Destiny Peterson in a bind Struggles with Ropes
   by Bill K.

        The sky was aflame with the orange fire of the setting sun. It glared into the right side of Destiny Peterson's face as she looked south, straining to see any sign of the cattle drive that had left the ranch hours ago. It was futile, of course. They were long gone and headed for the Montana Trail, far out of her range of vision. But she continued to look for a few seconds more, hoping for some sign to ease her worry...

        She had wanted to go on the drive with the other hands, but they had convinced her to stay behind. Being the owner of the ranch and of the cattle being driven gave her a vested interest in being with the drive. However, common sense won out. Tom Carter had convinced her that, as ranch owner, she would be better served maintaining the ranch rather than being the only woman amid a collection of seedy cowboys covering three states with a herd of cattle. If it hadn't made some small sense, she might have challenged his assertion as to her vulnerability. Anyway, it was too late now. They were gone and she was here.

        Absently she rubbed her hands on the backside of her tight fitting jeans and ambled slowly toward the house. The noise of the few other hands left behind to tend the ranch with her wafted across the long yard from the bunkhouse, but the sound was little comfort. The silence, relative to the general low clatter of most nights, made her melancholy. Perhaps a warm cup of tea and a good book might ease her spirits.

        Destiny Peterson was a nineteenth century success story. She had taken the inheritance from her father's metalsmith business and left Minnesota and the colony of Swedish immigrants that cowered there like a coven of scared sheep and gone to the Dakota territory to get her own spread of land. Despite her youth of twenty-six, her long blonde hair and showgirl looks and features, she managed to carve a successful cattle ranch out of unsettled land with the twin swords of Indians and outlaws hanging eternally over her head. She did it through intelligence and simple stubbornness when it was needed and deferring to a better gun or a stronger hand when necessary. The west didn't have much use for women unless they were whores or farmer's wives, but she met it on its own terms and made it sit up and give her the respect she'd earned. Now that there was peace, she felt at ease at last.

        As she neared the door, Destiny folded her arms over her breast, a whisper of chill seeping through her faded blue cotton shirt. It was definitely time for some tea. As she entered the house and felt for the lamp, she couldn't escape the nagging feeling that something was just not right. Was she worrying too much about the cattle drive, or was it an actual premonition? This was one of the reasons why she had wanted to go along. Sitting and waiting and not knowing was the hardest part.

        There was a noise off to the right that caught her attention.

"Ben, is that you?" she asked, but no response came.

That brought the hairs on her arms to attention. She could hear the shallow breathing now. Someone was here and Destiny had left her gun holster in the other room. Since they didn't answer her first question, Destiny knew they were intruders and didn't waste energy in trying to pose any more. Instead she warily eased her way toward the gun belt.

        Perhaps realizing her destination, a figure darted out from concealment and tackled her in the middle of the room. Destiny hit the floor hard, but recovered quickly, struggling to throw her attacker off. She sensed that the stranger was not her physical superior, which encouraged her expectations to victory. Destiny Peterson had learned many lessons during her climb to success in the west and being able to fight was one of the first.

        Unexpectedly, a confederate joined her attacker, pushing the odds in their favor.

        Destiny struggled to squirm out from beneath the two as they tried to force her arms behind her back. So certain was Destiny in her ability to escape them, she didn't cry out until she realized her hands were trapped behind her and a leather thong was cutting into the flesh of her wrists.

"HELP!" cried Destiny, realizing perhaps too late that now was a time to defer.

The one word was all she could get out, though, as a thick cloth was jammed into her mouth and a second one pulled deep between her teeth and tied tightly behind her head, smothering any further yelling. Her two attackers worked fast, pinning Destiny's elbows together behind her and tying them with another thong. More of the short leather tethers pinned her knees together and bit into the leather of her boots around her ankles. Destiny was caught tight and knew it instantly.

