Discover more from Patrick E. McLean
The Whole Story - Parts I & II
In which we mainline the whole thing.
So I have good news and bad news. The good news is if you have been waiting for the conclusion of my serial novel, ‘A Town Called Nowhere’ Well, you’re going to get the whole story, right now.
The bad news is that I’m not going to be able to finish writing this book in the foreseeable future. In fact, I don’t think I am going writing any more novels. This does not mean I will stop writing, I just think the novel is the wrong form for me right now. And after I’m done with this outline, I will post an essay explaining some of the reasons why.
Because of email length limitations I’ve had to break this outline into parts. I’ve included a summary of Part I which is what has already been finished and posted.
Part I —
A Man Goes on a Journey
Virgil Miller, a shopkeeper in Grantham a Silver Boom Town in Southwestern Arizona, has to go see why his flour hasn’t been delivered. We see him and his two children, Pen and Mack, through the eyes of his wife Laura. We learn that he is a man with a troubled past who loves his family deeply.
When his son Mack asks him if he can shoot this gigantic rifle that hangs on the wall of their store. Virgil laughs. It’s too big for him, too big for anybody. He only hangs it there so people will come in to see it. A rare buffalo gun. When Mack presses, he says if an Elephant ever comes to town, he’ll show him how it works.
A Stranger Comes to Town
Archimedes Croryton arrives in Tuscon. He is an odd-looking Englishman dressed in khaki expedition gear, complete with a pith helmet. Notably, for the west, he carries no gun.
He has been engaged to build a pumping engine to clear the Morning Star Mine, Grantham AZ of its rapidly rising groundwater.
Archie brings with him several train cars worth of equipment. He is met by Jane Siskin, owner of the freight company - a hard-driving, bullwhip-wielding Calamity Jane type character, and her right-hand man, a Scotsman named MacAllister who jumped ship from the British Navy and headed as far inland as he could.
Archie refuses to travel by stagecoach — the easy path to Grantham — and joins the wagon train.
On the way, a wagon axle breaks, and as they try to repair it, Virgil crosses their path, headed the other way. He refuses to help them haul the cargo of the broken wagon, half of a gigantic cast-iron flywheel
The Sacred Raid
In Fort Sill Oklahoma, Apache War Chief Goyaate languishes in captivity. The old, brave warriors who have survived the trip to the reservation keep coming to him in the Spring and asking him if he will raid. But rumors spread
As he sits in front of his shack, playing with stones, a fresh young calvary Captain (Evans) comes to assess his intentions. He takes pity on the once mighty warrior, who just seems to be rearranging rocks for no reason. Dividing and redividing them into groups, unable to find the right combination.
After the Captain leaves, an old friend, Red Sleeve, comes and say that he will go with him. Goyaate adds one more rock to the pile and then can arrange all of them in groups of six and four, the luckiest number to the Apache.
The warriors leave the reservation, running through the night. Captain Evans pursues them. He finds one Apache, wandering dazed across the prairie. But when they approach, the Apache burst from beneath the sod, killing all of them and taking their horses.
They ride straight for the emptiest part of the plain.
Trouble with the Stage
Virgil stops for water at a stagecoach station. The stage is due at any moment, but when it comes, it is pursued by Mescaleros and doesn’t stop. Virgil sees a glimpse of the terrified passengers and rides after the out-of-control stage.
He kills a few of the Mescalero and then one shoots the stagecoach horses out of spite. There is a terrible crash and Mescalero is caught up in it. Virgil kills the injured man in cold blood and rescues the passengers.
Among them is a snake oil salesman who drinks liberally of his own tonic to settle his nerves. And a new Preacher for Grantham’s church.
Welcome to the Morning Star
Archie meets his employer, the owner of the Morningstar Mine, DuMont. He’s dying of TB and is an unpleasant man, to say the least.
When Archie goes to the mine, he’s met with resistance and resentment from two large Polish guys operating a badly running saw mill. Archie ignores this and, without asking permission, fixes the sawmill.
In Bisbee, Virgil straightens things out with the crooked broker and is forced into a confrontation with some local toughs. He handles it with brutal efficiency saying, “I’m going home,” said Virgil, “And nothing and no one is gonna stop me.”
