Ogres and Ogresses Ch. 04bystubborn_dreamer©
Chapter 4: Curses
The first lights of morning shone through the thick light brown material of the tent. As the honey colored light spilled over Zyra's face she began to stir out of her slumber. She awoke slowly, wrinkling her nose as she gained concentration and centered herself.
Morning, yes it was morning.
Yawning she went to her grooming corner. Pulling out the tub of fresh water she dipped her bowl into it and began cleansing herself. After rubbing her teeth with her cleaning stick she bound her breasts, then pulled on her clothing. Unable to continue feigning the pretense of the celebration's "niceties" she wore a simple brown leg pant with a simple brown top. She slipped on her boots, also of matching color and made a note to remind herself to wash and hang up the soft boots.
Looking at her face in the murky water she frowned and tried to flatten her hair down. It was no use, it was just one of those days.
Sighing she stood up. It didn't matter anyway. No doubt Rell would have divulged to the man tribe her short comings and she would be scolded by Kyzu. It was a blow to her pride no matter what path she took, and she only felt irritating despair. For sure she would be thrown out of the tribe. She just could not give herself to man.
Walking outside she saw she was one of the only members awake.
"Probably still tired from the festivities," she mumbled bitterly.
Closing her eyes, she tried to feel which way the wind was blowing. It blew towards the river. The scent of wild cloves and onions caught her nose. She had heard the men had been kind enough to bring the fatbird's eggs with them. It would be good to have the herbs of her own land to season her share.
She was about to follow the trail when she remembered the man beast that had assaulted her in the forest. Gritting her teeth she put on a series of concealed knives and daggers on her person. She was well armed before she followed the trail.
As she suspected, the herbs had grown right by the river's edge. Smiling to herself she dug basil and tiny onion's bulbs out and tied them together by their green stalks. Then she washed them in the river's water. She had to smell the grasses to tell which one was actually an onion, and the practice soothed her. Maybe her niece Nima would like some as well.
Smiling at the thought of her little joy, she gathered more. After she had about 19 she heard a rustle in the trees. Without hesitation she hefted a dagger at the sound. Hearing a shout she turned and saw Hanto, the chieftan's son crouched down. Above his head impaled in the wood of a tree was her dagger.
Slightly impressed he had managed to dodge it, she continued to twist the onions together.
"What were you doing?" she asked eying him on occasion.
He walked forward, coming to stand beside her, shock dusting his features.
"I saw you crouched down. I was wondering if you were alright," he answered.
She rolled her eyes. "You saw my crouched bottom. Of course you were wondering."
He laughed in response but did not deny her accusation. She stood, 22 onions in total and began to walk off.
"Wait, where are you going?" he asked, chasing after her.
"To prepare for the morning feast."
"The time is not near," he said running in front of her. "Perhaps...you could find something else to occupy your time."
Zyra frowned. His bronze skin glistened with a light cover of sweat and the shade of the forest accented his already dark features. He was a handsome man, yet Zyra felt nothing. It only served to make her saddened.
"Did you not seek out Firetoucher as I instructed?"
"Yes I did," he said unable to avoid sounding pleased. "Our time was enjoyable, yet..."
He put a hand on her shoulder and she forced herself not to flinch. "...she is still not what I seek."
Zyra's frown deepened. The nerve of this warrior.
"What makes you think I am the one you seek? You know nothing about me."
"I know you are fierce and brave," he answered smirking. "You are like a nantuja, a wildcat."
Zyra snorted and walked ahead. "Wildcats are not so fierce. My 6 yeared niece Nima has often taken one or two as pet. They purr and show her their underbelly for caresses. Not so fierce."
"Unless threatened," he remarked raising an eyebrow. "They could only be the pets of true warriors. They would tear a normal man apart."
Zyra frowned when he reached to touch her face. He let a finger trail down her cheek gently. He let it trail until he reached the tops of her breasts.
She froze in shock until he reached for her again. Angrily she snapped her teeth at him and he retracted. Upon his finger was bead of blood. Looking at it he laughed, mirth shining in his eyes.
"See? You felt threatened."
He invaded her space suddenly, using his height to his advantage.
"Tell me Zyra," he said huskily. "What must I do for you to show me your, underbelly?"
She shook in anger, the frustration of the celebration bringing her close to stabbing him.
