The Chief Pt. 02 Ch. 16byamicus©
One day slipped into another as the autumn rains held off and bright sunshine lightened a clear blue sky and warm fragrant scents rose from ripened berries and fallen fruit. Hunting was good and a fall run of large fish moving up the small stream kept the women and the hunters busy.
Sahjeed, from habit, walked the perimeter of the camp, nodding and smiling but speaking very little. The injured men slowly healed, the Chief nodded as the First Guard and others walked with him, reporting the events of the day and the plans for the next.
Sahjeed sat on a large fallen tree that bridged the stream running through the camp. Guards, as always, surrounded him from a distance, moving quietly in a never-ending protective circle. He looked up at the sound of a snapping twig and rose to greet Wolf, Lobolaaht the Tracker whose men had turned the battle.
They stood a few paces apart and looked into each other’s eyes.
“’The man who might have been your father’, I think you used those words, my Chief,” Wolf said, holding Sahjeed’s gaze.
Sahjeed smiled and nodded slightly, “I did, my friend. It was a thing I learned only recently. My mother holds you in high regard.”
Wolf lowered his eyes and rested on the stout staff that supported his injured leg, “I would take a small advantage as one who has known and respected your mother for so many seasons.”
“Advantage? queried Sahjeed.
Wolf raised his eyes; “I would speak as an older man would to a son who is also a man.”
Sahjeed turned his head slightly, “I would welcome your words, Lobolaaht; your advice is never lightly given.”
Lobolaaht gestured and both men sat a little apart from each other on the fallen tree trunk. Wolf held the staff upright before him and clasped it with one hand, and leaned forward and stared into the distance. “Sahjeed, in my mind, I have walked with you these past suns, trying to think as you might think, see what you see, feel what you feel.
“So very much has happened; we have lost men we have known all our lives. We fought a battle that need not have been fought, had we only known. We recover, but much sadness hangs over us as we return to our People. And still the matter of the fat Chief lies before us and the matter of the high ground People.
“I know these things are in your mind, I would listen if you would share your thoughts.”
Sahjeed let his shoulders slump and a long sigh escaped his lips as he clenched his hands together in front of him, “I have no vision of what is the right thing to do,” Sahjeed’s voice was low but firm, it was not a sound of complaint but came forth as a statement of truth.
“I must see the people of Suulumaag’s village. I do not want more lives to be lost. I do not wish to bring about more suffering by my decision. I must tell our People of the losses and that too will bring sadness to those who lost a son, a father, a brother. I do not see a ‘right’ way to do these things. Yet…they must be done.”
Sahjeed straightened and moved his shoulders, pulled them back and stretched and lifted his chin, looking up into the trees, into the darkening sky. He turned to Lobolaaht, “It is good to put words to my thoughts. I am grateful.”
Lobolaaht did not turn to look at Sahjeed; he kept his hand around the staff and continued to stare into the distance. “I often speak to myself in the stillness of the deep woods.” Lobolaaht shifted his position slightly but still did not look into the Chief’s face.
“The men are ready to follow where you lead. The injured are in no danger. Scouts have watched Suulumaag’s village, they do not search for us and they hunt in a direction away from us.
“My Chief, I think I know much of what troubles you and it troubles me also. I do not know the answer to each of the things we must do and to look upon all at once…brings doubt into my soul.
“I will follow whatever you decide as will all the men. I would say just this: look upon one thing at a time, take one step at a time. With each step, perhaps the next will become clear. I have spoken.”
Lobolaaht turned and looked into Sahjeed’s face and saw a slight smile and glistening eyes. Both men stood, Lobolaaht moved forward, put his uninjured arm around the Chief’s back and pulled him close.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The word traveled fast early the next morning. As the low clouds and mist cleared before the sun, excited voices filled the air and the children, sensing something unusual, ran from campfire to campfire, screaming and chasing each other through the chattering women.
At first light, Sahjeed toured the campsite, beckoning some to follow him back to the clearing near the log across the stream. A cheer erupted at his words, “We leave for Suulumaag’s village at first light next sun!”
Women from the high ground People brought food and hot drinks as the chill of the morning lessened and the men made plans.
Lobolaaht drew in the sand and explained as the Chief, First Guard, the boy Alahbaand and several others looked on.
“You are well with this plan, First Guard? asked Sahjeed.
