|Written by:||Lisa Godin (bio, contact, other stories)|
|Story type:||Serial Fiction|
|Location:||Cleveland Ohio USA|
|Home | Help||Member Sign In | Create an Account|
|Written by:||Lisa Godin (bio, contact, other stories)|
|Story type:||Serial Fiction|
|Location:||Cleveland Ohio USA|
Ohnaà and Et-esh crouched behind their brush screen and eyed the two mounted Traders and their pack mule laden with a roll of goods.
Ohnaà scowled at the sight. Time and again had this scene played out with uninvited Outsiders passing through to trade with other nations, in spite of alternate routes.
"This is the first time Boo-kah-nahn travels with another, young one."
"He thinks maybe with another you will not take his goods so readily."
"Boo-kah-nahn does not know me then. As I trade with no one but Jo-teff, I take from Boo-kah-nahn who knows he trespasses."
"Let us kill him and rid Amazoni of him."
Ohnaà shook her head.
"He is like the grass mouse. Kill one, he is replaced by two. Let us welcome him."
The warriors churned dust in thunderous interception.
"Not again!" Buchanan groaned. "She just won't leave me alone!"
"What the hell's the problem?"
"The bigger, dark one is Ohnaà. The blond is
Et-esh. Both Amazoni. Ohnaà isn't too crazy about me going through her land to begin with and takes pleasure in pouncing on me, leaving me empty-handed every time.
"Dahò, Boo-kah-nahn." Ohnaà pointed to the pack mule. "I see your trade now."
"They're not for you," the other Trader growled.
Scowling, Ohnaà pointed to the outspoken man. "Saydahà!" she hissed. "Maygah hoashkà eh ates deh doashka skà."
"Shut up, Clek, or Ohnaà will cut your tongue out. She makes the rules, as much as I hate it."
Ohnaà and Et-esh dismounted and sat between their horses and the Traders' mounts.
Buchanan dismounted and, ignoring Clek's protests, untied the mule's pack and spread his goods before the warriors.
The Amazoni sifted through the pile of gold bracelets, armbands, and necklaces tipped with heavy, polished medallions. Necklaces of cheap, colorful beads attracted Ohnaà's attention. Seizing a handful for her mate, Ojah, Ohnaà tied them to her bikini skins' waistband.
Et-esh held up a gold necklace with a large medallion etched with a man's face. "Who is this?" she demanded.
"Our god, Ner," Buchanan replied.
"He is a great warrior that his face is here?"
Et-esh grinned as she deposited the medallioned necklace into a waist pouch. "His medicine is mine," she declared. "I will be stronger with this warrior's power in battle."
Ohnaà tightly re-rolled Buchanan's goods and instructed Et-esh to tie it to her sleepy-eyed buckskin. Ohnaà vaulted onto Appaloosa.
"You've ruined me for the last time, Ohnaà."
"Good! Maybe now you stay out of our land.
Trader Jo-teff is welcome. You are not."
Without a backward glance the Amazoni rode away with their prize of goods for distribution among their people.
"Damn you, Ohnaà," Buchanan grumbled. "Damn you."
"Why did you let that savage clean us out?" Clek demanded. "We could've stopped her."
"I value breathing, that's why! C'mon."
Ohnaà and Et-esh entered camp stopping at its heart. Et-esh unrolled the pack of pilfered trade goods which drew the people like magnets. Amidst a sea of hands the chattering people rummaged through the pile of trinket gold jewlery and beaded necklaces.
Ohnaà untied the beaded necklaces at her belt and presented them to Ojah, who fiercely hugged her at the sight of the wonderful gift.
"If you do not choose, there will be nothing left for you."
Smiling, Ohnaà stroked Ojah's cheek.
"My pleasure is to give you presents, Ojah. I have no need of trade goods now."
"These are not from him. I took these from the one called Boo-kah-nahn. Join your friends, Ojah. Perhaps you will find other presents for yourself."
Ohnaà corralled Appaloosa, meeting Et-esh on the way to her tepee.
"The people are enjoying our trade," the war chief noted.
"They deserve it."
"Boo-kah-nahn was not very pleased with our welcome. I enjoyed that."
Ohnaà grinned happy to oblige her friend.
"You scared the loud one. I enjoyed that also."
The warriors continued to walk.
"I am going hunting tomorrow, young one. Come with me."
"Are we hunting boar or Trader?"
Ohnaà chuckled as she clasped Et-esh's shoulder.
"Whatever crosses our path first."
Both laughed heartily at the joke.
The next afternoon was hot with no breeze, but Ohnaà and Et-esh ignored the heat as they studied the tracks of a bush deer.
