The Chief Pt. 02 Ch. 13byamicus©
Sahjeed slept. Duulaat insisted; as did Wolf. Many did not, as they attended to the injured and moved the fallen aside. Alahbaand regained consciousness and his first words were of the Chief.
First light brought a change of wind direction, the mist wafted away and a warm wind from the east evaporated the clouds and a clear day dawned.
Sahjeed came painfully awake with a throbbing head and small sharp pains along his arms and chest. He sat up and saw a small fire with several gathered around and others covered and lying on pine boughs close to the warmth.
The Chief started at Duulaat's voice behind him, "Scouts are out, backed up by Guards at the ready, the others rest and recover, my Chief. I have hot tea."
Sahjeed attempted to rise, groaned, and then settled back against a log. "Thank you, my friend. I welcome the warm drink."
"We lost two hands, my Chief. Another hand is very bad; two more hands are not so bad. Many have small injuries."
"He is awake and asking about you, my Chief."
Sahjeed closed his eyes, "It was a close thing, my friend."
"Yes, my Chief, it was."
Sahjeed sipped and then finished his drink, "Would you help me stand, First Guard, I would see the men."
The men of Sahjeed Deeda knew it had been a close thing. They were not joyous in their victory, only happy to be alive. They were however, most happy to see him among them.
"I could do nothing else, my Chief," said the boy, Alahbaand, as Sahjeed placed a hand on his forehead.
"You gave me my life, my son," said the Chief.
"As you gave me mine, and hers," smiled the boy through his pain.
"Rest and heal, Alahbaand."
"My Chief, the village? We will help?"
"Yes," replied the Chief.
As the day drew on, Sahjeed and the others recovered spirit and cautiously spoke to each other.
"There is not much hope that our people still live," said Duulaat.
"No, there is not," said the Chief."
"Then we end it here? asked Wolf.
"There may be others from the high ground," said Duulaat.
"Can we still fight? Sahjeed asked.
Duulaat shuffled his feet, "I cannot answer that, my Chief. Do you think there are more high ground warriors? What of their village? They must have kin, mates and children, where would they be?"
"The high ground, where else?" said Sahjeed, "Let us leave this for another time. We need rest. I will think better with a new sun."
"We risk everything," said Duulaat.
"I know that, First Guard, but we have not found our missing people and we must do something for the people of Suulumaag's village. I have given my word," said Sahjeed, softly.
Lobolaaht, Wolf, looked at Duulaat, "How many can travel and fight, if need be, and how many can defend, here, if need be?"
Duulaat was reluctant to answer, "I do not know if I wish to seek another battle, or if the men will fight again. These are things I can not answer. Some that I have known all my life are no more."
The Chief looked closely into Duulaat's eyes, "My friend, we need not hurry our decision. We have been through much. I would have you spend this sun and perhaps another in rest. I will direct the scouts and Guards until you are rested."
"But... " objected Duulaat.
"You will rest, First Guard, it is my wish," said Sahjeed.
Duulaat found a secluded niche behind a fallen tree and slept all of that day, the night and until the sun was high and falling the next day. He awoke hungry and irritable and surprised to find one of his own Guards watching over him. "You have nothing better to do?" he snarled.
The Guard stepped back, "The Chief has placed me here; I do as he says, First Guard."
Duulaat made him self presentable, found something to eat and drink and then sought out the Chief.
"Since I have been called First Guard, I have not been away from my men for this long. I ask you to forgive me, my Chief."
"There is nothing to forgive, my friend," said Sahjeed as he clasped Duulaat's arm. "Many needed to put things aside, I too have rested much of the time. Do your thoughts clear?"
"Yes, my Chief, tell me what you want and I will find a way to do it. I do not know why I could not... "
"It is not only the body that tires, First Guard, we will talk as the sun goes down."
"The high grounders were warriors," said Wolf, "They have earned the right of an honorable passing."
"It is much work to offer them to the Lights," said Duulaat. "There are many, many hands... "
"It needs to be done, my friend," said the Chief. "Let us find a place and lay them out in the proper way. The men are rested now, it will give them something to do and remind them of what we have done, for good or for bad. I have spoken."
Malaeeva, the Chief's mother, was sitting on the deck of her lodge as Rahseeta, mate of the First Guard, walked up the pathway. She paused and then slowly mounted the steps.
Malaeeva did not rise, nor did she offer refreshments.
"The mother of the Chief is well?"
"Yes, Rahseeta, I am well and well taken care of."
Rahseeta blinked her eyes rapidly and changed the expression on her face. "I, we, the ladies of the Guards, only wish to help."
Malaeeva met her eyes and held her gaze steady, "Yes, and it is greatly appreciated. It is a comfort to know so many are ready to help and all I need do is send someone to beckon you here. I am happy that the ladies of the Guard hold the Chief's mother in great respect."
Rahseeta understood the polite rebuff and offered a slight smile as she lowered her eyes, "I will come whenever you call, anytime at all. I am relieved that you are in good spirit. Is there news from Suulumaag's village?"
Malaeeva returned the slight smile and slowly shook her head, "No, there has been no word. I will make certain to let everyone know if any news is heard. Thank you for your concern. Should you hear anything, I would ask that you share it also."
Rahseeta brightened and smiled, "I surely will. I must leave now, is there anything I can do?"
Malaeeva shook her head and smiled as the First Guard's mate turned and quickly walked down the steps.
The moment Rahseeta was out of sight, the three young women rushed from the lodge and surrounded the Chief's mother. She smiled at the anxious faces, "I think the mate of the First Guard will trouble us no more."
They chatted and prepared a lunch and welcomed Shaweena Deeda, the Healer, who often stopped by at mid-day.
