|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 Shesh-Amazoni warrior Ohnaà, armed with bow and quiver, mounted atop Appaloosa, silently trailed her prey through a dense forest. It wasn't a meal she stalked, but a lone woman in a long, dirty, sky-blue dress, her wavy, waist-length, auburn hair windblown and tangled. Ohnaà noted that the young and comely woman was unschooled in wilderness travel as she crashed noisily through the forest, unarmed and obviously dazed from hunger. Where this woman came from interested the warrior little for now as she wondered how she managed to stay alive among the constant threat of enemy trespassers and hungry beasts.
The exhausted woman sat in a tired heap upon a rotted tree trunk. Eyeing the leaf-littered ground, she smiled slightly at a tiny purple wildflower. At least there was some beauty in this tangle she thought.
A rustle startled her into alertness. She froze at the sight of the mounted mahogany-skinned burly woman, with waist-length sable hair framing a chiseled face set in a scowl. The warrior's skimpy bikini skins embarrassed the tired woman who was of conservative tastes.
Although Ohnaà made no move for her bow, this did little to soothe the wary woman. "Who are you?" she demanded hoping her stern manner would dissuade the warrior from hostile action.
Dismounting, Ohnaà stalked up to the auburn-haired, gray-eyed stranger, impressed that she did not flinch.
"I've heard of savage women, although you're the first I've seen."
Typical Outsider, Ohnaà mused. They were always talking yet saying little.
"No doubt you're expert with that bow."
Ohnaà kneeled before the seated woman.
"My name is Kiddy. And you?"
Ohnaà continued to intensely scrutinize Kiddy, making her angry.
"Either talk to me or leave me alone to find my way!"
Ohnaà pointed to Kiddy.
Kiddy laughed at the unusual pronunciation of her name, at the same time pleased she had gotten through to the stern-faced warrior.
Nodding, Ohnaà delved into her waist ration pouch, drawing from it a bent strip of jerked meat. Drawing her wicked knife, she sliced the tough meat in two and offered one piece to Kiddy. "Take," she commanded.
"What is it?"
Ohnaà sheathed her knife.
Accepting, Kiddy sniffed the meat suspiciously.
Ohnaà ripped a piece off her jerky with strong teeth, chewing slowly, never taking her eyes off Kiddy.
"Boar meat will make Kid-deh strong again."
Ohnaà chewed off another piece of meat.
"I follow Kid-deh many days. She cannot hunt. She does not know enough of wild plants to eat well. She is weak. Boar make her strong again."
"Who are you?" Kiddy demanded. "Why are you following me?"
Ohnaà took a deep swallow of water from her belt gourd.
"We eat, then talk."
"We talk and eat," Kiddy countered all fear of the warrior dissolved. "Who are you and why do you follow me?"
Ohnaà's scowl softened, her distain replaced by respect for this outspoken woman, who in spite of being ignorant in wilderness ways, possessed an unexpected hardness and determination in the face of danger and Amazoni.
"I am Ohnaà, warrior leader of Amazoni. Hunting, I see you so I follow to see why you travel our land."
"I've heard of Amazoni and have heard a lot about you. News travels fast to my home."
"You come from a long way place?"
"The other side of the world."
Ohnaà couldn't fathom a place further than the forests, plains, and grassland she had roamed all her life. She offered Kiddy her water gourd.
"This is all the world I know."
Kiddy wiped water from her mouth.
"There's so much more for you to see."
"One day maybe I go to your side, and they will see the warrior they hear about around lodge fires."
"The stories told about you are quite bloody ones." Kiddy eyed Ohnaà's scalpcord. "They appear true."
"Ah yah! Most stories told of a great warrior are just that. They are stories. Kid-deh sees I do not harm her, so much of what she hears of me are stories to scare young ones."
Ohnaà retrieved her water gourd and hooked it to her belt. She leaned back against the log, stretching her long muscular legs.
"They are my enemies," Ohnaà explained.
"It is Amazoni way."
