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Posted (edited)

Mature Content: Yes, violence, language, probable killings of both humans and animals

With: Clyde Baker, Wayne Baker, Baker gang, Brendan Connolly, José Reyes, Evergreen Ranch hands, Potentially Steelgrave Family themselves
Location: Edge of the Evergreen Ranch
When: Mid June, 1876
Time of Day: 11PM, the dead of night

 

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They were too close for a fire, and so the gang had huddled beneath blankets and pulled coats over themselves as the night's chill crept in. It was the middle of the damn summer, and this God-forsaken hellhole dropped to frigid temperatures as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Frederic Remington - Night Halt of the Cavalry

"Freezing my damn balls off here, Clyde. When are we making a fuckin' move?"

"Shut your mouth Greene, we go when I god damn say so."

To make matters worse, they'd hired on extra hands for this job. Frank Greene, Jed Sampson, and Jimmy Finch had joined in the bolstering of their ranks, swelling their little posse to five members strong.

Frank GreeneJed SampsonJimmy Finch

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Clyde, that was just as bad as going without. Men you didn't know were as liable to shoot you in the back as to carry you through a burning building, and that was a chance he never liked to take. Unfortunately for him, Kalispell; this little shithole out in the ass-end of the world, was a long way from anywhere safe, and a longer way still from anywhere they would be able to fence cows or cattleflesh. Him and Wayne couldn't do it alone, despite how poorly these cowpokes rubbed him.

 

Out in the distance, at the fence line, came the whinny of a horse as its rider brought it to bear, and the low grumbling of Cattle followed, protests at the movement in their ranks.

Clyde grinned. The wait was over.

"Alright Greene, we're going. Mount up boys, masks on and guns ready."

 

There was a resounding chorus of 'alright' and 'bout' time'  and 'let's do this' from the men, as they loaded their weapons and readied themselves for the raid to come. Clyde pushed himself to his feet and pulled the revolver from his holster, giving its cylinder a little spin in trepidation. His plan would work. It had to work.

He moved to his gelding, a ratty thing he'd fleeced off a card shark in Wichita, and pulled that old red bandanna from it's saddlebag. It was comfortable around his throat in its familiarity. He must have worn it dozens of times in robberies just like this, and it had always seen him through. His. Plan. Would. Work.

 

The outlaw planted a foot in his stirrup, and hoisted himself up onto the mount. The gelding snorted in discomfort, and took a few steps to the side to resettle himself against the weight.

 

"You ready, Clyde?" asked Wayne to his right, already mounted, looking for all the world like a trickshooter with that Winchester nestled in the crook of his arm.

 

"You know it, buddy. Just like old times."

 

"Just like old times."

 

----

 

They moved in silence to the fence line, nothing in the still night air but the clopping of horseshoes and the faint baying of cattle. Cresting a rise, the five riders peered down at the ranch below, pens upon pens of cattle, and off in the distance sat the ranch house, dim lights showing through the windows.

 

Clyde looked around for the pen he'd spotted earlier - a smaller one holding maybe twenty heads. He'd sat up the last few nights watching the routine of these hands at the fence line, and he knew there was a window of changeover, about fifteen minutes long; where that pen would be undisturbed by any guards. They would slip in, stampede the cows, corral them into the forest, round them up, and be gone before morning. Once they got out into open country, they'd never be caught. Wayne was too damn good at what he did.

 

"Wayne, take Sampson and circle round the rear. On my whistle I want you to get the herd moving. I don't care how you do it, just fucken do it."

 

"Yes boss." mumbled Wayne, beckoning for Jed to follow him. Their horses trotted off into the night, riders alert.

 

"Finch, you're riding flank. Keep to the side, and when the cattle start running, you keep those stragglers from drifting too far, y'hear?"

 

Finch nodded, and he too rode off into the night, the opposite direction to Wayne and Jed.

 

"Alright, Greene, you're with me. Keep your head down, do what you're told and we'll come out of this rich."

 

"Sure shit, Baker." grunted Frank, and with that, the gang fanned out into the night, completing a deadly envelopment of the small pen. Clyde kicked the gelding into motion, and they cantered down to the fence line. In front lay their fortune, behind lay hundreds of miles of unsettled territory. All they had to do was get it out of there.

 

They stopped just shy of the fence, and Clyde pulled sharp left on the reins, scanning the border for a glint of metal that would indicate a gate. He found it right in the center, chained shut with nothing but a rusty old padlock. He swung his leg over his mount and dropped to the grassy ground, pulling the bandanna up to cover his nose and mouth as he did so. It was dark, and unlikely that anyone would recognize him if he was seen, but it always paid to err on the side of caution, especially on a job wrought with such chance.

 

"Greene! Cutters!" he hissed, and his companion jogged over to him, a set of bolt cutters in hand. Clyde never liked to work with faulty equipment, and the cutters in question had been sharpened to a honed edge. All it took was one deft snip, and the padlocked chain fell to the dirt, useless.