After they had eaten and cleared the table, Saarosah timidly approached Shaweena and the Chief's mother. "Would... you... walk with... me... just a... short way... please?"
She led them slowly around the side of the hill that backed the Chief's lodge and to the edge of a meadow bordered by a small stream. She stopped near a fallen tree whose limbs had been used for firewood. Dried ferns covered a part of a thick limb that rested on the grass of the clearing.
"Healer... honorable... mother... of Chief, this... is very... hard... for me to say... but... must... please help...?"
The young girl who had tended Sahjeed and his mother and shared their lodge kept her eyes down as she spoke. Both women moved to her side and touched her arms.
"What is it you would say, my child?" gently asked Malaeeva, "You may speak of anything, we will listen... and help if we can, please."
The girl clasped her arms to each side under her breasts, kept her eyes averted and spoke quietly, "Saarosah... me... I... am not girl... woman... now. Have feelings... here." She raised a hand and placed in over her heart. "Feelings... for Chief... for mother... of Chief... never before... these... feelings... of tears... and... " She opened her arms and raised a tear stained face and stretched her arms out in a wide embrace, "and... warm... to hold... to comfort.
"Not... pretty... , picture by... Saaleesha... not true... not me... do not... say words... well... do not... see or hear... good... but... still feel... these things... inside."
Malaeeva and Shaweena moved closer to the girl and put an arm each around her back, "Dear sweet child... " said the Chief's mother, "You... "
Saarosah pulled away and interrupted, "Please... must say... very... hard... please?"
Both women stepped back as the girl knelt down and brushed the dried ferns off of the fallen limb. Their eyes opened wide as they saw a smaller branch on the limb had been carved and smoothed. The up thrusting carved wood was about six inches tall, narrow at the top and widened to about two inches at the base.
Saarosah looked away as she spoke, "Watch Sahjeed... sleep... sometimes... his, ahh... manhood... stands up in... night. Saarosah... not child... see maidens... and... braves... in hiding... know... what... they do. Want to... comfort... Chief... want to... hold him... ease his... need."
The girl paused and looked up, glancing at the startled eyes of Malaeeva and Shaweena. "Must... prove... have you... see... this woman... not been... opened... by other man. Also ask... Healer... for... medicine... not make... baby... not want... child... of Chief... to be... broken... like me. Please... you... understand? You... will... help?"
Saarosah turned, straddled the downed tree, lifted her skirt and moved over the carved branch. Both women stepped forward and took her by the arms and pulled her away.
"Oh, my child!" cried Malaeeva, "You must not do this thing!"
Saarosah looked startled as she glanced from face to face, "But... I thought... you would... understand. Only want to... ease his needs... but... not... to... have baby... it is... a good thing... I wish... to do. Chief... should not... have... woman... used by... others... not... proper."
Malaeeva led her away, towards a shaded place with other downed trees; they found a place to sit. She sat down next to the girl, put her arms around her and rocked gently back and forth. Shaweena stood close by.
The Chief's mother spoke close to the girl's ear, "I do understand, my child and it is a, ah, you show that you have deep feelings for my son and that you want to... but... you do not know Sahjeed."
Saarosah lifted her head and looked into Malaeeva's eyes, "Not... know him? But... "
"I do not think my son would, 'use' a woman to satisfy his needs. He would have long ago had he been that way."
"But all... men... that I... have seen... "
"Sahjeed is not like others, my child."
Shaweena leaned close, "And you are not like other maidens, Saarosah. Many would use the closeness you have to the Chief to gain advantage for them selves. Were you to lay with the Chief, he would be honor bound to mate with you. It is the way he is."
Saarosah's eyes opened wide, "But... I have... not ever... thought of that... I am not... proper... as a mate... for the Chief... he... would have... someone... much better than... me... I... am... nothing."
Shaweena watched as the girl spoke, "You mean that, do you not? My child, you are more than you think and you are more in the thoughts of Sahjeed than you know."
Saarosah blinked away tears, "I do not... understand... "
Malaeeva leaned close again, "Sahjeed has loved before, in his youth. She died of a sickness... he has looked at no woman since, but, my child, he looks at you, he sees you, even as he does not see the daughters of Domohaas."
Shaweena leaned close, "I must return to the village, but," she winked at Malaeeva, "We have a small surprise for you, perhaps late this sun, perhaps the next. Come, we must go back."
Sahjeed Deeda's men performed the rites for those of his men who had fallen in the battle. It was a somber line that slowly walked by, leaving an object of remembrance and a handful of soil in each grave. The Chief stayed and slowly walked back and forth before each site, pausing again and again.
Each had a separate site and stones from the nearby creek filled in the shallow dug resting places. Next to the line of Sahjeed's men, a long line of the high grounders, shoulder to shoulder, lay slightly raised to face the setting sun. There was a total of a hundred and one laid to rest.
"I did not know there were so many, my Chief," said the First Guard, as he quietly moved to Sahjeed's side.
Sahjeed looked down the long line, "Many lives have been taken here in this forsaken place. I would know if there is meaning in all this."
Lobolaaht stood near-by, "The shields they carried, would they be useful?"
"They are light and easily carried," said Duulaat, "They did not have the short spears, but it would be more protection that we have."
"Let those who would use them, do so," said the Chief.
"It is decided then, my Chief?" Asked the First Guard.
"Yes, my friend, we leave at first light."
"If you must fight again, I will not be by your side. I am uneasy with that." Duulaat did not meet the Chief's eyes.
"It is the best I can see to do, First Guard. We came to discover the fate of the men we sent before, I must do that. The injured must be protected and cared for, I leave you to do that."
"Yes, my Chief." Duulaat still did not look up.