Kiddy studied Ohnaà intently.
"Amazoni are blond and blue-eyed I hear. You--"
"I have dark skin, eyes, and hair because I am born Shesh, but all know my heart, my ways are Amazoni.
"Why do you travel our land?"
"I'm a bought bride, looking for the husband I've never seen."
"It is a strange custom your joining with one never seen. This man sends many horses to your camp to buy you?"
"Gold, not horses."
It was hard to grasp the purchase of a mate with gold. You can't ride a gold piece, nor breed strong offspring from it, nor hunt on it. Gold is useless to buy a mate with. Horses are better.
"Who is this man who buys you?"
"A man named Joseph."
"You know him?"
"My people trade with Jo-teff. He is a good friend. He teach me his tongue. He has fought beside me in battle. He is a great warrior. It is good he finds a woman!" Ohnaà stood. "On her own, Kid-deh will never reach Jo-teff's Trader Lodge. Come. We have many days travel and many dangers."
Afraid of horses, Kiddy cautiously approached.
Ohnaà vaulted gracefully onto Appaloosa, offering a muscled arm, easily hefting Kiddy behind her.
"Ossit trespassers and hungry long-toothed cats. Ossit are more dangerous. Now we must hunt fresh meat."
Several times along the way, Kiddy attempted to engage Ohnaà in conversation only to be ignored. To the stern warrior, trivial conversation was yet another useless game played among the civilized, and Ohnaà made it quite clear her disinterest in participating. Kiddy had to occupy herself with listening to birdsong and the cool breeze rustling through heavily leafed treetops.
Ohnaà abruptly reined up, scenting the air. Dismounting, she kneeled to study animal tracks. She followed the tracks several yards to a clearing. Sensing Kiddy about to speak, she raised a silencing hand as she continued studying the ground. She looked ahead at another stretch of dense forest, her keen senses piqued. Unshouldering her bow Ohnaà turned to Kiddy.
"Wait. Make no move, no sound. I return soon."
At a sprint, the Shesh-Amazoni dashed off in pursuit of her prey.
Sliding clumsily off Appaloosa, Kiddy folded her arms across her chest in annoyance. "And where do you expect me to go?" she grumbled.
Minutes later Ohnaà returned with a small deer slung over her broad shoulders and dropped the carcass at Kiddy's feet. She pointed from whence she came.
Kiddy's gray eyes blazed. She had had enough of Ohnaà's authority.
"I'm getting a little tired of being ordered about!"
"Bring much wood as all the deer will be cooked."
"Are you crazy? I could be attacked by something in those woods!"
Kneeling and drawing her knife, Ohnaà began to slice the carcass.
"I hunt, I butcher. We need wood. Kid-deh gathers wood or she eats nothing."
Smarting under the rebuke, Kiddy angrily did Ohnaà's bidding, returning with a massive armload of wood and slamming the pile onto the ground.
Ohnaà finished her butchering and glared at her companion.
"Why does Kid-deh show anger?"
"I don't like being ordered about like a slave by a...a..."
"Ah yah! By your ways," Ohnaà growled, "I am a savage. I do not wear your clothes. I cannot follow or make the marks on paper. I do not steal another's land or make it hard to find game as Outsiders do to Amazoni. I am superior! I do not get lost. I track, I hunt, I fight. I am a savage who knows the land and no hardship is too great. I do not complain like Kid-deh. To travel with me she will work. She must learn things so she will be no burden to me or Jo-teff. The simple task of gathering wood--Kid-deh learned much but is blinded by foolish anger to see."
"And what was I to learn?"
"Kid-deh was not bitten by snake. She finds wood that burns, not wood that only smokes. She pay attention so she remember her way back. She trust a warrior she does not know not to leave her."
Kiddy reddened with embarrassment. Ohnaà was trying only to teach, not dominate.
Using her belt gourd of water, Ohnaà rinsed her hands and knife of blood.
"Will you teach me how to build the fire and cook our meat?"
"Then we sleep. Here, night comes quickly."
