|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|
Blinking sleep from his eyes, Ojah, bed fur swathed across his thin pale chest, observed Ohnaà standing beside the cold fire pit, securing three, silver-gray wolf pelts to her skins' waistband beside her scalpcord.
"You go to Trader Jo-teff."
Donning bow and quiver, Ohnaà nodded.
"Your blue Trader blanket needs replacing. Do you wish anything else?"
Eyes drooping, Ojah shook his head, yawned and snuggled beneath his fur blanket, falling back to sleep. Approaching, Ohnaà planted a kiss upon his tawny crown.
Arriving at her long-time friend Trader Joseph's busy Trader Lodge, oblivious to the usual stares trailing her every move, Ohnaà stalked to the crowded bar.
"Long time no smell, barbarian," a corpulent bearded trapper clothed in sweat-stained stinking boar skins rumbled hoarsely.
Ignoring her antagonist the warrior addressed the bartender.
"Ohnaà comes to Jo-teff for trade."
Nodding, Bartender ambled through the open door behind the bar that led to several room chambers.
"You kill any Outsiders lately, savage?" Beard hissed.
Ohnaà remained focused upon the back room's open door.
"Seems she's too good to talk to the likes of you," Beard's companion observed before downing his drink.
Beard eyed the wolf pelts suspended beside the warrior's shaggy scalpcord. "Maybe this'll grab her attention," he mused reaching for the furs.
Teeth bared, Ohnaà snatched Beard by the hair and slammed his forehead upon the bar, holding it there.
"Joseph said come on in."
Ohnaà yanked Beard's head up. Drawing her knife she pressed its thick, honed edged against his furry neck.
"Joseph's waiting," Bartender encouraged.
"You are lucky this day. Next time I see you outside these walls I will trade your scalp, tongue, and face hair, for many things," Ohnaà hissed in Beard's ear. Roughly releasing him, she sheathed her blade and stalked behind the bar and through the open backroom door leading to Trader Joseph's office.
Swearing under his breath, Beard wiped blood from his forehead and rubbed his neck.
From behind his counter Bartender produced a pistol.
"You got two choices, Beard. Wait for that warrior to change her mind and carve you up now, or leave before you get your head blown off by me for causing trouble."
"You can at least let me finish my drink!"
Cocking his pistol, Bartender pressed its cold muzzle against the tip of Beard's nose.
"All right, I'm going!" Beard roared and stomped out.
"Anyone else care to mouth off?"
The bar patrons stared sullenly into their drinks.
After uncocking his pistol and replacing it behind the counter, Bartender went to service a new customer.
Ohnaà approached Trader Joseph seated behind his desk where he had been reviewing his accounting book.
"Dahò, my friend."
Joseph stood, flashing a brilliant smile.
"Ohnaà! Hello! Hello!"
"Ah yah! You are happy this day."
"I am. Sah-leshgoo found someone she's quite smitten with. Took long enough. Now if only my elder daughter, Xona, could find a man, I'd be even happier. Being a teacher, she's content with just her work."
"This is good news. Who is this man?"
"How did he meet Sah-leshgoo?"
"At a dance six months ago. Wonderful man. He supports himself fixing clocks."
Having never seen a timekeeper, Ohnaà stared blankly.
"Clocks tell the time of day."
"The sun can do that."
"Not everyone is a sun watcher."
"You mean not every Trader is."
"Ter-veek Ah-pah-cheh would join with Sah-leshgoo?"
Ohnaà folded muscled arms across her chest. "I will meet him to judge if he is the warrior for her."
"At twenty seasons she's old enough to make her own decisions. Whether you approve or not, she won't change her mind about Tervik."
"That is of no importance. I will meet Sah-leshgoo's warrior. You will make this happen or I will track him down," Ohnaà insisted.
Joseph bristled. "Since when do you order me around when it comes to my daughter?" he demanded.
"Since that day long ago when you first come to trade and befriend Amazoni," the warrior reminded. "Once a Trader is befriended for many seasons our way is to watch over his family. It is a good way. It will remain unbroken."
Joseph heaved a sigh of resignation.
"As always, you present indisputable arguments."