        As the weight came off of her back she rolled herself over onto her side to see who had invaded her ranch house. The sight was not one of the possibilities Destiny had conjured up in the back of her mind. Through the darkness, she could make out the forms of two Indian women. She could see they were young and wore the fringed white buckskin dresses and moccasins of one of the plains tribes. The embroidery looked to be Sioux in origin and they each wore a pair of feathers dangling from their long silken black hair. Neither seemed armed, but that hardly seemed to be important now. What were they doing in her home and what did they want? More importantly, what did they intend to do with her now that she lay at their feet, bound and helpless.

        With intense caution, Quiet Waters drew the curtains over the windows before she lit the oil lamp. Her sharp features and high, beautiful cheekbones were bathed in a struggling glow of light. She looked first to her younger sister, Black Fox, and then to the woman in man's cowboy garb struggling on the floor next to Black Fox. Surely she was the wife of the owner of this white man's cattle ranch. The man must be away, perhaps on the large cattle drive they had seen headed south earlier.

        "She was certainly no match for the two of us!" Black Fox said proudly in her native Lakota. "Look at her struggle."

        "She seems to be a fierce one," Quiet Waters replied with considerably less pride. "With good reason, I think."

        Black Fox snorted. "What reason would she have? She is the one on our land!"

        "And we are the ones in her hearth. You are young yet, Black Fox. You do not yet understand that there are many sides to a thing like truth. We are the invaders at this moment and with the history of our two peoples, it is not surprising that she is angry and frightened. You would be too if she came into your hearth and bound you."

        Quiet Waters approached Destiny as non-threateningly as she could, a blanket in hand. Destiny eyed her warily, prepared to defend herself in spite of being hampered by the leather thongs around her limbs. Instead, the Sioux maiden laid the blanket down next to the wary blonde and gently rolled her onto it. The blanket was certainly an improvement over the cold, hard floor and, though still suspicious, Destiny sensed now that she was in no mortal danger.

        There was a noise outside and both Indians tensed visibly. Quiet Waters scampered to the window and peeked carefully through the drawn curtain. Destiny watched her stare into the night, looking for something, then turned to the other one. Black Fox noticed the white woman watching and gestured for quiet in as intimidating a manner as she could manage; being a pretty but small woman barely eighteen, however, didn't lend much credibility to her gesture.

        Satisfied that nothing threatened them, Quiet Waters moved away from the window. Black Fox was about to speak, but she was silenced by a motion from her sister. The older woman gestured to the kitchen and her sister eagerly followed. Left alone momentarily, Destiny tested the leather around her wrists. It dug into the skin, chafing it painfully. Wincing, Destiny huffed through her gag and began to try to think of a way out.

        However, her thoughts veered toward her captors. The two that held her were not here to rob or kill her; that much was obvious. They seemed to be on the run from something or someone. Watching them eat from her stores in the kitchen told her that they had been on the run for some time, as did the dirt on their faces and dresses. Who were they running from, though, and was it a threat to her as well?

        Her thoughts were interrupted by Quiet Waters. She emerged from the kitchen and Destiny followed her with the eyes the entire time. The woman didn't make any threatening moves, though. She knelt down next to Destiny, with some dried beef and a cup of water in her hand. The Indian gestured with her hands for Destiny to remain quiet, then pensively removed the gag from her mouth. There was a pregnant pause when neither one knew whether Destiny would try to shout out, but it passed and things calmed.

        Offered some of the food, the ranch mistress too it out of respect more than hunger. She nodded toward the cup of water, because the gag had dried out her mouth terribly. Destiny noticed the younger woman had entered and was staring at the tableau with a puzzled and scornful look on her young face.

        "Why are you wasting time feeding her?" Black Fox asked. "She would not do it for you."

        "You do not know that, sister," Quiet Waters sighed. "Not all of the whites are our enemies. You would know this--"

        "If I were older, I know!"

