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This work has reached the exceptional level
a western story from the Indian point of view
Apache Vengeance by RodG
    Bounty Hunter Contest Winner 
 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: December 29, 2013      Views: 102

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I taught English for 40 years on the high school and college level. Since retiring, I have written a poetry collection titled "Reflections of a Dog Walker," and five novels, all unpublished. I mostly post poems and short stories.
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Warning: The author has noted that this contains strong violence.

Cica kneed the brown horse forward alongside the shallow creek deeper into the canyon. Sheer walls surrounded him on both sides as he rode through long shadows cast by boulders high above. He leaned slightly forward, his gray eyes prowling the rock-strewn trail. He missed little of the sign the white savage was leaving. Cica knew he'd catch up to him soon.

He grunted when he saw the splintered mesquite, then the single drop of blood beside it. A grim smile touched his thin lips.

Cica knew this high country well because it was home to the Apache, his father's people. His mother's lived many day's travel south. As he rode, his fingers touched the scars criss-crossing his bare chest. All his memories of her were in those scars. She would be avenged.

As the canyon narrowed, the trail steepened. The horse picked its way around fallen rocks. There was no need to hurry as Cica knew the canyon would abruptly end at the creek's source, a small rock basin near the base of these cliffs. There was no pass, no escape. This the white savage did not know.

It had been hours since his last drink of water, and Cica's mouth was dry. But he'd been raised Apache and trained to go for days without water, a week or longer without food. He knew he could ride on all day, but that soon his prey would be crazed with thirst. Cica's lips peeled back and his dark face became wolf-like. He could almost taste the man's hot blood.

Cica did not know that this "white savage" he had tracked for three days was a deserter from the U. S. Army, that sparse group of soldiers manning outposts in what the white men called Arizona Territory. The man had wandered south into Apache country. Cica only knew that THIS man had killed his mother.

She had been Spanish, not Mexican. When Apaches raided her family's hacienda, they took her captive. Soon she became the wife of Cica's father, a Chiracahua warrior and a nephew of the great chief Cochise.

In 1861 an officer named Bascom invited Cochise and several of his sub-chiefs for a parley, but then arrested him. Somehow Cochise escaped from the tent where he was being held, but the other Apaches were tortured and hanged. One of them was Cica's father. Cochise then declared war on all soldiers. Cica, barely twenty when this bitter warfare broke out, joined Cochise on several of his raids south of the border into Sonora. Skirmishes resulted in brutal bloodshed. Both Indians and soldiers killed, tortured, and mutilated the enemy. Because the Mexican government could not defeat Apache raiders in open warfare, it offered 500 pesos for every Apache scalp brought in. The man Cica was trailing had joined a small mercenary army that cunningly attacked Cica's village when he and the other warriors were gone.

Cica's mother had been captured during that raid. Cica and some other warriors, returning from their own raid in Sonora, found her among the bodies of ten women and seventeen children left naked, scalped and mutilated in the burned out village. Now orphaned, he howled and slashed his own chest with a knife as a pledge to avenge her brutal death.
* * *

The evening after finding his mother's body, Cica joined Cochise near the smoldering ruins of his wickiup. They hunkered beside a small fire. A full Apache moon hung behind them.

"You have many open wounds, Cica?" Cochise said, pointing to the young man's chest.

"Yes, but not from battle. I did this."

Cochise grunted. "I also cut my chest when the soldiers killed my father." His fingers pulled open his long-sleeved shirt to reveal three long scars across his right breast. Glaring at Cica with coal black eyes, he said gravely, "It is the Apache way."

Cica nodded, but his thoughts were dark. He knew exactly what his chief implied. All his life Cica had lived among these people, but because his mother's skin was white and his eyes were gray, he was not regarded a true Apache.

"I took a blood vow," Cica said, looking directly into Cochise's eyes. "I will find and kill those who slew my mother."

"No, I need you when we ride east to attack the settlers who have not yet run from us."

