|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|
Beneath a broiling Mother Sun, Ohnaà floated upon her back in the shallows of the lake outside of camp, enjoying the symphony of laughter, conversation, and splashing. Smiling at her tahna, war chief Et-esh dove underwater, expertly avoiding thrashing legs. Settling beneath the Shesh-Amazoni like a cruising Snap Jaw she gripped her friend in a bear hug. With great effort she heaved Ohnaà out of the water, the explosion of her landing giving rise to a colossal tsunami. Everyone laughed at their leader's sputtering and splashing. Et-esh cackled the loudest.
"That was a good joke, young one," Ohnaà shouted upon recovery.
"I thought so."
"It was such a good joke that I must return the favor."
Losing her smile, Et-esh cautiously retreated.
"You really do not have to."
"But I must, for I am not one who does not repay favors."
Before the hapless war chief knew it, the grinning Ohnaà had scooped Et-esh into powerful arms and hurled her into the lake's mouth. It was now her turn to join Amazoni in laughter over the stunned Et-esh's clumsy journey into the shallows. Rising upon shaky legs, Et-esh slapped the water with a fist.
"When will I ever learn not to toss you!"
"I do not know. When?"
Collapsing again, Et-esh swallowed water and coughed as she struggled to stand.
"Do you need help to the bank?"
"I can make it. I do not want to be tossed into the land of the Ossit."
Giggling, Ohnaà trailed Et-esh to the sedge bank where they wrung their hair of water, dousing it flat. They sat. Plucking a tough blade of grass, Ohnaà slipped it between strong molars.
"I have a brilliant idea!" Et-esh exclaimed.
"As brilliant as your tossing me?"
"Better. We should start the Games early."
Removing her nibbled sedge stem, Ohnaà pointed it.
"Either the sun has boiled your mind or I threw you too hard and you hit your head."
"It makes perfect sense. The Games will distract from the heat, I need the exercise, and your great strength will be tamed. Amazoni will enjoy watching us compete. The winner must hunt for the loser for a month."
"Make sure the prey you put in Ojah's pot is big and fat."
"You are overconfident, my friend."
"Ah yah! I have yet to lose the Games."
"You have yet to compete against me."
The announcement of the Games was eagerly acknowledged by Amazoni. They launched preparations with the erection of a horsehair rope line marker for lake swimming. Medicine Woman, the Games' usual judge, meticulously selected four horses for the weightlifting competition, with two additional culled for the horse race that would be run around the camp's wide circumference where foot races also would be held. Four round targets of grass for lance throwing were set at variant footage in the camp's heart. Eight lances waited on the ground. Not far from the targets stood a great ring of thin wooden poles to contain the wrestling match.
The heat forgotten, the Games were ready to open by mid-afternoon.
Trailing Medicine Woman, Ohnaà, Et-esh and Amazoni amassed in the middle of camp for the Games' first event of lance hurling. Side by side stood Supreme Tahna and war chief within the arena of Amazoni to accept the first lance from Medicine Woman.
"As elder, Ohnaà, I offer you the lead," Et-esh invited.
"Ah yah! That is why you should toss first. The young need head starts."
Weighing the perfectly balanced, metal-tipped spear in calloused hand, Et-esh inclined her head.
"You are most generous."
Medicine Woman raised her arm. At its drop Et-esh pitched her lance, burying its tip centimeters from the first, round grass target's core. Amazoni nodded approval.
Accepting her harpoon Ohnaà waited.
Medicine Woman dropped her raised hand.
Hurling her weapon with a grunt, Ohnaà propelled it in a wide arc, missing the target.
"Perhaps you should move closer, my friend."
"Next lance," Ohnaà demanded.
Et-esh hit the center of the second target.
Ohnaà's attempt penetrated her goal's edge with such force as to shear off several blades of grass upon impact. Annoyed, she glared at the smirking war chief.
Et-esh next launch hit the target's bull's eye.
Ohnaà watched her lance sail through the air in a wide arc to land behind the target.
Amazoni chattered amongst themselves, never having witnessed such a dismal display from their tahna.
"Saydahà!" Ohnaà bellowed. "Be quiet! I cannot concentrate with noise."
The startled people fell silent.
"This is the final throw, warriors," Medicine Woman reminded.
"We can move to the next event, Ohnaà," Et-esh offered, unsettled by her companion's uncharacteristic irritation.
Gazing at Medicine Woman, Et-esh's pale eyes pleaded with her to forfeit her turn and award an unearned win to Ohnaà. Unwilling to make special allowances, the shaman folded her arms across her chest.
"We are waiting, war chief."
Shutting her eyes Et-esh heaved her javelin, feeling no elation upon the sight of her bull's eye. She ignored the people's applause.
Accepting the last lance from Medicine Woman, Ohnaà hurled it with all her tremendous might, impaling it into the ground behind the target. Amazoni cheered the war chief's victory.
