The Amazon Chronicle
Book I

Lost Daughter of the Amazoi

Taysha and her mother were still checking the fish traps at the river in the morning of early winter when the screaming started.

Out of view beyond the thick line of trees, came the cries of the women mixed with the barking dogs and the distinct yells of purpose and commands of the men. The sounds echoed back from the mountain across the river behind them, adding to the sudden state of confusion. Although unseen from where Taysha and her mother stood, the cries were unmistakably coming from their village. Calls to family members as well as those signaling out points of assembly against the yet unknown threat could be heard rising and falling across the forest in front of them. Taysha felt a sudden increase of cold that seemed to seep through her fur cloak and winter tunic and engulf her entire being. She grabbed her pants tightly to stop her legs from shaking as she stood not knowing whether she wanted to run towards the sounds or to run away. A look to her mother for answers brought an added measure of uneasiness as it was quickly obvious she didn't know what to do either. Though Taysha herself had already begun to shake, her thoughts seemed to carry her countless mountains away as she tried not to think of their obvious fate. The empty feeling in her stomach told her something terrible was going to happen, and she looked up at her mother again. She could not help thinking how it was such a waste, for her mother at 28 Winters and herself at the beginning of her 14th, to die so young.

Taysha knew they would not be the only ones.

She had reached child-bearing age last summer and her parents and the elders had chosen her husband, whom she would marry the coming spring. Her thoughts went to the marriage ceremony she would not be having and to the young man who was supposed to be her partner until the end of this life. That young man was in the village somewhere. Where all the yelling and cries were coming from.

She looked in the direction of the village, hoping to see him running out and down towards the river. But, neither he, nor her father or brother nor anyone else came. Her head started swimming and her stomach ached. She looked at her fingers that had become cold and numb from the river water when her mother's hand flashed into view and grabbed Taysha by her wrist.
"Come!" she commanded as she started to run towards the village.
Taysha looked down to keep from stumbling on the smooth river rocks, but they did not get far. Her mother suddenly stopped before she could finish her third step.

As Taysha looked up, she saw them.

In an instant her eyes captured all their details as if they had been carved in stone.
Three men, painted, wild, and horrific had appeared out of the bushes about two stone throws away. Their brownish hair and beards were either dyed or coated in mud. Their faces were covered in the yellow paint of war. On their left arms they held small, round wooden shields with the markings of their tribe painted in greens and yellows and dark red. All three had short, wide swords drawn from their scabbards. And their thick leather armour and hair was already stained with sweat as they stood steaming and panting for breath.
They had appeared just to the right of the straight line between the women and their village. Taysha could feel her mother's hesitancy as she lightly pulled as if she were going to run, then rocked back on her heels in second thought.

It was obvious they would never make it past the men.

Taysha's eyes kept darting among them, trying to assess the situation. But it made little sense to her. The smiles on the faces of the three men were what confused Taysha the most.
'How can they pretend to be so happy?'
The senselessness of her situation knotted at her flustering stomach. She felt anger at them for their obvious joy at creating such turmoil in her village. The idea was beyond her understanding. They reminded her of Rafelti, that stupid boy that took pleasure in kicking down the play-hut Taysha and her friends made summers ago.