A Hole Through the Nothing
The Apache ride day and night, all captivated by the magic of a chant that Goyaate starts, but all of them come to sing.
They arrive at a place so empty, that all the color has been leached away and the wind has forgotten its name. There is a strange, mystical character named No One. Goyaate asks him for a way to escape to a better world. No One warns him against this, but Goyaate argues, “Dying there cannot be worse than dying here.”
No One teaches him a sacred rite and Goyaate is shocked to learn how easy it is. The Apache ride on.
They ride to their old territory in the Gila mountains, but the Cavalry from For Bowie is waiting for them. When they are cornered and outnumbered, Goyaate uses the rite to open a portal and ride through, escaping the calvary.
Virgil drives his wagon back to town through the night, choosing not to camp because he wants to get back to his family. We come to understand that, while he loves his family, he doesn’t trust the dark things from his past that resurface when he is away from them. In the distance, he sees a strange blue flash but hears no thunder.
And when he crests the final hill, the dry wash is there, but on the other side of it, there is no town.
A River in the Morning
The next morning, John Dance, the Sheriff of Grantham wakes and discovers there’s a huge river where the dry wash used to be.
He’s stayed in the jail, because the night before he arrested the son of Ethan Burdock the owner of the Bar D, a large ranch to the North and they’re worried about what his Dad will do. The son is a shitheel and murdered a guy for no reason, in a dive bar so crummy it’s named Saloon #3. The first one blew over and the second one burned down.
We also meet Speedy Pete, whose name is of a decidedly ironical nature.
Sheriff Dance asked, “Pete, did you order a river from the Sears and Roebuck?”
Without closing his mouth, Pete said, “Nah.”
Dance said, “Well, c’mon, let’s go take a look.”
“But Sheriff! What about our prisoner?”
“Well he can’t come, Pete. He’s under arrest.”
“I mean,” said Pete, as he leaned in and narrowed his eyes, “you think maybe this might be a Braddock trick so’s they can bust him outta jail.”
Dance looked from Pete to the river and back again. A smile broke across his weathered face. He said, “Well Pete, if that’s a trick, then they got me.”
To the North, Ethan Burdock awakes to find that half of his men and herd are gone. An entire bunkhouse is missing and his land is somehow different. They ride to retrieve his son, Charlie Burdock from the town jail.
The townspeople are fascinated and delighted by the river, but as they gather on its banks a large, three-deck, trireme gallery comes rowing upriver and attacks them with archers.
The townspeople return fire and fight them off, but some are wounded in the process. Laura’s daughter, Penelope, takes an arrow to the stomach and as she lies dying, the snake oil salesman gives her some of his miracle tonic. To everyone’s surprise, IT ACTUALLY HEALS HER! (We’re not in Kansas anymore.)
DuMont and the Sheriff clash as DuMont orders Archie to work at the mine. He doesn’t give a damn about the river, further cementing that there’s something not quite right about this guy.
Dance goes to buy more bullets (he shot a lot of archers off that boat during the river attack) and we learn that there is a romantic spark between him and Laura that she’s ashamed of. Looking at the words “Connecticut, USA, Dance is the first to realize how screwed the town is if it is truly cut off. Mack points a gun at the Sheriff and tells him to get out. Dance plays it cool and tells Laura to take the rest of the guns and ammo and hide them somewhere.
From Nowhere to Nothing
At a loss for what to do, Virgil sits in the center of where the town used to be. Cowboys from the Bar D ride up with their herd and they ask him where Grantham is. Virgil doesn’t know and we get a title drop moment.
“If this isn't Grantham, then what is this place?"
Virgil said, "Nowhere."
"Hunh,” said the cowboy, “a town called Nowhere,” and rode on.
He remembers riding with raiders in the Oklahoma Territory after the battle of Chickamauga and how they used an old Indian who lives in a village that was massacred to track a defector. The old Indian builds a fire and the smoke bends toward the target in a straight line. As the raiders ride off in pursuit, they leave Virgil there to make sure the Indian doesn’t snuff out the fire.
