|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|
The messenger in dusty boar skins lashed his lathered ebony horse at the Trader Lodge's crowded hitching post. Dipping into his leather mail saddlebag over his horse's withers he withdrew a wrinkled lavender envelope. Entering the busy Trader Lodge he strode to the bar.
"Greetings, stranger. Looks like you could use a drink. What'll it be?"
Bartender loaded a shot glass to the brim with purple aromatic liquid.
"Parlotta brandy. If this doesn't coil your nose hairs, nothing will."
Messenger gulped his beverage. Grimacing he slammed down his glass.
"Just what the doctor ordered!" Messenger exclaimed in a whisper. He reached into his shirt pocket for a gold piece to slap on the bar. Clearing his throat he extended the creased lavender envelope. "Give this important dispatch to Joseph."
"No official seals on it, what makes it so important?"
"Boss said if it wasn't delivered quick my job would go quicker. That's all I need to know."
Bartender poured another drink.
"On that note, this one's on me."
Downing it with gusto, Messenger grinned.
"I'm feeling no pain now!"
"I'll give Joseph his letter right away. As for you, it'd be wise to stay the night. Parlotta brandy is pretty potent."
"Have no fear, I--" Messenger collapsed to the floor.
Bartender chuckled softly. "When you wake up you'll be feeling a whole lot of pain." He motioned to a couple of waiters. "A back room bunk for this one," he decreed. Dispatch in hand he followed his fellow employees through the open door behind the bar into the corridor that branched into several chambers.
Trader Joseph lounged behind his desk, feet propped, fingers laced against the back of his cropped auburn-haired head, gray eyes closed.
"Wish someone would give me the time to daydream," Bartender grumbled.
Joseph awoke with a grin.
The crinkled lavender envelope was surrendered.
Ripped open, the memo careful unfolded, Joseph looked up. Frowning he pointed to his open door.
"Grouch," Bartender snarled taking his leave.
Trader Joseph concentrated on his communication.
Before her low fire, the Shesh-Amazoni, Ohnaà, sat, often hefting fuming pipe to her lips. Beside her sat Ojah stitching beads upon a moccasin, who periodically glanced at his silent brawny mate whose sharply chiseled mahogany features, framed by long thick raven hair, were magnified by flickering firelight. Ojah ceased his beading.
"Your mind is far away, my warrior."
Nodding in lowering her pipe, Ohnaà turned to Ojah.
"I think about a dream I had last night."
"Tell me about it."
"It was most unusual. Jo-teff came with news but I was deaf to his words. Never have I had a silent dream."
Dumped of ashes into the fire, Ohnaà set aside her pipe.
"Medicine Woman would know its meaning," Ojah suggested.
"This time I will await Jo-teff's arrival for answers."
"You way is also wise," Ojah acknowledged resuming his moccasin's beading.
Ohnaà prodded the fire with a lengthy twig.
Trader Joseph reread the message drafted in gold script. Replacing it within its puckered lavender envelope, easing it into his shirt pocket, he hurriedly existed his office.
Outfitted with bow and quiver, Ohnaà trotted Appaloosa in her study of prairie grass trampled by delicate cloven hoof. Cantering to the top of the next rise she gazed approvingly upon the immense grazing deer herd. She loaded her bow.
Heads risen in unison to the danger the herd exploded into motion.
Galloping beside her chosen doe, Ohnaà released her arrow, felling her plump prey. Kneeling beside her kill she skimmed a mahogany-skinned hand over its velvety beige pelt. It would make a fine addition to Ojah's collection.
Walking his mount through the Amazoni camp, Trader Joseph cheerfully exchanged greetings with pale-skinned, fair-haired, blue-eyed villagers. Dismounting at Ohnaà's tepee, scenting blood, he stepped behind it, finding the Shesh-Amazoni beside her fresh doe hide draped over a drying rack, clutching a woven basket heavy with meat.
"It was, my friend, because your people leave our animals alone for now."
Grinning, Ohnaà led the way into her tepee. Depositing the meat basket in Ojah's corner for later tending she settled at the fire.
Joseph assumed his place opposite her.
Seconds later Ojah and war chief Et-esh entered taking their places beside their guest.
"I have news," the Trader reported in Amazoni for Ojah's benefit. Producing the crumpled lavender envelope from his shirt pocket, unfolding the notice carefully, he translated its gold script.
" 'Mr. Joseph,
As a result of meticulous investigation of accounts regarding the Native woman in your company to Tenore City thirty-eight seasons ago, during my father's reign, do I pen this letter.
Wishing to meet this extraordinary person.
At once must she set sail for Tenore City for an interview and attendance of a lavish honor feast.
Looking forward to her arrival.
With warm regards,
King D'gar.' "
Joseph replaced the note into his shirt pocket.
The warrior's strange dream now made sense. Her friend's words were silent because he spoke another's thoughts.
Ohnaà folded brawny arms across her chest.
"You will not like my thoughts, Jo-teff."
"Since when has that ever mattered?"
Ohnaà's deep voice was tinged with bitterness.
