Macho Caballo Page

Las Aventuras De Macho Caballo

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 the entrance. 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 blouse. 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 corner. "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 throng. 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 stand. 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 his opponents. "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 your deviation!" 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 blast. 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 excitement. "I am Apache," Selnik kept a sharp eye on Espuma as he answered. "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 gone unnoticed. 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," she said. 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 sergeant. "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 saints!" "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 shocked cry. "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 with them!" "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 late." "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 Apache warrior. "Hold it!" cried Ramón as the soldiers drew their swords, "We know him!" Selnik moved into the light, carrying a woman, with Lucita close behind. "If there is a woman, Selnik will find her," whispered Andalejo. "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 there waiting!" 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 school." "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 señorita." "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 lifetime. 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 disbelief. 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 tonight." 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 new ones." "I wish I could do that," he said, "I don't have a worry bag." "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 were arguing." "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 perch. "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: "Ouch!" 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..." "Yes, Mamá?" "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 a sister?" "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 promised..." "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?" Ramón nodded. 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. EPILOG END: 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. --------------- Return to main page