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Macho Caballo Page

Las Aventuras De Macho Caballo

MACHO CABALLO CHAPTER VEINTIOCHO OF PIGTRAPS AND WOLFCALLS

OLD ACQUAINTANCES MEET:

Bluenose adjusted his headband and entered the wickiup.  The dim
interior was empty.  Outside, in the shade of a brush pavilion,
he spied two people waiting patiently.  Bluenose shook his head
and went to stand before them.

It was rare that a chief commanded the attention of a shaman,
especially the medicine man of another family group, or clan.  It
happened that Tom Goose held this particular shaman responsible
for a personal tragedy, which made the interview somewhat
awkward.

Tom Goose had arranged for Willow Woman to be handy when he sent
for Bluenose.  When the shaman of the Loose Foot Group came up,
Tom ignored him, saying to Willow Woman, "There is a small matter
that is troubling some of my people.  I do not wish to insult
that person, but I am wondering - Where are these Mexicans?  That
person promised that the Mexicans would behave, and now two of
them are missing!"

"Two?" asked Bluenose of Willow Woman, "Exactly which two are we
talking about?"

"He wants to know who is missing," Willow Woman interpreted.

"The two men," said Tom, "And another thing..."

"He is wondering about the girl," Bluenose interposed before
Willow Woman could speak.

Tom frowned.  "The girl, yes," he said, "My son brought in two
men and a girl.  Now here are two girls and no men. What is
happening?  Is this some prank that person would play?"

Willow Woman stretched to ease the tension in her neck and faced
Bluenose.  "Brother, you are known for your practical jokes," she
said.

"I can explain about the girl and one of the men," said Bluenose,
"But I cannot say about the other.  When did he come up missing?"

Willow Woman relayed the sentence with a sigh.

"I am not sure," said Tom, "The one they call Ramon has been gone
since early morning, and the tall one called Wolfwalker took
advantage of the excitement during the wrestling matches to
disappear."

"Do not worry about Ramon.  He has gone to take care of the
girl."

"I have met him, but what of the girl, Machita?" asked Willow
Woman.

"She is a powerful shamaness.  I am sworn to hold secret her
abilities."

She nodded and asked, "And the brother, Ramon?"

Bluenose smiled at the sky.  "He is part of the secret," he said.

"I am going back to cooking," snorted Willow Woman, "It is
obvious I am not doing any good around here!"

Silence descended.  Tom adamantly refused to see Bluenose, and
Bluenose fixed his gaze on a point somewhere near the horizon.

It was at this time that a dark cloud suddenly appeared and
lightning struck inside the camp.  Startled out of his anger, Tom
cried, "That was Broken Cloud!  What could have made him use his
power in the midst of all these people?"

"We must go see," said Bluenose.

Tom pulled himself to his feet and they started off, each still
refusing to look at the other.  They found the shards of tree
lying about, with many surprised witnesses, but Broken Cloud had
moved on and was not to be seen.




DECISIONS:

Wolfwalker could smell water.  It was a crisp, clean scent,
distracting him from his observation of the camp area.  The small
wolf lay still beneath a creosote bush, covered with dust until
his presence was betrayed only by the movement of his eyes or the
runnels of dust moved by his breathing.

He would have gladly doused himself without delay, but there was
no cold water to be had within the camp itself.  All containers
were covered or inside shelter, with the exception of a pot
suspended over a fire.  The odor of water was borne by a westerly
breeze, a tantalizing aroma which tugged at his nostrils.
Wolfwalker was thirsty and ready to resume human form...he would
rather be seen naked than to continue thus, as a lowly beast.

He had concluded his survey of the camp and was ready to move on
to find the water, when the shadow passed overhead.  Alarmed,
wary with the newfound timidity he had learned with his tiny
frame, he remained still as he tried to spy the source of the
shadow.  He could see nothing, not even a sun shimmer, but he
could hear a tiny high-pitched whine which seemed to come from
the air overhead.  The whine descended into the midst of the camp
and shut off.

Shortly, the shadow moved to a rock ledge and a man appeared,
talking to an Apache girl.

The wolf had emitted a high-pitched sound of his own, a growl too
shrill to be considered threatening.  He recognized the man -
Sergeant Espuma.  The words he had overheard sent a shiver of
excitement down his back, scattering the dust in his fur.

They spoke of Ramon!  As insignificant as Ramon was, Wolfwalker
felt responsible for him.  This sergeant must know where to find
him!  Wolfwalker was watchful as Espuma vanished again for a
short period.  Then a shaman appeared and began speaking to the
girl, who became agitated.

As puny as he was, Wolfwalker would have risen to attack the
sergeant when Espuma struck the old man, but the sudden clouds
overhead warned him that there was magic at work. The crack of
thunder nearly deafened him, but he could still hear the ragged
whine as Espuma disappeared once more.

The noise was irritatingly loud and he could track it easily, but
it meant going away from the water.  The wolf cub mewed to
himself as he faced the hills in the east, where the noise was
heading, then looked back at the gullies to the west.

