Ok... this is a bit long, so I apologize. I'm not putting expectations on it, just offering it if you're interested because I really felt like writing it. The tone's a bit stilted, I hope... that's what I was going for. It's intended to be a brief memoir from my character herself, as if somehow she decided she'd try to explain, in a letter to no one in particular, just how she came to be what she is. For the story itself, I plan on writing 3rd person. I included a brief outline at the end in case you don't care for the long-form. :)
To whom it may concern,
To the tavern owner from Red Flint,
My name is Katie Sinclair. This letter is in regard to my recent visit to your hotel, for which I paid in advance. This is the same hotel from which I left without paying reparations for the damages caused when I shot four men to death in the hotel saloon. For that I am truly sorry and regret that I can't offer any sum in compensation, though you can probably sell the guns they were carrying and tried to use on me for a tidy sum, and I encourage you to do so before your weaseley coward of a sheriff pockets them and sells them himself.
I was the girl in the black, seal-skin coat with the ostrich boots and flat-brimmed black hat they call the "Reno style". You remarked that my accent was rather southern, and asked if I was from that direction. I concurred only in that I was from that political vicinity if not that geographical orientation.
I wore an eye-patch as well if you must know, though you didn't seem to mind it. I found that reassuring about you; I am not vain, but some think me pretty to look upon and have told me as much. However, other people with something to hide seem to avoid my gaze, as if that black patch might hold some secret to their shame.
One such men-- one of the four I later killed-- was there when I checked in and asked me if I was a working whore or an aspiring one. I did not kill him at that moment because he was alone, and he was not the man I was sent for. I am certain that this is sufficient reminder, for your face blushed with shame to hear a woman insulted, but you lacked the courage to respond in kind.
That is just as well, and I do not blame you. If I learned anything from the war, it's that any man can be a killer, but that this is not necessarily a good thing.
Out there in the cattle country, few of us asked for the war that came; a dedicated few were so kind as to bring it to us-- all of us, regardless of our feelings on secession. I was no more than sixteen when the war found me, and when it did it was relentless and cruel. There is nothing left of me that was before, I think.
My folks were immigrants, not terribly poor, but set on finding solid footing where there was opportunity. I think perhaps they had always been strange-- we had few visitors, even at Christmas. When we attended church, which was almost every Sunday, we sat our own pew. I believe they hoped to be something more than they had been before, but I don't know what appealed to them so much of solitude.
Sometimes, a man would call on my mother. Somehow, it was always the nights that my father was gone on a fortnight's herd drive to trade cattle, or when he was gone to town for a single evening, which he did often, sometimes with a quiet resolution and sometimes with cursing and speaking in their old tongue, which they only used to fight. (Consequently, I never managed to master it, for the one time I'd tried a word out on mother she'd striped my legs with a switch in trade.) He was kind to me... he bade me call him 'uncle' and he brought gifts sometimes, and always a small something for my mother.
I could not, though I did try, be fond of him, for I heard them some nights. When I stayed up awake in the upstairs room, hearing their breathing and noises-- what I'd first thought, with some horror, were pain-- echoing off the hewn wood and plaster of my cramped loft room, I knew that he'd done to her what was more than my father had. Then I wondered if he even was my father, for when I learned the nature of life's beginnings it was clear enough that this 'uncle' had been engaging in that same act with my mother, and evidently brought it some purpose and enthusiasm.
I felt a little shame over my disdain for him, though I hated him to show favor or smile toward any of my brothers or sisters over me. He even tried to teach me things, and bade me go to school without exception, to run there and back for miles every day to build my constitution, and to learn the hunting and shooting crafts with earnest. He was as much a father to me through his sparse visits as my own, and he shaped my path as much with one request or command as my father with a year's teachings and lectures. This was well enough until that time that I mentioned, when the war changed everything for us all.
In Missouri, the war wasn't ranks of blue and gray coats, waving banners and billows of black smoke in line. It was raids-- if not under the guise of some martial goal, they'd have been called vicious crimes, with jayhawker raids and Missourian raids right back, it was a canvas of fire stretched on frames of bones, and it was painted in the blood of farmers and craftsmen and children and wives. We were set to leave our ranch when the raids intensified, though I knew not where we would migrate for my father had lost most of his cattle and money. And then we were raided by jayhawkers ourselves, with no more cause than our existence.
