|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|
Sitting before her tepee fire the husky, mahogany-skinned, scowling Shesh-Amazoni warrior, Ohnaà, clad in skimpy bikini skins and knee-high fringed moccasins, listened intently to her friend, Trader Joseph, clad in black cloth pants and red plaid shirt, seated opposite her. When he finished, the warrior shifted her glare to the fire whose quivering gleam cast harsh shadows across her chiseled features and reflected off her long thick glistening raven hair.
"When I was a young warrior, Jo-teff, I led a war party against the Southern Shesh for destroying our smallest band. In fear the Northern Shesh, who spawned me, begged us for treaty talk and I was sent. My people and the Northern Shesh are still enemies but there is no battle between us because they have kept their word for seventy seasons not to wage war. No one needed Trader help.
"Many seasons later I rescued an Amazoni band imprisoned in a fort reservation because of treaty talker lies. Those Amazoni are no more. I went to no talks, put no mark on paper promising no battle if my rescue was interfered with." Ohnaà's gaze shifted from her fire back to Trader Joseph. "Now you say treaty talkers want the Northern Shesh, the Ossit, the mountain dwelling Waysech, who are too far from everyone, and Amazoni, not to battle one another when our combat does not affect them. They waste no time showing their bad heart by sending you to do their bidding."
"I came because you would've killed other runners. I don't think there should be slaughter over a message."
Ohnaà stabbed hard her fire with a long stick. "I do not think we should be bothered at all," she countered. Snapping her probe into pieces she tossed them one by one into the crackling flames. "Ah yah! If it was up to me, Jo-teff, I would not listen to your treaty talkers because I distrust them. It is wrong that after what they have done to other Amazoni they do not learn, and again dictate. No one tells us what we can and cannot do.
"The problem you bring cannot be decided by one voice. Council will hear your words. Know this. I will argue against the treaty talkers."
"I understand. I don't see the harm of just listening to them. I'll return soon for your answer. Let's smoke."
Retrieving the pipe beside her, Ohnaà rubbed a calloused palm along its long worn stem.
"It will take more than this, my friend, to settle me."
"It's a good thing you stroke a pipe instead of your beloved loaded rifle."
"One day I will kill prey for you with it."
"Boar instead of people I hope."
Ohnaà shrugged massive mahogany-skinned shoulders.
"It depends on who crosses my path first."
Trader Joseph looked worried.
Ohnaà chuckled softly as she loaded her pipe's deep bowl with tobacco from a waist pouch.
"I joke, my friend."
Trader Joseph sighed with relief.
Pipe lit with a slim twig Ohnaà inhaled several puffs before passing it.
"Tell me about your woman, Kid-deh."
Exhaling a cloud of smoke Joseph returned the pipe.
"Three months ago Kiddy decided to plant Torla Leaf. That damn weed has practically overrun the vegetable garden! I hate it when she dries it and sprinkles it in every room corner. The stench is overpowering."
Finishing her tobacco Ohnaà tapped ashes into the fire.
"Tell Kid-deh to burn only two pinches. The odor will not be strong but will last many months. Torla Leaf also makes good tea."
Trader Joseph frowned.
"Kiddy must be doing something wrong then because I vomit every time she makes it."
Untying a plump waist pouch from her collection of many, Ohnaà tossed it to her companion.
"Boil this Red Grass with Torla Leaf. The more Kid-deh uses the better. You became sick because you are being poisoned. Medicine Woman must teach Kid-deh to use plants the Amazoni way so you do not die."
"I'll make sure of that!" Trader Joseph exclaimed. He stood. "Until I see you again, Ohnaà, goodbye."
A short time later the white-skinned Ojah, Ohnaà's mate, garbed in ankle-length dress of tan hide with black fringe, long flaxen braids tied off with green Trader ribbon, returned from visiting friends, and sat at his fire staring warrior's left. He rested a cool small hand briefly upon her massive left bicep.
"You are bothered."
"Are you mad at him?"
"I am mad at his treaty talker news."
"Are they not people of peace?"
Scowling Ohnaà shifted her gaze from her fire to Ojah. "Peace! They want to dictate as usual," she snarled. "They want to convince us, Ossit, the mountain dwelling Waysech, the Northern Shesh who spawned me, not to battle each other. We finish fights trouble making Ossit start with us. We need no Trader approval or care who else Ossit battle. Waysech are too far from anyone to matter. I was sent as a young warrior to the fearful peace begging Northern Shesh not long after we destroyed their southern cousins for wiping out our smallest band. We have been at peace with them for seventy seasons without Trader help.
