|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, Et-esh, and Trader Joseph sat before the tepee fire finishing their meal of boar stew Ojah had prepared before visiting his brother.
"You are definitely going then, Ohnaà," Trader Joseph acknowledged.
"I must, Jo-teff. Horses were stolen. Before she died of her wounds the sentry told of the Ossit who stole the horses."
"But to contemplate a rampage?"
Ohnaà shrugged her unconcern.
"Do not your people do the same to their enemies?" Et-esh asked.
"We prefer to settle disputes with words first."
"Why do you laugh?"
"I thought you knew Ossit understand only the power of the bow and knife."
"It is a good thing we have more horses than they could herd or Amazoni would be walking."
"Ohnaà, you steal Ossit horses and kill their sentries."
The warrior prodded the fire with a stick gently before adding it to the flames.
"You do not know me as well as you thought then, Jo-teff. I take Ossit horses without killing unless threatened with a weapon. Ossit killed our sentry for sport. Amazoni kill with purpose. Wronged by murder we have always harshly punished."
"Ossit never learn," Et-esh added.
"So you're going to kill everyone for a few horses?"
Ohnaà shook her head.
"Not everyone. Ojah is overworked. He needs an Ossit woman slave to help him."
"What does he say about it?"
"He does not know."
"Should you not tell him?"
"I decide what will be," she retorted, tiring of the subject.
"Good luck convincing him when your captive makes her home in your lodge."
Ohnaà and Et-esh exchanged a glance. For someone who had been around Amazoni, both were surprised by the Trader's ignorance.
"No Ossit will pollute my tepee. The slave will sleep tethered outside where she belongs."
"Jo-teff should know better," Et-esh said.
"And you call us barbaric."
Uninterested in defending Amazoni ways further, Ohnaà changed the subject.
"Your woman, Kid-deh. She gives you young ones yet?"
Trader Joseph grinned.
"I have a three-month-old daughter named Xona. Kiddy couldn't be happier."
Ohnaà and Et-esh grinned.
"Xo-nah is a strong name. What is the meaning of it?" Ohnaà asked.
"No special meaning."
"I will give you one of my horses," Et-esh promised. "She will ride like Amazoni!"
Trader Joseph mumbled a thank-you. Rubbing his belly he yawned.
"You cannot sleep now, Jo-teff. There is a gambling game tonight in Cho-hot's tepee," Ohnaà reminded.
"Oh no! I'll not be going there! She hates me."
"I think you mistake her feelings."
"Mistake, hell! Remember that hunting party you invited me to join? She got in a shouting match with her objections with you. Then I caught her trying to put a stone in my horse's hoof."
"She was joking."
"Joking my eye! She doesn't like me and never will."
The warriors stood.
"I will speak to Cho-hot."
"Good sleep, Jo-teff," Et-esh bade.
"Don't you say a word to Cho-hot. In retaliation she'll joke me to death!"
The warriors left.
"Jo-teff is right," Et-esh confirmed.
"I will speak to Cho-hot, young one. Jo-teff is a friend to Amazoni, not an enemy and he will be treated with respect by her whether she likes him or not. She disgraces me with her behavior and it will not be tolerated any longer."
Et-esh nodded her assent to Ohnaà's strict code of upholding proper Amazoni hospitality.
"But not tonight. My mind will be on gambling and winning everything."
Ohnaà and Et-esh entered Cho-hot's tepee crowded with ten warriors seated in a tight circle. Tonight, only Cho-hot and Ohnaà would be playing. Et-esh joined the observers.
In the middle of the tepee was laid a stretched boar hide. Cho-hot sat on her knees at one end, Ohnaà took her place at the other. In the hide's center was a neat pile of twelve sticks painted red and black.
The object of the game lay with who could toss the sticks with her color covering the opponent's color without mixing.
Cho-hot grabbed the sticks.
"I will be red. I wager six horses and my picture hide against you, Ohnaà."
"A modest wager you offer."
"Twelve horses and my picture hide then."
Ohnaà thumped a fist upon the playing hide in acceptance. Signaling the bet as irrevocable to the observers Et-esh thumped a fist on the tepee floor.
As host, Cho-hot handed the sticks to Ohnaà.
The warrior grinned.
"You have good, strong horses, Cho-hot. When I own them, you may still ride them and visit your picture hide."