He could go toward the water, gaining his human form but losing
the lead to Ramon, or follow the noise of the sergeant and forgo
changing back to normal.  A vagrant breeze toyed with the sound
and for a second the whine faded out.  Wolfwalker rose, shook the
dust from his fur, and struck out toward the east at a fast clip.




TRAPPED:

There were three girls perched on a big rock by a cave, somewhere
in the hills east of the Apache camp.  One of the girls was
reassuring herself of one of the important truths of her life.

[I am Ramon!]

She saw javelinas by the tens as they swarmed around the flat
rock upon which the three girls had taken refuge.  Dust filled
the air, blowing with the gusting wind until the far trees were
obscured.  One larger boar, with long tusks jutting downward and
dust matted in the coarse bristles of his gray-black hair, was
straining unsuccessfully to lever himself up onto the rock.

[I am Ramon! I know I am Ramon!]

When everything has gone wrong, and there are few things to
depend on, it is healthy to find a simple, honest fact and stick
to it.

Javelinas by the hundred interfered with her mantra.  They filled
the shallow ravine before them and flooded the meadow.  A hundred
more came and went over the trail to the camp, towards the place
where the javelinas had treed the Apache boys.

[I am Ramon! I will not be bullied by a bunch of...of mere pigs!]

"Where do you think you are going?" Lucha's voice cut through the
dusty air.

"I have had enough of this!  I am going to kick that big one, if
only to make me feel better!"

"No, you won't!  Stay back or you will get hurt!"

"Listen! I...."

"Are you going to be stupid?  Why would I go with you if you are
nothing but a jackass?"

"Ahhh... go with me?  Are you saying that you want to return to
Mexico with us?"

"I am saying that I am thinking about it.  Do not rush me! And
stay away from that pig!"

Machita looked at Red Cloud, who arched her eyebrows and grinned.

[I am Ramon,] fumed Machita, [I am Ramon and I am being bullied
by a girl!  I cannot stand it!]




THE APPOINTMENT:

Espuma alit on rocky ground by the side of a hill and laid aside
the flying contraption.  He yanked the sash from his uniform,
folded it neatly and stuffed it into a pouch by his side.

"Confound that old man, anyway!" he said, blinking, "Who'd have
thought he could strike out like that?  I'll be lucky if he did
not use up all the charge in the shield!"

Kaliche had assured him that the sash was protection against
clubs, spears, arrows and other missiles.  Unfortunately, it had
not stopped the brilliant flash of lightning from Broken Cloud's
spell.  Espuma's eyes were still dazzled.

"That was tricky, devious, underhanded...." he stopped his
listing to grimace in crooked admiration, "I should have killed
him while I had the chance!  However - it is just as well,
anyway.  He is not going to cause any trouble when he can't see!"

The noise from the surrounding wood penetrated his reverie.

"Oh, yes," he said, "I have some unfinished business."  With
that, he stepped down from the outcropping and strolled around
the side of the hill.

Smiling, he looked up and said above the rustling grumble,
"Buenas Dias, Senoritas!  And you, too, of course!"




UP THE WALL:

"Espuma!" cried Machita.

"Surprised to see me?  You dropped me so suddenly, last time!"
Espuma smiled up at the Mexican girl, "But I have such a warm
place in my heart for you!  And look!  You have found your
sister!"

"Do you know this man?" Lucha demanded.

"He tried to kill Mama," declared Machita hotly.

"He has imprisoned my people and forced them to work as slaves in
Sinestro's mines," added Red Cloud.

"Am I that terrible?" tskked Espuma, "I had no idea! Really, you
flatter me!"  He fiddled with a control on the device in his
right hand and more pigs crowded closer to their boulder.  "I
have plans for you two," he added, "but I am afraid that your
Azuma friend will have to join the boys back in the trees.  Oh,
yes...those trees have very good root systems.  It should take
the pigs all day to dig them up.  They are omnivorous, you know"

"You bastardo!" cried Machita.(1)

"Such language!" Espuma cried delightedly, "From such a dainty,
delicate creature!  I am dismayed that you have learned a single
bad word!  Just look at those slender, gentle hands, the mark of
a true woman!"

"I am *not* a delicate, dainty creature!" exploded Machita,
jamming her fists into her waist-pouch.

"Do not fear, Querido(2), my little friends shall not harm you.
I have complete control of them.  See?"  Espuma flicked the
device in his hand and the javelinas retreated.  "Now, if your
little Azuma friend will climb down and join the boys, we can
finish up this project."

"You cannot do this!" Machita said vehemently.

"I cannot?  Watch this!"  Espuma flicked the control again, and
pointed at the girls.  "Get them!" he cried to the herd. A mass
of javelinas surged toward them.

While Espuma's attention was on the pigs, Machita pulled a stone
from the waist-pouch and threw.  Her aim was accurate, and the
stone shattered the control device.  Espuma waved his stinging
hand and turned to shout in anger, and another stone slammed into
the side of his face.

Lucha grunted in satisfaction as the man fell backward into the
swirling mass of javelinas.  "That should silence him," she said
as she dusted off her hands.

"Ah...there is one problem," said Red Cloud, "Those javelinas are
still trying to get to us!"

"Get behind me!" shouted Machita as she unwrapped the sling from
her waist and grabbed another handful of stones.

