|Written by:||Lisa Godin (bio, contact, other stories)|
|Story type:||Serial Fiction|
|Location:||Cleveland Ohio USA|
|Home | Help||Member Sign In | Create an Account|
|Written by:||Lisa Godin (bio, contact, other stories)|
|Story type:||Serial Fiction|
|Location:||Cleveland Ohio USA|
The brawny, mahogany-skinned, raven-haired, Shesh-Amazoni Ohnaà, glared into the crackling council fire surrounded by fair-haired, light-skinned, blue-eyed, members. Scowling, heaving a deep sigh, she met her audience's gaze.
"All know the fort called Peek-oh, built upon our lands' border."
"I do not care why soldiers recently built their fort. I do know this. They will not remain much longer."
"We disrupt their supply lines, kill those who shoot at us from their high fort walls," war chief Et-esh recounted, "yet the soldiers remain. You and I, Ohnaà, have spoken to our friend, Trader Jo-teff, about this. Many times has he sent the marks on paper to those who sent Fort Peek-oh's soldiers urging them to leave and is ignored. What maneuver is there left to be rid of them for good?"
"Taking advantage of soldier weakness, Et-esh."
"Fighting us hard, what is their flaw?"
"Desperation," Ohnaà replied. "Their food suppliers no longer return because they fear us. We do not let the soldiers hunt. We give them little rest when we attack. Their most important weakness is that they cannot replace those killed because we cause much fear. Taking hostage their leader will drive them away for good."
"Ah yah! That will not work any better than what we have done already, daughter of Codot," a newly promoted warrior groused.
"What would Sendai do?" Ohnaà inquired.
"Burn them out!"
"Sendai thinks me weak because I have yet to do what she suggests."
Council angrily rumbled.
The whip-armed Johtah irately thumped a fist upon the tepee floor before leaping to her feet. "How dare you accuse Ohnaà of weakness which is nothing short of calling her a coward!" she snarled. "I should cut your tongue out after my whip rips the meat from your bones for speaking such an evil lie!"
Ohnaà raised a strong mahogany-skinned hand to silence grumbling council members. "Heeska, Johtah," she bade.
The outraged warrior stood her ground.
"Heeska!" Ohnaà sharply commanded.
Glaring at Sendai, Johtah sat.
"Under my command, Sendai, Amazoni prove their strength by striking hard against Fort Peek-oh soldiers," Ohnaà defended. "My rifle claims many soldier lives. The rest dread me. Enemies do not fear the weak. The soldiers will feel my power again when I steal their heart, which is their leader. For his return the soldiers must surrender, burning their fort before they leave. Four days I will give them. Each day they remain, I will return a piece of their leader to them. If they are foolish and believe I will not kill him, the soldiers will see him die. Four days pass and they do not go, we will burn their fort with them in it! But it will not be said of me that I gave them no chance to do what is right." Drawing her thick-edged knife, Ohnaà raised it eye level. Firelight glinted off its steely honed blade. "In two days we will engage the soldiers and I will take their leader. Soon," she growled and plunged her weapon to the hilt into the earth beside the council fire, "true victory will be ours!"
To the accompaniment of the council fire's snapping wood, the gathering focused on the leather hilt of Ohnaà's knife in contemplation of her vow.
Sitting before her tepee fire the Shesh-Amazoni loaded her pipe. Midway through her smoke war chief Et-esh entered to sit opposite her pipe passing friend.
"You are troubled, young one."
Nodding as she exhaled white vapor through her nostrils,
Et-esh returned the pipe.
"I am angry."
"I am surprised, young one, that you, not Johtah, comes to discuss her when it was she who threatened her, and was more upset."
"Johtah echoed what I felt but sees no need to pursue it further with you. You surprised me in that you reacted harsher toward Johtah than Sendai."
Ohnaà raised her smoldering pipe a trifle higher.
"When the pipe is lit, what happens?"
"The tobacco burns of course," Et-esh answered confused by the question.
"Yes. But unless I make a new one, smoke from this pipe is nothing new. Likewise, Sendai's questioning my courage is nothing new, as Amazoni during my youth, as Ossit and Traders now, once questioned it.
"Passing her warrior trials, Sendai will be allowed to join our war party, and will see me fight before I steal the soldier leader. My courage will become real as she is like those who need more than stories to believe.
"I was harsher against Johtah because we must not turn against each other which Traders want."
