The Chief Pt. 02 Ch. 01byamicus©
For the readers of The Chief, this is a continuation of the story approximately ten generations or 300 years later. It is a complete story read alone, but the Chief was written as a 'prequel' to Part Two and was intended to be a novel combining both parts. It may still be, but I have submitted the first work to a publisher and may have two small books rather than one larger one.
I welcome your comments and criticism and I hope you enjoy the story. Thank you...
The lodge was old; more than old, it was ancient. It was built on the side of a hill facing south; a covered deck surrounded three sides. The structure had suffered fire and storms and been rebuilt with care and added to many times.
The wooden building was currently in good shape. The log walls had been recaulked with clay and coated with boiled pine pitch from the nearby forest. The roof had been redone and birch bark gutters bordered the slanted cedar shakes.
Seven men sat around a large rectangular wooden table on the front deck, a small bowl of tiny blue flowers graced the center. The mid-summer day was warm, with a slight breeze from the west, the sky a hard blue with no clouds.
Of the men sitting in wood frame chairs with woven backs and bottoms, six were old and dressed in white robes of bleached hide. The seventh man wore a fringed tan tunic reaching to his knees, a loose clout and hide leggings that fell to rest on dark trimmed moccasins.
Sitting down, he was a head taller than any at the table; his easy grace belied his height and two hundred pound frame. His angled face was intense as he listened to the Seers speak.
Sahjeed Deeda, the tenth of his family line to become Chief of the village, struggled to follow the complex and interwoven history of his People. For ten days, from first light to sundown he had called in all the Seers, the Elders, male and female and the wise ones of his People.
Their memories were often in conflict, the chants they had memorized from childhood differed at each telling from Seer to Seer. The Elders recited family lines from memory and there was disagreement at every step.
Sahjeed Deeda was nearing the end of his search to understand the history of his People. There was nowhere else to go, no one else to listen to. He had heard from representatives of each village and from every Elder of every family. His mind was filled with contradictions and gaps of continuity.
"It is agreed that the People came from a place called the 'Burned Land', to settle here, where we live today. It is also said by nearly all that the Far See-er, Lohmaand, who left no children, put those of his teachings in place in all the villages. They are now known as the See-ers of the People. Do any here disagree?"
There was no objection from those around the table.
"There are many different stories about the finding of a 'new' people. There are those who say that the People thrived and multiplied for many, many seasons. But our numbers now fall and have for many seasons. I do not understand these things.
"It is said by all that Ahjeed the First sired many children and that he and his mate lived long and well. Their children were fruitful and their children too, and many have family tied to the first Ahjeed. It is said also that at one time nearly all the villages had leaders that were related to Ahjeed the First. Now, it appears, I am the last who is of his line."
Sahjeed Deeda looked around the table and realized that his quest was at an end. They did not understand the reason for his questions, they did not seem to care or have even slight interest. They were called and they came. They would return to their villages and nothing would be changed.
"Thank you for your patience and for your words. Please eat and refresh yourselves before you leave."
Sahjeed Deeda sat at his table and looked out over the village below him. Marveling again at the wisdom of the First Ahjeed who had the Chief's lodge placed in such a way as to look out over the entire village and across the river and the surrounding fields and woodlands. A flicker of motion drew his eyes to his ever-present protectors and to the Seer of his village. He motioned for them to join him.
As they mounted the steps to the deck, a matronly woman with long gray hair tied in a single thick strand falling down her back, came from the lodge, cleared the table and left fresh drinks and a tray of food. "You are not happy, my son?"
"Thank you, honored mother, you have provided well for our guests. I have learned more than I ever thought, and less," he said.
"Such is the path to knowledge, my Sahjeed. In all that was said, there is more that was not. We will speak at another time."
The two approaching men paused on the steps until the Chief was alone, "You may be glad to know, First Guard, that you have once again been confirmed to be of the line of Omaat, First Guard of Ahjeed, the First Chief of the People. But you, Saybaahnd are said to be are said to be of your own making. Tell me again why my father chose you as his vision seeker."