"Long ago when I walked Dah-gar's village, you heard that disrespectful speech maker claiming his warrior stronger call me a 'heathen loudmouth' when I spoke against his fighter. In an eating place, you saw that my right to be there was challenged. Only because he was young did I not claim that insolent Outsider's sharp tongue.
"I saw, Jo-teff, in the eyes of many I passed, contempt! I am now to believe there is goodness and friendship in Dah-gar's heart when his only desire is to display me? Ah yah! I owe him no part of me!"
For a long while all digested Ohnaà's irate words.
"When our day is long past," Et-esh predicted, "Amazoni will call Dah-gar's village home. It is to them that the mighty daughter of Codot owes the story of a new visit across the Great Water, as no other warrior possesses her courage to venture so far from home a second time.
"I say the display of Dah-gar beside Ohnaà is a good thing because she is superior!"
Her fury gradually cooling, Ohnaà's attention returned to her Trader friend."
"Right as always, I will heed Et-esh's words. But Jo-teff also comes so he will have a good tale to tell his people."
"More importantly I will be able to prevent you from accidentally killing anyone."
"Ah yah!" Ohnaà exclaimed.
Venison stew and spiced white bark pudding served and enjoyed, Et-esh left without a word, Ojah following to visit friends.
"Tell me of this king, Jo-teff."
"Never met D'gar but from what I've read a king's rank is his birthright. Most stay home while others achieve their battle objectives."
"The Amazoni way of fighting is the right way."
"Your arrogance hasn't mellowed I see."
"Truth is not arrogance, Jo-teff. A tahna never sends others to do her fighting. She fights with them. Dah-gar's king way is foolish."
"He didn't invent it, Ohnaà."
"Why does he not change it?"
"D'gar doesn't need your approval any more than you need his," Joseph rebuked. "May I continue?"
Frowning, Ohnaà nodded.
"Servants tend their king's every need one book told, with some dressing them in their finest clothes which they wear every day."
"Ah yah!" Ohnaà growled with disdain.
"We shouldn't, however, judge all kings by what I've read. D'gar could be very different. Try hard enough you might even like him."
"I will think about it."
Hours later with Trader Joseph asleep beneath fur blankets in a corner, Ojah returned from visiting. Finding Ohnaà before the fire's warm glow, broad shoulders cloaked beneath a white wolf fur blanket, he sat beside her to stare into the fire.
"The warrior you pursue behind my back should not keep you out so late, Ojah. You need your sleep."
"I keep no others behind your back!"
Ohnaà softly chuckled.
"You are not funny. It is you I wonder about, as I always see you return mens' loving gaze."
"It is wonder you notice for I do not know why I am desired by them."
"How can you not see? You are a great prize for anyone."
"I am not just for anyone, Ojah," Ohnaà corrected. "I am, and always shall be, your prize."
"As such I will miss you while you visit the Trader king."
"Come with me."
"I do not belong in his land any more than he belongs in ours. But a day will not pass that I will not think of you, my warrior."
Abruptly shedding the white wolf fur blanket from her broad shoulders in rising, Ohnaà towered over Ojah. Her smile dazzling she scooped him into her powerful arms.
"This night I will give your body much to remember during my absence."
Stalking to the high fur bed Ohnaà gently deposited Ojah upon it.
"Jo-teff might wake up and see!"
"His woman will thank him for what he learns."
Ohnaà enthusiastically discarded her skimpy skins.
At breakfast, Trader Joseph observed Ohnaà chew her last bite of venison stew. "Kiddy will thank me for learning your rutting boar behavior?" he noted in Trader so Ojah couldn't understand. "Losing my virginity long before your birth, I need no lovemaking instruction."
Startled by Joseph's disclosure Ohnaà choked. Ojah hammered his mate's back until she ceased coughing.
"In the future we'll have to keep certain thoughts private won't we. Light sleepers hear everything."
Ohnaà vigorously nodded.
Unable to follow the discussion in Trader the befuddled Ojah scowled. To soothe himself he departed for a brisk walk.
Filling her pipe, Ohnaà ignited it with a lengthy slender twig from the fire, sucking hard upon its worn stem until it belched thick peppery vapor before passing it.
"Upon my return, Jo-teff, never again will I ride another boat. My stomach did not like it the first time. When no one saw, my insides muddied the Great Water."
Burning his share of tobacco the giggling Trader Joseph returned the pipe. "At least you made it that far!" he exclaimed. "First time I set sail a mariner with a mop and bucket was assigned to follow and clean up my messes. Had he not been around, sailors would've slipped on my innards and flew overboard leaving me to steer the ship alone!"
Raucous laughter sounding from their leader's tepee caused passersby to shake heads in wonder.
On his way back from his appeasing stroll Ojah encountered war chief Et-esh who joined him.
"Soon my warrior will leave. Last time Amazoni did not give her a proper send off."
With a nod, Et-esh dashed away.
Emptied pipe set aside, the friends stood.
"Medicine Woman may have something for sea sickness," Joseph suggested.
