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    • "Ain't hardly nothin' to do but hunker down till she blows herself out." The man squatted, "Rance, is the name. Been watchin' you, doin' a fine job. You'll do Wheeler, you'll do. Try and get some rest, might end up bein' a long night. Least you won't be ridin' drag come daylight, there's a plus for ya."   He stood and made his way to his shelter to await the grub that was coming.   @Bongo
    • Meanwhile, in the main house, Reb Culverson was visiting with his old friend Fightin' Joe Hooker, who was the ramrod for the fledgling Montana Territory Stockgrowers Association, Northern District. He was there to convince ranchers to join and support the organization, hoping it would take root.   "And just what good is this here association ya got started?" Reb asked.   "It'll give us a voice in the territorial government, Reb, that's what it'll do. Once that happens we'll be able to git us some sortta range police to protect the herds, and the ranchers." Hooker responded. "Rustlin' might not be the threat it was, but you know as well as me, it can come back."   "You get anywhere with Lost Lake, 'er that cow thief on the Evergreen?" Reb asked.   "Can't say as I have, startin' with the smaller spreads an' workin' my way up to them two. I'm well aware of both spreads, and the men that own 'em."   -------------0------------   They swept down out of the trees whooping and hollering and firing off a couple of shots as they closed on both sides of a big group of cattle, just as they had planned. The  lone night hawk knew he had no chance of stopping the raiders, or of saving the cattle while he watched the chunk of the herd moving toward and then into the trees at a run.  He emptied his Colt at the raiders, the whipped out his Winchester  and levered several shots in the area where they had disappeared.   He could not know that one of his shots had found its mark. A man that had just joined took a slug in his back and toppled from his horse. Toole and the men continued to drive the cattle toward the dry riverbed as planned. It was an acceptable loss.   The sound of the shots, mere pops at the distance to the main house and the bunk house alerted everyone, and men boiled out of the bunk house guns in hand, only to watch the night man shooting after the rustlers.
    • Out on the boardwalk they stopped, "So we managed ta git a deal right off, thet's good, it is. Now all we gotta do is convince ol' Wentworth to free up the money so's ya don't have ta use yers right off." Amos commented, "Seems a fair deal but like you say, minin's not no sure thing."   "John and Mary are good folks. It's not a sure thing, but you saw the vein, went to the floor and it looks rich," Speed responded. "And it looks to be wider where they stopped digging. I can't wait to get it assayed to see what we've really got our hands on."   "And it should assay out pretty good from the looks of it, though I know so little about copper ore." Alice admitted.   "Well, you saw the copper ore, which is clearly distinguishable from the surrounding rock due to its reddish, mottled appearance. And that surrounding rock is granite which is not easy to work, but it can be done, and, if we have hit it, the veins could be as much as a mile long, a mile wide, and a mile deep!" Speed explained with a grin. "With that equipment we'll be able to not only dig deeper, we'll be able to tunnel, and we have the property to do just that."   "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!" Amos exclaimed. Might oughtta buy up what ground ya can aound 'er, jest ta be certain!"   "First things first, let get on up to the bank." Speed suggested.
    • Justus was more than happy to have a chance to get out of the bulk of the wind, although he knew this was far from over.  And he knew they'd be hacking up dirt for days.     With the picket lines set, he moved over to help put up the shelters for the night, pretty quickly deciding that it was a fool's errand...they were all going to be miserable until this let up.   Squinting, he looked out toward the herd, not able to see but a few in the dust, it looked like they had been swallowed by the big, dirty cloud, and weren't even there.  In fact, he had the eerie sensation that all that was left in the world was this small circle of men and horses.   "Ya need me ta do anythin' else?" he called over the din of the wind.   @Flip
    • Doc Gilcrest walked into the bunck house to see Carson on his feet, dressed. "I may not be able to ride, but I can darn sure walk some. Tired of layin' in that bed."   "I reckon you kin do thet, sure 'nough. No body said ya had ta lie there if'n ya didn't want to. Yer stitched up plenty good. Jest leave thet hog leg where she's hangin' fer now, don't need the weight in thet wound."   "So anybody come sniffin' around?" He asked.   "Not so's you'd notice. There's four men down there keepin' watch, but it don't look like Lost Lake's lost any sleep over their man, that is if'n they even know he's gone." Gilcrest offered.   "He seen that brand an' went ta shootin'!" Carson reflected. "I jest shot straighter. Had no choice in the matter. Fool could'a rode on, but, well, that just ain't what happened. Hell of a mess."   "Oh I dunno. So far nobodies come huntin', the boss ain't upset over it, neither's Granger, so you got nothin' ta worry on 'cept gettin' better."   "I should'a been more careful, but maybe there just wasn't no way to be more careful. Up on the side of that mountain is the purdiest view a man could look at. You can see fer miles, see right where they got them cows of theirs. Now that ain't gonna be no easy matter to get to any of 'em. They're deep on Lost Lake range. Gonna be hard to get at, an' worse to get out. We'll lose some men tryin' this one, that's for sure!'   Gilcrest rubbed his chin. It wasn't like Carson to go on about the prospects of a job.