They become friends of a sort and the Indian teaches him the secret of the tracking magic. When Virgil asks him why he would do this, the Indian says, “Because there is no one else left to teach.” The Indian dies after he passes on his knowledge.
He uses this magic and uses it to find the quickest path to his wife. But this path leads into the same Nowhere that Goyaate visited. And when he finds No One he is shocked to see that looks like the old Indian who taught him the spell in the first place.
Temple to a Far Older God
As he hurries to his wagon, the Snake Oil salesman is losing it. Do his fake potions really work? When he gets there he is met by DuMont, who has heard of the miracle at the river and wants the elixir to treat his TB. But, he wants to make sure it works first. So DuMont shoots the Snake Oil salesman in the stomach and hands him a bottle.
Archie goes to start building the pump for the mine. There’s just one problem. The mine is gone. Oh, the entrance is still there, but now it opens up into some kind of blasphemous temple either build into the hill or covered up by rock and earth. And the superstitious miners refuse to enter the mine.
As Archie explores the first room with the mine foreman he has a vision and is overcome with a Lovecraftian level of terror.
Then Archie went blind. He could feel the warmth of his lamp still burning in his hand, but all he could see was darkness. And in the darkness, he had a vision of a monstrous creature, a power of the Earth before the time of Man. It was mostly bat, but among its leathery features, Archie could make out a glimpse of sentience in its strangely human eyes. Was it a chimera? Or a horrid beast that evolution had forgotten?
It’s all he can do to keep from running from the temple. Ever the rationalist, he gets angry at his fear and assembles a company of men (including MacAllister) from the teamsters who brought his gear.
Meanwhile, The Snake Oil salesman drinks his elixir and is healed. DuMont asks him if he knows the formula. He doesn’t, he just bought it in San Francisco. So DuMont shoots him in the head. Then he drinks a bottle himself and hacks up bloody hunks of diseased lung tissue.
But when he’s done he rises up healthy and laughing maniacally. He has cheated death.
Dance goes on a scout
Dance rides out on a scout with Miguel the stage agent to see if they are really cut off from the world, or if it’s just the road to Bisbee that is missing. We learn that the Sheriff is a fraud. Dance is not even his real name. That he was a robber on the run and accidentally became a hero while passing through Grantham. So he changed his name, took the Sheriff's job, and destroyed the WANTED notices that came through with his likeness on them.
As he rides he comes across a Giant Sloth eating a tree. While he and Miguel watch it, the biggest fucking bear he has ever seen knocks the tree down and eats the sloth. He and Miguel ride on, thinking that they are safe — of course, the bear won’t follow, he’s got a meal.
But the bear follows them and chases them out onto a plain before a large dark tower. The bear kills Miguel but as it charges Dance, lightning forks from the tower killing the bear and knocking Dance out.
Up in Flames
Archie investigates the temple with more men and discovers what he thinks is a gigantic dead bat dangling in the center of the sacrificial chamber, but as he’s investigating it, he accidentally lights it on fire and it explodes out into the night sky, trapping Archie, McAllister and other is in the rubble.
Dance survives, catches his horse, and rides back to town. When he gets back to town he finds Speedy Pete trapped inside and surrounded by the Burdocks. To everyone’s surprise, he lets Charlie go. He’s a fraud of a sheriff, after all, he thinks to himself.
But Charlie challenges him to a showdown. And Dance can’t stand that son-of-a-bitch.
Charlie said, "Mister, you're lucky I don't have a gun."
“is that a fact?" Asked the Sheriff. Then he reached out to Speedy Pete’s belt and pulled out his pistol.
“I forbid this,” said Nathan Burdock.
“Forbid what? He’s a free man, just like you wanted. If you got some regrets about his unfortunate character, it's far too late to start raising him now. Here you go, little Burdock,” said Dance as tossed the pistol to the boy.
As it flew through the air, there was a tremendous explosion and everyone flinched. Forgotten, the pistol landed in the dirt as everyone turned to see a cloud of smoke rising up from the Morning Star Mine.
It’s the giant bat, which lives long enough to flap a few times, crash into the church and light the whole damn town on fire.
