|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|
The thunderstorm raged into the early evening hours. But inside the tepee glowing in warm firelight, with love permeating every space, Ohnaà and Ojah felt safe against the infuriated Rain Spirit pounding its tears upon the tepee's sturdy hide walls.
Seated in a corner honing her knife, Ohnaà winced in sudden pain. Sheathing her knife she vigorously massaged her right elbow.
"What is wrong?" Ojah exclaimed, stopping his stirring of heating boar stew.
"I have seen my fifty-first season, and it is beginning to seep into my bones," Ohnaà complained.
"You are a warrior looking not a day over thirty seasons. Your skin is still smooth, your great strength remains unimpaired, and your hair lingers as black as the gorak's wing."
Ohnaà flexed her muscled right arm, wincing slightly at its stiffness.
"My bones do not agree with how I look. When it rains as hard as now, they shout along with the Thunder Spirit and pain me."
Ojah resumed his stirring of the stew.
"You forget your advantage."
"Being Shesh born, you could very well outlive Amazoni. We will all die shriveled and gray while you live on, ever youthful."
Ohnaà joined Ojah at the fire. As he spooned out her stew, she involuntarily started at a terrific thunder clap. She grinned at her own reaction.
"When I was small," Ojah reminisced, filling his bowl with stew, "I heard a story of a Shesh living three hundred seasons. This warrior died from a scratch on his leg in the woods."
Ohnaà rested a dark palm against Ojah's pale cheek.
"If that long life is in store for me, with you and others I hold close to my heart not there beside me, I would not die of a scratch. I would die in battle, for my life would have no meaning, and I would welcome the enemy striking me down."
A bolt of lightening lit the sky, reflecting through the sturdy hide tepee walls casting deeper shadows across Ohnaà's chiseled features.
Ojah pressed Ohnaà's hand against his cheek, his own small, pale hand a sharp contrast next to the warrior's huge mahogany-skinned hand.
"I do not want you to ever die in battle, my warrior."
"Then Ojah and Amazoni will have to live three hundred seasons with me, aching bones and all."
Ojah giggled as Ohnaà begain to eat, knowing full well that if she could, the warrior would make true her wish.
The next few days were busy for Ohnaà, filled with council meetings, hunting with Et-esh, and studding Appaloosa with the choicest of Et-esh's mares. Evenings she went to her friends' lodges for gambling games and casual visits for small talk and smoking the pipe.
One day she called a special council. It was Chooka's first. The warrior was instructed to stand in the center of this council meeting.
Ohnaà rose from her seat to stand before Chooka. "This is a very good day for you, young warrior. You have now joined many battles. In each have you fought with distinction and have proven to be a sound leader. Et-esh," she called. "Step forward."
Et-esh stood beside Chooka.
"You have witnessed this one fight and have been led by her. This warrior has earned promotion to assist you in the duties of war chief. What does Et-esh say?"
"I accept this warrior within the rank of war chief. We will be stronger with this one's added leadership in battle."
Ohnaà's piercing, obsidian gaze drilled into each council members' face.
"Do all agree to promote Chooka to the rank of war chief?"
Council shook ceremonial rattles used specifically for the purpose of accepting rank advancement.
Ohnaà exchanged wrist clasps with Chooka.
"We will smoke the pipe now, and you, Chooka, as war chief, have the honor of filling, lighting, and enjoying the first puff."
Grinning, Et-esh rested a heavy hand upon the young warrior's shoulder.
Chooka remained impassive as befitted one of new rank; however, her pale eyes gleamed her pleasure over the unexpected rise.
Ohnaà kneeled over her freshly killed deer and butchered it with quick, experienced hand. As she roasted her meal her gaze meandered into the distance, noting a galloping rider. Squinting, she realized it was an Amazoni thundering toward her. As the rider drew closer, Ohnaà noted the warrior was not of her band. Her heart thumped rapidly. She stood. Hefting a fist overhead, she screeched a shrill war cry. The rider answered. Ohnaà yelled again and was answered.
