Macho Caballo Page
Las Aventuras De Macho Caballo
PART I: CHAPTER DOCE
THE RESCUES BEGIN
CROSSING THE RIVER:
There were herons lifting off the water as they forded the
shallow river, white shadows that rushed overhead and
disappeared into the growing dusk with cries of alarm.
Three horses and a mule waded the sluggish water. The
riders - Ramón, Sandy, Gordo and Fray Fernando, were joined
by Andalejo, who jogged tirelessly alongside.
The friar had toiled along on his stolid mule, berating the
beast in a gentle manner for its habit of stopping to crop
the sparse grasses along the trail. "Now, you have to get a
drink," he said, "If you did not eat so much, you would not
be thirsty all the time." The mule sucked water until it
could hold no more, then shivered. "No!" cried Fray
Fernando, "You will *not* take a bath right now! You will
not..." His objections ended with a splash as the mule lay
down and rolled on its side. Fernando sat upright in the
water, holding his staff and pouch above his head and
"What was that, Fray Fernando?" asked Gordo, "I don't think
I understood that last remark!"
"I was calling upon the saints to bless this beast," replied
the friar, pulling himself erect with the staff against the
weight of his soaked robe. Shortly the mule had finished
his toilet and the procession continued.
The stink of mud and dead fish assailed their nostrils as
the horses climbed the riverbank. "It is not like you to be
so quiet," Ramón said to Andalejo, "What is on your mind?"
"I am thinking of my father," said the youngest Apache, and
would say no more.
EARLIER, BACK AT THE RANCHO:
At that moment, Bluenose was grimacing as he surveyed the
herd of horses. "These are fine ponies," he said, "We could
outfit a whole rancheria with these. Except..."
Selnik agreed by nodding his furrowed brow, nearly invisible
in the gloom, "There is something that is not right."
"Yes, let us take them!" Counts His Ponies chattered
brightly, "Let us take them all! We could have many ponies
for each of us!"
Bluenose nodded back at Selnik. "Something is not right,"
he registered his misgivings, "My belly hurts when I am
thinking about my son and his foolish mission."
Selnik rubbed his neck thoughtfully, gazing toward the
river. "I am seeing many men," he said, "There is much
enemy there. Your son could be walking into a trap."
"Then let us go!" cried Counts His Ponies, his expression
confident, "We will gain much glory, defeating them! There
will be songs about our bravery!"
Selnik and Bluenose turned to look at their jittering
compatriot, then at each other.
"We are in trouble," said Bluenose.
"Deep trouble," agreed Selnik.
Bluenose turned back to the corral. "We are going to need
horses," he said. From the great house there came a
commotion and the three Apache looked up to see soldiers.
Counts His Ponies suddenly quieted. "We cannot fight the
soldiers," he whispered, "Let us get away!"
"This Señor de Muerte is no friend of the soldier," said
Bluenose, "I will go look. You will stay, get the horses."
He drifted like smoke through the garden and closer to the
house. Through the windows he could see soldiers searching,
and hear scraps of conversation. Then two soldiers carried
a squirming roll of blanket from a nearby room.
He could hear Don Pedro's voice, "Have you gone mad? Does
the Alcalde stoop to kidnapping children?"
"I regret that this must be done," apologized the soldier,
"Don Bertran has assured us that no harm will come to the
child. However, he requires her presence in order to
negotiate with her father."
"Is it `Don Bertran', now? And what does the Alcalde want
with the boy, Ramón?"
The soldier paused, then shrugged. "I have no knowledge of
that, Señor," he said, "Only the girl. Someone else must
want the boy."
Bluenose hurried back to the corral. "Follow the soldiers,
see where they take the child," he commanded Selnik, "I will
see about my son. Perhaps they are going to the same
Counts His Ponies dithered. "Who would you go with?"
Bluenose asked. The frightened Apache pointed at him.
"I expected as much," sighed Bluenose as his belly muscles
twinged. He slowed his steps as a spasm knotted his
stomach. It was bad. Someone would die tonight.
MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY:
"Hey, Machito!" cried Gordo, "How come you don't make the
rancherita happy, man?"
"How do you know I haven't?" asked Ramón.
"I can tell, man. I see her ride by, high and mighty, like
she's looking for Señor Perfecto. She wants you, man! So
why don't you make her happy?"
