Fire on the Rio Grande

In Nuevo Mexico, the Spanish province farther from the king than any other, Father Philip, the only Jesuit north of the Rio Grande, received word of a new town in Germany full of time travelers. Just one article from the Britannica lights a revolt of the native population. Will it be the first colony to throw out European governance? Would it be the first American Revolution?


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In Nuevo Mexico, the Spanish province farther from the king than any other, Father Philip, the only Jesuit north of the Rio Grande, received word of a new town in Germany full of time travelers. Just one article from the Britannica lights a revolt of the native population. Will it be the first colony to throw out European governance? Would it be the first American Revolution?

It started with a letter. In Nuevo Mexico, the Spanish province farther from the king than any other, Father Philip, the only Jesuit north of the Rio Grande, received word of a new town in Germany full of time travelers. Just one article from the Britannica lights a revolt of the native population. Will it be the first colony to throw out European governance? Would it be the first American Revolution?

It started with Eduardo Bernal, born in Nuevo Mexico, sixteen years old, with a love for the countryside, and his native neighbors. Could he save them from the prejudice of Spanish colonists?

It started with young Teniente de Bances, arriving for the first time to the distant Province of Nuevo Mexico al Dentro. He was nineteen years old, and it had taken him three years to get there. Will one hundred fifty Spanish soldiers hold off attacks from nine thousand natives?

Chapel, Palacio of the Governors, Santa Fe
February 1634

This was the Provence of New Mexico, al Dentro, which meant The Interior. There was the Camino Real, the royal road that led from Mexico City to El Paso, the pass. And then it led from El Paso to Santa Fe. Of course, this royal road was a dirt track for most of its length.

The title of palace may have sounded grand, but that was not the case in Santa Fe. The town was laid out in a grid pattern around a central plaza, just as dictated by the Colonization Board, with the palacio on one side and other official buildings around the square. But when it was built, the first Governor General felt that the specified palacio was not grand enough or large enough. So he built it across one whole side of the plaza, blocking one of the regular streets. He had wanted it to show the local Indios the glory and majesty of Spain. But from the outside, the single-story pink adobe building with the small unglazed windows looked like what it was, a pathetic attempt at majesty.

It was unseasonably warm for February, and most of the snow around the plaza was melting. The sun above shone in an impossibly blue sky, and the trees around town, most of them native juniper, were all thick with yellow pollen. Weather aside, today was a great and marvelous day because mail had arrived from Mexico City. Word had been sent by swift couriers when the mail expedition reached Isleta, which allowed the notables time to arrive in Santa Fe.

All of the notables had assembled, seated on the benches of the chapel. The Governor General and his staff, with the Father President and his aides, were behind a table placed in front of the nave. The rest of the gathering was representatives from all the land-grant families of the province. They sat in the chapel, which was the largest room in the palacio. Here in the Provence of New Mexico, al Dentro, they were so far away, not only from Mexico City, but from Spain, that they only received mail sporadically, maybe once or twice a year. So they were all eager for news, gossip, anything interesting. Each piece of mail, no matter who it was addressed to, would be meticulously read aloud by the Father President’s clerk, Pedro.

Father Philip was the only Jesuit present, because he was the only Jesuit in New Mexico al Dentro. He had been here two years, working as he did as the clerk to Father Juan, secretary for the Governor General. The only reason he was there for the mail was to hand Father Juan the next piece to be read.

Letters to the Governor General and the Father President were read first, followed by news for the land-grant families. Father Philip was low on the precedence, even though he probably had more mail than anyone else. He always had an enormous amount of correspondence. The Society of Jesus so firmly believed in communication that some uncharitable types compared the Jesuits to a gaggle of old women gossiping in the marketplace. Because of that fact, the clerks always held his letters to the last.

Nevertheless, the Jesuit had anticipated this package of letters for months. Seven months ago, in the last group of letters to arrive in Santa Fe, several of his colleagues from the order had mentioned a strange new happening in Germany. It was something about a whole town from the future appearing in one day. These people from the future, called uptimers by many, were rumored to know things that will have happened over the three hundred sixty-six years of the future. Philip was very curious what else he would learn about these uptimers.

The morning wore to noon, and Pedro kept reading. Servants were in and out of the chapel with wine or fanning their betters to keep the flies at bay; not that there were many flies this early in the season, but if the servants were there fanning, they would hear the news as well.

Finally, around noon, Pedro turned and handed something to Father Juan, who gestured to Father Philip. “Father, this is your stack. The messenger said they needed a separate bag just for your mail. It’s like those Jesuits don’t do anything but write to you. It’s all letters, not a package in the lot. The others at least get something sent from home: lace, or food, for example.”

Father Philip just laughed as he took the bag. “Don’t worry about me, Father Juan. First of all, I have nobody at home to send me packages. And with the amount of time it takes to get things from Europe to here, I don’t think any food they could send would be very edible. And if it was something to drink it would be stolen along the way, I’m sure.”

They both looked in the bag, and Father Philip chose a thick roll of parchment. “Here, Pedro. Start with this one.” He chose it because it looked most likely to have something interesting for everybody.

Pedro opened the ribbon and seal with a flourish, and all those with drowsy eyes were pulled back to attention. “Father Philip,” he said as he handed a stack of papers to the Father, “this appears to contain some extra pages. And it says they are copies from something called an En-cy-clopedia. They have been hand-copied so that you would have the most accurate prediction of the future in our province.”

Father Philip took the papers from the clerk and briefly looked through them. He said, “Indeed, Father President, these are all a series of articles related to Spanish colonies in the Americas. But these articles are said to be from the future.”

The Father President, Xavier Bautista, held out his hand, and Father Philip handed over the roll. After a brief examination, he handed the papers back to Father Philip. “Interesting. What do they pertain to? I don’t understand.”

Philip looked over the papers again. “As you remember, Father President, I received news of this German city, Grantville, in our last bundle of correspondence. Last I had heard, it had not been decided whether it should be visited by the Inquisition for witchcraft. Does your order say anything more of that situation?”

The Father President frowned. “I do seem to remember a mention of it in one of my letters, but I paid it little heed. After all, it’s in the Germanies. What could it matter to us here?”

Father Philip bowed slightly in reverence to the Father President. “The note in this stack says that the decision has not been finalized, and there is some dissent as to the final solution. As it stands, Grantville is still as it was, and the war in Europe proceeds much as it has done for years. The Pope will not make this decision in haste.”

The Father President nodded. “I am certain you are right, Father Philip. What do these papers include?”

Father Philip skimmed the pages, but instead of having Pedro read them all, he handed different pages to different people, and everyone gathered around to see. Every man who got a piece of foolscap looked through the bit he received. The first thing everybody looked for was their name, but the articles were very vague about individual people.

The head of one of the families jumped to his feet. “That Portuguese upstart, Duke of Albuquerque, has given my land to someone else! This is outrageous!”

Another land-grant noble hurried over. “When does that happen, Ferdinand?”

“Hmm, let me see. It says it will happen in 1660. That’s less than thirty years from now. I see that he waits until I am dead and buried. I am already approaching fifty. Who knows how long I will last.”

When few names were found, everybody looked to see where to dig for gold. Most of the residents left Spain in hopes of finding gold. This area, discovered by Coronado, had been found when he was in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola, the cities of gold. But there were no cities, just small villages of Pueblo Indios, built of adobe on the mesas. And they had no gold. And so far, almost none had been discovered in this northern wilderness.

But no reference to gold was mentioned, or even silver. The most valuable substance discovered so far were big salt pans, which were scraped up, and the salt was sold back to Mexico. The farming was very good, and the cattle ranching was extraordinary, but none of that was worth any money in Mexico City. All that New Spain wanted was the salt and the native slaves that were sent back to die in the mines.

It took several minutes for the articles to be perused. Father Philip was enjoying the description of a new medical technique described by his counterpart in Venice when his superior, Father Juan, the Secretary to the Governor General, screeched. “This can’t be right! We were told it would never happen again.”

Everything else was forgotten as all gathered around the distraught little man. Governor General Francisco de la Mora Ceballos asked, “Father Juan, what’s the problem? Did something horrible happen to me?”

Father Juan looked up from the paper. “Sir, it isn’t you. It’s another Pueblo revolt. Not until 1680, but they will succeed. They drive us out and burn the city.”

Everyone fell silent as Father Juan read them the entire article aloud. It was clear that in forty-five years, all the natives would unite and drive the Spaniards completely out of New Mexico al Dentro. Hundreds would be killed, and everybody else would be exiled.

When Father Juan finished, Father Philip noticed how quiet everyone had become. He wondered if he could hear a pin drop. He had to admit, though, that it was frightening. The idea that they could be driven out touched some of the deepest fears of the colonists. There were only about two thousand Spaniards living in all of New Mexico al Dentro, compared to almost thirty thousand native Indios.

The Governor General said, “Give me that article and any others that may relate to the revolt. I’ve read the records of Oñate. I will not have a revolt in my tenure. We will decide in council how we’re going to stop this.”

The articles were gathered and handed to Father Juan, and the Governor General left with a rattle of his sword.

Thirty-six years earlier.

An encampment near San Juan, Provence of New Mexico al Dentro, New Spain.

December 1598

Don Juan de Oñate y Salazar, Governor General of the new colony, sat at his camp table fuming with anger, then slammed his fist. The tray with wine and cups tumbled to the floor. He

jumped to his feet and began to pace. “Those fools! Intemperate foolish natives, what did they think would happen? Those rebels in Acoma killed my envoy and all of his party. My nephew! The only survivors leapt from the top of the cliff and were saved by landing in the sand. Of course, we stormed their Mesa fortress, and now we must impose a punishment so terrible that they will never again rebel.”

The tent was silent, and all the soldiers, aides and servants waited for the sentence. Oñate sighed and sat back down, then nodded at the scribe nearby. “Very well, write this down. I decree that every man over the age of twenty-five shall have his foot cut off. Every last person from that village must serve twenty years of personal service to the crown. Make them build their cursed village on the valley floor and burn to the ground that village on top of the Mesa.”

The Governor General’s Teniente said, “You might as well just call them slaves, sir. That’s what they’ll be after all.”

Oñate smiled grimly. “No, Teniente, they are condemned prisoners serving lawful sentence. Remember, the Viceroy told us that there was to be no slavery in New Spain.”

Santa Fe, Palacio Chapel

February 1634

After the Governor General departed, the Father President looked at Father Philip. His gaze was appraising, as if he were deciding if he could trust the Jesuit. “How much credence do you place in this Encyclopedia?”

Father Philip shrugged. “How is one to judge, your grace? Many of my order are amazed at the artifacts they’ve already discovered in this Grantville. These uptimers seem to be miracle workers. They really could be from the future, and nobody has yet to find that they are running any kind of falsity. There are more than three thousand of the uptimers, and it would be difficult to maintain that kind of fraud for almost three years. And besides, as to the revolt, how much could the natives do? They are divided. They have five separate languages and at least twenty villages along the great river, broken into family and tribal groups. And you know how they are constantly in conflict with each other.”

The Father President nodded thoughtfully. “That is so. We have not had so much as a whiff of revolt for more than thirty years.”

Father Philip smiled. “I’m sure it continues because of your skillful political maneuvering, Father President. I don’t think we have anything to worry about. As my grandmother always told me, less said, sooner mended, right?”

When the Father President left in a flourish of robes, he had a brooding look in his eyes. The others in the chapel left in ones and twos until Father Philip and Pedro were alone. With a little help from Raymundo, Father Philip was able to carry his correspondence to his scriptorium. It was a tiny cell in the palacio, which was also where he slept. It was covered with papers from top to bottom. He had a small table where he sat to write letters. The only place to put the new mail was on his bed.

Father Philip looked at the pile of letters he hadn’t touched yet and settled contentedly into his chair. Finally, he was alone with his sack of letters. That was delightful and would keep him occupied for days to come. But he couldn’t help think that there was trouble ahead. The Governor General and the Father President were both angry.

Socorro, Facing the Jornado del Muerto, Journey of Death

March 1634

Captain Fernando Gonzalez shifted in his saddle, working his upper body as he tried to settle the armored breastplate more comfortably on his frame. Steel refused to grow to fit the man, and over the years the captain’s gut had become more and more imposing. Without finding a comfortable spot, he motioned to one of his men. “How many do we have left and how much are they carrying?”

Teniente Marcos Doñato came up to the Captain, making his salute. “We have about seventy men left, about half of what we started with in the Jemez mountains. Their burdens have increased correspondingly. Each one of the natives is now carrying about one hundred and twenty pounds of salt. The ones we have left are the strong ones, that is, the ones who have not yet been ripped by the salt and had their skin cracked off their bodies.”

Gonzalez nodded. He knew what killed the natives: if it wasn’t the direct burden of the salt, it was from inhaling the salt dust. “Doñato, sometimes I think we get as much for the slaves as we do for the salt. The Franciscans say we do this to save their souls. I don’t care about souls. I just want to get rich and go home.”

Doñato shrugged again. “Captain, who cares about their souls? Anyway, they probably won’t survive until Mexico City to be saved.”

Gonzalez grinned. “Well, at least we get to visit Mexico City, don’t we? I have wanted this since I arrived in this godforsaken territory.

Doñato laughed. “I know a little cantina on the south side of town. I’ll take you there when we arrive.”

Jemez Mountains

July 1631

A man stood at the mouth of a small canyon in the mountains above the Jemez pueblo. There were many canyons and arroyos here, but this one small canyon was different. It ran at such an angle that the sun never shone directly on the floor of the canyon. And in that canyon there was a cave formed by water dripping through limestone. It opened up areas inside the mountain and filled other places with jagged teeth of stalactites and stalagmites.