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Mature Content: Definitely!  Lots of violence, also gore.

With: Addy, Caroline and a bunch of NPCs
Location: Somewhere between Kalispell and Helena
When: Month  Aug.29, 1876
Time of Day: Mid day




Caroline hadn't been on a stagecoach since her arrival many months ago not that she missed it. These contraptions gave a bone jarring bumpy ride, the only good thing about it had been that was when she first met Addy Chappell. That woman worked as a driver for the Millegan Stage company and she was pretty certain Addy still did. They had gotten along well that time but since had sorta lost touch. Not surprising really as both of them lived very different lives.  Well just maybe Addy would driving this trip. Caroline was on the way to Helena.


As she stood by the stage office boardwalk, she held a smallish carpet bag. It was going to be a short stay in Helena, she was to attend a funeral of an old friend. They had worked in a Helena saloon for a time before a major fire wrecked the building. Caroline had left soon after and lucked out to find a job quickly in Kalispell thanks to a tip from another friend who lived there. She had always figured she would never go back to Helena but this here was different.



Rebecca Honeycutt was sitting on a bench not far from Caroline, both ignoring the other as they did not know each other.  Next to her sat her boy, her only child, Byron. The name had been chosen by her husband, the boy himself hated it and much preferred being called Buck or Bucky. A doting mother, she humored him. Byron...errr, Bucky was a good son. Unlike his father who was not with the two. For he had abandoned Rebecca in the pursuit of fortune. Finding gold in Montana had been the death knell of their marriage, he was off to prospect and strike it rich. But he had also made it quite clear to her even if he struck it rich he would not be coming back. 


womanpassenger.jpg                                  stagepassenger1.jpg




Ross Hampton was still inside the stage office, he was helping himself to one of the double barreled shotguns on a rack behind the counter. He had already secured a box of shells. Ross was a Millegan employee, mostly he rode shotgun if the stage might be carrying something deemed valuable enough to warrant it. Other times he drove stage or filled in at times for caring for the horses in the stable. Today though it was obviously 'shotgun'.  What with all the Indian troubles this summer....my god, the damn redskins wiped out Custer even, the company decided all stages needed an armed guard on board. While it made sense and also made the passengers maybe feel a bit safer, Ross knew better. Hell, if a war party of those devils attacked the stage, he wasn't going to make a hell of a lot of difference. Least he had confidence in the driver's ability to do her part. Addy knew her stuff, she had earned his respect over the years.


Soon as she came walking in that back door, it would be time to get a moving. The passengers waiting out front, they had three - no menfolk - had already paid for their tickets. Helena here they come!





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It was shaping up to be a warm day, but at least there were no signs of rain, and for that, Addy was grateful.  Not only did rain make the roads slippery and miserable, but mud got splattered over horses and coach, making clean-up lengthy and tedious.  And Addy hated being soggy!


As she strode into the office, she nodded to Ross, grinning.  "Mornin'.  Good ta have ya aboard."  While she wasn't particularly paranoid about attacks, it never hurt to have someone else on the box with her, if for nothing more than to have someone to chat with.  "Lemme check th' hitch, then we'll be off.  Reckon ya can get th' gear loaded."


Even though she trusted the men who hitched the team, it was ultimately her responsibility, so she made a point of going over everything before they headed out.