"I was hoping you'd talk to me more about yourself."
Ohnaà's scowl returned.
"My friend, Et-esh, she like to talk a lot. I am a warrior of few words."
"Then I'll talk."
"You are to be Jo-teff's woman. No more do I need to know. I teach you now how to make a spit."
Heaving a disappointed sigh, Kiddy reluctantly accepted Ohnaà's sudden retreat into herself. Dependant on this strange warrior, she had no choice.
Just after dawn Ohnaà prodded Kiddy awake.
"We are being followed. We must go now."
"But I'm hungry."
Ohnaà shook her head.
"We eat later, Kid-deh."
Kiddy struggled to her feet, feeling stiff, unused to sleeping on the hard cold ground.
"Who else would be up this early?"
"Two trespassing Ossit. You are what they want. Come."
Kiddy stumbled after Ohnaà walking rapidly to Appaloosa.
"So fight them off!"
Ohnaà vaulted onto her horse, hefting Kiddy up.
At a gallop they traveled the prairie, Kiddy constantly looking over her shoulder.
Two loin clothed, gray-skinned, scalplocked Ossit with shoulder-length multi-shelled earrings, armed with bows appeared, howling like mad dogs.
"They're gaining on us!"
Abruptly reining up, Ohnaà ordered Kitty off.
"You do not move!"
Answering her Ossit pursuers with a blood-curdling Amazoni war cry, unshouldering her bow, Ohnaà galloped toward her enemies. Dropping her reins, the pressure of her legs spurring Appaloosa to gallop faster, she notched an arrow and let fly, dropping the faster Ossit from his horse with an arrow to the chest. Yelling another shrill war cry, she let loose another arrow, dropping the second Ossit's mount from under him. She blocked the Ossit from running. Shouldering her bow, she glared at the angry Ossit. She leaped to the ground. The Ossit brave reached for his knife, but before it could leave its sheath, Ohnaà's knife buried itself into his chest. He dropped like a boulder.
Kiddy hurried to the scene.
Retrieving her knife, Ohnaà swiftly sliced off her enemy's scalplock.
Kiddy covered her mouth in horror at the bloody spectacle.
Casually adding the hair to her scalpcord, Ohnaà trotted to the other Ossit and dropped to one knee.
"No!" Kiddy shouted. "There's been enough bloodshed!"
Ohnaà seized the Ossit's scalplock. Defiantly she stared at Kiddy. "He is my enemy," she snarled. "I claim his hair!"
Kiddy shut her eyes so as not to see Ohnaà's smile of pleasure in taking her foe's hair."Come," the warrior curtly beckoned adding her trophy to her scalpcord as she walked to Appaloosa.
Twilight settled over Ohnaà's campsite. Attached to a stick beside the low fire hung the two drying Ossit scalps.
"You didn't have to do what you did. Killing in defense was enough."
"I tell you before. I kill my enemy, I take their scalp. It is the way."
"By your way."
Kiddy ran her fingers through her long auburn hair smoothing non-existent tangles.
"At least I can take comfort knowing my hair will stay mine."
Ohnaà checked her scalps for dryness. Satisfied, she added them to her heavy waist scalpcord.
"No Amazoni will claim it. Jo-teff protect you from others. You also have me to protect you if something happens to Jo-teff."
From her many waist pouches Ohnaà selected her tobacco pouch and a rolling paper, and carefully fashioned a cigarette. She drew a match from another pouch and lit it.
"Are you married?"
"He is called Ojah. Many seasons we are joined. I pay many horses for him. He is son of a war chief."
Ohnaà inhaled a deep drag off her cigarette.
"Do you fight a lot?"
"All who join have disagreement. I think you and Jo-teff will be good together."
"You could be wrong."
"Ah yah! Kid-deh worries too much. She be fine with Jo-teff."
"Your children are lucky to have a wise person as you."
"I have no young ones."
"I-I'm so sorry."
Ohnaà shrugged massive shoulders.
