|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|
Standing upon the hill beside Appaloosa, bow and quiver armed Shesh-Amazoni warrior, Ohnaà, glared into the verdant valley below at the dark-haired, bespectacled, mustachioed Outsider clad in brown suit, seated alongside a placid stream, reading a green leather bound journal, oblong black soft leather case and tan cloth bag beside him.
Irritated by the invader, Ohnaà's jaw muscles quivered as she gnashed her teeth in rage.
Reaching into his tan cloth bag the man withdrew a small bottle of ink and white quill and scribbled noisily into his precious book.
Scowling, Ohnaà galloped to the Outsider scribbler. Dismounting she stood before him. Ignored, she loudly cleared her throat.
The dark-haired, bespectacled, mustachioed man gazed up a pair of tan knee-high fringed moccasins hugging thick muscular calves, skimpy tan hide bikini barely concealing an astoundingly burly mahogany-skinned physique, to a glowering sharply chiseled face framed by thick gleaming waist-length sable hair. He peered unflinchingly into Ohnaà's piercing obsidian eyes.
"Good morning. Forgive me for not noticing you earlier. When I make notes, nothing else exists."
"How are you called?" Ohnaà demanded.
"McIntosh. Tom McIntosh."
Spying the black oblong case of soft leather, Ohnaà picked it up, surprised by its weight.
Hastily setting aside his journal and white quill pen, Tom McIntosh bounded to his feet to defensively seize his case from Ohnaà's grasp. "This is a very sensitive instrument of my work," he declared.
Growling menacingly, Ohnaà snatched back the soft leather case to examine it. Unzipping it and she yanked out a folded metal tripod with numbered notches on a wheel attached to a long metal tube piggybacking a shorter tube.
"Be careful with that! It's very delicate!"
"Show me," Ohnaà ordered.
Tom McIntosh unfolded the chest-high tripod and planted it on the ground. Ohnaà closely examined it. Attracted by what looked like a small metal pointed pot dangling from a long thin thread beneath the tripod, she set the weight to swinging. Its use unknown she lost interest.
"Look through the scope."
Ohnaà peered through the bottom longer metal tube to view a magnified horizon. Straightening she glared at the Outsider.
"Why does Toam Mock-een-toash use his metal spider?"
" 'Metal spider'. How quaint."
Seizing the dark-haired bespectacled mustachioed man by the collar with a growl, Ohnaà yanked him close.
"I-I use it to accurately measure land because that's what surveyors do."
The big Shesh-Amazoni warrior shoved McIntosh from her. "My land is not your concern," she snarled.
"Others find it so."
"My employers are interested in building a city."
"Not on Amazoni land."
"This is our land!"
"My employers plan to buy it."
"We will not sell."
"It won't be bought from your tribe."
"Who would sell Amazoni land?"
"A man named Trader Joseph."
Enraged, Ohnaà snatched Tom McIntosh's throat in a crushing grip. "You lie!" she roared. "Jo-teff is the friend of Amazoni. Never would he betray us! We will go to him. He will say you lie. Away from his Trader Lodge, where no promise binds me, you will die for dishonoring him!" Ripping the horsehair rope from her bikini skins' waistband Ohnaà roughly leashed the surveyor and yanked him toward Appaloosa.
"You're choking me!"
Whirling around, Ohnaà angrily drew her knife and pressed its thick honed edge against her enemy's throat. "Does Toam Mock-een-toash wish me to kill him where he stands?" she challenged.
Eyes wide with terror the surveyor shook his head.
Sheathing her knife the livid warrior yanked her captive to Appaloosa.
Trader Joseph settled behind his desk with a plate of steaming venison slices, buttered slab of sweet black bread with white seeds, and large puddle of creamed Silver Pearl corn. Famished, he shoveled up a heaping metal spoonful of creamed corn.
The sun was sizzlingly high when Ohnaà, leashed surveyor in tow behind Appaloosa, halted beneath a shade tree. Dismounting she yanked Tom McIntosh beside her and sat. "Heeska," she growled forcing him to sit with a jerk of his horsehair leash. Unhooking water gourd from her bikini skins' waistband she greedily gulped warm water.