"Soon we will have meat, young one."
"That is if it is not hunted down by Outsiders first."
"We will be first." Ohnaà stiffened. "Many come."
Having long ago learned to accept her friend's special acuity of her surroundings, Et-esh said nothing.
Soon five Traders armed with crossbows and new weapons, long rods of metal, surrounded Ohnaà and Et-esh and pointed their metal rods at them.
"These rifles are loaded," the lead Trader warned. "We could kill you both in a hearbeat, so don't try anything."
Another Trader armed with a set of heavy shackles forcefully locked them on Ohnaà's wrists.
"We're arresting you for the murder of Trader Buchanan and his companion, Clek," the Trader leader brusquely announced.
Growling softly, Et-esh reached for her knife.
"Eyeote, Et-esh. Give them no reason to kill."
Et-esh's hand dropped.
"That's more like it," growled the Trader who had chained Ohnaà. "Looks like you're finally going to get your due, murderer."
"I kill no one."
"And none of those scalps you carry are Outsider," the lead Trader sarcastically quipped. "You think we're stupid? We know you."
"I kill no one."
"We're taking you to Messah. There you'll be treated to a special cell. You'll get counsel," the lead Trader replied," but," he chuckled, "I don't think it'll help much since we know you're a cold-blooded killer."
Ohnaà raised her rattling wrist chains.
"I will come. You do not need to chain me."
"Consider it a courtesy to us."
Not understanding the expression, Ohnaà dismissed it.
"Et-esh. Go back to our people. If what was said is true, someone in camp would know. Find this town they speak of. Find Boo-kah-nahn's killer and bring them."
"They will kill you before I return!"
"Then you must hurry. Go."
The Traders allowed Et-esh to leave.
"Mount up, savage," the Trader leader growled and shoved her to Appaloosa.
Ordinarily Ohnaà would have lashed out, but to the disappointment of her captors she didn't fight. There was no honor in dying while in chains in an unfair fight, and she would never give Outsiders the satisfaction of killing her too easily.
The Traders arrived in town with Ohnaà bringing up the rear, head high, eyes ahead, ignoring the dirty names heaped upon her.
A clod of dirt thrown by a child exploded against Ohnaà's back; the warrior did not react to its sting.
The party stopped at the sun-baked brick jail house. Ohnaà was roughly yanked off Appaloosa and shoved into a jail cell. Her captors laughed as she hit the floor. Enraged she lunged at her slammed cell door. Growling softly at her departing abductors she grabbed a bar in each hand and yanked hard rattling her wrist shackles. The bars held in spite of her great might that only loosened and drizzled dust from the bars' aged cement plugs.
"Save your strength," called the prisoner in the opposite cell. "Even you can't bend those bars."
To cool her anger at being caged, Ohnaà sat on the floor of her cell.
"I am Amazoni," she snapped.
"Why do your people hold you?"
"Killed a whore who robbed me. You?"
"They say I kill two Traders."
"And of course you didn't."
"I kill no one!"
"You'll never prove it, barbarian. You'll get a swift, meaningless trial if you're lucky. In the end, you'll meet my fate of hanging."
"Your people will not hang me. Et-esh, war chief of the Amazoni, will find the killer and bring to your people."
The prisoner laughed.
"Do you actually think that war chief of yours will be believed? She can bring in the real killer all she wants for all the good it'll do when hanging someone is all that counts."
"They will believe Et-esh."
"Well, if it makes you feel better trusting that, suit yourself."
Days of nearly inedible food and annoying chatter from Prisoner blended together. To relieve boredom, Ohnaà paced her cell and sang songs to herself, songs of warriors who died bravely in battle, songs of creation, and songs she made up. Fascinated by the sound of the Amazoni language although he understood nothing, Prisoner ceased his chatter to listen. "What was that song about?" he asked.
"It is a song of a warrior from long ago. She was called Ah-tets Seh-ah, Little Warrior. She was small but with great courage. She was captured by Shesh. They torture her much but she did not die. She was released. Her courage all remember. It has been said of me that her spirit is one with mine. It is an honor to stand in the shadow of Ah-tets Seh-ah."
"You may not think much of me, Shesh-Amazoni, but in the weeks I've known you, you're alright in my book."
Ohnaà went to her cell door.
"You are 'alright' also."
Prisoner laughed heartily. "You know," he said, "until now, I never knew Amazoni could joke."
"People know us only in battle. Amazoni joke, talk, dance, and sing. Amazoni families are..." not knowing the Trader word, Ohnaà hefted a hand, rattling her heavy wrist shackles, and held up two unseparated fingers."