Clyde dropped the cutters, and Frank moved to the opposite side of the gate. Together, they pulled it open, creaking obnoxiously in the still night. From within the pen, the cattle began to move around, uncomfortable with this irregularity to their schedule. With their side of the job complete, Clyde tilted back his head and gave a single sharp whistle to their accomplices.

 

----

 

By now, Wayne and Jed had arrived at the rear of the pen, and their horses stood pawing the ground in anticipation. The animals could sense the anxiety in the air, and here and there came the mooing of nervous cattle.

 

Wayne watched as those two dark figures moved across the fence line opposite them, darting from their horses to the fence.

 

"Are we goin' or what?" Jed asked, nervousness in his voice.

 

"Calm yer fucken' self. We go on my brother's signal." Wayne shot back. He'd learned some years ago that Clyde generally knew best, even on matters that seemed straightforward.

 

Jed huffed, but said nothing. The moments ticked by, excruciatingly. Any second now, one of the Evergreen ranch hands might come up the rise and catch them in the act. Then there'd be bloodshed for damn sure, but until then they would wait.

Finally, like a message of salvation from God himself, there was a sharp whistle from across the pen.

 

"Alright, let's go." Wayne announced, as he pulled his own bandanna up to cover the bottom of his face. He kicked his horse into gear and they loudly galloped along the fence. The cattle began to stir, but made no movement, and so Wayne darted back for a second time, slapping the side of his saddle.

 

"Come on cows, gee-up, cmon', go on, get going!"

 

Jed joined in the theatrics, and the cattle begun to stomp their feet, but still they would not move.

 

"Damn it Baker, we gotta get em' going!"

 

"Don't you think I fucken' know that?" Wayne retorted. Damn it, Clyde would know what to do, but he couldn't circle around to ask, they were running out of time as it was.

Beneath his mask, he chewed his lip, and finally after a moment's deliberation, he pulled the Winchester from it's scabbard on the side of his saddle.

 

"Jaysus Baker, are you mad? You'll alert every damn hand on the ranch!"

 

"We don't have much fucken' choice, do we? We're gonna get caught anyway if we sit here with our thumbs up our asses!"

 

He worked the lever action, filling the chamber before he raised the rifle's barrel to the sky. He shut his eyes for a moment, and hoped that this was the right thing to do.

 

----

 

The gunshot echoed out, far across the valley. What followed were the thundering of hooves, belonging to both horses and cows. Men darted awake in their beds, riders turned their mounts to face the noise, and ranch hands stopped what they were doing to investigate.

 

José slumped down into his bunk, exhausted after a long day on the range. His hands were blistered and sore from working the herds, and his back ached from hours in the saddle. It had been a month. A month of honest work, and it was honest work for sure. He was a changed man now, he had gotten out. How many outlaws could say that?

He was just reaching down to unbuckle his gun belt when there came that noise that he could have recognized anywhere. A Winchester model 1866, fired off from one of the rearmost paddocks. The very paddock that he had just left, the very paddock that the night patrol would be heading up to...

 

He took his hands off his gunbelt, and pushed himself back onto his feet.

@Bailey@Flip

Edited by boshmi (see edit history)
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With the dawn approaching the nighthawks were relieved by the day hands that would do the work of rounding up calves and branding. They would bring in cattle that had moved to the very edge of the open range. There was the fence between Lost Lake and the evergreen and rooting out those cows would be a simple task, the ones to the north and east would be much more work.

 

Carson was standing  in the bunk house about to shuck his gun belt, and get out of his clothes to turn in when the gunshot turned every head in the room. It even woke a couple men that off for the day. Not everyone had Saturday night off.

 

Granger burst through the door, "Get up, Goddamn it! They're after the herd!" And he was gone again.

 

Carson looked back, "'mon Jose, we got us some work ta do!" He shouted. Horses, they had to saddle up unless men were already working on that. The remuda was not as rangy or obstinate  as they would be on ta drive, but they would be difficult enough sensing the confusion and urgency in the air.

 He found his gear already ion a mount, stuffed a foot in the stirrup and shouted 'Haaa!" The animal lurching forward as he swung into leather. Several men were already racing toward the sound of the stampeding cattle.

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@boshmi

 

 

 

 

Edited by Flip (see edit history)
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Brendan heard the shot in his sleep, but didn't fully awaken until all the hands in the bunkhouse started to get up and leave - they fussed almost as loud as that shot. He caught snatches of information and oaths in between the flurry of boots and belts being pulled on. There was Granger's voice, "They're after the herd!"

 

That got him and any other lazybones moving. He flew down the ladder and pulled on his gun belt and boots as he headed for the door. He was one of the last ones out, but made up for lost time on the way to get his horse. As he swung into the saddle, he noticed José nearby. The other man must just have only arrived back at the bunkhouse. That was rotten luck for him.

