Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Law of the plains, Chapter 8

(This is chapter 8 of the Law of the plains. In the previous chapter, a strange morlock saw Yahnee's spirit form and almost killed him in a combat of the minds. His Gifted horse Wakaree is trying to telepathically contact the tribe and bring him back.)

Pisunii was dreaming a horse dream, galloping gleefully in the morning dew with her rider Tosawi ["Silver Knife"] on her back, when it suddenly started to fade into something else. She saw her little brother, the young and happy Wakaree, running towards her. As he grew closer, the dew dried, the grass withered, the sky darkened and the wind started howling a song of anguish, pain and despair. She reduced her gait, from a gallop to a trot, to a slow walk. Wakaree caught up to her, his flanks heaving and glistening with sweat. His eyes were wide open, his nostrils flared and he smelled terrified. "Help!" he cried repeatedly, over and over. His voice grew louder and louder and soon Pisunii realized that it wasn't a dream. Wakaree was calling from beyond the dream world. She woke.

It was the middle of the night. Only the light of the sanguine moon lighted the camp. She shivered. That moon made her uncomfortable. Her tail started swinging nervously from side to side. Careful not to step on the sleeping humans laying on the soft grass, she headed to her rider/sister, Tosawi, and started nudging her. The people of the plains always slept lightly and the brave was no exception. She instantly woke, her hand reaching for the knife that never left her. Realizing it was her partner, she relaxed instantly and petted her soft muzzle.

"Hey, Pisunii, are you scared, love?" she said softly.

The Gifted horse turned her ears towards her friend and started projecting the pictures of her dream to the mind of the young hunter. The woman shivered when she saw and felt the anguish emanating from Wakaree's message. Throwing the furs she was sleeping in aside, she quickly got up and shouted the second alarm call.
The Nʉmʉ had devised different ways to get a whole tribe on the move quickly. One alarm call meant "The enemy is upon us, take your weapons and defend your lives". Another, the one Tosawi was yelling at that moment, meant "Everybody wake up, start packing your things and stand by for orders." Yet another simply meant, "Gather everything, we are leaving camp as soon as possible." Every Nʉmʉ new the meaning of each cry and knew exactly what they had to do. Her people started to rise, dazed and confused, but a lifetime of habit took over and they all got to their task as fast as they could. It was a strange sight in a way: the camp started to hustle with activity, but they all tried to keep as silent as possible. You never knew.

The women and the men of the tribes were completely equal. Your duty to the tribe was mostly based on your capacities and your particular talents. Of course, there was still more warrior men than women since they were usually stronger physically, but it was not the rule and the Gifts had evened the playing field considerably. Pure physical strength was a detail when one was able to create powerful wind blasts or to control where lightning stroke during a storm.

Hence, the warriors, men and women alike, headed towards Kanaretah ["One That Rides The Clouds"], the War Chief of the band, while the others started packing the camp. The Peace Chief, a huge man named Boyahwahtoyahe footnote:["Iron Mountain"] also joined the warriors: he had to know if the tribe was going to leave or stay in place, as he was the one in charge when the warriors were gone.
Kanaretah was a middle-aged woman who was Gifted with the ability to predict the weather, find any source of water, and condense any moisture present in the air. She was a fantastic equestrian and her horse Neraquassi  ["Golden Horse"], a magnificent palomino, was the fastest of the band. She was also a superb archer doubled with a talented tactician that stayed calm under the worst circumstances, but it was her gift that made her particularly fearsome : she could fill the morlocks' lungs with water and make them drown in the open air, or suck the moisture from their eyes and blind them. Apart from Tabbaquena the shaman, nobody was as Gifted as she was, which was also why she was chosen as War Chief.
She had gotten up with Tosawi's cry and she was already dressed. She tied her long raven black hairs behind her back as the warriors rushed to gather around her.

The twenty or so braves quickly formed a circle. When they were done, she hailed Towasi.
"What is going on, explain yourself, quickly!" You could guess she normally had a soft and beautiful voice, but right now, it was as hard as steel.
"Pisunii was contacted by Wakaree. She showed me the images he sent her, he was terribly afraid and Yahneequena was slouched on his back, unmoving. I don't know what is happening but something is very wrong".
"Why is he alone, by all the Spirits!" said Kanaretah, and there was ice in her voice.
"Pahiitʉ-Saari is sick", said a voice behind the circle of warriors. It was Yahnee's mother.
"And nobody else could go with him?" asked Kanaretah angrily.
Every person present suddenly found themselves studying their feet intensely. The Nʉmʉ owned up to their mistakes: the acts of one were the responsibility of all so no one even thought of pointing out that Yahnee had gone out on his own. Besides, they all knew that once this incident was over, Kanaretah would make them pay their lack of discipline with excruciating maneuvering sessions.
Finally, someone dared to speak.
"Any pʉetʉyai around them?" asked Boyahwahtoyahe with his low, booming voice.
"Don't think so. Wakaree probably would have shown them to Pisunii" answered Tosawi. "He was trying to bring Yahnee back, it seems. No sign of wound or anything, no blood."
"Haa Haa", nodded the Peace Chief. The braves of the band started muttering, all of them wondering what could have happened that Wakaree would send such a desperate cry for help.
Kanaretah was also the War Chief because she could make difficult decisions with incomplete information very quickly.
"Listen all!", she said, her voice loud enough to be heard by all the warriors around her.
"Everybody keeps packing the camp. I want everything to be ready for us to leave in the direction of  Gond, it is the nearest fortified city." She paused for an instant, staring at all the stern faces around her, making sure she was well understood. The Nʉmʉ never liked to ask for asylum in the fortified cities even though it was their ancestral right, because they had nothing but contempt for their coward inhabitants. Even though, they were survivors and fleeing meant you could fight another day, which was a good thing.
"I want 5 braves to come with me. We are going to rescue Yahneequena and bring him back. If nothing else is wrong, we'll unpack camp. In doubt, we'll leave. If something goes wrong, we'll flee to Gond."
"Haa, Haa" they all said in unison.
"Boyahwahtoyahe, you see anything unusual, you leave, got it?"
He nodded his assent.
"For the rescue party, I want you all to take one spare horse each. Towasi, you take another one for Yahneequena, Wakaree is probably spent. Tabbaquena, I hate to put you in danger, but if Yahneequena is wounded, we might need you."
The shaman stepped forward. "I think it is wise. I'll get ready", he said, then he left to his tipi to gather the herbs and potions he needed. He also started barking instructions at the young Nʉmʉs that were tasked with packing his stuff.
"Alright. All is set. Let's ride out, warriors", shouted Kanaretah.
The deafening war cry of the band answered her, then they dispersed to their duty.

Within moments, the rescue party was ready and riding out of camp.

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