|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|
Ohnaà and war chief Et-esh leisurely traveled the vast Amazoni forest. The air was crisp, bearing the heavy scent of impending winter. The friends often journeyed through the forest to talk, sometimes not, and share the solitude the forest offered.
Reaching the dense heart of their beloved forest, Ohnaà and Et-esh halted. With a soft grunt, Ohnaà sat down upon the leaf-littered ground while Et-esh foraged, the abundance of food making it unnecessary the use of their ration pouches of jerked boar meat at their bikini skins' waistbands.
Et-esh returned with two round, fist-sized fruit, their pimpled green rinds slightly orange due to the chill. She sat opposite Ohnaà and flipped one fruit to her. With sharp knives the warriors peeled off the hard rinds in long strips, revealing dripping yellow insides. Grinning, Et-esh bit into her fruit, its sweet syrup dripping onto the leaf-littered ground.
Ohnaà grinned. Et-esh exuberance in battle and horse breaking was no match for her exuberance when it came to eating. The elder warrior bit into her snack and frowned at the sour taste.
"I will share mine with you."
Since she was not really hungry, Ohnaà shook her head, preferring to watch her friend enjoy her fruit.
"You eat as though you have had no meals for days, young one."
"I never get enough."
"I see that."
Enthusiastically, Et-esh gobbled up the remainder of her meal and lightly tapped her hard belly.
"If they were more plentiful, I would pick all these fruit."
"If you could, you would bring the whole tree and replant it next to your tepee fire."
"And move my bridles and halters? I do not think so."
Stretching her muscular legs, Ohnaà leaned back on her elbows.
"It is said Medicine Woman uses the skin of the fruit for her remedies."
"The last time she used it on me for a stomachache, my bowels ran for days."
Ohnaà laughed at the memory until her ribs ached.
"I remember. You could not stay long in council because of it."
"I did not think it funny at the time."
"It taught you not to indulge in half-ripe berries, young one. An embarrassing lesson."
Et-esh stood to stretch her legs. Suddenly she faltered.
Tensing Ohnaà sat up. "Et-esh!" she called sharply in concern.
"M-my vision--" Et-esh stammered, putting a hand to her temple and grimacing in pain. "I feel dizzy. I--" she collapsed in a muscled heap, unconscious.
Ohnaà sprang to Et-esh's side and tapped her lightly on the cheek. She was unresponsive. Ohnaà splashed a handful of water from her belt gourd upon Et-esh's flushed face. Stifling the swell of panic threatening to overwhelm her, Ohnaà forced herself to remain calm. Feeling for a pulse, she breathed a sigh of relief. Sifting through Et-esh's shredded fruit rind, she found a sliver in which the thin inner skin had been invaded by wriggling, fingernail-size black worms. The fruit was infested with them, but they had gone unnoticed by Et-esh, thus poisoning her.
Quickly lashing Et-esh to her sleepy-eyed buckskin, her mind reeling with worry and her body vibrating with the rush of adrenaline, Ohnaà vaulted onto Appaloosa. As fast as her old horse's legs could carry her, Ohnaà led Et-esh's horse and thundered into camp. In powerful arms the war chief was carried by Ohnaà into the medicine lodge and gently rested upon a mound of silken furs. In rushed detail she told what had befallen her friend.
Medicine Woman leaned over the unconscious war chief and began her examination. "Leave me," she commanded, not looking up.
"No! She is my friend. I cannot leave her!"
"I do not need you in my way, warrior. When I know Et-esh's condition, I will come to your lodge."
Ohnaà rested a protective hand upon her friend's chest, her dark eyes hardened with intense concern.
"Go," Medicine Woman insisted gently.
When Ohnaà looked up, her mahogany-skinned cheeks were streaked with tears. It was the first time Medicine Woman had ever seen her shed a tear. Her heart filled with deep sympathy, realizing better than anyone how much the strong warrior needed Et-esh.
