|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 Et-esh, on their way to Trader Joseph's Trader Lodge with the finest rabbit pelts roped in neat bundles over their horses' withers, reined up as they reached a calm river. Grateful for the respite, the horses plunged their muzzles into the chilled water. Sitting on the grassy bank the warriors hungrily delved into their ration pouches for a small strip of jerked boar meat.
"One of these days," Et-esh said between bites, "I will trim my hair. It is getting too long and thick I think. You should too, Ohnaà. You can almost sit on yours."
"It is getting long. I will have Ojah trim it with his Trader clippers. I do not like handling them, and you had a problem using them on me the last time."
"I think I did all right."
Ohnaà frowned as she chewed her last bite of jerked boar meat.
"Mountains stood straighter than my ends after you were through."
"It was not me! Blame those Trader clippers for not being sharp enough."
"Trimming hair you have not a steady hand. Taking hair you are an expert."
Ohnaà guzzled handfuls of chilled river water that was slightly sweet to the taste. To cool herself, she bathed her face and muscled arms.
"You enjoy the water, daughter of Codot."
"It is the perfect way to cool my hot skin."
Et-esh sprang, hefting Ohnaà twice her size in a bear hug, and clumsily tossed her into the deep water. Hysterically laughing at Ohnaà's sputtering recovery, she desperately wanted to speak but found it impossible.
Smoothing plastered ebony hair off her face, Ohnaà stared at Et-esh, who couldn't stop laughing. Smiling evilly and dripping wet, she stalked out of the river. Hefting the war chief in powerful arms, she pitched Et-esh into the water, submerging her for several seconds. Rising to the surface in a bubbling mass, coughing up water, Et-esh was no longer laughing. At times forgetting Ohnaà's greater strength she now regretted encouraging her. Trudging up the bank she coughed up more water.
"Enjoy your bath, young one?" the grinning Ohnaà asked. "I did not hurt you, did I?"
"You came close to drowning me."
The warriors sat on the river bank to dry off. In the roasting heat it wouldn't take long.
"What will you trade for your pelts, young one?"
"Dukwukka wants a bigger cooking pot and many packets of beads. I need to replace my cracked trade mirror. You?"
"Bracelets for Ojah. He never has enough metal bracelets. They are like his dresses, too many and not enough. I need more Trader tobacco. Ojah says I smoke too much, though."
"Besides her weapons, a warrior needs her tobacco. Dukwukka hid my pipe once. My tepee did not fare well in my search for it. Does Ojah play these tricks on you?"
"He knows better."
"Dukwukka takes advantage of my good nature with his tricks."
"You must be firm with him, young one. Even in humor an Amazoni man must never forget his place."
"I will not strike Dukwukka."
"I have never struck Ojah. Firm words were what I meant."
Et-esh nodded. As always Ohnaà's advice was impeccable and worthy of practice.
By late afternoon Ohnaà and Et-esh arrived at the Trader Lodge. Outside were tethered horses the Amazoni knew belonged to trappers and hunters who constantly flooded the establishment for business as well as for enjoyment of food and spirits. The Amazoni, armed with fine rabbit pelts, entered the Trader Lodge.
Seated at tables were Trader Joseph's eating and drinking patrons, and as usual, Ohnaà's appearance drew stares, but no one ceased activity. The majority now knew that as long as they steered clear of Ohnaà no problem would arise. They were equally cautious of Et-esh--staying out of her way was a given.
Sidling up to the bar, the warriors set down their furs.
The bartender, a short, gaunt, sparsely-haired man of eighty, abandoned his conversation with a group of hunters to wait on Ohnaà and Et-esh.
"Greetings, warrior. What can I get for you today?" he asked Ohnaà.
"You will give me the bitter juice of Gaiyo Leaf."
"I'm afraid the tea isn't hot, as the pot isn't freshly made."
"That does not matter."
"And you, warrior?"
"I like sweet drink."
"I've got red berry juice that's just right for you, I think."
"I will have this drink," Et-esh declared.