"I wish I possessed your great wisdom on these matters, Ohnaà."
"Reaching my ninety-eighth season, young one, you will."
"Ah yah! But I will hardly look as ageless," Et-esh groused. "Your fiery Shesh blood adds not a wrinkle against your dark skin, your hair remains as black as the gorak feather, you remain strong. Fifteen seasons younger, gray tickles my yellow hair, and wrinkles begin to crack my face."
"You remain strong, young one."
"That is the only thing going for me."
Ohnaà grinned slyly.
"You need more of my magic tobacco to ward off the aging spirits plaguing you."
Et-esh grinned as she reached for the offered pipe.
The next evening, butt of her treasured, intricately gold inlay stocked, eight pound, loaded lever action Winchester, a long ago barter from her Outsider friend, Trader Joseph, resting on a mahogany-skinned muscled thigh, Ohnaà sat before her fire casting trembling shadows across her sharply chiseled features and reflecting off her lustrous waist-length ebon mane.
Tenderly stroking Winchester's short and cold octagon shaped barrel, a pleasured smile tickled the corners of her mouth in recall of her bullets slamming into enemy soldier marks. Clutching Winchester's barrel, Ohnaà closed her eyes and deeply inhaled in silent prayer to the spirits for continued protection against Fort Pico. Opening her eyes she grinned seeing Ojah settled to her left, his tan, brown-fringed, ankle-length dress, resplendent with dozens of spherical dime-sized Trader mirror embellishments, reflectent of Tepee Fire's quivering tendrils.
"Camp talk says you will again ride against the soldier fort on our lands' border, my warrior."
Nodding, Ohnaà set aside her rifle.
"Soldiers do not enter our land, do they?"
"They have tried to hunt our game and are chased out. Their fort should not be so close to us. I take care of you by minding land boundaries, your task is to take care of me other ways."
"I worry when you ride into battle!"
"You worry over nothing as I always defeat my enemies and return safely." Ohnaà rubbed her rumbling muscled belly. "I hunger for your boar stew and spiced white bark pudding."
"Food and battle is all you think about!"
Ohnaà chuckled softly.
"Having you under the bed furs I think a lot about, too."
Ojah laughed heartily.
After informing the battle untested Sendai that she'd be joining her war party of sixty for the morning's Fort Pico raid, retrieved large white wolf skin bag at the ready, Ohnaà sat cross-legged on her wide high fur bed. Unhooking her water gourd from her bikini skins' belt and placing it beside her, she emptied her carryall's stash of metal, bead and feather dangle hair ornaments, bead and feather tasseled arm bands, black gorak bird beak choker, a pouch each of black and red paint powder, two small paint bowls, stir sticks, small palm-sized rectangular trade mirror and burnished metal comb.
Selecting a thin yellow-beaded armband cord with double white feather dangle, two dual-strand inch long gold tube hair dangles and lustrous black gorak bird beak choker, the warrior shoveled the rest of her jewelry back into their white wolf skin bag and set it aside.
After whisking her glistening waist-length raven mane with burnished comb, Ohnaà adorned her side locks with her gold metal tube dangles. Inching the narrow yellow-beaded double white-feathered armband above her left bicep, she was pleased how well it accentuated its massive girth.
Carefully loading black and red powder into her two small bowls, aided by her water gourd, the warrior mixed her paints with her stir sticks. Mirror in hand, she reddened her forehead and spread three thick vertical alternating bars of red and black down her high cheek bones. Approving her fierce look with a nod, she rinsed her hand.
Seizing her glossy black gorak beak choker she affectionately caressed each beak in remembrance of Ojah's great pride in its offer. Fleeting smile on her lips, Ohnaà tied it around her neck.
Reconnecting her water gourd to her skimpy bikini skins' belt she dismounted the bed to stand before the tepee's back wall beside the bed where her bow, quiver, and beloved gold inlay garnished Trader Winchester leaned. Ignoring bow and quiver, she snatched her rifle.
Feeling strong and confident she strode outside.
Ohnaà nodded approval of her sixty painted, carbine and bow armed warriors.
Replacing her lame sleepy-eyed buckskin, rifle in hand, war chief Et-esh was mounted a silver mane and tailed palomino. Flaxen hair pulled back in long ponytail, gold metal tube dangle earring suspended from her left ear, right side of her face painted red, she held Ohnaà's impatient Appaloosa. Beside her, mounted her sorrel, was Sendai, forehead, chin, and left cheek striped in red, black gorak feather affixed to a braided flaxen side lock. Bow and quiver armed she tightly grasped an eight foot lance embellished with fox tail and beaded fringe.