"I will come to you. Go."
Wiping her eyes dry, Ohnaà reluctantly did the shaman's bidding.
The moment Ohnaà entered her tepee Ojah rushed to her, awarding a tight hug. For a long while the warrior held him, blinking back tears. Feeling enough shame at tearing before Medicine Woman, she was determined to appear stronger than she felt. But Ojah instinctively knew better.
Releasing Ojah, Ohnaà went to her fire where she filled and lit her pipe. Ojah sat beside her.
"What happened to Et-esh?"
Ohnaà continued to smoke, feeling slightly calmer. To encourage the warrior, Ojah rested a cool pale hand upon his mate's muscled arm.
"Et-esh ate the fruit of the Echo tree. The fruit was infested with the poisonous Netta worm." Ohnaà's gaze fell upon Ojah. "I cannot lose Et-esh. We are as one."
"Never have I seen anyone closer, my warrior."
Ohnaà puffed her pipe but in her worry she didn't taste its sharp, bitter tobacco. "I would go anywhere to find her a cure. No place would be too distant." Impatiently she put her smoldering pipe aside and began to pace. "What is taking Medicine Woman so long?" she demanded. "Et-esh was poisoned. What else does she need to know!"
"Are you now a shaman?"
Ohnaà ceased her pacing to glare at Ojah; his seeming impertinent question angered her.
"Are you a shaman?" Ojah repeated.
"No, I am not!"
"Is Medicine Woman a warrior?"
"No," Ohnaà snapped, failing to see Ojah's point.
"You know how to fight, she knows how to cure. Allow her to take the time in what she knows how to do, and she will not question what you know how to do.
"Sit beside me, my warrior. Smoke. We will wait for Medicine Woman together."
Late that evening Medicine Woman visited Ohnaà and Ojah.
"Et-esh slips in and out of consciousness now. I was able to feed her broth laced with Stor Flower, but my supply will not last much longer. You must get more, Ohnaà. You must travel beyond the land of the Ossit and into the mountainous caves in the land of the Waysech.
"Store Flower grows on high stalks and has tiny, three-petaled black flowers which I must boil. Bring me three heavily-flowered shoots."
A surge of hope electrified Ohnaà.
"Before I leave tomorrow I will visit Et-esh."
Medicine Woman shook her head.
"She steadily grows worse, warrior. You must travel without delay."
"Awakening periodically I will tell Et-esh your thoughts are with her. She will not remember, but I will still tell her."
Inclining her head to Ojah, Medicine Woman took her leave.
Just after dawn, having breakfasted lightly on boar stew, Ohnaà slipped on her bow and quiver and hugged Ojah before departing. Passing
Medicine Woman's tepee on her way to the corral, she forced herself not to give in to temptation to visit Et-esh thus waste valuable time on her search for the medicine. Spurring Appaloosa into a brisk canter, she began her mission.
It was a long journey to the caves of the Waysech in the mountains beyond the Ossit. Ohnaà knew she would have no difficulty if she encountered any Waysech because they were too distant from Amazoni to be enemies. The Ossit, however, were now recent enemies. Her thoughts drifted back to a time not so long ago when she had saved the life of the snow-skinned Ohsaahgan, Beekahnahcoke, who had taken an Ossit arrow in defense of his kidnapped wife. In the rescue, she had killed the Ossit abductor. Since then, Ossit and Amazoni relations had been hostile, with the Ossit suffering terrible losses.
At all costs, Ohnaà would try to refrain from unnecessary Ossit confrontations for fear any delay could cost Et-esh her life.
Hour after hour Ohnaà traveled the vast prairie beneath a blistering sun, her senses alert to danger seen and unseen. She finally rested beside a brook and allowed Appaloosa to drink his fill. She splashed chilly water upon her face and muscled arms, feeling invigorated. She greedily drank then filled her water gourd. A warm breeze rustled through the surrounding trees; the chilled brook added its own pure music as it rushed over rocks into deeper water.
