|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|
*Warning:contains some graphic violence and slight character nudity which may be objectionable.
Crouched, Ohnaà smiled slightly behind her camouflage of tangled brush at the family of five boar grazing noisily on a lunch of stiff dry grass and tender roots. The male, wrinkled gray skin scarred from battles past, folded on front knees, cleaved roots from the hardened soil with his yellowed, broken tusks, while its mate and three young piglets foraged closer to the forest treeline. Grunting enthusiastically, the boar piglets, using their moist snouts, shoveled up roots.
Unshouldering her bow and notching an arrow, Ohnaà patiently waited for the male boar's family to munch their way into the forest's tangle of trees and brush. On powerful muscular legs she bounded into the open toward the startled male boar and, loosing her arrow, felled it like a boulder. Having no time to admire her kill as the shifting wind would alert the female to attack in defense of her young, the warrior had to act quickly.
Easily hefting her corpulent prize over a massive mahogany-skinned shoulder, she sprinted to Appaloosa waiting in a protective thicket out of range of the boars.
Unstrapping the roll of tanned hide cinched over Appaloosa's withers, Ohnaà spread it on the ground beside the boar's carcass and smoothed out its wrinkles.
Replacing the killing arrow in her quiver, Ohnaà butchered with practiced hand, peeling the boar hide off like a glove, and slicing the meat paper thin to be laid upon the tanned hide in layers, each dusted heavily with a drying herb from one of several pouches at her bikini skins' belt. Draping the new boar skin atop the meat, all was tightly rolled and lashed over Appaloosa's withers.
Boar's heart and liver were skewered and placed on forked sticks over the fire to roast. From her belt gourd of water, Ohnaà washed her hands of blood and her face of dirt and sweat and sat at the fire.
Ojah, her mate, would be pleased to receive the new skin, topping his collection for the makings of new fringed moccasins for himself, and a cape and bikini skins for Ohnaà. Half of the meat he would preserve for the winter stores.
Ohnaà prodded her meal with her knife, dribbling blood and grease into the hissing flames. From another pouch at her belt, she liberally powdered a pungent herb upon the roasting boar liver and heart, breathing deeply of their spicy aroma.
"The spirits have been kind to us today, old horse. Our hunt will add to our people's vast winter stores so no Amazoni will grow hungry when the snow piles high.
"With little grass, you will have to endure another snow of tree bark lumping your belly."
Ohnaà prodded her meal. Satisfied, she greedily feasted, enjoying every spongy mouthful. As she ate she mused how much her friend, war chief, Et-esh, would have enjoyed this hunt. But a herd of wild horses had been reported, and as usual, horses took precedence.
After her meal she unfastened her belt's tobacco pouch that Ojah had ingeniously sewn in an outer pocket for Trader rolling papers. Wrapping a thick cigarette, she lit it with a burning twig from the dwindling fire, inhaling several deep drags.
Appaloosa snorted and stamped.
"You are anxious to return to Amazoni I see. Could it be you have certain mares you wish to keep special company with?"
"Soon we go," Ohnaà assured and luxuriated in a deep drag off the shrunken cigarette.
Appaloosa plodded over to blow air into Ohnaà's raven hair but was ignored. Undaunted, he bumped his nose against her hand, knocking the cigarette butt into the smoking ruins of the fire. His ears swiveled madly under her laughter.
"Fine, impatient one. It will be your way. For now."
Shouldering her bow and double checking the hide roll of meat securely fastened upon her horse, Ohnaà mounted up and rode at an easy lope enjoying the late afternoon's sun at her back, wild bird song, the cool breeze through her thick raven hair bouncing to the rhythm of Appaloosa's gait.
She suddenly tensed and reined to an abrupt halt. Scanning every direction she saw nothing out of the ordinary over the vast grassland, but sensed it. She cocked her head, waiting. Then it sounded, a low moan that only her extraordinary hearing could detect, beckoning from the tall grass at her right.
Dismounting, Ohnaà cautiously stalked through the head-high grass, every muscle tense, every sense straining, homing in on the groan now slightly louder ahead. Parting the curtain of grass, she saw the body lying on its side. She scanned her surroundings, seeing and hearing nothing. Relaxing slightly she kneeled beside the stranger, gently resting him upon his back.
