|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|
Like an unsolicited beacon, shards of sunrise perforated the bedroom window of Trader Joseph's youngest daughter, Sah-leshgoo, resting submerged beneath her patched quilt. Any minute her father was going to stomp into her room to get her up. She was in no mood for food and even less for the morning chores that never ceased, before the worst of chores: school. She compressed into a tighter ball, her movements giving her quilt a heaving life of its own. Started by a gentle slap upon her rump, Sah-leshgoo flung the covers off her head.
Trader Joseph stood, fists balled upon his hips. "Out of bed young lady," he ordered. "I'm not going to be running back and forth trying to get you up. You have things to do before school."
"Don't 'Papa' me. Out of bed."
Sah-leshgoo swung her long legs over the side of the bed.
"If it was Xona, you'd let her sleep."
"We never let your older sister sleep this late. After breakfast you have your morning chores before school. This time you do them right. I've been too lax with you on them."
"All right! All right!"
"I'm leaving for the Trader Lodge now. You be good."
Joseph hurriedly planted a kiss upon Sah-leshgoo's cheek and left.
"You be good," Sah-leshgoo mocked harshly under her breath as she slipped into her long pants and oversized long sleeved shirt. "I'm twelve-seasons-old and you're always treating me like a child, Papa," she rumbled. "I hate school and I hate all the work I have to do around here since Xona left."
Grabbing her brush, she savagely flattened her waist-length auburn hair's tangles in front of her dressing room mirror.
"Sah-leshgoo!" Joseph's wife, Kiddy, called.
"Coming!" she roared, hopping around frantically while slipping on her leather shoes. She joined her mother at the breakfast table. She scowled when she sighted her bowl of thick yellow porridge supporting a golden lump of melting butter.
"Can't we have something more than this?"
Kiddy ignored the comment.
"Don't forget to feed your mare."
"She's not mine, Momma, she's Xona's."
"She's your responsibility. An Amazoni horse needs good care."
"I should've gotten my own horse!"
Kiddy stood. "I'm not going to argue about something as petty as a horse. You've spoiled my appetite enough with your foul mood this morning." She seized her daughter's untouched bowl of porridge. "Go feed the mare, pull out the garden's weeds, and get water from the well to water the vegetable plants before school," she dictated.
Sah-leshgoo slammed the door behind her.
Shaking her head, Kiddy heaved a heavy sigh. One day she thought that door would be slammed right off its hinges.
The Amazoni palomino mare hastily fed, the garden's weeds ripped out with a vengeance, Sah-leshgoo returned to the house. Upon the table Kiddy had neatly stacked her daughter's books.
"You have a good day in school today."
Grabbing her books, Sah-leshgoo wordlessly stamped out, followed by her mother.
Kiddy stood on the porch watching her younger daughter ride off at a gallop, deeply hurt that she was not given a hug and kiss goodbye.
Out of sight of the house, Sah-leshgoo tossed her books aside. Savagely kicking Palomino's ribs she pressed on, her destination as far from home as possible. Trotting through the grasslands, she reined up for a rest. Dismounting she sat upon a gnarled dead log and watched the famished mare rip up mouthfuls of grass. She leaped to her feet. Arms spread, she twirled around and around. "I'm free!" she shouted. "No more books, school, and parents!"
In her newfound joy, Sah-leshgoo remained ignorant of the four-legged stalker slinking toward her through high tawny grass. The tan long-toothed cat, flicking his tufted tail, licked his jaws hungrily as he crept closer to the dancing child. With a loud bellow he stepped from his cover of grass.
Paralyzed with fear, Sah-leshgoo stared wide-eyed at the advancing cat.
Beady yellow eyes seeming to glow, roaring his war cry, the long-toothed cat sprang.
Reflexively shielding her face, gray eyes closed, Sah-leshgoo shrieked shrilly.
The whiz of air signaled the arrow's penetration into the great cat's forehead, felling him with a heavy thump.