Dance rises to the occasion and organizes the bucket brigade, deciding once and for all that this is his town and no matter what he might have been, it’s his job to take care of it.
DuMont shows up his miners complaining that Dance isn’t doing enough to save his saloon and mine works. But it’s already well aflame. Besides, the town has just made it harder for him to mine his silver.
Dance begs DuMont to order his men to work but he refuses. Burdock and his cowboys appear and Dance begs them to help, but Burdock refuses. It’s a town problem and what’s the town ever done for him?
From an alleyway, Charlie Burdock shoots Dance in the back. Then the cowboys and the miners open fire on each other — everyone fighting amongst themselves while the world burns.
Virgil Strikes the Earth
Virgil comes back to the Town of Nowhere. As the years pass, he founds a new town and builds a new silver mine. Obsessed with the idea that there is some way back to his family in the earth, he builds a vast fortune and then spends it all driving the mine deeper, even when it only brings up dirt.
When the money runs out and everyone leaves, he stays and digs. Until one morning he wakes up and smoke is billowing out of the mine entrance.
From the Ashes
The next day, Laura wakes up with her children, huddled against the side of Saloon #3. Mack clutches the gigantic buffalo rifle to him, which he risked his life to rescue from the General Store as it burned.
Dance lies dying inside the saloon from multiple gunshot wounds. He’s not a perfect man, thinks Laura, but he’s a good one.
She thinks of her children and goes in search of more elixir. All the freight wagons are burned, including the one that held the Elixir. And she finds the charred body of the Snake Oil salesman. She remembers the healthy DuMont she saw the night before and puts two and two together.
She goes to DuMont’s house and finds him bleeding to death on his own front steps, a bullet hole through his coat having shattered a bottle of elixir. He offers her money to go inside and get the last bottle of the magic potion.
She gets the bottle and leaves him to die. Then she pours the elixir into Dance’s mouth and kisses him so he won’t spit it out.
Archie awakes, crushed in the rubble, and somehow, accesses great power to swim through the rubble, saving MacAllister in the process. He is deeply disturbed by this magic. He’s an engineer and knows this isn’t possible.
A Stranger Stranger comes to town
Weeks have passed and the town has rebuilt as best it can. Laura and the children are living in the jail with Dance and the children aren’t happy about it.
As Dance breaks up a fight between five miners and a Chinese laundryman, a strange figure walks into town from the west. It’s Priest who brings a magic stone that allows people who touch it to understand each other across languages. He says this is Ba-El’s gift and will allow all men to live in peace. Dance is skeptical.
Part I ends with the Priest beginning to draw them a map and explaining the world around them.
Part II — The Apache
At the beginning of Part II, we jump to another storyline. Finally returning to the band of Apache who kicked this whole thing off by going in search of a better life. Or just a good death. They awake in the strange new world and find themselves to be young again. Don’t look for a deep explanation here, it's magical realism, not hard science fiction. People come through the portal at the age that creates the most drama. And, honestly, if you identified with the Apache in the first part of the book — the old warriors on their last ride — then part of you (and all of me) really wants them to be young again.
Red Sleeve awoke with strange grass beneath him and leathers were wet with the morning dew. His back did not hurt. His knees did not crack when he rose to a crouch . Around him he could see the rest of the war party, concealed in the sea of grass.
He heard movement behind him and turned. Fear took his words from him, for there he saw a young warrior, strong and fierce. A man who had not come with them from Fort Sill who had not journeyed with them through the nowhere and the nothing to this place with its strange grass, fat with water.
What Red Sleeve saw was a man who could not be here. Could not be anywhere but the pats. It was Goyaate, the War Chief himself, but somehow, young again. Red Sleeve rubbed his eyes, but the vision did not change. He asked “How?”
Goyaate's mouth twisted in a smile beneath his fierce eyes and he answered, “We have escaped death itself.”
He looked down at his own limbs and saw that he was young again and that his scars had faded. He felt his heart beating strong like a drum in his chest. Again he asked, “How can this be?”
“Give up understanding. Give up being an old man, and run with me again,” said the War Chief
“Is this a place of safety or a place of danger?”
