|Written by:||Lisa Godin (bio, contact, other stories)|
|Story type:||Serial Fiction|
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|Written by:||Lisa Godin (bio, contact, other stories)|
|Story type:||Serial Fiction|
Ohnaà enthusiastically devoured her last spoonful of Ojah's exalted spiced white bark pudding at the conclusion of a hearty breakfast. With a burp of satisfaction, she rubbed her muscled belly and smiled.
"Did you notice something different about your pudding, my warrior?"
Ohnaà shook her head.
"I should have known better than to ask. Warriors know nothing about cooking."
"Tell me what was different," Ohnaà encouraged.
"My new herb makes your pudding spicier. I found it while I was gathering wood. Had it not been for the tiny burnished golden blossoms, I would have dismissed the bush as nothing more than a weed. Tasting a blossom--"
"It is unwise to taste a new plant. You could have poisoned yourself. I am too old to search for another mate. Next time you see a plant you wish to try bring Medicine Woman along--"
"I do not need her," Ojah admonished. "I was taught long ago what to look for in a safe plant."
"I worry about you, Ojah."
"I am not totally helpless."
"I will use that plant more often for my pudding."
"Whatever you use it in I would enjoy." Ohnaà stood. "I think I will patrol our land today."
The warrior went to the tepee entrance.
"You grow forgetful. You leave without your bow and quiver. What if something happens?"
Unappeased, Ojah hurried to the tepee's back wall beside the high fur bed where Ohnaà's bow, quiver, and Trader rifle with its gold inlay stock leaned, grabbed the bow and quiver and ran back to his warrior and thrust them at her.
"You will take these. If they are unneeded, you lose nothing by taking them."
"Take them!" Ojah commanded.
Shouldering her weapons, Ohnaà affectionately caressed Ojah's cheek.
"Your concern makes me proud, my mate."
Ojah hugged his warrior.
* * * * * * *
Ohnaà patrolled her prairie and grasslands. Reaching a canyon corridor, she abruptly halted midway upon hearing echoed voices of men speaking. Traders! Urging Appaloosa into a gallop she traversed the winding canyon throat, emerging onto another stretch of prairie where she saw several yards ahead five Traders seated around their fire eating an Amazoni deer, their backs toward her. She screeched a blood curdling war cry as she reined up.
Reflexively, four of the Traders grabbed their rifles. Their leader, a burly man with shoulder-length sable hair and cold blue eyes, stood. Making no move for his own carbine, he spread wide his arms.
One Trader, whose finger inched over the trigger of his carbine, provoked Ohnaà to load her bow and fire an arrow through the man's broad-brimmed hat, impaling it into the ground behind him.
"Easy boys," the Trader leader reminded, gradually lowering his arms. "Hate to have one of you with an arrow stuck between your eyes. Or lower."
Ohnaà notched another arrow and aimed it at another Trader when no move was made to disarm.
"Drop your rifles now, " the Trader master ordered harshly.
Reluctantly the command was obeyed.
Relaxing slightly, Ohnaà lowered her bow.
The Trader leader cautiously approached.
"Could you put that thing away?"
Ohnaà quivered her arrow and shouldered her bow.
"That's better. Everybody calls me Whiskey. And you?"
The warrior thumbed a fist to her chest.
"I am Ohnaà."
"Well I'll be! You're that Shesh-Amazoni everyone's been howling about for so long. Quite an honor to meet such a legend."
"I do not share the pleasure of meeting Wee-skeh."
"What a shame. I'm such a nice person," he replied sarcastically.
"You do not belong on my land. Take your warriors and go."
"Sorry, no can do. See, we're on a special hunting expedition."
Ohnaà's attention was so riveted upon Whiskey that the Trader unhooking a rope from his belt went unnoticed.
"We're not searching for just any animal," Whiskey continued. He looked to his man with the rope. "Now!" he shouted.
Before Ohnaà could react, the Outsider's rope was hurled with practiced speed about her chest, and with a mighty heave she was yanked off Appaloosa.
Whisky and his companions aimed cocked carbines at the grounded Ohnaà's head.
"You're the animal I've been searching for and you just made my day."
Whiskey slammed his carbine's stock against Ohnaà's temple knocking her out. "Tie her hands and feet and slap her over her horse. We've got a ways to go before we make camp again."
At sunset the Traders made camp. The unconscious tied up Ohnaà hanging over Appaloosa like a corpse was flung upon the ground like a sack of potatoes, her bow and quiver taken by Whiskey as booty. Gradually regaining her senses, the warrior struggled to a sitting position and glared at Whiskey. Downing his cup of coffee, the Trader joined Ohnaà.