Whirling around, Sah-leshgoo gazed upon the burly, mahogany-skinned, sable-haired woman warrior dressed in skimpy skins mounted atop Appaloosa, dark skin glistening with sweat, clutching her heavy bow. Walking Appaloosa beside the cat, Ohnaà dismounted. Yanking her arrow from the animal's skull with a grunt she plunked it absently into her quiver.
"You were lucky, young one."
Breathing hard in her struggle to compose herself, Sah-leshgoo dumbly nodded.
"It is not often a Trader child roams Amazoni land."
"I'm twelve-seasons-old. I'm not a child!"
Ohnaà shouldered her bow.
"To Amazoni you are a child. How are you called?"
The warrior's stern features melded into a broad smile. "Ah yah!" she exclaimed examining the auburn-haired girl. "You have grown tall and sturdy! I am Ohnaà. In my camp were you born. You bear the name I give you."
Sah-leshgoo displayed no sign of recognition.
"Did your father, Trader Jo-teff, not tell you of me?"
"Guess I wasn't listening."
"That is sad."
Ohnaà offered her water gourd.
Sah-leshgoo dipped heavily into the gourd's frosty water before returning it.
"Why do you ride Amazoni land?"
"I ran away from home."
"I hate living with my parents. I hate them for sending me to school, I hate all the chores I have to do since my sister, Xona left for her fancy school."
"Jo-teff told me much of Trader school. He said you learn many things. You make numbers, you learn to follow the scratchings on paper, you learn of other lands."
"I don't care what you say. I hate school and will never go back!"
"Then you should not. What work does Jo-teff and Kid-deh make you do that you choose to leave?" Ohnaà baited.
"Hard things like pulling weeds in the garden, cleaning the horses' stalls, planting crops, bringing in water from the well, washing dishes. Why, Papa even made me paint the barn last month!"
"He make you do this alone?"
"No, but I had to help."
"Perhaps living the Trader way is not for Sah-leshgoo born among Amazoni."
"Can I live with you then? It'll be fun living your way because you're carefree."
Ohnaà chuckled. The trap was sprung.
"If you wish."
Sah-leshgoo nodded vigorously.
"I will send a messenger to your parents to tell them where you are."
"I don't want them to know where I am!"
"You have no say. Jo-teff and Kid-deh will be told. Come."
The pair quickly mounted up.
In silence Ohnaà and Trader Joseph's daughter rode the grassland for hours before topping a high bluff where they halted. Below stood the tepees of the Amazoni. The camp bustled with people. Amazoni men in ankle-length fringed dresses holding fleshing knives hunched over skins near racks of drying strips of meat. Children of all ages chased after each other in play, pursued by barking dogs. Warriors groomed their horses in the corral. At the lake outside of camp dress clad men gathered water in animal stomach pouches and washed clothes while people of both genders, unashamedly naked, played and swam in the water. Ohnaà gazed lovingly upon it all.
"I can see that."
"Tepees, people walking around and working, dogs playing, children racing around, men in funny dresses working. You have warriors in the corral and people swimming."
"Now I will open Sah-leshgoo's eyes. Amazoni are not strangers to each other so it is nothing to have a cousin's tepee close to another cousin. You see people walking, but they always go somewhere. We do not wander."
"You don't take walks for the pleasure of taking walks?"
"Knowing where we are going, we take pleasure. It keeps us centered.
"You say our men wear funny dresses, but each dress takes much time to make, and they are made with pride. No two dresses are alike. It is bad luck to use the pattern of another's dress even if it is faster to make, for to steal a pattern takes strength from the original owner.
"My skins have the same look as all warriors but they are different. I do not wear ornaments upon them. I want eyes to see me, not what beads or bangle decorate my skins. Yet many warriors do wear ornaments on their skins that reflect the sun or rattle. I like the soft skin of the doe, while other warriors like the tougher skin of the male deer. Others wear the treated skins of boar. Your people all dress alike. They show no pride or imagination in what they wear.