Stepping into the morning sunshine, she glanced at the woman and boy on the bench, giving them a nod and tip of her hat.  "We'll be off in just a spell, ma'am.  If ya need ta use th' outhouse, now's a good time."  Once they were on the road, she'd see if the lad wanted to ride up top with her and Ross for a spell...he reminded her of Weedy, and she knew boys liked sitting behind the driver.


Then she noticed Caroline and broke into a grin. "You goin' on this trip, too?  Givin' up on Kalispell so soon?  How ya been?"



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Glancing up from her seat, Mrs. Honeycutt saw the driver. She had first been surprised to hear the stage lines had a woman driver but while she did not understand why any lady would even desire such a job, it was none of her affair.


  "We'll be off in just a spell, ma'am.  If ya need ta use th' outhouse, now's a good time."


"Oh no, that's quite alright. We are already prepared to leave, thank you," Mrs. Honeycutt smiled back.

Bucky just squirmed a little in his seat on the bench, he was very excited for the adventure of a stage coach ride! Plus no school.


Then Addy noticed Caroline and broke into a grin. "You goin' on this trip, too?  Givin' up on Kalispell so soon?  How ya been?"


"Howdy! Good ta see you again, hon" Caroline beamed, "No, I love it here. But I'm heading to Helena to attend the funeral of an old friend."


"I been good, Star Dust is a good place to work, good people, and you might have heard ? I am regarded as the best singer in the place."


She let that sink in only for a brief instant then added, "Also their only singer but...hey!"


"So how you been? How's that boy of yers?"



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"Glad ta hear yer stayin'."  Nodding, Addy grinned as she started to run her fingers quickly over the harness, feeling for imperfections and checking that the buckles were secure.  "Weedy's doin' real good, boy's too smart for you own good!"  Laughing, she added, "I'm learnin' ta read, though, an' Perfesser Brown, who lives right behind us keeps th' boy busy with all manner'a science an' whatnot." 


Straightening, she grinned.  "An' my brother come out ta visit, brought his boy...good ta have family around.  Sorry ta hear ya lost a friend, though.  That's rough."


She glanced over as Ross started tossing luggage into the boot.  "Leastways'll be a nice ride."



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"Glad to hear about the boy," Caroline smiled, "And good for you too, learnin' ta read I mean. I sure was glad my Ma taught me that time. Never been in a schoolhouse in my life."


So she had a brother then too, now Caroline never had siblings but it was plain Addy was quite pleased to reacquaint with him. As for her deceased friend....


"Oh we sort drifted apart. But I was sad to hear about her sudden death so thought I would go pay my respects," Caroline explained.


Caroline did have to take issue with Addy's opinion on the upcoming ride.


"Nice ride? Not if it's like every other stagecoach ride I been on. It's bumpy and cramped and my ass hurts by the end of one," Caroline begged to differ, but with a grin.


At that point though the shotgun guard was loading luggage onto the stage, it was time to get going. Rebecca Honeycutt motioned for Byron to get up and the pair proceeded to enter the passenger compartment. Caroline let them pick their seats then clambered on in herself.


"Later hon, try to miss at least a few of the bumps in the road."


Ross now joined Addy up top, shoving the now loaded shotgun into it's topside sheath.  He turned to Addy, "Least the passenger load is nice and light. So you know that saloon whore, do ya?  I heard the joint got a new owner, some out of towner jasper."



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"Nice ride? Not if it's like every other stagecoach ride I been on. It's bumpy and cramped and my ass hurts by the end of one," Caroline begged to differ, but with a grin.


"Once ya gotta enough hours on th' seat, yer ass goes plumb numb, don't feel a thing!"  Addy laughed.


"Later hon, try to miss at least a few of the bumps in the road."


"We'll find 'em all!"  Checking that the door was secure, she climbed onto the box beside Ross, then gathered the lines.


"Least the passenger load is nice and light. So you know that saloon whore, do ya?  I heard the joint got a new owner, some out of towner jasper."


"She's a singer," Addy declared, snapping the lines, causing the four horses to lurch forward into their harness.  "An' yep, I heard somethin' 'bout th' owner, but I ain't had cause ta go over there much since me an' Weedy  got a place'a our own.  I'm tryin' ta be more diligent, but that takes a derned site more work'n I thought it would!  What about you?   What's good in yer life?  'Sides me, a'course!"





