The Brass Bell — Chapter 4
The Brass Bell
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Chapter Four: The Ninja in the Forest
“The Coronado expedition set up their winter camp of 1540-41 in Tiguex, which is near present-day Albuquerque, New Mexico. A brutal war broke out between Coronado’s men and the native Americans.”
– Coronado and the Golden Cities
Sounds of footsteps and breaking branches scared the friends, and all three froze. Their silhouettes looked like a trio of oddly-shaped cactus plants.
“Who, or what, is that?” Karol whispered.
“I don’t know, but it sounds big!” Hector whispered back loudly, grabbing a thick stick sitting nearby.
The sounds came closer and closer. Karol slid over by Felix and they all peered into the darkness, straining to see what was about to invade their camp.
“Hey, I smell pizza!” a loud voice said as three strange boys jumped out from behind a large tree. “How did you get them to deliver all the way out here?”
“Nobody delivered it. We just stuck the thawed slices onto our roasting sticks, see?” Hector said proudly, holding up a cheesy piece of evidence.
“Well, I’ve never heard of roasting a pizza over an open fire,” one of the other invaders said. And when Felix looked at him, he could see the reflection of the campfire in his eyes. Felix thought it looked like pure evil.
“Hola! Would you like some pizza?” Karol tried to be friendly.
“And we also have licorice!” Felix offered.
“Well, the way I see it, we’ll just take whatever we want,” Evil Eyes said. “And I don’t think there’s anything you can do to stop us.”
“Perhaps I should warn you,” Hector said, trying to copy a ninja pose he saw in a movie. “I am a black belt.”
“Oh, really?” the bullies challenged Hector. “Why don’t you show us your best move?”
Hector swallowed hard and tried to remember some ninja moves, but the three visitors didn’t seem all that impressed. They squinted their eyes, clenched their fists and moved toward the three explorers.
Right then, a Jeep pulled up and a woman wearing a green uniform jumped out. She had a clipboard and a long, metal flashlight, which brightly lit the whole campsite.
“What are you niños up to?” she asked. “You know you can’t build a fire out in the open like that. This is a national park!”
“Sorry, ma’am,” Felix said, throwing dirt over the fire. “We were just hungry and a little cold.”
“That’s OK. Just make sure you follow park rules,” she said, handing a typed list to Felix.
“And is that you, Max?” she asked the evil-eyed boy. “Your mom is gonna have your hide. Does she know where you are? Get in the Jeep – I’m taking you three home!”
“Yes, Tia Maria,” the boy said sheepishly. Before whisking away the bullies in her all-terrain vehicle, the ranger jotted down the names of the three young explorers, promising to let their parents know where they were camping.
“Wow, that was close!” Karol said, after the uninvited guests disappeared over a hill. “I was scared.”
“Not me!” Hector said. “I was just about to release some ninja terror on them!”
“Yeah, thankfully you didn’t have to hurt them!” Felix winked at Karol. They both knew that Hector was just as scared, but he’d never in a million years admit it. They decided to let the ninja keep his pride.
Soon after, they all settled into their sleeping bags, trying to get close to the remnants of the fire for warmth. But Felix kept thinking about Eduardo and his little “accident,” so he kept his distance from the fire. He fell asleep with his hand clasped around the bell.
The next morning, the three friends packed up their bags, buried the last remaining embers of the fire and set off toward Gallinas. They had trail mix and licorice for breakfast.
“So, where is this gold you speak of?” Felix asked, in his best conquistador voice.
“I told you, it’s in Gallinas, and we’re almost there,” Hector said, walking ahead of Felix and Karol. He rubbed the gold coin he had hidden in his pocket for luck.
As they walked into Gallinas, Felix’s excitement grew. “Now we’ll find a golden treasure, just like Coronado!”
“What did he find on his expedition?” Karol asked Felix.
“Um, I don’t know. I haven’t actually gotten that far in the book yet,” Felix said, a little embarrassed. Little did the three explorers know, Coronado never found any gold. In fact, he was sometimes referred to as the “cursed” conquistador.
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Written by Cathy Sewell and illustrated by Blaise Sewell of The Curriculum Closet