Goyaate smiled a wolf’s smile. A young man’s smile, filled with boundless confidence.
“We have strength and speed once again. For our enemies, this is a place of danger.”
The next chapter introduces the Tunks, the black ranch boss of the Bar D ranch. Charlie Burdock — the kid who was in jail and whose rescue was the cause of the catastrophically stupid fight while the town burned — is gutshot, recovering in bed. Tunks looks at the men who are left (many killed during the foolish rescue attempt) and the new frontier laid out before them. He watches over Charlie in the night, relieving the devoted Lupita, and smothers him to death with a pillow.
After they bury Charlie, he takes the men and rides out to set fence, saying,
“Boys, we lost. We been losing. Now, I don’t know what’s going on. And I don’t know what’s out there. But we keep fightin’ with the town, we’re gonna lose what little we have left. So we’re gonna get out there and stake claim what’s ours. And then we’re gonna defend it. None a ya’ll were here 15 year back when this country was wild land. Winter of ’73 me and ol’ Burdock shot thirty-four wolves. And it was a kindness.
“Every year since, we run off or put down rustlers. Tryin’ to take all we worked so hard to build. Only been the last three years this place been any kinda civilized.”
“Now we can sit around here and feel real bad about what happened. And while we do that, more bad things are gonna keep happenin’. Or, we can get out there, and happen to some of those bad things first. It’s a wild, unknown land out there boys. And I say we gentle it down a might.”
And that goes pretty well for a time. They fall into the rhythm of what is, for a time, an idyllic cowboy life. Tunks takes a young hand named Spencer and rides out.
He said he was going to survey where the fence would go, but part of him hoped they would find some bit of civilization, someone to trade with, a sign that they weren’t all alone in the wilderness. Given the unpleasantness between the Burdocks and the town, it seemed best to have other places to trade for coffee and biscuit flour.
But another, wilder, part of Tunks hoped they would find nothing but endless horizon. Maybe a stand of Indian corn that they could harvest for seed, a good place for wild cattle to water, without any of the ugly things of civilization. To live wild and free and clean, without complication, seemed the best way.
And just as soon as he thinks that, they run into a man mounted on a raptor, which is eating the belly out of one of their cattle. Tunks and Spence are rattled by this, but, after a showdown scene and a difficult fight, kill the rider and horrible lizard creature he rides. I mean this thing is terrifying, just rips the head off one of the horses with a single bite and twist.
Cowboys slaughter the cow and the lizard-mount thing and feast on it. I resist the obvious, “Taste likes Chicken” joke, but in my imagination, dinosaurs taste like chicken. Which is silly when you think about it. Dinosaurs came first. So chicken tastes like them, right?
But, turns out there are tribes of these Lizard-riding guys. And they attack the camp at dawn. Tunks escapes by riding into the herd and stampeding them, picking up Spence on the way. The lizard raptor mount things are really fast, but don’t have good stamina, so they outdistance them and get back to the ranch house. Where they are surrounded.
The Apache, hear gunshots. They ride off to see what’s up and they find the Lizard Riders surrounding the ranch house and not doing a great job of it. Because they don’t have firearms and the guys in the house do.
Where white men would have identified with the defenders inside the house, Goyaate was sympathetic to the attackers. These were raiders, unknown to the Apache, but clearly of a tribe. Only the strangeness of their mounts gave him pause.
They were tall and strong, weathered from the sun, the color of their skin matching the color of the scaled leather skin of their mounts. They rode easy on their strong mounts, but had no firearms. They circled the house waving their lances, dashing, now and then, to an open window and hurling a weapon at the defenders inside.
Many of these men lay dead on the ground, laid low by rifle bullets.
Red Sleeve muttered, “Why do they not set the house on fire?”
Ponce said, “Why don’t they take cover?”
“Black Knife asked, “Why don’t they wait until dark?”
Goyaate said nothing. He watched the raiders who did not know how to raid. And the strangest thing of all were the lizard-beasts that they rode. The creatures ran on two legs, and dragged a tail as counterbalance. Their forearms were small and useless looking, but their mouths were filled with teeth and their eyes seemed cold and pitiless.
“Should we help them?” asked Black Knife.