"Many seasons ago I rescued an Amazoni band tricked by lies onto a reservation whose leader wanted me to keep his starving Amazoni from rebellion. Those Amazoni are no more.
"I trust no treaty talker!"
"Why did Trader Jo-teff come when he knew that?"
"I would have killed other messengers. He did not want war over it. I told him that I would not listen to treaty talkers. But I have no choice in this even though I lead Amazoni. Council must decide."
"Do you think they will agree to hear the treaty talkers?"
"Council does not know them like I do. I will urge them to ignore treaty talker wishes."
"Do you think Ossit, Shesh, and Waysech, will go?"
"Curiosity will bring them. I do not think even they are foolish enough to put their mark upon paper allowing Outsiders to rob them of the freedom to decide who they can and cannot fight."
Ojah stood. "You need to eat to calm your mind. I will warm some boar stew," he declared.
With a grin, the big warrior stood, towering over the small man.
"I have more hunger for you."
The next morning in the council tepee all eyes were riveted upon Ohnaà.
"Yesterday, Trader Jo-teff came with a disturbing message from treaty talkers who want Ossit, Shesh, the mountain dwelling Waysech, and us, to stop fighting each other. Our nations need no one's permission.
"The Northern Shesh, who spawned me, came to us when I was a young warrior, begging peace out of fear because we destroyed their southern cousins who wiped out our smallest band. Our truce has lasted seventy seasons without help from treaty talkers.
"No one fights the mountain dwelling Waysech because they are too far from everyone. They will go to the treaty talks because like Ossit and Shesh, they are curious.
"Trader Jo-teff thinks we should listen to treaty talkers. I say no because I have seen their deceit. When I was a young warrior, a starving fort reservation Amazoni whose people were forced there because of treaty talker lies, was sent to find me because her soldier captor feared rebellion. I rescued those Amazoni. They are no more!
"Our people must not bow to two-tongued treaty talker demands."
"What Ohnaà says is true," war chief Et-esh acknowledged. "Past treaty talkers have done great harm to Amazoni who are no more because of them. But what our friend, Trader Jo-teff, thinks is also right in that we must listen. Sitting in our lodges those at the talks will think us weak and afraid. We are neither!
"All at the talks must feel the power of Ohnaà's presence and hear her speak her heart. I know what she will say and I will follow her lead."
Whisking aside a tendril of ebony hair dangling over her right eye, folding muscular mahogany-skinned arms across her chest, Ohnaà locked piercing obsidian eyes to each tow-haired council member's azure noting their nod. "When Trader Jo-teff returns I will tell him we will go," she announced then glumly stared into the fire.
War chief, Et-esh, the last of the group to leave, clasped Ohnaà's broad dark shoulder.
"You need distraction. I will stop by your lodge. It has been a while since last we hunted together."
Ohnaà walked with heavy heart to her tepee. Sitting before her low fire she retrieved her pipe.
Clad in ankle-length bead fringed tan dress, his lengthy flaxen braids tied off with red Trader ribbon, Ojah entered carrying a round, white wicker trade basket filled to the brim with bumpy red berries. Sitting beside his brawny warrior he plucked a berry out of the basket as an offering.
Growling with mock ferocity Ohnaà snatched the berry out of Ojah's fingers with her teeth and swallowed it whole.
"You will choke one day if you do not chew."
Losing interest in her pipe Ohnaà set it aside.
"Worry when I have no teeth and you have to chew for me."
Ojah set aside his berry basket.
"That was a good joke. How was council?"
"My words went unheard. We will go to the treaty talks."
Ojah rested a cool comforting pale hand atop Ohnaà's muscled mahogany-skinned thigh.
"You will be listened to there."
The bow and quiver armed war chief Et-esh entered the tepee and grinned seeing the big warrior tenderly embracing her beloved. She cleared her throat parting the couple.
"I see you have already hunted my friend."
"My loins can wait. My stomach cannot. "
Et-esh chuckled softly watching Ohnaà don bow and quiver that leaned against the tepee's back wall beside the high fur bed.