 

"Martinez!" He nudged his horse, which was prancing impatiently, closer to the Mexican. "You know who's after the herd?"

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Elias was up and out of bed with all the noise and activity outside who could sleep. He dressed quickly, not in his usual suit, hardly. He was dressed in range clothes. It had been a matter of years since he had been on the range, or even in the type of clothes that one wore out there. But they were not unfamiliar to him. He belted on his Colt, ready to be a part of the chase and eventual capture of the thieves.

 

His only regret was that his sons were not on the ranch to get after what he heard as rustlers. But Granger and the hands were competent enough to handle whatever they might face out there. Arlen Granger was loyal, and a tough man to deal with. He had some good men riding for him, and most were good with a gun. It was how he held the range he held, which brought to mind a rumor he had heard of sheep herders moving into the country. And that meant war! Plan and simple. There was cattle and cattle came first!

 

He bounded down the stairs like a man half his age and went out the door looking around to see that most of the riders were out of the yard and heading after the herd. All he hoped was one or more to be caught so they could string them up. No sense dragging them into town when they all had rope, and the rustles all had necks!

 

He caught up a mount and headed out after the others. This was his fight, no questions asked.

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"WAYNE!"

A shout from across the paddock. The younger Baker brother sat in his saddle, chewing his lip. At his side, Jed glanced down anxiously.

"Oh, shit, Baker. We gotta get the fuck out of here."

Down by the mustering field at the base of the ranch came the shouting of men; orders being issued, hands mounting up, guns being loaded. Pinpricks of light rippled their way over the black expanse as lanterns were ignited and torches drawn from hearths.

 

"WAYNE WHAT THE FUCK?!"

The cattle had begun to stampede, alright. The pen had nearly been drained by now and cows were fanning out across the grassland. The sound of their march was deafening, and their frightened mooing swelled like foghorns in the dark. Through all that noise, Clyde's voice still found its way to his ears.

 

"ANSWER ME, YOU DUMB BASTARD!"

Around the side of the paddock galloped Frank and Clyde, the whinnying of their horses only adding to the cacophony.

"Damn it, Clyde I didn't know what else to do!" he protested lamely.

 

"You didn't know what else to do?!" Clyde roared, voice only slightly muffled beneath his bandanna. "You have fucked us, Wayne! You've god damn fucked us!"

To the side, a fifth horse joined their muster, as Finch rode down from the flank.

"I heard the shot, what's going on?"

 

"What's going on?! Wayne's fucked us, that's what's going on!"

 

Finch shifted anxiously in his saddle. In the cool night air, sweat rose from the flanks of his horse as steam. A small army of ranch hands would be upon them any moment.

"So, we run...?" the amateur rustler asked.

 

Clyde shook his head, still fuming. "Fuck, they'll cut us down like dogs either way!"

He paused, rubbing his forehead in exasperation.

 

"...Clyde?" Wayne began, but his brother cut him off.

 

"Shut the fuck up, I need to think."

 

Precious moments passed, and when Clyde finally raised his head from his hand it was in a determined mask.

"Okay, we can salvage this. We're gonna try salvage this. Wayne, Finch, Sampson, you cover the rear. Greene and I are gonna muster what cows we can, drive em' into the woods. If you gotta kill a couple cowpokes you kill those fucken' cowpokes, just buy us time. We regroup at the campsite from the night before last, alright? Maybe there'll be one or two cows left for us to take. Now go! Don't argue!"

 

With the plan decided, Frank and Clyde wheeled their mounts around, and with a few shouts and kicks they galloped off after the herd. Wayne gripped his rifle. It seemed he'd be shooting it more than once tonight.

 

"Well, what now? We buy them time?" Jed asked.

 

"Yeah we buy em' time." repeated Wayne. "Fan out across the paddock. Pick the hands off as they come over the rise. If any of you run, I'll shoot'cha my god damn self."

 

"On what account are you in charge? You put us in this damn mess to begin with!" shouted Finch, growing frantic at the deteriorating situation.

 

"On account of I'm second in command. Fucken do it." growled Wayne, chambering his rifle.

 

Finch shot a look of misgiving at Jed, but pulled his reins to bear, and the three outlaws spread across the fence line, weapons in hands.

 

----

 

Down in the bunkhouse, José re-fastened his gun belt. In the back of his mind lay the memory that his pistol was cowboy-loaded, and there wasn't time to get out his second belt, his second revolver, or even his rifle. Five shots would have to be enough.

 

He sat his hat firmly back upon his head, and was making for the door when Granger burst through it, urgency in his voice.

"Get up, Goddamn it! They're after the herd!"

"'Mon' José, we got us some work ta do!"