"Glad to see you're awake. We have some leftover venison for you."
Ohnaà glared silently.
"Fine. Be hungry. Don't say I never offered."
Her ankle and wrist bonds holding despite her incredible strength's pull, resigned herself to settling upon her side, mentally preparing herself for whatever fate awaited her before falling asleep.
The Traders got the horses ready the following morning, not bothering to prepare breakfast.
"I'll cut your ankle bonds."
Kneeling and drawing his knife, Whiskey slashed apart Ohnaà's ankle bonds.
"You don't look the running type. As fast as you probably are, a bullet will bring you down faster."
Trader Whiskey hauled Ohnaà to her feet, shoving her toward Appaloosa.
The following morning the Traders arrived in town with Ohnaà bringing up the rear attracting interested gawkers.
The mighty daughter of Codot rode ramrod straight, eyes forward, ignoring the epithets hurled at her. As only an Amazoni could, she covertly studied the town out of the corners of her eyes, noting the dilapidated country store, boarding house, livery stable, saloon and Mabel's Bordello whose porch railings penned gawking prostitutes and patrons.
A woman clad in ankle-length dress of gray cloth, glistening raven hair fashioned into a tight bun with only a few strands fluffed over small ears bejeweled with dangling diamond earrings, huge brown eyes reflecting eternal fatigue and sadness, rushed to Whiskey's side.
"Whiskey, what have you done now?"
"Caught me the famous Shesh-Amazoni, Ohnaà, and I intend to have a little fun with her."
"Why? She's done nothing to you."
"She exists. What other reason do I need?"
"Common sense and decency to know better!"
"Sentika, that drab dress of yours makes you look innocent enough, but as Mabel's most popular whore, you're the last to blab about decency."
Blushing, Sentika waited until the company advanced and then sidled up beside Ohnaà.
"I'm sorry for what my brother's done to you. He's got no right. I sincerely apologize."
Ohnaà continued to glare ahead.
Ignored, Sentika stopped in her tracks to watch the company of townsfolk, Trader captors, and warrior rein up at the brick jailhouse. Ashamed of the spectacle, she ran back to Mabel's Bordello where she lived and worked.
Dismounting, Whiskey yanked Ohnaà from her horse to the laughter of the gathered mob.
"Damn savage doesn't even fight," called one bear of a man with a bushy black beard and beady eyes.
"It's because she's smart, Markoo. I've got special plans for this one."
"What plans?" Markoo demanded. "Setting her up in Mabel's Bordello? She'd certainly bring a pretty penny for anyone in need of exotic savage flesh. Hell, drunk enough I'd even take her!"
"Markoo, if this one could even be broke to whorin', you couldn't pay enough let alone know what to do with her. That's why you spend so much time mucking out your livery stall. Only the mares will have you."
The laughter grew louder.
"The Pox on you too, Whiskey!" Markoo snarled.
"So what do you have in mind for the barbarian?" a man shouted.
"You'll see. First she needs some time in jail. Find that whore of a sister of mine. Maybe she can get this Shesh-Amazoni trash to eat."
Carbine barrel pressed against Ohnaà muscular back, Trader Whiskey nudged her into the jailhouse.
Trader Whiskey unlocked the creaky cell door, cut through Ohnaà's wrist bonds and shoved her into the cell. Teeth bared, she rushed the closed door, swiping at Trader Whiskey desirous of ripping out his throat missing him by inches.
"Be seeing you, barbarian. Hauling you in gave me a powerful thirst, but nothing a few drinks can't cure. My sister will be here shortly with some food. To endure what I've planned, you'll need the nourishment."
Laughing, Trader Whiskey left.
Ignoring the bed the seething Ohnaà sat upon the floor, arms folded across her chest. An hour after the sun set, Whiskey's sister, Sentika, approached armed with a tray bearing a glass of cloudy water, a chunk of brown bread, and a thin slice of steaming venison.
"I'm sorry I couldn't get more for you."
Sentika slid the food tray through an opening at the bottom of the cell door.
Rising, Ohnaà approached the door.
Sentika instinctively backed away.
"What will Wee-skeh do to me?"
"I don't know."
"I do nothing to him. Why does he bear such hatred for me?"
"I don't know."
"You do not know much, yet you know enough to keep me caged."
"What can I do?" Sentika wailed.
What a pitiful creature, the warrior thought. The answer was as plain as day.
With renewed rage, Ohnaà hefted her food tray and hurled it at the cell door, splattering its contents with a clatter. "Release me!" she commanded.
"I can't! I just can't!"
