|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|
Finding no game, war chief Et-esh and her companion,
Cho-hot, walked their horses over cropped brown prairie toward home.
"Game grows scarcer, Et-esh. Ohnaà still refuses to move camp for better hunting. Each time I mention it in council she shakes her head and talks of other things."
"She sees the land differently, Cho-hot," Et-esh defended. "Her instincts tell her to stay. Never has she been wrong."
"Her instincts do not fill my cooking pot and hungry belly."
"Ohnaà's pot is full and shares. Refusing to ask, you deserve hunger," Et-esh retorted.
"I am a hunter who should not have to ask."
"Well, great hunter, do not complain when you find nothing while Ohnaà's full pot is there for the asking."
Cho-hot's scowl deepened.
Et-esh sniffed the air.
"Rain is on the way."
To calm her temper, Cho-hot nodded at Et-esh's attempt to change the subject and avoid further discontent.
For several miles the Amazoni rode in silence. A distant whinny startled the warriors, for it was the wrong place for wild horses to be roaming; they preferred the grasslands. The whinny sounded again, coming from behind.
Et-esh and Cho-hot whirled their horses around and saw two distant people. Et-esh squinted as she watched.
"They are Traders."
"Who do not belong here. We should attack."
Et-esh glared at Cho-hot.
"We will see what they want."
"If I were you I would attack!" Cho-hot insisted vehemently.
"It is not good to do battle when there is no need. The sooner you heed that wisdom the longer you live. It is Ohnaà's wisdom. It is wisdom I obey. We will talk to them."
Cho-hot heaved an annoyed sigh, hating restraint almost as much as Traders. But even she would never dare violate the command of a war chief.
The warriors galloped up to the two Traders. The
eye-patched stranger smiled.
"So much for friendliness, Newt."
"Can you help us?"
Cho-hot looked questioningly at Et-esh.
"Cho-hot speaks no Trader words."
"And you are?" Trader Newt asked.
"I am war chief, Et-esh."
"One of authority."
"My words carry weight with Amazoni. Why do you ride our land?"
"We'd like to speak with the one named Ohnaà."
"Ohnaà will not trade with you," Et-esh declared.
"We have something else in mind to discuss with her."
Et-esh interpreted the conversation to Cho-hot. Her mistrust deepened.
"What do you wish of Ohnaà?"
"That's none of your business. All we need is you to take us to her," the other Trader retorted.
The man's angry tone prompted Cho-hot to grip the hilt of her knife.
Et-esh's azure eyes blazed with fury. "For one who needs Ohnaà, you show no respect. Go to Amazoni alone!" she snapped.
Cho-hot nodded in agreement at Et-esh's translation of her fury.
As one, the Amazoni whirled their horses around and galloped away.
"You talk too damn much!"
The Traders pressed on.
Et-esh and Cho-hot returned to camp, Et-esh going directly to Ohnaà's tepee finding her honing her knife. "You found no game," she bluntly stated not looking up.
"We found something worse," Et-esh replied.
The edge in the war chief's tone prompted Ohnaà to cease sliding her knife's thick blade against its worn, oiled stone bar.
Et-esh sat opposite her friend.
"Cho-hot and I crossed paths with two Traders. One had an eye cover. His friend was disrespectful. Both refused to say why they wanted to talk to you. We left them."
"Your feelings about them, young one?"
"My mistrust of them means little as it is you they wish to see."
Ohnaà sheathed her knife.
"Your opinion matters. When these trespassers arrive, we will both hear their words."
"Maybe we will get lucky and they will be eaten by a long-toothed cat."
"If they survive and meet me, they will wish they were."
The next morning the uninvited eye-patched Trader Newt and his companion Trader Thunk, rode slowly through camp amid hostile stares, whispers, and points. Et-esh abruptly blocked their path startling their horses. "Come!" she snapped.
Ohnaà sat before her fire, brawny arms folded across her chest. Beside her, Ojah occupied himself feeding the fire twigs. Sensing visitors, her stony expression unchanging, she turned her gaze to Ojah.
"You must leave for a while."
Obediently Ojah complied.
Et-esh led the Traders into Ohnaà's tepee, taking her place beside the warrior.
