Macho Caballo Page
Las Aventuras De Macho Caballo
PART I: CHAPTER CATORCE
I WILL NOT LEAVE HER ALONE ON THE MOUNT
IN THE HOUR OF THE BULL:
When the sorcerer gave the command to kill his compadres,
Ramón tried to join them but was grabbed and forced toward
Several things happened to gain him his freedom: Wolfwalker
barreled ahead of his companions, crying in a high voice,
"We can defeat them! Follow me!" He was quickly taken
captive by three of the burliest men. Sandy stepped forward
and used his fists to drop one of the guards but was hit in
the midriff with a club and doubled up on the floor of the
cave in pain. Andalejo was grabbed from behind and lifted
from the floor by a grinning Indio guard. Which left Gordo.
When they had been captured, the youths had been stripped of
any obvious weapons, although Ramón kept his riata because
of the respect accorded Machita. Gordo had from habit slung
his double-bladed knife around his neck underneath his
As the others were captured by the acolytes, Gordo set his
jaw. He stood square in the middle of the room and slung
the scabbards from his weapon.
"Señores," he announced, "Allow me to introduce you to my
friend, El Toro!"
Hampered by the crush of bodies as the acolytes pressed
forward, the two warriors were unable to bring their weapons
to bear. The close quarters were perfect conditions for El
Toro, as Gordo bared both blades and began to clear a path.
Ramón's captors released him so they could assist in
controlling the berserk youth.
Cut and bleeding acolytes shrank away from the blades, and a
warrior stepped into the opening. He had a longer reach
with his ax and he swung it up for a crushing blow, but the
ax snagged on something. The warrior looked up to see the
leather riata looped about it, forgetting that Gordo had
moved into striking distance. El Toro began shredding his
lacquered paper armor and the warrior had to decide which
was more important, the riata holding his ax or the knife
blades ripping into the armor of his garment. He dropped
the ax and pulled a second club from his belt.
Meanwhile Sandy straightened, holding a boot knife which he
had slipped out of hiding while doubled over. He sliced
across the face of the nearest guard, who stumbled backward
into the warrior threatening Gordo. That warrior dropped
his club as El Toro raked his hand. The other warrior was
facing Andalejo and Wolfwalker, who had backed into a
"I thought you were brave!" cried Andalejo.
"I am a warchief, thinking of my men," grumbled Wolfwalker.
With his chin he indicated the warrior's shin guards, shaped
like eagle talons. "Watch his knees. If you fall he will
drop on you with those."
An acolyte had crept into range and leaped forward to grab
Andalejo, who wriggled out of the grasp and between his
opponent's legs. The acolyte charged after him only to stop
in confusion when the little Apache disappeared into the
The warrior took his time as he positioned himself to block
any move Wolfwalker could make. He spoke a few short
phrases which the Azuma lad could not understand and swung
the ax. Mid-swing, he was struck from behind as Andalejo
barreled into his knees. The swing went wild and chips flew
from the brittle obsidian blade as it struck the stone wall.
The armor of the warriors was a marvel of lightweight
strength, strong paper fibers crisscrossed and hardened with
lacquer until it could withstand an arrow or a spear.
Unfortunately, it had one weak point... it covered the upper
body only, leaving the legs and adjoining portions of the
anatomy open to the enemy.
Wolfwalker saw his chance and he took it, lifting the
warrior from the ground with the strength of his kick. Then
he took the ax and used it on his disabled enemy.
"Little Apache weasel, I owe you," he growled, turning his
attention to the others. An acolyte who had recovered a
fallen war-ax lept upon them, swinging the ax in wild
desperation. Wolfwalker shoved Andalejo out of the way but
stumbled over the fallen warrior and the ax scraped across
his back. In pain, he grasped his ax and prepared to make a
There was a scream of anger from the altar. "Fools!" cried
a man in a jaguar costume, "Stand aside! I will handle
them!" In a moment, the cave was clear of all but the boys.