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"Yeah, never raised me any kids myself. I think I told ya, I was married once when I was a young man but she up and died on me. Got some fever and went quick like. I reckoned it was an omen I was never meant to be hitched," Ross explained.


Addy asked about his current situation, in that jokey way of hers. Ross liked that she didn't seem to take things too seriously. He liked easy going folk.


"Not much, the usual. I been working on fixin' my leaky roof on my place. Figure I better do it now before winter sets in."




The stage soon cleared Kalispell and headed on down the winding road that would eventually lead to Helena. It was scenic territory  what with mountains and plenty of woods. The dirt road sufficed during good weather but could be a might tricky in the rain or early snows. Midwinter the passes were usually completely closed down by huge snowfalls made worse by drifts.



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"It surely is beautiful this time'a year," Addy observed, "makes th' rest worth while.  Well, not really, could well do without th' mud an' slush, an' cold an' wet, but ya know that!"  Heck, Ross had been doing this longer than she'd been alive, he'd seen the worst the job could offer, yet he still appreciated the beauty around them.


"Got th' swing station comin' up in an hour or so, be good ta see ol' Swede again.  Been a time, since he broke his leg, an' I don't got nothin' bad ta say 'bout that Ray, but he's just...kinda sour, ya know?  Don't got Swede's sense'a humor."


The station master at the swing stations was responsible for hitching a fresh team of horses, and having them waiting to switch out with the old team.  It didn't usually take but a few minutes, and it gave the passengers a chance to stretch their legs and use the outhouse.  Most of the stations had hot coffee and tea as well, and depending on the time of day, some form of meal...and, on occasion, the station master would have treats.


An accident in early Winter had laid up Swede, but he was reportedly going to be back on the job today, and Addy was looking forward to his coffee!


"I'll ask th' missus if she'll let her boy ride up with us fer a spell when we leave, might give him a bit of a thrill."






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"I knew Ray since he was knee high to a grasshopper - he was a gloomy kid even then. And he ain't gotten any better. But yep, Swede is a good ol' horse," Ross opined.


"Well, he ain't an actual horse lucky fer him, if he was they'd have shot him," he then laughed at his own joke.


Ross knew company policy frowned on passengers riding up top but it happened with a fair amount of regularity so he said nothing about Addy's comment about the lad. Besides, if a stage crashed the boy would be no more safe in the stage passenger compartment than up on top. He himself had only been in more accident in his years with the stage and there had been just one fatality that time - this woman broke her neck. But then she had been ninety-three, might have had something to do with it.




Pulling into the station, things continued to go smoothly. Sure enough, Swede was there and took the teasing Ross gave him with good natured toleration. He also informed Addy there was a warm pot on the stove of his famous coffee.


Caroline alighted just to stretch her legs, she did pull out a small flask from within her clothing and took a quick swig of its contents. Ralph had kindly let her fill it with some of the expensive stuff so it went down nice n' smooth.


The mother and son also got out, the boy racing to use the outhouse. She simply waited for his return. Neither woman said a word to each other. They had already chatted for just a bit on the trip but when the topic came up as to what Caroline did for a living, Rebecca was then reluctant to engage further. Mostly because she did not want Byron to hear anything ...well which might make him curious or ask questions. Saloons were not proper topics for a young lad. But the women had remained quite civil.


Caroline understood her reluctance really, she had been treated far worse so many times, that this was not really offensive. The boy was very well behaved and she could see the bond was close. She liked that. She herself had been close to her mother.






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It was good to get down to stretch, and Addy was happy when the feeling returned to her backside!  After quickly checking the harness on the new team, she went into the station to grab some coffee, opting to stand while she was savoring it...there was going to be plenty of sitting!


They were there perhaps fifteen minutes before everyone was loaded up and they were on the road again.  The day was beautiful, warm with a nice breeze, and they were making good time, and even the questions from little Byron, sitting between Addy and Ross (if his mom said okay), weren't too annoying.  Maybe Addy could inspire the lad to drive stage when he got older!



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This was not a trip Byron had really wanted to make. They were leaving Kalispell for good and really that was the only home he knew. He had friends in school, he had had to leave behind his dog and his father's horse. Well, Ma had sold the horse and the dog got given away to another farmer. Still, he'd never see either of them again. His mother said he needed to see this as a big adventure and she promised he would learn to like their new home. When they made one.


