Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Secret of the Lost Tribe, Prologue, Part Three

Begin with the beginning.

Once, they crossed a wagon trail, which looked like it was hardly traveled at all. The Mexican warned them to memorize that spot, as they would have to follow that trail to get to "the fort in the Malpais rocks" on their way back to civilization. When the prospectors asked the name of the fort, he said he was not sure, maybe Fort Wingate. They continued, finally climbing to a plateau with abandoned Indian fields of corn, beans, and pumpkins. As the sun was setting, they decided to spend the night in the pumpkin patch.

In the morning, the Mexican led them across the plateau and into a canyon. Suddenly, the box canyon ended at the foot of a reddish bluff. Even without horses, climbing it would have been about as easy as scaling a glass facade.

But Gotch Ear just rode around a big boulder. It concealed a narrow passage opening into a zigzag canyon. Eventually, they arrived in a valley that tempted them to rub their eyes in disbelief. The sight of a stream framed by meadows and trees was such a change from the barren, hostile landscape they had traversed.

Now, the Mexican pointed out two rounded mountains towering beyond the far end of the valley. "See those two piloncillos? Those two sugarloaves?"

"The haystacks?" frowned Adams.

"Sí. From here, it's not far. The golden canyon is below them two mountains, above that waterfall at the end of the valley. We should get there tomorrow."

Adams led the party down to the creek to set up camp and water their horses. His eyes grew wide: Through the crystal-clear water sparkled nuggets, and the banks seemed to contain more gold than sand — it was the richest gold deposit any of the prospectors had ever seen. They rushed forward to the creek, into the water, snatching the golden nuggets. After a couple of minutes, each of them had gathered a sizable pile, and they assembled on the bank. There, they deliberated what to do now.

Eventually, Adams addressed their guide, who had been looking about rather restlessly since their arrival in the canyon. "Listen, you don't have to show us the mother lode. There's more gold in this here canyon than we ever hoped to see. You have more than earned the reward we agreed on."

The Mexican accepted the reward they had promised him. Wasting no time, he got into the saddle and rode away. To Adams he looked as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

The next morning, the miners began to chop down trees to build a cabin. While most of the Adams party were busy building the cabin, a group of half-naked Indians approached them from the waterfall. At first, Adams thought they might be Apaches — but then he was not so sure anymore. In good light, they did not look like any Indians he had ever seen. Adams wondered whether any white man had ever met this tribe before — and if yes, whether he had lived to tell the tale.

Adams addressed the lead Indian. "Hi, my name's Adams. Mighty nice to meet you, chief."

"I am no chief…" replied the Indian, who was the resident witch doctor of his tribe.

"Who or what are you then?"

"You do not need to know. You palefaces are too curious anyway. How do you say? Curiosity killed the cat? It certainly will kill you, if you do not obey. Compromise: You may stay here in Hot-Ta-Pi-Wit Valley as long as you desire and gather all the gold you wish. But listen, strangers: You must not — you must never advance past those waterfalls. Beware of the Sno-Ta-Hay! The revenge of the Sno-Ta-Hay is terrible!"

Adams did not know what to say, so he just nodded. Without another word, the Indians turned around and walked back towards the waterfall. He shook his head. Indians. What above the falls could be so important to them? The mother lode? But Indians did not care for gold, or did they? And what the heck was a Sno-Ta-Hay?

He resumed his work; so did the other men. When the cabin was finished, everybody started prospecting. Soon, they had amassed a hundred thousand dollars' worth of gold, hidden under the cabin floor.

Some days later, Adams was awakened early in the morning by a commotion outside the cabin. Tired from the hard work of the last few days, he only grumbled, tossed, and fell asleep once more. When he finally got up later that morning, he left the empty cabin. Outside, he beheld only a handful of his men working.

"Where are the others?" he yawned.

Davidson turned to look at him. "A wonderful good morning to you, too. Hope you slept well. The others? They're scouting above the falls."

"What? Those Injuns warned us to stay away from there!"

"Keep your pants on. A peek or two won't do no harm. They left in the early morning twilight — should be back any minute now. The Injuns will never know they were there."

"Sure, raise hell and put a prop under it. What if they do find out?"

"They'll turn them back, what else could they do?"

A young man, rather a boy, came forward. "Adams, I… I tried to keep them from… But they wouldn't listen."

"It's alright. I hope."

"You two cowards… Look there, they're back!"

Indeed, they all heard hoofbeats approaching from under the trees lining the creek.

"But… It's only one horse!" gasped the boy.

Indeed, it was only one horse, and its rider did not look like a human being anymore. He reminded Adams of a porcupine — he was bristling with arrows. The black stallion galloped towards the group of men, reared, and threw the body at their feet.

Adams stooped. The man was not dead yet. He tried to speak, but only bloody foam welled from his mouth. His face contorted, and his body writhed with convulsions.

Finally, he managed to force his mouth open once more. "The golden canyon… The city… The city in the sky!" His head fell to the side and he was dead.

Read on…

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