THE DEFENSE OF FORT DAVIS, Chapter 4

08Sep19

Chapter 4

Six miles west of Fort Davis, Fall 1881

Chief Victorio blew into his clenched hands, rubbed them together and held them toward the flames. Even with the roaring fire, he was freezing; the years of near-starvation, constant movement to escape the encroaching whites, and loss of hunting grounds had worn down Victorio’s physique so much that a stranger might be forgiven for thinking he was a teenage boy. Far from it at 56, Victorio knew, as his equally-withered small band of fighters shivered beside him, that if he didn’t defeat the whites at Fort Davis soon, the opportunity would pass and never return.

Over the cold, blowing wind, Victorio said sideways into the night, “Be strong, my brothers. This will pass, and we will be riding proud and free when it is over.”

The braves huddled around the fire murmured quiet assent, barely discernable against the sounds of the November high desert. Victorio closed his eyes, hearing the silent doubt behind the whispers of “Yes Chief” and “We are with you.” His men were scared. At this point, after years of seemingly endless defeats inflicted by both the Americans to the north and Mexicans to the south, Victorio could almost forgive their lack of faith. Almost.

But when Victorio opened his eyes seconds later, any tolerance of doubt had been forced from his mind. He needed braves, not terrified women. He would have no doubters by his side when he next attacked the white soldiers.

Victorio stood. Orange light danced and flickered over his lean, wiry frame, topped by a face turned old from suffering and privation. He gazed over his small band of warriors – thirteen of his most trusted men at the fire, only 58 more paired in the darkness in two concentric circles for security – held his rifle aloft, and roared in fury.

“ARE YOU MEN? Do you stand in defense of the great Chiricahua Nation? Or are you cowards who have chosen defeat over victory in your once-might hearts?”

Several warriors gasped in shock. A few cast their eyes downward in shame, fearing their brave chief, born without fear, could read their most silent thoughts. But most leapt to their feet, rifles and bows in the air, bellowing their loyalty.

“To the death, Chief Victorio!”

“We will never leave your side, great warrior!”

Chief Victorio surveyed his men, noting whose pledges were sincere, whose were obvious posturing, and whose silence spoke loudest. When the shouts died down, Victorio lowered his rifle and motioned his men closer. All thirteen clustered around his end of the fire.

“Keep your faith, warriors,” he said in a stern, flat tone. “Stay strong and brave. I promise you, the great spirit in the sky will bless us with good fortune soon.”

“Great Chief Victorio!” a voice yelled in accented Chiricahua from behind them.

Victorio and his assembled men spun in surprise. A few feet away a short, thin, black-haired Asian man in an odd grey one-piece suit stood with hands empty and raised, eyes cast slightly downward in respect. As Victorio tried to process what he was seeing, the man made a slow pirouette, displaying his lack of weapons.

“I beg your forgiveness for this interruption, Chief Victorio,” the man said. “But I bring to you a matter of the utmost importance, and time is of the essence.”

Is this one of the railroad builders the white man brought?, Victorio wondered. “Tell me, Asian man, how did you pass through the warriors protecting our camp?”

“Please, great chief, I assure you that your warriors are performing their duties,” the Asian man said. “I was delivered through a means they could not have foreseen, nor could they have prevented me from reaching you. But I assure you that I wish you no harm, and only desire to offer assistance in your struggle against the white man’s aggression.”

“He snuck through our braves,” Victorio whispered. “An assassin, here to kill me. There is no other explanation.”

The warrior nearest Victorio looked up sharply and caught Victorio’s eye. Then he looked toward the Asian man, whipped up his bow, yanked an arrow from a quiver, loaded and drew.

“Please sir, I humbly request that you do not-”

The warrior let fly. The arrow slammed through the Asian man’s sternum and punched halfway out his back. The Asian man gasped, instinctively clutched at the arrow’s shaft, and staggered backward. A second arrow stabbed through the left side of his rib cage. The man shrieked, leaned left and turned in a half circle. A third and last arrow caught him in the lower back. He groaned, staggered away, and collapsed at the edge of the campfire light’s reach. A weak, pathetic death rattle, a sound Victorio had heard countless times, skipped across the howling wind. Then the man’s body went completely limp, almost melting into the rocks and sand.