Tom McIntosh licked dry lips as he watched.
Ohnaà wiped her mouth upon a massive mahogany-skinned forearm.
"I need water!" McIntosh exclaimed.
"You trespass and mark my land to steal, you dishonor Trader Jo-teff with lies. You need nothing."
"Are you in the habit of delivering sun-baked corpses to him?"
"Trader Jo-teff is close."
Retying her water gourd at her side, Ohnaà delved into her ration pouch for a thick slice of jerked boar meat and rapidly wolfed it down. Belly full she rested against the shade tree's trunk surrendering to drowsiness.
Slipping off his horsehair leash, Tom McIntosh made a mad dash for freedom.
Instantly awake, Ohnaà grabbed the leash, mounted Appaloosa, and galloped after her captive. Lassoing him she reined to an abrupt halt yanking McIntosh off his feet. Dismounting she secured his hands and feet with the horsehair rope and slapped him over Appaloosa's withers and remounted.
Arriving at Trader Joseph's store late afternoon, trussed surveyor slung over a broad mahogany-skinned shoulder, the Shesh-Amazoni entered, her presence ceasing all conversation as she stalked to the bar.
"I will see Jo-teff."
"Yes ma'am!" Bartender exclaimed.
Trader Joseph was startled seeing the warrior with surveyor slung over a broad shoulder. "What the hell is going on?" he demanded.
"We will talk, Jo-teff."
Ohnaà followed her friend to his office where she dumped her human cargo onto the floor before the Trader's desk.
"I found Toam Mock-een-toash measuring my land. He says you would sell it to others who would build a city. I know he lies!" she snarled in Amazoni.
Kneeling, Trader Joseph untied Tom McIntosh's horsehair wrist and ankle ligatures.
"I'm hungry and thirsty."
"I'll see to it."
Tom McIntosh weakly struggled to sit.
Trader Joseph returned with a plate of boar ribs, chunk of brown bread, and tall mug of herb tea.
Ohnaà glared with contempt at the surveyor voraciously feeding and drinking.
Leaning against his desk Trader Joseph folded arms across his chest. "I know why Tom McIntosh was told that I would sell your land, Ohnaà, " he informed in Amazoni.
"Why would others speak this lie?"
"No one else can reach you like I can. Thinking a wedge can be built between us, his leaders figure you would be too occupied fighting me to notice your land was taken for this city of theirs."
"Ah yah! They are foolish to think I would war against you, Jo-teff. This one will pay with his life for believing this lie about you."
"You cannot fault him for following others' ignorance."
"Then I will kill him for trespassing my land."
"You would have already done that."
"Ah yah! I cannot win against your wisdom, Jo-teff."
The big Shesh-Amazoni warrior stalked to the floor seated, dark-haired, bespectacled, mustachioed surveyor who'd finished his meal.
"Toam Mock-een-toash, you will lead us to those who send you to steal Amazoni land.
"Jo-teff, I will wait outside."
"My employer may not accept a change of plan."
"To avoid a massacre he'll have no choice."
"I have no horse. I won't be leashed and dragged behind her!"
"You'll ride double with me."
"Thank you." Tom McIntosh stood. "That woman warrior is terrifying!"
Trader Joseph shook his head .
"You haven't begun to see Ohnaà's bad side."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You're lucky you made it here at all, let alone in one piece. Let's get a move on."
Ohnaà, riding slightly ahead of Trader Joseph riding double with the surveyor over cropped parched prairie, reined to a halt as the sun began to set.
"Here, we camp."
Tom McIntosh, and Trader Joseph dismounted.
"You will find wood for the fire, Toam Mock-een-toash," Ohnaà ordered.
"Where in blazes am I going to find wood in such a barren land?"
Heaving an irritated sigh, Ohnaà dismounted, stalked two yards and picked up a stick. Returning she tossed it at McIntosh's feet. Gracefully vaulting onto Appaloosa's broad back she adjusted her bow more securely over a broad shoulder.
"I will hunt rabbit, Jo-teff."
She galloped away in the direction the trio came.
