Bad Things Happen Bingo: "Fingore"
If Arthur survived, he was going to kill Dutch.
And he fully intended on surviving, just so he could tell him 'I told you so.'
You'd think, after all this time, Dutch would give up on trying to make them get along. Micah had done well to alienate himself from the entire gang, and no matter how many times Dutch tried to send them out on jobs together, it only served to make them hate him more. Arthur supposed that he was hoping that, like with John, by forcing them together they'd eventually get along.
If Arthur survived, though, he was going to return with a lie on his lips and Micah's blood on his hands.
As always when it came to Micah, the job had gone horribly wrong. The law had shown up, and they'd had to abandon the carriage they'd been holding up, stuffing the money they'd manage to filch into their pockets—there'd been well over five hundred in the back, from what he could see, but he'd only been able to grab not even ten, and Dutch was going to kill him. But he'd get over it, there would always be more money but there was only ever one Arthur.
They'd bolted, shooting lawmen off their horses as they fled down the twists and turns of a canyon, finally managing to leave the law behind, but when Arthur had turned back to make sure he'd found himself alone, Micah and Baylock nowhere in sight.
"Goddamn," was all he could think to say, Dutch really was going to kill him. Already, he was thinking of cover-ups—the law had shot Micah off his horse and he hadn't been able to go back for the body, Micah had made a sour turn and ridden over the edge of the canyon, Baylock had been shot out from under him and broke Micah's neck as he fell.
In all honesty, Arthur should turn back and look for him. Hated as he was, Micah was a Son of Dutch. But he was nothing but trouble, and leaving him behind to rot or to be hanged would save them a lot of trouble. Besides, if Micah had survived and just been caught by the law, he wasn't worth risking his neck over.
Boadicea was heaving beneath him, blowing hard and hanging her head, and he thumped her neck as he swung down from the saddle, offering an apple. He wanted to give her water, but he didn't have any besides what was in his canteen, and while he wanted to give her a rest, take off her tack, there was always the chance that the law was still pursuing them, had just gotten lost in the canyon, and he didn't want to leave his tack behind if he had to make a quick escape.
"'atta girl," he murmured, rubbing along her neck as he allowed his head to rest on her withers, trying to catch his breath. Though there'd been a clean path through the canyon he and, at least he'd thought, Micah had taken a tangled one, one that had left them leaping over logs and stones, and flattening themselves down along their horse's necks as they scraped under overhangs. He was pretty sure he'd torn up his shoulders and back, they felt roughed up something awful and he thought he could feel blood trickling down his skin, but while he was taking a rest he didn't want to waste the time doctoring himself up.
There was a dull bang! behind him, the familiar far-away crack of a gun, and he stiffened, reached for his own even as he threw himself into his mare's saddle, leaning down to adjust the girth quickly when it shifted beneath him. Looking back over his shoulder, he frowned when he didn't see any lawmen rounding the corner, but the ground beneath him was rattling, stones bouncing and jittering, a dead sapling snapping in half and collapsing.
Boadicea stamped her hooves, half-rearing and snorting in alarm, ears pinned back. Before he could try and get her under control, the usually well-behaved mare was off like a shot, bolting down the canyon, nearly unseating him as the first bison rounded the corner.
As though it broke a seal, the biggest herd of bison he'd ever seen began to follow. Calves bleated in alarm as they struggled to keep at their mothers' side, and bison bellowed as they ran, leaving their calves behind. There were so many he could barely tell where one began and another ended, an ocean of brown and black fur, calves being knocked off their hooves and shrieking as they were crushed.
Boadicea screamed as he drove his spurs into her sides where he normally would have tapped her, surging forward such that he had to grab the horn of her saddle to keep from being thrown, stretching up to lay along her neck and letting her have her head as she sprinted through the canyon, throwing up dirt and stones and who knew what else in her panic. He tangled his hand, still holding the reins, in her mane, the other in the horn of her saddle, grunting as each bounce of her stride slammed it into his stomach.
She was a fast horse, but being a draft horse she wasn't fast enough, and first one, two, and then countless bison began to flood passed, and though he adjusted his grip so he could maneuver her if he had to Boudicea began to swerve, leaping over a log that a calf tripped over, crashing to the ground and getting crushed by its mama, who lost her balance and was trampled as well.
They were packed in, and he grabbed his gun and fired into the air, managing to get them some breathing room for only a heartbeat before they were converged upon again, and he twitched his finger on the trigger, but before he could fire a shot a horn tore through his arm, his hand convulsing and sending his gun to the ground, left far behind with only a single stride. He cried out in dismay as he brought his arm close to himself, holding it tight to his stomach, wanting to press his hand to his wound to stem the bleeding but knowing that letting go with his other hand was as good as asking to be thrown.