Teeth bared Ohnaà rattled the bars of her cage door.
Later, Trader Whiskey paid a visit to his glowering prisoner seated cross-legged upon the floor, arms folded.
"Seems you upset my sister pretty fierce and making this food mess. She babbled something about you demanding she set you free. You didn't strike me as the begging type."
Ohnaà's answer was an irritated sigh.
"Fine. Don't say a damn word. Tomorrow you'll be talking plenty."
Trader Whiskey stormed out.
The next afternoon Trader Whiskey, coiled whip attached to his belt, visited Ohnaà accompanied by two brawny friends who forced her to her feet. Struggling fiercely, she was dragged to the livery stable where an audience lined every available space, crowding the stalled horses. From high rafters hung two long ropes. A fierce skirmish ensued in the process of tying the ropes around the Shesh-Amazoni's wrists. The ropes were then secured around two solid rafters, stretching Ohnaà's muscular arms as far as they could reach overhead.
Trader Whiskey unhitched his belt's whip.
Sentika broke from the spectators.
"Please don't hurt her!"
Trader Whiskey slapped Sentika to the ground.
Ohnaà strained against her bonds, powerless to help the woman coming to her defense.
Leaping to her feet, Sentika sprang at her brother, feebly attempting to rip the whip from his hand, only to be flung aside as if she were a straw doll while the mob laughed. Unable to help, too afraid to run, she melted into the expectant rabble.
Trader Whiskey snapped his whip against Ohnaà's broad muscular back. Gritting her teeth she stiffened but didn't cry out. For an hour Trader Whiskey ferociously thrashed the warrior's back.
Following the custom of humiliating a captor through insulting song, Ohnaà chanted in Amazoni.
His hostage's mantra fueling his rage, Whiskey flogged harder.
Gradually Ohnaà's chorus diminished. Her powerful body sagged against its bonds. Head drooping, she lapsed into unconsciousness.
Seeming to lose interest, without a word, all except Sentika filed out of the stable. After stealing a glance at the door, Sentika raced into a horse's stall. Ripping off a shred of skirt, she doused it into the horse's water trough and rushed back to mop the warrior's sweaty face, arousing her.
"I had no idea this would happen. No one should suffer such a terrible beating. I was wrong not to have released you before. I was just too afraid. Please forgive me."
"Your back needs immediate tending. Horse liniment will have to do."
"I am fine."
"You're torn to shreds! If I don't nurse your wounds they'll become infected."
"I will bear no scars upon my back with the powerful herbs Medicine Woman would use."
"If you insist. I'll have to wait until dark to help you escape. Everyone will be in the saloon celebrating this terrible spectacle and will be too drunk to hear you ride away. Whiskey won't bother to look for you but will take it out on me. Helping you will ease whatever punishment I'm in for. He'll have your bow and arrows as trophies in his room. I'll get them for you. For now I'll have to leave you tied in case he comes back."
Sentika blotted more sweat from Ohnaà's brow with her water-soaked skirt piece.
"I will have vengeance upon Wee-skeh."
"Please just let it be."
"He will pay for beating me!"
Having no time to argue, Sentika hurriedly left.
Moments later the smirking Trader Whiskey swaggered in. "My, my you do amaze! Another would've perished." He stepped back, demonically admiring his handiwork of torn back flesh. "Doesn't hurt much does it?" he inquired with a slap upon a patch of bloody welts.
Ohnaà stoically endured the excruciating pain of the blow.
Laughing, Trader Whiskey ambled out.
Mid evening, rushing past the saloon with its blaring piano music, song and laughter, shoulders wrapped in pink shawl, Ohnaà's bow and quiver clutched in one hand, Sentika hurried to the livery stable to free the warrior.
"I hear your people."
"Drunken celebration in the saloon like I told you."
Employing Ohnaà's knife Sentika cut her down.
Retrieving her dagger, the warrior noted the look of dread in the woman's eyes.
"You think I will kill you."
"I didn't help before."
"Because you help now do you live," Ohnaà explained sheathing her glittering knife. Gingerly she donned her bow and quiver.
Sentika retrieved Appaloosa.
"Ride out as fast as you can without looking back."
With a painful grunt, Ohnaà vaulted upon her mount.
"I will face Wee-skeh."
"No! I run from no enemy!"
