|Written by:||Lisa Godin (bio, contact, other stories)|
|Story type:||Serial Fiction|
|Location:||Cleveland Ohio USA|
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|Written by:||Lisa Godin (bio, contact, other stories)|
|Story type:||Serial Fiction|
|Location:||Cleveland Ohio USA|
The throbbing drums of the Amazoni camp roared thunderous welcome to the war party of fifteen tow-headed, blue-eyed, burly women clad in skimpy bikini skins and knee-high moccasins. Each was armed with bows and quivers bristling with arrows, and each warrior led a pack horse burdened with furs, metal cooking pots, and trinket-gorged pouches. Except for a couple of minor injuries, all were well.
In the lead atop her prancing Appaloosa stallion rode no ordinary warrior. She was Ohnaà, adopted in infancy in a raid against the Shesh, raised by Codot, Supreme Tahna, leader of the largest of three Amazoni bands. Like the Shesh who spawned her, Ohnaà's skin was a rich dark mahogany, her body more muscled, her long mane as sable as her piercing eyes, incongruous to the paler, blond, blue-eyed throng enthusiastically greeting her party.
As the youngest promoted to war chief at twenty seasons, Ohnaà's waist scalpcord of ten dangled five new scalps, for an extraordinary total count for one so young.
Breaking from the cheering, singing mob, Ohnaà, Shesh pack horse in tow, rode to the tepee of her parents. E-flet, her father, draped in a new fringed dress, greeted his daughter with a hug.
"I brought my father fine presents."
E-flet inclined his head in thanks. Critically scanning his tall, husky daughter, he noticed a tiny scratch on her muscled left arm. Not the custom to fuss over wounds, E-flet made no comment.
"Your mother awaits you inside."
Supreme Tahna Codot sat before the fire, serenely puffing her pipe. Her pale eyes gleamed with pride at the sight of her daughter.
Ohnaà sat opposite Codot and accepting the smoldering pipe, inhaled deeply its pungent, bitter smoke, relishing its bite. Neither spoke until the ashes were tapped out, the pipe put aside.
"Once more the strength and courage of the Amazoni under Ohnaà shows the foolishness of provoking our wrath."
"We took all of their goods. Their tall lodges are smoking shells, their horses ours. Gorak birds gorge themselves on the dead. The Southern Shesh are no more for attacking our smallest band."
"Like the wind, news of your raid has spread to other Shesh bands, the Ossit, the mountain dwelling Waysech. While you were gone, a runner from the Northern Shesh arrived asking for council where he offered the beaded band of negotiation."
Ohnaà frowned, having no faith in the begging of such ancient foes.
"Today they pretend friendship. Tomorrow they would fight, my mother."
"True," Codot reflected, "one can ever predict Shesh motives."
"All of them deserve death."
"That would be a difficult task even for you. Their number is great."
"We are stronger."
"You are our strength. But also remember, Amazoni are not a people to turn away from an offer of peace, however brief. You will go to their tahna to make this peace for fifteen beaded leathers."
Resigned to the wills of Codot and council, Ohnaà could not argue.
"I will ride to the Northern Shesh."
Codot stuffed her pipe, allowing Ohnaà the honor of lighting it. She thoughtfully puffed on it before passing it to the young warrior.
"When I found you among the Northern Shesh, you were no more than days old. No fear shown in your eyes and you did not cry. I took you as my own.
"You have become a great warrior and war chief. You are a true Amazoni. I am blessed you are my daughter."
Ohnaà held her head a trifle higher.
"Go, daughter. Prepare yourself for your victory celebration."
Ohnaà hurried to her tepee to get ready. She brushed and greased her raven waist-length mane, tying a string of white trade beads to a thick lock. Holding her trade mirror steady, she daubed her forehead and chin with bright red paint, her cheeks with six vertical stripes of red and black. Tying a string of tiny bells around her knee-high moccasins' ankles, she tested them with a shake, smiling at their tinkling. Ready to bask in the praise of her people, her spirits soared.
Congregating at the dance ground were enthusiastic ornamented and painted warriors. Children raced and shouted. Barking dogs frisked. The men in their finest dresses and jewelry joined the seated in expectation.