"Hey, what is this guy gonna do?" demanded Gordo. He was
bleeding from a dozen cuts on both arms and legs with blood
dripping from one ear. Not all of the cuts had been made by
"I don't like the looks of that thing he is carrying," said
Ramón, "It looks like a pistol."
"His kind did not know of gunpowder," sneered Wolfwalker.
"Let's get out of here,now!" suggested Sandy.
The jaguar-costumed man chanted a sharp phrase and aimed his
device at Andalejo. Andalejo ducked behind a column as fire
blazed from the device and crashed where he had been. The
cave shuddered with the impact.
Gordo threw his knife at the jaguar-man and the boys ran.
The blade clanged against rock as fire crashed into another
column narrowly missing Ramón. Loose stones pattered about
them as they scrambled for cover.
"What are you doing?" shrilled Kaliche from behind the
jaguar-man, "You mustn't hurt her!"
"I am eliminating the vermin!" cried the jaguar-man.
"Insubordinate!" cried the sorcerer, "I'll have no more of
Again fire roared toward Ramón, who was standing flatfooted
by the entrance. Gordo and Sandy grabbed him and hauled him
out of the way, but they were all singed and shaken by the
Kaliche snapped his fingers and another explosion rocked the
cave, sending volumes of dust and grit billowing out of the
entrance. Moments later a column failed and the growl of
falling rock grew to a roar.
"Man, was he pissed, or what?" Gordo shook his head, "Oh,
no! Machita! She's still in there!"
Ramón held him back, saying, "You can't go back in there!
If the rocks don't get you, those creeps will!"
"But she's gonna get hurt, man!"
Ramón caught himself before he blurted out the truth to his
worried friend. He saw the fear in Gordo's eyes and said,
"She got out earlier. I saw her get away."
"No shit, man?" Gordo pleaded.
"I swear it, she got out just like us."
"I gotta find her! I ain't going outta here without her!"
"Well, I gotta get my Mamá. You be careful."
"I'll go with him," volunteered Sandy as he watched Gordo
heading for the surface.
IN THE HOUSE OF MINE ENEMY:
"Are you an Indian?" Lucita asked, bobbing up and down with
"I am Apache," Selnik kept a sharp eye on Espuma as he
"My name is Gentle Rain," said Lucita, "What is your name?"
A ghost of a smile played across the Apache's face. "I am
called Selnik," he said, moving his knife just enough to let
Espuma see that his stealthy slide toward the door had not
Lucita was torn between going to her sleeping mother and
examining the enigmatic man before her. She climbed onto
the stone bench and rested her head on her mother's
shoulder, listening to the steady breathing. "I'm tired,"
Selnik shook his head. "We cannot stay," he said, "This man
may have friends."
"I thought you were his friend."
Selnik turned stony eyes toward the sergeant. "I do not
think so," he said, "Wake your mother."
"She's asleep. I already tried to wake her up."
Selnik took a rope from his waist to tie around Espuma's
neck, with a sliding knot which would tighten easily and
loosen slowly. Then, with a grunt, he lifted the comatose
woman over his shoulder and indicated the door to the
"Stick close behind me," he commanded the little girl. She
obeyed without talking.
WHEN SWEET REASON SHOWS ME LIGHT:
Sinestro was no longer sanguine about the affairs of the
night. Alarmed by the noise and grumble of the cave-in and
fearing an earthquake, he was actually glad to see Ramón
appear through the doorway of the puebla building. Then
Manuel came groaning up to be helped by one of the two
soldiers over the far side of the landing, too exhausted to
do more than glare at the Alcalde.
Fernando came puffing up the ladder.
"Here!" cried Sinestro, "Tell them, Fraile! Tell them I am
not an inhuman monster!"
"Tell them... what?" gasped Fernando.
"They seem to think I plan some unspeakable cruelty to the
young girl. Do you not know me better than that?"
Ramón said, "I think that bald priest was going to sacrifice
her." He almost said, `and me', but held his tongue.
"Sacrifice?" squeaked Fernando, "As I feared? Oh, my
"I do not understand," said Sinestro, "Sacrifice, as in..."
he drew a finger across his throat, and he paled.