Of a race the warrior had never before seen, the stranger was short and slim, dressed in knee-high toga of golden cloth and woven brown rope sandals. His blanched skin matched coarse, wavy, shoulder-length hair. With a groan he briefly opened blood-red eyes. A reed arrow with black feather fletching protruded from his groin. Ohnaà scowled recognizing the arrow's maker as Ossit who were now Amazoni enemies. Easing the arrow out and placing it in her quiver, Ohnaà delved into one of her belt pouches and packed the stranger's wound with red powder to anesthetize it and stop the green ooze of blood.
Too far from Amazoni, she decided to camp at a clearing not far ahead to tend her charge. Scooping the senseless man into her powerful arms, she walked briskly, Appaloosa meekly following, to the clearing with a pond. Gently she laid the stranger beside the pond.
This was indeed a hunting expedition full of surprises.
The sun was beginning to dip when the stranger opened his eyes to the smell of roasting rabbit and Ohnaà leaning over him. In fear, he attempted to rise, only to be restrained by a pair of long-fingered mahogany-skinned hands pressing with the strength of two men. Grimacing in pain, he ceased struggling.
As Ohnaà applied more of her powdered medicine into his wound, the stranger studied the warrior's unblemished, face of high cheek bones, slender nose, and thin mouth, a face of wild beauty framed by long, thick charcoal hair reaching down to a slender waist.
Her eyes held him spellbound, black and piercing, rarely blinking as she concentrated on her task, oblivious of his scrutiny.
He was intrigued most by the warrior's muscular body packed in its tight, skimpy bikini skins. It was confusing to be cared for by a woman with the brawn of a man.
"You have suffered great harm, strange one, but you will live."
Ohnaà's voice was as astounding as her appearance, the stranger thought, deep and calming. She wasted no words with empty conversation, although he understood none of what little she did say.
He struggled to sit up with Ohnaà's assistance. She offered her water gourd. "Thank you," he whispered and greedily drank his fill.
The warrior blinked in surprise. The stranger spoke Trader! She thumped a huge fist to her chest. "I am Ohnaà, warrior leader of Amazoni," she replied in Trader greatly improved with diligent practice.
"Beekahnahcoke," he replied.
"What people Beekahnahcoke? What happen?"
Beekahnahcoke carefully lay down. "Tired," he murmured and closed his red eyes.
Frowning, impatient for more than a name, Ohnaà stalked to her fire to remove the rabbit for the stranger to eat.
An hour passed. Beekahnahcoke awoke, instantly noting a change in his savior's attitude. She sat muscled arms folded across her chest, her mouth set in a determined line, her eyes hard. "We talk now," she declared.
Nodding, Beekahnahcoke struggled alone to sit up.
"You are not of any known people near Amazoni. You have snow skin, eyes red like blood. Amazoni tell stories of spirit people who look like you."
"I'm quite real."
Ohnaà relaxed in the knowledge that, although wounded, Beekahnahcoke was no entity sent to trick or test her before vanishing.
"Beekahnahcoke speak good Trader. They teach you, yes?"
"I know nothing of these people you speak of. As I am, you, too, are one strange to view."
The warrior shrugged massive shoulders.
"Ohnaà is Ohnaà."
"Where I come from, no woman looks like you."
"I scare you, yes?"
Ohnaà's manner softened. "It is true I am big, very strong. I have dark skin, hair and eyes. It is because I am born Shesh--but I live Amazoni way. It is good way. Only one who is enemy have something to fear. No more talk of me. Tell about Beekahnahcoke."
"I'm Ohsaahgan, and my home lies beyond your mountains in the caves beside the great sea. We're a peaceful nation of fishermen."
"Why do you come to this land?"
"I came with my wife, Nahchinka, to see your side of the world. But four brutish gray-skinned men attacked. I was shot trying to defend Nahchinka from being stolen and crawled to where you found me. I fear Nahchinka dead."
Ohnaà shook her head.
"Your woman lives."
The Shesh-Amazoni's calmness infuriated Beekahnahcoke.
"How can you be so sure? They slapped and handled her so thoughtlessly. She's dead by now!"