"Ah yah! That is a good word. War is not all a warrior does. Family," she pointed to Prisoner, "friends are important to Amazoni."
Prisoner was stunned.
"I killed a woman. But I'm your friend?"
"You kill a thief. Someone steal from me, they die. You do not speak with anger or hatred to me so we are friends."
0hnaà sat down on her cell floor and closed her eyes.
Prisoner lay down for a nap, content that if he were to be hanged, he'd go out knowing he had at least one friend in the world. A world cruel no matter what your people.
Another week of visitorless boredom elapsed before Ohnaà's incarceration was at last tended to. The snapping of the heavy key being cranked in the nearly rusted, cell door lock awoke Prisoner. Seeing who was there, he rolled over in his bunk and fell asleep again.
The wary jailer followed behind a suited, handsome man with piercing blue eyes, wavy shoulder-length auburn hair, and sharply chiseled features who confidently sat opposite Ohnaà. "Hello," he greeted in a soft-spoken, gentle voice which appealed to the warrior. "My name is Beech. I'm what they call a Defender and am here to help. Can you understand me? They've told me nothing about that."
"I speak your words."
"Good. We have a lot to talk about."
Ohnaà held up her manacled wrists.
Defender Beech nodded.
"Of course. Jailer. Remove the irons."
"Are you crazy? This barbarian is as mean as they come!"
"Looks harmless to me."
"She's a powder keg about the explode. She'd snap you in half like a twig in the blink of an eye."
Ohnaà jerked her upraised fists impatiently, her chains' links clashing.
"If she wanted to attack me, I seriously doubt those chains would stop her. She won't say word unless they're removed."
"Can't trust nothin' she says."
Defender Beech glared at Jailer.
"Did I ask your opinion?"
"Do it, or I'll make damn sure you're in irons and her cell mate!"
Reluctantly Jailer did Defender Beech's bidding.
"If she tears you apart, don't say I never warned you." Jailer left the cell, slamming the unlocked door shut and hanging the keys on a wall peg. "You lock that door when you leave," he shouted as he left the jail house.
"Now we can talk. What's your name?"
The warrior was impressed that Defender Beech was interested in thinking of her as more than an anonymous face.
"I am called Ohnaà."
"It's been rumored that you murdered Trader Buchanan."
"I did not kill Boo-kah-nahn and the loud one with him."
"Did you not take his goods?"
"I take his goods. I chase him off Amazoni land many times. There are other paths to take to trade with other nations, but he come anyway so I take his goods to my people."
"Everyone tells me you don't like Outsiders."
"Trader Jo-teff is my friend. Boo-kah-nahn was not. You know Amazoni ways?"
Beech shook his head.
"When a warrior kills her enemy," Ohnaà informed him proudly, "all know. She would carry a new scalp. She would say she claim him. She would say how well he die.
"If Boo-kah-nahn and the loud one die at the hand of Amazoni, it was not I who did it."
"Then who did?"
"War chief, Et-esh, will find out. She will bring the killer. Dead or alive I do not know. You must not allow your people to kill me before she returns."
"I can't promise that."
Ohnaà shrugged massive shoulders.
"If Beech cannot promise, then it is done. I will go to my death with honor. I, daughter of Codot, will not beg for my life. I will sing before I die, my head high. You will see how well Amazoni die and remember!"
Defender Beech stood, touched by the warrior's will to remain undefeated.
Without another word Defender Beech left.
Jailer came every day at noon to leave a bowl of greasy, smelly, half-cooked dog. Each day he took great pleasure calling Ohnaà names and mete out pushes and slaps. Each day Ohnaà's rage mounted.
Prisoner watched from his bunk with great interest, wondering if today would be the day Ohnaà struck back.
Jailer placed the bowl of dog meat before Ohnaà who didn't move from her seated position on the floor. Her black eyes glittered dangerously. Feeling unusually bold, Jailer attempted a kick. As a coiled spring, the warrior was quick to respond. Teeth bared, she leaped to her feet and wrapped a muscled arm about Jailer's neck, yanking him close, her muscles cording but restrained in their extraordinary power.
Jailer struggled futily against the powerful Shesh-Amazoni.
"You wish to see another sunrise?"
Gasping for air, Jailer nodded furiously.
"Touch me again, you will not."
To emphasize her point, Ohnaà tightened her hold.
"I understand," Jailer squeaked.
With a low growl, Ohnaà threw Jailer from her. He needed no further urging to leave and ran out of the cell, locking the door with shaking hands.
"You definitely have the gift of persuasion. He probably pissed his pants in fright! I guess now when he runs his mouth off to anyone who'll listen how dangerous you are, he'll take his own advice."