"That is so, Jo-teff."
"You also have the annoying habit of rubbing it in. At sunset Tervik will come for dinner. I'm sure Sah-leshgoo won't mind you joining us." Joseph pointed a finger. "You better be good."
"I promise nothing."
"Misbehave and I promise you'll feel my foot on your behind."
Ohnaà chuckled. Untying her belt furs she plopped them upon Joseph's desk.
"New blanket for Ojah."
Moments later Trader Joseph returned from the supply room handing Ohnaà a neatly folded turquoise blanket.
"I ride to your lodge now."
Inclining her head in farewell, Ohnaà exited. Enveloping Appaloosa's bare back with Ojah's new azure blanket she mounted up and cantered off toward Joseph's home.
At the end of the five mile ride, Ohnaà reined up at Trader Joseph's cabin, with its varicolored wild flower-embellished, sunken porch. Dismounting, she padded to the door and rapped hard three times.
Flinging the door open, Trader Joseph's wife, Kiddy, dressed in an ankle-length yellow dress, her gray-flecked, waist-length auburn hair fashioned into two thick braids, gazed wide-eyed at the burly, dark-skinned, sweat-glazed, skimpily dressed, raven-haired warrior armed with bow and quiver.
"Ohnaà, what a pleasant surprise to see you! Shame on you for this being the first time you've visited!"
The warrior grinned.
"Dahò, Kid-deh. I, too, hold much pleasure in seeing you. To help in the birth of your daughter, Sah-leshgoo, was the last time we meet. I am sorry it take so long to visit."
Kiddy brushed aside a graying wisp of auburn hair from her forehead.
"You're forgiven for the twenty season lapse. I'm afraid I've turned into a graying old hag."
"It does not matter."
Kiddy burst into laughter.
"I see you've mastered the art of flattery."
Uncomprehending, Ohnaà dismissed the comment with a shrug.
"I would come in?"
"Of course! Where are my manners today!"
Leaving the door open to catch a breeze, Ohnaà followed Kiddy to the kitchen's rough-hewn wooden table and four chairs.
"I have a warm kettle of tea."
"Trader tea is good."
Walking to the black kettle that dangled over the hearth, Kiddy utilized her polished silver ladle to fill to the brim two tin cups from the stone fireplace mantel. Without spilling a drop, she transferred the drinks to the table.
Ohnaà shook her head.
Sitting, Kiddy sipped her warm tea.
"Drink up before it gets cold."
The warrior obediently slurped her tea, to the Trader woman's amusement.
Twilight settled upon the landscape as Trader Joseph walked his mount into his corral. The sound of boots pounding the sunken porch alerted Kiddy. Positioned protectively behind her, Ohnaà met her Trader friend at the open door.
Joseph embraced and kissed Kiddy.
A grinning Ohnaà extended muscled arms.
"I have hug and kiss, Jo-teff?"
The Trader released his wife.
Ohnaà grinned as she lowered her arms.
Entwining an arm about her husband's waist, Kiddy led the way to the dinner table. Joseph sniffed the air.
"Smells like good tea."
Kiddy prepared a cup for her husband, who downed it in one thirsty gulp.
"What magnificent dinner have you planned for tonight, Kiddy?"
"Venison stew, creamed Silver Pearl corn with Amber apple pie for dessert."
"Sounds delicious as usual. Better get cracking on preparations. Sah-leshgoo and Tervik will be here any minute."
"Everything's prepared, my dear, and well hidden to prevent you from sneaking test bites."
Ohnaà suppressed a shudder of revulsion at the menu. Amber apples are unbearably sour and although she had not had creamed Silver Pearl corn, the odor of the noxious concoction relished by feasting patrons at Joseph's Trader Lodge never failed to sicken her stomach. She rose from her chair.
"I would roll a smoke."
"Make that two."
Trader Joseph led the way outside.
Seated upon the sunken porch, Ohnaà deftly rolled two cigarettes and lit them with a match. Inhaling deeply, she exhaled pungent white smoke from her nostrils.
"You told me Ter-veek Ah-pah-cheh is a good man."
Exhaling smoke Joseph nodded.
"You meet his parents?"