"How she can find a rabbit in this desolate place is beyond me."
"Riding ahead of us, her sharp eyes miss nothing."
"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if she made me eat her arrow instead of the rabbit."
Trader Joseph laughed.
"Don't worry. She'll find a rabbit big enough for all of us. C'mon. I'll help you find fire wood."
Night fell when Ohnaà returned clutching by the ears a plump brown rabbit. Her Outsider companions seated before the fire's cooking spit watched her rapidly skin and slide the rabbit carcass through the spit's long stick.
"Mighty fine rabbit, Ohnaà, mighty fine," Trader Joseph complimented.
"We have much meat."
The two full moons were high by the time the rabbit finished roasting.
Trader Joseph sliced off a large slice for himself and Tom McIntosh.
Ohnaà sliced off a larger portion. "How many days ride to those who send you, Toam Mock-een-toash?" she demanded.
Uncomprehending Ohnaà looked to Joseph who clarified in Amazoni.
McIntosh was disgusted watching the Shesh-Amazoni enjoying huge bites of her rabbit chunk unmindful of grease dripping on the ground.
Taking advantage of the repulsed surveyor's scrutiny, Ohnaà growled in mock ferocity as she ripped off the bone the last piece of rabbit with her teeth and wolfed it down.
Tom McIntosh scowled watching the burly warrior wipe her mouth upon a massive mahogany-skinned forearm.
Tossing her bone into the fire Ohnaà demonstrated her unflinching ability to barehandedly rip off another chunk of sizzling rabbit meat from its carcass.
"Jo-teff, nees beekma ho lee mayjoe ee-yah-deh-ee weechahs."
Trader Joseph shook his head.
"What did she say?"
"You don't like her eating ways."
"Doenah nee hoashkà may ho hooshgohshnah eh-poash sah-ee-yah-deh nee."
Trader Joseph hesitated knowing the surveyor wouldn't understand her wit.
"What did she say?"
"She's not hungry enough to eat you."
Tom McIntosh gazed with horror at the warrior tearing off a piece of her rabbit, chewing slowly as she stared at him.
"Ohnaà doesn't like you but has softened enough to joke about you."
"She's put a knife to my throat, leashed me, then tied me up. Are you sure she's only joking about eating me?"
"Amazoni humor takes some getting used to."
The rabbit reduced to bones by the trio, the Shesh-Amazoni prodded the fire with a long stick.
"You wish smoke, Jo-teff?"
Trader Joseph nodded.
Ohnaà unfastened from her bikini skins' waistband the tobacco pouch with its side pocket of papers, rolled two cigarettes and lit them with a long twig from the fire, offering one to Joseph. Exhaling plumes of white smoke from her nostrils, she gazed into the fire's flickering flames that cast dancing shadows across her sharply chiseled features.
Reaching into his pants pocket Tom McIntosh withdrew a thin gold metal cylinder. Uncapping it he withdrew a slim pre-cut cigar and lit it with a twig from the fire. Recapping the gilded tube, resting it upon his thigh, he luxuriated in his cigar.
Attracted by firelight glittering off the glossy golden metal tube, Ohnaà stared at it as she exhaled new plumes of white smoke from her nostrils.
The surveyor offered it for the warrior's examination.
Ohnaà was intrigued by the canister's delicate silver inlay filigree.
"Jo-teff would ask many pelts for this. Shaman, Medicine Woman, would like this to hold her powders."
"I'm sure I can find a few for her, Ohnaà."
"Ah yah! That would be good, Jo-teff."
The warrior returned the metal tube to the surveyor.
"Have you ever tried cigars?" Tom McIntosh asked.
Ohnaà raised her glowing cigarette nub.
"I smoke Trader tobacco."
"You haven't tried tobacco like this."
Ohnaà tossed aside her glowing cigarette nub.
"I will smoke."
"It's stronger than what you're used to."
"I am stronger than Trader tobacco."
Retrieving a thin pre-cut cigar from the gold cylinder, capping and replacing it into his pants pocket, Tom McIntosh surrendered the cigar to the warrior.
Igniting the cigar with a stubby stick from the fire, Ohnaà deeply huffed.