Ohnaà delved into her ration pouch for a strip of jerked boar meat. As she ate, she amused herself watching tadpoles and fish hatchlings wriggle their merry way through their aquatic world. She smiled inwardly knowing how irresistible capturing the water life would be for Et-esh.
Standing she looked into the white cloudless sky. "Sky Spirits," she called, "continue to watch over Et-esh as she struggles for life and give her strength. Her heart is proud and strong. She is a warrior worthy of life. Protect her until I return."
The wind's sudden increase didn't surprise Ohnaà, for she had a special rapport with the spirits. Mounting up she continued on her way.
For several days after she had crossed the invisible border into Ossit land, Ohnaà rode warily.
One day she reined up suddenly although she had seen nothing. Taking cover behind a cluster of misshapen boulders, she patiently waited. An hour passed before she was rewarded by seeing what had only been sensed, the appearance of a staggering Ossit warrior. She narrowed her eyes as she watched.
The Ossit had been in a fight for his life. His gray chest, arms and face were deeply lacerated, his breechclout shredded, his legs coated with dried blood. One of his dangling shell earrings had been ripped from his ear. Only his scalplock remained intact. At least his scalp would be worth taking by someone, Ohnaà mused. It was apparent that a long-toothed cat had had a time but would not eat Ossit this meal. Grudgingly she gave the Ossit credit for fighting so tenaciously, though his survival from his wounds for much longer was doubtful.
The Ossit staggered several steps and collapsed, too weakened to continue, resigned to death.
Ohnaà rode to the fallen man.
With difficulty did the Ossit focus upon the mounted Shesh-Amazoni glaring at him. "Kill me," he whispered through shredded lips. "End my suffering."
"You killed the long-toothed cat?"
The Ossit nodded.
"You fought well."
"Kill me," the Ossit answered.
"No, warrior. I kill you, your people will know."
"You are afraid of the Ossit."
"I have no fear of your people. But I have better things to do than kill you. You will die by your wounds."
"You are cruel to allow my suffering."
"Brave though you are in fighting the cat, he has made you one less enemy to deal with."
Ohnaà continued on, putting the Ossit out of her mind. It was still a long way to the mountains of the Waysech for Et-esh's medicine.
Long after midnight she adopted a safe resting place of brush and boulder. As soon as she lay her head down she fell asleep.
The next morning Ohnaà pushed on. For hours she pushed Appaloosa's stamina to its limits. True to his training, he came through. By late afternoon she reined upon a hill overlooking purple mountains, their tops frosted with early snow. She was close to the land of the Waysech. Walking Appaloosa briskly through the patchy snow of a valley floor she silently asked the Sky Spirits to hold off sending deeper snow as she was pressed for time and couldn't afford the delay of waiting a storm out. As if in answer, the sun peeked its warming eye out from behind thick clouds.
Dropping her reins, the pressure of her muscular legs urging Appaloosa on, Ohnaà drew from her waist ration pouch a thick thumb-sized sliver of jerked boar meat to gnaw on. A couple miles later rode a Trader leading a pack horse. Bristling she tossed aside her jerked meat and gathered her reins.
Blocking her path the Trader inclined his head.
Ohnaà curtly returned the gesture. "Dahò, Dewhatconeh," she grunted, not caring if he understood.
"Dahò joe-dah seh-ah."
Ohnaà was mildly pleased the man spoke her tongue, but was not fond of the possibility of another unwelcome Trader traveling toward her people.
"Yahtoo gooshà toe Amazoni?"
"Eyeote, seh-ah. Ossit."
Ohnaà stared hard at the man, suspicious of his word.
"Hook jayjee, Dewhatconeh. Hoashkà hook yahtoo gooshà toe Amazoni, keetska deck hoashkà coe yahtoo, yahtoo kootseh."