The men watched in silence, until Victorio grunted approval and turned back toward the campfire. As the men returned to their crosslegged positions on spread blankets, one of the warriors said, “That was…odd.”

“Yes,” Victorio agreed. “It was odd that such a meek, harmless man could somehow sneak through our lines. Those who failed to perform their duties will be punished. Our enemies will exploit such failures, we must therefore never tolerate them.”

“Yes, great chief,” a man answered. “But do you really think that man was an assassin? He seemed to be so-”

“Great Chief Victorio!” a voice yelled in accented Chiricahua from behind them.

“Chingow!” Victorio yelled as he jumped from his blanket and turned toward the voice. An Asian man, who looked like the same Asian man from a few moments earlier, stood in a respectful pose with his hands open and raised, eyes slightly downcast. The man wore the same grey one-piece suit as the other, but without protruding arrows, holes, or blood. As Victorio’s warriors shouted their surprise and drew their weapons, the man spoke.

“Great chief, I beg of you, please do not kill me again. I simply wish to offer you a sure path to victory.”

“Kill you again?” Victorio blurted, and pointed into the darkness. “We didn’t kill you, we killed that man over-”

Victorio stopped mid-sentence. The dead man was gone.

“What the…”

“Please, great chief,” the man pleaded. “I request but five minutes of your time, to explain my offer of assistance.”

Victorio looked sharply at the warriors to his left and right. They returned his questioning glances, equally unsure of what to do.

“Strange visitor, I must confer with my braves,” Victorio announced. “Remain where you stand.”

“As you command, great chief,” the man said, holding his respectful pose.

Keeping one eye on the Asian man, Victorio huddled with his men and spoke in a hushed tone.

“Holy shit, dudes. This is weirding me the fuck out. Anyone have a clue what to do?”

“Uh…should we kill him again?” one brave asked.

“That freak would just come back again,” Victorio said. “And that would scare the shit out of me.”

“Chief, are you sure that’s really the same guy?” another warrior said. “I mean, those Asian guys all kinda look ali-”

“Don’t be racist, Juventino!” Victorio commanded. “You know I don’t put up with racially insensitive language!”

“Sorry boss. I didn’t mean it.”

“Alright,” Victorio said. “I don’t know what choice we have. Let’s listen to the guy for five minutes, then talk in private again. And remember, I’m the war chief but your opinions matter just as much as mine, so we don’t make any decisions until we talk everything over. Deal?”

“Deal, chief!” the men chimed in unison.

Victorio nodded and spun around. “Alright, strange visitor, tell us of your offer.”

“Chief Victorio,” then man said, finally lowering his raised hands. “I offer you the help of a hundred brave, experienced warriors from a fierce and proud tribe. These warriors are armed with weapons so powerful the white man cannot possibly resist, and are willing to give their lives to totally destroy Fort Davis. They want nothing in return for joining your fight, desire none of your territory, and after your victory will return to their distant land. Should you accept them as allies, they can be here within moments.”

Without hesitation Victorio blurted, “Hell yes we accept your offer!”

Me Ft Davis

Chris Hernandez (pictured above in the mountains overlooking Fort Davis) is a 25-year police officer, former Marine and retired National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and has published three military fiction novels, Proof of Our ResolveLine in the Valley and Safe From the War through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).



2 Responses to “THE DEFENSE OF FORT DAVIS, Chapter 4”

  1. This is great, you gotta give us more! And the chief and his warriors sound like good guys to hang with.

  2. 2 Mike_C

    Hahaha!
    Good leadership by Chief Victorio regarding hurtful and insensitive language.
    But did he ensure that his men, er persons, are wearing their reflective PT belts?


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