All of Taysha's scattered thoughts seemed to drop out of her head as the men started to walk towards her and her mother. Taysha began to feel dizzy then suddenly became strangely confident. Her reasoning had told her the only explanation of why three armed men would possibly be walking in their direction would be because there were men from her village behind her.
'Of course,' she thought ' . . . some of our men must have been out hunting and came back when they heard the noise from camp. They must be standing right behind us now. Right across the river.'
A nervous, smile crept across her lips uncontrollably as she dared looked directly into the eyes of the closest man to her left. A smile that was short lived, as she realized he was not looking behind her, but at her. And he was smiling back.
Taysha started to turn around to look across the river, as if doing so would make her imagined heroes become real. But, before she could, her mother had pulled her by her shoulders close to her face and touched her forehead to her own. And with eyes shut, she said quietly and quickly, "You must run, or you will die. This is not my wish. But, it must be done." She opened her eyes and looked deep into Taysha's. "Go." she whispered.
With that her mother pulled Taysha's body sideways by the shoulder of her bear fur cloak in the direction of the river. She then turned towards the men as she released her grip.
Taysha stumbled sideways a step or two and stood with her mouth open, waiting for some words of response to come out.
But her mother snapped her head back towards her.
"Go!" she screamed with a face that made Taysha jump. It brought a new darkened fear to the depths of her soul. In shock, she stepped back but steadied herself once again in an attempt to comprehend and reason. But, at the sight of her hesitation her mother swiftly bent down and picked up two large stones, holding one up high over her head facing Taysha. "I will kill you myself! I will not let them have you!" she screamed. Her eyes had opened wide and she bore her teeth as she snarled.


It was the last word spoken to Taysha by her mother.
Coarse and unearthly; like how Taysha imagined the gods to sound.

She turned and started to run.

The moment her mother saw Taysha take her first step towards the low river, she directed the stones at the attackers. Until then, the three men had continued walking slowly and carefully over the slippery river bed. Knowing their prey was secure, they were in no hurry. There was nowhere else to go. For them, it was promised prizes such as these they came for.

Her projectiles fell short, as the men were still more than a stone's throw away. But, it convinced them to square off their shields and continue forward at a quicker pace. The older man with the graying beard who had locked eyes with Taysha reacted swiftly to the sight of the young girl running off towards the river. It was clear to him that one immediate entertainment could get away if they didn't hurry. The sounds behind them from the village told them that their brothers-at-war were already looting the village and choosing their women. That meant there would be little left for them. This would make their stratagem of circumnavigating the village defenders a complete waste. To leave a battle empty-handed was a worse thing than being slain. At least there was honour in being slain.
But, a young woman . . .
That was more valuable than gold or weapons or armour.
To have a life-long slave, a bearer of children as more slaves, entertainment in song, dance and fucking for himself, his sons, and his friends. No, he couldn't let this go. Not this time.

He quickened his pace after the girl who was now running into the icy waters with abandon. She was stumbling but not falling completely down. The sting of the cold water meaning nothing to her as it splashed up around her.

Her pursuer was soon met by the rocks of her mother. They either missed him all together or reflected off his shield, but he could feel the heavy impact and he didn't treat the threat lightly.
"Take her!" he yelled to his two brethren as he made a slightly larger arc in his path to avoid the flying stones. His command was only greeted by laughter. The other two were happy with their payment, the woman who stood still in front of them, hurling rocks and muttering prayers to her gods. There was no hurry to collect their quarry. They were content to admire this vicious animal trying desperately to defend her young, though quite uselessly. Like a wild animal caught in a trap, she would snarl and bite and scratch until she was beaten and tamed. All living things can have their free will beaten out of them. The same will happen here. After the first few days of hunger and pain, she would be re-born as their willing servant.

But the Amazoi woman who stood her ground saw things differently. As Taysha reached the opposite side of the river she turned around to see her mother reciting not prayers, but the wisdom of her people.
'The gods do not let us suffer these things, unless we submit to them by our own accord.'
'The gods do not let us suffer these things, unless we submit to them by our own accord.'
'The gods . . .'
She would not yield, not submit, and not stop until the three lay dead at her feet.

She saw her greatest chance in the armour-less legs of her daughter's hunter. A heavy stone and a hard throw landed the projectile at the side of the man's knee. The sound of the impact on the bone and the cry of agony woke the other two men from their daydreams. Fearing to be the next ones to feel the shame of being hurt by a mere woman, they rushed at their prey. The one farthest out front hit her with his shield braced against his shoulder. A missed attempt to hit his uncovered head with an empty fist was the only resistance he faced as he struck her straight at her chest, sending her stumbling backwards.
Her heel caught on a deep-set stone and she fell on the back of her head with a crack.