"You see our children play side by side without fighting. All Amazoni children are equal. It also does not matter the age. An older child will play with a younger one for games are meant for all. You could play with our children. They do not know you but you would still be welcome to join their game. It would not matter that you do not speak their words. You will understand in your own way and they will understand you. Outsider children would shun an Amazoni child because they are Amazoni.
"Our dogs, too, are different. They know they will get food so they do not steal from the meat racks. If we are starving we will eat our horses, but we will never eat our dogs for they are brothers to Wolf.
"Our men do their work well. If there are skins to be fleshed, they will work until the sun sets. The next day they may finish the skin. But the skin is soft. It lasts. It is not a chore to do their task right and they will not accept less. Until the skin is exactly how it is supposed to be, the skin will be worked on.
"Sah-leshgoo now sees my camp."
Ohnaà led the way down the bluff.
Shesh-Amazoni and Trader child halted in the camp's center, the young one's presence a curiosity to the crowd.
"This is Trader Jo-teff's daughter, Sah-leshgoo," Ohnaà announced in Amazoni. "She was born here twelve seasons ago. She comes to learn our ways." Her gaze locked onto war chief Chooka standing beside war chief Et-esh. "Chooka, you will ride to Jo-teff's home and tell him that Sah-leshgoo is safe. When she wishes to return I will bring her."
Nodding, Chooka loped to the corral for her horse.
Ohnaà and Sah-leshgoo dismounted.
A boy in a fringed dress approached.
"My friends want to run races. We need another runner. Will Sah-leshgoo play with us?"
Ohnaà turned to her charge.
"Yah-oat invites you to join his group of friends for races."
Sah-leshgoo smiled at the boy.
"I'm good at running!"
"When it is time I will come for you."
Laughing, Yah-oat and his friends, both boys and girls, pulled Sah-leshgoo along, babbling away as though she understood every word.
Et-esh sidled beside her friend watching the Trader child.
"Sah-leshgoo is unhappy living with Jo-teff and Kid-deh so she ran away."
"Where did you find her?"
"The grasslands. I killed a long-toothed cat about to eat her. She thinks the life of Amazoni is better than living with her parents. She will learn soon enough not to harbor false ideas about our life.
"Now she plays. Tomorrow her learning begins."
Et-esh grinned. The child was in for more than one surprise under Ohnaà's tutelage.
War chief Chooka arrived at Trader Joseph's cabin and reined up at the corral. Only the team of horses stared back. She checked the garden. Only the vegetable plants greeted her. She trotted her mount back to the cabin and dismounted. Uneasy around Outsider homes, Chooka was at first hesitant to approach the door. Having a message to relay, her hesitancy was short-lived. Padding across the sunken porch, the war chief pounded upon the weathered wooden door.
Kiddy open the door. "Come in," she invited.
Understanding only the open door, Chooka entered. The cabin, spacious by Outsider standards, seemed cramped to the warrior used to roomy Amazoni tepees. "Jo-teff," she grunted.
"He'll be here shortly. Would you like to sit down to wait for my husband?"
Chooka stared blankly.
Kiddy went to the rough-hewn wooden table and chairs and sat to demonstrate her invitation.
Nodding, the warrior joined her.
"Would you like something to eat or drink?" Kiddy signed.
Chooka shook her head.
An hour passed before Trader Joseph came through the door.
Chooka and Kiddy rose as one.
"What a nice surprise to see you, Chooka," Joseph greeted in Amazoni.
"It is good to see you, friend Jo-teff. Your daughter, Sah-leshgoo, comes to our camp with Ohnaà who will return her when she decides to return."
"What is my daughter doing there?" Joseph roared.
"Ohnaà says the child wishes to learn our ways."
"So our way is not good enough now!"
"I think by the time Ohnaà is through, your daughter will return soon."
"And if she decides to stay?"
"I know only what Ohnaà has told me to tell you."
Inclining her head, Chooka took her leave.