It is the cave that Teopixqui hoped for. He was accompanied only by one servant, Quimtchin, as the others had died in a fire some months past. Teopixqui refused to think of it as a failure; he chose to consider his calling as a priest to be more important than any other concern. The fact that the Ironskins in the south took offense at his religious practice was merely a setback.

Teopixqui, a proud priest of a Nahuatl death cult, was dressed mostly in face paint and feathers, a fine-woven loin cloth covering his lower parts, and he wore a headdress of tall feathers which fluttered above his hawk-nosed face. His feathered cloak, used only for formal occasions, was folded and stowed in Quimtchin’s pack. He had a belt hung with the wicked macuahuitl, a weapon sometimes used as a ceremonial blade and other times as a weapon of attack. Teopixqui was quite proficient at swinging the wooden sword, embedded with deadly teeth fashioned from glassy obsidian. His head was shaved, and he wore sandals. He was tall, almost six feet, and well muscled. And his face had the lines of permanent frown.

He had heard rumor that the Ironskins were weak here in the north and outnumbered by indigenous people. He heard that a village near here was wiped out by the lung fever. He heard many things.

This cave in this small, unremarkable canyon was going to become a secret haven for worshipers of the darkness. The cave looked difficult to enter and was screened by an old juniper tree and some rabbit brush.

Teopixqui pointed to the cave and glared at Quimtchin. His servant was small, from one of the conquered Indio villages near Mexico City. Quimtchin had been with him for years and now was looking old and bent, with gray hair and wrinkled skin. But Teopixqui didn’t care. “You must crawl in and then tell me if this is sufficient. Don’t be gone too long or I will cover the entrance and leave you there.”

The man bowed, but it looked more like a cringe. A small smile touched the corner of Teopixqui’s mouth, but he said nothing.

Quimtchin dug dirt away from the dark hole with his hands and then crawled inside. It was only large enough for him to enter on hands and knees. The sides of the opening touched

Quimtchin’s ribs as he wriggled through.

While he was gone, Teopixqui sat on a bolder and examined the sky. Not much of it was visible in this narrow canyon, but he could see white clouds piling higher and higher. There was already a huge cumulus cloud slightly north of him. The sun was hot and oppressive, with building humidity. Teopixqui breathed in the moisture-laden air and sighed, nostalgic for the jungles of his boyhood. It was the first time he had enjoyed this climate. The dry air up here hurt his nose and throat and dried out his skin. His eyes would sometimes feel so dry that they would crack if he blinked too often.

He resented the sun. The things that he worshiped were afraid of the sky eye and pooled in the depths. Teopixqui was certain that if they got deep enough in this crack in the earth, they would find creatures that worshiped darkness and breathed out poisonous fumes.

A voice came weakly from the small cave. “Master, this cave will do. But I can’t reach the ledge near the entrance to pull myself out.”

For a moment, the priest thought about leaving the man to starve within sight of daylight. That thought made him smile, and as his lips stretched over his teeth, they became visible. They had each been filed to sharp points.


The voice broke his reverie, and Teopixqui frowned. If he left the man there, he would have to do his own digging and even build the fire and prepare food tonight. And as all of that was beneath his dignity, he decided to keep this servant for a while longer. “Let me look. There may be a way to get you out.”

It felt somewhat degrading, but he knew there were no other eyes to see. He lifted off his headdress and set it on a juniper branch, then knelt in the dust and stuck his head into the cave. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust. When he could make out details, he saw a ledge a couple of feet in front of him, which seemed to drop off into the infinity of darkness. He moved farther in and looked over the ledge. Quimtchin stood down about five feet. It was obvious from the marks in the dust that the man had fallen over the ledge. “I see you. What else have you found?”

Quimtchin limped to the right, and pointed. “There is another cave entrance there that I can walk through. The ceiling is high, out of sight in the darkness. And it goes flat for a long way.”

Teopixqui lay on his stomach and stretched his arm over the edge. “Can you reach my hand?”

Quimtchin limped back to the ledge and stretched up. He was a very short man, and the hump on his back prevented him from reaching too high, but he was able to grasp the priest’s hand. Teopixqui started crawling back, hauling his servant up the stony wall. He could hear whimpers and groans but didn’t let go or stop until his servant was on his stomach over the edge. Then he let go and backed out of the hole. He was still adjusting his clothing when Quimtchin crawled out.

The servant had a lump on his head and a scrape down one leg. That was causing the limp. Teopixqui turned and headed down the slope, knowing that Quimtchin would follow. And slowly, Quimtchin did.

Santa Fe, Outside the Garrison

March 1634

Don Miguel Quezada examined the young Teniente in front of him. They got younger every year, which seemed to accentuate the pain in Don Miguel’s back and left knee. He was past forty.

This was a new arrival, one of thirty soldiers who came with the caravan of supplies and mail delivery. This one was, what, twenty or twenty-one? And a prime example of the haughty Spanish noblemen who had helped conquer half the world.

This Teniente may have been a little different, though. He didn’t have that defeated look so many sent north carried with them. Don Miguel asked, “What is your name, son?”

The young man threw back his shoulders, and with fire in his grey eyes answered, “I am Teniente Raum Santiago Angel de Bances.”

The old captain smiled slowly. “I know your family. Is there not an inherited knighthood that goes with that name?”

The young man looked decidedly embarrassed. “Sir, my father told me not to use the title. He said it was just a carpet knighthood, and until I had earned a real knighthood, I wouldn’t differ from the court parasites in Madrid. My father selected New Mexico specifically for me; he said it would test my soul.”

Don Miguel looked the young man over one more time. He definitely had Hidalgo features, with hair brown, but not black like the Moors. And his attitude was that of humility in the face of pride. “Teniente, if you keep talking like that you may even impress me. Nevertheless, you are here so that I can tell you about your duty and the locations and dangers of your duty. The first thing you have to know is that you only have one chance in two of surviving past your first year here. Outside of the Valley of the Rio Grande there are two related tribes of natives. One tribe is called the Apache, the other we call the Navajo. If either tribe captures you, they will kill you very slowly. So don’t wander far on your own.

“Here in the Rio Grande valley we have a very different danger. We call it the War of the Two Majesties. That’s really where you need to watch your step.”

Raum learned that the Governor’s office and the high officials of the Church were in constant competition over the work they got from the natives. Each side wanted all of their labor for themselves. And each side was in a fierce struggle to exclude the other side from profit.

The old officer continued. “By law and by decree of both the King and the Pope, natives are not to be abused or enslaved. If there is a single thing in New Mexico that is less observed than these laws and decrees, such a thing is beyond the imagination of anyone in the world. Both the Governor General and the Father President want to control the natives. The Governor General sees the natives as placid beasts of burden that are not quite human. And the Father President is notching his belt for the number of souls he’s saved.

“The land for the colonists, which includes us in the Army, has been divided up under the system call Encomendia. That means you get a land-grant that you are not allowed to live on. You must live in town. At least that’s the law. Not too many people pay attention to it. They all want to pretend they’re great lords and ladies of noble houses, so they have built large haciendas with their land-grant grants. In reality, most of them are low born peasants who came out here in desperation, trying to escape from poverty in Mexico City.”

The young Teniente stood silent under this instruction. He’d already heard this in Spain before he left, as well as during his instructions in Mexico City. But it was the prerogative of the garrison commander to tell him whatever he wanted.

Don Miguel was really rolling on his narrative now. “The other factor of life here is called Repartimiento. People in charge have decreed that the Indios must pay for their own conversion and servitude. This decree allows us to take what we want from the villages. Most of the families with land-grants interpret this as the right to take everything and leave the natives nothing. You can’t do anything about it, so don’t waste your efforts. Complaining will get you put in prison or executed.

“As to the Army, we have only about four hundred of us total. If you are thinking about battles involving many thousands on both sides, this is not the place for that. The only people who could put thousands of people in to a battle are the Indios, and if they ever figure that out, our army will be like a candle in a hurricane. The one thing that makes this manageable is the fact that they all hate each other more than they hate us.

“Now don’t expect too much of our soldiers. This isn’t Spain, or even Mexico City. For the most part, they are the dregs of the Continent. Almost all of them were given the choice between execution or serving in the Army here in New Mexico. They are thieves, liars, promise breakers, arsonists, debtors, and rapists. Almost all of them would just as soon kill you as look at you. Take any army in the world and mark its moral character down as far as you dare, and that would be better than what we have here.”

Teniente Bances interrupted. “Sir, aren’t there any redeeming qualities of the Army? How can we accomplish our orders?”

Don Miguel stood with his mouth open for a second, and the Teniente could see that he’d seriously interrupted the flow. Bances blushed and averted his eyes as the older Captain got himself back into the tirade.

“As to the bulk of the common colonists, they came up here to get rich and go home. The only really valuable things are the labor of the natives and the salt from the salt pans we have dug out of the ground. There is no gold. I don’t want you out there trying to find it; the Apaches and the Navajo will kill you, and you will never go home to your family. Tribute from the villages provides a significant portion of the food everybody needs, and drafts of young men from the villages are sent every year to Mexico City but they never come back.

“Stay away from the native women; the difference in culture is so extreme as to be outside of comprehension. You can end up an honored guest or as half a dozen pieces scattered across the countryside.

“To sum it all up, you need eyes in the back of your head and a firm hand, because without them this land will eat you alive. You are so far away from the center of Spain, that nothing, and I mean nothing at all, is the same. Dismissed. Go find your quarters.”

Teniente de Bances snapped a salute, turned on his heel, and marched smartly out of the office.

Father Phillip’s Scriptorium

March 1634

Father Phillip was writing a letter. There was a ray of sunshine peeping in his small window, high on the wall opposite him. It was a pleasant morning, and he was enjoying writing, when there was a knock on his door. With a little effort, he stood up from the wooden chair and opened the door, surprised to see a young Teniente standing respectfully at attention. “Come in, Teniente. It’s de Bances, right? I remember you from the day you arrived. How are you liking Nuevo Mexico?”

The Teniente stepped stiffly into the small cubicle. It was as full of paper as he had ever seen a room. He stood, still stiff, in front of Father Phillip’s desk. “Father, I have been told that you received some news in your latest letter about a possible future for Nuevo Mexico. Would it be all right if I read some of it?”

Father Phillip smiled, then stood up and cleared the books and papers from the only other chair in the room. “Certainly, my boy. I would be delighted to share them with you. What part are you interested in?”

De Bances raised his eyebrows. “How much is there ?”

Father Phillip laughed. “I’ve gotten so many letters that they put mine in a separate bag. I had more than one friend send me word of the miracle village that appeared, entirely populated by non-Germans. So each sent me a different part of the story. I have a passage on the war going on now in central Europe. I have an article about Mexico, which is the name of Nuevo España. I have an article about North American Indians. And then there’s the article about the history of Nuevo Mexico al Dentro. That’s the one that everyone wanted to see. That’s the one they all thought they would find their name in.”

De Bances ducked his head a little, appearing embarrassed. “The truth, Father, is that I want to read it all. Maybe not today, but before I left home almost two years ago, I was an avid reader. I loved almost any book I could find. It’s one of the reasons my father sent me out here. He was worried that my brains would dry up, as Cervantes writes.”

Father Phillip laughed and sat back down at his desk, and shifted piles of paper before retrieving one. “My son, I understand the affliction. Here, start with this article on the Thirty Years’ War. It applies to our lives here.”

Outside the Plaza, Taos

March 1634

Father Santiago the Diligent was a short, angry little man. In his friar’s robes, he paced back and forth by the gates. It was a typical Pueblo village, except that instead of being on top of a mesa, the people built their adobe complex here on the high plains. The houses were built close together, most of them sharing walls with other homes. There were at least three levels, accessed by ladders, and a large circular area with a ladder leading underground to their kiva.

When the soldiers arrived, Teniente Ramirez dismounted from his horse and saluted. Father Santiago was in a foul mood. He snapped, “So good of you to come, Teniente. I have been expecting you for three days. How many men do you have?”

Teniente Ramirez bowed slightly. He had been admonished by the Father President to treat Father Santiago delicately. “Gentle Father, I have thirty-five fully armed and armored men. They are all good sons of the church and are here in obedience to their priest.”

Father Santiago nodded and turned toward the open village gate. “Begin here. I want every last mask and doll and every other item of pagan regalia destroyed. I want them burned right here in the middle of the Plaza. Understand me, Teniente. I will not tolerate the pagan rituals of these Indios. The Father President has decreed that there will be no heresy in New Mexico, and I intend to see that his decrees are obeyed to the letter. Burn them all, and if they protest kill a few just to show we are serious.”

Teniente bowed again, and turned to his Sergeant. “Have them dismount. They know what to look for. It is not a new task.” They stormed into the village, each with a lit torch.

Canyon south of Santa Fe

October 1633

After the corn harvest, Posuwa-i walked away from his pueblo, named San Ildefonso by the Ironskins. He was disgruntled and disgusted by the people that he’d grown up with. He never felt like he belonged. He resented the boy who was the son of the shaman because everything worked for Hi-waq-kwiyf. Everyone liked Hi-waq, and nobody liked Posuwa-i.

The young man brushed his hair back and thought. He was a relatively handsome man of the Tewa people, even though he had only seen nineteen winters. He wore his braids wrapped in bobcat fur and had his sacred bundle hanging from his belt. Over his leggings and fine white shirt, given him by a kind friar, he was wrapped in the woven wool blanket his mother made him for his day of manhood. But none of the mothers in San Ildefonso approved of him, calling him lazy and heretical. So none of the girls his age would even look at him.

The weather turned cold that afternoon, and he was glad for his blanket. He wandered in the wilderness, avoiding Ironskins and other Tewa Indios.