        Quiet Waters smiled knowingly, remembering back not too long ago to her own rebellious youth. "I wonder what her name is?" she posed, looking Destiny over.

        "I do not know," Black Fox shrugged, oblivious to the fact it was a rhetorical question. "Why not call her 'Struggles with Ropes'?"

        "That is cruel, Black Fox," Quiet Waters scowled.

        "Why are you two here?" Destiny asked in a low voice, trying not to startle them into gagging her again.

        "What does she say?" Black Fox asked suspiciously.

        "I do not know. The contact I have had with the whites did not include learning their speech." She thought a moment. "Perhaps she wishes to know why we have taken over her hearth. It is what I would want to know."

        Pondering the problem for a moment, Quiet Waters began to try to communicate with Destiny through gestures. She pointed to herself and then to Black Fox, then pointed far off into the east.

        "You're from the east?" Destiny guessed. "Yes, I thought you two were Sioux by the way you were dressed."

        "Sioux," Quiet Waters nodded, pointing to herself.

        "Lakota," Black Fox corrected, using the preferred name of their nation. Quiet Waters pointed to herself, then held the finger to the floor. Her other hand walked up behind the finger and grabbed it from behind. She repeated the gesture when Destiny didn't immediately understand, pointing to herself and Black Fox for added emphasis.

        "You were taken?" Destiny said. "Abducted?"

        Quiet Waters looked on helplessly, unable to confirm the guess.
Instead, she continued on, pointing to herself and her sister, then miming having her hands tied in front of her and being dragged behind a horse. The rancher nodded her understanding.

        "Who took you?" asked Destiny. "Whites?"

        "Whites" was a word Quiet Waters did know and she shook her head.

        "Crow take some of our horses," Quiet Waters confessed. ")Crow also take me and my sister. We would be forced to marry Crow men; perhaps killed because we are Lakota. Crow are our blood enemies."

        While she didn't get most of it, Destiny caught the word "Crow" and nodded. She also saw the pain and trauma in the reserved Indian woman's eyes and felt some sympathy for her.

        "No wonder you're so scared," Destiny said and even the cynical Black Fox could see the genuine sympathy in her eyes.

        Then the haunted young Indian beauty pointed one finger into the floor and pointed to herself and Black Fox with her other hand, then used it to creep away from the finger pointed into the floor.

        "You escaped," Destiny smiled and her captors smiled in return. She locked eyes with Quiet Waters and the two women communicated the non-verbal understanding that women had over the evil treatment they sometimes received at the hands of men. At that moment, a tenuous bond formed between them that transcended their language and cultural barriers, as well as the straps that bound her.

        "I think she understands, sister," Quiet Waters whispered. "I do not think we need worry about her being our enemy."

        "You are not going to untie her, are you?" Black Fox challenged.

        The older sister looked torn. She wanted to trust the rancher, but feared that she may not have communicated as well as she thought she had.

        "She will escape the moment we look away and tell the other white men!" Black Fox spat. "We will be captured again!"

        "We will not be captured again. We must rest before we can continue,
" Quiet Waters agonized over her decision. "We will not put the gag back in, but," and she grimaced, "we will keep her tied until we must leave."

        "She will cry out!" argued Black Fox.

        "We will sleep next to her. Should she try to cry out, we will replace the gag." Quiet Waters stared down her sister, reasserting her faith and her dominance over the situation. "I do not think she will, though." Cutting off further argument, Quiet Waters turned to her captive and tried to gesture that they were to all go to sleep.

        Destiny wiggled her bound hands out to the side, asking to be untied,
but the Indian shook her head sadly. Then Quiet Waters placed her hand gently on the side of Destiny's face and pleaded with her eyes for understanding. Anger flared in the rancher's eyes for a moment, but it quelled quickly. She would just have to endure this for now.

