Into the Canyon
“How far to Jackson do ya think?”
“Five hundreds miles or so. We can make it in two weeks if we work from sunup to sundown. Depending on the cattle.“
“You talk to your buddies about passage?” Cas smiled to himself, back turned to his brother, his forehead pressed gently against the muzzle of the mare, who snorted in response. He ran a hand through her tangled mane, feathers and beads woven delicately by the children of the Black Feet tribe.
“Yes, they said they’d be happy to let us cut through the Lamar Pass if we promised not to disturb the bison.” Cas patted the horse’s neck and turned to face Gabriel. Gabe grunted as he climbed on top of his own horse, a rowdy stallion, who despite his husky appearance was filled with a near dangerous amount of energy, not to mention the horse’s obsession with sweets.
“Let’s get a move on!” Gabe hollered, jamming his boot into the stallion’s side sparking a burst of energy, the horse giving Gabe a rough buck before charging towards the main gates of the cattle pen. Cas huffed out, already exhausted and threw a leg over his own horse.
“This is going to be a long trip, Angel.” Cas pulled his hat down to keep the sun from burning out his eyes, and clicked his tongue, getting Angel to follow the rolling hills with the never ending sky. Angel was nothing like the shiny chestnut American Thoroughbred that Gabe rode. Angel for one, was a lot larger with wide strong legs and a thick muzzle and neck meant to pull the stage coaches as far west as the old dirt roads would go. Her hair was less course and more of a silky, cloudy white that pierced a focus point in the center of the vast green plains. Her main and tail had been also delicately braided and fishtailed, beads and feather woven through, making her stand out from the other horses in town.
Cas rubbed her neck and settled his gaze into the empty distance where the jagged peak stabbed the sky so far off in the distance they appeared to be almost low hanging clouds. She sighed, dreading the quiet moments and stupid bean dinners that would last for a couple of weeks.
Angel snickered at the ranch dogs who snapped back and chased after the roaming cattle. Gabe hung back to chat with Bal, their cousin handling the covered wagon bustling with supplies. She shook her head, preparing herself for the trip ahead.
Two Days Later...
Dean aimed the pistol at the boy’s head, the child staring at his stallion with curiosity suddenly shrunk back into the tall grass in fear. He was ready to pull the trigger too, maybe this boy was a distraction. The thicket was too tall for his horse to make a get away in time for an arrow to be released from the bow of the tribe that ruled these lands. He wasn’t a dummy, he had dealt with Indians before, and worse, the rivaling gangs that would come after him with sadistic smiles as they aimed their weapons at him.
“No!” Dean turned his head, but didn’t drop the gun, he knew better than to be caught off guard. A man had said this, not one from the tribe but from a rancher on a stagecoach horse, with massive hooves that could trample Dean’s head in one stomp. The mare jumped in between Dean and the boy, snorting at his own stallion giving a sideways glance to the man. A gun flew into the air and fired into the distance but missed Dean by several feet. He started talking, but not at an astounded Dean, and not in a language he could understand. It was the little boy who instead spoke back. The boy nodded softly and reached up to run his fingers through mares hair, braids and feather’s catching in his hand. Startled by the odd encounter, Dean grunted and pulled on the reins. The man turned to him, his eyes glowering.
“He just wanted to pet the horse. And you felt threatened enough to try and shoot him?” Dean’s stallion snorted in response nipping at the mare.
“I’ve been tricked before.”
“No, you’ve been ruthless before to the people who own the land. You are trespassing.” Dean rolled his eyes and scoffed. He pulled his horse sharply away from the man and his horse as the mare nipped back it enormous size enough to overpower Dean’s stallion. He wouldn’t have admitted, but the horse held a much higher power, so much that he could feel Chevy tense underneath him.
“And who the hell are you?”
“Castiel Novak. Cattle rancher out east. Now if you excuse me, I want no trouble with gangs members like you, but you so much as approach the Natives here, I will not miss a second time.” Cas stared at the man in front of him. His tall black stallion with thundering hooves and deep rumble in his chest. A scar over his chest suggested a run in with a mountain lion, and the fire in its eyes made it clear this horse was not the typical ranch horses from out in Deadwood. No this horse, had to have been wild, but it didn’t seem fathomable for such an animal to allow a human companion. The man himself had a deep tan and freckles staining his skin, but most of it was hidden under layers of dark brown leather with bison fur stirrups hanging from the horse. His eyes were shielded from the black hat, a silver pendent on the front hood.
“Well for one, I’m not a gang member. I’m here to kill them.”
“So you’re a ranger.” Dean rubbed the back of his neck and glanced down almost sheepishly.
“Not exactly.” Not exactly? Well his brother was. Sam was a ranger out in Jackson patrolling the mysterious lands with the boiling water shooting from the ground and the wild animals that hunted in those valleys. A gang chased him from the Rocky Mountain pass, and brought him way off course. Dean didn’t mind all that much in retrospect as he had been searching for his chance to kill them all. Kill them all for everything they had done to his family.
“Who are you then?”
“That’s it, huh?” Dean didn’t have time to respond with his usually snarky comment. He didn’t even have time to catch his horses nervous snort at the darkened dots in the distance that looked nothing like the harmless grazing cattle. Chevy’s nostrils flared and he gritted his teeth.