"She lives!" Ohnaà insisted. "Ossit wanted her dead they kill her while you watch. Their leader has interest in your woman. He would make her his. Tell what he look like."
"Big and ugly."
"All Ossit are ugly."
"He had one eye and feathers on the ends of his shell earrings. He was the brute who shot me."
Beekahnahcoke struggled to his feet, wincing in pain.
Annoyed Ohnaà yanked him down.
"I can't wait! I must rescue Nahchinka!"
"Only place you go is my camp. Shaman, Medicine Woman, make you strong again. It will be easy to track invading Ossit because they stay in only one place. Nachinka be rescued unharmed." Ohnaà reached beside her for the roasted rabbit and handed it to Beekahnahcoke. "When I return from Ossit with Nahchinka, I give you scalplock of one who claim her as his."
"You keep it for me."
"As you wish."
"You should know," Beekahnahcoke confessed between bites of rabbit, "that I'm nervous about meeting your people. A language barrier doesn't help a stranger."
"You do not need to speak to Medicine Woman. When she done I take you to meet Ojah, my mate. He speak only Amazoni, but he is very friendly.
"My friend, Et-esh, she speak your tongue. She likes to talk a lot. She is as big as me. Uses her great strength to break horses. Et-esh look meaner than me."
Beekahnahcoke looked worried.
"You have nothing to fear in Et-esh. You are my friend, she be your friend. She help you. You sleep now. We ride to my people in the morning."
Without another word, Ohnaà went to sit at her fire where she deftly rolled and lit a thick cigarette, inhaling deeply. Annoyed by the Osaahgan's scrutiny she glared at him. "Sleep!" she commanded.
By late morning, Ohnaà rode into the Amazoni camp, the Ohsaahgan drawing a curious whispering crowd.
"I'm afraid," Beekahnahcoke whispered. "There are so many!"
"You are safe here, my friend."
Reining up at the medicine tepee, Ohnaà helped Beekahnahcoke down. She introduced him to the people saying nothing about his wife's abduction as it was no concern of theirs. They would meet Nahchinka soon enough.
A tow-headed boy in a fringed and belled ankle-length dress boldly approached Beekahnahcoke unafraid of his blanched red-eyed appearance.
"Nees quatswah eskaht?"
"Ahjò," Ohnaà replied.
The boy smiled.
"He ask if you stay. I say yes."
"Yahtoo et toe weekahnsah jay Ohnaà, yahtoo et toe weekahnsah jay Amazoni."
The people nodded.
"He says you are the friend of Ohnaà, you are the friend of Amazoni."
Deeply touched, Beekahnahcoke kneeled. The child hugged him.
Unstrapping her rolled hide of boar meat from Appaloosa's withers, Ohnaà instructed a warrior in the crowd to corral him.
"Come Beekahnahcoke. We see Medicine Woman now."
While the shaman worked on her patient, Et-esh, who had just returned from her wild horse round-up, entered, having heard of the stranger.
Beekahnahcoke's red eyes widened in fear when he saw the big, flaxen-haired warrior with piercing blue eyes and stern face.
"This is Et-esh, Beekahnahcoke," Ohnaà announced.
Ignorant of the impact she made on the Ohsaahgan, Et-esh kneeled and examined him intently, fascinated by his albino appearance. She poked him to make sure he was real.
Speaking in Amazoni, Ohnaà explained the circumstances of his arrival, her mission, and where he would be staying.
"Ohnaà spoke truth," Et-esh assured in Trader. She find your woman."
Ohnaà spoke again in Amazoni to Et-esh, whose pale eyes widened with surprise.
"Have no fear of me, Ohsaahgan. We be good friends. I be over every day to see you. I talk to you much about Amazoni. I show you my horses too."
"Ohsaahgan, yahtoo neek aiyuk," Medicine Woman grunted. "Hoashkà coyo coe yahtoo bahjahni sah deesahjah yahtoo."
"Medicine Woman says you are fine. She sees you tomorrow to check on you," Ohnaà relayed.
Et-esh helped Beekahnahcoke up.
"I go to my horses now, but this night I come to Ohnaà's lodge for food and talk."