Ohnaà trotted out of the livery stable and galloped to the music filled saloon crashing Appaloosa through the swinging doors. Her unexpected appearance abruptly halted all celebratory revelry and elicited a scream of terror from one of the drunken brothel women and gasps from the men. Nervous amid the crowd, Appaloosa pranced and nickered as Ohnaà glared upon each patron until she found Trader Whiskey standing with eyes wide, glass mug of beer held in mid air at the bar. His friends beside him scattered as Ohnaà pressed her feces-expelling stallion forward, his hoofs clattering upon the floorboards, his droppings thumping dully. Patrons frowned at the stench.
Leaning forward, Ohnaà snatched Whiskey's beer hurling it against the bar's back shelf of liquor bottles shattering them. Easing Appaloosa forward she forced her Trader enemy's back against a wall. Spying a hook protruding from the wall above her foe, Ohnaà dismounted. Employing her incredible power she easily hoisted him upon it, his collar holding despite his violent thrashing. Mounting up, roaring a blood curdling war cry, she backhanded Whiskey across the face staking her claim upon him. Wheeling Appaloosa around to face the dazed crowed and hefting a fist overhead, she yodeled another screech of rage and trotted out.
Sentika, standing outside pink shawl wrapped tighter around her delicate shoulders, met the warrior, whose gaze of icy rage caused her to shudder.
Without a word, Ohnaà galloped into the frosty night.
Late morning of the second day of nonstop travel, Ohnaà thundered into camp. Giving in to the affects of her beating, she tumbled off Appaloosa. A concerned crowd gathered as Et-esh gently examined her friend, horrified at the extent of the whipping. With the help of several warriors, accompanied by Ojah, Ohnaà was carried to the medicine tepee.
Eased upon a mound of soft furs, Ohnaà was examined by Medicine Woman.
Et-esh dismissed her assistants, and with Ojah beside her, questioned her friend.
"Traders rode our land," Ohnaà recounted, "armed with rifles. Their leader called Wee-skeh had been searching for me for many seasons. He knocked me out and took me bound to his town. He put his whip to me."
"His sister released me."
Medicine Woman washed Ohnaà's wounds then applied a thick coat of numbing herbal balm.
"I will have vengeance upon Wee-skeh and all who witnessed my beating."
Gently binding her patient's wounds with soft Trader cloth, Medicine Woman eased her upon her back.
"You will bear no scars with daily treatment."
"My scars lie within my heart, shaman," Ohnaà snarled. "Hatred against the man called Wee-skeh burns within me."
"Many will ride beside you sharing your vengeance," Et-esh vowed.
Nodding, Ohnaà drifted off to sleep.
Weeks of Medicine Woman's herbal salves, spoon feedings of enriched broth by a spoiling Ojah and daily visits by war chief Et-esh restored Ohnaà's robust health. True to Medicine Woman's word, not a whip mark remained upon the warrior's back. Resettled within the comforting confines of her tepee Ohnaà rested, propped up in her bed watching Ojah mend a dress.
"I will not be long before I ride against Trader Wee-skeh's town."
"You are unhappy about it."
Ojah ceased his mending.
"You grow too old to do battle."
"I am only seventy seasons. You told me long ago that I do not look my age and that I am still strong."
"That is true. Still, it would be nice if you never had to go to war."
"Ah yah! Tell that to those who choose to be enemies."
Several nights later council was called.
"Trader Wee-skeh who whipped me, and those who watched have lived their last! I will show him no mercy. We will show his people no mercy.
"Tell the warriors you gather before my tepee after the sun rises that my rage does not extend to Trader Wee-skeh's sister who helped me escape. She is a small woman with black hair in a gray dress. Her scalp will not be taken.
"Vengeance of the lash will be mine!" Ohnaà snarled.
Council exploded in confirmatory shouts.
Dinner concluded and Ojah off visiting, Ohnaà strode to her high fur bed. Grabbing her Trader rifle with its gold inlaid stock she rested it atop her bed. From beneath the bed she retrieved a box of rounds, pierced metal rod, smudged white Trader rag, soft piece of hide, and a finger-length can of oil. Attaching oiled rag to rod she stuffed it several times down the carbine's muzzle as Trader Joseph had taught her to remove any grime. Pointing her carbine she pressed the trigger several times. Reacting sluggishly, the mechanism was lubricated with a couple drops of oil and then the weapon was loaded. With her piece of smooth hide, Ohnaà meticulously polished the weapon's long barrel and gold inlaid stock. Rising, she leaned the carbine against the hide wall beside the bed. Her custom before battle was to retire early.
