The Chief Pt. 02 Ch. 15byamicus©
It was as Ulla Coodra, the Medicine Woman, said it would be. Sahjeed's men were up early and helped prepare for the journey down the hill to the second cave. They could not leave the animals behind although the Chief was uneasy with women and children pulling goats along and carrying wolf puppies down the mountain.
The second cave of the high ground people were ready to leave when Sahjeed and his entourage arrived. They joined with the people of the first cave and nearly two hundred people, mostly women and children, left the high ground and descended into the valley.
Ulla put her hand on Sahjeed's arm as they passed a jumbled rock fall near the bottom of the trail. "It was here that the two hands of men you lost were sent to the Lights. It was done so with honor as they fought well, even though they were caught by surprise. They did not give up; they fought until all were killed. I share your grief, Sahjeed Deeda. I can say no more."
The Chief stopped and gathered his men around the rock pile and told them what he had learned. They each left a small item among the broken rocks and faced in the direction of the setting sun and wished well for their fallen people.
Scouts had announced their approach and First Guard Duulaat came down the trail with open arms to greet Sahjeed and his men and to gaze in wonder at what he saw.
"There were no warriors? You had no problems, my Chief?"
"It went well, First Guard, the Lights were kind to us. You are well? No others came near?"
"It has been quiet, my Chief, I feared a patrol from the village, or more of those from the high ground, but nothing happened. Chief, our wounded are not well, I fear for the boy and the man from the village."
"Alahbaand is not well? I worry for him. Duulaat, we have many to care for, to feed and to find shelter for. I place it in your hands to put this all together. Take me to the boy."
Sahjeed sent for the Medicine Woman as soon as he saw Alahbaand and the other wounded, all seemed feverish and very sick.
Ulla Coodra stomped her feet and said words Sahjeed did not understand. "These men will all die! Have you no one who knows how to heal? Why have these men been left like this?"
"Those who learned the healing best were killed in the battle, Medicine Woman; we did the best we could. Can you help them? The young boy is important to me, he saved my life by offering his own; he must live."
"I will do what I can, Sahjeed, they should have been tended to before this; I will need much water that is boiled with stones and some of my people to help. It must be now; there is no time to lose!"
Ulla Coodra commanded the services of a dozen or more of Sahjeed's men and several of her own people as she attacked the infected and swollen wounds of the men. She cut open and cleaned and cauterized dozens of wounds that were not healing. The screams of pain lanced through Sahjeed but he gave his trust to the woman.
"All will live, Sahjeed, the boy cannot be moved for a few suns; I have yet to begin upon the man with the stomach wound. I must open his belly and see if what is damaged inside can be fixed. If it cannot be fixed, he will die. If it can be fixed, he may still die, it has been too long, but, if you wish, I will do what I can."
"Do what you can, Woman, it is in your hands." Sahjeed did not watch.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Scouts are out, hunters are out and some have returned, all have shelter and there is food for everyone. We seem to have things working my Chief. The boy is awake and his fever is less, he wishes to speak with you."
Sahjeed sat with his back against a log, a fur over his legs, blinking at the morning sun, "Thank you First Guard, I slept longer than I had wanted." The Chief took the bowl of hot tea Duulaat held out and brought it slowly to his mouth.
"The Healer from the high ground People wishes to speak with you, my Chief."
"Yes, of course, bring her."
"Good morning, Ulla."
"Good morning to you, ah, Sahjeed, you are easy to speak with me?"
"You have saved the lives of some of my men; I am in your debt."
"It is what I do, Sahjeed, as you, I serve the People."
"Yes, we do. You wanted to speak to me?"
"I am told and I have seen that you have prepared but not done the ritual for our men. I would let the women see and say goodbye. It was good of you to treat them as honorable warriors. Our people will hold you in high esteem for what you have done, even though it is the end of our ways."
"I would attend if you wish."
"No, my Chief, although I understand why you say that; it is more than a ritual of the passing of a man of our People; it is the end of a way of life. We must do that without you. But..."