I remember it was midsummer, and I still wore my church-dress, as did my mother. They came upon us on the road, out of the cane and thickets without even firing a shot at first-- they could tell we were unarmed. Then father was shot through and through, and sadly didn't die until well after the mess was done. They cut pieces from him in a fashion that was something like the preparation of a fresh kill, then stretched him and my brothers while my mama and I were impressed upon to watch. The display wasn't only for our benefit, and they made brutal and quick work of my mother and I both. After several repetitions of their assaults upon us, the likes of which I'd no preparation for, I lost the time and fell into a stupor that blocked the horror, humiliation, and pain of the experience
If I seem, reader, to recall these events with some distance, it is not because they have lost their sting.
Perhaps the most inexplicable of this was that I somehow expected 'Uncle' to arrive-- to charge in with men and slay the Jayhawkers with the ease he'd turned a coin over the back of his hand. Why did I? Because I knew, somewhere in my mind, that he simply could, but that he would not. It's like I could feel him, feel his disgust, feel him give up on us. Maybe he'd already given up on us before we were attacked, before my brothers were hanged and my mother's face bashed in with a rifle butt. But I knew then that he was renouncing me... casting me aside, and I could hear it plain as day, as if he were there. "This is all the fight you have?"
And that, somehow, shamed me more than the rape, for it left me hopeless, as if death could be no worse nor better than the shame of being unwanted forever.
But I did live... they meant to shoot me to death for sport, but somehow I did not die. Half naked and half dead, I staggered many miles to the church, back to where we'd come from. Some had lingered on to picnic in the sun, though we were not invited-- of course-- and that was how I found them. They were finishing their picnics on the green lawn of the Nazarene lawn, and here I came from the treeline, bloodied, a bullet nested in my hair where it'd skimmed my temple and no tears-- naught but blood from a ruined eye where their bullet did come to rest. Somehow the eye was missing, as if a crow had plucked it from me.
I am sorry, reader, for the grisly details. They swore I'd die of the wound, that the eyes were too crucial. But though I lost the eye forever, I found a vision of revenge.
Two years hence, I was with Quantrill. You may be asking, reader, how a girl could be among Quantrill's men, for they could not afford the luxury of companionship or servants. Well, I shall confess, with no shame, that it was as a young man. Young as I was and thin of frame, I cropped my hair and did not bathe in the open, and managed to pass myself as a young man of early teenage years. While this, of course, did not afford any more respect than if I'd been a woman in a leopard suit, it did allow me passage into their ranks. It allowed me to carry a gun in the open, allowed me to stay alongside those rough men who I came to regard as revenging angels, holy warriors in a shadowy war. I personally witnessed the death of government officers, agents of the bank and the railroad, small detachments of soldiers-- and to speak plainly, though it risk your sympathetic ear, I must admit that I loved it.
Please, reader, forgive that I took so much pleasure from bushwhacking for a whole year of my life. Forgive that I took greater joy out of caressing the heavy hammer of a colt .45 than I did when I had my first monthly and knew I was becoming a woman. Please understand that in my heart was a cold furnace, desperate for a fire again, kept alive only by the kindling, dimming glow of hate and pain. Forgive that I sat among men and hid my sex so that they spoke plainly of things that no proper girl should hear. Forgive that rather than courting I learned to shoot a sentry between the eyes at two hundred yards. Forgive that I was shown how to slit a man's neck with a buck-knife and taught to practice on a hog's neck. Forgive that I stole the hardtack off a jayhawker's body while he was still breathing, bleeding, and choking on his life just so I could have breakfast.
I know that, given time enough as a raider, I'd have died a bloody death, and I reckon with some certainty that a righteous god would have been suited fine by that arrangement. But it wasn't until it went wrong, I suppose, that I learned how things should be right. My band's raiding took a vicious turn following the torching of the town of Crawford, where the largest band of jayhawkers we'd ever heard of had nailed the doors shut on the church and let fire take half the town's populace-- old folks, women, and children all that remained by now. Many of my own band had friends or relatives there, but my captain-- yes, we used that term, as unregulated as we were-- his sweetheart had been there, and it was this defilement that set us to the cruelest of paths.
Seventeen months into my time with Quantrill, I was accepted as a young, but ruthless and hard, soldier. That changed, though, when my closest compatriots left that band, urging me along, and we set upon the home of a suspected jayhawker's family, where his sisters and mother lived. Quantrill might have looked the other way if we'd sought his approval, but his lietenants would not have allowed it. So we went at it alone, without the rest of the band, and separated from our troupe by a half-week's ride.
