Shadow Riders, The Southern Plains Uprising, 1873 (42 page)

“Where are we?”

The scout pointed with the butt of his rifle.

“It is good,” Quanah declared. “We will have the wind in our faces and the sun at our backs as we ride to the top of the hills.”

After dividing his force of more than ten-times-ten warriors into four groups and instructing each in its role, Quanah led them away in silence, moving swiftly across the hard, frozen ground.

Behind the low hills he halted them, ordering off three of the groups, then sending off the fourth to guard the all-important opening in the small valley. If the white man was to flee, he told his warriors, it would be through that saddle. They were not to attack. Instead, they were to wait for any of the white men to come their way once the settlers were flushed like a covey of quail.

When all was in readiness, Quanah took the small quarter of a red trade blanket that he sat upon and nudged his pony to the top of the hill. There he waved it against the pale, winter blue of the sky, watching the two white men turn from their work on something in front of the first log lodge.

Immediately the three groups burst into motion, yelling, screeching, riding at a gallop for the two wood buildings.

The two men outside in the open, grassy yard threw down the tack they had been soaping and repairing, sprinting for the cabin.

Puffs of smoke began to rise above the warrior groups.

One of the white men skidded to a stop, reaching behind him to claw at his back before he fell face first into the dry grass dotted with wind-drifted snow. Some of the first warriors leaped their ponies over him, attempting to get to the second man before he reached the cabin. He grabbed his arm, crying out as he stumbled—yet he disappeared through the doorway and slammed it shut as the red horsemen galloped by, their bullets thudding dully into the heavy planks.

As that first wave passed the cabin, puffs of smoke appeared from the windows. From where Quanah sat, there were three windows used by the white riflemen. With one of the settlers already killed—his warriors had only to flush the other five.

Quickly Quanah brought the red blanket over his head and held it there in the steady breeze. Two warriors obediently broke off their attack and sent their horsemen to a safe distance from the cabin while they rode to talk things over with the war-chief atop the hill.

“Burn them out,” Quanah told them. “If we attempt to ride past their windows and kill them—the chances are very small we will kill them. This would be a bad thing, for the chances are very good the five who are left will kill many, many more of us with their big buffalo-killing guns. Burn them out!”

The two returned to their bands, calling forth the Fire Carrier—the one who kept his hot coals smoldering in a protective gourd when they marched from camp to camp, fire to fire. A dozen of the warriors quickly made firebrands using the dried, belly-high prairie grass.

The torches glowed and smoked smudgy trails against the blue sky as the warriors raced in. This was the most dangerous work of all, Quanah admitted. His men were riding in defenseless, not shooting arrow or bullet while their hands carried the firebrand. And the horsemen had to ride close—very close—to drop the torches through the windows—right where the white man squatted like a badger in his hole … with those big-barreled buffalo guns of his.

Rider after rider rode by the windows. Some of the torches fell short. One horseman was knocked off his animal and dragged across the ground to safety by the rawhide rope lashing him with his pony. Most of the firebrands fell against the sides of the log lodges. Only two of the torches made it into the cabin.

They were enough.

It did not take long for the smoke to begin wafting from the chimney, pouring thick and greasy from the three windows Quanah could watch. Then as the smoke darkened and grew thicker, he instructed his warriors with his blanket to await the bolting of their prey from its den.

A few minutes more and two of the white men burst out of the cabin, coughing, their rifles still held up at the ready.

Warriors hammered their ponies into action, intending on running the white men over. But first one, then a second horseman fell to rifle fire. And from the looks of it, those guns were being fired from the second of the white man's log lodges.

A pair of white men had been in the second log lodge all the time, and his scouts had missed them. Quanah grew furious inside, his hatred seething for these settlers come to Kwahadi ground.

The two who had fled from the cabin sprinted across the wide, grassy yard and found safety in the barn. Three more white men appeared at the door of the cabin, driven out by the thick columns of dark smoke issuing from every window.

As the Kwahadis galloped in to make the kill—the three white men bolted headlong for the barn, while the four already there laid down a covering fire.

His anger grown to a rage, the war-chief became a warrior once more. Without waiting for any of the rest to take the initiative, Quanah put heels to his pony and raced off the hillside for the cabin. At a full gallop he reined his pony toward the front window, leaning off the side of the animal to sweep up one of the burning firebrands that had not made it inside the first log lodge. Bringing his pony around in a broad circle, Quanah rode for the barn with the torch smoking and hissing, sputtering sparks on the cold winter breeze.

Bullets whined angrily overhead like noisy black wasps on a spring day. He felt the sting of one of those bullets at the moment he pitched the firebrand through the narrow opening at the back of the barn where the white man had pitched his tall pile of grass.

Sawing the rawhide reins hard to the left, Quanah urged his pony away from the white man's guns—but not quickly enough.

He sensed the flutter in the pony's heart … a misstep, then the animal pitched forward suddenly, throwing its rider clear.

Quanah rolled and rolled across the dry, smothering grass and frozen, crusty patches of snow, coming to a stop at last far from the white men who had killed his favorite war pony.

On all four sides of the small valley, his warriors set up a great cry of rejoicing, for the firebrand had gone in and quickly ignited some of that dried grass the white man foolishly stored for his stock.