Joseph stared at the ground.
"To keep truth from me is not good, Jo-teff."
"What makes you think that?"
"You have never hidden your eyes from me."
"Tervik's parents were driven out despite my help."
"Why do your people do this?"
Smothering his cigarette butt beneath a booted toe, Joseph hastily abandoned his seat upon the porch.
Ohnaà, annoyed by Joseph's avoidance, tossed aside her unfinished smoke and intercepted him.
"Why were Ter-veek Ah-pah-cheh's parents made to leave?"
"His Trader father is married to an Ossit."
"Ah yah! It is good his parents were chased out. One who mates with an Ossit shames all! Sah-leshgoo must not join with one of Ossit blood for it would shame your family for all time!" Ohnaà snapped. "I will not have Sah-leshgoo, born among Amazoni, soiled by Terveek Ah-pah-cheh. I would kill him first!"
"Amazoni are hardly shamed by having a full-blooded Shesh among them," Joseph retorted.
"I have earned my place among my people."
"As has Tervik among mine. Racial bigotry from ignorant Outsiders I can forgive, but I'll be damned if my daughter will be tainted by yours because you're too pig-headed to give Tervik the same chance you expect. Your approval isn't asked or needed. He'll be Sah-leshgoo's husband. Make good your threat to kill him, hurting my daughter, I'll hunt your Shesh-Amazoni ass down and bury it!
The woman rushed to the open cabin door.
"Ohnaà won't be staying for supper."
Angrily the warrior vaulted gracefully upon Appaloosa.
"Get the hell out of here!" Trader Joseph harshly ordered.
Smashing moccasined heels against her mount's ribs, Ohnaà thundered away.
"What was that all about, Joseph?"
"I'll explain over another cup of tea."
Ohnaà rode the high grassland several miles under cover of darkness before resting. Dismounting she angrily sat within the tawny curtain of grass to wait for and trail Tervik Apache home to confront him and confirm that he was the wrong choice for Trader Joseph's daughter Sah-leshgoo.
Well after midnight, beneath the twin moons' radiance, Tervik Apache unknowingly reined his buckboard before Ohnaà's hideaway. Bounding out of his cramped buckboard seat to stretch his legs, he reached into his plaid shirt pocket for his Trader pipe and tobacco pouch.
Carefully parting her flaxen drape of grass, Ohnaà inspected the Trader-Ossit who had won Sah-leshgoo's affection. Like his Trader father, Tervik Apache was tall and broad shouldered. As he fired his pipe, Ohnaà noted his piercing blue eyes. His wavy black hair washed loosely over his shoulders. The only sign of his Ossit heritage lay in his lightened gray skin, which glimmered eerily under the twin moons' beams.
After a leisurely smoke, Tervik Apache emptied his pipe, replaced it and his tobacco pouch back into his shirt pocket, and climbed aboard his buckboard. Slapping the reins gently upon his bay's hindquarters, he proceeded on at a creaky trot.
Slugging a hole through her golden grassland blind, the enraged Ohnaà emerged to glare after the distant Trader-Ossit
Pulling into his barn, Tervik Apache reflected upon the disturbing conversation with Trader Joseph about Ohnaà's malevolent feelings toward him as he unhitched his bay and led him into his stall. Mumbling to himself as he poured oats into his horse's shallow trough he exploded.
"Damn it, Mahroo. You'd think bigotry would be the last thing on that warrior's mind, an adopted one at that! I'll tell you something else, Mahroo, seeing as this Shesh-Amazoni, according to Joseph, is so determined to kill me over something as pointless as breeding, she'll have a hell of a fight on her hands. The nerve of her!"
Stomping out of the stall, Tervik heaved his oat bucket against the wall, splattering it's contents. His horse's startled snort, flattened ears, and wide rolling eyes, roused him from his tantrum. Ashamed by his uncharacteristic detonation, he comforted the frightened animal by rubbing his nose.
"You're right, Mahroo. I shouldn't be raving at you. What do you say I work on a pocket watch to settle down?"
Mahroo twitched a brown ear.
"Knew you'd approve."
Hailing good night to his beloved Mahroo, Tervik Apache exited the barn.