        Morning came and amazingly there was still circulation in her arms. Destiny didn't know how she had slept that night. Her predicament was not easy, and yet there was something oddly alluring about being held captive by these strange, beautiful creatures. Once the threat was gone, being tied up was a strangely calming sensation. Robbed of her motor skills, Destiny was able to think and reflect where she hadn't had the chance before. There was also the freedom from making decisions and depending upon herself, something that burdened her on occasion.

        She looked over to the older Indian, a woman barely twenty-five, in the first light of morning. The woman seemed so peaceful. Her face, edged with the fringe of the sleeve of her dress as she slept curled up, had none of the sadness and barely contained fear of the night before. What they must have gone through.

        Still, as oddly satisfying as being bound between two warm, lovely women seemed at the moment, Destiny realized that it would be in her best interest to free herself. Looking around, she noticed the metal edge on the side of a cabinet she had purchased in Pierre and brought to the ranch as a whim. She'd ever noticed the rough edge before, it being so low on the leg of the cabinet. It was perfect for her needs now. Cautiously inching her way along the floor on her hip and shoulder, Destiny eased her way out from between her two captors.

        The process was hard and it hurt her hip and shoulder no end, but she managed to pull herself over to the cabinet without waking the two Indian maidens. After a few tries, she pulled herself up to a sitting position and rested her bound hands against the rough patch of metal.

        As she worked the leather thong against the rough patch, Destiny looked at the sleeping Indians. Her eyes were drawn again to Quiet Waters. The woman seemed so serene, even when she was concealing her fear last night. Destiny envied her serenity. Looking at the woman sleep, the rancher noticed there was attractiveness beyond her physical beauty that shone out like a beacon with the calm and quiet of sleep. She wished they were friends.

        Quiet Waters' eye eased open and took a moment to focus before realizing that the white woman was gone. The Indian looked up and locked onto Destiny sitting up against a cabinet, smiling with nervous friendliness. For her to inch out from between them during the night, to sit up without waking them - - they must have been more tired that she thought. For a moment, Quiet Waters was annoyed, but then thought better of it. The rancher hadn't cried out, hadn't tried to squirm out the door or to harm them in their sleep. Perhaps things were going to work after all and they could be gone from this place without imposing themselves upon this unfortunate woman any longer.

        "She moved!" gasped Black Fox, now also awake.

        "Yet she did not cry out as you feared," her sister replied with some triumph. "Perhaps you fear for no reason, as I have said. Come, we must be gone from here quickly before the men of the camp notice her missing. I will scout around to see if we may safely make our way. You must make us enough provisions to last the journey home. I do not like stealing from this white woman, but perhaps she will consider it a fair trade for our being gone."

        "Who cares what she things?" shrugged Black Fox.

        "I do!" snapped Quiet Waters, her impatience with her sister's immaturity growing. "Unwelcome though we may be, we are still guests in her hearth and I would not abuse that status any more than we have already!"

        With desperate caution, the elder Indian eased her way out the door, leaving her sister with the captive ranch woman. Black Fox, still smarting from the rebuke her sister gave her, knelt down next to Destiny and grinned mockingly.

        "And how are you this morning, Struggles With Ropes?" she purred. "I hope you will pardon me if I do not exchange places with you. I am sure my sister would consider it an excellent way to ease your burden. However I prefer you this way. You look very comely." The girl grunted to herself as she stood. "May I never again have to surrender myself to such an indignity," then she thought for a moment and her voice grew dreamy, "unless if it were to Buffalo's Horn, perhaps. To be taken by his hand," and she shivered involuntarily.

        Suddenly self-conscious around the helpless Destiny, she knelt down and stuffed the gag back in the prisoner's mouth. Destiny fought her, but couldn't prevent the gag from being tied in. Black Fox quickly retreated to the kitchen.

        Destiny continued to work her bonds against the rough edge of the cabinet. Her motions were more furious now that she was alone in the room.
Pausing for just a fleeting moment to feel her progress, she could tell the leather thong was fraying. Perhaps she might be able to saw through it after all. There was no indication that the two Indians planned to take her as some sort of hostage when they left. Still, Destiny was too much a believer in self-determination to leave that possibility to the hands of fate.