Kiddy wept in her husband's arms.
* * * * * * *
As dusk descended, Ohnaà found Sah-leshgoo sitting at the lake's edge outside of camp, trailing her fingers through the water, watching the ripples echo endlessly.
Startled, the child turned around.
"I didn't hear you behind me."
"Open your ears. Come. Ojah has boar stew for us."
Sah-leshgoo stood. "Why do you snap at everything I say?" she demanded.
"I do not understand."
"You make me describe your camp then chastise me because I don't see what you want, and now you scold me for not hearing you."
The couple slowly made their way to Ohnaà's tepee.
"You wish to learn our ways, do you not?"
"You must learn to really see. You are not alert so I scold."
"I could be deaf, you know."
"The sister of my mother, Codot, could not hear. She learned to feel footsteps. In fun did I try to sneak up on her. Always did she sense me. She spoke in sign."
"Can I meet her?"
"She is long dead."
"Did she die in battle?"
"No. She was very old."
Settling beside the lodge fire with its bubbling pot of venison stew swimming in rich gravy, Ojah passed out full bowls.
Between bites, Sah-leshgoo chattered about her new friends' game of foot racing. The more she talked, the more annoyed Ohnaà became.
"Saydahà! Be quiet! Food cannot be enjoyed when words crowd the air. Tell your tale when finished."
Blinking back tears at the warrior's harshness,
Sah-leshgoo ate in silence, with Ohnaà the uncaring object of the child's fleeting dirty looks.
The following morning just after dawn, an hour
Sah-leshgoo was unaccustomed to waking, Ohnaà shook her.
"You will bathe in the lake, eat, then help Ojah with his tasks for a while before you come with me for more lessons."
Rubbing her eyes, the child sat up.
"How early is it? I just went to bed it seems."
"The sun rises."
Sah-leshgoo hid under her furs.
Ripping away the hides, in no mood for silly games, Ohnaà roughly yanked the child to her feet, shocking her. Never had her parents been so rough.
"Amazoni rise with the sun. You have much to learn today."
Sah-leshgoo ripped her arm from the warrior's vise-like grip.
"You're as bossy as my parents!"
Ohnaà folded brawny arms across her chest. "You are always free to leave us," she challenged. "Perhaps I should have named you Baychay. In our tongue it means baby."
"I'm not a baby!"
"Stop complaining, rebel child."
Grumbling under her breath, Sah-leshgoo stomped out of the lodge for her morning bath in the lake.
Ojah entered with an armload of fresh wood.
"Sah-leshgoo looked angry as I passed."
"It is nothing, my mate."
Ojah neatly stacked his wood in a corner of the lodge and put his kettle of breakfast stew upon the fire to warm.
The meal was enjoyed in customary silence. At its conclusion, Ohnaà rose.
"Ojah has many things to do. Watch him closely as you help, Sah-leshgoo."
"I want to go with you."
"Later. I go now."
Ohnaà left without a word.
Sah-leshgoo turned to Ojah, who smiled warmly.
"She's so mean!"
Standing, Ojah motioned his charge to rise.
"I suppose I have no choice but to come with you. Here I want to learn fun things and I'm stuck doing work! And all you do is smile stupidly."
Taken aback by the harshness in the child's voice, Ojah's happiness dissipated into a frown; his huge azure eyes misted with tears.
Sah-leshgoo wrapped a reassuring hand about Ojah's small shoulders.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, I really didn't."
Comforted, Ojah's smile returned.
"What do we have to do?"
By the hand, Ojah led his pupil behind the tepee where a woven Trader basket filled with clothing skins. He made motions of washing a skin upon a rock, and pointed to himself and Sah-leshgoo. He thrust the basket of clothes at the child and nudged her forward.
"You want me to lead you to the lake?"
Ojah nudged more urgently. He didn't enjoy the chore, but like mates everywhere, the sooner laundry was tended to, the sooner it would be done.