"Are you saying what I think you are saying?"
"Of course! What else is there?"
"Gordito, you have only one thing on your mind... besides
food, that is," Ramón grinned in the dark, "Have you ever
made any woman happy?"
"Oh, all the time! There must be dozens of them! Only, now
I am thinking I should settle down. I have found someone
who has put them all out of my mind."
After a moment of strained silence, Ramón ventured, "Who
might that be?"
"Oh, there is this girl, the new girl in the village. She is
so lovely! Like the flowers in the moonlight! Her name is
Machita... like yours is Machito... but you wouldn't like
"I wouldn't? How do you know?"
"She is too old for you. She is too wise. I think you need
someone young and innocent, like the rancherita."
"Innocent?" Ramón chuckled at the memory of a night when he
had been too tired and too female to accept what Estrellita
had been offering.
"Moon's coming out," said Sandy, "How much farther?"
"The trail starts just ahead, and we'll have to leave the
horses," Ramón said, "We'd better rest before we start up."
"So what do we do, just ride up and tell Senor Sinestro to
give up your mother?"
"Fray Fernando wants to talk to him first."
Gordo shivered and pulled his jacket about him. "Why would
he want to meet out here, when he has the whole village to
hide in?" he wondered.
The friar, despite having been dunked in river water and
wearing wet robes, seemed to be comfortable in the chilly
air. "Se¤or Sinestro does not want to be seen doing
anything disreputable," he said, "It is our one advantage.
If he sees that I am there, with the weight of the church on
my side, then he may relent and release Señora Caballo."
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE MINE:
At the mine entrance, Francisco pulled his pony up before
the group, having completed a search of the area. His pony
stamped nervously. "I have found no one," he said, and the
others echoed his words.
"Compadre, I have been thinkin'." said Calpern, beside
"We are on a - what you say - wild goose chase?"
"It's a wild goose chase, alright!" growled Calpern,
"Here comes someone hellin' it from the rancho. What else
could go wrong?"
"Señor Francisco!" cried the rider, "Soldiers from the town
have taken the little girl! And Indians have raided the
"You wondered what else could go wrong, Señor Calpern. Now
we must split up to follow the soldiers and guard the
"That is not all," blurted the rider, "The boy Ramón
received a message from Sinestro telling him to come to the
puebla on the cliff. Don Pedro says 'I want you to go help
them. Forget the rancho, we can look after that ourselves'."
"Compadres!" cried Francisco, "You have heard the man! Let's
ride!" They headed for the ford in the river, their horses
at a gallop.
Ramón said, pensively, "Those soldiers we saw on the other
side of the river - they were not very alert."
"We were just lucky they did not hear the mule," said Sandy.
"Now that you mention it, Machito, they should have been
waiting on this side of the river. It is what I would have
done," said Gordo, "There are only a couple of trails over
here and they could block both of them easily."
Andalejo sniffed the air. "There are many dead things
here," he said, "Coyote. Lynx. Many rabbits and birds,
even the mice are dead."
"Then what could have killed them?" Fernando asked, "Only a
plague could have killed everything!"
"I would feel better with my uncle's pistols," admitted
"I have my riata," said Ramón, "and a knife."
"Well, I have my pistol and musket," said Sandy. To Gordo,
he said, "What is that long scabbard you have hung around
Gordo grinned, his face half in shadow from the low moon,
"This is a special knife. I got it from my uncle, who..."
"... Died in the revolution, I know," said Ramón. "Did he
give you everything he had?"
"Hey, he was a good fighter, man!" objected Gordo, "I can't
help it if he had a lot of stuff."
"What kind of knife is it?" Sandy wanted to know.
"They call it `el toro'," said Gordo, "It has two blades.
One on each end of the handle."
"Just don't stand close to me when you unlimber that double-
barrelled toadsticker," said the cowboy.
"I have seen few who could use this weapon," said the friar,
"You must be very skilled to avoid cutting off your own
"I have been told this," admitted Gordo, "Fray Fernando, how
do you know so much about fighting?"
"I was not always a scholarly friar," said Fernando, "I have
seen a few brawls. But I have never used a knife, only the
While they dismounted and let their horses rest, Ramón
studied the looming cliffs in the moonlight. The dim glow
made the white adobe far above seem to float in the chill
air, while the trail was sunk in darkness.