        A growl of hunger emanated from her stomach. She wished she had asked for something to eat before the older Indian woman had gone, but she realized that her plea probably wouldn't have been understood anyway. She told herself that she should count herself lucky that there was still some feeling in her arms or she'd really be stuck. Destiny knew going in that what she had planned would be a long, arduous task, but right now her shoulders hurt so much from working them up and down that she was trying to mentally will the leather thongs to part. She threw up a prayer to her lord and creator to give her strength in this taxing situation. With that, the thong parted.

        Instantly Destiny froze. She kept her hands behind her and peered around to see if Black Fox was about to return. With her eyes toward the kitchen the entire time, the rancher reached up and clawed for the thong binding her elbows. With mulish patience, Destiny worked on the binding, her neck craned to the side to watch for Black Fox. She only took her eyes away once, to shake a strand of blonde hair from her eyes. Several contortions later the binding slipped down her arms.

        Destiny worked quickly to undo the cords around her legs. There would be no way to keep up a pretense of captivity now. If the Indian maiden came in, Destiny was still at a disadvantage and would undoubtedly end up captured again. The last thong finally came free just in time for Destiny to spring up and crouch down on tingling legs.

        "I wish Quiet Waters would return," Black Fox whispered to herself, her anxiety bare for all to see, were anyone else there. It was the last thing she would say beyond a yelp of surprise as Destiny's hand caught her ankle and dumped her onto the floor.

        Quickly Destiny was on top of her and, in a battle of wills, managed to force the young Indian's arms behind her where they were soon trapped by the same thongs that had once bound her own wrists. That accomplished, Destiny removed her gag, forced it into Black Fox's mouth and tied it off, trapping the cascades of fine black hair to the woman's head.

        Black Fox shook with indignation and impotent fury, raging at the turn of events. The gods turned a deaf ear to her muffled protests; Destiny certainly wasn't listening. She finished the job by winding a leather thong around the girl's slender ankles and knotting it off. The ranch woman wished she had more to tie the woman with, but reasoned that it didn't have to last forever, not for what Destiny planned. It only had to last until Quiet Waters returned. When she finished, Black Fox turned over onto her back and looked up at her pale captor, experiencing again the vulnerability she swore only moments ago never to again experience.

        "It isn't as funny now that the shoe's on the other foot, is it?" smirked Destiny, standing over her in triumph. She patted Black Fox on the bottom and said, "Let's hope your sister doesn't take too long getting back."

        A time later, Quiet Waters quickly slipped into the door of the ranch house, praying to all the spirits who might possibly help her that she wasn't seen by one of the ranch hands that were emerging for the day's work. She quickly closed the door and turned to outline her escape plan to her sister. The sight she was greeted with shocked her and her heart sank.

        Black Fox was standing before her, squirming impotently within the confines of the tightly drawn leather thongs that held her prisoner. She angrily chewed on the cloth between her teeth, trying with no success to vent her rage at once more being a prisoner. The blonde rancher was behind her, one arm held around Black Fox's waist to hold her prisoner in place, the other hand on the handle of the pistol in the gunbelt she was now wearing. Seeing her free and her sister prisoner was enough to tell Quiet Waters what had transpired. Fears of their valiant effort to return home being all for naught welled up within her.

        But then the unexpected happened. Destiny released her hold on Black Fox and slowly emerged from behind her. She walked over to Quiet Waters slowly, keeping eye contact with her the entire time, smiling reassuringly. At a neutral distance, she extended her hands. When Quiet Waters didn't take them as offered, not understanding what the rancher had in mind, Destiny slowly reached for the Indian's hands and grasped them in friendship. They looked at one another and Destiny managed to communicate that she wasn't a threat, that she understood. A deep sigh of relief escaped from the Indian woman's lips, then they curled into a smile.

