~ EL HEAD ~


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CHAPTER 25 :ROCK HORSE VERSUS IRON HORSE

A Horse misused upon the road calls to Heaven for Human Blood.
Prophecies of William Blake


Dec. 5-Dec.-Jan. 2 1871

About a day after our leaving the crater we came across the Little Colorado River which we used as a guide towards our destination. Our travel time was extremely slow for Dio, Brimstone and Bishop Walsh become increasingly fatigued. Despite the curative powers that our blood possessed it could not fully eradicate the poison of the Giant Black Scorpion from their systems.

The wounds on Brimstone's side and Dio's neck festered, turning an ugly black and green color. Walsh had one spot on his side which leaked a constant stream of runny, black liquid which had the color and consistency of watery oil.

Fortunately two and a half days travel from the crater, we came upon a Navaho village. At first I thought that the round, wooden hogans were Apache wickups but Dio set me straight. According to Dio the Navaho were related to the Apache but did not acknowledge the fact.

Had we been a contingent of unchanged White men I doubt that we would have been received at all by the Navaho. They were still smarting from the Long Walk of 1864 in which most of the Navaho had been rounded up and forced onto a reservation in New Mexico so as to keep them out of the hair of the military during the civil war.

Although the Navaho's had refused to assimilate this did not stop them from using modern American technology or methods of doing things.

We stumbled into the Beyal Clan settlement during the last night of an Evilway ceremony. We heard loud singing coming from one of the hogans.

As we drew near Dio hurried his pace towards the light emanating from the hogan. He lurched inside the door and suddenly the singing stopped.

Fearing for his safety, I flowed my consciousness into his mind and looked through his eyes.

Lying a blanket on the floor of the hogan was a young man covered from head to foot with a greasy black substance. He was bound up in what appeared to be yucca leaves. Two men, also smeared with the black greasy substance and wearing yucca shoulder bands, wristlets and cinctures were singing and cutting the leaves binding the boy.

An attempt to read the Navaho's minds through Dio's head slammed a spike of pain through my skull. The pain drove me out of Dio's head.

We had interrupted some kind of ceremony. Dio stumbled backwards out of the hogan and collapsed. The two Navaho men followed with expressions of awe and anger on their faces. They gaped at me and Bishop Walsh for a few seconds before recovering their composure.

Brimstone, under my mental command, cantered up close to the hogan's entrance. My eyes locked with the eyes of one of the Navaho and I could hear his surface thought. The language behind the thoughts filtered into my brain and I soon had a working knowledge of Navaho. Since Navaho was close to Apache, it did not take much time at all. This command of languages was one of my new gifts.

"You are the Holy One known as Head Man", one stated, as if there was no doubt in his mind of my identity.

My mental probing filed away the information that his name was Coyote Cornmaker. Also the Navaho term Holy One does mean virtuous or saintly, only massively powerful, a god or of supernatural creature of great medicine.

"I am he."

"I had thought Rock Horse was touched to have invoked you but it is as he has drawn. You have brought the Golden Spirit Horse, The Gila Man and the Hard Black Water man. The boy has not responded to the Evilway, we have not the tools or knowledge to deal with the sickness"

Now I had no real medical training but I figured that perhaps there was a chance I could diagnose what ailed the boy and help him. They would then help my companions.

"What is his malady?"

"How is it you do not know?" asked Coyote Cornmaker with a hint of anger and suspicion.

Plucking an image from his mind, I said, "The passage between worlds was difficult, especially bringing through three Holy Ones such as these. They have taken part of my medicine for payment but it has not digested well in their systems." This seemed to mollify him.

"The boy has drunk from a pond of the burning black water believing it would aid him in his quest of visions. An evil ghost or the bad medicine of the water has poisoned him."

A year ago I would have dismissed any talk of magic and prophecy like any other fairy tale but my new state and powers had given me a new perspective.

Bishop Walsh stood swaying in the dusk. He was weak from our journey, the open wound sapped much of his strength. Walsh could not replenish his vitality for he had lost the ability to eat and digest food. Whatever he ate soon returned in an undigested mulch. Brimstone carried me over to Walsh.