Sitting Ohnaà grabbed a chunk of greasy dog meat, and began to eat.
"How can you eat that slop!"
Ohnaà wrinkled her nose at the smell.
"It is not easy."
Hours later Defender Beech paid a visit.
"Seems you scared Jailer something fierce."
"He will not bother me now. You have news?"
"Yes. Your trial will be the day after tomorrow."
Ohnaà went to her cell window, looking at the town's square bustling with people.
"What happens in this trial?"
"I must answer?"
"All of them even the annoying ones. As you talk, the judge will listen closely."
Ohnaà's gaze shifted to Defender Beech.
"What kind of man is he?"
Ohnaà understood only the bitter tone of the Defender.
"I have a plan."
"Tell me this plan."
"As of the trial you don't speak a word of Trader. I'll have to interpret."
Ohnaà shook her head.
"It is not good. Your people want a swift trial no matter what tongue I speak."
"I don't know how else to buy more time."
"The trial gives time, Defender Beech. The more you speak, the longer I live."
"I do nothing special. Amazoni use what happens to win. I will win this battle as others. While the trial happens, Et-esh rides closer."
That night a chilly breeze wafted through Ohnaà's cell window bringing welcome relief to the unrelenting heat of late. The two full moons cast their beams into the warrior's cell, bathing her in bright silver giving her an eerie glow.
Prisoner noted the sad, faraway look in the warrior's eyes as she sat as usual in the middle of her cell. Since her arrival, she had refused to use her bed even to sit in, feeling it would make her soft and weak.
"What are you thinking?"
"Amazoni celebrate new warriors who pass their trial tests. It is special time for them. Only in battle would they gain greater honor. I am not with my people to welcome these new warriors.
"Ojah is unhappy, I think."
"He is my mate. We have seen fifteen seasons together. Never have we been apart this long. My heart longs for Ojah and my people."
Ohnaà went to her cell window to stare at the two moons, her heart heavy. She heaved a deep sigh.
Defender Beech visited Ohnaà the day of her trial accompanied by Jailer, who held wrist shackles.
"I'm sorry, but it needs to be done. People are terrified of you."
"I will not go before your judge in chains. I am a warrior and leader. I will not be shamed before him."
"We can force them."
"The one who would chain me dies."
"Promise you'll attack no one?"
"I do not need to promise," Ohnaà retorted. "You tell my words to your judge."
Standing defiantly, uncompromising in her rejection of imposed conditions, Ohnaà glared at Defender Beech.
The Defender and Jailer left.
"You are a tough one!" Prisoner exclaimed. "You're the one jailed and you're givin' the orders."
"Ah yah! No one will lead me in chains like a defeated dog for I have done no wrong!"
Five burly guards returned with Defender Beech.
"Let's not keep the judge waiting."
Ohnaà answered with a curt nod.
With great dignity did the daughter of Codot enter the Court House. To her left and right sat rows of townspeople. The hatred in their eyes was freely expressed, and as Ohnaà approached the judge standing behind a podium perched atop three high stairs, the whispers fluttered through the room like moths.
Ohnaà felt contempt for the old, grossly overweight judge squinting through tiny round glasses that made him look like a myopic owl. The hatred reflected from his beady black eyes hit her like a face slap. Knowing his mind was already made up she wondered how he had been elected to such an important rank with his attitude. If he was what the word "ass" meant, then Defender Beech was no liar.
Ohnaà stopped before the judge, Beech at her side. The five burly Trader guards took their seats.
"Beech, sit your ass down."
"But, sir, I--"
Reluctantly Beech took a seat.
"Amazoni. You're charged with murder."
"I did not kill Boo-kah-nahn and the loud one."
"Who did then?"
"We know soon."
"Soon my foot! I don't care to wait. From what I've heard of you, we're better off if you were disposed of. Noon tomorrow you'll be hanged."
"War chief, Et-esh, will come. You will have the killer. Then I go home."
Turning on her heel and ignoring the pandemonium created by townsfolk shouts and Judge pounding his gavel, Ohnaà walked out.
Defender Beech hurried to catch up to the Shesh-Amazoni walking briskly to the jail house.
"Do you realize what you just did?"
They entered the jail house.
"I tell the truth." Ohnaà sat on her cell floor. She folded muscled arms across her chest. A sly grin spread slowly across her face. "And by walking out, I make judge more 'ass.' "
"You know for certain she's coming?"
"I see Et-esh in a dream. You bring my horse tomorrow." Ohnaà motioned Defender Beech to join her cross-legged on the floor. "You are sad."
"I was prevented from defending you. I've let you down."
"You have done much for me."
