The Chief Pt. 02 Ch. 09byamicus©
Sahjeed avoided creating commotion in the main part of the Chief's lodge by using a side entrance that opened into a small room where several partly cured hides were hung. The next room contained a table and several chairs, his extra weapons and trail clothing hung from rafters and leaned against two walls. The room had no windows.
The Chief sat behind the table, and Duulaat leaned over as they both struggled to create a map of the area around Suulamaag's village. They called in scouts and hunters who had been through the area to help.
As supplies were gathered and training went on throughout the day, volunteers from other villages came before Sahjeed and the First Guard in the cluttered room. Some were welcomed with gratitude, but many others were turned away.
"They are thin and weak or old with heavy bellies!" snorted Duulaat, "How have so many of the People come to be this way? They could not make a hard march and could not fight."
A voice from the doorway interrupted Sahjeed, as he was about to speak.
"Permission to enter."
A guard stood in the doorway and at Sahjeed's nod, moved aside. A tall lean bearded man hobbled, more than walked into the room. His appearance caused both the Chief and Duulaat to stare in disbelief.
Black curly hair started on his head and showed down the front of his open tunic to just above his waist. The staff he held in his right hand thumped as he supported himself and took a step. His left arm stopped at the elbow, his left leg at the knee.
He made his way to the table, brushed long bushy hair from his forehead and looked down at the map. He grunted and made other sounds as he leaned on the table and used the fingers of his right hand to trace lines. "Wrong! And wrong, and too short and the hills begin here, not there!" He thumped the table.
"I am called Wolf. I know this land. I come to be your tracker and lead scout." He raised his head, glanced at Duulaat then held Sahjeed's eyes.
After a moment he smiled and dropped his eyes, "People show many things when they look upon me. Pity, horror, revulsion, but you my Chief, I cannot read what you feel. Why is this?"
Before Sahjeed could answer, shouts and female screams came from the outer room; sounds of a struggle brought him to his feet and through the door behind Duulaat.
A Guard held a kicking and screaming girl off the floor and tried to avoid her fingernails as she reached behind her for his face.
"Stop this!" shouted Sahjeed, "What is going on here? Guard, who is this girl?"
Wolf clumped through the door-way, "She followed me to your village, Chief Sahjeed. She promised she would wait quietly until I came out." He turned to the girl, "Saaleeshah! What is the meaning of this? What have you done?"
The Guard released the girl, and she darted to the protection of Wolf. "My Chief," said the Guard, "She made marks on a doeskin hanging on the wall, she would not stop!"
Sahjeed looked from the girl to Wolf and then to the skin. He moved closer. Only the shape of a face and bushy hair showed clearly.
The Chief looked at Wolf and back to the skin, "This is to be a drawing of Wolf?"
"Yes, my Chief," the girl said meekly.
"Would you finish it for me?"
Her eyes brightened and a huge smile creased her face, "You would let me? You want to see? Oh, yes! Oh, thank you!"
She ran to the hanging skin, her hands dipping into sewn pouches that hung on her waist and surrounded her. She talked and mumbled and exclaimed as she took charcoal in both hands and attacked the skin, oblivious to those watching.
She slowed and used one hand only when she drew the eyes, wetting her finger and dipping it into one pouch then another. She worked quickly, stood back, moved forward again, then back, reached out a finger drew it back and collapsed, panting, her full skirt billowing as she gracefully bent her knees. She put her hands in her lap and bowed her head, breathing as if she had run a great distance.
Those watching stood speechless as the drawing of Wolf came into being. The Guard who had restrained her stepped back and made a sign as if to ward off evil.
Sahjeed was stunned and more so as he moved closer and glanced from the drawing to Wolf and back again.
He shivered and turned to the girl on the floor, "Rise up, Saalee...? What are you called?"
She stood and faced him, "Saaleeshah, my Chief," she said quietly, searching his eyes, "Does the drawing please you?"
Sahjeed turned to Wolf, "Would you stand closer to the drawing? I would like to compare...yes, there. It is you, Tracker, there is no doubt of that, but it is more than you. The drawing is more Wolf than you are? How can that be? I see the scars but I am drawn to look at the strength in your face." He looked back and forth between drawing and man. "I see the strong chin and jaw but the beard covers and leads me to the eyes. By the Lights! I have never seen such eyes. There is the pain; there is the suffering but also the endurance, the burden of the memory. But this is not important for in the eyes is something that is not visible in the man. A gentleness; a passion, a knowing of self worth."
Sahjeed Deeda backed away from the drawing and the man and stood before the girl, "I do not understand how one so young, anyone, young or old, could see such things in a man and bring them to life with burned wood and deer hide. I have never seen such a thing. How do you...how can you...why...?"
The girl burst into tears and when Sahjeed opened his arms she came to him. "My Chief, oh, my Chief, how I have longed to hear words such as yours. People are frightened by my drawings; they say I take the life from those I draw. They forbid me to draw living things, they do not like that I see so much." She stepped back and looked into his eyes, "Do you really see those things you said? Those things I tried so hard to bring out? Do you really see?"