The drums rumbled as each of the triumphant warriors danced her part of the raid to the applause of the people. Ohnaà was last, dramatically making entrance on horseback. The drumming ceased abruptly, all eyes on the young war chief.
Regally she dismounted, relinquishing the reins to an old warrior, who led Appaloosa away. Ohnaà began to stamp, her moccasin bells chiming as each foot slammed the dusty earth.
The drumming resumed, gradually growing louder, quickening the pace. Ohnaà zealously twisted and swooped, her blood hot with the passion seething within. A knife flashed in her hand, attacking spectral enemies. Scalping an invisible foe, she rose triumphant. Hoisting her belt cord of real hair, she pierced the air with shrill war cries.
The drums ceased; the people cheered their heroine. Now it was time to mix, dance, sing, and eat roasting boar meat.
As she ate, Ohnaà stared at the diminutive man in tan fringed, white hide dress, admiring her. His name was Ojah, and unlike the other men who openly flirted, Ohnaà always had been more attracted to this quiet son of a war chief. She went to sixteen-season-old Ojah, standing with his friends.
"We will dance."
"I prefer we visit the lake outside of camp."
Ohnaà allowed herself to be led where they sat at the water's edge.
"Your dance was impressive. If I were a warrior instead of a weak man, I would have helped you fight."
"I prefer Ojah as he is, nor do I think him weak. He is strong in many ways."
Ojah smiled as he raked delicate fingers through a lock of Ohnaà's thick raven mane.
"You have a kind heart, young war chief."
Ohnaà tossed a pebble into the lake, looking with mild interest at its expanding ripples.
"When I became a warrior, many men had interest in me. When I became war chief, all the men noticed."
Ohnaà's dark, piercing gaze held Ojah's azure.
"But I did not see them. My heart did not quicken when they passed. My thoughts were on Ojah.
"It is time for us to join. In our own way, we have courted under the watchful eye of your parents. I will talk with them."
Ojah fought to keep his composure. "That is a good idea," he replied, feeling his heart pounding furiously.
"Our joining will have to wait for I have an important journey to make. But your parents will know my wishes."
Ohnaà helped Ojah to his feet, her mood brightening.
"Come. We have yet to dance."
Laughing, Ojah bolted.
Ohnaà enthusiastically gave chase.
After breakfast with her parents, armed with bow and quiver, Ohnaà went to Ojah's tepee. He was out berry harvesting. His father, beading a new pair of moccasins, smiled at the warrior, who mumbled a greeting. Ojah's mother, Teeha, sat at the fire honing her knife.
Teeha set aside her work.
"If I disturb you, I can return later."
"Nonsense," the elder war chief replied, motioning Ohnaà to sit cross-legged opposite her. "Always you are welcome."
"Always," Ojah's father echoed.
"I am surprised you are not with the hunters who just left."
"I have better things to do."
A glint of humor appeared in Teeha's blue eyes.
"And I thought feeding one's belly was all-important to the young."
Ojah's father giggled.
"So what better things bring you?"
Teeha stoked the fire with a twig. "He is quite popular these days," she remarked. "You are the third to ask today."
"He is mine."
Teeha's manner became stern.
"If Ojah were yours, young war chief, he would keep your lodge, tend your horses, keep you content on cold nights. Do you know something Gee-shà and I do not?"
"I hold no secrets."
"That is good to hear."
"Ojah wants you I suppose," Gee-shà added, putting down his finished moccasin. "You are all he talks about."
"This one is all the men talk about."
"I have interest only in Ojah."
"Mates are expensive these days. In my day, a good horse and blanket bought a mate."
"Ojah is worth more than a horse and blanket." Ohnaà folded muscled arms across her chest. "I will pay thirty horses," she declared.
Ojah's parents were stunned.
"No warrior has ever offered half their herd for a mate!" Teeha exclaimed.
"I can always capture more. Will you accept my offer?"
"Ojah is yours for thirty horses."
"I cannot give them to you right away because my mother orders me to negotiate peace with the Northern Shesh."