"Who do you think you are ordering around?" Lucha cried, her own
sling already singing about her head.  She released and a stone
thudded into the foremost snout.

"Machito, you forget who you are!" said Red Cloud, standing to
one side in order to send a projectile into the midst of the
sounds of squealing and thrashing.

Machita whirled her sling and arced a stone into the midst of the
herd and a javelina went down.  Another took its place
immediately and they began to climb atop each other to get to the
top of the boulder.

"We will have to climb to get away from them," said Lucha.

"Up there?" gasped Machita, "It is straight up!"

"You were brave enough when you wanted to play with the pigs,
earlier," Lucha continued her scowl, applying it to Machita
before easing into a severe smile and saying, "What is it you
Mexicans say? No cojones?"

"Whaddya mean by that?!?"  Machita rounded on Lucha with a growl,
"You take that back!"

"Good," Lucha said, pleased with the reaction, "Come with me,
then.  I know the way."  She led them behind the cave and higher
into the rocks.  Behind them, the chorus of grunts, squeals and
muttering followed as some of the pigs mounted the boulder and
stalled at the bluff.  The remainder of the herd began to scatter
aimlessly.




GETTING UNTREED:

"This is unmanly," complained Buffalo Wattle, gazing at the muddy
ripple of pigs surrounding his tree.

"Where did they all come from?" wondered White Dog.  He moved to
get down and instantly a crowd of javelinas assaulted the bole of
his tree.

"I have had enough!" Buffalo Wattle cried, "I am not a coward, to
hide in the treetops because of lowly pigs!"  He was, indeed, in
the top of a small, stunted tree.

As he drew his knife and prepared to detree, a wave of murmur
seemed to spread across the sea of pig, beginning closest to the
cave trail and rippling to the extremities of the far shores.

Buffalo Wattle raised clouds of dust in the trampled ground when
he jumped down.

"I am ready, pigs!" he cried loudly, "Come to me! I will gut you
standing! I will...where are they?"  The last javelina vanished
into the brush, trotting away from the cave, away from Buffalo
Wattle.

"I have vanquished them!" cried the exultant warrior, "They fear
my skill with the knife! They are afraid of me!"

"They probably fear your mouth," suggested White Dog as he
stepped down, "We had better go look for the girls.  They might
have been surrounded, also."

The sight of the trampled ground and ruined supplies halted the
three Apache lads, but they quickly deduced the situation.

"They were surrounded, but they went up the cliff above the cave,
where the pigs could not go," said White Dog, who was the best
tracker, "There is an old trail they can follow, going that way.
We shall meet them near the camp."




LEAVE NOT A TURN UNSTONED:

There were sounds from behind, from javelinas stubborn enough to
seek out another path to follow them.  The girls hurried along a
ledge until suddenly they could go no farther.

Lucha surveyed the gap between the massive boulders, then gazed
back at Machita.  She seemed to be measuring the distance they
would have to climb down and back up to get to the other side,
then a petulant scowl crept across her face. She turned back to
Machita and spoke.

"Too bad, no cojones," she said.

"Why do you keep saying that?" cried Machita.

"You will have to go back to the lower ledge and step across, and
it will take you more time to get back to the top.  I will have
to wait for you.  I do not like to have to wait."

"What will *you* do?  Jump from here!?"

"We usually do," Lucha nodded, her lower lip protruding
microscopically as she eyed the younger girl.

"Then I will jump from here, too!" stated Machita.  She tried to
avoid looking down at the crags below, and failed. Her deep
breath betrayed the sudden fear which assailed her. "I can make
it," she said, more to herself than anyone else.

"Are you sure, Machita?" asked Red Cloud, "You remember that you
are not as strong as..."

"I am as strong as you are!  Don't interrupt me," Machita
asserted shakily, "I have to concentrate."

Lucha grabbed the hem of her skirt and pulled it to her waist,
revealing long limbs and undergarments.  She poised and leaped,
making the crossing easily.  Machita goggled and turned away,
red-faced.  Red Cloud had to take several steps before jumping
but she, too, alit safely on solid ground, her skirt held high
about her waist.

Then they watched anxiously while Machita studied the open air
between the ledges.  There was far too much of it.  She tried to
swallow but her mouth had suddenly become filled with cotton.

Shutting out the drop below with an effort, she concentrated only
on her destination, the wide flat boulder upon which the other
girls were standing.  Then, when she was ready, her feet placed
to begin her run, the sound of pursuit behind brought a surge of
panic and ruined her focus.

She tried to disregard the noise behind, and put all outside
distractions out of her mind.  Only the ledge mattered. Only the
ledge.  Only the ledge.... She found her legs moving of their own
volition, slowly for two steps then rapidly pushing her along the
escarpment, to push off in a mighty leap over the chasm.  As soon
as her feet left the stone of the ledge, a gust of wind hit her
and she felt her forward momentum swept away.

Lucha's face glowed before her.  Close, but not close enough. She
could not even gasp for breath, for fear that she was not going
to make it.  She hit the embankment below the ledge and sprawled
face down onto the unforgiving rock surface, while Red Cloud and
Lucha clambered around to keep her from sliding backward.  Only a
jutting rock spar kept her from sliding to her death, and she
gasped with pain as she straddled it.