"There is a chance you can cure the boy."

"How?" He asked warily.

"Use your God-given new abilities to draw the petroleum out of the boy's body. Tar is merely hardened petroleum, perhaps the oil will have an affinity towards your body."

Walsh snuffled air through his two large nasal openings, I guess if he still had a nose it would have been a snort of derision. "I refuse to participate in any Lamanite pagan ritual."

"Acts of charity and compassion go a long way in converting the benighted. Think of it, Bishop Walsh as the man who brought the word of Moroni and Jesus Christ to the Navaho. Surely such a deed will increase your standing in God's eyes and increase your patriarchal status catapulting you into the Celestial Kingdom when it is your time."

Walsh mulled this over for a time. "Alright, for as Mormon said that one of the signs is that they shall lay hand on the sick and they shall recover."

Walsh brushed past the two Navaho. Seeing that the boy was bound in yucca strips, he had them cut them off first. Walsh also commanded that the black gunk be washed from the body. After all this was done he knelt before the boy and placed his malformed hands on the boys chest and over his mouth. Walsh sang a hymn about Jesus Christ and some bees or something like it. He sang about three Mormon hymns before any noticeable change occurred in the boy's condition.

Thick, viscous sable beads, like so many black tears exuded from the boy's pores, almost from every where the surface area was clean. The boy's skin soon appeared like it was studded with a thousand black pearls.

Shouting Walsh had the two shaman wipe the droplets off of the skin with caustic rags soaked in a solution of ash, water and yucca juice.

The process of skin beading happened four times before nothing else rose from the boy's pores. Walsh slowly and unsteadily climbed to his feet. He walked outside the hogan and collapsed in the sand.

The Navaho cleared out three hogans and built three sand paintings, one of Walsh, one for Dio and one for Brimstone. However they did not go through with the complete way ceremonies, believing as supernatural creatures that three would heal themselves.

Once a sand painting has been used in a ceremony, the sand is gathered up and the sand is discarded as unclean. I saw the sand painting on which Pedro Redskies had lain before it was discarded and was shocked to the core of my being. The center of the painting was a cross. Inside the four squares formed by the cross were representatives of Holy Ones. One square had a red Gila monster with a human face, Another had a giant yellow horse, the next had a formless black blob with blue eyes and the last was a skull wearing a blue hat, underneath the skull were two skeletal arms.

This was my first encounter with someone who had a true prescient gift. Although I would encounter a few others with some measure of this gift Rock Horse's gift was the strongest. He could look at a myriad of possible futures and pick out the one most likely to occur, even without any prior knowledge of events leading up to that particular event.

When Dio and the others did not show any sign of improvement after nearly a week, Rock Horse went into a sweat hogan and sat there for the better part of a day, emerging only after a vision had come to him.

He placed talismans next to my three ill companions. Dio had a snake charm, Walsh a Gila Monster talisman and Brimstone a bear paw charm. They were all made of clay and finely crafted to resemble the animals they represented. The Gila Monster was supposed to heal sores, the snake cured stomach ailments and the bear gave strength. Rock Horse told me that these animals were important to them because each had a destiny to combat these symbols in a physical manner.

The village of the Navaho was about one hundred and fifty strong, mostly women and children. They lived by farming corn, melons, beans and peppers also raising sheep and horses. Yet they were most renown for their crafts and quite beautiful ones were they at that. Vividly painted pottery of many exquisite geometrical designs, silver and turquoise trinkets, intricately woven baskets and textiles of rich and varied hues. Many of their serapes and blankets were so firmly woven that they were virtually waterproof, yet these were so highly prized that they were almost never sold or traded but given as special gifts.

During the first two weeks of our stay in Beyal Clan's village I sat on one pot or another watching the Navaho with a great deal of interest, filing away information for future use.