"No! No! No! You're not supposed to inhale, just hold the smoke in your mouth, then blow it out!" McIntosh bellowed.
Ohnaà gradually exhaled white vapor through her nostrils. "Ah yah! This is good Trader smoke!" she exclaimed.
An amazed Tom McIntosh gazed at the laughing Trader Joseph then Ohnaà.
"I speak no lie when I say I am strong, Toam Mock-een-toash." After inhaling four grand lungfuls of smoke the big warrior stood and tossed the burning cigar into the fire. "Know this also. I make a joke about you, smoke your tobacco, eat rabbit with you. But never will you be called friend.
"Betoga ahdohdà, Jo-teff."
"Good sleep, Ohnaà. If you want, you can take the rolled blanket behind my saddle. I have two extra in my saddle bags."
Ohnaà inclined her head in thanks and went to her friend's horse to retrieve the offered blanket before stalking into the night.
"I think I'll turn in. Good night, Mr. McIntosh."
Trader Joseph got his bedroll from his saddle bag, settled closer beside the fire and closed his eyes.
Surveyor McIntosh stared into the fire until it was glowing embers. Looking up he was startled by Ohnaà appearing from the darkness. Trader blanket draped loosely about wide shoulders she reclaimed her place opposite the surveyor to stare into the fire embers.
"I thought you'd be fast asleep by now."
"Much crowds my mind."
"Might I inquire about what?"
Ohnaà glared at the surveyor.
"Look, I know you don't like me, but I was only doing what I was told."
"You wrong Amazoni by following your leader's wish to take what is ours. You show weakness because you forget what is right. That is why I will never like you."
"I know my mistake now and deeply regret it. Can't people change?"
"Few Outsiders do."
"I'm trying but you resist it! What does that say about you?" McIntosh snapped.
Ohnaà scowled. "This day you change. A season from now you will forget," she retorted and stood. "If your leader does not listen to Jo-teff and sends others like you to mark and steal my land, many will die by my hand. It will be a battle your people will not win or learn from."
The big Shesh-Amazoni strode into the night.
The next morning, Ohnaà, trade blanket wrapped about ample shoulders, bow and quiver beside her, sat with Trader Joseph and surveyor Tom McIntosh before cold camp fire ashes.
"I sure could use a hot cup of coffee," McIntosh mused.
"Would be nice," Trader Joseph replied.
"It sure would be nice to have something to eat, too."
Trader Joseph nodded.
Sloughing her blanket, Ohnaà dipped into her bikini skins' waistband ration pouch for a thick strip of jerked boar meat and began to eat.
"May we have some?" McIntosh asked.
"It take you long enough to ask."
Trader Joseph chuckled softly as Ohnaà tossed a slice of jerky to him and his companion.
Tom McIntosh soon grew frustrated with his inability to penetrate the tough meat with his front teeth.
"Bite with your back teeth," Trader Joseph instructed.
With difficulty the surveyor accomplished the task.
"Hoashkà cohà nah-ay coe-là ah-dah Dewhatcohneh ahst naygoatseh ahst tah-oh yuk, Jo-teff, wah-nà cahnoat-ho ee-yah-deh drepped mehchà wee-hee-deh hee-ope," Ohnaà observed.
"Hoashkà may. Hoashkà toaksha tote yahtoo enha mayjoe shkà soh-toh nees beekma ho nahcoatà."
"Choashtah nee ah-dah chohmote sah-lonnah nipweh tope-ahs," Trader Joseph suggested.
"Ahst nees choashtahs mayjoe peepwa ah-dah chomote wee-hee neep neecheh sah-hee-ope stesh-geh ow lah-hope?" Ohnaà snapped.
"Is there a problem between you two?"
"Is there, Ohnaà?" Trader Joseph hinted.
Glaring at surveyor McIntosh, Ohnaà sullenly ripped off another bite of jerked boar meat.
Angrily tossing his jerky aside, Tom McIntosh leaped to his feet. "I've had it with this barbarian's blatant animosity!" he exclaimed.