Ojah hummed to himself as he worked. Every now and then he would nod approval of Sah-leshgoo's washing progress. The child hated the sun beating down upon her. Soon the urge was so overwhelming that she bolted. Resentful of being abandoned but refusing to abandon his laundry, Ojah continued, hoping Ohnaà would return soon and straighten things out. He had not long to wait before the warrior appeared beside him.
"Where is she?"
"The heat was too much for her. She was doing fine, then the urge to swim overcame her. I did not stop her because I did not want to stop washing. Forgive me for doing nothing."
"I will tend to it."
Stomping into the lake, obsidian eyes blazing, all scattered except her charge whose back was turned. Grabbing Sah-leshgoo by her long auburn locks, Ohnaà dragged her kicking and screaming from the lake and tossed her upon the grassy bank.
"You were given a task to do and you will do it! You do not play when Ojah needs help."
Sah-leshgoo cried as she stood.
"Do not waste your tears upon me. Here we work until the task is done or we are called away. Because of your thoughtlessness, you will not go with me to hunt."
"Please let me come! I'll be good next time. I promise!" the child wept.
"Finish the task Ojah gives you, and perhaps I will change my mind!"
Ohnaà stomped on her way.
Sah-leshgoo looked after the warrior resentfully. Wiping her tears dry, determined to show up Ohnaà, she rejoined Ojah and washed her pile of clothes with renewed vigor.
Late that afternoon, armed with bow and quiver Ohnaà approached Sah-leshgoo and Ojah, hanging strips of bloody meat on racks behind the tepee. She spoke in Amazoni to Ojah.
"I am told you learn well."
"I've learned I don't like being yelled at by you either. I'm still mad at you for yanking me by the hair."
"You are not really. You still speak to me."
"Would it have mattered if I didn't?"
Sah-leshghoo's gray eyes grew large with amazement. Ohnaà cared deeply about how she was perceived after all.
"Let us walk to the horses. This is our time now."
"But I'm not finished hanging up the meat. I won't leave Ojah until I'm done."
Filled with pride, Ohnaà grinned.
"I will watch."
"We don't need you in our way. I know where the corral is to meet up with you."
Ohnaà burst into hearty laughter. It was amusing to see the rebel child determined to put a warrior in her place so soon after arrival.
"Ah yah! To keep my scalp, I will leave you then."
Sah-leshgoo giggled. It was the first time since arriving that she could laugh at anything.
Meat hanging finally completed, the Trader child ambled to the corral where Ohnaà waited beside Appaloosa.
"You need new clothes."
The child examined her long pants and long sleeved shirt. "What's wrong with what I have on?" she demanded.
"You will dress in warrior skins. I will teach you how to make them. It will take many days. When we return you will look like Amazoni."
Ohnaà pointed to a bridled bay mare standing in a corner of the corral.
"You will ride that horse from my herd. In this way you will learn to handle any animal."
Sah-leshgoo went for the horse, who trotted away from her time after time.
Inwardly amused, arms folded across her chest, Ohnaà watched.
"She won't come to me!"
"She is no Trader horse who stands stupidly. Ours have minds of their own. Woo her with quiet words so she will not feel threatened. Chase her, she runs."
The mare refused to stand still.
"I can't do it! This is hopeless!"
"Listen to the words she speaks through the positions of her ears."
Speaking gently to the mare on approach, Sah-leshgoo noted the mare flatten her ears before she bolted. Employing another strategy, she followed every twist and turn of the animal, gradually looming closer until she could grasp the reins.
Vaulting onto Appaloosa Ohnaà walked to the child.
"Now you can capture any horse in the corral. You master patience and the day did not run away while it waited for you."
Sah-leshgoo easily vaulted upon Bay's back.
"You can at least say I did a good job."
"Ah yah! Taking a tame horse is nothing. We will hunt deer for food and your clothes. Take down your first deer, that is praise worthy."