Goyaate said, “Let us watch for a while.”
So they waited and watched. As the day dragged on, the bronze men wore down the cowboys in the house. Until, at last, fire only came from two windows and only five raiders remained. Red Sleeve said, “So slow. They will be too old to enjoy their victory, by the time they win. And we will be old again as well."
“Patience,” said Goyaate.
Red Sleeve smiled and said, “I am young and foolish again, and I will enjoy it. Let us raid into all of them. They will be so little trouble.”
Ponce said, “They are like us… a tribe. Not like the white man.
Goyaate could see the point, but at the same time, he felt a young man’s rage burning within him. To get involved was foolishness, but Goyaate knew that sometimes, foolishness was strong magic.
A cowboy fired and hit one of the lizard-creatures. The beast screamed in a pain. In its frustration, it doubled its neck and sank its dagger-like teeth into the man that rode him. It rolled again and again, first crushing the rider, then dangling from his teeth and whipping him into the rocky soil. At the end, the creature regained his feet, releasing the man’s corpse to tumble to a stop in the dust.
Goyaate said, “Those animals look very dangerous.”
Misunderstanding, Black Knife said, “Are we to do nothing with our newfound strength!?!“
Red Sleeve raised a hand, stopping the younger man from arguing.
Goyaate said, “First, I will count coup. Then we will help them.”
Counting coup is this crazy brave practice of touching your enemy and getting away unscathed. Which is exactly what Goyaate does, tapping one of the riders with a stick. Then he faces down a raptor charge, smacking the dinosaur on the snout. The Tara-Iru are so confused by this and call a halt. And the Apache return fire, drive the cowboys inside the windows, and light the house on fire.
Tunks and Spence are driven out by the smoke and are captured. After a night of drinking the Indians and the Tara-Iru are friendly and they throw their captives over the saddle and go riding off to the Tara-Iru village.
Along the way they run into the Priest of Ba-El, who was heading as a missionary to all the people of the plains when he found the misplaced town of Grantham. He gives them the gift of understanding each other and the leader of the Tara-Iru asks
“How are my people now to keep secrets?”
“but think of the good all people may do by working together in perfect understanding."
“I do not always want to do good," said Goyaate quietly.
INTO THE VILLAGE
The village of the Tara-Iru is interlocking circles of houses dug in the earth, with just the roofs protruding above the earth. At the center is a large paddock for the lizards, and in the center of that is a paddock for large herd of very frightened goats, that serve to feed the lizards. In the side of that paddock are cages and they put Tunks and Spence in there.
As they sit as captives Spence comments on the irony — that he always thought he’d end his life as an old cowboy, sitting on a fence watching men work stock. And now that they’re gonna die this way, he wants something more.
Every day, they watch the Tara-Iru handle the lizards and talk. Over the days Tunks slowly shares his story with the boy as a kind of a pep talk. Like, you think this shit is bad, well, this is nothing. And Tunks story is pretty incredible.
Tunks was born a slave. He was strong and smart and useful so his Master gave him more and more responsibility. And, when the civil war kicks off, the Master sends Tunks off to war with his son who is a Lieutenant for the South. The kid isn’t worth a damn but Tunks keeps him alive with some selfless and almost superhuman feats. One night in Tennessee, in the aftermath of the battle of Chickamauga, he and the Master’s son and some others are playing cards. Tunks catches the boy cheating.
He knocks the son out. Then thrashes the rest of the stunned junior officers. He grabs the cash and flees into the chaos after the battle. He comes West to the Indian territories and learns to work stock. When his Indian wife passes away, he pushes further west and lands on the Bar D with Burdock.
All the while this story spools out, they watch the Tara-Iru work with the strange lizard mounts.
The Apache and the Tara-Iru
Goyaate and his men take over the leadership of the Tara-Iru. At first, the tribe of Lizard Riders are very contemptuous of the Apache. This is a mistake because the Apache (historical) are arguably the greatest guerrilla fighters in the history of the world. There are many contests and fun trickery. Red Sleeve beats three men in a duel by running. He runs long enough that he can take on the three men (who all run at different speeds) one at a time and best them. There is a race, horse v. raptor. Yeah, yeah, big fun.