"It's time I had it out with her! I now regret the situation that placed me in her cruel clutches to begin with which I told her last night. I've changed my way of thinking and she just won't accept it! She glowers at me now. I'm fed up with her nonsense!"
"Sit down, Mr. McIntosh!"
Stomping to the seated burly warrior, the dark-haired, bespectacled, mustachioed surveyor glared back at her.
Tossing aside her jerked boar meat slice Ohnaà rose, her titanic size dwarfing her adversary.
Concerned, Trader Joseph stood.
Ohnaà casually smoothed her challenger's wrinkled brown suit collar. Her demeanor shifting like a river's current she drew her wide-bladed knife with a growl and rested its honed edge lightly against her opponent's throat. "Toam Mock-een-toash forgets I own his life!" she snarled.
"No, daughter of Codot!" Trader Joseph barked.
Ohnaà pressed her blade against the surveyor's throat. When no response ensued she lightly traced her dagger's tip down his throat to his heart. She nodded approval of his steady gaze. "When I capture you and you feel my knife, you show much fear. This day you own none. This is good to see in an enemy." She sheathed her knife. "This day I will not kill you."
Trader Joseph heaved a relieved sigh.
Ohnaà tossed Trader Joseph his borrowed blanket which was quickly rolled, did the same with McIntosh's and his own and slipped them into his saddle bags. Donning bow and quiver the warrior vaulted gracefully upon Appaloosa's broad bare back. Patiently she waited for Joseph and McIntosh to mount the same horse. "We go now, " she commanded.
Two days ride beyond prairie and grassland saw the trio rein up at the edge of a bustling town.
"Mr. Ahnar at the land office up the street is the one to speak to."
Tom McIntosh dismounted Trader Joseph's horse.
Walking their horses side by side, Trader Joseph and Ohnaà trailed the surveyor. As usual, the warrior's presence elicited stares of hostile curiosity.
A grizzled miner, pack mule laden with fresh supplies stopped the trio.
"McIntosh, it's good to see you!"
"It's been a while hasn't it, Farty."
The miner frowned.
"I wish to hell everyone would stop callin' me that!"
"Then stop eating nothing but beans."
"Ain't got no teeth. Beans is the only thing I can eat. Can't help it if they make me toot too damn much."
"Well, cut down on them and we'll all stop calling you Farty."
"What's your business in this dung heap town, McIntosh, other than insultin' me?"
"We go see Ah-nar,"Ohnaà grunted.
"You don't look the claim stakin' type, big warrior."
"We're going to settle a proposed unfair claim," Trader Joseph informed.
"Good luck with it."
Mule in tow, Miner Farty continued on his way.
The trio entered the land office at street's end and entered its empty antechamber. Protected behind a thin-barred cage, Clerk, sitting at his desk jotting in a journal with frayed beige quill pen, ignored Trader Joseph and Surveyor boot steps upon creaky wooden floor boards.
"We need to speak to Mr. Ahnar," Tom McIntosh announced.
Clerk annoyedly looked up.
"He's busy. Come back later."
"It's most urgent that we speak to him," McIntosh insisted.
"Ah-nar will see us!" Ohnaà roared.
Slamming shut his journal, stabbing his quill pen into its inkwell with an irate tinkle, Clerk stomped up to his workspace's protective grate.
"I don't listen to any big mouth barbarian!"
With the velocity of a striking pebble snake, Ohnaà reached through narrow bars to clutch Clerk's throat and yanked him with a rattling thud against the cage. Gradually she squeezed.
"Right about now I suspect you're feeling a tad lightheaded," Trader Joseph mused.
Clerk moaned acknowledgement.
"It's amazing how Ohnaà is able to cut off a person's air with such controlled precision."
Clerk's groan became a harsh wheeze.
"She can hold you for hours with just enough force that you'll remain uncomfortably conscious the whole time," Trader Joseph taunted.
With panicked desperation, Clerk weakly pounded his cage's bars as Ohnaà steadily applied more pressure.
"So what'll it be?" Trader Joseph inquired. "Play with a 'big mouth barbarian' able to crush your windpipe with a mere twitch, or tell
Mr. Ahnar we need to see him?"