"Are you sure?"
Ohnaà joined Et-esh.
"To endure Ojah's magic beneath bed furs, I need much meat."
"I thought it was the other way around."
Grinning, Ohnaà led the way out of the tepee.
Mounted Appaloosa, leading war chief Et-esh atop her sleepy-eyed buckskin, Ohnaà scanned the prairie's cropped green grass for sign at a swift walk. They traveled a long time before reining to a halt yards away from a foraging doe and her tubby yearling.
Dismounting the warriors unshouldered and armed their bows.
"The doe is mine, young one."
The friends let fly their arrows in unison and felled their prey.
"You will pick fifty warriors to accompany us to the treaty talks, young one. No one comes without bow and quiver."
"Will treaty talkers not wonder why we come armed?"
"When I care I will tell you."
Three nights later, smoking her pipe as usual before the fire, the burly Shesh-Amazoni stiffened. Piercing obsidian eyes riveted at her tepee door she waited. Moments later Trader Joseph appeared.
"Dahò, Jo-teff. You come with news."
"How did you know?"
"The spirits told me in dreams to expect you. Heeska. Sit."
Trader Joseph sat opposite the burly mahogany-skinned, raven-haired warrior accepting the offered pipe huffing hard upon it a couple times before returning it.
"Your news is not good."
"The spirits told you that, too, I suppose."
"You have always been easy to read, my friend."
"You're right. My news isn't good. The treaty talker leader has died of a heart attack."
Shrugging massive shoulders, Ohnaà casually emptied her pipe ashes into the low fire and set it aside.
"I see his death doesn't bother you."
Ohnaà clawed a thick lock of glistening sable hair behind her right ear.
"Why should it?"
"The new treaty talker leader heard rumor that you scared his predecessor to death."
"He believes lies!"
"I told him that if he wanted to keep his scalp he'd better not listen to any more unfounded rumors."
"It is good you tell him that."
"So, what was council's decision?"
"They ignored my distrust of treaty talkers. I am to hear their words anyway. I will go with fifty warriors. My final decision once there no Outsider will dispute."
Nodding, Trader Joseph stood.
"Thank you for the smoke. Until next we meet in a month when I accompany you to the talks."
Ohnaà replied with a curt nod.
Sitting opposite Ohnaà at the morning fire, Ojah scrutinized his burly warrior dressed in newly made skimpy bikini skins and knee-high fringed moccasins, honing her knife.
"Trader Jo-teff visited you last night."
"You were asleep."
"I overheard from others who saw him. Everything is not alright, my warrior."
Gingerly checking her honed knife's edge Ohnaà nodded approval before sheathing it. Turning to face the fire she stoked it with a lengthy stick.
"You see more than there is."
"If nothing was wrong you would not scowl in sharpening your knife and ignore me," Ojah defended.
Ohnaà tossed her stick into the fire.
"I brood because Jo-teff spoke of the old treaty talker leader who died from a sick heart. The new treaty talker leader believed false rumor that I caused the death. If he refuses to heed Jo-teff's warning not to further dishonor my name with lies, he will know what trouble is.
"I know of only one way to end my brooding."
With lightening speed Ohnaà leaped to her feet and scooped Ojah into her powerful arms.
Ojah giggled as his warrior carried him to the high fur bed.
A month later in summer's first morning, while eating breakfast boar stew with Ojah, Ohnaà overheard villagers hailing Trader Joseph who hadn't come for a casual visit or deliver news but to deliver her to the treaty talker meeting.
Ojah watched his warrior slip on bow and quiver.
Et-esh entered Ohnaà's tepee. The Shesh-Amazoni's nod signaled her to assemble the fifty warrior entourage to the talks.
Intercepting Ohnaà at the lodge door, Ojah gave her the once-over.
"You look strong, my warrior," he complimented.
Ohnaà rested a huge dark calloused right palm against Ojah's white-skinned right cheek. "I will return soon," she assured before stepping out to greet Trader Joseph who'd just reined up at her lodge.
Seconds later fifty bow and quiver armed warriors led by Et-esh atop her sleepy-eyed buckskin, Ohnaà's Appaloosa stallion in tow, joined Joseph.
"I didn't think I'd be traveling with an armed war party," Trader Joseph joked.