"You will never win anything if all you do is just talk, my friend."
Ohnaà tossed the sticks.
Cho-hot threw. She frowned.
"Perhaps you should beg help from the spirits," Ohnaà playfully goaded.
"Perhaps you should take off your curse haunting my sticks."
Repeatedly were the sticks lobbed neither competitor gaining the advantage. The observers shouted encouragement.
Ohnaà threw, her black sticks topping Cho-hot's red and yipped a cry of victory.
"One day, daughter of Codot, I will beat you," Cho-hot vowed, gathering the sticks and wrapping them carefully in their bead-tasseled hide.
"When I am dead will you win."
"Tomorrow at sunset I will deliver my twelve horses and picture hide."
"Tomorrow you will not start the day empty-handed. When the sun is high we all will ride to the Ossit and take back the horses they stole and whatever else we want. We will avenge the murder of our sentry."
"It is always a pleasure battling the inferior Ossit."
Et-esh thumped a fist upon the tepee floor in agreement.
Ohnaà returned to her lodge to find Ojah back from visiting his brother and sewing fringe on his new dress. Trader Joseph was gone.
"I thought Jo-teff was going to stay the night. When did he leave?"
Ojah put aside his sewing, slipped out of his dress, and crawled into the high fur bed.
"Just now. He said he had many things to do at his Trader Lodge."
"It is a good excuse to avoid Cho-hot."
Ohnaà sat at the fire, prepared her pipe and began to smoke.
"How is your brother?"
"Complaining about his mate, Moonoha."
"She provides well for him."
"She is not the most faithful."
"So your brother says."
"You hear the stories of her infidelity."
Ohnaà exhaled another lungful of thick smoke.
"They are nothing more than stories told by the men who have nothing better to do than gossip. Your brother should be grateful he belongs to anyone."
"You never liked him."
"And I never will. He is meaner than Cho-hot when she indulges in Trader burning water. He has a cruel tongue." Ohnaà tapped her pipe ashes into the fire. "At least he knows better now not to use it on me."
"You did not have to slap him so hard, blackening his eye over it. He is afraid of you now."
Putting aside her pipe, Ohnaà stripped and joined Ojah in bed.
"The further he stays away from me the better." Ohnaà grinned. "When we raid the Ossit tomorrow, perhaps they will want your brother if asked."
Unamused, Ojah yanked hard a long, thick, glistening onyx lock of Ohnaà's hair.
The warrior's low growl turned into hearty laughter at her own joke.
The next afternoon Amazoni were abuzz with excitement as ten painted members of the war party against the Ossit congregated before Ohnaà's tepee.
Ojah watched from his corner as Ohnaà checked her war paint in her trade mirror, making sure the thick bars of black and bright red down her high mahogany-skinned cheekbones were of even thickness, then checking her red coated forehead. She straightened her choker of black, polished gorak bird beaks. She secured a thin beaded thong above her right bicep, accentuating its great girth.
Et-esh entered the tepee; bow and quiver strung over one shoulder, the left side of her face painted red, the right streaked with black. A cluster of black beads tipped with white feathers dangled over her right ear. Her thick flaxen hair was pulled into a waist-length ponytail. From her left earlobe dangled a short, thin silver metal rod.
Ohnaà donned her bow and quiver. Ojah went to her and placed a cool hand upon her left arm.
"Return safely, my warrior."
Ohnaà curtly nodded and left.
The war party screeched piercing shouts, with black-faced Cho-hot yipping the loudest as Ohnaà vaulted upon Appaloosa and Et-esh swung upon her sleepy-eyed buckskin.
Ohnaà inclined her head to Et-esh.
"Hear me," Et-esh bade, "the Ossit will pay for stealing our horses and killing an Amazoni. We will take trinkets, but only those we can comfortably carry. We will recover our horses. Only Ohnaà may take prisoners because as tahna who leads our people, she declared war upon the Ossit. I, as war chief, will lead.
"Any Ossit woman who attacks, kill them. If they do not, spare them."
"No!" the black face painted Cho-hot shouted. "They should die!"
"No Ossit woman will be killed without cause,"
Et-esh rebuked. "No child will be harmed."
"Any who disobeys Et-esh's orders will face me," Ohnaà added.
"We ride!" Et-esh commanded.
The Amazoni slammed into the gray-skinned Ossits' brush lodge camp like a thunderstorm.