I learned quite a bit about smithery from watching their silversmiths, about basket weaving from their basket weavers. I would sit in a pot unobtrusively watching until it became apparent that the craftsman was tired of my presence, I would then ask someone to carry me to a different location or else slither away under my own power, the latter method never failed to draw attention.

Long talks with Rock Horse rounded up out my education. He told me tales of the Navaho, myths and histories as we sat in the cool shade of his hogan.

The Navaho believe that this world is but one of many, they had come from a world several layers below this one. Each world had a different coloration and different cosmology.

Rock Horse was a visionary, he knew that his people would have to change, to adapt many of the white's ways in order to survive. He knew that as long as they remained peaceful that the whites would not force the Navaho to change their ways as they had during the time of the Long Walk. Rock Horse however feared that too rapid of incursion of Whites into Navaho lands would give the Navaho an undeserved sense of inferiority and eventually corrupt them.

"The yellow metal has a curse on it, it drives white men crazy. The silver metal does also but to a lesser extent but the yellow metal turns men into thieves and killers." Turning to me he laughed, "But you know this, eh, Head Man?"

Somehow he read assent in my face and continued. "Man was not meant to hold the sun's tears, it will burn away their lives and souls. Would you aid my people as we have aided your friends?"

I answered in the affirmative with some caution.

"My visions of late have been quite disturbing. They tell me of a great black horse made of dark metal which carries tons of gold through my people's lands. The white people fill our land, washing over us like water rushes over the sand flats after a fierce rain. We are swept away, becoming debris and flotsam in our own lands.

I have not known the meaning of these visions until a few days ago when travelers from other villages have told me of a train track being laid near the mountains. Since the terrain is so erratic, the train company does not lay the track as they did when they laid the track which crosses the nation. They do not have work crews laying down miles of track every day but they send out surveying teams from the end of the existing track for two weeks of surveying duty and then they will build for two weeks.

One of the surveying teams is a week over due. I fear they have found a gold mine on our lands."

"What do you want me to do?" I asked with a bit of dread.

"Destroy the train in such a manner that they believe it too unsafe to build tracks in that vicinity. Stop the men from returning with their gold and spreading the tale. We need this done immediately."

"How do you expect me to do that my companions are all sick."

"You have abilities inside your mind which even you do not know about. In addition to reading minds you can project solid thought for a moment or two, as if a shield or an object of that type. You just have to form it in your mind but you cannot use it as a projectile. Golden Spirit Horse is well enough to be ridden. I cannot force you to act only to request that you do so."

I did feel somewhat beholden to the Navaho but what actually motivated me was the possibility that these railroad surveyors had actually found qold. I agreed to aid the Navaho, if Rock Horse would provide an escort.

Brimstone and I set off towards the San Francisco mountains with an escort of three Navaho warriors.

Before I left, Rock Horse stood next to where I was locked onto Brimstone's saddle. "Remember Head Man, gold is your particular curse, avoid it at all costs for it will harm you again and again.

Four days of travel later we found the iron tracks. We followed them for a day. Early the next morning we felt a distant vibration on the tracks as something approached from the west.

A short while later white plumes of smoke chugged slowly towards us. When we could make out the shape of the train, I was shocked. This was not the full fledged locomotive I had been expecting. It was only one car, amounting to little more than a steam engine with an iron cupola.

Inside the small cupola were three men dressed in grimy clothes and sporting shaggy, stubbled beards. Spotting us they poured on the steam. The Navaho gave the iron horse chase while I tried to push it over with the power of my mind. It was as futile as pushing it over with my bare hands, copious amounts of strength to no avail. A splitting headache ripped through my head imagined a hand seizing the engine and holding it, trying to stop the vehicle. Failing this I tried seizing its wheels but my mind power bounced off the moving wheels.

In desperation, I thought of a large wedge sitting on one of the tracks, putting my entire concentration into this. One of Rock Horse's son's later said he saw the wedge form out of the thin air and glow with an eerie blue light but I don't know that I believe him.

The small locomotive hit the invisible wedge and jumped the tracks, flying off into the dry alluvial pan.

