|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|
Bloody month after bloody month did Amazoni raid Outsiders. Led by the mighty Ohnaà, daughter of Codot, adopted in infancy from the Shesh left a trail of burning destruction and death in return for Outsider encroachment on Amazoni land, the killing of Amazoni game, the murder many Amazoni warriors. With each raid Ohnaà's belt grew heavier with scalps but she didn't care. The lives of her people outweighed the survival of an enemy.
As Ohnaà sat one night before her fire smoking her pipe, war chief Et-esh joined her.
"You look troubled, young one."
"It is unlike you to brood."
"I do not brood. I am...thoughtful."
Ohnaà handed the smoldering pipe to the war chief.
"You are a warrior of action rather than thought, young one."
Et-esh enjoyed several puffs of bitter smoke before returning the pipe to her friend.
"I fear for you, Ohnaà."
"Why does one who fears no one have such a thought?"
Et-esh stared into the fire a long while, uncharacteristically silent.
"Speak your heart, young one."
Et-esh's pale eyes locked with Ohnaà's piercing obsidian.
"Many are after you from the outside."
Ohnaà tapped out her pipe's ashes.
"From the time of my first war party have I had enemies after me. I carry many of them on my scalpcord. Outsider traders, trappers and hunters are no different to me than Ossit enemies."
Ohnaà stuffed fresh tobacco into her pipe.
"What really troubles you?"
Et-esh folded her arms across her chest.
"What of him?"
"I have heard word from warriors of Jo-teff's anger at you for killing his people."
"I have known him since I was ten seasons old. He has taught me his tongue. I know his ways. But I am Amazoni first. I fight to protect my people from those who go against us in countless ways. He knows these wrongs but turns a blind eye. Only when I retaliate does he wake up. His anger means nothing."
"If he rides against you?"
"I hope he does not make that choice. But my people come first. It is up to him."
Ohnaà relit her pipe and took several puffs.
"I understand. It would be hard for me to decide how to go."
Ohnaà continued to puff thoughtfully before passing the smoldering pipe.
Et-esh inhaled a lungful of smoke, exhaling slowly.
"I will stand beside you, Ohnaà, in whatever you choose to do."
Et-esh returned Ohnaà's pipe.
"Personally, I never cared for Outsiders. I enjoy facing them."
"You would enjoy facing an angry boar barehanded, a feat even I would not do."
"That is why I have the name of fearless, and your name means strength. I would catch the angry boar. You would snap its neck like kindling with one hand."
"Remind me never to hunt angry boar with you, Et-esh."
The war chief laughed.
"You have no sense of adventure."
"Keeping you out of trouble is adventure enough."
Ohnaà puffed her pipe.
"I am forever in your debt, Ohnaà."
"When you stay out of trouble you will be in my debt," Ohnaà replied with a laugh.
Several weeks passed before Trader Joseph rode into camp, greeted warmly by passing Amazoni. Even the dogs barked and wagged their tails in greeting. Joseph entered Ohnaà's tepee finding the warrior honing her knife and her mate, Ojah, sitting in a corner sewing beads on an armband.
"Leave us, Ojah," Ohnaà said, not once looking up from her task.
Ojah grabbed his sewing and hurriedly departed.
"Dahò, Jo-teff. Heeska. Sit."
Joseph shook his head in wonder as he took his place opposite the warrior.
"It never ceases to amaze me. You don't look up yet know it's me."
"I know your step." Ohnaà continued honing her knife. "You are hungry?"
"You wish smoke?"
"It has been a while since Jo-teff walks among Amazoni in their camp."
Ohnaà looked up.
"Why do you come, Jo-teff?"
Ohnaà sheathed her knife.
"You change again. You cut your hair."
"Best way to keep the rest of my scalp."
"You still have a good scalp."
Trader Joseph folded his arms across his chest, his eyes darting from the warrior's sheathed knife to her.
"I plan to keep it."
Noting the subtle hint of challenge in Joseph's tone, Ohnaà narrowed her eyes.
"Nice knife. Seem to recall Smitty having one just like that a few seasons back. Almost lost it in a dice game to you. Matter of fact, found his and Doo's bodies. A real mess. I knew it was you."
"The small one did lose his knife to me. You make me return it.I claimed what was mine. No Hair showed no respect.
"Why do you come, Jo-teff?" Ohnaà demanded coldly.
