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Amazoni #13 Proving Ground

Story ID:6882
Written by:Lisa Godin (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Serial Fiction
Location:Cleveland Ohio USA
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Amazoni #13 Proving Ground

Lisa Godin

Chapter 1
Ohna and Et-esh sat before the fire, passing the pipe.
"It was a good battle, Ohna. Yet again have we beaten the foolish Ossit."
Ohna exhaled spicy white streams of tobacco smoke through her nostrils.
"Chooka fought exceptionally well, young one. Though this was only her third battle, she carries four new scalps and displays natural leadership."
"I think she deserves promotion to war chief." Et-esh grinned. "I could use the help."
Ohna tapped pipe ashes into the low fire.
"I have been thinking about that. It is not the time yet, but soon. We should spend more time with Chooka. For that reason has she been summoned. She should be here soon."
"What do you have in mind?"
A slow grin creased Ohna's chiseled features.
"Chooka is good at hunting her enemies. Let us see how well she hunts boar."
Et-esh was surprised.
"She is already an excellent boar hunter."
"Ah yah! She has yet to hunt boar during the rut."
Et-esh chuckled.
"Even Cho-hot avoids that."
"You and I have done it. It is time Chooka leads us to such a boar. To see her master that experience will be interesting to behold."
"You are always testing, Ohna."
"A warrior's life is a test. And since Chooka's appetite is that of three warriors, we will be lucky to find enough scraps to fill our bellies."
Et-esh laughed heartily, for it was a rare Amazoni who could eclipse her zeal for eating.
Chapter 2
Moments later Chooka appeared. At fifteen seasons she was broad shouldered, slimly muscled, and tall. Her thick, flaxen hair hung in long, greased braids threaded with tiny, silver trade beads.
Ohna motioned Chooka to sit before the fire.
"In the future you will not need to be offered a place at my fire. You have earned your place there."
The young warrior sat, her back ramrod straight. She was slightly apprehensive, having never been privately called before the Shesh-Amazoni.
Ohna refilled and lit her pipe, and awarded Chooka the first puff. No one spoke until the pipe was smoked and set aside. "You are rested from our Ossit battle?" she asked.
"We plan to go hunting. You will join us," Et-esh declared.
"You will shoot our boar."
"It is their rut now. They are at their meanest."
"Rutting boar are also at their most tender to eat," Et-esh added her mouth watering at the thought.
"You have the prowess to kill such a boar."
Grinning, Chooka stood.
"Et-esh and I will meet you at the corral when the sun is high. As you are the hunter, Et-esh and I will take no bows."
Nodding, Chooka left.
"No bows, Ohna?"
"This is Chooka's hunt, and I have faith that she can handle it."
Et-esh was worried.
"I hope so."
"I know so."
Having complete trust in Ohna's judgment, Et-esh swallowed her worry.
Chapter 3
When the sun was high Chooka, already mounted and armed with bow and quiver of arrows, waited for Ohna and Et-esh.When they arrived she feigned a yawn.
"In the time it took you to arrive, I could have killed many boar, returned and slept a night."
Ohna and Et-esh mounted up.
"Chooka is an impatient one," Ohna observed.
"I am hungry for boar."
Chooka kicked her horse and sped away, forcing Ohna and Et-esh into a gallop to catch up.
The trio rode the prairie for hours at an easy canter under a seething sun, their bodies slick with sweat.
A screeching hawk soared overhead.
Shielding her eyes from the sun, Ohna gazed at the bird.
Chooka grinned as she watched the hawk glide. It screeched again before disappearing through shredded clouds. Hawks were Chooka's powerful spirit messengers, and the sign convinced her that haste was no longer necessary in search of their quarry. Chooka pointed to the hill ahead. "The forest will be upon us over that hill," she announced.
The warriors topped the hill overlooking a lush tangle of forest.
"I can taste our boar already," Et-esh declared. Her stomach rumbled. "So can my belly."
"Is there ever a time when your mind is not on food, young one?"
Et-esh grinned.
"Only when I sleep, and I do very little of that."
"Shall we rest or continue?" Chooka asked sarcastically.
Ohna glared at the warrior. "You will speak with more respect before you do anything," she snapped. "If you have nothing of use to say, you will be silent."
"Forgive me, Ohna."
"She has," Et-esh added, "otherwise you would be apologizing from the ground after being knocked down."
"I do not know what came over me."
"See that it never happens again," Ohna warned.
Chooka nodded, realizing how close she had come to having a corrective beating she'd never forget.
Chapter 4
The Amazoni hunters dismounted. Leading their horses, they delved deep into the forest, searching for boar sign. Neither Ohna nor Et-esh said a word, allowing Chooka to do what she did best, track. The young warrior knelt to examine prints.
Ohna and Et-esh knelt.
"They are fresh tracks," Et-esh observed. "just laid down."
Chooka stood.
"I will flush out our boar."
Ohna shook her head.
"I sense this one is different. He leaves no other sign to follow. We have become the hunted. This boar is cunning and watches us. We must allow it to come to us."
Chooka unshouldered her bow.
Et-esh and Ohna sat after securing their horses to a thicket.
Uneasy at being spied upon by hidden, malevolent boar eyes, Chooka remained standing.
In a burst of mindless, squealing rage, Boar sprang from his cover and bulldozed into Et-esh, his tusks ripping into her belly, flipping her over his back.
Ohna drew her knife but before she could throw it, Boar rammed a tusk into her left side slamming her to the ground.
Notching an arrow, Chooka fired, her arrow penetrating Boar's thin skull and into his brain between the eyes and dropped, dying after an involuntary kick of sharp cloven feet.