"Yes, I think I understand, if we can be of help?"
"Moving stones for the final act...your men could help, if they would? Some would also go to the other place where our warriors, were killed, we would ask for some of your men to go along."
"They too, respect the brave men they fought, they will help."
"Thank you...my Chief."
"Suulumaag's village, we must help them," The boy spoke with a strained voice.
"Yes," said Sahjeed, "I have given my word and we will, but much has happened. You need to recover your strength; only you have spoken with the people of the village. Can you tell someone how we might do as you did? Or must we wait until you can walk again?"
"It is a very small place to go through to get under the barricade my Chief, I would not have some one else risk what I learned."
"Then we will wait for you, young friend. We have much to think about."
"Have you sent a runner to our village? Does Laawaleah know of my injury?"
"No, I have not sent a runner. I could not spare even one to send and I feared that Suulumaag might discover what we have done. I have also thought of those we have lost and how to best tell those in the village and of Galawaand's people. It is not an easy thing."
"Oh, I see, my Chief, I did not think of the others, only that she would worry. You must do as you think best. If you have another who could speak to the people of Suulumaag's village, I will help as best as I can."
Sahjeed smiled, "I know you would help, Alahbaand, I must think on this matter and many more. Rest and get your strength back, I miss you at my side."
"Thank you, my Chief, I am not happy lying on my stomach with nothing to do."
The ceremony of the Lights, as the women from the high ground said goodbye to their men, was different than the way of Sahjeed's people. The women carried pitch-saturated branches burning in the darkness as they paused at each warriors resting place. The sound of their voices rose in the night air and carried to the men of Sahjeed as they watched. Then they gathered in a circle around the shallow graves and one woman after another spoke and cried and screamed in broken voice until, finally it was quiet. The men of Sahjeed carried stones as they were directed until all were covered and protected.
As a group, women and children and the few elders that survived, approached the fire of Sahjeed.
Ulla Coodra, Medicine Woman of the high ground People, slowly came before Sahjeed Deeda. "We have decided to offer service to the People of Sahjeed and ask that they accept us as one of their own. We ask only that we can stay together, as much as possible, when you decide where we shall live. It is spoken."
The Chief stood before the People of the high ground and looked upon them. He looked at the Medicine Woman and she nodded back to him.
"I did not bring warriors here to do battle with your men."
Ulla spoke the words to her people and then waited....
"Had we known that you wanted only to trade and live in peace, we would have welcomed you."
Sahjeed waited until she stopped speaking.
"What has been done; cannot be undone. Nor can it be forgiven, we must move on. I offer you the protection of my People, I offer you the freedom to become one of us and to move and choose and live as you will."
Ulla spoke again.
"You know some of our ways, others you must learn. Each of you will be accepted into our People without obligation and you will be given help until you can live on your own, as you choose. The warriors around me, the Guards of the People, are here to protect you and guard against those who would force you; that is what they do. Each of the People give service in a way they best can to help each village live from day to day, you will become part of that."
The Medicine woman took a long time to explain Sahjeed's words; she then turned to him.
"My people, these women, have no way to understand of what you speak. They have lived in a gathering of People in which all know what each must do to live. You have said that they will be free to choose. I have no words to tell them what that will mean to them. Even I live by the rules of my People and I do not know what I would do outside what I do as Medicine Woman to my People as I was born to do. I fear they will feel lost if they are not told what they must do. Those are my words, Sahjeed Deeda; I know no others to speak."
The Chief looked at the Medicine Woman, "Say the words you just said to me, to them."
"My Chief, I am not sure that I should, I spoke of my feelings, not theirs."
"Say the words."
Ulla gazed at the Chief with blank eyes and then turned to her People and spoke. There was unrest and quiet murmurings arose among the women.
Sahjeed waited until it was quiet again, "The words of Ulla Coodra are words of doubt and questions of how we might live together as one People." Sahjeed paused and let his words rest and resound in their minds as the Medicine Woman repeated them. "I also have questions as to how we can live together. Your men had shields against the short spears of ours. You have animals that give you food and other things of value. We have things from which you may learn, you have things that we may learn. And we will, or we might, and I can offer no more than that. My People will welcome you and your different ways, I ask that you welcome us and let us share our differences. I have spoken."