"Those Whites are harmless. I wish to go after the cowards who attacked our women. Our children." Cica spoke with defiant passion.

"You are foolish, Cica, but I see your heart is strong." Cochise's eyes glinted. "You may seek them . . . but alone."

Cica's heart drummed with pride against his chest.

"Cochise," he said, lowering his eyes respectfully. "When I return, I will give you their bleeding scalps."

The corners of Cochise's mouth twitched upwards. "Do that and there will be much celebration in your honor."

"Then I have reason to come back soon," Cica said, his white teeth gleaming in the firelight.
* * *

Before he'd joined Cochise at the fire, Cica studied the site of the massacre with great care. Other warriors, all more experienced at reading sign, helped him. By nightfall, there was consensus: Six hunters had galloped into the village just after dawn from three directions, threw torches into the brush and grass wickiups, and shot or clubbed all who tried to escape. Many children could not escape the flames, and younger women were raped, then gutted. All the victims' scalps were taken.

The hooves of their shod horses left distinctive tracks which Cica studied intensely. He peered at the boot prints of the savage who killed his mother until they were seared in his memory.

Cica left camp soon after speaking to Cochise. The sky was bright with stars and the moon hung just above the highest peak. His plan was simple: Follow the tracks until these butchers camped, then kill them while they slept. A common myth said Apaches did not attack at night, but he would.

Their tracks were easy to follow and led through low hills sparsely covered with pinon trees and greasewood. While the moon still shone, he came upon their camp in a draw. It was well-sheltered from the cool night breeze by trees and underbrush. A single sentry dozed beside the dying fire, a rifle in his lap. Five men wrapped in blankets were bunched nearby, all sleeping.

Cica had killed several Mexicans, but all from horseback and with his long lance. He had never engaged anyone hand-to-hand, yet his rage made him fearless. Although they slept, they outnumbered him six-to-one. If he made any mistakes . . . well, they would have his scalp, too.

He hoped to silently kill the sentry and steal his rifle, then shoot the other five. But the spirit gods were not with him. Like a sidewinder, he'd crawled through the brush to within ten feet of the sentry. Suddenly, a burning stick popped. The guard awoke, and his hands instinctively clutched his rifle. Cica, crouching behind him, leaped at the man and buried the blade of his knife in his throat. But the dying man's finger pulled the trigger.

A single shot. Men burst from their blankets. There were shouts, then wild shots. Had they seen him, Cica would have been sprayed with bullets. But the fire flared in their faces, and they were blinded.

But Cica saw them. Vividly! He tore the rifle from the dead man's grasp and lay prone behind him. Sighting along the long barrel, he put a bullet in the gut of the man closest to him. With a wolfish grin, Cica watched him tumble into the fire. The Cica swung the rifle to his left and sent a bullet smashing into a retreating hunter's back.

Two shots answered his. One bullet smacked into the sentry's rump; another whistled by Cica's ear.

The three survivors, believing Apaches were all around them, jack-rabbited into the trees. Cica let them go. Before his attack, he'd untied their horses, and the ruckus scattered them. His enemies were now afoot.
* * *

Cica snorted as he approached his mother's killer. Soon he would take the last of the six scalps.

The first night he had taken three, but none of those belonged to the man he really wanted. The next night he took two more, this time using his bow. In their panic, his targets had fled up a dry wash into the desert hills. Foolishly, they had stuck together instead of splitting up. Cica stalked them like rabbits, picking them off one by one.

Shortly after the first skirmish, he recognized the boot prints of the man who'd killed his mother. Deliberately, Cica saved him for last, following him visibly from a distance. Taunting the white savage, Cica darted in and out of cover and maneuvered his prey into a dead-end canyon. Sometime after the first skirmish he'd slashed his leg on brush and it was now infected. As Cica closed in, he smelled the rotting flesh. Then he heard the man lapping water like a dog.