There, my compatriots committed the very atrocities that had destroyed my family and sundered my heart. I watched, I thought, and I wept my first tears in a year. And then I killed my compatriots. You see, I intend not to glorify my methods or to justify my deeds, but I set this forth as a record of the truth. And the truth is that I killed them one after the next with a precision and certainty that I had not known I possessed, as if my hand was guided by some other, more certain, warrior's grace.
Understandably, this sudden change of heart from one beardless youth of a soldier was for naught in regard to changing the villagers' hearts, and I was hunted for many a day. Had I not been spent already, have wasted my horse in the frenzied thrill of vengeance already, perhaps I'd have stood a chance. But I was captured, disarmed, and beaten.
They called me a girlish lad. Pretty except for the eye. And they started to do to me what I'd seen done before. On the stony flat of a dried creekbed, among the sweet grasses and reeds, they made to take a boy's ass and, instead, were aghast to see a young woman's. Some were put aback by the shock of it all, but not the leader, who said it would work just as well however he decided to proceed. He would not, however, get the chance.
I heard a voice, then, and I could feel the sweep of feathery wings among the boughs of the pines about me. There was something else present, something that had watched me forever, as long as I'd known breath, and that something was ready for me. A woman's voice, clear as the slick glaze of dew that covered the ground, resonant as the rending of an ancient tree, and pure and living and beautiful. "You were cast aside once, child, for being defeated." And then her face was clear in my gaze and I could smell the musk and honey and oil of her. She was beautiful beyond measure, and seemed to be two things at once-- she was a matron in a black dress, she was a goddess in golden armor, like the engraving in my mother's book of histories that spoke of Rome and Greece. She was all in one, and she carried a bow and arrow. "You won't be defeated again."
And I wasn't.
'The gun in my hand must have come from one of the posse's hip-holsters, I must have slipped it free,' I thought stupidly. I couldn't fathom that she was even real, much less that she'd placed an armament before me and given me a fighting chance. The gun was heavier than any I'd held, but it felt so right for me that I knew, before I'd even drawn the hammer for my first shot, that I would slay them all.
Somehow, my days with the raiders were done, and I set out for the west. I met the woman again that first night, when she guided me to a stream and bathed me. She knew of my life, my pain, and promised that it was necessary, that the shell must first be broken before the eagle can hatch. She spoke of things I'd read of in books, whispered names for me to never forget. She made love to me in the way women may, and helped to heal my heart and my body in ways I'd never thought I'd recover. She gave me a silver eye to take the place of what I'd lost, to teach me that nothing is ever gone forever.
I left the war behind forever that night. I cover the eye as she instructed, keeping it safe until I need its vision to guide me, and I rove the western territories as I have for two years since. I have aged my nineteenth year on earth, but know that this time I've been granted is not some trinket to be passed along. I've been given a purpose, one that I was made for and am being made for still. Mankind is like the coyote, starved for the taste of blood, but there are beings in this world who want nothing more than to rend it apart-- to do to all what was done to my family, to the innocents, with no hope of redemption for those that survive it. This must not be, my friend-- for you, reader, who am I to say are not already upon that path? But you must know that there will be a reckoning, and that when the time comes, your choice must be made already- -else, it will be made in your stead.
Sir, I apologize. I only meant to send you this ten dollar note to cover the cost of repairs for your hotel, and here I've filled several pages with my scrawling print, so much that I may run out of ink before I can sign it. You're very kind if you have read this far, sir. I don't have many to write letters to, and I don't tend to write them more than once, so you can rest assured that I won't be the death your carrier's horse. Your hotel was quite nice, and your wife cooked very good biscuits. They reminded me of home.
Katie was raised in Missouri, where her divine visited occasionally. Her family was killed in a guerrilla raid, and she was raped and nearly killed-- losing one eye permanently. Even worse, the loss of her brothers and the shame of her failure to save her family triggered a spurning hatred from the misogynistic deity, who renounced her.
She joined a band of guerrilla fighters by posing as a young man and became quite an adept fighter, though she killed several of her allies when they took part in a particularly brutal counter-attack on a Kansas township. She was hunted down and very nearly killed, but her adoptive deity took possession of her-- Artemis gave her a fighting chance, and she took it.
Since then, she's been a vigilante on the range, seeking a true cause to define her life.