In screaming panic, the women, their dry grass skirts rustling, their poly-braided hair stained red with berry juice swaying like dried ropes, their bare feet kicking up dust, their exposed gold ringed breasts flapping, scattered like field mice. Women who offered resistance were felled by arrows or a war club to the head. The screaming children were left to fend for themselves.
Yipping like wild dogs, Amazoni shot arrows into defensive barefoot, loinclothed, scalplocked warriors, their multi-shelled earrings rattling like rickety bones when their owners hit the ground.
Hand-to-hand skirmishes broke out everywhere.
Et-esh shouted the command to reclaim the stolen Amazoni horses before chasing an Ossit warrior and his woman.
Ohnaà rose from her fifth victim, tying the scalplock to her scalpcord. An old woman howling her grief rushed the Shesh-Amazoni swinging her thin cane, narrowly missing hitting her head. On her next swipe she was seized by the throat. Baring her teeth, Ohnaà lifted the elderly woman off the ground, ignoring her thrashing. In desperation the old woman struck Ohnaà's hard left shoulder, the force snapping the cane in half like a twig.
Ohnaà lowered the woman to the ground. Closing her hand slightly, her great strength crushed the old woman's throat. Tossing her aside like a rag doll Ohnaà rubbed her sore left shoulder.
"You fought well, old woman. You will keep your hair."
Looking ahead Ohnaà's attention was drawn to a skirmish involving war chief Et-esh taking place before a brush hut. Appaloosa in tow, she jogged to the scene of an Ossit woman standing frozen in terror watching her husband battle Et-esh in knife play. Creeping behind the Ossit woman Ohnaà seized her many red berry stained braids with such force the woman was momentarily stunned.
The gray-skinned Ossit woman was young and surprisingly attractive. She had large expressive brown eyes. Her thin nose was pierced in the right nostril with a tiny gold ring. Her exposed breasts, pierced with dozens of tiny gold rings, were small. Her grass skirt was new and freshly green. Most Ossit stank of grease and sweat, but this one was perfumed with Lemon Root.
The Ossit woman began to struggle. Ohnaà yanked her braids, snapping her head back. "Do not fight me," she hissed. "You will watch Et-esh. You will see who wins."
Et-esh and her foe continued to slash at each other with their knives. In a rage, Et-esh backhanded the warrior, slamming him to the ground and straddled him. Breathing hard, she gradually became aware of Ohnaà restraining the Ossit woman. Smiling, Et-esh slashed the warrior's throat, the rush of blood intoxicating.
The Ossit woman burst into tears as Et-esh claimed her husband's scalplock.
Et-esh vaulted onto her buckskin and tied the hair onto her mount's bridle.
"Ohnaà, toss me his shell earrings."
Ohnaà forced her sobbing prisoner to do the deed. Hefting the multi-shelled earrings overhead, Et-esh flaunted them to the Ossit widow, taunting her with war cries of smug victory, as her buckskin pranced and snorted. She tossed them to the ground, forcing her horse to stomp the shell earrings to rubble. She laughed.
"Recapture our horses, young one. It is time to go."
Et-esh galloped away.
Ohnaà seized the horsehair rope tied to her belt and leashed her captive. "How are you called?" she snarled.
"I am Neeheeah, wife of Shook-uk."
"Ah yah! Neeheeah is owned by Ohnaà now."
To destroy Neeheeah's sense of beauty and identity, Ohnaà callously ripped out her nose and breast rings. Annoyed by the woman's sobbing, she snapped her leash hard, choking her.
"Your first lesson is silence."
As one would examine a horse, Ohnaà ran a strong hand slowly over Neeheeah's legs and arms. It was sadly apparent that she needed more strengthening, but Ojah would see to that.
Ohnaà glanced around. No longer was there fighting. Dead Ossit lay everywhere. Sobbing women tried to comfort screaming children. It would be a long time before the Ossit rode against Amazoni.
Cho-hot rode up, her body splattered with blood, her black face paint sweat streaked. She proudly held up her belt cord with several fresh scalplocks.
"Today was a good day, Ohnaà. Et-esh and the others await us at the corral. Our recovered horses have been sent ahead with the herders."
Ohnaà vaulted onto Appaloosa.
Cho-hot eyed the leashed Neeheeah.
"You waste your time with that one. She will drop from exhaustion before we reach camp."