"I have disgraced you before everyone," Et-esh lamented. "One as mighty as you should not lose to the likes of me."
"The heat, not your victory, causes me to disgrace myself with temper, young one." Her piercing gaze gleaming with pride, Ohnaà clasped her best friend's broad shoulder. "To lose to the likes of you who does not hold back is good. I would have it no other way."
Her crushed spirits lifted, Et-esh flashed a brilliant smile.
"Daughter of Codot, war chief," Medicine Woman called, "Let us all go to the wrestling ring"
At the widely spaced wooden poles that defined the wrestling ring, Medicine Woman addressed the competitors.
"Wrestling between friends is a game of tactical strength. But all too often have I seen friends unable to distinguish between friendly competition and outright battle. Deliberate injury of your opponent will result in disqualification of both. Should you both fall outside the circle poles, competition will restart until there is a clear winner.
"Let the best warrior win."
Penetrating the ring, crouching to present smaller targets, Ohnaà and Et-esh padded about one another.
"You will not beat me, young one."
"Why do you think that?"
"Shesh born, I am naturally stronger."
Et-esh's tawny crown butted hard into Ohnaà's muscled belly, felling her onto her back. Heavy handedly, she pinned her tahna's broad dark shoulders against the grass.
"Ah yah! I have one trick that will render your greater strength useless."
Hurling Et-esh off, Ohnaà leaped nimbly to her feet. Breathing hard, her powerful body glistening with sweat, she waited for her friend to regain her footing.
Inhaling great gasps of air Et-esh grinned.
"You will find out soon enough."
Chuckling, Ohnaà's slight shove propelled her best friend dangerously close to the circle's barrier.
With silent intensity, Amazoni observed the match through the ring's spaced boundary poles.
Standing between Johtah and war chief Chooka,
Ah-tets Bookah was impatient. "This is taking too long," she grumbled. "Ohnaà should stop playing with Et-esh."
"It is interesting seeing her toy with her," Johtah replied.
"It is annoying," Ah-tets Bookah grumbled.
"Perhaps you should depart the Games," Chooka suggested.
"I will stay."
"Stop complaining then or I will take my whip to you," Johtah growled.
Put off by the grim warrior, Ah-tets Bookah decided to join friends in the middle of the spectators.
"It is Ah-tets Bookah that annoys," Johtah grumbled.
"Ah yah!" Chooka grunted.
Backing herself as close as she dared before the barrier poles, Et-esh smiled inwardly over Ohnaà's overconfident approach. Shifting position abruptly from pursued to pursuer, she crouched and, seizing the warrior's right moccasined ankle, heaved her through the perimeter poles, felling Ohnaà hard upon her back.
"Et-esh wins!" Medicine Woman proclaimed.
All but a select few cheered the war chief's victory.
Extending a helping hand Et-esh assisted Ohnaà to her feet.
"Not expecting you to do that when you were five seasons old, I should have known that you would use the same maneuver."
"Seventy seasons is a long time to remember such an old trick."
Ohnaà rubbed her stinging lower back.
Et-esh burst into laughter.
Ojah shoved through the crowd. "My warrior must eat to be strong for the next event," he crowed.
"Excellent idea," Medicine Woman replied. "When all have eaten, gather at the lake for the swimming competition."
Ojah walked beside Ohnaà toward their tepee.
"You must start winning, my warrior. I do not like watching you lose."
Ohnaà wrapped a muscled arm about Ojah's slim shoulders.
"You can take comfort in knowing that once strengthened by your boar stew, I will 'bounce back' as Outsiders say."
"I hope so."
"Does your respect solely hinge upon my winning the Games, Ojah?"
"I will always respect you."
"That is good to know."
The couple entered the tepee.
Mother Sun was at her zenith when Amazoni emerged from their lunch break to congregate at the lake outside camp for the swimming competition. A sudden blast of scorching breeze rippled the lake's surface and tickled its sedge bank. The slender horsehair rope separating the lake into two lanes swayed.
Medicine Woman pointed a gnarled finger at two floating boar stomachs secured to the lake bottom on either side of the divider horsehair rope. "Your lanes, Ohnaà and Et-esh." She pointed further down the bank its edge guarded by two lances. "After three laps," the shaman instructed, "The finishers will remove their lance's cloth with the knots severed in no fewer than three strokes."
"Impossible!" Et-esh exclaimed.
"When was the last time you honed your knife?"
"Assume your positions," Medicine Woman ordered.
Diving into the lake, the warriors tread water before their respective buoyant boar stomachs, Et-esh settling in the right line, Ohnaà in the left.
Trotting to her position between the lances, Medicine Woman hoisted a gnarled hand, then abruptly dropped it.
The adrenaline-infused competitors launched ahead, kicking up foam.