But sitting up with the lady driver and the big bearded man was a whole lot more fun than being down in the passenger cabin. Oh he had been curious about the pretty young woman passenger but his mother said it was best not to talk with strangers unless spoken to.  He wasn't stupid, he could tell his mother seemed just a bit nervous about that lady. No matter, girls were kinda boring.


"So....you ever been held up by robbers?" he now asked, just like what happened in those penny westerns.




Ross chuckled, "Well, not sure about Addy here but I was robbed once. Not on a stage though but in a back alley in Helena. I mighta had a few too many drinks though cuz I didn't even remember their faces."




"Oh yeah? How many of em?" the boy was fascinated.


"About thirty I think," Ross replied in a straight face, not sure just gullible the kid might be.


Byron gave him a look, "Now you're fibbin'."


"Yeah, son, supposin' I am. But hey, you want a true story of adventure, Addy here 'll tell ya one. She once killed a huge bear that had the whole territory scared. And she just did it with her knife. Tell the boy, Addy," Ross was grinning.





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Meanwhile, while the stage coach followed the winding road, unknown to those on it they were being watched. Up on the crest of a wooded ridgeline, a party of mounted men had a grandstand view of down below and they had spotted the stage clattering along.


There were almost a dozen of them, an Arapaho war party. They were fresh from a successful ambush of another white mans' wagon. They had struck hard and fast, kiling it's occupants, two wasi'chu*   wearing the blue coats. It brought them a pair of scalps but more importantly two more rifles and revolvers. One of the warriors had decided to keep a blue coat and was now wearing that ignoring the blood on it.


Teestou (Strikes on Top) was the warrior who had organized this war party, a warrior of some renown in his village, he had strongly disagreed with the elders' decision not to join some of the other Arapahos who now fought alongside Sitting Bull and the Sioux. Even the great victory of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and others over the wasi'chu Yellow Hair at the Little Big Horn had not convinced the elders. So Teestou decided to go to war without their blessings and convinced the other members of the warband, a mix of men in their prime and a few older boys, to accompany him.


Teestou was a bitter man, his sqaw and his two children had been killed by the wasi'chu last hunting season and he had burned for vengeance ever since. Now he would make them pay and bring glory to his name and all who rode with him.




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"Was a shotgun, ya ol' rascal!"  Addy laughed.  "But I did kill me a bear after he kilt one'a my horses.  Look't him right in th' eyes an' sent him ta his maker.  Give his carcass t' th' local Utes, that bear was big enough ta feed that tribe fer a week, an' his hide'd give some warmth come Winter!"


This part of the trail took a bit more concentration, there were numerous turns, and hills both up and down, so that the horses had to break stride and change pace, but Addy enjoyed the challenge, and the team was up to the task.


"I been robbed a time'er two," she continued, "but come ta no harm, an' had nothin' worth stealin'."  Not very exciting, but life seldom measured up to expectations.




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Unfortunately for those on the stage coach, their lives were about to change for the worse. After winding their way thru the hill country, it approached yet another curve, this one fairly sharp. The stage drivers knew it as a place where they had to slow down considerably or take the risk of tipping the vehicle. No sooner had Addy eased the horses around the curve when ahead of them, stretched across the entire strip of dirt road was a large tree branch. If it toppled naturally, it certainly managed to completely block further progress until it could be removed.


What none of them did see though were the warriors who watched them behind cover, ready to spring the trap, rifles and bows at the ready. Teestou was not going to signal the attack until the coach was stopped and the whites would begin to dismount to see what could be done about that limb. They had little other choice, the team of horses could not back up hitched to the big stage.


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"Well, tarnation an' tangled turkey toes!"  Of course, things had been going too smoothly up to now, but no such luck it would stay that way!


Pulling the horses to a stop, Addy glanced at Ross and sighed.  "Ya think Mother Nature had some help here?"  Regardless, the limb had to be moved, and that was going to take a bit of time.


"Got a hand saw in th' boot, reckon I'll get to it, an' you can keep an eye."  Even if this was purely the act of nature, it was still wise for one of them to keep watch for any trouble.


"Gonna be a few  minutes, folks!" she called as she climbed from the box, "git out an' stretch yer legs, but don't wander far."