With smoke billowing from doors on both sides of the barn, the seven white men darted into the open in a tight group, hurrying for the skimpy timber along the little nearby creek.

With their quarry flushed into the tall grass, the young warriors had great sport with the settlers who no longer had any place to hide.

It was over quickly.

Quanah watched as the noisy young men laughed and joked over the eight bodies, counting coup and scalping, stripping them of their clothing to try it on, then cutting off hands and feet, and finally the manhood parts. Each of the eight were left facing the sky—for they had fought hard to the end and were worthy enemies.

“Do you claim any of the white man's horses, Quanah?” asked one of the older warriors.

“I should look over the animals in the log corral. If I don't find one that will let me ride it on this hunt—I will have a long walk home!”

“That gray one looks strong,” suggested the warrior.

“Quanah!” yelled a young scout riding in off the nearby hill. “Soldiers—they come!”

“Where?” he asked. “How many!”

The scout pointed to the east, his face grave. “Ten times ten. More,” he replied, striking his left forearm twice.

“Tonkawa trackers lead them?”

The scout nodded, his eyes filling with great concern.

Sweeping his red blanket from the ground, Quanah turned to some of the others. “Open that horse pen and bring the big gray horse. Drive the others away when you leave.” He brought the blanket over his head, waving it swiftly from side to side. “Ride, my brothers—soldiers come! Ride now!”

Two mounted warriors brought the prancing gray horse up, its eyes wide with fear at the smell of the Kwahadis, its nostrils flaring as it tested the cold wind.

“You do not like the smell of Comanche, do you, my new friend?”

Quanah tore the concho slide from the bandanna at his neck and looped the bright yellow cloth over the horse's eyes, tying a knot securely behind the animal's jaws. As the two warriors held the big stallion, the Comanche war-chief leaped on its bare back.

When it attempted to rear, Quanah instead drove his heels into its rear flanks. The horse bolted off, followed by the last of the raiding party to leave the scene of the attack.

“You will do, my new friend,” Quanah whispered into the horse's ear as they raced up the snowy slope. “We will learn much from one another.”

“Between now and the short-grass time when the Kwahadi will join the Cheyenne and Kiowa in one great fight against the buffalo hunters … you and I will hunt many buffalo together and learn much about each other.”

The cold breath of Winter Man whipped tears from his eyes as the great gray horse surged ahead of the other ponies, its hooves tearing up clods of frozen ground and crusted snow.

“Then, I will proudly ride you when I lead a thousand warriors down to drive the white hide hunters from the Staked Plain—for all time!”

THE PLAINSMEN SERIES BY TERRY C. JOHNSTON

Book I: Sioux Dawn

Book II: Red Cloud's Revenge

Book III: The Stalkers

Book IV: Black Sun

Book V: Devil's Backbone

Book VI: Shadow Riders

Book VII: Dying Thunder

Book VIII: Blood Song

Book IX: Reap the Whirlwind

Book X: Trumpet on the Land

Book XI: A Cold Day in Hell

Book XII: Wolf Mountain Moon

Book XIII: Ashes of Heaven

Book XIV: Cries from the Earth

Book XV: Lay the Mountains Low

Book XVI: Turn the Stars Upside Down

CRITICAL PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF TERRY C. JOHNSTON

“RICH AND FASCINATING … There is a genuine flavor of the period and of the men who made it what it was.”

—
Washington Post Book World

“COMPELLING … memorable characters, a great deal of history and lore about the Indians and pioneers of the period, and a deep insight into human nature.”

—
Booklist

“MASTERFUL!”

—John M. Carroll, historian and renowned expert on the American Indian wars

“A winner!”

—
The Buckskin Report

“EXCELLENT … very forceful and moving.”

—Turner Kirkland,
Dixie Gun Works

“The battles are described, and detailed, in an excellent manner.”

—
The Heliograph

“AN UNFORGETTABLE ADVENTURE!”

—
Rocky Mountain News

 

 

TERRY C. JOHNSTON,
born on the first day of 1947 on the plains of Kansas, lived his whole life in the American West. His first novel,
Carry the Wind,
won the Medicine Pipe Bearer's Award from the Western Writers of America, and his subsequent books have appeared on bestseller lists throughout the country. There are more than 2.5 million copies of the Plainsmen Series in print.

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

SHADOW RIDERS

Copyright © 1991 by Terry C. Johnston.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

ISBN: 978-0-312-92597-0

St. Martin's Paperbacks edition / August 1991

eISBN 9781466849730

First eBook edition: July 2013

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 3,
The Stalkers

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 3,
The Stalkers

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 5,
Devil's Backbone

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 4,
Black Sun

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 1,
Sioux Dawn

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 2,
Red Cloud's Revenge

†
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 5,
Devil's Backbone

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 3,
The Stalkers

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 4,
Black Sun

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 1,
Sioux Dawn,
and vol. 2,
Red Cloud's Revenge

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 4,
Black Sun

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 5,
Devil's Backbone

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 3,
The Stalkers

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 5,
Devil's Backbone

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 3,
The Stalkers

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 2,
Red Cloud's Revenge

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 3,
The Stalkers

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 3,
The Stalkers

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 1,
Sioux Dawn

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 3,
The Stalkers

*
 The Plainsmen Series, vol. 6,
Shadow Riders

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