "It was a quick shot out to Eagle Bend and back to deliver that packet. Somethin’s wrong. I’m going after him."

Josiah frowned, concerned about the gambler himself, but perhaps a bit more judicious given the circumstances. "We should check with Chris. Maybe a couple of us should go."

Vin stepped into the street as a familiar horse limped into town. "That’s Chaucer. You check with Chris, I’m saddlin’ up."


Challenge 3:


Challenge – From the VinF&D list - Write a complete story in 1 hour using the theme: missing.

Okay, so technically, it’s part of a story, but it can stand alone<G>.


Vin saddled Peso, quickly and efficiently, hardly acknowledging the others as they joined him in the livery and prepared to ride. He knew he should have listened to his gut when Ezra hadn’t shown up at the expected time.

Chris led Pony out and met Vin’s eyes. Ready?

Vin nodded and mounted up, kicking Peso up to a trot. He’d start checking for prints once they got out of town. With the limp Ezra’s horse had shown, it should be fairly easy to find his trail.

Soon all six were together again. Vin could hear JD talking up a storm, his nerves and anxiety over what happened to Ezra showing in his verbosity. Vin snorted. He’d been hanging out around Ezra too long.

Chris was a silent but supportive presence on his left, while Nathan rode stiffly on the right. The healer was probably worried about whether he’d brought the right supplies, or enough of them to treat whatever injury their missing gambler might have. Buck’s voice countered JD’s and the younger man fell silent. Josiah’s chuckle told Vin that everything was fine as he concentrated on tracking Chaucer’s trail.

Ezra had been sent to Eagle Bend to deliver a package. They’d received a telegram from Ezra in Eagle Bend saying the deed was done and he was returning home forthwith. Why Ezra couldn’t use normal words was beyond Vin, but he always found it amusing.

Vin realized that subconsciously, another Ezra word, he had been waiting for Ezra’s return. For some time now, Vin had felt uncomfortable if one or more of the others were parted from the group. When all seven were together, things were fine. Even when they were in trouble, he felt that the seven of them together could handle it. But take just one of them out of the picture and the world seemed off kilter.

Vin held up his hand, stopped Peso and got off to check the trail. He frowned. Why would Ezra have cut cross-country? He scanned the scrub-covered area where Chaucer had rejoined the beaten path. "Looks like Chaucer came from that direction."

Chris eased Pony over a bit, facing the same direction. "Ezra would have stayed on the road. Cross-country from Eagle Bend is pretty rough travel. He wouldn’t risk Chaucer unless he didn’t have a choice."

Vin nodded. "Better get started, don’t know how far out he might be and it’ll be gettin’ dark soon." He gazed out across the way Chaucer had come, wondering if he shouldn’t send some of the others on to Eagle Bend. Vin sighed. Even though the footing was treacherous… his lips quirked at the thought, going straight overland would still be faster than following the road. Knowing the boys the way he did, he knew none of them would want to postpone meeting back up with Ezra any longer than necessary.

Vin handed Peso’s reins to Chris and headed out on foot. He didn’t want to chance missing Chaucer’s trail and with the thick, low lying vegetation it would be harder to follow.

Soon everyone was on foot to keep from injuring their horses. The going was slow and hazardous for man and horse, and soft curses punctuated the heavier breathing of the animals.

After about an hour, the scrub gave way to grassy plain. Vin looked up at the sinking sun and sighed. He was about to lose the light, but Ezra was out there somewhere, probably hurt and he wasn’t going to give up.

Vin followed the trail a few more yards, nodding to himself. "Looks like Chaucer was moving just fine out here. Probably caught his hoof in some of that brush," he said indicating the mess they’d just passed through with a tilt of his head. "Seems to be moving in a fairly straight line, we can probably ride for a bit."

"It’s gonna be dark…" Chris said, trailing off when he saw the look on Vin’s face. The tracker was well aware of the time. "Okay, mount up. We’ll cover more ground on horseback, even with them as tired as they are."

Signaling to the others, the men rode after their missing comrade.


Ezra sat up and almost fell over again. His head was pounding, but his vision was a bit clearer than it had been the last time he woke. At least, he thought he’d been awake before. He seemed to recall wondering where he was and where his horse was. The gambler blinked, the sun was heading for the horizon. Yes, I seem to remember it beating down on me from mid-sky. Ezra frowned. That meant something, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember what.