The rider halted her lathered mount before the Shesh-Amazoni.
"Dahò, Amazoni," Ohnaà greeted.
"Dahò, joe-da Ohnaà."
The Amazoni dismounted.
"You would join me in my kill?"
"It would please me."
"It has been a long time since I have seen an Amazoni not of my band. Who do I have the honor of sharing my meal with?"
"I am called Yahtahchahkee."
Ohnaà awarded the first chunk of venison to Yahtahchahkee who wolfed the food down. She snapped up several chunks after that.
"Forgive me for eating so much. I rot in the Trader reservation with little food."
Ohnaà slowly chewed her tender bite of meat.
"No. I was sent to find you. If I do not return soon, my family will be killed."
Ohnaà angrily tossed her piece of meat into the fire.
"Your band never should have gone to a reservation. You could have remained free like my band. You signed no papers."
"Our tahna is far from wise, choosing to give up rather than fight. Our spirits are broken in the light of disease, imposed starvation, and the death of those who tried to escape."
"What now has changed?"
"Those who run the reservation fear rebellion, for they see our restlessness. But we are weaponless. Still we are feared."
Ohnaà stared into the fire as she digested the information.
"Trader Taylor who runs our reservation knows of you. He feels you can prevent a rebellion. He respects you as a leader."
Ohnaà spat her contempt. A man who treated Amazoni like dogs she wanted no part of his respect.
"We were foolish, Ohnaà," Yahtahchahkee admitted. "We need you now. I need you. I am tired of being a starving beggar. I wish to live the old way, to once more be a proud Amazoni, to die free when the time comes. I do not care if the others remain. Help me be free."
Ohnaà looked deeply into the begging eyes of the young Amazoni, feeling sorry for all she had to endure, regretting her own part in doing nothing.
"You must come alone or my family--"
"I will help your band to be free again. But for now, you need rest. We will ride tomorrow."
A grateful Yahtahchahkee closed her eyes with a sigh of relief.
At daybreak the journey back to the reservation commenced, the warriors traveling so swiftly their horses' hoofs seemed to never touch ground. Not until the two moons had risen their highest did the warriors make camp. They built a small fire for warmth and made due with jerked boar meat from their ration pouches, eating in customary silence before turning in for the night. But Yahtahchahkee slept fitfully, not looking forward to returning to the reservation she loathed.
The following afternoon the Amazoni topped the grassy hill overlooking the reservation surrounded by high fortress walls of interlocking logs. Trader guards armed with carbines kept watch upon their walled posts. Just looking at the high walls gave Ohnaà an uneasy, closed-in feeling.
"You must remember, Ohnaà, to make no sudden movements when we get inside. The guards are nervous around Amazoni and would use any excuse to fire at you. Do you understand the Trader tongue?"
"Good. While we struggled to learn, many were shot because they could not understand and react quickly enough to Trader commands. Come. They see us with their tube glasses."
Ohnaà was fascinated at the sight of the three sentries observing her through their spyglass. One day perhaps she would own one and gain the powerful medicine the spyglasses possessed to allow one to peer as far as the eagle.
The guards stiffened with alertness at spying the approaching Amazoni.
"It's about time that one came back," the sentry noted to one of his three companions. "Look at the size of the dark one!"
"She's huge! The arms on her are incredible!"
"She's definitely got muscle," the first sentry agreed. "We'll have to watch her. She looks like a handful."
The massive reservation gates gradually creaked open. Ohnaà had expected greetings from Amazoni, but the wide dusty grounds were barren, the barracks-like buildings standing starkly silent guarded by more Trader sentinels armed with carbines.
"Where are your people, Yahtahchahkee?"
"We are in that long building at the end," the warrior replied pointing. "At this time of day we are forced to remain inside for reasons I still do not know."
The Trader sentries climbed down from their wall platforms and intercepted Ohnaà and Yahtahchahkee.
"Welcome, big Amazoni. We'll escort you to Trader Taylor, who wished to speak to you immediately upon your arrival."
The warriors dismounted.