"So, you want to make this Machita happy?" Ramón tried to
keep his voice casual, "Does she know this?"
"Well," Gordo admitted, "I did not discuss it with her. You
have to take these things slowly, you know."
"You haven't even talked to her, have you?"
"Ahhh. Come on, man, give me a break. I only met her
yesterday!" Gordo peered into the darkness, "Hey. Ain't
that your abuelo over there?"
"What?" Ramón looked in the direction indicated. A patch of
pale haze resolved itself into Grandpapá Alboro. He
appeared to be saying something, but he made no sound. The
apparition pointed back the way they had come, frantically
motioning him to go away. Quickly.
"Grandpapá? What do you..."
With a resounding thwack the image shattered, collapsing
into a large cactus with a spear embedded in it.
"Get behind something!" shouted Ramón as he drew back from
the cactus, "We are being attacked!"
The moon rose higher on silence all about them. Night
noises resumed; insects and coyotes and occasionally the
shrill of a wayward bat. Fray Fernando chanced a look over
the boulder he knelt behind. Nothing happened. Gordo
retrieved the spear. "I have never seen anything like
this!" he shook his head.
"It's a short spear," said Ramón, "You fit the end into a
handle and throw it."
Gordo tossed the weapon aside. "It don't look very
dangerous to me," he said.
"It can be deadly," said Ramón, "and very accurate. Whoever
shot it at me was not trying to hit me."
"Trying to scare you?"
"More like trying to hit my Grandpapá," said Ramón, "But he
really wasn't there."
"Man, it sure looked like your abuelo!" said Gordo.
"I am beginning to think my Grandpapá hasn't told me
everything about himself," said Ramón.
The friar's mule suddenly raised his head and stared at the
trail ahead. Then it turned and headed back in the
direction they had come, dragging Fray Fernando with it.
"Alto!" cried the friar, "Stop!" but the mule kept going.
The other horses stirred uneasily, disturbed by some scent
drifting on the night air.
THE FIRST BARRIER:
A figure rose from the path ahead, dimly seen in the
moonlight, but clearly another warrior with the bird mask.
It sprinted toward them.
"Is it real?" asked Sandy.
"Hey, it looks real to me!" cried Gordo, "Shoot it!"
Sandy leveled his musket and released the hammer. There was
a flash of powder and a puff of smoke as the weapon
As they scrambled about, trying to escape the oncoming
warrior, the boys became tangled and fell. The warrior was
upon them before they could recover, and he drew back a club
to dispatch Andalejo. There was an ugly thud and the
warrior stumbled backward. Immediately they heard the
-fcrack- of a musket and the clatter of horse's hooves on
the hard trail.
The youths looked about. "Ain't nobody rides a horse all
out in the dark like that," said Sandy, "Except a ..."
"Father!" shouted Andalejo.
Bluenose pulled his pony up in the clearing, but the horse
did not want to stop. Around and around it went, as the
Apache tried to dismount. When Bluenose finally released
his grip and landed roughly on his rump, the pony took off
toward the adobe walls.
"Crazy Yanqui horse!" cried Bluenose as he rubbed his back,
"That pony wants to go fight!"
They could hear the crash of the pony breaking through
undergrowth, until all sound died away.
"Where's that bird guy?" asked Gordo.
"I did not see him," complained the friar.
With Fray Fernando, Gordo searched the ground where the
warrior had fallen, but there was no trace. In searching,
he stumbled over a dead rat and held it up. "This is all I
found," he said, "This thing got a hole in its middle like
it was shot." He dropped the rodent and came back to the
Andalejo forgot composure and ran to greet his father. "It
is good to see you, Father!" he said, "I was thinking..."
"You thought your father would stoop to stealing ponies and
chickens when there was work to be done?" Bluenose chuckled.
Andalejo abashedly nodded.
"Well, we did `borrow' some ponies..."
The scream of the terrified run-away pony rent the night
air. The sound came from the base of the cliff, followed
swiftly by the pony itself, fleeing toward them on the
trail. Seeing the group, the pony left the trail and became
enmeshed in brambles. It screamed again as it tore itself
free of the briars and vines and bounded out of the bramble
patch away from them.