Warrior and rebel child headed into the forest in search of deer. Spying one feeding, Ohnaà dismounted, motioning for Sah-leshgoo to follow. Creeping up upon their quarry, the warrior unshouldered her bow, notched an arrow, and handed the weapon to her companion.
"What do I do?" Sah-leshgoo whispered, never before having handled a bow.
Ohnaà pantomimed an answer.
Sah-leshgoo aimed carefully and with difficulty pulled the bowstring.
The doe, tail flapping and ears twitching, continued to graze. Suddenly she lifted her head, looking around as she chewed. At that moment Sah-leshgoo loosed her arrow, felling Doe.
Ohnaà grinned. "Ah yah!" she exclaimed. "That was a good shot! Even I did not hit my prey the first time with an arrow. I needed two!" Ohnaà clasped Sah-leshgoo's shoulder. "You shoot like an experienced hunter. This is something to tell Ojah and Et-esh! You will skin this one before we eat it. Then we will find other deer for your clothes."
"How many do we need?
"Five deer. It takes many skins just to make knee-high moccasins."
"I can't eat five more deer!"
Ohnaà chuckled softly.
"I can. Come."
Obeying careful instruction, Sah-leshgoo skinned the deer.
"You must learn to skin with as little shed blood as possible so no long-toothed cat catches the scent while we are here and prey upon us."
"Won't we be smelled anyway if the wind is right?"
"The long-toothed cat knows more blood means prey is hunted by those who do not care if discovered. Less blood takes longer to be smelled. Long-toothed cat comes, he cannot tell how long ago was the hunt. There are no insects to tell him. He will not search for the hunter."
Taking over, Ohnaà cut out Doe's heart with a smile and offered it to the child. "You earn the right to eat this because you brought the deer down. It is best raw."
Ohnaà's smile faded.
"It is our way."
Sah-leshgoo bit into the deer heart and was surprised. It was spongy and sweet. Her eyes widened as she chewed a bigger bite. Nodding, Ohnaà yipped a shrill shout of approval.
As Sah-leshgoo foraged for wood, her longing to be home increased. Living the Amazoni way was becoming annoyingly hard and messy despite the triumphs.
After days of messy treatments with deer brains to soften their hides, stretching, drying, and finally sewing using bone needle and deer sinew with only Ohnaà's instructions for help, Sah-leshgoo's bikini skins and knee-high fringed moccasins were ready to wear.
"These skins are so skimpy!"
Ohnaà enthusiastically displayed a flexed massive left bicep. "It is good to show your strength!" she exclaimed. "Trader clothes hides it."
"Turn around while I change."
Ohnaà folded her arms across her chest. "Ah yah! Amazoni are not shamed by their bodies," she chastised.
Embarrassed, Sah-leshgoo quickly slipped out her Trader pants and long-sleeved shirt and into her skins and moccasins, blushing at being so exposed.
"You own an Amazoni name, you hunt like Amazoni, now you look Amazoni with clothes you make. This is good to see."
Ohnaà sat, motioning Sah-leshgoo down as she offered her a thick strip of jerked boar meat. Nipping off a crumb the girl frowned. She hated jerked meat.
Ohnaà ripped off a massive bite and chewed the tough meat with ease.
After their meal, Ohnaà whistled for Appaloosa then vaulted gracefully upon his broad flecked back.
The child retrieved Bay.
By the time the pair reached camp days later, twilight blanketed the land. After settling their horses into the corral beneath the rising double moons and serenade of Harmony bugs and trilling frogs, warrior and rebel child walked briskly to their tepee.
Sah-leshgoo nestled beneath her furs in a corner pretending to be asleep. Lighting her pipe and ignoring Ojah's snoring, Ohnaà studied the child's bundle of furs and smoked until she felt drowsy.
It was late when Ohnaà's eyes snapped open. Her sensitive hearing had detected muted sobbing from Sah-leshgoo's corner. Silent as a panther, Ohnaà dressed and padded to the sleeping furs that covered the child. Gently she uncovered the sobbing child.