"Gaiyo tea and red berry juice coming up." Bartender boldly caressed Ohnaà's bundled rabbit pelts. "I trapped for thirty seasons covering a lot of ground. Never found pelts this fine!" he exclaimed.
"Amazoni know where to look," Ohnaà proudly stated. "We are great hunters of fur."
"So I see."
Ohnaà pointed to an empty table.
"There we will sit. You will tell Jo-teff we are here. After we drink we will trade with him. He knows us well."
"Of course. You won't have to wait long for your drinks. I may be old, but I'm still quick on my feet."
"It is good one who lives as many seasons as you still has the step of a young warrior. That is why you have lived so long."
"I used to have more hair too."
"You are a good man, old one. I will never claim what little scalp you have left."
"I count myself blessed by the compliment."
Bartender left to fill the Amazoni drink order. The warriors sat at the table to wait.
Ohnaà enjoyed the bitter bite of her warm mug of Gaiyo tea.
Et-esh, gulping a nauseatingly sweet mouthful of red berry juice, spat it on the floor.
"This is undrinkable!"
"The old one said it was right for you."
Et-esh shoved her mug at Ohnaà. "Drink!" she commanded.
Ohnaà sucked in a mouthful. Gagging, she spit it on the floor.
"You have nothing to laugh over now."
Ohnaà nodded, wiping her mouth upon a massive forearm.
Sharp-eyed, Bartender hurried to the warriors, stepping into the puddle of Et-esh's mouthful of juice in his haste.
"Guess my concoction curled your tongue a wee bit too much. Can I get you something else? I hate dissatisfied customers."
"Particularly if they're Amazoni!" a patron heckled.
Bartender ignored the loudmouth.
Gathering up her furs Ohnaà stood.
"You tell Jo-teff we were here?"
"Don't know if he heard me. He's pretty busy now."
Collecting her furs, Et-esh stood.
"You will remember me and have better to drink next time."
"You can be sure of it."
Grinning, Et-esh good-naturedly patted the short bartender's balding head.
Watching patrons exploded into boisterous laughter at
Ignoring everyone, the warriors disappeared though the open door behind the bar that led to a catacomb of rooms, including Trader Joseph's.
Trader Joseph sat behind his desk busily writing his supply list, occasionally running fingers through his cropped auburn hair in his frustrated struggle to remember amounts. Restocking inventory was not one of his strengths. "I should have Bartender do this from now on," he grumbled under his breath. So absorbed was Joseph, Ohnaà's and Et-esh's approach went ignored.
"Dahò, Jo-teff," Ohnaà greeted.
Startled, Trader Joseph broke his pencil point, having completely forgotten Bartender's telling him of the warriors' arrival.
Et-esh picked up a wrinkled square of paper studded with scratched out figures replaced with new ones. "Your marks steal you away from important things, Jo-teff." She dropped the paper, which fell curled over itself upon the paper-strewn desk top.
Trader Joseph put aside his pencil.
"We bring fine furs to trade," Ohnaà offered.
Placed upon the desk the furs went unexamined.
"You look troubled, my friend. That is not you. Why are with heavy heart?"
Trader Joseph heaved a sigh.
Joseph rubbed his tired eyes and scratched a stubbly cheek.
"It's my brother, Gregor."
"In all the seasons we have known each other, never have you spoken of a brother."
"Gregor isn't exactly a person I like to speak about, Ohnaà, as he's rotten to the core. Unless I pay him a ridiculous amount of gold to move on, he's threatened to kill my wife Kiddy, my six-season-old daughter, Xona, and me."
"He has killed before?"
"With relish. He makes Cho-hot look civilized in battle."
"I remember Kid-deh well for she saved my life from a long-toothed cat. One day I will meet your daughter to teach her the ways of a warrior. Greg-or will do your family, and you, no harm."
"I can deal with him on my own," Joseph retorted.
"Ah yah! You lie poorly. If Greg-or held no threat, he would have been dealt with long ago and you would have no fear. You are my friend. Long ago did I swear to protect you. Your family, too, will be protected from enemies. Tell me where to find him."
"Only if you spare his life."
"Why should Ohnaà?" Et-esh demanded.
