The Drastic Dragon of Draco Texas…

4 Jun

We salute another Scarborough release on the Legends Promo from GSP. 



  Determined to become an author of western penny dreadful novels like her idol, Ned Buntline, a young San Francisco newspaper editor christens herself Valentine Lovelace (after a floozie acquaintance of her father’s) and heads east for the Wild West. 
     She finds it in spades in the Texas Big Bend when she is kidnapped from a mule train by Comanches and ends up the guest of a ruthless comanchero, a sort of wild west warlord, after the Comanches are distracted by a. . .dragon?
     Fort Draco, as the comanchero fort is known, is as full of intrigue and nighttime carryings-on as a modern day romantic novel, but Frank Drake, the owner, is no hero. If Valentine wants to save herself and the less-guilty if not entirely innocent folks who live there, she must defeat heat stroke, gunslingers, a couple of fake rainmakers and their camel, hostile Indians, the voice haunting her dreams (not in a good way) and a dragon who not only is gobbling all the livestock and transportation in the area but is guarding the only water hole in fifty miles of drought-ridden desert. And she must do it all while taking good notes, of course.
     This is a western but not as we know it and a fantasy set where we’re not used to it.


Paladins of the Prairie may very well exist on the prairie, but they have clearly drawn the line at carrying the Code of the West into the Texas desert. I know for a fact that muleskinners bear no resemblance whatsoever to either Saint George or to any of those other gallant knights who traipsed about rescuing damsels in distress. When I was abducted by wild Indians and subsequently menaced by a dragon, none of the fifty teamsters with whom I was traveling lifted a finger to rescue me.
Of course, forty-nine of them weren’t aware I needed rescuing, since the wagon in which I was riding had bogged down behind the others just before midday siesta and of course the mules had to be rested before we were dislodged and reunited with the rest of the train.
     Not that my traveling companions were being intentionally neglectful. They were simply more accustomed to dealing with mules than with ladies. Had it occurred to them that I might be in some danger, one of them would undoubtedly have insisted that I join a wagon further up the trail in a more protected position. But, as usual, they were so intent upon their own routine they forgot me. I believe that they did so not so much because I am unmemorable as because my presence presented them with something of a dilemma. A frontiersman curses in front of a lady only at peril to his life and immortal soul. Unfortunately, cursing is an absolute requirement in the practice of the mule-skinning profession.
     Since my objective was to sample the true flavor of the Wild West, I willingly accommodated myself to this benign neglect. Though but three days away from the cavalry outpost, I had already grown accustomed to the teamsters’ priorities. First animals, then equipment, and then people were tended to. When I inquired of Mr. Jones, the driver of my wagon, what might be a human ailment sufficiently severe to halt the caravan, he gave the various personal insects inhabiting his chin whiskers an affectionate scratch and replied, “Oh, I don’t know, ma’am. Indians—though there ain’t been that many bad raids since the menfolk got back from the War. But if there was, we’d stop, I reckon. Indians steal mules. And mebbe a panther”—(he said “painter”)—that’d be bad for the mules too. But strictly human—I don’t know, a bullet in the belly maybe, specially if a fella was bleedin’ real messy.”
     I remained skeptical about the negligibility of the dangers of the despoblado, the great Texas desert. The cavalry wives at Fort Davis were also less blase’ than the muleskinners, especially regarding Indians. The tenth night I stayed at the fort, a minor earthquake shook the ground. While the men ran to their soldierly duties and the comfort of their horses, the women clustered together in one room and talked of how the earthquake had to be a sign from God that no decent person should live out here among the heathen, after which the conversation degenerated into morbidly grisly and graphic descriptions of past Indian raids.
     Current style dictates that I should claim I was gathering wildflowers or something equally genteelly frivolous when the Indians captured me. Nonsense. I had awakened from my siesta half-melted despite the shade of the wagon above me, nauseated by the stench of mules and Mr. Jones and, by now, myself, begrimed and annoyed to have to stray from my nest even as far as the closest cactus large enough to provide a modest concealment.