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Several sets of hostile eyes watched every movement of the unsuspecting stagecoach crew and passengers. The Indian plan of ambush was working perfectly, Teestou waited just a bit longer then stood up and shouted his fierce war whoop, a signal to the rest of the Arapahoes to attack. Those with line of sight to targets opened up with both rifles and bows, other raced on out from their hiding places straight for the coach, filling the air with their war cries.


Ross heard the initial shout but had no real time to react before the first bullet hit  in the upper right side of his back. Staggering forward in pain and shock, a second shot ripped thru his throat  and he collapsed after two tottering steps. Only barely aware of what was happening to him, he slipped into unconsciousness.


The boy, Byron had not even clambered off the stage yet, he had enjoyed the ride from on top, and even then was not inclined to come down unless his mother insisted.  A part of him wondered if he should have volunteered to help but the common sense in him argued the adults would never let him wield an axe. Even if he did on occasion help back with the firewood. 


Then came the infernal cries from seemingly all around them, the horses spooked in their trails but the tree trunk blocked any panicky flight plus the driver had set the brake. Byron blinked in disbelief as the first of a pack of savages closed in and just then he shuddered as something struck him, his hands went up instinctively to this shaft of wood now sticking deep within him just below his sternum.  He only uttered a simple plaintive, "Ma!" then pitched right off the roof and landed with a hard thud onto the roadside.


His mother had already stepped down from the passenger cabin, her thoughts on checking to see if how her boy was faring up on top with the stage driver and guard.  Caroline had already clambered out to stretch her legs as Addy had advised.  Both heard the guttural cries immediately followed by shots, freezing them in place for just a few precious seconds. A trio of Indians rushed out from the brush straight at them brandishing war clubs and knives.


A rifle slug hudded into the side of the stage, Caroline both flinching and ducking far too late. The first Indian was on her way too fast for her to even extract her small hidden gun from inside her dress. The warrior  had a tomahawk and could have used it on her but that was not his desire. Instead he lunged with his free hand to grab a handful of blonde hair and slammed her up against the coach.


Rebecca also froze in stunned disbelief and she too was seized by the remaining two Indians. Even with all that she could only think of her boy.


"Byron! Byron!"


There was no answer.



In the rear of the vehicle, Addy was almost the victim of another arrow whistling right at her. It was just a bit too high though, fortunately for her, but the shaft took her hat right off and pinned to the back of the stage. Those braves witnessing this as they closed in suddenly realized this white man was not a man at all but a woman!


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In a heartbeat, things had gone from relatively serene to intensely chaotic, catching Addy off-guard, and before she could even turn an arrow took off her hat, grazing her scalp as it did.


Dropping into a crouch, she pulled her pistol, looking around quickly to try to take in the situation and decide what to do.  Ross was in the dirt, and the lad beside him, but this wasn't the time to mourn, or even really think about that -- there was little to be done for them at the moment.


But the ladies...


The boy's mother, she was struggling, more to get to Byron than to fight the man holding her, but she was in the way of any shot Addy might try, but Caroline...


The young woman was fighting back as well, but there was a clear shot for Addy, and she took it.  But there wasn't time to see if she'd hit her target, the panicked team started to back, pushing the coach into her and throwing her off-balance, causing her to drop her pistol as she fell to the dirt and rolled away from the wheels.


By the time she was able to reach for her pistol there was a savage on her, and her focus turned to the struggle with him, and he'd find that an old Tennessee mule skinner was not an easy mark!


















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Addy's shot had been in haste coupled with the risk of hitting of her friend but it did hit - sort of. The Indian yipped as the bullet ripped the man's upper left arm. It was certainly not fatal or even that serious but it hurt like hell and warrior let go of his victim. That gave Caroline her chance to bring her leg up and knee the fellow right in his groin.


Very fleeting victories for the women though. There were more warriors now and they were angry at this resistance. Caroline could not even truly break away from the first brave's loosened grip before another Indian struck her with a rifle butt. Down she went in a heap.


Meanwhile Bodawei (Firemaker to the whites) had reached the waischu who had fired that shot and was determined she was not going to get her hands on that gun to fire anymore. The plan was for the war party to seize the females not kill them. They could be very useful captives. But though, Addy did not realize it, had she killed one of the war party she too would have not been spared. Bodawei had a big knife in it's sheath but again he would not need it.