"Ay!" she cried, "That hurt!"

Red Cloud helped her to her feet. "You would have had no trouble
if you had held your skirt up," she said, "The wind caught your
dress.  Next time, do not be afraid to show your legs."

Machita gasped for breath and watched Lucha as she examined the
scrapes and bruises.  Lucha chuckled, shakily. "You jump like a
boy!" she commented, "It would have hurt more if you had been a
boy.  Good thing, no cojones!  We better go!"

Machita looked back across the chasm at the red-eyed javelinas
swarming about, frustrated by the impassable gap. The pigs seemed
to understand the situation.  They trotted back down the trail
toward the lower ledge, intent on following the three girls.

From a ledge far above them, small eyes watched the trail after
they had passed, seeing the gray shapes that came trotting along
shortly behind the three girls.  Whimpering to himself in
urgency, the wolf cub withdrew from the edge and hurried to get
in front of them.




WOLFWALKER AND THE PIGTRAP:

The trail wound back and forth, ascending the 'hill' Lucha had
told them to expect.  They were inching around a narrow ledge
with a steep slope above when they heard the mutter and grumble
of javelinas behind them.

"I told you they are very fierce," said Lucha, "We will have to
stay ahead of them."  She led the way, heading for a wider part
of the trail where they could use the slings.

She uttered an angry exclamation.  "There are more javelinas
blocking the path ahead!" she cried.  Meanwhile, the trailing
javelinas ventured out onto the narrow ledge and began to pick
their way forward.

"I need a club!" cried Machita, but she found no stones or
branches within reach, and the slope was too steep to climb.

"They are acting very strangely," Red Cloud said.

"The last command Espuma gave them was to catch us," said
Machita.

Red Cloud was looking up the slope when she saw a gray bundle of
fur as it came running, sliding, and rolling down. The small gray
animal struck the first javelina broadside, knocking the boar
squealing over the edge and into empty space.  Scrambling to
regain his footing, the wolf cub turned on the second pig, a sow.
The sow was better prepared.  She caught the cub and tossed it
over her shoulder onto the broader path.

"Quickly!" Lucha cried, scrambling onto the wider area where
fallen branches were plentiful.  She found one there and attacked
the sow with it.

The sow, trying to catch the animal who had injured its mate,
whirled about to meet the attack.  It faced three determined
girls with clubs, prepared to fight.  Being a pig possessed of
the wit and instinct of a creature of the wild, it did the only
thing it knew how to do.  It charged.  The wolf cub clamped onto
a hind leg, slowing the sow enough for three clubs to find their
mark and stun it.




RED CLOUD MAKES A DISCOVERY:

They did not stay around to celebrate.  The other javelinas were
coming.  Lucha looked at the wolf cub in wonder, as the cub
stared back at her, suddenly timid and unsure of itself. She
gestured the others on.  "Brave fellow, this wolfling," she said,
"Not very smart, but brave."

"I think he's hurt!" said Machita.  There was something familiar
about this cub, but now was not the time to rack her memory for
clues.

Red Cloud knew where she had seen the gray pelt with the diagonal
white stripe, but she withheld her remarks.  She grabbed the pup
as she passed him and the animal did not struggle.

Machita paused long enough to unleash several deadly accurate
stones at the pursuing pigs to delay them, before following her
companions.

At the crest of the hill, Red Cloud slowed.  The wolf was
beginning to squirm, trying to get her to let him down. When she
released him, he fled for the bushes, then stopped and looked
back at her.

Red Cloud caught her breath, seeing the intent gaze.  Up the side
of the hill she saw silent wraiths approaching - Buffalo Wattle,
White Dog and Andalejo were coming to join them.

The wolf turned to go, but Red Cloud said quietly, "Wait!" The
cub paused, ready to flee.  "At the springs, later today," she
said, "I will leave some trousers I have found." The wolf would
have gone on, but she added, "Try not to be seen.  Only women
carry wood and water from the spring at that time of day."




ADJUSTING PRIORITIES:

Espuma gathered the fragments of the device and fitted them back
together.  His headache slowly faded as he revised his plans.

"I will have the girl," he muttered, "I do not *care* what the
master wishes!  She is *mine*!  She will dance to my tune, and
she will pay for her impertinence!  They will all pay!"

He found the last copper wire and twisted it into the device, but
the javelinas had vanished - some to complete their last command,
some to find freedom.  Well, he could bring them back.  Hurrying
around the escarpment to return to his flying contraption, Espuma
ran into an obstacle about neck-high that felt like a tree limb.
The end of the branch clamped around his neck.

"You have murder in your eye," noted Machack, "Why do you persist
in playing with your prey?"

Espuma fought for air as the constricting knuckles cut off his
supply.

"I would not expect a barbarian like you to understand the finer
points of strategy," he wheezed, "These people are resourceful.
What I have here is a glorious opportunity to gain converts to
our master's campaign!"

"We are not recruiting!" growled the hulking warrior, "We were to
get the girl and the pendant.... Nothing else matters!"