"I tolerate you because you are from my tribe's sister," she seethed quietly. "But understand that it takes more than mere talk to earn my respect. Now move."
He smirked at her, but obeyed.
She felt his eyes on her as she walked away from him.
"I'm the only one who could ever understand you Zyra!" he yelled after her. "You will never find one who is as worthy."
Arrogance was his vice. Zyra felt betrayed by this duplicitous soul. He had tried to seduce her with silky words like a threadworm. The night before he came at her like a bear. And now, now he had tried some kind of mix.
This troubled male desired her for unknown reasons, when and all was said and done, all she desired was to be left alone.
Unsettled she went to hang the onions in her tent. It wouldn't be long now, the others should be awakening. She wondered if she should start the cook fires. No, it would be wrong to force her people from their warm embraces. She began wandering, trying to make the time pass. The time would go no faster and before long she found herself sitting under a tree back by the river.
The water glistened with sunlight, rippling as it slowly made its way through the land. The ground by her feet was wet with the morning's dew, the sun was too low in the sky to bring heat. Zyra loved her tribe more than anything. All she wanted was to stay with them, to protect them.
"It's just one thing," she whispered to herself. "One little thing."
Yes, it wasn't that important. She recited it over and over until she almost believed it. She could do this. She would do this, she had to.
A scream pierced through her thoughts.
She stood tensing as she listened for the sound again. The scream repeated and Zyra dashed through the forest towards it. Tree branches whipped around her body flew underneath and over them, a lucky branch smacking her skin from time to time. By the time she arrived to the tents she saw a crowd was gathering by the Chieftess' tent. Her heart clenched as she pushed past them.
"Move!" she growled shoving a gaping couple aside.
She ducked inside the tent to see Kyzu kneeling beside Nima. On the other side the shaman from both tribes conversed with each other as they ground herbs. The Chief and Hanto stood looking in on Kyzu's panic.
"Zyra," Kyzu rasped.
Tears streamed down her face. Zyra looked at her in alarm and reached out to Nima. Her skin was cold. Shaking she felt the girl's pulse. It was weak, too weak.
"What has happened?" Zyra whispered.
Kyzu began to cry harder.
"Sister, tell me," she demanded grasping her shoulders.
"You have to tell me!"
"There was a light..." Kyzu whimpered.
"I went to see her. I went to check on her. There was a blue ball of light above her, and when I stood to chase it...it disappeared!"
"This is a foul omen," the man's shaman said frowning.
He came over with a bowl of green goo and drew symbols on Nima's face.
"The child will not awaken no matter what we do."
"What can we do?" Zyra asked. "Tell me."
"Shaman Jot and I shall do our practice together," the Rovian shaman Pui said rubbing Kyzu's back.
"Once the new sun rises we shall have news for you. For now, perhaps you should tend to your people."
Zyra put a hand on her precious niece's face. Her face was pale, she looked almost dead. Zyra shook her head.
"She will be fine Kyzu," she said firmly to her sister. "Now come, you must address the people."
"No," Kyzu barked firmly. "I am a mother before I am a chieftess. I will not leave her side."
Zyra looked at the thin quivering line that was her sister's lips and nodded in obedience.
"Yes Chieftess. I shall...act in your stead."
Kyzu jerked a nod and Zyra stood to look at the Chief of the Ursies.
"May I speak with you please," she said solemnly.
He nodded and she followed him out of the tent. Hanto went to follow but the Chief stopped him.
"You wait Hanto, give us a moment."
Hanto scowled but obeyed. They walked away from the crowd before stopping to face one another.
"I know this celebration is something we prepare for and is considered a sacred ritual," Zyra started cautiously. "But being that the heir and future leader of the Rovian tribe is ill, finding a cure is most essential to us."
"I understand," the Chief said pursing his lips. "Do you intent to halt the celebration?"
"Not yet," Zyra answered. "We may continue the celebration, but if Nima does not get better by tomorrow she will become our main priority, celebration or not."
"I understand young daughter," the Chief said giving her a kind grin. "You speak eloquently. I will pray for you to have guidance in this time."
Bowing, Zyra went to address the people.
After alerting them of Nima's sickness the whole village was sent to wash themselves and change their clothing. A cleanse was conducted to see if anyone else had contracted the strange illness.