The Traders sat opposite their hosts.
Ignoring Trader Thunk, Ohnaà stared at the eye-patched Trader Newt, her piercing obsidian gaze making him uneasy. Reaching for her pipe beside her, she dipped into her waist tobacco pouch and began to load the pipe with slow deliberation.
"My name is Newt and this is Thunk."
Ignoring the introduction, Ohnaà continued to refill her pipe's deep bowl, crushing the tobacco to make it finer.
Ohnaà's glare silenced Trader Newt.
"We smoke before important talk," Et-esh curtly informed.
"I don't smoke," Trader Newt retorted.
Ohnaà narrowed her eyes.
"You wish talk with Ohnaà, you will smoke,"
"Of course. How rude of me."
"Can't she speak for herself?" Trader Thunk demanded.
"If you do not leave my tepee now, rude one, your tongue will hang from my war lance."
Angrily, Trader Thunk left.
"Sorry about him. He--"
Ohnaà curtly raised a hand, uninterested in explanatory excuses. Lighting her pipe she inhaled several deep puffs, then passed the pipe to Et-esh, who inhaled a deep lungful before handing it to Trader Newt. He frowned at the smoke's sharp odor.
"It is strong Trader tobacco, Nee-ute," Ohnaà explained. "It is good to smoke."
Trader Newt took a small puff, coughing until his good eye watered.
"Ah yah! You have a thin throat," Ohnaà observed retrieving the pipe and setting it aside.
"You lose your eye in battle, Trader Nee-ute?"
"You are a good fighter?"
Perplexed by the unusual questions, Trader Newt nodded.
"You win many battles?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Because I can. Why do you look for me?"
Trader Newt handed a small pouch to the warrior who spilled a small pile of clear stone chips that glittered against her brown palm.
Unimpressed with the familiar stones, Ohnaà poured her handful into their pouch and tossed it back.
"That handful you examined is worth your weight in gold!"
"I have seen these stones in our caves, woods, and streams."
"We know every deposit and have been digging for them a while. We'll pay you handsomely in whatever you want while we mine these diamonds. After all, they're just stones to you. They're of great value to me."
"That is why Traders have been seen on our land!" Et-esh exclaimed in Amazoni. "I should have listened to Cho-hot."
"I will call council. Cho-hot will tell us about this."
"What in blazes are you two saying?"
"These stones-that-glitter are part of Amazoni land, Trader Nee-ute," Ohnaà declared. "You will take no more of them."
Trader Newt stood.
"I could've made you richer beyond your wildest dreams for my diamond rights!"
"You have nothing I want."
"Well, you have something I want!"
"These diamonds are mine, barbarian, mine!"
Ohnaà slowly stood, her great size dwarfing the Trader.
"I will stop you from digging my land. You, Trader warrior, will wish you never met me."
Laughing derisively, Trader Newt left.
In council Ohnaà succinctly related the meeting with the one-eyed Trader Newt about his diamonds.
"Cho-hot. Et-esh told me that you have seen Traders dig for the stones-that-glitter. "
"I am not the only one who has seen them."
"In time I will deal with those who said nothing to anyone. But it is you, who spoke to Et-esh of this. It is you, who kept silent about it to me. Why?" Ohnaà barked.
"Why did you not tell me about the Trader diggers?" Ohnaà roared.
"I did not think it important to mention because I killed many and saw no more."
"They are still here! I am tahna, Cho-hot," Ohnaà growled. "I lead our people. I decide where we camp. I decide when to battle our enemies. I uphold what those before me decided, that all uninvited Trader actions upon our land be reported, even if they do nothing but drink from our waters.
"You failed in your duty. Now we suffer because our land is being violated by arrogant, greedy, Trader diggers who would take what is not theirs. I have been challenged by Trader Nee-ute who does not believe my vow to stop him. You have put your people in danger."
Council rumbled agreement.
Suffused with shame, Cho-hot stared at the ground.
"You will take Et-esh and I to the place where you last saw the diggers. Watching them I will best know how to battle them."
"You will not fight. Perhaps that will make you remember to speak up."
Cho-hot leaped to her feet. "No!" she shouted. "I admit my mistake. But I must fight to atone for my lack of judgment. I will accept no honors. I will take no scalps. I need to fight!"