The trio left the medicine lodge, the war chief going her separate way.
"Et-esh honors you. No strangers does she allow near her horses." Ohnaà grinned. "This night she would give you no peace she would talk so much while we eat."
Beekahnahcoke looked crestfallen.
"You and your people have been so kind. How, when I get Nahchinka back, can we ever repay you?"
Ohnaà rested a hand upon the Ohsaahgan's blanched shoulder.
"Live long, have many children to make your people strong, and know you have a place among Amazoni. You remember this, yes?"
"No more you do."
Ohnaà led the way to her tepee.
Dusk blanketed the settled village by the time Ojah's delicious meal of boar stew and boiled root bulbs sweetened with Trader sugar had been consumed. Et-esh was gone and Beekahnahcoke was asleep. Ohnaà sat before the fire, occasionally prodding it with a stick. Ojah, having returned from washing the wooden dinner bowls and spoons, nestled against his warrior, resting his head contentedly against her chest. Folding a muscled arm around him, Ohnaà kissed him on the head.
"Beekahnahcoke is very nice."
"He had a big appetite."
"With all of Et-esh's questions, how he managed to eat two bowls of stew, and talk is a mystery. I barely ate anything telling you their words."
"There is some stew left if you are still hungry, my warrior."
Ohnaà shook her head.
"Friendly as Beekahnahcoke is," Ojah observed, "he is troubled. Why?"
"It is nothing to concern yourself with."
"It is when he holds something over you."
The warrior sighed. Ojah was too observant for her taste the majority of the time, and because of it, refused to be dismissed so easily.
"The Ossit leader who wounded Beekahnahcoke abducted his woman, Nahchinka on Amazoni land."
The couple watched the fire die down to glowing embers
"Ossit were once our friends, my warrior. Why did it change?"
"It is the way of things. Beekahnahcoke knows I will kill the Ossit who stole his woman yet insists I keep the Ossit's scalp that rightly belongs to him. He is an odd one."
Smiling devilishly, Ojah caressed Ohnaà's hard shoulders and muscled arms, his touch electric. He kissed her neck. "Forget the Ohsaahgan," he whispered and fervently kissed Ohnaà, thoroughly arousing her.
Grinning, Ohnaà led Ojah to their high bed of soft furs. He slipped out his dress, the warrior wasting no time stripping naked. Aggressively pinning Ojah beneath her, Ohnaà mounted him.
Breakfast was consumed in pleasant silence. Donning her bow and quiver, Ohnaà faced Beekahnahcoke.
"Ojah and Et-esh take good care of you. Soon I return with your woman, Nahchinka."
Turning to Ojah, in true Amazoni fashion, the warrior expressed her thoughts in a look before departing.
War chief Et-esh returned, bridle over a shoulder, and grinned broadly at her albino friend. She slapped the bridle over a surprised Beekahnahcoke's shoulder.
"You can ride, Ohsaahgan?"
"No, nor do I have any intentions."
"You learn to ride," Et-esh decided. "Ohnaà's horse cannot support her, you, and your woman."
"Then Nahchinka and I will walk home as we walked here."
Et-esh waved aside the comment.
"I teach you to ride."
Ignoring Beekahnahcoke's protests, Et-esh pulled him to the corral, unmindful of the spectacle they made to Amazoni along the way. A slate-gray mare with blue eyes ambled up to the corral gate to touch noses with Beekahnahcoke, then bobbed her head.
"You like her?"
"I have her two seasons. At first she very wild, but I train her good," Et-esh proclaimed proudly. "Now she very gentle. Good runner. I teach you to ride her good as Amazoni. When you go, this horse yours."
"No but. I teach you to ride, to take care of her. When your people see this horse, you tell them she is prized gift from Et-esh, war chief, and best horse breaker Amazoni have. Into the corral!"
Ohnaà tracked the Ossit for two days. Their trail led into a canyon's mouth. Kneeling, she studied the tracks of four pairs of bare feet, tracing and lightly probing the small prints made by feet wearing woven sandals. Doing her best to slow her captors in hopes that someone might be looking, Nachinka's marred and broken tracks indicated that she was being dragged. Her tracks then disappeared, indicating that she was being carried. Ohnaà walked a few yards, coming to the charred remains of a cooking fire with bones scattered about its edge. She sat. Hungry, she delved into her ration pouch for a thick strip of jerked boar meat and began to eat. No longer was there any need to rush estimating that by nightfall she could spy on the Ossit camp. In the morning she would confront Nahchinka's one-eyed captor.