The Trader swallowed hard, realizing the warrior knew he was lying about going home after the Ossit and instead visiting Amazoni. He quickly changed his mind. Ohnaà wasn't kidding about finding out and killing him next time she saw him, and he by no means wanted to run into her by accident.
Ohnaà kicked Appaloosa hard and continued on at a brisk canter.
A day of riding brought Ohnaà to one of several Waysech caves that hollowed out the mountainside. She entered the first cave. It was cold as ice; its chilled air whistled through the cave's deeper corridors. Drops of water trickled down the walls, plopping into puddles upon the dirt ground. As she walked Ohnaà looked cautiously about her, for the cave made a perfect den for long-toothed cats and gray bears. She drew her knife as she traveled further within the cave's dim corridor.
In the center of the dirt floored cave Ohnaà spotted several stalks of Stor Flower. Smiling she hacked off three black-flowered sprigs and stuffed them through her bikini skins' waistband.
A growl echoing behind her, slowly standing, she turned to stare into the yellow eyes of the tan long-toothed cat studying her. He crept toward the fearless warrior, his belly hugging the ground, his tail lashing from side to side. His growl exploded into a roar that echoed through the deeper corridors of the cave. His stalk ceased at her feet.
Ohnaà sheathed her knife.
"I do not come to do you harm, great cat. I have what I need."
Seeming to understand that Ohnaà wasn't a threat, the long-toothed cat, purring loudly, rubbed his massive body against her powerful legs.
Smiling the warrior caressed the animal's back.
"Be well, my brother."
The cat lay down and began to groom himself, his purple tongue snapping between his long fangs against one massive clawed paw.
Checking the Stor Flower sprigs in her belt, Ohnaà adjusted them more securely and walked briskly out of the cave. Vaulting gracefully onto Appaloosa, she gazed into the darkening sky. Time was running out. To make better time she decided to head home without stopping. She patted Appaloosa's neck.
"We must return to our people without rest. Et-esh depends on us to save her."
Appaloosa neighed and bobbed his head. With a slight squeeze of his mistress's powerful legs he leaped to the task like an eager bullet.
Ohnaà rode at a hard gallop for days, splattering through streams, thudding across miles of prairie, never slowing her grueling pace. Appaloosa, flecked with lather, his old legs straining under continual pressure, reacted like a dynamo, breathing hard, slobbering foam, stumbling several times on the brink of exhaustion.
Ohnaà finally reined into camp. Surrendering Appaloosa's care to a warrior, she jogged to Medicine Woman's tepee finding her leaning over a delirious, sweat-drenched Et-esh.
Sitting beside her friend Ohnaà surrendered her three Stor Flower sprigs. The shaman stripped the stalks of their tiny tri-petaled black flowers into her water-filled painted wooden bowl resting atop hot coals.
"I encountered a long-toothed cat in the cave of these sprigs."
"It did not attack, did it."
"No. He allowed me to rub his back."
Medicine Woman removed her blossom broth from the coals, stirring it with a red stick as it cooled.
"The cat understood your words to him."
"The spirits sent him to me in Et-esh's name I think."
"Yes. The cat is a beast of great strength. You possess greater physical strength. The spirits know this. You have a special place in their hearts that they sent the cat to tell you that Et-esh will recover."
"I will thank them."
Medicine Woman nodded.
"Prop Et-esh up so I can give her this healing broth."
Gently, Ohnaà lifted Et-esh who was lucid enough to drink, then eased her down.
"I will leave Et-esh to rest."
Ohnaà reached the lodge door.
"Ohnaà," the war chief called.
The warrior turned.
"You have saved my life. I am in your debt."
"You would do the same. Sleep, young one. You need your strength."
The warrior went to her friend and kneeled beside her.
Weakly, Et-esh extended her arm. Ohnaà clasped wrists with her. Dark eyes bright with affection, she tightened her grip, pleased Et-esh would fully recover, looking forward to other less dangerous outings with the war chief she loved.