Unable to contain themselves, Amazoni shouted encouragement as mighty war chief and tahna sliced through the water neck and neck for the first two laps. Tossing a glance over her shoulder at Et-esh, Ohnaà doubled her efforts to pull away at the third lap. Bounding upon the bank, knife dawn, she attacked her spear's cloth knot.
Scrambling upon the bank, dagger drawn, Et-esh assaulted her harpoon's cloth.
In three strokes Ohnaà severed her lance's knot.
Panting, Et-esh ceased her sawing.
Amazoni went mad with exuberant shouts, Ojah yodeling the loudest.
Sheathing her blade, Ohnaà, breathing laboriously, sat hard upon the grass.
Worriedly rushing to his warrior's side, Ojah kneeled.
"I need only catch my breath, my mate," Ohnaà panted.
Et-esh eased to her knees beside Ohnaà. "I wish Dukwukka would come to my aid," she heaved.
"You have younger lungs than I, so you do not need the extra comfort."
Et-esh grinned weakly.
"Rest, warriors," Medicine Woman advised.
Mopping sweat from their brows they gratefully nodded.
An hour's repose had accumulated before Medicine Woman notified Amazoni to head for camp for foot races.
Et-esh pointed to her feet pounding the earth.
"I have my lucky moccasins on, Ohnaà."
"You will need all the luck they can offer, young one, as I am swifter than the deer."
"So far, my friend, your mouth runs swifter than any deer. You have only won once."
Amazoni laughed at the best friends' playful banter.
Halting at the foot race starting line at the fringe of camp, Amazoni watched Ohnaà and Et-esh crouch.
"You will run the circle twice. The first to touch my outstretched hand wins."
"Too bad your lucky moccasins have no feathers to fly, for that is what you will need to beat me."
Medicine Woman deprived the war chief the pleasure of a retort as the rise and fall of her hand signaled the race to begin.
Like rounds discharged from an Outsider carbine, the warrior contestants exploded into motion.
Ohnaà's muscle legs propelled her with such force that one stride equaled two of war chief Et-esh's. Her lungs deeply inhaled the scorching air. Her thick, waist-length mane fluttered behind in a lustrous obsidian train. Her heart pumped furiously as she led the way through the race's first leg around camp, whizzing by so rapidly she startled two of the four perimeter sentries' skittish mounts.
Et-esh jockeyed for the lead after a mighty struggle, only to lose it in seconds.
Amazoni roared unheard encouragement at the distant racers.
Gazing over her shoulder a quarter of the way around the final lap, Ohnaà witnessed Et-esh hopelessly lagging behind. Deliberately she reduced her lead until her struggling best friend was behind her.
"We are almost to Medicine Woman, young one. You can make it!"
Suddenly Et-esh toppled from exhaustion.
Adamantly shaking her head, wordlessly scooping
Et-esh into muscular arms, Ohnaà marched briskly to Medicine Woman.
Amazoni were stunned, for in past Games never had the warrior aided a downed competitor.
Ohnaà gently deposited her exhausted friend upon the ground.
"You should not have helped me. I would not have helped you!" Et-esh snarled.
"Favoritism is dishonorable," Medicine Woman chastised.
"One who runs so courageously should not be abandoned."
Thinking hard upon the warrior's words, Medicine Woman heaved a heavy sigh, then nodded.
"I, among all people, should have realized that. As usual you teach important lessons, daughter of Codot. Et-esh loses the race but triumphs in possession of such a noble friend."
"I am a fool, Ohnaà. Forgive my shameful outburst toward you."
"What shameful outburst?"
Inclining her head slightly, Et-esh conceded the subject dropped.
"Shall we continue the Games, war chief?" Medicine Woman inquired.
Her exhaustion forgotten, Et-esh nodded.
"To the corral," the shaman declared.
Outside the corral stood six stocky bay horses patiently waiting. Four would be utilized for lifting; two would be for the race.
Medicine Woman culled the lifting horses.
"You will lift your horses one at a time. Begin."
To the wide-eyed expectation of the people, Ohnaà eased her stalwart upper body beneath her equine's belly, hooking muscled arms about its legs. Eyes closed, sucking in deep breaths, Ohnaà gradually hefted the charger's hoofs a couple inches off the ground. Forehead beading with sweat, muscled thighs quaking, she gently lowered the dozing fourteen hundred pound animal to the ground amidst Amazonis' wild applause.
"Et-esh roared a mighty growl in the lift and settling of her steed.
"I am impressed, young one."
"You will be more after I win."
Grinning, Ohnaà flexed mammoth biceps.
"You can win against this?"
Et-esh displayed a slightly smaller muscle.
"I did not get this picking flowers."
"Whenever you two are ready we can finish this event," Medicine Woman reminded.
Blushing beneath Amazoni laughter, the warriors ceased their posing.