"I will tell Ojah he will be yours. Other suitors will no longer visit."
Ohnaà answered with a curt nod.
Early next morning armed with bow and quiver, Ohnaà went to the corral. A shrill whistle summoned her Appaloosa stallion, who affectionately nuzzled his mistresse's broad shoulder. Gently she stroked the animal's velvety muzzle, speaking softly into his pricked ears.
A five-season-old girl tugged Ohnaà's scalpcord. The warrior smiled at the child straining valiantly under the weight of a heavy leather bridle over her shoulder.
"What are you doing here, Et-esh? You should be with your family."
"I tend my mother's horses."
"You are still too young for that."
"My mother does not think I am too young to help!"
"Of course, young one."
"When I get bigger, warriors will come to me to break their most stubborn horses."
Et-esh nodded vigorously. "You will too. I will be a great horse breaker one day," she vowed.
"You have great ambition. What else is new, young one?"
"I am doing well with my fight training. My teacher says that like you, I am a fierce fighter. She says I am as special as you."
Ohnaà burst into laughter.
Angrily, Et-esh threw down her bridle and stood feet spread, fists on her hips. Her pale eyes blazed. "You do not believe I am as special as you!"
Ohnaà laughed louder.
Et-esh seized Ohnaà's right ankle with both hands and yanked, spilling her to her back, knocking her wind out. Painfully she sat up, shaking her head to clear it. Et-esh pushed her down and put a knife to her throat.
"Do you still laugh at me?"
Ohnaà could've easily disarmed the child but thought better of it, aware that if she moved too abruptly, the child could accidentally inflict severe injury. She raised her hands in surrender.
Et-esh sheathed her knife and collected the fallen bridle.
Ohnaà painfully stood, regretting underestimating the child's tenacity. Many of her own peers, she reflected, were reluctant to challenge her, but not Et-esh. She was deeply impressed.
"Will you honor me by bridling my horse?"
Et-esh expertly complied.
Ohnaà kneeled. "You have great courage and strength, young one. I have been taught a good lesson. Come closer," she beckoned.
"You are not angry?"
"I am proud." Ohnaà tapped Et-esh's chest. "Truly do you own the heart of a special warrior."
Ohnaà nodded. Drawing her knife, she reached for the long cord of scalps at her bikini skins' belt. Slicing the last off with a single stroke, she lay the long ebony hair upon the ground. With the tip of the steel blade, she traced a circle around the scalp, singing a special song. Gently taking
Et-esh's thumb, she pricked it, doing the same to herself, and pressed the cuts together, mixing the blood. The song ended when the scalp was secured to Et-esh's belt.
"By your bravery against me have you earned one of my scalps, special one. We are equals. Never forget the respect between equals."
Et-esh nodded solemnly.
Ohnaà vaulted onto her mount.
Et-esh raised a farewell hand, standing as tall as a five-season-old could.
Ohnaà gravely returned the gesture and trotted away.
Two days of riding saw Ohnaà upon a ridge overlooking a clearing. Still on Amazoni land, she was suspicious of all but one of the four men she spied clustered around their fire. These Traders, also known as Outsiders, called Dewhatconeh by Amazoni, wore heavy boar skins and had no horses. Unaware of being observed, the Traders laughed and joked, enjoying rolled cigarettes and a shared bottle of spirits.
Adjusting her bow more securely over her shoulder, Ohnaà rode toward the Traders.
The bald, snaggle-toothed Trader called Doo, intrigued by Ohnaà, dropped the smoke he had just lit.
"A visitor, Joseph. A right handsome one at that."
Joseph, a plump man sporting a beard of auburn hair resembling a tangled bramble bush, grinned at his Shesh-Amazoni friend.
"You know her?" Trader Doo asked.
"Very well. Met Ohnaà when she was a sprout of an Amazoni."
Trader Doo examined the burly war chief glaring back.
"Met me a few Amazoni in my time--"
"You mean ran from them," another Trader joked.
"All right, smart mouth, ran from 'em. Never seen the likes of this one. Damn if she don't look Shesh with her dark skin, hair and eyes!"
