The Chief Pt. 02 Ch. 10byamicus©
Sahjeed’s mother beamed as she directed the two young women in the preparation of the morning meal. Activity quickened as the morning began and people began lining up to speak with the Chief. Malaeeva, wrapped in a fur cloak chose a place on the deck to watch the proceedings and welcome the women of the Guards who came to help.
Trader Domohaas, his two daughters and one son arrived at mid-morning, followed by Chief Galawaand, Alahbaand and his young mate, Laawaleeah. First Guard Duulaat and another heavyset Guard stood watch around the Chief’s lodge.
People from the village, noticing all the movement, found reasons to walk the trail to the Chief’s lodge for a better look.
Inside, Saaleeshah was frustrated to tears at her inability to comprehend the map made by Sahjeed and Duulaat. “I just can’t see it!” she cried, “I don’t know how far the trail is or how high the hills are! I don’t know what to do! I am so sorry.”
Wolf moved to her side and comforted her. “I understand little one, don’t be upset, we have not done the distance well. It is not your fault. Chief Sahjeed, the map is confusing, even to me. I don’t know how…”
Sahjeed stood up behind the table, “Perhaps the trader, Domohaas, could help, ask him to join us.”
Domohaas came into the room, grimaced, then smiled and sent one of his daughters back to his lodge. When she came back with an armload of large bleached hides, the room quieted as Domohaas explained his notations.
Sahjeed and Wolf nodded and smiled, Saaleesha’s eyes opened wide as she grasped the flat drawing, without perspective, of the three dimensional world. “Oh, yes! I see! You have to see in your mind the hills and the width of the river, this is just a guide…a reminder, oh, now I can understand.”
“The distance to the small hills from the fat Chief’s village is less than from here to the village? Is that right?” asked Duulaat.
“It appears that way to me, also,” said Galawaand, “It is not a long journey.”
“So it seems,” agreed Sahjeed, “Wolf, do you see more that we should think about?”
“No, Chief, I have been to the village and beyond, but not far into the high lands.”
“It is not far from the time when the rains begin and the dark time grows colder,” said Sahjeed, “We should return before the harvest gathering, if all goes well.
“Galawaand, how long before we can leave?”
“We?” smiled the other Chief, “It seems you have decided to lead this group of warriors. A few more suns, Sahjeed…they could go now, but a little more time working together will be better.”
Sahjeed looked at a crestfallen Duulaat and nodded to Galawaand, “Yes, I have decided I must go, but I will have my First Guard with me. I would ask you, my friend, to share your time between our villages if you would do that. Duulaat, your next in line can fill in while you are gone.”
Duulaat smiled and sighed in relief as Galawaand hesitated for a moment, then nodded in agreement, “Yes, I will take a group of your guards and mine each day between the villages and beyond. It will be good training and each village will feel protected. Yes, Sahjeed, I will do that. Try not to be gone any longer than necessary.”
Sahjeed grasped Galawaand’s arm, “Thank you my friend, we will return as soon as we can.” Sahjeed turned to the boy, Alahbaand, “You may take my weak arm side if you give me your word you will stay near.”
The boy broke into a wide grin, “Yes, my Chief, I am greatly honored, I will serve you well, thank you!”
Wolf leaned on the table and raised his walking stick, “Sahjeed, I would leave before you. The way to the village is well marked, but beyond that, I would like to see it before you arrive. It would be helpful to have the boy with me.”
Sahjeed looked from the man to the boy, drew in a deep breath and nodded his approval, “Is there more we should think about? Anyone?”
The meeting came to an end; the low sun was a surprise to those who had been in the room for most of the day. The women greeted the men, and set about preparing the evening meal.
Duulaat motioned to a heavily built man with bushy eyebrows and a wide scar across one cheek. “My Chief, you know Saamajahd, Second Guard, I have spoken with him about my possible absence from the village.”
Sahjeed reached out and grasped the other mans’ arm, “You would work with Chief Galawaand to guard the People while we are gone?”
Saamajahd stood tall, “Given the choice, my Chief, I would join with you and go to the fat Chief’s village. But I will serve in any way you ask and am greatly honored that you choose me to protect the People. Hoorah!”
Sahjeed smiled and grasped Saamajahd’s meaty shoulder, “You have earned the respect of First Guard and of your Chief, my friend. I will leave knowing the People are in good hands.”
Sahjeed turned to Shaweena, the Healer, who stood nearby, “You would speak, Healer?
“Yes, my Chief… ah, the People sense that important things are at hand. I think they would wish to share the evening meal around the meadow beneath your lodge.”
Sahjeed looked down and wondered that he had not noticed what must be many, many hands of the People milling in the cleared area.