Espuma managed to get a finger under Machack's grip, loosening it
enough to catch a whole breath. "You were supposed to eliminate
the others," he gasped, "Can't you finish anything?  Didn't you
get through playing with the young cowboy?"

He grabbed for a massive wrist as Machack swung him out over the
chasm and loosened his grip slightly.

"*I* do not dance to your tune," the warrior grated, "Did you
actually think I could be seduced away from my task so easily?"

"It was worth a try," croaked Espuma.

"I think I will let you drop," said the warrior, "While you
recover from your wounds, I will attempt to finish out our job."

"You blunt-fingered fool!" Espuma crowed, "You have no idea what
I have started here! You are incapable of seeing - urk!"

Machack released Espuma's neck and peeled his cohort's desperate
fingers from his massive wrist, in a manner suggesting that he
was wiping stable droppings off his hands.

As the warrior watched the body diminish into the depths below,
he said to it, "You made *that* an easy decision!"




BURDENS:

His eyes were dim but a vast panorama spread before him. Bison
freely roamed the prairie to the northeast, before the People had
ever appeared.  Elk strode before him, bugling in the dawn.  Bear
prowled the mountains.  Then, from the north, his people came
wandering.  The desert and the mountains were home to them,
though inhospitable to other peoples.  The bowl of the rocks held
him like a giant, sheltering hand, anchoring him against the
winds of uncertainty.

Still, he hesitated.  Broken Cloud considered himself to be
brave.  He could meet almost any wild creature without flinching.
Yet of all the obstacles he faced, none could make him quail like
the task set before him.

Broken Cloud lifted a willow rod and slammed it against his side,
welcoming the pain.  He should have known.  He should have seen.
To allow that...that witch to foul his own niece!  Truly he had
been blind long before the witch had struck.

"I saw nothing," he said. "Let me stay blind!  I deserve no more.
Now I must tell my friend how I have failed him.  I did not even
look!"

Tom Goose appeared once, as Broken Cloud sat quietly, waiting for
wisdom, or inspiration, or perhaps a stray scorpion to strike him
down.

"How does the meet go?" Broken Cloud said without looking up.  If
Tom saw anything unusual about the shaman's reticence, he said
nothing about it.

Instead, Tom collapsed upon the soft blanket with a sigh. "It
would be better if they laughed at me," he said, "I would prefer
scorn to pity."

"They have reserved their scorn for me," said Broken Cloud, "The
shamans came to me earlier and questioned me about the
engagement.  They ask, 'Why have you done this?  Nothing good
will come of it.  How could you send one of ours off with a
stranger?  Our men will kill this cowboy before they allow this,
and we do not want trouble with these people right now.'

"And I told them, 'You will have trouble, but not from this
arrangement.  Let me take care of it.'

"'Since the girl is from your group and Tom Goose accepts what
you have done, we will say no more,' they said, 'but if trouble
comes from it, it will be your fault.'"  Broken Cloud shook his
head.  "I have told them of a witch, and they will not listen.
They feel that I, like you, have brought our troubles on us
through our own misdeeds."

"I want a simple solution," said Tom Goose, "I want a head to
shatter.  I want an enemy who will stand before me and accept my
challenge.  I want to die fighting a worthy foe. I do not wish to
sit and watch my people fade away without reason!"

"You have an enemy," promised Broken Cloud, "The witch."

"Hey?"

"You heard something unusual, today?"

"The thunder, yes.  Why did you loose it within the camp?"

"The witch attacked me.  I ran him off."

Tom's eyebrows rose.  "You struck with the power and it did not
kill him?  What kind of person is this?"

"I can handle him," stated Broken Cloud.  The burden of his shame
bore down upon his shoulders.  He should let Tom know the truth,
that Yucca was in league with the witch.  He should, but he could
not.

"I will speak to the others!" said Tom, "They *must* help! One
who attacks us is the enemy of all!  If he is the one who is
distressing our people...."

"I can handle him!"  Broken Cloud repeated firmly.

Tom had left in confusion and anger, unsure of his old friend,
struggling to regain the composure he would need to face the
other chiefs.




APPOINTMENTS:

Broken Cloud then sent for Lonesome.  "You are the cowboy with
Little Comstock?" he asked.

"Yep," Lonesome said as he studied the old man.  The Apache
shaman seemed to stare at nothing, with an intense expression of
concern.

"My eyes cannot see, for the moment," explained Broken Cloud, "I
need someone to guide me around.  I need someone to carry my bags
and pot.  Everyone else has an important task to perform, so you
must be my helper."

Lonesome shook his head.  "Ain't no shaman going to allow a
white-eye outsider near any sort of ceremony," he said, "No
thanks, old man.  I've got work to do, myself."

"You will remain here at the camp."

"Well, I'm a little greenbroke to act like a slave.  Never
cottoned to that kind of life."

"You cannot leave the camp, anyway.  See up there?  The lookouts
will catch you and bring you back."  Broken Cloud thumped the
ground with the end of his staff.  "Come on and walk with me.  I
have something to say."

"Let me see Angie off," said Lonesome, "Will she be safe going
home by herself?"

