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Tasker's Chance - First 500 words

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Chapter 1

Colony of Maryland

Late August 1751

For the second time that day, Colonel Benjamin Tasker, Jr. saw a dark-skinned man in deerskin pants dash across the road and disappear in the trees a short distance ahead of him and Dancer, his gray stallion, while they traveled to Bel Air.  Not so much a road, but more of a wide muddy path that cut through the wilderness, serving travelers from Annapolis to outlying settlements and estates.  The man was shirtless and hawk feathers decorated his long black hair.  An Indian, very likely a Piscataway.  A sizable population of them still lingered more than a century after the landowners had established their presence in the colony.   Encountering an Indian while traveling alone in the woods was dangerous - they can pull off an unsuspecting man from his horse, climb into the saddle, and gallop off with the animal, both never to be seen again. 

Colonel Tasker squeezed his knees to ask Dancer to trot and didn’t allow his horse to walk again for a mile.  Tasker checked his flintlock pistols in their holsters built within the front two sides of his saddle. It had been a few months since he last fired either one of them, and several years since he shot a rifle while in service in the Anne Arundel County militia.  He wasn’t altogether certain that he could fire the flintlock accurately and quickly if he needed to.  He made a mental note to practice his shooting if he continues to travel to Bel Air, the estate owned by his brother-in-law, Governor Samuel Ogle of Maryland as frequently as he does.  Today’s journey to Bel Air was particularly urgent, according to a letter he received from the governor a week ago.

I need to talk to you about the purchase of a horse the next time you come to stay at Bel Air.  The business venture will require you to travel extensively on my behalf.  I will explain more when you arrive.

It was signed Samuel Ogle, Royal Provisional Governor of Maryland” with elegant cursive handwriting.

Tasker reined the horse to a stop.  The stallion inhaled deeply while the colonel listened to the sounds around him.  No sounds of snapping twigs or rustling bushes, but he sensed the Indian was somewhere nearby. These Indians seldom abandoned opportunities to steal a horse once they’re aware of a lone rider in the wilderness. He legged on his horse. I should demand from Sam that I move into Bel Air. T’would save me and my horse a lot of travel from the Tasker farm in Galesville. the colonel thought. And less exposure to these savages.

The 31-year-old colonel and his horse soon arrived at a clearing, where the muddy path intersected with an actual road made of dirt mixed with gravel and crushed oyster shells.  The thick woods where Indians prefer to hide were now behind him, and the forest evolved into open brushy fields.  He relaxed only slightly; something or someone was watching him, he knew.

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