That night, crouched behind cover of boulder and brush, Ohnaà watched the sleeping village of domed brush lodges bathed in torchlight. Hearing the trademark clatter of multi-shelled earrings, she drew her knife.
An Ossit sentry from behind wrestled Ohnaà to the ground. Seizing him by the scalplock, her teeth bared in silent snarl, she slit his throat. Adding his hair to the heavy scalpcord at her belt, she hid the body in the brush. To avoid discovery again, she retreated into the darkness to wait the night out.
Midmorning Ohnaà rode into the enemy Ossit camp of domed brush lodges, her burly imposing presence causing all activity to cease. She gazed with disgust upon the gathering mob of stocky barefoot warriors dressed in stained breechclouts, their gray skins dirt smudged, their shoulder-length multi-shelled earrings, strung through stretched earlobes, rattling in the strong breeze. Their stiff scalplocks were ornamented with shells, feathers, and beads, and glistened with grease.
Ossit women dressed in skirts of dried grass were topless, their sagging breasts pierced, as were their noses, with tiny ringlets of trade gold. Their long hair, strung into thousands of tight braids, stained red with berry juice, pressed against their sweaty gray backs.
The Ossit were indeed an ugly race, Ohnaà thought.
A warrior wearing a necklace of chipped boar teeth approached Ohnaà who dismounted. A good foot taller, she glowered down at him.
"What brings a Shesh to our humble camp?" the brave snarled.
"I am Ohnaà of the Amazoni," she hissed. "I look for a one-eyed warrior wearing feather-tipped earrings."
"What business do you have with Husuke?" the brave demanded.
"That is between us."
"He may not wish to see you."
Her obsidian eyes glittering, Ohnaà folded mahogany-skinned muscled arms across her chest.
"Your sentry did not wish me to look upon your camp last night, and now does his scalp join others at my belt."
The Ossit's beady eyes lit upon Ohnaà's skimpy skin bikini's heavy scalpcord with its fresh addition. "I will bring Husuke," he snapped.
While she waited, an Ossit boy stamped up to Ohnaà trying to stare her down. She bared her teeth and growled scaring him away. It was clear this burly Amazoni of Shesh blood was not one to trifle with causing the crowd to take a healthy step back.
Black feather tipped shoulder length multi-shelled earrings swaying and clattering, his left eye covered by a flap of skin accentuated with indelible black paint, Husuke sauntered toward Ohnaà. Unusually big for an Ossit, the gray-skinned warrior's huge chest and arms were scarred by countless skirmishes. As tall as Ohnaà, he fearlessly stood before her.
"I am Husuke. What business do I have with you, Shesh-Amazoni?"
Ohnaà drew his arrow from her quiver."
"A puny arrow?"
Husuke snickered, his people dutifully joining in.
"This one has a dispute with a lost arrow!"
Ohnaà tossed aside the arrow.
"You traveled Amazoni land where you do not belong shooting the snow-skinned Ohsaahgan and stealing his woman. I will kill you and claim her."
"I doubt it."
Two warriors shoved through the crowd, carrying the sentry's body and laying him gently on the ground. Everyone gasped at his bloody skull, its scalplock expertly peeled off, his throat slashed so deeply a man's fist could disappear inside, proving the Shesh-Amazoni a proficient killer able to back up threats.
Husuke's right eye widened with rage. "You killed my only son!" he shouted. "He was a mighty warrior."
"Who fought like an Ossit woman," Ohnaà goaded.
Husuke pointed a shaky finger.
"For your deed I will kill you and the Osaahgan woman. I will send both of you in pieces back to your people. Prepare her!"
Escorted by three braves, Ohnaà was taken to a domed hut of toughened hide. Inside burned a fire; the floor was carpeted with soft skins. Beside the fire were two wooden bowls of clear grease.