"We will escort Little Comstock to her home," promised the old
shaman.




SACRIFICES:

Someone had pointed her toward the horse pens, and it was there
she came upon Lonesome.  "I thought I would never find you,"
exclaimed Angie, "We have to get out of here while no one is
looking!"

"You'll be ready in a minute," said Lonesome, as he reached
beneath the mare's belly to uncinch the strap.

"If Dad had known they were having a get-together, he would never
have brought you," Angie spindled the brim of her hat as she kept
an eye on the camp, "It's dangerous to be around the Apache when
they are feeling playful."

As Lonesome got both arms about the saddle and lifted it from the
mare's back, she snapped to awareness.  "What are you doing?" she
cried, "I want to leave!"

"Just as soon as I get your saddle on my horse," he grunted,
"I'll figure out how to get my saddle back from them later."

"Later?  Later!?!?"

"I'm going to give this forsaken creature to the Apache, and
maybe they will eat her," said Lonesome, "God knows, she's caused
me enough headache."

The mare turned troubled eyes toward Angie.

"You aren't going to kill her!" cried Angie, "You can't give her
away! She's a sweet, gentle horse and I love her!"

"Sweet?  Gentle?  Look what she did to me!" flared Lonesome,
"That dang hoss has been nothing but trouble since I found her! I
should have put her down then, but no-o-ooo!  I had to get all
slobbery and softhearted and keep her!  She's been a mooch and a
troublemaker ever since!  They can have her and good riddance!"

"Oh, Lonesome!  You can't mean it!" Angie set her chin and
declared, "I won't let you do it!  Give her to me!  I'll keep her
out of the way and you'll never see her again, I promise!  Only
put my saddle back on her and let's get out of here!"

Lonesome dropped the saddle and stood eyeing the pass, where
lookouts stood guard.  "I can't leave," he said, "I already tried
to talk them into letting me go.  You can take the mare and go on
home, but they won't let me out of sight."

"This is insane!  Whoever heard of anyone forcing you to get
married?"

"Happened all the time, back home in Kaintuck," said Lonesome,
"But usually, there was a little more provocation."

"You're liking this, aren't you?" gasped Angie, "I saw you when
you met that girl!  You looked at her and you didn't look away!
You liked her!"  She paused a moment and asked, more quietly,
"Did you think that she was that pretty?"

Disregarding all the warning signs, Lonesome replied, "Well,
yeah, she was good lookin'.  Can't say I approve of their method
of matchmaking, though..."

Angie said in a subdued voice, "Put the saddle back on the mare,
then.  I won't stand in your way."

"Stand in my way?  What are you talking about?  I didn't say I
was going through with this!"

"Aren't you?  You are practically drooling!  I am not going to
stand here and watch you make a fool out of me, just when I
thought...." she clenched her jaw and stared at him for a moment
then flounced away, heading for the chief's wickiup.

"Dang women won't listen to a word you say," complained Lonesome
as he threw the blanket across the mare's back, "Then when they
do listen, they hear the wrong thing!"




FLASHBACKS:

Now Broken Cloud sat before the heat of his tiny campfire,
considering an additional burden to his conscience.  Was he wrong
to force Lucha and the cowboy into an engagement?  He had no
power to force Lucha to go with the cowboy, and only his
reputation as a wise man kept Lucha and her mother from stalking
out of the camp and going somewhere else.

He breathed deeply, tasting the odor of sweetgrass tangled with
goatweed in the dying wind.  If she would go far enough, fast
enough...no, she would return.  The family group was the only
home they had known and they would be prepared to die defending
it, unknowingly luring the menace after them.  He was not even
certain which he was trying to protect by sending her
away...Lucha or the community.

The old shaman sighed with regret.  Better a little pain now,
rather than a great deal of pain later.  Oddly enough, it was the
same sentiment voiced by Bluenose, the shaman from the Loose Foot
group.  It had happened earlier.  Sometimes, it seems that there
are times when no amount of effort can prevent two people from
meeting.  Bluenose and Broken Cloud had chanced to meet again,
while Broken Cloud was on his way out of camp to meet Lonesome
and Bluenose was making arrows.

Bluenose had dropped the arrow he was working on and stepped in
front of Broken Cloud.  Feeling his way blocked, the older shaman
stopped and waited. "I call your name, Broken Cloud," Bluenose
said, "And I would speak with you. Grant me this."

"I would not be called Broken Cloud.  Broken Cloud has failed."

"Then who is this that am I speaking to?"

The older shaman shrugged.  "Nomira Nada, because I did not
look," he said. (3)  He felt about behind himself and unerringly
found a stool, upon which he sat.

Bluenose returned to his chore of preparing the arrows. When he
had a loose dozen marked with the four sacred colors, he said,
"The one who was your sister is well.  She has come to the camp."

"I have expected her," Nomira Nada acknowledged, his expression
stiff and uncaring.

"She is interested..." the younger shaman hesitated.

"...in what?"

"...she is interested in the Mexican girl, She Goes Ahead. The
one who was your sister has asked about her."

"Aiyuh. That is not my concern."

"Something has followed the girl from Mexico.  I think I must try
to kill it."

