Macho Caballo Page
Las Aventuras De Macho Caballo
PART I: CHAPTER TRECE
THE THING AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS
IF LONESOME FALLS AT THE FORD:
It had started peacefully enough. Calpern and Francisco had
cautiously greeted the group of soldiers guarding the ford
at the river. "We were told to meet the boy Ramón Caballo
with a girl," said the corporal in charge, "We were to
escort them to the top of the puebla."
"We represent the boy," said Francisco, "We wish to discuss
the matter with the Alcalde."
The corporal glanced at the cluster of vaqueros and cowboys
and made a command decision. "We can take two of you," he
said. "The path is narrow and steep. Please do not give me
cause for concern about your conduct."
Francisco had swung back to confer with Pablo and a deadly
short spear -whickked- by his ear. Someone shouted the
alarm and everyone leaped from their mounts as other
projectiles thudded about them.
Lonesome dived headfirst off his horse, striking the hard
stone surface and rolling to get out from under the horses'
hooves. He spat bitter sand from his mouth as he got his
bearings. A soldado from the Alcalde's guard raised his
head, nearby, looking about in confusion and fear. The
horses were wheeling and bolting in panic as arrows and
spears whistled out of the dark. One horse began screaming
in pain from a wound, and galloped back toward the river.
Lonesome did not know who had shouted the warning, perhaps a
rider, perhaps a soldier, but they were all scrambling for
cover as the missles whistled overhead.
There as a -fcrack- as a soldier fired his musket, and the
corporal upbraided him for his panicky action. Then the
attackers appeared out of the shadows and more muskets
cracked, then the cowboys pistols were barking and
Francisco's shotgun boomed. Lonesome raised to a crouch and
drew his own pistol, the palms of his hands scratched and
bleeding from the sharp gravel. Clouds of gunsmoke obscured
everything, but he could see figures forming in the white
gloom as the ambushers ran toward them.
They were on the group in an instant, helmeted warriors
swinging deadly axes and clubs, while sharp projectiles
whispered overhead. Eagle warriors seemed to materialize in
the treacherously dim moonlight. One of them spotted
Lonesome and started toward him. Lonesome pulled the hammer
back, aimed carefully, and pulled the trigger. There was a
clack as the hammer fell on metal... the percussion cap had
been knocked loose when he had hit the ground. As he threw
the heavy pistol at his opponent, he saw the second warrior
cast his spear.
Lonesome was knocked from his feet by the force of the
spear. The warrior swarmed after the spear, racing to
dispatch the young cowboy before he could recover. Gasping
with pain as he rolled to his side and pulled his belt
knife, Lonesome flipped it so he grasped the blade and threw
it underhanded, catching the oncoming warrior through an
opening in the mask. The warrior seemed to dwindle away as
the shock of the wound drew the cowboy down toward
The rocky slope was suddenly clear of the enemy, still and
silent as soldier and cowboy alike caught great gasping
breaths and awaited another attack.
As the silence wore on, Jasper tended Lonesome, who was
trying unsuccessfully to extract the spear from his
shoulder. Several others held Lonesome while Jasper
withdrew the spear and bound the wound, then looked about
for other wounded.
HOLD NEAR YOUR WOE, AND TROUBLES DEEP:
"Chicos!" Sergeant Espuma hissed, and flinched. He stared
at the hatchet which Wolfwalker brandished at his face.
"Chicos!" he repeated, "I am a friend! Come with me, I know
a shortcut to the top of the puebla!"
"It is the Sergeant. He brought the message telling us
where Ma... the Señora was," said Machita.
Wolfwalker reluctantly lowered the hatchet. "I don't trust
soldados," he grumped.
"Follow this path," instructed Espuma, "It will take you up
through an inside path, behind the Alcalde. Now I must
return to the Alcalde or he will get suspicious."
Machita followed him for a few steps. "Why are you doing
this?" she asked.
