The fire surrounded Placido, the intense heat burning his scarred skin as a ferocious battle raged on in the background. Still, he waited by the lifeless body of Iron Shirt, knowing that Iron Shirt’s son, Wanderer, would come for his father’s body. That’s who Placido wanted to talk to - Wanderer.
Sure enough, there was Wanderer now, sitting atop his horse on the highest hill that overlooked the Penetaka village. He seemed to be staring straight into the fire, ignoring both Placido and his father’s dead body. He can’t ignore me for very much longer, Placido thought. I have something he wants.
Wanderer saw Placido. There was no way he could’ve missed the figure who struck fear into the hearts of the bravest men and women with a simple glance. Placido’s form was outlined in flickering flame, making him seem like a god and not a man. A god, Wanderer smirked. The god of death and destruction.
Seeing the horrifying grin stretched across Placido’s face wiped away any of Wanderer’s amusement that he might have had. He had seen that look on the Tonkawa chief’s face before.
He had seen it as the old chief led his brother, Eagle, away to a so-called council meeting, just moments before the latter’s death.
Placido had to have been involved in Eagle’s murder. Wanderer and Eagle were in his very village when it occurred. Still, the brave leader of the Noconi wasn’t sure. This was his chance to find out.
The Tonkawa chief watched as Wanderer made his way slowly down the hill. He felt the warrior’s eyes on him, and he smirked. Come on Wanderer. Come get your father.
Wanderer finally reached Placido and dismounted the ever-faithful Night, who trotted over to Cruelest One, seemingly to watch as the scene unfolded. Cruelest One kept his face in a thin, grim line, but Wanderer knew his old friend and saw the faint flicker of excitement in Cruelest’s eye. Wanderer flashed him a small grin then faced Placido.
Tension increased as the two chiefs stood knee to knee. Placido, though much smaller and older than Wanderer, locked eyes with the leader of the Noconi. Wanderer became uneasy, for his rival never seemed to blink. Inhuman, Wanderer said to himself. A spirit… His eyes widened. So he is a god.
After a few silent moments, Placido finally broke that silence, never looking away from the man in front of him.
“So,” Placido said, his words cut short and slicing sharply through the air. “Come for your father’s body, have you?”
Wanderer gritted his teeth and gripped the knife that hung from his belt. “Yes. I will fight for it if I must.”
“There will be no fight. I have no use for it. You can have it.” The older man kicked Iron Shirt’s body towards Wanderer.
“What about your honor?”
“Young man, there is no need for me to credit myself with the killing of this man. I only need to count coup from four more people, then I may ‘retire’, as you might say. Thankfully, I have four in mind.”
Naduah, Quanah, Topsanna, and Pecos.
Wanderer caught himself before he overreacted and killed Placido on the spot.
“Well, that is it then. Sua -“
“No. I am not finished.” Placido looked up at Wanderer. “Will you allow an old man like me to finish?”
The sarcasm hit Wanderer like Placido had backhanded him across the face. Everyone knew that Placido had many years of being a warrior left in him. He was certainly not slowing down.
The Tonkawa native cleared his throat before continuing. “This arrow I have here,” he produced a thin arrow with three yellow feathers and three red stripes painted along the arrowhead from a saddlebag resting on his nearby bay. “is it yours?”
Wanderer nodded. “Yes.”
Placido’s face darkened as if a storm cloud had suddenly settled in the man’s mind. He looked at Wanderer with a piercing gaze that broke through Wanderer’s defensive attitude and made the Noconi leader fear for his life. Placido had that effect on people.
“You killed my family, then.”
Placido’s demeanor changed. Gone was the anger and the slyness. In its place stood a broken man. He clasped his hands together and fixated his eyes on the ground as if he was afraid to look Wanderer in the eye.
Wanderer nodded again. “Yes. I have had my revenge.”
“Revenge?” Placido glanced up. “Revenge on who? An innocent woman and her innocent children? If you wanted revenge for something I have done, then you should have come to me - not my family.”
“I did it for my brother!” The younger one cried out in fury.
“Eagle?” Placido’s sad expression quickly flipped into a wry grin. “I had nothing to do with his death.”
“Then who did?”
“Maybe you should ask your very own friend, what was his name - oh, Pahyuca?”
Pahyuca? Wanderer thought. There’s no way… unless he somehow found out that Something Good continued to see Eagle… The more Wanderer contemplated the matter, the more sense Placido made. It angered him the way that Pahyuca had deceived so many people. Or was it Placido doing the deceiving? Wanderer wasn’t sure anymore which was fact and which was fiction.
The older man stared out at the quickly fading sun, expressionless. Wanderer followed his gaze to see nothing but plains for miles and miles. “I like the sunset,” Placido whispered. “It helps me think. You know, for a long time I blamed myself for the death of my family. I kept beating myself up over something I couldn’t change. Then I realized that it wasn’t my fault that they were dead, and it wasn’t yours either. War is the Tonkawa and Comanche way of life. It is all we know. I just can’t help myself from thinking about what our lives would be like if the only cause of death was illness or old age. But alas, this is what our lives are, so we must make the best of what we have.”
“I’ll fight you, Placido. You can have your chance to get your revenge on me.”
“I don’t want revenge. I want to give you this.” Placido rifled through his pockets and pulled out a beautiful gold necklace with a small emerald hanging from it. Placido handed it to Wanderer with a small smile. “I’ve come to peace with my family’s death. There is no need for revenge. I want you to do one thing for me, though.”
“Give this necklace to your wife. Don’t ever leave on a raid or a hunt without telling her you love her. You never know if you’ll ever see her again.”
The two stood in complete silence once again. This time around, a certain peacefulness filled the air. The world was still. Wanderer was in shock. Placido had always been portrayed as an evil man, full of hatred and anger. But the man standing in front of Wanderer was thoughtful and solemn. It puzzled the Noconi chief. How could someone be so different from how he is in the stories told about him?
“Thank you for the advice and the necklace,” Wanderer whispered, as to not break the beauty of the moment.
“I wish you well, Wanderer. Learn from your mistakes and the ones of the others around you.”
Placido put on the facade of a stern and angry attitude once again as he turned on his heel and disappeared into the fire, leaving only his words echoing in Wanderer’s mind. Wanderer turned to Night and mounted the pony then swung back down to get his father’s body. He lifted it onto the horse behind him. Then, with Cruelest One right on his tail, he rode back towards the Noconi village without a word.
Wanderer never saw Placido again. No one ever saw Placido again. Some people said that he died peacefully. Others that he went out in a great war, dying in battle as any respectable warrior should. The one that Wanderer himself chose to believe was that Placido had made peace with the world around him, and ascended into the stars to take his place as a guardian spirit. A guardian spirit of what? He didn’t know. The only thing that Wanderer cared to know was that Placido was finally happy, wherever he was.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, dorito_vibesWrite a Review