"Hey?" Nomira Nada responded, for the first time showing some
interest, "A witch, do you think?"

"I think not.  A creature of some sort."

The light, falling through the branches of the pavilion onto the
older shaman's face, brought warmth but no illumination to the
shadows of his unseeing eyes.

"I have word of a witch who is trying to attack a girl here in
camp," he said, "I have encountered him, and I am concerned, both
for the girl and for the clan.  It occurs to me that this might
be the same one who followed the Mexicans."

Nomira Nada stilled in contemplation.  "I am wondering," he
finally said, "Is it possible that Child of the Waters and Killer
of Foes missed a few monsters?"

Bluenose peered into the sightless eyes, expressing little of the
shock he felt.  To lose your vision thus...what could have done
this thing?

"It is possible," he admitted, "Our ancestors might not have
gotten them all.  There were probably some hiding in another
country.  In my time I have seen a few which needed killing."

"You are putting on airs!" Nomira Nada accused, "Do you claim to
be capable of the same deeds as Child of the Waters?"

"Of course not," Bluenose puffed out his cheeks in denial, "But
there are things out there which should not be.  They come to me
and ask me to kill them, so I have to do what they say."

Nomira Nada twisted about the better to hear him, saying, "I
cannot believe they want to die, just like that."

"Do you not think they would kill me if I did not kill them? They
give me little choice."

"I have not seen them.  I think you talk too much."

"Come with me, then, some time."

Reluctantly, the older shaman shook his head. "I do not climb the
rocks so well, any more," he said, getting to his feet and
heading for the trail, "If there were anything there, I would get
in the way."

Bluenose had returned to his arrows and they parted in silence.



Now Nomira Nada felt the cool of the afternoon shadows and
wondered if his actions were, indeed, the actions of a wise man.
The witch was arrogant enough to wipe out anyone who got in his
way, and he would be back after Lucha.  There was, indeed, going
to be trouble.  He had never faced a witch this powerful before,
one who could take away his sight without even a trace of effort.

Perhaps Corn Planter could draw from his vast well of memories
and identify the person, or Spider could suggest a method of
dealing with him.

As he drifted between the worlds of shadow and substance, the one
who was called Nomira Nada spared a single thought for the
Mexican girl.  What could his sister want with her?  His sister,
Tom's first wife, the woman who followed that slob, Mud Wallow
around - what could she want?

Difficult to guess.  She had never been easy to understand, even
before the sickness.  Now, only an old fool who was demented
himself could tolerate her - especially when the ghosts came -

A cold fog drifted against his cheek.  He awoke and recoiled.

"Corn Silk!" he said.

"Ah, my brother," she said softly, "Have we come to this? You
pull away from me before I can speak."

"I felt a touch," he said, "and I knew it was not you."

The man who had been Broken Cloud attempted to gain his feet, but
something was holding him down.  He muttered a soft chant
invoking the Sun's heat, and cold fingers vanished.  Then the
hands holding him back were warm, and he knew they belonged to
Corn Silk.

"The monster has hurt you," she observed, with pain in her voice,
"Listen to me, and we can make him pay for this insult!"

Nomira Nada became aware of a chill at his left ear accompanied
by a thin chitter, a gabble of cold air hitting the side of his
face. "Stop this!" he demanded.

"Shoo!" cried Corn Silk, waving at the air, "I will talk with
him!  Do mind your manners!"

To her brother, she said, "They want to say several things at
once.  First, our troubles began when the one who was Willow
Woman's husband brought home a Mexican girl.  Oh, she was not an
evil person, but something about her brings the shadows
where-ever she goes.  We must get her away from here.  Second, we
must get rid of this person who pursues her.  He is a vile
creature with more power than he knows how to control.  He has
invaded my family, and for that he must pay!  Third, those three
Mexican children oppose this creature.  Let us help them and they
will help us."

"I have hit him with my best, and he laughs at me!  What can we
do against him?"

"He has a weakness.  Together, we can wield a spear that will
drive through his black heart!" Corn Silk said, "The boy, Ramon.
He has possibilities, but he is untrained.  Do you teach them
yourself of your skills, and I will teach them of mine."




A MESSENGER:

Angie stood outside the chief's lodge, unable to go in because
Tom Goose was conferring with his fellow clan leaders.  She was
aware of the attention she was receiving from the other
inhabitants of the camp.  One person looked at her openly, an
attractive girl with short hair and a hesitant smile.

"Forgive me, Senorita," said the girl, "Do you know the man at
the horse pens?"

"Don't remind me," said Angie gruffly, then blurted, "You
speak English!  How did you get here?  Were you captured?"

"Do not worry for me, Senorita.  Is there a younger man with
him, a man with light blond hair?"

"His name is Sandy, but..."

"Please, give him a message.  Tell him that Ramon and his
friends are here, and we are well. He does not have to rescue me
like last time, when he broke me out of jail."

"Ramon?  That must be the boy Lonesome...that man was looking
for," Angie stiffened, "I am sure he will be pleased.  Why
don't you tell that...that man at the horse pens, yourself?"

"I would rather not, Senorita.  Please do not tell him about me."