Cica dismounted and tied his horse to a tree. Leaving behind all his weapons except his knife, he silently followed tracks which revealed the man had staggered to the basin, dragging his bad leg behind him through the rubble. Cica finally caught him with his face buried in the water.

Cica, wearing only a breech cloth and knee-high moccasins, stopped a few strides away from the white savage and glowered. The man was as huge as a bear and smelled worse. Cica grunted.

Startled, the killer's head came up and he spun around. But his bad leg buckled, and he fell to his knees. He had a massive chest, long arms, and a head as big as a boulder. His shaggy black hair and beard dripped with water. Howling, he reached for the rifle lying beside the basin, but his wet hands could not hold the slippery weapon. It tumbled to his feet.

"No!" Cica growled when the killer reached for it again.

The two men, a bow's length apart, locked eyes. Cica waved his knife in lazy circles as the killer watched.

"Not scared of no injun!" The man glared at Cica with sleepless eyes rimmed in red.

Cica could not understand the words, but knew this beast was fearless. Like all Apaches, Cica admired courage. He grunted, pleased that his enemy would die well.

"Gimme a chance!" the man bellowed, pointing at the boot on his wounded leg.

When Cica spotted the half-concealed hilt of the knife, his mouth tightened. The red streaks of war paint on his dark face gleamed. Slowly, he nodded.

The killer's eyes glistened and his mouth dropped open. His right hand crept down his trousers until he grasped the knife. Pulling it swiftly, he lunged at Cica.

Cica was surprised, but he had the instincts of a cougar. He leaped backwards as the blade swept across his left moccasin. The tip found flesh.

Off balance, the killer plunged face forward into a rock and his jaw bone splintered. Dazed, the man somehow staggered to his knees and swung the knife again. This time he sliced air.

Blood poured from a gash across his forehead into his eyes. Blindly he kept stabbing.

"Wh--ere . . . are ya?"

Cica watched silently a few yards away, his own knife at his side. Then he slowly circled, waiting until pain crept into the man's crazed mind. When the white savage started screaming, Cica sprang onto his back. Grabbing hair, he yanked back the man's head and cut into the bleeding forehead around the hairline. A moment later he yanked again. With a sharp pop, the scalp tore loose.

All night the white man screamed as the Apache howled his victory.
* * *

The next morning Cica mounted his horse and his mouth tightened. He grunted as he stared at his mother's killer lying naked by the fire pit, his brains still roasting in the glowing coals.

Then Cica wheeled his horse and rode out of the canyon brandishing the rifle of his enemy. Six scalps dangled from its barrel. Two days later he rode into Cochise's stronghold high in the mountains. Again he went to the great chief's fire.

"What have you brought?" Cochise asked.

Cica handed him the rifle.

"Mmmm . . . Five scalps. But there were six you hunted."

Cica grunted and pulled out the sixth scalp from a leather pouch he wore around his neck.

"I keep the last. The others and the rifle I give to you."

Cochise put the gifts beside the fire.

"What bounty would you have from me, Cica?" Cochise asked. "Horses? I'll give you five."

Cica shook his head. A smile flickered across his lips and disappeared as quickly as desert rain.

"I would have your granddaughter, Cochise."

Cochise stared at the young warrior for several long moments. Then amusement lit his night-black eyes.

"Are you sure you want HER? She is like all Apache women. They are often cross and do not listen to their men. White women, like your mother, are much more obedient."

"I am Apache," Cica said quietly. "I want an Apache wife."

Cochise smiled. "You ARE Apache, Cica. You may have her."

Cica and the granddaughter married when the next Apache moon was full.

Writing Prompt
The topic for this contest is: BOUNTY HUNTER
Bounty Hunter
Contest Winner

Author Notes
I want to thank Mr. Jones for the use of his wonderful painting which inspired this story.

Cica is a fictitious character, but Cochise was a legendary chief of the Apaches who waged war against the U. S. Army for almost 12 years.

The Apaches raided against the Mexicans for decades. Indeed the Mexican government offered bounties for Apache scalps.
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