Ohnaà remained unmoved.
"I agree with Cho-hot," Et-esh defended.
Ohnaà glared at the war chief.
"Taking no credit in battle must not diminish the fighting strength three Amazoni possess no matter how outnumbered we are."
Although council nodded agreement with Et-esh, in this situation the final decision was not theirs.
"Cho-hot will not fight."
Council broke up.
The war chief turned.
"Why do you suddenly challenge my words?"
"Because I am Et-esh," the warrior replied quietly and left.
That night, Ohnaà, Et-esh, and Ojah ate in uncustomary, tense silence. Ohnaà ate little. After the meal Ojah excused himself and left the tepee to escape the heavy pall of restrained stress.
"I am bothered about Cho-hot, young one, because she came to you about the Traders."
"Perhaps it is because at times you are not easy to talk to."
"All know they can speak to me any time."
"Cho-hot is different. She must be encouraged to talk."
"She is a warrior, not a child."
"True. But it is also true that she may feel that she is not listened to enough to where she thinks no one will care whether she talks or not about certain things."
"I have never found her at a loss for words."
"When she is angry or speaks of lesser things."
"These diggers are not a lesser thing."
"When she sees no more they are, so she said nothing to you. She did not think it mattered."
"The others who said nothing--"
"Are not Cho-hot in thinking, nor would they stand before you and demand to fight without credit, let alone admit a mistake of silence. It is something to think about a little."
"Do not stay angry at Cho-hot for long. She is an angry enough person as it is." Et-esh stood. "I think I will go to bed early."
"Good sleep, young one."
Et-esh took her leave.
The next morning, Cho-hot and Et-esh visited Ohnaà as she was finishing breakfast with Ojah. They sat, Cho-hot keeping her eyes lowered.
"Why do your eyes hang in shame?"
"I betrayed your trust. I have heaped dishonor upon Amazoni."
Ohnaà shook her head.
"I have been thinking about that thanks to speaking with Et-esh who sees things more clearly. My trust in you has not wavered, I assure you."
Cho-hot raised her eyes.
Ohnaà glanced at Et-esh, reading the silent inquiry in her piercing azure eyes. Nodding, she shifted her gaze to Cho-hot.
"When you lead us to where you last saw the Trader diggers I will speak to Trader Nee-ute to better plan our attack. Cho-hot's belt will have new scalps. She will show her enemies her strength in battle. Amazoni will praise her deeds in song."
Cho-hot brightened with happy surprise at Ohnaà's change of heart in allowing her to fight and take credit.
"I will kill many!"
"I have no doubt;I know how much you enjoy battle."
The warriors stood. Ojah handed Ohnaà her bow and quiver, which she quickly donned. Without a word she departed with Cho-hot and Et-esh
Bow and quiver armed Ohnaà, Et-esh, and Cho-hot crouched behind cover of thick brush, observing Trader Newt's band of ten miners panning a swift-running brook, their pack horses laden with extra picks, pans, diamond filled pouches, and food supplies, loosely tethered to bushes. Ohnaà was pleased. The slightest sound would startle the animals and leave the miners empty-handed.
"I see no weapons," Et-esh gestured.
"I will visit and find them. Stay here," Ohnaà signed.
Ohnaà boldly walked into the miners' camp.
"What the hell do you want?" Trader Thunk demanded.
Without acknowledgement, Ohnaà kneeled beside the brook. Beneath the chilly clear water she spotted glittering diamond chunks studding the pebbly brook floor. Unhooking her waist water gourd she submerged it.
"How did you find us?" Trader Newt inquired suspiciously.
"You are on my land where I know all water places." Standing Ohnaà hooked her filled gourd to her skins' waistband. "I go where I please."
The warrior covertly noted a huge moss-covered boulder behind Trader Newt and a slab of rock beside it which gave her an idea for his punishment. She walked to the brush-tethered pack horses and circling them casually, noted that on each horse's saddle a carbine was stuffed into an attached leather guard, hidden from first view.
"You have strong horses, Trader Nee-ute."
"Ripe for the taking."
"Amazoni have enough horses. I go now."