"You need protection," Ohnaà quipped and vaulted gracefully upon Appaloosa. "There are many among your people greedy enough to steal not only your horse and gold pieces you carry but also the clothes off your back. Seeing you naked would scare your treaty talkers more than Amazoni."
Fist overhead, Ohnaà yodeled a shrill war cry signaling Trader Joseph to lead the way.
For miles the group cantered verdant cropped prairie under Trader Joseph's lead. When the sun was highest, the raven-haired, burly Ohnaà, mahogany skin glistening with sweat, hefted her right fist and whirled Appaloosa around to face her halted warriors. "Weeshgah rahoost d'nah ee-yah-deh hesh," she ordered.
The warriors dismounted.
"We have to keep moving," Joseph pressed.
Ohnaà dismounted. "We rest and eat here," she repeated.
"We can eat while we walk the horses then," Joseph urged.
"You know the way to the treaty talkers, Jo-teff, but I command Amazoni, " Ohnaà sternly rebuked. "Ride ahead you will be easy to track."
Trader Joseph watched the grateful Amazoni horses enthusiastically gobble grass and the fifty warriors except for Ohnaà and Et-esh, settle cross-legged onto the grass eagerly delve into their waist water gourds and ration pouches of jerked boar meat. Twisting in his creaky saddle he looked ahead at the vast distance to cover.
"Stay or go. Decide!" Ohnaà commanded.
"I'll see you at the meeting place," Joseph impatiently replied and galloped away.
Et-esh joined Ohnaà watching the Trader thunder away.
"Jo-teff is not himself, young one."
"Never before has he questioned me. Let us hope his new thinking does not become habit."
Following Trader Joseph's trail the fifty bow and quiver-armed Amazoni under Ohnaà's command, war chief Et-esh beside her, trotted their horses along the cropped golden plain of the treaty talker rendezvous, past the makeshift corral housing Shesh, Ossit, and Waysech mounts, and Trader Joseph's steed standing outside the corral beside four roan treaty talker chargers.
Walking their horses the Amazoni passed four white wooden chairs whose companion table held the yellow treaty paper weighted with rocks and inkwell supporting a black speckled white feather pen.
Facing the table and chairs patiently sat ten mahogany-skinned, barefoot Shesh warriors clad in hide pants and vests, ebony hair girdled by brightly colored bandana, twenty unarmed and barefoot, breech clouted, gray-skinned Ossit, ornamented with shoulder-length multi-shelled earrings and spiky feather and beaded scalp locks, and twenty unarmed lanky and loinclothed, square-jawed, beige-skinned mountain dwelling Waysech, who dazzled the eye with double necklaces of multi-colored feathers and bald skulls tattooed with thin curvy black lines.
The gathered nations weren't surprised seeing armed Amazoni who never traveled weaponless.
Amazoni ended their journey before a white tent whose closed mouth of thin cloth rippled slightly in the breeze.
Ohnaà announced her contingent's arrival with a shrill war cry then dismounted.
Trader Joseph led the way out of the tent trailed by four soldiers.
The tall red-haired soldier commander with cold hazel eyes instructed his three underlings to sit at the treaty table to keep the Shesh, Ossit, and Waysech, company.
"General Arno Needo, may I present Ohnaà, leader of the Amazoni."
"Yes, sir, Ohnaà was born Shesh, but she's all Amazoni."
"Why the hell didn't you warn me how staggeringly magnificent she'd be!" General Needo exclaimed staring with astonishment at the tall and burly, broad-shouldered, mahogany-skinned warrior clad in skimpy hide bikini edged with small waist pouches, water gourd, ration pouch and shaggy scalp cord, whose fringed knee-high moccasins tightly hugged muscular calves. Her thick gleaming waist-length onyx hair framing a chiseled face of high-cheekboned wild beauty and piercing obsidian eyes captivated the General as much as her oversized sheathed knife, and heavy bow and quiver bristling with arrows.
Ignorant of her allure to the soldier she glared at, Ohnaà haughtily folded muscled arms across her chest.
"I didn't think a description mattered, sir."
"On the contrary. It would've made meeting this warrior far less shocking. I imagine it's not beyond her ability to break a man in two."
"I've yet to hear of it."
Trader Joseph chuckled.
"Convey to Ohnaà that I bid her welcome."
"Don't need to. She understands you perfectly."