 

So the worst was confirmed. Rustlers. He nodded at Carson before he darted out the door, put his head down, and ran for the horses. His boots fell heavy in the muck, and the sound of stampeding cattle echoed down from the hills. Horse hooves joined the din as ranch hands spurred their mounts up towards the paddock.

He careened into the stables, picking out Loretta at her stall, and thanked his good fortune that she still wore the bridle and saddle he brought her in with. In one deft move he yanked her reins from where they were tied, tossed them over her head, gripped the saddle horn and hoisted himself up.

The young mare snorted, and her breath came away steamy. After a moment to settle his feet into the stirrups, José gave her a quick kick, and they trotted out into the night.

 

"Martinez!" shouted Connolly at his side. "You know who's after the herd?"

 

José shook his head. "I didn't see them. Could be anyone."

With another quick kick he moved Loretta into a canter, and they crossed the mustering area, picking up speed as they went. "Ándale, ándale!" he cried, and the horse beneath him broke into a gallop.

 

He braced himself in the saddle as they streaked across the grassland. Loretta whinnied and tossed her head, excited to run after a month of rather mundane ranch work. Her hooves kicked up dirt as they went, and the whinny quickly turned into a determined snort. It was fortunate for José that he'd taken the time to secure his hat, otherwise it might have blown off at such speeds. However, he hadn't been able to throw on anything warmer than the work shirt he'd spent all day in, and as it blustered around his torso, he felt the whipping wind begin to chill his exposed skin.

 

Still, there was a rise in his chest with a weapon at his hip and an enemy on the horizon, and for a moment José was back in Mexico, tearing across the desert with the law at his back.

 

They sped past a blur that might have been old man Steelgrave himself as he mounted up to join the chase, though José could only spare a passing glance as he eased Loretta out into the paddocks, wind coursing through his curly hair. Gripping the reins in his left hand, he darted the right down to his hip, snatching his pistol from its holster and holding it at the ready.

@Flip@Bailey

Edited by boshmi (see edit history)

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Brendan felt a thrill of excitement as he urged his horse on to the paddocks, but it turned to horror and anger when he finally neared the paddocks and saw the last of the cattle heading off into the night. Holy hell, the cattle were getting away! This wasn't right. It wasn't fair.

 

He spent every waking hour watching those cows and now some bastards thought they could just take what he and the other hands had worked so hard for? That was injustice right there. But what to do about it? Did he go after the cows or the rustlers? Obviously you couldn't stop cows in a stampede until they chose to stop, but you could stop rustlers.

 

He clucked to his horse and urged it behind the rest of the hands up over the small rise to the paddock, pistol at the ready. And that's when he heard the first of the shots.

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Carson rode low at a full gallop as his horse raced across the range in the direction of the stampede, the noise making it impossible not to know where it was coming from. The day crew would already be after the herd and those brazen enough to try and take them, secure in the knowledge that the rest of the hands were on their way to support them.

 

Carson did not bother to look back, the others would be behind him, as he was behind Granger.  Every man on the ranch would now be mounted and in pursuit, a comfortiong thought as they caught sight of the dust, and the day riders racing into it, Then, the sound of gunfire.

 

@boshmi@Bailey@any

Edited by Flip (see edit history)

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As the first hands crested the rise, they would see flashes of light and hear the report of gunfire along the paddock, as the three outlaws emptied their weapons downrange. Gunsmoke rose in the air, concealed by the dark of night, but its stench hung heavy.

 

A horse reared, baying loudly, then collapsed to the ground, blood streaming from a wound in its flank. Its rider fell with it, cries of man blending with that of the animal.

 

"I think I got one!" shouted Jed from up the way, and Wayne gritted his teeth in frustration. Even he knew that you never give away your position in a gunfight. His horse rocked beneath him, and he held it steady with his legs, focusing on sending as much lead as he could before the return fire came.

 

Centering his sights over the silhouette of another rider, he worked the lever and snatched the trigger with blistering speed, arms moving like a machine. He squeezed off one, two, and three shots before the rider disappeared from the silhouette, and his horse ran on, alone.

 

----

 

José reached the paddock just as gunfire had begun to open up. He saw a rider go down, and quickly pulled back on his reins to avoid a collision. Loretta resisted, pushing the urge to run on, but the sound of rifle fire had begun to spook her, and within a moment she had slowed, whinnying at the fallen horse.

 

She rolled her eyes and stomped her hooves, but José coaxed her on, around the tangle of fallen flesh and up to where those orange flashes sounded with frightening frequency. "Cálmate, chica!" he whispered, but even he could feel that the mare was close to breaking courage.

 

Before he even knew what was happening there came a whistle of gunfire over his head, frighteningly close, and he instinctively ducked against Loretta's neck. She broke into a run, all obedience forgotten, and in a moment José had become a sitting duck, moving in a straight line across the paddock edge. He did the only thing he could think to; and let his feet slip from the stirrups, his hands from the reins, and his body from the saddle.