"To talk some sense into you of course. You may be Amazoni, but that Shesh temper of yours is piling up a lot of bodies and burned out homes."
"The paint of war I wear."
"Well, I'd appreciate you keeping it off."
"Why? Why? What kind of fool question is that?" Trader Joseph demanded with indignation.
"Ah yah! Do we swarm upon your land like the stinger bee and try to steal it? Do we hunt your game forcing you to travel many miles to fill your cooking pot? Do we sell your scalps for gold pieces? No, Jo-teff! Your people force me to pick up the bow against them, and you dare come to my camp, share my fire, and say I am wrong to protect what is Amazoni?" Ohnaà stood, pointing an accusing finger. "It is you who has no sense, Jo-teff, not I!" she shouted.
Trader Joseph stood, his gray eyes blazing.
"I don't want to have a showdown with you, Ohnaà. We've been friends since you were a child. At the same time, you know I'll have to try to stop you."
"Speak to your people for what they make me do. Go. You are not welcome in my tepee."
"Are you also cutting off our friendship?"
"That is your choice, Jo-teff. Go!"
Heaving a heavy sigh, Trader Joseph left.
Sitting, Ohnaà glared into her fire. When Ojah returned later, in an attempt to soothe her, he sat at his warrior's left and stroked her massive forearm. He was ignored.
"Tell me why you are so angry?"
"I am in no mood for questions, Ojah," Ohnaà retorted, continuing to stare into the fire.
"It is Jo-teff."
"What was spoken between us is not for Ojah's ears."
"Why?" he demanded. "Because I am a mere man? Because you think I do not know what is happening?"
"Talk of war is not for you to hear."
"Look at me, Ohnaà," Ojah commanded.
Never having been spoken to by her mate in such a tone, Ohnaà glared at Ojah.
"You seem to forget that I am your mate in all things. I am the son of a war chief, so talk of war is not a thing I know little about. When we joined you were a war chief; now you are tahna who leads our people joined with the son of a war chief which makes me your equal though I am but a man. You will speak to me as an equal.
"Tell me why Jo-teff's visit has filled you with such rage that makes you turn from me?"
Gradually did Ohnaà's anger cool.
"My words with Jo-teff are private, Ojah."
"You would tell Et-esh."
"We have spoken of Jo-teff."
"Enough, Ojah! This is a matter I will not discuss with you until it is resolved."
His arguments exhausted, accepting Ohnaà's final words on the subject as law and not to be debated further, Ojah bowed his head in submission and stood.
"I will finish beading your arm band."
Ohnaà caught hold of her mate's tiny pale hand.
"I bear no ill toward you, only love, Ojah."
"That will never change?"
Ohnaà stood. She stroked Ojah's cheek, looking deeply into his big blue eyes. "Never!" She swept him into her powerful mahogany-skinned arms. "I will show you how much," she assured.
"Forgive me for questioning. Sometimes I feel I have lost you."
"You have not lost me. There are some things I must do alone. But not in what I have planned now."
Ojah grinned for he knew Ohnaà would make passionate love to him strengthening her bond and claim on him.
Ohnaà kissed Ojah tenderly as she lay him upon their high bed of silken furs.
Ohnaà rode through camp, the body of a small boar slung over Appaloosa's withers.
Ojah stepped out of the tepee to await his mate. Despite the successful hunt, the warrior did not look happy as she tossed the boar carcass at Ojah's feet.
"Game grows scarce, Ojah. It could be my next hunt I would be away many days or weeks."
"For now, we have plenty of meat, my warrior."
"For now, yes. In the future..."
"Think of only now, Ohnaà."
The warrior sighed.
The air was pierced by a shrill yell. Ohnaà whirled Appaloosa around to see Cho-hot thundering in.
"Ohnaà it happens again," Cho-hot breathlessly informed. "My hunting party intercepted trappers. We hold them. Their leader was found with a pouch of Amazoni hair. He says he is your friend."
"Friend?" Ohnaà demanded.
"He is the one called Big Boar."
The rotund trapper Big Boar sat on the ground, horsehair leash around his neck, its other end staked into the ground. His two companions, beaten and bruised, stood facing each other lashed to a tree. Et-esh amused herself by throwing her knife at them, narrowly missing them with each throw. Three warriors armed with menacing lances positioned themselves around Big Boar, ignoring his babbling in broken Amazoni.