"Jo-teff said you accuse me of killing the sick hearted one and that he correct you. Believe his words, soldier. Dishonor my name with lies again, your scalp is mine."
"Mr. Joseph, a word. In private."
Trader Joseph and General Needo walked several yards away.
"I called these tribes together for peace talk, not be threatened."
"Consider yourself threatened when Ohnaà says nothing and stands over your bed in the dead of night, having already lifted your pretty red scalp and slit your throat before you can even scream. No, General, by Amazoni standards, you've just been gently reminded.
"As for bringing the nations in for peace talk, Shesh, Ossit, and Waysech, are here because they'll listen to anyone once. I went to Ohnaà so she wouldn't kill other messengers, and she understandably balked at giving you the time of day because she distrusts treaty talkers whose lies imprisoned another Amazoni band she rescued a long time ago from a fort reservation who don't exist anymore. Despite that, council decided she come. While I see no harm in listening to you, I sympathize with Ohnaà's outrage over your dictating to the nations that they can't fight each other which doesn't affect us. Native politics is none of our business to change."
"Blast your orders, General, I'm telling you what is! Now you talk your little heart out to the nations all you want and I'll interpret, but whatever happens, you'd do well to call it a good day that anyone showed. Make the mistake of challenging Ohnaà whose only obligation is to listen, to battle, you'll be damn lucky if there's anything left of you and your men to bury."
"Jo-teff!" Ohnaà called.
Trader Joseph heaved a tired sigh. "Let's get this over with, General," he urged and walked the soldier back to the waiting Amazoni.
Trailing Trader Joseph and General Needo to the corral the Amazoni delegation parked their mounts among those of the Ossit, Shesh, and Waysech, inside before assuming their position among the seated nations before the tri-soldier occupied treaty table.
Ohnaà sat in the front row of her entourage beside war chief Et-esh, eyes riveted upon General Needo and interpreter Trader Joseph.
"Welcome mighty leaders of Shesh, Ossit, Waysech, and Amazoni. Today will be a good day for us all because this treaty will end war forever between you."
Ohnaà stood. "Why?" she demanded.
"I beg your pardon?" a confused General Needo asked.
"Why do you wish to end war forever between the nations when our battles do no harm to Outsiders?" Trader Joseph translated.
"Inter-tribal fighting is wrong," General Needo answered.
"Because you say!" Ohnaà hotly contested pointing an accusatory finger. "Long ago treaty talkers told other Amazoni how to live and in the name of your peace were imprisoned in a fort reservation where many died of starvation. I rescued the few survivors who are no more!
"I will mark no paper giving treaty talkers power over us!" Ohnaà turned to her warriors. "Weeshgah go-gah-goh notso!" she ordered.
The fifty Amazoni left to collect their horses leaving a stunned General Needo.
A barefoot warrior dressed in hide vest and pants, shoulder-length ebony hair encircled by yellow bandana stood. "I, Chara, leader of the Northern Shesh, walk away," he quietly said through interpreter Trader Joseph and led his ten warriors toward the corral.
A barefoot, gray-skinned, breech clouted Ossit warrior with red feather-tipped shoulder-length multi-shelled earrings, and scalp lock interwoven with pearl-sized white pebbles, stood. "I, Wekinosuk, leader of the Ossit, will sign no treaty paper," he loudly announced leading his twenty warriors toward the corral.
Mutely, the twenty lanky and loinclothed, square-jawed, beige-skinned, mountain dwelling Waysech, ornamented with paired multi-colored feather necklaces, bald skulls tattooed with thin curvy black lines, followed Shesh and Ossit.
"Joseph you have to tell the natives to come back! I hardly said anything."
"You said enough with wanting to end inter-tribal warfare. Ohnaà stated quite bluntly that treaty talkers aren't going to tell her what she can and can't do. The others already felt that way. Go home, General. Tell your superiors to stop meddling in tribal affairs that are none of their damn business before some real trouble starts."
Amazoni, Shesh, Ossit, and Waysech, thundered past Trader Joseph and General Needo.
Trader Joseph turned to leave.
"Where are you going?"
"Got a trading post to run."
"Can't you stay long enough to share a drink?"
"You needed an interpreter and I got the job done. Didn't make us drinking buddies. Now I've got a business to run. Good day, General."
The depressed soldier watched Trader Joseph briskly stride away.