The woman had spirit, he had to give her that much, she fought like any cornered Arapaho woman was expected to, but he was an experienced warrior in his prime. She got in a punch or two but finally he had enough of this and slugged her hard right in face.



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Growing up with a passel of brothers not only taught Addy how to fight back, but it also taught her to be tough and resilient, not to stop until she was stopped.


Of course, sometimes, just curling up and giving in might be the more reasonable option, and spare her a good deal of pain, but where was the fun in that?


Claws out, teeth bared, she gave all she had, until the brute slugged her hard enough to take the salt out of her.  Going limp, she blinked rapidly a few times, then muttered, "Gol dang!  That weren't nice..."



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That was two of the women down leaving one last one who was screaming hysterically  as she collapsed to her knees by her stricken boy.  Even with that arrow shaft stuck in his chest and taking that fall from the stage, the lad was still breathing though with difficulty and blood bubbled out of one corner of his mouth while his mother cradled him in her arms and wailed in protest.




Ni' itou  (Hits Good) approached , walking right past the corpse of the bearded waischu on the ground. Yet  another warrior was in the act of  slicing a scalp. He too had unsheathed a gleaming blade as he then towered over the grief stricken woman commanding her to get up. Of course he had spoke Arapaho and the white woman had not understood any of it. 


No matter, he reached down and grabbed at her hair to pull her away. She struggled to resist and clawed him down half the length of one of his forearms. Regardless of Teetou's original admonition to take the women alive, the warrior's temper got the best of him. He very calmly and deliberately proceeded to cut her throat only letting go of her hair as she fell back blood spurting down her dress. He did not even wait for her to bleed out before he then just as matter of factly plunged the knife into the dying waischu boy deliberately disemboweling him. It was the Plains Indians' way to mutilate the dead so they could not go into the next life in one piece. Shocked whites often found the corpses horribly cut up, eyes gouged out, limbs slashed down to the bone, and organs spilled out.


Truth was the whites too collected scalps, murdered unarmed women and children in this pitiless war against the Indians. It was two cultures in a life and death struggle that neither side had much to be proud of.


As for Caroline, she was forced to stand, her hands bound with strips of buffalo hide then thrown over a horse like a human saddle bag.  Addy  too found herself slung over another horse beside the semi-conscious saloon gal.  After cutting loose the horse team from the wagon and looting anything of value especially guns and ammunition, the war party departed the scene leaving three mangled bodies behind.  Another successful raid!



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As defiant as Addy was in her soul, she knew that there was a time to wait and a time to act, and this was most assuredly the former.  Her head was swimming, and even so, she closed her eyes and turned away as the poor, grieving mother was butchered, knowing there was nothing she could do, and dwelling on that would hamper her own chances of survival.


For now, she was compliant, not that there was much choice.  They were far out-numbered, and her head was still aching, although she was a little annoyed that she had been tossed across the back of a horse like a sack of grain...she would have readily agreed to behaving if they would let her sit properly.  As it was, the blood was rushing to her already-unhappy head, and the constant pummeling on her stomach with each step the horse took had her fighting nausea.


She knew that Caroline was there, too, and wanted to say something, or at least catch her eye, but any attempt just made her want to puke all the more, so for now, Addy concentrated on breathing and surviving.




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The women had no idea how long the ride was, Caroline was so sick of being jostled continually in this frustrating position she eventually just stopped thinking and endured. The war party were in a jovial mood having ambushed the waischus twice already without suffering any losses. Oh the strange white woman who dressed like a white man had wounded one of them but it was a graze and had been quickly bound up. It would take much more than that to stop an Arapaho warrior. The war party had pulled away from the white man's dirt road trail and headed into the oft forested mountains. It was time to celebrate their victories and settle down to relax for the night then.


As for their women captives, there was much to discuss and decisions to be made. It would be simplest to just kill them. There would be some in the war party who would want to rape them but Teestou was not one of them. His war against the waischus was more than a simple one day of raiding then head back to their village to boast. He had gotten some revenge this day for his lost squaw and child. But he wanted so much more. The Sioux and their Cheyenne allies had done much more - they had destroyed a whole army of blue coats. More of that was needed to drive the waischu from their lands. And so he was not done yet, he had barely started even. He also had a plan for the captives.