Judging by the lack of personal possessions, Ohnaà assumed the dwelling was used for council. One brave pushed her. In retaliation she backhanded him with such force he was sent reeling into the wall beside the door. The offending Ossit, severely shaken, limped out of the lodge.
Ohnaà followed the two lead braves to the lodge fire.
"Surrender your bow and quiver."
"As will Husuke, your body will be coated with grease," one of the escort braves barked.
Slathering her with grease until her mahogany skin glistened accentuating her great brawn, the Ossits' touch nauseated the Shesh-Amazoni.
"Come!" the lead Ossit escort brave commanded.
The fight over the Ohsaahgan captive, Nachinka, wife of Beekahnahcoke, would take place in a grassy area outside of camp where villagers sat in a wide circle where their leader, Husuke, stood, arms raised, silently asking his spirits to grant him the power to dispatch the Shesh-Amazoni.
Ohnaà entered the circle and waited.
Slowly lowering his arms, Husuke glared at his antagonist.
"Any last words for spirit help say them now."
"I need no help to defeat the likes of you, Ossit."
The combatants drew their steel knives and circled each other. Not the Amazoni way to wait, Ohnaà pounced, and both rolled over and over trying to strike the fatal jab. Pinning Husuke, Ohnaà smashed a fist against his nose, breaking it, splattering blood. He slammed a fist into her chest, knocking her off him.
On hands and knees, Ohnaà was felled onto her back with a kick in the ribs. Upon her, Husuke strained to plunge his knife into her heart.
Ohnaà felt her powerful body grow light; her head dizzy. Battle fever seized control, banishing all conscious thought. All pain from Husuke's strikes dissolved. The need to destroy her enemy stole her reason. Hungry for blood, she threw Husuke off her and motioned him to stand.
Sheathing her knife she struck Husuke in the face with an iron fist, stunning him. He dropped his knife.
Ohnaà pounded the Ossit as hard as she could, blackening his good eye, splitting his cheeks, knocking out teeth. The sight of blood excited her. Fist after fist found its mark against Husuke's battered face. Still standing, he was powerless to defend himself. Ohnaà maintained her barrage of blows until the Ossit's face was unrecognizable.
Husuke sank to his knees. Drawing her knife, Ohnaà scalped him. For a long moment he remained on his knees before toppling face down. She plunged her knife deep into his back before wiping the blade clean in the grass and sheathing it.
Hefting Husuke's scalplock overhead, Ohnaà emitted a shrill war cry. She then tied her prize to her scalpcord.
The Ossit people stared speechless, paralyzed by the brutal slaying.
Approaching the two braves who had prepared her for combat, Ohnaà pointed to the first brave. "I will go to the lodge where you hold my bow and quiver. You," she ordered, "bring me water so I may wash blood and grease from my body. You," she ordered pointing to the second brave, "bring the Ohsaahgan woman, unfettered by bonds."
Ohnaà stalked to the preparation lodge. Water was promptly provided for her bath. The feel of her bow and quiver made her feel herself again.
Waiting for Nahchinka, she restlessly paced.
Suddenly the Ohsaahgan was shoved into the lodge. Other than her golden toga marred by dirt and slightly torn, her milk-white skin dirty, Ohnaà was pleased seeing no sign of abuse.
Trembling with fear, Nahchinka stood before the Shesh-Amazoni, her red eyes fixed upon the animal hide covered floor.
Gently the warrior raised the Ohsaahgan's chin, her piercing gaze bright with compassion.
"We go to Amazoni, my people, where Beekahnahcoke wait for you."
"He's alright?" Nachinka excitedly asked.
"I find and take out Ossit arrow. I help him with medicine plant. Medicine Woman heal him more. Amazoni look after him."
Sobbing with happy relief, Nachinka clung to Ohnaà who held her tight until the Ohsaahgan cried herself dry.
"I'm sorry," Nahchinka sniffed."Beekahnahcoke says I cry too much."
Ohnaà offered a water-soaked piece of hide to the albino to wash her grubby face.
"Nahchinka goes through much. She should feel no shame to cry." Ohnaà displayed her heavy scalpcord, pointing to Husuke's scalplock. "Ossit who hurt Beekahnahcoke and steal you. Beekahnahcoke tell me to keep Ossit hair as it is not your way. We go now."