At dusk, as he knelt to drink from a spring, he jumped back in surprise when a man, Navajo in dress, jumped from a high bank to land on the other side of the stream. He had similar leather leggings, like Posuwa-i, but his ears were pierced, his hair was shorter, and he wore a necklace of blue and red beads to carry his sacred sack around his neck. And he was not as young as Posuwa-i.

The man spoke in the trade language. “I am Tse-bit-a, and this is my stream. Why should you drink from it?”

Posuwa-i stood up and pulled his knife from his belt. His pride stung at being addressed by this stranger. There weren’t many Navajos near his village, and he considered them worthless. He had never killed anyone, but still couldn’t let the insult go without some threat. “I am Posuwa-i. I drink from this stream because I want to and nobody can tell me not to.”

Tse-bit-a laughed and put his knife away. “Then drink your fill. I don’t want your blood polluting my water.”

Posuwa-i didn’t put his knife away, but stepped down into the water towards the other man. He held his knife out away from his body, and with his thumb spun it slowly in hand, showing his knife skills.

Tse-bit-a flopped down on the ground in the pine needles and grass. He leaned back on his elbows and laughed again. “I am not frightened of you, young one. I have seen real evil.”

Posuwa-i stepped out of the water, put his knife away, and sank into a customary squat. He was a little hurt that he wasn’t as intimidating as he thought. “What do you mean by evil? I thought all Navajo were evil.”

Tse-bit-a laughed again. “You know nothing of evil. I can still see your mother’s fingers on your face. You have never seen evil. But I can show you.” He stood up, and started walking. When he’d climbed back up the bank, he turned and looked at Posuwa-i, he stopped. “Aren’t you coming?”

Posuwa-i shrugged. “Why not? You are at least more entertaining than my family was.” He climbed up and followed Tse-bit-a. They scrabbled through the rabbit brush and juniper trees for some time, and then Posuwa-I noticed that the trees were gradually getting taller. There were fewer juniper trees but more pine trees. At first, they were the scrubby piñon, but they gave way to the huge ponderosa pine. And the two men were steadily climbing higher and higher.

The Navajo leading him was older, maybe as much as thirty. But he kept going even when the younger Tewa was puffing and slowing down. They came to a spot that looked down in a canyon, and Posuwa-i stopped. He recognized this canyon as the one his father had pointed out when they were in a hunting party. He’d said, “Here, it was said, is Litsoof, the cave of darkness. Remember, my son, you should never enter.” The thought of the forbidden cave made his heart beat faster. What could be better than Forbidden?

This canyon was narrower and angled so that the sun rarely reached all the way to the sand at the bottom. It was almost winter, a time of more darkness. Posuwa-i thought of those dark spaces down there.

Tse-bit-a kept moving, and they finally reached the sandy bottom. There were signs of some violent flash floods, but this was not the rainy season. Boulders and tree trunks were caught in brush, some of them very large. Posuwa-i was glad that he wasn’t here in flood season. He asked, “Is there a settlement here? I didn’t think this canyon was livable.”

Tse-bit-a laughed again, and this time the laugh wasn’t one of carefree joy but of dark delight. “No, the canyon isn’t livable. But there are living spaces down there. Are you afraid of the dark?”

“No, of course not.” Posuwa-i threw his shoulders back to demonstrate his courage and grit.

But the Navajo kept laughing. “Yes, you are. I can smell it on you. I bet your mother let you keep a lamp by your bed at night.” Then the laughing cut off, and the man disappeared. That was frightening enough, but a monster appeared right where Tse-bit-a had been just a moment before. It had pale skin and black circles where the eyes should have been. The fangs were so large they stuck out of the face like spears, and there was no hair, just some ragged fur on the head, seen through wrapped bandages. This was a horrible monster lit momentarily by the last ray of the sun before it slipped behind the mountain. Then it was dark.

Posuwa-i’s hand was reaching for his dagger when something struck him on the back of the head. There were stars for a moment, and then he slipped to the ground, senseless.


That had been Posuwa-i’s introduction to the cult of Tocatl Coztic. He’d come to his senses in a cage built of sticks from cholla cactus. Someone had removed his blanket, his shirt, and his leggings, and he only had a crude cloth wrapping his private areas. He already had several cactus thorns in his arms and back and some in his legs. He tried to move carefully and not bump the thorny sticks, but it was no use. He continued to feel them bite into his flesh in diverse spots.

He heard moans around him and realized that his wasn’t the only cage in this chamber. It was very dark, darker than he had ever experienced, but he could hear breathing around him. And echoes. This was a very large cave.

He heard footsteps and held still, wondering if it was better to acknowledge the presence or to pretend to still be unconscious. But he couldn’t resist opening his eyes. There was a light. It was more red than yellow, a smoky torch. He watched as the torch wove in and out of cages, stopping here and stopping there, but not in any discernible pattern.

Finally, he could see more details of the figure holding the torch. It was a man, shaved head with some sort of long feathers near the top. The man didn’t seem to be wearing many clothes, but the reddish light fell on well-sculpted arms and chest. By now, he was four cages away, and Posuwa-i could see what looked like piles of clothes in the cages near him. He couldn’t tell if they were alive.

The torch stopped above his cage, and he looked up into the eyes of the man. He had a hawk nose and a wicked smile that never touched his black eyes. The eyes, though, were captivating. Posuwa-i looked into them, and it was if he was falling from a great height. He felt his stomach jump and twist, and yet he was still falling in the blackness. As he passed out again, he heard wild laughter.

Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe

Meeting of the Provincial Council

April 1634

Governor General Francisco de la Mora Ceballos sat in the chapel that today doubled as council chambers, shaking a fist full of papers in the air. Attending him was the full New Mexico council consisting of himself, Xavier Bautista, the Father President, and the heads of the land-grant families. This was the first large council held in the tenure of this Governor General. Every single land-grant holder and village leader had been required to attend. Some were attending under protest, escorted to Santa Fe by a detachment of the Army. But all were there, in compliance with the Governor General’s wishes. All were seriously concerned about the new information from the Jesuits.

The Governor stood and threw the selected parts of Father Philip’s letter onto the council table. “A revolt is intolerable. It says here that the natives revolted, and every last Spaniard was ejected from New Mexico, with more than four hundred killed. We can’t let this happen. The Indios can not be allowed to revolt. It is our solemn duty as servants of the Crown to maintain the Province of New Mexico for Spain. So before they revolt, we should show them how costly a revolt can be. I want the Indios reminded where the power lies, just as our first Governor, Oñate, did. We will show them the error of their ways by blood and fire. We will correct them by crushing the spirit out of them, and they will not revolt. Tell the Army, tell the priests, and tell the colonists, we must be united in this effort, this must not come to pass.”

Then the Governor General sat down with his arms folded across his chest. Father President Bautista stood to emphasize his own opinion. ″As the Governor says, we cannot allow our differences to permit the natives to revolt. You must be most firm and diligent in your efforts to inspire the fear of the Lord in them. In this I agree. As the Governor says, so must it be.”

After the Father President sat down, everyone sat in silence for a moment. It was such an unusual moment for the Governor General and the Father President to agree that the council was shocked. Then the entire room erupted loud discussion.

Father Philip, sitting behind his superior, secretary to the Governor General, turned to his companion, the priest of the parish north of Santa Fe. “Father Jose, this will not end well. If I read the article correctly, it was this kind of repression and the curtailment of religious liberty that caused the Indios to revolt in the first place.”

Father Jose nodded. “All I can see happening is making them revolt forty-five years early.” He waved his hand at the dignitaries in front. “But, Father Philip, how can we stop them?”

Father Philip sighed. “The Governor General only seems to understand blood and steel. I respect the wishes of the Father President, but we should do what we can to persuade the Indios, not force them. If they respond as I fear, this will all end in bloodshed.”


The meeting continued for several hours. First, the heads of each land-grant family had to stand and pledge their family and their honor to the decree of the Governor General.  Father Philip, who was taking notes for the Governor General, was saddened to hear the fear and hatred of Indios in so many voices. He had been in Santa Fe for two years, and genuinely liked the natives he knew. He found it hard to understand how much some of the Spaniards hated the local tribes.

Finally, the leader of each village, hacienda, and land-grant were given their responsibilities. Goals were set for the bureaucracy. When the meeting broke up, Father Philip frowned. He gathered his writing materials, thinking of all the copies he would have to make now. The orders were to confiscate food from the villages; perhaps hunger would keep the Indios from revolt.

And he realized that it was this bureaucracy that made conquest of this place possible. In Spain, organization and the ability to precisely define the task required had been one of the most powerful weapons Spain had ever deployed. The Indios had no defense of such organization. In his heart, he prayed for tolerance and empathy and yet knew it would not come to pass.

Village of San Felipe

April 1634

The mounted troop came to a halt at the gate of the village. It was past noon, and Teniente Ramirez wanted to get this over and get back to Santa Fe. But he was on orders from the Governor General.

So he spoke to his men from horseback. “Fill the wagons from the storerooms. I don’t want to see one single grain of corn or one sack of meal left in the village. Don’t worry about them, they are like rats, they’ll have stuff hidden. We have been commanded to show them who’s powerful. If they fear us they will not fight us.”

The soldiers were like a swarm of locust as they went through the village. Anybody who objected to their search was rudely shoved to the ground. Two men were killed when they tried to protect the village storehouse. The soldiers had been ordered not to kill unless necessary. After all, the placid Indios were valuable workers, and their services were still much in demand by the colony.

Santa Ana Pueblo

April 1634

In the dusk, a horse and rider ambled along the river and took the path up to the gate of the village. It had been shut at sundown.

The rider was Eduardo Griegos Bernal, heir to the Bernal land-grant. He had been born at home only seventeen summers past. He was a good son of his father, the Alcalde of Bernalillo. He was tall, almost five feet eight inches, and had black hair from his mother. That night he was wearing a black cloak to hide him in the darkness.

But when he’d heard from his father what the Governor General and the Father President planned to do to the Indios in this village, he’d stormed out of the house. The thought that his friends in Santa Ana would be pushed to the edge of starvation for no other reason than to keep them from revolting burned deep into his heart.

So here he was, just past sunset on a chilly spring night, contemplating his actions. Yes, Eduardo agreed with his father that the commands of the Governor General were madness and the way the Indios were treated was a crime. His education had been very thorough, more so than many of the young men his age. He studied with the family priest, Father Tómas, using the scriptures and the declaration and official paperwork that the family retained in pride, showing their land-grant and the document signed by the king. He had read for himself the declarations by both King and Pope demanding fair treatment to the Indios.

Although his father could not afford to be seen in defiance of the Governor General, Eduardo could not stand by idly. So he was going to take action that night. But it wasn’t seemly to do so in a way that put his father and family in danger. He pulled out a black hood he’d fashioned at home and pulled it over his head, obscuring his features. He could see through the eye holes. He was not ready to disgrace his father or himself. It was best if nobody knew who he really was.

Eduardo had a plan. He knew he was a day ahead of the soldiers confiscating food. He was going to champion the Indios and not allow the Father President or anyone else to treat the natives as less than people.

When it was full dark, he checked to make sure nobody was watching, then banged on the gate of Santa Ana Pueblo, the closest Indio village to Bernalillo. When it opened, the Indio gatekeeper, who had obviously been sleeping, said, “Who is there? Do you know how late it is? Why must you wake us?”

The young man tried to disguise his voice, but he spoke in trade language. “You will call me Ka-ansh, the mountain lion. I come with a warning for your village elders, it is urgent!”

The old man was about to close the gate, and Eduardo’s irritation bubbled up. His voice got higher and louder. “Please, Tsigu-may. I am Ka-ansh, the mountain lion. I am here with a message. Just call the elders.”

The old man looked at him for a moment and nodded. “I will get them. Wait here.”

Eduardo worried for a moment that he had been recognized, but didn’t have long to wait. Within moments, a crowd gathered. Ka-ansh climbed down from his horse and bowed to the shaman and elders. “I am sure you have heard rumors of what has happened in the villages north of you, when the soldiers burst into their villages and confiscated the food. It is about to happen here as well, tomorrow morning. You must hide your food tonight. The garrison will arrive tomorrow morning. They will take all of your food, as they have done to the other villages. You must hide it tonight.”

The shaman tried to peer into Eduardo’s eyes. “Tomorrow? Are you certain? Perhaps . . .”

Ka-ansh interrupted. “No, it is certain. It was discussed in the council of Santa Fe last week. Make sure that you leave a few ears of the oldest corn and one or two sacks of meal in the storehouse so they think they have it all. But make sure the rest is well hidden, and not in the village. Not even the sacred kiva is safe. The orders of the soldiers are to make you uncomfortable. They want you to feel powerless.”

The elders looked at each other. Tsigu-may said, “Ka-ansh, can we trust this information?”

Ka-ansh straightened his shoulders. “I swear it is true, on the life of the Alcalde of Bernalillo. He has always treated you fairly, even when his neighbors laughed at him for doing so. You must take precautions now; tomorrow will be too late.”

Then Ka-ansh climbed into the saddle. “I must go. I have to warn two other villages. Do not delay.” Then he spun his horse and rode off into the darkness.

Santa Fe Garrison

May 1634

Colonel Carlos Martinez looked with an inordinate amount of pride at the two guns mounted on their carriages in the garrison. His men called them pipas, or water pipes. They were six pounders, meaning they fired six-pound cannon balls. And they were the only large caliber guns in the Province of New Mexico.

He and his cannon crew, Santiago and Pablo, were enjoying the cool of the evening. Martinez sipped his wine and frowned at the palacio in the darkness. “I have been at this station for almost three years now, and there’s one thing I really hate. It’s as if the whole world is made of mud. Our houses are mud, our walls are mud. Sometimes I feel like my bed is made of mud.”