"If so it will be no loss. Ossit breed like rabbits, so there will always be another captive. How many Amazoni died in battle?"
"All are well!"
"Let us join them. This night is cause for celebration."
Neeheeah struggled to keep up as Ohnaà tugged hard on her horsehair leash
The war party trampled into camp, Neeheeah collapsing with exhaustion. The people trilled and sang their welcome. Several children ran with the herders to the corral.
The people's singing abruptly ceased as they gathered around to stare at Neeheeah panting on hands and knees.
Ohnaà dismounted. She yanked Neeheeah up by her leash.
"Our raid against the Ossit who stole our horses was successful. Our murdered sentry has been avenged. Not one Amazoni did we lose. This night we celebrate."
Ojah shoved through the crowd.
"She is called Neeheeah. Et-esh killed her warrior. She is your slave."
"I need no help from an Ossit!"
"I say different. She is yours to command. You will give her covering. The sight of her bare chest shames Amazoni."
"She will not stay in our tepee, Ohnaà nor will I feed her your food."
"She will be tethered outside of course. Ojah will feed her scraps."
"Bring her to our tepee, Ohnaà."
Without a backward glance, Ojah angrily left.
Cho-hot stomped up. Out of spite she slapped Neeheeah across the face. The crowd gasped. The captive, after all, belonged to Ohnaà and the people feared her reaction at such an outrageous act. Ohnaà's nonreaction signaled silent approval to anyone who wished to lash out at the Ossit.
"How dare you let her strike me!" Neeheeah shouted.
Amazoni laughed finding her objection ludicrous considering Ossit rarely let prisoners live long enough to complain.
Ohnaà yanked Neeheeah's leash choking her into silence. "Know this and heed it. Your life is in my hands. Do not press me with your squawking, for you mean little to me," she warned.
Ohnaà led Neeheeah to her tepee and Ojah waiting outside holding an old hide shirt and a wooden stake. He snatched the unwelcome captive's leash. Ohnaà disappeared inside the tepee. She would eat and take a nap. Tonight she would dance her part of the raid. Not bothering to remove her war paint, Ohnaà began to eat a pre-prepared bowl of venison stew.
Ojah tethered the frightened Ossit a few paces from the tepee. He threw the wrinkled and hole-studded hide shirt at her. "Put it on," he commanded. Neeheeah hesitated as covering her breasts was a violation of Ossit law. Ojah slapped her. "Put the shirt on! You must look decent at the dance."
Trembling, Neeheeah complied.
That night in firelight the drums pounded thunderously. Neeheeah, who was tethered several paces from Ohnaà's lodge, found the drumming, singing, and shouts from the victory dance made her head ache. She shivered as the nippy breeze wafted through her holey shirt. Sitting, she hugged her legs against her chest, trying to stay warm. She stared at the blazing bonfire and at the warriors dancing one by one her part in the defeat of the Ossit people.
Waves of fear knotted Neeheeah's stomach as she wondered what cruelty Ohnaà had in store for her. The smell of roasting boar meat tormented her, as Ojah had given her only a thinly meated bone a few hours ago. He had gone to the dance earlier but not without a parting slap and kick.
Ohnaà, still in full war paint of thick, alternating cheek stripes of bright red and black, forehead slathered in bright red, polished black gorak bird choker, and thin beaded thong above her colossal right bicep, stepped out of the tepee. She breathed deeply of the refreshing air. Scowling, she stalked to the tethered, shivering Neeheeah, towering over her.
"You are cold."
Neeheeah found it difficult to meet the painted and ornamented Ohnaà's piercing gaze.
"Ojah fed you?" the warrior demanded.
"He fed me a bone with barely enough meat for ants."
"I will give you a blanket."
"Why bother! You and your mate would sooner see me dead than comfortable."
Ohnaà's eyes glittered.
"Ungratefulness runs deep within your people. Ossit do not know the meaning of kindness."
"Kindness! You steal me from my home, you tether me like a dog, and I should be grateful you offer me a blanket? Release me and I will be grateful!"
Ohnaà untied the Ossit's leash from its stake, but hauled her to her feet by a handful of her red stained braids. "You live, Neeheeah, despite your sharp tongue. Had your people not stolen our horses and murdered a sentry, you would not be here," she tersely reminded.
Neeheeah wrenched free of Ohnaà's grasp.