Ohnaà walked to the back of the tepee beside her high fur bed where her rifle, bow and quiver, leaned.
"Unable to keep her own council, Medicine Woman would tell. I would sooner suffer in silence than be teased without mercy if it were Et-esh who asked."
The warrior reached for her weapons.
"Leave those here."
"Why?" Ohnaà demanded.
"You're visiting King D'gar as a friend. He and his guards will be intimidated enough by your size."
The warrior drew her thick-bladed knife. "This I keep," she insisted.
"But not for taking hair or a life."
Battle cries, mens' trilling, and barking dogs, arrested the menacing conversation. Sheathing her knife, Ohnaà led the way outside.
In the noisy crowd's front row gripping the reins of Trader Joseph's charger stood war chief Et-esh. Beside her clutching the reins of a head tossing Appaloosa, stood Ojah.
Approaching her mate, lovingly clearing away a stray tawny hair from his forehead, Ohnaà rested a calloused dark palm against Ojah's pale cheek, her piercing obsidian gaze gripping his azure.
Trader Joseph mounted up. "We've got a boat to catch," he reminded.
Ohnaà vaulted upon Appaloosa's broad back.
The crowd's voice rose in volume.
Ojah shrilly whooped.
Fist furiously pounding the air overhead Ohnaà passionately answered.
Encouraged by Ojah's outburst, Et-esh expressed a blood-curdling screech.
Outsider and warrior exited the camp at a brisk canter. Rapidly the Amazoni farewell faded.
"Ojah certainly made my ears ring."
"Ah yah! His war cry stirred great fire within me."
"I'm afraid to ask where."
Ohnaà thumped a huge fist against her chest.
Joseph exhaled a sigh of relief.
A sly grin creased Ohnaà's sharply chiseled features.
"You are right, Jo-teff. It is not you who must learn the Amazoni way of pleasuring a mate, but Kid-deh. My advice will guide her in satisfying you better so on other matters you will think more with your heart and less with what hangs between your legs."
"I beg your pardon!"
Ohnaà burst into hearty laughter.
The sun was at its zenith in the cloudless sky when the weary hoofs of the Shesh-Amazoni and Outsider steeds trudged through the Nooveau Ocean's ashen beach.
"Something's wrong," noted the suspicious Trader Joseph describing the clear dock and rundown shack with its barren corral ten yards away. "Cracker should be out and there's no boat moored at the dock. One is always here before I am."
With a savage kick against Appaloosa's ribs, Ohnaà galloped to the shack to punish its door with a shrill war cry. The oblivious shanty remained as sealed as the muzzled snout of an Outsider dog.
Trader Joseph reined up.
Dismounting, kicking open the door, Ohnaà stomped into the dwelling. Seconds later she backed out pursued by an ax-swinging, epithet hurling, diminutive woman donning cloth pants, long-sleeved shirt, and cropped red hair.
Stunned, Trader Joseph could only observe the spectacle.
The blaspheming woman's ax whizzed perilously close to Ohnaà's throat. Teeth bared the enraged warrior tore the weapon from her opponent's grasp. Flung aside the ax thudded dully in the sand. Fisting the jaw of her dogged attacker, Ohnaà dropped her onto her back. Straddling her antagonist, drawing her knife with a savage snarl, she pressed its whetted edge against her aggressor's throat.
Regaining his senses Joseph dismounted. "Release her, daughter of Codot!" he commanded.
Seizing a fistful of cropped red hair, Ohnaà shifted her blade from her foe's throat to hairline. "How are you called?" she demanded glaring into the woman's steady green eyes.
"My name's Santana."
"Sahn-tahn-nah is eager to join her spirits."
"Eager, hell! I have a right to go after anyone kicking my door open and barging in like they own the place! If you're going to kill me for defending my home be done with it! I don't have all day!"
Nodding approval of Santana's audacity, Ohnaà sheathed her glittering dagger. Nimbly she rose to her feet.
Scrambling to her feet, Santana slapped sand from her clothes and hair. Shifting sore jaw she was grateful it wasn't broken. An inventorying tongue detected no loose teeth. She collected her ax from the sand.
"I'm Joseph. We're on our way to Tenore City. Wasn't more than three months ago that Cracker was raging as usual when I caught the last boat. I was concerned seeing neither. My friend, Ohnaà, naturally carried my concern to the extreme. She didn't mean anything by it."
"I didn't mean anything by trying to decapitate her."
"Have we missed the boat?"
"Pirates are on a rampage. Could be weeks before another arrives if at all."
"Buried Father behind the house in an unmarked grave."
"Please accept my sincere condolences," Joseph offered.
"I'm glad the nasty bastard is dead," Santana hissed. "Shame it took eighty seasons to be rid of him."
"Cracker was the last person I expected to be married," Joseph confessed.
"In Father's time you had no choice but to accept your arranged marriage. Needing work he accepted the first thing offered, which was this port station.