Ohna groaned at seeing the unconscious Et-esh, her belly ripped open and bleeding.
Chooka ran to Et-esh. Amazingly the warrior's heart still beat.
Ohna crawled to Et-esh and Chooka. "Et-esh!" she moaned. "Et-esh!" She rolled onto her back, panting.
Chooka came to Ohna's side and cradled the warrior's head in her lap.
"The boar is dead. But Et-esh lives. I will tend you both--"
"No," Ohna whispered. "Leave us. Go back to our people."
"I can help you and Et-esh!"
"We are beyond help." Ohna coughed up blood. "Go!"
Ohna closed her eyes, her muscled body going limp.
In a panic Chooka felt for a pulse, heaving a sigh of relief at its presence. She gently rested Ohna's head upon the leafy ground. She had to work quickly to save the lives of the two most important people in her life.
Chapter 5
Chooka delved into two of her waist pouches, one containing a bone needle and wad of thin sinew which she placed upon the ground. From the other she lifted a heavy pinch of medicinal red powder to coagulate blood and anesthetize. After packing Ohna's left side wound with the medicinal herb she carefully sewed it shut. For Et-esh, she had to cram slippery exposed intestines back inside before suturing the wound closed with tight, even stitches.
Chooka untied her belt gourd of water and removed Ohna's and Et-esh's as well. She scoured the forest for the Lexus tree, which had large, flexible leaves as absorbent as the finest Trader cloth that could be used to apply water to wrapping things.
Returning with her Lexus leaves, Chooka placed them between her two unconscious friends. Her next tasks were fire building and carving up Boar. She went to her horse. Tied to its withers was her small bone bowl dangling from its cord. Et-esh and Ohna had always ribbed her about preferring to drink from a small bowl instead of straight from her waist water gourd or stream. Now it would come in handy, for she would boil Boar's larger bones for broth to feed her patients. A larger portion of the meat would be roasted and packaged in Lexus leaves for later consumption by Ohna and Et-esh. The remains would be consumed by Chooka during her healing vigil.
This hunt was indeed a proving ground, Chooka thought, and she was determined to provide for her wounded despite Ohna's insistence on being left. She went about her tasks of fire building and boar dissection.
Chapter 6
For weeks Chooka ministered to her charges as they shuddered with fever and delirium making countless trips deep into the forest for soothing cool waters to mop Ohna's and Et-esh's sweats with Lexus Leaf. Finally their fevers broke, and they were able to swallow boar bone broth laced with healing herbs.
As war chief Et-esh slept comfortably, the stretched out Ohna eyed Chooka as she boiled more broth.
"You did not do as I told you."
"I could not allow you and Et-esh to die."
"You disobeyed--"
"You are alive," Chooka snapped, "because of my disobedience. In battle I would not leave you or Et-esh to the mercy of an enemy, and so I did not leave you two in this. If you wish to call me before council for insubordination, then do so. I
would do nothing differently." Chooka offered the bowl of broth. "Drink."
Ohna drained the hot broth without pause.
"Tomorrow we will try boar meat to give you strength."
Ohna fingered her left side wound.
"You sewed me up well."
"You will have a scar."
"Another of many."
Chooka filled her bowl with broth for Et-esh.
Ohna winced with pain as she hauled herself to a sitting position.
"You are one of few who dare stand up to me."
"In time others will when they are right."
"Are you saying I strike fear in the hearts of my people?"
"Your temper is explosive."
Ohna scowled.
"I say only what I see."
Ohna carefully lay down.
"You give me words to think about."
"Think while you sleep."
Grinning weakly, Ohna closed her eyes.
Chooka shook Et-esh awake, grateful at the silent compliance of the war chief who then fell contentedly back to sleep after her herb medicated boar broth.
Hungry, Chooka sliced into the nearly skeletal remains of Boar. If all went well as it had been going, she estimated that by tomorrow or the next day everyone would return to camp. As much as she was glad to help her companions, she was growing tired of being a nursemaid.
Chapter 7
The following day Et-esh and Ohna were awake and ravenous, and finished every chunk of boar meat Chooka had saved in Lexus Leaf. Aside from minor pain, the Shesh-Amazoni and war chief were well enough to travel.
Chooka held up everyone's empty water gourd.
"Fill these. You two need exercise."
Et-esh, surprised over Chooka's sudden authority, looked to Ohna who meekly accepted the empty gourds.
"I told you she possesses leadership, young one."
"A bit too much."
Ohna chuckled.
"Gathering water is no great task in return for saving our lives."
"She orders us as if we were Amazoni men!"
"We will do her bidding, young one."
The warriors walked but a short distance into the forest to the pool of chilled, clear water and waited patiently for the gourds to fill.
"Chooka has done well, young one. She kills her first rutting boar and saved our lives though I told her to leave us. She has truly proven herself worthy."
"She still has much to learn. From her tone I have a feeling she now thinks she can question your authority."
Ohna grinned as she drew the water gourds from the icy water and plugged them with their painted stoppers. She tied her gourd to her belt, as did Et-esh.
"You and Cho-hot do that now and it has not weakened my leadership." She handed Et-esh Chooka's filled water gourd. "Let us head back before Chooka in her impatience takes our horses and makes us walk home."
Et-esh grinned.
"If she does she'll never see her water gourd or horse again."
Despite her side pain, Ohna laughed heartily at the joke.