 

He hit the ground hard, rolling through the grass unceremoniously. Clutching his gun in a vice-like grip, he felt the burn of scrapes along his forearms, and when he finally came to a halt there was nothing but the wet dew against his face and the clammy dirt clinging to his clothes. Glancing up, he saw Loretta's silhouette gallop off into the night after the herd, seemingly unhurt. He checked himself over for injuries, which would have been hard to see in the dark anyway, but couldn't find anything worse than a few scratches. Next, he checked his pistol, which seemed to function properly, and turned his attention to the matter at hand. He was now on foot, less than fifty meters from the rustlers, who he presumed to be mounted. As far has he knew, they assumed him dead or incapacitated, which granted him a distinct advantage.

 

It was decided; he would push forward, and catch them by surprise, using the superior accuracy of shooting from foot. He already knew where one was, given the way he was whooping and hollering after each shot. All José needed was some cover fire. He rolled onto his back, waiting for the next few riders to crest the rise so that he could push up with them.

@Bailey@Flip

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Brendan flew over the crest of the rise on Fiona with the rest of the riders and tried to pick out the rustlers from where their gunshots were coming from. It was hard, with the intermittent flashes from the gunfire giving only a little clarity to their attacker's figures. He rode bent low on Fiona's neck and stretched his pistol out in front of him. Somewhere on the way to the paddocks he had lost track of José, but there was no time to worry about him now.

 

A spattering of gunfire came from ahead and in the resulting light, he caught sight of a fellow on a horse across the paddock. He pointed his pistol and squeezed the trigger once. In the dark, with the motion of his horse, and the uncertainty of the whole situation, there was no way of knowing if his shot would even hit. He shot again in hopes that he would at least hit something.

 

Shooting in the dark was a lot different than shooting at rattlesnakes or beer bottles in the daytime, and neither of those things he'd practiced on ever shot back. These men would shoot back.

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Cresting a small knoll, Carson blew by some of the men as he had sight of the herd. There was gunfire a plenty, but then that was to be expected in the current situation. He saw Johnny Fowler racing forward at an angle toward the herd, when he jerked back in the saddle,  seemed to rein over to the right and took the horse down with him. Carson was past him before he could react.

 

Shooting from horse back was iffy at best, with the unsteady motion of a horse in a full gallop, and the limited number of shots a man had. Using a long gun, like a Winchester, or a Henry, was even less accurate due to the length of the barrel bobbing up and down, side to side. But men were shooting anyway. Some in defense, others on the attack. The other hazard, hitting your own men in the fray. The dust, confusion, and downright insanity of the stampede, which was, in and of itself, deadly for man or beast. 

 

Carson pressed on holding his reins in his teeth he reached back to his saddle bag for his spare gun as he unraveled a cartridge at one of the rustlers, a man he did not recognize as an Evergreen hand. He was holding the other five until he was on top of them, then he'd unload!

 

The second colt came out of the leather bag and  with some effort, was stuffed in his waistband, the reins released and in his hand again. He was closing on the herd quickly as were several other Evergreen riders.

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@Bailey@boshmi

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And there they came, a wave of hands laying down fire thick and heavy. José picked out Brendan in the chaos, as he squeezed off a few shots from his pistol, and then came Carson; reins in his teeth, riding like a showman.

 

Revolver in hand, José got to his feet. Blood was on the wind, and he could feel the dirt clinging to his skinned forearms, but there was almost a sixth sense that picked out the movements of his opponents ahead of him, and despite the noise and the pain, he felt ready.

 

"Downed a fucker for sure, Wayne!"

 

A voice from up ahead, a silhouette in the dark. José raised his pistol and thumbed back the hammer, tracking the shape across the skyline. A quick squeeze of the trigger and the hammer fell, striking a primer and sending a bullet cracking across the ranch.

He took the recoil and rode it, letting his arm settle. There was no more movement he could make out, and so he advanced further up the paddock, cocking the hammer again as he went.

 

----

 

A bullet whistled over Wayne's head, but he did not flinch, his rifle barrel snapping straight to the muzzle flash. Another round came and he could feel the rush of air as it darted past his face. Illuminated in the weapon's flame was the frame of a horse and a rider, pistol at the ready.

Wayne sniffed, breathed out, and squeezed the trigger for a retaliating shot, right where the flame had been. Below him his horse whinnied and lifted her forelegs off the ground in a a small rear. The movement ruined his aim, and his shot missed its mark by a small ways.

 

"Downed a fucker for sure, Wayne!"

 

Reported Jed from down the way, and hardly a moment later there was the wet thudding of a bullet tearing through flesh. The rustler screamed, and his horse began to bray and roll her eyes in fright.

 

"Ah fuck! Fuck, my fucking hand!"

 

@Bailey@Flip

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Neither of Brendan's shots hit anything. Not that he had really expected to hit anything in the dark on a moving horse, but it would have been nice if the wind and his target had happened to align.