Pablo leaned back, looking at the stars. “I don’t mind the mud, it does make the rooms cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”

Santiago drained his cup and set it down, wiping his large mustache. “I heard an interesting bit of gossip today.  Teniente Ramirez told me that they have had very little luck collecting food from the Indio villages. He said that someone must have warned them.”

Pablo blinked, a little drunk. “I heard that too. There are whispers that a big cat has come down from the mountains to protect the Indios.”

Martinez laughed. “Oh, of course. A savior. Haven’t you heard? They have a new kachina in the villages. They call him Ka-ansh. I think it means wildcat or something. They say that this Ka-ansh has been sent by the Corn Maidens to save the People from the Ironskins. But it’s just ignorant superstition. That’s us, you know. Ironskins. Don’t believe everything you hear from the Indios. They are liars.”

The wine skin was empty, so Colonel Martinez stood up and stretched. “The Indios can have all the kachinas they want, for all I care. Let the Father President be concerned with that. All we need to worry about is taking the best care of our Pipas. I want you out here before dawn, and make sure everything is ready. We are rolling out at first light. We may be stuck here in this mud-covered wilderness, but with cannons like these we can’t fail.”

Santiago and Pablo stood as Colonel Martinez left. Santiago said, “Well, I guess we should get some sleep. We have to be up early tomorrow.”

Pablo said, “We’re supposed to destroy something valuable tomorrow. What do you think Colonel Martinez will choose?”

Santiago yawned and shrugged. “I don’t care, just so we can blow up something, and then get back in time for lunch.”

Pablo said, “Do you think the Governor General will come to watch?”

Santiago frowned. “That’s possible. You know the Governor General is also enormously fond of our cannons.”

Santiago and Pablo knew it just meant a lot more work hauling the cannons and their ammunition back and forth through town. But that’s what they got paid to do.


By the time the sun peaked over the tall mountains to the east, Colonel Martinez had his Pipas ready and targeted on some rock walls in the north part of Santa Fe. The Indios worked on them all the time. They had been built across stream beds in the area to serve as dams for irrigation, to divert water away from the fields and into the holding ponds that the Indios used in the dry times.

Martinez pointed toward the first dam. “Well nobody lives in those. It will fulfill our orders from the Governor General and not kill any Indios, which is what the Father President wants. All in all, it will be a good day’s work and keep everyone happy. Get started.”

The crew set up for a drill designed to smash up years of the Indios’ work. Even though it meant more sweating and hauling, Santiago and Pablo did enjoy the boom of their Pipas.

And Santiago was pleased, because they finished the job before lunch.

Jemez canyon

August 1634

Father Philip mopped his face with a handkerchief. The hot August sun in the blue sky seemed to beat the juniper trees and sage brush flat with the heat. There was the taste of dust in the air, but the wind was still. The monsoon clouds that usually showed up in July had been weak this year, and the corn and beans in the fields were small and dry. It would be a hard winter if they couldn’t get water.

So far, Jemez village still had water. The Jemez river was fed by mountain springs and usually didn’t dry up in the hot summer. Their village was higher than the valley below and got cool evening breezes. It was protected from the drought below.

The village was situated in a spot not too far from the hot springs, about where the red rock stopped and the tall pine trees started. The Ponderosa pines shaded the village nicely, and the climate was much more comfortable than that around the Rio Grande river dwellers.

Father Philip was here for something dangerous. He had been invited by Raymundo, his Indio assistant. He sat near the gate of the village and watched as furtively, in the darkness of a moonless night, delegates from Pueblo Indio villages as far north as Taos and as far south as Isleta gathered. Many had traveled on foot for days to get here.

This was a secret meeting that the Ironskins could not know about. Jemez had been chosen because while it was central to the villages, the deep canyons and rocky terrain made it difficult for large numbers of the Ironskins on horseback to reach it.

The Indio leaders gathered underground, deep within the round ceremonial kiva of the village. Not only were the religious leaders and wise men present, but the village governors appointed by the Spanish had come as well. There were even a few white men in the gathering, including Father Philip. He was not sure what would happen, but Raymundo seemed to feel it was important for him to be here. Raymundo stayed by his side to help translate the trade language, of common use in the area.

First, or course, were the gathering and cleansing rituals, and the Jemez shaman took care of that. Then, Chief Hana-chu of Jemez pueblo stood to speak. He looked at Father Philip, and said, “Friend Blue-eyes, perhaps you can help us understand. The Ironskins have taken away our food stores, they have burned our kivas and kachinas. Why do they hate us now? We have done nothing to cause the troubles.”

Father Philip stood up, accompanied by Raymundo. He was nervous because he was uncertain of his language skills, but Raymundo was there to translate if necessary. He frowned, ordering the Indio language in his mind. “Wise chiefs, this is all a misunderstanding. I am saddened that your people have suffered. The Spanish are taking action because of a piece of paper sent from the Spain. The Governor General and the Father President have both become convinced that all of the local tribes in the Rio Grande valley are planning a revolt. It is thought that you plan to murder every Spaniard along the Camino Real al Dentro.”

They received this news in silence, and Father Philip glanced at Raymundo. In a low voice, he spoke to Raymundo. “Do you think they understood me?”

Then Wa-tu, shaman for San Filipe pueblo, and oldest man present stood up. “Friend Blue-eyes, can’t you convince them it’s not true? We hardly even speak to some of these tribes. The Tiwa speakers of Isleta cannot be trusted: they are liars and thieves.”

There was a rumble of anger, and several younger men stood with spears in their hand. Father Philip’s stomach clenched with fear, and he held up his hands. “Please, we need to keep personal slurs to ourselves. I know there are a lot of bad feelings among the Pueblos, but we must put our differences aside here and talk. Otherwise, my people, the Ironskins, will continue to set you against each other and continue their atrocities.”

Wa-tu bowed his head. “I bow to your wisdom, Friend Blue-eyes. My feelings for Isleta and all the Tiwa mumblers can wait for another day.”

Father Philip sent a silent prayer heavenward, and continued. “I’m afraid that fear is the temperament of the Ironskins because there are so few of us and so many of you. As they are convinced you all wish to kill them in their sleep, they will strike first, in hopes of winning before a war is started. They wish to intimidate you into total submission.”

The tribal elders discussed this among themselves. Father Philip whispered to Raymundo, “How are they taking it? Do they understand the serious nature of these talks?”

Raymundo nodded. “They have always had a distrust of outsiders. This just proves why they should continue to hold the Spanish as enemies.”

The discussion became angry, and Father Philip could no longer follow it on his own. But Raymundo stood up, anger blazing in his eye. “If it were not for this outsider, Friend Blue-eyes, you would not know the threat. Not all outsiders are the enemy.”

Father Philip placed a hand on his assistant’s shoulder, but spoke loud enough for all in the kiva to hear. “There is no reason to raise our voices, Raymundo. For me, I know the law, sent from the King and the Wise One of our religion in the old world. They are strictly prohibited from exploiting the local peoples in this fashion. It is against the law to make you slaves or steal your property. I am here tonight because I believe that what the two majesties of New Mexico are doing is wrong. And because of their decisions, I can no longer support them. I’m warning you, and I will warn everyone I can, that the abuses will continue. I have become convinced that you may have no other option, save rebellion.”

That silenced discussion. All eyes turned on Father Philip. Raymundo said, “Father, what are you saying?”

Father Philip rubbed his face with his hands, praying that he had made the right choice. “I have thought on this for a long time. It is a hard thing for me as I am truly a son of my church. But I cannot tolerate the abuses being heaped upon you, especially from some imaginary slight perpetrated by the records brought back from the future town that appeared in Germany.” And then he sat down on the ground next to Raymundo. His head was spinning, and his hands were shaking, but in his heart he knew that this was the right decision.

The discussion went late into the night, with many penetrating questions. Water was brought to everyone, and small corn cakes. Father Philip was sleepy, and it was difficult to understand anything but the basic words. But somewhere around dawn, a miracle happened. The leadership of the Pueblos of the Rio Grande valley finally agreed on something. Together they hammered out a plan that all agreed upon. The Indios were finally drawn together in rebellion.

Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe

August 1634

The Governor General and the Father President sat across the desk from each other in the Governor’s quarters. It was a rare but necessary private meeting. Both knew that someone was listening from the Governor’s staff and that the Father President had paid spies in the palacio, but the privacy was important.

Francisco de la Mora Ceballos, Governor General, was a large man, well muscled, with the look of a hawk in his eyes. His neatly trimmed beard didn’t show any of the gray hair coming in at his temples. He leaned back and wiped sweat from his face. “Xavier, I don’t understand it. Everything we do seems to make the possibility of revolt more likely. We absolutely have to obtain control, or that rebellion from Father Philip’s mail will become truth in fact. A rebellion can’t break out now. I only have one more year of this assignment. I refuse to be known as a failure.”

Xavier Bautista, the Father President, folded his hands across his stomach. He was older than Francisco Ceballos, his beard was salt and pepper, and his hands and face were wrinkled. He had been here a long time. He was dressed in robes, not as ceremonial as he would wear for Mass, but still elaborate. And he never seemed to sweat. “Indeed, Francisco, I agree that at times, you and I have been at cross purposes. I think it’s time for us to put aside our differences and do something significant. We must show everyone, Spaniards and Indios alike, that we do indeed have control over the situation. Perhaps we could invite all the governors of the various native pueblos to the capital and make it sound like some kind of impressive gift-giving ceremony.”

Ceballos waved his silk kerchief at a fly. “Why? What good would that do?”

Bautista smiled slowly. “Once we have them all together, they will come to understand that we control their destiny. We can quell this rebellion by separating its head from the body.”

Ceballos smiled as well. “Xavier, that has merit. Before I arrived, the previous Governor General gave each of the village governors a silver-headed cane to demonstrate their authority. I know none of them appear in public without their canes. Perhaps we can demand they appear to swear fidelity to Spain or surrender their cane. They have become a great status symbol among the different tribes. Once they are here we can exert our authority.”

Bautista sat forward. “We need a little something more, Governor. As both you and I know, the real power in each village is not the official governor. They are just toadies selected by us. We need the secret religious leader of the tribe. That is the person that we most need to get our hands on. If we eliminate the tribal elders, we can probably control the nation. As far as I can determine by church law, they could all be classified as witches, and indeed we can either hang or burn them. That might give the message that we need to emphasize.”

Ceballos steepled his fingers. “Very well. I will call my secretary and draft a letter to be delivered immediately. That will put our plan into play.”


The secretary to the Governor General, Father Juan, appeared at the door to Father Philip’s scriptorium. “Father Philip, I need your help.”

Father Philip stood up immediately. “Of course, Father Juan. What can I do?”

Father Juan gestured, and they walked down the hall to the larger workroom. “We must send letters to the Governor of every Indio village. The Governor General wants to invite all of them to attend a special council. He has also requested that they bring their silver-headed canes as a mark of their leadership, along with at least two advisers. The more advisers, the more status. Emphasize that if we work together we can resolve our situation. So I need you and several of the other churchmen to help in the wording and copying of these letters as soon as possible. The meeting is to be held on the first of the month.”

Father Philip smiled sat down by the writing table. “This is good news, Father Juan. I have been praying for a peaceful solution. Perhaps this would resolve in peace after all.” He was already forming phrases in his mind about peaceful coexistence, and honor between the Spanish and the native pueblos.


Back in his room, Father Philip read through the letter he had just finished for accuracy. It was the twelfth one he’d finished writing. Only two to go. The only other person there was Raymundo, his assistant. “Here is the last of my share of letters. I have made sure that these messages are positive. But I don’t know.”

Raymundo gathered the stack of folded documents and placed them in a leather satchel. “What are you worried about, Father? Aren’t the letters supposed to show the governors that the Spanish wish them no ill will?”

Father Philip stretched and stood up to pace. “I’m not sure why, but I have misgivings. I’ve never seen the competing Majesties cooperate like this. The Governor General and the Father President are proud men. Proud men do not give in easily. Somehow I sense all will not go well.”

Raymundo stopped at the doorway. “What do you mean, Father?”

Father Philip pulled a fresh piece of foolscap out of the stack and started writing again. “I mean that I have suspicions about their motives. The Governor General and the Father President are up to something. Do you still have your contacts with the southern Apaches?”

Raymundo shrugged and blushed. “You mean the Jicarilla? Well, I know this girl …”

Father Philip smiled. “Raymundo, your exploits are numerous, but not pertinent to this situation. I need you to get a message to their Tribal Council. Shaman Kuruk is a reasonable man. And besides that, if we offer him some horses, enough warriors will come if we need a rescue. Make sure he knows this is serious. The Governors’ meeting is in two weeks, and who knows what may happen?”

Hacienda Ordoñez, near Santa Ana Pueblo

August 1634

The rising sun reddened the morion of Hidalgo Ordoñez as he sat tall upon his horse. He was an older man, late forties, with a gray beard and moustache. But none of his workers doubted that he had the strength to beat any one of them to death. He surveyed the group of Indios assembled before him.

He turned to his foreman, Jose. “Take twenty of these men. Twenty should be enough. I want the field next to the river, on the north end, harvested and plowed today. If they don’t accomplish the work in the daylight, light fires, beat them, and make them work all night. These Indios are useful, but lazy. Don’t let me find you turning a soft heart to them. I must spend the day with the sheep; it’s time to move them to the high pasture.”

Jose nodded and started to shout in a pidgin dialect of Spanish and Keres. Don Ordoñez shook his head and turned his horse away. It was disgraceful that these Indios who had grown up on this grant still couldn’t speak proper Spanish.