Ohnaà tensed at the familiar word out of the flood of unintelligible conversation. She thumped a huge fist against her chest. "Amazoni," she growled and displayed her scalpcord. "Shesh." She nudged her horse forward threateningly.
Trader Doo nervously retreated, his motion setting the warrior off. Uttering a shrill war cry, Ohnaà forced her horse to tightly circle him as one would herd a stray calf, plunging him into a panic.
"Call her off, Joseph, call her off!"
Joseph spoke sharply in the Amazoni tongue.
Defiantly, Ohnaà bumped her horse into Trader Doo, slamming him to the ground, retreating only when Joseph jumped in her path.
"Ohnaà, beaksha ho neekda!"
"Choapayla!" she barked.
"Any smokes on you?"
Trader Doo staggered to his feet.
"Good. You've been spared for the price of one."
Ohnaà felt great gratification at terrorizing the Trader into submission, staring at him through lidded eyes as she smoked.
"You're damn lucky, Doo. It's nearly impossible to call Amazoni off a man."
"How was I supposed to know she'd go after me?"
"Maybe now you'll keep quiet. Take the others a few feet away to give Ohnaà some room."
Making short work of the cigarette, Ohnaà casually flipped the butt aside.
"Are you in any great hurry, warrior?"
"Good! I have not seen you in a while. Stay for a meal."
"A friendly meal with me will do you good. Give me your weapons and horse to hunt. What do you say?"
Answering with a curt nod, Ohnaà dismounted and surrendered her horse, bow and quiver of arrows to Trader Joseph who mounted up and trotted away.
Trader Doo approached the warrior cautiously.
"Where's he off to?"
Understanding no Trader words, Ohnaà scowled.
Pointing to the rapidly disappearing Joseph, Trader Doo shrugged.
Ohnaà shot an invisible bow and without a backward glance stalked toward the others a few feet away, Trader Doo trailing her at a safe distance.
One of the Traders removed a pouch from his shirt pocket, spilling to the ground two homemade dice. Ohnaà snatched them up and scrutinized their owner. She pointed to the man's sheathed knife, then to herself. Turning the dice until each displayed six, she pointed again to the Trader's knife.
"Hoashkà ohoha doashka dahshoke."
The Trader patted his knife.
"Twelve's say I keep it."
The dice disappeared into Ohnaà's huge fist. "Hoashkà ohoha doashka dahshoke," she retorted.
"That sounded like a threat," Trader Doo observed.
"Prepare to take nothing, Amazoni."
For an hour the two players threw the dice, accompanied by their watchers' swearing and shouts of advice. Caught up in the game, Trader and warrior exchanged taunts, neither understanding the other, both enjoying the battle of competition.
Rolling the dice, Ohnaà whooped in victory. "Hoashkà cohà doashka dahshoke," she announced haughtily and thumped the earth with a fist.
"Sure rub it in," the Trader grumbled, surrendering his knife. "Don't need no interpreter for that."
"See you lost again," Joseph chided.
"'Bout time you got back. You forgot to tell us she could throw a mean pair of dice."
"Lost anyway, didn't you?"
"I'm lost without my lucky knife!"
"Lucky knife, my ass. You can't even shave with it without slitting your own throat."
"It was my daddy's. Now I lost it!"
"Then you shouldn't have bet it."
"She decided, and as mean as she is, do you think I'd argue with her?"
"Hold your water; you'll get it back."
Trader Joseph explained to the warrior why she couldn't keep her new prize.
Ohnaà rubbed the smooth leather sheath and, easing the knife free, examined it's broad blade glittering in the sun, nodding approval of its honed edge. She looked at Joseph, reluctant to relinquish such a fine weapon. Sheathing it, she tossed it to its owner.
"Yahtoo cohà ahdah betoga dahshoke. Hoashkà coatseh, enha dahcheeshahlay Amazoni, yahtoo no-oak ho-doe-tay nochay yahtoo ohday. Yahtoo deechayla betoga."
"Says you have a good knife and had you been in her camp you'd lose all you own. Says you play good."
Ohnaà folded brawny arms across her chest, striking an arrogant pose.