"Friendly, Mother went aboard offering boat crews her special sandwiches since they were forbidden to disembark. While they ate she would listen to their sea yarns. When I was born, Father never believed I was his, jealously thinking Mother did more with the sailors than just listen to their tales. She dismissed Father's tantrums about it as harmless noise until he beat us in a drunken rage when I turned six. Boat came next day for the Islands and we took it. Didn't see Father again until I buried him.
"Only good thing he ever did was run this port so I'm keeping it open."
"A warrior, Sahn-tahn-nah needs no help," Ohnaà defended.
"At last someone recognizes my capabilities!"
"I'll corral the horses while you two gloat about it."
"Can you handle them all alone?" Santana inquired with mock concern.
"Are you going to let her to talk to me that way, Ohnaà?"
Grinning, the warrior hurled a wink at her new friend.
"Be careful of splinters, Jo-teff, as you chew upon the same bone of doubt that you tossed Sahn-tahn-nah."
Flushed with embarrassment beneath the womens' laughter, the properly admonished Trader walked the horses into the corral.
True to port keeper Santana's prophecy, pirates blocked incoming travel for weeks. Awaiting their vessel to Tenor City to visit King D'gar, Trader Joseph fished, collected driftwood for the cabin fireplace, mended the shack's roof and reinforced the corral fence with the late Cracker's hoarded supply of lumber. Ohnaà assisted Santana in crab hunting. For exercise she honed the Outsider woman's formidable combat skills.
One brisk night below full paired moons, coerced by restlessness, Santana shuffled through ankle deep bleached sand onto the wharf. Strolling to its end she surveyed the Nooveau Ocean's calm ripples. Absently whisking aside loose strands of cropped red hair from her forehead she turned. Startled by the tall, brawny Shesh-Amazoni standing behind her she exhaled sharply.
Easing cross-legged upon the pier's edge Ohnaà observed the Great Water's moonlit surface for a long while.
"Sahn-tah-nah's feet grow roots."
"How did you know I didn't leave?"
"The sharp ears of Amazoni never lie."
Joining the warrior, Santana hung her legs over the marina's weathered lip.
Dipping into her belt's bulging tobacco pouch with its side pocket of papers, Ohnaà rolled a thick cigarette. Lighting it with a match from another belt pouch she tossed the flame stick into the moonlit sea.
"Sahn-tahn-nah would smoke?"
Inhaling deeply, Ohnaà ejected tangy white jets of smoke from her nostrils.
"Why go to Tenor City? Your friend Joseph avoids the question."
"I do not understand why he remains silent, but I hold no secrets from Sahn-tahn-nah."
The tide slurped gently against the dock's supports.
Ohnaà flicked her cigarette nub into the water. "Thirty-eight seasons ago," she recounted, "I went with Jo-teff across the Great Water to see his city. I visit the sacred lodge called church. I defeated an Outsider in wrestling. I save a child from runaway horses. Returning home I continue my life.
"Jo-teff came to my camp with a message from one called Dah-gar who heard of me. He wishes to meet and give me an honor feast. I did not want to go because I do not trust Dah-gar. Only the great wisdom of war chief Et-esh, who said future Amazoni would one day live in his city must remember, convinced me to leave my people again."
"I hope all goes well. Good night, Ohnaà."
"Good sleep, Sahn-tahn-nah."
The next morning as Santana cleared the breakfast dishes a ship's bell clanged. Rushing outside she, Trader Joseph, and Ohnaà, witnessed the seventy-five foot boat armed with two hundred flapping sails coast beside the wharf. Racing onto the dock Santana and Joseph dodged ropes of braided red hemp thick as tree trunks hurled over the side. With Joseph's help Santana secured the ropes to wharf posts. A heavy anchor hit the water with a splash. Protruding like a thick wooden tongue the gangplank was extended.
His tight navy blue brass-buttoned uniform bunching and relaxing beneath each ebon high-booted footfall, marched the ship's portly commander to greet his old friend, Trader Joseph, standing beside the unimpressed Ohnaà. Extending a meaty hand with a grin the captain briefly pumped Joseph's hand. He turned to the warrior.
"What a pleasure to see you after so long, Ohnaà. You look the same."
The stoic Shesh-Amazoni folded muscled arms across her chest.
"Don't tell me you don't remember me!"
"You are Ja-hoo. You are fatter."
Captain Jahool patted his expansive waistline.
"Belly aside, I hope you noticed I remembered your name."
Nodding, Ohnaà grinned.
"Would you like some coffee?" Santana offered. "There's also cake left if you'd like."
"Never do I shirk the duty of finishing off cake, my dear."
Santana jogged ahead to prepare her guest's snack.
"Three months ago you didn't have such an impressive ship, Jahool. Who'd you steal it from?" Joseph asked.
"Won it in a card game."
"She's a beauty."
"A fitting parting gift too. I'm retiring after this run to Tenore City."
"Knowing you, when you're dead, you'll have your ashes molded into an anchor to be back at sea where you belong."
The trio headed for Santana's cabin.
The fourth night at sea, Ohnaà ventured out of the cabin she shared with Trader Joseph. Beneath double moonlight and gently rustling sails, the deck was not hers, finding Captain Jahool leaning against the railing, gazing upon his beloved ocean. Sidling beside the chubby man she intuitively knew something was wrong.