The sun was high, and it was hot all day, as the men struggled in the field. It had been another long hot summer, with few rainy monsoons to relieve the heat. The crop was sparse, and the clay was as hard as iron, baked and unyielding. As the sun settled in the west, there was still almost half of the field to be finished. The foreman rode up and down on his burro with his lash. Many worked harder to avoid his notice.

But the foreman didn’t notice what some of the men saw. A horse was tied in the shade of a juniper near the dry creek bed, and the dry grass rustled between there and the field.

Suddenly the foreman was pulled from his burro by a man wearing a black scarf as a mask. Ka-ansh didn’t kill the foreman, just knocked him unconscious and tied him to a tree. The Indios laughed among themselves as they faded into the darkness to hide from the next work detail. Many whispered the name Ka-ansh.

Santa Fe Plaza

September 1634

When Father Philip stepped out from the palacio, he noticed that the central plaza in front of the palacio was immaculate. The two brass cannons that the Governor was so fond of were prominently displayed, with their crew standing by. A large platform had been built, upon which the Governor General and the Father President sat. Behind the platform were gathered the alcaldes of every Spanish settlement, along with the heads of the land-grant families and the churchmen of the Franciscans.

Father Philip took his place with the others in the hot sun behind the platform. He felt the light fingers of a breeze and looked up for a cloud to give a little shade, but there were none. Father Juan, next to him, whispered, “I have never seen a gathering like this. You have been here longer than I, what is happening?”

He whispered back, “I would say that the Governor General and the Father President want an audience for their actions today. Why do you think we are so far separate from the Tribal Governors?” The Indio dignitaries were gathered in front of the platform. Each Governor prominently displayed his silver-headed cane.

The Governor General stood, and the crowd fell silent. Ceballos ran his eyes over the people in front of him and smiled. “Welcome, honored guests. You heeded our call for a meeting, and I’m very pleased to see all of you here. Everyone is here except for the Jemez people, who threatened our messenger, and refused to attend. They shall suffer my wrath.”

Then, without hesitation, the Father President stood and signaled Don Miguel, who sent the guards to surround the Indios. Horsemen rode closely, and all the soldiers drew their swords. There was a sudden blast of horns and shouts by the soldiers to deliberately disorient and distract the captives as they were taken into custody.

When all the Indios had been led off to the cells behind the palacio, there were shocked gasps from the witnesses, but no one dared to intervene. Nobody was as well armed or well trained as the Garrison of Santa Fe.

Father Philip was near the platform as the Governor and the Father President exited. He pretended not to listen to their conversation.

Bautista smiled at the Governor. “Well, that came off better than I expected. I think the next step will be the most important. We should have some pretense of legality about this, or the administrators in Spain will condemn you and me.”

The Governor General grinned, almost giddy, looking at the pile of silver-headed canes that had been confiscated. “That is not a problem. My staff delights in bureaucracy. There will be paper, documents, and records by the barrel-full. We will confuse them with statistics and paperwork. All we need is a wagon load of paper, and we are safe on that count.”

Across the Province of New Mexico

September 1634

Father Philip sat meditating in his scriptorium when Raymundo appeared. “Father, I just came from Jicarilla. The news of the arrest and confinement of the tribal elders and the tribal governors is on every tongue, like a torrential storm. From what I’ve already heard this morning, every village along the river, and even the villages further away in the far western corner of the colony, are angry and shouting.”

Father Philip shook his head, saddened and weighed down with the news. “I never thought I’d see Spaniards fall so low. The delegates from all the pueblos came peacefully and were betrayed. The thin pretense that brought the elders to Santa Fe was a travesty.”

Raymundo frowned. “What do we do now?”

Father Philip stood. “Come with me to the chapel. We’re going to pray.”


By the next day, messages from Raymundo’s contacts poured in to Father Philip. The betrayal in Santa Fe was the spark that set the colony alight. Young men, eager for a chance to show their courage, exulted in the news. The rebellion that had begun in Jemez sparked and caught fire from Taos to Isleta.

Preparations were made. Messages were sent back and forth. For once, the Keres agreed to listen to the Tiwa; Jemez was the center of it. Many of the younger men were overjoyed with the opportunity to do something about their frustrations.

Of course, there were still some hold-outs. They argued against rebellion, pointing to the depredations of the demon Oñate almost forty years earlier. War was not the way of the people of the River Valley. But those voices were few and far between. Most felt that when violence is necessary, they would provide it.

Two days after the betrayal, Father Philip rode a burro out of the palacio stables on an assumed errand from the Governor General. In reality, he was going to meet with his friend, Don Federico, Alcalde of Bernalillo. They came together near the village of Cochiti at sunset.

Both men tied their mounts, walked to the rim of the hill, and admired the sunset. It was magnificent, bands of orange and pink, with thin gossamer clouds shining like gold filigree over darker blue clouds.

It was true that the beauty of the land and the sky in this frontier region were unmatched. The longer Father Philip lived here, the more he came to love it. He sat down on an adobe bench overlooking the reservoir lake. Don Federico joined him.

Father Philip said, “Federico, I’m pleased you could meet me. I’m certain you know the temper of these times. I know the Indios around Santa Fe are boiling with rage.”

The older man was a little stiff after the long ride. It was almost twenty miles from the village of Bernalillo. “Yes, I witnessed what our two Majesties did. They have no shame or fear of reprisals from crown or pope.”

They both sat silent for a moment, sad at the state of affairs. Then Don Federico said, “Father, the letters you got from Europe, is there anything in them to encourage us? Or are we to suffer the indignities of the Two Majesties for the rest of our lives?”

Father Phillip sighed. “I read the Bible, looking for answers. I have read every word of the missives, and I haven’t found a solution. There was an article in them about negotiating peace, but there is much of it I don’t understand, and the examples given are not familiar to me.”

Bernal shook his head. “We are far from the Viceroy, and it would take months to get a message to Mexico City. What can we do?”

Father Philip looked to heaven for a moment, praying he was making the right choice. The sunset darkened, going from melon colors to blackberry. He watched as a small rain cloud seemed to be raining on the valley. But it was called virga, the dry rain that evaporated before it reached the ground.

It was as if God had given him a metaphor for how useless he felt. Just like that little rain cloud, ineffectual at sending rain to the ground. He knew that any effort now to keep the peace would have the same effect as the virga.

Then he reached his hand into his shirt and pulled out a rolled piece of parchment, tied with a leather string. “I found out that their two majesties plan to kill the captured Indios on a pretense of witchcraft. If you are willing, I have a plan that will save the lives of those Indios held in prison at the palacio in Santa Fe.”

The Alcalde took the rolled messages, and made the packet disappear inside his jacket. His face showed no emotion, but he old man’s eyes were troubled. “You know, if anyone found out we we’re talking like this, we would see the inside of that prison as well.”

Father Philip nodded. “Yes, but Don Federico, what else can we do? You know that the actions of our two majesties are against the laws of God and man. If we turn a blind eye, we are a guilty as they. I know you have friends not only in the Santa Ana pueblo, but many others. Your hacienda and village are more tolerant than many others. Can I count on your support?”

Federico Griegos de Bernal, Alcalde of Bernalillo, sighed. “Father, you must give me a chance to consider. I have a wife and children I would risk.”

Father Philip nodded. “Send me word by the end of the week. It will be difficult, and we can no longer risk being seen together. God be with you.” The men shook hands and left the lake village behind in the darkness.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Evening, September 1634

On the third day of the Inquisition, rumors spread out from the prison wing of the Palacio of the Governors. Beatings were the order of the day. Prisoners had been manacled to the wall, denied sleep and food. The Inquisitors were certain that they could get the chiefs to confess to fomenting rebellion throughout the colony or the shamans to admit to witchcraft.

It was still very early in the morning. Father Philip had been pacing in his room, unable to concentrate on the letters he had to write. He was interrupted by his assistant, Raymundo. “Father, a boy came with a message that you should visit the parish in Agua Fria. They have asked you to come help with a baptism.”

He looked with surprise at Raymundo, who slowly winked and handed him a slip of paper. He smiled. Raymundo must have been practicing a wink, it was not something Indios did. “Oh, yes. A baptism. I remember that Father Jose contacted me a couple of weeks ago. Thank you, Raymundo.”

The burro he checked out today was a little fractious, so it took a little longer than expected. Finally, dusty from the trip, he strolled into the small plaza with the mission church of Agua Fria, near a natural spring. He sat on a bench and asked a girl to bring him some water.

The old man on the bench next to him faced the opposite direction, and they ignored each other. Father Philip examined the clothes of a peasant, but when the hat lifted, he looked into the eyes of the Alcalde of Bernalillo. Father Philip whispered discreetly, “I thought you were going to send word. You risked yourself again?”

Federico smiled slowly. “I decided a ride would be nice. And I’m in charge, so I gave myself permission.”

Father Philip smiled as well. “So you have heard about the actions of the Inquisition?”

Don Federico squinted against the bright summer sun. “It’s a state secret, so of course, everyone has heard.”

Father Philip turned and stretched his legs out in front of him, placing his back to the Alcalde. He didn’t want any spies of the Father President to see him talking to anyone. His voice was low. “I am pleased to see you here today, my friend. Does this mean that you have decided?”

Bernal snorted. “Not me so much as my wife. Garciella had much to say on this issue and convinced me that we must do something to protect our friends the Indios. The people of Santa Ana saved her life as a child and gave her shelter during an Apache raid. She has never forgotten.”

Father Philip smiled and crossed himself. One good deed is remembered for a lifetime. “I’m glad to hear it, my friend. God works in mysterious ways. So, have the young men carried the messages?”

Alcalde Bernal stretched, yawned, and stood up. His voice was a mere murmur. “Yes, everything is ready. When do you want to begin?”

Father Philip stood. “Tonight. Meet me by the prison gate after dark. Bring only those that you feel you can trust. With luck, no one will get killed.”

The Alcalde stifled a yawn. “You will not see me this evening. I must maintain my position. But my son, Eduardo, has already been helping our friends. Not many know, but he has become a champion of the local population. I’ve worried because he’s vocal in his opposition to the abuses of church and state. The Indios call him Ka-ansh.”

Father Philip’s eyes widened. “I had heard certain rumors about a mountain lion that made me wonder. I am pleased that it turns out that the phantom kachina is your son. I look forward to making his acquaintance tonight.”


About nine o’clock, when it was totally dark, they gathered outside the city walls of Santa Fe. Father Philip looked over his group of freedom fighters and was pleased. Or at least not quite as afraid. Eduardo Bernal, not yet disguised as Ka-ansh, was accompanied by some armed farmers from Bernalillo and a couple of hot-headed Navajos who were co-conspirators with Ka-ansh. Father Philip had his servant, Raymundo, and Raymundo’s cousin, Mateo, both armed with clubs and belt knives.

The farmers were handed torches, and Father Philip stood near the rear of the crowd with a floppy hat pulled over his eyes to hide his identity. They boldly marched up to the prison gates, and young Eduardo brandished a large scroll complete with ribbons and elaborate wax seals. He let Father Tómas, the priest from the Bernal Hacienda, do the talking, in case anyone in the palacio recognized his voice.

Father Tómas shouted, “We hold here written orders that you are to turn the Indio prisoners over to us immediately. The Father President is not pleased with the actions of the Inquisition today, and he is taking the prisoners to a secret location to continue the interrogation.”

The jailers, mostly poor uneducated men, looked with reverential awe at the elaborate document. They could not read it, but they knew it was important because of the ribbons and seals. Their foreman, Antonio, stood at the large bolted doors and shouted back. “You are not the Father President. And I don’t recognize any of your soldiers. Who are you?”

Father Tómas sneered. “It is not your place to question me. I am part of the Inquisition, sent by the Father President. Bring them immediately. Make no delay. Who are you to question written orders? The signatures are there. Do you not recognize the signature of the Father President? You must obey!”

While Antonio deliberated, Eduardo whispered to Father Tómas, “Father, I didn’t know you were such a good liar.”

The priest didn’t look at Eduardo. “I’ve already assigned my penance. So I might as well go full force today. Tomorrow will be prayers and self-recrimination.”

They could tell that the reason Antonio hesitated was because he’d begun to suspect that this was a rescue effort. The whole affair was a bad situation.

Antonio said, “Father, the scroll may or may not be official. I don’t know because I can’t read. But I do know that if I release these Indios and your paper isn’t what you say, my men and I will be tortured instead. I will release them to you, but you must allow us to come with you, for if we remain we are surely dead.”

Father Tómas smiled. He knew that many Spaniards feared and detested the Inquisition. “Bless you, Antonio. It is appropriate that you accompany us. Bring them out.”

Antonio had tears in his eyes. “Father, many of them cannot walk on their own.”

Father Tómas patted the distraught man on the arm. “Never fear, Antonio, God has provided a way.” He waved down the street, and a wagon and several carts appeared in the darkness.

It was not many minutes before the prisoners, their guards, Ka-ansh in his mask, Father Tómas, and Father Philip, were ready. Father Philip had a word with Ka-ansh. “You and your farmers follow behind us, rearguard. Keep an eye out for a squad of cavalry; we don’t want to tangle with them.

Ka-ansh’s eyes grinned from behind the mask. “Don’t worry, Father. Everything is well in hand.”

Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe

The next morning

The Governor General and the Father President met in the Governor’s office. Ceballos was furious, pacing and shouting. Xavier Bautista, the Father President, watched his opposite stomp up and down for a few minutes. It was true that somehow, the Indios were all gone from the prison, as were the guards. It was almost as if they had evaporated in the night. Most of the underlings in the palacio had also evaporated, not wanting to witness the anger of the Governor General. Don Miguel Quezada, commander of the Garrison of Santa Fe, stood near the doorway. Bautista could tell that he wanted to escape as well, but his duty held him in place.