"Sacrifice as in `rip out the heart'," supplied Fernando.
"He wanted to WHAT?" The pueblo rang with Sinestro's
"Rip out her heart," repeated Fernando, "His henchmen may
still carry out his plan! There is no time," he added,
"Quickly, you must send for the goldsmith and his family!"
"But what is..."
"Quickly!" barked the stout friar.
Minutes later, two soldiers escorted Arturo onto the
landing. "Forgive us the delay," said the first soldier,
"But there were some people trying to spirit him away. We
had to chase them off."
"Where is Lucita and Elizabeta?" demanded Dolores, "She was
"There must be some mistake," said Sinestro, "I sent Señora
Elizabeta back weeks ago. I told the sergeant to take her
to her home. Then Arturo demanded to see his daughter, and
would not tell me anything until he could be sure his
daughter was safe."
"She has not been seen!" cried Fernando, "I fear we are too
"We will go search the corridors below," said Ramón, with
agreement from Andalejo.
There was a disturbance at the door, and Sergeant Espuma
tumbled through. He scrambled to his feet and blurted,
"Alcalde! We are being attacked!" At the door appeared an
"Hold it!" cried Ramón as the soldiers drew their swords,
"We know him!"
Selnik moved into the light, carrying a woman, with Lucita
"If there is a woman, Selnik will find her," whispered
"She appears to be drugged," said Fernando, relieving Selnik
of his burden as Lucita and Arturo crowded close.
"Why would they do that?" asked Sinestro.
"It was customary before the ... ahh ... ceremony,"
explained Fernando, "It kept the proceedings quieter."
Sinestro beheld the cowering sergeant, who turned even
paler. "I'll have that bald-headed priest's head on a pike
by tomorrow night," snapped the Alcalde, "But yours will be
To Dolores, Sinestro said, "I had no idea what a monster I
was dealing with. Please forgive me."
"For this," Dolores said stiffly, "But that is all."
"I am grateful for the smallest favor, Señora. But you are
aware that when things return to normal, I must still
apprehend one of your children for not returning to the
"I would expect nothing less of you," sniffed Mamá.
They had forgotten the cowering Espuma. With sinuous speed,
the sergeant yanked the noose from his neck and leaped to
his feet. He grabbed Dolores. "Stand back or I will throw
her off the roof!" he cried.
Ramón unlimbered his riata and threw. The loop of braided
leather settled about Dolores, but Espuma wriggled free. He
retained a tight grip on Mamá's waist. "I'll kill her!" he
screamed, and jumped. Their combined weight yanked Ramón
toward the edge.
Papá tripped over Ramón's flailing arms and sat down on him,
hard. It knocked the air from Ramón's lungs but stopped him
short of the precipiece. Ramón wrapped the riata around his
wrists while he gagged and cried for breath.
Slowly they drew Mamá up from the sheer wall, with help from
Fray Fernando and Selnik.
Espuma was gone. No one mourned.
I WILL NOT LEAVE HER ALONE ON THE MOUNT:
Ramón's reunion with his mother was brief, as she hurried to
look after Lucita and Arturo. Before long, Sinestro and the
soldiers had departed, clambering down the tiers of ladders,
and the Apache had discreetly vanished into the night.
"Caramba! I'm glad that is over!" said Ramón to Sandy.
Sandy shook his head. "Not yet, compadre," he said. There
was someone moving about in the dark around the building.
Gordo was searching vainly among the rocks, calling,
"Machiita! Machiiiiita!" He shuffled sadly past Ramón and
Sandy and said, "Come help me look! I cannot leave the
señorita alone, here! This is a very dangerous place!"
Sandy motioned to Ramón, and cast his eyes toward the small
fire burning at the back of the building. Ramón shook his
head as they moved out of Gordo's hearing.
"C'mon," said Sandy. "You know you gotta do this. He
has to rescue you or he will be here forever."
"But why should it have to be me?"
"Are you kidding? Who else? We can't leave him. You saw
the way he was - he won't move an inch without his
"Oh, boy," groaned Ramón.