He drove his spurs into her sides, the mare straining to break through the river of bison, to get ahead of them so they could, well could what he didn't know, but they needed to get out of the crush before they were taken off her hooves and trampled like so many of the bison. Even still, a look back over his shoulder and he could see bison continuing to pour out from around the corner.
Something moved along the rim of the canyon, and he looked up. It was probably the only time he'd ever been glad to see Micah Bell, and god but he hoped it would be the last. Baylock surged beneath the man, the horse's black coat striking against the burning light of the sun.
Arthur clung as tightly as he dared with his thighs as he moved his hand from the horn of her saddle to her mane, pulling on it to guide her towards them. Micah was a horrible man, racist and cruel and a snake, but he could have bailed after they'd gotten separated or fled after seeing him in the middle of the stampede, so the man was his only hope.
"Come on Bo, come on!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, but his voice was torn away by the bellowing of the bison and the thundering of their hooves on the ground. She fought him for a long moment, but finally began to run at an angle, shouldering her way through the bison, though they barely made any forward progress he could see the wall of the canyon getting closer and closer.
Finally, they were so close to the wall that it scraped against his shoulder, and though he felt horrible for it he had no choice but to leave Boudicea on the ground—there was no way he could bring her with him. He reassured himself in that she'd be faster and more nimble without him weighing her down, and went about tying her reins around her saddle horn, arm screaming as he used it, hand on his good arm still clutching at her mane.
He clambered to his feet atop her, clutching at her saddle to keep his balance, thanking God that he had ridden her and not taken one of their spare horses, she was wider than any of them and even still he struggled to stay on his feet. This was just like jumping from a horse to a train, except if he fell this time he'd be crushed by an animal that weighed half a ton.
His eyes scanned the rock-wall and then, one-two-three strides, his heart bounding in his ears, he kicked off, leaped up, and just barely managed to grasp the tiny overhang, feet kicking at the air as he swung before finally meeting the wall hard enough to knock the breath from his lungs. He looked back over his shoulder, Boadicea already far away, little more than an oddly shaped white blotch in the brown and black sea.
He took a deep breath, braced his feet against the rock and looked up, looking for the next handhold. For once, his luck was with him, as the rock was rough, and though it tore at his skin even as he hung there were plenty of places to grab onto. He stretched up, grabbed a protruding rock, only to nearly fall as it tore free and toppled down into the stampede, leaving him dangling from one hand, braced by his feet, until he managed to regain his previous grip, throat raw from his yell. Arthur dropped his forehead against the rock, trying to catch his breath, before trying again, tugging carefully at the rock before putting his weight on it, stretching up to grab another handhold with his other hand, putting his feet where he'd been clinging before.
Up he climbed, though how long he didn't know. Long enough that his nails tore free from his nail beds, that the rock shredded the skin from his palms and his muscles screamed , that sweat stung his eyes and his face was bloody from trying to wipe it dry. Bloodied hand-prints marked his path.
Finally, he reached a crack wide enough that he could brace himself, stretching his hands out to plant them against the sides, gritting his teeth at the pain of the rough rock digging into the exposed meat of his hands, slowly scooting himself up barely an inch at a time, muscles screaming, palms tearing, finally managing to hook his throbbing fingers over the lip of the canyon wall.
But when he tried to haul himself up, his muscles gave out, and he had to scrape his feet along the wall to keep from falling, sending dirt and rocks and pebbles down into the herd below. Hoofbeats clattered near, and he looked up, eyes burning, as boots thumped to the ground, Baylock's skull-white face peering down at him, his master's eyes the same shade of blue as the horse's meeting Arthur's.
"Micah," he gasped, trying to haul himself up, elbows giving way again, "Brother, help me!" Micah had always been so insistent that with both of them being Sons of Dutch that it made them brothers. So though Micah would never let him live it down, he'd never let him live down being saved by him either, so he appealed to that.
A nasty grin crawled across the man's face, mustache twitching, and he knelt, taking Arthur's bloodied hands in his. He leaned forward, mouth as close to his ear as if he were whispering sweet nothings to a lady, and murmured "Well... I must say, Arthur... it's been a lotta fun."
Arthur's eyes widened, and all he could do was yell as Micah stood, wrenching his hands up and out before letting go,
and he fell
and he fell
and he fell
and he hit the ground