"I want to see that your mother gets away safely," said the
sergeant, and hastened off in the gloom.
"*My* mother?" Machita stared after him, then rejoined the
others as they entered the break in the undergrowth.
"Where is Fray Fernando?" asked Gordo.
"On the trail below. We will be at the top before he gets
there!" laughed Wolfwalker.
Frey Fernando saw them above him, as they clambered across a
"I can understand why they would be anxious to get to the
top, but we should stay together!" muttered the friar. "We
should stick to the ladders... there is no telling what kind
of trouble they could get into, with these madmen on the
loose, and we have to hurry..." His mutterings faded into
incomprehensibility as he mounted the ladder which led to
the next level.
He was almost to the top of the ladder when his way was
blocked. He found himself gazing at the moonlit zapatoes
and white pantalones of a man who was gasping with pain and
clinging to the ladder with one good arm.
"Señor Caballo!" cried the friar, "Are you in pain?"
"Of course I am in pain!" snapped the man above him, "I
can't climb with a broken arm without hurting it!"
"Oh, my saints," muttered Fernando, "May I ask why you are
"Sinestro has my wife, good friar. What would you do?"
Manuel finally reached the top rung and fell gasping onto
"Actually, the possibility never occured to me," admitted
Fernando. He reached the landing himself and examined
"Curious splint," he said, "I have never seen green sticks
of this wood used for a broken limb before."
"This wood is flexible when cut, but dries rapidly," said
Manuel, "I had to be careful not to move it for half a day,
then it became very hard and stiff. But not stiff enough."
They continued the climb, with the friar helping the injured
man. At a wide landing further up, they came upon Alboro.
The old man was sprawled in a pile of bushes, glowering out
at the river below.
"Father! I am glad to see you! Now you can help us!"
Alboro remained silent for several breaths, then flopped
backward and atttempted to speak. "Ghii... Nahhh... Not...
going on," he growled.
"Que? But we need you!"
"There is a very evil, powerful man in this mountain,"
panted Alboro, "He uses blood spells - a lot of them - to
protect this place. He puts spells on people. He calls
monsters from all over... and under... the country to
protect it. My people are going to be slaughtered and I
can't go in and help. They won't let me!"
"Señor Caballo..." started Fernando, "I have seen madmen
dressed in ancient costumes attack us, but I have seen no
monsters. And who would not let you go on?"
"My guides... have told me that if I go in... they could not
go with me," the old man said, "They have told me that I
would certainly die... or worse."
"Father, can't you at least help us?"
"When they tell me they can't go with me, I do not mind.
When they tell me that if I go in I would die, I do not
worry. When they tell me that they will strike me blind and
paralyze me if I try to go on without them, I listen."
Manuel moved closer. "Father?" he asked.
Alboro reached for Manuels's arm and fumbled with the rough
cotton of his sleeve. "Better now," he grated, patting the
elbow. "It don't last. That is good. I hate being blind."
He returned to glowering at the open sky. "You go on," he
said, "They won't stop you. Get the boys back. Get your
Manuel leaned back and looked up the long series of ladders.
"I'll need some help," he said.
"I am here," said Fernando, "But I ask a favor in return."
Manuel dropped his gaze to the stout friar. "Name it," he
"I have not seen you at the church for ten years," said
Fernando, "And it would so please the padre to see you there
with your wife, when we get her back."
"But I have other things I must do..." Manuel turned to his
father for support. The old man said nothing, maintaining
the intensity of his sour expression. There was moisture
leaking down the eroded terraces of his cheeks.
Manuel shrugged, grimaced with pain and nodded, "You drive a
hard bargain," he said.
Fernando chided himself for feeling smug about his minor
victory, then said, "We must hurry, there is no more time to
lose! I have a bad feeling about this situation the Alcalde
has gotten himself into."
PAINS SO MY HEART THAT I DO WEEP:
"Soon, your son will be here with your - daughter - and you
can go back home," Sinestro said.