We moved onto the wreckage. One of the three men had been killed immediately. The other lay in the white dust and gasped for breath, red bubbles frothing at every breath. The other landed unharmed but dazed.

The Navaho surrounded him, debating on whether to kill him for the good of the tribe. I put a stop to that kind of talk. I needed him alive.

The Navaho found several large golden nuggets amidst the wreckage.

The surviving surveyor was bound up and stood staring at us, resigned to his fate. At my request the Navaho had him sit right in front of me as I looked into his eyes and tried to take over his mind.

There was no foundation for me to grasp so I had a Navaho take a sliver of flesh from my body and stuff in the shivering and whimpering captive's mouth. He screamed as it slid down his gullet. My thoughts drilled into his mind as I planted a vision there. The vision repeated a thousand times in quick succession, the images burning into his brain, etched by acid into his memory.

The vision was of an area of quicksand, an unstable area directly over a fault line, a shifting canyon where bridges would eventually crumble and rails twist. A train off the tracks, hours stuck in shifting sands while his companions died. Days of thirst and starvation while he followed the tracks back to his encampment.

By the time this illusion had been firmly implanted in Stuart Gordal's mind, it was all he could remember, all he could think of. He had become, if not a gibbering idiot, then a echophaliac, endlessly repeating the same story ad infinitum in a low, whispering mutter. We sent him walking down the tracks, two of the Navaho accompanied him to make certain he reached civilization, they would corroborate his story saying they found Gordal wandering across the desert.

Before leaving the Navaho planted several sticks of dynamite in the ground beneath the tracks in several places so that the rails would twist and buckle. There were three bags of gold dust lying amongst the wreckage each weighing about ten pounds. We buried the gold in a place which I could easily find. Despite Rock Horse's warnings, I had plans for that gold.

Upon reaching the rail camp Gordal was taken to the offices of the Atlantic and Pacific railroad babbling, endlessly repeating his story. The Atlantic and Pacific sent one team out to investigate the crash and deciding that the area was indeed too unstable The railroad was built a bit further south just enough so that the railroad did not run through the middle of the Navaho lands 10. Gordal was latter sent to a madhouse in the east where he eventually became catatonic and died in the early 1900's.

Our visit with the Beyal clan lasted another two weeks in which time, Walsh and Dio thoroughly recovered from their wounds. In my final meeting with Rock Horse, he sat me on a particularly beautiful bowl with triangle and hexagonal shapes of blue, red and orange.

"Perhaps, I am insulting you by telling you this Head Man but since you have lost much of your memory of being a Holy One let me tell you about your people. The Holy Ones have no real loyalty, they will work miracles or destruction for whim or for a price, for anyone, even the White Eyes. I see you coming battling a few of them, beware especially of the Flint Boys and the Thunder Which Sings, which often appears as a snake." Rock Horse smiled, his brown leathery face wrinkling like a prune, "Yet I can see that you will ignore my advice just as you ignored it about the gold. You have too much of the white man in you."

With that he stood up and left me sitting alone in his hogan. A few hours later, a young girl came in and carried me and the pot out of the hogan and over to a hogan where Brimstone and Dio's pony were tethered.

Dio was sitting on his pony and standing next to him was Walsh. Dio lifted me onto Brimstone's saddle and fastened the headlock about me.

The Navaho had given us a plentiful supply of corn flour, dried beans, jerked meat, a few fresh melons and dried vegetables. I lead off making for the buried gold fortunately lay in the same direction as our way to intercept Ryan.

The tracks of the railroad surveying line were already disappearing underneath the dust and grit of the desert, soon they would be gone.

10 Despite Ichabod's claim to have shifted the Atlantic and Pacific line by several miles by this incident, there were other considerations which caused the railroads directors to do so. Navaho threats and Gordal's insanity played only minor roles in this decision.



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Chapter 27· Chapter 28· Chapter 29



~THE LEGEND OF EL HEAD~




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1996-2009 Dennis E. Power. All Rights Reserved.
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