They came upon a fine place to camp for the night. It had a creek bubbling right next to small patch of open ground yet was hidden away from any long distance view by being within a fold of land between ridges. The horses would be able to graze and water then they could tether them to trees. A fire could be built. Ni 'itou declared he would hunt and kill a deer for their supper, he had a bow in addition to his rifle.  The boy, Houusoo, here on his first raid had also wanted to go help hunt for he was armed also with a bow (but no gun) but Teestou said 'no' as he had need of the young man. For it was Houusoo who spoke the waischu tongue.  In fact, that was the main reason Teestou had even agreed to bring him along.  For this was no hunting trip or horse stealing raid, from the start this was about killing their hated enemies.




The first the two women realized they were stopping to camp was when they were both harshly pushed off the horses to land on the ground. Teestou nodded over to the boy who then spoke in halting English.



"You get up now. You stand."


Caroline coughed then groaned as she looked up from the ground, their hands were still bound and she wasn't quite sure how steady she was going to be trying to rise but at least he got to her knees.


"Addy, you alright?" she turned to her companion in this disaster.


Apparently the Indians were not pleased with her attempt to talk to the other woman and one of them stepped up to slap her aside the head, fortunately with an open hand while he shouted something angrily.


The boy repeated his earlier command, "He say you get up now. Or he beat you."









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Just stopping seemed to be a bit of mercy to Addy's bruised abdomen, but the shock of being yanked to the ground and tumbled into the dirt caused anger to flare in her, and had it not been for Caroline trying to talk to her, she likely would have gotten herself killed right then!


As it was, seeing the treatment the other young woman got cautioned her against doing anything besides what they were told, and she wanted to stay alive as long as she could so as not to leave Caroline alone.


Giving Caroline a quick nod, she managed to struggle to her hands and knees, knowing if she took too long there was likely to be an unpleasant price, so she took a shallow breath and stood, wobbling a bit, beside Caroline.



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Well that boy might know English but it was quite obvious he was not in charge. Caroline was trying to figure out just who was the leader of this bunch. She didn't know much about Indians but she did realize they weren't organized like say....the Army with a clear chain of command and such. As far as she knew, the bossiest most forceful warrior would be the one in charge and the one to most worry about.


Well, it didn't take long to figure that out -




Teestou smirked once both white women were up on their feet, he did not understand these waischus. One was wearing the clothes of a man, was she trying to disguise herself. If so it did not work. The other wore this bright long dress down to her ankles but with revealed shoulders, it looked bulky heavy to wear such a thing. An Arapaho woman or girl would never wear such foolishness. After a moment of observation while the other warriors gathered around in a rough circle, he made his decisions.




He started talking loudly and with a firmness. It was obvious all the other Indians were listening to him, a few nodding, one frowning. Then he turned to the boy and spoke rapidly to him. The boy nodded then stepped closer to the women.


"Teestou say you take off ....boots...stockings off too. You do not try and run off then. Hurt your feet very much," the boy grinned.




Caroline wasn't wearing boots, she had a nice pair of shoes on but Addy's boots were far more obvious. She figured correcting the young buck on his footwear terms might just bring her another slap to the head, not worth it.


She glanced at Addy, wanting to say something...maybe like   'what choice we got?' but really what could either Addy or her do about this?  Backtalk? Or even outright refuse? She had a feeling if they did that, the Indians would just knock 'em down hard and take the damn shoes and boots anyways. And it might involve a beating?




With a sigh, Caroline plopped back down on her butt and started untying her shoe laces. Damn, they probably would throw these expensive shoes away too now? Bastards....







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"Like our feet ain't gonna hurt noways," Addy grumbled as she plopped into the dirt beside Caroline, as opposed to giving up her boots as the other woman was her shoes.  They may not be new and fancy, but they were broke in and comfortable, and that was not easy to accomplish.


Not only that, but she kept a skein dubh -- a small knife -- in her boot, and she'd have to give that up.  Sighing, she pulled the weapon from her boot and tossed it into the dirt in front of them, let the men fight over it!


Sighing, she glanced at Caroline again and shrugged.  Right now, all they could do was follow orders and not show weakness, and from what she knew of the saloon singer, she had backbone and moxie...if anyone was going to make it through this, it was Caroline.


And Addy planned to make it, it was just a matter of biding her time.








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