Ohnaà and Cho-hot arrived. Et-esh stalked up to the dismounting warriors. From her belt she tore off Big Boar's scalp pouch and handed it to Ohnaà who scowled viewing the pouch's contents. She stalked up to the trapper, Et-esh close behind. The warrior squatted before Big Boar.
"Ohnaà, this--this is all a big mistake. I didn't even know I was carrying Amazoni scalps. A friend asked me to hold it, and well, I'm not nosy you understand."
Et-esh squatted beside Ohnaà.
Big Boar laughed nervously under Ohnaà's piercing gaze.
"You know me. We're friends! We always have a friendly arm wrestling match when you come down to Joseph's. I-I'd never do anything to make you mad."
"Big Boar lies when he says he does not take Amazoni scalps," Ohnaà growled. "I have heard he gets gold pieces for Ossit hair."
"But they're your enemies."
"Even they do not deserve to have their hair lifted for Outsider gold pieces." Ohnaà lifted a long raven lock end of her own hair. "Big Boar would trade my scalp for much gold."
"No, no, of course not."
"That is good. This is good, Et-esh, yes?"
"Look, Ohnaà. Let's say you let us go and you'll never see us again. We can forget this ever happened."
"This is misunderstanding."
"That's it! Nothing more than a terrible misunderstanding."
Ohnaà drew her knife.
"L-let's talk about this. You don't want to kill old Big Boar, your friend."
"The scalp hunters you come with we leave for hungry, long-toothed cats. But you, 'friend', I will teach you what Amazoni do to scalp hunters. Et-esh, dejò nee. Hyshgo nee otskahdà."
Et-esh sprang, forcing Big Boar onto his belly.
Cho-hot and her party gathered around.
Ohnaà eyed Big Boar's left pudgy hand and with lightening speed lopped it off with her sharp blade and dropped it into the scalp pouch that she tied to her bikini skins' belt.
"I will take you to Jo-teff's Trader Lodge, Big Boar. I show him Amazoni scalps with your hand. He will see how Amazoni treat your kind. You will never lift another Amazoni scalp!"
Ohnaà snapped up the screaming trapper to his feet by his horse hair leash, yanking him behind her to the horses, Et-esh beside her.
"I will come with you, Ohnaà. I would be more than happy to drag the trapper behind me."
Ohnaà answered with a curt nod then vaulted gracefully upon Appaloosa.
"Cho-hot. Game is scarce. You may still find something."
"We will not return until we do."
Et-esh mounted her sleep-eyed buckskin.
"Good journey, Ohnaà, Et-esh," Cho-hot bade.
Arriving at the Trader Lodge, Ohnaà unslung her bow. Notching an arrow, she let it fly through a window to impale itself in the floor boards. She called the dreaded shrill Amazoni war cry to provoke Trader Joseph out.
Joseph obliged at a run, his friends at his heels.
The warrior signaled Et-esh to surrender Big Boar. "Behold a mighty trapper, Jo-teff," she haughtily announced in Amazoni, "caught by a hunting party." She hurled Big Boar's pouch at Trader Joseph's feet. "He carried the scalps of Amazoni. I have added his scalp hunter hand to his bounty!
"Remember this day, Jo-teff. Remember Big Boar traveled my land to do harm. Remember his life being spared. Should his face be seen again on my land, there will be nothing for your people to bury. Remember my words!"
"Remember mine as well, Ohnaà. I will stop you."
"Again you challenge my right to defend my people, my land!"
"You had no right to punish. We would have done so had you come."
Et-esh was stunned by Joseph's defense when Trader justice was innately against Amazoni. She exchanged a swift glance at Ohnaà, seeing the pain in her black eyes.
"It saddens me, Jo-teff," Ohnaà admitted "to have to kill you for challenging my right to attack Big Boar who sells the yellow hair of Amazoni. It would mean nothing to you if he took my black hair as a Shesh-Amazoni scalp would be worth much.
"So be it. You have chosen your path!"
To seal her acknowledgment of Trader Joseph's challenge, Ohnaà hefted a fist overhead, screeching an angry war cry.
Tears blurred Trader Joseph's gray eyes as he watched Ohnaà and Et-esh thunder away.
Ohnaà and Et-esh sat at their cooking fire as dusk gently blanketed the campsite.