"I accept the spirits' wish that I have no young ones. Kid-deh will have strong young ones in seasons to come. You will bring your daughters to Amazoni to visit. If they wish, I will teach them to hunt, to know the land.
"Weeshgah ahdohdà. We sleep."
For two uneventful days Ohnaà and Kiddy rode at a leisurely pace through grasslands, prairie, chilly brooks, and canyon throats. The third day, Ohnaà took Kiddy with her behind cover of thick brush to watch a foraging boar.
A twinkle in her dark eyes, Ohnaà looked to Kiddy. Unshouldering her bow she notched an arrow and handed the weapon to her.
"The boar is yours to take."
"Me? I've never shot a bow in my life."
"Now you will."
"What if I miss? You'd have a wasted arrow."
"Kid-deh will not miss."
Ohnaà shook her head.
"The spirits will guide your arrow."
Her heart pounding, her mouth suddenly dry, Kiddy aimed the bow, trembling in her nervousness. She blinked several times as she took a bead upon the grunting boar ripping up roots with its white tusks. Her stomach churned to the point of nauseous pain. Sucking in a breath, she shut her eyes and let the arrow fly. The boar thumped to the ground.
Grinning, Ohnaà tightly clasped Kiddy's shoulder. They walked to the dead beast.
"Ah yah! Kid-deh is a hunter now. Next time she keep her eyes open."
Suddenly Ohnaà stiffened, her keen vision spotting the tawny coat of a stalking long-toothed cat, its hungry sights on Kiddy, its long protruding fangs dripping with saliva. Ohnaà had just enough time to shove Kiddy out of the way before the snarling cat leaped at the warrior's throat, knocking her down.
Roaring as loudly as the enraged beast atop her, Ohnaà seized the animal's neck and thrashed it back in forth while trying to avoid the snapping, slashing fangs.
Kiddy stood paralyzed at the spectacle, forgetting the bow she clutched.
Losing her grip upon the long-toothed cat gave the animal the split-second advantage it needed to bite into Ohnaà's left arm. Baring her teeth, the warrior again seized the animal's neck, intending to snap it, but the beast's thrashing made it impossible to gain a firm grip.
Kiddy snapped out of her shock and remembered the bow she clutched. Yanking her arrow from the boar, she notched it and without thinking let it fly, killing the cat.
Breathing heavily, her left arm coated with blood, Ohnaà shoved the animal off her.
Throwing down the bow Kiddy ran to the kneeling Shesh-Amazoni.
Tearing off a strip of skirt with shaking hands, she untied Ohnaà's water gourd and soaked the cloth to wash the warrior's wound.
"I need to stop the bleeding."
"It is nothing," Ohnaà replied through gritted teeth.
"You have a pouch for everything. I need medicine to stop the blood."
Ohnaà untied her waist medicine pouch.
"I'll do it."
Ohnaà blinked in surprise.
"Even you need help."
With expert hands Kiddy packed the fang punctures with red medicine powder.
In excruciating pain, Ohnaà stared straight ahead, gritting her teeth in stoic silence. Soon, she knew, the medicine would numb the two holes in her bulging left bicep.
Carefully Kiddy wrapped the warrior's arm in a fresh strip of torn skirt.
Embarrassed, Ohnaà ripped off Kiddy's cloth.
"Ah yah! I will not be shamed by Outsider bandage."
"Plant-that-heals is enough." Ohnaà flexed her arm. "I feel no pain." she shouldered her bow and stood. "You save my life. For this I give you the pelt." She drew her knife. "I give you great honor. You hunt a boar, now you show greater courage. You are now a warrior. The skin will remind Kid-deh of her great deed. Jo-teff be proud!" Ohnaà nodded. "I am proud! I will tell my people. They will speak your name with honor and respect. I will bare the scars of this day with pride because Kid-deh save my life."
Ohnaà went to the long-toothed cat's body and, kneeling, began to skin it, leaving the head and tail attached. "This night I cook the boar. Kid-deh has earned a rest."