"Keetska deck hoashkà coe yahtoo, hoashkà cohà doashka dahshoke."
"Says next time she sees you, she'll have your knife."
"Over my dead body!"
Ohnaà's eyes glittered at the translation.
"Hoashkà zayeet doashka heecha."
"Never mind. I got the idea!"
After their doe meat meal, Joseph and Ohnaà watched the others settle for a nap.
"It was not accidental we met on the trail, was it, warrior."
"I travel to the Northern Shesh."
"Must be serious if you ride there without a war party."
Ohnaà related the story of the Shesh attack on another Amazoni camp, her raid, and the runner begging truce.
"I only go because Codot and council will it. The Northerners cannot be trusted to keep their own peace long. I will keep my knife and arrows sharp."
Collecting her bow and quiver, Ohnaà vaulted onto Appaloosa.
"Good luck, my friend."
The Shesh-Amazoni raised a hand.
Hours passed before Ohnaà pierced Northern Shesh territory. Sensing no scouts, she marveled at their stupidity. It was no wonder their southern cousins were so easily destroyed. No one knew what was coming.
Hungry, she brought down a rabbit and gathered sweet white berries while it roasted. During her meal she was alerted by a slight rustle in the bushes. Tensing, she grasped the hilt of her knife.
A skinny, gray-skinned, barefoot Ossit clad in breechclout appeared. His greased scalplock was dressed with red trade bead threads and ragged white feather. His shoulder-length multi-shelled earrings clattered with each step--his only weapon a small stone knife. "May I join you?" he inquired pleasantly. "I am useless as a great hunter."
The Ossit people, not at present enemies with Amazoni, Ohnaà relaxed. Although his words were slightly different than her own tongue, she understood his rapid, guttural speech.
"My fire is yours, Ossit warrior. Sit."
The Ossit grinned.
"I am Dweegut, and a warrior I am not by any stretch of imagination. Who are you?"
"I am Ohnaà, war chief of the Amazoni, daughter of Codot."
"An Amazoni with the face of Shesh? Interesting. A friendly fire is a friendly fire no matter who builds it I suppose."
Ohnaà watched the ravenous Ossit devour his meal.
"Why is Dweegut far from home?"
"I am too different. My people expected me to be a warrior. I failed miserably, for I have no heart for war and killing. They wanted me to try healing, but blood and sickness makes me faint. A storyteller at heart I tried to entertain, but they hated my stories.
"I fit in nowhere, so they politely asked me to leave."
Ohnaà cocked a disbelieving eyebrow.
"Actually, a big warrior put his foot to me and kicked me out. He was a bully, plain and simple. Never liked him. Never did." Timidly, Dweegut touched Ohnaà's muscled arm. "You are a powerful one, Shesh-Amazoni. If Ossit land had trees, what a sight it would be to see you pound my bully to dust with a tree trunk."
Ohnaà was amused that her companion thought her a spirit force of such magnitude.
"I use my strength to hunt and do battle, Ossit, nothing more."
"Just as well. Trees should never be uprooted." Dweegut examined Ohnaà's dark chiseled features. "Are you certain we have never met?" he asked.
"I would remember you."
Dweegut lowered his voice as if listeners lurked behind every bush and under every rock.
"Some say I am touched by spirits to my reason. What do you say, Shesh-Amazoni?"
"You are touched by something, Ossit wanderer."
Dweegut laughed heartily. "Not to worry," he assured, "whatever I have is not catching." He pointed in the direction his host had come. "What lies that way?" he asked.
"The land of my people."
"A mighty race the Amazoni. Strong and fearless. I think I go there to visit. Perhaps we may meet again."
Dweegut happily continued on his way, his heavy shell earrings chattering his presence.
The next afternoon, Ohnaà topped a hill overlooking the Northern Shesh town of high, sun-baked homes. Shesh women, hair short in the manner of slaves and swathed in dresses of heavy brown cloth, tended children and pens of tame boar and gardens, scurrying about their chores like nervous mice.
The men, long hair wreathed in colorful bandanas, dressed in hide vests, trousers, and barefoot, lounged lazily.