“They would have cooking fires and would bring food to the Chief and all who are here,” said Shaweena.
Sahjeed nodded several times in thought as his eyes swept over the gathered People, “Yes, yes, of course, have them come closer, we will share this evening.”
As the Healer passed through the crowd the activity increased and more and more people moved into the clearing and closer to the lodge. Soon there were fires going, the sounds of drums and singing and laughter and the squeals of women and children.
Sahjeed and his guests, nearly three hands strong, on the covered deck of the Chief’s lodge, drank and talked and watched the crowd grow in size and sound. It appeared that the entire village had gathered.
The two Chiefs, Sahjeed and Galawaand, stood shoulder to shoulder looking over busy crowd. “You would speak to the People, Sahjeed?”
“I think, perhaps, that is why they have gathered,” said Sahjeed quietly, “I had not planned to speak this sun, but…”
“I understand,” said Galawaand, “There are some from every village here. You have told them that changes are coming. I can only think that perhaps the People feel coming things, maybe even more than you and I.”
No apprehension of coming events was apparent as the boisterous crowd celebrated and danced and sang and eventually ate, as did those at the Chief’s lodge.
The moon was high and bright in a cloudless sky when Sahjeed moved to the top of the steps to the lodge. Flanking him was Galawaand on one side and Sahjeed’s two Guards on the other. The crowd quieted as he stood before them.
“If there was a great Seer of our People, he would say that special forces are at work and have drawn you here this darktime.” Sahjeed paused and looked across the gathering, picking out individuals when he could see them clearly.
“At the request of Beedewat, First Chief of all the People, braves from this village and from Galawaand’s people traveled to the village of Chief Suulumaag, across the river and near the high ground. It was said that several from that village had been lost to a bear or to wolves. The men we sent did not return. Other scouts were sent out, they did not find our braves. They found signs of many men and tracks that are not from the village of Suulumaag. It is possible that there are new People from the high ground.”
A muted noise rose from the gathering as men stood and women drew close to them.
“Such a thing has happened before,” Sahjeed continued, “Long ago, in legend. There was a great battle and our People defeated the others and came to the land where we now live.
“It has been decided that I shall lead a force of Guards from this village and from Galawaand’s people. We shall try to find those we sent out and see how the people of Suulumaag’s village are doing. There has been no contact with them for a hand of moons. Many have kin in that village and are concerned.”
Sahjeed placed a hand on Galawaand’s shoulder, “While I am gone, Chief Galawaand will join with Second Guard, Saamajahd, and a number of Guards from each village to protect the People.”
Sahjeed turned to Saamajahd and then beckoned to Domohaas, “Domohaas, the Trader, known to all the People, is an honorable man. In my absence he will assist the People in the affairs of the day and with any disputes that may arise.”
Domohaas, with a surprised look, moved alongside the Chief, raised one arm and nodded.
Sahjeed beckoned once again, “Lobolaaht, known to all the People as a great hunter and the best tracker of all, will lead our group and he has chosen a young man of our village, Alahbaand, to journey with him.”
Wolf clumped across the deck as the people gasped at his appearance, Alahbaand stood proudly beside him.
Sahjeed nodded at Lobolaaht and smiled at Alahbaand as they stood near him, he then looked out at the People again.
“I do not know what we will meet in this journey. Your mates and sons have been called upon to serve the People. We shall do so in the way we have been taught and trained. I will do my best to make certain they all return safely. I ask for your best wishes on our journey; it is an honor to serve the People.”
There was silence for a moment, then the sounds of many hands and cheers and screams and then silence again. Sahjeed, who had turned to walk away, stopped and looked back out upon the People.
The crowd parted as a single figure came forth and slowly walked to the bottom of the steps at Sahjeed’s feet.
The Chief looked down and smiled, “The woodsman, Tobosaand, would speak?”
The old man nodded and gathered himself upright and rigid, “My Chief, I can speak only for myself and perhaps my family and a few others I know well. We have long come to look forward to and depend upon your morning walks among the People. I have lived long, I know of other places. They do not have life as easy as we in this village. I know and I believe the People all know, that it is your leadership that keeps us strong.”
Tobosaand paused and drew a deep breath. “Could the People not choose another to lead the men on this journey? We would not even think of this village without our Chief Sahjeed Deeda.”
There was an audible gasp from those gathered as the woodsman bowed his head, turned and disappeared into the crowd. The people murmured, then quieted again.
Sahjeed turned to Galawaand; they exchanged a long hard look.
Sahjeed raised his hands, palms up, before the People.
“Tobosaand, the Woodsman, has raised a question that I cannot answer well. The leadership of this village has always passed from father to son. I have no sons that would become Chief.