"You are troubled, Ja-hoo. You expect battle from those called pirates?"
Captain Jahool shook his head.
"What is wrong?"
"The sea air has made my bad heart worse. I have less than a season to live."
"You tell Jo-teff?"
"How do you tell someone you've known thirty seasons you're dying?"
Ohnaà scowled at the question's idiocy.
"The way you tell me."
"I don't want to talk about it anymore!"
Captain Jahool's escape was blocked.
"If you do not tell Jo-teff soon, I will. To hear your truth from me will anger him. I will then have to kill you before he does."
"How dare you threaten me!"
"Jo-teff is a good friend who will not be dishonored by lies. I am a warrior who does not speak the empty words of threats. You would do well to remember these things."
With a parting curt nod, Ohnaà padded away.
The fifth day's morning saw the boat drop anchor in Tenor City's crowded port. Captain Jahool approached his passengers.
"I must contact my replacement."
The seaman hurried away.
"That's the fastest he's ever moved. Maybe he smells someone's pie cooling in an open window."
"Let us go."
"So much for my humor."
Ohnaà observed the harbor's population of top-hatted men in tight suits and tailored overcoats accompanied by their high-heeled women clad in layered silk skirts, feathered hats, and frilly blouses. With necks weighted down with strings of precious jewels, the warrior was amazed the women were able to hold their heads up. Though it wouldn't have surprised her, she wondered if they forced their men to exterminate every bird to decorate their plumed hats.
Outsiders wore outrageous clothes, owned ridiculous customs, poisoned the air with artificial scents. She turned to her companion.
"Your people are a better joke."
Observing the circus, Joseph nodded.
Disembarking the ship and briskly crossing the bustling dock to the busy red cobblestone street, Trader Joseph and Ohnaà trailed a portly woman clad in tight green silk dress. Stout Woman's high tawny hairstyle, reminding the warrior of the bulbous nests of stinger bees, caused her to ponder with amusement, flying insects mistaking the Outsider's hair for an abandoned nest. Studying Stout Woman's high-heeled black shoes strapped to meaty ankles, Ohnaà marveled at her ability to cram such fleshy feet into so small a shoe.
Catching a spiked heel between cobblestones, Stout Woman fell.
Ohnaà kneeled beside her.
"Moccasins are better."
Brow dripping sweat, Stout Woman hauled herself unsteadily to her feet. "Maybe I should wear skimpy skins too!" she snapped.
Ohnaà shook her head in rising.
"You are too fat."
Insulted, Stout Woman slapped Ohnaà hard across the face.
"You need a muzzle on to teach you manners, barbarian."
Baring her teeth Ohnaà backhanded Stout Woman to the ground upon her back.
Screeching, thrashing plump arms and legs like an overturned tortoise, Stout Woman attracted a herd of laughing townspeople.
Abandoning the spectacle, Joseph and Ohnaà tread street after street of shops and brick high-rise homes with swept steps. Horse-drawn carriages rattled by with irritating frequency.
"Where is Dah-gar, Jo-teff?"
"He can't be much further."
Annoyed, Ohnaà yanked aside a passing top-hatted villager.
"Where is the lodge of King Dah-gar?"
Wrenching free the terrified man bolted.
Trader Joseph pointed to the profile of a tall yellow stone mansion at the next corner's end surrounded by a high black metal gate protected by two guards clad in silver silk pantsuits and black leather shoes, armed with machete tipped lances.
Joseph and Ohnaà quickened their pace.
Before the taller of the two menacing armed guards, the Shesh-Amazoni thumped fist to chest.
"I, Ohnaà, daughter of Codot, will see King Dah-gar now."
The other guard sidled beside his smirking companion eyeing the brawny, sweat-glazed, mahogany-skinned, sable-haired woman outfitted in tight bikini skins and fringed knee-high moccasins.
"What makes you think he wants to see the likes of you?" Tall Guard demanded.
Retrieving the crinkled lavender envelope from his shirt pocket and opening it, Trader Joseph surrendered the gold-scripted invitation to the sentinel. Finishing his reading Tall Guard mashed it into a ball and tossed it back.
"You don't have an audience with the king, Mr. Joseph."
Straightening the worn invitation the Trader enveloped it.
"He comes," Ohnaà snarled.
Tall Guard rested his lance's honed tip over Joseph's heart.
"I say he doesn't."
Obsidian eyes blazing, wrenching Tall Guard's lance from his grasp, Ohnaà snapped it across her knee. Tossing its jagged pieces aside she toppled him with a fist to the nose, breaking it.
Short Guard rushed her with his lance. Ripping it from his grasp with a growl, hurling it aside, Ohnaà rammed her left elbow against his throat pinning him against the spaced rungs of the black metal gate. "Jo-teff comes," she hissed.
"I'll...open...up," Short Guard croaked.
Gate open, Ohnaà out of spite fisted him in the mouth splitting his lip, collapsing him to his knees.