But Dean had to move fast. Castiel wasn’t about to be another victim in Dean vicinity. Castiel was not about to become another name on his list to cross off when he killed each and everyone of those men that stole his life. Dean whipped out his pistol, pointed it at the first gang member and shot him straight in the chest without so much as batter of an eye. Cas’s eyes widened and jabbed his boot into Angel, the horse shooting off into the hillside of the valley to the forest's edge.
A bad idea, that’s where they wanted him to go. The forest was not a place for a horse, the mare would become trapped in the thicket and the gang would have killed him in a heartbeat, raided his bags and hauled off the horse. Chevy became a black streak as he galloped after the mare stopping her in her tracks by nipping her hip. She flew around and bucked upward almost sending Cas into the air. Another gunshot rang out as it missed Cas by a foot.
“Shit! To the canyon!” Dean hollered, Chevy directing himself towards the deep canyon where the mountain lions prowled and rattlesnakes awaited their next victim too curious to notice their rattle.
“No, to the herd, we have back up there!”
“Then they’ll take everything! We have to lead them away dammit!” Cas felt no point in arguing, surging after the formally wild horse into the shallow base where the rocks dipped below in a cascade of deep reds, menacing towers of boulders ahead showing off their power as the two men sprinted towards the earth’s safety.
Dean flicked the reins and Chevy threw himself over fallen trees lost to the power of the canyon. Angel followed, her hoof hitting the branch with a sickening smack. She pulled herself forward, her foot swelling with pain. She gave out a cry stopping short and tucking her knee high into her body.
“Angel!” Cas flung around, the thundering hooves of the gang coming closer and closer. Cas flipped his body around on his saddle, without a second's thought pulled something out of a side pack, reeled back his arm, and released. Dean watched in awe as an arrow shot from a bow, plunging into a man’s chest, sending him off his horse. Dean pulled Chevy around fired his gun several times, charging towards the gang. Chevy took a sudden duck and blocked Angel from the round of bullets fired through the air.
“Dean!” Cas hollered, pulling back another arrow, aiming not at the people, but at a massive creature staring them down with such immense power all the horses stopped dead. They might have been fast but nothing could escape the hundreds of eyes that followed the single arrow from the position in the bow to the second it turned and hit someone as they released a shrill cry in pain. The sound rippled through the canyon and Cas knew he had set them off.
“Here!” Cas reached out and grabbed Chevy’s reins urging the stallion to run towards a sharp pass away from the heart of the canyon and away from the stampede of bison that would trample the gang alive. Angel moved quickly, favoring her foot just enough to keep herself upright but still preventing from hurting herself further. The pair charged up the pass until the rumbling sound of the bison was nothing but an echo among the canyons walls.
“Who were they?” Cas asked breathlessly, slowing his horse when he felt satisfied with the safety in their position.
“Call themselves “the Wendigo’s.” They’ve been killing folks all over, stealing cattle, raping women, wiping out Indians. Great bunch of folks.” Dean scoffed, sliding off Chevy and making his way to the back end of Angel, gingerly holding the horse’s massive hoof in his hand. Cas grumbled miserably. What had he gotten himself into?
"Look, I need to get back to the herd, we've got to get to Jackson before the storms set in and kill us all in the open area." Dean's head shot up as he dropped the mare's hoof.
"Wait... you're gonin' to Jackson?" Cas nodded, tossing his leg over the saddle and hauling himself back on his horse. Angel nickered in response.
"Can I... Can I tag along? I'm headin' to Jackson myself, my brother's out there, but I got blown off course by them sons of bitches." Dean rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. He hated asking for help, especially from strangers. This stranger had just saved his life though. There was a long pause and Dean refocused on the Mare's hoof, inspecting her well trimmed hoof and long cascade of silky hair with tiny braids and beads.
"As long as you don't bring anymore gangs, we can't afford to lose any livestock." Cas huffed, his horse to, snorting in response. Dean bounced up, letting go off Angel's foot and smiled.
"No promises?" He threw the man a lopsided grin, one Cas only replied with a narrow of his eyes and click of his tongue.
"Fine." Cas tipped his hat, but Dean could catch a smirk curling on his lips as Angel took off slow and steady up the canyon's crumbling ridge to the valley leading into the mountain pass. Chevy butted past the rocks and slim pathway, trying the nip the mare back to be the leader, but the stagecoach horse was having none of it. She flipped her tail up and smacked the stallion in the muzzle. He snorted in reply and glared at Dean.
"So... Where'd you learn to fire a bow and arrow? You had a gun, could of just used that." Dean asked, trying to make conversation to take his mind off the height of which he was and could have so easily fallen.
"Natives in the Lamar mountain pass taught me when I was younger. And no, I couldn't have just used my gun, bison here do not understand them, hence they do not fear them. The natives hunt with arrows, and so it triggers them. All I needed was a target, and I would never shoot a buffalo." Dean leaned forward his curiosity getting the best of him.
“Because unlike you, I don’t screw around in affairs that I’m not supposed to. The bison are sacred, which means we shouldn’t touch them.” Dean stiffened and threw the ranger a glare.
“What do you know about me?” Dean hissed through clenched teeth. Cas gave a quick glance over his shoulder, scanning Dean up and down. The way he dressed, he might as well be a member of the Wendigo’s.
“Enough.” Cas replied, rolling his shoulders and falling into a silence that lasted until they reached the herd lazily traveling along closer and closer to the mountain pass that held unimaginable dangers. How much longer until Jackson? A long fucking time that was for sure. Surely this trip would be the death of Cas.