Tossing carbine to Et-esh Ohnaà vaulted gracefully upon Appaloosa's broad speckled bare back.
"It is hard to chase after a lance, Sendai, after it has been tossed over fort walls."
"My arrows will claim soldiers. To look meaner do I carry my lance."
Et-esh tossed back Ohnaà's Winchester. "I told Sendai her lance is useless against the soldier fort," she snapped.
"Where would Sendai put her lance while she fires her arrows?" Ohnaà asked.
"Into the ground so they know it is me."
"You carry too many weapons for your first war party. Your bow is enough for now."
Knowing better than to protest a battle veteran's advice, Sendai plunged her lance into the ground. There would be other battles for it to make its mark with honor against the enemy. Hefting Winchester overhead, sun glinting off its intricately tooled gold inlaid stock, Ohnaà emboldened her entourage with a shrill war cry before leading them at a gallop.
A mile from Fort Pico, three hundred yards ahead, the outraged war party noted the mounted rifle bearing, black-haired soldier hunter, back towards them, looking for animal sign unaware of the Amazoni menace closing fast. It was too late when he found himself surrounded by sixty painted and armed Amazoni. Scowling, Ohnaà pointing her carbine at his head. After much thought, lowering Winchester, she signaled her ring to open a pathway. "Go!" she harshly commanded the bluecoat in Trader.
The warriors exchanged confused glances bearing witness to the cavalry interloper riding away at a brisk canter.
"He must not escape, Ohnaà! He must pay for daring to hunt our ground!" Sendai protested.
"Do you not need room to run down the enemy?"
With an exuberant whoop, the eager Sendai led the pursuit.
Turning in his creaky saddle to the sound of shrill war cries behind him, Soldier spurred his horse into a gallop.
The excited Sendai rapidly pulled away from her companions.
Crying, Soldier urged his mount on.
Catching up beside the terrified bluecoat, Sendai yanked him off his horse. Landing hard upon the ground his rifle broke in half upon impact. Screaming, Soldier folded himself into what he thought was a protective ball.
Ohnaà's party gazed with contempt at the downed man, for void of their walls, fort regulars were little more than squealing boar piglets.
Sendai yanked Soldier to his feet by his collar. In desperation he yanked free of her grasp in an escape attempt between Et-esh and Ohnaà but was unable to squeeze between the scowling warriors' powerful mounts.
Drawing her knife Sendai slashed her weeping enemy's back. Whirling, his chest and belly were slashed dropping him to his knees.
"Let me be!" Soldier pleaded. "I've got a wife and child! Let me be!"
Oblivious to his words she knew not, teeth bared, Sendai snatched a greasy fistful of her enemy's black hair.
"Kootseh!" Sendai snarled and rammed her blade through Soldier's left eye then slammed his limp body onto the ground. Kneeling, she expertly lifted her first scalp. Standing, she raised high the shock of black hair.
Ohnaà led the others in piercing whoops and rifle salutes of praise.
Attaching the scalp to her skins' belt Sendai remounted Sorrel. "We should bring this one's body to Fort Peek-oh, Ohnaà," she suggested.
"Soldiers know what happens when they step upon our land. What is not claimed by long-toothed cats and gorak birds, hot-mouthed ants will dissolve including this one's clothes to keep our ground clean."
The war party's journey to Fort Pico resumed.
Movement on the horizon alerted a sharp-eyed fort sentry. Peering through his spyglass a chill ran down his spine seeing the mighty Shesh-Amazoni Ohnaà looking ferocious in paint and ornament, leading the galloping war party. "Marn!" he sharply hailed his sentinel companion enjoying a smoke. "Spyglass! Now!"
"Take it easy, no need to get your uniform in a bunch," Marn crabbed annoyedly tossing aside his butt. He squinted through his spyglass.
"Still say I should take it easy?"
"Damn if that barbarian ain't back again! You remember her bringin' this many before, Jedge?"
"Wonder why this time."
"Because that dark warrior is a whole lot of big and mean, and more determined than ever to wipe us out. She gives me the feeling we'll never see Lt. Norek sent out hunting ever again.