Through the metal barrier, Trader and warrior tread the path of red marble to four black marble stairs before the Royal yellow stone mansion's brass door. A red tasseled thick golden hemp rope hung beside the door. Joseph pulled once. Observing no immediate results Ohnaà impatiently yanked twice.
Leaning heavily upon his onyx cane, a thin, short, balding gentleman in crimson silks, broad white waist sash, and knee-high glossy black boots, opened the creaky door.
Ohnaà bulldozed her way into the Royal mansion's white marble foyer.
"We have an invitation," Trader Joseph explained.
"We show your warriors. They are not well."
Greeter hobbled out to view his battered guards. Displeased he rejoined his guests. "I'll have you know, madam, that for eighteen seasons I served as King D'gar's Chief Military General," he snapped. "For obvious reasons I am now Chief Military Advisor."
"He's an important war chief," Trader Joseph translated.
Ohnaà eyed Greeter's onyx cane.
"My right knee may be frozen, but I'm hardly defenseless and unlike the bumbling fools outside I'll not tolerate your nonsense."
Grasping the hilt of dagger, Ohnaà growled menacingly.
Hurriedly Trader Joseph surrendered the worn invitation which was ignored.
"Take the paper sign!" Ohnaà commanded.
"Please sir," Trader Joseph pleaded.
Concluding his reading, Greeter glared at Ohnaà.
"This doesn't award you excuse to hurt the guards."
"One challenge Jo-teff with his lance. I defend him. The other attack me. They are lucky to see sunset. Dah-gar will meet Jo-teff. He will welcome him at my honor feast."
"One does not dictate to royalty, madam."
"A leader, I say what will be," Ohnaà snapped.
"Have it your way then!" Greeter barked in no mood for argument. "Follow me to your room."
"Thank you," Trader Joseph replied ignoring Ohnaà's scowl over the additional delay.
Onyx cane loudly tapping, Greeter hobbled in the lead through the spaciously barren white marble foyer. Ascending a towering red carpeted cherry wood staircase, Ohnaà ignored its wall canvases of King D'gar's forebears outfitted in capes of red velvet, diamond sprinkled scepters, and bejeweled crowns.
Topping the stairs they traveled the red carpeted hall whose walls lay hidden beneath floral tapestry. At hall's end waited Trader Joseph and Ohnaà's open doored oak floored quarters.
Standing sentry against its vestibule's wall was a small round polished mahogany table crowned with a lustrous onyx potbellied vase housing white and purple paper flowers.
Shimmering multi-faceted crystal droplets adorned the chandelier's five arms tipped with squat, burning smokeless candles.
Progressing to the oak floored living room, the ceiling mural of feminine angels sporting flowing white gowns, wings and golden halos, playing silver flutes flying around a lit six-candled crystal chandelier, intrigued Ohnaà. A cool breeze tickled her muscular back. Turning she noted open glass doors leading to an iron veranda upon which Trader Joseph and Greeter stood. Fearlessly joining them upon the alien metal platform she surveyed Tenore City's rooftops, bustling streets, and harbor.
Greeter led his guests into the red carpeted bedroom with its mahogany four poster bed spread with purple down comforter topped with two bloated white feather pillows, then into the open doored spacious red tile floored bathroom furnished with a brass four-footed tub and wooden water and waste buckets. Rising from a corner was a golden water pump and waist-high glass-topped onyx table supporting a white water-filled porcelain wash basin, pitcher and two folded black towels.
"I trust the accommodations are satisfactory?"
"Very much so," Trader Joseph replied.
Inclining his head curtly to Ohnaà, Greeter hobbled out.
In the bathroom, Ohnaà impatiently observed Trader Joseph wash his face.
"I will see King Dah-gar now."
Joseph patted dry his face with a black towel. "Unfortunately, a Royal invitation means waiting," he explained. "To pass time we might as well enjoy our veranda's view." He eyed the bulging tobacco pouch at the warrior's belt. "We both could use a few smokes while we're at it."
Ohnaà grudgingly accompanied Joseph out of the bathroom to the metal terrace overlooking Tenore City with its bustling harbor to await their Royal summons.
Twilight descending, the warrior abruptly whirled to face the open double glass doors. Viewing no one, but trusting his friend's honed instincts, Trader Joseph waited.
A white-haired servant dressed in purple silks and white slippers approached.
"King D'gar and Queen Germaine will see you."
"We wait long enough!" Ohnaà exclaimed. Seizing the attendant by a fistful of purple silk collar she yanked him close. "Lead us, Snow Hair," she commanded.
Terrified, Snow Hair felt his left crotch soak rapidly with urine.
Ohnaà shoved the stinking minion away.
"I'll be right back," he whispered and hurriedly departed.
Ohnaà crossed muscled arms across her chest. "Snow Hair loses his water too easily, Jo-teff," she casually observed.
Trader Joseph nodded.
Snow Hair returned minutes later dressed in fresh purple silks.
"Please follow me."