        "So you let her escape and tie you up," Quiet Waters said, giving her sister a little jab. The gag strangled Black Fox's retort, but her sister guessed the gist of it and threw her head back in laughter. "I may just leave you like that so you do not cause me more trouble on our journey home. No doubt Buffalo's Horn would love to see you this way."

        Black Fox reddened with embarrassment and got both her sister and Destiny giggling at her predicament. Quiet Waters turned to her host and new friend.

        "I wish I could speak in your speech, to tell you how grateful I am," she appealed to Destiny, grasping the woman's hands and clinging to them. "We did you great wrong and you forgave us. I have nothing to give you in return, save to leave you to your life as I entered it. Should the opportunity occur, know somehow that I will repay you in kind."

        "I still don't understand you," Destiny grinned, "but I think I can guess some of it. I don't blame you for tying me up. The important thing is to see that you get home." She squeezed the Indian's hands harder. "And I intend to do just that."

        Impulsively, Destiny hugged the surprised Indian. Quiet Waters was taken off-guard at first and didn't respond. When she realized the gesture Destiny was making, the embrace was returned with the gratitude given. It did her heart good to know that somehow the canyon of their differences had been bridged and they would leave, perhaps not as friends, but as something other than enemies.

        When they released one another, Quiet Waters quickly went to her sister and began untying the girl, partly to conceal the tears misting up in her eyes. The sight of her sister trussed up like a captured deer was still amusing and she had to stifle another laugh as she worked with the knots in the leather straps. Black Fox gurgled something frantic through the gag as she worked, but Quiet Waters assumed that she was just impatient to be released. After freeing her hands, Quiet Waters looked up and noticed that Destiny had disappeared. She wondered why. Was there still some lingering fear in the rancher? She hoped not.

        "We have to leave now!" Black Fox gasped as she pulled the gag from her mouth. "That woman has gone to get the men who work for her! She is going to have us imprisoned for what we have done!"

        "I do not think so, but perhaps it would be better to end this unfortunate time and be on our way," Quiet Waters replied. Black Fox raced into the kitchen and returned with the provisions she had gathered. "No. Leave them."

        "What? Sister, it is still a long journey to our home and we will need these provisions!"

        "Leave them. We have taken enough from this woman. We will make our
way on our own.

        Knowing further argument would be useless, Black Fox heaved the pack down in disgust and the two emerged from the ranch house. Upon gaining the porch each one was amazed by the sight that greeted them. Destiny Peterson stood there, backed by eight men. Quiet Waters' heart pounded. She had thought - - but what other reaction could she expect? A wrong only begets another wrong.

        "Did I not tell you this would come to pass?" hissed Black Fox.

        Then Destiny, sensing the tension, walked right up to Quiet Waters, pulled one of the pistols out of its holster and handed it to the startled woman. She pointed to the Indian, then to one of the saddled horses standing nearby. Again, to Black Fox, then to another of the saddled horses. To herself, then to a third, to one of her hands and to a fourth. Quiet Waters thought she understood, but still looked on in confusion, as she couldn't dare to believe it.

        Frustrated, Destiny pushed past them into the house. She returned with the pack of provisions and shoved it into Black Fox's hands. Then she pointed to Quiet Waters and then herself, then made a sweeping pass of her hand in the direction Quiet Waters once pointed to as home.

        "She is letting us go?" asked Black Fox.

        "And she will accompany us on our journey," beamed Quiet Waters, new respect born in her eyes for this feisty blonde.

        "Perhaps I have been wrong about her," Black Fox whispered,

        "You grow in wisdom, little one," Quiet Waters replied.

        She then locked eyes with Destiny and took the woman's hand, bringing it up to her breast and pressing it close.

        "And we have gained a sister."

The End
Story (c) 1999 by Bill K.

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