Ceballos started shouting again. “All of our plans have been disrupted because the Indio prisoners are gone.” He pounded on the table. “Quezada, this is your responsibility. You must determine how they escaped, and arrest them. Find the prisoners, and have them executed. Have the guards executed. Have the conspirators who freed them executed. I will not tolerate this!”

The Father President stared out a window, stroking his neatly trimmed beard. “You know, Francisco, that’s not such a bad idea. By escaping, the Indios have broken the law, and if we execute them, we are justified. Their original guilt or lack of it no longer has any bearing, because by defying us they have shown we were correct to distrust them.”

The governor stopped and turned. A slow smile crossed his face. “Very good, Xavier.” He pointed at the garrison commander. “Quezada, assign someone to the investigation. You are to call out the garrison. In half an hour, we will ride out of the palacio to begin the search. I want every available soldier.”

He sat back down, still smiling. “It’s as if they want us to retaliate. We will track them and burn them out. And if a Spaniard is helping, we will burn them out as well. And if the person that helped the Indios has a land-grant, I’ll divide the land among the soldiers. That should make them more enthusiastic.”

Siege at Bernalillo Chapel

Two days later, September 1634

Boom. Boom. Boom. Father Philip tried to ignore the battering ram at the doors. He put the last heavy bench into the barricade. He turned to check the escape of the wounded, the  women, and the children. There were still some waiting to crawl out a small door in the nave.

With each booming strike, the great chapel doors flexed and shuddered on their hinges. Father Philip was crouched behind the barricades when Raymundo slipped up and whispered, “I think we are ready. How long do you think the door will hold?”

Father Philip smiled. “I don’t know, but watch when it fails, fire that thing when you see a gap big enough for the cannonball to get out.”

Raymundo grinned at him. “Yes, Friend Blue-eyes. I’ve been wanting to fire this Abus gun since we found it in old man Paco’s house.”

Father Philip looked alarmed. “Raymundo, do you mean you have never shot that thing before?”

Raymundo’s grin widened. “Of course not, Father. There are only three big bullets after all. I didn’t want to waste them.”

Another boom echoed throughout the chapel, and two sections of the door splintered wide. The resulting gap was just what Raymundo and his cousin Mateo were waiting for. They balanced the Abus gun evenly between themselves. Raymundo squeezed the lever, and the slow match descended to the powder pan, on the side of the big Abus gun.             Now there was a boom from this side of the chapel door and a very large hole exploded out toward the attackers.         Surprised shouts were heard from outside. Father Philip whispered another prayer of thanks that the old gun didn’t explode in Raymundo’s hands.

At that moment, Marcos, the twelve-year-old boy from the village who was in the bell tower said,  “Father Philip, the smoke, the pillar of smoke you wanted to know about has been seen from outside the town. It was very straight, and it started and stopped like they were putting a blanket over the fire.”

Father Philip visibly relaxed. He looked up at Marcos. “Thank you, son. Stay there and watch.” Then he moved from the barricade toward the small crowd of people in the nave. “At last, we have received the signal from the Jicarilla. The help I was hoping for has arrived. Everybody get ready. As soon as the battering ram stops, we should all go out the small side door of the chapel.”

He glanced over to the Alcalde of Bernalillo. “Federico, they have probably searched all the rest of your hacienda by now. It was brilliant of you to take our rescued prisoners out to the cocinas. We’re going out the side door and splitting up. It will make us harder to follow. Everybody head for the cocinas, the outdoor kitchens, by the river. After dark, we will make more plans. Remember, as soon as the attack on our doors ceases, we leave.”

Don Federico nodded. “The kitchens. We will see you there. God go with you Father.”

The women and children who were crouching in the darkness moved toward the side door, and Garciella, wife of the Alcalde, touched Father Philip’s arm.  There was an unaccustomed tension, probably from fear. “Father, you didn’t really call the Apache, did you?”

Father Philip smiled piously. “They did offer to help, and it didn’t even cost very much.”

Marcos called down from the bell tower. “Apaches! I see Apaches in all the narrow alleys. They’re throwing bundles of burning branches into the plaza. There’s white smoke everywhere!”

Father Philip turned to Father Tómas. “Tómas, my brother, you need to decide now. If you go with us you will be branded as a renegade as I am. And if you stay you’ll be treated with suspicion.”

Father Tómas just smiled. “Don’t worry about me, Philip. I have an idea. You should lock me in the cupboard with the vestments. By the time they find me in there they will be convinced I was made a prisoner when you occupied the chapel, as the only defensible structure around the plaza. I should be fine. Besides, the Father President has been wanting a good incident with the soldiers; he may even give me a bonus for creating one.”

Father Philip laughed and embraced Tómas. “God go with you, Father Tómas. You are almost wily enough to be a Jesuit.”

Tómas laughed. “I could never write that many letters.” Then he allowed himself to be hustled into the cabinet by Raymundo and locked in. The whoops and shouts increased in volume outside the chapel. Marcos, who was still in the tower, shouted. “The plaza, it’s completely covered in white smoke. Ew, I think they used stink weed. It smells really bad, even up here.”

Father Philip called up the tower. “Marcos, where are our allies?”

Marcos had started down the ladder. “The Apaches? They are running in out of the plaza, striking a few soldiers with clubs, and running back through the alleyways. The block of soldiers is beginning to break up. Oh, and the Apache even have a few muskets.”

Father Philip looked up. “Hurry down, Marcos. It is time for us to go.” Father Philip and Marcos hurried out the door, and Raymundo, his Abus gun over his shoulder, was last out. Just as the chapel doors burst open, he closed the side door and was gone.

Plaza of the Hacienda Bernalillo

September 1634

Teniente Ramirez, commanding the assault of Bernalillo, scowled at the messenger. “What do you mean, they are attacking the horse line? We left guards. Those horses are the only thing that can keep us alive in a mass attack.”

The soldier shrugged. “But it is true, Teniente.  The Apache, they are attacking and trying to take our horses. You know how they always want to steal horses.”

The Teniente shook his head. “I still don’t understand why the Apache are attacking right now. We haven’t threatened them or even spoken to them in months. Very well, signal retreat. Everyone to the horse line! If we can keep the horses, we can run these savages down. Without them, they may well trample us themselves. We can’t allow that to happen.”

With the discipline that was the hallmark of the Spanish forces in the New World, the soldiers withdrew to the horse line. The battle of Bernalillo was over.

Las Cocinas on the river bank

September 1634

The outdoor kitchens, next to the river, were built to offer cooking space for large gatherings and also to keep the cooking heat outside in the hot weather. They were about a half mile from the hacienda. There was a large ramada, or shaded patio, and cooking surfaces around a hardened dirt floor.

Ka-ansh and his cohorts were anxious to engage in battle, but Don Federico had admonished them to stay here and protect the rescued Indios. Eduardo no longer wore the mask, hiding his identity; all the Indios just accepted him as Ka-ansh.

He and his friends made friends with Antonio and the two guards who came with them, Paco and Esteban. They all had families north of Santa Fe and wanted to return soon. Ka-ansh asked them to stay until other arrangements could be made, and they agreed. Besides, they didn’t want to be caught by soldiers searching for the escaped Indios.

When Father Philip arrived, he found the rest of the villagers reassembled there. They took a headcount, and the miracle was that nobody was killed. There were some minor injuries. It had been a long and stressful night and day.

Father Philip checked on the rescued tribal leaders and governors. He spoke in the Tewa he had learned. “Good elders, are you well?”

There were nods. The twelve hours rest they got here in the kitchens had helped. “Elders, today we must decide. Will you hide, hoping that the Ironskins will not find you, or will you go back to your villages and teach your young men to resist?” The time had come to set the match to this powder keg he had created. This was the first time he had seen these leaders and shamans in the light, and they were a pitiful sight. All had been beaten, and some had been further tortured. But there was defiance in all their eyes. It was time.

One of the men, Wa-tu from San Felipe struggled to his feet. “Friend Blue-eyes, we see now that you were correct at our last meeting. We can not trust the leaders of the Ironskins; they have lied to us too often.”

Father Philip nodded. “It is true, Wa-tu. Now, the Governor General and the Father President cannot afford to leave you alive. If they recapture you, they will kill you on the spot. From the papers I received from Germany, much history has been repeated. Now the only way for you to survive is to band together and drive the Spaniards out.”

There was silence as all considered what Father Philip said. Finally, Don Federico cleared his throat. “Father, do you really think it will come to that? Will we all have to abandon our homes and return to Spain?”

Father Philip looked at the gathered leaders for a moment. “I cannot see the future, but from the historical information I received from my brothers, that is what has previously happened.”

Don Federico looked at his wife and the other Spaniards scattered around the cocinas and sighed. “I know of several Spanish families that don’t want to return to Spain, or even Mexico City. We have made a life here, and it is a good life. Perhaps we can write this history to our own liking. Perhaps we can come to an understanding, just as you and I have, tonight. We do not need to be different peoples. We can be all one people with the Spaniards aiding the Pueblos, and the Apache alongside. Perhaps we can create our own version of peace here in the Frontiers of New Mexico.”

Eduardo, dressed as the Ka-ansh, stood next to his father and Father Philip to speak. “Yes, just like we did tonight. Governors, you must go back to your villages and tell them what has happened. You must convince them. If we don’t all band together, the Governor General and the Father President will hunt us all down separately and destroy everything. But together we outnumber the soldiers, even if they call in all the troops from every garrison in the district. Yes, I was born an Ironskin, but I was born in the Rio Grande valley, as were each of you. We must fight for our life here, fight for what we love.”

That brought cheers from the Indios and the Spaniards alike. Father Philip smiled. “For my part, I was not born a Spaniard, But I am a loyal son of the Church. I will begin by writing letters to everyone in Europe I can think of. I know that neither the government in Spain nor the leadership of the Church will countenance what is happening to the Indios. Perhaps, if it is known what kind of treatment you have received, there will be sympathy and support in Spain. I must send a record of this atrocity to the Viceroy in Mexico City before the bureaucrats in Santa Fe have the chance to sanitize the record.”

Pos n’ou, Governor of Nambe pueblo, stood up painfully. “Friend Blue-eyes, while you battle the mysteries of the Ironskins, what are we to do? Some of us are not strong enough to travel.”

Father Philip’s eyes were sad. “If you cannot travel, send word to your pueblos. And for those that are still fit, go and talk to your people. It is time to lay aside our hurts and differences and join in rebellion. It is time for you to drive the Ironskins out. This is more than the old hatreds between clans and villages. You must decide, but do not delay. Given the chance, the Governor General of Santa Fe will crush you one by one.”

The Indio Governors and their shamans gathered in the courtyard by village language groups. The discussions were intense for over an hour.

Natoto-kwata, from Ohkay Owingeh, stepped away from his Tewa group and called to Father Phillip. “Friend Blue-eyes, is there information in your letters that can guide us? What does your secret knowledge say? Is it time for war?”

The group went silent, all wanting to hear Father Phillip. He stood and crossed himself, praying that he would know exactly what to say to this group. “It is true that there are records indicating that there was a previous Pueblo Revolt in 1680. But my wisdom cannot tell you if it is time for war. We know that according the record, the revolt was successful but did not last, as the Ironskins returned twelve years later and reconquered the Pueblo people. That may be the case here, and it may not. It is in God’s hands.”

The groups went back to discussion, and Father Phillip sat down. He was ready to give them all the time he needed, although he hoped it would be a consensus.

Finally, Tseji, governor from Pojoaque, stepped forward. “We agree that they beat us like dogs, they threatened to hang us, and now messengers from our villages say that there is a warrant of execution declared for all of us, even for you, Friend Blue-eyes. We are all fugitives, as well as anyone who helps us. We have no choice. We will all return to our villages and prepare. In five days we will strike.”

Then the shaman from Sandia pueblo, Wa-hwayku-a, who spoke in Tiwa, stood. “And just to be sure that you know when we will strike, we will each take a piece of rope with five knots; each morning we will untie a knot, and when there are no more knots, we surround Santa Fe and strike. Those villages too far from Santa Fe shall drive the Ironskins out from your area. If we do this all at the same time they will not be able to concentrate the soldiers against any of us.”

Father Philip looked on solemnly. “I weep to see the declaration of open warfare, for many innocents will suffer. But it must be done. To help, I will pledge all I have, up to my own life. I will be with you at the gates of Santa Fe in five days. May God bless you all.”

The Garrison of Santa Fe
September 1634

Don Miguel Quezada, the grizzled military commander, glared at his assembled captains and lieutenants. “I am concerned. I expected more action against the Indios before this. It is far too quiet. Five days ago, after the Inquisition tortured them, the tribal elders somehow escaped from prison. You tracked them to Bernalillo, and you engaged in battle, but then left empty-handed. And since then, nothing has happened for the past three days. Something should have happened by now. Teniente Ramirez, what do your scouts report?”

He was interrupted by another messenger. The man hurried into the garrison, out of breath, and held out a folded paper he took from his shirt. “Sir, a message! It came from your spy in the village of Tesuque. He says they are going to attack in two more days.”

Don Miguel grabbed the dispatch. “Who’s attacking? Tesuque?”

Fear was foremost on the messenger’s face. “No, Don Miguel. The Indios. All of them. They have agreements to band together and drive us out.”

Teniente de Bances stood up. “Don Miguel, if we ride out now we can ambush them on the road.”

Quezada signaled for silence. “I understand that you all think we have better weapons and better protection than any Indio in the Valley, and that is true. None of them have our armor or weapons. And this is all true. But there are at best only two hundred of us, and there may be as many as five thousand of them. If we leave here to confront them, who will protect the women and children here in Santa Fe? We should prepare for them here. When they are weakened, then we will attack. Then we can ride out and break them. If we prepare for a siege, the hatred between the tribes should break up their alliance before we do anything. We just need to be patient. Start by barricading the plaza. And make sure the cannons are ready. Dismissed.”