“I plan to return from this journey, I do not see death close ahead of me. But then, I did not see death a moon ago when the Nightbird came very close to me.
“I have decided that I must make this journey. It is my duty. I cannot send others to lead in my place. I have not, until this moment, faced the truth, the possibility, that I may not return.”
Sahjeed turned to Galawaand and extended his right arm. Galawaand nodded and took his arm.
“Should Duulaat and I fail to return, I would ask the People of this village to accept Chief Galawaand as leader. If First Guard returns and I do not, then I ask you to accept Duulaat as leader. It is my wish.”
There was confusion and noise throughout the gathering and even on the deck of the lodge. The sounds died away as the crowd once again opened and a single figure came forward.
Sahjeed peered down, “I see you, Elder; you would speak?”
The person straightened and could be seen to be an old woman with a thin face but thick long white hair. She slowly shook her head from side to side and pointed to the deck. All eyes turned as the woman continued to shake her head until Shaweena, the Healer, stepped forward, and gave a single nod.
Shaweena went down the steps and followed the old woman into the crowd, returning a few moments later. The Healer stood before the Chief at the bottom of the steps.
“You would speak, Healer?”
Shaweena, with a mischievous smile, looked up at Sahjeed, “I have been asked by the Elder of one family, who has spoken to Elders of several families among the People, to convey a message to the Chief of this village.”
Sahjeed tilted his head and blinked, then nodded, “Yes, please go ahead.”
Shaweena held her chin high, “My Chief, several families with eligible maidens have taken notice that the Chief has spent much time with the daughters of the Trader, Domohaas.”
There was scattered, cautious chuckling here and there and Sahjeed’s posture changed to close attention.
Shaweena went on, “In many seasons past, the Chief has appeared not to notice any of the maidens of the village, or of any village. The Elders wish to express the hope that their Chief, if he were considering taking a mate, would consider others than the daughters of Domohaas. I have spoken.” The healer’s face broke into a smile, “…as best as I can.”
The people gathered closest to the Chief stared and remained silent, trying to see his face, his expression. Again, there were light and cautious sounds of humor throughout the crowd.
Sahjeed showed no expression for a moment, then broke into a large smile and shuffled his feet. The people shouted and laughed and cheered.
When they quieted again, Sahjeed motioned Shaweena to his side; he put an arm lightly on her shoulder, “It has been suggested before that the Chief has been long without the comfort of a woman in his life. It has also been made clear that there should be children in his lodge.” The Chief smiled largely out at the People, “I have not chosen a mate but it seems necessary that I think about it. I will do that.”
Sahjeed moved back onto the deck as the People applauded and cheered and laughed at his words.
The gathering of People was filled with excited chattering and laughter as the eating and the drinking continued and then slowed as the crowd thinned.
Domohaas and his children left early, both daughters casting lingering glances at Sahjeed. He smiled at them and took a hand of each as they left. Rahseeta was wide eyed as the Chief said goodnight to his guests. Lobolaaht and Alahbaand made plans to depart during the next sun.
Duulaat stood next to Sahjeed leaning on the railing of the deck, “I did not expect what happened this dark, my Chief.”
“Nor did I, First Guard, I had not planned to speak to the People. But it seemed the right thing to do. Are you unhappy with what has been said and done?”
“I will make certain that you return to choose a mate, my Chief. I will not think of any other result.” Duulaat spoke without emotion in his voice. “I do not wish to become the leader of the People, Sahjeed, I do not have the wisdom and the patience. I am a warrior, I wish no more than that. You will return, my Chief.”
Sahjeed looked at his First Guard and reached for his shoulder, “My friend you are best qualified of all the men in the village. We will both do what we must. I think one more sun, and then we shall leave, First Guard. I wish to get on with this that we must do.”
“Yes, my Chief, we will be ready.”
Sahjeed sat looking into the moonlit darkness after all had left and it was quiet again. After a long while, he leaned back in the woven frame chair, tilted his head back and stretched…and sniffed…then turned to look behind him.
“You smell of the tiny pink flower of the high ground. Why do you not sleep?”
“I am sorry…can…not hear your words…I saw…you…alone…are you sad? Did the…talk…with…the People not…go well?”
Sahjeed stood and went to her side, “I am fine, I said that my nose followed the scent of a flower and you were there. You should sleep.”
She smiled as he whispered in her ear and nodded, “I am happy you are…fine…but…I do not…think you…always say…true things…I hope you…can rest well…my Chief…”
Sahjeed watched her as she went into the lodge.
The girl crept silently into Sahjeed’s room, stood watching him for a moment, then knelt down, placed her head on his sleeping pallet a few inches from his face. Sahjeed dreamed of fields of pink flowers from the high ground.