But what seals it is when riders come in saying that the Alma-Iru (a nearby tribe the Tara-Iru are friendly with) has been raided by the same people who attacked Grantham. These, we find out are slavers for Sahmin Eleni, an UR-Lord of the Scithian Empire and a practitioner of the Dark Arts. In a nutshell, an evil wizard. his minions have captured the entire tribe and will enslave them.
The Tara-Iru debate moving camp deeper into the grasslands and Goyaate stands right up in the council and says we should go rescue them. There’s a debate about how fearsome the wizard and his men are. And how the Alma-Iru aren’t their tribe, etc, etc. Goyaate says, nonsense, we will ride to save them.
Everybody laughs. But the Apache ride out anyway.
Tunks and Spence escape
Meanwhile, Spence goes for a walk among the raptors. The cage they are in is barely a cage, because to escape is to get eaten. Tunks thinks that Spence has lost it, but it turns out he’s cracked some kind of code with these beasts. Head positioning, body language, he’s figured out how to be a lizard whisperer. And this is all the more crazy because when the Tara-Iru work with these beasts it’s all pain and violence. But Spence is gentle. With this newfound skill, Spence and Tunks manage to tame the beasts and escape.
Meanwhile on the raid
As the Apache track the slavers, a number of the younger members of the Tara-Iru come riding up. They do not like how the tribe is run and they will help the Apache. The Alma-Iru ready themselves for frontal assault and ask when the attack will begin and the Apache laugh at them, saying that the attack began at sundown. Delgato and Red Sleeve show up with all of the slaver’s horses. They are now stranded on the plain.
The Apache terrify the Alma-Iru with their patient, brutal psychological warfare. Kidnapping one of the slavers, scalping him, and letting him walk back to his camp. As the Slavers try to march to safety, the Apache execute a series of charges, each time killing only one of the Slaver’s party. On the third charge. the slavers break and run and together the Apache and the Alma-Iru ride them down, slaughtering them all.
Goyaate takes charge
Goyaate rides home in triumph where the head of the Alma-Iru has already lost face due to the escape of the two cowboys. He walks in front of the raiding party and blocks them from riding into the village, confronting the mounted party on foot.
He calls Goyaate out because the Apache has led the tribe in a raid without consulting the council. Red Sleeve laughs. Some things never change.
Goyaate says, “I lead no one. I choose to fight and men follow.”
The Alma-Iru leader accuses him of bandying worse to try to get out of trouble. Goyaate laughs and asks what trouble he could be in. Saying, “Will you put me in your cage? ”
The Alma-Iru leader says, “What will you do if we choose to ride you down?”
Goyaate laughs again and says, “Who will ride us down? All who have the courage to ride, ride with me.”
The Alma-Iru leader loses it and challenges Goyaate to single combat. He raves at the tribe, reminding them who he is and his great deeds, and his lineage, but his appeal does not sway the crowd. In fury, he turns to Goyaate again and says, “And that is who you must fight. Are you not afraid.”
Goyaate shoots him dead on the spot. The tribe is horrified. He addresses them from horseback. Telling them that if they are led by weak men they must pass utterly from the Earth, for the white man is coming. And the white man will always come, in numbers greater than the stars, if you do not choose to fight.
For I have seen this. I have died from this. Withdraw in fear, withdraw again, and withdraw again and there will be nothing else left. But I have been granted new life to bring you this truth: attack and you may die. But it will be all at once. Flee and you will die piece by piece by piece. Until, in old age, you see all that you have ever loved has passed from the Earth forever. And you will only be remembered to be mocked.
But if you ride with me, I will teach you the Apache way of war. And we will unite the Iru people. And they will fear us. And the Iru will ride where they will and take what they want and last as many generations as they can remain strong.
And with this speech, Goyaate becomes the leader of the lizard riders.
Deep underground, Virgil crosses over to the reality that the town of Grantham has jumped to. But instead of things getting better, things get worse. He’s now at the bottom of that Bat temple/dungeon complex that he fights his way through ascend to. Basically fighting his way back out of hell.
(up next Part III)