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Warpath into Sonora

Warpath into Sonora

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Warpath into Sonora

Longueur:
218 pages
2 heures
Sortie:
Mar 14, 2019
ISBN:
9780463510056
Format:
Livre

Description

Arizona 1846
Nantan, a young Apache warrior, is building a name for himself by leading raids against Mexican ranches to impress his war chief, and the chief’s lovely daughter.
But there is one thing he and all other Apaches fear—a ruthless band of Mexican scalp hunters who slaughter entire villages.
Nantan and his friends have sworn to fight back, but they are inexperienced, and led by a war chief driven mad with a thirst for revenge. Can they track their tribe’s worst enemy into unknown territory and defeat them?

Sortie:
Mar 14, 2019
ISBN:
9780463510056
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Sean McLachlan is a former archaeologist who worked for many years on excavations in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. Now a full-time writer, he specializes in fiction, history, and travel.He spends much of his time on the road researching and writing. He's traveled to more than 30 countries, interviewing nomads in Somaliland, climbing to clifftop monasteries in Ethiopia, studying Crusader castles in Syria, and exploring caves in his favorite state of Missouri.Sean is always happy to hear from his readers, so drop him a line! You can keep up to date by subscribing to his newsletter. Sean's Travels and Tales comes out roughly once every other month and includes a short story, travel article, news, and a coupon for a discounted or free book. You can subscribe at http://eepurl.com/bJfiDn Your email will not be shared.

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Warpath into Sonora - Sean McLachlan

Warpath into Sonora:

An Apache Adventure

By Sean McLachlan

Copyright 2016 Sean McLachlan, all rights reserved

Cover design courtesy of Andrés Alonso-Herrero

Public domain cover photo courtesy Library of Congress

For Almudena, my wife

And Julián, my son

CHAPTER ONE

The hacienda stood silent in the night, its windows shuttered, no sound of movement from within. Moonlight shone pale and soft on the whitewashed walls. Nantan caught the faint smell of a cooking fire that had long since been allowed to die down. He suspected not even the faintest wisp of smoke rose from the chimney. Everyone inside would be asleep by now.

It was a large building, and well placed for defense. The Mexicans had built it on a low ridge cleared of all undergrowth, looking out over a stretch of the Sonora Desert that was well watered by a stream that gurgled in the distance, meandering through the lowlands to give the land creosote and juniper instead of the usual dry rock and cacti. By day Nantan and his friends had spied on the hacienda and its surroundings from a nearby hill, lying stone still behind rock outcroppings with grass tucked in their headbands, and they had admired the grazing land of this broad, undulating valley. The horses these Mexicans had would be fat and healthy.

Nantan gripped his spear and crawled forward. To his left, the hulking shape of Kuruk blotted out a chunk of the moonlit desert. To Nantan’s right, and at some distance, crept Nitis and Biminak. He could barely see them. Good.

The mournful howl of a coyote warbled through the desert air, answered a moment later by its kinsman in the far distance. Nantan and Kuruk paused, listening for the bark of a dog from the hacienda. The Mexicans’ dogs usually barked at coyote. After a moment of silence, the two friends started moving again.

As they crawled forward, cautious as deer approaching a watering hole, Nantan studied the hacienda. It had a covered veranda that swathed its front in shadow. He could barely make out the door and a couple of windows as darker blots in the gloom. Corrals lay to both sides of the house, each hiding their occupants behind thick spiky fences of untrimmed ocotillo wood. Too many times Nantan’s people had leapt over lower fences made of cut mesquite logs in order to butcher a cow and run away with the meat, or to grab a sheep and lift it over the fence. Now the Mexicans built fences no man could climb.

Nantan grinned. It did not matter. They could go through the gate easily enough, but they would have to be quiet.

Nantan and his companions ignored the left-hand corral. They had seen from the hill that it was for cattle. Their stomachs had grumbled at the thought of fresh beef as they kept their long vigil nourished only by a lean meal of parched corn and pemmican. They felt a sore temptation to grab a cow or two, but cattle would be too slow to drive away if the Mexicans pursued them, and it would be tricky to butcher one in silence. The hacienda stood too close and the occupants might hear. Nantan had seen at least two men with guns that day, and he did not want to face guns.