"Yes, girl, I see. I do not; I can not, in my head see how you can do this. But I am amazed and grateful that you showed me. I would like to have the drawing of Wolf. What can I do for you in exchange?"
"Oh, my Chief," she gasped, "The doeskin is worth much more than my drawing. I am so sorry, but I had to get Wolf out of my head. He was screaming to come out, I could not stop myself."
The Chief hesitated, "I think you do not know the value of what you do. Wolf, would you and Saaleeshah join me for a meal? I think we have much to talk about."
Wolf smiled, "We would be honored, my Chief."
Sahjeed's mother rose from her chair on the deck as they came up the stairway. She smiled at her son, nodded to Duulaat and Rahseeta, glanced at the young girl and opened her eyes wide at Wolf.
"Lobolaaht! Is it really you, after all this time? Oh, I cannot believe my eyes!" She opened her arms as Wolf came up to her.
He put his arms lightly around her back, and then pushed slightly away to look into her eyes. "Malaeeva, only you could always see through what is to what really is. I have missed seeing you. You look well; you have a fine son."
She blushed and patted his shoulder, "And who is this young lady that you bring before me?"
Wolf smiled and took the girl's hand, "Malaeeva, mother of Sahjeed, please meet Saaleeshah..." He turned to Sahjeed with a gesture, "And this is who she is..." Sahjeed held up the doeskin before her."
Sahjeed's mother slowly raised a hand to cover her open mouth as her eyes opened wide and filled. She glanced at the girl but did not look at Lobolaaht. "This child did that?" she gasped.
Sahjeed smiled, "In the time it takes to breathe a few hands of times, quicker than water can bubble in a hot fire. Yes, she drew that before my eyes, my mother."
Malaeeva reached a hand to Wolf's face, his beard and to the scars beneath. She turned to the girl and held her face in both hands, "I do not know how you could see the young Lobolaaht in the face before you. I would have that drawing if I may?"
Saaleeshah glanced at the Chief, then bowed her head slightly and raised her hands to Malaeeva's arms, "It would give me great pleasure for you to have this. I am happy that it pleases you."
"Pleases me? Sahjeed, my son, does this child not know what she has done?"
"We just met, my mother. She says some people are frightened of her drawings. I know very little, perhaps we can learn more. That is why I wanted her to sit with us,"
"Yes, oh yes, we will sit together and eat and talk and perhaps we will learn some secrets. We must help our other young lady prepare enough food for all, come ladies, to the fireplace!"
Sahjeed, Duulaat and Wolf sat around the table on the deck with an empty chair between each of them.
"First Guard, Tracker, neither of you has spoken of the drawing. That was of my doing, I could not control my response. Wolf, do you see yourself as she sees you?" Sahjeed leaned on the table toward him.
"Chief Sahjeed, I paid little attention to my looks as a young man. The maidens smiled upon me; that was enough. One catches glimpses in a quiet pond on a sunny day; women sometimes rub certain stones until a shimmering outline can be seen.
"I did not need to see what I looked like after the bear killed me, I did not care, I was happy just to live when the pain lessened. I know I have not answered your question," Wolf leaned back in his chair and looked away. "The man in the drawing is the man I would wish to be, the man I perhaps could be, ought to be. I am not as strong or as honest as she drew me. I have fears and failures and weaknesses; she did not show those. I now know why people fear what she does."
Sahjeed was taken silent by Lobolaaht's words, and Duulaat remained in a deep study.
The Chief finally broke the silence, "Tracker, if you think you can keep pace with the rest of the men, I would welcome your skill on the trail. Every scout I have met speaks of your expertise. Do you have pain when you walk long distances?"
"I have pain always, Sahjeed, I have learned to live with it. I cannot keep up with a running march but I will stay with anything less. I would go if you would have me."
The Chief smiled and stood, reaching an arm out to Wolf, Duulaat did the same. They were still standing as Rahseeta came onto the deck with a tray of drinking cups.
She was silent and unsmiling as she handed the drinks to them. Several uneasy moments passed before Duulaat moved to her side. "I would hear your thoughts on the drawing, 'seeta."
Rahseeta looked from face to face before she spoke, "I...felt that drawing as if it were alive. I did not have to think about it or what I thought about it, I, uh, I had a strange feeling in my stomach, in my chest. It frightened me and thrilled me. My mind cannot accept that a child did that drawing, I will not believe that such a young..."
"I, we all, watched her, Rahseeta. I saw, yet I too have difficulty believing my eyes, that anyone could create such a thing. It is beyond me," said Sahjeed.
"Would she draw someone else, so we could see?" Ventured Duulaat cautiously.
Wolf tilted his head, "She might. She was forbidden to show anyone her work in the last village. She has begun to realize the impact of her drawings. I do not know enough to speak with her about her work, she needs more than I can give."