Santa Domingo pueblo

Saturday night

All the leadership from villages near Santa Fe met to plan the attack. Ka-ansh burst through the group of warriors who stood around the circle of the council of village elders. “There is a traitor. The Ironskins know everything about the attack.”

Wa-tu, shaman of San Felipe, stood. “Ka-ansh, you are sure? That we are betrayed?” The rest of the council buzzed with whispers and suspicious glances.

Ka-ansh nodded. “It is certain. I was in Tesuque and saw the traitor himself hand the message to a runner. I slipped out and followed the runner to Santa Fe. The Governor of Tesuque has already turned the traitor over to the Navajos. The traitor revealed that he had told them that we are attacking the day after tomorrow.”

Wa-tu scowled. “Very well, send out runners. We attack in the morning, a day early. If we do not, we may never push them out.”

The First Day

Sunday, Outside the mission at Cochiti

The light had just begun to show above the crest of the mountains to the east. It was time. Wa-tu, leading the band from San Felipe pueblo stood and raised his spear over his head. All heads turned to him as he shouted a war cry. “It is time. Attack!”

The war cry echoed from a thousand throats. Men flung themselves toward the adobe walls of the monastery.

The priests were awake; after all it was Sunday. Father Garcia was in the chapel lighting candles when a throng of Indios charged into the chapel and threatened him with clubs and spears. “My sons, what is this?”

The Indios shouted in their native tongue and attacked without mercy. The massacre spread throughout the monastery and out into the streets. Soon flames begin to flicker above and around the eaves of the chapel. Every building of the compound was put to the torch and livestock was driven off to the local village.

The First Day

Tiguex Hacienda

Ana Hernandez looked through a window of the hacienda. She saw smoke from the village nearby but didn’t know its source. Before she could find out, her vision was filled with an Indio on a horse. “What is this? Pablo, why do you have all of these men here?”

The tall Indio looked down at her. “My name is no longer Pablo. I am Kwa-kay, a proud warrior of the Tiwa people.”

Ana’s face showed fear for the first time. Kwa-kay continued, “You and your family have treated us with respect so we will not kill you. But you must leave, and you must leave now. If you do not leave you will surely die. I will not be able to protect you.”

Ana hurried into the house and gathered the children. She didn’t take time for more belongings than the family Bible and her mother’s lace shawl. Then they were outside. Her husband, Jose, had hitched the horses to the carriage, and she loaded the children in before climbing in herself.

As Jose turned the carriage toward Santa Fe, Ana gazed sadly back at the village. Most of the roofs were in flames.

The First Day

First mesa, western edge of the province

Sergeant Sanchez and his men ran up the path to the chapel, with unnumbered Indios screaming behind them. Most soldiers had pants and shoes, some had armor, and many carried a pistol. When the chapel door was slammed shut and barred securely, they found they were missing three men, and nobody had thought to pick up a musket or halberd.

Father Pablo hurried up, still wiping sleep from his eyes. “What is this, Sergeant Sanchez? What is all the noise?”

Sanchez directed his men to use the benches to barricade the door before turning to Father Pablo. “I don’t know what happened, Father. But from here you can see everything south and east of us is on fire. Before we were aware, the Indios attacked. They have already killed three of my men.

The priest crossed himself as they heard the crash of tree trunks pounding on the door. Then one of the soldiers screamed. Nobody noticed until too late the bundles of burning twigs and branches that were falling from holes in the roof.

The First Day

Santa Fe

First by trickles, and then in mobs, the refugee Spanish inhabitants of the Province of New Mexico filled the small town of Santa Fe to the brim. Nobody wanted to stay in the buildings on the edge of town, so they were all milling around in front of the palacio.

Governor General Ceballos burst into the throng of humanity that filled the central plaza. “What is happening? Why are you all here? I demand clarification as to why you have left your haciendas.”

The mob murmured, and someone in the crowd shouted, “It is the local Indios. They have attacked. They are burning everything.”

Another man shouted, “They are killing anybody too slow to leave. And they are driving all of the Spaniards out of the haciendas.”

A voice in the back of the mob shouted as well, “You are the Governor General. You are responsible for our protection.”

Now many people were shouting. The Governor General started backing toward the doors of the palacio. “Go back to your shelter. You can’t stay in the plaza all night. Go back to the church, or the monastery.” By that time, the governor was in the doorway of the palacio. He stepped in and the guards slammed the door. The mob was looking ugly.

The governor shouted as well, stomping through the hallways to his quarters. “What have we heard? I thought they weren’t going to attack for two more days!”

The aides and guards scattered like cockroaches as he moved. As he sat down in his chair, Don Miguel Quezada stepped in and saluted. “Governor, we have reports from every part of the province, and …”

Ceballos waved his hand, and Don Miguel fell silent. “Your reports are late. Haven’t you seen the plaza?”

Don Miguel stopped. “No, Sire. I just rode in from Tesuque.”

The governor snorted. “The plaza is full of refugees from the haciendas. They have been driven out this morning by attacking Indios. I thought your spy said we’d have two days.”

Don Miguel stood very straight and gripped his sword. “Sir, when I left there before dawn, Tesuque was in chaos. Perhaps you didn’t hear, but the Father President, accompanied only by one guard, rode to Tesuque yesterday to examine the church’s assets.”

Ceballos sat back in his chair. “No, I hadn’t heard that he left the palacio, but I don’t keep track of him. Did he return with you?”

Don Miguel stared at the floor. “I saw his body, Governor. He is dead, along with at least twenty other men. I don’t know what happened to the women.”

The Governor General jumped to his feet. “What? How could this have happened? What of the garrison in Tesuque? Didn’t they raise a hand to protect the Father President?”

“Governor, the garrison was attacked first. I’ve had reports of upwards of a thousand warriors surrounding Tesuque. They slaughtered the soldiers before they knew there was a threat. Then they went to the church, dragged out everyone inside and killed them, then burnt the church to the ground. I’ve been unable to get more information that I can trust.”

“What of our spy? Why didn’t we hear from him before this morning? Last night?” Now the Governor General was pacing.

“Governor, I fear that our spy has been compromised. I couldn’t find him in Tesuque. I suspect foul play.”

“Of course there is foul play, Don Miguel. We are surrounded by rebellious Indios. I want you to assemble the men. Immediately. They are to strengthen the barricades. I want all of the streets into the plaza blocked except for the Southeast corner. Have the six-pound guns emplaced there. And have Teniente Ramirez send one of the scouts to Isleta. If this is a rebellion, I will need reinforcements from there. I’m relying on you, Don Miguel, on your honor as a Spaniard. You must do all you can to protect the inhabitants of Santa Fe and all the surviving refugees.”


Setting the barricades was not easy. The whole time that the barricades were being built, more and more of the refugee Spaniards were flooding into the plaza. Don Miguel took matters firmly into his own hands. He grabbed Sergeant Castenada. “Jorge, I want you to get the women and children under cover. Inside the palacio is best. It’s the strongest building here. I don’t care what the seneschal says. Women and children inside. They can’t stay out here underfoot. The men and older boys will boost the garrison and help us defend against the Indios.”

Sergeant Castenada saluted. “Yes, sir. I’ll get my men on it.”

When the women and children had been bustled inside, everyone took a deep breath and got to work. Don Miguel strode over to the Teniente supervising the northwest barricade. “I have a job for you as well, de Bances. You need to evaluate which refugees have some military training and form them into troops. Put sergeants or lieutenants in command and give them assignments. I am not feeding anyone who can’t be useful. We have a siege, and if we are to survive, we have to be well organized.”

Young Teniente de Bances saluted. “Of course, Don Miguel.” Then, as the commander moved on to bigger problems, de Bances grabbed one of the Governor General’s aides. “We need to find those men who have military training. Send those with firearm training to the stables and those who have some sword or pole-arm experience to the parade ground. Report back to me before sundown.”

The local Spaniards had many problems, but bureaucracy was not one of them. They learned delegation and prioritizing from a young age. The Spanish propensity for minutia and exacting detail would finally show its value.

Immediately, aides to both the Governor General and the Father President began to filter among the crowd, sending people to the various places they needed to be. Boys as young as fourteen were pressed into service, and the old men, depending upon their health and strength, were sent either to be soldiers or to go inside with the women and children.

By sunset, the refugees were organized. The governor emerged from the palacio, fully armed and armored. He signaled for his horse to be brought forward. When he swung into the saddle, the crowd became silent. “Men, tonight we work together to protect everything we hold dear. You must stand up and show these Indios what a Spaniard is made of. We will win victory for the King!”

The cheers raised the spirit of every man in the ranks. Now, more quietly, the governor continued. “Don Miguel, how many men do we have to defend the city?”

The garrison commander saluted. “Governor, trained or mostly trained, we have about eighty men. Local landowners, their sons, and volunteers comprise perhaps another seventy more. Of that we can field about sixty pikemen, forty musketeers, and fifty cavalrymen. That accounts for all of the armor we had available. And it does not include the crews with the brass cannons or the locals with their own hunting pieces.”

The governor pointed at his favorite unit of the garrison. “What of the brass cannons?”

Don Miguel nodded. “They and the local militia will guard the barricades. That way, we can use our soldiers to scatter the Indios. Our weapons are better, our men are trained and blooded in battle. They cannot stand before us.”

As they spoke the men were rapidly forming into a group at the southeast corner of the plaza. The governor gestured outward, outside the barricade. “And the Indios? How many are out there? How many Indios are here in rebellion?”

Don Miguel turned to Colonel Martinez. “Colonel, you have sent scouts out. Have any of them reported back?”

Colonel Martinez saluted. “Right now there about eight hundred Indios surrounding us, carrying some kind of weapon. Mostly bows and arrows and hunting spears. One of my scouts rode as far as La Bajada and could see several groups of Indios traveling in this direction, so more are gathering.”

The Governor General interrupted the report. “Do you mean that this is more than one or two pueblos attacking? How have they organized? Who is responsible?”

Colonel Martinez continued. “Governor, there is more. Apparently, somebody has been training them. My scouts have observed the Indios formed up into disciplined groups. As they can’t enter Santa Fe, right now they are burning the farms and other buildings outside of town. Some of the fields are burning, and they have taken the best of the outer buildings as a headquarters.”

Don Miguel murmured to the Governor General, “If your predecessors had not been so lax about the city plan we would have a proper grid of streets to defend and attack from. But with the exception of the plaza and a few rows of houses around it, the streets are chaotic. The houses do not provide much in the way of defensible territory.”

The Governor General bent down, and put his hand on Don Miguel’s shoulder. “No use complaining about our circumstances; there is nothing we can do for it now.”

As the governor sat back in his saddle, Don Miguel straightened, and saluted. “My men will do everything we can do to protect this palacio, Governor.”

Cavern of Tocatl Coztic, Jemez mountains

September 1634

It had been three years since Teopixqui arrived in this canyon, and as he recruited men and women with darkness in their hearts, the cave had finally been transformed. Now it was no longer a crack in the ground that one had to crawl in on hands and knees. Now there was an opening five feet high and a screening wall that hid the entrance. Rabbit brush and young juniper had been planted to help hide the entrance.

The Nahuatl priest came out in full darkness and moved to the top of the rise. From here, if he looked north, he could see the tops of trees in Santa Fe. And if he looked south, he could see the Rio Grande valley, with several small villages of Ironskins and Indios. There was smoke rising into the night sky from both directions. Something was happening.

He stepped to the leather curtain that covered the door and spoke to a slave. “Send for Tse-bit-a.” Then he went back to his observatory spot. That much smoke usually meant fire and suffering, and it was rather enjoyable to see it all around him.

It took several minutes for Tse-bit-a to find him. The man immediately fell to his knees, then bent and touched his head to the dirt. “What is your wish, Serene One?”

Teopixqui ignored him for a moment. Then he said, “Rise, Tse-bit-a. I have a task for you.”

The Navajo stood, and Teopixqui pointed toward Santa Fe and then to the south. “There is conflict. Go find out who is burning the villages. I need to know if the Ironskins are searching for us, or if they are spending their wrath on the local Indios.

Tse-bit-a bowed. “It shall be done, Serene One.” And then he ghosted into the darkness.


The tall Navajo warrior skulked in the woods above Santa Fe. It was interesting to see, because never had he seen so many Indios together in one place. He couldn’t tell much in the darkness, but he estimated that there were at least five hundred warriors outside Santa Fe, carrying torches and singing war chants.

He turned and headed down toward Agua Fria to get more information. This was not an unfamiliar trail. He had come this way several times in his recruiting trips. The ground became less steep, and he was able to move down to see the village.

The surprise was that it was not the Indio village burning, but the Ironskin one. This was not what he expected, so it was time to get more information. He moved to a screen of bushes, and waited until he spotted an Indio moving somewhat carelessly. The man was armed with a spear, and moved through the bush like a cow drunken on loco weed.

Tse-bit-a waited until the man was close to his hiding spot, then he stood up, grabbed the man around the throat, and dragged him back into the brush. He held the man’s neck tightly until he stopped struggling, then hoisted the limp body up on his shoulder and moved back uphill.

At a sheltered spot that was probably a resting place for deer in the springtime, he dropped the man to the ground and tied the captive’s hands and feet and then sat back to wait.

About ten minutes later, the unconscious man stirred. It amused Tse-bit-a to watch the fear flare in the captive’s eyes as he realized that he was tied up. Finally, the man’s gaze swung to where Tse-bit-a was lounging under a juniper tree. “Where am I? Why have you tied me up?”