Ohnaà stepped forward, towering over the lead sentry. Her obsidian eyes glittered. No Trader was going to tell her what she would do.
"I will go with Yahtahchahkee and speak to her people."
The lead sentry made the error of pointing his carbine at Ohnaà. Ignoring Yahtahchahkee's advice of making no threatening moves, Ohnaà's hand shot out. She seized the offending sentry by the throat and lifted him off his feet, to the stunned disbelief of the guard's companions who were too frightened to move. Yahtahchahkee was awed by Ohnaà's power, proving the stories told about her to be no exaggeration.
"Never point your firestick at me again, Trader," Ohnaà hissed. "Never order me to do your bidding, for I am no reservation Amazoni." She gently lowered the Trader to the ground but maintained her grip about the man's neck, careful not to cut off his air. "I will speak to Amazoni. Before the sun sets, you may come for me to go to Tay-lor."
Ohnaà released the sentry and accompanied Yahtahchahkee to the confinement barracks.
"Looks like you were the handful this time," one of the lookouts joked.
"Oh shut up," the lead sentry growled as he rubbed his throat. Walking to Trader Taylor's barracks to inform him of Ohnaà's arrival and message, the sentry burned with humiliation of his friend's laughter at his encounter with Ohnaà.
Ohnaà entered Yahtahchahkee's detention barracks. The room was barren of furniture. Neatly folded, threadbare blankets were piled in a corner. The warrior was disgusted by the condition of the two hundred Amazoni men, warriors, and children seated beneath a cracked and grimy window. The people sat quietly, their appearance dirt-smudged and gaunt from hunger. Ohnaà knelt beside a man clad in dirty dress, holding his mate's baby who was too weak to cry in hunger. Her heart ached at seeing the degradation to which her sister band had been subjected. This sorry group of Amazoni were in no condition to complain, let alone rebel. She sat before the people, looking into each gaunt face, the vision fueling her hatred for the Trader she had yet to meet.
"I have come to help you. Soon you will leave this place forever. The band of Ohnaà will offer horses, clothes, and medicine for your sick. We will help you establish your new camp. If you need protection from Traders until you are strong again, come to me and my warriors will fight for you. Never will you be captured again!"
"What of Taylor?" asked a warrior. "He will not allow us to leave. As mighty as Ohnaà is, she is but one. Her bow cannot kill all who outnumber her. We are without weapons and too weak to fight."
"Ohnaà will meet with Taylor," Yahtahchahkee reminded. "She will make sure we are allowed to leave."
"Taylor listens to no one," the warrior retorted. "And what a prize you are to him, Ohnaà. No one knows where you are to rescue you from him."
A girl no older than two seasons tottered into Ohnaà's lap and plopped down. Ohnaà embraced the child whose tiny hands gripped the warrior's massive right forearm.
"If anyone can oppose Trader Taylor, it is Ohnaà," Yahtahchahkee defended. "We must trust her abilities. I do! If you, No-duk, are too afraid, then stay here for the rest of your life while the rest of us follow Ohnaà."
Ohnaà held up a hand to stop the senseless argument.
"Until I am asked to speak with Tay-lor, let us forget about him and discuss plans for your lives of new-found freedom."
Laughing at nothing, the child in Ohnaà's embrace playfully tickled the arm she clung to.
Ohnaà laughed right along with the happy child, the only ray of sunshine in the dark scenario of captured spirits.
Before sunset two husky carbined Trader guards entered the detention barracks.
"You, big Amazoni, come with us," one guard commanded.
Yahtahchahkee looked worried, hoping Ohnaà would not yield to her explosive temper against the demanding Trader.
The Shesh-Amazoni slowly stood. "You will call me Ohnaà," she snapped.
"We don't have time to quibble over names. You had your time here. Trader Taylor desires your presence."
Ohnaà eyed the guards' carbines.
"You have no need to fear our rifles."
"I do not fear them. It is you I have no trust in."
"Then walk behind us for all we care!"