Seated behind his broad wooden kitchen table, Tervik Apache gazed lovingly at the straight soldierly columns of round and box clocks embedded in wood or suspended within glass bubbles, gold and silver clocks encased in porcelain, and a pile of gold and silver pocket watches. Tweezers in hand, he selected a silver pocket watch and pried off its back to pluck its bent wheels and springs for replacement.
Trailing the Trader-Ossit's wagon tracks under paired moonlight, Ohnaà arrived at his cabin. With windows too small for entry, she padded to the rear of the cabin. Spying a larger window, growl rumbling in her throat, she shattered the window with a fist. Grasping the window frame the warrior eased inside, feet first. Investigating each room, she discovered the standing Trader-Ossit in the kitchen.
"Do you usually break into homes?" Tervik demanded.
"I do many things," Ohnaà hissed.
"So it seems," Tervik retorted settling into his chair. "You've managed to find me without a problem."
Ohnaà approached the timepiece-littered table.
"You will leave Sah-leshgoo alone. You are not the right warrior for her!"
"Joseph mentioned your distaste for my Ossit half after dinner, out of Sah-leshgoo's earshot. I find your reason for hating me totally ridiculous, considering you're born Shesh, raised Amazoni. Amazoni hate Shesh, yet you're accepted despite it. Traders no longer hate Ossit. I'm accepted, so we're equal. Too bad if you still have tribal issues over it. I love Sah-leshgoo, she loves me and that's the end of it!"
"I have ways to make sure Sah-leshgoo is taken care of." Ohnaà pointed an accusatory finger. "Fail in the smallest ways, Ter-veek
Ah-pah-cheh, I will kill you."
"Joseph mentioned your threat. It means nothing as I have no ill intentions toward Sah-leshgoo in the first place. In the second place if you ever threaten me again, you'll have a hell of a fight on your hands."
Ohnaà stared hard at the unflinching, blue-eyed Trader-Ossit. With a curt nod she departed.
Dawn witnessed Ohnaà perched upon Trader Joseph's sunken porch. Rolling two cigarettes, she patiently waited. Joseph burst out the door in a hurry for work at the Trader Lodge.
"What do you want?" he coldly demanded.
"We would share important talk with smoke."
"I'm in a hurry."
Lighting up her cigarettes with a match, Ohnaà offered one to Joseph. Accepting it with an exasperated sigh, he sat beside her.
For a long time they smoked in silence.
"I visit Sah-leshgoo's warrior."
Joseph tossed his cigarette butt aside.
"Tervik better be alive."
Ohnaà's finished smoke joined the Trader's.
"He lives. His love for Sah-leshgoo is strong, proving he is the good man you said he is. It no longer matters that he is Trader-Ossit. I was wrong to judge him."
"Dare I say I told you so?"
"A warrior always must learn new lessons to grow wiser. Some lessons are learned quicker than others. I and others will see your daughter's joining."
"What makes you think I'll allow it?"
"Because Ter-veek Ah-pah-cheh is no longer my enemy and I would come in peace."
"I told Kiddy about our fight. She was in tears over the whole thing."
"I must speak to her!"
"I handled it. She forgave you. We'll see you tomorrow at the wedding."
Ohnaà clasped wrists with her Trader friend.
Dismounting in the corral, Ohnaà tore Ojah's turquoise Trader blanket off Appaloosa's splotchy back and jogged to her tepee. She disarmed, leaning her bow and quiver beside the high-fur bed at the back of the lodge and approached Ojah, who was seated at the fire feeding it twigs. She thrust the new blue blanket beneath Ojah's nose.
"It stinks of horse!" he exclaimed recoiling. "Wash it in the lake," he commanded.
"Doing man's work is the thanks I get for bringing you a new blanket?"
Ojah was unyielding.
"You rode upon it, you wash it."
"I have news," Ohnaà replied attempting to change the subject.
"I will listen after you wash my blanket."
The warrior scowled.
"You become too bold, my mate."
Ojah pointed to the lodge door.
Grumbling under her breath Ohnaà left, dragging the trade blanket behind her.
Ojah spooned hot stew into his warrior's bowl.