"After informing General Redchee, tell the others in their quarters their day off is over. We need everyone here armed and quick!"
Sentry Marn collapsed his spyglass with a loud snap.
"This is going to be a bad day," sentry Jedge muttered under his breath as he continued peering through his spyglass at the rapidly closing Amazoni horde, "a really bad day."
Ohnaà's war party reined to a halt eighty yards from Fort Pico.
Et-esh glared at sentry Jedge examining them through his spyglass. "We are practically on top of that one who is so blind he cannot see us without his tube glass, Ohnaà," she observed.
Moments later rifle armed regulars joined soldier Jedge at the wall.
"Et-esh, Sendai. Join me."
The trio trotted to a halt twelve feet from For Pico's high gates.
"I will have council with your leader!" Ohnaà declared in Trader.
Collapsing his spyglass the in charge sentry Jedge re-hooked it to his belt.
"Talk hell!" sentry Marn growled under his breath and shot at Sendai, his bullet whizzing past her shoulder.
Shrieking a piercing holler of rage, Ohnaà rapidly fired Winchester dispatching Marn and two sentinels beside him with a round between the eyes.
Et-esh took out a sentry with a bullet to the throat.
The whir of Sendai's arrow announced itself into the chest of a bluecoat lookout.
Under a chorus of rifle fire, Et-esh, Ohnaà, and Sendai, rejoined their company and pulled back a hundred yards. For a long time Ohnaà glared at Fort Pico. "It is time," she announced and dismounted.
"They will kill you!" Sendai exclaimed.
"Trust Ohnaà to know what she is doing, young warrior," Et-esh advised.
With confident stride Ohnaà began her march. Approaching closer the fort gates, soldiers took potshots at the armed warrior's moccasined feet. Unflinchingly she continued her trek halting twenty feet from the high fort gates. "I will have council with your leader," she repeated.
"Cease fire!" sentry Jedge commanded halting all rifle discharge. "What the hell are you planning, barbarian?" he muttered to himself.
Seated cross-legged, Winchester across muscled thighs, the strapping warrior rolled a cigarette and lighting it with a match from a waist pouch, casually smoked.
"I can take her out, Jedge," volunteered a lookout.
Sentinel Jedge stared at the armed, painted and ornamented Shesh-Amazoni casually puffing her smoke.
"I'm in charge and I say not yet. General Redchee'll decide to talk to her or not. For now you'll do nothing other than watch."
Lookout Jedge glared at his underling.
"That's an order!"
Tossing aside her smoke's glowing butt, Winchester in hand, Ohnaà stood. A cool breeze tickled slight movement from her left arm's yellow-beaded cord's dual white feathers.
"Unbolt!" sentry Jedge ordered.
Fort Pico's gates sluggishly creaked open.
With long-legged stride Ohnaà approached the waiting Jedge.
"Hand over the rifle."
"Not if you want to talk to General Redchee."
"I do not come to shoot Reh-cheh."
"You shot my friends!"
"Who shoot first! I come alone and they shoot first. I do not kill them. I keep my rifle!" Ohnaà angrily stipulated. With curt thrust of Winchester, she signaled Jedge to lead her into the fort.
A smile nudged the corners of war chief Et-esh's mouth viewing her fearless friend's entry, setting her plot into motion.
Ohnaà followed Jedge across Fort Pico's wide dusty grounds of steed crowded corral, food storehouse, armory, and at barracks' end, up three wooden small stairs, the General's open-doored office.
Hazel-eyed, fluffy white-haired and bearded General Artris Redchee, dressed in crisp dark blue frocked collared, gold buttoned uniform garnished with glittering golden shoulder epaulettes, sat ramrod straight behind his mahogany desk topped with neatly stacked reports and yellow feather quill pen in tiny black ink bottle. A colorful regional map was tacked to the white wall behind him. Atop a small white table nestled within the back wall's left corner rested a gleaming sterling silver platter holding two shot glasses and a square multi-faceted crystal decanter filled with purple liquor.
General Redchee stood.
"Join me for a drink?"
"No thank you, sir."
Ohnaà replied with a glare of loathing. As the General filled his glass, she glowered at his ridiculously glossy calf-high black boots tightly packed with yellow side-striped blue pants.
With a grunt the General regained his desk seat. He downed his drink in a gulp. "This is the first time I've had a close look at the person behind my garrison's attacks." He pointed his empty glass. "You're quite a strapping specimen of a woman I must say. No doubt you're quite strong."