"Because the bastard is my brother, that's why!"
"It makes no sense to allow one who threatens you or your family to live," Et-esh quipped.
"Cho-hot threatens me all the time. She's still alive."
"She does not threaten to kill you and your family. You know she would die if she did," Et-esh reminded.
Ohnaà's patience with the senseless arguing was running thin.
"Enough, young one! I will do as Jo-teff asks. Greg-or will be spared. Where is he?"
Ohnaà listened intently to her Trader friend.
Armed with their trade goods of tobacco, metal bracelets and cooking pot filled with paper-wrapped trade mirror and packets of beads, the Amazoni went to their horses.
"Jo-teff thinks foolishly," Et-esh insisted, tying her cooking pot to a horsehair rope around her buckskin's neck.
"Outsiders do not look at things our way, young one," Ohnaà replied, hooking Ojah's metal bracelets and the new pouch of Trader tobacco to her skins' waistband. "To spare his brother is the right way to him."
"To kill his brother is the right way."
The warriors mounted up.
"Greg-or will live but with new wisdom." Ohnaà glanced at the sky. "It is still early. I will be at the mountains by sunset. Tomorrow I will be at Greg-or's lodge."
"You mean 'we', Ohnaà."
"No, I will go alone."
Ohnaà held up a strong hand, ceasing further debate.
"Tell Ojah I will be gone a while longer."
Without waiting for a reply Ohnaà left.
Disgruntled at being left behind, Et-esh grumbled under her breath as she kicked her horse forward.
Ohnaà arrived in the mountains by nightfall and settled in a chilly cave. After building a fire, she warmed herself as she ate several strips of jerked boar meat. To the soulful howling of a lonely wolf she fell asleep. At dawn she resumed her journey. By afternoon she galloped through the grasslands. Topping a grassy hill, she observed Gregor's rundown shack. Teeth bared, she spurred Appaloosa downhill. Leaping off Appaloosa yards away from the porch, she ran to the door and kicked it open with a mighty, moccasined foot.
Gregor, slovenly dressed with shaggy, auburn hair hanging in dirty shoulder-length locks, his gaunt face stubbly, leaped out of his kitchen table's chair. He dashed aside his bottle of liquor, shattering it. With a shaky hand Gregor reached for the loaded pistol on the table, but Ohnaà hurled knife, its thick blade glittering, beat his hand, stopping him. Through a drunken haze he struggled to focus on the advancing warrior.
In a rage, Ohnaà grabbed the pistol and hurled it through the cabin's open door. Miraculously, the hair trigger didn't cause a discharge when the gun hit the porch. She slammed Gregor into his chair.
Ohnaà clutched Gregor's sweaty throat in a crushing grip, ignoring his struggle for air. "I will talk, you will listen," she hissed.
Frantically Gregor nodded. Released, he struggled to regain his breath while coughing hoarsely.
Gregor stared at the burly warrior, his fear sobering him.
"I am called Ohnaà, friend to your brother, Jo-teff, for many seasons." Despite Gregor's fetid odor, she leaned closer. He recoiled fearfully. "You threaten Jo-teff and his family. That is not good." Withdrawing her knife from the tabletop, slinking behind her foe, Ohnaà seized Gregor's greasy locks and yanked his head back. She rested her knife's thick blade lightly against his neck. "I am very strong, Greg-or. In my first battle, in great rage, I slit my enemy's throat. His head fell off. He was a great warrior but I am mightier. I have taken scalps while enemies live. I have skinned men alive. It would be good to kill you because you are my enemy. Only the wish of Jo-teff saves you." She yanked Gregor's hair, forcing his head back further. "Threaten Jo-teff, his woman, his child again, you will die. Nowhere can you run. I say you should go, never to return. You think I give good advice?"
"Yes," Gregor whispered.
Roughly releasing Gregor, Ohnaà sheathed her blade. She turned at the door and glared at the quaking man. She pointed.
"Remember well the words of Ohnaà for they are true words!"
Gregor--lost within the black depths of a rescuing faint--never heard the pounding of the Shesh-Amazoni's horse galloping away.