"In Polloverde you at least attempted to appear civilized,"
said Dolores, "But now you have become a barbarian."
"I am pained," smiled Sinestro wryly, "but I can understand
why you would blame me for your husband's death."
"That and more," said Dolores, "Oh, so much more."
"And yet you consider me to have sunk even lower? For what
reason are you condemning me?"
"You imprisoned Arturo, without reason! And then you
kidnapped Elizabeta, and now you are taking their daughter!
And you expect me to justify my disgust?"
Sinestro appeared nonplused. "I have not kidnapped the
man's wife. Oh, I brought her in for questioning, but I let
her go, to care for her daughter! As for Arturo, he is very
valuable to me. I am protecting him."
"From whom?" Dolores flared, "And I have not seen Elizabeta
for weeks! I had to take Lucita into my home to care for
her, myself, because her aunt was an invalid!"
"But I released her! You can ask the sergeant! I sent her
"This proves nothing. You terrorize innocent people, you
force them to work in the mines, you kidnap women and
children and you... you lie about it!"
"I am as mystified by the woman's disappearance as you are,
Dolores. Moreso, for I *know* what I have done. I am
*protecting* Arturo, for he knows where... he can help me
become wealthy. Abduct his family? He would never help me
if I treated him that way!"
"It is about money. I knew it. It is always about money!"
"Dolores, I have done some foolish things in my time. I
will take chances, and your husband knew this when he
decided to help me. He would have been rich, too, you know,
if my plan had worked."
"All I know is that you betrayed him. He died, and you
escaped. And I..." she clamped her lips shut on the
"He would have done the same to me!" cried Sinestro, "This I
believe! He would have done anything to get the money for
his `revolution', while I had other goals. Mine were more
personal than his. I am no idealist. But our *methods were
"Who betrayed him? Who told the loyalists where he was? Who
was so slow to warn him that he could not escape?"
"I do not have to answer that!"
"Then we have nothing left to discuss!"
IF I BARE ME, GENTLY GO:
Wolfwalker scouted ahead in the passage through the
boulders, while Andalejo guarded the rear. In the still
air, the sounds of the three in the middle echoed dully as
they slipped through the narrow openings.
Sandy dropped back to whisper to Machita, "Say, you were
really sick back there, weren't you?"
"I thought I had killed that man! I suppose you wouldn't
get sick. Have you ever killed anyone?"
"Not directly. I been shot at when raiders tried to steal
part of the herd, and I shot back. Don't think I hit
"Well, I still feel queasy. Why do you ask?"
"It is just that... well, I thought a guy would have a
stronger stomach than that."
Machita pouted, an expression Sandy had no trouble
recognizing in the moonlight, and she said, "You just think
when I'm a girl I'm weak, that is all!"
Sandy looked away. "I didn't say that," he said. They
slowed to allow the others to move farther ahead.
While Gordo was out of sight, Machita whispered to Sandy,
"I have got to tell Gordo the truth! I don't want to stay
"I've only known you for a short while, and I still ain't
got over the shock," said Sandy, "He's known you all his
life. How do you think it will affect him?"
"What you guys talkin' about?" asked Gordo. He had stopped
before a dense thicket of thorn trees.
"Ahh... we were talking about different weapons," Sandy
"Hey, weapons are my life, man!" said Gordo, "Did I tell you
about this rifle my uncle had?"
The passage through the thorn trees was filled with snags.
Gordo and Sandy were discussing weapons and tactics when
they heard the fabric rip. Machita's blouse had caught on a
snag and a great section had been torn out, exposing her
breasts, and she clutched futilely at the shreds.
The boys stared while trying not to stare, until Gordo
shielded his eyes, yanked off his chaqueta and handed it to
her. Sandy ducked his head and ran to the next bend in the
"Hey, you gonna hurt yourself, man!" Gordo said after he
found Sandy pounding his head against an outcropping.