No, they would make for the corral that lay to the right. All day Biminak had labored to weave bridles out of yucca fibers. Each of the four young warriors now carried one, and Biminak himself had a long rope of hemp he had taken from a vaquero they had ambushed last autumn. Biminak was a master with horses. While Nantan and Kuruk kept an eye on the hacienda, Biminak and Nitis would ease open the gate, rope a horse for each of them, and together they would put bridles on them and ride away.

Nantan smiled in anticipation. When Liluye saw him ride into camp on the back of a fine Mexican steed, she would blush and avert her eyes. He would keep her waiting a day or two while the tribe danced a victory dance and feasted, and each day he would ride that fine horse out to hunt, bringing back meat so everyone could feast again. Then he would leave the horse outside her family’s wickiup. Liluye’s father Tarak would tell her to accept it, and Liluye would be his bride. There would be more dances and more feasting. He had only lived nineteen summers, and only the great Ussen knew how many more he would have, but he knew this would be the best summer of his life.

The vision of Liluye’s smooth face and broad, strong hips clouded his awareness for a moment, and he didn’t see the scorpion until his hand was almost upon it.

Nantan froze. The scorpion, which had been scuttling across his path, froze too. It raised its stinger, confused that it no longer saw movement.

Nantan jerked as an object blurred across his vision and landed with a thump in front of him. Blinking, he saw the scorpion had disappeared under a flat stone. He glanced at Kuruk, whose grin shone like a crescent moon in the starlight. A moment later that grin faltered as Kuruk realized how much noise he had just made.

They both lay still, waiting. Nantan hoped the others lay still too. He didn’t check, because he had eyes only for the door and windows not twenty paces in front of him. At any moment they could burst open and those guns could roar death.

Inside the corral, a horse nickered and stomped its hoof.

No sound came from within the hacienda.

After a long moment they began to creep forward once more. Kuruk was a good friend, strong and loyal, but not wise. He could never lead a raid like Nantan.

This was the third raid Nantan had led since he had come of age four seasons ago. The previous two had both been successful, bringing back meat and blankets and all sorts of good things to his people in the mountains. More importantly, no one had been hurt, although that vaquero had taken a shot at them. Tarak, the war chief, had begun to look at him with approval in his eyes, while Tarak’s daughter Liluye looked at him with something very different in hers.

Don’t get distracted! Nantan upbraided himself.

They were almost to the building now. He could clearly see all the windows were shut. How could the Mexicans breathe in there? He kept his ears perked for any sound of a dog.

Dogs were the worst, always signaling to their masters when you drew close. Nantan and his friends felt fairly certain, however, that no dog dwelled inside. The hacienda had a dog, but it had trotted along beside a vaquero when he had ridden off towards the setting sun that afternoon. All day they had been spying on the hacienda, and they had seen no other dog but that one. There would be no barking tonight.

Nantan hoped. A dog wouldn’t stay inside all day, would it?

He and Kuruk stood. They laid down their spears and took their bows off their backs. Quietly they each drew an arrow from their deerskin quiver and nocked it. If anyone came out of the door they would shoot.

Squinting at the shutters, Nantan noticed something that gave him pause. Each shutter had a strange little round pattern in its center. It took him some time to realize what they were—a shutter within a shutter. He had heard of such a thing from some of the elders. These could be opened without opening the whole window and allowed the Mexicans to fire their guns without exposing themselves.

Nantan licked his lips. He was not sure he could shoot through one of those little holes, especially when it hid all but invisible in the shadows. He would bet his moccasins that Kuruk wouldn’t be able to either. Kuruk was a man for hand to hand fighting.

Nantan shook off his doubts and stood with new confidence. His arrow would fly right through that little hole if a Mexican dared to open it. He could outshoot any of the other young men in his tribe, and most of the elders too. He wasn’t as strong as Kuruk, or as funny or as quick or as good with the girls as Nitis, and he stood in awe of Biminak’s mastery of horses, but he was the smartest of them all and the best archer, and those qualities made him the leader. Hopefully those qualities would make Tarak consent to his request to marry Liluye.

The coyote howled again, and again it got a response from its kinsman. The more distant one sounded like it had drawn closer.