In an area white with sand, silvery steam seemed to rise
from the boulders. The group had to pass a shadowed cleft
in the rocks as they surmounted the trail. Everyone stopped
and backed away when they sensed motion within the dark
A hissing whisper echoed from the depths of the cave, "Send
the girl to me!"
"Did you hear that?" shuddered Sandy.
The elder Apache raised his eyes to the brambles and brush
before them. "This is not a good place," he said.
"There is an evil spirit in there!" shivered Counts His
"I know. I can feel it."
"Can't we leave? There are many places we could go."
"We must stay here."
"There is a nice warm cave over there. We should hide
there. Yes, we would be safe there!"
"Thank you, old friend. Now I must deal with this spirit."
The mouth of the cave appeared to fog over as steam and mist
billowed forth. Bluenose faced the frightful apparition
advancing from the cave, a monster that appeared to be an
old hag with long fangs in a gaping mouth and long, clawed
"Who goes on my land?" demanded the creature, in a hoarse
voice which echoed of frozen moss and brittle grass.
"I am called Bluenose," said the Indian, "Let us pass."
"I see you, the man called Bluenose," purred the ghastly
demon-hag, "You are the first real people I have seen since
I was invited to live here. You make an old woman happy. I
will let you go, but you must leave one of your young boys
here. I am so hungry, and I am not allowed to eat the
Bluenose said to the boys, "I will fight her. Counts His
Ponies will guard the horses. Take them beyond the river.
The rest of you must go and find the Señora."
Andalejo did not argue. Ramón gladly backed away, his flesh
crawling with disgust. He, Sandy, and Gordo started around
"What girl?" whispered Gordo. No one answered.
"Man called Bluenose, you can't let them go!" cried the hag,
swaying to intercept them, "They smell so delicious! Let
"This cannot be done," said Bluenose. He readied his
weapons, thrusting his lance into the soil and placing his
arrows head down in a stack.
The hag cackled with the shiver of breaking glass, "Oh, I
see you plan to shoot me! And what will you use to wound
me, my delicious morsel?"
"My arrows and my lance," said Bluenose resolutely.
"Then come get me, foolish mortal! No mortal weapon can
"Hag from the otherworld, these are no ordinary arrows!"
Bluenose plucked a shaft from the stack at his feet, drew
his bow to his cheek, and loosed the string. An icy howl of
pain followed the arrowsong, and the hag was on him before
he could draw another arrow.
Buffeted by the long arms, scratched by the brambles as he
tumbled through them, Bluenose climbed to his feet and drew
a flint knife from its scabbard. The delicate pink blade
seemed too fragile to harm a leaf. He began to chant in
monosyllables, a refrain of commands to banish the demon.
"You wish to sing me to sleep? How charming!" purred the
hag. Wisps of steam seeped from the arrow-wound, but it
moved as smoothly as though it were freshly rested. "And
what will you do without your precious arrows? I'm standing
on them, you know. I could stomp on them, and you would
have no weapons at all!"
"Stomp them," urged the Apache, "They are charmed. They
will stick to your feet and burn you." A movement from
behind him startled Bluenose and he shifted his position to
see an old man sitting on a boulder, watching him.
"What do you want?" he asked the old man.
"I came to help," said the old man, "but it appears you do
not need it. So I will sit back and enjoy the fight."
Bluenose looked back at the demon-hag to find it almost upon
him. He stumbled back, weaving a pattern in the air with
the frail, pink flint blade. Where the blade passed, a
faint luminescent glow remained, and when the demon-hag
touched the glowing lines, steam burst forth from its skin.
The demon-hag screamed in pain and backed away.
"I will eat you alive!" howled the demon-hag, "I will eat
you slowly! Your flesh will burn for days while you plead
for your death!" It skirted the glowing lines and leapt
into the air toward him.
Bluenose scrambled for his life, back to his cache of
arrows. He lifted his bow only to have it knocked from his
hands as the demon-hag surged past. The creature rebounded
from the high rocks and soared above him, preparing to hit
him with claws from back legs and front hands, but Bluenose
had time to roll over and grab the lance. He thrust it up
to pierce the plummeting demon-hag through the breast. The
demon-hag squalled and howled, thrashing the ground and by
chance throwing the warrior out of danger into o relatively
The demon-hag had ceased moving. Bluenose sat plucking
thorns from his side as the old man sauntered up. Breaking
a small clay bottle, the old man began to apply stinging
ointment to the torn skin and finally sewed up the worst
wounds with needle and sinew.