Ohnaà grabbed the leash. "You show great courage, Neeheeah." She nodded. "I will not kill you." She paused. "Yet."
Ohnaà yanked Neeheeah to the dance ground just as Et-esh stepped up.
Et-esh danced in enthusiastic detailed pantomime the knife fight, throat slashing, and scalping of Neeheeah's warrior.
Neeheeah sobbed and flinched as Et-esh thrust her knife at her. But when Et-esh turned her back, Neeheeah pounced, pummeling the war chief on the head with her fists knocking her down. Amazoni went wild.
Ripping the Ossit off Et-esh Ohnaà slapped her with such force she knocked her out.
"Ah yah! Your slave is a wild one!"
"I will tame her, young one."
Hefting the Ossit over her shoulder like a downed boar, Ohnaà walked to her tepee and lashed her captive to her stake a few paces away. Without a backward glance she returned to the celebrants. With exaggerated pantomime she reenacted her theft of five scalps and the fight with the courageous old woman who snapped her cane against her left shoulder. Elders rarely fought back and Amazoni were impressed that the old woman had honored Ohnaà with a fight. They applauded the Shesh-Amazoni's decision to spare the old woman's scalp for only an exceptional warrior would award that tribute.
Ohnaà held the people's attention with a rousing song extolling the war party's deeds of Ossit conquest and Neeheeah's capture. Her emotions rising to a fevered pitch, her song complete, she began to dance. Colossal mahogany-skinned muscles glistening with sweat, her painted face ferocious in firelight, she twirled and stamped, her spirit soaring with exhilaration. It was a good night to be Amazoni.
The two moons were high by the time the remaining people retired to their tepees. Ohnaà checked Neeheeah who lay with her eyes closed feigning slumber. Familiar with the ruses of prisoners, Ohnaà prodded the Ossit with a moccasined foot, receiving no reaction.
"I know you do not sleep. No matter. I will return shortly."
Yawning, the warrior walked to the lake outside of camp to remove her war paint. She scrubbed her face clean with the invigorating cold water. Ohnaà stared at her reflection that wrinkled with endless ripples from her dripping face and contemplated Neeheeah's foolishness in trying to trick her, wondering if she should have killed her. No, she thought. It was the right decision to have captured the spirited Ossit.
Neeheeah cautiously sat up and struggled futilely to untie Ohnaà's complex leash knots that held her firmly secured to the deeply implanted stake. She lay back down, depressed and discouraged.
Ohnaà returned from the lake outside of camp and entered her lodge for a moment, exiting with a black trade blanket. She kicked Neeheeah who pretended to awaken. Kneeling, she examined her tether.
"You think I do not know what you try to do?"
"I have done nothing."
"You do not lie well." Ohnaà stood and threw the blanket at Neeheeah. "With time perhaps you will succeed in escaping. You would not be the first. But remember this as you think on it. I track well. You would not get far."
"Let me go!" Neeheeah pleaded. "I beg you! Let me go!"
"Sleep. You have much work to do for Ojah."
The next morning, Ojah stepped out of the tepee to begin his reluctant training of his Ossit slave. He untied her from the stake. No longer caring, Neeheeah attacked Ojah, both rolling over and over. The commotion of the fight attracted many, all cheering for Ojah.
Ohnaà rushed out of the lodge just as Neeheeah grabbed Ojah's knife. Screaming she slashed at him slicing the right sleeve of his fringed dress.
Ohnaà stomped up to the crazed Ossit, recoiling as she was slashed at.
Neeheeah put the knife to her throat. "I will never submit to Amazoni!" she screeched before slitting her throat and collapsing.
Stunned, Amazoni stared at Neeheeah. Suicide was an act unknown to them.
Ohnaà scooped the Ossit's body into her arms.
"Now you are free. I will bury you in the forest where you belong."
Ohnaà delved deep into the forest with Neeheeah's stiffening body and gently deposited it upon a mound of newly fallen leaves. She looked into the peaceful, paling gray face of the Ossit.
"You were an enemy of great pride who would not be tamed. You bring honor to your people with your spirit. Go to your mate, Shook-uk, and may your spirits watch over you on your journey."
Quickly burying Neeheeah, Ohnaà bowed her head in reverence. An eagle soared over the treetops, screeching Neeheeah's entry into the spirit land. Ohnaà walked slowly back to camp.