"Because I always told him what he wanted to hear, my Chief. It troubles me that you are not as your father was," answered Saybaahnd.
Sahjeed Deeda laughed, "You are like a tunic that scratches my skin that I wear sometimes just to irritate me. I would have it no other way. Besides, were it not for you I would not have heard even the name of Ruubaat, whose evil brought forth the good in Ahjeed the First. I am in debt to you for that, even if it was a slip of the tongue.
"It also made me doubt and question the legends the chants and the songs of our past as brought forward by the Seers. I have even less respect for them now."
Sahjeed Deeda spoke harshly then softened his face and his words.
"Duulaat, my friend and First Guard of this village, have you completed the investigation of the complaints that have been made?"
"Yes, my Chief. They are true and confirmed beyond doubt. I await your orders."
"Ah, yes, my orders," said Sahjeed Deeda, "Our peaceful village is about to be torn apart. I have sought understanding and find myself even more confused. Saybaahnd, as my spiritual advisor, what have you to say?"
The Seer lowered his eyes, "It is a situation that must be dealt with my Chief. It is you who must deal with it."
As time had passed and the village grew in numbers and size, the People, who had been able to solve minor conflicts by themselves, began to depend on the Guards of the village to resolve issues in dispute.
A distant Chief had devised a system of accepting complaints by having each of the People visit a special room in the Chief's lodge on a certain day of each quarter moon.
Within that room were many woven baskets, one for each person of age in the village. Before entering the room, each would take a small container of tiny sticks colored black, red and white.
A person in the village who had done a good thing might receive one or more white sticks and it would be announced to the People.
If it was found that a person had a red stick in their personal basket, they were required to go to an Elder and make amends for a small crime of theft or threatening behavior.
A single black stick was brought to the attention of the First Guard of the People and the Chief, if necessary. The black stick was an accusation of physical violence, the taking of a life, or the forcing of a woman.
When several baskets showed red and black sticks, an investigation began. It was not known to the People, but Guards in hidden places observed as the colored sticks were placed. Those who made the accusations were privately spoken with and when all had made statements the First Guard reported to the Chief.
In the way of the People, each male of age was given possession of an equal size of land within the village and rights to wooded areas, and growing areas outside the village. As families grew, the area of possession expanded to meet the growing population. The system worked, not always smoothly, but with understanding and a mutual goal, the village grew and prospered.
When several families decided to join together and pool their assets and divide their labor, there was no cause for objection. The association proved successful and others joined until the group occupied a substantial area within the village.
The problems began when general complaints concerning woodlands and fruit trees began to emerge. Fights broke out over berry patches and fishing rights, some were ignoring the given rights of others.
Screams and other sounds of violence within the group's area brought forth a flurry of red sticks and then many more, red and black, followed.
At first light on the day following the orders given by Sahjeed Deeda, the entire guard force of the village surround the group's area and moved into the compound. All inside were taken and brought before the Chief and the Elders in front of the Chief's lodge.
The People of the village gathered to watch and listen.
Sahjeed Deeda tensed as he felt the almost physical fury from several men of the commune. The Guards stiffened and moved alongside a step forward on each side of the Chief.
Sahjeed Deeda focused on a large man at the front of the group. He wore a long robe of hide open down the front, his lips were clenched, his coal black eyes blazed with hatred.
"You are Brotaahg," said Sahjeed Deeda, "We grew up together, we learned to hunt side by side, we...."
Brotaahg interrupted with a pointing finger and vicious words, "It ended there! It ended as you prepared to become Chief. I was made to work in the fields and cut the trees. When all the maidens of the village gathered around you, I was bringing the meat to your table, unseen by the one I had chosen.
"I vowed then that you would not control my life. You are Chief only in name! You do not hunt; you do nothing of value. You only walk about the village, surrounded by the Guards, snooping into the lives of real people."
Brotaahg glanced from side to side and with a quick and violent motion, reached inside his robe, took hold of and threw a long stone blade at Sahjeed Deeda. The men at his side loosed their knives at the Guards.
Shouts and screams ripped forward as Brotaahg's men pulled wood handled stone hatchets from their robes and plunged toward the Guards.