Ulla Coodra spoke long and sometimes passionately and when she went silent, the crowd before her rose and moved forward on bended knees and outstretched arms.
Sahjeed called his men forward and they matched the gestures of the high ground people. When they rose, they were one.
"Say to them, that we are now one People," said the Chief.
As the words were said, the People of the high ground and the People of Sahjeed surged together and became one.
The late summer weather remained favorable with hot days and warm nights. The 'defendable' campsite along the stream took on the appearance of a small temporary village as people gathered around dozens of mall fires and went about the chores of living day to day.
Hunters and scouts and guards moved in and out and strange words were often heard as the women and children mingled with Sahjeed's men.
The Chief and the First Guard also underwent the ministrations of the Medicine woman; she chided them as she cleaned wounds and bound together a long slash on Duulaat's heavy thigh.
Sahjeed grunted as she cleaned a cut on his chest, "Uhh, woman, you have no mercy!"
"Even small wounds are dangerous; they must be tended quickly, Sahjeed. The warrior from the village may live, the spear thrust was not deep; the Lights were with him. I have looked again, all the injured do well."
Sahjeed stood as Ulla finished with his wound, "I would thank you again for all that you have done."
"Some boys wish to hunt; others wish to learn from your Tracker, my Chief."
"They hold no anger?" asked Sahjeed.
"They lost fathers and brothers, Sahjeed; there is great hurt and deep feelings and perhaps anger." Ulla's eyes clouded over, "They also have eyes, they see there is nothing to be done, nothing than can be done."
"Bring them before me."
"Yes, my Chief."
More than thirty young boys, ranging in age from eight to fourteen and one wiry girl of thirteen years gathered in a group away from the main camp. Alahbaand, his back heavily bandaged and his left arm tightly bound, was helped to the meeting with Duulaat, Wolf and several guards and the best hunters.
Ulla Coodra, Medicine Woman of the high ground People stood next to Sahjeed Deeda as they faced the group of young people.
"Why is the young maiden here?" asked the Chief.
"By her choice and with the blessings of her mother and other women of my People," tersely answered Ulla.
Sahjeed searched her face and looked at the young girl before he spoke, "It is not the way of my People that women do the things that men do, Ulla Coodra, I thought our ways were the same in this."
The Medicine Woman hesitated and searched for words in the new language, "My Chief, it is not easy to speak of these things, my words are not changing to your words as they should. Other women and young girls would be here also, but they fear what you may say.
"They look ahead and ask if they will find a man to hunt for them. They...they do not wish to be 'used' as a woman is used, to feed themselves and their children. They would learn to provide for themselves. I have been asked to speak of this. Those are my words."
Sahjeed did not look at his men. He closed his eyes and lowered his head, nodding slightly as he thought. The silence was uneasy; Ulla repeated her words to those of her People who did not understand.
"The difficulty you see ahead, I did not think of, Medicine Woman. It is not a small thing to change the ways of a People." Sahjeed then turned and looked into the eyes of each of his men, "The maiden may learn; the women may hunt. I have spoken."
Ulla spoke the words to her People, the young girl smiled broadly, the young men did not.
"Thank you, my Chief, not all of my People agree on this."
Sahjeed nodded, "A hunter will teach her, but she must leave at this time. You must stay to speak my words to your young men, for they must take the oath of the Guards and the Hunters of my People."
Ulla bowed and spoke to the girl; she nodded and dropped to her knees before the Chief before leaving.
A young man spoke heatedly to the Medicine Woman; she silenced him with a gesture and a glare. She turned to Sahjeed, "He says that he and the other young men would provide for his People, that women and girls should not learn the ways of men."
Sahjeed frowned and stared into the eyes of the young man who spoke, "What is he called?"