"Now hold on a minute--"
"I go now," Ohnaà repeated and vanished into the surrounding brush.
"I don't trust her," Trader Thunk declared. "She's up to something. I feel like she's watching us, and not alone."
"You're imagining things as usual. Forget the barbarian. We've got work to do."
Ohnaà rejoined Et-esh and Cho-hot.
"Tomorrow we attack. Let us make camp. I will outline my plan."
Silently as they had come, the Amazoni trio withdrew.
As night fell, seated around their low fire, Cho-hot and Et-esh waited for Ohnaà to speak.
"Attached to the ten diggers' saddles is a firestick. Cho-hot you will run off their horses. Without them they can go nowhere and their weapons will be lost.
"All but Nee-ute will die. I have a special punishment for him. Et-esh will pin him against the mossy boulder she will see. You, Cho-hot, will force his hands upon it. I will take a rock and crush them. For the rest of his days he will remember his mistake of desecrating our land to feed his greed for stones-that-glitter that belong to us."
"And all will hear," Et-esh added, "that three Amazoni fight like an army of a thousand!"
Ohnaà and Cho-hot grinned.
The midmorning sun boiled overhead. Trying to ignore the heat, the unwelcome miners of Amazoni diamonds continued their panning. With a soiled beige kerchief Trader Newt wiped sweat from his brow and the eyeless socket beneath his eye patch while he rested from panning the brook, Trader Thunk beside him. The others worked further downstream slicing their pans in the brook, straining sediment from diamonds.
"This sun is just too damn hot," Trader Newt complained. "The day's just begun and already I'm a sweaty boar."
Picking diamonds from his pan and plopping them one by one into his pouch while calculating the price of each irregular stone, Trader Thunk ignored the comment, his greed recognizing no adversity.
Revealing herself to no one, Cho-hot shrieked a blood curdling yell, stampeding the horses out of the camp, their supplies of pans, carbines and pouches rattling.
"They're onto us!" Trader Thunk screeched. "We're helpless for the slaughter!"
Trader Newt grabbed Trader Thunk shaking him.
"Calm down, you idiot, calm down!"
"Calm down? We're going to die! Let me go! Let--"
Et-esh fired two arrows in rapid succession hitting Thunk between the shoulder blades. He collapsed, face down, groaning.
Ohnaà, Et-esh, and Cho-hot leaped from their cover of bush, Ohnaà's war cry piercing the muggy air.
Arrows sliced into the scattering miners. Et-esh rushed to the downed Trader Thunk and flipped him to his back, snapping her embedded arrows. Smiling, she slashed his throat and in her bloodlust repeatedly stabbed him long after he expired. With a growl, she took his scalp.
With gusto, Cho-hot attacked four crawling miners, scalping them alive before slashing their throats.
Ohnaà's arrows dispatched four miners; she rapidly relieved them of their hair.
Trader Newt ran but was tackled by Et-esh. She hauled the sobbing man to his feet by his hair, yanking him to the mossy boulder where Ohnaà and Cho-hot stood.
Ohnaà snatched Trader Newt's belt pouch of diamonds and poured the stones to the ground.
"No! My diamonds! My work! M--"
Cho-hot backhanded Trader Newt into silence.
"I told you, Nee-ute," Ohnaà hissed, "stones-that-glitter stay on Amazoni land. I will teach you what happens when you do not listen."
Et-esh slapped the petrified, sobbing, Trader Newt against the mossy boulder, Cho-hot forced his hands upon its spongy surface.
Ohnaà seized the thick flattened slab of rock at her feet with both hands, the slab of a weight only she could heft, and crashed it upon Trader Newt's hands. His agonized screams fueled her anger, provoking her to slam the crushed hands again then tossed the rock slab aside as if it were a mere pebble.
Et-esh slammed Trader Newt to the ground.
Sobbing, his bloody, mutilated hands shaking uncontrollably, he tucked them protectively against his chest.
"If your kind steps foot upon my land again, nothing of them will be found. Go!" Ohnaà commanded.
Cho-hot angrily stuffed Trader Newt's mouth with his hollow diamond pouch.
The warriors abandoned the sobbing miner to fend for himself, his greed forever unfulfilled.