Sahjeed Deeda raised his left arm as Brotaahg released his knife, it sliced the thick muscle just below his elbow, tumbled, and slapped lengthwise against his chest. Sahjeed Deeda pedaled backwards, stumbled, fell on his back and looked up into the face of Brotaahg leering down at him.
Brotaahg raised his stone club then opened his eyes in surprise as a Guard plunged a spear into his throat. Sahjeed was sprayed with blood as he rolled away and sought a weapon.
The fight was brief as the Guards fell upon the men of the commune. Sahjeed Deeda stood gasping, his chest pumping as the Guards quieted the crowd and began searching for weapons.
A woman screamed and then another as several of the women of the commune burst forward, weapons in hand. Those not killed outright by the Guards; fell under the fury of other women from Brotaahg's group.
"My Chief!" Gasped First Guard Duulaat as he rushed to Sahjeed Deeda's side, "You have been wounded!"
The Chief covered the slowly bleeding gash on his arm with his hand, and nodded to Duulaat's shoulder where a small but deep looking cut oozed blood down his chest. "You too, my friend," he looked around and shouted for the Healer.
Shaweena Deeda looked up, glanced at the Chief and the First Guard, "In a moment, my Chief, this is more serious!" She went back to tending a Guard who had a long gash across his stomach, her hand stanching a heavy flow of blood.
A young woman, tall and thin with unkempt hair and smudges on her face came to Sahjeed Deeda, cleaned the wound with a liquid that brought hot pain, covered the wound with a brownish green salve and tightly wrapped his arm. She turned to the First Guard and tended his wound in the same manner then left without a word.
The badly injured Guard was carried away, other wounded attended to and the dead removed. The Guards surrounded the remaining members of the commune. Sahjeed Deeda stood silent, his arm throbbing, his thoughts cascading, falling into a void.
"There are others who have been accused, step forward as your name is called!" Sahjeed Deeda spoke firmly and coldly.
Eight men, two of them young boys were called forward.
One at a time the men were judged by the People; they were ordered to turn and look away. "How say you? Shall he live or die?" Asked the Chief.
Thumbs up or down, many each way, in each case the People were uncertain. When the first of the young boys stepped forward, only one thumb in the crowd was down. The Chief paused and looked through the crowd again and then approached the bent, white haired woman who had given the thumb down.
"Old woman, you have suffered much?" Asked Sahjeed Deeba.
"They should all die for what they have done!" She hissed.
The Chief looked at the two boys and hesitated, "Do the boys always wear those bright red head bands?"
The old woman glanced at the boys, "Yes, just like when they stole my food and beat my son! They should die!"
Ahjeed Deeda turned aside, "Thank you Elder, I regret what has happened to you."
The boys wore no headbands.
The Chief faced the men who had been accused, "The People have decided that you are not to die."
A great sigh of relief went up from the People and from those before them.
"Your crimes against the People are serious and can not go unpunished. You will serve a full season working on the trails. You will remain outside the village, under guard at all times. You may speak among yourselves, but not to anyone in the village. If you do not accept these terms, if you try to escape or refuse to work, your life will be forfeit. How say you?"
A piercing scream came from the crowd and a young girl ran forward and fell sobbing at the Chief's feet. "He did nothing! He tried to help me! Please, he came only for me, do not punish him so hard. Please, my Chief!"
Ahjeed stood silent as the men before him fell on their knees and reached their arms out, declaring their acceptance and obedience.
The Chief nodded and the Guards took the men, all of them, away. He turned to Duulaat, "Have the Healer join me."
"Yes, my Chief."
Sahjeed Deeda's mother met them as they entered the lodge and whisked the swollen-eyed girl away. Shaweena Deeda inspected the bandage on the Chief's arm, "The girl who does not speak did well. It will scar, without stitches, my Chief."
"Then it will scar, Healer; the rest of the men?"
"The stomach wound is bad, I could not put the tube that brought forth the blood back together, and I had to close it to save his life. If the wound turns sour he may not live. The others will survive."