The Apache gazed at him and said, "Just what would you have
done if I had failed, old man?"
"Why I would have ran, as fast as I could," said Alboro.
DRAWN BY THE BEAT:
They were edging along the walkway beneath the high wall
when they came to a place where steaming water fell. Sandy
jerked away from it, convinced that it was scalding hot
because of the steam rising from it, but it proved to be
Then the deep sonorous pulse of drums began, and he stumbled
into the person before him.
"Are you hurt?" asked Sandy, suddenly realizing that his
friend Ramón was gone and he was talking to the girl named
Machita swayed dangerously close to the edge of the walkway.
"No, but I feel strange. Those drums are doing something to
"Strange time to be playing drums," commented the cowboy,
wiping the water from his shoulders.
"They are pulling me!"
"The drums are pulling me! I can't help myself, I have to
go up there!"
"You are crazy!" Sandy said, reverting to English.
"Keep me here! Don't let me go!" pleaded Machita.
"I'm not touching you!" declared Sandy. But when Machita
reached for him, the sandy-haired cowboy reluctantly took
her by the wrist and held her back.
"Get me away from here!" she begged.
Hurrying to rejoin the group, Fray Fernando saw the two
moonlit figures as they retreated from the wall. Ramón's
voice seemed strained. The boy must have been injured, he
concluded, and returned to check on him.
THE DRUMS SPEAK:
She heard the drums.
Deeper than the dance drums which provided music for
the rituals, softer than a whisper. She was not
certain that they were real, only another fancy. The
others in the village did not worry about her
'visions', saying she was eager to begin her new life.
Perhaps no one else could hear them, and she was not
sure enough that they were real to ask anyone else.
They would say she was having the pre- nuptial jitters,
and laugh at her.
With the memory of the sound came a vision. She was in
sumptuous chambers, her every need cared for, servants
to do her bidding. But still she felt unease. The
throb of the drums, almost below the level of hearing,
came mostly when the sun was rising.
The servants refused to discuss the sound with her.
Her handmaid brushed it off as `only another ceremony',
and offered her a chocolate sweet. She would not take
it, but remained in her bed the rest of the day.
THE FRIAR'S PREFERRED WEAPON:
They had reached a broad ledge once used for raising crops
when a familiar voice hailed them. "I am a friend!" called
"Hey, where did you come from?" asked Gordo, "We don't need
"Ramon's father sent me to look after him. Where is the
"Somewhere back there, with the friar," said Gordo.
"Wouldn't you know he would get lost just when I get here?
Now how can I take care of him when he won't stay around?"
Ramon forgot his shape for a moment and cried, "We don't
need your help, Wolfwalker!"
Gordo bumped into Machita and rebounded with surprise and
delight. "Machita!" he cried, "What are you doing here?
Were you were being held prisoner, also? I am so glad you
have escaped! Fray Fernando!"
"Oh, no," groaned Machita.
"Senorita, you cannot stay here!" cried the friar, "It is
far too dangerous!"
"She's going to help us get the others," said Sandy. Machita
nodded, determined to make the best of the situation.
"How did she get here?" asked the friar, but no one
seemed inclined to answer his question. On the other side
of the clearing, a shape had formed in the moonlight.
"It's a ghost!" cried Andalejo.
"That is no ghost!" shrilled the friar, "That is an eagle
warrior! He is alive, and he is real!"
The moonlit bulk assumed shape. It was indeed a birdmask
warrior like the one Machita had seen at the spring. The
warrior walked with disdain past the shocked youths, seeming
to see in the friar the first adversary to dispatch. He was
wearing a bulky garment with bright blue and red designs on
it, visible even in the bright moonlight, and holding an ax
with a long obsidian blade along the edge.
Fray Fernando stared at the creature. "This is impossible!"
he cried, "They vanished centuries ago! It is an illusion,
The warrior stopped before him, then almost disdainfully
looped the ax over his head and swung at the friar.