"It is so."
"It would be interesting to see you crush my glass with one hand."
Ohnaà scowled at her enemy's view of her as nothing more than a performing animal.
General Redchee slammed his glass upon his desk. "Enough pleasantries. What is it you want other than continually trying to destroy my fort?" he demanded.
"Reh-cheh and I will have words. Alone," Ohnaà growled.
"You're dismissed, Jedge."
"Sir, I can't allow--"
"You brought her knowing she wanted to talk."
"You rightly left it up to me to decide whether to talk with her or not, correct?"
"Yes sir," Jedge impatiently replied.
"Yet you don't want me to talk to her alone."
"I don't trust her, sir."
"She's armed, sir."
"Yes, so she is. If she intended to use her rifle as effectively as she continually attacks my garrison, she'd have already done so, wouldn't you say?"
"I intend to demonstrate to this savage that I'm unafraid of being alone with her."
"She's planning something awful I just know it! You need protection against--"
"In protest, let me state for the record, that I feel your impending action is that of an idiot...SIR!"
Swearing under his breath, sentinel Jedge stomped out of the office, slamming the door behind him.
General Redchee stared at the painted and ornamented warrior.
"Speak your mind, barbarian, and be off with you!"
Leaning Winchester against the desk, stepping around it, Ohnaà seized a huge fistful of General Redchee's collar and yanked him out of his chair, gazing hard into his widened hazel eyes. Ripping horsehair rope from her skins' belt she roughly leashed the shaking General and jerking it taut, elicited a hoarse gasp from him.
"You'll never get away with your plan," General Redchee croaked.
Snatching Winchester Ohnaà rested its cold muzzle against his throat. "My plan works because I have claimed you," she hissed. Yanking her enemy behind her, teeth bared, she kicked the office's door open with a mighty moccasined foot. Ignoring her prisoner's resistance against the leash, she yanked him toward the open gates.
"She's got the General! Don't shoot at her! Don't shoot at her!" a panicked guard yelped.
War chief Et-esh, hearing the soldier's faint ruckus from her party's hundred yard station, Appaloosa in tow, stampeded through Fort Pico's open gates to Ohnaà, who vaulted gracefully atop her stallion. She handed Et-esh the General's leash. With a mighty kick to their mounts' ribs, Et-esh in the lead, the warriors thundered out.
Ohnaà whirled Appaloosa around. "Four days I give you to burn your fort before you go," she warned. "Leaving our border is the price you must pay to get Reh-cheh back. Each day you stay, he will know much pain. Each day you stay I will return a piece of him. Four days pass and you do not leave, he dies! You will die!" Twirling her prancing Appaloosa, punching the air overhead with Winchester, she roared piercing shouts of defiance before galloping away.
The Amazoni war party camped at their hundred yard position. Ohnaà stalked up to war chief Et-esh holding General Redchee's leash. Taking it she pressed hard his shoulders forcing him to his knees. After issuing orders in Amazoni to Sendai and Et-esh they galloped away. "You are not so strong now, bluecoat. No brave words leap from your tongue now as they did behind your walls," she taunted. In a fit of rage, utilizing all her great might, she backhanded General Redchee unconscious.
Sister Sun was high when Et-esh and Sendai returned each with an armful of thick sticks. Dismounting they piled them beside the unaware General. Beside him sat Ohnaà gnawing on a strip of jerked boar meat watching the warriors select the thickest sticks as stakes, slice up Redchee's horsehair leash and roughly bind him spread-eagled. Sendai joined her lounging companions eating jerked deer and boar meat from their ration pouches beside their grazing horses. Et-esh sat beside the Shesh-Amazoni.
The war chief retrieved a jerked strip of deer meat from her ration pouch. "I wonder," she mused "what he will think when he awakens and finds himself at your mercy."
"That he is not alone in learning that it is not good to have me as an enemy."
Nodding, Et-esh bit off a piece of jerked deer meat.
Tossing aside her diminished jerked meat slice Ohnaà drew her knife twitching it back and forth to catch the sun off its gleaming wide blade in contemplation of her next move.
General Redchee awoke with a groan an hour later surrounded by sixty seated, painted and ornamented, attentive Amazoni. Ohnaà kneeling beside him knife in hand drove him into futile struggle against his bonds.