Then, despite her heart's protests she packed a large tent and had it pitched just outside of the village by the river. There Nima, Kyzu and the shaman would stay in case Nima had a spreading sickness. During this time she allowed the Chief to continue all rituals for the celebration. By the time things had resumed it was nightfall. The men had to work harder to raise the women's spirits. She appreciated their attempts in silence.
Zyra's spirits could not be lifted. She sat on the edge of the village, staring into the darkness that was where she had placed her beloved Nima and Kyzu. She had to watch the village, but all she wanted was to be with them.
What if the shaman's could not help them?
What if Nima died?
Tears began to gather in her eyes but she swallowed them. She had to be strong. She had to stay strong for all of them.
A blanket was suddenly thrown over her shoulders.
Looking up she saw Ginger giving her a sad smile.
"I'm sorry," she said sitting beside her. Rell had come as well and sat on her other side.
"We are here to comfort you," he said patting her hand.
She looked at him wide eyed and ashamed.
"Why? After I dishonored you...I mean, I am sorry I—"
"It's alright Zyra," he chided. "I bear you no ill will."
She turned her palm and let him clasp her hand. His warmth gave her courage.
"Will you watch the darkness all night?" Ginger said putting an arm around her.
"Just for a while longer."
She unfurled the blanket, putting one end on Ginger, and the other on Rell. Then she lay on Ginger's shoulder.
"It's okay honey," Ginger cooed. "We're here for you."
Zyra nodded, and felt Rell wrap an arm around her.
She liked him, he was a good person.
She slept in Ginger's tent that night. Ginger had sex with Rell without use of her drugs. They didn't bother Zyra and she was grateful. They also made the bed warm which was questionably nice.
Zyra dove in and out of sleep. She was awake when the sky lightened. When it did, she left to go into the forest. She flung the medical tent open expectantly.
"Well?" she asked, her heart beating furiously. The scene before her made her breath catch.
The shamans looked drained, older. Kyzu's eyes were bloodshot and haunted. She didn't react to Zyra's question, simply staring with despair at her beloved daughter. Nima had dark purple circles around her eyes and her skin had lost its glossy luster. She looked like she had been sick for years. Zyra gasped, falling to her knees.
"How is this possible?"
"Magic," Jot rasped. "Foul magic. This is not normal disease. The child has been jinxed with wasting. I am sorry."
"Sorry?" Zyra shouted. "Sorry for what? What are you saying old man?"
"She cannot be cured my dear, only prolonged," Pui sighed. "We are terribly sorry, our ways are useless here."
Kyzu suddenly let out a loud broken sob and Zyra reached out to encircle her in her arms. This was not happening.
"Could you be wrong?" Zyra yelled as she began to tremble. "C-could you be wrong?"
"One or two shaman could be wrong," Jot said frowning. He reached behind him and got the spirit turtle rattle. He shook it over Kyzu and she hear the bones clank. Turning, he shook the turtle rattle over Nima's body slowly.
"The spirits are never wrong. See?" There was no sound, no matter how hard he shook it. The turtle rattle was filled with bones and yet there was no sound.
"The rattle only sounds for the sick. Kyzu is sick with grief, the child is not sick my dear. She is cursed."
Zyra felt the tears run down her cheeks before she realized she was crying. Kyzu's heart wrenching sobs clawed at her tortured spirit.
What had they done to deserve this?
"What's going on?" Hanto entered the tent and she could find no words to say. Behind him followed Rell, Ginger and the Chief. Before the shaman could repeat their words Zyra put an arm under Kyzu and turned to Ginger.
Ginger rushed over and together they gathered up the woman. They walked until they were beside the river.
Looking into Kyzu's eyes they could see that she was not with them. She had gone to a dark place to escape the pain. Ginger ran to her tent and came back with a change of clothes and a wash rag. Disrobing, Zyra went into the water with Kyzu and bathed her.
By the time they were dressed Kyzu had stopped crying. They took her into Zyra's tent and there tried to feed her. She was limp and lifeless so Zyra laid her sister to sleep. She waited until she had closed her eyes to leave. Then Ginger watched after her.
Zyra's grief threatened her with ever step she took. Nima had been cursed. Yet, the only ones who could give out curses were the witches.
What crime had innocent mute Nima committed? She was born without so much a cry and now would die without a word.
Crazy thoughts began to sprout inside her mind. She let them grow, consume her until one actually started to make sense.