"Hmmmph.  If you wish.  I would rather not speak to him, anyway!"

The girl hesitated, then said, "We were separated from my
grandfather.  Was there an old man with them?"

When Angie shook her head, the girl turned to go then asked,
"One last thing...do you know if all the horses are well?"

"They lost a pack animal, but the rest are stabled in town,"
Angie could contain her curiosity no longer, and asked, "Who are
you, anyway?"

"Bueno!" cried the girl, ignoring the question.  As she left, she
added, "I shall be glad to see Rayo de Lampego! I don't care
what pranks he plays!" (4)




THE ANTICIPATION OF PAIN:

Into the darker crevasses and chasms in the scree, a tiny mote
floated.  Think of it as the opposite of a beam of light.  At the
bottom of one hole it alit and focused into an image, a
baldheaded doll holding a staff to which it was making minute
adjustments.

"Espuma!"

"Yes, master."  The answer was a groan, perhaps more from
irritation than pain.

"Are you able to move about?  You seem to have fallen."

The figure in uniform stood and casually brushed himself off.
"Thanks to your shield, I am only bruised," said Espuma, "I was
making my plans when your pet mastiff tried to maim me."

The doll image tut-tutted to itself in amusement.  "You two seem
to have so much fun together," he said, "I hate to interrupt.
However, I need to know what is happening."

"All is going well.  I will have everything you want. There are
just a few things I need to take care of, first."  He gave a
truncated version of his intentions - to worry the Apache with
wild animals while he kidnapped the girl.

The doll seemed to perceive an unspoken intent.  It asked, "You
weren't thinking about having an 'accident' with the girl, were
you?"

"Oh, no, Master!" Espuma said, too quickly.

"If anything should happen to spoil my ceremony...your fault, her
fault, even an 'accident', why...." the tiny image chuckled, "I
suppose I would have to console myself with a few morning
rituals.  You could be the honored guest."

Espuma shuddered.  He had not planned on this.

"Pain!" he whispered.

"And with your regenerative capabilities, we could hold the
ceremonies every day!"

"More pain...." groaned the dutiful servant, "...for how long?"

"Oh, I don't know," mused the miniature sorcerer, "How long have
I been waiting?  Years?  Centuries?  Waiting for the right time.
Waiting until the people were in a fluid state of mind!  They
have overthrown the invaders!  They are ready for a new leader! I
will be that leader!"  Kaliche's image waited until Espuma's
spasm had quieted, then added, "All I need is the girl.  And the
pendant.  She did have the pendant, didn't she?"

"Yes, Master.  She had a pendant," Espuma was babbling as his
mind began to work.  Lucha was wearing a turquoise necklace, but
the boy, Ramon, her sister/brother, was also wearing a necklace.
Lips curling into a thoughtful grimace, Espuma wondered if the
two could have been clever enough to swap necklaces.  No matter.
He would preserve both necklaces.  His game with the sisters
would have to wait.  However, there were others he could play
with....

"Espuma!"

Espuma whirled back to attention.  The tiny image was watching
him with a complacent smile.

"I can see you already have a plan you wish to carry out," said
the Kaliche doll, "Leave me, then, and take care of your
responsibilities."  It became milky white and faded into
inconsequence.

"Oh, yes.  My responsibilities."  As he watched the now empty
space, Epuma's lips contorted further into a leer, "If I cannot
have the chosen one, I suppose I shall have to console myself
with a different delicacy...."

"Also, Epuma..."  Kaliche's voice cut through his reverie.

"Will you quit doing that?"  cried Espuma as he jerked around, "I
mean...yes, Master?"

The image had reappeared, poised on a different crag.  It favored
him with an indulgent smile.

"I approve of your plan to distract the Apache while you steal
the girl, but it is not enough.  Before you get to playing with
your pets and lose all track of time...." the image said and
winked, "There is another sorcerer, a friend...well, you could
not call him a friend...sort of an associate...no, not even
that...someone who owes me a favor. I want you to see him.  He
will have something to add."

Torn between anger at being shoved aside and an abiding
inquisitiveness, Epuma said, "What can he do that would improve
my plan?"  A thin line of comprehension glowed from beneath his
slitted eyelids.  "This 'someone' - " he said, " - did you know
him long ago?  Before Egypt?"

"Oh, yes.  He brings back old memories," the Kaliche doll beamed.




CHAPTER VEINTIOCHO: END


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1.  bastardo: Bastard.
2.  Querido: Affectionate term for darling, sweetheart.  Querida
    indicates a female friend.
3.  No miro nada means 'I saw nothing'.
4.  Rayo de Lampego: Bolt of lightning.  The horse Ramon selected from
    the Yanquis herd in Chapter 4.

Note:  Although the javelinas in this story are referred to as
'pigs', they are not true swine.  Javelinas, or peccaries, are
small animals usually less than 65 pounds and stand perhaps
knee-high.  Their tusks project downward from the upper jaw, as
opposed to pig's tusks, which are more likely to project upward
from the lower jaw.  Javelina mothers are quick to attack when
their children are threatened and the entire herd will instantly
join her in defending the young.
_______________________________