Ohnaà's triumphant second equine lift elicited cheers.
Et-esh victoriously completed her secondary turn.
Frowning, Medicine Woman rubbed her chin.
"We have run out of lifting horses with this unexpected tie. I will get two more."
While waiting, Ohnaà rubbed her hands together.
"I am making you nervous."
"My hands are sweaty."
Scowling, Ohnaà folded her arms across her chest.
Medicine Woman appeared, leading two pintos by their Trader halters.
"After you, young one."
The war chief hefted the struggling paint inches off the ground before settling it down.
Her immense strength sapped, Ohnaà's horse lift was impossible. Shaking her head in surrender, she hefted a fist. Amidst applause and shouting she noted her friend's heaving breath. "Et-esh!" she exclaimed, silencing the people.
Medicine Woman attempted to gauge injury, only to be shoved aside by Ohnaà who gripped the war chief's shoulders.
"I am fine," Et-esh wheezed. "It was just the strain."
Ohnaà glared at the shaman.
"Is this true?"
Medicine Woman shrugged.
"How do I know! You shove me aside. Et-esh diagnoses herself. I might as well take a nap!"
Ohnaà stepped aside.
"Thank you!" the shaman snarled, proceeding to gently compress her patient's sides, eliciting winces. "You pull muscles. You need rest."
"After the horse race."
"It is impossible to change Et-esh's mind once made up."
"So I see," Medicine Woman retorted. "My mind, too, will not be changed. After the Games she will begin her recovery in my lodge so I may keep watch. If she moves without permission, pulled muscles will be the last of her worries. Is that understood, war chief?"
Et-esh dumbly nodded.
Medicine Woman pointed to Ohnaà.
Retreating a couple of paces, hands raised in surrender, Ohnaà shook her head.
"I know better than to interfere with your decrees."
"You are wise."
Selected by Medicine Woman, five mounted, race-perimeter sentries headed off.
Surrounded by Amazoni, mounted on their race bays, war chief and tahna kept wary eyes on Medicine Woman as she led the way.
At the horse race starting line, the same used for the foot race, Amazoni waited for Ohnaà and the aching Et-esh to settle their restless bays into position. Medicine Woman assumed her place before the riders.
"Sentinels will scrutinize your lap about camp. There will be no bumping of the other's horse to trip it, as others have done. Disqualification of both will result.
"The last event of the Games--I wish you both good luck."
Standing aside, raising a gnarled hand, Medicine Woman dropped it, starting the race.
Ohnaà led the way at a gallop with Et-esh keeping pace. Blocking the pain of her pulled muscles, the war chief discharged a euphoric yodel, for nowhere but upon horseback did she feel truly free.
Around the first bend of the camp's wide circumference the warriors galloped, past the first two, widely spaced, mounted sentries. With steady pressure Et-esh eased her bay ahead of Ohnaà.
Furiously pounding her steed's ribs with moccasined heels the Shesh-Amazoni pressed on, only to fall further behind.
Whizzing past a third mounted lookout the riders were joined by two spotted, curly-tailed, camp dogs whose soggy tongues flapped outside their jaws in their effort to keep up, expertly avoiding clods of dirt churned up by the horses' pounding hooves. Their chase instincts exhausted, the dogs ground to a halt and lay down, panting.
Blowing by the last two sentries on their way to the shouting, jumping people at the finish line, Et-esh inhaled a pained breath and eased down her charger's right flank, holding on by just a heel and a handful of mane. Rapidly righting herself she clung against the horse's left flank. Rising upon her courser's back she stood upon it. Gazing over her shoulder to check on the distant Ohnaà, Et-esh laughed at her friend suffering from a long thick chunk of ebony mane slapped over her eyes.
With a growl Ohnaà snapped her head back to clear her vision of hair.
Remaining upon her bay stallion's back, Et-esh executed a flawless front flip, to the amusement of the shouting onlookers. Crossing the finish line, she performed another flip, missed her footing and slapped upon the ground on her right side. Groaning, she rolled onto her back.
Worried Amazoni gathered around, ignoring Ohnaà's thunderous arrival.
Angrily, Medicine Woman subjected the war chief to a torturous examination.
Leaping off her lathered stallion, Ohnaà ran to her writhing best friend and kneeled.
"Now Et-esh breaks a rib!" Medicine Woman exclaimed.
The war chief grinned.
"I will enjoy your hunting for me in the month to follow, Ohnaà."
"You could have killed yourself!"
"My victory would have made my demise worth it."
"You are touched!"
Medicine Woman stood.
"Ohnaà, carry this touched beast to my lodge."
"Do I not get a victory hug?"
"Upon your recovery I will break two ribs in a hug so you may happily crow about it to your friends."
Despite her agony, Et-esh laughed as she was carried to the medicine lodge.