 

Something whooshed by his ear, and then a spurt of flame came from a gun. His blood ran cold. That had been a bullet. He had almost died. The realization was enough to make him draw up his horse. This was stupid, running around on horseback in the dark and getting shot at. He slipped out of the saddle and darted across the corral to the edge of the fence.

 

Now he was halfway there. He crawled forward with his gun in one hand, trying to stay low to the ground. If no one had seen him run over here, he was pretty much safe until he got to the edge of the corral where the rustlers were. But if someone had...well...he'd be a sitting duck. A crawling duck, more correctly.

 

He heard someone screaming - multiple someones, human and horse - and pointed his pistol towards the sound. His finger was on the trigger when he realized that shooting now would give away his position, and he curled all of his fingers back around the butt of the gun. Keep crawling, that was the ticket. He kept crawling around the edge of the corral, staying pressed up against the fence.

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"Downed a fucker for sure, Wayne!"

 

Reported Jed from down the way, and hardly a moment later there was the wet thudding of a bullet tearing through flesh. The rustler screamed, and his horse began to bray and roll her eyes in fright.

 

"Ah fuck! Fuck, my fucking hand!"

 

Carson heard the scream  Then, in the dimness of moonlight, saw the mounted outlaw holding what appeared to be his wrist or hand, and immediately jerked back on the reigns, his mount went down on his rear haunches, forelegs extended attempting to brake his forward motion, as his chest slammed into the horse and rider. The other horse and rider crashed to the ground, the rider trapped under his own horse.

 

Carson sprang free of his own mount, a gun in each hand,taking a shot at a rider he didn't recognize as another rider reigned in and jumped down, a man dressed not as a hand, but in his robe and night clothes, holding a pistol.

 

"Good work son, we'll hang this one if he lives." Other riders galloped past in pursuit. The man speaking was Elias Steelgrave, owner of the ranch, though Carson didn't know him even on sight, he suspected as much. "We need to get that animal up. Granger and the others will take care of the rest of the bastards! This one will swing. and I hope he's not alone."

 

Carson looked to his horse who lay dying from injuries from the collision, without hesitation he cocked a pistol an fired a single shot into the animals brain, then walked over to the other and repeated the action for the outlaws horse. He looked down at the man still trapped.

 

"Mister, yer fucked!" He said coldly. "We'll be havin' us a lynchin' bee, an' yer the guest of honor, lest a'course we happen ta catch more of you 'waddies'. Then well jest decorate us a tree with ya'all!"

@boshmi

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Jed tumbled to the ground, the bite of the bullet in his hand suddenly seeming quite insignificant as his horse was rammed by another, somewhere in the dark. There was a moment of weightlessness, where anything could have been happening, and then he hit the grass, a thump knocking the wind out of him. He began to push himself up, but within moments where was another, far worse pain shooting through his legs, as his horse came tumbling down upon him. There was a sickening crunch, and he shouted in pain again, grabbing at the grass in agony. He tasted blood in his mouth, and realized that he had bit his tongue.

 

From behind there came a gunshot, then another, and then a terrifying click from just behind his head.

"Mister, yer fucked! We'll be havin' us a lynchin' bee, an' yer the guest of honor, lest a'course we happen ta catch more of you 'waddies'. Then well jest decorate us a tree with ya'all!"

 

"Gahd... lapdog... fuck you..." Jed managed, choking back tears as his lower body was crushed. With one final effort, he snatched for his pistol, it's handle just jutting out from below the fallen horse's frame, cocked it, and leveled it off in the vague direction of the voice to fire a shot.

The hammer fell with a harmless click, powder clogged with mud from the field. He thumbed back the hammer again twice more, and twice more the gun clicked fruitlessly.

Jed screamed, out of desperation, out of pain, out of anger, and threw the worthless weapon at Carson.

"Fuck you! Fuck you! You god-damn sisterfucker!"

156503589_ScreenShot2021-07-18at9_45_59AM.png.a67f4ae1279e94de870dc816c4d36a6e.png.c190501a81d34b7da621fa05824af257.png

 

----

 

Wayne saw the fall through flashes of gunfire and the screams of his lackey, and chewed his lip. He chambered his rifle again and moved to pick another target, but as soon as one settled in his sights, another four popped up behind him.

 

Even Wayne, doltish Wayne who had hardly ever made a decision of his own, could tell that they were outgunned. If they didn't run now, they would die here, Jed's wailing was proof of that.

He squeezed the trigger, but by now his target was long gone, somewhere in the night, and the younger brother had ceased to care.

 

"Finch, you still down there?" he called, and a faint 'aye!' sounded off amidst the gunfire.

"Cmon' we're getting outta here!"

"Aye!" came the report again, and Wayne pulled his horse to bear.