Rahseeta left and all four women returned moments later with platters and bowls, and the meal was quickly served.
They ate quietly and slowly, Sahjeed's mother sat next to Lobolaaht, Saaleeshah picked at her food and seemed distracted, glancing again and again at the girl who cared for Sahjeed and his mother.
With flashing eyes and a heaving chest she quickly rose, knocking the chair to the floor behind her. "I must! I have to do this! My Chief, is there, do you have something I can draw on? Light in color, as large as you have? Oh, Please, Chief, I must draw her. Now!"
Sahjeed was startled, along with the rest, but left and quickly came back with a large roll of bleached doeskin that Domohaas had given him.
Saaleeshah swept a part of the table clear, had Sahjeed sit at one end and took the girl's arm and led her to the other end of the table. She touched and adjusted the girl's head and posture and had her lay an arm across her waist just above the hips.
"Yes! Yes...yes...hold there!" She motioned to the girl to remain still, threw the skin down on the table and again with two hands began to sketch.
The rest gathered behind her, glancing from the skin to the girl as her form began to take shape. There was a gasp from Rahseeta, and a huge exhale by Sahjeed as Saaleeshah's hands flashed, then slowed. She stepped back, looked up and down and again, made a few more strokes, used her fingertips to smudge, dipped into a pouch for color, stepped back again, blinked her eyes rapidly for a moment then dropped heavily into a chair and closed her eyes.
The silence was absolute until Sahjeed's mother rose, moved to the still posing girl, put an arm around her and walked her to the far end of the table. She motioned to Sahjeed; he carefully picked up the skin and held it before the girl.
Her eyes opened wide, she dropped to her knees and covered her mouth with both hands.
"That...can...not be...me!" She ran her fingers along her cheeks to her eyes and into her hair. "That is...beautiful...that is not...me...it cannot be...me?"
Saaleeshah rose and went to the girl and sat down, her mouth to the girl's ear. "It is how I see you," she said.
The girl turned to her and looked into her eyes, "You see...me...like that?"
"Yes." The girls hugged each other.
The girl in the drawing had a perfectly round face with huge light brown eyes showing streaks of white. There was no swelling under the eyes or beneath her jaws. Shining hair surrounded and framed the face, the tiny nose, and the full, partly open lips. The eyes pulled one back into depths that portrayed openness and innocence and honesty, so stark it was painful to see.
The girl pulled away, stood, and looked at Sahjeed with questions in her eyes.
He did not hesitate but went to her side and whispered in her ear. "It is you. She sees you as I see you."
The girl put her hands to her face and ran from the room.
"It is a trick! She does not look like that at all!" Rahseeta rose, grabbed Duulaat's arm and pulled him off the deck and into the night.
Wolf went to Saaleeshah, pulled her to her feet and led her to a chair, "You are indeed a wonder, Saalee', now eat, you barely touched your food. Eat!"
Sahjeed's mother smiled as the girl began to eat, "If you would consider, my child, I would love to have a drawing of how you see my son and perhaps myself, for him to remember me by; if you..."
Saaleeshah touched her lips with a soft skin napkin and smiled, "I was going to ask if I could draw you both, I would love to, whenever you wish."
The Chief fidgeted in his chair, moving his legs, crossing and uncrossing them, scooting forward, then back. "I, uh, Lobolaaht, Saaleeshah, I would offer a place for you to stay, here, in my lodge, if it would meet with your approval."
Wolf smiled, "The girl needs a place better than I can provide. I am not her guardian; I only help because I can. I can fend for myself, I do not wish..."
"I would have you near me to plan for this journey, Wolf. I would ask Saaleeshah to help with drawings of the maps we are trying to make. I would welcome you both, there are many unused rooms."
They looked at each other and nodded and it was settled.
"Good!" said Malaeeva, Sahjeed's mother, "She can help if she wants or she can draw from dawn to dusk, I am happy to have another young woman around. It gives me my youth again."
"I can draw as much as I want and anything I choose?" Saaleeshah's eyes were wide.
"I will bring you all you need to work with, Saalee', It will be an honor to have you in my lodge."
"Oh, my Chief, I do not know what to say, how to thank you. I have never had enough supplies and never enough time and the place was seldom right. Oh, I will be so happy and grateful to you!"
Sahjeed's mother stood, "I have been drained by this wonderful evening. I must rest. I will show you which rooms to choose from and let you settle yourselves. Saaleeshah, thank you for a wonderful time, I cannot remember when I have felt so good. Rest well."
"Goodnight, my mother."
"Goodnight, my son."
Sahjeed Deeda sought a pipe, which he seldom used and a skin of strong drink, which he never used and sat and smoked and drank and watched the night deepen and the Lights move across the sky.
Author's note...when one writes, sometimes characters assume a life of their own and move a story in a direction not planned. This is a chapter I am most happy with but if you, as you read, can suggest an improvement, it would be appreciated...regards...amicus...