Conducting his guests through hall after immense hall of wood, tapestry, and marble, Snow Hair ended the tour through high open wooden doors to the charge of an emaciated bald hireling clad in copper silks, polished knee-high black boots, gripping an ebony staff tipped with a polished silver globe. Shoving aside the lackey blocking her view, Ohnaà gazed over the thirty-five steps of white marble to the colossal Royal Reception Room's buffed Jade floor divided into huge squares by white caulk.
The unguarded Royal couple sat in separate bejeweled golden thrones before tall curtainless multi-paned windows puncturing an unadorned white plaster wall.
"You cannot advance unannounced," Crier insisted.
Ignoring the servant, Ohnaà led Trader Joseph down the stairs.
"Oh dear!" Crier repeated nervously pacing back and forth.
Ohnaà and Joseph stood before their Royal hosts.
The emerald-eyed portly King D'gar, bulbous nose red and crusty from allergies, wavy shoulder-length brunet hair flowing beneath his four-pointed silver crown, attired in loose tan silks and ankle-high leather boots, yellow waist sash, his left chest crowded with varicolored round, square, oblong, and triangular medals, stared with wide-eyed amazement at the tall, brawny, sable-haired, mahogany-skinned Shesh-Amazoni, clad in skimpy skins and knee-high moccasins. "Magnificent!" he whispered.
Crownless, the gaunt Queen Germaine, long wavy blond hair framing a plain face unblemished by cosmetics, outfitted in long dress of delicate beige lace studded with tiny black pearls, hands folded in her lap, stared equally awestruck at her stunning Native guest. "Indeed," she replied.
The Trader cleared his throat.
Gaze riveted upon Ohnaà, King D'gar absently nodded.
"Yes, yes, of course you are."
Amused, Trader Joseph softly chuckled.
The warrior thumped a huge fist against her chest. "I am Ohnaà, leader of the Amazoni, daughter of Codot," she proclaimed proudly.
"We're honored," King D'gar complimented. "Now, Mr. Joseph, if you'll excuse us--"
"No!" Ohnaà bellowed. "Your warriors outside did not want and threaten Jo-teff, forcing battle. Bad Leg who greeted us did not want him at my honor feast. You send Jo-teff the marks on paper asking for me but do not want him!"
"Our main interest, we assumed your speaking with us alone, was no problem."
"It is unwise to choose for me."
"She's absolutely right. It's inexcusable for me to decide for her. Please accept my sincerest apologies. May we be alone?"
Nodding the warrior eased cross-legged upon the cold Jade floor.
Bowing head respectfully to the Royal couple Trader Joseph departed.
"It's an honor to meet you," King D'gar repeated.
"It take you long enough."
"Well, as they say, better late than never," Queen Germaine joked.
Ohnaà scowled. "Your worth is of no importance to me," she countered. "If not for the wisdom of war chief Et-esh, who said future Amazoni living here must hear of a second visit, I would not be here."
"How dare you speak to us that way!"
"Ohnaà has every right," King D'gar sternly chastised. "My mistake was making decisions about Mr. Joseph without her consent. The guards survived her wrath in their blunder of threatening him. You try making her feel grateful she's been invited. With all our nonsense it's we who must be thankful she's remained!" He heaved his portly figure from his golden throne. "In order to begin anew we'll join Ohnaà upon the floor."
"Jade is dreadfully cold!"
"I'm not asking."
Standing, Queen Germaine glared at her husband. "I sit on floors for no guests, my dear." With displeased rustle of beige black-pearled lace skirt she departed.
"Wives! You can't live with them and you can't live without them!" the corpulent King D'gar exclaimed settling with difficulty cross-legged before the big Shesh-Amazoni.
Impressed by the willingness of the Trader monarch to join her upon the floor as an equal, Ohnaà decided King D'gar worthy of joining her for smoke. Untying the bulging tobacco pouch with side pocket of rolling papers from her bikini skins' waistband, she deftly rolled two cigarettes. Retrieving a match from another belt pouch and scraping its blue head against the Jade floor she ignited the smokes passing one to the eager monarch who enthusiastically inhaled a grand puff only to cough until his eyes watered. To the warrior's amusement King D'gar extinguished his smoke's glowing tip by fervent floor banging.
Ohnaà exhaled pungent plumes of white smoke from her nostrils.
"Strong tobacco is good for you, Dah-gar."
"If your lungs are cast iron."
Dismissing the unintelligible remark with a shrug of massive brown shoulders, Ohnaà flicked aside her smoldering cigarette butt. "Now, we talk," she declared.
"The stories of your last visit of rescuing a child from a runaway carriage, your spectacular defeat of a wrestler, and surviving Ye Eatery Inn, were the talk of the town. So intrigued, my father, King Reggert, dispatched scouts disguised as locals on a fact finding mission. Not long after, word was sent of his death leading to my ascension to the throne. I insisted his assignment continue--"
Annoyed, Ohnaà flashed a silencing hand.
"I do not understand why you wish to honor me for saving the young one from runaway horses. Your people did nothing. I did what was right. I defeated your fighter because I am stronger. I defend my right to be in the eating place. My deeds were nothing."