 

"Get up! Go on!" he cried, giving him a whack on the rump, and the gelding started off at a canter toward the opposite end of the field. Wayne tucked his rifle back into its scabbard and put his head down, hoping that he would find no bullet whizzing through the back of it.

 

---

 

The commotion from up ahead was a reference point for José as he made his way over the hill. His shot had clearly done something, judging by all the shouting, and he felt the rush of success as he crested the rise to see both Carson and Mr. Steelgrave himself, standing over a floundering horse and a downed rider. He watched as Carson executed the fallen horse, but from behind the crackle of gunfire had begun to fade, and silhouettes were shifting in the night. The rustlers were retreating. They would escape if they weren't cut off soon.

 

Ignoring the scene of the downed rider, José called out into the night for his mount; "Ven aqui, mujer! Rápidamente!" and Loretta, obedient as ever, began her trot back across the field to her master.

 

Quickly, José opened his colt, pulled a round from his belt and slid it into the chamber, topping up the shot he'd fired earlier, before holstering his weapon and mounting up once more. He spurred hard, and Loretta gave a slight rear and whinny, before shooting off at a run after the others.

@Flip@Bailey

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Carson smiled and kicked the gun out of the mans hand. "You jest stay put there, see if we can't get you some comp'ny. Hate ta see a man hang alone."

 

"Like i said, let's see if we can't get this horse up off of him." Elias said grabbing the reigns and giving them a tug to see if the animal would respond, as Carson grabbed the saddle horn and pulled. The two men struggled with the mount, who finally got it's legs under it and slowly, painfully stumbled to it's unsteady hooves,  managed to walk a few steps before collapsing.

 

Elias looked down at the man, "Caused the death of a good animal, son of a bitch! You stay alive, I want to see you dance at the end of that rope!" 

 

Carson walked over to the horse cocked his pistol, put it to the animals head, and pulled the trigger.

@Bailey@boshmi

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Just as Brendan was starting to get close enough to the rustlers to be able to get a good shot off at them, they started to turn tail and run. Was that José going after them? It was. He cursed and banged his fist against the fence, then rose slowly. If the rustlers were gone, all he had to worry about was not getting hit by friendly fire until he found Fiona.

 

He whistled for her, unsure whether he could be heard over the ruckus. As he waited for his horse to heed his call - or not - he saw Carson and Elias standing over what had to be one of the rustlers and a horse. Oh, no. He wanted no part of that. Putting the injured animal out of its misery was one thing, but if they were going to shoot the man he didn't want to see it.

 

Carson walked over to the horse and Brendan winced as the shot rang out. How many more animals and men would die before the sun rose?

 

Fiona appeared in front of him and he swung himself up onto her back, then spurred her in the direction José and the cattle and rustlers had taken. He should have gone after the cattle in the first place instead of trying to shoot at the rustlers.

 

As he left the corral, the sound of the cattle and occasional flashes of gunfire guided him. He pushed Fiona as fast as she would go to try to catch up to José. If the Mexican had ridden off alone, he would need help.

 

But of course none of these thoughts were coherent. It was flashes of thought or images: Carson standing over the horse, José riding off alone, and all the cattle running away like demons escaping from hell.

Edited by Bailey (see edit history)

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"You jest stay put there, see if we can't get you some comp'ny. Hate ta see a man hang alone."

"Caused the death of a good animal, son of a bitch! You stay alive, I want to see you dance at the end of that rope!"

Jed merely grunted again, pain all too overbearing for him. So resigned to his fate was he, that he hardly even flinched when the shot came and another horse's brains painted the grass. There was nothing to be done. He would die here. The reality of the situation was beginning to sink in.

 

Curse those God-Damned Baker Brothers!

156503589_ScreenShot2021-07-18at9_45_59AM.png.a67f4ae1279e94de870dc816c4d36a6e.png.c190501a81d34b7da621fa05824af257.png.40839692d4e73002e9c3022f8a2114cf.png

 

 

 

 

 

---

 

Loretta's hooves pounded the earth, and steam rose from her flanks as she snorted her way through the night. José was single-minded in purpose; intending to cut off the rustlers before they could escape with the cattle, and he was so determined on this goal that he hardly noticed that he had company until is was nearly riding alongside him.

 

Glancing back, he picked out Brendan atop Fiona, with the rugged cowhand's outline unmistakable in the night. He slowed his pace a slight so they were riding abreast, then kicked Loretta up into a gallop once more.

 

"I reckon' I saw them turn and run!" he called to Brendan over the whipping wind. "Headed for the forest! If we catch them, will you be able to stop the cows from scattering?!"

@Bailey@Flip

Edited by boshmi (see edit history)

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There was fire in the old mans eyes as he looked around, they had one, but he wanted every mothers son of them to swing, or bleed out on the range. "Let's get after 'em boy!" And like a man twenty years younger Elias, swung into the saddle, pulling the horses head around. "If the boys can cut 'em off before they get to the trees that'll be a plus, or days worth of work to get out of there."