She was victorious in the fight for her daughter's life and freedom.
The price of such would be her own life in return.
A mere trifle.
A payment that she would be willing to make for every day that there ever was, or ever will be.

For Taysha, it was not such a victory.

Taysha had already started to climb up the densely grown bank of the mountain when the dreadful moment happened. She had stopped and turned at the cry of pain from her attacker and was forced to witness the blow that sent her mother to the next life.

Taysha's first thought was that her father or brother would not make it out to save either of them. Her legs weakened and the idea to climb back down and just let them kill her too flashed through her mind. Then two things happened that fated otherwise.
The furthest man of the three, who up to now had done nothing, suddenly dropped his shield and rushed towards her mother. He let his sword fall beside her feet as he started to loosen his pants' string. The one who had struck her mother was doing likewise as he attempted to push off the encroaching competition. Taysha was young, but she was experienced enough to know what they were trying to do. A new kind of anger surged up inside her and she almost started to run back and throw stones at them like they were rabid dogs or nasty crows. And she would have, if the man her mother had injured hadn't started pointing to her and heatedly rebuking the other two. The third man of the group looked up and met Taysha's gaze. An extra push from the second man seemingly encouraged him to move along. In an instant Taysha's fury was transformed into fear and she watched in disbelief as the man casually picked up his sword with one hand while holding up his pants with the other . . .

Then he started to run towards her.

The sudden flood of fear quickly washed clean the feelings of hatred and sorrow and she panicked.
To escape and survive was all her mind and body could understand now. Hatred and Sorrow would have to be put aside for later.

She scrambled her way up through the slope of overgrown foliage. Although lacking the full cover of the summer leaves, the thick brambles and low hanging evergreens soon began to offer her concealment. Even in her bewildered state, her first thought was to thank the gods it had not yet snowed and she tried to control her panic enough to not leave a trail as she ran; just as her father had once taught her.

This area she knew well. It was where she had played with the other children for the last seven winters of her life. Up the mountain, about a stone's throw away from the river, one could clearly see the riverbed in patches, but still be hidden in the shadows of the evergreens. This is where the children would spy on their parents and siblings when they were washing clothes, bathing or stealing kisses. Head further up amidst the brambles and thorn bushes and you would be out of sight of the river. And if you knew exactly where to look, you would find a level area of ground just big enough for about ten men to sleep. It was there, many summers ago, that the older children had made a tunnel through the prickly shrubs to the flat area and cleared it out. The back of the slope made for a kind of wall and came around on the sides like a crescent moon. With the brambles surrounding the entire area, the only way to get in or out was to crawl up through the tunnel. It was the perfect hiding place for children's games, and for practicing their building skills by putting up three little huts. One was for the girls to sleep, and one was for the boys, and a smaller one was for the 'married ones'. The married ones were merely a couple chosen to be bride and groom and spend the night together as 'man and wife'. The following morning they would emerge and return to their respective genders to exchange stories of what did and mostly what didn't really happen.

This area had become a mini village for the children where they could practice and mimic the conversations, mannerisms, songs and dances of the adults. They stored their treasured carvings, ceramics and necklaces there, as well as dried fish, dried berries, smoked meats, fermented berry juice and cannabis. There was even space for a campfire, extra wood and a collection of old furs in each of the huts.

It was this play area that would be her only hope.

Even so, she knew that to run there directly would be a pointless attempt at escape. Expecting to feel the cruel stranger's hand grab the back of her hair or pull at her ankle at every step, she forced herself to follow the well-worn path that led to the clay pits and away from her refuge. As she ran, she turned her head just enough to catch a glimpse of her pursuer distracted with untangling himself from the brambles near the bottom of the hill. Taking the brief chance, she jumped behind a large log and crawled carefully up the mountain side and back in the direction of the children's camp. When the man had reached the trail, he sped along to catch up to his prize that had suddenly run out of view. In his state of single-focus, he ran right past Taysha and disappeared into a small ravine.
Taysha looked at the ground behind her and a new fear seemed to grip hold of her throat.
The trail she was leaving was too visible, even in her attempt to be careful. It was obvious a mere child could find her.
Knowing she would have to slow her pace brought tears to her eyes. She would have only a few breaths' time before the man got to the clay pits and doubled back. But she knew better than to carry on hurriedly any farther. She would not try to outrun these men. Time and distance meant nothing if there was a trail to follow. She gingerly stepped under twig and fern as she continued on towards the hidden camp. All the while, the voice at the back of her mind pleaded with her to hurry.