"I cannot believe what I heard, Ohnaà. Perhaps I was wrong all along about Jo-teff."
"People change, young one."
"Jo-teff has been with Amazoni for so long. I thought his heart was with us. This change is so unlike the man I had hunted with, shared my lodge fire with, given a horse to." Et-esh tossed a twig into the fire. "This change is hard to accept."
"It is hardest on you since you have known him since childhood."
"I do not relish the thought of fighting Jo-teff."
"Perhaps he will not come."
"He will, Et-esh. His honor will allow him no other way."
The warriors stared in silence at the crackling fire, neither really seeing it, both wrapped in dark thought.
An owl hooted close by, striking a shiver up Ohnaà's spine. Et-esh shifted uneasily. It was a bad omen.
Ohnaà and Et-esh arrived in camp, but instead of going to her lodge, Ohnaà visited Medicine Woman, who sat before her fire pulverizing newly collected herbs in an elaborately painted wooden bowl.
"I may speak with you?"
Medicine Woman put aside her work.
"You do not need my permission, great warrior."
Ohnaà sat before the elderly shaman.
"You are troubled."
"Trader Jo-teff has turned against me for cutting off scalp hunter Big Boar's hand."
"You did what was right, daughter of Codot."
Sighing, Ohnaà nodded.
"Jo-teff does not see it that way. He challenged me. In anger I accepted. Soon he will come to fight. I do not want to kill him because of our long friendship, yet if I do not, my courage would be questioned."
"Why do you come to me?"
"For medicine so that I may have a vision to help me gain an answer for this problem."
Medicine Woman chuckled softly.
Ohnaà scowled. "Why do you laugh at my need?" she demanded.
"You have great inner strength, warrior, as powerful as the spirits. You do not need their help through me as they speak to you in ways you will never know. Use your inner strength. It will speak to your heart. Listen. You will find your answers."
"You enjoy torturing me."
"I make you think," Medicine Woman countered. "I tell you the truth, not what you want to hear. The spirits have revealed much to me of you, but charge me with making you find answers on your own. I have told you what I know. You, great warrior, must do the rest."
The shaman resumed grinding her herbs.
Trader Joseph arrived days later, pausing at the corral where Et-esh was grooming her sleepy-eyed buckskin.
The war chief greeted Joseph with a curt nod instead of her usual smile.
"May I speak with you?"
Tossing aside her brush, Et-esh approached the corral gate.
"I thought I'd say hello before visiting Ohnaà."
Folding brawny arms across her chest, pale eyes cold, Et-esh stared at Trader Joseph. "She is not in camp," she replied tersely.
"Where is she?"
"You do not come to Amazoni in peace but to fight. Why should I help you?"
"Because I ask as a friend."
"A friend does not speak against Amazoni, against Ohnaà."
"I was wrong. That's why I want to speak with her. I want to make things right between us."
"You have hurt Ohnaà so much she may kill you before you speak."
"It's a chance I'm willing to take. Where is she?"
"Go to the yellow cave a mile from here."
"Friends again, Et-esh?"
The war chief grinned.
"Any Trader who admits he is wrong is my friend."
Outside the mouth of the cave, Ohnaà sat staring at the ground, lost in thought. Suddenly she jerked her head up sensing a visitor.
A moment later Trader Joseph appeared leading his horse his appearance expected.
"Dahò, Jo-teff. Heeska."
Joseph sat before the warrior.
"Et-esh told me where you were."
"You are on her good side again."
"She is a tough one."
"Jo-teff did not come to talk of Et-esh."
"No. Big Boar is dead."
"Good! Now there is one less scalp hunter."
"I'm ashamed to have considered Big Boar a friend. I had no idea what he was doing. I came to say you had every right to punish him and I agree with your fighting. I overreacted, selfishly not looking at things from where you stand.
"When you came, we both said things in anger. I didn't mean what I said."
Ohnaà stood. She drew her knife, its thick blade glittering. She motioned the wary Joseph to stand. "Never will this knife strike Jo-teff. Never again will he have fear in his heart of Ohnaà." She sheathed her knife. "Never will this promise be broken."
The warrior exchanged wrist clasps with Trader Joseph.
"You will stay this night in my tepee."
Trader Joseph grinned.
"Come. Ojah's cooking pot is full. But with
Et-esh around, it will soon not be."
Trader Joseph burst into hearty laughter.