Ohnaà shuddered at the suffocating life she's be forced to endure had Codot not taken her. To never be able to ride at will, hunt, become a warrior or to be master of one's own destiny was murder to the soul. Although she could never deny the blood coursing through her was Shesh, always her heart would beat Amazoni.
Spotting her, a boy ran to his father. Soon a small crowd gathered.
Nudging Appaloosa down the steep slope, his hoofs scattering loose pebbles into tiny rockslides, Ohnaà approached no further than the town border.
A man broke from the group to meet the austere caller.
"I am Ohnaà, war chief, daughter of Supreme Tahna Codot of the Amazoni."
The group gasped at the name of the dreaded tribe of ferocious fighters. Knowing the warrior by reputation only, her appearance startled all.
"The stories are true. She is one of us!" a spectator noted to the man beside him.
"By birth only. She is their fiercest. It is said she is unstoppable in battle as one possessed. I never thought to see her and live to tell."
"I come to your tahna for council."
"Why?" Greeter demanded.
"Yet Ohnaà is armed to fight. "How--" the man never finished as an arrow sliced into the throat of a Shesh attempting assassination, knife poised to be hurled. The assailant crumpled, dying without a sound.
"I will see your tahna," Ohnaà charged, ignoring her kill. She shouldered her bow, her abrupt manner discouraging discussion.
Ohnaà didn't have long to wait at the Shesh tahna's fire when a big man with yellow bandana, a thick chest and a face puckered by a deep jagged scar down his left cheek appeared.
"Tamachee welcomes you," he said, his voice deep and resonant. "Your journey was a long one. I will send a woman to bring you food. You must eat and sleep to regain your strength. When the sun sets, we talk."
Two moons were high when Ohnaà awoke, Tamachee at her side.
"It is an honor meeting you this way instead of in battle."
Ohnaà stared at Tamachee.
"I know you."
The Shesh chuckled.
"Of course you do. A season ago you and your warriors hunted us down after we stole horses. Two of us died. I felt the sting of your knife against my face."
"Tamachee fought bravely."
"And you fought like the wild long-toothed cat. I was lucky to escape with just a scar. You proved the stories of your fierceness to be no lie.
"I thank you for not claiming my foolish brother's hair."
"I come in peace this time, not scalp," Ohnaà replied. She stood, disinterested in further talk. "I will speak with Tamachee and his council now."
"You are an impatient one. Very well. Come."
Council rumbled with discontent.
"I care not this adopted warrior is Codot's daughter," complained a member. "It shames Shesh for a mere woman to dictate her will over us."
"She is no ordinary woman. She is a great warrior, a living legend!"
"A dangerous one."
"How do we know she will not lead warriors against us for the sport of it?"
"I do not kill for sport," Ohnaà retorted startling everyone. "Those who go against Amazoni, die."
Tamachee took his place, leaving his guest standing in the circle muscled arms folded across her chest.
"You have killed one of us, peaceful war chief," a member snarled. "He did not go against your people."
"Enough!" Tamachee called in a ringing voice. "My brother paid for his foolishness. Had he survived the Amazoni's arrow, I would have killed Engla myself. I do not want another fight with this one." He fingered his scar. "Once was enough."
Council reluctantly acknowledged the point.
"No one with any sense will deny the Amazoni are mighty people," Tamachee stated flatly, "their courage and strength unmatched. Their reputation is well-earned.
"From the time of our grandfathers' great-grandfathers, war has waged between us. Our best die. The time to end the fighting is now. That is why I summoned an Amazoni, and they are well represented by this one."
"Are we cowardly dogs whimpering for forgiveness and safety?"
"Shesh are not cowards or beggars. While we win battles, Amazoni win more. Our numbers are greater, while Amazoni are stronger.
"Negotiation is no sign of shame, weakness, or surrender. It is survival."
"Hear me, Shesh council," Ohnaà ordered. "I claim fifteen beaded leathers for this peace. But know this, if it fails, it will be by Shesh hand. Your people will be shown no mercy, and you, too, will join your southern cousins as nothing more than a memory."
"Let us speak more of this in private," an elder suggested.