"What the hell have I done? You're still a prisoner about to be hanged! That's not doing my job!"
"You know I did not kill Boo-kah-nahn. You have faith in Et-esh to return with the real killer. Your people do not believe this but you do. You show much bravery."
"Ah yah! You stand against your people who hate me, with belief in me. You become a friend who does not fear me." Ohnaà stood. "Rise, Defender Beech," she commanded.
Defender Beech obeyed.
"You are a good man."
Ohnaà exchanged a wrist clasp, her grip reassuring, her dark eyes bright with pride.
Glowing in double moonbeam Ohnaà sat on her cell floor, upraised muscled arms spread wide, head back, eyes closed, speaking softly to the spirits recounting every act of kindness shown her by Defender Beech and his heartache over what he considered failure by not doing more then requested he be looked kindly upon and receive future guidance and protection.
The next morning, Defender Beech accompanied by five burly guards, awoke the warrior. "It's time," he said.
Ohnaà stood, cocking her head, listening. A slight smile tickled the corners of her mouth. "Et-esh is close," she said to Beech in Amazoni. She jerked her head in Prisoner's direction. "When you bring my horse, you will bring another for him."
"Of course," Defender Beech replied in Amazoni and departed.
"Jabbering in a strange language won't delay your hanging, barbarian," one of the guards growled. "Get a move on."
Ohnaà bared her teeth and growled when the guard stepped too close. Wisely he stepped back.
"You uncivilized animal. Even growl like one. Lucky for you you're not leashed like one."
"Lucky for you, you do not try," Ohnaà snapped.
"Let's go. The hangman is waiting."
Ohnaà followed her captors.
The crowd watching the Shesh-Amazoni's arrival at the town square's gallows buzzed like angry bees impatient for a lynching.
Ohnaà glared at the portly bespectacled judge standing upon the gallows, his hooded hangman henchman beside him, muscled arms folded across his chest.
Defender Beech slithered behind the crowd, unnoticed except by Ohnaà who nodded approval seeing Appaloosa and Palomino for Prisoner. Gazing beyond the town border she smiled seeing war chief Et-esh and another thunder closer. So entranced were the townspeople by the prospect of a hanging, none noticed Et-esh's rapid approach.
Hefting fist overhead, Ohnaà screeched a blood-curdling war cry.
Et-esh answered, halting her sleepy-eyed buckskin in a cloud of dust before her friend.
Judge stood, like everyone else, in open-mouthed surprise.
The Amazoni clasped wrists.
Turning to Et-esh's companion, a badly beaten warrior, slumped against her mount's neck, Ohnaà toppled her to the hard ground. Kneeling with a scowl, she yanked the warrior's head up by her blood-soaked, flaxen hair. Although her face was battered bloody, Ohnaà recognized her. She slapped the warrior awake.
Unable to speak, Anahot glared at Ohnaà through half-closed, swollen eyes.
"Anahot murdered Boo-kah-nahn and the loud one. She boasted to her sister who told me. Many days Anahot denied it until I beat the truth from her."
"Why did she do it?"
"She hates you, Ohnaà. Always has she hated you."
"How can that be when we have hunted and fought together and shared the pipe before my lodge fire?"
"She hates you because you are Shesh born and resents you for being tahna. She knew you would be captured and punished because you do not like Outsiders. With you dead, she would have tried to become tahna so she could lead Amazoni. Or so she thought!"
Enraged by her betrayal, Ohnaà wrenched Anahot to her bruised legs and forced her to accompany her to Judge, standing atop the gallows.
"Anahot kill Boo-kah-nahn and the loud one!"
Judge continued to stare dumbly in shock.
"Now you know I spoke truth! Now you see how Amazoni punish!" With lightening speed, Ohnaà drew her knife and slashed Anahot's swollen throat. Collapsing at Judge's and Executioner's feet, her blood rapidly stained the gallows' bleached wood. "She is yours now!" Ohnaà pointed her bloody knife at Judge. "You hold Prisoner who killed one who stole from him. I claim him!" Sheathing her knife she looked to Defender Beech down below. "Release Prisoner," she ordered.
To the astonishment of all but Et-esh, Ohnaà jumped off the high gallows landing lightly on her feet. Bulldozing her way through the crowd she retrieved Appaloosa from Defender Beech and remounted.
"I go home now. Make sure Prisoner ride safe to his."
Ohnaà trotted Appaloosa up to the remounted Et-esh. Whirling around to face the aghast crowd, hefting fist overhead she screeched a defiant war cry of victory and thundered out of town,
Et-esh close behind.
Grinning at Ohnaà's last laugh over the people, Defender Beech waved goodbye.