Fernando's reflexes saved his arm as he whipped the ironwood
staff into guard position and deflected the blow. His hands
stinging with the impact, he counter-attacked with rapid
blows to the head, moving closer so he could pivot from the
center of the staff and strike with first one end and then
The warrior, shaken with the force of the pummeling, merely
rolled his head and readied another massive swing.
Fernando altered his attack. Moving away and grasping the
end of the staff by both hands, he struck the warrior mid-
body with full force, to no effect. The garment the warrior
was wearing was absorbing the force of his blows.
This time, the warrior dispensed with the overhead swing and
swung a round-house blow which the friar only evaded by
ducking down and again deflecting the razor-sharp blade with
the staff as the ax whistled overhead. A chip from the
staff looped overhead to fall to the sand behind the
Panting with the exertion, Fernando again moved in closer
and began using alternate ends of the staff to poke at the
warrior's midriff armor, dodging swipes of the ax. The
warrior rocked back with the force of the blows, but kept
Before his strength was entirely gone, Fernando had an
insight; using the staff as a spear, he aimed a blow at the
warrior's face. Unprotected by the mask, the warrior's
unguarded face took the full force of the blow and the
warrior went down.
"Awful heavy for an illusion," said Sandy as he pulled the
limp body to one side.
Machita hefted the war-ax. "This blade is some kind of
stone, like flint but darker," she said.
The warrior stirred, and it soon became apparent that he was
not out of the fight. He pulled a bronze knife from his
belt and lurched to his feet, striking again at the friar.
Machita grunted as she lifted the heavy ax and brought it up
to strike at the warrior's head. The weapon moved so easily
and with such power that she could have easily split the
man's helmet and cracked his skull if she had not twisted
the war-ax to strike with the blunt edge. Blood spurted
from the blow and the warrior sprawled back to the ground.
"You handled the war-ax well, Little One," Wolfwalker said,
taking it gently from her, "But you could do more damage if
you turn the blade forward".
"I don't care!" gulped Machita, "I think I'm going to be..."
She ran to the wall, and was very sick.
"Hey, Señorita, do not be so upset!" Gordo tried to comfort
her, "He was trying to kill us!"
Machita pulled her arm from him. "I don't care what he was
trying to do!" she shuddered, "I killed him!" She arched
her back and was sick again. Gordo looked on in anguish,
reaching for her, then pulling back before he could touch
her and make her shrink away from him again. He was not
feeling much better, himself.
"Do not blubber so, Woman," said Wolfwalker, "This one is
not dead... yet. Why don't you finish him off?"
"Hey, take it easy, man!" cried Gordo, "Don't you see that
she is sick?"
The Azuma youth sneered, "If you want to let him live, at
least tie him up!"
Fernando was muttering to himself. Aloud, he said, "We must
hurry. There is no time to lose! Oh, my saints, there is
no time at all! He does not know the evil forces he is
SLUMBER IN A CELL SO DEEP:
"Your mother is in here," the soldier said as he pushed her
into the cell. In the instant before the door closed and
shut out the light, Lucita saw a huddled form on a stone
"Mama!" she cried, but there was no answer. "Mama?"
Moments ached by as her eyes began to accommodate the gloom.
The crack under the door admitted a thread of lantern light,
enough for her to make out her mother. She crept closer and
said again, her voice rising into tears, "Mama?"
A muffled grunt came from outside the cell door, then a
pained wheeze. Lucita watched the door expectantly, but
nothing more happened. Once again her mother claimed her
attention. Elizbeta lay as one in a deep slumber, not
responding when Lucita brushed the hair from over her
mother's face and tugged her mother's limp arm so that it
lay over her as she crept onto the cot. Her mother's warm
breath upon her ear was the only sign that she was still
ECHOS OF THE FALL:
On the trail beneath the first ladders, the party prepared
The -fcrack- of a musket echoed from near the river,
followed by many barks of pistol-fire. Francisco's
scattergun boomed loudly.
"I gotta go help!" cried Sandy.
"No!" commanded Fernando, seeing him rise to go back down
the path, "We have to go ahead! There is something truly
diabolical happening here!"
Beyond the youths, he thought he saw the figure of a
soldier, but so familiar was the sight that he was many
steps up the trail before he questioned what he had seen.
When he looked back he was alone. The trail they had
climbed was empty, and the youths were gone.
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