The screaming and yelling from across the river seemed to be carried around her with the wind, making each step more and more unbearable. But the tears that streamed down her face seemed to be coming from a person other than this disciplined young woman, who carefully calculated the distance between her and the calls of her pursuers. The relief she felt when she stepped into sight of the entrance to the camp was so great, she inadvertently blurt out a laugh. Though there was a slightly visible path, to the untrained eye it looked as if it simply went up the mountains side. One would have to be climbing up on their hands and knees to see where the way in lay.

Taysha crawled slowly and quietly into the bramble tunnel that led to the open space of her old play area. She was suddenly startled by the sight of the end of a sharpened stick.
It was held by one of the younger Amazoi men of about 17 Winters. Behind him, sitting with her knees pulled to her chest, was a girl. Like Taysha, she wore her thick woven pants, long winter tunic and had her short, bear fur mantle draped around her shoulders. Even so, she sat shaking uncontrollably; more from fear than from the cold. Taysha quickly understood the young couple had come out to spend the night together. There was no way they could have gotten across the river without her or her mother seeing them.
It was a risky thing for them to do, as this girl had been promised to another in marriage, and it wasn't the boy crouched in front of Taysha. She knew this well because the girl was her cousin Tara.
As the girls' eyes met it was clear it was not the time for clever words, either of rebuke or for ensuring secrecy. The truth was they knew by the sounds coming from the village that their situation was beyond such trivial things. The cries of battle were becoming fewer and yet the lamentations of the women continued.

The motion of the spear-point slowly lowering in front of her brought Taysha back to the moment.
She quickly put her straightened fingers to the side of her lips.
"Sh!" Taysha whispered to the boy before he could speak, "Someone's chasing me."

The boy turned his ear towards the sounds of the man as he loudly cursed his way back along the trail.
"Go sit with Tara." whispered the boy so quietly Taysha wasn't sure if she had heard him or just read his lips. She moved quietly past him to sit with her cousin. Taysha tried to be strong and stop her own trembling, but Tara's obvious fear fueled her own. Her mind returned to the image of her mother on the rocks just below them.

Her mind kept showing her mother falling over and over again.

'Maybe she didn't hit her head so hard.' she thought. 'Maybe it was because of The Fear that made it sound so loud. I didn't hear anything but the man yelling out in pain when mother had smashed his knee. Maybe she is just unconscious. Maybe these men will do what they want and leave. Take what they want and leave. I could go back down in a movement of the sun and wake mother up. Gods curse these men . . . Gods curse them and fill their lives with . . .'

The last words of her own thoughts stopped her. It was difficult to have them cursed, when in reality she knew why they had come.

She had seen them many times in her village before. The Amazoi only got visitors and traders from two tribes. One was a tribe that lived at the eastern end of the long valley, and the other was the Hoorg that lived below the waterfall to the south. The brown-haired Hoorg's clothing patterns were distinctly different from those of the raven black-haired Amazoi and stood out more than the other tribe. They used words with 'gr', 'sch', 'achk' and other funny sounds. Their true name was unknown to Taysha. They had been called 'Hoorg' by the Amazoi, and never to their faces. The name was adopted from the Hoorg's own language because they were always using the word when disappointed or angry. A word the Amazoi later learned to mean 'shit'. It seemed all the more fitting of a description of the men to Taysha now as she sat there shaking.

"Their talk sounds like . . . the shit dogs that their shit dog-mothers bore them." Taysha quietly mouthed her herself. Rambling thoughts came and went as she tried not to think about the real reason why they came.

She knew perfectly well why they had. Everybody did . . .

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