Nantan glanced towards the corral. Biminak and Nitis stood at the gate, two dark forms against the jagged fence of ocotillo. Why weren’t they inside yet? Surely by now they could have cut the rope that secured the gate. They seemed to be fumbling with something.

He waited, the moment stretching out as his muscles grew as taut as his bowstring. His two friends still stood in front of the gate. He heard a soft clattering sound. A horse nickered. Nantan glanced at Kuruk, who shrugged his broad shoulders.

Waving to his friend to stay put, Nantan moved over to the gate.

The moonlight revealed to him what was the matter. The latch for the gate was not only tied with thick rope, but from the rope dangled dried rattlesnake tails and little baked clay balls that probably had seeds in them. If they cut the rope, it would make a terrible noise. Biminak gestured impatiently at the trick and raised his hands in frustration. Nitis covered his mouth to suppress a chuckle. Nitis laughed at everything. He had even laughed when the vaquero shot at them last autumn.

Placing his bow on the ground, Nantan extended his arm below the string of noisemakers and slowly raised it until the clay rattles and snakes’ tails all rested on his arm. He moved so slowly they barely made a sound. Then he took his other arm and brought it gently down on the top of the noisemakers, pressing them between his arms so they would not move.

Nitis grinned and nodded his head in approval. The smaller man was quick with a joke, but when faced with a problem, it was usually Nantan who thought of a solution first. Nitis gently sawed away at the end of the rope with his knife. Once he severed the cord, he shifted to Nantan’s other side and cut that end too.

Slowly Nantan turned around, the noisemakers still stuck between his extended arms. He took a few careful steps away from the gate, bent his legs until he was in a squat, and gently placed the noisemakers on the ground with barely a sound.

When he turned he saw Nitis waddling along behind him, his arms ridiculously outstretched and a comical look of worry on his face. Biminak and Nantan clenched their mouths, trying not to let the laughter escape them. Nantan punched the air in front of his friend’s face, and that made the three of them almost burst with giggles.

Once they recovered, Nantan gave his friend a quiet cuff on the side of the head and pointed to the gate.

Biminak was already easing it open, calling to the horses that stood beyond, using that soft, soothing tone he had that could calm even the fiercest unbroken stallion.

Nantan crept to the entrance of the corral but did not enter. It was best to leave Biminak alone to do what he did best. Nantan watched in amazement as his friend walked through the moonlit herd and picked out the best horses, all the while singing that strange song of nonsense words that had such a soothing effect on horses. It was his power. If any other stranger had come into the corral with his unfamiliar scent in the middle of the night, the horses would stomp and whinny. Not so with Biminak.

The moonlight flashed dully on the lasso of hemp rope as it spun at the end of Biminak’s line. Then it whipped forward, landing on a horse’s neck like a garland. Still Biminak kept up his little song, and the horse did not make sound as he brought it to the gate. It was a small horse, but even in the half-light Nantan could tell it was healthy and fleet of foot. Biminak pointed to Nitis and with a delighted hop, the little man went over and carefully put his bridle over the horse’s head.

Biminak retrieved his lasso and returned to the corral. When he came back, it was with a large, broad-bellied animal obviously intended for Kuruk. The big man ran silently over on his moccasined feet and bridled his prize.

Next came Nantan’s turn. He stepped from one foot to the other, impatient as a child waiting for his mother to come back from a beehive with a honeycomb.

Nantan’s breath caught. Biminak came out with a beauty! Lean muscles, a fine form, and perfect flesh. The horse looked strong and fast and Nantan could tell as he ran his hand along its flank that it had great endurance. Nantan bridled it, overcome with joy. Wait until Tarak and Liluye see this!

A short time later, Biminak returned with another fine horse that he kept for himself.

Once Nantan finished bridling his steed, he leapt onto its back. It snuffled a bit, stamping its hoof at the unfamiliar feel of a rider not using one of those leather seats the Mexicans always put between their backsides and the horse. Nantan had never understood why they did that. How could they feel the horse’s movements and direct it where to go?

The others mounted up, trying to make as little noise as they could, but it was impossible to stay truly silent while mounting an unfamiliar horse in the darkness.

As the last of them got

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