Ohnaà's triumphant return home with Nahchinka was met with crowding and excited shouts. "Doogahtoo Beekahahcoke?" she asked a warrior.
"Nees es ha Et-esh nycoe set see-has."
"Ahjò. Et-esh choeshtah set coanahcone see-ha."
The warrior went on her way.
"What did she say?" Nahchinka asked.
"Beekahnahcoke is with Et-esh. She give him her best horse, a gray mare. This is good thing!"
Reining at the corral, Ohnaà was surprised to see Beekahnahcoke riding the gray mare like an expert, watched by Et-esh sitting atop the corral gate.
Nahchinka ran into the corral, startling the mare which Beekahnahcoke easily controlled. He dismounted and swept his wife into his arms, hugging and kissing her.
"The Ohsaahgan rides almost as well as an Amazoni, Ohnaà," Et-esh reported.
"You honor him with your gift."
"I had to drag Beekahnahcoke, for he was uninterested in learning to ride, content to walk home. The mare chose him. The mare is his." Et-esh glanced at Ohnaà's belt. "Two Ossit scalps. You had good hunting. We must celebrate his woman's return tonight."
Ohnaà grinned, observing the couple hugging.
"I do not think they will be going anywhere while we prepare the celebration, do you?"
The night was alive with song and dance, torchlight blanketed the celebrants in flickering gold.
Beekahnahcoke and Nahchinka, exhausted from having danced with practically the whole tribe, watched Ohnaà dancing with Ojah, amazed that someone so big and powerful could be so light on her feet.
Painted and ornamented with dangling hair beads, the warrior looked all the more frighteningly savage.
Et-esh took her place beside the albinos.
"Nahchinka enjoy Amazoni dancing?"
"It's all very wonderful," she answered, raising her voice to be heard above the drumming and singing.
"Why does Nahchinka dance with everyone but Ohnaà?"
"I don't want to intrude on her and Ojah," she answered, not daring to admit her fear of the warrior.
"She dance with you. Ask her," Et-esh encouraged.
"Not now. She's--"
"You too shy," Et-esh concluded and stood. "I tell her," she declared. Before Nahchinka could protest, the war chief was gone.
Ohnaà's sudden appearance startled Nahchinka.
"He does not tell Ohnaà who she dance with."
"Go on," Beekahnahcoke urged.
In the circle, Nahchinka was uncertain. Ohnaà rested strong hands upon the Ohsaahgan's milky shoulders. "Your hands to my hips," she instructed. "You follow me."
Together they stamped and swayed and turned to the quickening drums. The drums, reaching a deafening crescendo, boomed, then abruptly ceased.
"Nahchinka follows well. Now that she dance with Ohnaà, she no longer fears her."
"A warrior always knows. Nahchinka is past this fear, yes?"
Beekahnahcoke joined his wife and Ohnaà.
"We better sleep now as we're leaving early."
The albinos left hand-in-hand.
Et-esh joined Ohnaà.
"Ohsaahgan are a strange people, young one. They fear their own shadows as well as those who call them friend."
"That will change." Et-esh sniffed the air. "More boar meat. Help me eat it!"
The next day, Ohnaà, Et-esh, and an escort of ten, the Ohsaahgans proudly riding the gray mare, journeyed beyond the land of the Amazoni and Ossit, halting on a hill overlooking the mountains ahead.
"We can travel from here," Beekahnahcoke assured. "Thank you again for all you've done for us. We're forever in your debt."
"We'll never forget you," Nahchinka said.
Ohnaà stared long and hard at her new friends.
"Beekahnahcoke and Nahchinka of the Ohsaahgan, Amazoni will always hold a place for you in their hearts. Always you be welcome among us. You remember this, yes?"
"We'll remember," Beekahnahcoke replied.
Ohnaà uttered a sharp command in Amazoni. Her warriors galloped away; her Appaloosa snorted and pranced, wanting to follow.
Thrusting a fist overhead, Ohnaà voiced her farewell in a shrill war cry before galloping after the others.
Beekahnahcoke kissed his wife.
"We're going home, beloved. We're going home!"