"Visitors have never displayed such courage and strength. Obviously different from your blond blue-eyed Amazoni sisters, gaining information about your background among them, contrary to proven reports of your extraordinary battle exploits, proved a wasteful thirty-eight seasons worth of lies. I finally realized that only you could explain your unusual upbringing."
"Long ago, Shesh attack Codot's camp for no reason. A warrior kill her baby. Leading a vengeance raid she claimed me as hers.
"Enough talk of me. I have questions for you."
The portly King D'gar struggled to his feet.
"I was feeling a bit cramped. On our way to the stables for our ride through town I'd be delighted to answer anything asked."
Ohnaà rose gracefully to her feet.
"We ride alone?"
Trader Joseph was right about one thing so far Ohnaà reflected. King D'gar was likable.
Royal stables their heading, Ohnaà and King D'gar strolled the gargantuan torch illuminated manicured olive lawn garnished with white wild flower hedges and massive crimson leafed shade trees.
"In a city of stone, it is good to see forest, Dah-gar. You share yours with your people?"
"Once each spring."
"That is wrong. As leader you must always share."
The cream stucco with black tile roofed stables with their inviting open red doors came into view.
"Books tell Jo-teff many things, Dah-gar. They tell him kings send others to fight their battles and cannot dress themselves. Does Jo-teff who is a stranger to you speak the truth when he says you may be different?"
Warrior and Sovereign halted outside the stables' open red doors.
"I may be a large target, but I'm no coward in battle and I can certainly dress myself!" King D'gar hotly defended.
"That is good."
Ruler and Shesh-Amazoni crossed the Royal stables' threshold.
The two moons were high when Ohnaà returned to the quarters she shared with Trader Joseph finding him on the metal veranda overlooking the active streets lit by dozens of lanterns. She inhaled deeply the cool night air. "You were right about Dah-gar being different than book kings. He is a good man."
Craving shared smoke, detaching her skins' waistband's tobacco pouch with its side pocket of papers, she rolled two cigarettes.
Their smoke long finished a sharp rapping at their quarter's door, interrupted Trader Joseph and Ohnaà's view of the lantern lit Tenore City. Hurrying from the metal veranda to the door they were met by a slip of folded pink paper slipped under it. Ohnaà handed it to Joseph for interpretation.
"We're summoned to your feast."
Rapidly making their way through titanic halls of wood, tapestry, and marble, Ohnaà and Trader Joseph entered the Royal Reception Room's open wooden doors and into the charge of Crier outfitted in formal copper velvet suit and knee-high polished black boots. Gone was his ebony staff tipped with buffed silver globe.
Gazing over the torch lit Royal Reception Room's thirty-five step white marble staircase, Joseph and Ohnaà noted King D'gar and Queen Germaine's jewel encrusted golden thrones were replaced by a bare hundred foot Obsidian table occupied by guests clad in formal velvets, silks and lace.
The obese King D'gar's bulbous allergied nose was powder dusted. His wavy shoulder-length brunet hair dangled in a pony tail beneath his four-pointed sterling crown. In loose tan velvet pantsuit, yellow waist sash across his wide girth, his chest medals were replaced by a palm-sized silver eagle head medallion on a thin white silk ribbon.
High cheekbones and lips lightly rouged, Queen Germaine looked ravishing in a diamond chipped white silk dress and ruby tiara crowning blond hair dressed in a tight bun.
Between the imperial couple stood two empty chairs. Behind the sovereigns seventy-five red silk pantsuited and slippered servants waited.
Conversation echoed through the colossal Jade-floored white-walled room.
"How shall I introduce you both?" Crier asked.
"I am Ohnaà, leader of the Amazoni, daughter of Codot."
Crier's introduction suspended conversation.
Rapidly descending the white marble thirty-five step staircase, ignoring Trader Joseph, all but the Royal couple murmured awe over the tall, mahogany-skinned, raven-haired, chiseled-featured, brawny warrior in knee-high fringed moccasins and skimpy bikini skins sporting small plump waist pouches, sheathed knife, and shaggy swaying scalp cord.
Ohnaà and Joseph halted before their Royal hosts.
Utilizing an out of sight chamber the servants rapidly retrieved and dressed the table with black cloth napkins, filled polished brass wine goblets, crystal red wine and water-filled decanters, solid gold plates and flatware, and crystal bowls packed with round puffy white biscuits. Deep iron pans of breaded crab cakes topped with creamy white sauce, red marble bowls of cheese sprinkled pink noodles, wooden platters of whole roasted turkeys and plump rabbits slick with spiced melted butter, were presented. Edged with a wedge of yellow Sour Fruit, crystal finger bowls of floral scented water were positioned at each guest's left.
The servants departed the Royal Reception Room.
King D'gar rose.
"Ohnaà, leader of the Amazoni, daughter of Codot, and Trader Joseph, please sit between Queen Germaine and I."
King D'gar hefted brass wine goblet. "To new friendships!" he toasted.
Soon to be homeward bound, leaping to her feet startling her host, hoisting huge brown fist overhead, Ohnaà voiced shrill celebratory yells.