"I shouldn't look! I shouldn't look, but I did! I couldn't
"Hey, don't make a big thing out of it, man!"
"But you don't understand! That's a... a... She's a..."
"She's a lady! She is very modest, man! And if you point
out what she did, she will be shamed and feel bad. Better
we don't say nothing, and play like nothing happened!"
"You must be silent!" Wolfwalker cautioned them as he
rejoined the group. Andalejo edged in from the rear.
Machita noticed the young Apache. "You haven't said
anything, lately," she said, "What is wrong?"
Andalejo indicated the surrounding darkness. "I am thinking
the Sergeant has betrayed us," he said.
Club-bearing figures were appearing out of the gloom.
Wolfwalker reached for his hatchet, thought better of it.
"Apache child, I must agree with you," he said.
SOMETHING COMES CALLING:
The cell door swung inward on protesting hinges, waking
Lucita from a warm dream of parents and sisters. The wan
lanternglow behind his back shadowed his face, but the man
in the doorway wore the same uniform as the guards who had
placed her in the cell. He paused, called back into the
corridor, "Find that lazy guard who was supposed to be
here!" Then he returned his attention to the child.
"I am Espuma," he said, "You should come with me. I will
take care of you."
"No!" cried Lucita, "I want to stay with my Mamá!" She
clung to the sleeping Elizbeta.
"Your mother belongs to the master Kaliche," said Espuma,
"But you are mine. You are *my* reward."
Espuma's face distorted and for a second she could see the
fangs and eyes of the creature beneath the skin. "The
hag-demon is not the only one who likes delicious little
children," he said. Lucita howled with fright and tried to
burrow behind her mother.
With a visible effort, the thing became Espuma again. He
reached for the little girl, then stopped.
The hideous smile on Espuma's face slowly condensed into an
awareness of small sounds. Something had disturbed the air
currents, and a dimming of the lanternlight in the cell told
him that someone was behind him. The smile drifted away
like smoke as Espuma turned.
Selnik was not smiling.
GIVE YOUR HEART TO MY CAUSE:
Two huge warriors bearing obsidian-bladed axes escorted them
past blank-eyed acolytes wearing serapes of dingy gray.
Machita felt the blood-pulse of the drums even before they
were ushered into the cavern. It sapped her of her strength
and caused the strangely shaped columns to appear to sway.
The air seemed heavy, as though she were breathing some
thick, murky fluid. Torches along the walls flickered in
time with the drums, illuminating a raised shelf with
symbols carved on it. On the shelf were an altar and a
The bald priest in shimmering red and blue robes was there
to greet them.
"Come on in, my girl!" the bald head bobbed in humble
politeness, "Please be comfortable! I am so *terribly*
honored that you have arrived!"
Machita pulled back from him, prepared to struggle, but he
did not restrain her. His hand on her wrist gently loosed
and allowed her to get away.
"The events are unfolding, Oh Honored One," hurried the
priest, "Forgive me. My name is Kaliche. I have waited for
many years... Oh, you would not *believe* how many years!
And now you are here! I am overwhelmed!"
"I want outta here!" said Machita. She stumbled away a few
steps then faltered as the pulse of the drums eroded her
The dark eyes sagged in disappointment. "But that would
ruin *everything*," Kaliche sobbed, "Can't we convince you
to stay? We have a celebration planned that is simply
spectacular! It is beautiful! You would not regret
watching it, not one little bit!"
Machita felt his nearness as a deep pit drawing her closer.
She pressed against the column to get away from him. "What
am I doing here?" she asked.
"Quite simple, really. I cast the auguries, and they gave
me your name, which is Lucha. Then I cast the compelling
spell, to cause you to dream and come to me. And just in
time for the rites! Isn't it perfect?"
"You see the way he is bowing to her?" whispered Gordo to
his companions, "She is somebody *special*, man!"