After several attempts, Ezra staggered to his feet and stood unsteadily in the middle of a grassy plain. The middle of nowhere, more like. He sighed. His head was sore, but otherwise he seemed in one piece. "Lost, but not least," he said, chuckling to himself. You’ve definitely hit your head on something, Ezra.

"Now, if I were Mr. Tanner, I could probably tell exactly where I am by the color of the sky or some such." He turned around slowly, looking for a familiar landmark. Unfortunately, all the grass and the few trees looked the same to him. There were some hills off in the distance, but his fuzzy vision could barely make them out.

"Ah ha!" he shouted, then grabbed his head in pain, his eyes clenched shut. The world spun around him and when he opened his eyes again it was to find himself sitting on the ground. "Maybe I should wait here. Surely Chaucer has made it home…" Ezra paused. He couldn’t remember where he was, or what he’d been doing before he woke up here, so how could he know that Chaucer was even with him, let alone able to find his way home from where ever here was.

"A fine predicament you’ve gotten yourself into, Ezra," he muttered, resting his head in his hands.

"You always talk to yourself like that?" a familiar voice asked.

"I’ve heard him carry on whole conversations," another voice chimed in.

"They say talkin’ to yourself means you’re crazy," a third voice said. "You think Ezra’s gone loco on us, Nate?"

"Ya’ll quit teasing the man when he’s down," Nathan admonished, kneeling by Ezra’s side.

Ezra lifted his too-heavy head and blinked, obviously not all there.

Nathan did a quick exam and then started to clean the cut on Ezra’s forehead.

"He gonna be okay?" JD asked.

"Think so, he hit his head on something. Gonna need to take it easy for a while, might be dizzy or get an upset stomach if he moves too fast."

Chris watched as Vin scouted the immediate area. He waited until Vin was done to join him. "Any idea what happened?"

Vin shook his head. "Just Chaucer’s tracks, no sign of anyone else. Think Ezra fell off right about where he was sitting." He shrugged. "Have to ask him."

Chris nodded and went to kneel by Ezra and Nathan. The others went about setting up camp as the sun touched the horizon.

"He good to answer some questions?" Chris asked the healer.

Nathan shrugged. "You can try. He’s makin’ sense, mostly."

Chris smirked briefly then turned his attention to Ezra. "Ezra, you with me?"

Ezra raised his head and blinked up at Chris. "Chris? Do you know where I am? I seem to have misplaced my locale. And my horse. Did you happen to see Chaucer about?"

Chris and Nathan grinned. "Yeah, he made his way home. Sprained a leg, but should be fine." He tilted his head wondering if it would do any good to continue as the gambler seemed to be listing to one side. "Hey, Ezra?"

Ezra jerked back upright. "Chris? Is that you?"

"Yeah Ezra. You got any idea why you cut cross country instead of staying on the road from Eagle Bend?"

"Eagle Bend?"

Chris sighed and looked at Nathan.

Nathan shrugged. "He may remember later, or maybe not. Hard to tell with head injuries."

Chris nodded. "I’ll take Vin and JD with me in the morning. We’ll go on to Eagle Bend, check Ezra’s back trail and ask around. You, Buck and Josiah head home and take care of Ezra."

"Think you’ll find something?" Nathan asked doubtfully.

"If there’s anything to find, we will," Chris assured.


Two days later

Ezra looked up at Chris and the others from his bed. Nathan still didn’t trust his balance and, truth be told, the room still spun when Ezra tried to stand. "You didn’t find anything?" he asked the gunslinger.

"No reason we could see for you to cut cross country, Ez."

Ezra sighed. "I suppose it’s a mystery." He shrugged. "I honestly don’t even recall going to Eagle Bend. But at least I accomplished my mission there, right?"

"Yep," Vin answered. "The package was delivered and signed for."

"Good," Ezra said. He looked at each of the men standing around him and smiled. "Thank you for coming for me."

Vin grinned. "No problem, Ezra. Felt like part of the team was missing while you were gone. Glad you’re back and gonna be okay."


Continued in the next challenge - The Game is Afoot

Feedback is loved and cherished… really. JudyL