Flushed with embarrassment beneath the stares of snickering bathers in the lake outside of camp, Ohnaà hurriedly completed her task of scrubbing Ojah's blanket with sand. Wringing it of water, she ran to her lodge. After carelessly draping the damp blanket on a drying wrack behind the tepee, Ohnaà sat at the breakfast fire for her stew. After the meal it was time for news.
"You remember Jo-teff's younger daughter Sah-leshgoo?"
"She will join tomorrow with the one called Ter-veek Ah-pah-cheh. He is part Ossit. I hated him until I met him. He is a good man despite being mixed. You and I will go with many to his joining."
"I will bring spiced white bark pudding and a necklace as a gift."
"They are good gifts. I wish bark pudding now."
Excited about the public announcement and election of warriors to witness Trader Joseph's daughter Sah-leshgoo's joining, preparations accelerated.
Setting aside his copper pot of spiced white bark pudding, Ojah rummaged through his jewelry pouch, selecting Trader gold pieces strung upon a thin sliver chain for Sah-leshgoo.
In the store house, Johtah and war chief Chooka worked beside ten warriors stringing the biggest dried fish, rabbit, and wolf pelts.
Et-esh chose two bay mares and a palomino stallion. Ohnaà cut from her herd three black mares and a pinto stallion as gifts.
That night, tall, muscular, fourteen-season-old Ah-tets Bookah stepped over Ohnaà's lodge threshold and observed her idol puffing her pipe before the low fire.
Armed with dirty dinner bowls and spoons to wash, Ojah smiled in passing.
Ohnaà motioned Ah-tets Bookah to sit opposite her.
"Ah yah! Gazing upon you I remember the times you used to climb into my lap when our people told stories."
"No longer am I a child."
"Indeed have you grown tall and strong. Seasons elapse too quickly for my taste." Gazing into her pipe's narrow bowl, Ohnaà noticed her tobacco's spark had grown cold. She extended her pipe.
Touched by the honor of lighting a tahna's pipe, Ah-tets Bookah's heart raced. With steady hand she ignited the tobacco with an incandescent stick from the fire.
Indulging in a couple deep puffs, Ohnaà passed the pipe to the young warrior, who handled the irritating smoke boiling down her throat for the first time like a veteran.
The ashes were finally expelled.
"I will come to the Trader joining."
"You are not invited," Ohnaà snapped. "The subject is closed."
Ah-tets Bookah leaped to her feet in rage. "I am not some bothersome fly swatted away so easily," she exploded. "As I have smoked the pipe with you as an equal, I will accept nothing less than assuming my rightful place beside you at the Trader joining as an equal."
Unruffled by the outburst, Ohnaà stuffed and relit her pipe. She savored her smoke ignoring her inflamed companion's glare.
"Good tobacco should be shared. Heeska."
Ah-tets Bookah stood her ground.
The young warrior grudgingly complied.
"For one named Little Bird, you flap your wings, bare your talons, and crow like a mighty eagle. You have passed the test."
Ah-tets Bookah was dumbfounded.
"Ah yah! One who is worthy," Ohnaà hefted a huge fist, "takes what she wants." She lowered her fist. "I had to see if you possessed the fire to seize opportunity. You shall join the ten charged with protecting Ojah along the way."
"I have a good horse to offer as a present."
"I and Et-esh have selected strong horses. Others have their gifts. Your presence is plenty for Jo-teff and his family. I hope when they see you in paint you do not frighten them too much."
Ah-tets Bookah grinned.
Midmorning, oblivious to the chattering people, barking dogs, and vocalizing horses outside, Ohnaà, her white wolf skin purse beside her at the fire, sat observing his mate's bedside preparation.
Outfitted in an ankle-length, white fur collared, tan dress of beaded fringe and knee-high moccasins, Ojah rapidly braided his long tawny locks, tying them off with jagged strips of red cloth. Dipping a tapered stick in red paint he striped his nose from bridge to tip, aided by his mirror. Adorning his wrists with dozens of thin metal bracelets, Ojah then donned a necklace of Trader gold pieces. Walking briskly to the lodge door where his copper pot of spiced white bark pudding waited he turned to Ohnaà.