For two days Ohnaà worked on the long-toothed cat's pelt, fleshing, stretching, and drying it with herbs from her belt of many pouches. The fifth day, the cured skin, as soft as silk, its eyeless head staring, at last was ready. The warrior rolled it tightly, lashing it over Appaloosa's withers. She turned to Kiddy.
"We are not far from the Trader Lodge where Jo-teff waits."
"Do you think we'll have any more trouble?"
"That's no help."
"We take what come, Kid-deh. Amazoni do not worry on what might be."
Two days of hard riding saw Ohnaà and Kiddy at the Trader Lodge. Unlashing the cat skin, Ohnaà handed it to Kiddy then led the way inside the lodge crowded with eating and drinking traders, trappers, and hunters.
As usual, Ohnaà's appearance drew looks, and gradually did the noise die down.
A bearded trapper attracted by the comely Kiddy blocked Ohnaà's path.
"Fine prisoner you got to trade. I'll be more than happy to take her off your hands."
"She is no prisoner."
"She sure is pretty."
"Move from my path."
"Just being friendly."
"Move from my path."
"Now, now, savage. Just want a little time with the little lady."
The trapper took a menacing step.
Baring her teeth, Ohnaà seized the trapper by the throat, slowly forcing him choking to his knees.
"H-his back r-room chamber," the trapper gasped under the warrior's tightening grip.
"Let him be! You're killing him!" Kiddy shouted.
Growling softly Ohnaà tightened her crushing grip.
"Let him go!" Kiddy commanded.
Ohnaà slammed the nearly unconscious trapper aside and led the way behind the bar, past the hastily retreating bartender, to the back room's hall of chambers.
Trader Joseph sat behind his desk reading a book as Ohnaà entered. He stood, smiling broadly.
The vision of the lovely Kiddy, though worn by travel, held Joseph in a fit of speechlessness. He ran a nervous hand through his cropped auburn hair.
"She is called Kid-deh."
"Kiddy," the woman corrected.
"H-how do you do, Kiddy?"
She shyly lowered her eyes.
"I'm well, sir, thanks to Ohnaà."
Trader Joseph chuckled.
"I'm no 'sir', Kiddy, just a simple man named Joseph."
"Not from what Ohnaà says."
Ohnaà folded muscled arms across her chest, her piercing eyes glittering.
"And what lies did you tell of me?"
"You are the friend of Amazoni and a great warrior."
"Ohnaà, you're exaggerating about me being a warrior and all."
"Your woman knows I do not lie."
"Your woman! Your bought bride!"
"Kid-deh is very brave, Jo-teff. She carry the skin of a long-toothed cat." Ohnaà flexed her huge left bicep, proudly displaying the healing fang holes. "She kill the cat with an arrow as I fight it. She has Amazoni courage."
Joseph smiled his pride.
Ohnaà shoved Kiddy at Trader Joseph so he'd have no choice but to hold her.
"Thank you for bringing her."
"I go now."
Ohnaà turned to leave.
"Wait!" Joseph called.
Ohnaà faced her friend.
Digging in his desk drawer, Trader Joseph hauled out a thick book labeled "ANIMALS".
"I have another picture book for you."
Ohnaà took the book and flipped through several pages, scanning the sketches with great interest.
"She loves picture books."
Kiddy was amazed at seeing the stern warrior, who could slice a man's scalp off without a second thought, fight an enraged wild animal, and nearly choke a man to death with one hand, view a colorful picture book with childlike, wide-eyed interest.
"There are horses Et-esh may like to see in there."
"Ah yah! I show her." Ohnaà snapped the book closed. "Many Amazoni like this book I think. Maybe you find one just for Et-esh next time, one with many picture of horses." Ohnaà held up a hand in stiff salute. "Dahò, Jo-teff." Her piercing gaze burned into Kiddy tightly clutching her cat skin. "Dahò, Kid-deh."
In the blink of an eye Ohnaà was gone.
Trader Joseph grinned.
"That she is, my love. That she is."