ATOP THE PUEBLA:
"Come, Dolores, look!" waved Sinestro, "Look out there! Now,
there is nothing but brush and shrub, but think what it
would be with irrigation and a new city! We could have a
culture equal to or greater that Mexico City!"
"Who could have possibly have filled your head with such
nonsense?" cried Dolores.
"All it needs is money, the filthy money you so despise. And
I almost have it in my grasp! All the money you could ever
dream about! More! I am talking about the ancient hoards
of the Aztecs!"
"Come, Lucha, look!" waved Kaliche. He snapped his fingers
and the solid walls of the cavern became as clear as glass,
so they could gaze out upon the moonlit valley. "Look out
there! Now, there is nothing but brush and shrub, but think
of how it could be! There at the bend of the river, I will
place my palace, behind it the pyramid and the courts for
the conduct of everyday life. And on this side, the ball
fields where youths of all countries will vie for the
greatest honors of the world! You have a tremendous part to
play in this dream!"
"Hey, this wall disappeared!" cried Gordo, rubbing his nose,
"There ain't nothing holding up the ceiling!"
"You just ran into the wall," sneered Wolfwalker, "This is
"Oh, yeah? I'll bet you didn't know that until I hit the
wall. I proved the wall was still there!"
Machita cried, "But I'm not a girl! I'm a guy! You've made
"Not at all. Oh, I can see your curse, a nimbus which
floats about you. Curious. But you change sex easily
enough. It is a simple spell to counter." He snapped his
fingers, and Machita felt a gust of cold air against her
After a brief inspection of her more salient features, she
asked, "What is supposed to happen?"
"Only a simple condition," repeated Kaliche, and he snapped
his fingers more loudly. Again the gust of air, and again
the brief inspection.
"Nothing," she said.
Kaliche shrugged and grabbed a bowl of cold water. This
time the results were positive. "As long as you are a girl
when the ceremony starts," he said, "who cares?"
"And I came here for my mother! I don't know anything about
your dreams!" cried Ramón.
"You haven't felt a pull to this place? You haven't
awakened with memories of former times? Odd. The link
should have prepared you."
Wolfwalker and Gordo were face to face, snarling insults,
too preoccupied to notice the change, when Gordo glanced
over at their `host'. "Awww man!" cried Gordo, "He's got
Ramón, too! This is lookin' bad, man!"
"You don't have the turquoise pendant?" the stout bald man
cried in anguish, "But you must have it! Centuries ago, I
set into motion the events which brought you here today!
Nothing could change them - they were blood spells, the most
"I said, `Centuries ago, I set...'"
"I *heard* that part! Just how old *are* you?" demanded
Ramón, "Are you actually an Aztec priest? You can't be that
"Those children? I am older than that! Oh, I am older than
them, you can be sure! A thousand, at least! I studied in
Bablylon! I have travelled with the Phonecians!" The light
fell across his face and Machita could see the cold deadness
in the eyes. No, not a priest. Definitely not like any
priest Ramón had ever known.
"Any way, I'm somebody else. Doña de Muerte called me
Lucha, but that is not my name. I'm..." Ramón drew back as
the dead eyes seemed to leap toward him.
"You must have the pendant! You *must* have it!"
"Well, I don't! Now let me go!"
"What do you mean you do not have the link? You are useless
to me without it! You *have* to have the link! It was
designed to stay with the bloodline!" Kaliche's shoulders
"Very well, then," he said, "there is nothing we can do now,
it must be later. I will have to wait until next cycle to
activate my cult of Huitzilopochtli. You may go free."
The boys had just released an explosive breath when the bald
sorcerer waved his hand at the rest of them.
"Release him. Kill the others," he said as he went through
The youths looked about in alarm as gray-clad acolytes
swarmed into the room past the two warriors.
Glossary (of sorts):
puebla: a village, usually. in this case, a cluster of
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