     I scanned the ground for snakes, not wildflowers, of which there are none in the middle of the desert in late September. Finishing my necessary errand behind the only sort of greenery around—the prickly kind—I stood, adjusted my skirts, and was about to return to the wagon when I saw the Indians.
     I cannot report that I was instantly terrified. My first instinct was to shoo them away. There were only three of them, riding around our disabled wagon, poking through the canvas, and pawing through the contents. Earlier in my journeys I had encountered several members of the pacified tribes around Tombstone and Santa Fe, folk with a distressing penchant for examining other people’s property and begging a portion of it, when possible. My brain was still so befuddled with sleep and heat that I failed to make the distinction between those curiosity-seekers and the three painted, armed, and mounted warriors before me.
     Therefore, I felt less alarm than vexation at Mr. Jones for being remiss about guarding his cargo. I fancied he was still enjoying his afternoon nap beneath the wagon. Though several hours past noon, the day was still far too hot to travel. At least for civilized folk. The Indians didn’t seem to mind, having adjusted themselves to the climate by wearing very little but scraps of skin, beads, and eagle feathers.
     While I was fuming over Mr. Jones’s supposed laziness and contemplating native haberdashery, one of the braves rounded the wagon and spotted me. Those who fancy that Indians have no sense of humor should have seen the delighted grin on his face as he galloped his horse straight toward me. I had never heard of Indians killing victims by simply trampling them, but evidence seemed immediately forthcoming.
     I would like to testify that it is not necessarily one’s life that flashes before one when death seems imminent. I saw nothing of my previous pallid existence. Neither my childhood nor the most stimulating of the duties I performed while ensuring that our newspaper functioned when my father did not intruded on my consciousness at that time. What I saw were the gruesome mental pictures my fertile brain had conceived while the cavalry wives were scaring each other silly with the histories of literally hair-raising Indian savagery.
     I stood frozen for a moment, then flung myself down to one side, twisting to avoid a nasty patch of Spanish dagger. The grinning savage scooped me up beside him, clasping his hand over my mouth so that I could not scream and alert the wagons in the mule train preceding us.
     My middle did not take kindly to being scooped. The air went out of me and my limbs flailed so that I bore some resemblance to a landed fish as I was hauled onto the horse. I squirmed in my captor’s grasp enough to straddle the animal, backwards, as it turned out, my seat facing the horse’s neck, my face buried in the Indian’s breathtaking chest, which reeked of rancid something or other and dead something else besides the natural odor of a very active man on a very warm day.
     My new position amused the Indian further, for he now could gag and strangle me at the same time simply by holding my face against him with the crook of one arm. Only my eyes were free to stare across his shoulder as he and his fellows plundered the packs, extracted as many as they could carry of the whiskey bottles comprising a large portion of our cargo, and galloped back into the desert. As I was spirited away I saw the craven Mr. Jones, who had saved his own neck by feigning his absence while huddled between the wagon wheels. Now he peered out from beneath the wagon, his mouth working silently. I almost forgave him, knowing that I probably would have hidden too. As soon as we were far enough away that he could run to the other wagons, I prayed that he would engineer my rescue in time to save me from death and whatever it was that was supposed to be worse.
     Meanwhile, of course, I had this splendid opportunity to apply my ability as a trained journalist and learn all I could of Indian ways.
     Sad to say, the only Indian ways I was able to observe from my unusual vantage point were entirely too similar to the white men’s ways with which I was already more familiar than I wished to be. My captors broke the necks of the whiskey bottles on convenient boulders and proceeded to get very drunk.                                      



One Response to “The Drastic Dragon of Draco Texas…”

  1. chalaedra June 4, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Reblogged this on Chalaedra's Weblog and commented:

    This is a western, but not as we know it; a fantasy, set where we’re not used to it. The Drastic Dragon of Draco, Texas, by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, other fine eBook vendors and Gypsy Shadow Publishing at:

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