Duulaat stood stiffly, “Yes, my Chief, the men are restless. My Chief, the man from Suulumaag’s village has spoken, he begs not to be returned; he fears for his life. It is very bad for the people in the village, they live as slaves.”
Sahjeed nodded, “It is as I thought, then, yes, we must act. Alahbaand, my young friend, what of you?”
The boy faced the Chief but lowered his eyes, “My Chief, I would do as you wish, but…the medicine woman says my wound will open if I do what must be done.”
Wolf, the Tracker stepped forward, “My Chief, there may be another way.”
Sahjeed motioned for Wolf to speak.
“The boy, Teeda, of the high ground People. He learns quickly, he speaks a few of our words. He is younger than Alahbaand, and small enough to go beneath the barricade at the back of Suulumaag’s village. He also needs to give service. I would offer that he should be trusted.”
Sahjeed frowned, “I had not considered that. What say you, Alahbaand?”
“Teeda came to me, as I am the youngest of my People. He learned words from me. I do not know… I do not see evil in his eyes. I do not know if he has enough of our words to speak to the people of Suulumaag’s village.”
Sahjeed thought for a moment, “Has he enough words to bring someone close enough to speak with you? Can you get close enough without danger to your wound?”
Alahbaand nodded and smiled, “Yes, my Chief, yes! That can be done.”
“Go to the boy, and bring the medicine woman back with you.”
“Yes, my Chief,” replied Alahbaand as he moved away.
Sahjeed turned back to the small group of Guards that had put the plan together. “Does anyone have a question? We will have little time once we are moving.”
A Guard spoke, “What if our plan does not work? What if we cannot get the people out of the village? If Suulumaag’s guards do not do as we expect?”
Sahjeed’s face turned hard, “It is a good question.” The Chief turned to Lobolaaht for an instant, “It is also a question I cannot answer. But I will tell you this. If this plan does not work, we will make another and then another if necessary. We will not fail!”
“OORah!” shouted Duulaat and then the others.
Alahbaand, Teeda and Ulla Coodra approached as the cheering faded away.
“Welcome, medicine woman, we have need of your service.”
Ulla bowed and stood before Sahjeed, “I serve the People, my Chief.
Sahjeed motioned for the boy of the high ground People to step forward, “Say to him, ‘you have taken the oath of the Guards and the Hunters of the People of Sahjeed. You are called upon to give service. How say you?’”
Upon hearing the words spoken by the medicine woman, the boy fell to his knees and put both hands before him on the ground. “I serve!”
Sahjeed explained and Ulla Coodra translated, “He understands, my Chief. He wishes to say he is honored and will give his life if necessary.”
Sahjeed smiled and gestured for the boy to stand, “Let us hope that is not required. Spend this day with Alahbaand and Lobolaaht, understand what we are to do and learn as many of our words as you can.”
Ulla Coodra spoke to the boy, and then to Sahjeed, “The women are excited and happy that we are to leave. They will be ready at first light, my Chief. Is there anything more I can tell them?”
Sahjeed held her eyes; “You may tell them that we go to help the People in the village who are being treated badly. After that, I do not know. We will do one thing at a time.”
The medicine woman bowed, turned slowly and then stopped, “I can feel that you have struggled with a hard decision. Perhaps, in time, I can be of more service, should you ask, my Chief.”
Sahjeed stood silent as she walked away.
First light was bleak as guards who had been alert during the dark of the night, woke Sahjeed who slept on pine bows and was burrowed into a large furry bearskin. He blinked and cleared his eyes and looked into low clouds and a mist that could also be called a light drizzle.
Sahjeed stood and stretched and began to role the fur as Duulaat came up to him with hot tea and a woven basket with several pieces of dried fish. ”Wolf and the two boys left in the dark, my Chief, the women will be ready to move when you wish.”
“Thank you, First Guard, anything not to your liking?” asked Sahjeed as he took a bite and then a drink.
“No, but the men are quiet this morning. It becomes real again and they feel it.”
Sahjeed finished the tea and tucked the left over bits of fish in a pouch at his waist. “Yes…I understand…and you, Duulaat?”
“Yes, my Chief, I feel it also.”
“It will pass, my friend, this is a thing we must do.”
“Yes, my Chief, I know.”
(Authors note: I wish to thank those of you who have followed this story for many months and have been kind in your remarks. There are several chapters with 8 or 9 votes that have been stuck there for several weeks. Any assistance you might give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you...amicus)