The echoed screams of General Artris Redchee filtered to the agonized ears of Fort Pico wall sentries.
"We can't just sit here, Jedge, and do nothing while the General is being--"
"That's exactly what those Amazoni want, soldier. They want us stampeding at them blasting away so they can pick us off one by one."
"We've got to give in to them, sir, for the General's sake! It's not such a big thing to burn the fort and leave. We can build another. We can't wait four days listening to him screaming wondering what he's going through."
"Give in? To them?"
"I don't want the General's blood on my hands. You can't be that inhuman to want that either because of your damn pride."
Wiping sweat from his brow as another distant scream pierced the humid air, sentry Jedge cringed.
General Redchee shrieked with each swipe of Ohnaà's honed blade slicing uniform and flesh on his arms, legs, and chest. Stripping him to his sliced and bloody, clingy long white underwear, Ohnaà tossed his bloodstained tattered uniform aside. When next the sun rose she would return it to the fort soldiers.
Overwhelmed by pain and blood loss, General Redchee passed out.
Separating herself from her warriors Ohnaà sat and stared at Fort Pico a hundred yards away its distance hardly diminishing its menace.
War chief Et-esh joined Ohnaà.
"Bluecoat Reh-cheh shows great strength, young one."
"Ah yah!" Et-esh growled with contempt. "He squealed like a Trader woman under your knife."
"I did not see him cry or hear him beg for his life like the soldier Sendai claimed, did you?"
"When I took him, he struggled against the leash like a wild stallion, but did not scream or beg help from his warriors. Awakening, seeing me with knife in hand, he struggled mightily against his bonds. Still he did not beg or cry. He screams like a Trader woman but sheds no tears like one."
"His eyes hold great fear, Ohnaà."
"Fear or no fear, I respect no enemy who will not look me in the eye. Reh-cheh looks me in the eye."
"Perhaps, my friend, since you place such great importance on your enemy's steady gaze, you should replace your scalp cord with strung eyes who will always watch and comfort you."
Laughing, Ohnaà playfully nudged Et-esh.
The night's cool breezes were tempered by the large camp fire beside which the warriors slept. The twin full moons settling into position atop one another bathed them in a silver glow.
Ohnaà piled Et-esh and Sendai's gathered sticks beside the unconscious General Redchee's ribs. Yawning grandly she settled alongside Et-esh beside the warm fire and fell asleep.
Midmorning, Winchester in hand, Ohnaà squatted beside the staked General Redchee to admire her handiwork of deep knife slices against his arms, chest and legs, caked with congealed blood. Lightly she prodded his belly with Winchester's muzzle to awaken him. "It is another day, Reh-cheh. Later you will know fire."
"Kill me and be done with it, barbarian!" he croaked.
"Your warriors do not leave my land's border in three days, you and they will die."
Seizing General Redchee's tattered bloody uniform she vaulted gracefully upon Appaloosa and rode away.
"She's coming! She's coming in fast!" shouted a sentry.
Sentry Jedge glared at the painted ornamented Shesh-Amazoni galloping in and abruptly rein Appaloosa to a rearing halt five feet from his closed gates. "Return the General!" he ordered.
"You will leave our border and burn your fort like I tell you before?"
Ohnaà angrily threw General Redchee's balled up, shredded, bloody uniform upon the dusty ground.
"You are foolish, bluecoat. This day Reh-cheh will feel fire because you will not go. You have three days before I kill him and attack you. When next the sun comes I will return with more I will take from Reh-cheh."
Ohnaà galloped away.
When the sun was high overhead, Ohnaà's war party watched her light with a Trader match the two small piles of wood nestled beside General Redchee's ribs.
Agonized shrieks drifted to the tortured ears of Fort Pico wall soldiers.
"Jedge, I don't know who's worse," a sentry snarled. "That savage unmercifully torturing the General, or you, for allowing it!"
"That's enough, soldier. I'm in charge!"
"Being in charge is getting your head out of your ass and helping the General. You don't we will, and we'll run right over you!"
Listening to the General's screeching, sentry Jedge formulated his plan of redemption.
General Redchee squawked as fire chewed his sides until he heaved a quivering sigh and lapsed into blessed oblivion.
Hoof beats sounded behind the warriors who turned to view Bluecoat cutting through their grazing herd. Ohnaà stood. Her warriors automatically formed a barrier preventing Bluecoat from seeing his commander.