The Navajo came to stand over the man and laugh. “Well, you were moving in the night like a drunken cow, and it irritated me. So I tied you up. I have some questions.” Tse-bit-a took a knife from the sheath on his waist, and held it so the captive could see the moonlight on the knife edge. “First of all, who are you, and where are you from?”

The man trembled, but answered. “I am Kwampo from San Felipe pueblo. I am here as a warrior. We are going to drive the Ironskins out of the Rio Grande valley or kill them all.”

That surprised Tse-bit-a, and he squatted down by the man, thoughts of torture receding. “San Felipe is going to drive the Ironskins out? And how are you going to do that? There may be as many as a thousand Ironskins here.”

Kwampo’s arms were tied behind him, so he couldn’t roll on his back or sit up. But he rolled so he could look Tse-bit-a in the eye. “We are not just the San Felipe. We are the Indios of the Rio Grande valley. Warriors are arriving every day from as far as First Mesa and Ohkay Owingeh. We are united in our purpose. You are a Navajo, you should join us. Driving out the Ironskins would benefit you as well.”

Tse-bit-a looked at his knife and at his captive, then moved in, with the knife forward. The captive jerked back. But a look of surprise crossed his features as the Navajo cut his restraints. Tse-bit-a stepped back and gestured. “You are right, the Ironskins should be driven out. Go and join your brothers.”

Kwampo sat up, and rubbed his wrists, then looked one more time at Tse-bit-a before scurrying away like a frightened rabbit. It left Tse-bit-a with a lot to think about as he made his way back to the cave of Tocatl Coztic.

The Second Day
Outside Santa Fe, early morning
September 1634

Father Philip stood outside the barn that was now a council chamber. The morning air was cool and dry, and to the east, the mountains glowed with the coming sunrise. The rest of the sky was clean, clear of cloud or dust. He watched as the sun peeped over the mountains, sending rays of light into the valley, waking the plants and animals. The dawn was so innocent, unaware of the conflict going on in the valley.

He sighed and stepped into the door. There, the leadership of the pueblos gathered to discuss the plans for the day. Yesterday, plans had gone much better than any had predicted. The Spaniards were driven from every village within twenty miles of Santa Fe. Word was arriving all the time about attacks in the outer villages and haciendas, and there was a steady stream of refugees hurrying into Santa Fe.

This barn was on the outskirts of Santa Fe, south and west of the palacio and in the oldest part of town. The sun was just lightening the building as the small windows above were spilling with sunlight.

Father Philip looked over the leadership of the uprising, sitting in a circle in the center of the barn floor. When they were gathered like this, he could see resemblances, as if he were attending a large family reunion. The people of the Pueblos in the Rio Grande valley were different than their neighbors, the Apache, the Navajo, or in the north, the Utes and Paiutes. All of these groups came through the area for trading, and girls were brought from those groups for wives. But these people were more alike than different. They wore loose leggings and fine shirts, and each had a wool blanket with the traditional weaving of their village or tribe.

He had been given permission to address them, So with Raymundo by his side, he stood and addressed them in Spanish with translation. “In spite of their anger toward the Spanish invaders, you must offer them the chance to surrender. Tell them you’ll let them leave, then fall behind them and push them out of the territory. It is not a good thing to execute all of them. The Great Father will not bless us if that is done.” Then he sat down.

Okuwa-oky, from Santo Domingo, waited for the priest to finish. He stood for his turn to speak. “Friend Blue-eyes, they have done many horrible things to us. The anger runs very deep. For over forty years, longer than many of the young men have been alive, they have trampled upon us and treated us like beasts of burden, stolen our young men, destroyed our sacred objects. The Great Father is not pleased with the Ironskins. Nevertheless, for the sake of those who treated me kindly, I say we give them a chance.”

Wa-tu stood for his turn. When he spoke, he pointed at Father Philip. “Friend Blue-eyes, You must go to the Spanish. You are well respected by the black-robes. You must make a demand. Tell them that if they leave peacefully, they will not die. Tell them that if they stay we will kill every one of them.”

At that speech, there were many nods, and grunts of agreement. But before Father Philip could stand to speak, another chief, Natoto-kwata, stood quickly and spoke. “But, Friend Blue-eyes, it is best if you make them talk long and loud. The longer they talk, the more men we will assemble here.”

Many laughed at Natoto-kwata. When Okuwa-oky could see that the council was in agreement, he stood to speak. “My slave name was Carlos, but I am again called Okuwa-oky, given me by my tribe. I say that if we can convince them to leave, many lives will be saved of the Tewa, the Tiguex, the Keres, and the Pecos. The Taos and the Piciru. These are lives we will spend if we must, but if they leave peacefully, we can live to old age.”

This brought shouts from the whole council. Father Philip could still see some anger, but for the first time, the council was in agreement. One by one, the chiefs of the villages sat and held up their war sticks. Each stick showed agreement.

Father Philip stood counting. “Eight, nine, ten,” Finally it was unanimous. If the Spanish would leave peacefully, the Indios would not attack.

Okuwa-oky stood with his stick on his arm. “We are in agreement. I will send another with Friend Blue-eyes to keep him safe. Make for me two crosses about the size of your hand make one white and make the other red. Then find some white cloth, and place it on the end of the lance. They will know that you come in peace, and that you want to talk.”

So that morning, Father Philip set out with a delegation of chiefs and warriors. They were all on horseback, except for Friend Blue-eyes, who straddled a burro. He was trembling but tried to keep a brave face. The truth was, he was not at all sure that either side would honor the white flag. And the Spaniards were just as likely to shoot him on the spot as they were to listen to him.

The Second Day

Santa Fe Garrison, Just after noon

Sergeant Juan Sanchez ran up to Don Miguel, out of breath. “Excellency! Excellency, the Indios have a flag of truce. They wish to talk. They are approaching the opening to the plaza now.”

The commander stepped to the stirrup of the Governor General’s horse. “Sir, we have a delegation approaching under the flag of truce. I wish the Father President was here. He always seemed to be able to talk the Indios into doing anything he wanted.”

The Governor General looked over his meager troop. “Don Miguel, we should go out to meet them. Get your horse. I will go with you and an additional ten soldiers. Be sure to choose the ones with the best-looking armor. We want to impress them. Maybe we can talk them out of this rebellion.”

The group of men assembled on foot behind Don Miguel and the Governor General, both on horseback. The Spanish procession proceeded until they were just outside the opening in the plaza.

The two delegations faced each other at the crossroads. Don Miguel noticed that one of the Indios was wearing familiar bloodstained clothing. He leaned over to the Governor General and whispered, “These Indios are in no way innocent. That one is wearing the Father President’s robes.”

Ceballos’ lips clamped into a firm line. He raised his voice so it could be heard by the Indio delegation. “I recognize you, Carlos. Why are your people savaging outlying haciendas? Have we not always treated you well? You were a respected member of the counsel.”

Okuwa-oky was one of two on horseback, along with Wa-tu and Father Philip. “Governor General, I was never truly a prosperous member of the council. I was only called Carlos because the priest said my name was an abomination. Many years ago, when your people came to the Rio Grande, we gave you homes to live in and food for the winter. But now that you are many, you take our food and burn our homes. This is how you treated us.” The chief pulled the bloody robes from his shoulders and arms, and showed welts and scabs from healing wounds. “I was captured and tortured in your palacio for no reason. If you had not broken your promise, we would have had no rebellion in our hearts before the tortures. You are an evil man, as was the Father President.” He threw the torn robes on the ground.

Then Okuwa-oky motioned to Father Philip, who was holding up two crosses, one white and one red. “This man speaks for us. He will explain our demands. You must choose.”

Then he turned his horse, and the other Indios followed him down the street away from the plaza. Father Philip was left alone in the street.

The Governor General sat back into his saddle and watched the Indios ride off. Soon, the priest holding a red and a white cross was all that was left of the enemy delegation. “So are you a prisoner, returned as a show of good faith, Father Philip?”

The priest sat very still, trying not to look at the soldiers behind Don Miguel and the Governor General. Most of them had muskets aimed directly at him. “No, sire. They sent me to persuade you. Depending on how these talks go, I am to go back to them with the cross of your choice. Are we to continue this discussion out here in the sun, or may we not retire to the palacio and let me explain my mission?”

The Governor General snorted, and turned his horse. He spoke loudly to Don Miguel so that Father Philip could hear him as well. “Take this traitor to the chapel.” Then he rode back into the plaza, leaving the soldiers and Don Miguel.

The garrison commander sighed. “Father Philip, I know you well. You are not a wicked or corrupted priest. How could you turn against your people? How could you be part of the murder of the Father President?”

Father Philip sighed as well. He looked as if the weight of the world sat on his shoulders. “Don Miguel, it’s not that simple. I was not there when the monastery at Tesuque was burned. I didn’t have the power to stop the forces that the Father President primed himself. You know as well as I that the choices made here were not in keeping with the law of the King and of the Church.”

Father Philip watched Don Miguel’s face as he silently turned his horse toward the plaza. Don Miguel was not pleased with the Governor General, but his duty remained to command the garrison in Santa Fe.

That left Teniente de Bances, in command of the foot soldiers. “Come, Father Philip. We will escort you to the Governor General. And I pray that there is a way for all of us to come away from this travesty alive.”

Father Philip rode up to Teniente de Bances. “I have prayed for that outcome from the beginning.” He stood as the crosses were confiscated and manacles were snapped on his wrists, and then followed the soldiers into the palacio. So much for negotiations.

Second Day

Sunset, Santa Fe

Father Philip sat in a chair in the center of the chapel floor. He had been there for quite some time, alone. His manacled hands sat in his lap. He was familiar with so many of the sounds around him. He could hear murmurs from the lay brothers behind the screens in the chapel. And farther away was the rattle and scrape of the indoor kitchens.

Finally, he heard measured footsteps, and he knew that the time had come. They were the boots of the Governor General, coming around the corner from his office. Father Philip whispered another prayer, and fingered the rosary hanging from his belt. He silently told himself, Your time has come, Philip. God, send me the voice that will make them choose peace. Or at least delay until the Indios have time to build their forces.

Several feet in front of Father Philip’s chair was a table and two chairs. The Governor General entered the chapel, still in his armor. He made a show of sitting in one of the chairs, facing him. It was obvious that the empty chair would have been for the Father President. This was more of a tribunal than a delegation discussion.

Father Philip sat silent, waiting for the Governor General to open the discussion. The silence stretched for some moments, but Father Philip remained calm. He was resigned to the possibility that the Governor General would order him executed.

Finally, the Governor General looked directly at Father Philip. “Here he is, the man that caused an Indio rebellion. It was you who received the letters that put this idea in their heads. It was you who released the rebellious leaders from the Inquisition. I am sure that if the Father President were here, you would already be stretched and roasting over coals. So are you ready to confess your traitorous behavior, or shall we bring in the Inquisitors?”

Father Philip stood, as he felt the position of spokesman demanded some decorum. “Governor General, it is true that I received a letter from the Jesuits about future history of this place, but I did not foment rebellion. I did not dictate to you your actions that brought the Indios to war. You stand accused of negligence towards these people, allowing them to be enslaved and tortured for your own gain. I do not feel that I acted as a traitor to you or to this colony of New Spain. I was at the Hacienda of Bernalillo when your men were sent to attack us and burn the holding. This was the spark that set this rebellion in motion.”

Ceballos’ eyes glittered but he said nothing.

Father Philip continued. “The Governor of Santo Domingo, who was known as Carlos, was one of those I rescued from the prison. As a spokesman of the Indios, I was sent to give you their demands. The white cross is for peace, and the red cross is for war and death. If you take the white cross, you must gather your people up and leave. If you choose this, the Indios have sworn a solemn oath that they will let you leave in peace.”

The Governor General was on his feet immediately, his face red with anger. “And how do we know we can trust the solemn oath of savages? They have no souls. They have nothing sacred to swear by. They are incapable of giving their solemn oath.”

Father Philip was silent for a moment until the Governor General sat down. “Begging your pardon, sire, but it has been my experience that the Spanish are more likely to break an oath than the Indios. They have kept bargains that you yourself have broken. May I continue?” The Governor General leaned back and folded his arms across his chest, so Father Philip took a deep breath and went on. “If you choose the white cross, you will live. If you do not, then the Red Cross shows their intention to stain the land red with your blood and not one Spaniard will leave here alive.”

The Governor General snorted, then stomped from the room without another word. The rest of the men in and around the chapel were unsure what they were supposed to do next, so they tiptoed out, and Father Philip was left alone in the chapel with just one candle burning. He thought for a long time about what a calming and intelligent force the Father President had been. Now that he was no longer alive, what was to keep Governor General Ceballos in check?


Father Philip still sat in the chapel. He was tired. He couldn’t tell what time it was, but it was probably well past midnight. He had been awake for almost two days. Reality was starting to seem very unreal. He sat there for a long time, until the candle, which was burning low, sputtered and went dim. It flared again, but it would not be long before he was sitting in the dark.

There was a disturbance out in the vestibule, near the entrance of the chapel. Then the palacio doors were thrown open. Father Philip heard Don Miguel’s voice as he ran towards the Governor General’s quarters. “Wake the Governor!”

Father Philip sat in the darkness of the chapel, and was unnoticed. He saw Ceballos meet Don Miguel just outside the chapel. “What is the meaning of this? It’s the middle of  . . .”

Don Miguel interrupted. “Governor General, we are under attack. The Indios have entered the Plaza and have taken the cannon.”

Ceballos ran toward his quarters. “Bring my horse. We must not lose the cannon.”

1 review for Fire on the Rio Grande

  1. William Scott (verified owner)

    A good look at Spanish/American Native conflict in southwestern North America and how the ROF ‘accelerates’ the OTL.

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