Ohnaà entered Trader Taylor's barracks. The building was the same size as where she came from but furnished with a huge, report-strewn desk and chair. On the white wall behind the desk resting horizontally on wooden pegs was displayed a ten foot metal tipped, black gorak bird feathered war lance.
Trader Taylor, dressed in black suit of soft cloth, sat behind his desk. He was a small weakling of a man with cold, blue eyes and red hair, a color Ohnaà had never before seen.
Upon the desk Ohnaà spied an elaborately carved, palm-sized beige wooden box. Seizing and opening it, she found its red velvet interior empty.
"It's a magic box," Trader Taylor said hoping to play upon Ohnaà's tribal superstitions. "It holds great power."
"This box holds nothing."
"It's invisible, but powerful magic lies within."
Ohnaà snapped the box shut and set it roughly on the desk.
"Ah yah! The box holds no charms or herbs. You own useless Trader medicine."
Taylor hid his disappointment over his failed ploy; Ohnaà was not so easily swayed. Feeling he still had the upper hand, however, he dismissed his reluctant guards.
Scowling, Ohnaà stomped behind the deskbound Trader Taylor and snatched the feathered war lance off its wall pegs. Now Taylor regretted dismissing his guards, for the bow and quivered Ohnaà appeared more of a threat clutching the lance.
"This does not belong to you. It is a warrior's lance."
Ohnaà returned to stand before the desk, leaning the lance against it.
"It was given to me."
"Like most of your kind, you steal. No more! Tay-lor is foolish to think I come to talk. I come to lead Amazoni from this place. They mark no paper. You have no claim on them."
"You're outnumbered and we have rifles. You and your Amazoni will never reach the gates alive."
Having experienced empty Outsider bravado before, Ohnaà was unimpressed. Leaning over the desk, with both hands, she seized the shocked Trader Taylor by his collar and flung him easily over the desk slamming him to the floor on his back, stunned. Grabbing the feathered lance she had leaned against the desk she plunged it into the floorboards pinning Taylor by his sleeve.
"You do not look so strong now, Trader. You cannot stop me from leaving with Amazoni. Remember this day. Remember that the same lance I could have killed you with is now a lance of freedom for Amazoni!"
Ohnaà stormed out of the barracks.
Ohnaà rejoined the eager Amazoni waiting in detainment.
"Yahtahchahkee, there are horses here?"
The Amazoni nodded.
"Not enough to carry all of us."
"Forty guard horses and Taylor's four."
"What happened with the horses you came with?"
"We had to eat them."
"You and No-duk bring the Trader horses here. Be careful with mine for he will try to bite. The eldest and the warriors with children younger than three seasons will ride. The rest must walk."
"And the two guards outside?" No-duk asked.
"I will leave their fate up to you. Go quickly!"
The tot who had enjoyed Ohnaà's lap toddled up to her. Grinning, the warrior picked the girl up. The child happily played with a long lock of Ohnaà's ebony hair.
"You, young one, will ride with me."
Ignoring the bodies of the barrack's guards killed by Yahtahchahkee and No-duk, the designated Amazoni quickly mounted up. Ohnaà placed her tiny charge upon Appaloosa and vaulted up behind her, drawing the child close with a protective arm.
The Amazoni band halted before the gates.
As predicted, the sentries aimed their carbines, scaring all but Ohnaà.
"You're not going anywhere!"
"Open your wall."
No sentry moved.
Unshouldering her bow, Ohnaà notched an arrow.
"Open your wall."
The sentries held their ground.
Ohnaà fired her arrow and felled one. Before the other sentries could react, two more were dispatched with arrows.
Two fearful sentinels climbed down and opened the gates.
Ohnaà shouldered her bow.
"Fire upon us, I will kill many more."
Regally, Ohnaà led her followers out of their reservation to begin life anew. As the band made their way along the prairie, Yahtahchahkee broke into song extolling Ohnaà's great deed, the song repeated until all Amazoni joined in. Ohnaà listened to her praises, her head held high and a slight smile upon her lips as she gazed upon the land ahead.