Finger to lips, Ohnaà motioned the girl to follow her outside. They walked to the lake outside of camp and sat.
"Your heart is very heavy."
The child nodded.
"I miss Momma and Papa. I know you're trying to teach me things, but I miss home so much that...that..."
Unable to continue, Sah-leshgoo burst into tears.
Ohnaà wrapped the child within a comforting muscular hug.
"I want to go home," Sah-leshgoo wailed over and over as the warrior rocked her, blinking back her own tears.
"I will take you to Jo-teff and Kid-deh tomorrow." Ohnaà gently pulled away and lifted the child's chin. "I am proud that you find where you belong."
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier. I was too ashamed to admit I was wrong."
Ohnaà wiped away the girl's tears.
"Please don't be mad at me."
A slight smile upon her face, Ohnaà shook her head.
"I am the foolish one for not seeing your pain."
"I guess we both messed up."
"I do not understand your words."
"I made the mistake of running away, and you made the mistake of trying to make me into what I'm not."
"We both learn a good lesson. You are better now?"
"Let us go back to sleep."
Sah-leshgoo happily ate her breakfast bowl of hot herbed venison stew.
As the meal concluded, Ohnaà explained to Ojah it was time for the child to go home. Ojah hurried to his side of the high fur bed and drew from beneath a fur flap a small box of painted, toughened hide. Opening it he selected a tiny, bloated beaded pouch strung on a thong. Returning to the fire, he happily offered it to Sah-leshgoo.
"This is beautiful!" she exclaimed as she examined it.
"Open," Ohnaà encouraged.
Within the pouch were a small ball of sinew, a bone needle painted red, and a flattened quarter-sized rock of clear quartz.
"Ojah offers as a gift his spare sewing pouch. The stone has much power. It gives whoever uses the sinew and needle a steady hand and luck in that whatever you make will come out well. The pouch is on a thong to wear so you will not lose it. Ojah can always make another pouch and find another luck stone. You are special to him. He never gives away his things."
"Thank you so much, Ojah. I'll take good care of your gift."
Ojah beamed at the translation.
"But I have nothing to give him in return."
"You are Ojah's friend."
Sah-leshgoo carefully replaced the ball of sinew, rock, and red painted bone needle within the intricately beaded pouch. Ohnaà settled the pouch around the child's neck. Before leaving, the child fiercely hugged Ojah.
* * * * * * *
Hours later, at the sight of her home in the distance, Sah-leshgoo kicked hard Palomino's ribs.
Grinning, Ohnaà followed suit Appaloosa's long-legged pace rapidly catching up. Reining up in a cloud of dust, Ohnaà howled a shrill war cry.
Trader Joseph and Kiddy ran outside.
Sliding off her mount, Sah-leshgoo ran into the arms of her sobbing mother, who hugged and kissed her, barely noticing that she was dressed in the skins of a warrior. Excitedly Sah-leshgoo showed her mother the new sewing pouch around her neck, explaining its contents. Kiddy hugged her child with renewed passion as Joseph looked on with shining eyes.
"Did she give you much trouble?"
"Not much. She hunts the deer for her skins and is good with the bow. Ojah like her."
"We really missed her."
"She miss you and Kid-deh. It was good to have her living in my tepee. I do not think she will give you trouble when you tell her to do things."
"No doubt you taught her well with that."
Trader Joseph burst into laughter.
Sah-leshgoo ran to her father and embraced him tightly.
"It's good to be home, Papa."
"I'm glad you're home. By the way, I found your lost books."
Kiddy joined her daughter and husband standing with the mounted Ohnaà.
Ohnaà inclined her head a fraction of an inch.
Kiddy and her daughter went into the house.
"It is my hope, Jo-teff, that Sah-leshgoo visits again but under better ways."
"I'm sure she will."
Ohnaà hefted a hand in farewell. "Dahò, Jo-teff," she bade and cantered away.
Trader Joseph entered the cabin and closed the door, eager to hear his daughter's exiting tale.