"I do not want to be late because you take too long getting ready."
"We will not be late. Do you need any help carrying your pot? It looks too heavy for you."
"I can manage. I have to select a horse to ride."
From her white wolf skin purse, Ohnaà withdrew her paint bowls and pouches, a Trader comb, palm-sized square mirror, thin flexible beaded armband with three white feather dangles. She slipped on the flexible ornament above her massive left bicep. Filling her paint bowls with red and black powder, filling them with water from her waist gourd, she dipped a finger into her paints. Aided by her mirror she shaded her forehead in red and thickly striped her high cheekbones with vertical bars of black and red. Critically examining her reflection, she nodded her satisfaction. Setting aside her mirror she whisked her comb through her thick waist-length sable hair until it glistened.
Donning bow and quiver, she stepped outside and examined her armed band of ten, tow-headed, painted warriors, who included war chief Chooka with wolf pelts strung upon her belt, war chief Et-esh holding the leads of two bay mares and a palomino stallion, and Johtah, whip and string of dried fish dangling from her skins' waistband. The grinning Ah-tets Bookah held up a hand in salute. Clutching tightly his pot of spiced white bark pudding, Ojah waited upon a head tossing buckskin mare.
"Ah-tets Bookah is in charge of Ojah's protection. Ride where she places you."
Johtah's observation of Ohnaà's jog toward the corral was interrupted by Ahtets-Bookah calling her name.
Mounted upon Appaloosa, Ohnaà retrieved her set aside three black mares and pinto stallion. Rejoining her party she led them out of camp at a brisk canter.
Well-dressed guests occupied chairs beside the cabin's sunken front porch. Behind them four long tables loaded with food and drink buzzed with curious stinger bee scouts. Situated apart from the guests, Trader Joseph, dressed in his finest suit, stood beside the dapper Trader-Ossit, Tervik Apache. Joseph observed Xona, Sah-leshgoo's school teacher sister, clad in a lavender lace-trimmed dress, seated beside her mother Kiddy, outfitted in her favorite yellow dress.
Peering into the distance, Joseph grinned as he pointed.
Tervik shielded his eyes against the glare, watching as the galloping preacher barreled closer.
"Never seen a man ride so fast, Joseph."
"Look behind him a little yonder."
"It's that Shesh-Amazoni of yours leading eleven warriors. They're all painted up and armed, Joseph!"
"See that Amazoni man on the buckskin? He's Ohnaà's mate, Ojah. Mighty overprotective she is."
Preacher reined up in a cloud of dust.
"It's an attack, Joseph!"
"Relax, Preacher. The Amazoni are invited. I'll be right back."
Moving at a rapid jog, Trader Joseph intercepted the Amazoni.
"Seeing as you terrified Preacher to thinking you're on the war path, I'll have to escort you in so no one else panics."
Ohnaà's reply was a curt nod.
The Amazoni company dismounted behind the food tables. Bounding out of her chair Kiddy greeted them.
"I'm so happy you've come."
"Dahò, Kid-deh. Go sit. We will put our presents before your lodge."
Quickly the Amazoni band piled their gift skins, dried fish, Trader gold piece necklace, and pudding pot upon the porch. The gift horses stood placidly. Ignoring guests' stares the Amazoni stood behind the last row of seated Outsiders.
Tervik Apache went to stand before the porch, waiting for Preacher to retrieve his bride inside the cabin. Smiling brilliantly, she followed, costumed in flowing, pearl-studded white lace wedding gown and veil-less circlet, taking her place beside Tervik. Preacher led them to stand at the head of the seated guests.
"Today is a special day for Sah-leshgoo, daughter of Joseph and Kiddy, as she leaves the house of her parents for her new life at the side of Tervik Apache, son of Mahtoya and Jarem," Preacher intoned. "Do you both swear to honor and protect one another in times of plenty and hardship for as long as you both shall live?"
"From this day forward are you one."
Fist upraised, Ohnaà yodeled a joyous shrill shout.
Embracing each other tightly, Tervik Apache and Sah-leshgoo luxuriated in a long kiss.
Smile upon her lips, Ohnaà screeched tahna approval again.