At dawn, Ohnaà ate sparingly her boar stew. Too much food before a fight made a warrior lethargic. From beneath a fur flap of the bed she drew her wolf fur bag containing trade mirror, paint pouches, miniature paint bowls, stir sticks and body ornaments. After mixing her paints with water, gazing into her trade mirror she striped her high mahogany-skinned cheekbones with thick bars of black and red paint. Her forehead was slathered with red. She strung her choker of polished black gorak bird beaks about her throat and tied a new white feather into a side lock of onyx hair. Snatching up her carbine she strode outside to be met by her people and an entourage of twenty painted and armed warriors. Vaulting upon Appaloosa held by the carbine-armed war chief Et-esh, Ohnaà thrust her carbine overhead and signaled the party to leave for Trader Whiskey.
* * * * * * *
After two days' hard ride, the Amazoni war party approached the town. Screeching a war cry of rage, Ohnaà led her warriors at a thunderous gallop.
Unprepared for attack, the terrorized screaming townspeople scattered, only to be picked off one by one by rifle fire and arrows. War chief Chooka hurled her lance into the back of a fleeing woman. With a shout, knife in hand, she leaped off her mount and sliced off the woman's long wavy red-haired scalp. With a smile she yanked out her lance. Remounting she rode in search of more enemies.
Ohnaà hunted down the livery stable owner, Markoo, and felled him with three bullets in the back. Barreling down the street, she executed eight others with well-aimed rounds.
In the chaos, Sentika ran screaming alongside another prostitute, their destination Mabel's Bordello, pursued by Et-esh who fired her carbine rapidly at the other prostitute who collapsed in a heap. A stray bullet ricocheting off the street struck Sentika in the back, toppling her upon her belly. Recognizing Ohnaà's savior, Et-esh stared in horror at the petite, black-haired woman dressed in gray.
Ohnaà reined up in a cloud of dust.
"One of my stray bullets accidentally hit her."
Kneeling beside Sentika, ignoring the pandemonium of screams and shooting, Ohnaà placed a reverent hand upon the woman's head. She would have to pay further respects later.
"I have not seen Trader Wee-skeh but I know where he might be. Come!"
Galloping in the direction of the saloon with Et-esh, Ohnaà called for followers. Half charged behind her, while the others continued their murderous frenzy, bursting into buildings.
Halting at the bar, Ohnaà and her band dismounted. Bursting through the swinging doors, and empty room greeted them.
"Baychahlà!" the warrior commanded.
The storeroom and gambling room were empty. Hearing the tinkling of shifting bottles, Et-esh leaped over the bar and found Trader Whiskey squeezed into a shelf. Grinning, the war chief yanked her discovery out of hiding.
"Look what I found, Ohnaà."
The warrior strode to the man who had dared capture and put whip to her back. She could tell by his swollen eyes and wet cheeks that he'd been crying, hoping he'd never be found. The searching warriors rejoined their leader.
Tossing her carbine to a warrior, Ohnaà yanked her sniveling enemy over the bar.
She dragged him outside, and mounting up, the party herded Trader Whiskey into the livery stable. Et-esh shoved him upon the floor.
"Please, spare me," Trader Whiskey whined, new tears flowing like a waterfall. "I'll do anything you ask. Please don't kill me, please don't kill me! I'm sorry for what I did! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
"You were not sorry when you captured and brought me to your jail! You were not sorry when you tied me up like a dog and whipped me until my back was torn flesh! You hold no sorrow for what you do!"
Spying a shovel used to muck out horse dung leaning against the weathered livery stable wall, Ohnaà snatched it.
Babbling incoherently in terror, Trader Whiskey comically scooted on his rear end away from the warrior, drawing laughter for there was no place he could hide. Swinging the shovel like a bat Ohnaà whacked Trader Whiskey's left cheek. Metal crunching bone prompted another strike against his other cheek. Blood spattered he toppled onto his back.
Baring her teeth in a snarl, securing the shovel in a two-handed grip Ohnaà drove its blade into Trader Whiskey's chest. Exuberantly claiming his long sable scalp, holding high her trophy, she vented her last morsel of rage in a piercing shriek.
Et-esh led the chorus of earsplitting war cries as Ohnaà sheathed her blade and attached her prize to her scalpcord.
The warrior clutching her leader's carbine, tossed it back.
"Take these horses," Ohnaà ordered. "I must attend to another matter."
"The woman," Et-esh theorized.
Locating the body of Trader Whiskey's sister, Sentika, in the street, Ohnaà carried her into the General Store. Peeling off the scalped storekeeper's body slouched over a counter, the warrior eased Sentika upon it, folding the woman's frigid hands over her chest and smoothing several loose strands of raven hair. For her deed of helping a warrior it was only fitting she be respectfully kept out of the sun. After muttering a silent prayer to speed Sentika to her spirit land, Ohnaà rejoined her looting entourage.