She would see the witches. She would ask for an audience with their magical coven and beg forgiveness. The chances of them killing her were great. She doubted they would let her live, but she had to try. With that resolve she went off to see to her tribe.
They were in mourning, several of them coming up to kiss her on her cheek or kiss her hand. Black face markings scarred their beautiful features. Nima was the future Chieftess, she was as much the tribe's child as she was Kyzu's. The women could not be consoled and their cries permeated the air.
Zyra found the men huddled around their Chief as he spoke to them in soft whispers. Her arrival made them pause.
"Zyra," the Chief said. "Your Chieftess?"
"She is in good hands."
The Chief nodded respectfully. "I believe that due to the circumstances, the rites must be cancelled. The time for celebration is certainly over."
"Thank you Chief," Zyra agreed. "Will you need help for your departure?"
"If you would be so kind."
Zyra gave him a weary smile. "I will have help for you to leave by tomorrow morn."
"Thank you dear Zyra."
With that she left the men and went to find her tracker. Firetoucher, was by far her best tracker. She found her sharpening a new stone head for a spear.
"Firetoucher," she called. "Sister."
Firetoucher looked visibly shaken despite her activities.
"How fares our Chieftesses?"
"Nima is with the shaman and Ginger watches Kyzu. I need your help Firetoucher."
Firetoucher stood up and followed her out of the tent.
She took her into the forest right where she had been attacked by that strange beast.
"Tell me, do you smell anything strange here?" she asked. Firetoucher bent to the ground and touched the earth. Licking her fingers she stuck them in the air.
"Faint. Points to the north, the smell of magic."
"Do you know what leads there?"
Firetoucher shook her head. "No, we have never ventured there in our hunts. We know the south is our land, but I believe the north...the north is the border."
So the beast went back onto his own land. She gritted her teeth in concentration.
"Firetoucher...if I am gone, you can lead the Hunters right?"
Firetoucher put a hand on her shoulder.
"Why do you ask me this sister?"
Zyra could not lie to her and returned the trusting gesture.
"I mean to find a cure."
Firetoucher gave her a sympathetic look.
"There is no cure Zyra."
"There is one, just not one everyone has thought of."
Slowly, comprehension dawned on Firetoucher's face.
Firetoucher looked deeply into Zyra's eyes. She had been following her fearlessly for many years. She could see the determination in her eyes. She would not budge from this.
"Does the Chieftess know?"
"No, and she will not know."
Firetoucher shook her head in disgust.
"No sister. Whatever wasting curse those damned wretches have caused will torment our Chieftess. She deserves to know all she might lose or she will be undone."
"She is undone!" Zyra shouted angrily. "I will not have her harm herself on my account! We need our Chieftess!"
"And our Zyra," Firetoucher shouted back. "I will stay behind to protect the village, but you will take Gharla the archer and Enui the spearwoman. You will not go alone Sister!"
Zyra glared at her fiercely.
"My sacrifice is my own. Why should they forfeit their lives?"
"Why should you?"
"Because I love her!" she screamed. "Because I am selfish...and I love her."
Firetoucher sighed and stretched out her arms to hold Zyra's shoulders.
"When will you understand? We, your loyal hunters, would follow you across the border and back with our love for you. We know you would cross for any of us. Respect this Zyra. This battle is not yours alone."
Zyra was touched by Firetoucher's words. Too often had she felt like the lone supporter of her tribe. She had been wrong; her sisters were with her all this time.
"I understand," she said with a small smile. "Prepare them then. We leave at dawn."
She went back to her tent to see Kyzu. Ginger was getting Kyzu to drink soup. It spilled down the sides of her mouth and Ginger fussed patting her mouth before it reached her chin.
"I wish to go to my daughter," Kyzu moaned. "Let me be with her." Her voice broke in agony.
"Let me die with her."
"Nima is not going to die," Zyra interjected firmly. "Your sacrifice is in vain stupid sister."
Kyzu looked up at her in surprise.
"My baby...she is cured?"
"I have found a cure," Zyra said grinning. "It is beyond the border. I go at dawn to ask the witches for their help. We will bring an offering and hope for mercy."
Ginger dropped the bowl of soup.
Kyzu stared at her in shock. "...Truly?"
"Yes," Zyra declared. "Nima will not die. I will make sure of it."