"Speak your empty words among yourselves if you must," Ohnaà snarled. "Time for you grows short. I will not wait long in the lodge of Tamachee."
Ohnaà sat glumly before Tamachee's fire, wondering why Shesh were so obstinate over something obviously in their best interest. Once again, her mother had been right. No one could predict Shesh behavior.
Suddenly a plump boy of ten burst in to gawk. Fearlessly he approached Ohnaà, who slowly stood. Armed with bow and quiver, towering over the boy, she made an impressive, intimidating figure, but the boy was unaffected.
"You are Ohnaà?"
The boy's smile lit up his chubby face.
"Will you be my friend?"
Harboring a soft spot for children, Ohnaà's stern features softened slightly.
"How are you called, young one?"
"I am Tekbor, son of Tamachee. Will you be my friend?"
Ohnaà gently clasped the boy's shoulder.
"We are friends."
"You have a big bow like father. He hunts good. You hunt good?"
Tekbor stroked one of the scalps at the Shesh-Amazoni's bikini skins' belt.
It was then Ohnaà realized the child was different, as he thought the hair of his people merely a decorative animal pelt. Not the Amazoni way, she wasted no pity on the boy.
Tekbor scampered to the door, nearly colliding into his father. "I have a new friend," he announced and dashed out.
"Your kindness, warrior, made my son very happy. His mother died of fever, forcing an early birth. As you see, he is different."
"Among Amazoni his special spirit is honored, not pitied. He is honored among Shesh?"
Tamachee surrendered the heavy truce pouch containing the price of fifteen beaded leathers.
"I leave for my people."
"It is late, warrior."
"Darkness holds no fear for Amazoni," Ohnaà proudly reminded.
Arriving in camp late in the morning, Ohnaà went to her parents' lodge. Immediately the truce pouch was relinquished to Codot.
"You have done well, my daughter. Shesh are no longer a problem."
"For now. Their council was reluctant, bickering among themselves. When I arrived, the brother of Tamachee, tahna of the Shesh, tried to kill me. He died by my arrow."
"What of Tamachee?"
"He is honorable, but one day does not make a friend of an enemy.
"He has a son who is touched by special spirits. Perhaps one day I will be true friends with his father.
"For now, we must remain vigilant, for other Shesh do not agree with Tamachee's way of thinking."
Codot filled her pipe.
"You look tired. A good pipe helps one nap better."
Later, Ohnaà went to the corral, mulling over unfinished business with Ojah's expectant parents.
Et-esh stepped from behind the curtain of a horse's flaxen tail.
"Everyone heard what you did. I am so proud."
"You will see no battle with Shesh, young one."
"Who needs them when I have you to test against?"
"When your times comes I will judge you in your pre-warrior trials. You will have no opportunity to flip me again."
Et-esh's pale eyes glinted devilishly.
"I know why you are here."
"My horses are here."
"You are here to get thirty horses for Ojah. I know. I know everything."
"Your curiosity will get you in more trouble than you can handle one day, young one."
Et-esh dismissed the admonishment with a shrug.
Rounding up her horses, Ohnaà led her docile herd followed by Et-esh and gathering Amazoni to Ojah's tepee.
"Teeha, I come with horses."
The elder war chief, her mate, Gee-shà, and Ojah answered the summons, admiring the warrior's magnificent herd of chocolate browns, mahogany bays, blacks frosted with gray, golden palominos and gaudy pintos.
Nodding approval, Teeha accepted the great gift.
Taking Ojah by the hand, Ohnaà faced the amazed spectators and brandishing a fist overhead uttered a shrill war cry, symbolically reinforcing her claim on him.
Unable to contain herself, Et-esh threw herself at Ohnaà, nudging to be held, nestling in the crook of a protective muscled arm. Valiantly trying to emulate her hero's yell but sounding like a puppy whose tail had been stepped on, Et-esh provoked laughter from the gathering.
Heart overflowing with joy, throwing her head back, Ohnaà yelled again.
Hand-in-hand with her beloved Ojah, Ohnaà walked toward her lodge to a rousing chorus of the Amazoni Joining Song.