"Bring the General. We'll do what you want."
Terrified of the painted and ornamented Shesh-Amazoni and company, Bluecoat wasted no time his exit.
Ohnaà interpreted the brief declaration.
"They will say anything to get him back!" Sendai insisted.
Dousing the small fires roasting the General with her water gourd, Ohnaà kneeled to cut the General free. In fury Sendai broke from the watchers shoving Ohnaà away from the prisoner knocking her over.
The infuriated Johtah grabbed the young warrior.
"You cannot let this one go because bluecoats will not honor your demand! This one must die! Now! Only then his warriors will be scared enough to keep their word to burn their fort before leaving!"
"Release Sendai, Johtah."
The scowling warrior reluctantly complied.
"It may very well be, Sendai, bluecoats again will choose betrayal by lie. I DO speak the truth and will release Reh-cheh as promised. Betrayal sits in the bluecoat heart they will die."
The warriors dispersed for their horses.
"Never attack me in anger again."
Acknowledging the warning with bowed head of submission, Sendai hurriedly tread to Sorrel.
Cutting loose the lacerated, burned and bloody, white underwear clad unconscious General, Ohnaà easily hefted him over a broad brown shoulder. Seizing Winchester from the ground she briskly strode to Appaloosa to sling the bluecoat over the stallion's withers. Leading Appaloosa, mounted warriors close behind, the war party followed their tahna the hundred yard distance to Fort Pico for the exchange.
The war party led by the afoot Winchester armed, painted and ornamented Ohnaà leading her body laden Appaloosa, halted eight feet from the open fort gates. The long row of tense carbine armed sentries watched her yank by the collar her unconscious hostage off her mount. Nimbly vaulting atop Appaloosa she waited.
Two sentries disappearing from their wall post hurried to drag their burned and bloody General into the fort.
Nothing happened for several tense minutes other than the wall sentries oddly abandoning their post attracted by angry shouts from within the fort. Ohnaà was about to signal the attack when rifle fire joined the angry shouts within the fort. The war party stormed the open gates. What they discovered stunned them. Everyone was dead. General Redchee lay dead caught in his mens' crossfire.
"Why would bluecoats do this to each other, Ohnaà?" Et-esh asked.
"No longer our problem, I do not care, young one. Johtah, Sendai, Naht-t'sah, Kahtahnah. Herd bluecoat horses and ours out." Ohnaà and the others dismounted. "Trader Jo-teff told me about bluecoat weapons that make great fire and noise. We will look for them. Soon Fort Peek-oh will fall."
Warriors investigating the food storehouse discovered boxes of jerked meat and green onions and strangely enough a big ball of twine. Figuring it would be useful, a warrior swiped it.
Entering the armory Ohnaà's group discovered five huge open kegs of gunpowder and twelve boxes crammed full of dynamite sticks. Confused by the never before seen weapon, Et-esh held one up.
"Jo-teff says these noise sticks can destroy many things when lit, young one," Ohnaà explained.
"Why do the soldiers have these, Ohnaà, when all they use are their guns?" a warrior asked.
"To destroy our people when we least expect it."
"Ah yah! Now it is we who will destroy their fort with them," the warrior declared.
The storehouse searchers found Ohnaà's group. The big warrior who found the ball of twine presented it.
Seizing handfuls of dynamite sticks Ohnaà wrapped them together with twine and cut off all loose ends with her knife. Following her example the others did the same.
Ohnaà placed two dynamite bundles in front of the gunpowder kegs and one inside and ordered her company to seize every dynamite bundle they made and wait at the open gates. With Trader matches she lit the strategically placed dynamite sticks' long fuses and ran with an armload of bundled dynamite ignoring soldier bodies along the way to her waiting party. Seconds later a massive explosion took out the armory and the resulting fire spread.
Ohnaà ordered half of her warriors to place their dynamite bundles in the barracks and light them. Minutes later they exploded into kindling. The rest of the gathered dynamite bundles were placed at points surrounding the gates.
Fuses lit with spark stones and Trader matches the warriors ran to join Johtah, Sendai, Naht-t'sah and Kahtahnah, safeguarding Amazoni and captured soldier horses at a safe distance. Remounting the warriors watched in stoic silence as multiple explosions leveled the fort into burning kindling. With a stern thrust of Winchester, Ohnaà signaled her victorious party to begin the journey home.