Andalejo met them as they left the shelter. "I am
remembering where I saw you," he said, "It was after a great
hunt, when we had gone to the neighboring village where they
always have the greatest feasts, and..."
"You will have to tell me later," said Machita as she
steeled herself for the descent.
Gordo brightened immediately when Machita appeared, and was
the model of gentlemanly attention all the way down the
ladders. If his lady fair appeared glum and moody, he did
not notice. Nor, for that matter, did he inquire as to the
whereabouts of his childhood buddy, Ramón, assuming that
Macho was capable of taking care of himself.
The height of his glory was when Machita refused to step
into the cold river water, and had to be carried across. The
water practically glowed with the reflection of the moon
from his white teeth, exposed in a manic grin... and from
the panic in Machita's eyes. She disappeared soon after the
crossing, but he did not grieve for long. He had an armload
of stories to tell his friends, and memories to last a
And so they went home, everybody excited but tired. Ramón
rejoined them on his bay and listened while Gordo related
his tale, only shaking his head once in a while as though in
AT A CAMPFIRE:
It was the sunset of the same day.
Alboro peered into the flickering campfire as he waited for
the coffee to boil. After the liquid had assumed a
particularly nasty texture, he poured his cup full and
offered a second cup to Manuel, who waved it away.
"How often do the spirits of the spring grant a sacred
form?" he wondered, almost to himself.
"Hmm," mused Manuel, "About one in ten years. It is has
been ten years since I -cough- won mine. This time there
were two. There has been stirring in the spirit world.
Something is up."
"It is the sorcerer, Kaliche. He is trouble."
"Que? I thought he died in the cave-in."
"No, that one is too treacherous to die so easily. He used
that to cover his escape. He'll be back. He has been
causing trouble for many centuries, and he is trying to do
something again. I suspect he had something to do with the
nature of the Aztec religion, and may have even driven out
Quetzlcoatl many years before."
"That bad, eh?"
"He wants to use your boy to start a new reign. But I do
not understand how. He will try again, and Machito must be
ready. I am thinking we did not prepare Machito properly
for the rites at the sacred spring."
"No, we did not. But who was to know?"
"We must make amends. We must train him to withstand the
forces he must face. Tomorrow we shall start."
"Good," sighed Manuel, "So long as I can get some rest
GENTLY SUNBOY GOES AWAY, AT THE ENDING OF THE DAY:
She sat upright on the boulder, letting the setting sun wash
over her. The beam of light glowed redly in strands of her
hair and the evening breeze stirred the fringes of her
blouse. From a leather pouch, she took a pinch of a golden
powder and released it to soar in the dying light.
Ramón stopped beside her, remaining silent though she nodded
imperceptibly to indicate that she knew he was there. Her
face was placid as she turned to him and saw the quizzical
look on his face.
"I am emptying my worry bag," she explained, "I can only
carry so many worries about with me every day, so now and
then I must clear out the old worries to make room for the
"I wish I could do that," he said, "I don't have a worry
"I'll make you one," she promised. "What could be bothering
you? You have your mother back."
"Little things. I got into an argument with Estrellita. We
used to disagree on a lot of things, but this time seemed
different. She was really upset because... just because we
"You still feel badly about her abuela?"
"Sort of. But I think Estrellita blames me for it, too. She
doesn't want to, but she does."
"She'll get over it. Things happen."
"Maybe. The Alcalde is still after me. And I thought Mamá
would let up a little, now that she is back, but she is
trying harder than ever to `help me be a good girl'. Now
she wants me to learn to sew. Papá wants me to be more of a
man, and help with the horses. I don't get any rest."
"Here," she handed him a pinch of the powder.
"What is this?"
"Sacred pollen. Think about your worries and let the wind
take them away."
Ramón released the grains of pollen above his head and
watched them float glowing into the dying rays of the sun.
"Help?" Red Cloud was smiling, now, as she got down from her
"A little. I don't think anything could cheer me up."
She moved closer to him. "Close your eyes," she said.