The Medicine Woman hesitated for a moment, "He is called Teeda Coodra, my Chief. He is the son of my brother who was Leader of my cave. It was he who stood above the cave when you first came. He...he, would have become Leader...he is much troubled by what has happened. Those are my words."
"I see that in his eyes," said Sahjeed. "Does he understand what might have happened?"
"He knows, my Chief, but he does not understand."
"Do not sweeten my words to him as you speak, Medicine Woman, make him understand that I mean what I say!" Sahjeed gestured to Duulaat and moved directly in front of the boy.
Ulla translated at each pause; "I will not bring trouble to my People, Teeda Coodra! Your Medicine Woman has told me of the, 'way of your People!' Had your warriors taken the village nearby, they would have killed all of the boy children so that their seed would die with them! Is it not so?"
"They would have used the women and killed those who did not please them! Is this not so?"
The boy paled and shook as Sahjeed shouted in his face and Duulaat, angry faced, held a blade, up, in his hand.
"You live and your young friends live because our ways are different. Would you have me take on your ways and kill each of you now? I can do that! I will do that, if you remain as you are! Now, leave me! All of you! I warn you, think very carefully on what you say and do next! I have spoken!"
Ulla Coodra was pale and gasping for breath as she translated the words and quickly herded the boys away; she glanced back and did not know the look she saw in the Chief's eyes.
Alahbaand, the young boy, stared at Sahjeed, "You would not take their lives?"
The Chief looked down upon the boy and did not speak.
There was a continuing uproar among the high ground People as Ulla Coodra brought the young boys back to the camp. As a group, they moved away and high-pitched screams of anger and pain cut through the warm summer afternoon.
A short time later, a naked and bleeding Teeda Coodra was dragged before the Chief's campsite and pushed to the ground in front of Sahjeed.
"They will mourn, but they will not be angry if you take his life, uh, my Chief, and the woman born of my mother, is no more. The women have spoken."
There was pain in the boy's face as he lifted his head; but neither tears nor fear showed as he looked upon the Chief.
"How say you?" Sahjeed looked at Ulla.
"He did not speak or cry out. I can not give oath that he will serve with honor."
Sahjeed did not speak as silence fell over those watching and listening.
Sahjeed turned to the motion behind him as Lobolaaht the Tracker stepped to his side, "If he will take oath, I will train him or kill him, my Chief. I have spoken."
Ulla translated the words loud enough for all to hear.
"Live or die?" asked Sahjeed.
The boy was not shy in his nakedness and did not hesitate as he rose to his knees and gave oath to Sahjeed Deeda and the People.
Ulla Coodra stayed as Wolf took the boy and the others moved away from the Chief.
"I did not know what you..."
Sahjeed interrupted her; "You should leave me to myself..."
She said quietly, "...there is more..."
Sahjeed blinked and then gestured, they sat on logs a few feet apart, facing each other.
The Medicine Woman did not meet his eyes, "The women, taken from the village of your people...they are all with child..."
Sahjeed clenched his teeth, "They were badly treated?"
"They were not beaten or starved, but...they were used...many times, by most of the men.... They do not wish to stay with my People, they would join your camp; one does not wish to live. She is very young..."
Anger coursed through Sahjeed's body in visible ways, Ulla drew back from him even though she was a distance away. When she met his eyes, she felt fear. She did not speak.
"I do not have children of my own," said Sahjeed, But I have young women in my lodge who care for my mother. Each was some ones daughter; I care for them as if they were mine. I do not understand how such treatment is possible.
"Perhaps there is merit in the way of your People to kill all when you conquer. Perhaps only then can the evil be stopped..."
Ulla Coodra gasped and her eyes widened, "It was not my choice, I was born into the..."
Sahjeed stood, "Never again speak to me of, 'the way of your People', Woman, I will not hear of it. Send the women to me, leave me now."
Ulla bowed and backed away but she did not speak.
The Chief did not speak with the kidnapped women, he directed the First Guard to prepare a place for them and assigned Guards that would be near-by day and night. The mood of all of those gathered at the campsite was somber as the day came to an end.