 

"There weren't that many, and I doubt they were after the whole herd," Carson said leaping in the saddle as both men laid spurs to their animals. Using spurs was not something a man did as a matter of course, hardly. But when they needed to move, then yes they would. This was one such time where speed was of the essence. Both mounts stretched out into a full brake neck gallop to try and catch not just the herd, but the rest of the rustlers as well. The cows would only run so far, and could be easily rounded up again, even if they had to be rooted out of the trees.

 

Now the riders of the Evergreen were not lily white, far from it, and there were plenty of cattle on Evergreen range with altered brands. But stealing from a thief is probably not the best idea anyone ever had, and generally, sooner or later, it ended badly. Bad men wronged will hunt you down. Yet to their credit, the Baker Brothers only saw what they believed was an easy way to make some money, they had no idea of Elias Steelgrave, or the Evergreen. Just rustle some cattle and drive 'em to a market far enough away no one would notice, except everyone in that part of the country knew 'pine tree' brand of the Steelgrave outfit.

image.jpeg.e07b86f98bd190a741ca835a7eeb7fba.jpeg

@Bailey@boshmi

 

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As José and Loretta slowed, Brendan pounded up beside him and then kept pace with him. As José's question, he nodded breathlessly. "I'll damn sure try!" he called back. Why was he so utterly stupid? Keeping the cattle out of the trees should have been his first thought, not an afterthought. He should have been doing that while the rest of the hands were off in the gun battle.

 

But now they had to live with the hand they'd been dealt and the cards that had already been played. As they neared the trees, he and José saw a few cattle heading into the trees, with another small group not far behind them. After their initial stampede, they had separated into small clusters. That was both good and bad. Good because it meant all of the cows weren't in the trees where they would be even harder to round up, but bad because they were already splitting off. More groups of cows meant more hands needed to round them up.

 

Brendan swore and spurred Fiona in an effort to beat the next group of cattle to the trees. He made it let out a high-pitched yell to turn them away from the trees, following it up with a shot from his pistol. The cattle, already spooked by the previous gunfire, swerved away from the trees and found another group of cows to follow; one that was just headed for the open range.

 

Brendan let them go, knowing they would run out their nerves eventually. As he breathed a sigh of relief, he saw Carson and Old Man Steelgrave riding by, hot on the trail of the rustlers. Good. The sooner the cattle thieves were out of the way, the easier it would be to round up the wayward cattle.

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Soon the numbers of ranch men were swelling across the field, and the two riders up ahead seemed vastly less threatening. With Brendan affirming that he could do something about the cows, José knew he was free to engage the riders, and hopefully take them down before they hit the forest.

 

He gave Loretta another kick and eased her away, out to the treeline. They streaked over the grass, her thumping hooves crushing small twigs as they went. José knew it was dangerous to ride hard this close to a forest floor, but if he slowed now, they would undoubtedly get away.

Loretta was snorting heavily, but did not whinny in complaint, sensing the severity of the situation. Seconds passed, José elevated in the saddle, and the little shapes of the rustlers grew. He was two hundred meters out, then one hundred, then fifty...

 

He pulled the pistol from his holster again, and raised it ahead of him. At a gallop, it was near impossible to aim, but the thumbed back the hammer and squeezed a shot off at the man ahead, before quickly grabbing the reins again to avoid losing control.

 

---

 

Head down, Wayne Baker rode for the treeline like his life depended on it, because frankly; it did. A few cows had entered the forest, and he knew that Clyde and Greene would be rounding them up and getting them away. Hopefully, these cowpokes would be too busy trying to recover the herd to chase them. Hopefully.

 

A shot whizzed over his head, and he craned his neck to check the direction it had come from. Off to his side came a man and a horse, intending to cut off their escape! Drawing, slowing, and returning fire would take too much time; all he could do was run.

 

"Cmon' ya nag!" he cried, spurring on his own horse, and pushing hard for the treeline. Over to his left, Finch saw the shot and mirrored his actions.

@Bailey@Flip

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OOC: And this one!

 

Brendan waited to make sure that no more stray cows were headed toward the trees before he rode into the forest to search for more cows. It would be tricky to find them in the trees, in the dark, but he had to try. No one knew how many rustlers there were for sure, but they all seemed to be headed for the trees.

 

Fiona cantered along the treeline, away from the way José and the rustlers had gone. As he rode, Brendan searched the edges of the forest for any signs of cattle. He'd rounded a corner and José had completely disappeared from sight when a flash of light brown caught his eye.

 

There was the bony backside of a cow disappearing into the forest. Brendan leaned forward in his saddle, peering into the trees to see how many more cows, if any, were ahead of this one. It would sure be nice if he could find all of the cows at once.

 

@Flip @boshmi

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About Sagas

Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.

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