He felt something incredibly soft and warm brush his lips,
and tasted sweetness. His eyes sprang open, but she was
already moving away from him, down the trail.
She turned back to him and said, "You have done one thing
right. No one can take that away from you. Remember that
the next time you mess up."
Ramón touched his lips. He felt his face warp into a
crooked smile as he she walked away. There was a sway to
her hips that he had not noticed before, and the back of her
skirt had a way of twitching with each step.
Before she disappeared into the night, she turned once more
and said, "And you *will* mess up!"
CHAPTER CATORCE: END
PART I: END
AND THE EPILOG, RIDE AWAY:
Mamá took Machita's hand, examined it, and dismissed the
injury. "Pay closer attention to the needle when you sew,
Bebita. Your mind is wandering," she said, and added, "I
almost have your new dress finished."
Machita fidgeted uncomfortably. "I wish you would not make
a new dress just for me," she said.
"I wanted to, chica. It makes me happy. I only wish..."
"Nothing. There was a turquoise pendant my mother gave me,
which I had hoped to pass on. But it was lost, long ago."
"Aren't you through with your lessons, yet?" Papá said from
the doorway, "I have horses to tend, and I need your help."
"I can't very well tend horses in a dress, can I? Wait
until I change!" Ramón returned momentarily and slumped
into a chair at the table, his obligation overridden by
hunger. "Why must I work so hard to be a girl?" he asked,
as he helped himself to a tortilla laden with sauce.
"It is so you can avoid the soldiers," Mamá said.
"If I was just a boy I could go away with Papá on a trip
until the Alcalde lost interest. I think you are afraid you
will lose a girl."
Mamá looked at him sharply and asked, "Why do you say this?"
Ramón lowered his tortilla. "Mamacita," he said, "do I have
"Of course you do, mi bebito, Lucita will be like your
sister, even though she is back with her mother. She loves
you like a brother."
"No, I mean before I was born, I think you had a daughter."
Papá objected, "Machito! How dare you bring up such an
unpleasant subject when your mother is distraught? And you
"That was before I knew that you had lied!"
"What? When did I lie to you?"
"When you said my sister had died from cholera! Why didn't
you just come out and say she had been stolen by Apaches?"
"Why I..." the elder Caballo seemed thunderstruck, "How did
you learn this? Is it true?"
Manuel knelt before Mamá, "I truly did not know she had been
captured! They said everyone in her party had been killed!"
Mamá seemed to tower with the menace of a thundercloud.
"And you decided to tell a lie, to... to *protect* me?"
"How could you spend years searching among the Commanche for
my sister, but drop the search instantly when you found you
might have to deal with Apache?" asked Ramón, "Were you
afraid that the Apache would eat a badger?"
"So would the Commanche!" snapped Papá.
Mamá wept. "My years, wasted because you were afraid?"
"I do not fear!" cried Papá, "I truly believed when they
said all were killed that day. But now, I am no so sure.
Perhaps they felt they were doing me a kindness, by giving
me a reason to give up a hopeless search."
"How could it be hopeless? She may still be alive!"
"Somehow, a party of Apaches intending to raid Mexico
happened upon a lone family of Comanche, and wiped them out.
Instead of killing the children, they must have taken them
captive to raise as their own. In the eyes of the Comanche,
a person captured by a bad enemy was as good as dead. They
mourned them as if they had perished."
"Mamá," said Ramón, "maybe those years were not wasted."
"What? How do you mean?"
"I have a friend who has seen a brave girl among the Apache,
and he says she looks a lot like me," Ramón paused for the
words to sink in.
Then, while hope and doubt warred in his mother's eyes, he
added, "Her name is Lucha."
Far away in the Superstition Mountains, suspended from a
braided leather necklace tied to a lodge pole, a turquoise
pendant dangled in the breeze.
Someday - PART II: In search of the Sister, Ride Away.
Ramon, Sandy, Lonesome, Wolfwalker, Red Cloud, and
Estrellita begin a search for Ramon's long lost sister in
the forbidding mountains of Arizona.
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