They turned as Sahjeed Deeba's mother brought the young girl back into the room.
"She is called, Laawaleeah, my son, she is very frightened."
Sahjeed Deeda smiled at her as they sat, inside, away from curious eyes.
"La ah wa lee?" Stumbled the Chief.
The girl showed a wan smile, "It is hard for many, my Chief, please call me 'leeah."
Sahjeed Deeda nodded toward his mother and the Healer, "I thought it would be easier for you to speak if they were here."
The girl lowered her head, "I came only to speak for Alahbaand and his brother. He came only to be with me; his little brother goes where he does. They did no wrong, my Chief. They should not be punished."
Ahjeed Deeda looked long and hard at the girl, "You show great courage to come before me and speak for the boy." He looked into her eyes again, "But you have yourself to think of, too. You may speak with my mother, or the Healer, alone if you wish. 'leeah, I think you must share the burden with another so that you may go on living without shame. You are not to blame for..."
"No, no, Please, I can't," she screamed and broke into sobs. "I just can't!"
Both women rushed to her; Sahjeed Deeda stepped outside where Duulaat stood vigilant.
"I have failed you, my Chief, I am dishonored; I am no longer the First Guard, you must choose another. I am sorry."
Sahjeed Deeda studied Duulaat as he spoke, "How is your wound, my friend?"
Duulaat raised his arm slightly and looked down. The Healer says the muscle is not torn, it should heal with no problems."
"Good!" Smiled the Chief, "I will have a small scar to remember the time I did not think far enough ahead. It was my lack of foresight, First Guard, not yours. I did not think they would try to kill me. It happened so fast, there was no warning. Why did they even try? They had no chance and what would they have gained if they did kill me? I do not understand."
"Forgive me, my Chief, but you have no sons, there are none of your line that would be named Chief. Had he lived and not you, he might have been our Leader." Duulaat looked hard at Ahjeed Deeda, "It is a thing that should be settled, and soon."
The Chief's face was impassive, then fell, "I did not foresee the possibility of my death, nor did I know of the hatred he held for me. Much of what he said contains some truth. I do not lead, I manage; I look after the People. I do not hunt except for pleasure, I do not work in the forest or the fields."
Duulaat spoke angrily, "There is no truth in what he said! Until now this has been a peaceful village, the People are happy; they work at what they choose, they help each other, they have great pride in this village. Have you thought why we are the largest gathering of all the People? Have you thought of that? It is because you look after the People, care for them, and seek justice for them! They know that! They see you every sun time, walking among them, seeing them as they work and live. No, my Chief, cast those thoughts out of your head."
Shaweena came out of the lodge, "My Chief, the girl is very frightened that you will have the boy punished. She will speak with you and only you, if you still wish to hear."
The girl came slowly onto the deck, "I would not have even the walls of your lodge hear my words, my Chief."
Sahjeed Deeda smiled at her and offered his hand, "I know a place I often go to be alone."
"It was my mother who thought we should join with them." Laawaleeah sat for a long while watching and listening to the small fast moving stream before she spoke.
"My father loved to work with wood and build things, but he had to hunt for us and make his own tools. They said he could spend all his time building and that others would hunt and do the other work. My mother made clothes, she was happy doing that and not having to cook or prepare hides. I had only to help here and there and learn about all the woman things I needed to know.
"We were happy for almost a full season, everyone was cheerful; we ate together at a big table and there was plenty of everything for everyone.
"Even after some of the leaders quit working, there was still enough, but everyone had to work a little harder."
The girl paused for a moment and closed her eyes.
"There was a rumor that a friend of mine was forced to, ah...but I never saw her again. I heard she ran away. We were told not to talk about it.
"In the cold time, things got very bad. There was little food and it was always cold. Everyone worked harder but there was never enough. It was said that they sold or traded what we made, but we had nothing.
"Then there was no wood to build with and no material for clothing and we all had to hunt for food and firewood. But the leaders seemed to always have food and all they needed.
"It was about then that I met Alahbaand, when I was picking up wood in the forest. We talked and he started bringing me food to take back with me."