Ohnaà loosened her grip.
"I'll tell him!" Clerk whispered.
Ohnaà released him.
Clerk dashed into a back hall. Minutes later he returned to shakily unlock his cage's side door hastily retreating from the Shesh-Amazoni as she passed.
Tom McIntosh led the way to Mr. Ahnar's open office at hall's end.
The tubby Mr. Ahnar, clad in black shirt, gray tie and suit coat with crimson silk handkerchief protruding from his right breast pocket, blubbery face pockmarked with acne scars, bulbous nose, beady ice blue eyes, combover brown hair, sat with pudgy hands folded upon a deed laden desk. Beside his right hand stood a half snifter full of brandy.
"Mr. McIntosh, Mr..."
The warrior thumped a huge mahogany-skinned fist against her chest.
"I am Ohnaà, daughter of Codot. I lead Amazoni."
"The behemoth who assaulted my worker."
"We want to avoid further problems, Mr. Ahnar," Trader Joseph assured.
"I'm a reasonable man game for cooler heads prevailing." Mr. Ahnar lifted his brandy snifter and whirled it in rapid circles as he held it beneath his bulbous nose, enjoying his tipple's aroma. He gazed up. "May I offer anyone brandy?"
The trio shook their heads
Mr. Ahnar set aside his drink.
"What can I do for you?"
"You send Toam Mock-een-toash to Amazoni land to mark so you can steal it for your city. You speak lies to him about Trader Jo-teff, a man with no face until you meet him, saying a man who is the friend of Amazoni would sell our land to you. Choose other land or many will die!"
"Ohnaà makes no idle threats, Mr. Ahnar," Trader Joseph warned. "New surveyors will be the first attacked, then she'll come after you.
"Had it not been for me, Mr. McIntosh wouldn't be here. Ohnaà brought him to me in order to straighten out your mistake."
"We need that city built!"
Trader Joseph nodded.
"I know. A reasonable man I'm sure you'll accept my counter proposal. Near my trading post there's a tract of land owned by no one with more than enough acreage to build your city. Mr. McIntosh will have so much measuring to do he won't know where to start."
The bulky Mr. Ahnar drained his snifter of brandy and stood.
"Lead the way, Mr. Joseph."
The Trader flashed a brilliant smile.
"As I'm no longer needed, I'll leave you three to your land inspection. Good day, gentlemen." Tom McIntosh met Ohnaà's steady gaze. "Warrior."
Ohnaà answered with a curt nod.
Leading their mounts, Trader Joseph and Ohnaà followed the portly Mr. Ahnar to the livery stable. Repelled by the stench, Ohnaà stayed with Appaloosa and Trader Joseph's mount outside. Joseph followed Mr. Ahnar to his white stallion's stall.
"Excuse me while I get my horse's tack."
Mr. Ahnar lumbered into a back room. The crunching of his grain chewing horse along with twelve others grew deafening to Trader Joseph waiting what seemed an eternity.
"Are you all right, Mr. Ahnar?"
The land officer weighed down with saddle, saddle blanket, and bridle, emerged from the back room. "Of course I'm all right," he snapped. "I may be big as a house, but I'm by no means a child."
"You took so long--"
"Mr. Storn again mixed my tack with other customers that he carelessly shovels into a pile. The wall hooks and tables are foreign objects to that lazy water crab."
Rapidly tacking his white stallion Mr. Ahnar backed him out of his stall. and led him outside to join Ohnaà atop her impatient Appaloosa.
The trio cantered out of town. After two days ride through prairie and tawny pasture, five miles beyond his Trader Lodge, Joseph, Ohnaà, and tubby land officer, Mr. Ahnar, reached a range of auburn soil.
"What we have here, Mr. Ahnar, is eight thousand and thirty square miles of the finest land around with which to find a site to build your city on. None of it even comes close to Amazoni territory. What do you think?"
"It's perfect, Mr. Joseph."
"Glad to hear it."
Ohnaà nodded approval.
"It is good that this place is far from my land so there will be no battle over it. Jo-teff, it is time I return to my people."
Ohnaà galloped away.